Where Have All the Prospects Gone?: The State of TrekLit in 2017

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by historypeats, Mar 13, 2017.

  1. historypeats

    historypeats Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Since January 2014, we've had the following paperbacks published:

    TNG: Peaceable Kingdoms, Dayton Ward
    VOY: Protectors, Kirsten Beyer
    TOS: No Time Like the Past, Greg Cox
    ENT: Uncertain Logic, Christopher L. Bennett
    TOS: Serpents in the Garden, Jeff Mariotte
    TOS*: One Constant Star, David R. George III
    TNG: The Light Fantastic, Jeffrey Lang
    SKR: Second Nature, David Mack
    SKR: Point of Divergence, Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore
    VOY: Acts of Contrition, Kirsten Beyer
    S31: Disavowed, David Mack
    TOS: Foul Deeds Will Rise, Greg Cox
    DS9: The Missing, Una McCormack
    TNG: Takedown, John Jackson Miller
    TOS: Savage Trade, Tony Daniel
    ENT: Uncertain Logic, Christopher L. Bennett
    TOS: Crisis of Consciousness, Dave Galanter
    TNG: Armageddon's Arrow, Dayton Ward
    DS9: Sacraments of Fire, David R. George III
    SKR: Long Shot, David Mack
    VOY: Atonement, Kirsten Beyer
    TTN: Sight Unseen, James Swallow
    SKR: All That's Left, Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore
    TOS: Child of Two Worlds, Greg Cox
    DS9: Ascendance, David R. George III
    VOY: A Pocket Full of Lies, Kirsten Beyer
    TOS: The Latter Fire, James Swallow
    ENT: Live by the Code, Christopher L. Bennett
    TOS: Elusive Salvation, Dayton Ward
    DS9: Force and Motion, Jeffrey Lang
    TOS: Captain to Captain, Greg Cox
    TOS: Best Defense, David Mack
    TOS: Purgatory's Key, Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore
    TNG*: Hell's Heart, John Jackson Miller
    TNG*: The Jackal's Trick, John Jackson Miller
    TNG*: The Hall of Heroes, John Jackson Miller
    TOS: The Face of the Unknown, Christopher L. Bennett
    TNG: Headlong Flight, Dayton Ward
    DS9: The Long Mirage, David R. George III

    As it stands, the current schedule is:

    April: Section 31: Control, David Mack
    May: ???
    June: TNG: Hearts and Minds, Dayton Ward
    July: DS9: Enigma Tales, Una McCormack
    August: ???
    September: ENT: Patterns of Interference, Christopher L. Bennett
    October: VOY: Architects of Infinity, Kirsten Beyer
    November: TTN: Fortune of War, David Mack
    December: DS9*: Original Sin, David R. George III
    January: DSC: Desperate Hours, David Mack
    February/TBD: VOY: To Lose the Earth, Kirsten Beyer

    That's alarming. And I'm not just talking about the gaps in the schedule that should have been filled with Slings and Arrows and Corps of Engineers reprints, anticlimactic as those might be.

    How have we gotten to a point where so few writers actively create Star Trek stories?

    Out of the past 50 opportunities to publish full-length paperback Trek fiction, one each went to Tony Daniel and Jeff Mariotte (whose work tends to be poorly received here), as well as to Dave Galanter (an old standby from days gone by). Una McCormack, James Swallow, and Jeffrey Lang have each been able to snag a couple chances; they're authors I find particularly interesting because their styles don't really hew to those of TrekLit authors past. And John Jackson Miller, who was an established name outside of Trek, broke in with four.

    Otherwise, every single Trek novel has been written by one of the following:
    Kirsten Beyer
    Dayton Ward
    David R. George III
    Greg Cox
    Christopher L. Bennett
    David Mack

    That's six authors, seven if you wish to consider Kevin Dilmore as a standalone author (which is probably fair). In four years, the only "new" author breaking into Trek is Miller, who I pointed out was already an established literary figure before joining the authorial stable.

    That's insane! Where are the new voices offering up new narratives, perspectives, takes on the characters and universe, etc.? How have we gone so many years without breaking in a new voice, considering that Beyer, George, Mack, Bennett, and (to a lesser extent) Ward all developed that way? Why don't we seem to value the development of young authors in our Treklit anymore?

    Looking back at 2013, I saw TOS: The Shocks of Adversity, by William Leisner. That book could've been another forgettable TOS one-off - God knows how many of those we've had - but Leisner spun a lively tale that incorporated the ensemble in wonderful fashion, taking the familiar and finding a way to make it feel new. Considering that his Losing the Peace is often celebrated around here, as well as his earlier SNW, SCE, and Myriad Universes work, you would've expected him to find a place in the rotation. Instead, he hasn't written Trek since. And with the possible exceptions of Jackson, Mariotte, and Daniel - and I wouldn't count them, given their extensive non-Trek resumes - no new writers have.

    Why aren't we developing new Leisners? Why are we greeting an era where Star Trek has returned to the big screen (and soon to the small one) and re-entered the pop culture lexicon with fewer and fewer authors writing a diminishing number of stories? How did the line go from a well-rounded collection of e-books, anthologies, and paperbacks to our current setup, given that there's clearly demand and excitement for Star Trek, and that its parent companies keep praising it as a valuable property? (For that matter, how did the line go from regular e-book publishing during an era when few people had e-readers to sporadic e-book publishing in an era when people can use apps on their devices rather than buying dedicated machines?)

    It seems like it was much easier to get new voices into the fold when we had anthologies and e-books, not to mention regular SNWs. Without those opportunities available, the appetite for taking a chance on an untested new writer seems to have vanished. But what happens when Kirsten stays with Discovery (for what I hope will be a long and prosperous run)? What happens when David Mack turns more of his attention to his original fiction? What happens when poor Dayton's hands fall off? (I had no idea he'd been this prolific before I began writing this piece.) Who's ready to step in and take their place?

    I am likely guilty of chewing the MemberBerries and yearning for a Golden Age of Palmieri and DeCandido that wasn't as golden as I'm remembering. And I don't want anyone to think that I'm denigrating the current Treklit authors - I buy every book faithfully, have enjoyed meeting Dayton and the Davids in years past, and really like reading Kirsten's, Christopher's, and Greg's contributions to our community here. What I'd like to see is for them to get some help - for us to move away from a model where only one or two authors really get to play in a particular series' sandbox.

    If you look back at who wrote for the DS9R pre-hibernation, in both novels and anthologies, it's a wonderfully diverse lineup - male and female, younger and more seasoned, even TV actors and writers mixing with experienced Trek novelists. And the main narrative marched forward even as the writers explored a dizzying array of side stories and character pieces. We don't have really have anything like that anymore. ENT's a one-author job, as is VOY, and while TNG seems to have come down to Ward and Miller, the latter's a big fan of series-hopping narratives - the Aventine crew in Takedown, everything in Prey. The closest we've come to the old DS9, ironically, remains DS9, where DRG III seems to be handling the main line while McCormack and Lang play in their respective narrative corners of that series' sandbox with one-off tales.

    Why can't we have side stories in Christopher's wonderful proto-Federation, even just as e-books? For that matter, before the Full Circle Fleet took on its current configuration, why couldn't we have had side stories breathing even more life into these great crews that Kirsten drew up? There's clearly an appetite for stories set in these environs, or else the paperbacks wouldn't keep appearing - and the paperbacks have also proven that you can write stories that don't use "the television characters" as main narrative drivers without falling into the Mary Sue trap. So where are they?

    Even Peter David's New Frontier series, our first one-author run, eventually produced No Limits; I'd say there's also no limit to the stories that can be told in the other series, even if you're trying unconventional structures (think Michael A. Martin's Beneath the Raptor's Wing, which for all its flaws told a Trek saga in a very different way, or Keith R.A. DeCandido's much-loved Articles of the Federation).

    I'm looking at the gaps in the 2017 schedule and seeing more than lost opportunities to tell stories. I think we have a profound need to bring more authors into the fold, and to start publishing different kinds of stories in different kinds of ways. I wish I knew more about the publishing business, but I know many of you do, and I'd like to hear your thoughts on the current State of TrekLit. Do you have ideas for how to bring new voices to the fore? Do you disagree with the premise and feel that we don't need more? Do you have other thoughts about the state/direction of the book line?

    (If you've read this far, thanks for reading. This is my first thread-starter in a long time.)
     
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  2. TheUsualSuspect

    TheUsualSuspect Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    I was actually thinking somewhat along the same lines just the other day.

    I'll say up front that I have no inside knowledge of the publishing business, and what little I know of what goes on behind the scenes at Pocket Books comes strictly from comments I see here from those who do know something of it. So much of what I will say about it is just my own speculation.

    It does seem like there's room in the the TNG line for additional authors to contribute. While the current storyline involves the Enterprise striking out to explore beyond the bounds of the Federation, there doesn't seem to be a strong reason to restrict it to one author. (And JJM did use the Enterprise and TNG characters for the Prey trilogy, but had to pull them back in from the frontier to do so.) Dayton seems to be dropping bits and pieces of future storylines in some of his novels, but it doesn't seem like that should preclude other authors from writing TNG stories.

    I'm pretty happy with what CLB is doing in the Rise of the Federation books, but some stand alones by other authors could be interesting. And Titan seems to be moving forward as a collaborative effort - since The Fall we've had an ebook and novel by JJM (which was a crossover), a novel by James Swallow, the Titan's role in JJM's Prey trilogy and an upcoming novel by David Mack. Hopefully, we'll continue to get that kind of a mix, perhaps with some additional authors. (I'd personally love to see another Titan book by CLB.)

    As a big DS9 fan, I'm happy that the series continues to move forward. While I haven't loved all of DRG's work, on the whole I think he handles the characters well. And I've enjoyed to a greater or lesser degree Una McCormack's and Jeffrey Lang's books, although they have felt somewhat disconnected from the main storylines. I'd say much the same about the two Quark-centered ebooks. I very much miss the mix of authors we got in the original DS9 relaunch. Here comes my speculative stuff: I wonder how much this has to do with Marco Palmieri's departure and the current reliance of Pocket Books on several editors to oversee the Star Trek line as opposed to having just one or two editors in charge of the whole thing. It seems like a lot of the success of the original DS9 relaunch had to do with Marco's dedication to making sure that the whole thing held together and each author's work was consistent with that of the others (especially in things like the the Mission: Gamma/Rising Son/Unity set of books and the Worlds of DS9 mini-series.). It may simply be impossible to replicate a project like the DS9 relaunch with multiple authors given the current editorial structure. While my understanding is that the individual authors do some coordinating of the writing on their own, with DS9, the series that has the most complicated interwoven plot arcs, it may not be practical for the authors to do that.

    I agree with you that it's a shame that the number of ebooks has dropped off. While I did not read all of them, and some of the ones I read were not so great, I often enjoyed the shorter, "smaller" tales we were getting. It would seem like a good place for new authors and authors new to Star Trek to "get their feet wet" (as happened with JJM). And we have gotten a spectacular couple of DTI ebooks from CLB, with a (hopefully) great finish coming up in a few months.

    On the whole, I think I'm more satisfied than not with the current status quo, but it would be nice to get work from a few more authors from time to time.
     
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  3. jaime

    jaime Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Personally, I would love to get my foot in the door. But no one knows where the door is anymore.
    Maybe the budget can only support x number of titles a year, and that's what we are getting. With ebooks though....something Trek has been an historical pioneer in, there's no decent reason why a few new things shouldn't be cropping up, as they are low risk from a certain perspective. I do not think Trek should go the way of the Vampire Diaries (basically legit fanfiction via amazons platform.) but I do think it could stand to explore the possibilities a bit more, perhaps with 'screen era' books written by newcomers in a sub-imprint that would require less editorial resources and oversight than big arcs. That would then feed into the 'main' books as people distinguish themselves.
    Personally, I never ever write fanfic, because I don't entirely see the point. Spending my time writing Trekfic that has a shot at actually getting the logo slapped on it however....that's a different matter.
     
  4. Smitty

    Smitty Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    Completely uneducated guesses. I suspect the market for Trek fiction is small and maybe it is getting smaller? If that is the case, then to flood the market with new books would hurt it even further I suspect. I imagine that managing to the supply and demand is prudent. Using known authors I would imagine helps what is released to sell.
    My assumption that the market is small is based much on the fact that the majority of Trek books released are done so without a audiobook release. Take Star Wars for instance, I think every book that is released has and audiobook version and it has been like that for many years. It does seem that the publishers are testing the waters with audiobooks with a couple of the recent releases having audible version available.
    If my assumption of there being a small TrekLit market is true and that it is getting smaller then I guess a good question is why? The answer to that might be obvious but then again maybe not.
     
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  5. Claudia

    Claudia Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    6 regular authors does sound like a small number - especially if you're either not interested in a specific series or don't like an author's writing style. I really miss KRAD and Leisner... and I'd like to see another Galanter-TOS-standalone novel as well.

    But I agree with others that the market might be getting smaller, especially for the "older" series. I'm not sure how the modern Trek-movies (or Discovery) should peak the interest in f.e. DS9-relaunch novels. Those are targeted to a specific audience, and I'm not sure how many new readers are attracted by such novels (while those following from the start could always lose interest). This applies, I guess, to all the relaunch-novels which are heavily interconnected. I'd love to see sale-numbers for the various series, though. The sale numbers for anthologies (Myriad Universes etc) must have been abysmal, though, since it's been a long time since the last release... not for the lack of stories that could still be told.
     
  6. Defcon

    Defcon Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I feel it's basically down to who the editor(s) is/are. Marco and KRAD were the ones bringing in new voices for the most parts, Clark and Schlesinger are more the kind of editors to keep going back to a limited stable of authors they know well, with the occasional stunt casting (J.J. Miller).
     
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2017
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  7. ryan123450

    ryan123450 Commodore Commodore

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    To @historypeats, I couldn't agree with your entire original post more! You articulated everything I've been thinking lately really well.

    I hate to come right out with saying this, but I kinda wish we could get a fresh start with a new editorial regime. Trek just doesn't seemto be being handled to it's maximum potential lfor several years.

    My pipe dream would be for Pocket to just give up on Trek and the licence be aquired by Tor so we could give Marco another run at things.
     
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  8. JD

    JD Admiral Admiral

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    Does Tor even do tie-ins?
    The go to company for tie-ins right now seems to be Titan, so they'd probably be the most likely to pick up the Trek license. They've already published David Goldman's Trek books, Federation: The First 150 Years, and the Autobiographies of James T Kirk and Jean-Luc Picard, and we just out they're also they're releasing the English translations of the Prometheus books.

    As for the May gap, that is because Kirsten's Voyager book had to be pushed back since she's gotten busy with Discovery. I'm not sure about the August gap, but we still have 6 months to go, so there might still be something there we haven't heard about.
    I'm happy with the current crop of authors, and I like the consistency they've been able to give us. Most of the tie-in lines have a small collection of authors they tend to stick to, so Trek really isn't different in that regard.
     
  9. Defcon

    Defcon Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I know they do Greg's Librarians novels and they do/did the 24 novels.
     
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  10. Jedi_Master

    Jedi_Master Admiral Admiral

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    The sales have to be dropping.

    I would wait to see if they try to spin off some Discovery-era stories with new authors before sounding the alarm.

    In addition, look at the Star Wars tie-in novels - they don't exactly have super long list of authors penning those novels (at least since Disney took over)
     
  11. Jedi Ben

    Jedi Ben Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    I'd say there's a been a reduction in quantity of Wars since Disney took over, but the quality has been much better.

    What irks is they tend to announce new books with the release date only 3-4 months away, which makes trying to plan spending murder as there's always going to that ambush factor.
     
  12. The Wormhole

    The Wormhole Admiral Admiral

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    I wouldn't look top hard at the gaps in the 2017 schedule as meaning anything specific. Trek Lit does have a few obstacles in their way. Presumably, they want to cut back on 23rd century content until after we've seen what Discovery is doing with the 23rd century and will know how not to interfere, if there's even a risk of that. A similar attitude was adopted by Pocket during 2008-2010 in that at first the 23rd century was avoided because of Trek XI, then was carefully stabbed at in a manner that could blend in with both Prime and Kelvin timelines. Then by 2011 the matter was settled, granted mostly because by then Pocket knew they weren't allowed to touch the Abrams movies. In addition to this, the 24th century continuity of course needs to slow down lest they reach that 2387 glass ceiling. Ironically, the one 24th century series that doesn't have to worry about, Voyager, is essentially on pause because of Kirsten Beyer's involvement in Discovery.

    Granted, I would think there are better ways of dealing with these obstacles than two or three gap months, like revisiting the Lost Era or even doing TV series era novels of the other shows. But, I doubt things will be quite as sparse next year or the year after, when hopefully it's clear what can be done with the 23rd century without interfering with Discovery, not to mention Discovery novels themselves. And hopefully someday the woes with Bad Robot will be resolved and the 24th century will be free to move past 2387.
     
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  13. DGCatAniSiri

    DGCatAniSiri Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    One of the things I'd love to see is to use the show eras as a sort of "proving ground" for new/new to Trek authors to get their foot in the door or something. Like, give them an established playing field to work with, a status quo to return to at the end, and let them loose, see what they can do, let that be the preliminaries before they move in to the "modern" time frame.

    But yeah, laid out like that, it IS depressing to see how the number of voices has dropped off. There are a handful of authors from the mid-to-late 00s I would have liked to see more of their work (authors who were included in the various collections like Prophecy and Change or Distant Shores) but seem to have dropped off the radar. I know things come up, and that economics have hit a lot of people so they needed a job that had a more regular paycheck coming in over the last ten years, but the way that it's contracted the number of authors in Trek is kind of disheartening.
     
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  14. Stevil2001

    Stevil2001 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    It's easily, often more work to work with a new writer, and S&S probably has fewer resources these days. So if you're an overworked editor, you probably work with established talent rather than invest energy in developing new talent.
     
  15. Dayton Ward

    Dayton Ward Word Pusher Rear Admiral

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    The main novel line would be an unlikely place to try out new, untested talent, anyway. The schedule's are too unforgiving, for one thing, and editors rely on writers for these types of books who they know (or are at least highly confident) will deliver clean copy on time with minimal fuss. If a new writer is added to the "main roster," it's almost certainly going to be someone who's acquired a solid street rep elsewhere (like Tony Daniel and John Jackson Miller, etc.).

    In this regard, the SNW anthologies and SCE eBook novellas were helpful to Pocket, at least to a certain extent acting like farm teams. They also were run at a time when Pocket had three in-house editors, one or two assistant editors, and at least one freelance editor overseeing Trek projects (in addition to tie-in books from other properties), so there was manpower to share the load. Today, it's one in-house editor, and an assistant again presiding over Trek and other tie-in properties like HALO and so on. Margaret works in a freelance capacity for Trek.

    And as Steve and others pointed out, Trek's situation really isn't that different from other properties. It's just the nature of such books to stick with what works in the hopes of keeping all the trains running on their respective tracks.
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2017
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  16. stardream

    stardream Commodore Commodore

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    In a way, I'm glad for the limited releases. There were times when I was overwhelmed by so many new Trek Books and kept falling behind. Maybe now I can stay on schedule.
     
  17. Defcon

    Defcon Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Just to clarify: my post above was not meant judgemental, just stating the obvious, as Margaret bringing in new people was already less likely when there were multiple editors.

    While I'm not Margaret's biggest fan, I understand why she and Ed Schlesinger rely on known entities.
     
  18. Dayton Ward

    Dayton Ward Word Pusher Rear Admiral

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    IIRC, it was Margaret who suggested Tony Daniel and John Jackson Miller to Ed. For what it's worth. :)
     
  19. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    It was definitely Margaret with regards to Tony. She asked me to recommend some new writers and I steered her toward Tony.

    (Full disclosure: I'd edited Tony's first two novels at Tor, and we'd also collaborated on a TALES FROM THE CRYPT audiobook a few years ago.)
     
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  20. JD

    JD Admiral Admiral

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    Same here. I don't read a ton, but thanks to the books only coming out once a month I've been getting close to getting caught up.
    I've got a lot of other stuff I want to read too, so really at this point I wouldn't be upset if they cut back to only nine or 6 books a year. My only problem with that would be the fact that it would take a lot longer to get books in all of the series.