This week, David Mack takes his turn with the Library Computer. David tackles the Borg, story development, and the definition of ‘crossover event’ in advance of the release of the new Star Trek: Destiny trilogy.
[see below, w/ spoilers]
David Mack is a well-known commodity among the Trek Literature community. From his outstanding Next Generation works, "A Time to Kill" and "A Time to Heal", to the creativity he brought to the table with the Vanguard series, Mack is one of the shining stars of Pocket’s Trek franchise. His selection to spearhead the next major shift in the continuing story of the Star Trek universe, however, had something of an inauspicious beginning… a picture in a calendar. Now, Mack shares a bit with us about the conception of the story, and the process that lead to its birth.
TrekMovie: "Oh no. Not the Borg." I’m sure you’ve been hearing this a lot surrounding the Destiny trilogy. Given the recent evolution among the Borg (detailed in Resistance, Before Dishonor, and Greater Than the Sum), did you have the same reaction when presented with the project?
David Mack: Actually, I was the one who suggested that the big crossover event should deal with the Borg, and it was my editors who recoiled and said, "Not again! We just did two books dealing with the Borg!" When I first sat down in November 2006 to discuss the project with Margaret Clark and Marco Palmieri, all they had figured out so far was that they wanted a big crossover trilogy event for the end of 2008, and they had an image in the book Ships of the Line that served as the inspiration.
I took a look at their plans for the first few books in the post-Nemesis line of books for Star Trek: The Next Generation. Margaret told me that she wanted to open the series up and go in new directions, introduce new regular crewmembers for the Enterprise-E, etc. My feeling, however, was that the series would not be able to do that now that it had once again put the 800-pound mugato of the Star Trek universe back in play. In order for Captain Picard and his crew to move forward, they needed to wrap up old business, once and for all.
Picard still has some Borg issues to work out
TM: The teases that have been released thus far surrounding the trilogy have indicated a high-degree of inter-generational storytelling. Even though Star Trek is science fiction, one can only run so far with that without straining the bounds of credibility. What ways do you find to creatively channel such storytelling to ensure that the story remains believable (at least "in-universe")?
DM: Well, the principal story of Star Trek Destiny is not really "intergenerational," per se. It is a major crossover event, but it principally involves series set during the 24th century: Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Titan, New Frontier, Corps of Engineers, Klingon Empire, and more. The parts of the story that take place in other timeframes don’t have a direct link to the 24th-century plotline…At least, not at first.
I guess what I can tell you at this point is what you will not find in Star Trek Destiny. No absurdly old characters from a previous century still kicking around to show our current cast how to do things "old school." No dividing the storyline into one crew per book, with some kind of hand-off at the end of books one and two. Nobody stepping through a door from the past to join our 24th-century heroes. No one awakens from suspended animation. No characters killed on screen or in print will be resurrected in Star Trek Destiny.
TM: We now know that Captain Erika Hernandez of the starship Columbia will play a role in the Destiny trilogy. What went into your decision-making process as you considered brining her into the storyline?
DM: Her inclusion in the story was all but dictated by the trilogy’s inspiration—a painting by Pierre Drolet in Ships of the Line, of the Columbia crashed on a desert world. The accompanying caption had stated that the wreckage of the ship was discovered in the Gamma Quadrant by the crew of the Defiant. That image, and the nagging question of how the Columbia met such a tragic fate so far from home served as the springboard for the entire storyline of Destiny.
Drolet image of crashed NX-02 inspired Mack
TM: Can you share with us a bit about the writing process for the trilogy?
DM: It started with a grueling, six-month story development process. My editors and I argued back and forth through multiple revisions of the trilogy concept, and we traveled down a few dead ends before we hit upon a story that we all liked. We then pitched it to Paula Block, the longtime licensing executive in charge of Star Trek books and products. She had no changes but one question: "Are you sure you really want to do this?" My editors answered in the affirmative, and I went to work on the first manuscript during the summer of 2007.
First drafts of all three books were written and submitted by early April 2008. As with all of my previous works, they were written between the hours of 10 p.m. and 3 a.m., because of the demands of my full-time day job, from which I have since resigned. If I were to draw a diagram of the storyline, it would entail four narrative lines in the 24th century, a narrative line in the 22nd century that branches into two different eras of the past, and then some of those lines converging, a few at a time, at the end of books one and two, and all converging in the climax of book three.
TM: How long of a time period do the events in the series cover?
DM: That’s not as easy to answer as it might sound. Different parts of the trilogy take place during different timeframes. The primary story, which features our major characters, transpires over the course of approximately seven days. In the first book, "Gods of Night," the flashback story covers several months during a different century. Book two, "Mere Mortals," has a flashback storyline that covers more than 850 years. The last book of the trilogy, "Lost Souls," features a flashback tale that covers a period of a few months in the distant past.
TM: Being scheduled as it was for the months immediately preceding the planned release of the new Star Trek film, does the Destiny trilogy include any tips of the hat to the new film?
DM: None whatsoever. My directive from my editors was "leave the 23rd century to J.J. (Abrams)."
The Titan and the Enterprise E — No TOS in Mack’s Destiny
TM: Obviously, whenever you shake up a universe (fictional or otherwise) there are always repercussions. Already your compatriots Keith R.A. DeCandido, Christopher L. Bennett, William Leisner, and Kirsten Beyer have begun penning follow-up tales. In what ways have you interacted with them to flesh-out the long term effects of the havoc that Destiny seeks to wreak?
DM: Just as many of the authors named above (in addition to Michael Martin and Andy Mangels) served as beta-readers and consultants during the outline and manuscript phases of the Destiny trilogy, we continue to read and consult on one another’s works set after the trilogy, in order to benefit from one another’s different perspectives (and to stopgap the varying holes in our respective memories). Everyone brings something to the process. In particular, Keith has an unsurpassed knowledge of Star Trek continuity, both on-screen and in print. Christopher has an excellent scientific mind, and he is often able to spot scientific gaffes and suggest ways to fix them that actually aid the story as a whole. Mike, Andy, and Kirsten know their characters inside and out, body and soul, and were able to offer me really great insights that improved the sequences involving characters from their areas of expertise.
In many ways, we have begun treating the writing of Star Trek novels like running a writers’ room on a television series, with the editors serving as showrunners and each of us doing our part to tell the individual stories while safeguarding the continuity and narrative cohesion of the franchise as a whole.
TM: Being the prolific author you are, I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask about further projects that lay ahead for you.
DM: I just finished a short story for the Star Trek Mirror Universe anthology Shards and Shadows, which is scheduled to arrive in stores in January 2009. Currently, I am writing my first original novel, a modern-day urban fantasy-thriller titled "The Calling," for editor Marco Palmieri at Pocket Books.
After that, I’ll be penning "Promises Broken," the fourth (and possibly final) novel based on the now-cancelled TV series The 4400. It will be the second book set after the show’s untimely cliffhanger final episode, and it will build on the events of Greg Cox’s own post-finale 4400 novel, Promise City.
Next on my calendar is the fifth novel in the Star Trek Vanguard series, which I developed with editor Marco Palmieri. I’m waiting to see what narrative curveballs fellow-authors Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore throw me in the series’ fourth book, "Open Secrets," before I start getting too deep into planning the story. Beyond that, I have a few ideas for original novels and a new Star Trek novel that I’m kicking around with the editors at Pocket, but nothing definite at this time. I can only hope that more projects will continue to crest the horizon as I go forward.
More info on Star Trek Destiny
"Star Trek: Destiny: Gods of Night" available for pre-order at Amazon
STAR TREK DESTINY: MERE MORTALS (October 2008)
"Star Trek: Destiny: Mere Mortals"available for pre-order at Amazon
STAR TREK DESTINY: LOST SOULS (November 2008)
"Star Trek: Destiny: Lost Souls"available for pre-order at Amazon
Coming up – crossover retrospective + Destiny review
Soon TrekMovie will publish our review of the first book in the Destiny Trilogy, but before that we will take a look back at past Star Trek ‘crossover events’ from Pocket Books.