Three weeks from today, STAR TREK: CODA, Book I – MOMENTS ASUNDER by Dayton Ward will be published, marking the beginning of the end of more than 20 years of shared, serialized continuity in the Star Trek novels.
The beginning of the “post-finale” continuity in the Star Trek novels generally is considered to have begun in 2001, with the Deep Space Nine novels Avatar, Book I, and Avatar, Book II, by S.D. Perry. Once the shared-continuity books began to grow in popularity, a number of pre-2001 Star Trek novels were retroactively incorporated into it, including the TNG novel Death in Winter by Michael Jan Friedman.
Before long, the shared literary continuity expanded to encompass nearly all new Star Trek book titles, except for those based on The Original Series. It also helped fuel the creation of several literary-original Trek series, including Stargazer (about Picard’s first command); The Lost Era (stories set between the TOS and TNG eras); S.C.E. (aka Starfleet Corps of Engineers, a monthly eBook novella series); Titan (Riker and Troi’s post-TNG careers); Section 31; Department of Temporal Investigations; and Vanguard (a gritty 23rd-century series set parallel to The Original Series).
For more than 20 years, the editors wrangled over 25 authors, most working alone, some in partnerships, to weave a complex web of Star Trek narratives that explored consistent storylines across two centuries of story time. One reason our publisher and licensor (aka Star Trek Licensing at CBSViacom) let us do this was that, at the time, it seemed unlikely that there would be new Star Trek films or TV series set in the 24th century anytime soon.
We pushed the limits of the Star Trek literary universe. Shattered the status quo again and again. Moved characters’ lives forward. Brought others to an end. Returned others from the grave. We threw out Trek‘s “reset button.” It made for an exciting era in which to be a Star Trek novel author or reader.
Alas, as TNG warned us long ago, “All good things must end.” The harbinger of our experiment’s ending was the announcement of Star Trek: Picard.
We knew that once a show featuring Jean-Luc Picard went into development, it would almost inevitably establish events and character actions that would be irreconciable with our literary continuity. Which put us in a tough spot. Star Trek tie-in fiction, like that of most other licensed properties, is required to be consistent with the canon version of the property, as it exists at the time the tie-in material is written. The more we learned about the back story of Picard, the more we realized there was no way to reconcile or retcon our 20 years of narrative with what was coming. One way or another, our communal literary project was soon to end.
I and others behind the scenes knew we had to make a choice. Either let the story be abandoned in medias res — or steer into the wave and craft an ending worthy of two decades of work.
We chose the second option.
I began scheming and daydreaming about the story that would become the spine of the STAR TREK: CODA trilogy at about the same time that my friend and frequent partner in literary mischief Dayton Ward was doing the same thing. During the July 4th weekend of 2019, I persuaded the initially reluctant James Swallow to team up with me in pitching the idea. We hashed out the story in broad strokes over BBQ with Trek-author pals Keith R. A. DeCandido and Glenn Hauman.
When I shared our pitch with Dayton the following week at Shore Leave Convention, his idea and ours were eerily similar. Except, because of his new job with CBS Licensing, he was privy to details about Picard that James and I were not. After hearing me out, Dayton summed up the challenges we faced because of Picard with a chilling caution: “Dude. It’s so much worse than you think.”
As it turned out … he was right.
Dayton, James, and I hammered out a story that we felt was a worthy swan song to two decades of work, an encomium to our fellow authors, and an act of gratitude to the readers who had stuck with us all these years.
Coda proved to be the hardest writing experience of my life. While working on it in 2020, I was shaken by three deaths: the first, in January, was that of my longtime idol Neil Peart of RUSH; the second, in April, was the loss of my mother; and in December, the death of my friend and fellow Trek writer Dave Galanter.
This trilogy was a difficult and emotional project for all three of us writing it, each of us for our own reasons. But just as the application of pressure over time can turn coal to diamonds, I think our hardships have made Coda shine.
All three books of the STAR TREK: CODA trilogy are available for pre-order in trade paperback, eBook, and digital audiobook formats, from most book retailers. Trust me, Trek fans, this is an epic story you won’t want to miss.
STAR TREK: CODA, Book II – THE ASHES OF TOMORROW by James Swallow is scheduled for publication on Tuesday, October 26, 2021.
STAR TREK: CODA, Book III – OBLIVION’S GATE by yours truly will be published on Tuesday, November 30, 2021.