Before David A. McIntee joined the ranks of Star Trek prose authors, he was already a well-established author for the line of novels based on the British cult show Doctor Who. After the short story On the Spot in 2007’s The Next Generation: The Sky’s the Limit, and the novella Reservoir Ferengi in 2010’s Seven Deadly Sins, his Star Trek novel debut (TNG: Indistinguishable from Magic) has finally hit the bookshelves, making him one of only a few authors (others include John Peel, James Swallow, and Una McCormack) to have written novels for both Trek and Who. David kindly agreed to talk to Unreality SF about Indistinguishable from Magic, his other Star Trek works, the differences between writing for Doctor Who and Star Trek, and his upcoming non-fiction book Standard by Seven, an “unofficial but comprehensive guide to Blake’s 7”.

Indistinguishable from Magic is the first novel set after the Typhon Pact miniseries, and David explains that it’s “about Geordi joining Scotty on the U.S.S. Challenger, to investigate how a ship that couldn’t exist does exist. Guinan is also along, for reasons of her own, and a variety of familiar characters are also on the mission, including Nog, who is a member of the Challenger’s crew. As they go along, the things they’ll discover will revisit some loose ends and give Geordi some development.”

He also reveals that while Indistinguishable from Magic is “fairly standalone”, the Typhon Pact novels had an impact on the novel. “The presence of one guest character had to be tweaked at the copy edit stage to follow on from one of the Typhon Pact books, and obviously Geordi’s relationship from Paths of Disharmony had to be taken into account.”

With such an eclectic cast of characters from all over the Star Trek franchise, how is the “screen time” divided between them? “Geordi is, I guess, pretty much the lead,” David explains. “In fact the original pitch was just about him, and the others were added when CBS asked to have a few other familiar faces in it. After Geordi, it’s also very much a Scotty story, but there are solid reasons for Guinan’s presence, and her part in the story, and Nog gets his share of the action too. And then there are a bunch of familiar guest characters…”

In an earlier interview with Unreality SF, David said “that writing for Geordi [in On the Spot] was more interesting and rewarding than I expected, and I think he came out better than I expected, so I wouldn’t mind doing some more about him someday”. Indistinguishable from Magic, David tells us now, “totally, 100% owes its existence to my enjoyment of writing Geordi’s lines in that story. I was never either particularly a lover or hater of the character until I did that and then found a connection with him. I pitched Indistinguishable from Magic – under the title “Challenger” – right after delivering On the Spot. And then forgot about it until the commission came out of the blue last spring!”

And as far as David is concerned, Indistinguishable from Magic doesn’t have to be his last Star Trek novel inspired by On the Spot. The story was partly written from the point of view of Data’s eponymous cat, which was a novel approach for Star Trek literature. David is sure that it “worked fine, and the reviews I’ve seen seem to agree!”, so he would “love to do a full-length novel in that vein someday, showing all the regulars through the new filter of Spot’s POV, and what their interactions with her tell us about them… Seriously, it’s a one-page pitch I made back then.”

Indistinguishable from Magic shows Geordi La Forge on the U.S.S. Challenger, a vessel he commanded in an alternative timeline in the Voyager episode Timeless. Is this a sign that his character is explicitly developing in the direction depicted in that episode, or more of a continuity nod? “Somewhere in between, I think,” David muses. “I was thinking that we were getting to be not far off the time when Geordi was in command of the Challenger from that episode, but at the same time that episode depicts an alternate timeline… So his character is getting developed here, but not necessarily in the way you’d expect.”

Scotty, the other main player of the novel, has been given “Scottish accents” in the novels by several authors over the last 40+ years, but David is the first true Scot to tackle the character in novel form. How has he approached writing the character and his dialogue in particular? “Well, I didn’t want to do a pure phonetic Scottish accent or anything,” he points out. “I want the reader to ‘hear’ James Doohan playing the part, so I wanted to keep his cadences and so on. So, it was more a matter of choosing particularly Scottish choices of words, and turns of phrase and so on.”

When David pitched the idea that would become Indistinguishable from Magic to Pocket Books, he thought of it as a duology. Did reworking it for a single novel necessitate any changes to the structure of the story, or any ideas being cut? “Obviously the second part no longer needed any introductions to the characters and situation,” he ponders, “so it was more a matter of blending the thing together, and bleeding some elements from the second half into the first. So that means it’s not just two stories of equal length in one volume – the second story is only about a third of the page count. I think it still shows that it was meant to be two separate pieces some time apart, but I think that gives it a sense of scale.”

David’s last Star Trek story before Indistinguishable from Magic was the novella Reservoir Ferengi, a story dealing with the Ferengi and greed, and featuring Brunt and Gaila doing business together. “It’s not the type of Ferengi story you expect,” David explains. “It’s got humour in the dialogue, but it’s also a gritty tale that takes the individuals in new directions.” Deservedly or not, Ferengi-heavy stories tend to be seen as comical. Did David have any fears that his story would be written off as just another one of those? “Not fears, but an awareness that people see the Ferengi stories that way,” he acknowledges, “and I wanted to play off that perception and say ‘no, look, here’s something else you can do with them’. I do love to play off the expected and do something different – in fact Indistinguishable from Magic itself is playing off what people will expect of a book by me, as it’s more talky and less actiony…”

Last time we spoke to David, he told us about his first attempt to break into Trek literature in 1999, when a Voyager novel of his was first accepted but then cancelled. Now that he has his foot more firmly in the door of Trek lit, does he think that novel could see the light of day? “I doubt it, because the synopsis is out there on the net, so it’s pretty much spoilered,” he points out. “I mean, I do want to do more. I want Indistinguishable from Magic to be not ‘my Trek novel’ but instead ‘my first Trek novel’ – and I have a few pitches in, of course – but I can’t see that one reappearing. Which is a shame, because I think it was great!”

Beside his fictional endeavours, David also has a history of writing non-fiction books based on TV shows, including Delta Quadrant, a guide to Star Trek: Voyager, and Beautiful Monsters, a guide to the Alien and Predator films. Recently, another of his guides was announced for an as-yet-undisclosed date: Standard by Seven, “an unofficial but comprehensive guide to Blake’s 7”. For those not familiar with the show David describes it as “a British SF series that ran from 1978-1981 about a group of criminals on the run in a salvaged starship, fleeing a totalitarian galactic rulership. So, it was kind of Robin Hood or The Dirty Dozen, depending on who was writing the episode. It varied between great production values, and shoddy ones, but what made it a hit was the interaction between the characters, especially the iconic double-act of Avon and Vila, the cynical engineer and the cowardly thief.”

The show has been off the air for 30 years now. What’s the potential target audience for such a book these days? “Mostly the die-hard fans,” David acknowledges, “but also to some degree people who’re just interested in how drama and SF evolved in the UK at that time.” Those giving the book a read can expect episode summaries, information about the characters and the actors, as well as “behind-the-scenes details, anecdotes, the full making-of thing for every episode and all the spinoffs, as well as an analysis of the show’s place and legacy in terms of how it changed and affected SF on TV, and how it changed and affected British TV drama. It’s more about the nuts and bolts, how and why things were done a certain way, than in interpreting the characters and texts.”

Sky 1 recently developed two new Blake’s 7 TV scripts, but decided against producing them. “A new series would probably have boosted sales, but, to be honest, I’m doing this one because I want to – it’s for love, not money,” says David. “As for whether a new series would work today? Hell yeah, if it was a remake or reboot – the level of monitoring of the population now is pretty close to what the original series predicted, and the first thing I thought of when I saw the rape case being brought against Julian Assange over Wikileaks was ‘Hey, didn’t they do this to Roj Blake?’ [Blake is framed for paedophilia in the first episode to discredit his opposition to the rulers].”

Despite his Doctor Who experience, David is yet to write one of the New Series Adventures – the books chronicling adventures of the post-2005 Doctors. “When the NSAs started they were by invitation only, to writers who had experience in doing children’s books (which I haven’t), and as the series has gone on that pool has widened but by now has its own stable of writers,” he explains. “I’m not sure if it’s still invitation-only, but I’ve been away from DW so long that I just don’t get DW story ideas popping up in my head any more. So if they asked, I’d think of one, but I’ve not been pitching to them. At base, I wouldn’t turn them down, but I’ve done enough DW and would rather pursue new things.”

What are the major similarities and differences between writing for Doctor Who and Star Trek when it comes to things like tone, reader expectations, or creative freedom? “Every story has its own tone, and of course so does every licensed property,” he ponders. “Doctor Who has the advantage of being a lot more flexible – it can be anything anywhere, and can accommodate pretty much any tone – while the various Trek lines have their own tones, but also can be a lot of things. Creative freedom felt about the same to me, and as for reader expectations… I want to play with those, of course, but I think the main thing with both series – in Doctor Who’s case up to 2005, anyway – is that they are pretty much aimed at existing fans rather than trying to lure new readers. Having said that, in moving from one to the other it’s an interesting challenge to try to fit in with the other series’ fanbase, especially in terms of the one big difference between the two franchises. That difference being that Doctor Who is about the individual hero, and Trek being about a team. That’s really the big difference in writing them – though DW of course can have team-oriented stories within it; e.g. the UNIT era – so having a background in that makes it easier to move over!”

While it’s an accomplishment in itself to have written for those two long-lived media franchises, there must be other properties David would like to write for. “Several,” he admits, “but some are more dreams than real ambitions – I’d love to do a Star Wars [novel] set in the OT era. I’d love to do something James Bond related, and thought when Raymond Benson quit ‘yeah, I could do that’, but since they’ve gone to big-name guest authors like Sebastian Faulks and Jeffrey Deaver, I guess that won’t be happening. Having said that, I’ve started pitching Stargate novels and Warhammer 40K stories, so anything’s possible. And I do wish they’d do Saints Row novels so I could pitch to that!”

Until those dreams and pitches come to fruition, David has in the pipeline several “things I’d like to mention, but can’t!” But there are some projects he can talk about: “There’s another nonfiction book that’s looking good, and I’m waiting on formal contracts for some original novels of a historical bent… Comics-wise I’ve got a bio of Tim McGraw coming out, and there’ll be a trade edition of William Shatner’s Quest for Tomorrow after the series concludes. I’m currently scripting a second run of Jason and the Argonauts as another five-issue mini, and a graphic adaptation of John Saul’s The God Project (All Fall Down in the UK). Oh, and I’m co-editing Shelf Life 2 and 3, two more Doctor Who fan anthologies in memory of Craig Hinton, in aid of the British Heart Foundation.”

Indistinguishable from Magic was released by Pocket Books in April 2011.