Holy shit, where did that time go?
Spanning seven novels and a handful of novellas released over a period of seven years, Star Trek Vanguard, for whatever the hell my biased opinion is worth, remains one of the most interesting and exciting aspects of Pocket Books’ decades-long Star Trek publishing program.
Conceived by editor Marco Palmieri and writer David Mack, Vanguard was intended as something of a 23rd century counterpart to the various “literary spin-off” series set 100 or so years later in the “Star Trek universe.” Novel series like Star Trek: New Frontier, Star Trek: Starfleet Corps of Engineers, Star Trek: Klingon Empire, and Star Trek: Titan were outgrowths of characters and situations established by Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and Star Trek: Voyager, each of which had its own line of novels as outgrowths from their respective television shows.
Though Star Trek: New Earth, an earlier attempt to create such a line of novels to take place during the era of the original Star Trek TV series and follow-on motion pictures, didn’t gain much traction, editor Marco was convinced such a companion series to the adventures of Captain Kirk and his merry Enterprise band could work, provided it could offer something not found in any of the TV shows or other novel lines.
What did Marco and Dave come up with? An all-new set of characters and ships, set not just during the time of the original Star Trek TV series but in fact running parallel to the voyages of the Starship Enterprise under Captain Kirk’s command. Set aboard a giant space station at the edge of Federation territory, Vanguard’s central storyline revolved around a fiercely contested region called “the Taurus Reach,” which would come to be of great interest not only to the Federation but also the Klingon Empire as well as the Tholian Assembly (from the TOS episode “The Tholian Web”).
Events that unfold over the course of the Vanguard novels would be informed by bits and pieces from the original series, and in turn layer in additional context to things conveyed to us in various key episodes and even a couple of the movies. The main idea was to weave an all-new story in an around the mythos of the original show, hewing to that “canon” as close as possible while still enjoying the freedom granted by inventing characters, adversaries, and situations unique to the books. As an avid–nay, rabid–fan of the original Star Trek series, for me this was a dream job.
Once Dave laid the basic groundwork for the series not only with a very comprehensive “writer’s bible” as well as the manuscript for the first novel, Harbinger, Kevin Dilmore and I were invited to contribute the second book. Encouraged both by Dave and Marco to use the writer’s guide as a point of departure while developing our own ideas, Kevin and I added a few bits and pieces to the mix, ending up with what became Summon the Thunder. Then we were off and running, as it was decided that Dave, Kevin, and I would be the writers for additional books in the series. The three of us bounced a hella bunch of ideas off each other, some drawn from the long-term series arc Dave originally had envisioned, and others that we came up with that we all thought sounded better, and getting the call to write “the next Vanguard novel was something I relished.
I’ve already written at length about the series and its development and execution on more than one occasion, so I probably shouldn’t bore you with too much of that yet again. Suffice it to say that from start to finish, this was one big fat chunk of fun.
Which also means I have absolutely no shame when it comes to pimping the hell out of the series on behalf of people who haven’t yet had the chance to read it. So, Star Trek fans who might be looking for something to tide them over while waiting for the premiere of Star Trek: Discovery later this year? Have I got a treat for you, in the form of the Complete Star Trek Vanguard Reading Guide:
Harbinger – Dave
Summon the Thunder – me & Kevin
Reap the Whirlwind – Dave
Open Secrets – me (story by me & Kevin)
Precipice – Dave
Declassified – stories by me, Kevin, Marco, and Dave
What Judgments Come – me & Kevin (story by me, Kevin, and Dave)
Storming Heaven – Dave (story by Dave, me & Kevin)
There also are a couple of additional stories which, while not essential to enjoying the main “saga,” might still be of interest:
“The Black Flag” – James Swallow
(Included in the anthology Star Trek: Mirror Universe – Shards & Shadows)
Do I regret that the series ended, rather than continuing on? Not one bit. Vanguard was always envisioned as a story with a defined beginning and ending, and despite our various diversions and course corrections over the course of those novels and novellas, we ended up not too far afield from what Dave originally envisioned. We also got to end the series on our own terms, something not done before or since in Pocket’s Star Trek publishing program, and those eight books sit on my bookshelf as a testament to one of the most creatively rewarding projects in which I’ve ever taken part.
Of course, Vanguard also begat Star Trek: Seekers, which allowed us to take a bunch of characters who only played supporting roles in the previous series and elevate them to stars of their own show, to so speak. Elsewhere, elements from the series have managed to find their way into other areas of the Star Trek “expanded universe,” but so far the three of us–Dave, Kevin, and myself–have held to our “pact” to refrain from revisiting Vanguard‘s core storyline or central characters. As I wrote a few years ago in response to a question about returning to the concept in some fashion:
“As far as I’m concerned, the stories of Vanguard’s core cast have been told. Within the fictional construct of the Star Trek universe, their reward—and penance—for what happened over the course of those novels and novellas is to be consigned to obscurity; footnotes to a history about which few people ever will know the complete truth.”
Yep. It’s five years on, and I still feel that way. I remain immensely proud of the work we did, but I have no need to re-open that particular box. To borrow a bit of sports parlance, I think we left it all on the field. Better to leave it well enough alone, and move on to other challenges and opportunities.
So, happy semi sorta anniversary, Star Trek Vanguard. Here’s hoping you keep finding new fans.