Star Trek Short Fiction
In the wake of “Ferengi Love Songs,” Quark is eager to exercise his renewed Ferengi business license and become a financial force to be reckoned with once again. But his priorities are tested when he’s reunited with his old Klingon flame, the Lady Grilka. Will true love exact too high a price?
This was my first work of Star Trek fiction published in print form, following my debut with the e-book SCE: Aftermath. This time the invitation came from editor Marco Palmieri, another TrekBBS regular. Marco is the editor of the acclaimed DS9 Relaunch novels which advance the saga beyond the end of the TV series. But the idea behind this anthology was to tell stories set during the series’ run, stories which would shed new light on the growth and changes which the characters and their relationships went through. The first idea I thought of was based on a question I’d been wondering about for years: Whatever happened to Grilka? In “Looking for Par’mach in All the Wrong Places,” she and Quark became lovers, but then we never saw her again. I’ve always wondered what could’ve happened to their relationship. I’m thrilled to have the chance to provide the answer to that question.
In “Survival Instinct,” Lt. Marika Willkarah was liberated from the Borg Collective but left with only a month to live. She chose to live out her final days as a member of Voyager‘s crew. This is the story of those final days and the impact she has on her crewmates, most especially a certain Ensign Harry Kim.
- “…a tender and poignant story of the former Borg drone Lt. Marika Willkarah’s last weeks. Bennett’s prose exhibits great sensitivity…” — Jackie Bundy, Trek Nation
The mandate for this anthology was to explore missed opportunities from the series. I went through the show and developed several proposals, but the one that most intrigued editor Marco Palmieri was this one, exploring the final days of Lt. Marika (Bertila Damas) from “Survival Instinct.” Since the array of alien makeups seen on the Markonian outpost in the episode included some recycled Voth masks from “Distant Origin,” a personal favorite episode, I was able to work the Voth into the story and follow up on another missed opportunity.
The natives of Sigma Niobe II are unaware that aliens walk among them, watching them but forbidden to interfere by their Prime Directive. But who is really watching whom?
- “Don’t make hasty judgments. Things are not always as they seem. There will always be surprises. There’s a lesson to be learned here — but who needs to learn it is the real surprise.” — from the Introduction by David Gerrold
- “…a unique and extremely intriguing look at how a first-contact situation can go awry if handled wrong.” — Bill Williams, TrekWeb
When the call first went out for story pitches to Constellations, it was a tough challenge to meet. We were asked to avoid the usual episode sequels and gap-fillers and continuity-weaving ideas, because that’s been done so many times with TOS over the past 40 years. The mandate was to come up with effective, original standalone stories that still managed to reveal new things about the TOS characters and universe. And being deprived of the usual shortcuts and fallbacks made it hard. I was only able to come up with one or two really decent ones, not the 3-4 that would be expected, so I never bothered to send in a pitch. A few months later, Marco Palmieri wrote to me specifically and asked me to come up with something for it; perhaps the anthology was running short or something. What he asked for were sense-of-wonder stories, big ideas and adventures. And he needed them quickly. I slapped together a couple of promising but half-formed ideas and threw in the best of the ideas I’d had before, a proposal I called “Hidden Truths.” Of course, that was the one Marco chose.
Writing the story went pretty quickly and smoothly, but Marco and I had the hardest time settling on a title. We considered all sorts of things involving veils and masks. Several times I suggested “How Not to Be Seen,” an homage to a classic Monty Python sketch, but Marco never went for it. Finally, as we were coming down to the wire, I suddenly thought, “How about a bit o’ Robbie Burns: ‘As Others See Us’?” And that was the only title Marco and I could agree on. Although I still like to think of it as “How Not to Be Seen.” (Actually I almost talked Marco into it, but I decided that since we were going for a TOS feel, it would be better to use an authentically TOS-style title rather than an allusion to another show. But that didn’t stop Jeffrey Lang from writing a Constellations story called “Where Everybody Knows Your Name.” Shows what I know.)
In the months following Star Trek: Generations, Data’s emotion chip enables him to take part in an experiment to achieve fuller communication with the Tamarian people (“Darmok”). But Data’s struggles to master his new emotions may jeopardize the experiment, the fragile peace with the Tamarians, and Data’s very identity!
- “[A] Data story that intelligently addresses the issue of Data’s emotions, with and without the emotion chip; it’s a must-read for Data fans.” — Steve Roby, Starfleet Library
- “It’s a story that is unusual for Star Trek, but well written and well worth a slice of your time. You could take out the references to Trek and this would still be a good science fiction story.” — Charles Packer, Sci-fi Online
For a while now, I’ve been hoping I could get the grand slam: stories in all the Trek anniversary anthologies. With “Friends With the Sparrows,” I get my wish — at least unless an Enterprise anniversary antho comes along. I’m also the only author who’s been in all four anthologies, though Keith R.A. DeCandido and Jeffrey Lang have been in three each.
Anyway, as for the story idea, the genesis is kind of personal. When the invitation came, I was dealing with some issues pertaining to my own emotional control and personal interactions, and I realized that Data might have been going through similar difficulties in the wake of gaining his emotion chip in Generations. I wanted the chip itself to be central to the story, and I approached it in terms of a device that altered the way Data thought and perceived the world. It occurred to me that might have applications for communication with aliens whose way of thinking is hard to grasp.
And naturally, my favorite Trek story about communication problems was Joe Menosky’s brilliant “Darmok.” I jumped at the opportunity to follow up on the Children of Tama and explore their psychology and culture in more depth, as well as trying to offer possible answers to some of the credibility questions that have been raised about the Tamarian language in the episode. I assembled a list of all the Tamarian phrases from the script, tried to discern the grammar of the language, and did some research in linguistics to help me fill in the gaps.
The story title, of course, is a line from “If I Only Had a Heart,” the Tin Woodman’s song in The Wizard of Oz: “I’d be friends with the sparrows / And the boy who shoots the arrows / If I only had a heart.” It makes a nice fit with the story, and is one of the few cases where Marco, my editor, liked my first suggestion for the title.
Tamarian Grammar This is my analysis of the Tamarian language, which I wrote in the development phase of this story. It contains some ideas and extrapolations that didn’t make it into the story itself.
In another reality, with no Starfleet and no USS Titan, comrades and crewmates become bitter enemies. When Doctor Ree assists the Klingon-Cardassian Alliance in exploiting the gentle Irriol people for their empathic powers, resistance fighters Will Riker, Tuvok, and Ian Troi must stop them, and Doctor Jaza Najem and his Terran slave Christine Vale are caught in the middle. But who are the real heroes and the real villains?
The invitation was simple this time: Would I be interested in doing a Mirror Universe story featuring Titan characters? Beyond that, the requirement was to stay in continuity with the two MU anthologies from 2007, which also tie into recent and upcoming DS9 novels. As such, I also had to set my story before those novels and avoid the Bajoran sector.
I can’t say much about the genesis of the idea without getting a bit spoilery, not only of this story but one of the others in the anthology. So I’ll save that discussion for the spoiler notes. I will say that I wanted to subvert the usual expectations about who the good guys and bad guys are in the Mirror Universe.