Mangels: Fleshing Out Star Trek CharactersPosted by T'Bonz - 12/11/10 at 10:11 pm
When creating new characters for his Star Trek books, author Andy Mangels strove for variety, and to make those characters more than just a Star Trek rank.
Mangels’ Trek work began in the early 1990s with several unpublished DC Comics Star Trek: The Next Generation comic books, after which he co-authored a dozen Star Trek novels.
His favorite characters to write came from The Next Generation, but Mangels enjoyed the various Star Trek shows for different reasons. “On the whole, my favorite is probably the latter half of TNG, though DS9 was perhaps the most sociologically interesting,” he said. “I wanted Voyager to be a lot more like its early episodes, but felt they too often put on the brakes when they could’ve gone for real conflict. Enterprise I enjoyed for its rawness, plus I’d met several of the cast and liked them. That said, the TNG (characters were) probably my favorite to write, but I absolutely loved working on Titan. It had some of my favorite TNG (characters); I got to add Tuvok, my favorite Voyager character, into the mix, and I got to bring some of the sociological conflict into the stories a la DS9 and the early Voyagers.”
Mangels spoke about creating characters and how he went about doing that. “Well, since I’m the only openly gay man who has ever worked on Trek books, some would argue it was a ‘gay agenda’ that I brought, and very early on, I’d always planned that there’d be gay or lesbian characters in everything I wrote, even if they were minor. Beyond that, I had a ‘characterization’ agenda; being an outsider myself, when creating new characters, I’d ask, in a general sense, ‘Is there any reason this has to be a straight white male?’ If they were humans, I’d choose different areas of the world for them to come from, and research how their gender or race or attitudes might change in a Trek future.”
In addition to different ethnicities and sexuality, a character designed by Mangels often had religious faith of some sort, not just his alien characters, but human ones as well. “I also put a lot of characters of faith in my books, as I come from a religious background,” explained Mangels. “It was equally important to me to show that faith survived in the future, in not only alien races, but humans as well. Trek was great at using ‘alien allegory’ to tell morality tales, but not so good at examining how the ‘faith-based’ parts of the human race had evolved. So, I tried in all my writing to make the characters well-thought-out, to give them emotions, feelings, beliefs and lives beyond what rank they were.”