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How one of the first Star Trek novels was written

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Vonda McIntyre wrote one of the first and most beloved Star Trek novels, The Entropy Effect. Here she tells the story of how she got the gig, and how the Star Trek book series started.

David Hartwell invited me to write a Star Trek book for Pocket Books, which had recently obtained the license to publish original Star Trek novels. He knew I had been a big fan of the original series and that I would treat the characters with some respect. I was quite pleased to be asked.


The negotiation was relatively simple. The restrictions were much fewer than (as I understand it) they are now. They paid me well, they paid me royalties - in fact they still pay me royalties on occasion - and Star Trek novels subsidized quite a lot of my original fiction.

The only potential glitch in the Star Trek books came about because I couldn't figure out how to write a love scene where the protagonists called each other by their surnames. So I gave Mr. Sulu a first name, "Hikaru," which is from The Tale of Genji. I was blissfully unaware of the glitch till long after the fact; someone at Paramount objected to the idea of the character's having a given name, for reasons unclear to me. David had the good idea of asking Gene Roddenberry and George Takei their opinion, and both of them said "Go for it" or words to that effect. And so Mr. Sulu has a first name.


As time went on, the deadlines became more intense. That's true for a lot of publishers, that the writer is expected to take up the slack for any slip in the schedule. When the writer accomplishes this feat, the publisher comes to the conclusion that because the writer did it once, the writer can do it again, only more so. Especially for movie tie-in books it's important to stay on schedule even if the copyeditor takes three times as long as planned and makes screaming hash of your text and you have to fix it all. By a week ago last Wednesday. If the book is late, not matter what the situation or how many other people are involved, it's your fault.

The funniest deadline story was for the 20th anniversary Star Trek novel, Enterprise. My editor, Dave Stern (who also edited The Moon and the Sun; he's a terrific editor), asked what I thought about the idea of a 20th anniversary Star Trek book, and I said that sounded like a fun idea. "Great," he said, or words to that effect. "What's it about?"

I told him to call me tomorrow and I would tell him.

So he did and I did.

Then the higher-ups decided it should be the first "giant novel," so I had to make it longer. Then they wanted it earlier than planned. When I was about halfway through writing the book, Dave told me that Paramount had approved the idea, but they wanted a detailed outline. This was after they had asked for it to be twice as long and twice as fast.


I fell down laughing and told Dave that they could have a detailed outline or they could have the novel on time, whichever they preferred, but they couldn't have both, and they had to pay me the same either way. He laughed, and I never heard another word about the detailed outline.

I wasn't ever part of organized Star Trek fandom. (I'm not much of a joiner.) I did attend one convention, as a guest, that had a Star Trek track and I enjoyed it - should I repeat the story about Mr. Spock's Dad?


There's a reference book that says I started out writing Star Trek fanfic. I don't know where they got that idea. I had sold and published a number of stories and three novels and won two Nebulas and a Hugo before I ever wrote a Star Trek novel. Perhaps the reference work's editors misunderstood the fact that I wrote several Star Trek screenplays, one of which got as far as Gene Roddenberry's desk before the show was canceled. One of my screenplays evolved into The Entropy Effect. I found it an interesting process to collaborate with myself at the age of 18 from the age of 30. But the screenplay wasn't conceived, written, or handled as fanfic.

When I was a pup I used to write the occasional spec script, which pretty much guaranteed that the show I wanted to write for would be canceled. I never sold anything to TV, though I heard by roundabout means that one screenplay got to the star of the canceled series (I have no idea how) and that he said "If all our scripts had been like this one, the show wouldn't have been canceled."


Vonda McIntyre is the author of Superluminal, Dreamsnake, and The Moon and The Sun. Find out more about her work, and buy ebook copies of some of her novels, on her website.