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 (September 2008)
[Synopsis | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2]
"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.
Awesome….can’t wait to read
At last! Dax is finally promoted to Captain of her ship.
David Mack talks about the Borg “Resistance is Futile”. What’s up w/ them now?
The third and last: Riker’s story, don’t ruined it for me.
“No characters killed on screen or in print will be resurrected in Star Trek Destiny.”
That was something that was completely and utterly WRONG. I don’t care how you feel about Voyager, you do not kill off a major character like that! But if you’re going to, don’t do it like THAT!
Sometime in the next dozen books, we’d better see her again.
comments like yours are exactly the reason they killed Janeway. The only reason to kill a character like here is to shock people and stun people. To make you stop thinking that “that person’s a main character, they’ll never die.” When everyone starts thinking that too much, you have to kill someone big so that the jeporady that the characters are put in feels more real (in a dramatic sense, since this is all fantasy.) It’s the only way people start to believe that when another main character’s life is in danger, that the danger is real (again, in the dramatic sense), so that maybe, just maybe it feels less like a forgone conclusion that that character will get out of that situation and survive.
Just my two cents worth. After all, maybe that wasn’t the reason they killed her, but usually it is in situations like these.
Oh, and to everyone who has said “groan, not the borg again”, Mr. Mack’s comments point to the very real probability that theses books will finally deal with the borg once and for all. No more borg, at least in the “post Nemesis, and the DS9 and Voy post finally” books.
4, I would’ve minded less had the entire book not been terrible. “Before Dishonor” was, in a word, dishonorable. Had Janeway died in a bit more… nobel fashion, it would’ve been better. The entire thing itself was simply b-rated. It’s surprising, since Peter is generally a good writer. I’ve always enjoyed the New Frontier series immensely.
The problem with the situation feeling more “real” by putting a character’s life on the line is that the entire book was very loosely connected. It never had the chance to feel “real.”
Personally, though, I’m still holding out hopes for Destiny. It holds a lot of potential.
Yeah, I agree with what you said in post’s 6 and 7
Heh, Star Trek books…….
They’ll always be Fake Trek, that’s all.
The Luna-class can stay though
if you don’t like the books, why do you even need to troll the comments of those who do?
I’ve been reading Trek for years and years — the fictional worlds seem more multitextured and “real” to me now than the TV shows do. I am looking forward to Destiny (not to mention the next Vanguard books)! David Mack is one of my favorite Trek writers. And no, I don’t miss Janeway.
The Destiny trilogy sounds like it’s going to be excellent. I must admit that I’m not able to read the novels as fast as I’d like to because I’m quite busy but I look forward to the Destiny trilogy and I always enjoy new Star Trek books. David Mack is indeed one of the best Star Trek writers, and I would argue, one of the best writers out there so if anyone can pull this off he can.
Also, as the 24th century is my favorite era of Star Trek (and it will probably never be returned to on-screen) I’m glad that it continues in the books.
I haven’t read may Trek Books. I read some of the Shatner books and they were good. I really liked “Academy: Collision Course”… It helped hold me over ’till the movie. (I might read it again)
In a previous TrekMovie.com post David Mack wrote:
No, you don’t need to know much about DS9 to be able to follow the trilogy, though if you were familiar with the books set after the show’s finale, Ezri’s storyline will seem to come less “out of the blue.”
Can anyone recommend books that will help me “catch up?” Thanks.
In theory, you should be able to just jump right in, without having read anything before the trilogy. Reading the earlier books will enhance the experience and deepen your understanding of the books’ shared continuity, however.
That said, on the TNG side, you could read only the book that immediately precedes the trilogy, Greater Than the Sum by Christopher L. Bennett.
For the Titan series, Orion’s Hounds (by Christopher L. Bennett) and Sword of Damocles (by Geoffrey Thorne) will bring you up to date.
There’s really no need to read all the DS9 books before Destiny, because most of the ongoing storylines from that book series do not factor into the new trilogy. However, to get a glimpse at its direction for Ezri, check out the first two books of that series, Avatar (Books 1 and 2) and maybe Unity (which has a helpful timeline of events in that book series up to that point).
Thanks Mr. Mack!
I’ve been reading the articles on this site for months now and I have to say I’m very impressed. This is my first source for news on all things Trek. And I especially like the fact that the fantastic authors of the Trek novels come on here and respond to any questions or concerns that may come up.
Keep up the good work!
And I’m looking forward to the next book in the Vanguard series as well as Destiny. Is there any chance there would be a design contest for the USS Aventine and her sister ships like the one for the Titan?
Here’s a better question: will we see more “Aventine” books?
OK, Amazon. Where’s my book?
Destiny sounds promising. Perhaps I will order the books… after I read a review on trekmovie.com. What? They killed Janeway? Well, that really don’t shock me much. I never liked her character anyway.
#18 — At one time, the editors discussed a fan design contest for the Aventine, but it never really came together. I don’t know why.
#19 — I know that the Aventine and her crew will return in at least one upcoming book after the trilogy, Keith R.A. DeCandido’s “A Singular Destiny.” I am also angling to bring back Captain Dax and her crew in a future Star Trek book project that is still under discussion.
I am a huge Voyager fan and I was very pleased with the way Janeway met her fate. It was tragic, unexpected, and to me, perfectly appropriate in its awfulness. I mean, after her Endgame hubirs, this was a great bit of ‘whumping’ to her and to us Janeway fans. I do hope she can come back some how but in the story of her ‘death’ I found a lot of high tragedy and drama. So, well done, Peter David.
And oh yeah, I loved the rest of Before Dishonor too. A lot.
I just finished Gods of Night and reviewed it on my site today.
The character interaction between the various crews is probably one of my favorite parts. Plus, my favorite villains… what’s not to like?
Yup, the crew of the good ship Aventine will indeed be in my “Destiny” followup “A Singular Destiny,” which will be out in February.
Just finished Book II, went straight into Book III. Great stuff. David Mack succeeded in revitalising my interest in Star Trek, which was waning, to be honest.
Finished all three over last few weeks. Truly enjoyable with BIG BOLD ideas. One scene on Deneva reminded me of a certain place where a certain Vulcan took one in the back. Or should I say on the back.
Great job on a fantastic trilogy.
I loved the Destiny series, and I have read all the Titan series with Captain Riker. Regarding the Destiny trilogy, I think it would make a great movie. Will this be an event to look forward to in the future?