Fandom is wonderful in that so many of us are able to take our favorite universe and play in it. At the same time Axanar was being developed, an author named Stephen Fender was writing a series of fan fiction novels. I ran across them, contacted Stephen, and we shared our love for FASA and The Four Years War.
Stephen’s books are very different from Axanar. They take place a few years later, and stick more closely to the FASA books. But they are fun and so I hope you will check them out. Here is an interview with Stephen and information on his books.
Star Trek: The Four Years War is a series of fan fiction novels based in the early 2250s of the established Star Trek: TOS universe. The novels are set up as a series of chronological “short stories” that outline the war from start to finish.
The series deals with the conflict between the Federation and the Klingon Empire, known as the Four Years War. Much of the information in these novels comes from various FASA ST:RPG elements, as well as other canon and non-canon sources. Below is an excerpt from the back-cover of Book One:
“It started as an unprovoked attack on a small research colony on the fringes of Federation space. Little did either side know that ensuing conflict would encompass the entire sector, cost thousands of lives on both sides, and permanently alter the destines of two of the most powerful factions in the Alpha Quadrant.
When the relentless forces of the Klingon Empire invaded Federation space in a simple quest for territorial gains, they didn’t expect to meet the unstoppable might and unequaled courage of the brave men and women of Starfleet Command.
This is how it all began…”
Why did you start these?
I actually started these as a writing exercise. I’d written my first book back in the fall of 1999 while on deployment with the US Navy. It’d been nearly 11 years since I’d written anything, and I was anxious to get back to it. But first, I had to finish the book I started in ’99. I’d written a cliff hanger that needed to be dealt with, so I fixed much of the story and called it ‘done’. That was in late 2009. Once I was able to get back to writing something…anything…it was easy to start on the Four Years War.
Why the Four Years War?
I knew I wanted to write something Star Trek related, but I didn’t feel like I had a firm enough grasp of Voyager or DS9 to take a stab at either of those. TNG was out, since Pirates Cove was my first novel. TOS seemed like the logical choice, but I needed something that would allow me a great freedom in creativity. I took a look at the FASA material again, something I hadn’t done since I was teenager playing the game. I was intrigued by Four Years War supplement, and the information it provided on the battles. I was also interested in writing about Garth of Izar, someone who…in 2011…hadn’t gotten as much attention as I thought he needed. It also gave me the freedom to weave in elements from other series.
So, I joined the role playing yahoo group at Morena Shipyards. I lurked for some time before I started asking questions about ships, weapons, tactics, and adventures. Pretty soon I had enough information from the ‘experts’ to begin writing. I began with the events leading up to the war, and just kept going through the first few years.
I’ve used a great deal of formerly licensed material: Jackill’s Starfleet Reference series, Jaynz’ Ships of the Fleet books, numerous works by Geoffrey Mandel, the Star Trek Space Flight Chronology by Sternbach and Goldstein, Ships of Starfleet by Guenther and Sofia…I’m sure the list goes on. After 48 years, there’s a LOT of material out there. The only problem was making sure it was pertinent to my story. But, that’s where good research comes into play.
Are the ships all FASA version?
Yes and no. The Four Years War supplement is very specific on which classes of Federation and Klingon ships participated in the war. Unfortunately, if you research every ‘official’ FASA ST:RPG manual, not all the listed ships have diagrams or specifications. This is on par with FASA, as they tended to leave some things to the imagination of the game masters and players. So, while I only use the classes in the FASA material, some of the functions and specifications come from fandom.
A classic example of this would be the Acharnar class cruisers. According to ‘other’ licensed materials, the Acharnar was based on the Constitution-class hull. It contained far less advanced sensors, no research facilities, and less powerful weapons. This, to me, was great, because it allowed me to have a Constitution-like vessel fight in the war, giving a better sense of continuity, as well as tying fandom into FASA lore. The same can be said for the Bonhomme Richard-class, which is also very similar to the Conni’s. I was then able to designate one as a Command Cruiser, while I could make the other a Heavy Cruiser. The vessel you see on the cover of book 2 is actually the USS Bonhomme Richard, captained by Stephen Blackwell (I created him to depict the great-grandfather of Admiral Margaret Blackwell of the TNG episode Pegasus).
Who did the art for the covers?
The cover art is something of an amalgam. All of the 3D models were made by myself, while the textures for the Klingon ships come from fan-produced models made for the PC game Star Trek: Starfleet Command. Background images of planets and nebulas are fan produced, and come courtesy of some friends on DeviantArt. Special effects, lighting, compositing, layout, and rendering are all done by me in LighWave v11. The Star Trek font is freely available on the internet, and the ‘pocket book’ border lines were hand drawn by me to give a sense of nostalgia.
Who are the main characters?
There really are no main characters, which I hope doesn’t immediately put people off. There are, however, recurring characters. The Four Years War is a series of short stories that chronicle the war from what I call the ‘initial grumblings’ all the way to just after the Axanar Peace Conference convenes at the end of FASA’s version of the war. Some stories are longer than others, as some of the battles and encounters were much larger than others. I’ve also included several stories told from the perspective of the Klingons, as I felt that any good war story should be told from both sides of the equation. Interspersed are special communications received from both Starfleet Intelligence and the Starfleet Office of Public Relations. These serve to fill-in gaps in the FASA material, as well as to thread in other canon material. A good example would be the fleet-wide announcement of the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the NX-Program, and the dedication of the Enterprise (NX-01) as a fully operation museum ship at Memory Alpha.
Of course, you will see a great number of canon-characters in the books. Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty and Sulu are there. Komak, Jose Mendez, Cartwright, Pike, April, West, Gary Mitchell, are present, as well as a number of others from Pocket novels (like Vaughn Rittenhouse from the TOS novel Dreadnaught and Andovar Drake of the TOS novel /comic The Ashes of Eden).
I’ve had an enormous amount of fun putting everything together, and as others have commented in the past, it’s amazing how well cannon and ‘non licensed’ material fits together sometimes. As I said, a great deal of research has gone into the making of these stories, and I think that will show in the use of the pre-defined characters in relation to ones I’ve had to create on my own.
Thanks to Stephen for his time and we hope you all enjoy his work.
To date, two novels have been completed, with the third currently in development.
You can download the first two (unedited versions) here: http://www.stephenfender.com/?page_id=474
For more information on Stephen’s project or to contact him directly, you can utilize the Facebook page for The Four Years War here: https://www.facebook.com/FourYearsWar