The Darkness Drops Again Annotations

Original e-book cover

Original e-book cover

Plotting this miniseries in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and the governmental mismanagement that made the disaster worse than it needed to be, Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore were looking for something in a similar vein, wherein a natural disaster struck a planet and Starfleet’s well-intentioned attempts to help created as many problems as they solved.  It was an interesting opportunity to move beyond the TOS formula of Kirk saving a planet in four acts and everyone living happily ever after.

My first suggestion for the disaster was a periodic nova star (like the one in TNG’s “Evolution,” a binary where gas buildup on a white dwarf or neutron star component caused periodic fusion explosions).  Dayton & Kevin’s outline went instead with a stellar eruption or superflare on Mestiko’s sun.  Then — I don’t recall how — I hit upon the idea of a rogue pulsar.  Everyone liked it, so we went with it, and I did the research to get the facts right.  I almost screwed up royally, though, because I forgot we were talking about something that had the mass of a sun and would disrupt the orbits of the system’s planets.  Luckily, Kevin found a neat online applet that simulated a rogue star passing through our solar system, and by tweaking this, we were able to find a set of parameters that would let the idea work without throwing Mestiko out of orbit.  Later on, I happened to read Greg Egan’s novel Diaspora, which coincidentally involved Earth being struck by a devastating radiation front from a supernova.  It gave me some excellent added details to pass along to Dayton & Kevin for their installment (such as the lightning storms), and just in time too, since they were in the process of revising their manuscript.

This was the nature of our collaboration, everyone contributing ideas to the whole.  Eventually, though, I had to focus on my own installment.  As our plans evolved, it became clear that Book 4 would be the one focusing most on Mestiko’s environmental recovery.  It became increasingly clear to me that this story would have to span much of the inter-movie period. This also let me explore that period more fully and introduce some new ideas.  A number of books have assumed Kirk went on a second 5-year mission after TMP, but as Keith likes to point out, this is a somewhat unimaginative take.  Fortunately, there were still years remaining in the gap, so I could postulate that second 5YM and then move on to something different.  Particularly, I wanted to justify why Kirk would accept promotion to the Admiralty a second time.  Hence the idea that he convinced Starfleet to let him use the Enterprise as his personal flagship and take it on occasional missions — thus leaving room for further adventures in this period.  The “little training cruise” in TWOK also fits into this paradigm.

I originally planned to tell how Kirk met Antonia and retired (as established in Generations), but decided to go a different route when Keith suggested we should avoid “milestone” stories of the sort that have been done countless times.  Besides, David R. George III ended up telling that story in Crucible: Kirk: A Star to Every Wandering — although the Crucible trilogy makes different assumptions about the post-TMP period than Ex Machina/The Darkness Drops Again does.  (However, George and I both independently gave Antonia the last name “Salvatori,” after stuntwoman Lynn Salvatori, who “played” her in Generations.)

But figuring out the story on Mestiko was harder.  It took me a while to get it sorted out, but I ended up building on threads suggested in our initial brainstorming, such as fundamentalist objections to Federation reclamation efforts and the exploration of refugee issues.  Putting these together gave me the idea for a fundamentalist revolution that throws out Raya’s government and sends her into exile.  This was intended as a commentary on certain political leaders who deny overwhelming scientific evidence about environmental perils when it doesn’t fit their ideology or self-interest.  But the mar-Atyya were also a reflection of ideological extremism of every stripe, and its universal tendency to cause more problems than it solves due to its aggressive refusal to adapt to reality.  I prefer to look for universal themes rather than to make specific parallels to any one current event.

The scene featuring Captain Terrell is my favorite part of this whole novella.  The Wrath of Khan is not a favorite of mine, but I’ve always liked Paul Winfield and felt that Terrell was a character deserving more exploration.  It was a treat to write in Winfield’s voice, and it inspired some of my best writing, if I say so myself.  From a structural standpoint, though, it’s a problem having a character suddenly show up out of nowhere and take over the story for a scene.  But such is the nature of tie-in literature sometimes.  And in an episodic story like this, maybe it’s okay.

However, I am fond of Harve Bennett’s lyrical dialogue in TWOK and The Search for Spock, and I tried to capture that flavor in the dialogue of Parts 2-3 and the Epilogue — although the Epilogue is more influenced by the rhythms of Ron Moore & Brannon Braga’s Kirk dialogue from GEN, since I watched the cabin scene carefully right before writing it.

Specific notes:

Chapter 1 (On the Air):
An aerostat is a device that remains stationary in the air, like a balloon.  They’ve been proposed as a cheaper alternative to orbital satellites.  In Robert Charles Wilson’s Hugo-winning novel Spin, they become essential to global communication when a mysterious force isolates Earth from outer space.

The idea behind Dr. Lon’s Martian frostbuster moss comes from real articles I’ve read about possible Martian terraforming methods.  I’m not sure who specifically I got the idea from, though it may have been Carl Sagan.

Chapter 3 (Mestiko):
I assume Starbase 49 was founded specifically to help Mestiko.  I chose a number just a little higher than Starbase 47 (from the Vanguard novels), whose construction would have begun not long before the Pulse.

Sulu became the Enterprise‘s second officer in Ex Machina (ExM).  Bolek the Tellarite biologist is also from ExM, and is named for my high-school biology lab partner (whose enthusiasm for dissection made up for my own squeamishness).  I initially included Reiko Onami from ExM in this scene, but she turned out to be redundant so I gave her lines to Uhura.  Since I wanted TDDA to work as an integral part of Mere Anarchy, I toned down direct references to ExM characters and story threads.

Regulan eel-birds are from “Amok Time.”

Chapter 4 (USS Enterprise):
Ensign Ledoux is based on a background crewperson from TMP.  Her surname comes from Harold Livingston’s first-draft script for “In Thy Image,” the TV pilot movie that became TMP.

Ensign Monique Ledoux

Ensign Monique Ledoux

Chapter 8 (Jarol Desert, Kazar):
I couldn’t resist an allusion to Marvel Comics’ Ka-Zar of the Savage Land.

Chapter 9 (Starfleet Academy, San Francisco):
Minara went supernova in “The Empath,” Beta Niobe in “All Our Yesterdays.”

Morrow being “terrible with dates” is my explanation for the continuity error in The Search for Spock when Morrow claims the Enterprise is only 20 years old, an impossibly low figure (since the first pilot, “The Cage,” takes place over 30 years prior).

Chapter 10 (Hertex Star System):
It is standard to begin pulsar labels with PSR, but this is generally followed by a number giving the pulsar’s right ascension and declination in Earth’s sky.  Such a system wouldn’t work for an interstellar federation, so I replaced it with the sector designation and the stardate of discovery.

Mr. Leslie was the busiest extra/bit player in TOS.  More information can be found at Memory Alpha.

Sulu’s time spent in San Francisco raising his daughter is depicted in the novel The Captain’s Daughter by Peter David.

Chapter 11 (Mestiko):
“Cart etDeja” is an homage to John Carter and Dejah Thoris from Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Mars novels.

Chapter 15 (USS Enterprise):
Ensign T’Lara will grow up to become Admiral T’Lara and appear in Deep Space Nine: “Rules of Engagement.”  She also plays a role in The Buried Age, although it’s by accident rather than design that I used her in two consecutive works.

Chapter 16 (VosTraal, Mestiko):
Nizhoni was Chekov’s second-in-command in ExM.  See ExM Annotations.

Chapter 17 (USS Enterprise):
Worene was a security guard in TMP and ExM.  See ExM Annotations.

Starquakes are a real phenomenon occurring in neutron stars, when tensions in their hyperdense crusts are released in much the same manner as an earthquake. Since these crusts are so massive and the gravity so intense, the energy released is immense, causing an enormous gamma-ray eruption.

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