A celestial what?

One of the first things I heard about Deep Space Nine came straight from the show’s creators, Rick Berman and Michael Piller. In their view, The Next Generation format put limits on what they could do because of Gene Roddenberry’s edict that there be no conflict between the main characters. While I generally agreed with their assessment, I was also confused. By that time, Roddenberry had passed on and Berman was pretty much free to do whatever he wanted–so why didn’t he just fix the show to suit his own vision? Berman and Piller professed that it had something to do with respecting the original creator’s legacy or some such hoo-hah, but I didn’t believe it for a minute. Berman cut Roddenberry out of the equation long before the man’s death. In my humble opinion, his deference was merely window dressing.

Anxious to put their own stamp on the Star Trek franchise, they quickly moved ahead with Deep Space Nine, even while The Next Generation was still on the air. I’ll confess that I never was a serious fan of the show. I watched the first couple of seasons with casual interest, but overall my investment in Star Trek was on the decline. I still loved the original series and the films based on them (the fifth movie notwithstanding), but TNG had started to dry up for me, and I found myself missing more and more episodes. I paid more attention as the series was wrapping up, but was pretty unimpressed with the finale “All Good Things…” A rather tepid end, it was par for the course as far as I was concerned.

Deep Space Nine chugged along for a while, though, even after Berman and Piller abandoned it. They eventually turned the reins over to Ron Moore, who from what I heard injected some serious mojo into the storylines. I read an interview with him several years later, after he was tapped to run the Battlestar Galactica remake, when he stated that he was shocked that Berman let him get away with some of the stuff they did on DS9; but by then, the powers that be were too busy with Voyager to even notice. The self-described “red-headed stepchild” of the franchise danced to its own tune, right up until the end. I suspect Berman & Co. were happy to finally put it down.

Which brings us to my almost-involvement in this chapter of Star Trek history. One of the editorial assistants at Pocket Books, familiar with my previous book Storm Front, suggested that I submit a few DS9 stories for consideration. This was just prior to the series premiere, which meant the rules had not yet been established and I had a lot of leeway–a refreshing change from the “you can’t do this” and “you can’t do that” constraints of The Next Generation.

I came up with three basic outlines, one of which piqued my contact’s interest. Based loosely on a script I had pitched to TNG, Echo in the Dark was essentially a horror story set in space. With a tip of the hat to Ray Bradbury, the action revolved around a mystical Bajoran cult that stages a festival on board the station, during which a string of grisly murders occur. I’m not exactly sure what happened to my story pitch, but after a couple of months I got tired of waiting for an answer from Pocket Books and got started on the novel anyway. The writing went pretty quickly, and at the end I had a good 400 pages–the first time in years I had completed a novel that was shorter than my last one.

I had a good time playing with Commander Sisko, Constable Odo and Kira Nerys–characters that hadn’t been developed yet, which allowed me to put my own spin on them. Dutifully, I mailed the manuscript off to Pocket Books where it completely disappeared into the ether. I called my contact there every month or so, asking if the senior editors had read it yet, and was always told, “I’ll light a fire under them right now and get back to you.” To this day, I’m still waiting.

Perhaps Echo in the Dark is still in some slush pile somewhere, inching its way to some unsuspecting reader who will find it and ask, “What the hell is this?” At any rate, I was pretty happy with the book–and disappointed it never saw the light of day. Who knows? Maybe it’ll turn up yet. In the publishing biz, stranger things have happened…