Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Bringing New Toys to Someone Else’s Sandbox.

For those of you who may still be wondering: Yes, the rumors are true. I do indeed write Star Trek novels.

Why? Well, sure, they pay me, but I also do it because it’s just so gosh-darned fun. I’ve been a nerd for Star Trek for as long as I can remember, having grown up in the 1970s and 80s watching reruns of the original series every weekday afternoon. Catching the gazillionth rerun of Captain Kirk fighting Klingons or whatever was the sole exception to my mother’s “homework and chores before TV” rule. To this day, I’m sure she thinks that hour could’ve been better utilized cutting the grass or cleaning our backyard pool.

And here we are, forty-odd years later, and I still use Star Trek to get out of cutting the grass, but at least now I’m making money from it.

Many of the Star Trek tales I’ve written over the years have featured characters that would be familiar to casual viewers of the various television series. While those of us who write these stories are given a great deal of latitude, there still are “rules we have to follow” with respect to these well-established characters that are so well-known to their legions of fans. In recent years, those rules have relaxed in numerous ways, and we’re now able to develop the characters and take them in directions that never would’ve been allowed while the television series and films were in production.

Another thing we’ve been allowed to do is to develop whole sets of all-new characters, who didn’t originate in one of the shows, and place them in the Star Trek setting, taking advantage of the familiar universe and its trappings to tell new stories which are set completely apart from the television episodes and movies. Pocket Books, the company that publishes Star Trek novels, had achieved success with a handful of series in this vein. Star Trek Vanguard, set during the time of the original 1960s series, was perhaps my favorite thing to write because it gave me the best of both worlds when it comes to writing books based on television or film properties: being able to use a familiar setting or “universe” as the point of departure for new characters and situations which aren’t tied to the “canon” of the parent media property. As the title of this post suggests, writing stories such as these are very much like being allowed to bring your own toys to play in someone else’s sandbox.

Debuting later this month is the first book in an all-new novel series, Star Trek: Seekers, which I helped develop. My longtime writing partner, Kevin Dilmore, our friend and colleague David Mack, and I spun out this idea from the Vanguard series for which the three of us had written. We collaborated on the series proposal and pitched it to our editors and the people who own Star Trek, and then we developed a two-part story to launch our new series, working as a team on the stories for the first two books. David wrote the first book, Second Nature, which is set to be released in about a week, and Kevin and I took the baton from him for our book, Point of Divergence, which will be published next month.

The original Star Trek will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2016, and there are those who might argue that there’s really very little left to be done with something which has been around that long. To them, I say, “Bah!” Writing stories like this is tremendous fun. Anticipation from among loyal readers seems to be pretty high, and we’re excited to see how fans will react. The new series was even given a bit of love by no less than USA Today. As someone who grew up watching the show, getting to stitch a new section into this immense and ever-growing tapestry is an unparalleled opportunity. It truly is a wonderful sandbox in which to play.

7 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

I like all Trek but am primarily a fan of the original series. I've read many, many Trek novels based on that. I haven't yet tried any of the spin off series set in the same universe but I have seen a few and am intrigued. I'll have to give one of the Vanguard's a go.

Liane Spicer said...

Sounds really exciting, Dayton. Congratulations!

I read one of Kevin (Killiany's) Star Trek stories (from Grand Designs) and wondered at first why I didn't recognize any of the characters from the show, then figured it out. Great way to keep the story alive.

Liane Spicer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jewel Amethyst said...

Congratulations. I admire your love for writing in an established universe. I have had the opportunity to do that with the kindle worlds. I enjoyed it at the time, but I much prefer to write original fiction.

daytonward said...

I like to do both, and will switch and forth. :)

KeVin K. said...
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KeVin K. said...

adn't read your column before writing mine. Looks like we have a theme going.

A lot of people have written for Star Trek over the years - some of whom wrote good and memorable tales. A select group of writers have continued to write for Star Trek over the years because they consistently deliver good stories told well.

Writing new things in such a well established, widely known, and addictive universe as Star Trek - new things that are embraced by longtime fans and new readers alike - requires both inventiveness and discipline.
Though in your case I'm sure that the discipline comes from your years in the Marine Corps and the inventiveness comes from Dilmore, don't aw, shucks the fact you're doing something few writers can do.