This is an edited transcript of a live webchat, with questions submitted by readers.
Tales of the Dominion War, a new anthology you’ve edited, is out now. Could you tell us a bit about how and why that project came about?
Sure. My notion was that we didn’t see the entirety of the Dominion War. Deep Space Nine showed us one aspect of it. Like M*A*S*H, it showed us the war from the perspective of one group of people in one particular location. But the war had to be more far-reaching than that – it involved most of the Alpha Quadrant and the entire Federation.
So I got together a bunch of writers to show what the rest of the Trek universe was doing: Spock, McCoy, the TNG crew, Scotty, plus characters from the various prose-only series like New Frontier, S.C.E., etc. In some cases, I paired writer with subject where it was obvious – e.g. Peter David doing the New Frontier story, Josepha Sherman and Susan Shwartz doing a Spock-on-Romulus story. Others were more open-ended.
In the end, I think we got a good – and remarkably diverse – anthology. We also got to explore a couple of aspects of the war mentioned on the show but never fleshed out: the fall of Betazed in In the Pale Moonlight and the Breen attack on Earth in The Changing Face of Evil.
Were you approaching writers with story ideas, then, or were they allowed to brainstorm their own?
It depended on the story. For example, there were two reasons why I asked Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore to do the S.C.E. story. The obvious is because they’re among the “regulars” on S.C.E., but the reason I chose them over any of the others in the stable is because Dayton is a former Marine and I figured he’d be able to do a good ground-combat story. Peter and I brainstormed his New Frontier story together; ditto Jo and Susan and I. Bob Greenberger’s Klag story was pretty much set up for him by my Gorkon novels. And so on.
With anthologies like Tales of the Dominion War and No Limits, are there stories that were submitted but not published? If so, what happens to those stories?
That didn’t happen with Tales of the Dominion War. It did with No Limits, but that was because of time constraints. The execution of the story didn’t work, and we had to cut the story because there wasn’t time to fix it. I should say that No Limits was produced at a breakneck pace. Had there been more time, that story would’ve been in there because the author would’ve had time to revise it.
As for “what happens”, there’s no single answer for that. Many anthologies have stories that didn’t make it. Sometimes they’ll be recycled into other stories. Sometimes they disappear.
Some book-only Star Trek series such as New Frontier and Stargazer have single authors. What’s it like running a series like Starfleet Corps of Engineers, which has several?
An absolute friggin’ nightmare. [laughs]
Seriously, though, it’s actually a lot of fun, though it’s occasionally a logistical mess. The thing is, since it’s monthly, it’s not practical for S.C.E. to be done single-author. Writing a 25,000-word novella per month is more than any one author can handle on a regular basis and not go jibber-jabber insane.
But the experience has been really excellent. The authors have all been really good about keeping up with things, and incorporating changes as they go. Oftentimes, I’ll have to ask authors to put in references to things in the eBooks just prior to theirs – which they didn’t know about when they were writing, because those authors weren’t done yet.
What was it that made you decide to go for the monthly eBook format, then?
The [monthly] format was decided upon early on by people who aren’t me, so I don’t know. [laughs]
As for the eBook format, Pocket wanted to have something that was unique to the format. Microsoft was launching MS Reader, and so we tied the beginning of S.C.E. to the launch of the reader. It did really well, and Pocket figured it would be a good thing to do as a regular thing – more like a monthly comic book than a series of books like New Frontier or Stargazer.
Seems to be working, since we’re coming up on eBook 50 now…
How far in advance is the I.K.S. Gorkon series planned? Any ending in sight?
I have no particular end in sight, no. Right now Book Four is plotted, and I know what I want to do for Book Five. But I don’t see any story reason to stop. There may be other reasons to stop down the line, but they haven’t come up yet.
Can you share anything about those books, or any other future plans?
I wouldn’t mind doing something with twenty-third century Klingons, to be honest…
Since my proposal for Book Four hasn’t been approved yet, I’d really rather not talk about it just yet. Besides, part of why Book Four will be what it is relates to what happens in Book Three, which isn’t out until March. As for Book Three – Enemy Territory will, as I said, be out in March. It has the Klingons making a rather violent first contact with the Elabrej Hegemony, and much violence ensues.
Are you planning any more Worf stories, or non-Gorkon Klingon stories?
Well, a big chunk of A Time for War, a Time for Peace involves Worf and the Klingon Empire. And the empire plays a role in Articles of the Federation, which is my novel about the politics of the Federation coming out next summer. Beyond that, I’m not sure yet.
What else can you tell us about Articles?
Articles of the Federation will tell a year in the life of the Federation president. In A Time for War, a Time for Peace, a new president was elected. Articles will show that person’s first year in office. In addition to following up on A Time for War, a Time for Peace, it will also spin out of the events of Nemesis and the first Titan novel, Taking Wing.
We’ll get a pretty good look at how the Federation government works, about the politics of utopia, and how the Federation deals with (among other things) the fallout from the fall of the Romulan government in the latest movie.
You’ve written books based on a variety of science-fiction shows. Have you always been a viewer of those shows before getting the writing gigs?
Yes, I watched Buffy, Farscape, Doctor Who, Xena, Young Hercules, and Andromeda when I was writing books and stories based on them. For that matter, I’ve been a dedicated reader of Marvel Comics for years.
The only case where I wasn’t a fan before I was hired was Andromeda. The editor of the Andromeda novels had read my Farscape novel and really liked it, and wanted to know if I wanted to write the first Andromeda book. I had watched the show a few times, and wasn’t completely taken in by what I’d seen. However, there was one story I was interested in telling, which was a prequel focussing on what Beka and Tyr were doing before they hooked up with Dylan. The editor liked the idea, and so I immersed myself in Andromeda and actually grew to appreciate the show a lot more.
But generally, I prefer to write in universes I’m already fond of and familiar with.
Going back to both Gorkon and Tales of the Dominion War: did you know from day one how Klag would lose his arm, or did you figure it out just in time for Robert Greenberger to write A Song Well Sung?
From day one. If you read Diplomatic Implausibility, which is the I.K.S. Gorkon‘s first appearance, Klag tells the story of how he lost his arm to Riker within the first 50 pages or so. Klag told it again in A Good Day to Die. Bob then gave us the real deal – without the exaggerations that Klag had added in later retellings – in the anthology.
Can you tell us a bit more about the Tales from the Captain’s Table anthology? What was the criteria for inclusion – why no Garrett, Harriman, or April…?
The concept of Tales from the Captain’s Table is that it will have stories featuring the captains who’ve been added to the Trek pantheon in the last four to five years or so. Enterprise Logs covered Garrett, Harriman, and April, and they were already part of the mythos already.
Can you tell us anything about the stories that are in the book?
I can tell you that Klag’s story won’t be how he lost his arm. [laughs]
I’d rather not say what happens in the stories, in part because the final manuscripts haven’t been approved yet. I will say, though, that the stories will be linked, in a sense. The anthology will be structured a bit like The Canterbury Tales, with the captains coming in and out of the bar and each telling their story in turn.
One thing I can say: Archer’s story is entitled Have Beagle, Will Travel. Make of that what you will.
You will be writing the Ferenginar tale in Worlds of Deep Space Nine: Volume Three. Do you consider the Ferengi to be one of your favourite alien cultures/species?
The Ferengi aren’t necessarily one of my favourites, but I do think that there’s a lot that can be done there. The idea of a society that’s so overwhelmingly capitalistic is fascinating, particularly in a Star Trek that most avoids economic issues altogether. Money is such a critical part of how our world works, yet it’s one thing that generally isn’t dealt with at all in Trek. So doing an entire story focussed on Ferenginar was kinda fun.
Plus, when I was writing my DS9 novel Demons of Air and Darkness, I started thinking about what the reign of Grand Nagus Rom would be like, and also thought about other things we knew about his past, and it all came together. So when Marco [Palmieri, editor] conceived Worlds of Deep Space Nine, I pitched him Ferenginar.
I admit, I also enjoyed doing the Ferengi because they are in many ways 180 degrees from the Klingons, so it was nice to break out of the stereotype, as it were.
Which of the books you’re writing, or have written, have you enjoyed most?
Oh god… That’s like asking parents to pick their favourite children…..
This isn’t really answering the question, but I did find myself particularly swept up by Articles. But then, I also felt that way about Enemy Territory. And the Andromeda novel. And The Art of the Impossible. And The Brave and the Bold. And…
You get the idea. There’s no way to pick just one. Sorry.
When you write for series like Lost Era that are inter-connected, how much do you have to collaborate with the other authors? What’s it like in comparison to writing a standalone?
Thing is, any Star Trek novel is going to have some level of collaboration, because you’re writing as part of a tapestry that’s been woven over the past four decades.
I actually did the most collaborating with other authors, since mine covered so much time, and because both David George and I were dealing with issues of Klingon chancellorship succession. But I love that sort of thing. I do it in S.C.E. all the time, I do it in my novels all the time.
Actually, a better example is the A Time To… series, where all the authors, particularly me, Bob, and Dave, were in constant touch to make sure everything fit together. That was a lot of work, much more than a standalone would’ve been, but it was also more fun. We got to challenge each other and use each other’s work to build on other things. (By the way, I didn’t mean to slight John or Dayton and Kevin there. We talked to them, too.)
But like I said, I enjoy that sort of thing. And you also have your editor to coordinate things. In the case of The Lost Era, Marco Palmieri did a fantastic job keeping everything straight (as he already does with the post-finale DS9 novels).
Do you enjoy attending Star Trek conventions?
Yes. I’ve done several Slanted Fedora shows, one Trek Expo (and I plan to go back next year), and of course there’s Shore Leave. I’m going to be at PhilCon in December in Philadelphia and the SFedora show in New Jersey in early January.
Could you tell us a little about your new book Dragon Precinct?
Dragon Precinct is a combination of high fantasy and police procedural – think Law & Order meets Lord of the Rings. Or Harry Potter meets the 87th Precinct. Or The Sword of Shannara meets JAG.
Basically, it takes place in a high-fantasy setting, with humans, elves, gnomes, dwarves, goblins, halflings, etc, and where magic exists. Our main characters are detectives in the city-state of Cliff’s End, where they are charged with solving crimes – like when the members of a heroic quest are killed off one by one. Their fellow detectives solve things like a ring of criminals selling bad glamours, or a serial rapist who has a spell that allows him to walk through walls, that kind of thing.
It’s out in paperback right now, and you should all buy copies right now.
Do you keep a Star Trek encyclopedia on hand?
Yes. Next to my computer desk is a pile of reference books, including the Encyclopedia, Star Charts, The Klingon Dictionary, and the various Companions.
Do you watch Star Trek: Enterprise?
I haven’t been able to keep up with it this season, as I’ve been too busy writing, unfortunately, but I will be able to catch up when I get the chance.
Would you ever be interested in writing an Enterprise novel?
Sure. I’ve already written the Enterprise crew in The Brave and the Bold, Book One. I don’t have a particular idea right now, but I’m open to the possibility, certainly.
How did you get into writing? Has it always been an ambition of yours?
It always was an ambition of mine, yes. I’ve been writing since I was about six.
As to how I got into it, I simply kept writing and kept submitting to places, and eventually, people started sending me checks instead of revision letters. It took a lot of work, but it got done.
How hard is it hard to write for characters that other people came up with, that have never been seen on screen (such as Taran’atar and Shar from the DS9 relaunch)?
Not hard. It’s harder when they haven’t been seen much. I mean, it was more of a challenge to write Taran’atar and Shar for me, since I was coming in at virtually the beginning, then it probably was for the Mission: Gamma authors who had the first four books to work from.
Sometimes it’ll take a bit more work, since you can’t plunk a DVD into the computer to get mannerisms and speech patterns, but if the character’s well enough drawn, then it isn’t an issue.
What are the plans for the future of the S.C.E. series? The Wildfire collection just came out in print…
Well, the eBooks are way ahead of where the print books are. Wildfire reprints eBooks 20-24. Meanwhile, this month eBook 46 will be coming out. In the print books, the next couple of titles – Breakdowns and Aftermath – will deal with the S.C.E. folk recovering from the events of Wildfire.
In the eBooks, the next few months include a planet in a box, a couple of DS9 crossovers, a murder mystery, and the first ever Klingon-Jewish wedding.
Was bringing the A Time To… saga to an end in A Time for War, a Time for Peace difficult?
It was quite the opposite of difficult, it was great. It was very much an honour to be doing this sort of denouement for the TNG crew. The only way in which it was difficult was the sphincter-tightening fear as to whether or not it actually worked.
In particular, I had a certain trepidation about Riker’s “benediction” at the wedding in the last chapter before the epilogue. But I loved being able to write that little reunion – I threw Pulaski in there, too, since there was no reason to assume she wasn’t at the wedding.
In terms of ending the nine-book series, the challenge there was to make sure that I was able to tie up all the threads from the previous eight books: bringing the censure from Rashanar in A Time to Be Born to an end, following up on the events at Dokalaan, Delta Sigma IV, and Tezwa, and setting the stage for Nemesis. Plus also telling an interesting story somewhere in there.
Yeah, okay, writing that all down – it was difficult. But a fun kind of difficult.
Tales of the Dominion War and A Time for War, a Time for Peace were released by Pocket Books in August and October 2004 respectively. Articles of the Federation and Tales from the Captain’s Table will be released by Pocket Books in May and June 2005.