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:
I really ought to post something about New York Comic-Con, but I’ve been too busy or too tired. I’ll try to keep it concise.
I ended up driving after all due to the cost of plane fare after waiting so long to buy tickets. I planned out my route carefully this time, so it went fairly smoothly — but I set out too early on the second day and had a hard time staying alert. I didn’t really feel recovered until after lunch. So on the way back, I think I’ll spend the morning of the second day in the motel just resting, then get a good lunch, then drive the rest of the way home.
I’ve been staying with friend and fellow author Keith R.A. DeCandido, his fiancee, a family friend, several cats, and a large Golden Retriever. I was nervous about the latter, but he’s a friendly dog and I’ve been getting used to having him around. Indeed, there’s something reassuring about knowing a dog that big is sleeping outside your bedroom door, on sentry duty as it were.
The two days I spent at the con are kind of a blur right now, so to sum up: both my signings on Friday went pretty well. The GraphicAudio booth is in a good location and drew a lot of attention from passersby, and we got to sell a number of copies of my audiobooks, along with free copies of the prose books as a bonus — courtesy of Tor in the case of Only Superhuman, plus a few Spider-Man; Drowned in Thunder copies which I provided myself. I was expecting Tor to be offering the paperback, but their giveaway copies (half of which I took over to GA, the rest of which I signed for them to give out at Tor’s booth) were hardcovers instead. I guess that makes sense — they want to use up the stock now that people will mostly be buying the MMPB. But it made it more of a slog to carry them over to the GA booth through the Comic-Con crowd. Anyway, the giveaway copies moved pretty well, I was told. My A Choice of Futures signing at the SImon & Schuster booth went well too; this time people actually came to see me specifically rather than just happening to pass by.
I got to talk with a number of colleagues — Keith, of course, and the GA people, and fellow Trek author Kevin Dilmore, who works for Hallmark and was manning their display. It was nice to catch up with him. Unfortunately my former Trek editor Marco Palmieri, now at Tor, was too busy to talk much. I also had fun meeting Lilly, a friend of Keith’s who’s a professional balloon artist, and who performed at his booth to attract passersby. It’s an interesting craft, improvisational yet requiring a lot of meticulous manual control and precision.
Today I just stayed in and rested while Keith et al. went in to the con. I needed a day of quiet to recover before undertaking the drive home tomorrow. I did go down to the local pizza place for lunch, though, and had an excellent slice of white pizza with spinach.
That’s all for now. Maybe I’ll mention more details later, if any come to mind.
In my last post, I voiced some concern about whether my New York Comic-Con tickets (or badges, I should call them) would arrive in time. I actually e-mailed their customer service over the weekend to ask about the delay, but I only got a response this morning, telling me that they’d been mailed last week and would arrive “any day now.” And a few hours later, there they both were in the mail. So if I’d just been a little more patient… Oh, well. I got a few extra hours of reassurance out of it.
So now I know I can get into the con, and I registered the badges so they can be replaced if I should lose them, so as long as I don’t have any travel problems, I’m now confident that I’ll be there for my signings on Friday the 11th (GraphicAudio, Booth 838, 11 AM and Simon & Schuster, Booth 1828, 4 PM). I’m still waffling a bit on whether to fly or drive, but I’ll probably fly, since it’s a rather long drive. The main advantage of driving — aside from getting to avoid airport security, which is awfully tempting — is that it’s cheaper. But I got my final advance check for Rise of the Federation: Tower of Babel today, and I have some other work lined up that I can’t talk about yet, so money isn’t particularly tight for me at the moment.
Speaking of tightness, apparently part of the reason NYCC was so unbearably crowded last year was rampant badge counterfeiting and lax security that let lots of people sneak in without badges. That seems to be why badges were in such short supply this year — they’ve really tightened up access. Also they’ve put RFID chips in every badge as a security feature against counterfeiting, hence the online registration. Hopefully this means the crowds will be more manageable this year, but it has put some limits on access. Apparently I’m not the only professional creator who missed their chance to get a pro badge because they ran out prematurely. They should work to refine the system so that doesn’t happen again.
Well, it’s been a bit of a mess trying to make arrangements for New York Comic-Con, since apparently they didn’t have enough tickets or something. They actually sold out of professional passes prematurely, before I could get one, so I had to buy regular tickets, and all they had left were Thursday and Friday tickets. So I’ll only be in attendance at NYCC on those two days — well, assuming my tickets ever arrive. The paperwork said they’d begin mailing them in mid-September, but I haven’t gotten mine yet. But there’s still two weeks to go, so I’m hopeful.
Anyway, I have two signings tentatively scheduled, both on Friday, October 11.
11 AM, Booth 838: GraphicAudio hosts a combined signing for the Only Superhuman audiobook, which will be on sale at the booth, and the mass-market paperback. which will be a free giveaway. There might be copies of the Spider-Man: Drowned in Thunder audiobook on hand too, though I’m not sure.
4 PM, Booth 1828: Simon & Schuster’s booth hosts a Star Trek signing, which was hoped to be a group signing but so far is just me. I assume I’ll be signing copies of Rise of the Federation: A Choice of Futures.
There won’t be any scheduled event for me at the Tor booth (2223), which is why I’ll be doubling up on the MMPB and audiobook at the GraphicAudio event (and I’m very grateful to the GA folks for accommodating me). But I’ll surely be hanging around the Tor booth for a fair amount of time on Thursday and Friday, and there will be signed copies of Only Superhuman there as giveaways. No doubt I’ll drop by the S&S and GA booths on Thursday as well. Ticket gods willing, that is.
If there are any changes to the schedule, I will of course announce them promptly.
The interview I did for GraphicAudio’s “All in Your Mind” newsletter/podcast is now available. I had a nice chat with directors Richard Rohan and Nanette Savard about Only Superhuman, Spider-Man: Drowned in Thunder, my work in general, and other stuff, running a bit under 40 minutes.
Here’s the direct link:
And if that doesn’t work, there’s also an MP3 link:
Well, it’s been an eventful few days, with little time to post anything. The drive to Baltimore was agreeably uneventful, except for the night I spent in a very cheap motel with no amenities and spiders in the tub and corners. (Could’ve been worse. Spiders are basically harmless and keep other pests at bay.) And except for the sore shoulder I’m dealing with in the wake of my marathon writing session to finish Tower of Babel.
I got into the hotel around noon on Friday and promptly ran into Greg Cox, who, like me, was waiting for his room to be ready. We spent a while catching up, having a good long chat. Later that afternoon, he and I went to dinner with Marco Palmieri, Klingon language expert Lawrence M. Schoen (who just signed a book contract with Tor), and fellow Tor novelist (and one-time Star Trek: Strange New Worlds contributor) Rod Belcher, and we talked Tor for a while. I had a really nice hummus-and-pita appetizer followed by a pretty good spaghetti with tomato-and-basil sauce. Then we went to my first panel, announcing Tor’s recent and upcoming schedule — basically the same thing Marco and his fellow editor Margaret Clark used to do for Star Trek books, but now for Tor’s much broader line of books, including the upcoming mass-market paperback of Only Superhuman. David Mack helped run the slide show, and in return he was granted the opportunity to announce the exciting new Trek project reuniting him with his Vanguard collaborators Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore, Star Trek: Seekers, which you can read about here.
After that came the annual Meet the Pros book-signing event, which was pretty well attended this year, since William Shatner was at the con and thus it drew a larger crowd. I got to catch up with several of my fellow authors/friends. I only managed to sell one copy of OS that night, though, but I also managed to sell one of the copies of Spider-Man: Drowned in Thunder that I brought with me.
Saturday, after having breakfast in my room and finally figuring out how to get onto the Internet from the hotel, the first thing I did publicly was to visit the book dealers’ table, where I did the traditional one-hour shift in what Marco Palmieri (IIRC) has now dubbed the Author Chimney — a narrow space between two brick pillars, just wide enough for one person to sit and sign books for passersby. It’s right near the concession stand where they sell burgers and hot dogs (the only relatively inexpensive place to eat in the hotel now, since the cafe closed when the hotel changed owners recently), so I had my lunch there. I think I moved two copies of OS and convinced a couple of others to check out the e-book.
Then I had my marathon of panels, the topics of which I covered in my previous post. That’s all kind of a blur, but it went pretty well. As a bonus, for the panel “Did Man of Steel Tarnish Superman?”, Dave Mack and I had the privilege of being joined by a surprise guest, Paul Kupperberg, who’s written and edited many Superman comics and was more qualified than either of us to discuss the topic. The consensus: No, Superman’s untarnished since he still exists in many media, but the movie rather screwed up his depiction. I was glad to move from there to the Legend of Korra panel, which was a lot of fun. But by the time the final panel rolled around, I was feeling pretty worn out and punchy. Before it, I’d tried to get a granola bar from the vending machine in what was left of the cafe, but I misread “E5″ as “F5″ and got animal crackers instead, which I didn’t want. Then, after the panel, I got a microwave entree out of the carousel vending machine, but the microwaves in the cafe were too low-power to heat it adequately, as I found out when I got it back to my room. After another couple of tries, I just gave up on it and threw it away, and went out to try to find some other place to eat. A fellow guest, Steve Wilson (writer of a couple of my favorite DC Trek comic issues) reminded me that the grocery store across the road had a good deli, so I drove over, got a pasta salad, and finally, finally got to retire to my room for the evening.
Sunday began with the traditional authors’ brunch, and then I attended a talk that NASA scientist Paul Abell — husband of Trek author Amy Sisson — held about the Chelyabinsk meteor explosion last year. Turns out he’s one of the team members involved with detecting potential Earth-threatening asteroids, a division called “planetary defense.” But he tells me their offices do not particularly resemble the Hall of Justice.
Speaking of which…
EDIT: Here’s that scan:
Oh, here’s a funny sign I saw at the con and had to photograph:
After getting a hot dog and chatting with Greg and Keith DeCandido during the latter’s stint in the Author Chimney, I joined Paul for a panel on the science and fiction of asteroids, comparing what I did in OS with his real-life knowledge of the field — although, since this is me, there was nearly as much science on my side as his. The next panel in the same room, which mistakenly got left off the schedule grid, was on writing Star Trek: TOS and the challenge of finding something new to say. I ended up joining the panelists for that one and talking about my post-TMP work. Finally came my solo Q&A panel, which was rather poorly attended, since people were going home by that point. But the few people who were there got to be the first to whom I showed the cover for the upcoming Drowned in Thunder audiobook (which I’d downloaded onto my laptop just minutes before):
Which I think is a panel from the same comics scene that Marco wanted the novel’s cover artist to use for inspiration. (It’s not the exact same page, but it’s clearly by the same artist (John Romita, Jr.) and looks like an earlier panel in the same sequence.) I also got to talk for a while about my upcoming Analog novella “Make Hub, Not War,” which should be out in a month or so.
After that, I left the con and drove to the DC suburbs to stay with cousins Barb and Mark, and I’m typing from their guest room. I’ve just gotten back from my visit to GraphicAudio’s studio, which was very cool and which I think deserves its own post. To be continued…
Okay, first the good news: I turned in the manuscript for Rise of the Federation: Tower of Babel on time yesterday. Honestly, it was a close one. Even though I gave myself plenty of time, I had difficulty getting a handle on this one. I was sick when I put the outline together and it was very rough, so it was hard to get a grip on the story. I also made the story rather complicated, covering a lot of different places and events, which slowed me down because I had to create a lot of separate worlds and situations, and beginnings are the slowest parts because I have to take time to figure everything out first. Kind of like in film/TV — every new set needs to be designed and constructed, so the more sets you have, the more time and effort you have to expend. Anyway, I finally got a handle on it, refined and fleshed out the story, and made the deadline, but there may still be some polishing to do. And I drove myself so hard toward the end there that the stress and heavy typing have left me with a very sore and inflamed shoulder, so as soon as I turned in the MS I went to see the doctor and got a prescription for the pain. But last night I got the best, most relaxing night’s sleep I’ve had in months. (I even had a dream about my beloved old cat Tasha! Awwww.)
So hopefully my shoulder will be better in time to drive to Shore Leave in a couple of days. To that end, I should go easy on the typing and get on to the schedule that’s just been posted. Not sure if this is completely final, but here are the panels/appearances I’m scheduled for at the moment:
Tor Books: New and Upcoming — 9 PM, Hunt Ballroom
This will mostly be Tor editors Marco Palmieri and Greg Cox talking about the new books they have coming out over the next year, but I’ll be there to shill the upcoming mass-market paperback of Only Superhuman.
Meet the Pros — 10 PM, Hunt/Valley Corridor
The annual 2-hour mass signing event where all the author guests will be available to autograph whatever you bring or buy.
The Future History of Star Trek’s Past in Prose — 1 PM, Chase Ballroom
A panel about explorations of the Trek universe’s history in prose. Mainly an excuse for me to talk about Rise of the Federation, but it’ll also feature Michael Jan Friedman (author of Starfleet: Year One, the previous attempt to cover the beginnings of the Federation, which was overwritten by Enterprise) and David Mack (who dealt with the ENT era memorably in Destiny). I was hoping we could also get Greg Cox, who’s done so much with Gary Seven, Khan, and the like in his books, but he’s got a Superheroes on Film panel at the same time.
From Tie-in to Original — 2 PM, Chase Ballroom
The third annual panel letting us tie-in authors shill our original work, this time with me, Ann C. Crispin, Peter David, Keith R.A. DeCandido, and Jo Wymick.
Did Man of Steel Tarnish Superman? — 3 PM, Chase Ballroom
My third consecutive hour in Chase, and I was hesitant to sign up for this one, but yeah, I have some unusually strong opinions about Man of Steel and I guess this’ll be me and Dave Mack and the audience talking about it for an hour.
The Legend of Korra: Let’s Review — 4 PM, Salon F
Yayy, I finally get out of Chase! And I get to chat with Marco Palmieri and the audience about the glory that is Korra. (Good thing I just DVRed the whole series. I can spend the day catching up on the show and resting my shoulder.) Although I expect a very small audience since William Shatner will be in the big ballroom at the same time.
Writing Alien Aliens! — 5 PM, Belmont Room
My Saturday marathon wraps up as Rigel Ailur, Mary Louise Davie, and I talk about the science of creating interestingly exotic alien species and characters.
Science Fiction of Asteroids — 1 PM, Belmont Room
A rare crossover of the SF and science guests. I wrote a book set in the asteroid belt, and science guest Paul Abell is an asteroid expert, so I thought, let’s get together and talk ‘stroids! We’re joined by author Melissa Scott as well.
Christopher Bennett — 4 PM, Salon A
Yup, just me for an hour. I’ll be there to talk and answer fan questions about Rise of the Federation, Only Superhuman, the upcoming audiobook of Spider-Man: Drowned in Thunder, my upcoming “Make Hub, Not War” in Analog, and anything else I’ve done.
FYI — there will be a replica of the ’66 Batmobile – aka the only true Batmobile — at the con. I will definitely be there at some point and will probably want to be photographed in it. (I hope someone gets a photo of Shatner sitting in the Batmobile. That might cause a critical mass of geek nostalgia and tear a hole in the space-time continuum, but it will be worth it.)
Just saw this on The Trek Collective: Amazon is now listing a release date for Tower of Babel, my second installment in the Star Trek: Enterprise — Rise of the Federation series. The date given is March 25, which means it’s technically the April 2014 release.
And my deadline for finishing the dang thing is only 29 days from now, so I’d better get back to work.
I’ve just gotten the proofreading galleys for my new Hub story “Make Hub, Not War” from Analog, and they indicate that the story will be included in the November 2013 issue. I checked with the folks at Analog and they confirmed it. Now, the current issue is July/August, and apparently came out earlier this month, which would suggest that the November issue will be out in maybe 4 months, around September, give or take. Which happens to be around the same time Only Superhuman comes out in paperback! So that’ll be a big month (give or take) for my original fiction.
In other news, I’ve just updated my website with some preliminary discussion of Star Trek: Enterprise — Rise of the Federation: A Choice of Futures, though there’s little there that I haven’t already said here on the blog.
Simon & Schuster has now posted the cover image and blurb for Star Trek: Enterprise — Rise of the Federation: A Choice of Futures.
A new nation has arisen from the ashes of the Romulan War: the United Federation of Planets, an unprecedented union of diverse species cooperating for the good of all. Admiral Jonathan Archer—the former captain of the Earth starship Enterprise, whose efforts made this union possible—envisions a vibrant Federation promoting galactic peace and a multispecies Starfleet dedicated to exploring strange new worlds. Archer’s former crewmates, including Captain T’Pol of the U.S.S. Endeavour and Captain Malcolm Reed of the U.S.S. Pioneer, work with him to secure that bright future. Yet others within the Federation see its purpose as chiefly military, a united defense against a dangerous galaxy, while some of its neighbors view that military might with suspicion and fear. And getting the member nations, their space fleets, and even their technologies to work together as a unified whole is an ongoing challenge.
When a new threat emerges from a force so alien and hostile that negotiation seems impossible, a group of unaligned worlds asks Starfleet to come to its defense, and the Federation’s leaders seize the opportunity to build their reputation as an interstellar power. But Archer fears the conflict is building toward an unnecessary war, potentially taking the young nation down a path it was never meant to follow. Archer and his allies strive to find a better solution…but old foes are working secretly to sabotage their efforts and ensure that the great experiment called the Federation comes to a quick and bloody end.
Admittedly, the cover image is a little inaccurate. Archer’s in the Earth Starfleet dress uniform he wore as a captain in the series finale “These Are the Voyages,” rather than the Federation Starfleet admiral’s uniform he wears in the novel. But this is as close as Pocket’s art department could come with the available and approved photo references, apparently.
Anyway, I returned the final galley corrections to my editor yesterday morning, so the text of the novel is now pretty much locked, and it’s scheduled to go out to the printers on Tuesday. Hopefully we caught all the mistakes. The book will go on sale in about two months now. In the meantime, I’ll be getting back to work on Book 2.
The contracts are signed, the outline approved, and the writing underway, so I’ve been cleared to announce that my next Star Trek novel, following this July’s Rise of the Federation: A Choice of Futures, will be a sequel entitled Star Trek: Enterprise — Rise of the Federation: Tower of Babel. That’s right — the buzz for Book 1 has apparently been so strong that I’ve already been asked for Book 2 (indeed, I got the invitation about a week before I even turned in the manuscript for ACoF!). It’s always been my hope that ACoF would be the first of a series, but for the past few months I’ve had to tiptoe around confirming that it now will be.
Tower of Babel will move the story of the Federation’s early years forward into 2164, and the title offers a hint about its subject matter. I can’t tease much about it yet, since there’s a lot about Book 1 that hasn’t even been publicized yet. But it will continue to develop the main story and character threads of Book 1 and will add some new ones, both following up on Enterprise and laying the groundwork for the world of The Original Series, and featuring more exploration of new worlds (at least, new to the characters, and not well-explored in canon or literature to date) than I managed to fit into Book 1. I don’t yet know what its publication date will be, but considering that the manuscript due date is about seven and a half months after the previous one, I daresay it’ll probably be sometime in early 2014.
As for A Choice of Futures, I was hoping the cover would be available sometime around now, but apparently there’s been some delay in the process, so nothing yet, alas.
I’ve been sent the galleys of Rise of the Federation: A Choice of Futures (the text formatted as it will appear in the final book) for my perusal, and I’ve been going over them. They were sent to me as a PDF file, and I’ve been checking the text against the last revised and copyedited draft of the manuscript, looking at them in side-by-side windows on my monitor to compare them line by line. And in looking over my Adobe Reader’s menu options, I discovered that it comes with a function called “Read Out Loud,” which will recite a highlighted paragraph or selected page in a synthesized voice. I thought I’d give it a try — maybe listening to the PDF while reading along in the manuscript would be an easier way to compare than darting my gaze back and forth between them every few words. It’s not a perfect system, since I still need to keep an eye on punctuation here and there (though it’s pretty consistent at rendering periods and commas with intonation and pause duration). I think it’s slower going than my own reading would be, even with reading two texts at once; it’s not really worth doing with short paragraphs.
But it’s been worth it just for the entertainment value. The synthesized voice it uses is like a cross between Ben Stein and Eeyore — this slow, deep voice that usually just drones but sometimes puts a really hilarious, depressed-sounding intonation on the end of a line, kind of like Tim Conway’s old-man character from The Carol Burnett Show. Which can be a lot of fun when it’s reading a line like “I can’t maintain more than warp three-point-two” (or as it reads it, “warp three-point-twoooo,” descending a perfect fifth on the final syllable). It also does weird things with pronunciation — it renders “navigational” as “nah-vih-gah-tee-on-al” despite having no problems with other “-tion” words, and “redesignated” with a short a. Surprisingly, an ordinary word like “important” comes out as “imper-tahnt.” It thinks T’Pol is named Paul (well, no, there’s a barely audible T sound at the start), except “T’Pol’s” becomes “tee-single-quote-paul-single-quote-ess.” Hoshi Sato is “hawshee suhtoe.” And “NX-class” becomes “N-X-C-L-A-S-S.” On the other hand, it’s done surprisingly well with the alien and technical words I’ve tossed at it so far. In particular, there’s an alien outpost that I named Qhembembem (because I was in a silly mood), and it handled it fairly nicely, having no problem with the “Qh,” though it gave it the interesting pronunciation of “Kem-bem-eem.”
Still, I’m not sure I’ll keep using it. It could wear out its welcome after a while, and I’m concerned its quirks may be more a distraction than an aid. Maybe I’ll use it intermittently depending on the scene and my mood. But it’s helped add some fun to the tedious proofreading process.
UPDATE: One particularly weird glitch of this voice-synth program — it pronounces the word “point,” and only that word, as though it were French. “Phlox pointed out” becomes “Phlox pwaahn-ed out.”
While I’m at it, I’ve found that there are pre-order links available for Star Trek: Enterprise — Rise of the Federation: A Choice of Futures as well. Here ya go:
Still no cover art available, though. I don’t know when to expect that or what it might look like. Currently I’ve got the copyedits in hand, and those are due back on Friday. I’m also told that the manuscript has been officially approved by CBS, so I should be getting the remainder of my advance shortly!
I’ve also just turned in the outline for my next Trek novel, which I can’t talk about yet. I’ve got until the end of July to write it, so once I’m done with the copyedits on ACOF, I’m planning to shift focus for the next month or two and work on some original short fiction.
Just a little while ago, I e-mailed the manuscript for Rise of the Federation: A Choice of Futures to my editor at Pocket. And a great sense of relief descended upon me.
I do wish I’d had a few more days to consider and refine things. But I was able to make some major improvements in the two revision passes I had time to get through. For instance, I realized that one character I introduced kind of disappeared afterward, but I didn’t have room to add another scene with him; but it occurred to me that if I put him in place of an associated character in a certain scene, it would actually make that scene work better in several ways, in addition to giving that character more “screen” time. Also, I realized I’d forgotten to make clear how one key decision in the story was a reaction to an earlier event, so I put in a bit of dialogue to tie them together better. And so on. I also had to trim some extraneous material to make room for all that, but I didn’t find much I could remove. I knew going in that I was under a tight word limit (80,000), so I was pretty concise throughout. Still, I managed to nibble away enough to make it fit, give or take a few hundred words.
And the timing is good, because my Star Trek complete soundtrack box set is out for delivery from my local post office, according to the tracking information, so it should be here within hours! Between that and finally being free from deadlines (at least for now), this is looking like a good day for me.
Just a little while ago, I reached the end of the first draft of Star Trek: Enterprise — Rise of the Federation: A Choice of Futures, with four days to spare before my deadline. That’s not as much time as I’d hoped to have for revision and refinement, but I should be able to make maybe 2-3 passes through the manuscript, get a feel for how it flows as a whole, and smooth out the kinks.
The manuscript comes out to just about the maximum of my target length range, so unless I do some serious trimming in the editing phase, I won’t have room to slip in another couple of things I was thinking about trying to add. But that’s okay; they aren’t strictly necessary, and I don’t have that much time to add things anyway. As it is, I had to streamline some things from the outline here and there — combine some scenes, drop a few others, particularly in the denouement — to get it to the target length. But it still accomplished what was important. In the event that there’s a sequel, maybe I can work some of the abandoned ideas in there.
This has been a very stressful month or two for me, since I was late getting started on the manuscript and at times was having a lot of trouble getting in gear, so I was worried about being able to finish on time. Which combined with my worrying about the performance and critical reception for Only Superhuman, so I was doubly stressed. Even when it became clear to me over the weekend that I would definitely be able to finish with time to spare, I was still feeling pretty stressed out. Once I reached that point, I just gave myself a day off, figuring I had the time — but then the next day I could barely bring myself to get back to work. I felt like I couldn’t even think about the book without anxiety. And I didn’t know why, because by that point I had no more cause for distress. I guess it was just a residual effect. Or maybe it was that I’ve also been dealing with some pain that I caused myself by over-exercising, and which was perhaps itself a consequence of being stressed out. But fortunately I could spare the time, so although I lost another day, I was able to get back to work the day after that, and it’s gone smoothly since then. It always goes faster once I reach the climax, and it’s just downhill through the denouement. Actually there was one major sequence, the climax of one of the main plotlines, that I didn’t really get a handle on until this morning, but I wrote it then, and the rest just kept coming from there. I managed around 5400 words today, which I think is about the maximum I’ve managed in a single day on this project, though I managed to get in nearly as much on the day just before I took that break (which was why I felt it was safe to take the break at that point). That pretty much makes up for the time I lost — although it would be nice if I had more time to refine the manuscript.
And this morning, I felt much better than I have in a while. Perhaps because I realized I was finally in the home stretch, combined with the pain subsiding, but I’ve been in a much brighter mood today. And now I had to go and depress myself again by writing about how stressed I’ve been up to now. Nah, that’s okay. I’m sure it’ll pass. I’ve met my deadline, the burden is eased (aside from revisions), and in a few days I’ll be able to relax and be free of obligations for a little while. And shortly after that, I’ll be receiving my copy of the Star Trek: TOS Soundtrack Collection, aka The Greatest Thing Ever — a 15-CD box set of every note of music ever recorded for the original series, even some that wasn’t used and has never been heard before (or at least everything that counted as soundtrack rather than dialogue; Kevin Riley’s rendition of “I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen” is regrettably, or perhaps mercifully, absent, but all the other songs and source music are there). And now that the cloud of stress has lifted, I’m finally able to feel giddy and excited about that, as I should’ve felt all along.
I think I’ve earned the rest of the day off, and I have a Netflix DVD to watch tonight, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows — and with Elementary also on tonight, I guess I’m in for a Holmesian evening. Then I’ll start revising the MS tomorrow and continue over the weekend. Revisions always go much faster than the first draft, so I should be able to make at least a couple of passes through the book in that time. All in all, given how much I was delayed getting started, it’s turned out fine.
I just wrapped up a really good day of writing on Rise of the Federation: A Choice of Futures. I started during breakfast and kept at it on and off throughout the day, finishing just now at about quarter to ten in the evening. I got more than 5000 words done and worked on six scenes encompassing two major plotlines, and several sub-threads within the main one of the two. And I even found time to go for a walk and pick up some groceries (though I forgot I’m almost out of cheddar).
This has been a reassuring day for me, given how close my deadline looms. The more days I have like this one, the more time I’ll have for revisions before the due date.
Unfortunately I had to stay home this Thanksgiving rather than go spend it with family as I’ve done the past couple of years, since my deadline on Star Trek: Enterprise — Rise of the Federation: A Choice of Futures (or STEROTFACOF, I guess) looms near and I simply don’t have the luxury to take a trip. But staying here had its advantages, because it was a very nice day today, getting to an unseasonably high upper sixties. I went out for a walk this afternoon to do some thinking about the scene I had to write today, and as I saw how empty the streets were, I realized it would’ve been a perfect day to ride my bike over to campus. Unfortunately, I’ve gotten too much out of the habit of bike riding lately, and my tires are no doubt completely flat by now. Also, since I’m so out of practice at it, I feared that if I did go back, get my bike, walk it to the bike shop, fill the tires, and then ride around campus for a while, I’d be too worn out to write when I got back. Still, it would’ve been nice. I should really try to get back into riding again — I need to get back into better shape. It’s just that the streets around here aren’t very good for it. And the university’s only a good place to ride on Sundays or holidays when it isn’t crowded.
Still, I did at least walk over to campus, and took advantage of the near-total emptiness of the place to get some good thinking done. I revisited a place that used to be my favorite spot when I was in college, something I always thought of as “the Alcove,” though I knew that wasn’t the right word for it. I suppose it’s more properly a small courtyard. It’s a place that used to be a sort of a porch outside the eastern side door of the Old Chemistry building — I know because there’s a porch with the same architecture on the opposite side — but that was walled in when Brodie Plaza was built next to it decades ago, with the plaza level being a story above the porch level. So what was a porch became a sunken area, and what had been the steps down from the porch were walled off and turned into a planter, with a bench of thick wooden planks built across the gap where the steps were, and another bench along the side at right angles — plus a stairway going up to the plaza level. I always found it a nice place to sit or pace around and do some thinking by myself, or occasionally to hang out with a friend. I don’t get back there very often these days, but sometimes I like to go there when I need to do some thinking.
When I got there today, though, I was a bit saddened to discover that the benches were gone. I’m not sure when, but I’d say it wasn’t too long ago, since there still seemed to be a pattern of moss or residue or something on the top of the low stone wall that one of the benches was built around/over, conforming to the shape of its slats. And I’m not sure why they were taken out, but I’m hoping it’s just because the wood was rotting or something and they wanted to replace them. I certainly hope it’s not the first step in something more drastic. “The Alcove” has been a favorite spot of mine for over a quarter-century now, and I’d hate to lose it — even if I’ve only been there a few times in the past decade.
Anyway, I felt I came up with some promising ideas for how to resolve a key scientific/technical plot point in the novel, but realized that it would help me to do some more research, so I headed back home so I could use the computer. But on the way home, I questioned one of the assumptions I’d been making in my outline about how this subplot would play out, and I realized that the plot point I was trying to work out how to do — which involved figuring out how to use concept A as an analogy that would inspire a character to solve a problem with concept B — was actually unnecessary and even kind of hokey. And once I was free of the need to connect A and B, I realized there was a much simpler and less contrived way to resolve the problem with B. So by the time I got home, I had, in fact, solved my story issue by realizing I didn’t need it at all. Which saves me some work, and makes the story a bit better.
My makeshift Thanksgiving dinner was one I got the fixings for a few days ago at the store — the same 90-second turkey-and-stuffing microwave entree that’s one of my staples these days, but with a single-serve cup of microwave mashed potatoes and an ear of corn that I steamed in the husk — followed a couple of hours later by a bowl of Graeter’s pumpkin ice cream in lieu of pumpkin pie. Fairly simple, but good.
And now I’m sleepy.
I’ve finally been cleared to announce the new Star Trek project I’ve been working on for the past few months, which is something entirely new for me and for just about everyone else. It’s called Star Trek Enterprise — Rise of the Federation: A Choice of Futures. The Romulan War saga of the previous Enterprise novels concluded with the founding of the United Federation of Planets in 2161. I’ve been chosen to tell the next phase of the story. How did an alliance forged in wartime become the peaceful union we know? How did its founding members balance their differing views of what the Federation should become? What did they each contribute to the UFP government and Starfleet? How did that Starfleet end up being so similar to the United Earth Starfleet, and what familiar elements owe more to the Vulcans, Andorians, and Tellarites than we might have realized? What challenges did this fledgling union face in dealing with neighboring powers unsure of its intentions or threatened by its unity? What new enemies arose in the wake of the Romulans?
This is a followup to the Star Trek Enterprise — The Romulan War duology, but it’s also a fresh beginning, picking up about a year after the Federation’s founding. The war is over, Enterprise herself is in mothballs, and Admiral Jonathan Archer, his former crew, and his allies including Shran and Soval have moved on to new phases in their lives, playing new roles in the Federation and its combined Starfleet. The novel will feature many familiar characters from the era, a few new crewmates for the familiar cast, and some unexpected names as well. It’s called Enterprise for branding/marketing reasons, but I see it more as a sequel to Enterprise — and a prequel to the original series.
I was intrigued when my editor at Pocket offered me this opportunity, since the early Federation era is virtually untouched. We have very limited information about this period from canon, and only one book, Starfleet: Year One, has ever been set in this era. But that novel was soon superseded by Enterprise, and its focus was principally on Starfleet and not the wider Federation. (The only other novel that’s even come close was Killing Time by Della van Hise back in the ’80s. It gave us a brief glimpse of a version of the Federation’s founding ceremony, but that was it.) So the period is very nearly a blank slate, which is both a great opportunity and a great challenge for me. Worldbuilding in Trek fiction is usually relatively easy since there’s so much backstory and continuity to build on, but in this case it was a lot more challenging to strain out the tiny fragments of information we have about people, events, and institutions from this period. I’ve had to do a lot of extrapolation. But I’m picking up some threads from ENT, the series, that I felt were worth expanding on, and I’m building toward the Trek universe as we know it in the original series, so at least I know my starting and ending points. The worldbuilding has been a lot of fun — figuring out how the early UFP government was organized, how the member races cooperated in the joint government and combined fleet, and what the various member races contributed to Starfleet and how it evolved toward the form we know, in terms of design and technology. I’ve even come up with a design for the original Federation Starfleet uniform. Plus, of course, there’s the challenge of moving the ENT characters (regular and recurring) forward in their lives and careers. There are a few whose futures we have some foreknowledge of, but the rest are blank slates.
Another cool thing about this is that it completes my grand slam: I will now have written tie-ins for every onscreen Trek series, as well as several book-only ones. At first, admittedly, I was a little wary about taking on Enterprise, which I was lukewarm about in its first run. But upon rewatching the series as research for this book, I’ve gained a much greater appreciation for it. When I watched ENT in its original run, my perceptions were filtered through “Oh, that’s not what I expected” or “That’s not how I would’ve done it,” and that colored my reactions, as I think it did for a lot of us. But on revisiting the series, I was able to accept that this was how it was and evaluate it on its own terms. And I think it held up pretty well overall. It certainly has its share of duds and mediocre episodes, but overall I like how it turned out. The first season does a great job at conveying a flavor of exploration and discovery, a sense of wonder and novelty and fascination with the unknown. Sometimes the characters were a little too naive and reckless, but I liked the sense of experimentation, of pioneers trying everything for the first time and figuring stuff out as they went. Few Trek series have ever done as well at capturing that feeling of exploring the strange and unknown. And I appreciate the first-season producers’ attempt to take the storytelling in a smaller, more intimate and character-driven direction, going for an “everyday shipboard life” flavor in much the same way the early first season of TOS often did. (It often felt they were emulating M*A*S*H, with things like movie night and Dr. Phlox’s letters to Dr. Lucas.) There’s also a nice sense of an arc in the first season, a number of evolving plot and character threads that tie it together; the relationship of Archer and T’Pol and how it evolves from mutual hostility into deep trust and friendship is really quite engaging. The second season was weaker overall, maybe because the producers gave into pressure to do more actiony and high-concept episodes, and didn’t have as much of a sense of direction or focus, but it still had its share of satisfying episodes.
I have mixed feelings about the Xindi/Expanse arc of season 3, since it brought in a lot of implausible and fanciful ideas, but it was an admirably ambitious undertaking to tell one grand season-long epic, and the overall story it told was complex and compelling. In particular, I think it handled death more maturely than any other Trek series. In previous shows, captains would sulk over the deaths of redshirts for a few moments and then be laughing and joking by the end of the hour — or at least we wouldn’t see the effects of the crew losses in any later episodes. But when crewmembers died in ENT’s third season, it was always a big deal, something that stayed with the other characters and whose impact was really felt. The first two seasons were implausibly devoid of crew deaths, but that was because the writers didn’t want to trivialize it, didn’t want it to happen unless they could really face its consequences and give it the solemnity it deserved — which they did very successfully in season 3. They really are entitled to high marks for that.
As for season 4, it was impressive as well, though like every other season it had a few duds. I loved its innovative mix of 1, 2-, and 3-parters, allowing a lot more flexibility with the storytelling and letting them do novelistic mini-sagas that were as long as they needed to be. And it did a good job with the continuity porn, showing the beginnings of the Trek universe we know. My main problem with it is that there was hardly any exploring in it; nearly the whole thing was about NX-01′s crew dealing with diplomatic or political crises or battling criminals and terrorists. What I’m hoping to do in Rise of the Federation is to continue season 4′s emphasis on worldbuilding and laying the foundations of the TOS era while also bringing back season 1′s focus on exploration and the pioneer spirit, as well as its focus on character development.
Naturally I’m hoping Rise of the Federation will be a multi-book series, hence the subtitle A Choice of Futures for this volume. But for now it’s just the one book, which does tell a complete story within itself, yet also sets the direction for potential sequels. The book is scheduled for July 2013, so it’ll be out in time for next year’s Shore Leave convention.
Now I just need to finish writing the darn thing…