The Psi Phi Summit Report

I’m on the spot, all attention in the ballroom is focused upon me as a microphone dangles in my face. “‘Enter the Wolves,’ what did you think?” asks Howard Weinstein, an insistant look upon his face.

I had fallen victim on one of the classic blunders, the most famous of which is never get involved in a land war in Asia, but only slightly less well known is this–never raise your hand and admit to knowing or doing something in a room with less than a dozen people. Howard had asked his audience if anyone had read his most recent Star Trek work, and as I had read his comic “Enter the Wolves” I raised my hand only to discover that I was the only one present that had. Hence, the microphone; Howard wanted my comments.

How does one handle a situation such as this? I can be critical, even brutally so at times; do I say the story felt trivial, even mundane? Or I can be gentle, praising; do I say that “Enter the Wolves” is one the best Star Trek comics WildStorm has done? Neither fits my feelings on the comic, though, so I instead walk a middle path. “The story’s good. Interesting,” I say. “But I had a quibble with the artwork.”

A frown crosses Howard’s face, his insistant look replaced by one of impending concern. “The art? I thought it was some of the best Star Trek comics art I’ve ever seen.”

I nod in agreement. “Carlos Mota did a fantastic job; the likenesses are damn near perfect.” Then I shrug. “The uniforms, though. He got them wrong.” I proceed to explain that the Next Generation episode “Tapestry” established the tee-shirt beneath the maroon uniform jacket style of the 2320s, yet “Enter the Wolves,” which occurs after Picard’s flashback in that NextGen episode, shows Admiral Leonard McCoy with the turtleneck/jacket combination familiar in the Classic Trek films.

Howard takes a few steps backward. “Perhaps you’re correct,” he says. “You could be right. I don’t know.” Then he begins discussing his next Star Trek project, a four-issue comic book mini-series starring Kor and Kang, both reeling from their sons’ deaths in the year prior to Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

Howard begins to read from the first issue’s script, and I take copious notes. As my pen scratches across my notepad a thought occurs to me–in criticizing the uniforms shown in “Enter the Wolves” I have become exactly what I was always afraid of being, the kind of Star Trek fan that can know at a glance when one little detail is out of place and can discuss that error with all the dispassion of a Vulcan watching the South Park film.

I sigh. Of all the epiphanies to have, why did this have to be the one?

Notes from the Howard Weinstein Talk:
13 July 2001

Enter the Wolves

Ann Crispin asked Howard to help her out with the scripting on the comic; she didn’t feel comfortable with writing fight scenes and space battles, both elements that Paramount and WildStorm felt needed to be present in the story. Because Howard had written four years worth of Trek comics, he asked to see Ann’s script, and his first intention was simple to “doctor” the script and punch-up the action elements. Instead, when reading the script he decided that a page-one rewrite was necessary, so he asked Ann if she had any problem with him doing so, and she gave him her blessing to make the story really work in the comics medium. Ann admitted that she wasn’t that familiar with the comics medium; “Enter the Wolves” was only her second attempt at writing a comic book script.

As a result of the creative and artistic success of “Enter the Wolves,” Jeff Mariotte asked Howard to pitch other stories. WildStorm had a policy of not wanting writers and artists who had worked on Star Trek comics for other publishers, but Mariotte was so impressed with Howard’s work on “Enter the Wolves” that Howard was able to propose a four-issue mini-series, “By the Sword.”

By The Sword

This was originally a novel submission Howard had made to Pocket books, but it arrived at the time when the focus of the novel line was shifting from one-shot novels to the crossovers and mini-series, so it didn’t quite “fit” with the general direction Pocket books was heading in. Also, it was a Classic Trek story, one set between Star Trek V and Star Trek VI, and while Pocket Books did submit Howard’s proposal to Paramount in 1998, it wasn’t read. Howard pitched the idea to WildStorm, and Jeff Mariotte gave the story a nod, quite possibly the best Star Trek work Howard Weinstein has ever done.

The story deals with the political cauldron of the early 2290s, as the Klingons are becoming more militaristic towards the Romulans. The story takes place one year prior to Star Trek VI and about a year after the deaths of Kor and Kang’s sons at the hands of the Albino. The story will explore Spock’s first tentative steps towards diplomacy. Also, Admiral (ret.) Harry Morrow (from Star Trek III) will appear as a Jimmy Carter-esque character, a freelance peace broker.

The first issue is due out in January. No artist was mentioned.

Marco Palmieri and I could be watching a filk band embarass themselves during the Masquerade’s intermission. Sensibly, we don’t. Instead, making use of the bar the hotel had temporarily installed outside the ballroom holds more promise. I am working on my second Budweiser, Marco is on his second Chardonay.

Marco frowns. “I am such a lightweight,” he complains. “I will so regret this in the morning.”

I nod in sympathy. My own alcohol tolerance is virtually nil, and at some point later in the evening I will have to drive a half-an-hour to my grandmother’s. “Regrets? I can understand that. The woozy feeling, the swimming consciousness, the hangover the next morning.”

Marco stares. “Oh, I’ll certainly regret all that. But you know what I’ll regret more?”

Confused, I reply, “No.”

“The candor.”

Notes from the Bob Greenberger talk:
14 July 2001

Mostly what Bob Greenberger did was show movie trailers. However, he did mention that he’s written a Wilt Chamberlain biography, geared for younger readers of about 12 thousand words length. While he doesn’t consider himself a basketball fan, he did find the project a fun one to do.

Attending a Star Trek convention disabuses me of a long-held and long-cherished notion–that all Star Trek fans are a reasonable and sensible lot. In other words, pretty much like myself. Looking about the convention I realize the folly of such a viewpoint; if all Star Trek fans were like myself then Pocket would publish only Classic Trek and Deep Space Nine novels, and Paramount would still be producing Deep Space Nine after having pulled the plug on Voyager very early in its runs.

Surrounded by costumed fans, attending panels whose audieces consist of uncritical fans, I feel manifestly out of my element.

Notes from the Michael Jan Friedman talk:
14 July 2002

First up, MJF gave a dramatic reading from Starfleet: Year One. Then he mentioned the first two Stargazer novels due out early next year, entitled The Gauntlet and Progenitor, and proceeded to do a dramatic reading for The Gauntlet‘s first chapter. When doing the reading, I notice that Friedman does a very fine Patrick Stewart inflection.

I liked this line from The Gauntlet: “You are the greenest apple to ever take command of a Starfleet vessel,” said by Gilaad ben Zoma to Jean-Luc Picard when Picard feels out of sorts at a Starfleet function.

Some other random notes:

Star Wars trilogy:

Del Rey is publishing two types of Star Wars novels–New Jedi Order, a twenty-two book set, and the “bridge” novels, set between the two trilogies. After the first “bridge” novel, Greg Bear’s Rogue Planet LucasFilm felt a little nervous because the Episode One-related products weren’t peforming as well as they would have liked and companies were going out of business. In order to enhance the “bridge” novels Del Rey carved several novels out of New Jedi Order to lessen or prevent intra-line competition and Michael Jan Friedman’s novels were the least essential to the overall New Jedi Order storyline. While Friedman was about halfway through writing the second book of the trilogy, when Del Rey cancelled the trilogy they treated him very well, and the trilogy may reemerge as a generic science fiction novel.

Double Double

A Richard Arnold story! When Friedman wrote the novel and submitted it, Pocket received a memo from Paramount stating that Chekov had to be replaced with DeFalco because the novel’s stardate was far too low for Chekov to be aboard the Enterprise, and this required sixteen pages of changes to the manuscript. Pocket pointed out a memo that Gene Roddenberry had sent Pocket very early in the publishing game stating that stardates were completely meaningless, to which Paramount responded that Roddenberry’s original stardate memo was to be disregarded. In the end, instead of making sixteen pages of changes, such as reassigned Chekov’s dialogue to DeFalco, changing the stardate to something higher made the book fly through.

The comics

DC Comics kept Arne Starr on hand to re-ink the Star Trek: The Next Generation comic because Patrick Stewart thought that Picard’s hair always looked too long and needed cutting.

The Galactic Empire has arrived. A force of Imperial Stormtroopers, a good half-dozen, stride through the hotel lounge. Klingon costume, Starfleet costume, after a day I’ve become accustomed to seeing these. But Star Wars? Impressive.

The 2002 novel preview over, a group of us–Marco Palmieri, Jeffrey Lang, his wife and friend, Alex Rosenzweig, and myself–have commandeered a table at the entrance of the lounge. Marco looks about. “Is this what the Psi Phi Summit has been reduced to?” he asks.

I laugh. The Summit. I am as much responsible for “the Summit” as anyone

Notes from the Deep Space Nine relaunch panel:
14 July 2001

Mission: Gamma, a four-book series coming in October and November 2002, will return Deep Space Nine to its roots with the Defiant trailblazing a path through the Gamma Quadrant, much as Lewis and Clark explored the Louisiana Territory. Bringing this exploration element into the series brings the series full-circle to its beginning when the station was truly at the edge of a vast, unexplored frontier, something that became lost as the series progressed.

The first novel will be written by David R. George III, co-author of The 34th Rule. The second novel will be written by Heather Jarman and will have a heavy focus on the Andorians and their culture. The third novel is by Andy Mangles and Mike Martin, and the final novel is by Robert Simpson, the co-author of the Joran Belar story in the Lives of Dax anthology.

While the novels will have an exploration focus (not unlike Classic Trek, we won’t be leaving the station behind. Instead, as per usual for Deep Space Nine, everything goes to hell back home.

While there is a reference to Jake’s absence in Demons of Air and Darkness, his story won’t be dealt with until Mission: Gamma. He isn’t necessarily still inside the Wormhole, either.

There are no plans to do a Mirror Universe story. Basically, what’s the point?

One of the keys to the Deep Space Nine relaunch is that the stories lead with the characters and how they react and interact with the events that come their way.

There is always the danger that a future film project will contradict and ignore the Deep Space Nine relaunch stories. That’s a real issue with any licensed property, though, in spite of Paramount’s repeated statements that they have no immediate plans for a film return of Deep Space Nine. That concern shouldn’t limit what can and can’t be done, however. (Though, we won’t see any stories where Jake goes postal.) If a film project does contradict the new novels, there’s always room for a novel to step in and explain how the relaunch continuity and the film can fit and co-exist together.

The Farscape panel dissolves and a few fans trickle out of the room, while others, more, filter in to take their places. Keith R.A. DeCandido and Greg Cox, both participants from that earlier panel, seem nonplussed as the topic changes from Farscape to an Author’s Salute to Trek‘s 35th, and the Farscape panel’s irreverant tone carries over as Michael Jan Friedman, Bob Greenberger, and Jeffrey Lang enter the room and take up positions around the table and they begin to banter and joke. The other panels, at least they had direction and focus; this panel, what is it? Author’s Salute, what does that mean? What should these authors do? Talk about the Star Trek novels?

Instead, the salute Star Trek‘s anniversary in the most literal way possible–all fine authors raise their right hands and snap off a military salute.

The tone thus set, the authors begin their introductions. Bob Greenberger goes first. “Good afternoon,” he says, “I’m Peter David, best-selling author of Star Trek: New Frontier and the just released Sir Apropos of Nothing, now available at finer bookstores everywhere.”

Before another author can introduce himself, I interject. “Okay, Peter David,” I call out from the back of the room, “perhaps you can explain why New Frontier sucks so bad.”

The room erupts equally in laughter and derisive cat-calls. Undaunted by the outburst, Michael Jan Friedman plows ahead and introduces himself. “Hello,” he says, “I’m Peter David, and I have absolutely no idea why New Frontier sucks.”

I chuckle. The answer suffices; I had made my dig at New Frontier‘s recent decline into mediocrity. Later when Peter David arrives for the panel I feel no inclination to repeat my question. There’s no need; the point had been made.

Notes from the Author’s Salute

Dream projects

Michael Jan Friedman feels that Stargazer and Starfleet: Year One are as close to his heart as any Star Trek story he’s told. But if he could tell something else, he’s always wanted to do an alternate universe story where Gary Mitchell had triumped over Jim Kirk on Delta Vega and he brings in all these super-powerful beings to trample the universe.

Keith R.A. DeCandido wants to tell more Gorkon stories. But the story he’s always wanted to tell almost made publication. Written for WildStorm’s Star Trek special, it explained how Julian Bashir and Miles O’Brien “made-up” after “Hippocratic Oath,” and has Worf and Dax working to bring these two old friends back together. When the special filled up, WildStorm no longer had a place for the story, and it’s too trivial to hang a whole novel upon the premise.

Greg Cox wants to explore what happened to Geordi LaForge’s mother. Or, barring that, a novel where Gary Seven meets Seven of Nine, if only for the confusing dialogue where they refer to one another as “Seven.”

Bob Greenberger wants to write a solo Classic Trek novel, a “Lower Decks”-type story featuring the supporting cast.

Jeffrey Lang wants to write a medical thriller or mystery that would gather 24th-century Starfleet’s top doctors. Also, he wants to know who the second- and third-tier Starfleet doctors and and what they do, something that Peter David later said will be explored in the upcoming New Frontier novels.

Peter David wants to write a Star Trek film, particularly a New Frontier film. He didn’t make casting choices, however.

Peter David described how he came to write The Siege, the first of the original Deep Space Nine novels. One of the higher-ups, perhaps at Paramount, perhaps at Pocket, called then-editor Kevin Ryan in January 1993; he liked the show a lot and wanted an original novel on the stands by March. And Kevin Ryan said yes. So, Ryan called Peter David, had a video tape of the pilot episode sent, copies of scripts, the writer’s bible, basically everything that existed on the show in terms of reference material, and Peter David took a look, and came to a stunning realization.

Odo is a super-hero.

If there’s anything Peter David knows, it’s super-heroes. He’s written them loud enough and long enough to know how they work, and thus The Siege was an Odo novel, with Odo doing lots of cool things. And he got paid a lot of money for that novel.

When the same situation arose with Voyager in 1995, Peter David took a look at the pre-production material and didn’t find any characters that spoke to him. However, he was asked what a title for a Voyager novel should be, so he suggested “The Escape,” reasoning that at some point in the novel characters were going to have to escape from something. When the first Voyager novel was published, it bore the title The Escape, written by Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch, but there was nary an escape to be found.

Enterprise novels aren’t likely to happen for several years. While there will probably be a novelization of the pilot episode, Pocket’s current view to to wait and see how the series develops, how the characters fall out, before commissioning original novels based upon the material.

Notes from the 2002 Novel Preview
14 July 2001

The premise of Gateways is that the Iconians return and offer to sell their gateway technology to the highest bidder. As proof of who they are and their abilities, they turn every Iconian gateway on.

Doors Into Chaos involves the Enterprise-E being sent by Starfleet to find the Iconians and convince them to turn off the gateways as these gateways are doing far more harm than good. And to convince the Iconians that the Enterprise speaks for all Alpha Quadrant races, the ship will be filled with diplomats and scientists from nearly every race.

Demons of Air and Darkness involves a human colony being bombarded by theta radiation through an open gateway and the efforts to evacuate the colony. Because the gateway opens into the Delta Quadrant, there’s an Hirogen on the loose. Also, this book will demonstrate Kira’s penchant from non-Starfleet command thinking; there are things a Starfleet captain would do that Kira would not, and vice versa.

The Voyager novel involves Voyager crossing a sector of space where the gateways have deposited hundreds of ships, and the end result has Voyager herding the ships together and driving them across the sector. It plays out like herding cats, though.

Cold Wars involved two warring civilizations that once shared a planet until the Thallonians stepped in and deposited each civilization on new planets light-years apart because these civilizations didn’t play well with others. Separated, they could no longer bother one another. Then a gateway opens up linking the two planets and a commando team from one planet steps through and assassinates the entire royal family of the other. Starfleet sends the Excalibur and the Trident to sort out the situation. We will be introduced to Calhoun and Shelby’s new first officers, as well as a second- or third-tier medical officer.

What Lay Beyond is the Gateways hardcover conclusion. After each captain steps through a gateway, they have to deal with what they find on the other side. Bob Greenberger will write the final story where Picard has to solve the problem, shutting down the gateways and saving the galaxy.

Here There Be Monsters, the SCE epilogue to Gateways has the da Vinci travelling to a planet where the gateway deposited monsters that are terrorizing the populace, and because the gateways are now closed, they aren’t going anywhere.

On the New Frontier front, The Book Formerly Known as “Walk Like A Man” will center on Mark McHenry. There will be a New Frontier hardcover late in 2002.

Immortal Coil by Jeffrey Lang will have one of the best Star Trek covers, ever. Think Leonardo da Vinci’s famous drawings of the human form. It’s awesome to behold. The story will involve a breakthrough by the Daystrom Institute in fashioning another artificial intelligence and Data’s investigation into a brutal attack on Commander Bruce Maddox. As a fan of Asimov’s R. Daneel Olivaw mysteries and Roger Macbride Allen’s Caliban novels, I’m really looking forward to this one.

Mike W. Barr is writing a Classic Trek novel.

Two Voyager novels are in development. One, entitled The Nanotech War, is set during the seventh season and may deal with the Chakotay/Seven relationship.

The Starfleet: Year One collection will be the definitive version of that story, vastly expanded over the original serialization. Pocket’s production department felt the first few chapters were overly long and went and made cuts to the chapters that editorial didn’t authorize, so the collection will restore those cut scenes. The collection will boast a gorgeous Sonia Helios cover.

Marco and I are walking to the hotel’s lounge; the 2002 novel preview had ended not more than fifteen minutes before, and Marco had offered to buy me a drink.

“Is there any significance to the page of Garak’s letter in A Stitch In Time that Bashir refers to in Avatar, Book One?” I ask.

Marco shakes his head. “No no no. I don’t even remember what’s on that page. I don’t know if I even looked it up.”

“Nothing significant,” I answer with a shrug. “Something about Garak and the Academy, I think.”

Marco chuckles. “You’ve checked. Obviously.”

I have to smile. “You can never tell when an in-joke will turn up. Or when what seems like an innocuous reference has some larger implications. We are talking Deep Space Nine, after all. Nothing is ever irrelevant where Deep Space Nine is concerned.”

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