Vanguard: Taking A Walk on Star Trek's Wild(er) Side
by Dayton Ward
For more than a decade now, I've been living a dream held by at least some ardent Star Trek fans: being able to write new stories featuring characters I grew up watching on TV or at the movies, or read about in books and comics while I played with action figures based on their likenesses.
Okay, I haven't done that last bit for thirty years or whatever.
All right, that's a lie. I was doing it yesterday, but I was playing with my daughter who's growing into a mini-Star Trek fan in her own right, so I'm covered.
In the time I've been writing Star Trek fiction for Pocket Books, some of the most fun I've had has been working with what many of us refer to as the "literary spin-offs," or series developed specifically for the books which aren't directly linked to one of the television shows. Pocket Books has developed several series in this vein over the years: New Frontier, Corps of Engineers, Klingon Empire and Titan to name prominent examples. Such series offer what I see as the "best of both worlds" when it comes to tie-in writing: being able to use a familiar setting or "universe" as the launching point for a host of new characters and situations which aren't explicitly tied to the "canon" of the parent media property.
Another such series is Star Trek: Vanguard.
Unlike its literary predecessors, Vanguard currently is the only novel spin-off series set during the era of the original Star Trek, with stories running in parallel to Captain Kirk's five-year mission aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise. Developed by then-Pocket Books Star Trek editor Marco Palmieri and author David Mack (infinitydog), Vanguard's core storyline involves Starfleet's efforts to unlock the mysteries surrounding an ancient civilization that once ruled the "Taurus Reach," a wedge of space crammed between territory claimed by the Federation and two of its principle rivals: the Klingon Empire and the Tholian Assembly. This unknown alien civilization, thought to be extinct, appears to have commanded a level of technological sophistication far above anything ever encountered. Naturally, there's concern that if a Federation enemy were to discover such technology, it would present a serious threat.
So, Starfleet is charged with finding out what's what, and doing so before any bad guys do the same. To facilitate this mission, a massive space station is constructed in the Taurus Reach. Starbase 47, aka "Vanguard," is the focal point of the series, featuring a large cast of characters - those living and working on the station as well as those serving aboard starships that call it home port. It's from here that "Operation Vanguard's" missions and storylines originate, with lots of action, political intrigue, subterfuge, sabotage, and all sorts of other good old-fashioned family entertainment.
Oh, and that ancient civilization that's supposed to be extinct? Yeah. Not so much, and boy, do they get pissed off.
Vanguard has been described as "Star Trek on HBO." That's actually not a bad comparison. If the original series was "Wagon Train to the stars," then Vanguard might be "Deadwood in space." Yes, the language can occasionally be a bit saltier than what you'd normally find in a Star Trek episode or movie. The violence can often be grittier and a tad more brutal, and hey! People even have sex on occasion. And here all along I thought Star Trek characters by and large were built like Ken and Barbie. Silly me. Despite this "modern take" on storytelling, we still strive to infuse Vanguard with the best of what people would recognize from the original Star Trek: memorable characters caught up in extraordinary situations as they (say it with me) "explore strange new worlds, seek out new life and new civilizations" and all that good stuff.
Currently, Vanguard consists of five books:
Harbinger (2005), by David Mack
Summon the Thunder (2006), by me and Kevin Dilmore
Reap the Whirlwind (2007), by David Mack
Open Secrets (2009), by me (story by me and Kevin Dilmore)
Precipice (2010), by David Mack
2011 will see two new books added to the mix. The first, Vanguard: Declassified, will be a collection of four novellas, written by the three of us and Marco Palmieri and telling stories spanning the length of Operation Vanguard from its inception to beyond the events of the most recent novel. If we do our jobs right, these tales will offer new insight to characters and situations which already have taken place, as well as telling additional stories that set up situations for the series' next novel-length installments.
And what about those? The other Vanguard book in 2011 will be the sixth novel, written by me and Kevin, followed in 2012 by David Mack's "Book 7." What can I say about those at this point? Well, I can tease, and say that the three of us are working more closely than normal to develop the storyline for both books, and if we hit all our marks this will give the series its biggest "one-two punch" yet. Considering everything that's already happened in the first five books, that's saying something. Mwuah-hah-hah.
If you're fan of Star Trek and the original series in particular, you might enjoy checking out Vanguard and take a stroll on the wild(er) side of the final frontier.
The Star Trek: Vanguard novels are all on sale now from Simon & Schuster.
Check out Dayton's web site.
Read Dayton's blog.
Follow Dayton on Facebook.
Follow Dayton on Twitter.