It was recently reported that while Paramount released both Star Trek: The Original Series and Star Trek: The Next Generation on Blu-ray, the same will never be said of Star Trek Deep Space Nine. Which is a real bummer for those of us who feel that, after TOS, Deep Space Nine was the best Star Trek show. But while we may not be getting those classic stories in high-def, we are getting new ones courtesy of such writers as David R George III, whose latest novel, Star Trek Deep Space Nine The Long Mirage (paperback, digital) — in the grand tradition of the show — builds upon some plot points from earlier episodes, I mean novels.
Photo ©2017 Shawhouse/Phil Althouse
To begin, what is Star Trek Deep Space Nine The Long Mirage about, and where does it fit in to the chronology of the TV show?
It’s about 390 pages [rimshot].
The Long Mirage is the latest in a line of literary works that has continued the story of Deep Space Nine forward from the end of the series. On television, DSN ended in December 2375. Since then, numerous novels have advanced the lives of the characters through many years.
The Long Mirage takes place in the beginning of 2386. At that point, Morn has been gone from the Bajoran system for more than two and a half years, and Quark — deeply concerned about his best customer — has hired a private investigator to find him. But when the P.I. goes missing, the barkeep gets suspicious and decides to take action. Meanwhile, Vic Fontaine has likewise been absent. Owing to circumstances, his holosuite program had been running in a testing unit for a couple of years, with no interaction from the outside world. Nog finally managed to upload the program to a holosuite, where he witnessed Vic being abducted by a group of thugs. He has therefore decided to embark on a mission to locate and rescue Vic. While all of that is going on, Ro Laren must deal with the sudden return of Kira Nerys, who has herself been missing for some time; she was believed lost in the wormhole when it collapsed. And Ro and Kira must themselves deal with the arrival from Bajor’s ancient past of a man named Altek Dans, for whom both women have developed romantic feelings.
Where did the idea for Star Trek Deep Space Nine The Long Mirage come from, and how different is the finished book from the original idea?
Well, I’ve been setting up these three major plotlines for some time now in my previous novels. I actually began some of these plot lines as far back as [2012’s] Plagues Of Night, and continued setting them up through [2012’s] Raise The Dawn, [2013’s] Revelation And Dust, [2015’s] Sacraments Of Fire, and [2015’s] Ascendance.
For me, the hearts of literature, and of Star Trek, are theme and character. I’ve been developing these situations for these characters — Quark and Nog and Ro and Kira — that I hoped would be revealing of their deeper layers and also engaging to readers. While I didn’t know precisely how the story lines would resolve themselves when I began to seed them in other works, they did largely follow the paths I thought they would.
Of course, even working from an outline, novels take on lives of their own in the writing of them, and there are always unexpected detours.
As you were writing Star Trek Deep Space Nine The Long Mirage, were there any times when you came up with an idea, only to realize you couldn’t do it because of something that happened in the show or in a previous Deep Space Nine novel? Because I would think that this is less of an issue anyway since the book is set after the end of the show, as opposed to, say, between the fifth and sixth episodes of the third season. Or am I wrong?
No, that never happened. I’m pretty familiar with the Star Trek universe in all its guises, and so when I initially craft a story, I’m cognizant of what I should and shouldn’t do, where the characters should and shouldn’t go.
As far as writing a story that takes place within the timespan of the Deep Space Nine television show, I did do that a couple of times. Star Trek Deep Space Nine The 34th Rule takes place during the show’s fourth season, so I was well aware of the state of affairs for the characters at that time, though that really wasn’t much of an issue. The bigger concern was figuring out how to fit a substantial tale into the framework of an existing story, in a way that did not call attention to itself. The story needed to believably fit as, essentially, a lost episode or episodes. I also set some scenes in Olympus Descending [a short story that appeared in the collection Worlds Of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Volume 3] during the timeframe of the series.
When you write a Star Trek novel, do you try to make it feel like the show?
My first goal in writing a novel is always to write a good novel. Secondarily, but also extremely important, I want to pen a good Star Trek tale. Because what I write takes place in an existing creative universe, I want my book to fit into that matrix, but no, I don’t want it to feel like an episode. There’s only so much storytelling that can be accomplished in forty-two minutes of television. A four-hundred-page novel has more room, allowing a writer to up the degree of complexity, to broaden the scope of what they can achieve. But yes, I want what I write to have the feel of the major characteristics of the series: the possibility of large, dynamic change for the characters, the exploration of various themes, and the like.
One advantage a book has over a TV show is that your budget for special effects is unlimited. Or rather, it can be if you want it to be. Do you take advantage of this, or do you feel that, since the book is supposed to be in the same universe as the show, you have to stay within the confines of what they might’ve done on TV?
There is definitely an advantage to not being restricted by a visual-effects budget. Actually, you can say that not just about effects; you can use characters that could no longer appear because the actors have passed away, or you can set your tale in more than just the few sets that a television show could accommodate. It is a pleasure to be so unshackled, and I take advantage of it when appropriate. But what I do is always in the service of the story, the characters, and the themes.
Now, you’ve written more than a dozen Star Trek novels, including the original series ones Allegiance In Exile and Crucible Kirk: The Star To Every Wandering. How does writing a Deep Space Nine novel l differ from writing one for another Star Trek show?
I’ve actually now written eighteen Trek novels. I would say that there’s not much difference in the actual writing of a book set in one series over another, other than the dictates of the characters and setting. I’m always focused on developing a good story, and then doing my best to bring it to life. It doesn’t really matter which of the Star Trek series I’m writing. What matters is the story I’m trying to tell.
So, finally, what is it about Star Trek that you find so interesting and inspiring as a writer?
The primary thing about Star Trek that initially appealed to me is the same thing that appeals to me now. The series really began as a paean to inclusiveness, to the notions that we’re all in this together, that what unites us is far more powerful than what divides us, that everybody deserves a seat at the table. Being science fiction, Star Trek also allows for the exploration of ideas that bear on the human condition in the present day. For me, the various shows have always been about more than just cool spaceships, aliens, and weapons; they’re about well-defined characters inhabiting a world populated by recognizable characters, all of which allows for the unfurling of compelling tales in a way that shines light on the human condition.