We're back today with Star Trek: Voyager author Kirsten Beyer, continuing our in-depth interview from earlier this week. TrekCore's Dan Gunther checked in with Kirsten to talk about joining the Voyager story without Kathryn Janeway on board, and what's coming up next for the Voyager crew.
TrekCore: We’d be remiss if we didn't ask about the reappearance of Kathryn Janeway in The Eternal Tide. After her apparent death in Peter David’s 2007 book Before Dishonor, was there a sense from the editorial team that she needed to be brought back, or did you begin the Full Circle storyline knowing that you were building to her return?
Kirsten Beyer: No. When I was asked to develop Full Circle, my understanding from my editors was that the choice that had been made to allow Janeway to die in Before Dishonor was not intended to be reversed.
Yes, a backdoor had been left in that book - the readers of the epilogue saw a disembodied Janeway heading into the Q Continuum, so were that choice to be revisited, the bread crumbs were already there. But I was tasked with exploring how the loss of such a central character would impact those she left behind.
I embraced that direction wholeheartedly because it was something we’d never really explored in depth with one of our main crews before. Sisko's “death” was always unclear to me and I don’t think I ever doubted he would be coming back. Didn't he tell Kassidy he would at some point near the end?
Janeway’s death was an entirely different thing, in large part because of Voyager’s unique circumstances. More than any other crew, Voyager’s was forced to become a family over the years they were separated from the Alpha Quadrant. Her loss, and the particularly violent nature of it, was going to damage people deeply. But it was also going to allow us to ask the questions of who these people could be in a universe where she was no longer there to lead them.
I think that turned out to be a question well worth asking. The choice to bring Janeway back in Eternal Tide actually began with the editors making a choice about Asfarah Eden that forced our hand. The Eternal Tide was intended to be a big “event” sort of book. These kinds of stories always shake things up and leave us fundamentally altered. As part of that, the editors wanted to tie Eden to the Q. Although that had never entered my mind when I was developing Eden, I could see the potential there. I didn't want to make her a Q. Been there, done that.
By making her essentially Q kryptonite, we could explore that dynamic and use the story to add to our understanding of the Q. But that epilogue from Before Dishonor was already out there. To my mind, you were not permitted to write a Voyager story post-Before Dishonor that included the Q - without addressing the issue of what had become of Janeway. We could still have made a different choice. We could have used this story to lay Janeway to rest permanently with the Q. But we couldn't ignore it.
After considering all of the options, it seemed wisest to me to embrace it, just as fully as I had embraced her death, and allow The Eternal Tide to become a story that explored the consequences of action and inaction, without shying away from the implications of those consequences. It was also clear to me that Janeway's potential to continue to develop as a character had been expanded tremendously by the events of Destiny.
We haven’t often seen Janeway wrestle with the consequences of her decisions. She always had too much to do. Except, I suppose in "Night", when too much time on her hands led to some serious gut-checking. Now it makes sense organically for the story and character to go there. Yes, she is back. But nothing about her life now or the lives of those she once led is the same. For me, this equals massive story potential and that’s always a good thing. T
he only regret here is that it meant the loss of Eden. There was more story potential for Eden than I had time to develop. But from the moment Janeway returned, the clock over Eden’s head was ticking. Had she survived the events of Eternal Tide, whether they wanted to or not, every reader would be asking themselves when Eden would move on and how.
Writing Eden’s interactions with Janeway was interesting, and more could have been made of that. But it seemed pointless to prolong the inevitable. Once Eden became more than human, I had to let her go.
TrekCore: How has Janeway's experience with death changed her? Will we see repercussions of her time spent “dead” in upcoming stories?
Kirsten Beyer: From Janeway's point of view, her “death” never really happened. She remained conscious of herself up to the moment the cube was destroyed and the next thing she knew, she was headed for the Q Continuum. Fourteen months of real time happened for everybody else, but she never experienced that time.
That said, you don’t get assimilated by a cube, turned into a Borg Queen who then destroys several Starfleet vessels, hang out in the Q Continuum where you see your life and death over every possible timeline played out, choose to return to life and come within a hair’s breadth of witnessing the absolute end of everything, including the potential death of the man you love and the actual deaths of a fellow captain you respect and a godson you would have gladly sacrificed yourself to save, without repercussions.
I think the best way to describe Janeway's experiences is that they have deepened her. She is now conscious of several facets of herself and reality she never had cause to consider before. And those she is closest to have grown considerably in her absence. They have learned to live without her. There is no way integrating all of that will be easy on anyone involved. But as the story progresses, it must be done. It’s also not just one story.
That reality, like the reality of every other character as they have progressed through these stories will be honored and continue to evolve as they confront new experiences.
TrekCore: Can you offer any hints about what’s to come in your next Voyager book - Protectors, currently scheduled for an early 2014 release? Perhaps the return of runaway hologram Meegan McDonnell, or maybe a trip to check in with Neelix on New Talax?
Kirsten Beyer: Protectors picks up right where The Eternal Tide left off, but it does cover more time than my books have up to this point, with the exception of Full Circle. It has a lot of ground to cover. In addition to beginning Janeway on her new journey, the reality of the fleet’s new circumstances must be addressed.
They started out as nine ships. Now they are three with one more back in the Alpha Quadrant and a big job still unfinished. There is a new mission and lots of new discoveries that will continue to play out as the stories continue. Neelix does make an appearance. And no, I haven’t forgotten about Meegan, nor has the crew.
The Eternal Tide changed so much. One of the main tasks of Protectors is to show how those changes play out for all of the characters who started the journey of Project Full Circle, to bring closure to some of them, and to set the stage for resolutions yet to come.
TrekCore: We know you’re probably still working to finish Protectors right now, but should you have the opportunity to continue with the Voyager series, have you developed ideas for new areas you’d like to cover going into future books – or unresolved stories from the television series to which you’d like to return, such as your follow-up to Borg Cooperative (from Season Three’s “Unity”) in The Eternal Tide?
Kirsten Beyer: Protectors is all but done. We have a few more rounds of edits, but the heavy lifting is over and the story is almost in its final form. There was no way to begin the new book, however, without thinking long-term. Luckily, my editors embraced this possibility, which is great for a number of reasons. It allowed me to think big, while knowing that I would have the time to develop those thoughts into a cohesive narrative.
There were issues already established prior to The Eternal Tide that need to be addressed. The massive alteration of the status quo came first, but also had to set the stage for what is to come. To do that, I had to know what that was going to be. Now, I do.
Although the paperwork has yet to be completed, so nothing can be stated to an absolute certainty, I am now in the process of outlining the book that will follow Protectors along with one more that will tie up currently dangling threads and stuff that is about to start unraveling with Protectors. This will include the return of some familiar faces, along with the introduction of lots of new ones.
TrekCore: Aside from Protectors, are there any other projects you’re currently working on? Anything you have coming out between now next January that you’d like our readers to know about?
Kirsten Beyer: For better and worse, Voyager has consumed my writing time since 2008. I've had little breaks between Unworthy and Children of the Storm, and another short one before starting Eternal Tide, which felt like it took forever to write. I started on Protectors last October and haven’t taken but a few days off since then and the end is more than a year away, assuming all goes as planned.
Before I started on Full Circle, however, I was working on an original novel, a sort of urban fantasy/paranormal romance thing that I go back to whenever I can. It’s had its own evolution and kind of defies categories now, but that’s okay. I think it will be pushed further into the future, however, by yet another original novel idea that showed up a few weeks ago, is pretty timely, and clearly has no intention of leaving me in peace until I write it.
How I will manage that while continuing my work on Voyager, I don’t yet know. But when the muse hits you over the head with a sledgehammer, you sort of have to pay attention.
TrekCore: Dan particularly loves your take on the Star Trek universe and the ideas of exploration and peaceful coexistence that are at the heart of Star Trek’s vision. What does Star Trek represent to you?
Kirsten Beyer: For me, Star Trek has always been the version of the future I’d most like to see made real. If technology could take human beings beyond our solar system, that would be fabulous. I have no doubt that one day it will. But what really excites me is to imagine that technology will also help humanity evolve beyond the parochial, territorial, greedy, self-obsessed, and fearful place in which we have been mired for far too long.
As Trek shows us, some of those things don’t go away just because we have replicators, artificial gravity, phasers, and can cure a lot of diseases that right now limit our life span. Some of that is just part of how we’re wired. But Trek posits that given enough time, we will eventually learn not to allow those things to define us. We have the potential to move beyond what divides us now, to see ourselves as a single species, as one world, and to use the power that awareness would grant us to make our lives more purposeful.
If none of us had to worry about where our food or fuel came from, if each of us were free to choose to spend our time doing what we found fulfilling because survival was no longer at issue…well, it’s a nice dream. But it’s also the place we’re going to have to reach as humans if we are going to survive. The things we throw our time and money at right now limit us tremendously. But for most of us, our choices are few. W
e may create lives where we don’t have to choose between what fascinates us most and what we do all day long. But everybody also needs to eat and keep a roof of some sort over their head. Our struggles to obtain these basic necessities drive us now. And our inability to bridge the imaginary borders drawn on maps, to see every other human being as “us” rather than “them” may yet prove to be our undoing. In Trek, that has become our past.
In Trek’s future, so many things we argue about now are taken for granted as settled. People don’t work to acquire things. They work to develop their own potential and the potential of humanity. They have come to accept that peaceful coexistence is the ultimate goal, the only framework from which every individual alive can thrive. Trek’s characters get to think bigger, to worry about more interesting things, and see themselves as citizens of the universe.
I want to live in that world, which is probably the biggest reason I keep writing about it.
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