Star Trek: An Ever-Expanding Universe

The penultimate panel of Trek Track at Dragon Con 2017, which convened in Hilton Galleria 2–3 Monday afternoon, featured Keith R.A. DeCandido. The author of over two dozen novels plus a number of novellas, short stories, eBooks and comics, DeCandido offered his insights into a more than 50-year-old universe that continues to expand.

DeCandido began by pointing out that the vast majority of Star Trek books are available in ebook form, the only exception being some of the earliest original series titles. This backlog provides a rich and deep pool of stories upon which to draw and build. A number of authors have penned Trek novels, and editorial changes tend to result in certain authors getting more work while other receive less. DeCandido does not currently have any Star Trek work in progress, but he is hopeful that will change.

One of his closest friends (and a member of his wedding party), David Mack, has written a Discovery novel which will be released the Tuesday following the series premiere. It is a prequel predating the series by about a decade. Mack is working closely with the production staff, including Kirsten Meyers, author of a number of Voyager novels. Meyers is on the Discovery writing staff, serving as the resident Star Trek expert. Her presence facilitates a closer and better synergy between the prose fiction and production on screen.

Everything in Mack’s book is there with the approval of the show’s producers. This will not work as it did when Next Generation premiered thirty years ago and all Diane Carey (author of Ghost Ship) had to work with was the series bible and a single script. Her novel, built upon such a narrow and limited foundation, bore little resemblance to the series and its characters as they eventually developed. DeCandido hopes the Discovery novels will avoid that particular problem.

DeCandido emphasized the importance of moving the Star Trek universe forward by finding the niches and corners of the characters’ lives that haven’t been explored. DeCandido wrote “Letting Go,” a short story focusing on those left behind in the alpha quadrant when Voyager got lost. Janeway’s boyfriend, Mark Johnson, is the story’s protagonist. Inspired by an episode of M*A*S*H, the story explores how friends and family deal with their loss and how they move on.

When asked where to begin reading the literature of the Trek universe, DeCandido gave an overview of the various novel streams. The original series novels continue to tell stories about the adventures of that crew, continuing the tradition. The four spinoffs have all been continuing the stories after their finales. The editorial mandate has been to promote the 22nd and 24th centuries respectively and move the stories forward.

For Enterprise Christopher Bennett has done the Rise of the Federation series, examining the history of the Federation itself. This approach began after the end of Deep Space Nine, in which Marco Palmieri developed Season 8 of the series through novels authored by a number of writers. The Next Generation saga continues through the Ecclesiastes series, which set up the Nemesis film and continues the story post Nemesis.  The Titan series of novels examines the adventures of Captain Riker and Troi on the USS Titan. The post Voyager series of books has tended to be dominated by individual authors penning a series of titles, including Kirsten Beyer, whose work examines Voyager’s intentional return to the Delta quadrant as part of a larger fleet.

The issue of “canon” came up, and for DeCandido, it isn’t really a concern. His priorities are good stories and well-developed characters, not adherence to some canon. He offered the example of the novel Federation and the film First Contact, in which each tells the same story in a very different way. They work well, were well received, and it’s okay that they don’t match.

For those just starting to explore this universe, DeCandido recommended two authors:  David Mack and Una McCormack, each a very prolific Trek author. As the hour concluded, it was apparent to all that not only is the Star Trek universe extremely large, it continues to expand.

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