When the original Star Trek series was cancelled in 1969, it cut short the Enterprise’s five year mission. But thanks to such writers as Tony Daniel — the author of the new novel, Star Trek The Original Series Savage Trade (paperback, digital) — Kirk and co. have been able to fulfill their obligations to Star Fleet. Though in talking to Daniels about the book, it seems like he wasn’t just interested in telling another story of Kirk and co.
I always like to start at the beginning. What is Star Trek The Original Series Savage Trade about, and where does it fit in, chronologically, with the original Star Trek TV show and movies?
It’s set some time after the third season of the original series. There are aliens in the book that we’ve seen before in a season three original series episode, but it’s been a while since Kirk and co. have had to deal with them. In fact, apart from the Horta, they are my favorite original series alien species.
Where did the original idea come from?
Oh, it was my idea. I was asked to pick a Star Trek era, pitch an idea, and then write an outline. The outline was vetted. With a couple of key changes suggested by my perceptive editor Margaret Clark, who literally wrote the book on Star Trek particulars, my outline was approved and I got to writing.
When Star Trek The Original Series Savage Trade begins, the Enterprise is headed towards a Federation outpost that’s not returning its phone calls. Which is not an uncommon way to begin a Star Trek story. Were you ever concerned that this might seem like a cliché way to start, or does it just make sense that reception is spotty in deep space?
I think that it’s a classic way to start a Star Trek story, and it was a deliberate homage. But there’s twist on the situation as soon as they get to the outpost that is certainly not what one might expect, I believe. The landing party discovers some very anachronistic items there as they are searching, which opens up the larger mystery of just what was being studied at this supposed scientific outpost. Or who.
So do you think the story you tell in Star Trek The Original Series Savage Trade could’ve worked as an episode of the original show?
That was my aim from start to finish. I was shooting for that blend of great characters in a great story that the original series did so well. Someone told me that my first Star Trek novel, Devil’s Bargain, read as if it were an episode in the series, and that made me very pleased. I would love to watch season four, season five — heck, season twenty, even — of the original series, if only they existed. As a fan, I’ve often imagined those stories. It was a blast to get to tell one.
As you mentioned, this is your second Star Trek novel; in 2013 you released Star Trek: The Original Series: The Devil’s Bargain. How did working on Star Trek The Original Series Savage Trade compare to Devil’s Bargain?
This one was harder in that Devil’s Bargain has the Horta in it, and they are my all time favorite Star Trek alien species. I like aliens that are really weird and, well, alien. So I tried to pick out another species for Savage Trade that struck me in much the same way in the original series.
Both of your Star Trek books are set in the time of the original series. What is it about that era that you like so much? Or is it more that you’ve just coincidentally written both novels about the same time?
Nah, I love that era because it is what I grew up with. I would come home from school, plop down on my comfy ’70s-era bean bag chair, and watch the original series on WTBS out of Atlanta. The other series didn’t start up until I was an adult, and they didn’t leave that sort of deep impression on me that the original series did. It’s an emotional as well as an intellectual attachment.
I do like the others, however. My best friend Michael Taylor wrote one of the Deep Space Nine episodes that’s considered a classic, and he was a staff writer on Voyager. I visited the Voyager set and hung out with several of the other writers, which was a great experience.
So if you could write about another era of Star Trek, which would you pick and why?
I kind of like the Swiss Family Robinson aspect of Voyager. They were completely cut off and had to be self-reliant.
As you know, all author interviews are legally require to include a question about your influences. Thus: What authors do you consider to be your biggest influences, both in terms of what you write and how you write, and which of those do you think were the biggest influences on Star Trek The Original Series Savage Trade?
I wanted to tell a straightforward story with some cool twists and turns and some good character moments. Which is exactly what I think was the strength of the original series. So definitely the show itself was an influence.
But truthfully, I have been influenced by just about every genre of fantasy and science fiction there is, and every medium in which it can be had. I’m also a bit of a history buff, and I thought bringing in some pseudo-historical characters would be fun, which it was. And I got to read some great biographies in preparation.
Now we should point out that you are not the same Tony Daniel whose written some Batman comics, that’s Tony S. Daniel. Though I’m guessing you’ve been confused for him before, and vice versa. Have you two ever met? Are you familiar with his work?
Yes. People don’t confuse us that much, but I do get an occasional email where someone effuses on my wonderful work, and it turns out to be the other guy. I always hate to burst their bubble. Ah well.
Aside from writing, you also work as an editor at Baen Books. Do your bosses at Baen ever get annoyed that you’re essentially moonlighting for another publisher?
Nah, my boss is very happy for me to write them. And I’m not exactly working for a rival. Baen is distributed by Simon And Schuster, after all.
Oh, that’s cool. So finally, if someone really enjoyed Star Trek The Original Series Savage Trade and wanted to read one of your other books, which would you recommend and why?
Guardian Of Night might be a good place to start.