Author Archive

How the U.S. surveillance state inspired Section 31: Control

Yesterday my latest Star Trek novel, Section 31: Control, was published by Pocket Books. Today I answered a few questions for Anthony Pascale over at TrekMovie.com about the inspirations behind Control, and how I think Section 31 fits into the fabric of the Star Trek fictional universe.

Here’s a brief snippet from our in-depth exchange:

Mack on Section 31 and Julian Bashir’s Quest

TrekMovie.com: As noted on the back cover description for Control, Section 31 is as an “amoral” organization working on behalf of the Federation. It was yet another dark and controversial introduction into Trek lore from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, a show which you worked on as a writer. What do you say to those who feel Section 31 doesn’t fit into the more utopian Roddenberry vision of the 24th century as seen on Next Generation and Voyager?

David Mack: I can’t speak to what Gene Roddenberry would have thought of Section 31. What I do know is that while humanity has often aspired to live in utopias, in fiction they tend to be deadly dull. Even one of the most famous utopias, the Garden of Eden, wasn’t terribly interesting until the Serpent arrived to bring temptation and crash the whole thing down.

That said, I can certainly understand the objections of Star Trek fans who feel that the mere existence of Section 31 undermines all that the Federation stands for — and that’s a view shared by many of the principal characters of the various series, particularly Doctor Julian Bashir.

One thing I’ve never understood is why even a small subset of Star Trek fandom would want a Star Trek: Section 31 television or film series. If there’s one thing the show and novels have always been clear about, it’s that Section 31 are not the heroes, and they do not deserve to be presented as people for whom we should desire success.

There’s a lot more at the link, so go check it out!

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Be afraid — SECTION 31: CONTROL has arrived | #SFWApro

Good morning, Star Trek fans! It’s the last Tuesday of a month, and you know what that means. A new Star Trek novel has been published by the fine folks at Simon & Schuster imprint Pocket Books! This month’s new Star Trek adventure is one of mine: the harrowing thriller Section 31: Control.

Star Trek - Section 31 - Control - cover image of Julian Bashir

Here is the description from the back cover:


SECTION 31

NO LAW.
NO CONSCIENCE.
NO MERCY.

Amoral, shrouded in secrecy, and answerable to no one, Section 31 is the mysterious covert operations division of Starfleet, a rogue shadow group pledged to defend the Federation at any cost.

The discovery of a 200-year-old secret gives Doctor Julian Bashir his best chance yet to expose and destroy the illegal spy organization. But his foes won’t go down without a fight, and his mission to protect the Federation he loves might end up triggering its destruction.

Only one thing is for certain: this time, the price of victory will be paid with Bashir’s dearest blood.


In a perfect world, tens of thousands of you would have pre-ordered this book months ago. However, since I can’t count on that, I’m going to urge you to buy one or more copies of Section 31: Control for yourself and/or the Star Trek fan in your life.

Trust me — this is one action-packed, blood-soaked adventure you won’t want to miss. It’s the alpha-and-omega of Section 31 stories, and there’s a good reason I asked my editor to make sure its cover was the color of blood….

Control is available now from all your favorite retailers, and directly from the publisher. Signed copies will soon be available through my website’s online store, so be on the lookout for that. Until then, happy reading!

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Farewell, Mister Puck, Greatest Cat of All Time

Today has been a day of mourning here at Chez Mack-Bain. We had to say good-bye to our beloved feline friend Mister Puck. We got to spend just over twelve years of our lives with him, and in that time we came to love him more than we can express.

Puck as a kitten on our dining tableHe was born in early November of 2004, and we adopted him on March 6, 2005. It had been a case of love at first sight. Kara spotted him, a shivering orange-and-white fluff, across a crowded room at the Union Square Petco. She knew the moment she saw him that he was the kitten for her, and for us. I wasn’t so sure, but her passion for him persuaded me.

He had come to us slightly feral and terrified. When we first got him home, all he wanted to do was hide. To get him to eat, Kara had to feed him bits of wet cat food from her fingertips.

Puck as a kitten in his towerIn time he learned to be less scared, but he was always a clumsy thing, and small for his age, probably due to a period of malnutrition during a crucial early growth phase. His rear feet were absurdly pigeon-toed, and as a result he wobbled when he walked, and when he ran he sometimes hopped like a bunny. He was perpetually skittish, terrified of his own shadow, and a neurotic creature of habit.

Though he never really warmed up to strangers (with only a few rare exceptions), he soon came to be very affectionate with me and Kara. He would lounge behind our heads when we sat on the sofa; hip-check our heads as he strolled along from one end of the sofa to the other; flump against me in the mornings (or afternoons, when he felt I had slept in too long); cuddle up against Kara as she went to sleep at night. He loved his spot under the sofa, atop his kitty tower by the window, under the bed in my office, and on top of our radiator in the winters.

Puck asleep and awkward in his tower.Aside from some plaque on his teeth, his last physical had turned up nothing out of the ordinary. So we were concerned when his behavior changed abruptly after the holidays this year. He became asocial, choosing to hide from even us, and his appetite deteriorated. As a lifelong companion of cats, I knew these were bad signs.

We brought him to the vet in early January of 2017; the first visit turned up nothing amiss. His blood work was perfect, all tests of his organ function were optimal. His weight was down a little, but there were no warning signs for diabetes or hyperthyroidism, or anything else. We were baffled, but thought maybe he had just gone through a blue funk of some sort.

A couple of weeks later, while petting Puck’s face, Kara felt a hard mass under the skin on the left side of his throat. We immediately took him back to the vet, and this time we insisted on x-rays, which revealed a tumor-like mass. The doctor took a sample for biopsy. The plan was, if the tumor was benign, just an annoying fatty tumor, we would surgically excise it. That threatened to be an expensive process, but I was prepared to pay the cost. “Let’s go to work,” I told the doctors.

Puck in a WindowA few days later they had the biopsy results. It was a malignant squamous cell carcinoma, and it was not just in his throat but attached to his jugular vein, which meant it was both inoperable and imminently terminal. There was nothing we could do but try to make him comfortable for as long as we were able.

We soldiered on, in denial, for the last two and half months. I was especially heartbroken at this news because Puck was only 12 and in good health otherwise; we should have had years more time with him. Adding insult to the injury, this type of cancer was the same thing that had taken my beloved Ripley six and half years earlier.

Puck's Box (exterior)A few days ago I noticed that Puck’s tumor had broken through the surface of his skin, bringing with it the putrid reek of infection. Puck had reached a point where he could no longer open his mouth to eat or drink. That meant I could no longer give him medicine. There was nothing more that we could do for him. From that point forward, his quality of life could only decline, his discomfort could only increase — and through it all he would be starving but unable to eat. The point at which I finally knew for certain it was time to contact the doctors was when Puck emerged from under the sofa late one night, looked up at me, and tried to cry — but couldn’t open his mouth to let out his cry.

His longtime veterinarian kindly agreed to make a house call today, on his day off, a day when his office is normally closed, to ease Puck off this mortal coil. I visited their office yesterday to fill out all the papers and pay all the fees. When that was done, I bought some supplies and brought them home to prepare for our final good-byes with our beloved golden prince.

Puck's Box (interior) Flowers for Puck Puck's Burial ShroudI remembered that when we had to put Ripley to sleep, I hadn’t realized the doctors would need something in which to put my cat after it was done, so that they could take her away for cremation. We ended up wrapping her in an old pet fleece, because it was all we could find on short notice. I wasn’t going to let that happen to Mister Puck.

To allow him to make his final exit with dignity and beauty, I emptied the box that had brought the copies of my latest book. I used some shiny metallic-silver gift wrapping paper to decorated the outside of the box, and all its top flaps. Two and half jumbo bags of cotton balls formed the cushion in the bottom of the box and a pillow; a pair of somber-colored but tasteful pashmina shawls from a discount store provided the box’s lining and Mister Puck’s shroud. Last but not least, I bought some fresh flowers and pre-cut their stems to fit inside the box.

When I had finished all these preparations, I broke down and cried for a while.

Today, the doctors came to the house at roughly 2pm. They gave Puck a mild sedative so that we could spend some time with him without him being terrified. They gave me and Kara a generous period of time alone with Puck, and when we said we were ready, they delivered his final injection while we held and soothed him. After the doctor pronounced that Puck had passed, Kara and I wrapped our furry little man in his shroud, and then we lowered him into the box. I arranged the flowers on top of him, to tell whoever might open the box, “This beast was loved.” And then I taped it closed, to preserve Puck’s privacy, which I know he would’ve wanted.

The rest of today has been a surreal blur. This is a pain Kara and I will feel acutely for some time.

Mister Puck, you were the best of all cats, and we gave you the best possible life that we could. All we ever wanted was for you to be happy, comfortable, and healthy. I wish you hadn’t left us so soon, but these things are rarely if ever up to us.

Requiescat in pace, beloved cat.

Mister Puck
November 4, 2004 – March 26, 2017

Mister Puck

More Interview Goodness on Generations Geek

Late last year, I sat for a lengthy interview by my pal Scott Pearson for his podcast Generations Geek. We had such a great and rambling chat that he ended up having to cut the interview into two parts.

Part Two

The new installment, Episode 41: “Midnight Mack,” is now live on The Chronic Rift Network. In this hour-long interview we discuss my non-Star Trek tie-in work, including my award-winning 24 novel, Rogue, and my contribution to the short-story anthology 2113: Stories Inspired by the Music of Rush.

We also dig into my original works, starting with my 2009 urban fantasy novel The Calling, and then we segué into my upcoming Dark Arts series for Tor Books, which will kick off in February 2018 with The Midnight Front.

Part One

If you’d like to listen to the first half of our conversation, in Episode #40: “Mack Trek we talked mostly about my work for Star Trek through the years and across many media, including television, comic books, video games, and novels.

Talking Trek with Women at Warp, and more!

Women at Warp

The podcasting team of Women at Warp has published an interview with the authors of last summer’s Star Trek 50th-anniversary trilogy, Star Trek Legacies.

In addition to me talking about my book, Best Defense, the interview also features Greg Cox (Captain to Captain) and the dynamic writing duo of Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore (Purgatory’s Key).

After you read the interview, listen to their podcast review of the Legacies trilogy. It’s a fairly detailed discussion.

Ten for Ward

In other news, my frequent partner in literary crime Dayton Ward has penned a new entry for Ten for Ward, his monthly column on StarTrek.com. This month, Dayton reveals his Trek Books I Wish I’d Written. His round-up includes the first book I wrote: The Starfleet Survival Guide.

Go read the interview, then read Dayton’s blog post. Afterward, watch this space for reminders about my upcoming new novel, Star Trek: Section 31 – Control. It’s coming to retailers everywhere on Tuesday, March 28, 2017!

My Farpoint 2017 Schedule

For those of you attending Farpoint 2017 in a few weeks, here’s where you’ll be able to catch up with me at the show. The convention will take place Friday, February 17, through Sunday, February 19, at the Radisson Hotel North Baltimore, in Timonium, MD. The full schedule and program book are available online.


Friday — 17 February

“Robot/AI or Slave?”
5pm — Chesapeake 1
In much of science fiction, robots are thinking beings designed and programmed to be servitors. That sounds a lot like slavery. When we talk about robot/AI uprisings, are we talking about slave revolts? From the Butlerian Jihad in the Dune books, to Asimov’s laws of robotics, to the Terminator, are stories of rebellious synthetics actually tales of slaves who decide not to be slaves?
David Mack, Jay Smith, T. Eric Bakutis, Jim Werbaneth

Farpoint Book Fair
10pm–Midnight — Dulaney/Valley 1
Meet and mingle with the authors at the Book Fair! Bring copies of my work for autographs, or just stop by to say “hi!”


Saturday — 18 February

Reading
12:40pm – Chesapeake 3–6
I will be reading a short selection from my upcoming original novel The Midnight Front.

Signing
1pm–2pm — Main Atrium
If you have any of my work you’d like autographed, bring it with you. Or just stop by to chat.

“The Shape of Stories”
2pm — Chesapeake 1
Kurt Vonnegut once theorized that there are only six basic shapes that stories can take. Other writers have developed their own theories about the universal structures that every story in the world can fit into. This panel will discuss various aspects about story theory, from what these categories are, how to use them to write insanely great endings, and how writers can incorporate this knowledge into their own plotting.
Don Sakers, Stephen Kozeniewski, David Mack, Susanna Reilly

Signing
3pm–4pm — Main Atrium
If you have any of my work you’d like autographed, bring it with you. Or just stop by to chat.


Sunday — 19 February

“Writing for the Eye vs. the Ear”
Noon — Chesapeake 1
An old bit of advice most writers hear at some point is that we should read our work aloud, supposedly to help us recognize awkward bits of phrasing. But does it work? Taking the question further, does this work better with dialogue than with description? Better with fiction than non-fiction? Is it possible for a writer who delivers effective readings to miss the fact that their prose, absent their performance, is dead on the page?
David Mack, Don Sakers, Aaron Rosenberg, Lauren Harris

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Talkin’ ’bout my Generations Geek (#SFWApro)

My good friend (and fellow author) Scott Pearson interviewed me a few weeks ago for his podcast series, Generations Geek. He usually shares hosting duties with his daughter, Ella, but she has recently started college, so this chat with Scott was mano a mano.

We yakked for so long that Scott had to cut the interview into two parts, only the first of which is ready for public consumption. In this episode, we talk about my work for Star Trek through the years and across many media, including television, comic books, video games, and novels.

We also dig a bit deeper into my work for the Star Trek: S.C.E. (Starfleet Corps of Engineers) monthly eBook novella series, and my bestselling Star Trek Destiny trilogy. And, because this is me and Scott, there are more than a few digressions along the way.

So, if you’re into this, refill your drinks and settle in for a freewheeling gabfest.

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