A sizable portion of “The Ruins of Noble Men,” my novella in Star Trek Vanguard: Declassified, is set nearly a decade prior to the current series continuity, when some of the characters served together aboard the Federation starship Dauntless. Because I wanted something to visualize while I was writing, I looked to the work of fan starship designer Masao Okazaki for inspiration.
Masao’s web site, the Starfleet Museum, is his personal interpretation of the design lineage for the ships that were first seen in the original Star Trek TV series. Because of the clear influence his work draws from Star Trek Production Designer Matt Jefferies, as well as the work of Franz Joseph Schnaubelt—the man behind the Star Trek Blueprints and the Star Fleet Technical Manual, two publications that fed my geek needs back in the early ’70s—I’m a longtime fan of Masao’s work. When David Mack and I developed the Vanguard series for Simon & Schuster, Masao was the guy I hired to design the space station, as well as the scoutship Sagittarius. Those interested in finding out more about Masao’s Vanguard work, as well as his aforementioned influences, Matt Jefferies and Franz Joseph, should be sure to check out Star Trek Magazine #35, which is out right now. In addition to containing features about those talented individuals, it also has some great articles by my friends and fellow Vanguard conspirators, Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore, and an excerpt from my story, “The Ruins of Noble Men.”
Which brings me back to my original reason for this post. To visualize the Dauntless while I was writing the story, I fixated on one of Masao’s designs from the Starfleet Museum, the Pyotr Velikiy. In addition to Masao’s various elevations, the ship page also had some great CG images, rendered by another fan artist, Thomas Pemberton. And when I was handed the honor of having my story previewed in Star Trek Magazine, I thought it would be fun to illustrate the excerpt with one of those renders, renamed and renumbered for the Dauntless. So I contacted Tom Pemberton, and to my complete surprise, he not only agreed to do it, he actually created an entirely new render of the ship from scratch, completely different from the ones on Masao’s site! How cool is that?
Star Trek Magazine published the image in monochrome to fit their overall design for the spread on which the excerpt appeared, but I wanted to share it here in all its original glory. Enjoy!
I’m not going to offer up a list of his many awards, honors, and editorial credits. If you don’t know who he is, I urge you to look him up. What I really want to say is that it was Marty, together with then-Bantam editor Robert Simpson, who bought my first story, back before I got my first job with a publisher. That was in the late ’80s, when I was just a grunt at the now-defunct 59th Street branch of Forbidden Planet in Manhattan. Marty visited New York City around that time, and I got to meet him in person. He even took me to lunch to discuss some editorial opportunities he had for me. To this day, I have no idea what he saw in me, but I never forgot his kindness. And when I became an editor myself, I always tried to pay it forward.
I remember Marty as a vibrant, enthusiastic gentleman with great patience and great vision, speaking with pride and excitement about his new baby daughter. I remember the chance he took on me, a novice, and I remember that he was one of the people who gave me my first big break in my chosen profession.
Marty’s passing makes the publication of my new story bittersweet. And when I start the new week at Tor on Monday morning, I’ll remember it was Marty who opened the first door.
Scored this on a visit to Simon & Schuster today.
Feeling very jazzed!
It’s June 2, the bound-book date for Star Trek Vanguard: Declassified! This means the initial run of the book has been printed and will shortly be shipping out to all points civilized. Over the next week or two, it may even start appearing on bookstore shelves in advance of it’s “official” June 28 street date.
So Vanguard fans, please take note: the Bookwatch begins now. The first three people to email me a photo showing Declassified available in a bookstore will each receive a free copy of the book signed by all four contributing authors: Dayton Ward, Kevin Dilmore, David Mack, and myself. The winning photos will be posted on my blog and my Facebook wall, and the autographed books will be mailed out during the month of July.
Book photos should be emailed to email@example.com. Don’t send me your mailing address unless I’ve notified you you’re one of the first three. Good luck!
There’s an interesting conversation about self-publishing going on at The Practical Free Spirit, a blog by Amy Sundberg. Definitely worth checking out. I tend to agree with the comments made by my esteemed friend and colleague, author, small-press publisher, and all around Renaissance Man Lawrence M. Schoen, which he reposted on his blog. I’m curious to know what others think. What say you?
Back when I acquired and edited books on staff at Simon & Schuster, I was frequently struck by how different the reading experience was, going from manuscript to galley pages. Seeing the text designed and formatted, as it would look to paying readers, was always sobering. It crystallized the book, giving permanence to what had previously been fluid.
Flash forward to today, when I face the same experience, squared: The first-pass pages for Vanguard: Declassified are in, and here before me, currently spanning pages 187-277, is the story I wrote, The Ruins of Noble Men, as it will look when (hopefully) others read it.
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen my own words make this sort of journey. Yes, I’ve written plenty of back cover copy that was published, and every six weeks I still get to see the pieces I write for Star Trek Magazine make it into print. But this is different. Crafting fiction is an act of intimacy, and what comes of it is at once revelatory and misleading. Stories are reflections of their tellers, to varying degrees, but what readers may infer from one about the other is anyone’s guess.
But that’s not really what this is about. My thoughts as I revisit Ruins with fresh eyes have less to do with what the reactions to my novella may be than with managing my instinct to pick nits…and just how odd my story now looks.
In pages, Ruins suddenly seems both familiar and very strange. I know I wrote the words, but they’ve taken on new dimension. It’s a little like seeing my kids today and recalling what they were like when they were much younger, and realizing that while I take joy in how they’ve grown, part of me wonders if I’ve shaped them as well as I could have. Intellectually, I know those doubts are natural, and second-guessing my choices at this stage—well, that way lies madness. Still, I wonder.
Then again, maybe that’s the point. It’s not about what I may have done right or wrong in writing The Ruins of Noble Men, but how that experience has affected me. I’m the familiar stranger…standing on the other side the editorial divide with a renewed appreciation for what storytellers go through in trying to spin tales they’re proud to put their names on.
The final cover of Star Trek Vanguard: Declassified has been, well, declassified!
As with the previous Vanguard covers, the art is by the awesome Doug Drexler. And yes, for those die-hard fans with long memories and a love for the work of the late great Franz Joseph, that is indeed a Ptolemy-class tug depicted in the foreground, as seen of FJ’s seminal Star Fleet Technical Manual from 1975. Specifically it’s the U.S.S. Al Rashid, alphabetically the first on FJ’s list of ships in that class.
The novellas included herein are:
Almost Tomorrow by Dayton Ward
Hard News by Kevin Dilmore
The Ruins of Noble Men by Marco Palmieri
The Stars Look Down by David Mack
And lest I forget to say it, it’s absolutely thrilling for me to see my name among those of talented authors who are not only close colleagues, but dear friends.
It’s been a zany couple of months, and with the New Year already three days old, it feels like it’s about time I started posting again.
November was stressful and invigorating, as I spent most of the month completing my novella for next July’s Star Trek Vanguard: Declassified, the new chapter in a book series I launched, in collaboration with writer David Mack, back in 2005 as a senior editor at Simon & Schuster. The series is about events that were taking place parallel with the original adventures of the Starship Enterprise, with new characters, locales, and situations. In a nutshell, the idea was to offer readers a broader perspective on that era of the Star Trek mythology.
Well, last winter, the authors behind the series, David Mack, Dayton Ward, and Kevin Dilmore, informed me they were planning a collection of tales to fit between the most recent Vanguard novel and the next one, and they graciously invited me to write one of the stories. Once I recovered from the surprise and overcame my initial hesitation, I gave some thought to what my story might be about and ended up signing on enthusiastically. My contribution, entitled The Ruins of Noble Men, is one of four novellas that will reveal previously undisclosed aspects of the Vanguard backstory, and also propel the series forward.
I had great fun writing Ruins, and I feel pretty good about how it turned out . . . enough that I’m dusting off an original fiction project I reluctantly put on hold last year. My goal is to work on it between editorial projects in 2011, and I’m feeling optimistic.
I’ve got the itch. It feels good to scratch.
Yesterday I received my advance copy of the new issue of Star Trek Magazine, #29. As some know, in addition to doing consulting work for authors and book publishers, I also have a regular gig as the magazine’s Contributing Editor. Besides featuring a cool new interview with actor Patrick Stewart by Calum Waddell, this issue includes two good-sized articles by me. The first is “Building the Aventine,” my exclusive interview with CG modeler Mark Rademaker, who designed the newest “hero ship” in the Star Trek book universe. The interview takes readers through the thinking that went into the design, and showcases more than two dozen never-before-seen development images, as well as a new beauty shot of the U.S.S. Aventine, which pulls double duty in this issue as a pull-out poster.
My second article is “Unmasking the Breen,” offering an overview of one of Star Trek‘s most mysterious alien civilizations, as well as their role the Star Trek Online massively multiplayer online roleplaying game and the development work they receive in my buddy David Mack‘s new novel, Star Trek: Typhon Pact—Zero Sum Game. David also previews the Typhon Pact miniseries in this issue, which includes a teaser excerpt from ZSG. (Not coincidentally, ZSG also makes good use of the Aventine.)
In addition, Star Trek Magazine #29 has news, reviews, rare photos, and other cool stuff to feed your inner nerd. Check it out!
Inspiration tends to strike like lightning. It’s what happens when our brains make unexpected connections between different ideas, resulting in a flash of creativity. This often occurs spontaneously, when we’re going through the motions of our everyday lives and some random observation or experience sets off a chain reaction in our imaginations.
We don’t have to wait around just hoping it will happen, however. We can help the process along by going in search of ideas and experiences that don’t ordinarily intersect with us, daring ourselves to re-examine assumptions we may have previously taken for granted. For writers, this practice of seeking out new and wider perspectives is absolutely essential to those hoping to grow in their craft.
Human nature being what it is, though, this is usually harder than it should be. We tend to stick with what we like, with what’s familiar. It’s just easier to play it safe, to not broaden our horizons. Consequently, many of us read only certain kinds of books, watch only certain kinds of movies, or eat only certain kinds of food.
A few years ago I was in San Diego, taking part in the annual organized mayhem of Comic Con International. One evening, after a typically grueling day behind the Simon & Schuster booth, my coworkers and I hosted a dinner at one of the great local restaurants in the Gaslamp Quarter, where we were joined by a group of authors and game developers. I’ve been to lot of these dinners and honestly, after a while they tend to blur together. Even when the company is scintillating and the food impeccable, the overall context is generally the same each time, and so it’s easy to forget who was where and when it took place, or what was on the menu.
At this particular dinner, I did what I always do when dining out: I scanned the menu for things I recognized, and selected from among those options whatever I was most in the mood for. I ignored everything else. I didn’t even notice the fact that the menu offered Antelope Terrine until the woman sitting next to me muttered, “John’s gonna order the antelope.”
John was one of her coworkers, a game designer sitting at the other end of the table. John wasn’t his real name. I can’t remember his real name. All I remember is the antelope, and the prediction that this guy would order it, whereas I didn’t even know what Antelope Terrine was, and I didn’t want to know. The woman who’d made the prediction went on to explain, “Whenever John goes to a restaurant, he always orders the most exotic thing on the menu.”
And he did. I subsequently learned that John had never tried antelope, but he ordered it, he ate it, and he enjoyed it. With gusto. With enthusiasm and excitement. I’m pretty sure I had a pasta dish.
I thought a lot about that evening afterward, about what John’s dining habits said about him. He wasn’t just open to new ideas and experiences, he relished them, and he had fun doing it. And this was a guy who made his living building worlds.
Complacency is the enemy. It’s the mother of stagnation. Yes, venturing deliberately beyond your comfort zone can be unsettling, but in my experience it’s the surest way to find inspiration. Creativity comes from having your cage rattled, from being reminded that there’s a bigger world out there than the one you’ve created for yourself. Instead of seeking experiences that validate your preconceptions, make the choice to challenge them. You’ll be pleasantly surprised to learn just how often lightning can strike.