Michael Jan FriedmanBy Jacqueline Bundy
Posted at August 22, 2005 - 8:17 PM GMT
New York Times bestselling author Michael Jan Friedman has written almost 40 Star Trek books and over a hundred Star Trek comic books at this point in his very prolific career. He has also written for network and cable television, including the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Resistance".
Since penning his first Star Trek book, the original series novel Double, Double in 1989, Michael Jan Friedman has made a name for himself among fans as a writer who often explores the history of major characters in his books, particularly James T. Kirk and Jean-Luc Picard. Friedman's ability to expose unexplored nooks and crannies of the Star Trek universe, coupled with the success of his Picard centric novels Reunion and The Valiant lead to his writing the popular literary-based series Star Trek: Stargazer, a series of novels that explore the early career of Captain Jean-Luc Picard in his first command.
With his newest contribution to the Star Trek literary line, Death In Winter, Mr. Friedman delves into the decades-long love affair between Beverly Crusher and Jean-Luc Picard. Mike was kind enough to speak with Trek Nation about Death In Winter, which will be available this September.
Trek Nation: Death In Winter has been described as a post-Nemesis TNG novel, but isn't it set before the end of the events of that movie?
Michael Jan Friedman: Yes, I suppose that's true. It takes place after the movie's climax, but before its denouement. When we first see Picard in Death In Winter, he's sitting in space dock, watching his ship and crew come together. On the other hand, there are prologues in the book that take place decades before that, so it's not a simple question to answer.
TN: Will the story reflect the crew changes necessitated by the events of that movie, for example will we meet Picard's new first officer etc.?
MJF: Each post-Nemesis book has a different job to do. The main job of Death In Winter is to resolve the relationship between Jean-Luc and Beverly. It will also lay out the state of Romulan politics immediately following the death of Shinzon, and show how it evolves into what we see in Taking Wing. Also, we'll pick up the threads of several characters and situations established either on screen or in the books. As for which questions will be answered about the crew…one must read the book to find out.
TN: Did you propose the story told in Death In Winter or did your editor come to you and say we need a Picard and Beverly Crusher tale?
MJF: Margaret Clark came to me and said she wanted to tell the story that wrapped up the Picard and Beverly relationship once and for all. "Are you interested?" she asked. As soon as they got me off the defibrillator, I said "Hell, yes." Then it became a question as to how we would go about telling that story, and what its outcome would be.
Originally, I wasn't thinking about the Romulans, and my outlines were kind of flaccid. Margaret and Paula Block, at Paramount Licensing, didn't use the work "suck" but I think they were thinking it. Then, numbskull that I am, I finally realized this book had to feature the Romulans. Given its chronological proximity to the events in the movie Nemesis, there was no other way to go.
So it became an interesting weave between the resolution of the Beverly arc and the advancement of certain post-Shinzon Romulan themes. From my vantage point, the two elements worked well together.
TN: At this point there have been two post-Nemesis novels released, the first Titan book, Taking Wing, which you mentioned and Articles of the Federation. It sounds as if the events depicted in Death In Winter take place before either of those books—Is that accurate?
MJF: I believe so, yes.
TN: There are also the A Time To... novels, which chronicle the year in the life of the TNG characters leading up to Nemesis. Were the authors involved in that series aware of your plans for Death In Winter while you were writing it, or did you have to adapt your story to account for what happened in those books?
MJF: There was a certain amount of interaction with the A Time To... authors, but not as much as you might think. Basically, I avoided contradicting anything they were inclined to establish, and they gave the subject of Beverly and Jean-Luc a wide berth. Frankly, I was more concerned with playing off Nemesis than the books that led up to that point in the continuity.
TN: Is Death In Winter a novel that fans who haven't read the A Time To... novels would be able to jump right into, or is that additional background necessary to enjoying the story you tell?
MJF: The fans don't need to have read the A Time To...books to understand or appreciate Death In Winter. On the other hand, the A Time To... series was a good one, so they might want to pick up those books anyway.
TN: With the success of the Stargazer books all of your novels for the past few years have focused on the character of Jean-Luc Picard - What fascinates you about Picard?
MJF: He's a thinker. He's got depth. There's no discussion of science, ethics, art, history, or culture in which he doesn't potentially have an interest, and in which he wouldn't hold an opinion. That breadth of intellect opens a lot of doors for the storyteller.
TN: I understand that a couple of Picard's colleagues from his Stargazer days play a role in the story you tell in Death In Winter?
MJF: True. One is Pug Joseph, who was Picard's security chief on the Stargazer. The other is Carter Greyhorse, the CMO, who has a lot to live down. I won't say more, lest I spoil Reunion for those who haven't read it. Both these characters have ties to Beverly Crusher, so it's fitting that they appear in this book.
TN: There have been a lot of rumors on the internet about Death In Winter - specifically that a major character will be killed. Without spoiling the book can you address that?
MJF: Let me say this...any death that takes place in the book was handled with as much respect and affection as I could muster for the character. I was as careful as I could be not to do anything cavalierly or to give such an important event short shrift. As to how successful I was in that effort, that will be for the reader to decide.
TN: Can I assume that means that a major character will die, or will appear to die?
MJF: You know what happens when you assume. You make a butt of...I mean, I'm an ass...I mean...sorry, I can never get that straight.
TN: You've been writing Star Trek novels for over 15 years now and I believe Death In Winter will be your 37th trek book. What would you say is the biggest change you've seen in Star Trek fiction over the years?
MJF: These days, we writers have a lot more freedom to work within and alongside the continuity established on the screen. What's more, I think we've earned that freedom by showing Paramount that we can be trusted to go...well, where no one has gone before, without screwing things up.
When I wrote Double, Double, my first Trek book, it stirred up a controversy because it picked up where a TV episode left off (that episode being "What Are Little Girls Made Of?") instead of establishing a brand-new dramatic situation on some previously unknown planet. Now it's unusual to find a book that doesn't pick up on the events of an episode in one way or another.
In Reunion, which came out about fifteen years ago, I established the crew of the Stargazer, thereby filling in a big Next Gen continuity gap. Nothing like that had ever been done before. Now it's done all the time.
TN: Filling in continuity gaps seems to be one of your specialties. Over the years in your novels you've explored the history of both James T. Kirk and Jean-Luc Picard before we meet them on screen. What appeals to you about telling that type of story?
MJF: I guess part of me wanted to be a detective, someone who shines a flashlight in dark corners. That's how I feel when I examine a previously unexplored aspect of the continuity. I don't feel like I'm making it up. I feel like I'm uncovering something that already exists, and it's up to me to figure out how to go about it.
TN: Would it be safe to say that Death In Winter also fills in a continuity gap? In part I suppose because of the TNG finale "All Good Things", many fans have always expected that someday Beverly and Picard will be together.
MJF: You could say it's a continuity gap I'm filling, since that episode established a possible future for Picard and Beverly. But it's important to keep in mind that "All Good Things" presented only one possible road among many, and because of that I didn't feel bound by it when I was writing Death In Winter.
TN: You've written stories set all over the Star Trek universe. Is there a particular character you've always wanted to explore, or story you've wanted to tell, but haven't yet had the opportunity to?
MJF: For a long time, I've wanted to tell the story of the Romulan commander in "Balance of Terror", who was played by the late Mark Lenard. We saw his death, which was remarkable, but what was his life like? Even more remarkable, I imagine.
TN: What are the future plans for the Stargazer series?
MJF: Not to be elusive, I really don't know. With the Pocket line leaner and meaner these days, there are a lot of series competing for publication slots. If the fans want Stargazer books sooner rather than later, they're going to have to be vocal about it. In the meantime, I've been doing work in other vineyards, writing the first book in a new Aliens series from Dark Horse and a novel about the Ultimates, a hard-edged take on Marvel Comics' Avengers, for Margaret Clark. Both these books will be out in the next several months.
TN: For those fans that want to get ‘vocal' how should they go about that?
MJF: I'd go somewhere like the Trek Lit forum at Trek Today to make my voice heard. No need to e-mail the editors directly, in my experience, that just leads to a series of threatening letters and finally a restraining order. If the Trek publishing department suddenly sees a slew of pro-Stargazer posts, it'll sure as hell know what to do about them.
Death In Winter by Michael Jan Friedman will be available in hardcover format this September at book stores and online book retailers.
Jacqueline Bundy reviews Star Trek books for the Trek Nation, writes monthly columns for the TrekWeb newsletter and the Star Trek Galactic News, and hosts the Yahoo Star Trek Books Group weekly chat.