When Star Trek: Enterprise went off the air in 2005 after four seasons, fans of the show were understandably disappointed. But as with the other shows, being cancelled didn’t end the adventure for the original Enterprise and her crew. In Star Trek Enterprise Rise Of The Federation Patterns Of Interference (paperback, digital), writer Christopher L Bennett extends their tour of duty once again for the fifth time book in his Rise Of The Federation series, further exploring the formative years of The Federation.
To start, what is the Star Trek Enterprise Rise Of The Federation series about, and how does it connect, both chronologically and narratively, to the show and the other Star Trek Enterprise books that have come out?
Star Trek Rise Of The Federation is pretty much what it sounds like: a series about the early years of the United Federation Of Planets following its formation in the wake of the Earth-Romulan War. The story of the war was told in the first four novels set after the final season of Star Trek Enterprise — The Good That Men Do and Kobayashi Maru by Andy Mangels and Mike Martin, and the two-part The Romulan War by Martin [The Romulan War: Beneath The Raptor’s Wing and The Romulan War: To Brave The Storm] — ending with the founding of The Federation.
My series has been about what comes next: the growing pains of The Federation, its attempts to define itself and what it stands for, and its conflicts with those within and without who disagree with its goals. It’s told largely from the perspective of the Enterprise characters, who have spread out to different roles in different places, but it gives equal prominence to other characters known to have lived in the 22nd century, such as Tobin Dax and the crew of the U.S.S. Essex, as well as the occasional ancestor of characters we know from later centuries.
Cool. And then what specifically is Star Trek Enterprise Rise Of The Federation Patterns Of Interference about, and how does it fit in with the other books, especially your previous Rise Of The Federation novel, Star Trek: Enterprise: Rise Of The Federation: Live By The Code?
Patterns Of Interference has two main threads, both growing out of the events of Live By The Code, which was the climax of a two-part arc that began in Rise Of The Federation: Uncertain Logic. One is Admiral Jonathan Archer’s attempt to convince Starfleet to adopt a non-interference policy, the beginnings of what will become The Prime Directive. The other is the attempt by Charles “Trip” Tucker to get out of the role he’s been in for the previous eight books, which is an agent of the Section 31 conspiracy, and to expose and tear down Section 31 in the process. In the book continuity, Tucker faked his death to go undercover prior to The Romulan War, and has continued as a spy ever since. Tucker’s side of the story takes the narrative back to the planet Sauria, which was featured in the first two Rise Of The Federation books — A Choice Of Futures and Tower Of Babel — and ties into the plans of the main villains that were featured in those books.
Where the other characters are concerned, I’m taking a quieter approach, giving them more character-driven stories in the vein of The Next Generation episode “Family” and Enterprise‘s “Home.” After the epic events of Live By The Code, I figured they and the readers could benefit from a change of pace.
Where did the original idea for Star Trek Enterprise Rise Of The Federation Patterns Of Interference come from, and how different is the finished book from that initial idea?
The idea mainly grew out of the threads building up over the previous several books. I’d been planning to do both the Section 31 story and the non-interference story for some time, and after the way Live By The Code turned out, this felt like the right time to do them both.
But there is a subplot in the book that’s based on an original story I wrote about twenty years ago and never sold. I wanted to have a classic Starfleet exploration story, something that was pure science fiction to balance out all the political and personal stuff, and I’ve always liked the aliens and world building I came up with for this story, so I was glad for the chance to get them into print at last.
Star Trek books all go through an approval process, which makes sure they don’t contradict anything in the movies, shows, games, comics, or other books. First, does that group have a name, like how the ones that oversee the Star Wars stuff are called the Lucasfilm Story Group?
They’re just called CBS Consumer Products, the same division that handles licensing for every CBS-owned property. The main person there in charge of approving Star Trek tie-ins is John Van Citters, who does a great job keeping things consistent.
So what impact did Mr. Citters have on Star Trek Enterprise Rise Of The Federation Patterns Of Interference?
Both my outline and my manuscript were approved with no requested changes. The series has been going on long enough that we’re all pretty much on the same page by now.
As you said, Star Trek Enterprise Rise Of The Federation Patterns Of Interference is centered around the characters of Admiral Jonathan Archer, who was played on the show by Scott Bakula [NCIS: New Orleans], and Section 31 agent Trip Tucker, who was played by Connor Trinneer [Stargate: Atlantis]. And, in fact, it’s Trinneer’s face on the cover. In all your time writing Star Trek novels, Enterprise or otherwise, have you ever heard from anyone in the cast?
Not really. I once was at a convention with Anthony Montgomery [who played Ensign Travis Mayweather on Star Trek: Enterprise] and mentioned to him that he was a first officer in my books, and recently got to give Marina Sirtis [who played Counselor Deanna Troi on Star Trek: The Next Generation] a copy of Titan: Orion’s Hounds, which features Troi on the cover. But in both cases, that was me reaching out to them, not the reverse.
Are there any writers, or specific novels, that you feel were a big influence on Star Trek Enterprise Rise Of The Federation Patterns Of Interference, but did not have as big of an impact on the previous books in this series, or, for that matter, any of your previous novels?
There was some influence, in a sense, from David Mack’s Section 31: Control, since we were both doing Section 31 stories, and we compared notes to make sure we stayed consistent with each other. The fact that he was doing that story also influenced me to take mine in a distinctly different direction. Since both books would come out in the same year, I wanted to make sure it wouldn’t feel repetitive to the readers. Of course, Dave and I have very different storytelling sensibilities, even though we see eye to eye on a lot of things. So it was probably inevitable that our books would take very different approaches, yet still have compatible points of view.
What about non-literary influences; are there any movies, TV shows, or video games that you think had an influence on Star Trek Enterprise Rise Of The Federation Patterns Of Interference? Besides Star Trek, of course.
My main influence, I think, has come from current events. I wrote this book in the wake of the 2016 election, and its plot converged with real-world concerns in a way that let me engage in a lot of the social commentary that Star Trek has always embraced. If anything, events in the past month or so have only made the book’s commentary more relevant.
Unless I’m mistaken, Star Trek Enterprise Rise Of The Federation Patterns Of Interference is not the last book in your Star Trek: Enterprise: Rise Of The Federation series. What can you tell us about the future of this series?
The future’s a bit hazy at the moment. I’m not currently under contract for any more books, but I hope that will change before long. I do have ongoing story threads that I expect to take a few more books to resolve, but the future of the series isn’t firmly worked out. My plans have already changed in some ways over the course of this series, with some storylines coming sooner or later than I originally thought they would, and new ideas being folded in along the way.
Now, this is off-topic, but it’s always struck me as odd how little of modern pop culture has been referenced in Star Trek. There’s been a bunch of literary references — Moby-Dick, Shakespeare, Sherlock Holmes — and I think Riker mentioned a jazz trombonist once, but no one’s ever mentioned The Beatles, The Simpsons, or Star Wars. Are people who write Star Trek books told they can’t make references to these things?
There have been occasional references. A character in a Diane Duane novel once cited Devo as classical music. There’s a Deep Space Nine novel with a holosuite program that’s implicitly based on the Aliens franchise, though that isn’t overtly stated. One of my earlier Rise Of The Federation novels has a couple of characters watching the movie Our Man Flint and alluding to Mission: Impossible, and there was also a James Bond reference or two in that book, and again in Patterns Of Interference. In Department Of Temporal Investigations: Watching The Clock, I had a character who’d grown up in the 20th century reflect on the science fiction TV she’d been aware of in the ’70s, which required speculating about what sci-fi TV would’ve been like without Star Trek.
Indeed, I think that’s the tricky thing about referring to post-1960s pop culture in the Star Trek universe: the fact that a lot of post-1960s pop culture references or is influenced by Star Trek as a work of fiction. Which gets messily metatextual if you’re not careful.
What bothers me more is that there doesn’t seem to be any human popular culture in the Star Trek universe more recent than the 20th century. Everyone’s a fan of Shakespeare or Robin Hood or Westerns or 1930s movie serials or pulp detective novels, but why is nobody a fan of, say, the poetry of the Post-Atomic Horror, or Martian colonial-era adventure stories? All the future culture we see is alien, such as Klingon opera or Cardassian enigma tales. I’ve tried to seed references to future human pop culture in a few of my Star Trek books, and indeed there’s one such reference in the very first scene of Patterns Of Interference.
On a somewhat related note, your fellow Star Trek author Dayton Ward [Star Trek: The Next Generation: Headlong Flight] has admitted to sneaking in references to the band Rush in his stories, and he outed David Mack [Star Trek: Section 31: Disavowed] as having done the same thing. Did you sneak any funny references into Star Trek Enterprise Rise Of The Federation Patterns Of Interference that you can now admit to since the book is out?
There is a pun-loving character who has a couple of lines paraphrasing old songs from the 1950s and ’60s. There are also nods to Casablanca and the films of Hayao Miyazaki, but not as jokes.
Finally, if someone enjoys Star Trek Enterprise Rise Of The Federation Patterns Of Interference, and they’ve read all of the other books in your Rise Of The Federation series, what non-Star Trek novel would you suggest they read and why that? And just to keep it interesting, let’s take John Scalzi’s Star Trek-inspired Redshirts out of the running.
Funny you should mention Redshirts, since I just read it a couple of weeks ago.
People who like my Star Trek fiction might like my original fiction, such as the hard-sci-fi superhero novel Only Superhuman or the e-book collection Hub Space: Tales From The Greater Galaxy. I have another original project that I should be announcing soon. As for other books similar to mine, readers might enjoy the work of Poul Anderson or David Brin. Perhaps the nicest compliment I’ve gotten for my writing was from an agent who compared my work to that of Kim Stanley Robinson.