While the Star Trek novels have always adhered to the canon created by the TV shows and movies, they’re not canonical themselves. But they do, ironically, have their own canon, complete with their own ongoing storylines. In the following email interview about his new Trek tale, Star Trek: The Next Generation: Available Light (paperback, Kindle), science fiction writer Dayton Ward not only discusses the inspirations and influences on his sci-fi space opera story, but also how it serves to connects David Mack’s Star Trek: Section 31: Control and Mack’s upcoming Star Trek story, Star Trek: The Next Generation: Collateral Damage (due out October 8).
To begin, what is Star Trek: The Next Generation: Available Light about, and how does it connect to both the show and to previous Next Generation novels?
Captain Picard and the Enterprise have been exploring a region of space we’re calling “the Odyssean Pass” for the past several months, and this time they come across a massive derelict spacecraft. They soon discover there’s more here than what at first appears to be an abandoned ship, and hijinks ensue. Meanwhile, Picard is only just starting to deal with the fallout from revelations about Section 31 and the organization’s involvement in the illegal removal of a Federation president some years earlier. Complicating matters is the inescapable fact that Picard played a role in that affair. So, things aren’t looking too good for him right about now.
Where did you get the idea for Star Trek: The Next Generation: Available Light, and how did that idea evolve as you wrote it?
The Section 31 storyline is a continuation of events depicted in David Mack’s novel Star Trek: Section 31: Control, with effects reaching all the way back to the 9-book A Time To… mini-series from 2004. The other part of the novel was something I came up with in response to my editor’s desire for something along the lines of a “regular Star Trek adventure” where the crew encounters something new and mysterious while exploring strange new worlds, seeking out new life and new civilizations, boldly going, and so on.
As with the other Star Trek books you’ve written, you worked with people at Gallery Books who oversee the literary Star Trek universe. What was their biggest contribution to Star Trek: The Next Generation: Available Light?
None of the Star Trek novels are written in a vacuum. Even when I come up with an idea for a novel, I discuss it at length with my editors Margaret Clark and Ed Schlesinger, and as often as not I’ll reach out to one or more of the other writers who also contribute novels to these ongoing narratives we’ve been weaving these past several years. There were a few emails exchanged with David Mack, for example, as he not only set into motion the events I deal with in Available Light, he’s also writing the book which comes after mine, and we’ve discussed how to take the story forward even beyond what he’s currently developing. Collaboration of this sort is the norm, and it’s actually one of my favorite parts of the entire process.
Jean-Luc Picard is still Captain of the Enterprise in Star Trek: The Next Generation: Available Light. But as we know, Picard is getting his own TV show soon. Did the plans for that show impact what you wrote in any way?
I was aware of the very early planning going on with the new show even as I developed the story for this novel, but I was instructed not to deviate from the plans already in motion. I completed the book and its production was being finalized before we started hearing the first hints about what the new show will bring us. I suspect we’ll start receiving more details about the show very soon, as its own production proceeds and we start getting some direction on how or if it impacts what we’ve been doing in the books.
Are there any writers or specific stories, Star Trek or otherwise, that had a big influence on Star Trek: The Next Generation: Available Light, but not on your earlier Star Trek novels?
David Mack and several of his previous Star Trek offerings obviously have a tremendous influence not just on this novel but on the overall direction of several ongoing storylines. In this case, we’re pulling on threads that have been left dangling for more than a decade, and it’s fun to go back and re-examine those plot points and add to them in new and (hopefully?) unexpected ways. Available Light is the first time I’ve had reason to revisit those events in years, and it’s been a lot of fun (he says with an evil chuckle).
How about non-literary influences; are there any movies, TV shows, or video games that had an impact on Star Trek: The Next Generation: Available Light? Aside from the show itself, of course.
Now, in the previous interviews we did about your books Star Trek: The Next Generation: Headlong Flight [which you can read here] and Star Trek: Discovery: Drastic Measures [which you can read here] we discussed our mutual love of the band Rush. Aside from the title, how many Rush references did you sneak into Star Trek: The Next Generation: Available Light?
What, and give away all the surprises? Where’s the fun in that?
The plot of Star Trek: The Next Generation: Available Light makes it sound like it could work as an episode of the show. Do you think so, too?
Star Trek: The Next Generation was largely a very episodic series, and the tone of this story, particularly with all the Section 31 revelations, gives it a scope I think is a little bigger than a typical episode. On the other hand, I suppose the basic premise of the Enterprise dealing with the derelict could serve as the basis for an interesting installment of the series or perhaps a role-playing or video game scenario. I may have to give this some more thought.
Lastly, if someone enjoys Star Trek: The Next Generation: Available Light, what novel of someone else’s that’s based on a TV show, movie, or video game would you suggest they read and why that?
First, I can’t not mention David Mack, whose Star Trek: The Next Generation novel Collateral Damage will be out later this year, and is a direct follow-up to Available Light. It’s utterly appropriate that Dave gets the chance to pour more figurative gas on the proverbial fire he started with Control, right?
Also, I’m going to use this opportunity to boost the signal for friend and fellow author Keith R.A. DeCandido, whose novel Alien: Isolation will be out in July 2019. It’s based on the game of the same name but will include a lot of new material. As I told him just a week or so ago when we crossed paths at a convention, I’m eagerly waiting to read this one.