STAR TREK Fiction by Christopher L. Bennett


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The Original SeriesEx Machina
Mere Anarchy: The Darkness Drops Again "As Others See Us"
The Next GenerationThe Buried Age
Greater Than the Sum
"Friends With the Sparrows" Typhon Pact: The Struggle Within
Deep Space Nine"...Loved I Not Honor More"
VoyagerMyriad Universes: Infinity's Prism:
Places of Exile
 "Brief Candle"
EnterpriseRise of the Federation: A Choice of FuturesRise of the Federation: Tower of Babel
TitanOrion's Hounds
Over a Torrent Sea Mirror Universe: Shards and Shadows: "Empathy"
Department of Temporal InvestigationsWatching the ClockForgotten History  The Collectors
Corps of Engineers Aftermath


This giant bowling alley was a great idea!  Hand me the ball! Aftermath TPB S.C.E. #29: Aftermath
The U.S.S. da Vinci is at last ready to resume its mission after the catastrophic events of Wildfire--but before they can even leave Spacedock, a terrible explosion rocks San Francisco, heralding the arrival of a strange alien structure. With the aid of Captain Montgomery Scott and former Starship Enterprise and Deep Space 9 engineer Miles O'Brien, the S.C.E. must investigate the alien structure and learn if this is an attack, a first contact--or something worse.

What they find may land the Federation in the midst of an interdimensional war, as Commander Sonya Gomez works with Starfleet legends from two generations to untie the secrets of the alien structure before it's too late!

"As fascinating as the dilemma is in Aftermath, it is the human drama unfolding between the characters... that makes Aftermath so rewarding to read.... Bennett amply illustrates that he really knows his Star Trek... while at the same time demonstrating a writing style that is both droll and stimulating." -- Jacqueline Bundy, Trek Nation
  
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S.C.E. is an eBook series about the Starfleet Corps of Engineers, featuring a mix of original characters and TNG/DS9 guest stars.  I came to the attention of S.C.E. editor Keith R.A. DeCandido through my posts to the TrekBBS's Trek Literature page, and he invited me to pitch.  Getting to write Trek fiction is a lifelong dream come true for me.  Networking pays!

My first thought was that, since the SCE cast was fairly new to me, I'd like to bring in guest characters I was more familiar with.  I thought of Chief O'Brien, which suggested a story set on Earth; that in turn suggested taking a look at the aftermath, both physical and psychological, of the Breen attack on San Francisco from "The Changing Face of Evil."  I turned in my original proposal in the summer of 2001.  Then September 11th happened, and that tragedy and its aftermath had considerable resonances with the premise of Aftermath, so I reworked my proposal to incorporate those new insights.

As of November 2006, Aftermath is available as the first story in the Corps of Engineers trade paperback collection of the same name.  The title of the series was changed for the sake of greater clarity when the series was "relaunched" in November '06, and the TPB came out at the same time to cross-promote with the relaunch.

Spoiler discussion and notes

Psi Phi's S.C.E. page



Tonight on Point-Counterpoint... the crime problem on Deep Space Nine. Deep Space Nine: Prophecy and Change:
"...Loved I Not Honor More"

In the wake of "Ferengi Love Songs," Quark is eager to exercise his renewed Ferengi business license and become a financial force to be reckoned with once again.  But his priorities are tested when he's reunited with his old Klingon flame, the Lady Grilka.  Will true love exact too high a price?

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This time the invitation came from editor Marco Palmieri, another TrekBBS regular.  Marco is the editor of the acclaimed DS9 Relaunch novels which advance the saga beyond the end of the TV series.  But the idea behind this anthology was to tell stories set during the series' run, stories which would shed new light on the growth and changes which the characters and their relationships went through.  The first idea I thought of was based on a question I'd been wondering about for years:  Whatever happened to Grilka?  In "Looking for Par'mach in All the Wrong Places," she and Quark became lovers, but then we never saw her again.  I've always wondered what could've happened to their relationship.  I'm thrilled to have the chance to provide the answer to that question.

Spoiler discussion and notes



Shiny, isn't it? Star Trek: Ex Machina
THE HUMAN ADVENTURE CONTINUES.

In the aftermath of the astonishing events of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the captain and officers of the U.S.S. Enterprise remain haunted by their encounter with the vast artificial intelligence of V'ger . . . and by the sacrifice and ascension of their friend and shipmate, Willard Decker.

As James T. Kirk, Spock and Leonard McCoy attempt to cope with the personal fallout of that ordeal, a chapter from their mutual past is reopened, raising troubling new questions about the relationship among God, Man and AI.  On the recently settled world of Daran IV, the former refugees of the Fabrini worldship Yonada are being divided by conflicting ideologies, as those clinging to their theocratic past vie with visionaries of a future governed by reason alone.

Now, echoes of the V'ger encounter reverberate among the Enterprise officers who years ago overthrew the Oracle, the machine-god that controlled Yonada.  Confronting the consequences of those actions, Kirk, Spock and McCoy also face choices that will decide the fate of a civilization, and which may change them forever.

"...written with a deft hand and deep skill....  [The] very intricate story... combines history, religion, science, conflict, and terrorism and weaves it into a tight fabric that engenders thought and contemplation beyond the usual scope of a sci-fi media tie-in novel." -- Father Robert Lyons, SST, Stellarcross.org

"Ex Machina is a good, long, solid read, well worth immersing yourself in for several hours. There's a lot packed in here, from Trek trivia to philosophizing. It reads like the kind of book only a fan who takes Star Trek seriously could possibly have written." -- Steve Roby 

" Bennett has produced a glorious debut in full-length novel form.... This promising new author clearly has a lot of Trek knowledge, character- and world-building skill, and love of the franchise; so "Ex Machina" comes highly recommended." -- Daniel Berry, BookTrek

"Thought provoking stories are one of the hallmarks of Star Trek and stories rarely get more thought provoking than Ex Machina....  What Christopher L. Bennett has done with Ex Machina is to meld together... a story cannot help but resonate with anyone who has ever read a history book or a newspaper." -- Jackie Bundy, Trek Nation

"Attention to scientific detail is at the forefront of Bennett's tome, as he carefully integrates scientific reality into the framework of the tale.... He's got a solid grasp on characterization all the way throughout EX MACHINA, and no one escapes his watchful eye or is considered insignificant. That's the mark of a great writer, one who makes you care about all of the people in a story, and this is one of Bennett's many strengths." -- Bill Williams, TrekWeb

"Easily one of the best TOS novels in print, Ex Machina is the proverbial must-read.... Bennett has woven multiple and often conflicting continuity threads in a tour de force that tells a fascinating story with flair, imagination, and weight." -- Megan O'Neill, TV ZONE Magazine
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Years ago, I dreamed of becoming a Trek novelist, but I wasn't happy with the continuity restrictions of that time, which forbade Trek novels from making any real changes in the characters' lives so as to avoid contradicting anything onscreen.  In looking for a way around those restrictions, I thought of exploring the period between Star Trek: The Motion Picture and The Wrath of Khan.  This was a time of transition and growth for all the characters.  We knew where they started out and where they ended up, but the process in between was largely uncharted.  It would be an opportunity to tell stories with arc and character development while still staying within continuity.

I now realize that even allowing for that, I probably still couldn't have sold this novel under that old regime.  Fortunately, the Trek novel line is now in a time of renaissance, freer than ever before to explore new story directions.  Given the various projects edited by Marco Palmieri, including the post-finale Deep Space Nine novels and the Lost Era miniseries, I had a feeling my idea might go over well with him -- though I'm still thrilled to have been right.

There have been novels set in the post-TMP period before, but hardly any have been direct follow-ups to TMP, exploring its aftermath on the characters.  Most surprisingly to me, none ever really sought to elaborate on Spock's life-changing epiphany about the value of emotion -- something I'd always felt was rich with story possibilities.  But I'm glad to be the one who gets to tell those stories at long last.

So why did I make ExM a sequel to "For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky and My Goodness, This is an Awfully Long Title, Isn't it Though?"  Well, in the ST:TMP novelization, Gene Roddenberry said that "McCoy had become something of a recluse while he researched applications of Fabrini medicine among surface dwellers."  So I've always wondered if he met up with Natira again, and what would've happened between them.  It just seemed natural that a novel exploring this period would address that issue.  Also, the presence of the Oracle computer-god provided resonances with the V'ger encounter in TMP.  And the story of a society struggling to rebuild and redefine itself, torn between the traditional and the modern, the secular and the spiritual, gave me a great opportunity to develop themes from my history studies in college, particularly with regard to the Middle East.

Annotations page   Explanations of Trek references, science/tech and in-jokes (spoiler-heavy!)

Supporting cast images  The faces of the novel's minor crewmembers

Startrek.com Book Club chat transcript  January 25, 2005

Click here for help pronouncing the title (courtesy of the American Heritage Dictionary at Bartleby.com)


This little tribute was put together by TMP-alien buff Ian McLean, based on an old ST comic strip from the Los Angeles Times:
LA Times panel


Distant ShoresVoyager: Distant Shores: "Brief Candle"
In "Survival Instinct," Lt. Marika Willkarah was liberated from the Borg Collective but left with only a month to live.  She chose to live out her final days as a member of Voyager's crew.  This is the story of  those final days and the impact she has on her crewmates, most especially a certain Ensign Harry Kim.

"...a tender and poignant story of the former Borg drone Lt. Marika Willkarah's last weeks. Bennett's prose exhibits great sensitivity..." -- Jackie Bundy, Trek Nation


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The mandate for this anthology was to explore missed opportunities from the series.  I went through the show and developed several proposals, but the one that most intrigued editor Marco Palmieri was this one, exploring the final days of Lt. Marika (Bertila Damas) from "Survival Instinct."  Since the array of alien makeups seen on the Markonian outpost in the episode included some recycled Voth masks from "Distant Origin," a personal favorite episode, I was able to work the Voth into the story and follow up on another missed opportunity.

Spoiler discussion and notes



Orion's Hounds Star Trek: Titan: Orion's Hounds
As the U.S.S. Titan ventures beyond the outermost reaches of known space, the telepaths in her crew -- including Diplomatic Officer Deanna Troi -- are overwhelmed by an alien cry of distress, leading the ship to the scene of a shocking act of carnage: a civilization of interstellar "whalers" preying upon and exploiting a familiar species of sentient spaceborne giants.

Appalled but reluctant to rush to judgment, Captain William Riker and his crew investigate, discovering a cosmic spawning ground in a region of active star formation -- the ecosystem for a bewildering array of diverse but similarly vast life-forms.  While attempting to negotiate an end to the victimization of these creatures, Riker's crew inadvertently grants them the means to defeat their hunters' purpose . . . only to learn that things are not exactly as they seem.


"Great science fiction opens your mind to new possibilities, ideas and concepts.... Orion's Hounds by Christopher L. Bennett is outstanding science fiction. Ingenious and enthralling, Orion's Hounds balances scientific theory with character driven adventure in a vibrant story that challenges the Star Trek mythos." -- Jackie Bundy, Trek Nation

"...brings Trek fiction up to par with all but the hardest subgenres of hard science fiction... true intellectual excitement surges alongside the high-stakes dramatic developments of the novel's plot.  Bennett staked out a claim to superb writing with Ex Machina, and Orion's Hounds only confirms his dazzling ability to combine the fanciful space opera that is Star Trek's core with scientifically literate speculation and superior characterization...." -- Killian Melloy, Wigglefish

"Christopher Bennett's sophomore novel is another home-run winner, and any combination of strong plotting, careful scientific discovery, interesting characters, and unlimited potential always makes for an excellent tale, STAR TREK or otherwise." -- Bill Williams, TrekWeb

"There's sense of wonder galore here.... Orion's Hounds boldly takes Titan into exciting new territory, and confirms that Christopher Bennett is another in the succession of top-notch Trek novelists that Pocket has discovered in recent years." -- Steve Roby,  Starfleet Library

"The amount of detail that went into this is astonishing. One could sense a real passion for the science behind the storytelling, and Bennett makes the small section of the galaxy portrayed in Orion’s Hounds truly come alive.... Christopher L. Bennett’s latest novel does the Titan series justice, serving up a novel that deserves more recognition than being a “media tie-in” novel." -- Julio Angel Ortiz, The Next Chamber

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Editor Marco Palmieri's goal for the Titan series was to tell SF-adventure stories revolving around exploration and the sense of wonder, featuring the most diverse multispecies starship crew in Starfleet history.  My work with the diverse crew in Ex Machina convinced him that we thought along much the same lines, so he invited me to write the third Titan novel.  I decided I needed to find a story that was really about exploration.  A lot of Trek these days has gotten away from that, and I fear there's a perception that pure exploration doesn't work to drive a story anymore (at least, some people have blamed the poor reception of Enterprise's first two seasons on its pure-exploration focus).  So I needed to tell a story of exploration that went way beyond the formulaic "starship visits alien planet and gets embroiled in local politics" kind of tale.  I needed something epic and striking.

Also, I wanted to do a couple of things here that I wasn't able to do in ExM.  In that novel, I tried to capture the spirit of ST:TMP as much as possible, but the one thing I failed to capture was its sense of wonder, its grand, epic vistas of the cosmos.  So I wanted to make up for that and go really cosmic here.  The other shortfall of ExM was that it was a very derivative story, a sequel highly dependent on what had come before.  I wanted to tell a more original, self-contained story here.

To be sure, as the cover reveals, the novel features the return of the space-jellyfish organisms from "Encounter at Farpoint."  But we learned very little about them in that episode, so I was still able to tell an almost wholly original story.  Well, more or less; I did rip it off from myself.  The plot to OH was based on "Spirit of the Hunt," a failed VGR story written for the Strange New Worlds anthology contest.  The story didn't work because it was too big for the short format; it was only half a story.  To make it work as OH, I had to go much farther beyond that point, as well as going into much more depth on what came before.

So I decided to open it up well beyond a single spacegoing species, and explore the whole ecosystem to which they must belong.  Basically I've tried to define the broader framework which most or all of Trek's spacegoing critters occupy.  That gave me the epic scope I wanted, and let me work in a number of thoughts about spacegoing life that I've developed for my original SF over the years.  I'd like to think this same basic story could stand as an effective work of original science fiction even if it existed entirely independently of Star Trek.

Annotations page   Explanations of Trek references and science/tech (spoiler-heavy!)



Constellations Star Trek: Constellations: "As Others See Us"
The natives of Sigma Niobe II are unaware that aliens walk among them, watching them but forbidden to interfere by their Prime Directive.  But who is really watching whom?

"Don't make hasty judgments.  Things are not always as they seem.  There will always be surprises.  There's a lesson to be learned here -- but who needs to learn it is the real surprise."
-- from the Introduction by David Gerrold


"...a unique and extremely intriguing look at how a first-contact situation can go awry if handled wrong." --  Bill Williams, TrekWeb

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When the call first went out for story pitches to Constellations, it was a tough challenge to meet.  We were asked to avoid the usual episode sequels and gap-fillers and continuity-weaving ideas, because that's been done so many times with TOS over the past 40 years.  The mandate was to come up with effective, original standalone stories that still managed to reveal new things about the TOS characters and universe.  And being deprived of the usual shortcuts and fallbacks made it hard.  I was only able to come up with one or two really decent ones, not the 3-4 that would be expected, so I never bothered to send in a pitch.  A few months later, Marco Palmieri wrote to me specifically and asked me to come up with something for it; perhaps the anthology was running short or something.  What he asked for were sense-of-wonder stories, big ideas and adventures.  And he needed them quickly.  I slapped together a couple of promising but half-formed ideas and threw in the best of the ideas I'd had before, a proposal I called "Hidden Truths."  Of course, that was the one Marco chose.

Writing the story went pretty quickly and smoothly, but Marco and I had the hardest time settling on a title.  We considered all sorts of things involving veils and masks.  Several times I suggested "How Not to Be Seen," an homage to a classic Monty Python sketch, but Marco never went for it.  Finally, as we were coming down to the wire, I suddenly thought, "How about a bit o' Robbie Burns: 'As Others See Us'?"  And that was the only title Marco and I could agree on.  Although I still like to think of it as "How Not to Be Seen."  (Actually I almost talked Marco into it, but I decided that since we were going for a TOS feel, it would be better to use an authentically TOS-style title rather than an allusion to another show.  But that didn't stop Jeffrey Lang from writing a Constellations story called "Where Everybody Knows Your Name."  Shows what I know.)

Spoiler discussion and notes



Mere Anarchy 4 Star Trek: Mere Anarchy Book 4: The Darkness Drops Again 
Mere Anarchy: A new six-part epic covering thirty years of Star Trek® history, continuing with an adventure that takes place between The Motion Picture and The Wrath of Khan!

Book 4: The Darkness Drops Again
The rebuilding of Mestiko is starting to make progress: the atmosphere is partially restored and Federation scientists are introducing new methods of replenishing the planet's biosphere. But their efforts are being stymied by the growing power of the mar-Atyya, who shun all offworlders.

The arrival of the Starship Enterprise under the command of James T. Kirk proves less than fortuitous, as the ship becomes a flashpoint for all of Mestiko's troubles. Now Raya elMora, the leader of the planetary council, finds herself facing exile -- which could spell doom for Mestiko....


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My first opportunity to follow up on the characters and situations of Ex Machina came from an unexpected direction, as eBook editor Keith DeCandido invited me to participate in this 40th-anniversary project.  The plan was to tell six novella-length stories spanning the entire TOS era, and I was invited to contribute the post-TMP installment on the basis of ExM.  Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore came up with the overall outline and premise for the miniseries, but all the participating authors (Dayton & Kevin, Mike W. Barr, Dave Galanter, me, Howard Weinstein, and Margaret Wander Bonanno), along with Keith, participated in a lengthy and wacky e-mail correspondence wherein we all contributed to hashing out the premise and keeping everything consistent.

But this story isn't as direct an ExM followup as it could be, since I wanted it to work primarily as a part of Mere Anarchy and be accessible to people unfamiliar with ExM.  So it's in the same continuity and uses some of the same ideas (and includes some movie-era elements I didn't get to work into ExM, such as Andrew Probert's modular-shuttlecraft designs), but focuses mainly on the core TOS cast rather than the supporting characters I developed for the novel.  And although it takes the characters well beyond the ExM timeframe, it leaves plenty of room for further storytelling in the post-TMP era.

My story happened to fall into the largest gap in the series, between the first two movies -- a timespan that, according to conventional Trek chronology, corresponds to roughly 12 years (2273 to 2285).  So rather than limiting myself to one point within this timeframe, I took on the task of telling a more sweeping tale that explored how the Enterprise crew evolved between the two movies, while also taking the planet Mestiko through years of political and social upheaval.  This makes mine a rather different story from the others, but then, each one is a distinct kind of tale.  Book 1 is a disaster movie, Book 2 a classic tale of Kirk taking on Klingon meddlers, Book 3 a buddy movie, Book 4 a sweeping historical epic, Book 5 an action-packed tale of interstellar brinksmanship, and Book 6 a more introspective piece bringing it all closure.  That's part of what made this such a fascinating collaboration to be a part of.  The fun we had in our e-mail exchanges was also a major part of that.

Mere Anarchy series guide

Spoiler discussion and notes



TNG: The Buried Age  Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Buried Age
A Tale of THE LOST ERA 

Jean-Luc Picard.  His name has gone down in legend as the captain of the U.S.S. Stargazer and two starships Enterprise.  But the nine years of his life leading up to the inaugural mission of the U.S.S. Enterprise to Farpoint Station have remained a mystery--until now, as Picard's lost era is finally unearthed.

Following the loss of the Stargazer and the brutal court-martial that resulted, Picard no longer sees a future for himself in Starfleet.  Turning to his other love, archaeology, he embarks on a quest to rediscover a buried age of ancient galactic history . . . and awakens a living survivor of that era: a striking, mysterious woman frozen in time since before the rise of Earth¹s dinosaurs. But this powerful immortal has a secret of cataclysmic proportions, and her plans will take Picard -- aided along the way by a brilliant but naive android, an insightful Betazoid, and an enigmatic El-Aurian -- to the heights of passion, the depths of betrayal, and the farthest reaches of explored space.


"This is a large-scale tale that's occasionally more akin to Arthur C. Clarke's universe than Gene Roddenberry's.  Yet just before the book strays too far from the Trek track, it gets back on board with some first-class interactions between Picard and a clutch of very welcome characters...." -- John Donnelly, SFX Magazine

"Bennett's take is quite surprising, fitting in with all the known facts, but adding a new layer to them." -- Owen Morris, Dreamwatch SciFI

"Notable in Bennett’s work is his creation of unique and lively civilizations… each of them are unique, interesting, and provide further proof that world building is far easier in print than on television." -- Robert Lyons, TrekMovie.com

"Bennett loves his hard science and it always informs his tales, without overshadowing the story and characters at their heart. This is an interesting tale, well told." -- Paul Simpson, StarTrek.com

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Years ago, I imagined what stories I'd pitch if I ever became a Trek novelist.  One of my ideas was for an epic trilogy (since trilogies were all the rage back then) filling in the nine years of Picard's life between the Stargazer and the Enterprise.  It was never more than a very tentative notion, and I never got around to pitching it. And when it was announced a while back that editor Marco Palmieri intended to do a Lost Era novel covering this span, I assumed the task would go to Michael Jan Friedman, who's carved out a niche as the main chronicler of Picard's early career aboard the Stargazer.  So I sadly gave up on my ambition.

I was thus very surprised when, some months later, Marco asked me out of the blue if I'd like to do the "Picard's missing years" novel.  Naturally I said yes, and dredged up my old plans.  I soon decided, though, that my original idea wasn't viable.  It would've had Picard found guilty in the Stargazer court-martial and demoted for several years.  This would've turned out to be the result of a conspiracy to keep Picard from getting command of the Enterprise, so that this key post would go to a conspirator instead.  But the conspiracy idea has been done too many times in Trek by now.  So ironically, even though I finally got to tell the story I'd wanted to tell for years, I had to start completely from scratch.

Marco's suggestion was an epic quest, probably involving archaeology, that would reawaken the disillusioned Picard's love of exploration.  I got the sense he wanted something in a similar vein to Orion's Hounds in terms of its scope and conceptual breadth.  So I thought about doing for deep time what I did for deep space in OH -- exploring and filling in the uncharted reaches of Trek prehistory.  As with OH, I built on a lot of ideas I'd been working on for my original SF.  Which is cool, because that required me to rethink the galactic history for my original SF universe and come up with something new that I'm very happy with.

In a way, though, this was as much a book about the distant future as the distant past, because the hyperadvanced civilizations of the past suggested paths for the future evolution of humanity.  My depiction of their advances and abilities was heavily influenced by transhumanist science fiction, and by the possibilities suggested by existing trends in genetics and cybernetics.  Ironically, many of the "incredibly advanced" technologies and bodily enhancements possessed by these ancients are ones that humanity may well achieve long before the 24th century.  We've already surpassed Star Trek tech in a lot of ways, and medical advances like Geordi's VISOR are the stuff of the next decade, not three and a half centuries from now.

My original trilogy idea did have an impact on the structure of this book, if not the plot.  Since nine years is a long time, I knew I couldn't just tell one story.  So I structured it episodically, essentially as four novellas.  The last three parts in particular have close ties and tell a larger story, but each part has its own focus, its own beginning and end, its own distinct characters and settings.  And the only characters who are in all three, Picard and the mysterious woman mentioned in the cover blurb, are in a distinct phase of their lives and relationship in each part.

Of course, this wasn't just a quest story.  I knew I had to explore how Picard became the man we met in TNG. We knew he was an aloof, professorial, even forbidding figure there, yet over the years we learned he had a wealth of old friends and old flames.  So I knew something must have happened to change him, and that would be the core of my story.  But I also wanted to explore how he became captain of the Enterprise, how and why he chose his command crew, what shaped his values, choices and relationships, and so on.

And yet I had to balance this with the fact that these events were never referenced in TNG -- the main problem faced by any prequel.  So I chose to tell a story that took Picard far afield from the events and politics featured in TNG, both literally and figuratively.  I considered making the whole thing classified or having it erased from Picard's memory, but that would've been the lazy way out; I tried to find subtler reasons why Picard would not have discussed these events.

Also, as much as I could, I tried to work in references to events and lines from TNG so that it would seem as though those events and lines were references back to this book.  The goal was to create the illusion that the characters in TNG were talking and thinking about the events of The Buried Age on many occasions, but that the viewer just didn't realize it until now.  The book foreshadows and influences many later events.  Why did Picard value consensus among his crew?  Why did he want a first officer not afraid to defy him?  Why did he trust Deanna Troi and Guinan so much?  Why did he get invited to speak at archaeological conferences?  All because of things that happened in TBA.

I felt a heavy Shakespeare focus was essential as well, to commemorate Patrick Stewart's distinguished career as a Shakespearean actor and to acknowledge the Shakespearean flavor that much of Star Trek has always had.  Also, a couple of those old SF ideas of mine that dealt with ancient, reawakened civilizations used titles and names inspired by passages from The Tempest (such as "O brave new world" or "When I wak'd I cried to dream again"), so it was a natural fit.

I hit a major snag early in the writing process when I learned my initial plans for the Stargazer court-martial wouldn't work.  It took a long time to research military and civilian law and figure out a new approach.  At the same time, I was distracted by the then-ongoing news about the attempts to redefine the term "planet."  I got caught up in reading about all the exciting new discoveries made in planetary sciences over the past few years, and it was keeping me from focusing on the novel.  So I took a cue from Riva ("Loud as a Whisper") and tried to turn a disadvantage into an advantage.  Rather than trying to shake my preoccupation with planetary sciences, I used it to help me focus on the novel by incorporating a lot of this material into the novel itself.  Thus, the novel features a variety of exotic planetary environments and star systems of types never seen before in Star Trek.  Hopefully that adds a sense of grandeur and adventure to the narrative.

But please, don't ask me to write another huge, sweeping Star Trek epic anytime soon.  After Orion's Hounds and The Buried Age, I'm exhausted.

Annotations page   Explanations of Trek references and science/tech (spoiler-heavy!)



The Sky's the LimitThe Next Generation: The Sky's the Limit:
"Friends With the Sparrows"

In the months following Star Trek: Generations, Data's emotion chip enables him to take part in an experiment to achieve fuller communication with the Tamarian people ("Darmok").  But Data's struggles to master his new emotions may jeopardize the experiment, the fragile peace with the Tamarians, and Data's very identity!


"[A] Data story that intelligently addresses the issue of Data's emotions, with and without the emotion chip; it's a must-read for Data fans." -- Steve Roby, Starfleet Library

"It's a story that is unusual for Star Trek, but well written and well worth a slice of your time. You could take out the references to Trek and this would still be a good science fiction story." -- Charles Packer, Sci-fi Online

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For a while now, I've been hoping I could get the grand slam: stories in all the Trek anniversary anthologies.  With "Friends With the Sparrows," I get my wish -- at least until the Enterprise anniversary antho comes along in 2011.  I'm also the only author who's been in all four anthologies, though Keith R.A. DeCandido and Jeffrey Lang have been in three each.

Anyway, as for the story idea, the genesis is kind of personal.  When the invitation came, I was dealing with some issues pertaining to my own emotional control and personal interactions, and I realized that Data might have been going through similar difficulties in the wake of gaining his emotion chip in Generations.   I wanted the chip itself to be central to the story, and I approached it in terms of a device that altered the way Data thought and perceived the world.  It occurred to me that might have applications for communication with aliens whose way of thinking is hard to grasp.

And naturally, my favorite Trek story about communication problems was Joe Menosky's brilliant "Darmok."  I jumped at the opportunity to follow up on the Children of Tama and explore their psychology and culture in more depth, as well as trying to offer possible answers to some of the credibility questions that have been raised about the Tamarian language in the episode.   I assembled a list of all the Tamarian phrases from the script, tried to discern the grammar of the language, and did some research in linguistics to help me fill in the gaps.

The story title, of course, is a line from "If I Only Had a Heart," the Tin Woodman's song in The Wizard of Oz: "I'd be friends with the sparrows / And the boy who shoots the arrows / If I only had a heart."  It makes a nice fit with the story, and is one of the few cases where Marco, my editor, liked my first suggestion for the title.

Tamarian Grammar  This is my analysis of the Tamarian language, which I wrote in the development phase of this story.  It contains some ideas and extrapolations that didn't make it into the story itself.

Spoiler discussion and notes



Infinity's PrismMyriad Universes: Infinity's Prism: Places of Exile
Midway through Voyager’s journey across the galaxy, Captain Kathryn Janeway and Commander Chakotay must choose whether to brave a deadly war zone or abandon their quest for home. But an attack by Species 8472 cripples the ship, and the stranded crew must make new choices that will reshape their destinies . . . and that  of the Delta Quadrant itself.

"[T]he audacity of the story, and its faithfulness to the spirit of what Voyager was supposed to be, is simply outstanding.  Bennett, no stranger to world-building, delves deeply into the task of evolving a reality for the crew of a stranded Voyager that speaks to the hope of acceptance and involvement that many refugees seek when confronted with life in an alien society." -- Robert Lyons, TrekMovie.com

"Bennett creates another fascinating society making this a must for fans of Voyager." -- Jeff Ayers, TrekWeb.com

"It's Voyager for a post-Ron Moore's Galactica world, one where decisions have consequences and there's no reset button. But there's still hope and optimism. It's a story that should appeal to Voyager's fans and critics." -- Steve Roby, Starfleet Library

"It's a great use of many of the characters, with... the kind of fresh thinking I like about Bennett's Star Trek work." -- John Freeman, Star Trek Magazine #14

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Voyager was... how shall I put it?... a show with abundant unrealized potential.  There were many possibilities in its characters and premise that it rarely fulfilled, preferring to emphasize episodic adventure tales over in-depth development of story and character arcs.  "Scorpion," the two-parter that bridged the third and fourth seasons, was a crucial example.  When Voyager's premise was first announced, many fans expressed concern; Star Trek, they said, should be about boldly questing into the unknown, not retreating from it.  But the producers assured us that the crew would soon enough get over its longing for home and get caught up in the wonders of the Delta Quadrant.  Unfortunately, it was two years before they acted on this assurance.  I first pitched to VGR in its third season, and the producers' pitch letter for that season told prospective writers, "It's time for our crew to stop moaning about how far from home they are and begin to embrace their adventure."  Indeed, that season saw a shift away from search-for-home stories (aside from "False Profits" early in the year).
 
But then came "Scorpion," in which Janeway made an insanely dangerous deal with the devil merely to continue making progress along a journey she had no realistic hope of completing in her lifetime.  From that point on, the Rubicon was crossed; the show could never again be about anything but the quest for home.  To me, that makes "Scorpion" the most pivotal moment of decision in the series, the point where it decided once and for all what the show would fundamentally be about.  I was always intrigued by the road they didn't take, by what might have happened if the characters had committed to building a life in the Delta Quadrant.

Also, since I got to pitch for VGR twice, I came up with a lot of ideas for it.  Many of those ideas had to be scuttled when the show dropped Kes and left behind the region of space it had occupied in the first three seasons.  And none of the others ever made it to the screen.

So naturally, when I learned that Marco Palmieri was developing an alternate-history miniseries, I leaped at the chance to pitch the idea, "What if Voyager had turned back?"  It took over three years for the project to get off the ground, and I was probably one of the first to sign onboard.  Originally I was hoping for a full-length novel, planning to work in as many of my unused ideas as possible.  I ended up having to trim it down considerably, making for a tighter story.  Ideally I would have liked another 10,000 words, but it was good training in concise storytelling.


Annotations page   Explanations of references and science/tech (spoiler-heavy!)



TNG: Greater Than the SumThe Next Generation: Greater Than the Sum
The starship Rhea has discovered a cluster of carbon planets that seems to be the source of the quantum energies rippling through a region of space. A landing party finds unusual life forms inhabiting one of the planets.  Lieutenant T’Ryssa Chen, a half-Vulcan, makes a tenuous connection with them. But before any progress can be made, the Rhea comes under attack from the Einstein — a Starfleet vessel now controlled by the Borg. The landing party can only listen in horror as their comrades are assimilated. The Borg descend to the planet, and just as Chen accepts that she will be assimilated, the lieutenant is whisked two thousand light-years away.

A quantum slipstream — near-instantaneous transportation — is controlled by the beings in the cluster, and in its heart there is now a Borg ship. Cut off from the rest of the Borg collective, the Einstein cannot be allowed to rejoin it. For the sake of humanity, the Borg cannot gain access to quantum slipstream technology.  Starfleet Command gives Captain Picard carte blanche: do whatever he must to help the beings in the cluster, and stop the Einstein no matter the cost.


"Yes, it's a Borg story, but it's one that's character-driven, one that brings back some surprising but welcome guest characters, and one that still manages to work in some of the good ol' exploration and sense of wonder that Star Trek was originally supposed to be about. And there's action, too." -- Steve Roby, Starfleet Library

"[I]f you're looking for a thoughtful set of character studies, I think you'd be hard pressed to find a better book." -- Charles Packer, Sci-Fi Online

"Bennett's evident skill at characterization, and a flair for making you care about even the most incidental characters... proves in some ways more interesting than the 'super Borg' threat that menaces the U.S.S. Enterprise and an entity which might have more in common with the Collective than Picard and his crew." -- John Freeman, Star Trek Magazine #14

"There's a lot going on in Greater Than the Sum... [I]t's bound to please." -- Michael M. Jones, SF Site

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I have to admit, a Borg novel would not have been my first choice.  War stories aren't my cup of tea.  But when editor Margaret Clark invited me to contribute to the post-Nemesis TNG novel series, I didn't want to decline my first opportunity to work with her or my first shot at a "present-day" TNG novel.  And fortunately Margaret was looking for a change of pace after the action-packed Borg battles of the preceding novels Resistance by J. M. Dillard and Before Dishonor by Peter David.  Although I was tasked with wrapping up loose ends from PAD's novel, particularly the assimilated Einstein, I was encouraged to develop a story about what the Enterprise crew experiences or discovers while searching for the Einstein, rather than a story whose central focus was fighting the Borg.  After all, Margaret knew that hiring me meant getting a book about exploration of cosmos and characters rather than one about action and combat.

As a result, I ended up with a book that's more like Keith R.A. DeCandido's Q & A (the book between RES and BD) in tone, a book whose main focus is the crew of the Enterprise-E and their interactions.  And there's a lot going on with that crew in GTTS.  I got to introduce new characters and take established characters in new directions.  Although this is a lighter, change-of-pace book between the sturm und drang of Before Dishonor and the galaxy-shaking epic of David Mack's Destiny trilogy (for which this book serves as a loose prologue), it's a tale of major significance for the crew of the ship, and it was a privilege to get to tell it.

But that's not to say the Borg don't play a significant role in the story.  Although the Borg have been featured in multiple novels of late, including Christie Golden's Voyager duology Homecoming/The Farther Shore as well as RES and BD, there are a number of aspects and ideas about the Borg that have not been developed or followed up on.  I tried to wrap up a lot of those loose ends and offer answers to some lingering questions.

Mainly, though, I tried to make this a grand sense-of-wonder adventure in the classic TNG vein.  Big discoveries are made, and the Enterprise travels to one of the most distant places it's ever reached by conventional means.  But that's nothing compared to the personal journeys some of the characters make.


Annotations page  Explanations of references and science/tech (spoiler-heavy!)


Shards and Shadows Mirror Universe: Shards and Shadows: "Empathy"
In another reality, with no Starfleet and no USS Titan, comrades and crewmates become bitter enemies. When Doctor Ree assists the Klingon-Cardassian Alliance in exploiting the gentle Irriol people for their empathic powers, resistance fighters Will Riker, Tuvok, and Ian Troi must stop them, and Doctor Jaza Najem and his Terran slave Christine Vale are caught in the middle.  But who are the real heroes and the real villains?

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The invitation was simple this time: Would I be interested in doing a Mirror Universe story featuring Titan characters?  Beyond that, the requirement was to stay in continuity with the two MU anthologies from 2007, which also tie into recent and upcoming DS9 novels.  As such, I also had to set my story before those novels and avoid the Bajoran sector.

I can't say much about the genesis of the idea without getting a bit spoilery, not only of this story but one of the others in the anthology.  So I'll save that discussion for the spoiler notes.  I will say that I wanted to subvert the usual expectations about who the good guys and bad guys are in the Mirror Universe.

Spoiler discussion and notes


Titan: Over a Torrent Sea Star Trek: Titan: Over a Torrent Sea
As the Federation recovers from the devastating events of Star Trek: Destiny, Captain William Riker and the crew of the U.S.S. Titan are ordered to resume their deep-space assignment, reaffirming Starfleet's core principles of peaceful exploration.  But even far from home on a mission of hope, the scars of the recent cataclysm remain with them as they slowly rebuild their lives.

The planet Droplet is a world made mostly of water without a speck of solid ground.  Life should not exist here, yet it thrives.  Aili Lavena, Titan's aquatic navigator, spearheads the exploration of this mysterious world, facing the dangers of the vast, wild ocean.  When one native species proves to be sentient, Lavena finds herself immersed in a delicate contact situation, and Riker is called away from Deanna Troi at a critical moment in their marriage.

But when good intentions bring calamity, Lavena and Riker are cut off from the crew and feared lost.  Troi must face a life-changing event without her husband, while the crew must brave the crushing pressures of the deep to undo the global chaos they have triggered.  Stranded with her injured captain, Lavena must win the trust of the beings who control their fate -- but the price for Riker's survival may be the loss of everything he holds dear.

"Bennett has restored a sense of exploration and boldness... "Over a Torrent Sea" is the most complete, entertaining, and though provoking Star Trek book to have appeared in the past year." -- Robert Lyons, TrekMovie.com

"It's the kind of science fiction storytelling that Star Trek books don't often do... a solid return to form for the Titan series." -- Steve Roby, Starfleet Library

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This novel started as an afterthought.  After finishing Greater Than the Sum, I let Marco know I was available, and mentioned a particular topic I was interested in exploring.  Marco suggested doing a TTN proposal around the topic.  The thing was, this would've been a revisit of something we've seen before in ST, and I feel TTN should be about discovering the new.  So I wanted a pure-exploration subplot, ideally different in tone from the grand interstellar quest of Orion's Hounds.  As I often do, I decided to cannibalize an old, unsold idea.  Years ago, I had written a spec novel called Daughter of Earth and Water, involving the exploration of a world of ocean and islands called Archipel, a world I created a rich biosphere for.  But over time, I realized the story was too basic, the environment wasn't exotic enough, and the plot was based on some outmoded ideas.  Over the years, I tried to rework it, and the Voyager episode "Thirty Days" inspired me to try to come up with a way a planet consisting almost purely of water could arise naturally and support life.  This was when I changed Archipel to Droplet.  But I could never really get that idea to work out plausibly.  Over time, the idea got pushed to the back of my mind, something I hoped to revisit someday but had no serious plans for.

Then I learned about the concept of an Ocean Planet, a newly theorized category of world made largely of water -- essentially a Neptune-type planet without its hydrogen atmosphere.  It wouldn't be a world of nearly pure liquid like I wanted, but that would be impossible anyway, since the water would be compressed to exotic high-temperature ices past a relatively shallow depth.  I realized that an Ocean Planet was the closest I could get to Droplet.

So this idea was on my mind when I was fishing (ha ha) for a pure-exploration B plot to my TTN novel.  I reworked the plot of Daughter with Aili Lavena as the lead and trimmed it down to subplot length -- although I changed the dolphinlike aliens of Daughter to something more exotic.

The thing was, though Marco didn't dislike the A plot, every time it came to the fore he found himself impatient to get back to Droplet.  So he suggested expanding the B plot to full novel length -- with the A plot to be saved for a later novel, perhaps TTN, perhaps something else.

So I finally got to do a version of Daughter of Earth and Water after all.  The title wouldn't fit, though, since Aili's not a daughter of Earth.  I found Over a Torrent Sea elsewhere in the same source poem, Shelley's "The Cloud."  I still got to use the "daughter of earth and water" line, though, since its stanza made a perfect epigraph.

One thing that OaTS had to do was to follow up on David Mack's Destiny trilogy, which brought great upheaval and destruction to the Federation.  Although the novel would return the Titan crew to their journeys of exploration, they would still be dealing with their grief at the losses they and their civilization sustained. As it turned out, this story would end up having more personal meaning for me than I expected.  Early in the writing, my beloved cat Natasha died at the age of 17.  So I was going through much the same process of grieving as the characters, and I believe that helped me write about grief more honestly, and that the writing helped me work through my personal loss as well as letting me pay tribute to Tasha.

As indicated in the Acknowledgments, I consulted several of the key theoretical papers on Ocean Planets.  Whereas most of my Trek novels have contained some fanciful elements to fit the Trek milieu, the worldbuilding for Droplet is as plausible and scientifically grounded as I know how to make it. The proportion of hard SF herein is higher than in any of my prior Trek fiction. And due to the novelty of the Ocean Planet concept, this is surely one of the first science fiction novels ever to feature one, if not the very first.  (Edited to add: I have subsequently discovered that Ian McDonald featured an Ocean Planet briefly and peripherally in his 2008 novella "The Tear," beating me to it by a year or so.  But OaTS is still the earliest novel-length, in-depth treatment I'm aware of.)

Cliff Nielsen's cover is based on my description of Aili Lavena from Orion's Hounds, but he's added his own touches, including the facial features, the skin mottling and stripes (they aren't scales, more like camouflage patterns), and the seaweedy quality to her gill crests.  It's actually not that far off from the cover I imagined for Daughter, which was of the leading lady caught in mid-leap out of the water, arcing in midair.  It's a nifty piece of artwork, and I take pride in being the author of the first ST novel with full frontal nudity on its cover.  (Well, 98% full.)

Annotations page
 Explanations of references and science/tech (spoiler-heavy!)

DTI: Watching the ClockStar Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations: Watching the Clock 
There's likely no more of a thankless job in the Federation than temporal investigation. While starship explorers get to live the human adventure of traveling to other times and realities, it's up to the dedicated agents of the Federation Department of Temporal Investigations to deal with the consequences to the timestream that the rest of the Galaxy has to live with day by day. But when history as we know it could be wiped out at any moment by time warriors from the future, misused relics of ancient races, or accident-prone starships, only the most disciplined, obsessive, and unimaginative government employees have what it takes to face the existential uncertainty of it all on a daily basis . . . and still stay sane enough to complete their assignments.

That's where Agents Lucsly and Dulmur come in—stalwart and unflappable, these men are the Federation's unsung anchors in a chaotic universe. Together with their colleagues in the DTI—and with the help and sometimes hindrance of Starfleet's finest—they do what they can to keep the timestream, or at least the paperwork, as neat and orderly as they are. But when a series of escalating temporal incursions threatens to open a new front of the history-spanning Temporal Cold War in the twenty-fourth century, Agents Lucsly and Dulmur will need all their investigative skill and unbending determination to stop those who wish to rewrite the past for their own advantage, and to keep the present and the future from devolving into the kind of chaos they really, really hate.

 
"Bennett thankfully avoided all the potential pitfalls of writing such a time travel-inspired tale.  While there are moments where his own careful research into the latest chronal theories helps drive this adventure forward, he always strives to ensure his explanations make some kind of sense.... Watching the Clock.. also develops some great characters... All in all, an action-packed adventure with some great moments of humor." -- John Freeman, Star Trek Magazine #34

"Bennett takes characters who had only a few minutes of screen time and makes them believable characters... He's clearly done a lot of thinking, and he shows some of his homework, but keeps the book flowing well enough that it never devolves into a series of expository lumps." -- Steve Roby, Starfleet Library

"[A] novel whose ambition is only surpassed in its accomplishments... borderline epic." -- Ian Coomber, Whatculture!

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The idea for this book came to me because I hate time-travel stories.  There are so many cliches and implausibilities in the genre, so much that just doesn't make sense if you really try to analyze it, which I generally do.  On the one hand, I've spent many years trying to figure out how to make sense of time travel in science fiction, and I was tempted to develop a definitive Star Trek time-travel novel that would let me present the rough model I'd developed to rationalize the particularly convoluted temporal conceits of the Trek universe.  But on the other hand, I had no interest in doing any of the conventional formula stories about people going back and changing history or trying to repair history or what-have-you.  So I had the thought of telling a story about the Department of Temporal Investigations, an organization introduced in Deep Space Nine -- first alluded to in passing in "Past Tense," then represented by the redoubtable agents Lucsly and Dulmur in "Trials and Tribble-ations."  I would approach it in a manner akin to a crime procedural, focusing on DTI agents who didn't travel in time themselves, but who investigated temporal incidents when they did occur.  Lucsly and Dulmur would be the stars, along with a cast of new characters to fill out the agency.  There might be a few other familiar faces here and there; maybe Clare Raymond, the cryonically-preserved housewife from TNG's "The Neutral Zone," could have a job counseling the time-displaced as they adjusted to their new lives.  Maybe the crew of the Bozeman from TNG: "Cause and Effect" could be attached to the DTI for time-related missions.

When I pitched the idea to my editor Marco Palmieri, he wasn't enthusiastic about it.  For that matter, neither was I at the time.  It wasn't something I'd given a great deal of thought to or even written anything down about.  I figured if he showed interest, I'd develop it further.  But he didn't, so there it sat.

Unfortunately, Marco fell victim to a round of layoffs at Simon & Schuster during the economic crash of 2008 (though don't worry -- since then, he's worked as a contributor and editor for Star Trek Magazine, opened his own editorial consulting business, and recently become an in-house editor at Tor Books).  Then his successor Margaret Clark fell victim to another round of layoffs (though she's bounced back too).  In 2010, the new incoming editor, Jaime Costas, asked me to pitch what story ideas I had for Trek.  I sent her everything: pitches to Marco and Margaret left over when they departed, ideas I'd been developing as possible Trek comic pitches, the works.  As an afterthought, I decided to toss in a paragraph about my DTI idea, the first time I'd ever actually written anything down about it.  Imagine my surprise when it was the one that got picked.  Most everything else I'd pitched was already partially outlined, needing only completion or revision.  But this was a bare-bones idea, something where I was virtually starting from scratch.  And it was the most complicated project they could've chosen, since I had to develop two barely-glimpsed characters as my leads, create a whole new supporting cast, and do tons of research -- not just Trek time travel stories from canon and prose, but real quantum theory about time and parallel histories (since I was determined to make it as plausible as I could) and a lot of classic science fiction pertaining to time travel (for inspiration).  In fact, it's the most complicated Star Trek writing project I've ever had.

But all my research into quantum theory revealed that, surprisingly, a lot of the stuff in Trek time travel that seemed absurd could actually be explained with legitimate (if unproven) theoretical physics.  As stated above, I'd already had a broad theory in mind for how time travel worked in the Trek universe, but I was able to ground it much more solidly and with more detail.  It was a fascinating exercise.  More importantly, creating an almost wholly new family of characters was very satisfying, and I became very fond of them.  Watching the Clock was the most challenging Trek novel to write, but also one of the most fulfilling.

If you're more interested in the established Trek characters and storylines, don't worry -- Watching the Clock features guest appearances by a number of prominent characters and revisits a number of familiar time-travel stories from the DTI's perspective.  What's more, I've already been commissioned to write a TOS novel which will deal with the beginnings of the DTI.

Due to the complexity of this book, the annotations are rather extensive this time:

Character Notes  Discussion of character development, background, and "casting" ideas (spoiler-heavy!)

Annotations Page 1 (Ch. I-VIII) and Page 2 (Ch. IX-Epilogue)  Explanations of references and science/tech (spoiler-heavy!)

Alien Calendar Notes  Background on many of the alien calendars used in chapter headings

NDB Media audio interview about DTI:WTC  April 11, 2011


The Struggle Within  Star Trek: Typhon Pact: The Struggle Within 
An original e-novella in the acclaimed Typhon Pact series! The Enterprise-E is on a diplomatic mission to the Talarian Republic, the last holdout in the Federation's efforts to expand the Khitomer Accords in response to the emergence of the Typhon Pact. In the wake of Andor's recent secession, the Federation is more concerned than ever with strengthening its alliances. The Talarians have been a tenuous potential partner at best, given the history of conflict and mistrust between them and the Federation. But the negotiations between Picard and the Talarians are disrupted by a growing public protest of those who are demanding greater rights—and before long, it becomes clear that the dissidents are not limiting themselves to nonviolent means….

Meanwhile, Jasminder Choudhury and T'Ryssa Chen go undercover on the capital world of the reclusive Kinshaya to investigate a different kind of dissident movement that could shift the tenuous balance of power within the Pact and tip the scales toward peace or war.



"Bennett provides a timely story, inspired by very recent real world events, combined with an accessible yet still alien background... that completely engages the reader.... 'The Struggle Within' is truly the best story of the five… and an outstanding conclusion to the series...." -- Robert Lyons, TrekMovie.com

TrekMovie's Best Short Story/Novella of 2011!

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Back when the Star Trek: Typhon Pact miniseries was first being developed, I was one of the first authors invited to participate, but I was soon offered a competing opportunity to write the first tie-in novel to the new continuity introduced by the 2009 Star Trek motion picture (although it later ended up being the second one scheduled for release).  That was an opportunity I couldn't pass up, and I was told that the scheduling wouldn't allow me to do both, so I gave up my Pact participation to write the Abramsverse novel that was called Seek a Newer World.  But then the Pact books got delayed, so I maybe could have done one after all, but someone else had already been given the gig, and I needed to devote the time to an original novel project anyway.  And then the Abramsverse novels got cancelled for whatever reason.  So in retrospect, passing up the Typhon Pact gig may not have been the right choice after all (although it was a lot of fun writing an Abramsverse novel, even if it never sees print).

Fortunately, the Typhon Pact miniseries did so well that Simon & Schuster decided they wanted an additional entry, a novella-length e-book which they could use to test the waters in the electronic market again (now that e-books have become a lot more widely read than they were when S&S previously published original Trek e-novellas).  And I was pleased to be the one invited to write it, so that I could finally contribute to the series after all.

It also gave me the opportunity to fill a gap.  The Typhon Pact has six members: the Romulans, Tholians, Breen, Gorn, Tzenkethi, and Kinshaya (an enemy of the Klingons first mentioned in John M. Ford's classic novel The Final Reflection and finally shown and developed in Keith R. A. DeCandido's A Singular Destiny, the book that introduced the Typhon Pact).  The four Typhon Pact novels focused on the Romulans and Tzenkethi in Rough Beasts of Empire by David R. George III, the Breen in Zero Sum Game by David Mack, the Gorn in Seize the Fire by Michael A. Martin, and the Tholians in Paths of Disharmony by Dayton Ward.  So the Kinshaya were the one Pact member still in need of a focus story.  Meanwhile, according to A Singular Destiny, the Federation had invited the Klingons, Ferengi, Cardassians, and Talarians (from TNG: "Suddenly Human") to participate in talks for an expansion of the Khitomer Accords.  I figured if I was going to focus a plotline on the least-explored member of the Pact, I should also do one focusing on the least-explored member of the potential Accord expansion, namely the Talarians.  Since prior novels had established Endar from "Suddenly Human" as the Talarian ambassador to the Federation, that let me follow up on the events and characters of that episode.

This gig came to me at the height of the Arab Spring, when nonviolent resistance had successfully brought down the oppressive government in Egypt.  I wanted to do a story celebrating the power of nonviolent resistance, and the theocratic state Keith had given the Kinshaya in ASD seemed like a good target for such a revolt.  The subject matter let me focus on Enterprise security chief Jasminder Choudhury, a character whose debut came in my earlier novel Greater Than the Sum, and address some issues that I felt her character arc in intervening novels had raised.  It was also a chance to revisit the character of T'Ryssa Chen, the contact specialist I created in GTTS, and give her the kind of alien-contact/diplomatic mission she's trained for but has had little opportunity to pursue in the intervening books.

Of course, I realized that to make the story marketable, it would need to focus on more than just characters and races created for the novels; hence the parallel storyline with Picard, Worf, and Crusher dealing with another bout of social unrest in the Talarian Republic.  That's nominally the A story of the novella for promotional purposes, though in my mind it's the B story, with the Kinshaya tale being more important to the overall Typhon Pact narrative.  (The official blurb doesn't even mention the Kinshaya plot.  The second paragraph of the blurb above is my own unofficial addition.)  Given that "Suddenly Human" established the Talarians as a strongly patriarchal society, I called on some of the things I learned in my history studies about women's movements and the subtle kinds of power that women can informally wield in societies that formally marginalize them.

Some early online references to this novella called it "Civil Disobedience," which was a placeholder title I suggested for the paperwork, but that I replaced less than a day later with my preferred title, The Courage of Conscience.  But that title wasn't deemed exciting enough, so we ended up with The Struggle Within.

Spoiler discussion and notes


DTI: Watching the ClockStar Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations: Forgotten History
The agents of the Department of Temporal Investigations are assigned to look into an anomaly that has appeared deep in Federation territory. It’s difficult to get clear readings, but a mysterious inactive vessel lies at the heart of the anomaly, one outfitted with some sort of temporal drive disrupting space-time and subspace. To the agents’ shock, the ship bears a striking resemblance to a Constitution-class starship, and its warp signature matches that of the original Federation starship Enterprise NCC-1701—the ship of James T. Kirk, that infamous bogeyman of temporal investigators, whose record of violations is held up by DTI agents as a cautionary tale for Starfleet recklessness toward history. But the vessel’s hull markings identify it as Timeship Two, belonging to none other than the DTI itself. At first, Agents Lucsly and Dulmur assume the ship is from some other timeline . . . but its quantum signature confirms that it came from their own past, despite the fact that the DTI never possessed such a timeship. While the anomaly is closely monitored, Lucsly and Dulmur must search for answers in the history of Kirk’s Enterprise and its many encounters with time travel—a series of events with direct ties to the origins of the DTI itself. . . .


"[Forgotten History] is a well designed, deeply considered, and internally consistent technical narrative that serves to engage and excite the reader – at least this reader." -- Robert Lyons, TrekMovie.com

"Excellent story, with Bennett's trademark humour and scientific acumen on proud display." -- Trek Lit Reviews

Six weeks on Publishers Weekly Top 10 Science Fiction bestsellers list!


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Quoting from my StarTrek.com article about the novel:

After writing the first DTI novel, Watching the Clock, I’d never expected to revisit the Department of Temporal Investigations so soon, let alone to do a prequel. But... [i]n trying to work out what my 2012 book would be, my Star Trek editor suggested out of the blue, “How about a TOS/DTI book?” We knew from Deep Space Nine: “Trials and Tribble-ations” that James T. Kirk had seventeen separate temporal violations listed in the DTI’s files, so surely there must be an unchronicled one worth writing about.

The suggestion sparked a bigger idea in me, though. Watching the Clock and earlier stories had established the DTI’s founding date as 2270, right around the end of the famous five-year mission. So why not tell the origin story of the DTI itself? I could have Lucsly and Dulmur—the DTI agents featured in “Trials and Tribble-ations” and the lead characters of Watching the Clock—encounter a temporal mystery tying into the origins of their own department, a mystery suggesting that Kirk and the Enterprise played an even more integral role in the DTI’s formative years than history recorded, and use their investigation as a framing sequence for that story. Not only could I do for the original series’ time travel episodes what I did for various twenty-fourth-century ones in Watching the Clock—tell the stories behind the stories and explore their background, connections, and consequences—but I could extend the tale forward into the DTI’s early years and finally get to write that follow-up to Star Trek: Ex Machina that I’ve wanted to do for a long time.

The idea fell into place very quickly. I had the basic structure of the story, including the ending, worked out within 90 minutes of getting the suggestion, and I had the title within two hours after that. Working out the details of the outline took about a month, though. I had to review a lot of material, including Watching the Clock, Ex Machina, and most of the time-travel episodes of TOS, as well as assorted material relating to the Star Trek: The Motion Picture era to help me get my mind back into that timeframe. When I finally turned in the outline to my editor, I included the following note: “I'm glad you suggested this. It's shaping up to be a fun story. Lucsly & Dulmur confronting the myth and reality of James T. Kirk head-on? It's priceless."
...
The timeframe of the book lets me fulfill some long-standing wishes: telling a story employing characters and concepts from Star Trek: The Animated Series (and not the characters one would expect); exploring the internal layout of the Enterprise based on what was revealed in Star Trek: Enterprise’s “In a Mirror, Darkly” as well as the original and animated series; elaborating on the end of the five-year mission and the process of the Enterprise refit; and most of all, carrying forward the post-TMP adventures of the Enterprise and advancing some of the major character arcs that Ex Machina set in motion. All of this is secondary to the saga of the DTI’s formative years, of course, but it’s all in there, and then some.
...
I was told going in that the book would probably be marketed under the TOS banner.   But my contract listed it as DTI, so I wasn’t sure how it was going to turn out. ... Still, I stuck with the original plan to approach it primarily as a Kirk-era novel. Although its frame sequence does feature the DTI characters from Watching the Clock and takes place after it, I’ve tried to treat them the same way I’d handle brand-new characters, so that TOS fans picking up this book can learn all they need to know about the DTI team without needing to read anything else. .... Although Forgotten History is the second DTI book, it’s my hope that it can work equally well if you read it first—appropriately, for it is the origin story of the department.

Spoiler discussion and notes


ROTF: A Choice of Futures coverStar Trek: Enterprise -- Rise of the Federation: A Choice of Futures
A new nation has arisen from the ashes of the Romulan War: the United Federation of Planets, an unprecedented union of diverse species cooperating for the good of all. Admiral Jonathan Archer—the former captain of the Earth starship Enterprise, whose efforts made this union possible—envisions a vibrant Federation promoting galactic peace and a multispecies Starfleet dedicated to exploring strange new worlds. Archer’s former crewmates, including Captain T’Pol of the U.S.S. Endeavour and Captain Malcolm Reed of the U.S.S. Pioneer, work with him to secure that bright future. Yet others within the Federation see its purpose as chiefly military, a united defense against a dangerous galaxy, while some of its neighbors view that military might with suspicion and fear. And getting the member nations, their space fleets, and even their technologies to work together as a unified whole is an ongoing challenge.

When a new threat emerges from a force so alien and hostile that negotiation seems impossible, a group of unaligned worlds asks Starfleet to come to its defense, and the Federation’s leaders seize the opportunity to build their reputation as an interstellar power. But Archer fears the conflict is building toward an unnecessary war, potentially taking the young nation down a path it was never meant to follow. Archer and his allies strive to find a better solution…but old foes are working secretly to sabotage their efforts and ensure that the great experiment called the Federation comes to a quick and bloody end.

"A Choice of Futures does a superb job of fleshing out those early days of the Federation." -- Dan Gunther, TrekCore

"A Choice of Futures is a great book.  It’s an extremely pleasurable read, rich with Star Trek lore and filled with compelling new stories for our heroes and interesting new character-arcs for the Enterprise ensemble.... This is exactly the type of fun, well-thought-out prequel to the Original Series that I had always hoped Enterprise would prove to be." -- Josh Edelglass, Motion Picture Comics

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I enjoy filling in the unexplored segments of the Star Trek universe. So with the increasing continuity and arc-driven structure of the 24th-century Trek novels these days, I found my interests as a writer shifting away from that period. I gave some thought to an idea I would've called Star Trek: Beginnings, filling in the gap between first contact with Vulcan in 2063 and the beginning of Enterprise in 2151. I thought it might be interesting to explore humanity's adjustment to the Vulcans, the colonization of Alpha Centauri, the rise of the Space Boomers, etc. But my editor rightly pointed out that there would be too few familiar characters in that setting, and not a lot of audience interest. Instead, she suggested that I take over the Enterprise novel line in the wake of the Romulan War duology by Michael J. Martin, which concluded with the founding of the United Federation of Planets in 2161. I was initially hesitant, but the more I thought about it, the more it intrigued me, since the early Federation era is virtually untouched. We have very limited information about this period from canon, and only one book, Starfleet: Year One, has ever been set in this era. But that novel was soon superseded by Enterprise, and its focus was principally on Starfleet and not the wider Federation. So the period is very nearly a blank slate, which is both a great opportunity and a great challenge for me. There are many worthwhile questions to explore: How did an alliance forged in wartime become the peaceful union we know? How did its founding members balance their differing views of what the Federation should become? What challenges did this fledgling union face in dealing with neighboring powers unsure of its intentions or threatened by its unity? What new enemies arose in the wake of the Romulans?

Worldbuilding in Trek fiction is usually relatively easy since there’s so much backstory and continuity to build on, but in this case it was a lot more challenging to strain out the tiny fragments of information we have about people, events, and institutions from this period. I’ve had to do a lot of extrapolation. But I’m picking up some threads from ENT, the series, that I felt were worth expanding on, and I’m building toward the Trek universe as we know it in the original series, so at least I know my starting and ending points. The worldbuilding has been a lot of fun — figuring out how the early UFP government was organized, how the member races cooperated in the joint government and combined fleet, and what the various member races contributed to Starfleet and how it evolved toward the form we know, in terms of design and technology. I’ve even come up with a design for the original Federation Starfleet uniform. Plus, of course, there’s the challenge of moving the ENT characters (regular and recurring) forward in their lives and careers. There are a few whose futures we have some foreknowledge of, but the rest are blank slates.

To answer the inevitable question, no, you don't need to have read The Romulan War to follow this book. ROTF:ACOF is a fresh beginning, picking up about a year after the Federation’s founding. The war is over, Enterprise herself is in mothballs, and Admiral Jonathan Archer, his former crew, and his allies including Shran and Soval have moved on to new phases in their lives, playing new roles in the Federation and its combined Starfleet. The novel will feature many familiar characters from the era, a few new crewmates for the familiar cast, and some unexpected names as well

Another cool thing about this is that it completes my grand slam: I will now have written tie-ins for every onscreen Trek series, as well as several book-only ones. At first, admittedly, I was a little wary about taking on Enterprise, which I was lukewarm about in its first run. But upon rewatching the series as research for this book, I’ve gained a much greater appreciation for it. When I watched ENT in its original run, my perceptions were filtered through “Oh, that’s not what I expected” or “That’s not how I would’ve done it,” and that colored my reactions, as I think it did for a lot of us. But on revisiting the series, I was able to accept that this was how it was and evaluate it on its own terms. And I think it held up pretty well overall. There was a lot in the series that I felt it was worthwhile to continue, and a lot of ideas that I felt were worth revisiting and fleshing out. (More discussion on my blog here.)

I've been heartened by the strongly positive advance reactions this book has received. I was asked to do a sequel  before I'd even turned in the manuscript for book 1. I have tentative plans for several more books beyond that.

My design sketch for early Federation Starfleet uniforms described in novel

Spoiler discussion and notes 


Tower of Babel coverStar Trek: Enterprise -- Rise of the Federation: Tower of Babel
The United Federation of Planets has weathered its first major crisis, but its growing pains are just beginning. Admiral Jonathan Archer hopes to bring the diverse inhabitants of the powerful and prosperous Rigel system into the Federation, jump-starting the young nation’s growth and stabilizing a key sector of space. Archer and the Federation’s top diplomats journey to the planetoid Babel to debate Rigel’s admission . . . but a looming presidential race heats up the ideological divide within the young nation, jeopardizing the talks and threatening to undo the fragile unity Archer has worked so hard to preserve.

Meanwhile, the sinister Orion Syndicate recruits new allies of its own, seeking to beat the Federation at its own game. Determined to keep Rigel out of the union, they help a hostile Rigelian faction capture sensitive state secrets along with Starfleet hostages, including a young officer with a vital destiny. Captain Malcolm Reed, Captain T’Pol, and their courageous crews must now brave the wonders and dangers of Rigel’s many worlds to track down the captives before the system is plunged into all-out war.

"There is a lot in this book for the avid Star Trek fan to pick up on.... I'm really looking forward to seeing where Bennett takes these characters next!" -- Dan Gunther, TrekCore

"Tower of Babel is... a terrific continuation of this “Rise of the Federation” story.  THIS is what the Enterprise TV show should have been all about, showing us the baby steps and the early trails and tribulations faced by this young, unprecedented interstellar alliance." -- Josh Edelglass, Motion Picture Comics

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When I developed Book 1 of Rise of the Federation, I went into it with the idea that it could be the first of a series, and I began considering longer-term story possibilities. Book 1 was about the Federation defining its identity, choosing what kind of state it was going to be. Thus, it followed that Book 2 should be about its early efforts at growth and consolidation: the first attempt to recruit a major new member and the establishment of the tradition of Babel conferences to debate the questions of membership, which would in turn bring out some of the lingering tensions and fissure lines within the still-fragile union.

So you'd think that when I got the assignment to do a sequel, it would've come fairly easily. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case. At the time I was working on the Book 2 outline, my attention was still primarily on the recently released Only Superhuman -- doing publicity, tracking its performance, and so on -- in addition to which, I came down with a terrible cold and severe throat irritation that kept me up at night for over a week. It's hard to focus on plotting a novel when you can hardly breathe. I finally figured out some remedies for my sore throat, but I'd lost a lot of time on the outline and had to struggle to meet the deadline. What I turned in was sufficient to get approval, but it turned out not to be a clear enough blueprint to guide me through the writing process, and thus I floundered and fell badly behind on that as well, even though I'd specifically asked for enough time that I wouldn't be rushed.

Still, I finally managed to get my head in the game and cope with some of the problems I was having. For one thing, I decided to delete a whole subplot that was unconnected to the rest of the story and could be saved for a later book (one of the advantages of doing a series). I realized it was interrupting  the momentum of both the narrative and my own writing process, and that was part of what was slowing me down. That was a significant setback in word count, since I had to backtrack and come up with something new to take its place, but once I cleared that obstruction, the ideas flowed more easily, and I wrote the entire replacement subplot in a single day. (It was actually an idea I'd already thought of as a future possibility, but it plugged in nicely here.) I still had some trouble with the rest, since one of the major plot threads in the outline wasn't working and needed to be seriously rethought, while another was lacking in needed detail. But I got a handle on it by abandoning my tendency to write in chronological order, instead tackling each separate plot thread one by one, so that I wouldn't keep having to shift focus and lose momentum. That helped me finish the book in time for my deadline, and I had some nice moments of serendipity along the way, particularly a new subplot that sort of spontaneously emerged and allowed a certain character to play a more proactive role in the resoution of the crisis. But in those last weeks I worked so hard and was so stressed out that I ended up straining my shoulder pretty badly. I was very glad that the Shore Leave convention arrived just after I was done. I got to hang out with my writer friends and stay with my cousins in the area, and had a really nice visit to my audiobook publisher too, so that really cheered me up.

It's hard for me to look at Tower of Babel objectively, since the writing process was so turbulent. There are probably things I could've done better, but now that I think about it, there are a number of things I'm rather proud of. In particular, I had fun with the worldbuilding of the Rigel system, taking all the disparate references to Rigel this and Rigel that in the screen canon, along with the ones in the current novel continuity, and building a cohesive whole out of them. Why did I choose Rigel as the first major addition to the young Federation? Because I wanted Archer to go after a major prize, a coalition of worlds whose addition to the union would increase its size and power significantly in one fell swoop, so that the stakes would be as high as possible. And I didn't just want to create some hitherto-unknown civilization, since that would raise the question of why it was never heard of later on. Rigel has so many distinct worlds and cultures that it gave me a rich multispecies community in a single system -- although it did come with certain conceptual problems and contradictions that I had to navigate my way around. Also, ENT's "Demons" and "Terra Prime" had included Rigelians among the delegates to the initial Coalition of Planets talks, and a couple of earlier sources (the classic Spaceflight Chronology and the novel Starfleet Year One) had postulated Rigel as a founding or very early member of the Federation, in contrast to the traditionally accepted founders of Earth, Vulcan, Andoria, Tellar, and Alpha Centauri. So the idea of Rigel being in at the beginning, or nearly so, had some precedent.

The cover to Tower of Babel is much more along the lines I was hoping for than the cover for A Choice of Futures turned out to be. It showcases the lead ships of ROTF, Captain T'Pol's Endeavour (based on Doug Drexler's conjectural NX-class refit) and Captain Reed's Pioneer (of the Intrepid class which debuted in "The Expanse"). It's the first time the NX refit design has been used on a novel cover, though it's previously been seen in the Ships of the Line calendar.

Spoiler discussion and notes 


DTI The CollectorsStar Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations: The Collectors

The dedicated agents of the Federation Department of Temporal Investigations have their work cut out for them protecting the course of history from the dangers of time travel. But the galaxy is littered with artifacts that, in the wrong hands, could threaten reality. One of the DTI's most crucial jobs is to track down these objects and lock them safely away in the Federation’s most secret and secure facility. When Agents Lucsly and Dulmur bring home an alien obelisk of incredible power, they are challenged by a 31st-century temporal agent who insists they surrender the mysterious artifact to her. But before they know it, the three agents are pulled into a corrupted future torn apart by a violent temporal war. While their DTI colleagues attempt to track them down, Lucsly and Dulmur must restore temporal peace by setting off on an epic journey through the ages, with the future of the galaxy hanging in the balance...


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Back when I was asked to do Typhon Pact: The Struggle Within, it was something of an experiment, the first attempt to revive the Star Trek e-book line now that e-books have become more commonplace. Fortunately that experiment was a success, and Star Trek e-novellas have become a fairly regular thing. When my editor Margaret Clark offered me a chance to do another e-book, my first thought was to revisit my beloved post-TMP setting (Ex Machina, The Darkness Drops Again, Forgotten History), but as it happened, there were already two upcoming e-books set in more or less that era (Michael A. Martin's Seasons of Light and Darkness, set during The Wrath of Khan, and Scott Pearson's The More Things Change, set six months after TMP). Margaret specifically suggested DTI as a possibility, and once I started considering that option, the idea fell into place very quickly. I'd set up a number of characters and concepts in Watching the Clock that I'd been interested in exploring in more depth, primarily the Eridian Vault (where the DTI stores temporal artifacts) and 31st-century Temporal Agent Jena Noi, a character I really took a shine to and wanted to explore more fully. This novella was my chance to flesh them both out, along with whatever else caught my fancy.

And so this book turned out to be rather different from its predecessors. Watching the Clock and Forgotten History were largely exercises in continuity engineering, tying together the various time-travel stories in Trek history and fleshing out the unifying principles and events behind them. But The Collectors was my chance to tell an original story driven by the DTI characters and concepts themselves, to just cut loose with them and play with the potentials of a time-travel narrative unfettered by the need to fill in the blanks of this episode or that movie. (Other than Lucsly and Dulmur, only one canonical character plays a major role in the tale.) As such, it was enormously liberating and enormously fun to write. I really went wild with this one. There are parts that had me howling with laughter when I wrote them in the outline and that still make me laugh now. This is probably the craziest thing I've ever written.

Also, it may be an e-novella, but is by no means a disposable side story. It advances the storyline of the DTI series in a meaningful way and fleshes out a lot of significant worldbuilding. I know that not everyone reads e-books, but that doesn't mean I'm not going to try to give them a reason to start. I don't want to treat anything I write as unimportant or disposable. (And who knows? With Trek e-novellas coming along pretty regularly now, maybe eventually we'll get print compilations of them.)

Spoiler discussion and notes 


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