When Star Trek: Enterprise went off the air after its fourth and final season in 2005, it fell to Star Trek literature to chronicle the adventures of Captain Archer and his crew. One man who was involved with the Enterprise post-finale fiction from the start is Michael A. Martin, who has written all the Enterprise novels set after the series to this day, either alone or with Andy Mangels. Michael has kindly agreed to talk to us about the series, his new novel Star Trek Online: The Needs of the Many – which should hit the shelves any day now – and his return to the Star Trek: Titan series with his Typhon Pact novel Seize the Fire later this year.
Speaking about the latest novel in the Enterprise series, Michael explains that “the first volume in The Romulan War is the natural extension of the saga that began, indirectly, with Last Full Measure, in which it first came to light that Trip Tucker had survived his apparent death in These Are the Voyages… and continued past the end of the Enterprise television series in The Good That Men Do and Kobayashi Maru.
“The first segment of The Romulan War [Beneath the Raptor’s Wing] is painted on a much larger canvas than are any of the previous books,” he continues. “Thanks to the large trade paperback format, I was able to get away with turning in a substantially longer manuscript than those of any of the previous books, and this gave me room to spotlight a lot of characters on and off Enterprise, showcase the various developments in the war itself, including the various intrigues occurring on Romulus, and hide plenty of continuity-related Easter eggs.
“The Romulan War also represents my attempt to build a transitional bridge between the high-tech look and feel of Enterprise and the apparently much lower-tech world of The Original Series,” Michael explains. “As the war unfolds, some of the countermeasures Earth develops in response to a new Romulan superweapon will account for certain visual and design disparities between the twenty-second and twenty-third centuries. In the same vein, precursors of certain familiar TOS touchstones – such as a starship autodestruct system that uses the code ‘zero-zero-zero-destruct-zero’ and a captain named Dunsel – make their debut in Beneath the Raptor’s Wing.
“In BtRW you get to see a great deal of the core marquee characters – Archer, Trip, T’Pol, and, of course, the further evolution of Trip and T’Pol’s star-crossed romance – as well as a fair amount of emphasis on minor characters like Travis Mayweather, who has to reevaluate his relationship with his captain following Archer’s failure to rescue the Kobayashi Maru,” Michael summarises, and adds that “Mayweather’s arc takes him away from Enterprise entirely, and gives the reader another familiar pair of eyes through which to view the war’s doings elsewhere. It’s a big, wide-ranging war, after all, and Enterprise can’t be everywhere.”
“You’ll see a lot of Vulcan in this book as well,” he reveals, “with T’Pau being forced to make some hard decisions regarding whether or not to risk forever unleashing the violence that still lurks in Vulcan’s collective soul by entering the fight against Romulus; she is forward-thinking enough to understand how important the passion and creativity of humanity can be to Vulcan’s future (i.e. in keeping Vulcan’s culture from becoming static and ossified), but she must also consider abandoning Earth to its fate in order to keep Vulcan at peace. This conflict is the knife’s edge upon which the future balances, and demonstrates that there was nothing inevitable about the eventual, if fortuitous, emergence of the United Federation of Planets.”
“Like our own American Revolution here in the States,” Michael muses, “the events that led to the Federation’s formation were subject to a great deal of contingency. Beneath the Raptor’s Wing doesn’t cover the entirety of the war, of course; it takes us about a third of the way through the conflict’s timeline. BtRW leaves the Coalition in terrible disarray, and deals a fairly shocking (at least in my humble opinion) cliffhanger development to the planet Vulcan.”
The disarray in the Coalition also provides the explanation why the war is called the “Earth-Romulan War” on screen, despite the fact that the Coalition was already established at this time in Star Trek history. “As you can see from the developments in the novel saga so far, the Coalition – the multi-planet organisation that preceded the Federation in much the same way that the League of Nations preceded the UN – has been experiencing ever-increasing stress along its fault lines as the war has progressed,” Michael emphasises. “With Vulcan effectively backing out of the war in BtRW, the Coalition faces the very real possibility of collapsing entirely; after all, if one Coalition member can renege on the mutual defense clauses of the Coalition Compact, what’s to keep other members from doing the same if they should decide it serves their interests? At this point, it wouldn’t take much more stress to tip the Coalition over completely, dashing any hope that the peaceful, benevolent Federation that the readers anticipate (and for which Archer and company are hoping) might emerge to succeed it following the Earth-Romulan War. So I don’t necessarily see a continuity conflict there if the Coalition is breaking down, Earth stands more or less alone through much of the war, and the Federation being born out of the ashes of both the war and the Coalition. After all, the Coalition has to disappear at some point prior to the Federation’s emergence in 2161.”
The Romulan War is an event in Star Trek history which fans have long hoped to see covered in some form. So was there much pressure for Michael, knowing that he would be writing one of the most anticipated novels in recent years? “Hell, yeah.” he exclaims. “I felt a lot of pressure when I was initially trying to get this saga off the ground. We’re talking about a period in Star Trek history that has cast its shadow across more than two centuries of continuity over four-plus decades of real time. It’s a really, really big deal.” But he’s also very content with the fact that he was chosen for this project. “I’m delighted to have been picked for the job, and I’m quite proud of the story thus far.”
There has been much speculation how The Romulan War will continue, and the only thing Michael can reveal right now is “that there will be at least one more Romulan War book.”
After several collaborations with Andy Mangels, Beneath the Raptor’s Wing is Michael’s first solo work in the world of Star Trek prose, raising the question of what the main differences are to his collaborative efforts. “Writing is a solitary occupation,” he ruminates, “so one has to have a lot of solitude available – and also has to be comfortable living and working inside that bubble of solitude. Working with a collaborator is a bit less solitary, since you have another brain at your disposal. I suppose it’s a tradeoff between doing less work and having more control over the end product. Good collaborations tend to pair up complementary skill sets, with each team member’s various strengths making up for the other’s various weaknesses. The vast majority of my collaborations with Andy were like that.”
But Beneath the Raptor’s Wing is only the latest entry in the series of post-finale Enterprise novels which started with a big bang: in The Good that Men Do, Michael and Andy Mangels negated large parts of the Enterprise finale, including the fate of Charles “Trip” Tucker III.
So, whose decision was it to keep him alive, and to effectively rewrite much of what These Are the Voyages… established? “I hated the way Enterprise ended its run on television,” says Michael, adding that he “hated the casual way Trip Tucker was killed off. And I particularly hated the fact that the finale was written so that the Enterprise cast members were actually guest stars on their own farewell show – remember, the only ‘real’ characters we encountered in that episode were members of the Enterprise-D crew, more than two centuries after the time of Captain Archer and Enterprise NX-01.”
And he wasn’t the only one seeing things this way. “Andy had very similar feelings, as did our editor, Margaret Clark, who had first let us come aboard Enterprise with Last Full Measure – a book that, incidentally, made the initial ‘reveal’ that Trip was destined to live to a ripe old age, These Are the Voyages… notwithstanding.
“The idea of allowing Trip to survive his apparent death originally came from Margaret,” Michael reveals. “Andy and I loved the idea that we just might get the rare privilege of ‘rehabilitating’ what we considered a flawed episode – usually an unthinkable notion, since canon is generally inalterable – and Paula Block at CBS agreed that this was the way to proceed. We followed up on LFM’s glimpse of ‘old Trip’ in our second Enterprise novel, The Good That Men Do. So we adapted as much of the original episode as possible and inserted the results into the frame of the much larger story we wanted to tell: that of the beginning of Trip’s ‘afterlife’ – his new career as an undercover intelligence operative working behind the lines during the time leading up to the Romulan War.”
The decision wasn’t without its detractors, though, so how would Michael try to convince those people to give the Enterprise post-finale novels a try nonetheless? “The vast majority of this sort of criticism amounts to a slavish devotion to canon without bothering to think through what canon really is,” he believes. “As I said before, canon is ‘generally inalterable’, which means you can’t just rewrite it or dismiss it. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find legitimate loopholes once in a while.
“This story presented us with an extraordinary circumstance that so far as I can tell exists nowhere else in the Star Trek canon: the fact that the events related in These Are the Voyages… were presented at a remove, filtered through the prism of a holodeck program. We used the holodeck as a continuity loophole by questioning the quality of the program that Will Riker was running, which made the holodeck a classic case of what’s known in prose fiction as ‘the unreliable narrator’,” Michael explains, and elaborates that “for all we know, Riker’s NX-01 simulation program could have been written hastily only a month earlier, and might have been the product of shoddy research.
“Also, consider the fact that the American heroes of the Revolutionary period are about as far removed from our time as Captain Archer is from Will Riker’s time. How much of what Americans consider ‘common knowledge’ about the American Revolution is distorted by propaganda, tall-tale telling, and hero worship?” he ponders. “Why should Riker’s image of Jonathan Archer be any more accurate than the ideas most Americans have about their own nation’s Founding Fathers? And you have to add to that the implication we made that Section 31 may have made a deliberate effort to obscure certain historical events.
“Those who have gotten bent out of shape over the supposed ‘violation of canon’ we committed in reversing Trip’s death – and/or our adjustment of the story calendar from the eve of the first Federation Day to the run-up to the Romulan War – usually stop arguing once I’ve brought the preceding stuff to their attention,” Michael tells from experience. He’s also not sure whether Trip’s canon fate was as definitive as we were led to believe. “The finale episode itself contains a scene in which Archer, Phlox, and Trip exchange a strange look right before Trip’s apparent death that made me wonder whether Berman and Braga might not have been planning something not all that different from what Andy and I ended up doing with Trip – that is, faking his death while perhaps allowing history to record it as a fact – had the television series lasted another season.”
And despite the fact that he was involved with this perceived canon violation, Michael is trying to adhere to what was established onscreen as close as possible, but without falling into the trap of writing “continuity porn”.
“In comparison with many other properties, Star Trek has an exceptionally broad and deep continuity canon,” he acknowledges. “With the sole exception of the canon loophole the holodeck gave us for These Are the Voyages…, we approached Enterprise just as we did any of the other Trek franchises. Continuity-wise we didn’t stuff the kitchen sink in there just to do it, but we also didn’t want to overlook any references from the past that seemed particularly relevant to whatever here-and-now we were creating at the time.
“That’s always been our approach to Trek in collaboration, and that remains my approach when I’m working solo. As Enterprise rolls into and through the Romulan War, I’m paying closest attention to the things that hit closest to home with the major characters (i.e. Archer’s reputation suffering following the Kobayashi Maru incident) and overall continuity (i.e. the emergence of the circumstances that will give rise to the Federation, whose success will appear to be very much against the odds). Wherever it doesn’t slow down the overall story momentum, I’ll develop elements like the Native American tribe on Mars, the ancestors of the Dorvan V colonists that TNG will introduce two centuries downstream in history [in Journey’s End]. But I’m not going to try to shoehorn in, say Professor Berlinghoff Rasmussen or the Tox Uthat just because they might have happened to be around somewhere during the approximate time-frame of the Romulan War.”
The Enterprise TV series often focussed on the triumvirate of Archer, T’Pol and Trip, so would Michael say that in the novels the other characters get a fair(er) amount of “screen time”? “Archer, Trip, and T’Pol still remain at the top of the Enterprise marquee, which shouldn’t surprise anybody,” he acknowledges. “But the novel format is a good deal roomier than that of a 45-minute TV script, so the lower-tier characters will naturally get more opportunities to stride the boards. Other regular characters – like the aforementioned Travis Mayweather, as well as Malcolm Reed, and even certain MACO characters – have received more emphasis in our books, going all the way back to Last Full Measure.”
Michael plans to continue that way, but he also points out that he has to remember the core themes of the series while doing so. “I hope to spotlight the minor characters even more in the future – I think Hoshi, for one, hasn’t gotten enough attention yet – though I have to be careful never to give Archer’s arc short shrift. And I have to make sure that the Trip-T’Pol relationship keeps moving forward satisfactorily, or else I risk incurring the wrath of a very vocal (and, it would appear, predominantly female) audience segment. Lastly, I have to balance all of that with my obligation to show the audience the wider world of the unfolding Romulan War itself, which is sort of ‘co-starring’ with the crew of Enterprise.”
One minor Enterprise character who recently had a meaty role in David Mack’s Destiny trilogy is Captain Erika Hernandez of the Columbia. “I checked in with David about Erika Hernandez while I was working on Kobayashi Maru, because I already knew then that she was going to figure heavily into Destiny,” Michael recalls. “And because Dave and I were working simultaneously on projects that involved Hernandez, we tried from the beginning to do everything possible not to get our ropes tangled, as it were.”
There are some regrets he has concerning Hernandez, but in the end the early notification of her fate prevented any major disruptions of his plans. “Looking back, I think it might have been nice to reunite Archer and Hernandez eventually, especially after the war, but I had never invested a lot of energy into this possibility since Margaret Clark let me in on one of the key elements of Destiny very early in its creation. She showed me an illustration of Columbia NX-02 being dug out of a sand dune on a distant Gamma Quadrant world, an image that had been created for the Ships of the Line hardcover a few years back; she told me very early that Dave intended to hard wire the circumstances of Columbia’s arrival in the Gamma Quadrant, and her earlier disappearance, into Destiny. So that knowledge saved me, fortunately, from crafting a Hernandez/Romulan War story arc that I wouldn’t ultimately have been able to use. And it enabled me to give Hernandez and her crew a ‘last hurrah’ in my Enterprise continuity before going off to face their, um, destiny in Destiny.”
Margaret Clark, who was the editor of the Enterprise post-finale books from the start, was laid off by Simon & Schuster last year. What are Michael’s thoughts about that development? “Of course I’m not happy about Margaret’s departure, but this kind of thing is one of the unfortunate realities of the publishing industry,” he says, and adds concerning the potential fallouts of the decision that “it’s way too soon to say how this will affect the Enterprise books going forward, editorially speaking. However, it’s possible that the effect could be minimal, since Margaret is doing some editing for Pocket on a freelance basis. While I don’t know yet whether or not Margaret and I will work together on future Enterprise volumes, we are working together on my forthcoming U.S.S. Titan novel, Seize the Fire,” Michael reveals – and, as the professional that he is, provides the perfect segue to the next topic.
Seize the Fire, the Titan entry in the Typhon Pact miniseries, is scheduled for November, and marks his return to the Titan series after he and Andy Mangels wrote the first two books – Taking Wing and The Red King – in 2005. What are Michael’s thoughts about how the series has developed in the interim? “I’ve really enjoyed what everyone else has done with Titan and her crew, particularly the serious world-building that Chris Bennett did in his contributions to the series,” he smiles. “I also don’t want to overlook the Titan material David Mack did in his Destiny trilogy, which I enjoyed immensely as well. I think all the Titan authors did a marvellous job coordinating the enormous and diverse cast of characters that has always been one of this series’ hallmarks. Putting aside all those scratches and dings all those other drivers left in her hull,” he jokes, “I think we left the good ship Titan in very good, very capable hands.”
As mentioned above, Seize the Fire is part of the Typhon Pact miniseries. For those unfamiliar with the concept, Michael summarises the background: “The Typhon Pact refers to the new interstellar alliance that has formed among several traditionally Federation-antagonistic powers in the Alpha and Beta Quadrants in the wake of the Borg invasion recounted in the Destiny trilogy. Keith DeCandido introduced the concept – five star-faring societies that come together as a confederated unit, in a way mirroring the creation of the Federation – in his A Singular Destiny. The forthcoming Typhon Pact novels will spotlight various members of the alliance: the Breen, the Gorn, the Kinshaya, the Romulans, and the Tzenkethi.
“My volume, Seize the Fire,” he adds, giving us a sneak preview, “will deal with the Gorn – a species that I also got to use, incidentally, in The Needs of the Many. StF will greatly expand the idea of Gorn social castes, two of which were introduced by Kevin J. Anderson in Wildstorm’s The Gorn Crisis graphic novel nine years ago. The Gorn will suffer an ecological catastrophe that essentially wipes out the ability of the warrior caste to reproduce. The subsequent Gorn discovery of ancient terraforming technology holds the promise of reversing the aforementioned eco-disaster – and also gives the Gorn Hegemony a potent weapon capable of wiping out entire planetary ecospheres. Captain William Riker of the U.S.S. Titan will have to decide how (or whether) to intervene when the Gorn Hegemony’s need for a new warrior hatchery-world puts it on the verge of exterminating an entire civilisation.”
Asked if the novels will have an ongoing story arc, or if they are stand-alone tales, Michael reveals that “the Typhon Pact novels are pretty much self-contained, though I suppose they’ll be linked, if only thematically, by the threat that each Typhon Pact member poses to the Federation. It’s a bit like the Section 31 novels from nearly ten ago, which consisted of four novels that didn’t actually cross over in terms of story particulars, but dealt with some common themes.”
Michael’s newest book is the Star Trek Online tie-in The Needs of the Many, which has just started to appear in bookstores. “The Needs of the Many is something of a departure for me stylistically, since it’s not really a novel in the traditional sense of the word,” Michael reveals. “The book is actually a collection of sit-down interviews conducted by Jake Sisko – and, to follow the Jake Sisko conceit, edited from raw recordings and into publishable form by me – over a period of several years during the twenty-fifth century. Familiar characters – among them Worf, Geordi La Forge, Seven of Nine, Kathryn Janeway, Quark, Vic Fontaine, Kasidy Yates, Elim Garak, and Jack from DS9’s ‘Jack Pack’ – as well as new ones, share their perspectives on a major war in their recent history.”
The Needs of the Many will also see the return of a race that first appeared in Star Trek: Voyager. “The interviews paint a picture of a past conflict with Species 8472, who call themselves the Undine, in the manner of Studs Terkel’s World War II oral history, The Good War, with Jake Sisko playing the role of Studs. The events chronicled in TNotM align with the continuity established by Cryptic Studios for its massively multiplayer online role-playing game, Star Trek Online.”
While the game, like every tie-in, will have to adhere to canon, it doesn’t share the same continuity as the novels. “The game continuity, which begins just after Star Trek Nemesis and covers the period that follows through 2408, differs in certain respects from Pocket Books’ post-Nemesis timeline,” Michael acknowledges, but there is “an appendix at the back of the book that lays out the game continuity in detail, and it’s drawn directly from the timeline that Cryptic generated for its web site. One of the book’s interviews even gives a sly nod to some of the continuity differences between the game and the standard Pocket Books post-Nemesis Star Trek timeline.
“This book is firmly embedded in Star Trek Online’s own post-Nemesis continuity,” he adds. “But as I said, I did get away with a sneaky reference or two to Pocket’s continuity, though I tried to do it in a way that didn’t call the game continuity into question. But I don’t want to risk spoiling any surprises by saying any more about that here.”
But these technical issues aren’t the most important topics as far as Michael is concerned. “The Needs of the Many isn’t a book about timelines or continuity. Nor does it present a blow-by-blow account of the Undine War that had such a profound effect on the lives of the various interviewees – Jake assumes his twenty-fifth century audience doesn’t need any lessons in basic history. Instead, it’s a collection of slice-of-life accounts that reveals how each of Jake’s interview subjects was tested by the war. It’s a book about the unique sacrifices each person had to make during the conflict. It was this theme of sacrifice that inspired the book’s title.”
While he wasn’t involved in the development of the game’s background story, Michael wouldn’t be surprised if some of his ideas would pop up in the game over time. “I think certain story points I raised while writing The Needs of the Many may have exerted some small influence on the game, which is by its nature always a vast work in progress. Like the International Space Station, the game is always getting new modules and so forth bolted onto it. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the ideas I threw around with the Cryptic folks were to end up in the actual game eventually. Of course, none of that is up to me.”
So far, The Needs of the Many is the only tie-in novel to the Star Trek Online MMORPG. Will there be more? “I’m hoping this won’t be just a one-off thing,” says Michael. “I’ve submitted a proposal for another STO novel that I’m rather hopeful about. Of course, everything depends on how The Needs of the Many sells. If it’s a hit, Pocket may want to do more of them. The only thing I can say with any certainty is that if Pocket were to green light more STO novels, the (still hypothetical) next one probably wouldn’t use the same epistolary format as Needs did. Rather than being another thematically-linked collection of interviews and correspondences, it would probably be more of a traditional novel.”
After adding Star Trek Online to the list of media properties he has written for, what others would he be interested in? “Since I’m partial to bringing the funny as much as the violence whenever possible, I would enjoy doing tie-ins for properties like Psych and Burn Notice. I’d also like to do a film novelisation or two, which I’ve never done before – the closest I ever came was in adapting the section of The Good That Men Do that reiterated large portions of Enterprise’s TV finale.”
When asked about his current projects Michael reveals that he is “in the process of developing an original property, something I’m aiming at a YA audience. That’s pretty much all I want to say about that at this point. Right now everything else I’m doing apart from Seize the Fire is either in the ‘I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you’ phase or the ‘If I talk about it now, I’ll end up jinxing it’ phase. But I’ll alert you guys the moment that changes.”
Beneath the Raptor’s Wing was released by Pocket Books in October 2009. The Needs of the Many and Seize the Fire will be released by Pocket Books in April and November 2010 respectively.