The Trek Mate Family Network in the UK has just released a podcast of an interview I did for their “Captain’s Table” feature in which they interview Star Trek prose authors. The discussion covers my Trek work, my Marvel novels and their audio adaptations, and Only Superhuman. You can find it here:
Empire Magazine‘s site has posted a feature on Pocket’s Star Trek novel line, focusing mainly on the series that expand the universe beyond the aired shows:
This includes some series that I’ve been a part of; Department of Temporal Investigations gets a whole page, and their “if you read only one” recommendation for Titan is my Over a Torrent Sea. Plus there’s an oblique reference to The Buried Age on their page for The Lost Era, though they don’t mention it by name. I do wish they’d spelled my last name correctly, but otherwise I appreciate the attention, both on my behalf and that of my colleagues.
Today was the Books by the Banks festival for authors from the Cincinnati region, and I spent six hours at the convention center downtown hawking my wares. In addition to a big pile of Only Superhuman, the bookstore providing merchandise for the event also had a bunch of copies of Forgotten History, a small supply of Watching the Clock, three copies of the Mere Anarchy trade paperback, and one lonely copy of Spider-Man: Drowned in Thunder — which wasn’t lonely for long, since it was the first book I sold. By the end of the event, I’d sold out of Mere Anarchy as well and was down to one WtC, and I’d moved seven copies of OS and at least a few of FH. Plus a few people who didn’t buy OS then and there nonetheless indicated they intended to buy it online or as an e-book. All in all, while I could’ve wished for better, it was a pretty decent performance considering that this was a general book festival, not specifically SF-oriented. I seem to recall that at my first BbtB, where they only had Titan: Over a Torrent Sea for sale, I didn’t sell that many copies. So I’m satisfied with how this event turned out. Plus I made a couple of new contacts and set things in motion for a book signing event that will hopefully materialize fairly soon.
Well, it’s been an eventful day and a half. My first panel on Friday, about superhero novels, was a pretty cozy affair, with the audience barely outnumbering the panelists, and it was kind of a replay of last year’s panel on the same subject. At least it was a gentle way to ease into things. And at least I had my advance reading copy of Only Superhuman and its great cover art to show off. After that things were quiet until Meet the Pros, where I handed out promotional fliers for OS as well as signing Trek books. Usually I’m relatively quiet at these things, not as outgoing as some of my author friends, but this year I was less tentative and more assertive, since it wasn’t the usual case where the people coming up to me were already established fans of the thing I was writing for; I had something new that I really wanted to promote and try to get people interested in. I think I handled myself pretty well, though it was still less busy this year than it was in years past.
Marco Palmieri, the assistant editor on OS, brought a printout of the cover mechanical, i.e. the full artwork and text for the wraparound dust jacket that will enswathe the hardcover. It’s the first time I’ve seen the final treatment and what the spine will look like. The brown-dominated front and back covers are offset by a green spine and flaps, and the spine has a smaller, cutout version of Emerald Blair’s cover pose between the title and my name,which is neat.
I showed the OS cover to Alan Kistler, who writes the “Agents of S.T.Y.L.E.” column critiquing superhero costume designs for Newsarama, and asked him to critique Emerald Blair’s costume. He thought it worked pretty well, that it fit the character (as I described her to him) and was still practical. So that was good to hear.
I only had one panel on Saturday, a morning panel about writing time travel, which let me talk about my DTI novels and discuss the writing of time travel in general with the other authors on the panel and the members of the audience. That was really my only Trek-related panel for the whole con, although this morning I have one about moving from tie-in to original work, so there could be some Trek discussion there. Anyway, despite only being a panelist on one event, I had a very eventful Saturday. After my panel, I stuck around as an audience member for the next two in the same room, a writing workshop with Marco, David Mack, and David R. George III (which never really got to the workshop part since the audience was content to listen to the panelists talk about the writing process for two hours). I’m glad I attended, since their comments on story structure helped me recognize a couple of significant structural flaws in the spec novel I’m getting ready to revise. Hopefully I’ll be able to think of ways to strengthen it up in those areas. That was followed by a panel on editor-author relationships with Marco and Greg Cox, my main editor for OS. Some nice insights there.
I took the next hour off, then attended a panel on Leverage, which is not an SF/fantasy show but no doubt has plenty of overlap in the fanbase (and often makes genre homages, particularly to Doctor Who) — not to mention that one of its current writing staffers, Geoffrey Thorne, is a former Trek novelist who wrote the Titan novel right after my first one. More to the point, a couple of the panelists, including Greg and the prolific Keith R. A. DeCandido, have written Leverage tie-in novels which should be coming out next year. It was a fun conversation. Then I spent an hour signing books at the Constellation Books vendor table — thanks to the folks there for hosting me, letting me hand out more Only Superhuman flyers, and feeding me chocolate. After that I ran into Greg, Marco, and some others in the lobby and got invited to join them for dinner over in the nearby mall. My editors and I shared a table with Bill Leisner (author of the TNG novel Losing the Peace) and we writers mostly listened while the editors talked about the business and traded anecdotes, which was very informative and entertaining and mostly not for public consumption. I had a bowl of chili and a caesar salad, and as usual the restaurant portions were too huge, so I asked for a box to bring back the rest of the salad in, although I have no idea when or if I’m going to eat it (it’s probably wilted some by now). After that I thought I couldn’t eat another bite, but then Marco ordered an apple cobbler with ice cream which turned out to be way too big for one so he asked for four spoons so we could all share, and, well, I guess there’s always room for apple cobbler and ice cream. Then we came back to the hotel and I hung out with folks in the lobby and talked about old movies and Godzilla and the like. After that I came back to my room to decompress after that very full day.
Today, after the author breakfast in half an hour, I’ve got three panels that will all be Only Superhuman-related for me: at 10, the tie-in vs. original panel mentioned earlier, then a Tor Books presentation at 11 with Greg and Marco talking about Tor’s upcoming releases and me talking about OS, and then at 1, a panel about female action heroes in the media. Then I’m pretty much done and will probably be setting out for home not long after. I’d like to get a few hours’ driving in today, but it looks like thunderstorms are likely, so we’ll have to see how that goes.
StarTrek.com asked me to contribute a piece about Forgotten History for their site, so I used a little imaginary time travel to interview my past self about the book:
The results of the Unreality-SF.net Story of the Year voting are in, and DTI: Watching the Clock got second prize, with a whopping 343 votes. The winner by a landslide was Star Trek: Mirror Universe: Rise Like Lions by my friend and colleague David Mack, to whom I extend congratulations (though I was actually rooting for Kirsten Beyer’s Voyager: Children of the Storm). Still, apparently second place comes with a trophy of some sort, which I’ll be getting in the mail at some point. And it’s the first time any of my published fiction has gotten any kind of prize, so that’s a notable step. Thanks to everyone who voted for my book.
I guess I can put my second-place Story of the Year trophy next to the Second-Place Semifinalist trophy I won for the Scripps-Howard Spelling Bee back in 6th grade. (The word that cost me first place was “meretricious,” a word one wouldn’t have expected a 6th-grader to know, since it means “of or pertaining to prostitutes.” And I was eliminated early from the finals because the lady pronounced “ultimo” in a way that sounded to me like “altimo,” overpronouncing the “U” instead of just saying it normally. I wuz robbed, I tells ya!)
One of the characters in my novel Star Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations: Watching the Clock was Clare Raymond, the 20th-century housewife from TNG’s “The Neutral Zone,” and while working on scenes involving her thoughts and recollections, I got to wondering what mass-media science fiction would’ve been like in a universe where there was no Star Trek TV series in the ’60s. I vacillated between positing a reality that simply lacked such a series altogether and inventing a substitute series that could go in its place and fill the same role. (I was tempted to use Astro Quest from the CSI episode “A Space Oddity”. Galaxy Quest wouldn’t have worked, since it was supposedly made in the ’80s.) I ended up going the former route, but I didn’t really develop it in detail.
But the subject recently came up in a thread on the TrekBBS, and I got into a more in-depth analysis of the subject, which I want to repost here.
The thing is, Star Trek had such a major influence on popular culture that it’s hard to imagine how different the media landscape would be without it. Star Trek did a lot to make science fiction a more respectable genre in the mass media. It pioneered or popularized many aspects of the modern fandom experience — conventions, fanzines, even slash fiction. The success of ST in syndicated reruns proved that reruns were more viable than broadcasters had thought and led to a rise in rerun use and a decrease in season lengths. Later on, TNG’s breakthrough success in first-run syndication paved the way for the syndication boom of the ’90s.
So without Star Trek, there might never have been a Xena or a Babylon 5. Not to mention all the shows that have spawned directly from Trek veterans like Michael Piller, Ron Moore, Ira Steven Behr, Robert Hewitt Wolfe, Rene Echevarria, and so on. There’s no telling if they would’ve ever gone into SFTV if not for ST. If it hadn’t existed in the ’60s, then SFTV and first-run syndication in the ’90s, ’00s, and ’10s would be a lot sparser. Heck, without B5 breaking new ground in serialized storytelling, we might not have as many of the heavily arc-driven shows we have today, in SF or otherwise. It’s a ripple effect.
Without ST, sci-fi would probably have maintained a reputation as kid stuff, since the most successful exemplars of the genre in TV would’ve been Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Lost in Space. I think my conjecture in Watching the Clock that the bionic shows would still exist is pretty sound, since they were based on a novel and weren’t really seen as hardcore sci-fi; series producer Harve Bennett wasn’t an SF-oriented type and wasn’t very familiar with Star Trek prior to being pegged to produce the movies, so his ’70s career wouldn’t have been affected much by the absence of ST. Ditto for Bionic Woman creator Kenneth Johnson, who went on to do The Incredible Hulk, V, and Alien Nation. If Roddenberry hadn’t made his mark in SFTV, maybe we’d look back on Johnson as the man who proved that science fiction could be an adult genre, though that proof would’ve come along much later. And we might’ve still gotten Earthbound genre shows like The X-Files and Buffy.
And would there even have been a Star Wars without Star Trek? In the Trek Nation documentary, George Lucas says he’d attended some Trek conventions before creating Star Wars, and he says ST helped pave the way for SW by proving that sci-fi could be successful — and that it could be produced impressively on a tight budget. So without ST, with mass-media American science fiction in the ’70s lacking that one massive success story, would any movie studio have been willing to take a chance on Lucas’s idea to do a Flash Gordon pastiche as a big-budget movie? If they had, it probably wouldn’t have been called Star Wars, a name that I’ve read Lucas chose because it evoked Star Trek. And it might’ve been a much smaller, lower-budget film, and there would’ve been less of a pre-existing genre fanbase for it. And its effects might not have been as sophisticated, since the FX studios for Star Trek pioneered new techniques on that show. Without Star Wars as we know it, there wouldn’t have been an ILM, let alone a Pixar. Sci-fi and fantasy wouldn’t have become the giants in the motion picture industry that they are in our world; the films and franchises that would never have been made are too numerous to list. Nor would there have been a Battlestar Galactica or Buck Rogers in the 25th Century or Jason of Star Command. And without Donald Bellisario cutting his genre teeth on Galactica, there might never have been a Quantum Leap.
So probably the biggest SF fan community would be for Doctor Who, and maybe Blake’s 7 would have a big following too. England would most likely be seen as the vanguard of science fiction in popular culture, though SF would be seen as a genre characterized by cheap production values, and thus would have trouble gaining more than a niche fanbase in the US.
And what about all the people inspired to become scientists and engineers because of Star Trek? If that show had never existed, then modern technology might be less advanced in some respects. There might not have been as much incentive driving people to invent flip phones or pad-style computers. Which might explain why some aspects of technology do seem to have advanced more gradually in the Trek universe itself, although its 20th century clearly had much more impressive progress in crewed spaceflight and genetic engineering than ours.
So all in all, as utopian as Star Trek‘s 22nd through 24th centuries are, it looks like their 20th and early 21st centuries would’ve been rather deprived where mass entertainment was concerned. Maybe that’s why ST’s characters are mainly fans of detective fiction and Westerns and gothic romances and the like — maybe science fiction never really caught on outside its particular niche audience.
Thanks to your nominations, Star Trek: DTI: Watching the Clock has made the top ten list and is thus on the final ballot. Here’s the page where you can cast your vote for the final award:
The top ten list includes three Star Trek novels, two Star Wars novels, a Doctor Who novel, three Doctor Who audio dramas, and a Torchwood radio play. You can vote for only one winner (multiple votes from the same IP address will be disregarded), and the poll is open for the next seven days (through the end of Sunday, April 1).
The Unreality SF blog, which concentrates on SF/fantasy media tie-in fiction, is taking nominations for its annual Story of the Year award. As they put it:
Starting today, you can nominate three stories. At the end of the week, we’ll count up the suggestions to find the ten that are most popular.
Next Monday, we’ll post that final shortlist and give you seven days to pick one absolute favourite.
And then the authors of the first- and second-placed stories each get a block of glass with their name engraved in it.
This is for any licensed work of prose or comics tie-in fiction published between the start of March 2011 and the end of February 2012. Two of my own works are eligible:
- Star Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations: Watching the Clock, Pocket Books (May 2011).
- Star Trek: Typhon Pact: The Struggle Within (eBook), Simon & Schuster Digital Sales Inc. (October 2011).
And if you need suggestions on how to fill that third nominating slot (or, heck, the first and second as well if you prefer), here are links to some of my fellow tie-in authors’ posts listing their eligible titles:
So go and do as you will with this information.
The Simon & Schuster catalog entry for Forgotten History has now been updated with the book’s cover blurb (replacing the Watching the Clock blurb that they’ve been using up until now. Here it is:
The agents of the Department of Temporal Investigations are assigned to look into an anomaly that has appeared deep in Federation territory. It’s difficult to get clear readings, but a mysterious inactive vessel lies at the heart of the anomaly, one outfitted with some sort of temporal drive disrupting space-time and subspace. To the agents’ shock, the ship bears a striking resemblance to a Constitution-class starship, and its warp signature matches that of the original Federation starship Enterprise NCC-1701—the ship of James T. Kirk, that infamous bogeyman of temporal investigators, whose record of violations is held up by DTI agents as a cautionary tale for Starfleet recklessness toward history. But the vessel’s hull markings identify it as Timeship Two, belonging to none other than the DTI itself. At first, Agents Lucsly and Dulmur assume the ship is from some other timeline . . . but its quantum signature confirms that it came from their own past, despite the fact that the DTI never possessed such a timeship. While the anomaly is closely monitored, Lucsly and Dulmur must search for answers in the history of Kirk’s Enterprise and its many encounters with time travel—a series of events with direct ties to the origins of the DTI itself. . . .
Also, the “Preliminary” banner has been removed from the cover art there, so I guess it’s now officially the final version.
After my earlier post on quantum teleportation, I’ve been wondering about whether I wanted to include it in my science fiction in some way, but first I wanted to get some handle on whether it was feasible in practice to teleport a macroscopic object rather than just individual particles or a Bose-Einstein condensate in a single coherent quantum state. Finding detailed discussions online is a bit tricky just using Google, but I found a discussion thread that goes into a fair amount of depth:
Granted, BBS threads, even on science forums, aren’t the best way to get information about the subject, but I’m in no mood to try to wade through a bunch of technical papers, and I’m only looking at it from the perspective of a fiction writer, so for now I’m content to let other people do the interpreting for me, though I still have to try to filter out the informed posts from the less informed ones.
It sounds like there may be some fundamental limitations that would prohibit teleporting humans or the like. Apparently what gets teleported are discrete properties like spin or charge. Teleporting a continuous variable, like the relative positions of multiple atoms or their momentum, would require infinite amounts of data, so one of the posters says. Another poster countered that some measurement of continuous states was possible, citing a paper on Arxiv.org, but the first replied that it was a limited, classical-resolution measurement and not precise enough to allow replicating a macroscopic object accurately. (Kind of like how Star Trek replicators have only “molecular resolution” and not “quantum resolution” so they can recreate nonliving matter but not living beings, because the error rate would be fatally high.)
Then there’s this thread at the Bad Astronomy and Universe Today Forum (which seems to have been started by the same poster under a different username), in which it’s pointed out that a macroscopic object can never be truly isolated from its environment, which again would suggest that the amount of information you’d need to define its state exactly would be effectively unbounded.
And this thread from the same forum (which is definitely by the same poster since it has the same original post as the Physics Forums thread above) clarifies that thermal effects in the body would interfere with getting a precise scan; ideally you’d need to freeze the subject to extremely near absolute zero, which isn’t exactly conducive to survivable teleportation.
Another factor raised in this article from Null Hypothesis: The Journal of Unlikely Science is a simple matter of bandwidth: even if you didn’t need infinite information to transmit continuous states, you’d still need to transmit so much data to replicate a human body that it would take a great deal of time and energy to send — billions of years at our highest current transmission rate. And if you could get a much higher transmission rate, according to the link in the previous paragraph, you’d need to send such intense energy that it would become unfeasible — you’d basically be firing a very powerful beam of gamma radiation at the receiving station, and that’s more a death ray than a transporter beam. At the very least, in most instances it would take less time and energy just to travel physically than to send a teleport signal.
So the question this raises for me is: how “exact” do you actually need to get? It could be feasible using advanced nanofabrication technology to “print out” a human body that’s a good molecular-level match for the original person. As long as you recreated the DNA and RNA in the cells accurately, you could probably settle for just knowing how many of which type of cell the body had, and where they were located, so you could reduce the amount of data that needed to be sent by using these “generic” substitutions. You could even improve on the body, say, write out excess fat or burgeoning tumors, or rewrite defunct hair follicles as functioning ones, or add extra muscle, or even make more radical changes. (See Wil McCarthy’s The Queendom of Sol tetralogy for an illustration of this.)
Aside from matching (or refining) the genetic and epigenetic data, then, the key information you’d need to transmit a person with their identity intact would be an accurate brain scan. Otherwise you’ve just created an identical twin rather than duplicated the original person. So the question is, just how accurate would it have to be? As far as science is able to determine, thought and memory are classical-scale processes. According to this page which I used as a reference for quantum theory in DTI: Watching the Clock:
In quantum terms each neuron is an essentially classical object. Consequently quantum noise in the brain is at such a low level that it probably doesn’t often alter, except very rarely, the critical mechanistic behaviour of sufficient neurons to cause a decision to be different than we might otherwise expect. The consensus view amongst experts is that free-will is the consequence of the mechanistic operation of our brains, the firing of neurons, discharging across synapses etc. and fully compatible with the determinism of classical physics.
Sure, there are some theorists who argue that consciousness is based on quantum processes, and you hear a lot of talk about “microtubules” in the neurons operating on a quantum level, but there’s no experimental support yet, and the general consensus is that quantum effects in the brain would decohere well before they reached the scale at which the neurons’ activity occurs. So it might be possible to faithfully duplicate the entire mental state of a human brain using classical-level accuracy, so that mechanism in the research paper mentioned above might be applicable.
So the key issue that remains is the one that was the focus of my previous post: Is there continuity of consciousness between the original and the duplicate? What I reasoned there is that what creates our perception of ourselves as continuous beings is the ongoing interaction, and thus the quantum entanglement/correlation, among the particles of our brains. The specific particles may be expended and replaced, but the correlations within the entire overall structure give us our sense of continuity. So if the original subject and the teleported replica are quantum-entangled, that would make them the same continuous entity on a fundamental level even if separated in space and time. The question is, would that same principle apply even if the entanglement were between the original and a body that was not an exact quantum duplicate? I.e. if you used classical-level fabrication to synthesize a duplicate of a person and only quantum-teleported partial information about the state of the brain? You’d synthesize a brain and body that were almost exact replicas, and then transmit enough quantum data about the brain to essentially cancel out the discrepancies and make it effectively the same brain, with the entanglement providing the continuity. Thus you have a replica of the body but preserve a single continuous consciousness.
So the original body would not need to be scanned to destruction but the brain would. Remember, teleporting quantum state information requires changing the original state. You’d essentially be teleporting just the brain/mind into a new, possibly modified body, and leaving the old body behind as a corpse with a destroyed brain. Ickier than the ideal situation. But it still precludes the possibility of creating a viable “transporter duplicate.”
But the question is, how much “cheating” can you get away with? How small a percentage of the information defining you needs to be quantum-teleported rather than classically copied in order to ensure that your consciousness survives intact? How could science measure the difference between a synthesized replica that thinks it’s you and one that actually contains your original consciousness? How much entanglement, how much equivalence, is enough for continuity? Even if we assume the teleportation of the brain states alone is enough to make it the same brain, we run into the mind/body problem: the two are more linked than we have traditionally tended to think, and it may be premature to define consciousness as something that resides solely in the brain. The entire nervous and hormonal systems may play a role in it too. Still, if you were to have your legs amputated and replaced with prosthetics, that wouldn’t destroy your consciousness. So maybe teleporting just the brain states is enough.
But then there’s a simple mathematical question: does that really reduce the amount of data by a significant amount? The mass of the brain is about 2 percent of the total mass of the body, so that’s only reducing the amount of data by roughly two orders of magnitude. So it would take 2 billion years to transmit instead of 100 billion, say. To make it feasible, you’d have to “compress” the data still further — and we’d need a much deeper understanding of how the brain works before we could estimate how little of its structure we could get away with teleporting at a quantum level versus substituting with “generic” cellular/structural equivalents. (Of course it’s a total myth that “We use only 10% of our brains; fMRI scans show conclusively that we make use of just about all the brain’s volume over the course of a day. But on a cellular level, a lot of that may be underlying substructure that could be “generically” replicated. Or maybe not. I don’t know enough about neurology to be sure.) Even so, I doubt the threshold percentage would be low enough to reduce the amount of data by even one order of magnitude, let alone many.
And there’s still the thermal problem. There’s a lot of molecular motion in the brain, not just from its temperature but from the constant chemical exchange among neurons. You might not be able to get a detailed quantum scan of a living, active brain as opposed to a deep-frozen corpse, and I don’t have enough confidence in cryonics to believe a person could be frozen to near absolute zero and then revived.
Still… depending on what fictional universe I’m in and how much I’m willing to bend the rules, I might be willing to fudge things enough to include quantum teleportation if I have a good enough story reason for it, using the ideas discussed above to make it relatively more plausible. Maybe there are ways to transmit data at far higher rates than we can now conceive, and with less energy expenditure. And come to think of it, having a requirement that a subject has to be frozen solid before teleportation adds an interesting twist. Though it would rule it out as a routine commute as it is in Star Trek or Niven’s Known Space.
Well, it turns out I will be having a Star Trek book-signing event at the New York Comic-Con this year. I’ve just been informed that David Mack, James Swallow, and I will have a joint signing at 4 PM next Friday, October 14. Apparently it will be at the Premiere Collectibles booth (#2617), which is just across the aisle from the Simon & Schuster booth (#2612), which, according to the map, is in the “3A” area of the convention center’s third floor (which I think is the north end, if I’ve got my bearings right). I’ll be signing copies of DTI: Watching the Clock.
Luckily I’m arranging to come in a day early, and by plane rather than bus, so there shouldn’t be a risk of missing the signing.
Why have I got the Jerry Goldsmith Star Trek theme running through my head? Because I just wrote the final scene of Star Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations: Forgotten History, and I’m imagining the movie-era Enterprise sailing majestically away from camera and leaping into a prismatic warp flash before the end titles roll.
It’s been a blast writing this novel, because it’s let me revisit the post-TMP era from Ex Machina, and also do my first real in-depth exploration of the 5-year-mission era and the period in between. It turned out about half pre-TMP and half post-TMP, plus a frame story with Lucsly & Dulmur. This book will probably be confusing for some people to shelve, since it’s both a Watching the Clock sequel (and prequel) and an Ex Machina sequel (and prequel). And there’s another series heading that it could sort of fall under too, but that would be telling. Anyway, this book may hold the record for containing the most things I’ve been wanting to work into a Trek novel, or at least the most eclectic assortment thereof. Many of which fall under the category of getting to revisit the post-TMP period again. Although I’ve been just as eager lately to do something in the timeframe of The Animated Series, and while Forgotten History only spends a brief amount of time in that era, it does have a lot of TAS references.
The first draft comes out to 83,600 words, just shy of the maximum 85K I was contracted for. I think I’ve rarely come so close to a target length. Of course, I still have revising and polishing to do, which will probably modify the word count. And I’ve got just under a week to do that. Hopefully that’ll be time to make two full passes. I wish I hadn’t slowed down so much in the middle of the writing period, so that I’d have more time now for polishing. But that’s just the way it always seems to go for me. Even when I start out as strong as I did on this, with the words just pouring out, sooner or later I lose momentum and go into a down phase where it’s a lot harder to focus and decide what to write. Usually I get back into an up phase toward the end, because I have to, but it’s been a bit more of a struggle this time, and the really good bursts of writing have been less frequent this month than they were in that first week. However, I did manage to get more than half the book written within the past 24 days, so maybe slow and steady wins the race.
Oh, hey, I just remembered a minor story point I forgot to work in. I don’t think it’s urgent, and I’m not sure there’s a place to work it in, but I guess I’ll go take a look.
Just like the title says, Josh Edgeglass of the site MotionPicturesComics.com has posted a lengthy and mostly very flattering review of Watching the Clock:
The money quote, as Keith DeCandido would call it:
Mr. Bennet has always demonstrated, in his novels, an impressive attention to detail — both to Star Trek continuity and to scientific plausibility. This serves him incredibly well here. Over the course of the novel, Mr. Bennet attempts to construct a unifying theory of how time-travel works in the Star Trek universe. This is quite an undertaking, as there have been a plethora of time travel stories over the years, in all of the Star Trek movies and TV shows, and they have often been wildly inconsistent from one another in terms of how they depict time travel working. (If you go back in time and change something, does that destroy the present/future from which you came? Or does that create an alternate timeline, which exists side-by-side with the “original” timeline? We’ve seen it both ways, and that is just one example of the inconsistencies I’m talking about.) But, somehow, over the course of the novel, Mr. Bennett is able to reference pretty much every single Star Trek time-travel story ever put on film, and he’s able to offer wonderfully fascinating explanations as to how they all fit together. It’s quite a hoot.
The Simon & Schuster Digital Catalog has a tentative cover up for Forgotten History, which apparently is being published under the DTI banner after all:
Granted this is a tentative cover, but I like the continuity with the Watching the Clock cover, the reuse of the Shepherd’s Gate Clock face from the Royal Observatory at Greenwich as a design element. Having Kirk’s Enterprise fly through it is a great touch. And looming above it all, the face of James T. Kirk, the bogeyman of the DTI… it’s an excellent design, really fitting for the book.
The catalog page is here. The blurb that’s currently up there is the one from Watching the Clock, so just ignore it.
Star Trek: DTI: Watching the Clock established that the Federation Council created the Department of Temporal Investigations in 2270. Since part of what Star Trek: Forgotten History is about is showing how that happened, I’ve spent most of today trying to figure out stuff about the Federation Council as of 2270. While novels like Articles of the Federation have done a lot to define the nature and membership of the Council in the 24th century, as well as establishing various 23rd-century Federation presidents, and while Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home actually shows us the Council as it’s constituted in the mid-2280s, I found that essentially nothing has been established about its members as of 2270, at least as far as Memory Alpha and Beta can inform me. So I couldn’t crib any existing characters for councillors; I had to make them all up from scratch. (The novel The Lost Years did establish a couple of councillors’ names, but its version of events around that time is incompatible with the modern literary continuity, or at least with Ex Machina.)
So first off I had to figure out what worlds were known or likely Federation members as of 2270, either within canon or within Trek Lit continuity. Since the council chamber seen in TVH had 60 seats (2 sets of 3 tiers with 10 seats each), I figured the Council might’ve had 50-plus members as of a decade and half earlier. And when I put together a list of members, drawing first on canon, then on the Lit continuity, then on reference books like Star Charts and the Encyclopedia, and then on sites like Memory Beta (in order of priority, not time), I ended up with 40-odd certain or probable candidates, which is close enough to provide a good roster while leaving some wiggle room for what later books might establish. (And I had to do a lot of winnowing down of Memory Beta’s list of Federation members, many of which don’t make sense to count as members at all.)
I won’t give my list here, since it’s tentative and conjectural. But I’ve included a number of the species glimpsed in the background in “Journey to Babel,” and made sure to put them on the sub-councils (similar to congressional committees) that are featured “onscreen” in the novel, along with a few species from the TOS movies, mainly TMP.
So even though I’ve only added a thousand words to the manuscript today, I’ve done a lot of work. Tiring stuff, and I kinda lost track of time (good grief, it’s 9 PM already?), but it’s nice to have the opportunity to fill in another unexplored slice of the Trek universe.
I’m home! I was going to make a second Shore Leave-related post on Saturday evening, but I still had three panels that day, and since I had pretty low turnout at my solo panel, I figured my news about Only Superhuman and my Trek projects would still be new information for a lot of people there, so I wanted to wait until I’d “debuted” the news a second time before posting it here. And after I left on Sunday, I went to Cousin Barb’s in the DC area to stay overnight, and we went over to her friend’s house for dinner and a movie (the same friend who cooked us Thanksgiving dinner last year), and then I went to bed early and set out early the next morning and spent the whole lonnnnnngggg day driving home, so I didn’t get to post until now.
Here’s what I had in draft on Saturday night:
Well, my day feels like it’s been more eventful than it looks when I review my activity. I didn’t go to that many panels — I sat in the audience on a writing-advice panel at 11 and a Star Trek Magazine panel at 1, then had lunch in my room and rested up, then spent half an hour or so talking to Paul Simpson about my 4 PM panel, as well as to Scott Pearson and Marco Palmieri when they showed up. Then I rehearsed how I planned to talk about Only Superhuman a bit (and I fumbled it in the actual talk), then came the big event, my panel. Well, big for me. The audience was fairly small, maybe 8 people or so. Still, it was fun to get to talk about OS at last, and I even did a dramatic reading of a scene from the book. (Maybe I should’ve announced that in advance, but I wasn’t sure I’d go through with it. I should’ve remembered that I’m an inveterate ham given the chance.) I also revealed some exclusive info about my upcoming Trek projects.
The Only Superhuman news will be in a separate post following this one. Here’s the Trek news:
Star Trek: Typhon Pact: The Struggle Within has two parallel plotlines, dealing with the least-explored species on both sides of the current political divide in the Trek Lit universe: on the Typhon Pact side, the Kinshaya (a species introduced in passing references in John M. Ford’s classic novel The Final Reflection and only seen to date in Keith R.A. DeCandido’s A Singular Destiny, the novel that introduced the Typhon Pact) and on the side of the expanded Khitomer Alliance, the Talarians from TNG’s “Suddenly Human.” Most of the other Pact member species will also be featured to some extent.
Star Trek: Forgotten History (or Star Trek: DTI: Forgotten History, as it’s still being billed on the Simon & Schuster sites) is the “origin story” of the Department of Temporal Investigations, a group whose founding date was established in earlier works as 2270. Naturally, the time-travel exploits of Kirk and the Enterprise are heavily involved in those foundational events. The main body of the novel begins in 2267, exploring the Starfleet/Federation response to Kirk’s time-travel discoveries, but the bulk of it takes place in the era following Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Yes, I’m finally getting to revisit the post-TMP timeframe I’ve previously explored in Ex Machina and Mere Anarchy: The Darkness Drops Again, and I’m very pleased about it. Additionally, the novel has a frame story featuring the 24th-century DTI characters from Watching the Clock — and several of the DTI’s older members, the characters established as having been alive at the time, will play at least small roles in the main body of the story as well.
So to some extent, Forgotten History is both a prequel and a sequel to Watching the Clock, and both a prequel and a sequel to Ex Machina. Yet I’m taking care to write it as a self-contained tale, something you can follow without having read either prior work.
I didn’t mention this at the con, since I didn’t know it yet, but Simon & Schuster’s site now has publication dates listed for both of these: The Struggle Within is listed for October 4, 2011 (eBook only), and Forgotten History is listed for April 24, 2012 (making it the May book for next year).
Sorry, I forgot to post yesterday to say I arrived intact at Shore Leave. It was a pretty uneventful drive, except for the few minutes of blinding rain on Friday morning. And that time Thursday evening when I tried to see whether I could go up hills better in low gear than in drive, and learned it’s probably not a good idea to shift into first while travelling at 65 mph. Lucky the driver behind me was alert.
So anyway, I waited at home until about 1:30 Thursday, then called the computer place and learned the laptop battery hadn’t come in. Since I was almost entirely packed and ready, I left as soon as possible thereafter, and was on the highway by a bit after 1:50. It was just about seven hours later that I decided it was getting too twilit and foggy to make it to the next exit that had motels (at least, ones listed in the coupon books you can find at rest areas) and stopped for the night in Somerset, PA. I didn’t get enough sleep, but I was alert enough (with help from a chocolate donut from what passed for the motel’s “continental breakfast” and some iced tea from a service plaza a bit further on) to make it the remaining three and two-thirds hours to Hunt Valley.
I had a good idea. I prefer to drink filtered water, which I can’t be sure of getting on a trip, so in addition to my usual metal bottle full of ice water, I also filled up my 2-quart plastic bottle and stored it in the freezer the night before I left, then wrapped it in a towel and put it under a heavy blanket in the back seat. Once my smaller bottle ran out, I was able to refill it from the big bottle as the ice melted. By Friday night, I still had a respectable chunk of ice in there, and it survived overnight in the motel room’s mini-fridge. When I got to the Shore Leave hotel, I still had a big chunk of ice in the pitcher, but I realized belatedly that this hotel doesn’t have mini-fridges in the rooms for some reason. So I just wrapped the ice bottle in the towel and stuck it in the ice bucket in the cabinet. (Both the ice machines on this floor were out of ice, so I got no help there.) Actually I should’ve insulated it less, because I reached the point where I was out of water in my metal bottle and the ice remaining in the big bottle was in too big a chunk to fit into the little one. So I had to refill the little bottle with water from one of the water coolers sitting around for the convention. And as of this morning, the ice chunk is completely melted. Oh, well. It was good while it lasted.
Haven’t done much conventioneering yet. Most of the folks I know were busy elsewhere when I wandered the floor, though I had a good talk with Voyager novelist Kirsten Beyer. The big event was the Meet the Pros signing party last night, and I got to see most of the gang and talk with a bunch of them, mostly my Mere Anarchy colleagues Dave Galanter and Mike W. Barr, and also my Only Superhuman editors Greg Cox and Marco Palmieri. It was cool to be able to talk to Greg about the book in person (although he talks really fast…). It’s heartening to hear someone who isn’t me talk about it with such enthusiasm.
Right now, I’m finishing up my blueberry pancakes and banana smoothie from room service, plus tea from the room’s coffee maker. Pretty nice, though a bit rich; I knew there was a reason I usually stuck to the light menu. Oh, well, I wanted a change of pace.
My big event today, indeed my only scheduled event today, is my solo panel at 4 PM, to be moderated by Star Trek Magazine editor Paul Simpson (whom I finally met in person yesterday). I’ll be talking about my upcoming Trek projects Typhon Pact: The Struggle Within and the TOS/DTI novel Forgotten History, and particularly about Only Superhuman, which I’m sure I’ll go on about in detail, complete with visual aids. I hope to see a lot of people there, though I’m apparently competing with a Tricia Helfer panel, so I’m not holding my breath.
The author guests for next week’s Shore Leave convention in Hunt Valley, MD (near Baltimore) have now been issued their schedules for the con, so I can announce what panels and events I’ll be attending. This is tentative, of course.
Friday, July 8:
10PM-midnight: Meet the Pros (corridor outside Hunt & Valley ballrooms): The annual mass autograph event by the authors in attendance.
Saturday, July 9:
4 PM: Christopher L. Bennett Q&A (Salon A): An hourlong panel devoted entirely to me, because I’ve got a lot to talk about this year. Star Trek Magazine editor Paul Simpson (a first-time Shore Leave guest) will join me as moderator/interviewer, since this is the first one of these I’ve done and I could use the helping hand. Topics will likely include discussion of DTI: Watching the Clock and other former works, plus new information about my upcoming Trek projects Typhon Pact: The Struggle Within and Forgotten History, and of course my original novel Only Superhuman, coming next year from Tor Books.
Sunday, July 10:
11 AM: Writing Superhero Novels (Salon E): Another opportunity to talk about Only Superhuman, alongside Greg Cox (my editor for OS, and the author of multiple Marvel & DC superhero novels), Keith R.A. DeCandido, Michael Jan Friedman, Alan Kistler, David Mack, and Kelly Meding. Between us, we’ll no doubt cover both original superhero prose fiction and adaptations of comics heroes.
12 noon: Time Travel in Trek (Salon F): I’ll be joining Greg Cox, A. C. Crispin, Alan Kistler, and Paul Simpson. Naturally I expect to be discussing Watching the Clock and Forgotten History.
2 PM: From Tie-In to Original (Salon F): One more chance to tout Only Superhuman, and to compare stories with other authors who’ve made the transition from tie-in fiction to original fiction: David Mack, Aaron Rosenberg, and Dayton Ward.
I’ve decided to drive to Shore Leave this year — cheaper than flying, more comfortable than taking the bus — so I took my car in for a checkup today. They found the drive belt was falling apart and put in a new one. And I noticed the difference, I think. The car seemed to accelerate substantially more easily. It felt like it wanted to go faster. I’m hoping that’ll improve my fuel efficiency. I assume a new drive belt (with “grooves,” I’m told, that had worn away on the old one) would have better traction on the shafts or gears or whatever, so there’d be less wasted energy. They also did some kind of cleaning or purging of the fuel induction system which they said would help the mileage a bit. We’ll see when I hit the road next week.
I’ve now posted the annotations pages for Star Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations: Watching the Clock at my website. And yes, I mean pages, plural. There was so much science, Trek continuity, and the like to explain that the page-by-page annotations had to be split across two pages. Plus there’s a separate page devoted to discussing the characters and their development (since most of the characters here are original or developed from barely-established screen roles), and there’s even a page featuring many of the alien calendars I developed for the chapter headings (because I can be really obsessive-compulsive about things like this).
All these goodies can be accessed from the DTI intro section on my main Trek Fiction page: