On Deep Space Nine: "Fear, Itself"

Tom Sharp raised the question, “Could [“Fear Itself,” published in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds V] be considered a part of the DS9 post-finale stories I have listed at DS9 Avatar?

There are two possible answers here, and each has their reasons:

Yes, include it–“Fear Itself” takes place post-“What You Leave Behind.”

No, don’t include it–“Fear Itself” doesn’t adhere to the post-Avatar continuity (such as Ezri’s rank/position).

If you go with the former, then any story set after “What You Leave Behind” could be considered a “relaunch” story, regardless of quality or continuity. (I’m curious to see how The Captain’s Peril fits with non-Shatnerverse continuity on this point.) If you go with the latter, then you’re acknowledging that Marco has a “master-plan” and has the right to pick and choose what’s important for his overall vision. (Which we know he does–witness his decision to set aside all DS9 novels published prior to the Millennium trilogy and The Lives of Dax.)

Here’s a way to think about it. Marco is now DS9‘s executive producer, and he has a writing staff producing “official” stories. There are “unofficial” stories out there, though, in which Marco has no part, and while they might use his characters and situations, they aren’t really part of the overall DS9 relaunch. This isn’t any different than Rick Berman being the executive producer of Enterprise, and Pocket producing a series of novels using the characters; Berman gets to decide what’s real (his show) and what’s not (the novels). It’s the same thing.

Yes, for some people this concept is going to cause massive cognitive dissonance. They could point to “Fear Itself” as proof that Jake survives whatever trials he’s gone through since Avatar, which isn’t necessarily true–just because we know Rising Son is about Jake doesn’t mean Jake makes it out alive. James Dixon will write angry notes in the next edition of his Chronology about Pocket’s massive insensitivity to macroTrek consistency. But you know something? What matters, in the end, is the individual stories themselves. Robert Mendenhall had a story he wanted to tell. Marco’s stable of writers had stories they wanted to tell. If the stories “mesh” into some greater tapestry, then that’s wonderful. If the stories don’t “mesh,” then so what? I’m not suggesting that continuity is a bad thing–far from it, I like interstory continuity as much as the next person–but I think it does a disservice to the writers of future DS9 novels if they need to stay consistent with a barely remembered novel or short story from five years ago. Marco has established a new starting point–Avatar–and I think that’s a fine way to go, especially as it’s a clear starting point. It’s a vocal minority wailing about the loss of Wrath of the Prophets and the Dominion Wars novels, but they’re missing the point–Avatar was meant as a new beginning for the novels and a continuation of the series itself, not as the next novels in the sequence.

I’ve been giving some consideration to the implications of Tom’s question–should Avatar have any bearing on a Strange New Worlds story set after “What You Leave Behind”–because of a story I’m writing for submission to the next SNW anthology. Like “Fear Itself,” it’s a Jake story. Like “Fear Itself,” it takes place after “What You Leave Behind,” two years after, in fact. I’m going to attempt to stay reasonably consistent with what we know thus far about the post-Avatar continuity, but I’m also not going to relentlessly name-drop from Avatar and beyond because there’s (1) no point to that, and (2) no quicker way to getting the story tossed in the circular file because of the contest rules. More importantly, continuity with Avatar is not a major issue in the story–Jake doesn’t spend any time on the station in this story, there’s only one Starfleet character in it, and there’s never any reason for me to need to refer to DS9 at all. Unless Marco decides to make Jake a cloistered monk in Unity, I think I’m treading on safe ground writing about Jake two years after “What You Leave Behind.” 🙂

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