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Jörn Podehl (jp)05.04.10

Trek's Vanguard

TZN Exclusive Interview with Dayton Ward

The English original version of our interview with Trek novelist Dayton Ward. Next to discussing his work on Trek and on Vanguard in particular, the author shares a few thoughts on his career with us and offers his take on the future of mankind.

TrekZone Network: Who is Dayton Ward: What can you tell us about you, your interests and hobbies? What does your family think about your job - and about Star Trek?

Dayton Ward: I'm only a part-time freelance writer. Most of the time, I work in information technology as a business analyst. For many years prior to taking on my current job, I was a software developer, both for the U.S. military as well as the private sector.

My wife is a Star Trek fan, though she's not as passionate about it as I am. She used to have the biggest crush on Leonard Nimoy, but now thinks Chris Pine is rather cute. My daughters aren't yet old enough to really decide if they're fans, but my oldest daughter does like to watch Star Trek from time to time with her daddy.

TZN When did you start writing and for how long are you working as professional author?

Ward: I started writing as a fan of Star Trek back in the early 1990s. I entered the first Star Trek: Strange New Worlds writing contest in 1997 and sold a short story to Pocket Books. I sold stories during the next two annual contests, before Pocket Books editor John Ordover contracted me in 1999 to write a full-length Star Trek novel. I've been writing professionally since that first story, and have been kept fairly-well employed by Pocket Books since then.

TZN You have written many Star Trek books: Is there a book you like the most. And if you had the chance: Would you rewrite some of your books?

Ward: You can't ask a parent to choose between her children! My favorite of the television series is still the original Star Trek, and my favorite novel series to write is Star Trek: Vanguard. I still love the whole 23rd century look and feel for my Trek. I don't know that I'd want to necessarily rewrite anything I've already done; I'll live with them, warts and all. That said, one of my dream projects is to go back and write a novel-length version of my third short story for Strange New Worlds, "The Aliens Are Coming!" I actually have an outline for that, with a whole cast of additional characters as well as a plot which unfolds over more than twenty years to get to the point where the original story takes place.

TZN With adventures in S.C.E. and Mirror Universe you also wrote short stories. Is there a different to bigger novels? And what do you like more?

Ward: I like switching between the formats. Some stories are more fun to tell as a short story or novella, because you can just get right into the thick of things. Sometimes, you have an idea that just works better as a shorter-length tale.

TZN This year your second Vanguard novel Open Secrets was published in Germany. What do you think about it? And is there something you want to say to your German fans?

Ward: I love the entire Vanguard series, and David Mack is quite simply one of the most talented writers working today, so working alongside him to develop the ongoing Vanguard storyline is just too much fun. As for my German fans: you can't see me right now, but I'm waving to all of you and thanking you very much for your continued support of the series and my work!

TZN How did you get in touch with Vanguard and what fascinates you about that series? Do you have a favorite character in Vanguard?

Ward: David Mack co-created the Vanguard series with Marco Palmieri, who at the time was an editor for Pocket's various Star Trek lines. David wrote a rather large and very detailed "writer's guide" for the series, and also wrote the first book. The writer's guide laid out in very broad terms the main plotlines that would guide the series, including the use of characters and other little plot points that Kevin and I had introduced in some of our other Star Trek stories. Based on that, Marco asked Kevin and me if we wanted to write the second book of the series, which became Summon the Thunder. Along the way, Kevin and I also wrote a novella for the Star Trek: S.C.E. (later renamed Star Trek: Corps of Engineers) series, Distant Early Warning, which acts as something of a prequel to the entire Vanguard storyline. Once we were finished with Thunder, Marco decided that Kevin and I would alternate writing duties on the series with David, and so far that's how things have gone.

One of the things I love most about writing for Vanguard is that we're able to play within the defined 23rd century Star Trek setting (again, my favorite), while at the same time doing things that we likely wouldn't be able to get away with using the established or "canon" characters, ships, and so on.

As for a favorite character, do I have to pick just one? I've enjoyed writing for Commodore Diego Reyes, and with Open Secrets in particular, I got to set up some things for his character which (hopefully) pay forward in the stories still to come. I feel the same way about Ambassador Jetanien.

TZN How can we imagine the work on Vanguard? In which way such story lines and books are developed with David Mack and Kevin Dilmore? Isn't it difficult?

Ward: The three of us have spent and continue to spend a great deal of time communicating via e-Mail about the Vanguard series. We work together to develop the various plot lines or arcs for specific characters. The only "difficulties" we run into are when we try to best each other in what sometimes becomes a lighthearted competition of sorts. David blew up a starship in the first book, so Kevin and I blew up a planet in the second book. David destroyed a planet in the third book, but then made a whole solar system disappear, too. We changed pace beginning with the fourth book, a shift in tone that carried over to the fifth book to a large degree. Expect future installments to introduce even more radical alterations to what laughingly passes for the "status quo" in the Vanguard series.

TZN Sometimes the "Star Trek" novels are full of action and political topics. Trek's primary mission "to boldly go where no man has gone before" is often lost (except in Titan). What do you think about that and would you like to change this way of Trek?

Ward: Well, it's worth noting that "to boldly go..." was the mission of various starships named Enterprise. One of the advantages of having different series taking place in various time frames or set in new locales with their own sets of characters is that you're not bound to tell one general type of story. Vanguard -to use one example- despite its high action and political quotient, is also a story about exploration. Instead of heading out into the vast unknown, its storyline is focused on discovering the secrets of this one particular ancient civilization and the power it once held over a sizable chunk of space that's now bordering Federation territory. The Star Trek framework is large enough and imbued with sufficient diversity that just about any sort of story can be told, be it action-adventure, political thriller, pure science and exploration, and so on.

TZN What do you think about the new Star Trek movie and the alternate time line? The film is very rough: Do you maybe see some flair of Vanguard in it?

Ward: I quite enjoyed the new film. It has its flaws, sure, but I thought it was tremendous fun, and injected some much-needed energy into the franchise. As for any resemblance in tone or presentation it might have to Vanguard, that doesn't bother me one bit. I'd love the chance to write stories using this version of the characters. I'm particularly intrigued by the idea of writing a Captain Pike story using Bruce Greenwood's take on the character.

TZN Which novels are you planning? Maybe something about Vanguard's future? Do you want to write Non-Trek books?

Ward: As I answer these questions, I'm in the midst of finishing up Paths of Disharmony, a Next Generation novel which will close out the four-book Star Trek: Typhon Pact miniseries scheduled for later this year. It's also a follow-up to Bill Leisner's TNG book from last year, Losing the Peace, which itself is a continuation of events spinning out of David Mack's game-changing Star Trek: Destiny trilogy from early last year. Next up: David, Kevin, and I are already in the early stages of developing the outlines for what will be the next books in the Vanguard series. I can't offer any details or even teasing hints at this time, but stay tuned!

TZN You are almost through it. Here is our typical TrekZone Network question: Where do you see mankind in 100 years?

Ward: I'd hope at least some of us are sitting in our living rooms on the permanent lunar or even Martian colony, complaining about the poor satellite reception while trying to watch the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defend their title for the one hundredth consecutive year as they play Super Bowl CXLIV.

Oh, and world peace and goodwill among all humans would be nice, too.

(jp - 05.04.10)

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