Shore Leave 41.5: the virtual con!

Among the many mass gathering events impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 situation are comic and pop culture conventions. Whereas I likely would have attended at least a couple of such events by this point in the year, all of my 2020 con appearances have been cancelled or at the very least postponed until a date “to be determined.” Among those shows falling victim to this are two of my favorite cons: Starfest, held each year in Denver, Colorado, and Shore Leave, which takes place every summer in Hunt Valley, Maryland (just north of Baltimore).

I’ve been attending both of these conventions for many years, now, and I’ve made many friends to whom I look forward to seeing every year. For Shore Leave, it means a rare opportunity to meet up with several of my fellow writer friends, particularly among those of us who write Star Trek stories in novel or comics or even gaming formats. While I understand and appreciate the commitment to safety for staff, volunteer, and attendees who participate in these and so many other conventions, I regret not getting to see those aforementioned friends and getting the chance to make some new ones.

However! All is not totally lost. The fine folks responsible for putting on Shore Leave each year have taken a page from other shows and are presenting an “online con.” Through the wonder that is the internet and video conferencing software, we’re gonna get together and talk really geeky stuff. The con staff has assembled a series of discussion panels spread across this coming weekend beginning the evening of Friday, July 10th and sprinkled through the afternoon and evening of the ensuing Saturday and Sunday. What’s that? You want to see a complete schedule? Well then BEHOLD:

Shore Leave 41.5 Scheduleshoreleave-logo

Kicking things off on Friday evening? A panel discussion devoted to Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, the new television series currently in development by CBS and Secret Hideout, Inc., who of course have already brought us Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Picard, the (as I write this) upcoming Star Trek: Lower Decks animated series, and another animated series which also is in development but which has not yet been officially named or “announced.”

What about Strange New Worlds? Well, it’s set aboard the original U.S.S. Enterprise several years before Captain James T. Kirk commanded the fabled starship on its historic five-year mission of exploration as chronicled in the original and animated Star Trek TV series as well as enough novels, short stories, comics, video games, and other tales to account for pretty much every minute of those five years.

Cage-Pike-SpockThis show will focus on Kirk’s predecessor, Christopher Pike. For those of you who may not know (and really…what’s that about?), Pike was the Enterprise‘s captain in Star Trek‘s original 1964 pilot, “The Cage” (portions of which were incorporated into the two-part original series episode “The Menagerie”), and portrayed by the late Jeffrey Hunter, and who had serving under him a young Vulcan lieutenant named Spock and played by Leonard Nimoy. Only Nimoy was carried over from the unsole pilot when Star Trek was given a second chance, this time assigned as Kirk’s first officer, and so began the Star Trek we all know and love.

Greenwood-PikePike has featured in a number of novels and comic stories over the years and was played by actor Bruce Greenwood in 2009’s Star Trek reboot film as well as its sequel, 2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness. However, it was Anson Mount who helped bring the character back to prominence during Discovery‘s second season. Mount’s portrayal was one of the season’s true highlights, right alongside Ethan Peck playing a pre-Kirk Spock and Rebecca Romijn as “Number One,” Pike’s first officer. They along with an updated U.S.S. Enterprise which both evokes and effectively updates the classic 1960s ship had fans talking, and many clamored for Pike, Spock, and Number One headline their own series. Well, BOOM. It’s comin’, y’all.

SNW-Big3(Awwwwww yisssssssss……….)

As for our discussion panel, since the show is still in its earliest development stages, we’re left to wonder aloud what we might expect once Star Trek: Strange New Worlds hits CBS All Access sometime in the (hopefully) near future. Like the panel description says: “What can we expect from the new Pike – Number One – Spock show? Is it just retreading old ground or will it provide a chance to explore more of the 23rd century with three compelling characters?

It’s going to be a fun discussion, made all the more so because I’ll be joining friends and fellow word pushers Christopher L. Bennett, Kelli Fitzpatrick, Michael Jan Friedman, Amy Imhoff, and John Jackson Miller. The panel kicks off at 7pm Eastern time via Zoom. Details will be available on the Shore Leave 41.5 virtual con’s schedule page.

Hope to “see” you there!

Adding the Klingons to Star Trek Adventures!

Regular followers of my blatherings may be aware that – seemingly an eternity ago, what with COVID-induced time dilation – I helped out a bit with the Star Trek Adventures roleplaying game created Modiphius. Working with friends and fellow Star Trek scribes Jim Johnson and Scott Pearson was tremendous fun. However, given my role was to help with some of the early playtesting by developing a story premise for the game’s “living campaign,” and once that was done I figured my time working on STA was at an end. After all, they have actual game developers and other people who really know what they’re doing, and it’s obvious from how the game has developed and expanded over these past few years that the good folks at Modiphius totally have a handle on things.

But of course Jim Johnson couldn’t resist dragging me back.

STA-KlingonRulebook-CoverYesterday, Modiphius announced the release of a major new expansion to Star Trek Adventures: The Klingon Empire Core Rulebook. Not simply a rules supplement, this new volume essentially is its own standalone game, allowing players to carry out missions of conquest in the name of Kahless completely from the point of view of the Klingon characters they create. According to a new article on StarTrek.com:

This core rulebook contains the same rules presented in the Starfleet-focused core rulebook released in 2017. The award-winning design team, including 2d20 developer Nathan Dowdell, took the opportunity to edit and streamline the rules chapters based on fan feedback since the game’s launch, and introduce new rules for reputation, honor, glory, and house management. Now, for the first time, you and your fellow players can create your own noble Klingon House and seek out glory. Everything you need to create brave Klingon warriors and fearsome Klingon warships are available for you to use.”

What else can you expect to find within this book’s nearly 400 pages?

In addition to the revised rules, the book contains extensive chapters on Klingon history, culture, politics, military, and planets. Players have more than a dozen Klingon starships to choose from and make their own, creating their own ship to crew and take into battle. Players will be able to play Klingons from most any Star Trek era, including pure-bred Klingon warriors as well as those afflicted with the Augment Virus, the QuchHa’. Fans of Star Trek: Enterprise, The Original Series, and The Next Generation era will all find materials to use in their games and play in any time they choose.”

STA-KlingonRulebook-01

Read the entire piece here: StarTrek.com – Boldly Go Into the Klingon Empire

For those wondering, Klingons and additions to the lore as depicted on Star Trek: Discovery are not included in this new rulebook, as Modiphius does not currently possess a license to develop material based on that series. Never say never, though!

In addition to myself and Scott as well as the game’s already solid roster of talented developers and writers, Jim wielded his editor mojo and assembled a small band of Star Trek fiction writers to contribute to the book: Derek Tyler Attico, Christopher L. Bennett, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Kelli Fitzpatrick, and Lawrence M. Schoen. I was asked to contribute a variety of background materials relating to Klingon history, politics, the military, and the Empire’s relationships with various allies and adversaries.

STA-KlingonRulebook-02

As always, it was great fun to work on a group effort like this, and I think Star Trek Adventures players and Klingon fans in particular will enjoy how this book adds a new dimension to the game. The book is currently available as a watermarked PDF you can download immediately upon purchase for $19.99, with hardcover “standard” and “deluxe” print editions available for pre-order and coming in the fall.

Thanks very much to Jim Johnson for inviting me back to play in the Star Trek Adventures sandbox for a while!

Talking about Agents of Influence with Literary Treks!

LiteraryTreks-LogoA new book means new interviews!

They vary in number from book to book, but one show you can pretty much always count on to reach out about an interview is Trek.fm’s Literary Treks podcast. I mean, talking about Star Trek books is baked right there into the name!

Those rascals, Bruce Gibson and Dan Gunther, always manage to nab me for an hour or so in order to talk about my newest Star Trek publication. This time, our chat revolved around Agents of Influence, my Star Trek original series novel which was released back on June 9th.

To be honest, I always feel like I’m fumbling through these discussions because by the time I’m talking with people who are reading the book, it’s been at least several months since the last time I revisited the story, and there usually have been any number of things I’ve written or are in the midst of writing by the I start doing interviews for a newly published book. However, Bruce and Dan did a fine job hitting me with good questions and observations which made for a fun, thoughtful conversation. I some ways, chats like this allow me to enjoy a story I wrote all over again.

For those pondering having a listen but who haven’t yet read the book, please be aware that SPOILERS ABOUND IN THIS INTERVIEW. You’ve been warned.

Otherwise? Head on over to Literary Treks and stick this in your ears:

Literary Treks Podcast #306 – There’s Shag Carpet On This Ship Somewhere

LiteraryTreks-AgentsLogo

Many thanks to Bruce and Dan for having me on again. I’m sure our paths will be crossing again somewhere down the road!

June writing wrap-up.

Congratulations, adventure seeker! You have survived June 2020.

WELCOME TO LEVEL 7 OF JUMANJI.

June was a lot like May so far as the home life situation. We continue to observe COVID-19 recommendations and protocols when going out…curtailed as such activities may be. I did take a couple of volunteer shifts at the National World War I Museum and Memorial, my first since early March, as the museum reopened to guests in early June. Our neighborhood pools are open – while following social distancing and occupancy guidelines, of course – which allows my kids to get out of the house and into some sun and exercise. We continue to see close friends, all of whom like us have been doing our best to “behave” with the current situation.

Oh yeah. And there was work, too.

Wearing my consulting hat means attracting more things to my desk. As this tends to be Star Trek in one form or another, I can’t really complain. My dreams are getting a little weird as the different Trek iterations start to blend together into this massive uber crossover event going on in my subconscious. There’s a lot happening within the Star Trek universe, with even more waiting in the wings.

There were a few writing things on the docket, as well.

Continue reading “June writing wrap-up.”

Happy 121st Birthday, Indiana Jones!

Today marks the birth date of Dr. Henry Walton Jones, Jr., famed archaeologist and obtainer of rare antiquities, renowned professor, traveled adventurer, and all around nice guy.

If ever you need an historical artifact or object of the occult located and liberated from uptight French rivals, scheming Nazis or commie graverobbers, he’s your man.

If you’re starving in some backwater village and worried about some ancient voodoo rocks rather than finding a decent sandwich shop, this is the dude you call.

If you’ve got alien bodies that need studying before they’re whisked away to secret military warehouses, he’s good at that, too.

If you want someone to show you the folly of bringing a sword to a gunfight, he’s got it covered.

Indiana Jones: July 1, 1899 – ???

Smart, tough, resourceful, and ruggedly handsome. There are so few of us.

Were he still alive today, he’d be 121 years old.

On the other hand, he did drink from the Holy Grail. Maybe he really is still out there, crackin’ his whip and chasin’ after fortune and glory. Hmmmmmmm?

IndianaJones-1992(Indiana Jones, circa 1992)

You just never know about these things.

So, just in case…Happy 121st Birthday, Dr. Jones!

Your Moment of TrekZen*

Back in a time before Star Trek was the global, multimedia entertainment juggernaut it is today, merchandise was….funky.StarTrek-A&BC-Kirk CardI’ve seen cards from this set here and there over the years. Getting your stinking paws on a complete set seems to be like finding the Holy Grail or a copy of The Thing: Infection At Outpost 31 which won’t cost you a kidney. Produced in 1969 by a company called A&BC out of England, this was the first set of all-color Star Trek trading cards, predating the more commonly known set from Topps by seven years.

The 55-card set features images from a single episode of the original Star Trek series, “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” Given the guest character for this story was Roger Corby,” this likely explains the erroneous listing Captain Kirk’s first name as “Roger.” Somebody had Roger on the brain, yo. As choice of episodes go, this isn’t the worst candidate, but something like “Arena” or “The Doomsday Machine” or “Balance of Terror” might’ve been cooler, amirite? Then again, none of those episodes have Sherry Jackson sporting one of William Ware Theiss’s more memorable costume designs.

StarTrek-A&BC-AndreaCard

The choice of photos from the episode aren’t too bad, all things considered, even if some of the text has some unfortunate errors. Spock is a Martian, according to his card, for example. In addition to relaying text about the image on the front, several of the cards also have “space facts,” like the distance between the Earth and the Moon. Many of these infonuggets are outdated in a charming, whimsical 1950s science fiction way. Ah, such innocent times. All in all, the card set is pretty average, even if the captions lack much of the flare of the earlier Leaf card set, but what are you gonna do?

I doubt this set will ever be reprinted, but I’ve learned to never say never when it comes to pop culture merchandising. Until then, you can check out more info about these cards from this rather helpful website: Wixiban.com – Star Trek Trading Cards.

StarTrek-A&BC-CardWrapper

(* = with acknowledgments–and apologies–to The Daily Show)

Happy 45th Anniversary, Jaws!

Y’all know me. Know how I earn a livin’. I’ll catch this bird for you, but it ain’t gonna be easy. Bad fish. Not like going down the pond chasin’ bluegills and tommycods. This shark, swallow you whole. Little shakin’, little tenderizin’, an’ down you go. And we gotta do it quick, that’ll bring back your tourists, put all your businesses on a payin’ basis. But it’s not gonna be pleasant. I value my neck a lot more than three thousand bucks, Chief. I’ll find him for three, but I’ll catch him, and kill him, for ten. But you’ve gotta make up your minds. If you want to stay alive, then ante up. If you want to play it cheap, be on welfare the whole winter. I don’t want no volunteers, I don’t want no mates, there’s just too many captains on this island. Ten thousand for me by myself. For that you get the head, the tail, the whole damn thing.”

June, 20th, 1975: The day everybody started reconsidering their summer beach vacation plans.

Based on Peter Benchley’s 1974 novel of the same name, Jaws essentially paved the way for what we now know as the “summer blockbuster event” movie. 45 years to the day after its initial release, the film really does hold up very, very well (yes, even considering what is obviously a fake shark.). What makes up for the sometimes scary/sometimes goofy-looking shark itself is the screenplay, keen directorial choices made by then-journeyman filmmaker Steven Spielberg, a landmark, haunting, and timeless musical score as delivered by veteran composer John Williams, and the razor-sharp performances of lead actors Roy Scheider (police chief Martin Brody), Robert Shaw (the salty sea fisherman Quint), and Richard Dreyfuss (oceanographer Matt Hooper).

As for the shark, Spielberg, owing to persistent malfunctions with the model and perhaps planning for the worst while hoping for the best, elected to keep the shark “behind the curtain” for most of the film. He waits until the one-hour or so mark to provide the first teasing glimpse, when it attacks a boater near the Amity beach. Even then we only get a fleeting look at the creature’s head before the camera cuts away, and we’re left to consider just how frikkin’ big this thing really is. It’s not until the pivotal moment twenty minutes later, when Brody is tossing chum into the water behind Quint’s boat, the Orca, that the shark reveals itself to the boat’s crew, and us, and provides what is arguably the most memorable line of the entire movie: “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

Jaws-BiggerBoat

There are a few things which obviously date the film, such as fashion, automobiles, and the like. Speaking of clothes, actor Murray Hamilton as Amity mayor Larry Vaughn gets my vote as worst-dressed dude in a movie not featuring Austin Powers. Holy Shit on a Ritz Cracker…that multi-colored pinstripe number? Is he trying to cosplay a Time Lord? I still have nightmares about going to prom wearing something like that. Still, such things are easy to dismiss when we’re talking about a film that’s able to transcend the era in which it’s made. For such movies, I simply consider them period pieces, and enjoy.

Yeah, these days we know that much of the shark’s behavior is wholly at odds with the way sharks really act, but we don’t care. It’s still a riveting story of man facing off against one of nature’s perfect creations; the consummate eating machine which goes about its singular purpose with simple, brutal efficiency. As for the lead characters, Scheider brings what would become his patented “every man” approach to the role of Brody, a regular joe caught up in a ridiculously extraordinary situation. Richard Dreyfuss is our translator as Hooper, explaining the shark’s actions and drive to do what it does, and providing much of the comic relief in the film’s latter half. Robert Shaw offers up an assload of quiet menace to his performance as Quint, and his recounting of the U.S.S. Indianapolis sinking and its aftermath is quite simply one of the most bone-chilling monologues in cinema, period.

Jaws did phenomenal business during the summer of 1975, and continues to be listed among the best films ever made by whoever bothers to make such lists. As for what came after? A sequel was inevitable, especially considering one of the producers involved with the film, Richard D. Zanuck, was the head of 20th Century Fox Studios when the original Planet of the Apes was made and greenlit the first of the sequels to that film (Hey, the man knew how to capitalize on an idea). What about the Jaws follow-ups? Jaws 2 is a serviceable if largely unremarkable sequel, the only saving grace of which is the always watchable Roy Scheider reprising the role of Brody. The less said of the subsequent two films, Jaws 3-D and Jaws: The Revenge, the better.

No. We’re not talking about those films here. Ever.

There have been a good number of shark movies since Jaws hit screens – The Shallows, 47 Meters Down, and The Meg being recent and prominent examples – and there have also been rumors circulating for years that a remake of the original film is in the works (in 3-D, even). Whether this might be a straight-up retelling of the film itself, or a new take on Benchley’s original novel never seems to crop up during such mindless blathering. So far as I’ve been able to tell, cooler heads at Universal have prevailed in this regard, at least so far. Perhaps they’re worried about Steven Spielberg’s continued association with the studio (via Dreamworks), and the belief that he might aggressively fight any attempts at a remake, along with making miserable the lives of as many Universal execs as he’s able. In a world that’s given us Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus and Sharknado, I’m content for studio folk to leave this one well enough alone.

Yep, even after all these years, the original Jaws remains an eminently rewatchable film.

Hey! It’s Captain Picard Day!

What, you didn’t know this? Shame on you. It’s June 16th, which means…..

CaptainPicardDay-Banner'

That’s right, today we pause to recognize the life and accomplishments of Jean-Luc Picard: captain extraordinaire, explorer, diplomat, tea connoisseur, and 24th century renaissance man.

Oh, and he’s also a role model. Just ask him.


Of course, all he wants is to sit in the sun and read his book. Alone. Afterward? He really hasn’t thought that far ahead.

So, hey! Don’t just have a great Captain Picard Day. Get out there and “Make It So.”

2020 Scribe Awards nominees announced!

iamtwIt’s that time of year again!

The International Association of Media Tie-In Writers (IAMTW) has announced their nominees for this year’s Scribe Awards. Among the nominees are several people I’m proud to call friends and colleagues, or just sources of inspiration and admiration. Some of the names listed are people whose work I’ve been reading for years. Winners for this year’s awards will be announced on July 15th, but for now here’s a list of nominees:

ADAPTED NOVEL – GENERAL & SPECULATIVE

Alita: Battle Angel by Pat Cadigan
Batman: The Killing Joke by Christa Faust and Gary Phillips
Doctor Who: Scratch Man by Tom Baker & James Goss
Godzilla: King of the Monsters by Greg Keyes

AUDIO DRAMAS

Diary of River Song: Concealed Weapon by Scott Handcock
Doctor Who: Companion Chronicles – Daybreak by John Pritchard
Doctor Who: 10 Doctor Adventures – The Creeping Death by Roy Gill
Torchwood: Sargasso by Christopher Cooper
Warhammer: Watcher in the Rain by Alex Worley

GRAPHIC NOVEL

Blade Runner 2019: Los Angeles by Michael Green and Mike Johnson
Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor – Old Friends by Jody Houser
Pet Noir by Anne Toole, Christie Yant, and Pati Nagle
Star Trek: Year Five – Valentine’s Day Special by Paul Cornell
The Wrath of Fantômas by Olivier Bouquet

ORIGINAL NOVEL – GENERAL

Robert B. Parker’s Jesse Stone: The Bitterest Pill – Reed Farrel Coleman
Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer: Murder, My Love – Max Allan Collins
Murder, She Wrote: A Taste For Murder – John Land

ORIGINAL NOVEL SPECULATIVE

Batman: The Court of Owls by Greg Cox
Firefly: The Magnificent Nine by James Lovegrove
Star Trek: The Next Generation – Collateral Damage by David Mack
Star Trek: Discovery – The Enterprise War by John Jackson Miller
Star Wars: Galaxy Edge – Black Spire by Delilah S. Dawson
Warhammer: The Red Feast by Gav Thorpe

SHORT STORY

Deadlands: “Cookie” by Shane Lacy Hensley
Tales of Basil and Meobis Fresh Hells: “Cutter & Razz” by Chris A. Jackson
Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar: “The Girl’s Best Friend Matter” by Bobby Nash
Lethbridge-Stewart, the HAVOC Files: “Pure History” by George Ivanoff
Dragonband: “Queen Slayer” by Jean Rabe

YOUNG ADULT & MIDDLE GRADE

Battletech: Rogue Academy – Iron Dawn by Jennifer Brozek
Halo: Battle Born by Cassandra Rose Clarke
The Lucy Wilson Mysteries: The Midnight People by John Peel
Warhammer Adventures: Attack of the Necron by Cavan Scott
Warhammer Adventures: City of Lifestone by Tom Huddleston

-Jonathan Maberry, President IAMTW
-D.S. Stevenson, Vice-president

CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL THE NOMINEES!

Tied Up With Tie-Ins: Alan Dean Foster!

After an irregular, infrequent attempt last year to kickstart this (hopefully) recurring feature here on the blog, here I am with the second installment in less than a month!

The idea is simple: I’m a tie-in writer. Before that, I was a tie-in reader. I still am, of course, but way back when? I had no idea reading such books would lead me to writing anything, let alone my own tie-in books. Weird how life works sometimes, right? And yet, here we are.

Now that I’m a regular to this somewhat misunderstood and oft-derided genre of writing, I like to look back at the works of those who preceded me; books I read as a kid and which in hindsight proved to be something of an inspiration to me. Previous installments of this feature/wannabe column have included looks back at novels based on The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman, Planet of the Apes, V, and Space: 1999.

You’ll note all of these are television series, and in the 1970s and 80s tie-ins to science fiction and fantasy shows were particularly commonplace, but we can’t forget about novelizations of popular genre films. I read a whole bunch of those during this same period, as well, and no conversation about the great film novelizations of this era can happen without some mention of the one and only Alan Dean Foster. Indeed, the man deserves his own conversation on this topic, which is…well…what I’m about to do here.

Continue reading “Tied Up With Tie-Ins: Alan Dean Foster!”