Q de Gras Introduction, Table of Contents & Bonus Features

Q de Gras

 

INTRODUCTION

Q is not only one of MY favourite Star Trek characters, he’s a fan favourite across the board. Fans of both genders and virtually every age seem to love Q, and who can blame them? He’s the quintessential villain that you love to hate. He’s also the acerbic genius that you love to quote, and he’s the “fiddler on the roof” that you’d love knock out in the ring. He’s the nemesis of the great Captain Picard, who always seems to get the upper hand over the self-proclaimed omnipotent being. And finally, he’s the TNG version of The Original Series’ character, Harry Mudd; they are both recurring, impish, troublesome characters, and yet they are both charming in their own inimitable ways. If you add quasi-omnipotence to Harry Mudd (and slim him down a few pounds), you have Q. It’s really that simple!

During the run of Star Trek’s golden era (1987-2005), Q made twelve appearances, eight of which were in The Next Generation with a rough average of one appearance each season. And not only was he a fun villain, he was also instrumental in introducing the Borg, another Enterprise Nemesis. Y’ gotta love ’m!

Q remains so popular that even the novels that feature him—some of which are penned by John De Lancie himself—stand among the best sellers of Trek novels decades after their original publication. Q2, by Peter David and IQ by Peter David and John de Lancie, are great reads, and I recommend them to any Star Trek novel lover or any novel Star Trek lover.

Now, most Star Trek novel plots take place near the end of or after the close of their respective TV series. Q2 takes place after the TV episode “Tapestry” but before the close of the series. IQ takes place after “All Good Things.” And there’s a very good reason that Star Trek novels are set that way: the all-important avoidance of continuity errors. It’s a wise choice. If you set an original story in the midst of the respective television series, the introduction of an incident, no matter how incidental, that should set the characters on a course different from the actual direction becomes all the more possible, and such things frustrate fans and dissuade publishers from taking an interest in your novel. Trust me, because, when it comes to making creative literary decisions, let it never be said that I am wise; in writing my Star Trek novel, I have not followed that unwritten rule of common lore, and yet, there are no continuity errors.

The novel you are about to read (resumably) takes place at the end of season two of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Dr. Katherine Pulaski is the Chief Medical Officer of the Enterprise, not Dr. Beverly Crusher. Guinan is just completing her first six months aboard the famous ship, and Ten-Forward has only recently become the hub of activity for crew downtime. The crew are still wearing uniforms that are one or two sizes too small for them. Such costuming was Gene Roddenberry’s idea to avoid the appearance of wrinkles. The necklines of season-two suits are very low, with rank insignia landing almost on the shoulder of the wearer rather than on the neck. Eventually, the cast successfully protested the uncomfortable costume size issue and received, in season three, newer, classier, even more military appearing costume uniforms with higher collars where the pips of rank are displayed.

By the time the story of my novel takes place, Q has already pestered the crew of the Enterprise D three times: during “Encounter at Farpoint,” “Hide and Q” and “Q Who.” Q de Gras—my novel—takes place before “Deja Q,” the episode in which the pseudo-omnipotent character is taught humility by being made human, much to the chagrin of Data, who observes, “You have achieved in disgrace what I have always aspired to be.” My novel begins on stardate 42940 and ends on 42972, which places it between the last two episodes of season two: “Peak Performance” (Stardate 42923) and “Shades of Gray” (Stardate 42976). There is a long time gap there, during which my story takes the Enterprise D to the edge of the Romulan Neutral Zone to learn to communicate with the Calliphlox, a small but highly intelligent avian species that inhabits a submoon in orbit of Alpha Onias II.

So, since I have placed my own story in the middle of the series, am I worried about continuity errors? No, I am not. That’s one reason I felt so compelled to write this novel. It creates no issues with continuity at all. Indeed, it sets up subsequent TNG episodes quite well, and even foreshadows pending predicaments with Q.

For example, in one instance in my novel, my character from the Continuum wears a light gray jumpsuit and olive-green pull-over—the very thing Q would be wearing in the season-3 episode, “Deja Q.” Q scoffs at what my character wears, claiming, “I wouldn’t be caught mortal” wearing that getup. Of course, we know that he will be caught mortal in the same garb the next time he’s aboard the Enterprise D.

In another instance, Troi pokes fun at Riker because he’s planning on playing the song, “Night Bird,” on his trombone at a concert in my novel. She explains to Picard that he has difficulty playing the solo. That song, however, is mentioned first, historically, in season six of TNG, when Troi explains the same thing to Dr. Crusher, who is not on the Enterprise during season two. But, by season six, Troi had been teasing Will about the solo in that song for ten years; in my novel, which takes place some years earlier, Troi has been teasing him about it for five years, so it all works out.

My story worked so well where it is in the overall Trek saga that I was able to write the entire novel without a lot of concern about continuity issues. Indeed, even while I was well fixed in season two, I was still able to allude to incidents throughout the entire Q story arc without giving any spoilers. At one point, I was able to compare advanced Q WMDs with 19th-century US artillery, obliquely alluding to the Voyager episode, “The Q and the Grey.” And all of that made the novel that much more fun to write.

Parenthetically, there is another quirk for Q when it comes to titles of episodes or books in which he appears: The titles usually include a pun on the name Q. Examples include “Qpid,” “Q-Less” and others, some of which I’ve already mentioned. Even the novels Q2 and I,Q follow this tradition. In fact, of all the twelve episodes with Q, there are only four that don’t include such puns: “Encounter at Farpoint,” “Tapestry,” “All Good Things” (all of these are from TNG) and the Voyager episode, “Death Wish.” Please be advised that I followed this tradition to the letter “Q.” Never let it be said that I don’t mind my “Ps” & “Qs.” Not only does the title of my novel and its chapters follow this tradition, but I have also divided the book into four acts, each of which has a title that follows this same trend and variations of it, and I’m rather proud of that.

So, as you get set to read, set your chronometer back to 1989: The Berlin Wall is either just about to come down, or it has very recently come down. The USSR is dissolving, bringing to an end the long Cold War. We’re still more than a decade ahead of Y2K. George Bush Sr. is president, but the Gulf War has yet to even heat up. There have been no Los Angeles Riots, no Hurricane Andrew and Star Trek: The Next Generation is new and growing in popularity without ever usurping the place of the original cast in our hearts. The world seems to be in a state of relative peace. In the Trek Universe, Q is something of an enigma for viewers, but he’s still intriguing, and there is an overall vibe among fans—a need, a universal desire—to learn more about him. To love to hate him again even more.

Aboard the Enterprise, Data has recovered from losing a game of Strategema against the famed Zakdorn strategist, Sirna Kolrami. Of course, the fact that he won the rematch was helpful. Riker and crew are encouraged by their excellent performance in wargames with the Enterprise pitted against the antiquated USS Hathaway. And, more recently, the crew just finished an assignment that ended with them having to quarantine a planet called Telokotis Minor, which they were considering for colonization. The mission, as brief as it was—only a few weeks—resulted in the loss of twelve members of the Enterprise crew. It is a massive loss, especially after the loss of the eighteen claimed by the Borg several months before. But now, Picard has new orders creating a wave of pleasant calmness that sweeps the crew of that beloved ship. It is in this spirit—a revived spirit of exploration and discovery—that the novel opens.

 

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Prologue

Act I: Q d’État
Chapter 1: Suspended on a Mission
Chapter 2: Back on Trek
Chapter 3: Getting to Know U
Chapter 4: Jer an’ Me

Act II: U Phemisms
Chapter 5: U Turn
Chapter 6: U Remind Me of a Man
Chapter 7: U Reka!
Chapter 8: U Phonics

Act III: U Logy
Chapter 9: “Me and U and a Dog Named Boo”
Chapter 10: It’s a Bee-U-tiful Life!

Act IV: Q de Coeur
Chapter 11: “Cue the Liar! Cue the Misanthrope!”
Chapter 12: Right On, Q!

Epilogue:

 

 

BONUS FEATURES

NO VILLAINS
If I may be so bold, I enjoy being a writer, not only because I enjoy creating, but because I enjoy reading my own work. Of course, the same might likely have been said of Oscar Wilde or William Shakespeare: If they didn’t like what they wrote, they’d probably have written something different or done something other than write. So, while it might be a conceit of an artist of any genre, I declare loud and clear that I never get bored with my stories. But allow me to get into specifics: What is it, precisely, that I enjoy about my writing? Good question (seeing that I wrote it). Well, for one, I just laughed outright for a good twenty seconds at my own joke. I also enjoy making my stories work. If I find a hole in a plot, I enjoy filling it. If there’s a complex problem, I enjoy guiding my characters through the process of solving it. And I enjoy making those characters live, become individuals, become real. But if there is one thing that pleases me more than any other idiosyncrasy of my creative process is that I never (or, at least, very seldom) have a villain. I don’t plan my stories that way; they just seem to create themselves sans villain. Of course, I do have antagonists in my stories. You can’t very well have a story at all without one, but it is an infrequent occurrence, indeed, when my antagonist is a “bad guy.” It is something that I have noticed as a trend over the years, and Q de Gras follows that trend. Q is the antagonist in many a Star Trek episode, I grant you, but, while he makes some appearances in my novel, his function in my novel is more the narrative informant, allowing audiences to learn what happens “off stage,” as it were. I figure that there’s enough evil and brutality in the world without my having to bring it into my own creations. This feature of my writing pleases me about my writing and about me.

I’ve known only one other writer who has mentioned this same feature about his own writing, and because of that, since I am already something of a fan of this writer, I express this peculiarity of mine with a degree of pride. This other writer’s name is Kurt Vonnegut.

DIALOGUE
You may notice that my writing is dialogue-heavy. It turns out that I am not all that highly action-oriented for a novelist. Much of my writing, even in short fiction, is rife with discussion. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I would make a better playwright. While drama is also dialogue-oriented, I do so prefer to be able to rely on the natural ease of having a narrator to explain things to my readers when needed, rather than having to try to explain the same things via dialogue only. You end up explaining less, and shrugging when you see gaping vacuums in characters’ motivations all because you can’t give certain details. A narrator can offer readers things that just will not come across in drama: backstories or emotional nuances. However, if I can express something through dialogue rather than through narration, I do. It is a feature of my writing for which I have received much praise and some questioning commentary, but no criticism. Some feel that it makes a reader feel more a part of the story, as though included in a private meeting or in a family discussion, while others feel as though they are the proverbial fly on the wall, or “spider under the table,” for Trek aficionados. I mention it because it is something that I have, in recent years, asked every reader of my writing: “How do you enjoy the dialogue?” I have yet to be disappointed or made sorry for a response.

FOOTNOTES
A significant portion of the word / page count of this novel is the result of copious footnotes. Initially, as I was hoping to publish this novel through Random House, Simon & Schuster or Titan Books, who are responsible for publishing Star Trek novels and other Trek resources, I wanted those involved to know where I drew inspiration or used a precedent. I wanted agents, editors and publishers to know and easily find sources, not to have to hunt or research for themselves. As far as I was concerned, all the footnotes could have been removed at any step of the process by any of those for whom they were created. Ultimately, I was turned down by more than one agent for the same reason: Star Trek is a universe, and I am not even a planetoid, despite my seven books on the market. And don’t let the propaganda fool you: Publishers publish authors; seldom, if ever, to they publish stories. It is the author and his or her name that brings in the dough; story has little to do with it. So I decided to publish my novel on a fanfiction site while printing copies for friends and family, and I toyed with the idea of removing all the footnotes. I didn’t intend for the general reader, after all. But I thought better of it. I wrote them to be helpful guides, so I chose to let them be helpful guides for readers.

THE CONNECTION WITH THE SARATOGA
In the series of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Picard is a relatively outspoken opponent of Federation policy to bring family members on Federation ships. Indeed, we are introduced to some potentially horrific things that occur to otherwise innocent family members living in such an environment. For example, when Enterprise archaeologist Lieutenant Marla Aster is killed in the 3rd season episode, “The Bonding,” she leaves behind a son, Jeremy, who is about ten years of age. Or in “Hero Worship,” a boy, Timothy, of about twelve is the sole survivor of the destruction of the U. S. S. Vico, a science vessel. However, it is not until the advent of Deep Space Nine (DS9), that we see a family member, non-Starfleet, killed as a result of military action aboard a Federation starship.

Q de Gras explores with a bit more intimacy the consequences of family members aboard a starship. My character, Jeremy James “Jer” McKee, is infected with the same illness that had killed twelve members of the Enterprise crew, including both of his parents. Readers are present to see him learn of his own infection, watch him rise to successfully perform a stunning magic show and feature his art for sale beside his mother’s art, attempt new and promising treatments, and readers follow him for his final days: roughly three and a half weeks of his life.

We don’t get to see all this build-up to the demise of Jennifer Sisko in DS9’s premiere, “The Emissary,” but because of the connection of the deaths of non-Starfleet personnel aboard Federation ships, I included the U. S. S. Saratoga in the telling of the tale because that is where Lieutenant Commander Benjamin Lafayette Sisko, Jennifer’s husband, was stationed while my story, set during the end of season 2 of The Next Generation, takes place. In five years’ time, he will command Deep Space Nine, a space station guarding the mouth of a stable wormhole that offers ships from the Alpha Quadrant safe passage 75 light-years in only minutes to the Gamma Quadrant and back. However, in only one year after the events in Q de Gras, Lt. Cmdr. Sisko is first officer aboard the Saratoga during “The Battle of Wolf 359.” Before the end of that battle, Jennifer Sisko will be killed as a direct result of living aboard a military ship while engaged in warfare against one of the most lethal enemies the Federation has encountered.

In the aftermath, we see Ben Sisko in mourning: He is overwhelmed with anger toward Captain Picard, who operated (against his will) as Locutus of Borg against the Federation. Sisko understandably blames Picard for Jennifer’s death. He considers resigning from Starfleet, and he confesses that he “has never learned to live without [Jennifer].” Neither Jeremy nor Jennifer are members of Starfleet; they are simply family members of ranking Starfleet officers. I put Jeremy’s grandfather aboard the Saratoga because I wanted to be able to create a bridge between Jennifer Sisko and Jer McKee. I wanted the two stories to work together to create a unified theme that says that Captain Picard may be right: Families do not belong aboard Starfleet vessels.

COMMEMORATIVE WALL
One of the great mysteries of the Enterprise D is the commemorative wall in the observation lounge behind the Bridge. It is a Star Trek tradition that seems to have begun with Star Trek: The Motion Picture. As Commander Decker and Lieutenant Ilia’s replica tour the ship, they visit a games room/lounge that includes photos of various ships from history. Decker explains to the V-Ger Ilia that all the ships were named Enterprise.

On the Enterprise D, the commemorative wall is a prominent feature that does not use photos but high-relief sculptures, including representations of the U.S.S, Enterprise CVN-65 and 1701, 1701-A, 1701-B, 1701-C and 1701-D. This wall was a point of celebration for years until the first Star Trek prequel came into being with the NX-01 Enterprise. The question then arose, why does the Enterprise D commemorative wall not feature the NX-01? Obviously, it doesn’t include the NX-01 because that ship had yet to be invented, but within the Star Trek universe, can the omission be explained without it being a mere continuity error? Can the lore support an explanation that fits the saga even if it was never stated?

It’s more difficult to explain within the context of Trek than you might realize. Since the wall was always seen but never discussed during the run of the series, there is no real information given to us upon which to proceed other than the fact that it is there. The absence of the NX-01 on the Enterprise’s commemorative wall was the basis of much criticism of the prequel series Enterprise during its four-year run, and rightly so—kinda.

In addition to that question, there were other general criticisms regarding the NX-01: specifically, that it looked too similar to the TNG-era starship Akira class, which would have come along two and a half centuries later. That problem gave rise to another question: Why would a 22nd-century pre-Federation culture create a ship that looks so much like a 24th-century ship? It’s rather like Henry Ford creating a car that resembles a 2020 Mercedes Benz. My novel addresses both questions.

My character from the Q Continuum (who calls himself U) asks about the commemorative wall. Riker explains that there is a large number of vehicles named Enterprise, so many that representing them all would clutter the wall. He explains that five are ships of the line since the Federation was established. So readers can understand that the NX-01 isn’t there because it was commissioned before the Federation existed.

Riker goes on to explain that, the CVN-65 is there because the ship used to carry about 100 aircraft. It is used there to “carry” (symbolically) the remaining ships named Enterprise: Since it is a naval vessel, it represents Enterprise vessels—seafaring and air faring—from before its own creation, including the CV-6 Enterprise and earlier. And since it was in use after people began venturing into space, it also represents the first space vessels to bear the same name Enterprise, and that would include the Enterprise, CVN-80 and all ships after until the NX-01.

As far as the NX-01 looking so much like a future ship in the Trek Universe, Picard explains that, in reality, it is the 24th-century ship that is built to resemble the NX-01. In my novel, Picard establishes that it is the Akira-class ship is, itself, a commemoration of one Enterprise NX-01. With those points thoroughly discussed in my novel, the commemorative wall aboard the Enterprise D fits perfectly, as is, in the Star Trek universe.

WRITER OF “LET ME HELP”
One of the most beloved Star Trek episodes is the TOS episode, “City on the Edge of Forever,” in which Captain Kirk falls in love with Edith Keeler, a social worker from the year 1930. And a favoured scene from this episode is the one in which Kirk and Keeler walk home together in the late evening. Edith begins by asking Kirk about Spock calling him “Captain,” and ultimately asks, “Did you do something wrong? Are you afraid of something?” Then she turns from questions: “Whatever it is, let me help.” Kirk smiles warmly and says, “‘Let me help.’ A hundred years, or so, from now, I believe, a famous novelist will write a classic using that theme. He’ll recommend those three words even over, ‘I love you.’” More than a little doubtful, Edith says, ‘Centuries from now!’ Who is he? Where does he come from … er … Where will he come from?” Kirk says, “Silly question. Do you want to hear a silly answer?” “Yes,” Edith says. Kirk points to the sky and says, “A planet circling that far left star in Orion’s belt.”

Despite how beloved this scene is for Trekkies, nothing else is ever said about this elusive writer from a planet in orbit around the star called Alnitak. In my novel, because of U’s desire to help, this nearly forgotten author is brought back to the forefront of Trek-dom. Guinan discusses this writer as a novelist and as a poet. He writes a poem in his native tongue, which Guinan translates into a sonnet in English and presents to U. For your convenience, that sonnet is included on the following page:

 

A Love Poem

You say, “I love you.” I believe it’s true,
but not because you say it like you do:
so often and so heartfelt. No, but I
believe it for another thought that you
repeat to me each time you hear me sigh,
or when I cry, and every time I try
to deal with issues on my own: you say,
“Let me help,” and I know I can’t deny
you love me; you commit yourself to stay
with me, take action for me and display
your love. So let this little phrase entwine
us always to declare Dependence Day:
“Let me help.” “Let me help.” Our hearts combine
in acts of love and prove our love divine.

IS JEREMY IN HEAVEN?
It is a fundamental challenge for me to love Star Trek as much as I do since Gene Roddenberry’s vision of the future includes a global society that has no belief in a deity. God has been relegated to the past tense in Roddenberry’s vision. While that idea is less prominent in The Original Series, thankfully, there are various references in “The Next Generation” (TNG) “and Deep Space Nine” (DS9) to the notion of worship having become a thing of the past for humanity. That leaves us with an atheistic society that promotes the religion of evolution rather than sound science or doctrine. Both of these topics left me with dilemmas concerning writing Q de Gras because my character from the Q Continuum has an encounter with God. Not only that, but my mortal protagonist dies near the end of the book with no explicit mention of heaven. So, how did I deal with these issues as a Christian writing a Star Trek novel?

Well, first, I thank the writers of DS9 for their exploration of both the Prophets and the Pah-Wraiths, which, together, are nothing less than a study of God at work in society. Some of the conclusions that characters reach, and some of the Prophets’ characteristics are biblically spot on, and that point broadly opened a massive door for me. But also, when I did feel forced to wedge in something about evolution, I was careful to never state it as though evolution were a fact, but always only as a theory, a theory whose pseudo-scientific foundation I was sure to subvert elsewhere. For example, my story’s protozoan antagonist comes from a planet that the crew of Enterprise believes to be twice the age of Earth. They conclude that a protozoan life-form—a sentient species without humanoid’s physical complexity—would need more time to evolve, ergo, an older homeworld to develop sentience. Later in the story, Data submits more up-to-date evidence that proves the original estimate for the planet’s age to be wrong. It turns out to be no older than Earth after all, which begs the question: how did the protozoa achieve sentience if they haven’t had the theoretical time it takes to evolve? The novel subtly addresses that question, so I won’t go into that here.

I didn’t try to force God into the text, though, so you won’t see evolution pitted against the Bible in my novel. Doing so would have thrown the story off course. I wanted God’s presence to feel organic, so I welcomed him where he imposed himself into the tale, and then he functions primarily as a source of comfort. The term I used instead of God is “demiurge,” a word with no specific religious affiliation that refers to the creator of the universe, which, as far as I’m concerned, is the God of the Bible, but it’s also a highly appropriate term for Star Trek. I carefully describe him as a creator for whom “powers” are trivial and puny. The demiurge has authority rather than powers, “powers” being only for created beings like the Q and are far beneath the demiurge. And just in case some left-lurching wing-nut chooses to call me out on that—“You can’t have God in Star Trek! HOW DARE YOU!!!—I threw in the Trek talking-point in which Picard, in a very Roddenberry-esque fashion, says, “We have nothing but respect for your beliefs.” This line reflects a highly Trek-ian philosophical stance that they really cannot argue with.

As for Jeremy, I did all I could to suggest his salvation from two perspectives. The first is a human-like imaginary perspective. I NEEDED my character, U, to IMAGINE that his friend lives on after death. This perspective is integral to the plot and theme of my story. I needed U to be able to imagine Jeremy with his parents in an afterlife because, in my account, the Q cannot imagine such a thing at all. Via some evolutionary process, perhaps, the Q have lost the ability to imagine. For this reason, they frequently manipulate the lives of mortals so as to experience true-to-life adventures vicariously. But U, by that part of the book, is more human than Q and is able to imagine an eternal Jeremy. We learn that imagination is a human “power” that the Q lack.

But, as a God-fearing, born-again, Bible-believing, Jesus-preaching Christian, I felt a need for some form of biblical salvation for Jeremy. So he calls out to U’s demiurge for salvation, and there is much discussion as to what “saving Jeremy” might mean. In my mind and my heart, Jeremy is biblically saved in the story. It was my hope that having such strong convictions on the issue of Jeremy’s salvation would be enough for that same hope to work itself into the tale. Having said that, as an artist, I find it essential that each reader should decide for himself or herself. You tell me if Jeremy lives on in heaven. What I like about U imagining Jeremy living post vita, since it is an imagination- rather than faith-based salvation, is that one can argue that Jeremy may not be saved, may not be reunited with his parents. That kind of ambiguity is part of any quality literary work and makes it worthwhile.

I want to close by making it clear that not every detail in my book was planned. I found it astonishing, time and time again, that details that I included as I went along presented themselves to me for inclusion on an as-needed basis, and I seldom refused them. And yet those details kept repeating themselves in such a way that I was so glad to have had those ideas come to mind—they became that integral to the story. For example, I had no idea until I was writing about Picard’s encounter with Jeremy at the end of chapter two that the infection that killed twelve members of the crew was sentient. But boy! did that detail work to benefit the story in the long run. I also didn’t plan to introduce an avian species when it came time to incorporate the Calliphlox. That point was also news to me as I was writing. I did not plan to have U dress in formal, 19th-century French attire, either. Now, I’m not trying to suggest that I’ve never experienced this phenomenon before. As a matter of fact, I’ve never written anything without experiencing it. Indeed, my writing professor at University warned me about such things. Dr. Mary Prior taught, “A work of art knows what it wants to be before you put pen to paper, brush to canvas or instruments to melody.” She may attribute such things to the supposed sentience of art; I say that, as I wrote, the Demiurge, God himself, sat with me, providing me with ideas one after another after another.

 

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