Posts Tagged ‘Star Trek’

STAR TREK novels I’ve written

I started writing books for Star Trek in 2000, when I was hired by Pocket Books editors Margaret Clark and Jessica McGivney to write The Starfleet Survival Guide. My first prose fiction for Star Trek was the two-part Star Trek: S.C.E. (aka Corps of Engineers) novella Invincible,” which I co-wrote with series editor (and my pal) Keith R.A. DeCandido. Shortly after that saw publication, I undertook my first solo work of prose fiction, the two-part short novel Star Trek: S.C.E. #23/#24 – Wildfire.

The success of Wildfire led to me being invited in 2003 to write a pair of back-to-back full-length mass-market paperback novels for a 9-volume The Next Generation miniseries called A Time to…. Those two novels — A Time to Kill and A Time to Heal — earned me a lot of critical acclaim, and the latter title landed a spot on the USA Today extended bestsellers list.

Nearly all of the 29 novels I’ve written for Star Trek have been part of its shared, serialized literary post-finale continuity. (You can read more about that in this other blog post.) In a little over two months’ time, Gallery Books will publish my newest Star Trek novel, CODA, Book III: Oblivion’s Gate — which will be the last novel in that 20-year-long serialized continuity.

For those who are generally interested in immersing themselves into that massive creative undertaking, I recommend using the Trek Collective’s Trek Lit Reading Order Flow Chart as a guide.

However, for those who are merely curious about where and how my 29 Star Trek novels (plus 3 novellas and one non-narrative book) fit into this ambitious, multi-author shared universe, I present here a brief primer (i.e., introduction) to my oeuvre in the universe that Gene Roddenberry built.

This was developed internally at Pocket Books, and I was hired to draft the manuscript. This was, in a sense, my tryout for the Star Trek books.

STAR TREK: S.C.E. #7/#8 – “Invincible” (2001)
I share the writing credit on this two-part novella with Keith R.A. DeCandido. I drafted the outline, and he wrote the manuscript.

STAR TREK: S.C.E. #23/#24 – WILDFIRE (2003)
My first work of solo-written narrative prose. At 52,000 words, it’s technically my first novel. It’s also my most autobiographical work to date.

STAR TREK: S.C.E. #40 – “Failsafe” (2004)
I wrote this big action-adventure as a warm-up for my first time writing back-to-back full-length paperback novels.

My first full-length, direct-to-paperback novel. I got hired to write this and its companion volume when another author abruptly quit the gig. This novel is the origin of the now-infamous “Tezwa incident.”

I wrote this novel as a blatant critical commentary on the 2003 U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. It’s been called one of the darkest and most violent Star Trek novels ever written. Not coincidentally, it implies that Section 31 assassinated a sitting Federation president, Min Zife.

STAR TREK: S.C.E. #49 – “Small World” (2005)
My last S.C.E. eBook is also my first Star Trek story in which none of the characters die. I wrote this more hopeful tale as a warm-up for the more introspective tone of Star Trek Vanguard.

I created this 23rd-century-era series with editor Marco Palmieri, who wanted to call it NO MAN’S LAND. Conceived as a multi-author series, it ended up being written in alternating turns by me and the writing duo of Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore.

Editor @mxpalmieri hired me to write WARPATH for his post-finale DS9 novel series, but wouldn’t tell me his long-term plans, so much of my story was developed without knowing its context.

The novel so nice, they published it twice! It was released first as a short novel in the anthology Glass Empires. I was hired two years later to expand it into a full-length, standalone novel. This chronicled the rise and fall of Emperor Spock in the Mirror Universe — and the beginning of his long-term plan to bring freedom to his dimension’s Milky Way.

The only Star Trek fiction I’ve ever written under a pseudonym. I wrote this short novel as “Sarah Shaw” because the editors accidentally double-booked me on two concurrent Mirror-Universe anthologies. It’s about the 24th-century Terran rebellion, first seen on Deep Space Nine.

My favorite of my Vanguard novels; it’s packed with action, heartbreak, and consequences. I think Vanguard would make a great sequel series to the Strange New Worlds series, but alas, no one at Secret Hideout has asked me.

This epic trilogy, which rocked Star Trek‘s literary shared universe, was inspired by Pierre Drolet’s painting of the wreck of Columbia NX-02, found in the Gamma Quadrant in the 24th century. The big idea: it’s the Federation’s final showdown against the Borg — two civilizations enter, but only one will survive.

Many folks don’t understand this book’s epigraph. It describes the book’s central theme: self-imprisonment, and self-emancipation through adaptation.

Some folks are thrown by the book’s ending, especially for Picard. Picard is the trilogy’s main character, but not its hero; Erika Hernandez is the hero. And it’s not a story of victory—it’s a tale of deliverance.

This was the first Vanguard novel I wrote after the departure of Marco Palmieri from Pocket Books. Its tone was influenced by classic monster movies, like the Hammer Films creature features.

The start of my “Bashir’s mid-life crisis” arc, in which I mire him in real espionage and reunite him with his lost love, Sarina Douglas (DS9: “Statistical Probabilities” and “Chrysalis”). This is the source of Bashir’s “Salavat incident,” a mission that plagues him with guilt for years after its completion.

I pay off my setup from THE SORROWS OF EMPIRE and SATURN’S CHILDREN: the Terran rebellion becomes a revolution. I wish the shows had taken the Mirror Universe concept this seriously.

A bittersweet triumph. A strong ending to a series that turned out every bit as brilliant as I’d hoped. But still sad to see it go. The book’s final lines were inspired by the ending of THE GREAT GATSBY.

I saw other writers’ clumsy attempts at bringing Data back from the dead and decided to prove I could do it better. This book was the result.

Here’s where my work starts getting “meta.” This novel links to the Vanguard and Mirror Universe sagas, and plants seeds for my future Section 31 books. It also gives us a close-up look at Orion society and the tensions inside the Typhon Pact alliance powers.

One of the hardest things about writing a novel is finding a good motivation for the bad guy. I won’t spoil it, but I remain proud of The Machine’s core objective. This was also a fun reason to bring Wesley Crusher back into the mix as an older adult with some truly awesome Traveler powers.

My Bashir-in-crisis arc continues. Plagued by guilt for things he did in ZERO SUM GAME, Bashir atones by defying Starfleet and the Federation to save the Andorian species. His reward: incarceration in a Starfleet Intelligence “black site.”

The first sequel to the STAR TREK VANGUARD saga, SEEKERS followed two of Vanguard‘s “hero” ships, the scout vessel Sagittarius and the Constitution-class cruiser Endeavour, as they explore the newly opened Taurus Reach. The series (and its covers) were inspired by some modernized takes on the cover art of the classic Blish novelizations, by digital artist Rob Caswell (who also created all four Seekers covers).

More of Bashir-as-spy with a mid-life crisis. Freed from prison by a presidential pardon after A CEREMONY OF LOSSES, he is now a civilian with a private medical practice on Andor. He and Sarina Douglas are recruited by Section 31 to go to the Mirror Universe, to prevent enemies of the Federation from stealing top-secret ultra-tech from the other universe’s newly formed Galactic Commonwealth. For those who were paying attention while reading COLD EQUATIONS, Book II, this book’s ending sets up that book’s macguffin — two years in the past.

More pulpy fun adventure in the 23rd century, with the crew of the scout ship Sagittarius. This was just a lark of a story, a one-off meant to be enjoyed without needing to worry about continuity or anything else.

My contribution to the 50th-anniversary trilogy was its middle volume. The big challenge here was keeping readers interested without giving away too much about the ending or repeating stuff they already learned from book one. The most fun I had with this book was writing scenes involving McCoy and his adult daughter.

Okay, I admit I was in an angry place when I conceived this dark, violent story, which reveals that a malevolent artificial super-intelligence named CONTROL runs Section 31, and has been secretly orchestrating killings and wars behind the scenes to rig history in the Federation’s favor … for over two centuries. This is the conclusion of my Bashir-as-spy arc — he succeeds in his mission, but destroys everything and everyone he loves in the process, and winds up in a catatonic state, in Garak’s care.

My follow-up to the third-season TNG episode “The Survivors.” Sure, the Husnock are all dead, thanks to one grieving Douwd — but that doesn’t mean all their technology vanished. Starfleet has spent decades searching for the native sectors of the Husnock, so they can contain their fearsome arsenal before it falls into the wrong hands. Unfortunately for the crew of the Titan, many sets of wrong hands have beaten Starfleet to the prize, and now Admiral Riker and his people must stop a new arms race before it starts. (I also moved the ball forward on the Dalit Sarai/Admiral Batanides story arc started by James Swallow in Titan: Sight Unseen.)

The first tie-in based on the series, I wrote it based on a suggestion from series creator Bryan Fuller, and with tremendous cooperation from the series’ producers. Many details and character names I invented for this book were later incorporated into the series itself — but the show’s second season superseded several assumptions I had made for this story. C’est la vie.

The follow-up to CONTROL sees Picard on trial for his role in the Tezwa Crisis (see 2004’s A TIME TO KILL and A TIME TO HEAL), while Worf gets a taste of command, dealing with Nausicaan raiders whose desperation stems from the fact that their homeworld was obliterated by the Borg (see 2008’s STAR TREK DESTINY, Book III: LOST SOULS) — and years later, no one has ever come to help them. (This was my allegory for the Trump Administration’s disgraceful abandonment of Puerto Rico after it had suffered massive damage from a hurricane.)

Fun story: I wrote this book in 2010. For political reasons (a struggle between the publisher and Bad Robot), it and three other titles like it were shelved after they were written and edited.Star Trek Coda, Book 3, Oblivion's Gate, by David Mack Fast-forward nine years: the editors say the book is finally being published. So I do a fast pass of clean-up rewrites, and voilà — here at last is my fast-paced, light-hearted take on the J. J. Abrams version of the Star Trek universe and its characters.

And that brings us to the latest addition to my oeuvre. I can’t really tell you much about this one, yet. Most of its plot is still considered top-secret. All I can tell you is that if you’re really dying for some kind of clue as to what awaits our heroes in the trilogy’s final volume, you should listen to its Spotify playlist, Big Mood – Oblivion’s Gate. I hand-picked the songs on the list because some or all of the lyrics of certain songs represent (in my mind) some of the book’s major story arcs.

As for what will come next … only time will tell. But here’s hoping that Star Trek isn’t done with me quite yet.

STAR TREK: CODA – The End Is Nigh

Star Trek Coda - Moments AsunderThree 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.

Star Trek Coda - The Ashes of TomorrowI 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.

Star Trek Coda, Book 3, Oblivion's Gate, by David MackDayton, 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.


Feliz quinceañera, Star Trek Vanguard

Fifteen years ago saw the premiere of Harbinger, the first book in the Star Trek Vanguard series, which I co-created with Pocket Books senior editor Marco Palmieri.

What was Star Trek Vanguard? Dayton Ward sums it up thusly:

Vanguard as created by editor Marco Palmieri and author David Mack is a series of books that served as a “literary spin-off” of the original Star Trek television series. Running in parallel with the original show, Vanguard was set aboard a space station in a hotly contested area of space called “the Taurus Reach.”

In the years that followed, I wound up alternating writing privileges on the series with Dayton and his hetero life-mate and frequent writing partner Kevin Dilmore. This, among other things, led to them becoming two of my closest friends, with whom I shared the most artistically satisfying creative endeavor of my career to date.

Photo of Dayton Ward, Marco Palmieri, Kevin Dilmore, and David Mack
The Vanguardians of the Galaxy: from left, Dayton Ward, Marco Palmieri, Kevin Dilmore, David Mack. Taken at Shore Leave Convention, July 2011.

Marco, who left Simon & Schuster after editing the fourth Vanguard novel, subsequently returned to the saga as an author, contributing the novella “The Ruins of Noble Men” to the Vanguard anthology volume Declassified. And acclaimed international best-selling thriller author James Swallow took Vanguard into the Mirror Universe with his short story “The Black Flag,” in the anthology Shards and Shadows.

Furthermore, we had the amazing good fortune that all of our series’ cover art was created by the brilliantly talented Doug Drexler. Every single one of his covers is worthy of being enlarged to billboard size and plastered onto the side of a skyscraper.

Dayton has done an amazing write-up about Vanguard — what it is, how it came to be, and what it has meant to all of us who were fortunate enough to work on it. I doubt I could improve upon it; I would only end up paraphrasing it. So I’ll just say, go read his excellent tribute to this series we built with love, sweat, and imagination.

If you’ve never read the Star Trek Vanguard saga, here is your guide:

Star Trek Vanguard Bibliography

Harbinger – David Mack
Summon the Thunder – Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore
Reap the Whirlwind – David Mack
Open Secrets – Dayton Ward (story by Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore)
Precipice – David Mack
Declassified – four novellas by: Dayton Ward; Kevin Dilmore; Marco Palmieri; and David Mack
What Judgments Come – Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore (story by Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore and David Mack)
Storming Heaven – David Mack (story by Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore and David Mack)

There also are a few additional stories that, while not essential to enjoying the main “saga,” might be of interest:

Distant Early Warning – Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore (a Star Trek: Starfleet Corps of Engineers story and Vanguard prequel)

In Tempest’s Wake – Dayton Ward (sort of a coda to the Vanguard series)

The Black Flag” – James Swallow
(Included in the anthology Star Trek: Mirror Universe – Shards & Shadows)

You can also load up on SPOILER-FILLED, behind-the-scenes goodness with my Vanguard Finale page.

Dayton, Kevin, and I have agreed that we have no intention of ever re-opening the toy box that was Star Trek Vanguard. From the outset, the saga had been planned with a clear beginning, middle, and ending, and ultimately we hewed fairly closely to that original plan. What’s more, we ended the saga on our own terms, by design rather than by necessity, a privilege one is rarely afforded in the world of media tie-in writing.

Sometimes I daydream of seeing Vanguard as a new Star Trek TV series. But then I remember that it likely would never be as good on the screen as it is in the theater of my imagination, and I’m content to leave it where it is.

As Pennington wrote at the saga’s end, “Let the world forget; I’ll remember.”

See me on Russ’s Rockin’ Rollercoaster

A week from tonight, I’ll be the guest on the next Zoom-powered episode of Russ’s Rockin’ Rollercoaster, an Internet-based half-hour interview/talk show run by my pal Russ Colchamiro.

We’ll talk generally about my writing for science fiction and fantasy, and specifically about my work for Star Trek and my original fantasy series Dark Arts.

If you want to watch the show LIVE and take part in its Q&A portion, you need to register in advance here. You’ll get the viewing link after you sign up. But be chill—the tickets are FREE!

If you miss the live show don’t sweat it; Russ will post it a few days later to YouTube.

I hope to catch some of your crazy cats live on THURSDAY, JULY 30, from 8:00pm – 8:30pm EDT.

My Star Trek eBooks on Sale in May

Good news, everyone! All eBook versions of two of my many Star Trek novels are on sale to U.S. readers for just $0.99 now through the end of May 2020.

The first title on sale is my Deep Space Nine action-thriller Warpath. From the back cover:

They were created to be killing machines. Highly intelligent, resourceful, and deceptively complex, the Jem’Hadar are a species engineered for war and programmed at the genetic level for one purpose: to fight until death as soldiers of the sprawling stellar empire known as the Dominion. No Jem’Hadar has ever lived thirty years, and not even their masters, the shape-shifting Founders, know what such a creature is capable of becoming were it to be freed of its servitude.

One Founder, however, has dared to wonder.

Appointed by Odo himself to learn peaceful coexistence aboard Deep Space 9™, Taran’atar, an Honored Elder among the Jem’Hadar, had for months been a staunch, if conflicted, ally to the crew of the station, ever struggling to understand the mission on which he was sent … until something went horrifically wrong.

Consumed by self-doubt and an ever-growing rage, Taran’atar has lashed out against those he was sworn to aid. While Captain Kira Nerys and Lieutenant Ro Laren both lie near death aboard DS9, their assailant has taken a hostage and fled into Cardassian space, pursued by Commander Elias Vaughn on the U.S.S. Defiant. But as the hunt unfolds, Taran’atar’s true objective becomes increasingly less certain, as the rogue Jem’Hadar leads the Defiant to a discovery even more shocking than his crime.

The second title on sale is Harbinger, the first volume in the eight-book (plus two eBook novellas) Star Trek Vanguard saga, which I created with editor Marco Palmieri and alternated writing duties with the team of Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore. From the back cover:

Returning from its historic first voyage to the edge of the galaxy, the damaged U.S.S. Enterprise journeys through the Taurus Reach, a vast and little-known region of space in which a new starbase has been unexpectedly established. Puzzled by the Federation’s interest in an area so far from its borders and so near the xenophobic Tholian Assembly, Captain James T. Kirk orders the Enterprise to put in for repairs at the new space station: Starbase 47, also known as Vanguard.

As Kirk ponders the mystery of the enormous base, he begins to suspect that there is much more to Vanguard than meets the eye. It’s a suspicion shared by the Tholians, the Orions, and the Klingon Empire, each of whom believes that there are less than benign motives behind the Federation’s sudden and unexplained desire to explore and colonize the Taurus Reach.

But when a calamity deep within the Reach threatens to compromise Starfleet’s continued presence in the region, Kirk, Spock, and several key specialists from the Enterprise must assist Vanguard’s crew in investigating the cause of the disaster and containing the damage. In the process, they learn the true purpose behind the creation of Vanguard, and what the outcome of its mission may mean for life throughout that part of the galaxy.

This is a great deal on two of my seminal early works. Grab ’em while the grabbing’s good!


My schedule for NYCC 2019


My preliminary schedule for New York Comic Con (NYCC) 2019 includes both panels and signings!


12:15 – 1:15 PM
Picard 2020: A Literary Retrospective

Veteran authors David Mack and John Jackson Miller look back on the life and career of Starfleet officer Captain Jean-Luc Picard, as depicted in the official Star Trek tie-in novels and comics over the past 15 years.
Room 1A18

1:30 – 2:30 PM
SIGNING: Panelists of “Picard 2020: A Literary Retrospective”
Hall 1A, Table AA01

Due to factors beyond my control, this panel and its signing have been canceled, to my great disappointment.


1:30 – 2:30 PM
PANEL: From 1969 to the Future—Stories in Space!
Long before Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, people have been inspired to travel among the stars. Half a century after that historic moment, authors Kass Morgan (The 100, Supernova), Peter F. Hamilton (Salvation Lost), Elizabeth Bear (Ancestral Night), and David Mack (Star Trek, Farscape) blast off to exciting destinations in the universe, accompanied by Maryelizabeth Yturralde (Mysterious Galaxy)!
Room 1A18

2:45 – 3:45 PM
SIGNING: Panelists, “From 1969 to the Future—Stories in Space!”
Hall 1A, Table AA01

4:00 – 4:45 PM

David Mack, Star Trek: The Next Generation – Collateral Damage
Booth 2128 (Simon & Schuster)

I will also be hanging around the S&S booth on Saturday, October 5, looking to persuade readers to shell out their cash on early-release copies of Collateral Damage. If you’re at the show, come say “hi!”