This is an edited version of an email Q&A, with questions submitted by readers.
What do you think about the upcoming cutback in the publication rate of Star Trek novels, from 24 to 12 mass-market paperbacks a year?
Presumably, Pocket Books have sound business reasons for doing so. As an author, I can only hope that the slimming of the list increases the sales of the individual books… especially if some of them are mine! [smiles]
The other big cut about to hit is on screen: in a matter of weeks, there’ll be no Star Trek on TV for the first time in over 15 years. How do you imagine Trek’s future, and what do you think of the decision to cancel Enterprise?
I’m disappointed that Enterprise was cancelled; I was enjoying this season. Still, I’m not ready to write Star Trek off just yet. Trek‘s future has been uncertain before, after the first show was cancelled, after the fifth movie, and so on. All we need is one genuinely kick-ass new movie or series to revive the series again. And besides, there’s always the books! [smiles]
What do you think of the Enterprise episodes Affliction and Divergence (and the “Augments” arc) regarding Klingons and genetic manipulation, and do you think it conflicts with your story about the twenty-third century in The Eugenics Wars?
Would you believe I haven’t seen the Klingon episodes yet? I really wanted to, but I had a tight deadline to meet and ended up writing instead. I’ll have to catch the reruns.
I liked the Augments episodes, although I confess that I winced every time they mentioned the body count from the Eugenics Wars, which was much higher than the body count in my books. That was the only real contradiction I noticed. It would be easy enough to reconcile the two stories if I had to.
In the Eugenics Wars duology, how did you choose the events in the 1990s to connect with Khan?
Basically, I made up a list of important real-life events that took place during Khan’s supposed lifetime, plus another list of key Star Trek events and characters from the same period, and tried to mesh them together as best as I could. It was like a giant crossword puzzle.
Given all the cross-referencing you did of other Trek stories, how long did it take you to plot the events of those books?
The plotting wasn’t the hard part. What was really time-consuming was all the historical and geographical research. This wasn’t set on some planet where I could just make things up. I had to research all the real-life events and locations just to make them sound convincing. I still have an entire shelf of books on Indian history and culture!
Obviously there are some events in Eugenics Wars that didn’t happen in our timeline. What made you decide to take the action regarding, for example, the assassination of the UN delegates?
Even though that specific event never happened, I thought it had the ring of a genuine nineties-style terrorist attack. In fact, I got idea from a nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subways that really did happen in about the same era. I just had to tinker with the dates and location to fit my plot, though.
There’s been some criticism claiming that your “covert war” depiction of the Eugenics Wars is hard to reconcile with Space Seed, which suggested Khan’s rise to power and the war that followed were open and widely known. How would you respond to those complaints, and why did you go down the route you did?
I knew from the beginning that there were two, equally legitimate ways to deal with the Eugenics Wars. You could ignore real history and describe the sort of all-out conflict alluded to in Space Seed or you could try to squeeze the Eugenics Wars into real history via the “covert war” approach. Both approaches have their advantages and disadvantages, but my editor and I both thought the latter approach would be more interesting. It also meshed well with those two Voyager episodes that were set in the 1990s but didn’t mention the Eugenics Wars. Paramount also signed off on the idea.
There was no way to please everybody. If I had gone the other way, and described a third world war in the 1990s, somebody would have complained that this never happened and that Trek should not take place in an alternate history. And if I had changed the dates to, say, the 2090s, that would have also contradicted Space Seed and all the various Trek reference books.
Basically, something had to get fudged somewhere. Thankfully, Space Seed gave me a little wiggle room by stating that historical records concerning the Eugenics Wars were sketchy and incomplete…
How much does the general public know about Khan in the twentieth century, then? By the twenty-third, the entire affair seems to be known…
What the general public of the twentieth century is missing is the Big Picture. They see isolated coups and cults and civil wars and such, but don’t realise that these events are all connected to each other by a secret war between genetically-engineered superhumans. If they’ve heard of Khan at all, he’s just some Sikh separatist leader in Northern India who is responsible for some turmoil in that part of the world. They don’t realise the full range of his power, nor the size of his ambitions.
(I liked how, in the Enterprise episodes, the story about Khan and the Botany Bay is dismissed as a myth. I guess Roberta or Seven must spilled the beans to somebody at some point…)
Do you have any plans to revisit the Paragon colony from the Sycorax framing story used in the first two Khan books?
My Trek editor and I have talked about going back to Sycorax, but we’re still in the general brainstorming phase. Nothing definite yet.
At the end of the second Eugenics Wars book, Roberta Lincoln asked Rain Robinson if she wanted to “save the world”, which felt like the perfect set-up for a new story with the two of them. Would that be something you’d like to do?
I really liked the Rain Robinson character on those Voyager episodes, so a Roberta/Rain novel sounds like fun. (Everytime I see Sarah Silverman on TV, I’m like, “Damn! I still need to write that Rain Robinson book!”) My only concern is that, after the Eugenics Wars, what do you for an encore? Again, I have some vague ideas bouncing around in my head, but nothing definite at the moment.
Speaking of exciting pairings, some of the best scenes in the Eugenics Wars books focussed on Roberta Lincoln and Gary Seven. Why did you pick those two characters?
I always thought that the original Trek episode, Assignment: Earth, just cried out for sequels (no surprise, since it was intended as a [backdoor] pilot for a Gary Seven TV series). I had previously brought Gary, Roberta – and Isis – back in my novel, Assignment: Eternity, which led directly into the Eugenics Wars books.
Where did you get the idea of the Aegis? And do you have any future plans for the Aegis?
Well, the idea of the Aegis was inherent in the original Gary Seven TV episode. And it was Howard Weinstein who coined the term ‘Aegis’ in a Gary Seven story he wrote for the Star Trek comic book series. I lifted the name from Howie. So far, I’ve kept the Aegis nicely mysterious, just like they were in Assignment: Earth. Who knows, maybe I can flesh them out a bit more if I ever return to Gary and Roberta.
How did you get noticed by Pocket way back when, and how did you react to being chosen for a project as ambitious as Eugenics Wars?
I’d known John Ordover, who was then the Trek editor at Pocket Books, ever since we were both assistant editors at Tor Books together. John recruited me to write a Deep Space Nine novel several years back and that was the beginning of my Trek career.
As for the Eugenics Wars books, I had actually set that up at the end of the previous Seven/Roberta novel (mentioned above), where Spock mentions to Kirk that his historical research had revealed that Gary and Roberta had been instrumental in the overthrow of Khan Noonien Singh. Honest to God, at the time I wrote that I didn’t have any sequels in mind; I just thought it made a nice punchline to Assignment: Eternity. Then John asked me if wanted to write that story…
You returned to Khan for To Reign in Hell, which is out now. For anyone who hasn’t yet picked it up, could you say a bit about that book?
This is the story of Khan’s 15-year-long exile on Ceti Alpha V. It picks up right after Space Seed, with Khan and his followers being marooned by Kirk on Ceti Alpha V, and ends right about where The Wrath of Khan begins. In between, of course, we have the colonists’ desperate struggle to survive after a global cataclysm lays waste to the planet. It’s also the story of Khan’s wife, a.k.a. Lieutenant Marla McIvers of Starfleet.
Which book from the Khan “trilogy” was the most enjoyable to write, which was the hardest to write, and which was your personal favourite?
My memories are a little fuzzy here. Even the most recent book is still two books ago, and it seems like ages since I wrote the first Eugenics Wars book. I know I always enjoyed writing Roberta Lincoln, just because I could get breezy and funny with her in a way that I couldn’t with any of the other characters. My own personality is probably more like Roberta than Khan!
The third book is definitely the grimmest and most serious, as it sort of had to be. It’s all about Khan slowly going insane while everything in his life falls apart. Not a whole lot of laughs there!
Your Q Continuum books featured nearly all the powerful energy beings that ever appeared in Trek, and last year you featured one of them again in your Tales of the Dominion War story. What fascinates you about them?
Well, they seem to be all over the Star Trek universe, so I thought it was logical to connect them somehow. At one point, I was going to work in Redjack from Wolf in the Fold as well, but the story was getting too crowded! (So I gave Redjack a cameo in the first Eugenics Wars book instead.) The story in the Dominion War anthology was actually an excised chapter from The Q Continuum that I re-worked for the anthology a few years later.
You’ve also written, for example, Roswell and Iron Man tie-in books. What fictional universe is your favourite, and why?
I’ve also written for such series as Alias, Buffy, Daredevil, Farscape, Fantastic Four, Spider-man, Underworld, Xena and X-Men! I honestly don’t have a favourite. What I enjoy is the variety, plus the opportunity to play with some of my favourite characters. I’ve been lucky in that, so far, I’ve never had to write for any series that I wasn’t a fan of.
Do you have any upcoming Trek projects?
To be honest, I need to get on the ball and submit some new Trek proposals to Pocket, but I’ve been busy with other projects lately. After three Khan books… I needed to write something else for a while! But I’ve got some ideas in the back of my head and one of these days I’ll commit them to paper.
To Reign in Hell was released by Pocket Books in January 2005.