On this day fifteen years ago, Simon & Schuster released a Star Trek novel by me entitled Articles of the Federation. It is a very atypical Trek novel, as it isn’t about any of the characters we see on television or in movies (though we do see cameos by several such, including Spock, Kathryn Janeway, William Ross, and the Voyager EMH). It isn’t about Starfleet characters, or even Starfleet-adjacent characters (though there are Starfleet personnel in the book).
No, this novel chronicled a year in the life of the Federation President, specifically the year following the events of Star Trek: Nemesis. Recall that in that movie, there was a coup d’état on Romulus by Shinzon, who turned the entire Senate to pixie dust, then was himself blown up by the Enterprise, leaving the Romulan Star Empire in chaos. And that is but one of a thousand issues that newly elected President Nanietta “Nan” Bacco must deal with in her first 365 days in office.
The novel was first conceived years earlier, when one of S&S’s Trek editors, John Ordover, said to me, “I want you to do a Star Trek version of The West Wing.” I wrote a sample scene to help sell it to John’s boss (a version of that sample scene wound up in Chapter 4 of the novel), and then the project languished for a bit. When I was tapped to write the final bit of the “A Time to…” series in 2004, I was following up David Mack’s A Time to Kill and A Time to Heal, in which the sitting Federation president resigns, so I got to write a presidential election in my concluding novel A Time for War, a Time for Peace, which perfectly set up the Trek/West Wing pastiche.
By this time, John had left S&S, and Marco Palmieri took over the project, and he and I worked out the plot of the novel. Part of the appeal of this for Marco was being able to show the next part of a first contact that the screen version never shows. Sure, the Enterprise meets a new planet and they become allies of the Federation or whatever–but then what happens? One of the many threads of Articles was a state dinner and diplomatic relations with a new alien species that a Starfleet vessel made first contact with.
That was but one of many threads that carried through Articles, as I got to establish what the actual structure of the Federation government is. Over the (at the time) four decades that Star Trek had been a thing, we’d gotten in-depth looks at the governments of the Klingon Empire, the Romulan Star Empire, the Cardassian Union, and various individual planets (most notably Bajor). But aside from brief appearances by three presidents (unnamed ones in the movies The Voyage Home and The Undiscovered Country and President Jaresh-Inyo in the Deep Space Nine episodes “Homefront” and “Paradise Lost”), and several mentions of the Federation Council, there was almost nothing about the Federation government.
Until 2005, anyhow. I tried to create a hybrid of an American-style republic and a European-style ministry.
As for Bacco herself, she was created as a tribute to my great grandmother, Grazia DeBacco (whom I called “Nana”), who died in 2003 at age 98. Nana came to the U.S. from Italy as a little girl, moved to rural western Pennsylvania, and proceeded to have ten kids, whom she raised mostly during the Depression. Those ten children (the eldest of whom was my grandmother) all grew up to be among the nicest, sweetest, most loving people you’d care to meet.
I wrote Articles figuring that it (and ATFW,ATFP) would be the only appearances of President Bacco. I mean, maybe someone else would mention her in passing as an Easter egg, but otherwise that would be it. The mediocre sales of Articles kind of bore out that notion. It was the first 2005 Trek novel to go out of print, and based on my royalty statements, it didn’t light the world on fire.
But it did get great reviews. Still does, in fact, fifteen years later. And then one day David Mack e-mailed me while he was working on the landmark Destiny trilogy that was published in 2008 and asked me if I was okay with him using President Bacco as part of his story.
That broke the dam. Ever since Voyager went off the air in 2001 and Nemesis was released in 2002, screen Star Trek had been entirely focused on either the 22nd or 23rd centuries (Enterprise, the Bad Robot movies, Discovery), so the 24th was left alone, and the tie-in fiction published by S&S went its own way. Part of that extended continuity of post-Nemesis fiction that has continued all the way to the present day has been President Nan Bacco as a major supporting character.
I was, to say the least, gobsmacked. While Marco’s departure from S&S at the end of 2008 spelled the end of my Trek fiction writing career, as his successors have evinced zero interest in hiring me at any point in the intervening decade for whatever reason, my influence did continue to live on in the person of Bacco through more than a dozen novels. In addition, the structure I developed for the Federation government was used in subsequent stories as well. For that matter, Star Trek Online used President Bacco as part of their future history “The Path to 2409,” which set up the backstory for that online game.
A decade and a half later, I’m still incredibly proud of that novel, and still thrilled to know that people continue to find it and read it and enjoy it, and that my fellow Trek fictioneers kept being inspired by it, as well.
To conclude, here’s an excerpt from the novel, specifically from Chapter 17 of the novel, in which President Bacco gives a commencement address to Starfleet Academy. I’ve been writing since I was six, writing professionally since I was twenty, and this particular speech is one of the scribblings I’m proudest of.
Ex astris, scientia. Those words are on that flag over there. It’s from an old human language called Latin. Nobody’s spoken it conversationally for several hundred years, mind you, but we like to trot it out every once in a while to make ourselves sound more interesting. It means, “from the stars, knowledge.” Which makes it kind of a funny motto for a place that has you spending the bulk of your time right here on Earth.
The thing about the stars is that they do provide knowledge—but that comes with a concomitant risk. Nothing underlines that risk more than the fact that you are the first Academy class in quite a while to have gone through your entire tenure at the Academy when the Federation wasn’t at war. And that, my friends, is something to be celebrated. Because the classes before yours either came as first-years when we were at war, or were cadets when the war was declared, or joined when they thought war was pretty damn likely. But you all are the first to come through without that particular Damoclean sword hanging over your collective heads.
There’s an old human saying—not in Latin, you’ll be happy to know—that says that knowledge is power, and another one that says that power corrupts. Since its founding two hundred and nineteen years ago, the Federation has tried to bring a message of hope and of knowledge to the galaxy. The galaxy, unfortunately, hasn’t always been impressed. We may not be at war anymore, but the possibility always, tragically, exists. The people who sat in those seats seven years ago were embroiled in a war six months later when the Dominion took Deep Space 9.
But the purpose of Starfleet isn’t to fight the Federation’s wars. That is their task—and that might be your task—when it’s required, but it’s important for all of you to remember that it is a last resort, not a first one. Starfleet was formed when the Federation was, but it grew out of Earth’s space exploration arm, and they had a Latin motto too: ad astra per aspera. It means, “to the stars for hope.” And every time we go to the stars, we’re filled with hope—no matter how many times it would be better to be filled with dread. Their job then, and your job now, is to seek out new life and new civilizations. Some of those will be like the Klingons or the Romulans or the Cardassians or the Tzenkethi or the Tholians, none of whom were kindly disposed to us at first, and some of whom still aren’t. Some of those will be like Bajor or Evora or Cairn or Delta Sigma IV, all of whom joined the Federation in the last decade. Regardless of who you do meet out there, though, you will bring the hope of peace.
It sounds funny, doesn’t it? You’ll be flying around in ships that have sufficient weaponry to lay waste to a planet—not really much of a peaceful message, is it? When we’ve had to, we have fought, and we have bled, and we have suffered—but it’s because with this Federation, we’ve found something that’s worth fighting for, worth bleeding for, worth suffering for, and yes, worth dying for. And we’ve also found that the hope we come to the stars for must be tempered with a willingness to defend what we have, because if we don’t, there are plenty of people all over the galaxy who’d be more than happy to take it away from us.
Every day I go down to the first floor of the Palais de la Concorde, and there are over a hundred and fifty people in there. Each one is from from a wholly different world than the person in the next chair, and both are from worlds wholly different from the person in the chair behind them. Yet they come together, they argue together, they discuss together, and they work together to make this Federation better than it already is. It would be easy to fall into old patterns. Before the Federation formed, Vulcan fought against Andorian, Tellarite fought against Klingon, Earth fought against Xindi, Romulan fought against pretty much everybody. But now, worlds stand together instead of apart.
I’ve always had tremendous respect for Starfleet. My chief of staff and my security advisor are former officers. Some of our finest presidents are former Starfleet—Lorne McLaren, Thelian, T’Pragh. Still, I never really understood their importance until something that happened during the war.
When the war was getting particularly bad, Starfleet sent the U.S.S. Enterprise to talk to the Gorn, see if they could be convinced to ally with us against the Dominion. Turns out their timing was pretty spectacularly awful, since Starfleet arrived just in time for a coup d’état on the Gorn homeworld. The new regime sent ships to Cestus III and actually occupied the planet for a while. In the end, though, we were saved, because the Enterprise was able to stop the violence and convince the Gorn not to count us as their enemy. They didn’t do it by force, they didn’t do it by blowing Gorn ships out of the sky, though both things did occur out of necessity. But even with a war on, even with the powerful arsenal the Enterprise had at its disposal, their captain and crew were able to negotiate a settlement, and bring the Gorn into the war. It was a show, not of force, but of ideas that led to the Gorn signing a treaty with the Federation that they signed in my office in Pike City.
Starfleet is the glue that holds the Federation together. The responsibility you each have now is to maintain this little miracle that we’ve kept going for over two centuries, through tumult and strife, through feast and famine, through war and peace. It will be difficult. All of you will face hard choices in the years ahead, if history’s any guide—and it usually is. But throughout it all, you must remember that it is from the stars that you find knowledge, it is from the stars that you find hope, and it is from the stars that you will find peace.
I’d wish you luck, but I suspect you will not need it. Simply continue to do well. Thank you.