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The book on STAR TREK: THE ANIMATED SERIES has finally been written — and I helped (slightly)!

November 7, 2019 1 comment

I am holding in my hands (or was moments ago, since I’m typing now) my contributor copy of Star Trek: The Official Guide to the Animated Series by Aaron Harvey and Rich Schepis, the first official Star Trek publication devoted exclusively to Filmation Associates’ 1973-5 revival/continuation of the original series.

ST Official Guide to TAS

https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Star-Trek/Saturday-Morning-Trek/9781681884219

And yes, it was a continuation, as direct as you could get — produced by Gene Roddenberry, story-edited (in season 1) by D.C. Fontana, around 50% written by veteran TOS writers (and one director and one actor), and starring nearly the entire original cast. It wasn’t given a Filmation-y name like The New Adventures of Star Trek or something — it was just called Star Trek because Roddenberry wanted it to feel as much like the original as possible. (The subtitle The Animated Series wasn’t officially added until the 2006 DVD release, I think.)

Yet people have always dismissed it for being animated, and in 1989 Roddenberry and his aide Richard Arnold attempted to declare it non-canonical at a point when they had no actual authority to do that, since Roddenberry had been eased back to a figurehead role by then. They were able to forbid the tie-in books and comics that Arnold approved from referencing TAS, but they had no power over the actual shows or films, as seen when TNG: “Unification” referenced Spock’s “Yesteryear” backstory, ST V & VI confirmed Grayson as Amanda’s surname and Tiberius as Kirk’s middle name, DS9 referenced the Klothos as Kor’s ship, etc. Granted, the restriction was partly because the ownership of the series was uncertain when Filmation went out of business. But that was resolved decades ago, and TAS has been getting gradually rehabilitated ever since.

This book will probably be a major part of that rehab effort, since it’s a really nice look at the series, lavishly illustrated with TAS art that looks just gorgeous on the page. Filmation’s work has a reputation for being crude, and it is by modern standards, but as someone who was a kid in the ’70s, I can attest that its animation was about as good as you’d get on Saturday morning TV in that era, its alien and creature designs were wildly imaginative, and its background paintings were gorgeous. (I love how many of those wide panoramic shots are reproduced in the book at their full width, presumably by stitching different frames of the pan shots together.) There were many pages where I just paused to admire how beautifully detailed the designs and art were.

As for the text, while it doesn’t go into quite as much depth as something like the Deep Space Nine Companion did (since it’s more of a coffee-table book), it’s still informative, with a fair amount of new information even I didn’t know, thanks to interviews with TAS contributors like Fontana, David Gerrold, Howard Weinstein, and layout artist Bob Kline, who was the principal designer for the show. It’s not a perfect book; in some cases it perpetuates the 1990s Star Trek Concordance re-release’s erroneous attribution of many uncredited voice roles to James Doohan even though they clearly aren’t his voice. But overall it’s a really impressive piece of work and a loving tribute.

So how am I a contributor? Well, I’m one of the people that Aaron Harvey interviewed for the book’s “Series Legacy” chapter at the end, and I’m quoted somewhat extensively there (well, three longish paragraphs on two pages). Aaron sought me out because I’ve incorporated a number of TAS characters and story elements into my Trek novels over the years (and not just my novels, as buyers of my latest Star Trek Adventures campaign will know by now), so he wanted to get my perspective. (Dayton Ward, perhaps the one Pocket novelist who’s referenced TAS more than I have, wrote the afterword.) In exchange, I got a free copy of the book, which is a marvelous reward for answering a few questions.

I really hope this book helps restore ST:TAS’s reputation as a legitimate and worthwhile piece of the whole, because that’s what it deserves. For me, it’s always been coequal to everything else. I discovered TOS while TAS was still in first run, so to 5-year-old me, Star Trek was just a show that was sometimes live-action and sometimes a cartoon. My first Trek book was Star Trek Log Three, one of Alan Dean Foster’s books of TAS episode adaptations (and by coincidence that very volume is depicted on the page opposite my first quoted statements in the book). So it was all a unified, equal whole to me. So I’m glad to see it getting more equal treatment at last in this companion book. And I’m proud that I got to be a small part of that effort.

STA: STRANGE NEW WORLDS MISSION COMPENDIUM is out (plus a blog article)!

STA Strange New WorldsToday’s the day! Star Trek Adventures: Strange New Worlds: Mission Compendium Volume 2 is out now, containing nine missions focused on literal “strange new worlds” — exotic environments and settings for STA players to explore. I wrote one of the nine, The Whole of the Law, involving an artificial world with a dual personality.

To quote from the Modiphius press release:

Star Trek Adventures: Strange New Worlds is available in print and PDF on Modiphius.net as part of our Star Trek Adventures Collection

It’s also available in PDF only on DriveThruRPG.com.

Meanwhile, the Modiphius site has just published a blog piece they asked me to write, talking about my creative process in devising game ideas, and the challenge of creating character-driven stories with no idea who the characters will be.

The book looks good in the preview images, and I look forward to getting my print copy.

STAR TREK ADVENTURES: New campaign now out, two more on the way!

UPDATE 10/18: By an unfortunate coincidence, my STA campaign Hard Rock Catastrophe came out just days after a fatal collapse at a Hard Rock Hotel under construction in New Orleans. It’s been decided that we should change the title for the sake of sensitivity, and I apologize that we didn’t catch this sooner. Hopefully we’ll have the new title sorted out within the next few days.

I’m pleased to announce that today is the release date for my third Star Trek Adventures RPG standalone campaign: Hard Rock Catastrophe, my first STA campaign set during the Original Series era. Here’s the official description:

STA Hard Rock CatastropheUnlock the Mystery of the Rock Creatures!

“Captain’s Log, Stardate 8054.1. We have received a distress call from Rikyu, an independent Saurian colony beyond the Federation border. Planetary governor T’Rimushei is requesting assistance with a natural disaster endangering the planet’s cities, although she was vague on the specifics of the threat. The Saurians are famously self-reliant, so it could be that the governor was embarrassed to ask for help – but I got the impression that she didn’t think we would believe her if she told us more.”

This standalone 22-page PDF adventure by Christopher L. Bennett is for the Star Trek Adventures Roleplaying Game and is set during the Original Series era. This adventure also contains advice for adaptation for use in campaigns based in other Star Trek eras.

Can your crew solve the mystery behind the apparent invasion of giant monsters and stop them before the colony is destroyed?

Hard Rock Catastrophe is available as a downloadable PDF at the following links:

Yes, that’s right — I found a way to tell a kaiju story in Star Trek. You could say it was a… “Passion” project. After the psychological thriller of Call Back Yesterday and the murder mystery of The Gravity of the Crime, Hard Rock Catastrophe is a full-bore action blockbuster which I hope will be great fun for STA players. After my first few pitches were approved, I actually tried to write this one first because I had so much fun with the idea; but the action and logistics proved too big and difficult for me to tackle first time out, so I needed to do a couple of other campaigns first to get the hang of the game mechanics.

Note that there’s a typo in the early release, though a fix is on the way and will be pushed through to all buyers once it’s made. It’s entirely my own fault; I accidentally duplicated Governor T’Rimushei’s Values in the stats for Doctor K’Manehai. If anyone wants to play the campaign before the fix comes through, substitute the following Values for K’Manehai:

  • Science Is My Passion
  • All Creatures Have a Right to Exist

STA Strange New Worlds Mission CompendiumWe also have confirmed release dates at last for my remaining two STA campaigns. Star Trek Adventures: Strange New Worlds: Mission Compendium Vol. 2, containing nine missions including one by me, will be released a week from now, on October 24. And my fourth standalone PDF campaign, “Stolen Liberty,” will be released on November 14.

So every STA game campaign I’ve written so far will be out by a month from now. But don’t worry — I’ve already done a bit more writing for STA and submitted a few more game pitches just yesterday. This is starting to look like a steady gig…

I need a job!

October 14, 2019 2 comments

Remember how I recently vagueblogged about getting some bad news in the mail that I assumed was a mistake? Turns out it wasn’t a mistake — or rather, it was my mistake. Because I tried to save money by doing my own taxes this year, I missed a pretty huge step, and it turns out that I owe much more in taxes than I actually paid. And any prior notifications of my tax debt were apparently lost in the mail, so the first I heard of it was a final warning. This was not a scam; I consulted with the people who usually do my taxes, hoping they could confirm it was a mistake of some kind, but they determined that the mistake was mine and the debt is real.

Which is awful timing, since I don’t currently have a book contract or any steady work. Even if a new contract comes my way very soon, which I hope it does, I can’t be sure how long it’ll be before my next advance. I have picked up some new work with Star Trek Adventures, which will help over time, but it’s probably not enough for my short-term needs, especially with this added tax debt.

So I need to find some kind of part-time work that will help tide me over for now. It’s something I should’ve done well before now, but unfortunately I’m very bad at job-hunting, since I’ve been managing as a full-time freelancer for so long. Plus I’ve been going through bouts of depression as a result of my money problems, which just make it harder for me to get up the courage to look for new work and thus worsen my money problems and my depression. It got really bad last week, since I got sick and was stuck inside and didn’t get much sunlight or exercise. Luckily I went for a good long walk yesterday and I’m feeling better now. Still, I need to break out of this rut I’ve been in. I’m really grateful to my fans who’ve helped keep me afloat with donations over the past year or two, but I can’t keep depending on your generosity. (Although of course my book sale is still going on.)

So I’m putting this out to my colleagues and friends in the industry — if anyone has any work for me, something that can earn me a decent amount of money in the short term rather than months from now, please contact me. Or if any of my friends in the Cincinnati area can offer me or point me toward some part-time or seasonal work, let me know. I’m good at writing or copyediting, I have a lot of experience as a reviewer here on my blog, I’d be open to transcription or data entry work (especially if it’s from home), and I have library and bookstore experience. My resume is here.

SPIDER-MAN: DROWNED IN THUNDER re-released!

I’m a bit late in announcing this, but last month, the 2013 GraphicAudio adaptation of my 2008 Marvel novel Spider-Man: Drowned in Thunder was re-released by Dreamscape Media. Apparently Dreamscape struck an audiobook distribution deal with Marvel earlier this year, and it seems that includes the right to republish Marvel audiobooks from other publishers like GraphicAudio. So if you want to buy the DiT audiobook now, Dreamscape is the place to get it, though of course it’s still available on Amazon, B&N, and other online stores as before. Also, Dreamscape is affiliated with the Hoopla digital library that lets you borrow audiobooks and e-books online, so DiT and other Marvel audiobooks are now available for borrowing on that service as well.

Here’s the cover for the new release:

Spider-Man Drowned in Thunder Dreamscape cover

The cover art is a reuse of Mike Deodato, Jr.’s cover to Amazing Spider-Man #520 from July 2005, modified to add rain and lightning in keeping with the original novel and audiobook covers. It’s an appropriate choice chronologically, since Drowned in Thunder is set shortly before that issue, most likely during the “time passing” montage in ASM #515.

Here are the ordering and borrowing links for the new audiobook:

Unfortunately, I don’t earn any new royalties from the re-release, since I wrote the book on a flat-fee contract. But I’m proud of the story, which didn’t sell very well in its paperback release, so I’m glad of anything that brings it to more readers/listeners. Plus the audiobook adaptation is excellent. So go check it out, true believers!

Q&A with Christopher L. Bennett

October 1, 2019 1 comment

Here’s my newest interview with The Astounding Analog Companion, in connection with my new Troubleshooter story “Conventional Powers” in the September/October 2019 ANALOG.

The Astounding Analog Companion

Christopher L. Bennett sold his first original story to Analog in 1998, and two decades later, we still get first-look at his tales before they’re expanded and published in future collections and anthologies. We’re lucky once again to offer you his latest, “Conventional Powers,” in the current issue [on sale now].


Analog Editors: What is the story behind this piece?

Christopher L. Bennet: “Conventional Powers” [on sale now in our current issue] is a loose followup to my first original novel, Only Superhuman (Tor, 2012). In this world, once commercial asteroid mining took off in the 2030s, it drove rapid advancement in space travel and colonization. Space dwellers embraced genetic and bionic modification in order to survive the radiation and harsh conditions, eventually experimenting with more radical “mods” to augment human abilities. The growing community of asteroid belt dwellers known as Striders embraced transhumanism as part…

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Rough week, but some good news

Well, this has not been a great couple of weeks for me. Let’s see… I was feeling sick last week and not up to much of anything. I therefore put off getting groceries for a while, and when I finally felt well enough to drive to the store… I found my car battery had died. So I had to walk to the store instead. I think I waited another day, but I don’t quite recall — it’s a bit of a blur. Also, I somehow lost my receipt on the way home. I had to check my bank account online to find out how much I’d spent.

I’ve glimpsed three roaches or similar large bugs crawling around my bathroom and kitchen over the last week, the first time I’ve had any in quite a while. It gave me an incentive to finally put down a new set of plastic roach bait traps. On the upside, somehow I find my phobia about insects seems to have gotten a little milder, so I reacted to the bugs merely as an annoyance to be dealt with aggressively than as the catalyst of a borderline panic attack. (When I saw the second one, I happened to be carrying a heavy hardcover book. Fortunately the dust jacket proved easy to wash off afterward.)

Anyway, while moving the range and butcher block cabinet (I think that’s what it’s called) around to place the traps, I failed to notice that a glass pot lid was precariously placed. It’s the second piece of kitchen glassware I’ve accidentally shattered in the past month, and the third in the past six months or so. (The first was a Pyrex measuring cup that I’ve since replaced. The second was my last remaining tumbler of a set of four, the main one I used every day since it was the best one I had.) Now I no longer have a lid that fits my large saucepan. And I really wish the engineers would hurry up with developing shatterproof consumer glassware. Or softer kitchen floors.

There’s one more worrisome thing I’d rather not go into detail on since it’s finance-related, but it involves getting something in the mail yesterday that was very alarming to read until I figured out that it had to be a computer error or mixup of some sort, something sent to me by mistake or through a miscalculation, since it’s evidently not a scam but there’s no possible way it could genuinely apply to me. I just hope I can convince the relevant parties of that. I’ve reached out to someone that I hope can provide help or guidance, but I’m still waiting for a reply, and they might not be available right away.

Anyway, I put off dealing with the car because I was just too overwhelmed by all this stuff piling on at once, and I decided to focus on getting some work done on a thing I’m doing for Star Trek Adventures, one of the few bits of good news going on right now. Today, though, I managed both to make significant progress on that STA project and to take my car in to the garage, thanks to a helpful neighbor who gave me a jump start. Apparently the previous battery was kinda cheap and defective, but the guy had the right kind in stock and was able to replace it in a matter of minutes. I wish I hadn’t had to spend so much on it, but it could’ve been worse, and at least I got that off my list of worries, as well as returning some library videos that were due today. So I’m feeling somewhat better today than yesterday.

STA Strange New Worlds Mission CompendiumThe main bit of good news I have to report is that we finally have a firm release date for Star Trek Adventures: Strange New Worlds: Mission Compendium Vol. 2, for which I wrote one of the adventure scenarios. It’s been pushed back several times from its originally expected release date in August, but it’s now solidly on track for a November release, and it’ll be available for order on Modiphius.net as of October 24. There will be a formal press release coming soon, and I’ll post when it’s available.

In the meantime, I’ll be finishing up that other STA thing, and then finishing up a story I’m planning to submit to an open-call anthology. Then I’ll have to see about finding some other work to tide me over until my next Trek novel contract. Maybe I can get some seasonal work in a bookstore or something.