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.