These are the continuing voyages…
It’s hard to fathom these days, but there was a time when Star Trek was a lot simpler. Even with the release of the first movie back in 1979 and the dozens of books available, if you were talking Trek you were talking about a single incarnation–the one based on Gene Roddenberry’s classic TV series.
Since I wasn’t even born until 1968, I missed out on the original run, and pretty much skipped the entire 1970s without giving it much thought. It was only after I first saw Star Trek: The Motion Picture on Showtime that I got turned on to the adventures of Captain Kirk, Mister Spock and the brave crew of the Starship Enterprise. From that day forward, I was hooked. Every afternoon at 5, I tuned in to WTOG so I could watch the show in syndication, basking in those glorious, endless reruns while my sister wondered what all the fuss was about.
“It’s just a stupid show about stupid spaceships,” she said. “Gag me with a spoon.”
“Yeah?” I replied. “Well, Dallas sucks. And who cares who shot J.R., anyway?”
I was pretty thrilled when The Wrath of Khan came out, but it soon became obvious that a new movie every couple of years wasn’t near enough to satisfy my appetite for all things Trek. And so I took refuge in books, starting out with the James Blish series adaptations in my school library and then working my way through the used bookstores. I chewed through titles like Spock Must Die! and Planet of Judgement, stopping along the way for Star Trek: The New Voyages, edited by fan stalwarts Sondra Marshak and Myrna Culbreath. Simon & Schuster’s old Timescape imprint also put out new Trek books about every other month, which I greeted like manna from heaven. Classics like The Klingon Gambit and The Covenant of the Crown kicked around in my backpack for quick reading breaks during lunch. I was a hopeless addict, and proud of it.
By the time 1987 rolled around, I was a long-time, dedicated Trekker. So like a lot of other people, I was skeptical when Paramount announced the release of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Of course I watched the show (I mean, who are we kidding here?), but throughout that first season I kept thinking that the whole thing was a bit uneven. I didn’t quite spark to the characters at first, but as time went on I became interested enough to stick with it. The series eventually found its voice, and by the end of the third season I had stopped comparing it to its predecessor. The Next Generation was truly a force unto itself, and I counted myself as a fan.
About that time, I happened across an article in Cinefantastique about the series, and how the producers had an open submission policy. If you signed a release form, they would read your script–whether or not you had an agent. The odds were pretty slim that anything would come of it, but I figured it was worth a shot. I sent a couple of scripts their way, and to my utter shock they actually called back. They weren’t buying either one of my stories, but they were impressed enough with my writing to ask me for more.
I pitched about a dozen stories in all, almost all of which were shot down. One of them, however, caught the attention of producer Ron Moore. He liked it enough to kick it up to his boss, but in the ensuing months I got tired of waiting for a response. I decided to expand on the idea and turn it into a novel called Storm Front, thinking I could leverage my relationship with the show (such as it was) to get in the door at Pocket Books, which published all the Trek titles.
My plan worked–sort of. Even though my pitch to the show was ultimately rejected, I did manage to get Storm Front seen by the editors at Pocket Books. I envisioned the novel as Tom Clancy meets sci-fi–a technothriller in space, chock full of details on the science behind starships and the political dimensions of the United Federation of Planets. It was a huge story, much bigger than a conventional Star Trek novel, complete with spies, political intrigue, epic space battles and a looming threat within the Federation itself–all tied together with a serious twist at the end.
Alas, the scope of the book proved to be its undoing. Storm Front made it all the way to the top at Pocket Books, but the new senior editor thought the story was too complex for their readers–a rather patronizing view of Trekkers, but what the hell do I know? “But we really liked it,” was their sole consolation. “Do you have anything else you could show us?”
Part of me thought I was just lining up for more punishment. But there was something new on the horizon–a brand new series, and a chance to get in on the action at the very start. Pocket sent me a couple of scripts to get a feel for the show, and pretty soon I was at it again, working up stories for this latest incarnation.
Something called Deep Space Nine.