Priority One Interviews Dayton Ward

Welcome to the first part of our ongoing series, Priority One Interviews! This month, we had Star Trek author Dayton Ward answer some questions regarding Vanguard, Seekers, and more.

Without spoiling too much, tell us a bit about Peaceable Kingdoms, the last book in The Fall, which comes out next month.

I definitely don’t want to spoil anything for those who haven’t read the first four books in the series. Basically, a very big event takes place in the first book, Revelation and Dust by David R. George III, and triggers several plot lines that ripple through the next three books, each of which focuses on a different set (or subset) of characters from Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, as well as the novel spin-off series Star Trek: Titan and even another ship and crew which doesn’t (yet?) have a series of its own, Captain Ezri Dax and the U.S.S. Aventine.

Some storylines are resolved over the course of the first four books, but I do pick up a few dangling plot threads from those books as well as write a story of my own focusing on Captain Picard and the Enterprise-E crew, and I’m given the formidable task of bringing the whole thing in for a what I hope is a satisfying conclusion. It was a lot of work keeping everything sorted out, but it also was a lot of fun to work with the other writers (George, along with Una McCormack, David Mack, and James Swallow). I hope I did right by them, because they’re all very tough acts to follow.

Vanguard was a popular series; what can readers expect from Seekers

There will be obvious connections to Vanguard, mostly in the form of our using two ships and crews created for the earlier series, the Constitution-class U.S.S. Endeavour and the smaller, Archer-class scout U.S.S. Sagittarius. Our current plan is to alternate writing duties from book to book, with one book focusing on the Sagittarius followed by an Endeavour story, and so on. The first two books tell a joint tale with both crews as a way to launch the series, after which the ships will head off to tend to separate missions. That said, the setup obviously allows for the occasional multi-part “team up” adventure, should the mood strike us.

Whereas Vanguard was a very serialized, sweeping tale with an arc driving the entire series from beginning to end, Seekers—generally speaking—will be more episodic in nature. There’s still a shared framework and character storylines will progress from book to book, but we’re going for a different “vibe” than we had with Vanguard, which in large part was somewhat darker and grittier than the original Star Trek series. We want to retain a bit of that, but we also want to evoke the “explore strange new worlds/seek out new life and new civilizations” aspect of the original show.

What do you like most about writing in the Star Trek universe? How much leeway do you have when creating storylines?

I like writing Star Trek stories because, really, I just get a huge kick out of writing stories for characters I’ve loved since I was a kid. My mother to this day can’t believe people pay me to do this. When you get right down to it, I’m basically doing the same thing I was doing way back then, only now I use a computer to come up with stories, instead of action figures

(Okay, maybe I still use the action figures. Once in a while).

As for leeway and storylines, we’re actually given quite a bit of freedom, both with the series based around the “canon” characters as well as spin-offs like Vanguard and Seekers. There are boundaries, of course, because we’re still writing Star Trek stories and the licensing people at CBS are very protective of the property. But there’s also a trust between them and Pocket Books and the writers that’s the result of working in tandem for so many years. We know where the lines are drawn so far as what’s “allowed” and what’s not, but the playground for things that are allowed is much bigger than it was ten or fifteen years ago.

With Vanguard, we pretty much were allowed to do anything we wanted (within reason, naturally), given that we weren’t explicitly tied to any of the television episodes or films. That said, David Mack and Kevin Dilmore and I, along with our editors, worked very hard to make sure that Vanguard fit as seamlessly as possible into the “fabric” of the original series. Seekers will be picking up some months after the conclusion of the Vanguard saga, and the timeline at this point is toward the end of the Enterprise’s five-year mission and that nebulous period between the original series and Star Trek: The Motion Picture. This span of time is largely unexplored in the fiction, and we’re excited about being able to fill in a few blanks.

While Trek continues in written form, it’s also alive and well in Star Trek Online. Have you had a chance to play STO at all? What do you think?

I have not played Star Trek Online, though I’ve tried to keep up to date with its evolution with respect to the game’s ongoing storylines, as well as spin-off material like the stories published in Star Trek Magazine. I’m interested in Star Trek stories of every type, regardless of the medium, so it’s fun to see the game’s take on events after the later Star Trek movies play out in different fashion from the novels or comics. I know several people who play it, and it certainly looks like a total blast, but I know that if I start playing, I’ll never get anything else done. It’s the same thing that keeps me from playing Halo or Call of Duty. Maybe one of these days I’ll wade into the fray and see what I’ve been missing.

Be sure to catch more of Dayton Ward as a frequent guest of our friends at the G&T Show!

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