Dave Galanter has been part of the Star Trek fiction world since his 1994 The Next Generation novel Foreign Foes, written with Greg Brodeur, and he’s been an occasional contributor to the line ever since. His Trek bibliography includes titles based on The Original Series, The Next Generation, Voyager, and Corps of Engineers, and features several more Brodeur collaborations. This month, a solo TOS novel entitled Troublesome Minds has been added to this list.
“The story is meant to take place during the last year of Kirk’s five-year mission,” explains Dave, who’s happy to have returned to novel-length tales after recent Star Trek novellas and short stories. “The idea was to write a story which would accomplish a few things. I wanted to deliver essentially a classic Trek episode-style story, focusing on Kirk, Spock, and McCoy, and in this case more heavily on Spock. I also wanted to present a society that used a sign language and had deaf members. My brother Josh is deaf and I work at a university for the deaf and so that was important to me. Lastly, I wanted to put forth a story that had no clear answers to some moral dilemmas. I think I accomplished all three, but the readers will decide.”
Whilst those shorter works mentioned above (the eBooks Bitter Medicine and Shadows of the Indignant, and the short stories Eleven Hours Out and The Leader) were all written by Dave alone, Troublesome Minds is his first solo Trek novel. Why did his collaboration with Greg Brodeur come to an end? “We stopped writing together because of lack of time on his part, mainly,” he reveals. “Greg doesn’t write. Our collaboration was he and I talking about the story, working equally on plot and characterisation, and then I would actually write the chapters. He’d then read them, make comments, suggestions, telling me I almost didn’t suck, et cetera. So his input would be important – because the work is better for having him there – but the bulk of the time would be mine and so when I would write for a week and then have to wait on him for several days before moving on, it slowed down the process. Between that and the smaller projects which pay far less money, I felt I could handle those jobs alone. It’s his own fault for being such a good teacher of plot and character.”
That Troublesome Minds isn’t a fully-fledged collaboration between the two doesn’t mean that Greg wasn’t involved, though. “The concept of saving someone and by doing so causing a string of events that lead to trouble is one he and I talked about years ago and always wanted to place in a book. I’m pretty sure that was his idea. Also, I took him to lunch while working on the basic premise and told him the story and asked him to kick holes in it and make suggestions. Troublesome Minds is a better story because of Greg’s smart comments during that lunch. And it only cost me a burger and fries!”
So, what are the main differences for Dave between writing with Greg and flying solo? “It’s faster,” he suggests, “as I need not wait between chapters for Greg to comment, but it’s also less fun. Sitting on the sofa and tossing ideas, jokes, character and plot concepts between one another was always a blast. I’d like to think I can write a good book on my own, but I always feel when working with Greg that we can be more than the sum of our parts.”
As Dave mentioned, Spock is featured heavily in Troublesome Minds, and he had some specific plans for him with this novel. “For him, I wanted to suggest one of the reasons why he decided to study the Kholinar discipline upon leaving the Enterprise after the five-year mission. Not the only reason. Just a reason that would start him thinking that perhaps that was the path he should take. It’s not mentioned in the book. It’s simply – pardon the phrasing here – the logical reaction for him to have on an emotional level. Believe it or not.”
That was also one of the reasons why he chose the five-year mission as the time frame for the novel. “One reason was because I wanted to suggest why Spock would move toward the path he does in The Motion Picture. Another was just because that’s the era of Trek I enjoy the most. I like those characters in that particular time frame more than any other we’ve seen presented. Another reason, I suppose, was because Patty Wright and I had written an episode of the web-based show Star Trek: Phase II [previously Star Trek: New Voyages] and having visited the set, being on that Enterprise, walking across that bridge and being in that sickbay, was just inspiring.”
One thing which didn’t have any influence on Troublesome Minds was the fact that it was the first TOS novel to be released after J.J. Abrams’ recent Star Trek movie. “I was not told to change anything based on the movie, and in fact had only the same knowledge of the movie as others did by reading the internet,” he says. That doesn’t mean that Dave wouldn’t be interested in writing for the new timeline, though. “I’d enjoy writing a Trek ’09 book,” he nods. “It would be interesting to explore a Kirk who didn’t grow up the same as Kirk Prime, or a Spock/Uhura relationship, or the changes in Spock now that both his mother and his homeworld are gone. Those are all interesting ideas I’d enjoy incorporating into a Trek novel.”
Would writing for the new timeline be any different from writing for the “Prime” universe? “From a writer’s perspective it shouldn’t be that different an experience,” he muses. “A good story is a good story, and if you hope to write one and can write one, it’s the same process no matter the ‘universe’ or timeline. Had Pocket asked me to change Troublesome Minds into a Trek ’09 novel, it would have taken me seeing the film and maybe two weeks or so of tweaking the story and characterisations, but because the characters are basically the same, it shouldn’t be difficult to do. It’s not the universe that so much matters, it’s the people. The people are more or less the same, but have been brought to familiar places in different ways. My guess would be Trek ’09 fans want to read a book like the movie they saw and old fans and new can be entertained by focusing on a compelling story and an interesting journey for the crew, and not on changes in the timeline.”
Troublesome Minds is a one-off story, set during the run of the original Star Trek series. Ten years ago, such a novel would have been the norm, but amongst the continuity-heavy “relaunches” and miniseries which currently dominate the Trek line, it’s something of a rarity. Was the book planned as a kind of breather for the readers who might have been burned out by all the story arcs? “I’ve seen a couple comments on the web that said it was a bit of a breather for them. That’s cool if so, but it wasn’t written with that in mind. It might have been what Marco [Palmieri, editor] had in mind when he accepted my proposal, but you’d have to ask him. I just wrote the kind of story I enjoy reading most. That doesn’t mean I don’t like continuity – I think that’s all very cool and one of the reasons I enjoyed Mere Anarchy. I just don’t remember things well between books as a reader and so forget things sometimes in the larger story arcs. It’s why I save up comics I’m reading and read three or four at a time. If I read month by month I’ll forget things the writer wanted me to remember. To me, it was probably a good idea to have a novel come out just after the movie that could be accessible to a new audience, as a way of getting them to check out The Original Series and the characters they’d just learned to care about, so that, too, might have been what Marco had in mind.”
While Marco Palmieri was the editor who commissioned Dave to write Troublesome Minds, the editorial duties shifted to Margaret Clark after Marco was released by Simon & Schuster last December. What influence did this have on the final book? “The book was delivered to Marco before his departure,” Dave explains, “so all the story development was under his astute guidance. Margaret Clark’s influence can best be seen in an occasional choice of phrase here and there that she’d apparently decided was more to her liking than my original, but the story was left intact.
“I loved working with Marco. He is an awesome editor and a great person, and I hope to work with him again someday.”
Another story by Dave that hit the bookshelves this year was his aforementioned 2006 eBook Shadows of the Indignant, as part of the paperback reprint of the TOS: Mere Anarchy miniseries. Each of the novellas in the miniseries covered a different timeframe, and Shadows is set within the “lost years” of TOS, between the end of the series and The Motion Picture. Was that a time frame he actively asked for or something that just happened during the planning process? “I think Keith assigned it to me, but maybe after hearing the overall idea we agreed I’d do that era? I honestly can’t recall, but I know Keith was interested (and rightly so) in seeing Kirk actually using his position as an admiral. Given that, he probably assigned that era to me. It was great for me, because I love McCoy and really wanted to examine his relationship with Kirk. I have to say, that whole miniseries was such an awesome experience, emailing back and forth with Keith and the other authors. We had a great time and always tell people the email threads between us all would probably be far more entertaining than the actual work. At least they nearly were to us.”
Asked for some more information about the collaboration, Dave adds: “Each of the writers and Keith really discussed a lot – details about the Payav, about the culture, the science, the oddities and tiny minutiae that a writer usually works on alone but in this case had to collaborate so that in each book, while each story was different, the Payav (and their arc) was consistent. We joked, discussed, and sometimes even mildly (and good naturedly) argued. The collaboration made me a better writer, not just on that project, but on all future projects.” He was able to translate things he had learned from that project into the work for his new book, and credits one person specifically for that. “The care Keith took in assuring that we all helped create the multi-layers of the Payav allowed me to learn how to do the same with the Isitri in Troublesome Minds. Keith DeCandido is one of those special people who can be both an awesome writer and an awesome editor. I guess akin to actors who also direct, so they know how to direct actors, Keith is a writer who can edit, so he knows how to edit writers. A rare skill sometimes.”
Shadows of the Indignant only features two of the Enterprise’s crew, Kirk and McCoy, a fact that gave Dave the chance to focus more on the character work for those two. “I wanted to examine two things: the relationship between Kirk and McCoy out of the confines of any protocol, and Kirk’s role as an admiral and his leaning toward wanting to go back into command of a starship. A lot has been done with the relationship between Kirk and Spock, but the relationship between Kirk and McCoy is just as important. It’s why Kirk needed McCoy in The Motion Picture, and it’s why he needed him in this story as well.” Of course, that wasn’t the main reason for the two-hander. “On top of all that, another reason for limiting the main Classic Trek characters to Kirk and McCoy was because I couldn’t do an Enterprise story while she was being refitted, and you don’t have covert missions with seven people.”
The time frame is also a reason for a change of pace inside the miniseries, with Shadows of the Indignant being about a covert mission to Mestiko after two novellas with very overt problems the Enterprise had to deal with. “It had to be a change of pace, because the era of the story was when Kirk didn’t have a ship or a crew. It pretty much had to be covert since in the first movie Decker says Kirk hasn’t ‘logged a single star-hour in two and a half years’. The key word there was logged. This mission wasn’t in the logs and couldn’t be to fit with what we’d seen on the screen. So that was deliberate by necessity. What was more deliberate was to have a little ‘Kirk/McCoy buddy movie’. To show why these two people work, are friends, and need one another. As much as Kirk needed McCoy with him to bounce ideas off of and… well, really attempting to recapture the sense of the missions they had on the Enterprise, McCoy needed Kirk as well. He likes Kirk, wants him to be happy, and also was realising something has been missing from his life since the end of the five-year mission as well.”
Dave isn’t working on anything Star Trek-related right now, but fans can expect to see some more of his work soon. “Other than waiting for post production to finish on the Star Trek: Phase II script that Patty Wright and I wrote, my Star Trek plate is clean. My work is done on that (other than maybe offering some comments on the editing).” Aside from that, Dave plans to take some time off from writing. “Because writing is not my full time job, I have to write in the evenings and on weekends. I can get the job done but it leaves me little time for much else, so now I’m relaxing and trying to focus on a social life before starting another project.”
We certainly hope that Dave will return to the Trek universe after his sabbatical, and will remain a regular contributor to it.
Mere Anarchy and Troublesome Minds were released by Pocket Books in March and June 2009 respectively.