Master of His Craft

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The Trek Track began the final day of Dragon Con by welcoming David R. George III to the Hilton Galleria. George is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author who has written eighteen Star Trek novels to date. As to the session’s title, “Rewriting the Rules,” George was a bit uncomfortable, as he wasn’t sure that he was “rewriting” anything. Upon reflection, he did note that his novels tend to be considerably longer than the traditional Star Trek titles. When he began writing, the average length of a book was 75,000–80,000 words (approximately 275–300 pages). He prefers telling more complicated stories, which means his work tends to be much closer to 135,000–140,000 words.

George has been fascinated with storytelling since he was a child and knew early that he wanted to be a writer. After graduating from university with a degree in Mathematics, he began penning scripts for television. An episode he wrote for Quantam Leap didn’t get picked up, but it did get him an agent. That in turn led to George co-authoring a script for the season 1 Star Trek: Voyager episode, “Prime Factors.” That story opened the door and eventually led to his first Star Trek novel. Seventeen titles later, he’s still going strong.

A lot of George’s work has been concentrated in the world of Deep Space 9. Those tend to continue the stories of the characters since the last episode. DS9 ended in the year 2375, and the stories he’s written begin a decade later. He gave high praise indeed to Rick Berman and Michael Piller (especially) for creating such a textured and rich landscape. There’s a complexity to the world that just wasn’t possible with the original series. When you consider all that the creators set up—from the federation occupying a Cardassian vessel and a Commander who’s a widower raising a child on his own, to the deeply spiritual Bajorans and a wormhole that provides access to another quadrant—it is incredibly rich.

Like many who are drawn to Star Trek, George has found its positive message appealing for a long time. He watched the original series as a child and knew even then that there was something special about it. George is particularly drawn to the program’s embrace of inclusiveness. He sees this as an important ideal to aspire to, and although it took too long for Star Trek to diversify and get characters like Benjamin Sisko out front, it was always moving in the right direction.

When asked about limits or parameters he has to consider when dealing with these characters, George spoke highly of his editors and their guidance. Whether past or present, his editors have been open to taking these characters where they need to go in order to tell the story. Good stories drive the process, not necessarily strict adherence to canon. That’s not to say there is no sense of continuity, however. Often, it’s the editors who, because of their familiarity with the Star Trek universe and the authors working in it, are able to help preserve continuity. As for the power of the editor, George declared that he always tries to make suggested editorial changes whenever he can. He won’t always agree, and in those moments, he and the editor talk it through. What’s important to remember, however, is that the editor is trying to make the book better.

As the hour wound down, an aspiring writer asked him for advice about the craft. His response was simple but quite powerful: “Write.” If you want to be a writer you must write every day. “The more you write, the better you will get.” George felt, though, that there was a natural and fundamental corollary to writing: reading. Aspiring writers should read, a lot, and pay attention to how the author is telling the story. “The world is full of good writing,” George declared. We need to find it, enjoy it, and learn from it. Sage advice from a master of his craft.

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