Star Trek Author Vonda McIntyre Reveals How Sulu Got His First Name

Back in 1981 author Vonda N McIntyre wrote the first original Star Trek novel for Pocket Books, "The Entropy Effect", and then went on to write a number of other Trek books and movie adaptations. Today McIntyre has a guest blog at io9 discussing the genesis of her work on Star Trek, including how she came up with Sulu’s first name


Sulu gets a name

In a guest blog post at io9, Vonda McIntyre writes about writing one of the first Star Trek novels "The Entropy Effect" (1981), which was the second Star Trek novel published by Pocket Books (the first being the book adaptation of Star Trek: The Motion Picture). Her blog contains a passage on how she gave Sulu a first name:

The only potential glitch in the Star Trek books came about because I couldn’t figure out how to write a love scene where the protagonists called each other by their surnames. So I gave Mr. Sulu a first name, "Hikaru," which is from The Tale of Genji. I was blissfully unaware of the glitch till long after the fact; someone at Paramount objected to the idea of the character’s having a given name, for reasons unclear to me. David had the good idea of asking Gene Roddenberry and George Takei their opinion, and both of them said "Go for it" or words to that effect. And so Mr. Sulu has a first name.

Sulu’s first name Hikaru eventually made it into official canon in the 1991 film Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. This is not the only time that material from (non-canon) Star Trek books made its way into official Star Trek canon. For example, in the 2009 Star Trek movie, Uhura’s first name Nyota, and Kirk’s mother’s name Winona were both derived from previous non-canon Star Trek books.

Hikaru, Winona, and Nyota got their names from the books

There is more to McIntyre’s blog, so read the rest at io9.

Original 1981 cover for "The Entropy Effect"





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Scruffy the Janitor/Vampire Slayer
July 2, 2010 4:29 pm

I really enjoyed her books way back when.

Thanks for the article.

Praetor Shinzon II
July 2, 2010 4:35 pm

Have no problem with Hikaru or Nyota but Winona!?! Who came up with THAT crap name? That’s southern trailer trash name, not Iowa cornfield name! What book is that from, I’ll make a point never to read it.

July 2, 2010 4:35 pm

Entropy Effect is a good read. Wasn’t crazy about Enterprise:The First Adventure though.

July 2, 2010 4:35 pm

Also a big Thanks!
I remember the day I bought The Entropy Effect. I love her work.

July 2, 2010 4:35 pm

I thinks it is time we give a name to the middle N initial in Vonda’s name. How about: Vonda Nogura McIntyre — the great great great great great great grandmother of Admiral Nogura!

July 2, 2010 4:37 pm

I loved Vonda’s The Entropy Effect and Enterprise: The First Adventure. I still see the latter as how the TOS crew got together in the Prime universe.

People say all the time that the novels “aren’t canon” -which is true-, but it’s often said with the implication that they’re somehow of lesser worth than the TV shows and films. As far as I’m concerned, TV/film Trek is only half the story. There have been some amazing and some terrible Star Trek novels over the years, just like there have been amazing and terrible episodes and movies.

Any chance of Vonda writing a nuTrek novel one day?

(oh yeah – and you gotta love Fearsome Hippie Sulu on the cover of Entropy Effect!)

July 2, 2010 4:42 pm

Wow, that was one of the really good novels. Nice to know TPTB took notice. Strangers from the Sky is also a great one… and a better genesis story than ST09, imho.

July 2, 2010 4:43 pm


Funny, I never thought of Winona Ryder as being southern trailer trash. According to Wikipedia, she was born in Olmstead County, Minnesota and named after nearby Winona County–both of which are in the NORTH, I believe.

Cap'n Calhoun
July 2, 2010 4:48 pm

“This is not the only time that material from novels made its way into books”

Not surprisingly, this happens with pretty much every novel they write.

July 2, 2010 4:49 pm

Wow, have some issues with names, #2? I’m sure the great people of WINONA, MN would have some words with you! There is othing wrong with that name. I think it has a very MIDWESTERN name and fits perfectly for the character.

July 2, 2010 4:57 pm

I have that book.

July 2, 2010 5:02 pm

I live in MN & have been to Winona, nice town. As for Winona Kirk, I see nothing wrong with the name but see someone definately has some issues.

July 2, 2010 5:03 pm

Awesome little anecdote :)

Tales of the inexplicable madness of Paramount approvals processes never fail to give my heart a comforting lil’ hug :/ They objected to a character … having a name.

And I thought I already knew some doozies :)

That One Guy
July 2, 2010 5:08 pm

Huh. I did not know that. I can’t believe his name wasn’t mentioned until VI.

This is why I read the books, because you never know when something might be brought up.

Another Q
July 2, 2010 5:09 pm

Always liked Vonda McIntyre’s work – Entropy Effect
was one of the first Trek novels I read & I thought it
was very original and imaginative.

"Check the Circuit!"
July 2, 2010 5:20 pm

Ask Peter David about the goofy crap he had to deal with from the empty suits at Paramount during his DC Comics run (and I assume his various novels). Completely inane stuff.

"Check the Circuit!"
July 2, 2010 5:27 pm

This was one of my favorite novels in the Trek fiction library. I turn a scene from it into a screenplay for an assignment in a creative writing class back in college. I used the scene where Kirk is shot with the spiderweb bullet.

(Got an “A”…helps when you’re working with great source material. )

July 2, 2010 5:27 pm

#16: I second the recommendation of Peter David’s anecdotes; I’ve heard several at cons and, yeah.

#OP: “This is not the only time that material from (non-canon) Star Trek books made its way into official Star Trek canon.”

Quite ;)

July 2, 2010 5:49 pm

I’m really simple: It’s all canon. Unless something directly contradicts something in the TV/movies (which is “paramount”. Heh.) it all happened. So, yes, the TOS/TNG crew did roll with the X-Men. They just don’t talk about it that much.

July 2, 2010 5:51 pm

One of my favorite Trek books.

July 2, 2010 6:07 pm

#19: “So, yes, the TOS/TNG crew did roll with the X-Men. They just don’t talk about it that much.”

Yeah, that’s my preferred attitude as well … what’s “real” to me, personally, in Trek is approximately 100% more important than what the suits tell me is real … pick and choose, or simply embrace it all, depending on what lights your particular Trek bonfire. Really dig that fanfic you read last week? Really _didn’t_ dig that Voyager ep you watched the next night? Fanfic, real. Voyager ep, hokey speculation.

Canon is a necessary framework for those _working_ on Trek material, but need play no part whatsoever in enjoying it.

ster julie
July 2, 2010 6:13 pm

#17. Hey, I did the same thing with David Gerrold’s tribble-ations as he wrote that iconic TOS ep. Got a B+ which I argued up to an A, seeing that it was based on *fact* after all!

bill hiro
July 2, 2010 6:45 pm

“That’s southern trailer trash name, not Iowa cornfield name!”


“Ask Peter David about the goofy crap he had to deal with from the empty suits at Paramount during his DC Comics run (and I assume his various novels). Completely inane stuff.”

Apparently that was all down to Gene’s somewhat self-appointed ‘fan liason’ Richard Arnold, who was somehow delegated the job of reading and giving notes on those Trek comic scripts. He consistently ripped Peter David’s stuff to pieces (and Peter was a great Trek comics writer), so someone got the idea of submit one of Peter’s scripts under a different name and Richard had no complaints about it. Bizarre. So it wasn’t so much the traditional Star Trek boogeyman “The Suits” as it was one guy with an axe to grind against Peter David for reasons unknown.

Paul B.
July 2, 2010 7:01 pm

21 – “Canon is a necessary framework for those _working_ on Trek material, but need play no part whatsoever in enjoying it.”

Well said! That’s the most lucid single sentence I’ve read about the issue of canon on these pages.

Doug Skywalker
July 2, 2010 7:27 pm

wasn’t all information about Kirk’s parents from books?

Martin Pollard
July 2, 2010 7:41 pm

23 – I remember something about the Arnold/David thing, back when David’s novel “Vendetta” (the follow-up to TNG’s BOBW) was published. Long story short: Arnold would shoot down so much stuff in Trek novels that it was turning them into mush, so David added a whole bunch of “Arnold bait” (example: Worf’s thoughts about Dr. Selar, the joke being that she was played by Suzie Plakson, who played K’Ehleyr) that would distract Arnold and allow him to sneak in more subtle stuff. What happened, though, is that someone behind the scenes who hated Arnold more than the fans did tipped off the upper honchos, who told him to leave “Vendetta” alone. Thus, we got the full novel, “Arnold bait” and all. (I may have misremembered some things, and the text file I had on this is long gone, but that’s the gist of it.) Rather amusing, I thought.

July 2, 2010 8:15 pm

^ Heh, maybe that’s where the “Holy shit” line in “Vendetta” came from. Which is awesome that it’s in there anyway.

July 2, 2010 9:28 pm

I thought Gene Roddenberry himself wrote the novelization of The Motion Picture. In fact, I know he did. Did I misunderstand what was said in the article?

July 2, 2010 9:36 pm

Back when kids used to read books.


Those were the days.

July 2, 2010 9:42 pm

#28: All the article says (that I can see) is that the TMP novelization was the first Pocket Books Trek novel, and McIntyre’s was the second.

July 2, 2010 10:33 pm

Screw canon. To paraphrase Chairman Mao, My a hundred Star Treks bloom.

July 2, 2010 10:34 pm

Opps, excuse me, May a hundred Star Treks bloom.

Dr. Cheis
July 2, 2010 10:38 pm

I’m still not convinced Nyota is actually Uhura’s first name. Spock had “no comment on the matter,” and Uhura dodged the question for quite some time. I prefer to think of it as her “nickname” or a name Spock called her affectionately.

Buzz Cagney
July 2, 2010 11:10 pm

Put me down as another that enjoyed Vonda’s Enterprise: The First Adventure. It really caught the ‘feel’ of the show.

July 3, 2010 12:59 am

It was a good book.

July 3, 2010 1:37 am

I haven’t read every novel but read a lot of them. Always treated them as canon until it was contradicted in a episode or movie.

July 3, 2010 5:30 am

“Canon is a necessary framework for those _working_ on Trek material, but need play no part whatsoever in enjoying it.”

There’s so much truth in this statement I just had to change my pants.

July 3, 2010 5:37 am


It was my understanding (and not from this article) that Alan Dean Foster was the ghost writer for the novelization of Star Trek-TMP, using GR’s notes.

He was also the ghost writer for the original Star Wars novelization, published a year ahead of the movie in 1976.

Not an uncommon practice then or now.

July 3, 2010 5:48 am

My goof; the Wiki article confirms only the ‘rumor’ that ADF ghost writer of ST-TMP’s novelization, but I’ve heard elsewhere that this was in fact the case. Doesn’t matter; as Gene Roddenberry’s intent and vision is all over the book anyway. The articles I’ve read before (years ago) could very well be wrong, and if so, my apologies to the memory of GR as no disrespect was intended).
Everyone in the industry uses ghost-writers; IMO, it’s not a crime as long as the titled author’s intent and ‘flavor’ is there. William Shatner does it all the time.

As for Vonda McIntyre, I never really cared for Enterprise: First Adventure, but she’s written a few nice ones here and there. I also liked Ann Crispin’s sequels to “All Our Yesterdays”; “Yesterday’s Son” in particular was a nice read. Spock’s son “Zar” was his own David Marcus; a rebellious kid who doesn’t understand his father.

July 3, 2010 5:57 am

I love it. Rather than having these stories become canon, they simply steal certain elements and use them for their own purposes while still enforcing the notion that these stories never happened. What a waste.

July 3, 2010 6:39 am

I consider the Star Trek: Enterprise novels that have brought Cmdr. “Trip” Tucker back canon. The asinine way he was killed off in the final episode deserves to be ignored!

Alan Dean Fister has commented many times he did not write the novelization of ST-TMP.

July 3, 2010 7:23 am

“Canon is a necessary framework for those _working_ on Trek material, but need play no part whatsoever in enjoying it.”

Gospel truth right here.

and in complete agreement with 36.

I absolutely love it when an element from TrekLit is acknowledged on screen. I won’t say that “it becomes cannon” because like captain neill said, unless its contradicted on screen, its cannon.

If you’re not reading the novels, you are so denying so yourself so much further enjoyment of the characters you love.

Praetor Tal
July 3, 2010 7:28 am

Winona Ryder definitely not trailer trash. Also a good name for a much-beloved pulse pistol (or .22 rifle, in my case).

July 3, 2010 7:46 am


Agreed, I consider them canon myself.

July 3, 2010 8:33 am

Why has Sulu got long hair and a moustache on that cover? More interesting than his name.

July 3, 2010 8:35 am

@21: Just want to add to the love for this post. Preach on, bro! :D

@40: “… while still enforcing the notion that these stories never happened.”

As opposed to the honest-to-God, real adventures that the real Kirk, Picard, Sisko, Archer and Janeway are really having on the real starships that actually exist, for reals?

I'm Dead Jim
July 3, 2010 8:38 am

@ 2… This is no place for your bigoted comments and I’m surprised it hasn’t been deleted yet. Did someone named Winona make you cry when you were a baby, or maybe more recently? Pitiful!

July 3, 2010 9:15 am

@45: If I recall correctly, during the course of the story Sulu transfers to a smaller, fighter-type ship whose captain is Sulu’s childhood hero (she fought off Klingon raiders that menaced the colony he grew up on). It’s a lot less spit and polish than the Enterprise, so he lets his hair and mustache grow out.

@43: You mean you didn’t call it Vera?!

Picard's Barber
July 3, 2010 9:43 am

I’m pretty sure that Scotty calls Uhura by her first name in ST:V amidst that whole crappy love sub-plot. Pretty sure it was Nyota too! Prove me wrong.

July 3, 2010 10:11 am

The canon problem comes from the fact that every author had their own backstory for the characters, universe, etc. back then and it was confusing to keep track.

Also, perhaps Paramount didn’t want to burden new readers and authors with too much backstory (previous novels) that they cant enjoy/write a new one. The same problem is found in Star Wars, though canon policy is different there.