12 February 2021

The Title Fonts and Logos of Star Trek, Part V: Novels and Books, 1993-Present

Continued from last month's discussion of older Star Trek books...

To understand how I came to even write this series, you might want to know how I shelve my Star Trek mass market paperbacks. (If you don't want to know this, and I don't blame you, just jump down to the break.)

In the past I have used various complicated systems (at one point, internal chronology! do not recommend), but now I just break them down by tv show: the original, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise. (To date, there are no MMPBs based on the CBS All Access shows.) Then after that go all the books that tie into no particular series; these could be original-to-prose ongoing series like New Frontier and S.C.E., miniseries that span multiple series like Day of Honor and Gateways, miniseries that don't do that like Dark Passions and Typhon Pact, or standalones not based on one tv show like Articles of the Federation and Excelsior: Forged in Fire.

I shelve all my books in publication order, except that I put all the books in one series together at the point where the first was published. These books are immediately to the left of my desk and so I gaze at them a lot while avoiding work, and as I did so often, I started to realize there was a changing trajectory over time of how Star Trek books have dealt with the logos when there's no one tv show to tie into.

This is more of a sidebar, but it's worth mentioning. In Aug. 1993, Simon & Schuster released Worf's First Adventure, the first Starfleet Academy middle-grade novel from its Minstrel Books imprint. These books would jump around the timeline, filling in the Starfleet Academy adventures of Worf, La Forge, Data, Picard, Crusher, Riker, and Troi (what, no Pulaski or Yar?). It was thus the first Star Trek book to feature (I think) a four-level title: Star Trek, series, subseries, book title. For the subseries, book title, and author name, the books would use Crillee Italic, the credits font from The Next Generation. This series ran five years and fourteen installments.

It lead to two more Starfleet Academy series, one for the original (with novels featuring Spock, McCoy, and Kirk) and one for Voyager (featuring Janeway). These maintained the Crillee Italic branding even though that had nothing to do with those tv show.

As I said in my last installment, around the time The Next Generation came out, the logos of Simon & Schuster's Star Trek books finally achieved some level of show-consistency and stability. But things would soon get complicated by the fact that S&S/Pocket started publishing Star Trek novels that didn't tie into any one series. What logo would you use then?

At first, they stuck with the original-series film logo, the logo that was also being used on Deep Space Nine and (soon) Voyager. The first time this happened was with Federation (Nov. 1994), an original series/Next Generation crossover novel. As you can see, this uses the slightly simplified, more generic version of the logo that was more prominent in the 1990s.

In June 1997, S&S released a novelization of the Interplay computer game Star Trek: Starfleet Academy. Weirdly, the novelization didn't use the game's logo design, but rather used Crillee Italic, tying it (design-wise, anyway) into S&S's middle-grade Starfleet Academy books.

In July 1997, Pocket introduced its first original ongoing Star Trek series. Peter David's New Frontier took place in the 24th century and incorporated a number of popular Next Generation guest stars into its cast. In a sense, it comes across as a third "show" to run alongside Deep Space Nine and Voyager. So it makes sense that like them, it uses the movie font for its title and subtitle. One of the things that I have always liked about this logo is that it incorporates a silhouette of the hero ship, the USS Excalibur; if I recall correctly, in promotional material there was a unique "NF" symbol in that spot, but then someone pointed out it was basically the same as the logo of the National Front! In the long run of this series, though, the Excalibur would be destroyed and replaced by a new ship of a different class; it always bothered me that the logo never updated to reflect this.

Pocket released another independent novel in Feb. 1998, Susan Wright's The Best and the Brightest. This followed a group of Starfleet Academy cadets across a two-year period. The cover uses the Next Generation logo, but I think this must have been a last-minute change to improve marketability, because the title page actually just calls it "Star Trek: The Best and the Brightest." The logo used is the film one, indicating it's a generic Star Trek product, not tied to any one series. I shelve it by spine logo, though, because that looks nicer.

(An early draft of the cover, which you can see on Memory Alpha, actually used the same Starfleet Academy logo from S&S's middle-grade books, along with the generic film logo. I get why they ultimately wouldn't want to use middle-grade branding for an adult-aimed novel.)

Similarly, Strange New Worlds, a series of anthologies with short stories spanning all four (later, all five) tv series launched in July 1998, and used the movie logo.

One of my favorite logo choices, however, came with Where Sea Meets Sky (Oct. 1998), an installment in The Captain's Table miniseries. This novel focused on Captain Pike, but instead of using the generic original series logo, it used a very bland one that had previously only been used on the unaired pilot featuring Pike, "The Cage." I don't know what your average book buyer thought of this deep-cut choice, but this book buyer had a big smile on his face when he discovered the book in Barnes & Noble, and even e-mailed editor John Ordover to thank him! (I would have been 13.)

Other original series novels would move away from the standard logo, too, usually to signify the era in which they were set. Though usually original series novels use the original logo even if set in the movie era, the New Earth miniseries of Summer 2000, for example, was set in the decade-long gap between The Motion Picture and The Wrath of Khan, and used the film logo to signify that, meaning they stand out from the books on either side of them on the shelf.

I'm not always sure what the thinking was, though. The Case of the Colonist's Corpse (Dec. 2003) uses the Motion Picture logo but takes place during the original series. And I feel like the older logo would have better with the book's retro vibe!

On the other hand, I appreciate that Ex Machina (Dec. 2004), a direct follow-up to The Motion Picture, not only used the film logo, but used a version of it that aped the one used on the film, with long lines coming off the "S" and the "K."

There was a set of original series novels that actually used "The Original Series" in the logo, beginning with The Janus Gate (June 2002). I hate the use of "The Original Series" as a formal title (it's just Star Trek, damnit!), and I particularly don't like the way it was done here, which just looks clunky. These novels were marketed as re-telling the story of the original series from the point-of-view of an expanded cast, a sort of "TOS relaunch," but apparently no one told the authors this. After six novels in three months, the concept was quietly dropped, and future original series novels were just Star Trek once more.

The next original-to-prose series concept to come along was in Aug. 2000: the ebook-original S.C.E., about the adventures of the Starfleet Corps of Engineers. Like New Frontier, this was set in the 24th century, and like New Frontier, it used the DS9/Voyager logo as its base, but the logo used on the first three books is, like most elements of the first three covers, pretty crappy. Like, c'mon, what is even going on there? The weird downward curve on the "S.C.E." would be bad enough on its own, but the way it has to work with the periods makes it even worse.

Clearly, though, those involved recognized that, and by the fourth book (Feb. 2001), a new logo would be introduced. The font used on the subtitle (as well as in the titles of the books) is "Crillee Italic," the font used in the credits of The Next Generation, so a nice Star Trekkian choice.

May 2001 brought a major change in Star Trek publishing. The so-called "Deep Space Nine relaunch," debuting with the Avatar duology, was a continuation of the DS9 television shows, telling its own ongoing stories, mixing old characters with new. It was also the first time Pocket had deliberately chosen to not use the logo of the television show. I seem to recall editor Marco Palmieri saying the new logo, which was thicker and simpler, would work better and be more flexible on book covers. The font was an appropriately DS9-y one, though; "ITC Handel Gothic" was the font the show had always used for credits and episode titles.

There weren't many of them, but the original DS9 logo continued to be used on books set during the run of the show, such as Prophecy and Change (Sept. 2003) and Hollow Men (Apr. 2005).

The original Star Trek fiction series Challenger used the movie font, too, like to many others. It lasted a whopping one book (Aug. 2001). (Author Diane Carey made fun of script of the Enterprise series premiere in her novelization of it, and when the producers realized this had happened, she promptly never wrote another Star Trek book ever again.)

And, finally, the first two books of Star Trek: Stargazer (May 2002) used the film logo. There were any number of standalone non-series novels using it too; I'm not showing you everything! I always kind of liked this one; the sunburst in the "G" is cute.

But that would be it, because Dec. 2002's The Brave and the Bold duology would eschew the original film logo for the "Serpentine" one used on the Next Generation films. As you will recall from earlier installments of this series, this logo had debuted with 1994's Star Trek Generations, but outside of film novelizations, hadn't seen use on the covers of Star Trek books. (Serpentine was, however, used for the names of books and authors on Next Generation novels from Oct. 1995's The Last Stand through Mar. 2002's A Hard Rain, the so-called "rainbow stripe" era of cover design, exemplified by Best and the Brightest above.)

From then on, basically every Star Trek book didn't tie into a specific series (or that spanned multiple ones) would use Serpentine. Preexisting series even had their logos adjusted to fit the new Serpentine paradigm, such as Stargazer, which debuted a new look with book three, the creatively titled Three, in Aug. 2003. (Book five would introduce yet another new logo, though still Serpentine-based, and then the series would be cancelled with book six.)

Strange New Worlds would also switch over with book eight. This was published in July 2005, so it was a couple years behind on the switch.

That was nothing compared to New Frontier, though, which finally changed over in Apr. 2009. The new logo is pretty bland (I think almost all the Serpentine-based logos are, to be honest), but at least it meant the anachronistic silhouette was gone.

The best Serpentine-based logo was the one for Titan, the series about Riker's command, which began with Taking Wing in Apr. 2005. It's the one that best mimics what the films were doing: like on the poster logos for Generations, First Contact, and Insurrection, the subtitle is written in a tall narrow sans serif ("Seven," apparently). Plus a strong sense of composition (Cliff Nielsen, of course), and on the physical book, the subtle embossing on the second TITAN all combine to create a striking package.

One of the most apt uses of Serpentine, however, came with the A Time to... maxiseries that began with A Time to Be Born in Feb. 2004. This nine-book saga chronicled what the Enterprise crew had been up to between Insurrection and Nemesis, and one thing I liked was that though they were all The Next Generation novels, none of them used "The Next Generation" on the covers. But of course, neither did the films they were connecting, so it was entirely appropriate. 

Because of the logo, I opt to shelve these books with my non-series novels, because it looks nice. In fact, the stretch from Stargazer: Three to Articles of the Federation is one of the longest on my shelves of a relatively consistent logo.

There was one exception during the Serpentine era: Star Trek: Vanguard, which debuted in Aug. 2005. This was a rare original ongoing with a 23rd-century setting, and for that reason, I assume, used the original Star Trek logo as its basis. (The spine design even kind of makes it look like a Star Trek novel called Vanguard: Harbinger, as opposed to a Star Trek: Vanguard novel called Harbinger.)

This is kind of a side note, but I did really like the "livery" that was wrapped around the original series logo for the 40th anniversary in 2006. All original series novels publishes that year had it, and it looks classy as heck.

When Voyager had its own post-series "relaunch," it didn't change its logo-- but The Next Generation did. Death in Winter (Sept. 2005) began a new approach for TNG novels, following on from Nemesis, and a totally new logo. As you can see, it's a total departure from the original Next Generation logo, a pretty generic serif. It took me a while even with font-matching web sites to figure out what it was, because there are a million like it. Some say it's "Palatino," but the "T" isn't right; I finally matched the "T" to that of "Rotis Serif." (And then found an old post by editor Marco Palmieri where he said what it was.)

When it first debuted, I was in a mental mode where I had to defend all of S&S's editorial choices, so I defended this. Now though... I think it's going for "classy and elegant" and ends up coming out "bland." I mean, you could do worse, but it just doesn't look science fiction-y at all. Which I suspect is kind of the point, but that's a bad point. I get why maybe someone wanted the 1980stastic original to go, but I don't believe this was the best replacement. It wasn't just applied to "TNG relaunch" novels either, as this logo also appeared on the prequel The Buried Age (July 2007) and the mostly-set-during-the-series anthology The Sky's the Limit (Sept. 2007).

In the meantime, we got a couple other unique logos. The Terok Nor miniseries, which began with Apr. 2008's Day of the Vipers was a prequel to Deep Space Nine, and used the variant of Handel Gothic originally developed for the DS9 relaunch for a unique logo.

The Destiny miniseries (Oct. 2008–Feb. 2009) also sported a unique logo, using the same font as Generations and First Contact did for their in-film logos, ITC Benguiat. Now, this is a classy serif, and I feel like would have made a much better basis for the TNG relaunch logo. But it was only used on these four books.

After this, though, Rotis took over. It suddenly became not just the font for The Next Generation novels, but the go-to font for non-series novels, beginning with the Typhon Pact miniseries in Oct. 2010, and subsequently continuing into Department of Temporal Investigations, The Fall miniseries, and the last two Section 31. Serpentine is out! (Except that Titan has never updated its cover font.) Only the most recent Next Generation novel, Oct. 2019's Collateral Damage, has moved away from it, restoring the classic tv logo, probably because with Picard, a more casual audience is more likely to be looking at TNG novels once more. (Though what that "casual" audience would make of Collateral Damage, which pays off a fifteen-years-running subplot from the novels, I've no idea.)

I actually used Rotis to resolve an ambiguity: James Swallow's Cast No Shadow (July 2011) is just called "Star Trek." It takes place several years after The Undiscovered Country, and features Valeris from that film. So is it an original series novel? Or a non-series one? Well, given it uses a Rotis logo, we can safely assume non-series, because it looks nicer shelved between Department of Temporal Investigations: Forgotten History and The Fall: Revelation and Dust than it would between The Children of Kings and A Choice of Catastrophes

With Jan. 2013's Allegiance in Exile, these things would become much less ambiguous, as "The Original Series" was restored to the logo again, and this time it was here to stay. Thanks, I hate it, but at least it was done tastefully this time.

William Shatner released ten Star Trek novels beginning with June 1997's The Ashes of Eden, which all followed the branding trends of their time: the original film logo for the first seven, Serpentine for the next two. However, the last one, Oct. 2007's Academy: Collision Course, used a very non-science-fiction looking logo in a generic sans serif. If there had been more "Academy" novels, I imagine they would have gone on the same, but I think they came to an end because the incoming reboot films were covering similar ground.

When S.C.E. relaunched as Corps of Engineers in Nov. 2009, I suppose it was just a bit too early for the Rotis revolution. I wonder if it would have used Rotis if it had come along a mite later, but as it was, it kept the movie font for the "Star Trek." For the subtitle, it switched to what I think is a Jeffries Extended font, the typeface used on the hull of Starfleet vessels, which was previously used as a logo on Enterprise and subsequently on Discovery. Note that the name changed because it was felt "S.C.E." was pretty inscrutable. It is, but I'm not sure putting the word "CORPS" biggest screams fun action-adventure. If they really wanted to make the series more accessible, they should have called it Star Trek: Miracle Workers!

S&S began a new Starfleet Academy series in Nov. 2010, this one tying into the 2009 film, showing what the original crew got up to during the three-year jump between Kirk enrolling in the Academy and the attack by Nero. These used the classic original series font for "Starfleet Academy"... but nothing at all for "Star Trek"! No Star Trek books have done this before or since as far as I know (except for, of course, the ones based on Enterprise).

July 2014 began another original series, Seekers. Seekers is a Vanguard spin-off, and its cover aesthetic is inspired by the old James Blish novelizations (covered in my previous post), by way of a series of tributes by artist Rob Caswell. I like the idea, but I found Caswell's for-fun tributes more successful than the actual published Seekers covers. I think it's because the cover ended up having five different typefaces on it! One for "STAR TREK," one for "SEEKERS" and the author name, one for the giant number, one for the New York Times bit, and one for the title. It just loses all sense of cohesion, and I don't get why some of those couldn't have been the same. (I am pretty sure the Seekers subtitle is Jeffries Extended again.) The original Blish covers and Caswell's original tributes have a simplicity and power this overly busy cover fails to recapture.

The most recent novel-original concept is Star Trek: Prometheus. This trilogy, begun in July 2016, was originally published in German. Its logo is, in fact, a war crime. The "STAR TREK" part is okay. It uses what I think is "Cimiez RomanDemiSerif," which has actually been used as a typeface for titles and author names on a number of Next Generation covers, including The Cold Equations trilogy and The Stuff of Dreams. But what's up with those big lowercase "e"s? And just because the mythical Prometheus gave fire to humanity doesn't justify something as tacky as MAKING YOUR LOGO ON FIRE! (Plus it's totally unsuited to the slow, plodding nature of the trilogy.)

When Titan translated the novels into English (beginning in Nov. 2017), they kept the Cimiez, but came up with some much duller for the "PROMETHEUS." I'm grateful, I suppose, but this is actually so boring I feel like they overcompensated.





And that, I think, brings us up to date! I'm sure there's some keystone cover of modern Star Trek books I've missed, but I think those are the significant font and design choices of the last two decades of Star Trek fiction. This whole five-part (and probably, eventually, six, though geeze I need a break) series is down to me noticing all the Serpentine on my shelf, so finally I got to talk about that bit!

Most cover art supplied by LibraryThing. Specifically, most of that was due to one dude, CoreyScott, who has uploaded tons of high-quality scans of tie-in book overs to LibraryThing over the years. Thanks also to the commenters on the TrekBBS for their feedback, especially user DarkHorizon who alerted me to the solicitation cover of The Best and the Brightest; I made some updates on 16 Feb. because of it, adding all the various Starfleet Academy novels.


  1. This series has been great, but I especially appreciate this entry, with a deep look at the logos of the Trek books I'm most familiar with. I've also read eras and series alignment into the logos a time or two -- glad I'm not the only one!

    1. Thank you, it's been fun to write. And yeah, some comments on the TrekBBS have made me think that Colonist's Corpse should be a non-series novel, not a TOS one, based on the logo.