Monday, 9 May 2016

Voyager's Bold Pioneer: Kirsten Beyer Talks to SKoST

Regular Some Kind of Star Trek contributor Tiffany Groves takes us off the page this week with an exclusive chat to Voyager literary helmer Kirsten Beyer!

Kirsten Beyer has written nine rivetting Star Trek: Voyager novels brimming with expansion and development of many characters whom fans have come to know so well.

A Pocket Full of Lies is the latest and continues the exploration of Voyager’s adventures by revisiting of one it’s most disturbing - and memorable - periods, The Year of Hell.

Kirsten stated in an earlier interview that the “...reset button is the laziest form of storytelling...”  and I given the opportunity to interview her recently I asked about this assertion and her latest novel which covers a story which used just such a device.

“Ever since I first saw the Year of Hell episodes I wished that the writers had found a way for the crew to remember the events, when they restored time.” said Kirsten.

A fascinating prospect for sure, she went on to say; “...the fact that the audience were the only ones who were going to remember this massive, heart-breaking adventure just felt like such a waste."

And so the novel tackles just this challenge very successfully.

It has always been a matter of great importance for myself and other Star Trek fans who loved the Year of Hell story, that we were left with a great number of ‘what if's’ and curiosity in general, Kirsten it seems, has always shared this feeling.

"It has occurred to me that among the species I’d like a little "follow-up with" as we return to the Delta Quadrant and the Krenim are certainly up there. That said, I think it would have felt wrong to see the Krenim again without the context of Year of Hell so one way or another, I needed to get that information to the crew if I was going to go there."

I have really enjoyed these books, and speaking to Kirsten made me aware that she is acutely aware of both the joys and frustrations of being a Trekkie.

As for the crew of the illustrious starship, Kirsten noted that there were some she believed needed greater exploration; “Among the main characters on Voyager I saw the most room for growth early on with Chakotay, Paris and Kim. Each of them had their own specific issues and some have grown more than others thus far."

And Neelix?

“I suppose there is a case to be made that Neelix could use the same treatment, but I find that a little Neelix goes a long way and I sort of like thinking of him in his life on New Talax happy and enjoying seeing his old friends from time to time."

Often in the TV show I personally found it hard to relate to Chakotay or Harry Kim, but within the novels Kirsten has been able to expand on their feelings and traumas and in doing so I have found myself far more interested in these two.

But one of my all-time favourite characters, Garak appears in the earlier novel Atonement and so I had to take the opportunity to ask Kirsten, her take on the great Tailor/Spy; “It was a huge treat to write Garak. He is such a fantastic character, so brilliantly portrayed. Capturing his voice was more fun than ought to be allowed." 

The characters and crew have endured much in both the TV shows and the novels, I asked Kirsten about the focus she places in A Pocket Full of Lies on matters of depression;

“I think to have characters simply dust themselves off and move on the next day as if nothing had happened is dishonest. Star Trek lends itself to so many wonderful kinds of storytelling. That is one of the reasons it has endured for so long. I think there’s plenty of room in Star Trek for looking with some realism at the issues these stories raised, just as there is plenty of room for cool space battles and interesting new alien species. I'm always hoping to find a balance between deep character work and exciting, mind-bending adventures."

As a person who has mental health issues I was keen to ask Kirsten about her take on the subject being covered in Star Trek as a whole and in her novels;

“The issue of mental health is an important one and one that we still know so little about, but was wonderfully handled here, as was the issue of loss, something we can all relate too. Having these characters endure so much and still maintain their sense of self for me, at least, is a testament to their courage and bravery."

And for the future?

“I think of these characters as real people. I think most people who have endured a fraction of what these characters have on screen, let alone in the books, might have chosen to simply resign their commissions and take a house by the sea long ago and no one would blame them. Are they heroes because they haven’t? I’m not sure. But I do believe that the closer we try to stay to the truth of the circumstances we portray – given that we are in a universe where warp travel, replicators, artificial gravity, etc. are real – the more useful we can be in terms of keeping Star Trek relevant to today’s readers and fans."

I wanted to close our brief but wonderful Q&A with a somewhat ‘large question, but one that has intrigued me throughout life as a Star Trek fan, that being "Does Star Trek support the idea of a ‘God’ or Intelligent Design or indeed, should this be a discussion left out of Science Fiction for the better?"

Answered Kirsten; “I think there is plenty of room in Star Trek for considering the existence of and relevance of a belief in the deity of your choice. This has been going on since The Original Series and was handled, I think, in an especially great “science fiction” way on Deep Space Nine with the Bajorans and the Prophets. 

"I also think that for most of the main characters, it tends to be a non-issue. Star Trek posits a future where most of the humans we see don’t seem to be religious or overly preoccupied with the question of whether or not God exists. I think for those who believe in intelligent design, there is nothing in Star Trek that absolutely denies the possibility. We see many alien species with god-like abilities."

It has genuinely been a pleasure both reading Kirsten’s novels and getting the opportunity to correspond with her personally.

My full review of Kirsten Beyer’s newest novel, A Pocket Full of Lies is available separately HERE but suffice to say, another excellent novel from the New York Times Best Selling Author!

Many thanks to Kirsten for taking the time out of her busy schedule to answer these questions for myself and her fans. 

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