The other day, I posted this bit to my Facebook wall:
e-Mail question: “If you could write any kind of Star Trek novel right now, without worrying about any of the series or the ongoing storylines or how things fit together, what would it be?”
As I explained there, the easy answer was that, given those circumstances, one of my “dream” Star Trek projects would be to write a novel focusing on the character of “Captain Proton,” along with his friends, enemies, and the other trappings which come with him.
For those not in the know, “Captain Proton” was introduced during the run of Star Trek: Voyager in the form of a holodeck program enjoyed by characters Tom Paris and Harry Kim. In the Trek setting, Proton is a fictional character in much the same way that Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers are to us.
(Yes, I know that Paris and Kim are fictional in this sense, too. Forget it, will you? I’m rolling, here.)
Entering the holographic simulation Paris had constructed using old Captain Proton “movie serials” and “pulp SF stories” as his guide, he and Kim would assume the identities of Proton and his sidekick, Buster Kincaid, and do battle against Proton’s arch-nemesis, Dr. Chaotica. When depicted during the course of the episodes in which the simulation is featured, the “world” of Captain Proton is depicted in black and white, with all of the retro old-school pulpy SF goodness you’d find in those original 1930s Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers movie serials. Perhaps the best use of the setting comes in the fifth season Voyager episode “Bride of Chaotica!” While the episode itself might not have the greatest storyline, the use of the Proton setting is, in my humble opinion, totally effin’ sweet.
“Captain Proton” was and remains one of my favorite contributions from Voyager. In 1999, when Pocket Books released Captain Proton: Defender of the Earth, a trade paperback of Proton stories and other material designed to emulate (at least in some respects) and old pulp SF magazine from the 1940s or 50s, I was absolutely jealous of Dean Wesley Smith, the author behind the tome.
So enamored was I with the whole Proton shtick that I even wrote a “serial” of my own, back in the days when I was still moderating as part of AOL’s Star Trek Club. By the time I had landed my first novel contracts with Pocket Books, I’d already done my version of begging for a chance to do something Proton-related, but apparently sales of the original book were never good enough to justify revisiting the idea. At least, not at that time.
So, time passed, and I stayed busy with other things. Then, Paul Simpson, my editor at Star Trek Magazine and who knew about my Proton fetish, asked me to write an article about the character for an issue which would provide a heavy Voyager focus. We kicked around a few ideas, and decided that the way to go was to write the piece from “inside the box,” as though Proton was an actual creation of our universe, just like Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers. Paul sweetened the deal by allowing me to write a second piece to accompany the main article: An “episode guide” to the movie serials to which the Voyager episodes had alluded.
Oh. It was on.
To say I had fun writing those articles would be a criminal understatement. To date, those remain my favorite work for the magazine (the recent Spaceflight Chronology update we did is a close second, though). Paul let me go completely unhinged with the things, and the folks at CBS Licensing were also very supportive and enthusiastic.
When it was all done, I had a realization: I had the outline for a Captain Proton novel just sitting at my fingertips. Three novels, really; one for each “movie serial” for which I’d provided an episode guide. HOT DAMN!
Will such a thing ever happen? I suppose one can never say, “Never.” Having pulled the original episode guide from my archives and looking over it before writing this blog, I can see where it would need some work before it’s in a format that’s appropriate for submitting it to an editor. No sense wasting their time until I make sure everything’s in order, right?