I like Gary Westfahl's letter (Dec. 23) contesting Clifford Irving's claim that good novels are being overlooked in favor of bestsellers--except for Westfahl's slam against "Star Trek" novels. This weakened his entire argument in favor of popular fiction, because "Star Trek" novels are the most popular series in publishing, not just science fiction but all publishing.
From Ulysses to the Hardy Boys to James Bond, people have enjoyed reading the continuing exploits of favorite heroes. Why anyone should find this strange, I don't know. Except for the movie tie-ins, "Star Trek" novels are original stories which happen to use familiar characters. The authors range from such luminaries as Vonda McIntyre and David Gerrold to total unknowns, such as myself.
I would say it's never easy to get a first novel published, but it's certainly a thrill to have your first novel be an international best-seller, as my Trek/Next Generation novel, "Masks," was. I think Westfahl is jealous of the sales figures for "Star Trek" novels, which represent 15 to 20% of all science-fiction novels sold, and he comes off just as elitist as the people he criticizes.
Of course, The Times Book Review knows a thing or two about elitism, refusing to review or recognize paperback originals in any form. This would be the same as Car and Driver saying they will only review Jaguars and Mercedes and ignore the vast majority of the cars people actually buy.
JOHN VORNHOLT, LOS ANGELES