Last week, StarTrek.com previewed Star Trek: The Next Generation: Indistinguishable from Magic, which Simon & Schuster will release on March 29. Today, we talk to the book’s author, David A. McIntee, a British journalist and novelist. McIntee chats about his influences and his previous writing output, says that “continuity” of life is at the core of Indistinguishable from Magic, and offers a glimpse of his current and upcoming projects.
You are among the precious few out there who can claim to make a living as a writer. How big a source of pride -- and possibly poverty -- is that?
McIntee: A lot of both. I don't make a lot of money, but I don't smoke or have kids or a car to run, so I don't have as much outgoing as most people today. And even then I wouldn't make it without my wife's income! But I value freedom above riches, so I'm good with where I am, because I'm in control of my own career.
Growing up, what did you read? Who were your influences?
McIntee: I started off with Ladybird books of classic fairytales when I was a toddler; I remember them still. But once I started on to "real" books, there were the Target Doctor Who novelizations - a lot of what I am now is Terrance Dicks' fault! - adventure stories both for children, like the Hardy Boys books and so on, and adults. I'd read all of Ian Fleming's Bond canon and graduated to the early Stephen King novels by the time I was 11 or 12. I'd also loved a lot of the pulp SF novels, Doc Smith and so on. I'd say my influences are probably still Fleming, but more latterly people like Dean Koontz, who always has strong female protagonists, and, from TV scripting, Chris Boucher, because I really got hooked on how he would handle dialogue interplay between characters.
Before we talk Trek, what previous books of yours would you recommend as solid reads?
McIntee: Doctor Who-wise, Sanctuary, Face of the Enemy or The Eleventh Tiger. Elsewhere, Destination Zero is, I think, a fun popcorn novel, and if you're a genre movie fan, Beautiful Monsters really delves into Aliens and Predator, and is a dense piece of film criticism.
You dipped your toe in the Trek writing waters with the short stories On the Spot and Reservoir Ferengi. How satisfied are you with those stories?
McIntee: Very. I think they were both unusual takes on the subject matter, and they came out very much as I hoped.
How different a task was writing a full Trek novel like Indistinguishable from Magic? And, for you, what's the core/at the heart of Indistinguishable from Magic?
McIntee: It was actually more like, once I'd got over the elation of fulfilling an ambition, getting back to normal, as I've always been a tie-in novelist, and not really a short story writer. So it was different from those two stories in the sense of being back into my comfort zone. At its heart, (Indistinguishable from Magic) is about continuity, not in terms of the franchise's continuity, though there's some of that with guest appearances from familiar faces and so on, but continuity of life. Continuity of career, of family, about moving on from one stage of one's life to the next. And about tongue-in-cheek dialogue, anomalies, and blowing stuff up.
What are the pros and cons of writing for an established franchise like Trek, where there are specific rules/limitations about what you can and cannot do?
McIntee: The pros are that you already have a background to work from - actors' voices to hear saying the dialogue, and so on - and you share that with the audience. So you and the readers both already share a connection. The cons are that, obviously, there are existing rules about what you can and can't do, especially with regular characters, and that there are always going to be certain stories - or types of stories - that you might be aching to write, but that won't fit the franchise you're working in. Thankfully that's less of a problem with Star Trek or Doctor Who, for example, because those series can accommodate an extremely wide range of types of story.
Several readers of StarTrek.com asked: When and where in the Trek timeline does Indistinguishable from Magic take place? And what sort of insight do you have on it?
McIntee: It's around about February 2383, about three months after Paths of Disharmony. Sadly, I don't know about insight into the timeline; I just wanted to be sure it follows on from the books that came out before it.
You contribute to the official Star Trek Magazine produced by Titan in the U.K. How did that opportunity come about and what do you enjoy about tapping out features for them?
McIntee: I'd worked for the editor, Paul Simpson, before, on other magazines, and I'd also done Trek magazine work before, on the Star Trek Communicator and as the Voyager video reviewer in SFX back in the late 90s. So it's a mix of knowing the right person and having a track record. What I love about doing those pieces is being able to comment on episodes or concepts, especially those that wouldn't fill a novel, and feel a comfortable balance between fan-ishness and being a professional features writer.
What else have you completed and/or are you working on now?
McIntee: I've been doing a lot of comics work lately, with bios of the Queen, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy and Tim McGraw, as well as a graphic adaptation of William Shatner's first Quest for Tomorrow book. I'm currently writing a graphic adaptation of John Saul's The God Project, and a new Jason and The Argonauts comic series, as well as a nonfiction book about the British TV series Blake’s 7. As always, there a couple of things I'm just waiting on the official nod for.
How eager are you to do more Trek writing?
McIntee: Very. One ambition WAS to write a Trek novel, but now it's changed to wanting Indistinguishable from Magic to be not "my Trek novel," but "my FIRST Trek novel," if you see what I mean. So I have some other pitches in at Simon and Schuster, and I'll keep on pitching.
Doctor Who and Captain Picard get into a fight. Who wins?
McIntee: They'd both be on the same side, surely? Otherwise, it probably depends which Doctor. Picard would whup the 1st, 2nd, 5th or 7th's ass, but not so much the others.
To keep tabs on David McIntee and his upcoming projects, visit his blog.