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Duane discusses Romulan novels

FEATURE: The author readies for a return to the bookshelves

More than 15 years ago, acclaimed science fiction author Diane Duane was given creative freedom by Pocket Books to write about Star Treks mysterious Romulans, enigmatic offshoots of the popular Vulcan race. The result was two novels — My Enemy, My Ally and The Romulan Way, cowritten with her husband, Peter Morwood — that gave the Romulans a language, a society, and a name for themselves: the Rihannsu.

Yet despite the cliffhanger ending of The Romulan Way, the series would not see any followup until October 1999.

“I have to confess that I haven’t spent a whole lot of time staring into the horse’s mouth,” said Duane about the sudden resurgence of interest in her Rihannsu novels.

When Swordhunt and Honor Blade, the two long-awaited sequels to the original novels, were finally published in conjunction with the reprinting of Duane’s first two Rihannsu works, there was a wealth of criticism about the splitting of the two relatively short new installments.

It had been advertised for some time that two sequels would be titled Swordhunt and The Empty Chair, and would finish the series. But in place of The Empty Chair came Honor Blade, which left readers with a nail-biting cliffhanger.

“The sudden unscheduled two-ness of Swordhunt and Honor Blade is my fault, and nothing to do with Pocket (Books),” Duane explained. “The first installment, which was originally scheduled to be simply one book (published simultaneously with The Empty Chair), went to Pocket late — and by itself, without Chair. My fault, again. John Ordover found himself faced with a two-book-sized hole in his schedule … and a single book, which (unexpectedly, and probably fortunately) had turned out much longer than expected, big enough to be divided in two. So he consulted me for what seemed the best spot to ‘break’ the volume — admittedly, a difficult call — and then divided it accordingly. Out came one book made into two, and I got back to work on the second one. Or maybe I should say the third.”

Many have blamed Pocket Books Star Trek executive editor John Ordover for the awkward split.

“There has been a lot of guff spoken and written about what people incorrectly think is John’s role in this — many accusations of money-grubbing and other such scurrilities. I would take it kindly if people would just lay off this, as the fault is all mine, and John was compensating as best he could for an inconveniently late author.

“On the flip side — and with the risk of being accused in turn of trying to rationalize my own lateness — it seems to me as if this might have been sort of a blessing in disguise. It gives me the chance, for one thing, to let the story stretch out to what seems to me to be its full and proper length. If, when I turned in Swordhunt at its 110,000 word length, I had been saddled with a more restrictive or crankier editor, the thing could well have been forced into print at its scheduledlength — i.e., gutted. Now I can let the second volume properly handle the ‘extra’ issues raised in the first part.

While I have no intention of keeping anyone on the edge of their seats for a minute longer than necessary — indeed if things had gone properly, no one would be sitting on the edge of anything at the moment — at the same time, I’m having great pleasure in describing, not just a couple of skirmishes, not one or two battles, but a war (if a short one), from beginning to end, in sufficient detail within the present limitations of length to satisfy me.

Duane also has tried to work some retroactive continuity with the movies into her novels.

“Here in this group of books (for me) is where Kirk does his admiralty work: the qualifying planning, not of mere battles, but of a campaign, that wins him his Admiral’s stripes. Since after TOS we come to see Kirk wearing those stripes, I prefer to believe that he did something to deserve them. Here I try to suggest what that might have been, rather than acquiescing to the idea that he was kicked/promoted upstairs for no particular reason except that he, his crew and his ship were Real Good At Surviving. In particular, more than a decade ago I had a couple of chats with Robert Heinlein about this concept, and the material in the newest Rihannsu books is the working-out of some of the things we were discussing. I just wish he was still alive to see what finally came of it.”

Something of a linguist, Duane also worked to develop a language for her version of the Romulans. A small glossary of Rihannsu vocabulary appears at the end of The Romulan Way.

“I have some syntactical and ‘language construction’ notes which haven’t yet been published. If there’s room at the end of Chair, I’ll include them there. There’s been no significant expansion of the glossary, though. Too busy.”

Though many fans were angered by the official declaration of the Rihannsu series as an “alternate Star Trek universe” by Pocket Books, Duane was pleased with the creative liberty this entailed.

“Does it bother me? Not even slightly: rather, I’m charmed that Paramount has gone somewhat out of its way to allow me the freedom to share my vision of this people with so large an audience. Believe me, Paramount’s being pretty nice about it. There are some licensed universes where this kind of thing would not be tolerated under any circumstances, and the writer attempting it would be declared persona au gratin and thrown out of the offices almost before the crust finished browning.

“As to whether the Rihannsu should ever become canonical — this is, finally, a matter which is going to be resolved at the TV or film level, by the people working in it, at their discretion and theirs alone. There was briefly some muttering among some folks on the newsgroups about starting some kind of campaign aimed at getting Paramount to use my Romulans,or make sure I was involved in the movie, or whatever. I don’t want this. Among many other reasons, such a campaign would have the potential to damage other projects Peter and I are working on. Some people have the idea that my work is somehow being slighted, or that I’m being done some kind of wrong, by the filmed version of Trek not taking my stuff into account. While I take their concern for me very kindly, I still think the idea is fallacious.”

History has had a great influence on Duane’s development of the Rihannsu. “I’ve been following what I believe to be Dorothy Fontana’s lead, mostly, and thinking of [the Rihannsu] (to a certain extent) as Romans,” she said, “but Romans caught in that difficult post-Republican period, when memories of a smaller, simpler Republic keep jostling up against the needs of a growing Empire.”

As of right now, The Empty Chair is intended to be Duane’s final word on the Rihannsu. “But I have been known to change my mind,” she added with a smile.

It has not yet been scheduled for release by Pocket Books.

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