Apologies for the delay in finishing this story, but it’s been a busy week. For the Day Job, I spent the first few days venturing to the mythic land of Raleigh, NC, returned home long enough to reassure the dog I was still alive, and then immediately upsetting him by packing up and leaving again.
Right now, I’m sitting in my hotel room in bustling Islington, waiting for my jet lag to catch up with me. While out at lunch, I began to work on fixing some problems in Light Fantastic found by the eagle-eyed proofreaders (Scotty’s dead?! Why wasn’t I told?!) With luck, I’ll be able to post a couple items — maybe some photos — as the week unfolds. I’ll be visiting some picturesque spots and will do my best.
But, now, back to Data…
Rewinding to early 2013, Margaret asked me if I had any ideas for a Data story. Fortunately, I did — heldover ideas from Immortal Coil — and I was able to quickly run the basic concept past her and was given approval to proceed to the outline phase.
My original concept for the book was to do an Ocean’s Eleven-type caper story, with Data in the Danny Ocean role. I confess I may not have delivered on the “caper” angle as much as I would have liked. It isn’t a romp, though there are some complex plot pistons and gears in the book. Fortunately, I received plenty of engineering advice (I’m really stretching this metaphor, aren’t I?) from pal and ace plot-master, Joshua Macy. Josh’s mutant power is finding the weak links in plot mechanics and devising new and interesting ways to make the sloppy stuff stronger. Maybe after the book comes out, I can do an annotated version and point out all the places where Joshua contributed.
At this juncture, I can’t (and don’t) want to say too much about the story, though I feel free to mention some of the details that Pocket Book’s marketing department has already shared.
1.) This is not a shipped-based story. The Enterprise-E puts in a brief experience, but the majority of the zipping around the aether is aboard Noonien Soong’s Archeus, frequently piloted by the incorporeal Shakti (who quickly became one of my favorite characters).
2.) Following on point #1, Data is no longer a Starfleet officer. David Mack was already pointing him in that direction at the end of Cold Equations and I heartily endorse the idea. Data out of a uniform is much more interesting than Data in a uniform (except you can’t find any damned pictures of him! More about that later). I also decided to return Data (at least temporarily) to the world that his father, Noonien Soong, left him when he expired. Data as a casino owner: Just let that idea roll over you for a bit. If you do, you’ll understand why I had trouble following through on the Ocean’s Eleven plot structure.
3.) Lal is a major character. The Offspring was one of my favorite episodes of Next Generation when it was first broadcast and, I’m happy to say, really stands up today. It was a sad, smart tale and Lal was played beautifully by Hallie Todd. Probably the most impressive thing about the episode is that they didn’t go for cheap sentimentality at the conclusion and have Data express grief. He couldn’t express grief — that’s the point — or (as I’ll argue in the book) not in a manner that humans would understand or easily identify.
I was very happy to bring Lal back and work out some of the mechanisms (you’ll pardon the expression) of her persona. She’s a complex character because she’s simultaneously very adult, very childlike, and very adolescent. Probably the closest thing any of us could imagine to living with Lal would be raising a genius-level intellect who also has some moderately serious emotional difficulties. Don’t get me wrong: Lal isn’t a basket case, but she’s fragile and needs to be managed carefully. So, pity poor Data who not only has to learn to handle his own newly-restored emotions, but also the extremely complex emotional landscape of a simultaneously pre- and post-adolescent young woman. That’ll turn your hair white… Or skin golden…
4.) Moriarty is back. Now, honestly, if I’d had my druthers, I wouldn’t have mentioned this in the cover copy, as Pocket’s marketing department did, but I can’t deny it has had the desired effect. Apparently, a lot of TNG fans have wondered whatever happened to the holographic professor and his erstwhile companion, the Countess Regina Bartholomew. Well, now you’ll find out. And, I’m sorry to say, it’s not a happy story. The professor goes a little bit cray-cray (as my son would say), but once you learn some of the details, you’ll understand why and maybe even sympathize. A little. At first.
5.) And, because I couldn’t resist it and because it was sort of one of the hallmarks of Immortal Coil: guest stars, guest stars, guest stars! In IC, I tried to explore some of the history and ramifications of artificial intelligences in the Trek universe; in LF, I spend a little time with the beings lighter than air. No, not fairies (or faeries, if you’re Nancy), but holographic individuals. There’s more than a few out there, and, boy, some of them have reasons to be pissed off. I also find a way to insert a couple cameos for TOS characters because, why not? As previously asserted, you couldn’t swing a dead cat back in the old days without connecting with some form of A.I. who wanted to learn to love.
We’re about three months from publication day as I write this. Hopefully, soon, I’ll have a cover to show off. Even more hopefully, I’ll like Light Fantastic’s cover as much as I liked Immortal Coil’s. I guess we’ll all find out together.
Jet lag is definitely setting in, so I’d better go before I become even more incoherent than I normally am.
Thanks for reading. Be good.