New York Times bestselling author Dayton Ward has been writing about Star Trek for a couple of decades but recently he has ventured into a more specific area: travel guides. Last year he wrote a guide for visitors to Vulcan, and today Insight Editions released his latest travel guide, this time for the Klingon Empire. TrekMovie talked to the prolific writer about how one goes about writing a travel guide to a fictional destination along with catching up on what’s next for him.
How to prep for a trip to the Klingon Empire
How did you prepare to write this travel guide? Did you watch every episode that referenced the Klingon Empire?
Yeah I made a list of all the episodes that had any Klingon content, primarily ones that were set on the planet. And I used online resources and other resources in my library to come up with other references to things that were mentioned to being on the Klingon home world or somewhere in the Empire. I started fleshing out from there but it is interesting that there isn’t a lot.
You get the First City and a couple of other prominent locations and this ritual and that thing or hunt or those animals, but after that it dries up pretty fast. So you turn to other resources like reference books from over the years, novels, and even some stuff from role-playing games. And then I made up a lot of stuff, but trying to stay in character.
This book is written from an in-universe perspective. This type of things has been done before, like the 80s book “The Worlds of the Federation.” Do you find harder or easier and maybe more fun to do a reference book from this perspective?
It was harder. As you said, I am writing as if I am working on a real travel guide for Frommer’s or Lonely Planet. It was fun. They wanted me to do it all from inside the box and not like an encyclopedia or role-playing game supplement. They wanted it to be a fun, light book that will appeal to casual fans and hardcore fans alike and keep it with a casual approach. It was fun to write and a lot like the Vulcan Guide as it was the same approach. But obviously we tailored it for the Klingon sensibility.
What is the in-universe setting for this book, specifically year?
I don’t know if I anchored it like I did with the Vulcan book but the idea is it is about the same time or around 2386 or 2387. It’s the Prime Timeline and after Star Trek: Nemesis.
Visiting the Empire
So what do you think is the most important travel tip for people before they head out on a trip to the Klingon Empire?
Probably should study and learn about the culture so they don’t offend someone inadvertently. You don’t want to dishonor a Klingon. You definitely don’t want to get into a fight because it will probably go bad for you. You want to know how to dress, what to expect when you go from the metropolitan areas to the smaller provinces where they don’t get so many offworlders. You can learn how to react if you find yourself an unwitting participant in some kind of ceremony or challenge.
If you could travel to the Klingon Empire, would you do it or is it a bit too dangerous?
I’d probably go just to say I had been. We have written the guide from the idea with an odd conceit that the worlds of the Federation and their allies have started these sorts of thing to go on and some of the bigger cities on these worlds are becoming more cosmopolitan. That was a conceit in the Vulcan Guide that non-Vulcans live in the larger cities and work there because they are diplomats and aides. That isn’t as prevalent in the Klingon book. I wasn’t able to play that card so much. But yeah, I’d go. Just to get the t-shirt.
Next Star Trek travel guide?
So you have done two of these now, what is next for the series?
They haven’t commissioned a third one yet. I am working on other stuff for Insight so it may be they are waiting for me to finish that before asking me to do something else. We have discussed what other worlds may make great candidates for this thing. Like people talk about Romulus and there are a few others. But we can probably all agree that once you get past Vulcan and the Klingons, the list of viable candidates drops off quickly.
Certainly for a mainstream audience.
Exactly. You want to keep this light and approachable for the mainstream. Everybody knows what a Vulcan is and everyone knows what a Klingon is so that was an easy sell. Romulus? In my mind that is sort of teetering on the edge. And once you start getting into worlds that are deep dives into Star Trek mythology I think the allure starts to wear off a bit.
I’d love to see a guide to Fereginar but I don’t know how many others would.
As a counter to that, we have discussed some alternatives. Like maybe we can do one book that covers more than one planet, like that “Worlds of the Federation” you mentioned. So maybe of a quick hit with some of the popular worlds that don’t merit a book of their own. I volunteered do the Risa book so I can lie on a beach to do research but they weren’t keen to that idea.
Star Trek IncrediBuilds set coming
You said you were doing something else for Insight, is it Star Trek related?
Yeah. They have a series of kits called IncrediBuilds and these books are combinations of laser-cut models made out of wood you can assemble and there is a book that comes with the model that gives you insight into the model. So like for Star Wars they have kits for the Millennium Falcon, Death Star, TIE Fighter and other stuff. So, I am doing one for Star Trek for the original Enterprise. I am writing the book and someone else does the model and they package them together as a kit.
Star Trek novels and Picard and Crusher’s destiny
Your latest Star Trek novel dropped about a month ago, do you know what’s next for you with Pocket Books?
I am not currently under contract for anything. Waiting on word from my editor for what is next so in the meantime I am working on a couple of other things for other clients.
Lately you bounce back and forth between writing original for Star Trek and Next Generation. Do you have a preference or is there another area of Trek you would like to play in?
Yeah I got a couple of ideas. I like writing Original Series and Next Gen. They let me do pretty much what I want with those two more or less. And I like spin-off stuff we do on occasion like we did with Vanguard and Seekers. I have a couple other ideas for stuff I would like to do. It just comes down to the editors and how they lay out the schedule and they try to balance the needs of the various series. Like last year we were real heavy on the Original Series because of the 50th anniversary and so this they correct the other way to make sure DS9 and Next Gen and Voyager and Enterprise get some love. So it just cycles around
When you are writing Next Gen do you feel like you have more freedom because it is an open-ended universe after Nemesis?
Yeah, pretty much. There are still a couple things they prefer we not do but they grant us a tremendous amount of freedom on all the 24th century series. Now that the shows are no longer in production and are unlikely to be revisited, the folks at CBS licensing are very supportive about letting us expand the characters and storylines in a way that we could never have done while the shows were in production. So yeah, it has been a lot of fun to have that kind of freedom.
One storyline that has run through these novels is the relationship between Picard and Crusher, including a lot in your most recent book. Where do you think their relationship is now, and do you feel that they’re destined to split as foreseen in the flash-forwards from the TNG finale?
No, I don’t think so. That was more of a sort of ‘what if’ situation anyway that Q engineered. We aren’t beholden to follow that because it was a what if. So we don’t have to have Picard become ill or them divorce or the other things that happened in the finale. And of course Data died at the end of Nemesis, which totally screwed up what Q had shown.
I am kind of a happy endings sort of guy when it comes to relationships so I would be happy to see them stay together. As for what Picard does such as staying on the bridge or retires or does something else, you never know. I am not anxious to push that button yet as there is still a lot of fun to have with the characters. Let’s see what happens.
On Discovery tie-ins and canon
Are you interested in writing books for Discovery?
Absolutely! I would welcome that opportunity.
Have you put any thought into what you would want to do? Have you been briefed?
I would have to get information on what they are doing and they are playing their cards very close to the vest. When the opportunity is right we will see what happens.
Star Trek books have their own continuity, but are not considered part of the official canon. Do you think there is an opportunity with Discovery to declare the tie-ins – both books and comics – to be official canon?
It is my understanding that is what is happening. [Star Trek: Discovery writer] Kirsten Beyer – who is in the writer’s room – is working with [author of the first Star Trek: Discovery novel] David Mack and [Discovery comics tie-in writer] Mike Johnson to ensure that the storylines they are developing for the novel and the comics are consistent with and actually inform backstory for the characters. Or they could trigger events or lead into or out of events you will see on the show. So they are being considered – and I am going to use the word in quotes – “canon.”
Do you like the idea of working inside of canon or do you feel it would be too restrictive?
I don’t know as I haven’t done it yet. But on the surface I don’t have a problem with it, if it is not just lip service. As far as a challenge from a creativity viewpoint, I don’t have a problem with it at all. I kind of work with the mindset that I endeavor whenever I write a Trek novel to make sure it is consistent with canon and fit in there and not easily be overwritten.
Klingon Travel Guide available now
Insight Editions Hidden Universe Travel Guides: Star Trek: The Klingon Empire was released today, Tuesday July 11th. It retails for $19.99 but you can get it on Amazon in paperback for $13.38 or for Kindle for $12.75.