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The Trek Nation - Star Trek: Titan

Star Trek: Titan

By Jacqueline Bundy
Posted at March 28, 2005 - 9:42 PM GMT

After seeing Star Trek: Nemesis I couldn't help but wonder if the editors who oversee the development of Star Trek novels for Pocket Books and the authors who pen those novels must be thinking what I was thinking; that there are stories here just waiting to be told. It turns out that they were.

The tenth movie left fans with several unanswered questions. Will Riker, Deanna Troi and Dr. Beverly Crusher were moving on to other assignments. Data was gone and Worf was back; but what happens next? This April fans get to find that out in the new series of novels based on the adventures of the U.S.S. Titan under the command of Captain William T. Riker when Star Trek Titan: Taking Wing hits bookstores.

The popular writing team of Andy Mangels and Michael A. Martin were tapped to write both Taking Wing and the second Titan novel The Red King, due out later this year. Both gentlemen are long time fans who have made their mark with numerous outstanding comics and novels over the years. Their contributions to the Star Trek universe include the Lost Era title The Sundered, Section 31: Rogue and most recently the Trill story "Unjoined" in Star Trek: Worlds of Deep Space Nine Volume Two.

Since the announcement of the new novels Star Trek bulletin boards and discussion forums have been buzzing with talk about the Titan novels and anticipation has been steadily building. Andy and Mike were gracious enough to take time out of their busy schedules to talk with Trek Nation recently about the Titan series and the challenges of helping to launch a new ship and a new crew.


TrekNation.com: When did you first begin planning the Titan novels?

Andy Mangels: In October of 2003, a little less than a year after the movie Nemesis. But we had been in discussion about it even before that. [Marco Palmieri] and I talked at Shore Leave in summer 2003. At that point, we chatted about who some of the characters would be that we'd be bringing over from other series.

Mike Martin: We were starting to gear up on Worlds of Deep Space Nine as I recall and that's when we started discussing what we wanted to do and some general conceptual stuff. A lot of the pieces were in place right away with large brush strokes; we had to start considering all the ways that we were committed, continuity-wise, to certain details from the movie Nemesis. That left a lot open, too: we never saw the ship and we didn't know anything about the crew other than the fact that Riker and Troi were going over to the ship. We didn't even know who Riker's first officer was.

At the time we were having our first conversations about Titan, the A Time To… arc of novels, chronicling the TNG crew's exploits over the year leading up to Nemesis, were well underway. Some of the authors, particularly David Mack and Keith DeCandido, did a great job of teeing things up for Titan. Keith in particular set up some nice suspense around who is going to be the first officer.

TN: It's implied at the end of the A Time To… books, in Keith's A Time for War, A Time for Peace, that it is going to be Christine Vale but there isn't a scene where she accepts, so it's left open to conjecture.

Mike: Keith slants the scene dealing with the job offer so that you don't hear her response. You know that there are others aboard the Enterprise crew who are offered the job and the job briefly, almost inadvertently goes to Worf and it's not even Riker who offers it to Worf, it's Admiral Ross. (After the events of Nemesis, Worf apparently remains aboard the Enterprise-E, once again a member of Picard's crew.)

We'll be leaving the whole issue of who's going to take the job of Riker's X.O. until well into Taking Wing.

TN: Did you work with your editor, Marco Palmieri on developing a writer's bible for the Titan novels? Other authors will be following up on what you begin in the first two books.

Andy: Marco had a series concept in mind, and made a number of suggestions related to it. He presented us with information about what class the ship was, and what elements it would have, but for the most part we got to create who the staff was going to be and what the interiors of the ship would have in them.

We decided with Marco very early on that this would be the most diverse crew that Starfleet had. Unencumbered by the limitations of a special effects budget, we were able to go beyond the traditional bumpy headed aliens and everybody being humanoid, to create some interesting and very alien concepts.

Mike: We have also been working with Christopher L. Bennett, who is the author of the third Titan novel, Orion's Hounds (January, 2006), on some very alien aliens. He created several characters, entirely non-humanoid, and shared those with us early enough that we were able to seed them in Taking Wing.

Christopher is very much a hard science fiction guy who likes to build the worlds and aliens from the inside out, and he was enormously helpful.

TN: I just want to clarify that these will be stand-alone novels.

Andy: Yes. The first book does continue into the second book, but the first adventure is completed. However, the epilogue in Taking Wing is a springboard to the next novel, The Red King.

Mike: The Red King is a wholly separate adventure, but it does build on things that happened in Taking Wing, as well as other Star Trek novels.

TN: The first order of business for Taking Wing, as the first Titan novel, is to wrap up the Romulan storyline from Nemesis.

Andy: That was mandated by the film, because the last lines of the film is Riker talking about the fact that Titan is headed to the Romulan Neutral Zone for talks with the Romulans.

Mike: As you may have noticed in the Taking Wing excerpt that appears in A Time for War, A Time for Peace, Riker is aboard Titan, planning for a mission of pure exploration. Obviously, that's set a wee bit before the final scene in Nemesis in which Riker comes back to the Enterprise and announces to Picard that he's on his way to the Neutral Zone. He's making plans that at the last minute Starfleet is going to change around on him drastically.

Andy: The first three or four chapters take place prior the ending of Nemesis, then the rest of the book takes place after Nemesis.

TN: In that excerpt we get to meet one new crewmember, the Titan's chief medical officer, Dr. Ree, a Pahkwa-thanh. (Same cadence as baklava.)

Andy: He is a tremendously fun character to write. One of the nice things about writing really alien characters is that their sense of morality, their sense of propriety is different. There are all sorts of things that are different about them and their cultures and one of the fun things about mixing all of that up is that you get to deal with people having to deal with situations that they may not be used to or may not be comfortable with. Having a very large reptilian, very raptor-like doctor on the ship is a little unnerving for some of the crew.

Mike: At least at first. (laughing) The idea is to challenge all that happy rhetoric that Starfleet people bandy about so readily about their respect for diversity. Oh really now, lets make it so that the scariest guy on the ship is the one person that absolutely everybody on board has to see. Everyone has to check in for a physical at some point.

TN: Riker certainly seems taken aback when he first meets Dr. Ree.

Mike: There's an irony built in that I'm dealing with in one of my chapters of The Red King, that for all the talk of Titan's crew being the most diverse in Starfleet, which it is, still the top of the hierarchy are humans or people like Troi who are virtually indistinguishable from humans. That fact is going to get thrown into Riker's face at some point in the story in a way that will further challenge his notions of respect for diversity but also end up reinforcing them.

TN: Will the release of The Red King be affected by the new publishing schedule recently announced by Pocket Books? It had been scheduled for this September.

Andy: It's the October title now. The schedule is routinely getting tweaked for one reason or another.

TN: There is quite a lot of talk about Titan online at the various Star Trek bulletin boards and discussion forums-- Are you feeling any pressure?

Mike: As the A Time To… books progressed toward the end, there has been a lot of attention. I think everyone really started to notice, particularly during David Mack's two books and the final volume by Keith, what was being set up. I'm really pleased that we were able to have a lot of back and forth with both those authors while Titan was in it's initial development, they really teed it up for us nicely, without interfering with what they were trying to do.

It was great to see the unexplained gulf of change between these last two movies, between Insurrection and Nemesis, carefully accounted for and done in a pleasing way so that by the time you get to the end, and see all the changes, it makes sense. It created little hooks for us to hang things on and gave us a pushing off place for Titan in addition to the things the movie Nemesis had committed us to.

Andy: We are really gratified that Titan seems to be one of the most anticipated Star Trek book projects on the schedule right now.

Mike: It's frightening too, in a way.

Andy: It's really gratifying, but boy is that frightening to think that we're holding such a very VERY important baby in our hands. We are hoping that the faith that Marco has put in us will translate into something that the fans are really going to enjoy as well. One of the nice things about writing The Red King as well is that there are things we started in Taking Wing that the second novel will allow us to expand on.

Mike: We also get to do a little bit of paying off on something that we've done in a previous Star Trek project, which I don't want to say any more about. You'll understand what I refer to when you see it.

TN: Will we see many familiar characters among the Titan regulars?

Andy: We have characters from The Next Generation. We have characters from Deep Space Nine. We have a character from Voyager. We have aliens from The Animated Series and the feature films. We also have appearances by characters from The Original Series, and characters created in other novels. Despite that, there's no shortage of entirely new faces and species.

Importantly to fans of our work in particular, there are very strong tie-ins to several of our past projects. For those who read Section 31: Rogue and who just read "Unjoined" our Worlds of Deep Space Nine story, there is a character of our creation named Ranul Keru who will be involved in the Titan series as a lead character.

Mike: He's an unjoined Trill and his involvement seemed like a natural thing to do in Worlds of Deep Space Nine given the situation and the circumstances following Rogue. He's popped up in several places since his inception. So were going all the way back to our earliest Star Trek project.

Andy: These books are going to be accessible to everyone, whether they are a hard-core Star Trek fan or not. For those who are hard core Star Trek fans, and who will recognize some of the elements and things that we've put in there, it will be a really rich reading experience.

Mike: We like to hide Easter eggs.

Andy: (laughs) It's like hunting Easter eggs in these books but the fans will be, hopefully, loving it.

TN: Has the need to focus on Titan kept other projects on the back burner like your Excelsior novel, Forged in Fire?

Mike: We kept getting other things land on fire in our laps.

Andy: The very next project we'll be completing will be an Enterprise novel and then after that will be the Excelsior novel. Unless of course we get another book put in on top of that.

Mike: The way it looks now, the next big trek project once we put The Red King to bed is going to be the Enterprise project which we finally need to come up with a title for. (The Enterprise novel currently has the working title "Squids and Sharks".)

It's "Squids and Sharks" because Margaret Clark, the editor, has a positive aversion to putting through contracts that say "untitled Enterprise project". The next Excelsior book that's now titled Forged in Fire, it was written in the contract as "untitled Sulu project". "Squids and Sharks" refers to the main conflict that we are going to exploit with Enterprise, a conflict that was not really dealt with very much on the show itself.

With the Enterprise project, the conflict that wasn't dealt with very much was the natural conflict between the MACO's, the "sharks", and the Starfleet personnel, or the "squids". You know, marines and sailors. The marines saying okay you guys just pilot the ship to where you need to take it and we'll kill what needs to be killed.

The Starfleet people kind of resent that. We saw just a little bit of that during the series but we really want to play that out more so it's at a time when Major Hayes is still alive and carries that conflict between squids and sharks even further.

TN: Will the cancellation of Enterprise cancellation effect that project?

Mike: The biggest worry was for Titan when we first heard that Riker and Troi were going to be involved with the finale. But that's the sort of risk you learn to live with in media tie-in fiction.

If there is some last minute change in continuity it's not as if there's anything you can do about it. We really had some nail biting during Star Trek: The Lost Era: Oh, my god Enterprise is bringing back the Tholians! We used Tholians in The Sundered because we thought they were safe, that nobody at the studio would revisit the Tholians again, since they hadn't been seen since 1968. Luckily, what little additional stuff they presented about them on Enterprise actually tracked with some of the things we came up with.

Andy: The latest word about the Enterprise finale leads us to believe we don't have anything to worry about vis-à-vis conflicts with Titan. So, we're breathing a bit of a sigh of relief.

TN: Do you have other projects in the works, either individually or together?

Mike: Not that I can talk about at this time.

Andy: I am consulting with a DVD company called BCI Eclipse on the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe DVD series. I'll be directing a large series of half-hour documentaries, plus the other special features content. I'm very excited because it's the first time I'll be directing something in Hollywood. (laughing) They always say that writers want to direct. One of the fun things about it is that I'm going to be working closely with Lou Scheimer, the head of Filmation, which is the company who did Star Trek: The Animated Series, which I dearly love. I'm very excited about that because I'm going to get to spend a whole day filming with him.

Mike and I have some other Star Trek things that we're proposing and that we would like to do in the future. Christopher Bennett is writing the third Titan book but we would love to revisit Titan in the future.

TN: Don't you also have a Captain Riker story in the June anthology Tales from the Captain's Table?

Mike: Yes. That also helps set things up for the return of Ranul Keru and that accounts for his transition from what he was up to in Worlds of Deep Space Nine "Unjoined", transitioning from that to Titan.

Andy: It also tells a very strange honeymoon story. I think it'll completely blow fans minds. (laughing)

An upcoming S.C.E. print compilation, Aftermath, will include our story, "Ishtar Rising". We've been asked to pitch to the TokyoPop comic series so we'll see if anything comes of that.

We feel confident that as long as we're turning in good works and the fans are buying our works Marco will hopefully want to continue working with us, as will Margaret Clark and Keith DeCandido.

TN: You've been extremely careful to keep many of the details surrounding Titan secret. Can I assume that means you've got several surprises in store for your readers?

Andy: There are going to be surprises a plenty all through Titan. There were times when writing it we were practically rubbing our hands in glee. Especially after having just finishing "Unjoined" which was a fairly dark, and, in many ways a depressing and heavy story. We got to do some really fun and even funny stuff in Taking Wing. We got to do some incredibly cool stuff in it. Star Trek fans of every era and every incarnation will find something to like in Taking Wing.


You can learn more about the writings of Andy Mangels and Michael A. Martin at Andy's web site, AndyMangels.com, and additional information regarding Andy's involvement with the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe DVD collections can be found at TVShowsOnDVD.com.

Star Trek Titan: Taking Wing will be available in both mass-market paperback and eBook formats at bookstores and online retailers in April 2005.

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Jacqueline Bundy Jacqueline Bundy 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.