Author David Mack explains the freedoms and restrictions when it comes to writing Star Trek novels.
A fan since the original series syndication days, Mack came out of film school hoping to write for Star Trek: The Next Generation. “I hit a lot of obstacles,” he said. “[Editor] John [Ordover] gave me a copy of the writers’ guidelines for the novels. I went home, read them, realized my proposal-in-progress violated every instruction on the page, and decided not to waste John’s time with it. He appreciated this gesture so much that we became friends.”
The friendship led the two to team up and pitch story ideas to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, where Mack co-wrote two episodes, Starship Down and It’s Only a Paper Moon. Eventually, Mack began writing for the Star Trek: S.C.E. eBook series. “After my 2003 short novel Wildfire became an eBook bestseller and critical success,” said Mack, “I was invited by John Ordover to write a pair of TNG novels for his nine-part A Time To miniseries event. Those were my first direct to paperback novels, A Time to Kill and a Time to Heal, the latter of which became a USA Today bestseller.”
Writing for Star Trek means making sure not to violate the canon, established in the television series and movies. “[Canon] is the primary product upon which all official licenses tie-in products – books, comics, games, merchandise, etc. – are based and with which they must be consistent,” said Mack. “This is the official decree of the Star Trek licensing office at CBS Television Consumer Products, which currently owns and controls all things related to Star Trek. Their word is law. End of story.”
That doesn’t mean authors don’t have freedom to be creative. They have much more freedom with their own original non-canon characters, and even with minor characters from canon Star Trek. “For instance, the S.C.E. eBooks used several characters from the TNG television series, including Sonya Gomez (Samaritan Snare, Q Who) and Kieran Duffy (Hollow Pursuits),” said Mack. “Because they were both minor characters, who never appeared again after their brief guest stints, the writers of the S.C.E. novellas had great freedom to change (and in my case, end) these characters’ lives.”
Mack has recently signed a deal to write four more Star Trek novels, which will be published next year.
The entire interview can be seen here.