For hundreds of thousands of wannabe writers around the globe, November can mean only one thing: 30 days of frantic scribbling and late-night keyboard bashing as they aim to hit the 50,000-word target of NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month project. In the two decades since the annual scheme started back in 1999, it has expanded from the United States to the rest of the world, and for some ‘Nano Rebels’ has even evolved to incorporate non-fiction as well. All that matters is that you can average 1,667 words a day – enough, by the end of the month, to have a publishable manuscript in your hands.
While most ‘Wrimos’ do it for pleasure – although, as anyone who has ever written a book will tell you, you have to be a bit of a masochist to truly enjoy the process – others hold out hope for a lucrative publishing contract at the end of it all. Erin Morgenstern’s 2011 ‘NaNovel’ The Night Circus went on to become a number-one bestseller, and was translated into 37 languages.
In the Star Trek Universe, of course, there’s no expectation of writers earning megabucks from their work, at least unless they sell the holographic rights to an opportunistic Ferengi. In fact, as Jake tells Quark in “You Are Cordially Invited,” ‘selling’ a story is little more than a figure of speech. And yet time and again, we see our beloved characters putting pen to PADD, driven to express themselves creatively in words. With that in mind, and in celebration of all the Wrimos out there eagerly tapping away at their latest magnum opus, here’s my list of Trek’s top five professional authors.
5. Geordi La Forge
While his predecessor Scotty apparently found time to write a technical manual for the Enterprise in between galactic adventures, Geordi had to wait until retirement before realizing his own aspirations as a novelist. In the alternate future depicted in “All Good Things,” a crotchety Jean-Luc Picard offers him a rather blunt literary critique, telling his former chief engineer that the protagonist in his latest work is “a little too flamboyant” for his liking. We can only hope, for Geordi’s sake, that other readers were less harsh in their assessment.
4. Jean-Luc Picard
As far as we know, the good captain never turned his own hand to fiction, but the opening episode of Star Trek: Picard reveals that in his years since quitting Starfleet, Jean-Luc has penned a number of history books. From the references to Dunkirk during his Federation News Network interview in "Remembrance," we can assume that at least one of them was about World War II. It doesn’t sound as though any of his efforts was exactly a galactic bestseller, though – in fact, Picard himself refers to them as “books of history people prefer to forget.”
3. The Doctor
Although the Doctor writes interactive holonovels rather than the traditional prose variety, he casts himself very much in the mold of a traditional author, complete with smoking jacket and quill pen. His unscrupulous Bolian publisher Ardon Broht even likens him to Tolstoy, although his crewmates offer a more realistic appraisal of the literary merit of his work. But pulpy and overblown as it might be, the Doctor’s holonovel Photons Be Free is officially judged to be the work of an “artist,” in “Author, Author,” and he certainly inspires a flurry of literary aspiration among the Voyager crew, with both Paris and Neelix lining up to pitch their own projects!
2. Jake Sisko
While the alternate Jake of “The Visitor” only completed one novel – the critically acclaimed Anslem – before abandoning his second work-in-progress to devote himself to subspace mechanics, we have every reason to hope that “our” Jake went on to a much more productive literary career. In the fourth-season episode 'The Muse" he manages a writing pace that would make any NaNoWriMo participant jealous, declaring that he is on course to complete a first draft of his semi-autobiographical novel, about a boy whose mother dies in tragic circumstances, in less than a week. Unfortunately, Jake’s rapidly rising word count is thanks in part to the influence of Onaya, a non-corporeal creativity vampire he has hooked up with – and when his father puts a stop to their rather creepy (not to mention deadly) relationship, the well of creativity suddenly dries up. It’s a feeling many Wrimos can certainly relate to!
1. Benny Russell (aka Benjamin Sisko)
Although Benny starts off writing just one Deep Space Nine story in “Far Beyond the Stars,” before long he has bashed out half a dozen more – enough, as his colleague Julius Eaton observes, to publish as an “elegant little volume” even after Incredible Tales terminates his contract. And not only is he prolific, he’s clearly talented as well – Benny’s colleagues all agree that his first Sisko story is the best thing they’ve read in ages. Nor is he limited solely to prose fiction – by the time of “Shadows and Symbols,” Captain Sisko’s alter ego is writing TV scripts on the walls of his cell. Indeed, Ira Steven Behr’s original plan for the DS9 finale was to end with Benny on the Paramount lot, episode script in hand.
Of course, as we saw in “Far Beyond the Stars,” Benny’s promising career as a writer was blighted by the racism of the time. But if he was merely a figment of Captain Sisko’s imagination – a ‘dream’ planted in the captain’s mind by the prophets – does that mean it was really Sisko who wrote all those wonderful stories after all? Who knows. But if, in some strange parallel reality, Benny Russell really is the dreamer and not the dream, he must surely be the greatest of Star Trek’s professional authors – someone capable of conjuring an imaginary world as rich and wondrous as Deep Space Nine.
Duncan Barrett is the author of Star Trek: The Human Frontier, along with six other books, and host of the TrekFM podcast Primitive Culture.