I’ve been making a bit more writing progress lately. Last week, I received, proofread, and returned galleys for both my upcoming Analog short story “Abductive Reasoning” and my third Star Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations e-novella Shield of the Gods. I’d been starting to wonder when “Abductive Reasoning” would show some movement toward publication, so this is a good sign, though I don’t know the release date yet. As for Patterns of Interference, I got the word last night that the manuscript has been approved by CBS and my final advance payment is routing for approval even now. I hope it arrives before tax day.
Meanwhile, I’ve been working on a review and polish of my previously published original stories with an eye toward putting them together into a collection. That entailed making sure my manuscripts were updated with all the changes made in the final printed versions, except in cases where I wanted to undo those changes or make additional changes. Mostly I tried to be faithful to the published versions, though. Anyway, I’ve gotten that done and now it’s a matter of getting a publisher interested. We’ll see how that goes. With that and the galleys out of the way, I’ve refocused on some new original stories I was working on last year but had to postpone in order to write Patterns of Interference. Well, I actually kind of got stuck because I started writing a story too hastily, before I really had the whole plot worked out. But coming back to it after a break has helped give me a new perspective, and I’ve worked out a couple of things I was stuck on before.
The new Kroger superstore nearby is open now, and I’ve been there three times already — once on foot, twice by car. It’s nice to be able to make smaller grocery trips when I need a few things, instead of just making 2-3 big trips a month and going without certain things for much of the interim. The new store isn’t as big as the other superstores I’ve been to, since its location is more constrained; in fact, they’ve actually had to put the “behind-the-scenes” employee areas up on the second floor, an unusual feature. There’s also an upstairs area for customers, but I haven’t visited it yet. And the shelf space is a bit less expansive. I read an article claiming that they’d compensate by restocking more frequently, but I’ve already noticed a couple of things that they didn’t have in stock while I was there — although there was one they did have in stock by the time I needed it. Anyway, it’s definitely a lot bigger than the old store, and has a lot more features like a pharmacy, deli, Starbucks, and pizza counter. The produce section is laid out pretty much exactly like the one in the gigantic Kroger that opened a year or two ago across from the movie theater I usually go to; I guess it makes sense that the two most recently built stores would use the same design. But it was kind of disorienting the first time I was there.
Reading-wise, I got a couple of new DC trade paperbacks from the library the other day, the second volumes of Batman: The Golden Age (reprinting all the original Batman comics in order from the start) and Wonder Woman ’77. The latter is theoretically based on the Lynda Carter TV show, but my problem with the first volume was that it didn’t feel like the show, just like generic Wonder Woman stories with the likenesses of Carter and Lyle Waggoner. Much of the second volume is like that too, but a couple of the later stories felt more like the show, or more ’70s-oriented at least. (One story brings back a major villain from the show, and another is steeped in ’70s nostalgia like funk music and CB radio.) As for the Batman volume, it’s good to get to see how quickly the character’s tropes fell into place within the first 2 years. These days, you’ll see a lot of people online claiming that the ’40s Batman was a dark, violent, gun-toting character until the Comics Code crackdown of the ’50s, but that’s just wrong. Even though the first year or two of stories were in a violent, pulpy vein, Batman only rarely used guns in them, though he did kill by other means like breaking a neck with a kick or flinging people off roofs. But as early as Batman #4 in December 1940, the dialogue and narration were insisting that Batman and Robin never killed or used weapons — although exceptions were still being made for causing recurring villains Hugo Strange and the Joker to fall to their apparent deaths, since of course they’d surely survive anyway. And B&R were portrayed in a pretty upbeat way, trading wisecracks and bad puns as they fought villains. Volume 2 shows other familiar Batman tropes emerging in 1941, like the Batmobile (a sleek red convertible with a small bat-shaped hood ornament) and the term “Dynamic Duo.” No Stately Wayne Manor or Batcave yet, though — Bruce and Dick live in a house in the suburbs, with a secret tunnel leading to the barn where the Batmobile is kept.
Food-wise, I serendipitously discovered a nice new way to make a sandwich last week. I decided to make a sandwich with tomato, sharp cheddar cheese, and Romaine lettuce on whole wheat bread with olive-oil mayonaisse and spicy brown mustard, served with a pickle spear and a small amount of olive oil potato chips. It was surprisingly yummy, and I’ve made that combo two more times since then, but somehow they weren’t as good as the first. I also recently discovered a second new type of sandwich that’s pretty good: cheddar cheese and apple butter.
Aside from that, I’ve mainly just been watching TV, but maybe I’ll talk about that later in another post.
Hello, everyone — sorry I haven’t been posting lately, but I’ve been really wrapped up in trying to finish Rise of the Federation: Patterns of Interference. This was kind of a rough one, since there were delays getting the contract and approvals through, so I was late getting started and I had to work fast. Which proved difficult, since I was suffering from a vitamin D deficiency that I think was causing me some mild depression and making it hard to focus. So I’ve spent the last month striving to finish the book, which left little mental attention for other writing such as blogging (though I still posted on my bulletin boards regularly because I’m addicted to those). I’m afraid I’ve really been neglecting this blog, and I need to try to refocus on it.
So anyway, PoI is finally done, and we’re expediting the editing process to make up for lost time. It helps that it came out relatively short, about 83,000 words. I figured that, after the big epic 2-part saga of Uncertain Logic and Live by the Code, it was good to do a story that was a bit more intimate in scope. I was influenced by The Next Generation‘s “Family” and Enterprise‘s “Home.” Although that’s only part of the novel’s story. Basically, there’s one really big adventure plotline at the heart of the novel, and a number of more character-driven subplots around it. But there are some major events and changes to the status quo on both scales. So it’s a smaller story, but with big consequences.
Another thing that helped with the tight writing schedule was that I’ve once again managed to recycle a concept from one of my old, unsold original stories as a subplot in PoI. It’s actually a double-recycle of sorts, because I was going to use the premise as the basis for a second Star Trek: Corps of Engineers novella, but that series was cancelled before I got a contract for it. For this version, I kept some of the new worldbuilding ideas I was going to add in the CoE tale, but I’ve actually been able to incorporate a lot more of the original story’s plot and dialogue in this version than I would’ve been able to do there, albeit revised to fit the new characters and relationships. So that saved me some time — although not as much as it could have, since there was a pair of supporting characters that were originally just names spouting dialogue in the material I copied, and I didn’t really work out who they should be and what motivated them until the revision phase, so parts of that sequence got rewritten several times.
I even got to the point where I was afraid that the book would run short, so I was looking through my old unsold fiction (just about all writers have a ton of early stuff they never sold, while they were learning the trade), trying to find some short story or subplot that I could adapt as a story arc for some supporting character to meet my word count. But I couldn’t find anything that was both adaptable to the 22nd-century Trek universe and well enough written to be usable — at least, not from the stuff I could remember, and taking the time to re-read a bunch of old stuff to refresh my memory would’ve defeated the purpose of trying to speed up the process. Fortunately, I managed to come up with enough new material to do the job, and it naturally worked better to add material that grew from the story and characters I had, rather than trying to shoehorn in some unrelated story. As a matter of fact, when I finally reached the end of the novel in the first draft, I was still a little bit short of 80,000 words, and I’d already decided there was one more scene I needed to go back and put in earlier. I did that later the same day, and it put me over the limit, and it wasn’t until I finished it that I finally felt the rush of euphoria and satisfaction that came from finally being finished. Although it didn’t last long, since I still needed to clean up and tighten the draft before I turned it in.
So now I’m finally done with PoI, and I’m free to resume work on some original projects that I’ve had to put off. Currently, I’m starting to explore the possibility of putting together a collection of my original stories, though it’s too early to say whether that will happen. Once that’s done, I need to get back to work on some new stories I have on the back burner, one of which is unfinished. Hopefully I can make some real progress on those and one or two other things before my next Trek project comes along — although I hope that next Trek project comes fairly soon, because I still need to make a living. That’s the paradox — my Trek work is what lets me make enough of a living to pursue the other stuff, but it tends to take up a lot of time that I could be spending on the other stuff instead. Well, I shouldn’t complain — I actually got a lot of original writing done in 2016 while waiting for the go-ahead on PoI. But there was some of it that I didn’t quite get to finish before I had to throw myself fully into Trek writing. Of course, it wouldn’t be as much of a problem if I were better at time management and self-discipline. But I’ve been telling myself that for ages and it hasn’t helped much.
Let’s see, I don’t have much to talk about beyond writing, because I haven’t had much of a life otherwise lately. One bit of good news — the fancy new Kroger they’ve been building next to the university for the past year and a half is finally opening in just a few days, so I’ll finally be able to get groceries from somewhere within walking distance again (although I doubt I’ll try biking there, since I don’t think the adjacent intersection is very safe for biking). And it’s a much larger, more elaborate superstore than the old one in that location, or than the next-nearest one in Walnut Hills, which I never liked going to, and which is actually closing the night before the new one opens. Makes sense, in a way — the store is twice as big, so it’s taking the place of two adjacent ones. Meanwhile, the local co-op store that replaced the old IGA up by Burnet Woods opened last month — nearly a year later than originally touted — and it’s not bad, though not as suited for my needs as the new Kroger will be. I hope it does well, though, since it’s good to have both options. After a year and a half with no grocery stores in the neighborhood, there are now going to be two. (Well, not really — the co-op is about the same distance from me as the Walnut Hills Kroger, but it feels closer to me, probably because I’m more familiar with its neighborhood.)
Well, that’s about all I have to report for now, and it’s lunchtime. I’ll try not to wait so long before posting again.
The word has been out for a little while now, so it’s high time I mentioned it: My next Star Trek novel after the upcoming The Face of the Unknown will be Star Trek: Enterprise — Rise of the Federation: Patterns of Interference, the fifth book in the ROTF series. Here’s the blurb:
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?
The listed publication date is August 29, 2017, which makes it officially the September 2017 book.
Before anyone asks, yes, the title is kind of a nod to the TOS episode title “Patterns of Force,” but it’s not directly related to that episode, aside from dealing with Prime Directive issues. I just thought it was a reasonably good title (it’s a bit of a pun on interference patterns in physics) and the resonance with a prior Trek title was a bonus.
First off, following up on my cover reveal for Star Trek: The Original Series — The Face of the Unknown, Simon & Schuster has also included a listing for an unabridged audiobook adaptation of the novel. I know this is a real thing, since I was recently contacted for input on the pronunciation guide. This will be my third audiobook overall, and my first for a Star Trek project.
Second, Cross Cult, the German publisher of Star Trek novels in translation, has posted the preliminary cover artwork for their translation of Rise of the Federation: A Choice of Futures:
Am Scheideweg = At a Crossroads, apparently. Nice translation for A Choice of Futures.
And I like it that it’s just Star Trek: Rise of the Federation, instead of ST: Enterprise: ROTF. That’s what I would’ve preferred it to be called, since it’s broader than just ENT.
Well, just days after I made a post assessing my own work for its gender/sexual inclusiveness, we get a noteworthy piece of news from the makers of the upcoming Star Trek Beyond: The movie will establish in passing that Sulu has a husband and a daughter. The daughter is most likely Demora, a character established in Star Trek Generations, but the news everyone’s reacting to is that Sulu is married to a man. This is not being treated as a big deal in the movie, but it’s made quite the ripple in popular culture. The makers of Star Trek have been making noises about LGBT inclusion for decades, but they’ve never followed through until now. We got a few indirect attempts, the boldest being DS9’s “Rejoined” and its then-controversial same-sex kiss between Jadzia Dax and her former husband who was now in a female host — and the weakest being TNG’s “The Outcast,” whose attempt at anti-discrimination allegory was undermined by its heteronormative casting and its tedious preachiness at the expense of entertainment value. But the producers claimed they couldn’t figure out an appropriate way to include or reveal a gay, lesbian, or bisexual main character without it being overly preachy or self-conscious or whatever.
Which always seemed disingenuous to me, because a lot of other contemporaneous storytellers had already found the right way to do it, which was just to do it and not make an issue of it — to simply acknowledge the fact that LGBTQ people are already part of everyday life and that their relationships are no different than anyone else’s. Just write characters having relationships the same way you always do, but occasionally make their partners their own sex. This is how I and other Star Trek novelists have been approaching it for nearly two decades, ever since two of the lead female cadets in Susan Wright’s 1998 novel The Best and the Brightest (nominally a Next Generation book, but focusing on an original group of Academy cadets) were subtly established as being in a relationship, and ever since Andy Mangels & Mike Martin’s Section 31: Rogue in 2001 showed the Star Trek: First Contact character Lt. Hawk (who had been rumored as being gay but wasn’t shown to be onscreen) in a relationship with a Trill man named Ranul Keru (now a regular in the Star Trek: Titan series). I’ve done the same thing myself in a number of my books — indeed, in the past couple of Rise of the Federation novels, I’ve mentioned in passing that Travis Mayweather experimented with sexual partners of both sexes in his teens, and I’ve confirmed that Dr. Phlox is bisexual (as John Billingsley always believed him to be). So I technically beat the filmmakers to the punch with “outing” a canonical series-lead character, but only in the books, so it wasn’t definitive and hardly anybody noticed.
Anyway, the point is that including LGBTQ characters is something you can easily do just by treating sexual diversity as a routine part of life, which is what it actually is. That’s worked fine for me, and for my Trek Lit colleagues who’ve done the same. And we’ve seen similar casual inclusion in plenty of other media franchises by this point (e.g. Doctor Who, the DC “Arrowverse,” and Person of Interest), so it’s been frustrating that Star Trek, which made its name by being on the cutting edge of diversity and inclusive casting, persistently fell so far behind the curve on this count. So I’m very pleased to see that that’s no longer the case.
Some have questioned whether it was appropriate to make Sulu gay rather than some other character. George Takei himself has notably objected to this, saying it twists Gene Roddenberry’s original intentions for the character. But a lot of other notable gay voices associated with Star Trek have lauded the change, including Zachary Quinto, David Gerrold, and Andy Mangels. I think Adam-Troy Castro’s take on Takei’s reaction is cogent — that it’s more about an actor’s attachment to his long-established mental model of the character he plays than anything else. (We’ve seen other actors, like Dirk Benedict and Adam West, react poorly to reimaginings of their iconic characters.) After all, Gene Roddenberry was not reluctant to change his intentions. He was the guy who altered the Klingons’ appearance for Star Trek: The Motion Picture and asked fans to assume they’d always looked that way. Creators change their minds after the fact all the time.
And I agree with Simon Pegg’s explanation that it was a better choice to establish this as one attribute of a known character, one we already had an investment in and an image of, than to introduce some new person who would just be there to be “the gay character” and would probably never be seen again after the one movie. It’s not really inclusion if you continue to keep the core cast uniform and just “include” token characters on the fringes. That’s why the Supergirl TV series making Jimmy Olsen black was a better choice than introducing some new minor character to be “the black guy.” The Superman comics tried that with Ron Troupe, and, well, if you’re asking “Ron who?”, then that makes my point for me.
Also, it can be argued that the Sulu of the Kelvin Timeline (I’m so pleased to have an official name for the new movies’ universe now) doesn’t need to have the same orientation as the Sulu of the Prime universe. The Star Trek Chronology conjecturally puts Sulu’s birth in 2237, four years after the timelines split. So even if he’s genetically the same individual (which he doesn’t necessarily have to be, since he could’ve been conceived at a different time, like how Chekov is four years older in this reality), the hormonal and epigenetic factors shaping his pre-natal development could’ve been different, giving him a different orientation — like several of the Leda clones on Orphan Black (Alison is hetero, Cosima is lesbian, Sarah is at least situationally bisexual, Tony is transgender, etc.).
Honestly, we don’t even know for sure that Prime Sulu was heterosexual. By happenstance (or more likely because of racial prejudices that still linger today), Sulu was the one member of the main cast who was never given a romantic subplot. Leila Kalomi in “This Side of Paradise” was going to be Sulu’s love interest (hence her “exotic” name), but was then rewritten to be Spock’s and cast as a blonde woman. He was shown to be affected by the allure of “Mudd’s Women” and “The Lorelei Signal” along with all the other men in the crew, and in the extended cut and novelization of ST:TMP, he’s flustered and aroused by Ilia’s Deltan sex appeal — but it’s worth noting that those were all superhumanly arousing women, so it doesn’t prove that ordinary women would get a rise out of him. A lot of people strongly prefer one sex but are capable of occasional interest in the other.
I don’t count Sulu’s “fair maiden” reaction to Uhura in “The Naked Time,” because he was role-playing as D’Artagnan. Nor do I count “Mirror, Mirror” Sulu’s harassment of Uhura, both because that was another alternate version and because sexual harassment is more about power than attraction. (For all we know, Mirror Sulu harassed Chekov the same way when the camera wasn’t looking.) So that just leaves the somewhat creepy moment in “The Magicks of Megas-tu” where Sulu used the alternate dimension’s “magical” physics to conjure up an illusory woman that he tried to kiss. On the bridge. In front of everybody. Honestly, that’s just wrong on so many levels that I’m happy to ignore it. (I disregard the whole episode anyway. It’s steeped in the Hoylean continuous-creation cosmology that had already been discredited in favor of the Big Bang even at the time, and is now as archaic as a story about canals on Mars or dinosaur-filled jungles on Venus.)
Honestly, when George Takei first came out publicly years ago and I heard people say “So should Sulu be gay now?” I thought he shouldn’t be, because the actor and the character are two different people, and gay actors shouldn’t be typecast as only playing gay characters. But of course, Sulu is now played by a different, heterosexual actor, so that ameliorates it somewhat. And I can see the logic that, since Sulu is the only character who never explicitly had a heterosexual relationship onscreen, he’s the most likely candidate, even aside from who played him. Indeed, David Gerrold commented recently that he always read Sulu as gay.
Things get trickier when you bring the tie-ins into it, because a number of books and comics have shown Sulu in heterosexual relationships, including with Mandala Flynn in Vonda McIntyre’s The Entropy Effect (the book that coined his first name Hikaru), Demora’s mother Susan Ling in Peter David’s The Captain’s Daughter, M’Ress and Kathy Li in Peter David’s DC comics, and a Tokugawa-era concubine in the time-travel novel Home is the Hunter by Dana Kramer-Rolls. True, the books and comics have never had a single, uniform continuity, and the only one of those stories that’s really compatible with the modern novel continuity is The Captain’s Daughter (which I referenced in Ex Machina and Watching the Clock, and which established the characterization of Enterprise-B captain John Harriman that David R. George III has expanded on in several later works). That one’s kind of tricky to get around, given its importance. Still, I expect Sulu’s newly established characterization in Beyond will be reflected in how future novelists write him. As has happened in the past, any inconsistencies will either be glossed over or explained away. After all, anything else would feel like moving backward.
Yesterday’s Cincinnati Library Comic Con main event went reasonably well for me. I haven’t been feeling too well this weekend, but I wasn’t too sick to attend, and it was mostly sitting down anyway. I did have a bit of a problem when I pulled into the library’s mini-loading dock to drop off my books; I had a bit of trouble backing out of the tight space afterward. But I managed to get to the nearby garage and had an easier walk to the library without a bunch of books to carry.
I ended up selling ten books, six of them to my first buyer — who took one of everything except my one last remaining copy of X-Men: Watchers on the Walls, which I didn’t manage to sell to anyone else either. How sad that I couldn’t move an X-Men novel at a comics convention. I did sell off both my remaining mass-market paperback copies of Only Superhuman (aside from my personal copies, that is) and one of the hardcovers of same, though I brought ten of those. Ultimately I didn’t sell out of any of the seven titles I brought, though three were down to a single copy by the end (well, I only had a single copy of WotW to begin with). Still, I made a decent amount of money for one day, and donated 20% to the library, so that’s good.
I didn’t get around to meet many of the other guests, since I wasn’t up to moving away from my table much, but I did chat a bit with Eric Adams, a comics creator who’s met some of my Trek-author friends at another convention, and to the representative of a local Trek fan group called USS Aquila, who had me as a guest at one of their events a few years back. I also talked to a fan who said he’d been the one to inform Dominic Keating that his character Malcolm Reed had become a captain in the books, and that Keating was pleased to learn that, which was cool, since I was the one who made him a captain.
I also overheard while the con staffers ran a game show-style trivia contest for the guests, which went pretty well, except there was one mistake in one of the questions. The desired answer was “tribbles,” but the question asked what animals Harcourt Fenton Mudd peddled, rather than Cyrano Jones. (The only life forms Harry Mudd ever peddled onscreen were women.) And nobody caught the mistake, somehow. It’s odd — that’s the second time I’ve been involved in a convention trivia contest that made a mistake involving Harry Mudd. There was this one many years ago where the “correct” answer for Mudd’s full name was supposedly Harcourt Fenton Mudd the Third (I guess they were confusing him with Charles Emerson Winchester, or maybe misremembering his “Mudd the First” epithet from “I, Mudd”?). Oh, well — I guess if any TOS character is going to be consistently associated with misinformation, it would be Harry.
There were a bunch of cosplayers on hand, of course, including a guy in a pretty good Star Lord costume, and a couple of Ghostbusters that might conceivably have been the same pair I saw up at Cleveland ConCoction, though I’m not sure. There were a couple of people in TOS Klingon garb, including a replica of Mara’s costume from “Day of the Dove,” but they also had an Abramsverse-style Klingon face mask. At one point, a Stormtrooper stopped to look over the items on my table, and I asked him, “Are these the books you’re looking for?” They weren’t, alas.
The closest I came to cosplay: A volunteer gave me some mini-muffins with paper Starfleet logos on toothpicks, and after a while it occurred to me to stick one of the toothpicks behind my nametag (which was in a plastic sleeve on a lanyard, so I didn’t stab myself), so that I’d have a Starfleet insignia alongside my name. It actually worked pretty well, I think.
Anyway, it went pretty well overall, but it did take a lot out of me, and I haven’t been up to doing much of anything since. Which is too bad, because I’m in need of groceries. Well, I’ll try to get plenty of rest today.
A quick reminder that I’ll be at the Cincinnati Public Library’s main branch downtown this Saturday, May 21, from noon to 5 PM for the Cincinnati Library Comic-Con, which has a Star Trek theme this year. I’ll have assorted books on sale, including copies of Rise of the Federation: Live by the Code as well as Only Superhuman.