In a recent Q&A session conducted over E Mail Sci Fi Pulse was given the opportunity to talk with Writer and editor Dean Wesley Smith. One thing that struck me about Dean was his enthusiasm for his writing, and I can honestly say that he is one of the nicest people that I have had the opportunity to communicate with via E Mail. Below is the Transcript of our communications with the writer.
You have been writing Star Trek books for a number of years now, and like a majority of your peers you have written media books based on every Star Trek show that’s been made. Do you have a favourite show to write for?
“Actually, no. I like all five of them, and SCE universe as well. Kris and I have done books in all the different series, and each batch of characters gives us a different challenge. The fact that I like all five series also helps in the editing of Strange New Worlds, since stories set in all five shows can be included”.
You have also written a number of books for the fairly new Star Trek serialised novels such as SCE. Could you tell some of my readers a little about the SCE books?
“SCE are short novels that for a time you can only get by download. Keith Decandido and John Ordover developed the series, and I helped a little, and did the very first book. It’s the only one I have done, and I think they’re working somewhere around book twenty now. It’s a really fun series, and it was a blast to help it develop and write the first book”.
Just recently I saw one of your novels on Amazon books. It was a TNG book called ‘Hard Rain’ am I right to assume that this book in particular is set entirely on the ‘Enterprise’s’ Holodeck. Also with it being pretty much about Picard as Dixon Hill, what sort of Mickey Spillane sort of features can they expect to get from Hard Rain?
“Hard Rain is completely in Dixon Hill’s point of view. Of course I knew I was going to be limited being only on the Holodeck, so I really let it go and challenged myself. I put every different type of mystery plot in it, including locked room and gothic. I kept the viewpoint only Dixon Hill, and Picard never thinks of himself as anything but Hill. It’s a comic novel that kept me laughing as I wrote it, but I’m not sure how some fans are going to like it, since it uses so many mystery elements. And it was never intended to be a “puzzle” mystery, but instead just a fun ride. I mean, what else can you do with a novel set only on a Holodeck?”
One of your responsibilities over the years at Pocket books has been editor for the ‘Strange New Worlds’ series of books, which are short stories by ‘Star Treks’ army of fans. How hard is it for you to choose what goes in these books. And what is about the funniest entry you have had. I mean hey you have to have come across a few oddities in some of what fans of submitted. Such as an anti Borg weapon made from double sided tape or something.
“Actually, picking the twenty or so winners of Strange New Worlds every year is both the job I enjoy the most, and the hardest job I have. I love reading all the great Trek fiction. But it gets hard when I have carved down the accepted manuscripts to a hundred or so. Getting it from that number to the twenty or so that Pocket Books wants is really hard. I don’t remember anything really funny, since I get so much stuff, but this last year, on the AOL Strange New Worlds board under Star Trek writing, someone got kidding around about there being a Borg Tribble. I said I would love to see that story, and about five of the writers on that board tried to write a Borg Tribble story, and one of those stories got second place in the last contest. It is a hoot, and wonderfully written. It is called, ‘The Trouble with Borg Tribbles.’”
Diane Carey was credited with writing the tie in for the ‘Enterprise’ pilot ‘Broken Bow’, but you are credited jointly with Kristine Kathryn Rusch for the first original ‘Enterprise’ novel ‘By The Book’. Now from are initial correspondence in E – Mail you mentioned that you had not seen any of the shows during the time that you were writing this book. So am I right to assume that you had a copy of the Enterprise Script to help you with you characterisations. From what I read of the book you pretty much nailed Archer and T’Pol.
“Actually, we had the first script, and the next two, but nothing else. We also did the very first original Voyager novel before we got a chance to see any of that show as well. Writing a novel with characters you haven’t seen, but that the fans will see and know very well, is a scary thing. So far I think we’ve been lucky and managed to get most things right. But I have to admit; I think it was luck in some places. We just made guesses as to how we thought the characters might be, and with most of the guesses, we went the right way in hindsight”.
In your Enterprise novel, you make use of a DND type of game as a little B story within the plot. Whose idea was that, and can we expect to see more of the adventurous role-playing games within the plot of any future Enterprise books that you may write.
“At this point we have no plans on writing any more Enterprise novels, simply because no one has asked us. I would imagine if we do, we might make reference to that DND type game again. It was Kris’s idea, and it worked well. She and Kevin J. Anderson used to play DND back when they were in college together, so she wrote most of those scenes”.
Another aspect of ‘By The Book’ are the two alien races you feature, and the protocols that Archer has to follow with the Fazi, which was pretty well thought out. What gave you the idea to make the Fazi so rigid?
“We wanted the crew and Archer to run into something that would contrast the nature of what Enterprise was doing, going out on a whim and a prayer. The Fazi would never do that. It was a contrast element that we just kept pushing. I developed the two races. I love doing that”.
When you set about designing a new alien race for one of your books, is there any particular routine that you follow or is it like a case of eureka I have a really cool idea for an alien race.
“Cool idea, to be honest. Start with an idea, toss in basic world-building details, mix in sociology and biology, figure in history and language, make it all work together and bingo, you have a new race. Sort of like building a tall building. You start from the foundation and work up”.
As I mentioned earlier you have written a number of books on pretty much all the Star Trek shows that have ever been made. Do you have any characters that you favour when writing these books. Like one that you find easy to write, and another that you have more difficulty with.
“Actually, I tend to like all the Captains the best. For some reason I can just get into their mindsets. So I tend to have the Captains on screen more than other writers for that reason. But again, I like all five series, and most of the characters. Just like any Trek fan, I have a few I don’t like, but they are minor characters for the most part”.
Obviously you have probably seen the new show Enterprise now, do you have any opinions on the new show and where you would like to see it go in the future.
“I like it a lot, and wouldn’t miss watching it. As to where it’s going, not a clue. And to be honest, I’m glad the folks at Paramount don’t tell writers like me what they are doing. It would spoil the fun of watching the show. And as a Trek fan, I love watching Trek in all its forms”.
Out of the Enterprise characters, now that you have seen the show and all, which character out of that show can your see yourself wanting to develop more if you were to scribe another book set in the Enterprise time frame.
“The Captain and the doctor. I would write more about them”.
My final question for you is from a friend and fellow Sci Fi Webmaster Chris over at TGL and he ask’s what software do you use to write the book(s)? Is there any particular software that you would recommend, and why?
“Actually, I write on an I-Mac, using Word. But all our Internet stuff is on a new Dell. I only use my Mac for writing and nothing else. As for why, Mac’s are just easy, and the less time I think about computer stuff, the more time I have to write.
One last thing. And anyone out there wishing to write a Star Trek story, go find a copy of the latest Strange New Worlds. Read the stories and then follow the rules in the back. Deadline for #6 is October 1st”.
If you would like to check out some of Deans books you can do so by following this link to the Pocket Books website. Sci Fi Pulse would like to thank Dean for taking the time to talk to us and wishes him the best of luck with any new projects that he maybe working on.