Engineers, Tholians, and the genesis of a Star Trek writer bromance.

I’m gonna need a minute to ponder the significance of the moment.

Not so much the moment itself, you understand. I mean, sure. It’s pretty impressive at least so far as it matters to the people who care about such things. For me, it’s not so much that it’s a moment unto itself. Instead, I prefer to ponder that it was the first of many such moments.

February 28th, 2001: Twenty years ago today, Interphase, Part One, the fourth installment of the still minty-fresh Star Trek: S.C.E. novella series, was published in what we now call “digital first format.’ Back then, we were just calling plain and simple “eBooks.” Call it what you want, but what’s really important to me is that this story marked the first professional fiction collaboration between and me and the dude who’s become my best friend in addition to my frequent writing partner, Kevin Dilmore.

How’d it happen? For that we have to set the Wayback Machine to just a bit farther into the past: late summer 2000. Back then, Microsoft was developing their version of an eBook reader, and they approached various publishers about providing exclusive content for this new platform. This included Pocket Books and John Ordover, who was one of the in-house editors overseeing Star Trek fiction. John and author/editor Keith R.A. DeCandido developed Star Trek: S.C.E. (“Starfleet Corps of Engineers”).

Taking place around the same time as the 24th century Star Trek TV series and associated novel lines from Pocket, S.C.E. features a team of specialists who get sent to deal with all sorts of odd tasks. Recover and study alien technology? Yep. Assist with any number of construction or repair projects wherever there’s a need for such hardcore engineer voodoo? Of course. Clean up the sorts of messes which might come when starship captains turn off world-running supercomputers and plunge an entire civilization into chaos before zooming off to their next mission? You know it.

(Just like you know who I’m talking about.)

While still working as a freelance writer for the Star Trek Communicator magazine, my bud Kevin interviewed John about various Star Trek fiction topics including S.C.E., which was set to be officially announced via the magazine. As they talked about the types of stories this new series might have, Kevin pitched an off-the-cuff idea that John liked. At that time, I was in the midst of finalizing In the Name of Honor, my first Star Trek novel for Pocket, but Kevin asked me to help him flesh out his original idea, and that became Interphase, a two-part entry for the S.C.E. series and our first fiction collaboration.

In Pocket launched S.C.E. in October of 2000 with the series’ first installment, Dean Wesley Smith’s The Belly of the Beast. Once things got up to speed, it published a new novella every month until November 2007. Over the course of the series, Kevin and I contributed ten of what ultimately became 74 stories. It was a fun project, owing in very large part to Keith’s editorial machinations but also the overall spirit of collaboration which was one of the series’ hallmarks. We all contributed a variety of bits and pieces to the series as we wrote our respective stories, and other writers would take those nuggets and run off in different directions.

One of the very odd quirks we learned about later was when the PalmPilot came along: there was a version one could buy in stores that featured four or five eBooks as added content, provided free with a purchase of the device. One of the offered titles was — yep — Interphase, Part One. As a consequence, Part Two was a “best seller” on the PalmPilot site for something like two years.

Go figure.

The series also proved to be something of a testbed for “auditioning” new writers without the pressure of an entire novel, and several of the writers who got their start with Star Trek fiction on S.C.E. later wrote full-length novels for the various series. Indeed, though I had written In the Name of Honor and it was published to mostly favorable reviews, I think it was our contributions to S.C.E. that played a much larger part in Kevin and I eventually being “called up” to the starting lineup for the novels.

While my first collaboration with Kevin was actually an article for the aforementioned Star Trek Communicator, it was this project that really got us going. In addition to the ten S.C.E. stories we wrote together, we also contributed two other novellas, eight novels, and a handful of short stories for the various Star Trek lines, along with a Star Trek comic story and a few dozen Trek-themed magazine articles. And of course we’ve done quite a bit of non-Star Trek stuff, as well.

Now, about that “bromance” thing.

“Chemistry is that one intangible that either exists in a situation or doesn’t, and has contributed to form some of the greatest partnerships of all-time, including Lennon/McCartney, Kirk/Spock, and Star Trek writing partners Kevin Dilmore and Dayton Ward. In fact, the duo is perhaps the greatest off-screen bromance seen in the franchise’s history.”

Rich Schepis, – December 2016

Well, there you go. Sounds pretty official and legit to me, amirite?

Obviously we’re still going strong. I mean, sure…there was that whole business where we broke up and then we got back together again, but these things happen. Though we’re not writing Star Trek together with the same frequency we did in years past, Kevin and I are still collaborating. We’re set to write a short story for an upcoming anthology project which hasn’t yet been announced, and we have a couple of ideas we threw around just yesterday that we’re both excited about. Stay tuned to see what happens.

Meanwhile…holy crap. Twenty years since Interphase? I’m going to go lie down, now.

One thought on “Engineers, Tholians, and the genesis of a Star Trek writer bromance.

Lay it on me.

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