How’s that song go? “It’s been a long road…..”
Yeah. Twenty years in the rearview mirror, just like that.
It was on this date in 2002 that my first novel was “officially” published. As it happens, it was a Star Trek novel, In the Name of Honor, and as is often the case with mass-market paperbacks, it had been showing up in stores in the days running up to its scheduled release date. Today, however, is the day I circled on the calendar way back when.
Little did I know what might come next.
Those of you familiar with my secret origin story know that this first novel came about after I sold short stories to each of the first three Star Trek: Strange New Worlds anthologies. I still recall the afternoon that John Ordover, at the time the editor overseeing the bulk of Pocket Books’ Star Trek fiction output, called me at my office in the fall of 1999 to tell me that he was buying my story “The Aliens Are Coming!” for the third edition of the annual contest and its resulting anthology. I don’t remember the exact words, but it was something along the lines of, “Okay, I’m buying your story. This is your third sale, so you can’t enter the contest anymore. I think it’s time you wrote a Star Trek novel for me.” The rest…as they say…is a frappin’ mystery.
(Takeaway: All of this is John’s fault.)
Is it a stretch to say that phone call changed the course of my life? I don’t think so. Until then, I was rather happy with my career as a software developer. Writing fiction was something I’d taken to doing as a creative outlet, with no real thoughts – serious or otherwise – about ever being professionally published. That was something “real writers” did. I was just writing goofy stories to make my friends laugh, or the occasional bit of Star Trek fan fiction just because it was fun. Only after a dear friend, Deb Simpson, basically dared me to enter a story in that first SNW contest did I ever write something with the idea someone might consider buying it, and I was as stunned as anyone else when my name was announced as one of that first contest’s winners.
At the time I considered it a fluke, but there was no denying the utter rush of seeing my name in a table of contents in an actual book you bought at an actual bookstore. There’s nothing quite like it, I think; that sense of accomplishment, indelibly recorded for all the world to see. Even then, In the Name of Honor was different. This was the first time my name was on the front cover, and that was its own level of “Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?” Holy hell. How did this happen?
(Again, blame John.)
They should find a way to capture that sensation so you can drink or smoke it, because it’s an incredible feeling and even after all this time the experience is the same every time I get my first look at a new cover with my name on it. If that excitement ever fades, I’ll know it’s time to get out of this game and go do something else.
Since then, I’ve been afforded some amazing opportunities – things I can’t imagine ever doing if not for those SNW contests and this first novel. For one thing, I met the dude who would become my frequent writing partner to say nothing of my best friend, Kevin Dilmore, but I’ve also befriended so many other people – writers, fans and fellow Star Trek enthusiasts, people involved with the various Star Trek television series and films (and a few non-Trek productions, as well), and even a couple of honest-to-goodness astronauts.
Eventually, the writing and everything that came with it expanded to influence so much of what I was doing that I cast off my corporate shackles and took up the challenge of writing full-time. I don’t mind saying that was an exciting and yet terrifying period, but I have absolutely no regrets.
Over the years, I’ve written and published original fiction, and even had the chance to write stories in other favorite “universes” like 24, Planet of the Apes, and Predator, but Star Trek has been and continues to be very, very good to me. Without a doubt, Star Trek opened all of those other doors but if you’d told me back in 2002 I’d still be writing and publishing anything – let alone Star Trek stories – twenty years later, I’d have thought you were high. If you told me back then I might eventually find myself in a position where Star Trek pretty much dominates my every waking and working moment, I’d have asked for your dealer’s contact info.
But, here we are. It’s been a long road, all right, but I’m honestly having the time of my life.
Every day, I’m privileged to work with talented and dedicated people who love this thing as much as I do and who want to do right by it. Any list of people to thank is pretty damned long at this point and I know I’d accidentally leave off someone, but I’d like to think they know who they are. They have – each and every one of them – elevated my game, and I can only hope I’ve somehow found a way to return that favor at some point along the way.
With that said, the opportunities and success I’ve enjoyed these past twenty years all track back to In the Name of Honor and – even more so – that first Strange New Worlds contest. For that, I am and will forever remain grateful to John Ordover along with writer and SNW editor Dean Wesley Smith and Paula Block for making it all possible in the first place.
Here’s to the next twenty years, or however many the Fates decide I have in me.