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Remember, the Shore Leave STRANGE NEW WORLDS panel is tonight!

One last notice — I’m on the virtual Shore Leave panel discussing Star Trek: Strange New Worlds at 7 PM EDT tonight! You can register for a “seat” in the audience here, with no Zoom account required:

https://www.shore-leave.com/programming/schedule.htm

 

Categories: Star Trek Tags: ,

Announcing STAR TREK ADVENTURES: THE KLINGON EMPIRE Core Rulebook

I have a bit of a surprise announcement for a Star Trek project I contributed a little bit to and have only just been cleared to talk about. Star Trek Adventures is releasing an alternative version of its Core Rulebook, told from the perspective of (and entitled) The Klingon Empire rather than Starfleet.

STA Klingon Empire Core Rulebook

 

According to the StarTrek.com press release:

This core rulebook contains the same rules presented in the Starfleet-focused core rulebook released in 2017. The award-winning design team, including 2d20 developer Nathan Dowdell, took the opportunity to edit and streamline the rules chapters based on fan feedback since the game’s launch, and introduce new rules for reputation, honor, glory, and house management. Now, for the first time, you and your fellow players can create your own noble Klingon House and seek out glory. Everything you need to create brave Klingon warriors and fearsome Klingon warships are available for you to use.

In addition to the revised rules, the book contains extensive chapters on Klingon history, culture, politics, military, and planets. Players have more than a dozen Klingon starships to choose from and make their own, creating their own ship to crew and take into battle. Players will be able to play Klingons from most any Star Trek era, including pure-bred Klingon warriors as well as those afflicted with the Augment Virus, the QuchHa’. Fans of Star Trek: Enterprise, The Original Series, and The Next Generation era will all find materials to use in their games and play in any time they choose.

 

The STA creative team headed up by Jim Johnson called on a bunch of Trek Lit writers to contribute various material to the book, with Klingon authority Keith R.A. DeCandido contributing a considerable amount of content. Other contributors familiar to Trek Lit fans include Derek Tyler Attico, Kelli Fitzpatrick, Scott Pearson, Dr. Lawrence M. Schoen of the Klingon Language Institute, and Dayton Ward. My own contributions are relatively minor (several of the Non-Player Character descriptions, just a few pages’ worth), but I’m in there somewhere.

The new rulebook is available for preorder here:

Star Trek Adventures: Klingon Core Rulebook

Buyers will immediately get a free PDF preview version of the book, with the physical book shipping in the fall or whenever it becomes feasible given the current state of the world.

So remember, a Qapla’ a day keeps the Fek’lhr away. Or something like that.

This year, Shore Leave comes to you!

That’s right, in the topsy-turvy Bizarro universe we now inhabit, Shore Leave, the convention named for the act of going away from where you usually are to somewhere else, is doing the opposite of that. Since none of us will be physically traveling to Hunt Valley, MD for Shore Leave 42 until (we hope) next year, we will instead be holding Shore Leave 41.5 — The Virtual Experience, using Zoom and other online means to make content available to the public.

The event will be on the weekend of July 10-12, starting this Friday, and so far we’ve got several Zoom panels lined up, as well as virtual versions of the usual filk concert and Saturday night Masquerade. The schedule is available here:

https://www.shore-leave.com/programming/schedule.htm

Since it’s a lighter schedule than usual, and they want to make room for all the guests, each “attendee” will only be doing one panel this weekend, though I gather there’s further content being tentatively planned beyond the weekend. My one panel will be right at the start on Friday at 7-8 PM EDT, a discussion of what we expect and hope for from the upcoming Star Trek: Strange New Worlds series featuring Captain Pike. I’ll be joined on Zoom by John Jackson Miller, Kelli Fitzpatrick, Michael Jan Friedman, Dayton Ward, and Amy Imhoff.

Now, what I’m wondering is, should this event instead be called Shore Arrive?

Categories: Star Trek Tags: , ,

How well do I Bechdel, updated

It’s been nearly four years since my “How well do I Bechdel?” post, where I assessed the gender inclusiveness of my fiction by applying the famous Bechdel test (an imperfect but useful assessment for an aggregate body of work, as discussed in the original thread). I was surprised at how poorly my original fiction came out, since so much of it is female-centric, but the problem was that it was mostly short fiction that often centered on one male and one female lead. Anyway, I’ve had a significant number of new stories and novels published (or due for publication) since then, so I figured it was worth updating the list.

To recap, a work of fiction passes the Bechdel test if it meets three criteria:

  1. It includes at least two named female characters…
  2. who have a conversation with each other…
  3. about something other than a man.

There’s also the related Mako Mori test for works with only one female lead; such a work can pass if:

  1. It includes at least one female character…
  2. who has her own narrative arc…
  3. that isn’t about supporting a male character’s arc.

Of course, as I mentioned last time, passing the test doesn’t guarantee a work isn’t sexist, or vice-versa, since it’s more about the aggregate than an individual work. A great example I came across a while back is the Roger Corman horror movie Forbidden World (1982). The movie passes Bechdel handily thanks to a scene where the two female leads have a lengthy conversation with each other about how to communicate with the monster attacking their lab… however, the entire conversation is conducted while they’re fully frontally nude together in a futuristic shower. Indeed, they’re treated throughout as sex objects and victims. So Bechdel alone is not a definitive assessment. But then, part of the point is that it’s an absurdly low bar to clear, so there’s no excuse for so many stories in popular culture to fail it.

So let’s see how my total body of work stacks up now. My first post covered my published or pending works up through Star Trek: The Face of the Unknown from January 2017. Most of my published works since then have been original, so we’ll start with those. In publication order, and including sold works awaiting publication:

“Twilight’s Captives”: Passes Bechdel. The female lead Madeleine Kamakau discusses the rescue of hostage children with the mother of one of the hostages, as well as with a female alien leader and an alien of a third “brooder” sex using a female pronoun. An asexual, non-gendered alien also has conversations with several female characters.

“Abductive Reasoning”: Fails Bechdel, but passes Mako. A two-hander between an alien female and a human male, but the alien’s pursuit of her own goal (which involves reconciling with her sister) drives the story.

“Hubpoint of No Return”: Ambiguous pass. Nashira Wing and the female alien Tsshar have a conversation that is partly about rescuing the male lead David, but evolves into one driven primarily by Nashira’s own agenda. Passes Mako twice over, as both Nashira and Tsshar have their own independent agendas shaping events.

“Aspiring to be Angels”: Passes. Emerald Blair and a female scientist have several discussions about the driving concepts and themes of the story, with the male lead only occasionally discussed.

“…And He Built a Crooked Hub”: Limited pass. Nashira converses with several female characters about various matters, although her overall goal is to locate and help David. (Also contains a metatextual joke about this very subject.) Not a Mako pass; three female characters (Nashira, Yldai, and Tsshar) have narrative arcs (i.e. storylines that develop and resolve rather than just unchanging motives/goals), but all are about David in some way.

“Hubstitute Creatures”: Limited pass. Nashira argues with a female colleague about her work (though her relationship with a male character is brought up) and discusses a medical matter with a female alien doctor. Mako pass, since Nashira’s personal agenda and narrative arc drive the story.

Crimes of the Hub: The new bridging material added for the collection includes one scene that passes, where Nashira speaks with two female colleagues (one human, one not) about their respective careers.

“The Melody Lingers”: Fails Bechdel and Mako. There are two primary named female characters (arguably three, but one isn’t truly present), but they have almost no direct interaction except through the male viewpoint character, and neither has an independent arc (one is subservient to him and the other is reacting against him). But this is arguably more a feature than a bug, since the intent is to critique and challenge the viewpoint character’s self-serving treatment of women.

“The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of”: Barely passes Bechdel. There are several named female characters discussing the artifact around which the story revolves, but they’re mostly discussing it with the male lead, and there’s only one paragraph in which one woman addresses another. Probably passes Mako, as Captain Veronica Moyo has a clearly defined agenda that, while it ultimately puts her at odds with the male lead, is not specifically about him, and her actions in pursuit of her goals are a primary catalyst of the story’s events.

“Conventional Powers”: Full pass. Emerald Blair discusses multiple subjects (largely her own actions, aspirations, and beliefs) with at least five other women, four of them named (or at least code-named).

“The Cat Who Chased Her Tail Through Time” (Patreon): Full pass. My debut Patreon story is a self-indulgent piece I wrote long ago about my cats, so it has no “onscreen” human characters except myself; but all but one of the cats in the story are female and they interact and discuss a great deal; also, the story is catalyzed by the actions of two female humans based on my two best friends from college.

“The Moving Finger Writes” (Patreon): Borderline pass at most. There are several named female characters, two human and two alien, but the two female aliens only briefly converse to establish their kinship, and all other conversations are with or about males. Probably a Mako fail; several female characters do have their own independent agendas, but their narrative purpose is to support and advance the male lead’s arc.

“They Also Serve” (Patreon): Fail. Emerald Blair is the only female character, and she’s merely the audience for Arkady’s narrative about meeting his husband.

Arachne’s Crime (upcoming): Full pass. There are multiple central female human characters, a female-identifying AI (Arachne), and a genderfluid alien species for which 3/4 of the most prominent characters are female for most or all of the narrative. They have numerous conversations and debates about a wide variety of topics. (Includes the events of “Aggravated Vehicular Genocide,” discussed in my previous Bechdel post, with most of the conversations mentioned there present here as well.)

Arachne’s Exile (upcoming): Full pass. There may be a higher ratio of female-male interactions to female-female ones here, but there’s still a number of the latter, and one of the two female leads becomes a more active driver of the narrative and shares several scenes with a female alien ally discussing various topics (spoilers!).

“Comfort Zones” (Kickstarter bonus): Pass. Has two main female characters who discuss their respective future plans and debate exploration policies.

“Vein Glory” (Kickstarter bonus): Only 2/3 Bechdel pass, Mako fail. Two named female characters who speak to each other, but only about matters pertaining to the male lead.

So… as of my previous post, my original fiction had 6 Bechdel passes out of 10, many of them borderline. Now I make it 18 out of 27, so I’m up from 60% to 67% (and only three unambiguous Mako fails) — a moderate improvement, though it could be better. However, I’ve succeeded in substantially improving LGBTQ representation in my original fiction, since about half of the above works feature overtly LGBTQ characters, 7 feature same-sex romance or attraction (8 if you count an ambiguous same-sex kiss), and three feature characters (mostly nonhuman) of non-binary sexuality. And 100% of my novel-length original works (Only Superhuman, Arachne’s Crime/Exile, and Crimes of the Hub as a fixup novel) succeed at both Bechdel and LGBTQ representation. It’s easier to achieve with novel-length works where there are more characters and interactions.

And now my comparatively few Star Trek works:

DTI: Shield of the Gods: Passes, briefly. Two female Aegis agents discuss their business.

ENT: Rise of the Federation: Patterns of Interference: Passes, though not extensively. Caroline Paris and Kivei Tizahr get acquainted; Devna and Maras discuss various matters (including but not limited to a male character); Tizahr discusses transporter ethics with Regina Tallarico (and two male crewmates); etc.

TOS: The Captain’s Oath: Moderate pass. It’s mainly from Captain Kirk’s perspective and relies on TOS characters, so it’s strongly male-centric, but there are a few Bechdel-passing scenes between female characters original to the novel, mainly Starfleet/Federation personnel discussing their work or crisis situations, though there is also a close female/female friendship depicted between Kamisha Diaz and a Caitian classmate. Mako pass, since several female characters have independent agendas and arcs.

TOS: The Higher Frontier: Moderate pass. As before, most of the passing scenes are between book-original characters, including Reiko Onami returning from Ex Machina, but Miranda Jones has a conversation with Chief DiFalco from ST:TMP, and there’s a scene or two of Uhura reasoning with a (more or less) female community leader of a group of aliens (though a male community leader is also involved). A strong Mako pass, as several female characters’ agendas drive much of the narrative.

Before, 20 out of 23 Trek works passed the full Bechdel test, though all passed at least one part. Now I make it 24/27, bumping up the percentage slightly from 87% to 89%. On the LGBTQ inclusion front, there are prominent/returning bisexual characters in the DTI novella and the ENT novel, although The Captain’s Oath only manages a few incidental references. The Higher Frontier establishes one returning Ex Machina character as lesbian and another as bisexual, but only in passing.

In the case of my Star Trek Adventures RPG campaigns, it’s impossible to assess whether they pass, since of course I have no idea who the Player Characters would be in a given gaming group. But as far as Non-Player Character interactions go, Call Back Yesterday, The Whole of the Law, and Stolen Liberty have only one named female NPC each; The Gravity of the Crime has several prominent female NPCs who interact with each other; and Hard Rock Catastrophe has three named female NPCs, two of whom share a scene but do not necessarily address each other directly (depending on how the Gamemaster plays the scene). So only Gravity is a guaranteed pass; the rest depend on who the PCs are and how and whether they choose to interact with the NPCs.

So overall, a limited improvement, but I think it stacks up pretty well. Since Bechdel is more of an aggregate assessment, it may be unreasonable to aim for 100% success; an overall success rate of 2/3 or more across an entire body of works is reasonably good. After all, the goal is diversity; there’s nothing wrong with stories centering on male leads or a single male-female pair, just so long as they’re part of a wider mix instead of crowding out more female-centric stories.

(Just a reminder that you can find more information and purchase links for these publications elsewhere on the site, by following the menu options up top. And if you read them, please post reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, and the like; the more reviews a publication gets on Amazon, the more its visibility improves in searches.)

StarTrek.com talks to me about THE HIGHER FRONTIER

A new interview with me has just gone up on StarTrek.com:

Star Trek’s Higher Frontier is Out Now

I talk about my inspirations behind the book, the importance of TOS to me, and so on. I also just noticed that I mistakenly gave the impression that Marvel’s 1996 Star Trek/X-Men crossover came out after my 2005 novel Ex Machina — I got a little confused there. But never mind that part.

I also mention my Patreon page, so hopefully that’ll attract some new patrons.

Shore Leave on hold

Unsurprising but sad news — the organizers of the Shore Leave convention have prudently decided to postpone Shore Leave 42 until July 9-11, 2021.

They’re not calling it a cancellation, just a postponement, since the guests are still committed and tickets already purchased can be saved for next year unless the buyers prefer a refund. But effectively it’s still the same — no Shore Leave this year.

This is sad for me, since I haven’t missed a Shore Leave since I started attending in, I think, 2005. That’s 15 consecutive years, and this breaks my streak. Although in a way, it doesn’t — I’m not actually missing the convention because it’s not being held. It’s just taking twice as long between consecutive ones.

As it happens, I never committed to come this year, because I was waiting until my finances improved, and then when COVID-19 happened I waited, just in case this happened. But hopefully by next year, things will be safer and I’ll be back along with the other guests. Although I believe we’ll need to establish a thorough nationwide testing and containment protocol first, a way to identify and isolate infected people so everyone else can resume normal lives — something that still seems quite far away under the current status quo.

For now, though, we’ll just have to stay in touch online through blogs, Facebook, and other outlets. I should have Arachne’s Crime and hopefully Arachne’s Exile coming out soon, plus there’s my Patreon page and this very blog. Some people have organized virtual conventions of sorts online, so maybe we’ll see something like that happening.

For now, though, everyone stay safe. Think about it! We get to help save the world by staying home, reading, and watching TV! What could be a more worthy mission for sci-fi nerds? 😀

HIGHER FRONTIER annotations are up!

It’s been over a week since The Higher Frontier came out, so I figured I might as well go ahead and post the annotations (beware of spoilers):ST Higher Frontier cover

https://christopherlbennett.wordpress.com/home-page/star-trek-fiction/tos-ex-machina/tos-the-higher-frontier-annotations/

Also, just a reminder that I’ve started a Patreon page where I’ll be posting reviews and original short fiction:

https://www.patreon.com/christopherlbennett

I hope those of you who enjoy The Higher Frontier will consider signing up for at least the $1/month “tip” level. If enough of you did so, it would help me a lot while costing you very little. Although if you sign up for the higher levels, you’ll get original content in return.

Also, please remember to rate or review the book on Amazon, Goodreads, and the like, no matter where you bought it. The more reviews a book gets, the more it’s boosted in Amazon’s search algorithms.

STAR TREK: TOS — THE HIGHER FRONTIER is out!

I’m a couple of days late to announce it, but Star Trek: The Original Series — The Higher Frontier is now on sale!

ST Higher Frontier coverStar Trek: The Original Series — The Higher Frontier

An all-new Star Trek movie-era adventure featuring James T. Kirk!

Investigating the massacre of a telepathic minority, Captain James T. Kirk and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise confront a terrifying new threat: faceless, armored hunters whose extradimensional technology makes them seemingly unstoppable. Kirk must team with the powerful telepath Miranda Jones and the enigmatic Medusans to take on these merciless killers in an epic battle that will reveal the true faces of both enemy and ally!

Available at:

 

This is the first time I’ve gotten to work in the post-TMP setting in nearly eight years since DTI: Forgotten History, and the first time since Ex Machina 15 years ago that I’ve been able to do an entire novel in that setting, rather than sneaking in continuations within other projects. To commemorate this, I’ve reworked my Ex Machina page into an overall post-TMP page putting all the relevant discussions together in one place for convenience, aside from DTI:FH, which is technically in a different series and whose dedicated page has several comments, so I figured it was better to leave it separate. You can find it here:

TOS: Motion Picture Era

Scroll down to the bottom to find discussion on The Higher Frontier, since it’s chronological. (One thing I miss about my old HTML web page is that you could link to different anchor points within a single page for quick navigation. I’ve never figured out how to do that in WordPress.)

As usual, spoiler annotations should follow before too long.

 

Reaching a crisis point

February 29, 2020 5 comments

For the past few years, I’ve been caught in a pattern I don’t know how to get out of.

Before then, for more than a decade, I managed to get by modestly on my income from Star Trek novels and occasional original fiction. So I settled for being a full-time writer and didn’t try very hard to pursue alternatives. Then Pocket Books’s Trek license came up for renewal and was badly delayed, so for more than a year I wasn’t getting Trek work. I kept being told it would resolve fairly soon, and I was expecting income from several other sources that I was told would pay off fairly soon, so I just waited for those payoffs, and they all improbably got delayed at once, so I ended up very nearly broke, coming close to the brink of not being able to pay my rent or my bills anymore.

Eventually, I got help from family and from reader donations, and then Trek contracts started to come through again, but even those advances were not frequent or large enough to do more than let me ease away from the brink for a few months and then wind up back on the edge before I could find other work. Because I’ve been a full-time writer so long, I never developed the skill of looking for other kinds of work. I’ve gotten a few interviews here and there, but none have led to a job.

All of this, I realize, has left me suffering from depression, something I’ve been wrestling with on and off all my life. The closer I get to the brink, the worse my depression and anxiety become, which makes it harder to look for work or find solutions. I keep hoping a new Star Trek contract will come through in time and give me enough of  a financial cushion to find a more lasting solution. But depression doesn’t go away that easily. Every time I do get a novel advance or a loan, I try to take some time to recover emotionally and work on my writing for a while, thinking “It’s okay, I have some time before I have to start seriously looking for other kinds of work.” But because depression makes it harder to work, I always take longer than I expected and lose track of time. And I always underestimate how quickly I’m losing money, because I keep forgetting to account for the massive credit card fees that effectively cancel out my efforts to pay down my debt. And once I notice that I’m too close to the brink again, I start panicking again, and the cycle continues.

I’ve known for a while now that I had to stop depending on Star Trek alone as my lifeline. I needed to reorient my life and find some stability, and just get out of this rut I’ve been in for years. But I was slow to act on that, clinging to the hope that rescue would come in the nick of time as it has so many times before. (Being depressed is weird. I keep bouncing back and forth between “I hate being trapped in this rut and need to make a change!” and “I’m afraid to change anything, I just want to stay in my rut where it’s safe.”)

Now, though, I know that’s not going to happen. I assume that, with fewer Trek novels per year these days, and with the uncertainty resulting from the new Trek shows and the re-merger of CBS and Viacom, I can’t rely on Trek offers coming my way like clockwork, and can’t pin my hopes on something materializing just in time. It’s already too late for that now, with tax time looming. I’ve feared this for years, but have still clung to the old way and just hoped things would go back to the way they were somehow. And as a result, I now find myself at a crisis point where I have to change.

Even before I recognized this, I’d begun making some efforts to look for work. I’ve continued to submit game outlines to Star Trek Adventures and I’ve been working on those, but they pay a lot less than a novel and I have to wait for approval. I’ve made a connection that could potentially lead to other tie-in work, but I’m still waiting for an opening to emerge. I have my Kickstarter coming up for Arachne’s Crime sometime soon, but I don’t expect the royalties from the novel or its sequel to be anywhere near the size of a tie-in advance. I’ve joined an online audio transcription service, though it’s turned out to pay hardly anything. I’ve applied to work for the 2020 Census — no reply yet. This past week I found a temp agency that specializes in creative work and signed up for it, hoping that its agents would help me find work since I’m so bad at looking for it myself; but it turned out that it’s more just an online job alert service that informs me of opportunities to apply for, and I’m still waiting for results. Last night I thought I’d found a good option in a freelancer service called Upwork, but on further examination, it seems I’d have to pay to make bids for work with no guarantee of a return on my investment.

It’s not all bad news. I’ve actually made a few hundred bucks this past week or so, helping to stem my losses slightly. I got paid for a bit of Star Trek Adventures writing that I did last year but can’t announce yet. I got a refund on the last monthly bill I paid after I cancelled my cable, which I was apparently charged in error. And I finally got some overdue Only Superhuman royalties that had fallen through the cracks. But it’s not nearly enough, especially with tax time looming in six weeks or so.

The realization that this time I’m definitely not getting a new Trek contract in the nick of time has been terrifying. When it finally hit me, my depression and anxiety reached levels I don’t think I’ve felt since an epic bout of unrequited love back in college 30 years ago. I’ve been going through ups and downs since then, and I’m hampered by the fact that every time I try to confront the situation to look for a solution, it just brings back my anxiety and makes it harder. (I got maybe 3 hours of sleep last night, tops.)

I know this is a very personal thing to broadcast to my fans, but I realized I need to talk about this for my own mental health. I need to share it with someone, and because of my (inherited) proclivities toward depression and self-isolation, I don’t really have any family or good friends close at hand to unload my burdens on, and haven’t done enough to cultivate what local friendships I do have. I’m not always comfortable talking on the phone, I never got the hang of texting, and I’m too broke to go out much, so my online life is really the only way I have of reaching out to friends and family. And my fans have been a great comfort to me these past few years, through your generosity and patience. You’ve been part of my support structure too, and I’m very grateful. (But I’d be glad to hear from any family and friends who wanted to reach out more privately.)

I’ve been giving serious thought to starting a Patreon page. That way, instead of periodically and haphazardly begging for donations all at once, I could offer my fans regular new material in exchange for small, regular monthly donations. It seems a natural thing to migrate my movie and TV reviews there and start monetizing them. (There is a way to add a Patreon plug-in to an existing WordPress blog like this one, but I’d have to upgrade and pay a fee, and I don’t know if I’d make enough profit to offset that.) I’d also try to offer original fiction content alongside the reviews. I have a few unpublished stories I could premiere there, along with my three published but uncollected stories, and maybe some deleted scenes from Only Superhuman, worldbuilding notes, behind-the-scenes stuff like that. I think I might have enough to provide fairly regular content for several months, and if that were profitable, it would hopefully give me time and incentive to create new reviews and original fiction for the platform on an ongoing basis. My fans have been so generous with your donations that I hope a lot of you would be willing to invest a few dollars per month to read my reviews, original fiction, essays, and the like.

But again, getting a Patreon page up and running and earning a profit would take time, and wouldn’t help enough in the immediate term to get me through tax time. It’s the same boat I’ve been in for years — none of the plans I’ve already made or can make going forward will pay off soon enough.

In the meantime, I’m always open for reader donations, and my book sale and naming rights bonus offer are still on. I hate having to keep pleading to my fans and offering so little in return, which is why I’m hoping to make the jump to Patreon. But I’m hopeful that by now I’ve planted enough seeds that something will start paying off soon and finally help me get out of this rut over the months ahead. It’s just that, one more time (and hopefully for the last time), I need some extra help staying afloat until they can.

Star Trek: Review: The Captain’s Oath

Star Trek The Captain's Oath coverPaul Simpson of Sci-Fi Bulletin has just posted a nice review of Star Trek: TOS — The Captain’s Oath. (Full disclosure: Paul was my editor on a number of Star Trek Magazine articles I did a decade or so ago.) Here it is:

via Star Trek: Review: The Captain’s Oath

GENESIS II/PLANET EARTH addendum: STRANGE NEW WORLD (1975)

Back in 2013, I posted my thoughts on Gene Roddenberry’s two failed pilots from the early 1970s, Genesis II with Alex Cord and its retooled version Planet Earth with John Saxon, both about a 20th-century man named Dylan Hunt who awoke from cryogenic suspension in a post-apocalyptic future and worked with an idealistic organization named PAX (or Pax, depending on the version) to try to rebuild civilization. In that post, I made the following remarks:

Planet Earth didn’t succeed as a pilot any more than its predecessor did… However, in 1975, ABC attempted to rework the post-apocalyptic premise one more time without Roddenberry’s involvement, keeping Saxon as the lead and retaining the name Pax, and using the Trek-inspired title Strange New World, but changing the rest of the premise and the character names… So it doesn’t count as part of the same series and I haven’t bothered to track it down.

Well, on a whim, I finally decided to track Strange New World down on YouTube and see if it was as bad as I’d heard. And it certainly is a mess. Nominally, they changed the premise and characters enough to make it legally distinct from Roddenberry’s creation, so he’s not credited for the production in any way. Which seems iffy, since the idea clearly did originate with Roddenberry, but it seems to have been an amicable arrangement, with Roddenberry moving back to Paramount to work on reviving Star Trek while allowing Warner Bros. to carry forward with this retooling of his concept.

But it’s a half-hearted retooling. They didn’t even bother to film a proper introduction to the new characters and ideas. Instead, the first 3 1/2 minutes of the 2-hour pilot (an hour and a half without commercials) are a prologue in which Saxon’s new lead character Anthony Vico tells the whole backstory through narration. In this version, PAX is a 20th-century organization that Vico works for along with co-stars Dr. Allison Crowley (Kathleen Miller) and Dr. William Scott (Keene Curtis, who would later play Grand Moff Tarkin in the NPR radio adaptation of Star Wars). The three are in experimental cryogenic stasis in a space station, which saves them from a cataclysmic, entirely offscreen “meteor” bombardment that destroys civilization (not sure whether they dropped the nuclear war to differentiate it from Roddenberry’s premise or to avoid controversy). They wake up 180 years later and descend to Earth to search for the PAX base where their friends and families await them in cryosleep (reminiscent of the Logan’s Run series leads searching for “Sanctuary,” even driving a similar ground vehicle). It’s a lot less effective to be told all this through narration than it would’ve been to actually see the characters’ initial reactions to waking up to find civilization in ruins.

The prologue is followed by what are essentially two routine hourlong episodes, and would probably have been re-edited as such had it gone to series. It feels like they’re trying to have it both ways, loosely continuing from the Planet Earth setup without actually using that setup. Oddly, there seem to be two different versions of the movie available, showing the two halves in the opposite order from one another.

In the version I saw on YouTube, the first “episode” turns out to be ten months after the prologue (despite some initial narration that makes it seem like mere days) and carries its own title, “Animaland.” It’s a rather dismal piece in which the trio winds up in the ruins of a nature preserve and get caught in a longstanding conflict between its protectors, who follow a holocaust-era game warden’s manual as their holy writ, and the near-savage poachers who have to hunt the game to survive. Allison gets captured by the wardens on suspicion of poaching and tries to win over their leader (Ford Rainey) and his heir apparent (Gerrit Graham) with her talk of being from the past and having knowledge to share, while the men end up convincing the poachers to help them break in to find Allison, with Vico making the incredibly reckless choice to give the head poacher (Bill McKinney) a deadly flare gun if he helps them. Eventually, the trio win the trust of the game wardens, then stay to help defend them from the poachers’ attack that Vico essentially caused, then convince them to change their rigid laws to make peace. I lost interest halfway through, then came back later and watched a lot of the rest at accelerated speed. The whole thing was quite darkly lit and slow-paced and not at all good.

The other half is a completely unconnected episode, though no separate title is shown onscreen. It’s a moderately more interesting, more sci-fi story where the trio are captured and subjected to eerie high-tech medical scans (involving solarization/overexposure effects to create some effectively weird and surreal images), then wake up in a utopian society called Eterna, albeit one that dresses them up in faux-Roman robes (with Vico in an oddly skimpy red toga). Their leader, the Surgeon (The Andromeda Strain‘s James Olson, not to be confused with Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen), and his assistant, Tana (two-time Bond girl Martine Beswick), seem welcoming enough, but Vico doesn’t trust the situation and hotheadedly beats up and accidentally kills a guard (Reb Brown), who later sits up in his coffin at his joyous “funeral.” Turns out this is a group of immortals who’ve lost the ability to reproduce and have survived by cloning themselves and harvesting their clones for replacement parts — an idea similar in some respects to Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s “Up the Long Ladder” 14 years later. The Surgeon is actually a 200-year-old former student of Dr. Scott, now suffering from the onset of dementia (though they still called it “senility” then) and hoping Scott will replace him as leader. Scott is tempted by Eterna’s scientific advances, leading to a rift with the aggressive, mistrustful Vico. But the cloning has cost the Eternans their natural immunity — they only survive thanks to a decontamination field that keeps germs out — and they hope the immunity factors in the trio’s un-cloned blood can cure them. So Scott participates in forcing Vico and Allison to become unconsenting blood donors — so much for medical ethics. But when the less invasive Plan A fails and Plan B calls for taking all of their blood at once (pretty shortsighted, since they could make more if kept alive), Scott helps Vico break free, and Vico starts a fight that gets ridiculously out of hand and destroys all the clones and the decontamination field, so all the Eternans die instantly from germ exposure. Yes, our hero just committed genocide. It’s a rather ghastly, morally bankrupt ending to a story that, while somewhat cliched, did have some interesting character work with Scott and the Surgeon.

Overall, Strange New World is a massive failure as a pilot. Vico is much less appealing than Dylan Hunt; he’s a dumb macho hothead quick to violence and paranoia, with no evident conscience or concern for anything except his own group’s self-interest. He’s basically a caricature of a generic 1970s action hero — right down to being given a gratuitous, completely unmotivated and chemistry-free makeout scene with Martine Beswick merely because such things were mandated for ’70s action heroes. As for Allison, though she does some effective reasoning/peacemaking with the game wardens in “Animaland,” she’s basically just there in the Eterna segment, and the actress does nothing of note with what little she’s given. Dr. Scott has the most interesting characterization of the three, though mainly in the Eterna segment and largely by default.

What’s surprising is that this pilot was directed by Robert Butler, who also directed the pilot episodes of Star Trek and Batman (and later Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman). He had a reputation as a go-to pilot director, yet the directing here was weak and lackadaisical, like he was phoning it in. Maybe he was uninspired by the script. Of the credited writers, Ranald Graham and Walon Green were both novices with no former science fiction credits (though Green would later co-write WarGames, Solarbabies, and RoboCop 2 before eventually becoming an executive producer on Hill Street Blues, NYPD Blue, and several Law & Order series), and Al Ramrus was mostly a documentary writer who’d plotted one episode of The Invaders.

It goes to show that, while Gene Roddenberry had his weaknesses as a writer and never managed to get any SF shows other than Star Trek off the ground, he was still better at SF than most of his contemporaries in ’70s TV, save his own former collaborators like D.C. Fontana and David Gerrold. SNW followed the same essential format that G2/PE would have, aside from the altered backstory and characters, but the results are much shallower and dumber.

It’s interesting how many mid-’70s shows had this same general format of characters wandering a post-apocalyptic landscape and encountering a variety of weird, isolated cultures-of-the-week — see also Ark II (1976) and the TV adaptation of Logan’s Run (1977), as well as the 1974 Planet of the Apes TV series to an extent. Come to think of it, all three of those aired on CBS, the network that had previously turned down Genesis II. Maybe CBS’s execs just liked the premise and kept trying to make it work. Though apparently getting ABC interested was a harder sell.

It occurred to me briefly to wonder if maybe ABC and Warner Bros. might have gotten far enough along with Planet Earth to commission additional scripts or story outlines, or to sign up John Saxon for some sort of additional commitment, before the network decided to pass on it. If SNW had just been a way to amortize their investment in a pair of additional scripts, I figured that could explain the halfheartedness, and why the pilot is just two standalone episodes glued together. But on reflection, the stories don’t really feel like they were based on Planet Earth proposals, since the characters are too different.

More likely, it’s just that Strange New World is a cheaper version of the premise. It’s the same format as PE but with three leads instead of four, a simple ground vehicle instead of the more elaborate subshuttle sets and miniatures, and no PAX headquarters sets or recurring cast members. Relegating the space station sequence to a few shots in the intro was a lot cheaper than doing a proper origin episode (and the space FX shots may even have been stock footage, though I can’t find evidence of that). Making a pilot movie that could be recut into two standard episodes would also save money. So would hiring less experienced writers and producers. So that’s probably what it all boils down to — Warner Bros. retooling the premise to be cheaper in the hope that it would then be more appealing to a network.

Anyway, I have now put far more thought into analyzing Strange New World than it really deserves. It’s a weird, half-hearted afterthought of a project, a mere footnote to G2/PE, far less worthy of attention than its preceding pilots or its contemporary post-apocalyptic shows (and none of those were all that great anyway). If not for the peripheral Star Trek connection, it would probably be entirely forgotten. I was right to skip it the first time.

STAR TREK: THE HIGHER FRONTIER cover revealed!

December 23, 2019 4 comments

The cover to Star Trek: The Original Series — The Higher Frontier has hit the Internet, so here it is:

ST Higher Frontier cover

And the blurb:

An all-new Star Trek movie-era adventure featuring James T. Kirk!

Investigating the massacre of a telepathic minority, Captain James T. Kirk and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise confront a terrifying new threat: faceless, armored hunters whose extradimensional technology makes them seemingly unstoppable. Kirk must team with the powerful telepath Miranda Jones and the enigmatic Medusans to take on these merciless killers in an epic battle that will reveal the true faces of both enemy and ally!

The blurb on the rear cover is a bit different, so here it is, along with the rear side of the wraparound cover image (though I’m told the “Following” is going to be rephrased to “Several years following” to be more accurate):

ST Higher Frontier rear cover

 

I got my first look at the cover a couple of weeks ago. I like it a lot. It’s a very striking and distinctive approach, a lovely piece of art, and along with the font, it has a retro feel that’s very interesting. I would’ve rather had the TMP-era logo, ideally, but the TOS logo works aesthetically with the rest.

And yes, that is an Andorian Kumari-class or similar cruiser on the cover, flying over the icy surface of Andoria with its gas-giant primary in the sky. That and the blurb should give some hints about at least one aspect of the novel’s storyline.

The Higher Frontier is due out in trade paperback, e-book, and audio formats on March 10, 2020, and is available for pre-order at:

 

 

Holiday sale: books are on the way!

Good news for everyone who’s bought books from me — I just got back from a trip to the post office where I mailed all the orders to date at once. (It saved time that so far they’re all to United States addresses, so I didn’t have to fill out any customs forms.) So hopefully everyone will get their books by early next week, in time for the holidays.

Naturally, the sale is still ongoing, and you can see the list of available items in the previous post, along with ordering info. I’m sold out of every Star Trek mass-market paperback other than Patterns of Interference and the Czech translation of Over a Torrent Sea, but I still have plenty of The Captain’s Oath and Only Superhuman, plus a few remaining copies of Mirror Universe: Shards and Shadows, Among the Wild Cybers, and Footprints in the Stars.

Plus I’m keeping a list of all the naming suggestions for future reference. It might take a while to get around to using them all, but I’ll do my best.

Thanks again to everyone who’s helped me out!

Holiday book sale still on! Get autographed STAR TREK and other books!

November 30, 2019 2 comments

Well, my first post about my latest book sale and call for donations has not generated the response I’d hoped for. So far I’ve only gotten one book order and two suggestions for ship/station/etc. names to incorporate into a future Star Trek novel. So maybe I need to improve my sales pitch and clarify what I have to offer.

First off, while I stressed that anyone donating $20 or more will get to name a ship, station, planet, or other institution, I should add that anyone who makes any donation or book purchase through my PayPal account will get my thanks in my next book’s acknowledgments (unless you prefer to remain anonymous). It doesn’t have to be much; if most of the people who read this donate even a couple of dollars, it could help me through my current rough patch. And remember, the naming offer is a neat way to commemorate a friend, family member, favorite school, hometown, whatever. (Again, just make sure it’s something plausible in-universe, no gag names or the like.) Or you could give a loved one a book autographed to them as a holiday gift! Just let me know who to make it out to.

As for the books I have to sell, here are more detailed descriptions. Ordering/donation instructions are below.

Only Superhuman — $20 (20% off!): 18 15 available

Only Superhuman by Christopher L. BennettIn the future, genetically engineered superhumans, inspired by classic Earth comic book heroes, fight to keep the peace in the wild and wooly space habitats of the Asteroid Belt

2107 AD: Generations ago, Earth and the cislunar colonies banned genetic and cybernetic modifications. But out in the Asteroid Belt, anything goes. Dozens of flourishing space habitats are spawning exotic new societies and strange new varieties of humans. It’s a volatile situation that threatens the peace and stability of the entire solar system.

Emerald Blair is a Troubleshooter. Inspired by the classic superhero comics of the twentieth century, she’s joined with other mods to try to police the unruly Asteroid Belt. But her loyalties are tested when she finds herself torn between rival factions of superhumans with very different agendas. Emerald wants to put her special abilities to good use and atone for her scandalous past, but what do you do when you can’t tell the heroes from the villains?

Only Superhuman is a rollicking hard-sf adventure set in a complex and fascinating future.

Library Journal‘s SF/Fantasy Debut of the Month for October 2012!

Star Trek: The Original Series — The Captain’s Oath — $12 (25% off!): 12 7 available

Star Trek The Captain's Oath coverThe saga of James T. Kirk’s historic command of the U.S.S. Enterprise is known throughout the galaxy. But one part of the legend has barely been touched upon until now: the story of Kirk’s first starship command and the remarkable achievements by which Starfleet’s youngest captain earned the right to succeed Christopher Pike as the commander of the famous Enterprise.

From his early battles with the Klingons to the rescue of endangered civilizations, Kirk grapples with difficult questions: Is he a warrior or a peacemaker? Should he obey regulations or trust his instincts? This thrilling novel illustrates the events and choices that would shape James T. Kirk into one of the most renowned captains in Starfleet history.

Star Trek: Mirror Universe — Shards and Shadows — $12 (25% off!): 5 3 available

Mirror Universe Shards and ShadowsFractured history. Broken lives. Splintered souls. Since the alternate universe was first glimpsed in the classic episode “Mirror, Mirror,” something about Star Trek’s dark side has beckoned us, called to us, tempted us — like forbidden fruit on the Tree of Knowledge. To taste it is to lose oneself in a world of startling familiarity and terrifying contradictions, where everything and everyone we knew is somehow disturbingly different, and where shocking secrets await their revelation.

What began in 2007 with Glass Empires and Obsidian Alliances — the first truly in-depth foray into the turbulent history of this other continuum — now continues in twelve new short tales that revisit and expand upon that so-called “Mirror Universe,” spanning all five of the core incarnations of Star Trek, as well as their literary offshoots, across more than two hundred years of divergent history, as chronicled by…

Christopher L. Bennett – Margaret Wander Bonanno – Peter David – Keith R.A. DeCandido – Michael Jan Friedman – Jim Johnson – Rudy Josephs – David Mack – Dave Stern – James Swallow – Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore – Susan Wright

Among the Wild Cybers: Tales Beyond the Superhuman — $12 (20% off!): 2 available

(Robot and Cover Design by Mike McPhail, McP Digital Graphics)When the line between life and technology blurs, humanity must adjust its understanding of the universe. From bestselling author Christopher L. Bennett comes Among the Wild Cybers, eight tales portraying a future of challenge and conflict, but also of hope born from the courage and idealism of those heroes willing to stand up for what is right.

  • An intrepid naturalist risks her future to save a new form of life that few consider worth saving.
  • An apprentice superhero must stand alone against an insane superintelligence to earn her name.
  • A cybernetic slave fights to save her kind from a liberation not of their choosing.
  • A seasoned diplomat and mother must out-negotiate fearsome alien traders to save a colony’s children.
  • A homicide detective serves in a world where curing death has only made murder more baffling.

These and other heroes strive to make their corners of the universe better—no matter how much the odds are stacked against them.

Includes the brand-new tale, Aspiring to Be Angels, prequel to the novel Only Superhuman.

Footprints in the Stars — $12 (20% off!): 3 available

Footprints in the StarsTo follow in the footsteps of those who have gone before, first we must find them.

Dreaded hope settles over mankind as we stare into the heavens, looking for a sign we are not alone. Fearing we will find it, puzzled when we don’t.

Among the stars or in our own backyard, lose yourself in the wonder of these tales as we humbly posit mankind’s reaction to the awesome certainty that ‘they’ are out there…or at least, they were…

Footprints in the Stars

With stories by Gordon Linzner, Ian Randal Strock, Robert Greenberger, Dayton Ward, Aaron Rosenberg, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Jody Lynn Nye, Christopher L. Bennett, James Chambers, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Russ Colchamiro, Judi Fleming, and Bryan J.L. Glass

Star Trek: Titan — Přes dravé moře (Czech translation of Over a Torrent Sea) — $12.50 (~20% off): 4 available

Star Trek Titan Pres Drave MoreAs the Federation recovers from the devastating events of Star Trek: Destiny, Captain William Riker and the crew of the U.S.S. Titan are ordered to resume their deep-space assignment, reaffirming Starfleet’s core principles of peaceful exploration.  But even far from home on a mission of hope, the scars of the recent cataclysm remain with them as they slowly rebuild their lives.

The planet Droplet is a world made mostly of water without a speck of solid ground.  Life should not exist here, yet it thrives.  Aili Lavena, Titan‘s aquatic navigator, spearheads the exploration of this mysterious world, facing the dangers of the vast, wild ocean.  When one native species proves to be sentient, Lavena finds herself immersed in a delicate contact situation, and Riker is called away from Deanna Troi at a critical moment in their marriage.

But when good intentions bring calamity, Lavena and Riker are cut off from the crew and feared lost.  Troi must face a life-changing event without her husband, while the crew must brave the crushing pressures of the deep to undo the global chaos they have triggered.  Stranded with her injured captain, Lavena must win the trust of the beings who control their fate — but the price for Riker’s survival may be the loss of everything he holds dear.

(Federace se pozvolna zotavuje z ničivých událostí popsaných v trilogii Volání osudu. U.S.S. Titan a jeho kapitán, William T. Riker, přebírají nové rozkazy – mají pokračovat v průzkumu hlubokého vesmíru, aby tak stvrdili, že mírové bádání je stále tím hlavním posláním Hvězdné flotily. Avšak utržené rány se nechtějí zhojit ani tak daleko od domova. Planeta třídy O, přezdívaná Kapka, je zcela pokryta vodní plochou – jediným velkým oceánem. Život by tu vůbec neměl existovat, přesto se mu až neobyčejně daří. Navigátorka Aili Lavena, sama vodního druhu, je ideální kandidátkou na průzkum tohoto ohromného a divokého moře. Když náhodou objeví jeden vnímavý druh, ocitá se na delikátní stezce k prvnímu kontaktu. Jak to tak často bývá, dobré úmysly však přivodí situaci, ze které se Lavena a Riker nemusejí vrátit. Posádka bez kapitána mezitím čelí drtivým tlakům temných hlubin, ve snaze odčinit globální chaos, který nedopatřením sami rozpoutali.)

Star Trek: Enterprise — Rise of the Federation: Tower of Babel (Book 2)– $8: SOLD OUT

ST: ENT — Rise of the Federation: Uncertain Logic (Book 3) — $8: SOLD OUT

ST: ENT — Rise of the Federation: Patterns of Interference (Book 5) — $8: 5 4 available

The time has come to act. Following the destructive consequences of the Ware crisis, Admiral Jonathan Archer and Section 31 agent Trip Tucker both attempt to change their institutions to prevent further such tragedies. Archer pushes for a Starfleet directive of non-interference, but he faces opposition from allies within the fleet and unwelcome support from adversaries who wish to drive the Federation into complete isolationism. Meanwhile, Tucker plays a dangerous game against the corrupt leaders of Section 31, hoping to bring down their conspiracy once and for all. But is he willing to jeopardize Archer’s efforts—and perhaps the fate of an entire world—in order to win?

 

You can donate or buy books by clicking on the PayPal “Donate” button on the right-hand side of my blog page. If you’re seeing this on Goodreads, click on the “View more” link below to go to my main blog and you’ll see the button.

If you donate $20 or more, please include a message through the PayPal form with your ship/planet/etc. name suggestion, as well as contact info in case there’s an issue with using your suggestion and we need to work out an alternative. (Or you can offer a backup suggestion or two.) All book buyers, let me know who to make out the autograph to.

As always, I’ll try to keep this list updated with regard to availability, but if you have doubts (particularly with the single copies), query first. For buyers in the US, add $2.50 postage per book for MMPBs, or $4.00 postage for trades/hardcovers.  For buyers outside the US, pay the book price and I’ll bill you for postage separately once I determine the amount.

If you have a PayPal account of your own, please pay through that instead of a credit card.  PayPal charges a fee for credit card use, so if you do use a credit card, I have to ask for an additional $0.25 per US mass-market paperback or an additional $0.50 for everything else.

This sale will continue as long as I have books in stock, and the call for donations is always open. I hope we can help each other out.

Holiday season book sale/fundraiser time

November 24, 2019 5 comments

Well, folks, I haven’t yet gotten a new novel contract, nor have I had any success in job-hunting yet, though I’ve got a few prospects I’m waiting to hear about. I’ve done a bit of copyediting work and signed up to work for an online audio transcription service, but nothing that’s paid very much at all. I’ve been looking into loan options, but nothing’s come together yet. One bit of good news: I found out I was owed some overdue royalties for Only Superhuman due to some kind of mail mixup, so I’ll be getting that soon, but it’s not a massive amount. And the print edition of Crimes of the Hub should be out pretty soon, but Arachne’s Crime has been delayed until early next year.

So once again, I need to try to raise some cash to tide me over, so it’s time for another autographed book sale and call for donations. I really hate to keep relying on my fans’ generosity, but I’m taking steps now to seek out new work from various avenues, so hopefully this will be the last time. It’s been a rough year or two, and I’ve been dealing with depression, which has made it hard for me to make an effort to look for work. But I’m making that effort now, trying to get out of my rut, and I just need some help tiding myself over until I can arrange something better. Anyway, it’s the holiday season, so now’s a good time to buy my books as gifts!

As before, I want to offer a reward to donors, but I don’t want to repeat the Tuckerization offer from the last couple of times, since I’ll probably get a lot of the same donors, and depending on what book I do next, it might not make sense to reuse the same names. So let’s try this: Anyone who makes a purchase or donation of $20 or more will get to name a starship, planet, station, or institution that gets mentioned in the next Star Trek novel I write (or a later one if there aren’t enough opportunities in the next one), with the namer getting a nod in the acknowledgments. It needs to be a plausible name in-universe, so no Shippy McShipface or anything rude or inappropriate (though sufficiently subtle in-jokes or allusions could work). Don’t suggest your own name (as discussed above), but feel free to suggest the name of a friend, family member, hometown, school, or something like that (but no brand names or the like). Or just use your imagination. Multicultural or nonhuman-sounding names are a plus.

Here’s the current list of books I have to offer (now with pictures!). It’s getting pretty sparse, but just for the heck of it, I’m throwing in a few copies of the Czech language edition of Titan: Over a Torrent Sea, because I don’t know what else to do with them. (It’s called Přes dravé moře, which translates as “Over a predatory sea.” The translator is Jakub Marek.)

Mass-market paperbacks: $8

ROTF_Patterns_cover

  • Star Trek: Enterprise — Rise of the Federation: Tower of Babel (1 copy)
  • ST: ENT — Rise of the Federation: Uncertain Logic (2 copies 1 copy)
  • ST: ENT — Rise of the Federation: Patterns of Interference (5 4 copies)

Czech MMPB: $12.50 (~20% off by current exchange rate)

Star Trek Titan Pres Drave More

  • Star Trek: Titan — Přes dravé moře (Over a Torrent Sea) (4 copies)

Trade paperbacks: $12 (20-25% off!)

 

  • Star Trek: The Original Series — The Captain’s Oath (12 8 copies)
  • Star Trek: Mirror Universe — Shards and Shadows (5 3 copies)
  • ST: The Next Generation — The Sky’s the Limit (1 copy)

 

  • Among the Wild Cybers: Tales Beyond the Superhuman (4 copies)
  • Footprints in the Stars (3 copies)

Hardcovers: $20 (20% off!)

Only Superhuman by Christopher L. Bennett

  • Only Superhuman (18 16 copies)

You can donate or buy books by clicking on the PayPal “Donate” button on the right-hand side of my blog page. If you’re seeing this on Goodreads, click on the “View more” link below to go to my main blog and you’ll see the button.

If you donate $20 or more, please include a message through the PayPal form with your ship/planet/etc. name suggestion, as well as contact info in case there’s an issue with using your suggestion and we need to work out an alternative. (Or you can offer a backup suggestion or two.) All book buyers, let me know who to make out the autograph to.

As always, I’ll try to keep this list updated with regard to availability, but if you have doubts (particularly with the single copies), query first. For buyers in the US, add $2.50 postage per book for MMPBs, or $4.00 postage for trades/hardcovers.  For buyers outside the US, pay the book price and I’ll bill you for postage separately once I determine the amount.

If you have a PayPal account of your own, please pay through that instead of a credit card.  PayPal charges a fee for credit card use, so if you do use a credit card, I have to ask for an additional $0.25 per US mass-market paperback or an additional $0.50 for everything else.

STAR TREK ADVENTURES: STOLEN LIBERTY is out

November 14, 2019 5 comments

Today’s the release date for my fourth standalone Star Trek Adventures PDF campaign and my fifth STA campaign overall: Stolen Liberty.

STA Stolen Liberty coverWill Your Crew Dare to Break the Prime Directive?

“This is Interlunar Probe Twelve. We are in immediate distress. We are caught in Zafrel’s gravity well. Our orbit is decaying into its outer atmosphere and we are unable to generate sufficient thruster power to break free. We are in full eclipse from Jinidar and unable to contact Master Control. If any other listener is somehow able to receive this message, please respond and advise! Repeat, this is Interlunar Probe Twelve…”

When the crew responds to a call for help, they soon find themselves faced with an ethical dilemma. Does the crew hold to the Federation principles of non-interference, or break regulations to provide assistance?

This standalone 19-page PDF adventure by Christopher L. Bennett is for the Star Trek Adventures Roleplaying Game and is set during The Next Generation era. This adventure also contains advice for adaptation for use in campaigns based in other Star Trek eras.

Stolen Liberty is available as a downloadable PDF at the following links:

The tagline is pretty similar to the one they used for The Gravity of the Crime, but rest assured this is a very different Prime Directive story, more global in its stakes. It’s also a story I’ve had in mind for a long, long time, a concept I initially developed for my original fiction decades ago, and then reworked into a Star Trek: Voyager pitch back when I took a couple of stabs at trying to write for that show. (It may have been a TNG pitch before then, but I don’t quite recall.) I’m glad I finally got the chance to dust it off and do something with it.

So as of now, all of my completed STA campaigns have finally been published. But I have some new pitches currently awaiting approval, so I’m not done with STA yet.

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.