On writing Star Trek novels

Diane Duane

rec.arts.sf.written, April 2000

First of all: any writer working in a universe not his or her own has limitations to deal with, and these are not the editor's (or story editor's) "fault", but the responsibility of the licensor. (So don't boo John [Ordover]. He's doing just fine, from my point of view anyway: he treats me well, and if I didn't want to work with him, I wouldn't.) These limitations don't bother me, for I discovered how to cope with them quite early on in my career. I was writing TV before I started writing novels for Trek, and learned very young about the ins and outs of dealing with The People From BS&P (Broadcast Standards and Practices), who would often slap ridiculous or hilarious limitations on us. (Remind me to tell the story, some other time, about the chains.) What you do immediately learn from doing TV work is that you will inevitably be limited in various ways in what you do...content, structure, whatever. You then get to make the decision: decline to accept the limitations, and (as a result) get out and do strictly your own work? Or deal with them, and do the best work you can inside the limitations?

I went the second route. The lesser of my reasons is explained by a paradigm based on poetry. In a world which offers a poet the possibility of writing in free verse, why do so many elect to write in meter? And why is (for example) the sonnet, a ridiculously rigid art form, so well thought of among poets? It's because of the limitations. The game is this: Take a rigid form, and inside its boundaries, produce the best and most moving poem you're capable of. It's the boundaries that make the challenge . Surpassing them, producing results that no one would have expected or thought possible inside them, is the object of the game. I like doing that. I like slipping into what other people would consider a straitjacket, and then proving that it needn't be any such thing.

Much more important to me, though, is my main reason for doing this kind of thing. I enjoy working in other people's universes, as the occasional guest. It's a breath of fresh air for me, a change of pace. It may surprise some of you, but being sole creator, Goddess in one's own universe/s, provides its own multiple levels of stress (as I'm now finding since So You Want To Be A Wizard is being developed for film/TV). If you're the one responsible for the proper development of (say) the Middle Kingdoms and the Wizard domains and the Pattern of worlds about to be described in Stealing the Elf-King's Roses, it's nice to slip out and play for a little someplace where the rules are laid down already, where the hard creative work has been handled and you can relax and concentrate on character or story. (Though soon enough, if things go well, I'm going to experience the flip side of this, and have writers complaining to me that I won't let them do the things they want to with Nita and Kit. Heh.)

But there's one important thing to add to this: the other universe involved has to be somewhere I really like, or involve characters I'm really fond of. I won't (and fortunately, don't have to) play just anywhere. This is why I'm working to be allowed to pitch to Stargate SG-1, for example. This is why I wanted to write for Green Lantern, way back when, and came that close (but that's another story). This is why I wrote for Space Island One over on this side of things, and got involved in the development of the animated version of Will Eisner's Spirit. This is what made me write for Batman:TAS, and Gargoyles, and Spider-Man, and even Duck Tales for cripes sake, when the opportunity came up. I like those universes, and do the best I can in them. Some people will find this weird: all I can say is "Go figure." I very much enjoy visiting these universes, and whenever possible, I work to leave them a little bigger than I found them. It's a thank-you to the creators.

And most specifically: I really like Star Trek. I like it a lot. I am a first-generation Trekkie, from the time when the term "Trekker" hadn't been invented yet, and maybe wasn't yet needed. Even now, when the Franchise is something far different from what it was when I started, there are shots of the Enterprise in film that still raise shivers on me. I enjoy -- probably most of all, the worldview of the original series, which was most special to me when I was growing up -- but also TNG and (to a lesser and different extent) DS9. The characters, especially in TOS, are old friends of mine. The TNG characters are newer, but then I have a slightly unique attitude toward them, having been one of the very first writers to work with them: Michael Reaves and I wrote Where None Have Gone Before before Patrick Stewart had even been cast as Jean-Luc Picard. I have the privilege of being both canonical and non-canonical, and I enjoy wearing both T-shirts. My life is a whole lot richer because of my involvement in the Trek universe. I've come to know a whole lot of neat people because of it...one of them being my husband. I like it here. And people need to understand that I claim the right to write Trek mostly because I have fun doing so, and also to understand that, for me, the money is not a significant part of the equation. No question, I like being paid. But my original work now routinely pays as well or better than the Trek books do, so "making a living" has nothing to do with it. And more importantly, the fun drowns the money out. Believe me, early last decade there were a couple of writing projects I got involved with which produced most serious money, and which I have nonetheless resolved NEVER to be involved with again: once was enough, and no amount of money compensates for having a bad time doing creative work. Standing on your head in the toilet is more enjoyable.

So don't go blaming John for keeping me from writing, say, The Door into Starlight. That's now contracted and will be coming out next year, along with The Wizard's Dilemma. ...Oh, and John, if you ever get that thousandth letter, I'd gladly write that Captain Sulu novel. In a New York second.

(sigh) Meanwhile, there's a sheep eating my rosemary bush, and elsewhere, all these Rihannsu are shooting at each other, and the Enterprise appears to be stuck in the middle of it all. I'd better go do something about it. At least, about the sheep... ;)

Best! D.

(c) 2000 by The Owl Springs Partnership. Permission to publish this post in full and without alteration (Usenet, IMDB, Deja) is granted. ReMarQ, you behave yourself, now!