ST: Enterprise — Rise of the Federation

Choice of Futures coverStar Trek: Enterprise — Rise of the Federation: A Choice of Futures

A new nation has arisen from the ashes of the Romulan War: the United Federation of Planets, an unprecedented union of diverse species cooperating for the good of all. Admiral Jonathan Archer—the former captain of the Earth starship Enterprise, whose efforts made this union possible—envisions a vibrant Federation promoting galactic peace and a multispecies Starfleet dedicated to exploring strange new worlds. Archer’s former crewmates, including Captain T’Pol of the U.S.S. Endeavour and Captain Malcolm Reed of the U.S.S. Pioneer, work with him to secure that bright future. Yet others within the Federation see its purpose as chiefly military, a united defense against a dangerous galaxy, while some of its neighbors view that military might with suspicion and fear. And getting the member nations, their space fleets, and even their technologies to work together as a unified whole is an ongoing challenge.

When a new threat emerges from a force so alien and hostile that negotiation seems impossible, a group of unaligned worlds asks Starfleet to come to its defense, and the Federation’s leaders seize the opportunity to build their reputation as an interstellar power. But Archer fears the conflict is building toward an unnecessary war, potentially taking the young nation down a path it was never meant to follow. Archer and his allies strive to find a better solution…but old foes are working secretly to sabotage their efforts and ensure that the great experiment called the Federation comes to a quick and bloody end.

  • A Choice of Futures does a superb job of fleshing out those early days of the Federation.” — Dan Gunther, TrekCore
  • “A Choice of Futures is a great book.  It’s an extremely pleasurable read, rich with Star Trek lore and filled with compelling new stories for our heroes and interesting new character-arcs for the Enterprise ensemble…. This is exactly the type of fun, well-thought-out prequel to the Original Series that I had always hoped Enterprise would prove to be.” — Josh Edelglass, Motion Picture Comics

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I enjoy filling in the unexplored segments of the Star Trek universe. So with the increasing continuity and arc-driven structure of the 24th-century Trek novels these days, I found my interests as a writer shifting away from that period. I gave some thought to an idea I would’ve called Star Trek: Beginnings, filling in the gap between first contact with Vulcan in 2063 and the beginning of Enterprise in 2151. I thought it might be interesting to explore humanity’s adjustment to the Vulcans, the colonization of Alpha Centauri, the rise of the Space Boomers, etc. But my editor rightly pointed out that there would be too few familiar characters in that setting, and not a lot of audience interest. Instead, she suggested that I take over the Enterprise novel line in the wake of the Romulan War duology by Michael J. Martin, which concluded with the founding of the United Federation of Planets in 2161. I was initially hesitant, but the more I thought about it, the more it intrigued me, since the early Federation era is virtually untouched. We have very limited information about this period from canon, and only one book, Starfleet: Year One, has ever been set in this era. But that novel was soon superseded by Enterprise, and its focus was principally on Starfleet and not the wider Federation. So the period is very nearly a blank slate, which is both a great opportunity and a great challenge for me. There are many worthwhile questions to explore: How did an alliance forged in wartime become the peaceful union we know? How did its founding members balance their differing views of what the Federation should become? What challenges did this fledgling union face in dealing with neighboring powers unsure of its intentions or threatened by its unity? What new enemies arose in the wake of the Romulans?

Worldbuilding in Trek fiction is usually relatively easy since there’s so much backstory and continuity to build on, but in this case it was a lot more challenging to strain out the tiny fragments of information we have about people, events, and institutions from this period. I’ve had to do a lot of extrapolation. But I’m picking up some threads from ENT, the series, that I felt were worth expanding on, and I’m building toward the Trek universe as we know it in the original series, so at least I know my starting and ending points. The worldbuilding has been a lot of fun — figuring out how the early UFP government was organized, how the member races cooperated in the joint government and combined fleet, and what the various member races contributed to Starfleet and how it evolved toward the form we know, in terms of design and technology. I’ve even come up with a design for the original Federation Starfleet uniform. Plus, of course, there’s the challenge of moving the ENT characters (regular and recurring) forward in their lives and careers. There are a few whose futures we have some foreknowledge of, but the rest are blank slates.

To answer the inevitable question, no, you don’t need to have read The Romulan War to follow this book. ROTF:ACOF is a fresh beginning, picking up about a year after the Federation’s founding. The war is over, Enterprise herself is in mothballs, and Admiral Jonathan Archer, his former crew, and his allies including Shran and Soval have moved on to new phases in their lives, playing new roles in the Federation and its combined Starfleet. The novel will feature many familiar characters from the era, a few new crewmates for the familiar cast, and some unexpected names as well

Another cool thing about this is that it completes my grand slam: I will now have written tie-ins for every onscreen Trek series, as well as several book-only ones. At first, admittedly, I was a little wary about taking on Enterprise, which I was lukewarm about in its first run. But upon rewatching the series as research for this book, I’ve gained a much greater appreciation for it. When I watched ENT in its original run, my perceptions were filtered through “Oh, that’s not what I expected” or “That’s not how I would’ve done it,” and that colored my reactions, as I think it did for a lot of us. But on revisiting the series, I was able to accept that this was how it was and evaluate it on its own terms. And I think it held up pretty well overall. There was a lot in the series that I felt it was worthwhile to continue, and a lot of ideas that I felt were worth revisiting and fleshing out. (More discussion on my blog here.)

I’ve been heartened by the strongly positive advance reactions this book has received. I was asked to do a sequel  before I’d even turned in the manuscript for book 1. I have tentative plans for several more books beyond that.

My design sketch for early Federation Starfleet uniforms described in novel

Spoiler discussion and notes


Tower of Babel coverStar Trek: Enterprise — Rise of the Federation: Tower of Babel

The United Federation of Planets has weathered its first major crisis, but its growing pains are just beginning. Admiral Jonathan Archer hopes to bring the diverse inhabitants of the powerful and prosperous Rigel system into the Federation, jump-starting the young nation’s growth and stabilizing a key sector of space. Archer and the Federation’s top diplomats journey to the planetoid Babel to debate Rigel’s admission . . . but a looming presidential race heats up the ideological divide within the young nation, jeopardizing the talks and threatening to undo the fragile unity Archer has worked so hard to preserve.

Meanwhile, the sinister Orion Syndicate recruits new allies of its own, seeking to beat the Federation at its own game. Determined to keep Rigel out of the union, they help a hostile Rigelian faction capture sensitive state secrets along with Starfleet hostages, including a young officer with a vital destiny. Captain Malcolm Reed, Captain T’Pol, and their courageous crews must now brave the wonders and dangers of Rigel’s many worlds to track down the captives before the system is plunged into all-out war.

  • “There is a lot in this book for the avid Star Trek fan to pick up on…. I’m really looking forward to seeing where Bennett takes these characters next!” — Dan Gunther, TrekCore
  • Tower of Babel is… a terrific continuation of this “Rise of the Federation” story.  THIS is what the Enterprise TV show should have been all about, showing us the baby steps and the early trails and tribulations faced by this young, unprecedented interstellar alliance.” — Josh Edelglass, Motion Picture Comics

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When I developed Book 1 of Rise of the Federation, I went into it with the idea that it could be the first of a series, and I began considering longer-term story possibilities. Book 1 was about the Federation defining its identity, choosing what kind of state it was going to be. Thus, it followed that Book 2 should be about its early efforts at growth and consolidation: the first attempt to recruit a major new member and the establishment of the tradition of Babel conferences to debate the questions of membership, which would in turn bring out some of the lingering tensions and fissure lines within the still-fragile union.

So you’d think that when I got the assignment to do a sequel, it would’ve come fairly easily. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. At the time I was working on the Book 2 outline, my attention was still primarily on the recently released Only Superhuman — doing publicity, tracking its performance, and so on — in addition to which, I came down with a terrible cold and severe throat irritation that kept me up at night for over a week. It’s hard to focus on plotting a novel when you can hardly breathe. I finally figured out some remedies for my sore throat, but I’d lost a lot of time on the outline and had to struggle to meet the deadline. What I turned in was sufficient to get approval, but it turned out not to be a clear enough blueprint to guide me through the writing process, and thus I floundered and fell badly behind on that as well, even though I’d specifically asked for enough time that I wouldn’t be rushed.

Still, I finally managed to get my head in the game and cope with some of the problems I was having. For one thing, I decided to delete a whole subplot that was unconnected to the rest of the story and could be saved for a later book (one of the advantages of doing a series). I realized it was interrupting  the momentum of both the narrative and my own writing process, and that was part of what was slowing me down. That was a significant setback in word count, since I had to backtrack and come up with something new to take its place, but once I cleared that obstruction, the ideas flowed more easily, and I wrote the entire replacement subplot in a single day. (It was actually an idea I’d already thought of as a future possibility, but it plugged in nicely here.) I still had some trouble with the rest, since one of the major plot threads in the outline wasn’t working and needed to be seriously rethought, while another was lacking in needed detail. But I got a handle on it by abandoning my tendency to write in chronological order, instead tackling each separate plot thread one by one, so that I wouldn’t keep having to shift focus and lose momentum. That helped me finish the book in time for my deadline, and I had some nice moments of serendipity along the way, particularly a new subplot that sort of spontaneously emerged and allowed a certain character to play a more proactive role in the resoution of the crisis. But in those last weeks I worked so hard and was so stressed out that I ended up straining my shoulder pretty badly. I was very glad that the Shore Leave convention arrived just after I was done. I got to hang out with my writer friends and stay with my cousins in the area, and had a really nice visit to my audiobook publisher too, so that really cheered me up.

It’s hard for me to look at Tower of Babel objectively, since the writing process was so turbulent. There are probably things I could’ve done better, but now that I think about it, there are a number of things I’m rather proud of. In particular, I had fun with the worldbuilding of the Rigel system, taking all the disparate references to Rigel this and Rigel that in the screen canon, along with the ones in the current novel continuity, and building a cohesive whole out of them. Why did I choose Rigel as the first major addition to the young Federation? Because I wanted Archer to go after a major prize, a coalition of worlds whose addition to the union would increase its size and power significantly in one fell swoop, so that the stakes would be as high as possible. And I didn’t just want to create some hitherto-unknown civilization, since that would raise the question of why it was never heard of later on. Rigel has so many distinct worlds and cultures that it gave me a rich multispecies community in a single system — although it did come with certain conceptual problems and contradictions that I had to navigate my way around. Also, ENT’s “Demons” and “Terra Prime” had included Rigelians among the delegates to the initial Coalition of Planets talks, and a couple of earlier sources (the classic Spaceflight Chronology and the novel Starfleet Year One) had postulated Rigel as a founding or very early member of the Federation, in contrast to the traditionally accepted founders of Earth, Vulcan, Andoria, Tellar, and Alpha Centauri. So the idea of Rigel being in at the beginning, or nearly so, had some precedent.

The cover to Tower of Babel is much more along the lines I was hoping for than the cover for A Choice of Futures turned out to be. It showcases the lead ships of ROTF, Captain T’Pol’s Endeavour (based on Doug Drexler’s conjectural NX-class refit) and Captain Reed’s Pioneer (of the Intrepid class which debuted in “The Expanse”). It’s the first time the NX refit design has been used on a novel cover, though it’s previously been seen in the Ships of the Line calendar.

Spoiler discussion and notes


ROTF Uncertain Logic coverStar Trek: Enterprise — Rise of the Federation: Uncertain Logic

Years ago, Jonathan Archer and T’Pol helped unearth the true writings of Vulcan’s great philosopher Surak, bringing forth a new era of peaceful reform on Vulcan. But when their discovery is seemingly proven to be a fraud, the scandal threatens to undo a decade of progress and return power to the old, warlike regime. Admiral Archer, Captain T’Pol, and the crew of the U.S.S. Endeavour investigate with help from their Vulcan allies, but none of them suspect the identity of the real mastermind behind the conspiracy to reconquer Vulcan—or the price they will have to pay to discover the truth.

Meanwhile, when a long-forgotten technological threat re-emerges beyond the Federation’s borders, Captain Malcolm Reed of the U.S.S. Pioneer attempts to track down its origins with help from his old friend “Trip” Tucker. But they discover that other civilizations are eager to exploit this dangerous power for their own benefit, even if the Federation must pay the price!

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Now that the Federation was past its teething pains and finding itself on a firmer footing, I decided that it was time to explore how it would deal with a threat to others, exerting itself as a peacekeeping power. I also wanted to vary the mix of antagonists and bring in a new threat to give the Malurians and Orions a rest, and to allow certain other threads to simmer in the background for a while. I wanted to do something more action-oriented, but I generally prefer to avoid writing space combat scenes too much, since I don’t like having my protagonists kill if it can be avoided. Also, canon strongly suggests that the Federation managed to avoid major wars for the first century of its existence.

But I’ve always been interested in the automated repair station from the second-season episode “Dead Stop,” wondering what its origins and purpose were. It occurred to me that a purely robotic enemy would be just what I needed — I could do space battles without the usual moral qualms, and it wouldn’t be a war per se. More importantly, it would be a chance to answer those lingering questions from the episode, and maybe to touch on why the later Federation seems so mistrustful of robotics and automation. Such a tale would also let me further my exploration of the Andorian Guard division of the early Starfleet and the role they play in the Federation’s defense.

Meanwhile, a parallel plotline on Vulcan was kind of dictated by the fact that I was moving into 2165 — the year Sarek was born. The birth of Sarek was one of the first story possibilities my editor Margaret Clark suggested when she offered the Enterprise books to me. That was why I introduced the pregnant T’Rama (Sarek’s mother) in the previous volume, since I knew I’d be featuring her and her husband Skon more heavily here. Skon’s established role as the translator of The Teachings of Surak into English suggested a story focusing on the Kir’Shara — Surak’s true writings as later rediscovered — through Skon’s perspective, which pointed to a larger examination of how the Kir’Shara and its revelations and reforms had transformed Vulcan society, how those invested in the old status quo were resisting those reforms, and how 22nd-century Vulcan society evolved into the form we first encountered on Enterprise in the first place. Tobin Dax’s established relationship with Skon in the books also gave me an opportunity to bring him to Vulcan and depict a certain part of his backstory that was alluded to in Deep Space Nine, namely his encounter on Vulcan with a Cardassian exile named Iloja of Prim. What was a Cardassian doing on Vulcan over a century before formal Federation/Cardassian contact? That was worth telling, and offered a valuable additional perspective on the political and social upheavals affecting Vulcan at this time.

This time around, I was contracted for a longer book, around 100,000 words instead of 80,000. This gave me room to tell the story in more depth — and to work in that subplot I had to excise from Book 2 for space. However, the Vulcan plot (which I mostly wrote first) still ran much longer than I expected, requiring me to streamline the other plot. Fortunately, I was also under contract for two books this time, and it had always been my plan to explore the automated technology (the Ware, as I call it) in two phases. So I was able to restructure my plans and save much of the story for Book 4. I think it actually works better this way, making for a more focused narrative.

I’m quite pleased with the cover for this one, partly because it was my idea. I normally don’t have a say in cover design, but it occurred to me one day, out of the blue, that if you superimposed the pyramidal shape of the Kir’Shara onto the globe of Vulcan, it would resemble the Vulcan IDIC medallion representing the philosophy of Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations. It struck me as a perfect symbolic image for the story, both for the IDIC and for the image of the Kir’Shara looming over Vulcan and exerting its sway on the whole planet. It struck me so powerfully that I had to write to my editor and suggest it, though with no expectation that my idea would be accepted. But apparently someone liked it, because there it is.

Spoiler discussion and notes


 Live by the Code coverStar Trek: Enterprise — Rise of the Federation: Live by the Code

Admiral Jonathan Archer has barely settled in as Starfleet Chief of Staff when new crises demand his attention. The Starfleet task force commanded by Captain Malcolm Reed continues its fight against the deadly Ware technology, but one of the task force ships is captured, its Andorian crew imprisoned by an interstellar Partnership that depends on the Ware for its prosperity. Worse, the Partnership has allied with a renegade Klingon faction, providing it with Ware drone fleets to mount an insurrection against the Klingon Empire. Archer sends Captain T’Pol and Endeavour to assist Reed in his efforts to free the captured officers. But he must also keep his eye on the Klingon border, for factions within the Empire blame Starfleet for provoking the Ware threat and seek to take revenge. Even the skill and dedication of the captains under Archer’s command may not be enough to prevent the outbreak of the Federation’s first war.

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As I mentioned in my Uncertain Logic discussion, much of the Ware storyline I had in mind for that book needed to be postponed for this one. It made the Ware saga more of a continuous 2-parter than I’d intended. Generally, I like to keep each installment of a series reasonably self-contained and complete. Still, I did manage to divide the Ware narrative into two quite distinct phases, and each novel had its own distinct subplots alongside the Ware story. Also, saving the Ware-using civilization called the Partnership for this volume allowed me to flesh them out in considerably more detail, and to improve on my original Book-4 plans for them. (I’d planned to resolve the Ware affair for the most part in Book 3 and then have some kind of aftermath, resurgence, or retaliation in Book 4, but this more unified approach worked better.)

A key element that helped solidify my Book 4 plans was the release of The Klingon Art of War by my friend Keith R.A. DeCandido. That book was written as a translation of an influential Klingon text spelling out the basic precepts of their civilization, complete with various historical accounts from a Klingon perspective, including two major events that happened within the ROTF time frame. Since Keith wrote the book, it’s consistent with the overall novel continuity, so I figured I should incorporate those events into ROTF. Keith’s text suggested that both incidents happened only a short time after the founding of the Federation, not four years later, but when I consulted Keith about it, he agreed the text was ambiguous enough to allow it. So this reshaped my plans for Book 4. I’d already considered including the Klingons in some capacity, given their proximity to Ware territory, but now I ended up giving them a much bigger role and tying the Ware storyline into the ongoing conflict between the ridged and non-ridged Klingon variants, as introduced in “Affliction” and “Divergence” on Enterprise and developed subsequently in the novels. The Romulan War duology by Michael A. Martin had established that the Klingons intended to withdraw from the galactic stage to deal with their own internal problems for a while, but the Ware situation let me draw them out again, at least for the space of this one book. I haven’t written very much about Klingons before, but TKAOW and Keith’s advice helped me considerably.

The other key element I wanted to bring in, which I seeded in UL, was a visit to Denobula for the wedding of Dr. Phlox’s daughter. Enterprise never visited Phlox’s homeworld, nor did any earlier novel or story, so I felt it was long overdue. I couldn’t resist the challenge of taking the bits and pieces we’d learned about Denobulan culture and assembling them into a larger whole—and particularly working out the rules for Denobulans’ complex marriage and family structure, which proved very, very difficult. Still, I think I managed to develop the culture in an interesting and reasonably coherent way, and I’m glad to fill in that gap. I was able to get additional use out of my Denobulan worldbuilding, in fact, by using 24th-century Denobula as a setting in my upcoming e-novella Department of Temporal Investigations: Time Lock.

I started the writing process with a plan to work systematically and write 25,000 words a month for four months. I barely met my deadline the first month, but then my website crashed, and the work of reconstructing it here on Written Worlds preoccupied me for a time, so I fell badly behind. At six weeks to deadline, I had the novel only half-written. But then something changed. It might be because I’d recently begun drinking coffee. That had been to keep me focused on long drives, but I decided to see if it could improve my focus on my work. At first, it didn’t seem to help much, but once I reached that six-week point, my momentum kicked in and had the most amazing burst of productivity of my career, writing fully half of a 100,000-word novel in just three weeks and getting the first draft finished comfortably ahead of deadline. I don’t know if there was any correlation with the coffee beyond the placebo effect, since I haven’t been able to replicate that feat since then. But you’ll notice there are quite a lot more references to coffee in this book than in anything else I’ve ever written.

Spoiler discussion and notes

  1. May 11, 2016 at 3:01 pm

    I enjoy your ROTF novels as well as the annotations. Thanks again!

  2. May 11, 2016 at 6:43 pm

    I particularly enjoyed the visit to Denobula–and it did ring quite true to all I’d gleaned from earlier mentions of the culture, as well.
    I’m also enjoying the long, slow trek towards–could it be? Mangels/Martin’s future vision for T’pol’s family life from Last Full Measure?
    You left some subtle and not-so-subtle cliffhangers to answer for!
    Thanks for a worthy vision of this period in Trek history.

  3. Innoxa
    May 13, 2016 at 6:39 am

    I very much enyoied the story. I mainly started reading these books because of the unsatisfactory end to the TV series. The death of Trip just seemd unnecessary and it has been great to see his live and relationship with T’Pol extended in the books. So the hint in the current novel about him leaving section 9 and possibly openly returning to friends and family (and love) has me very exited.
    Will there be a continuation in a new book?

  1. May 11, 2016 at 12:44 pm

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