John Jackson Miller’s work recognized by fans
By Brent Frankenhoff
A deep well of pop-culture knowledge has given a local author a promising career. John Jackson Miller recently received an award from Dragon*Con, a long-running multi-day comics and science fiction convention in Atlanta, Georgia. Held over Labor Day weekend, the convention’s awards ceremony is one in which fans nominate and then vote on the finalists in multiple categories. In Miller’s case, the fans nominated his 2019 novel, Star Trek: Discovery–The Enterprise War, for Best Media Tie-in Novel and a graphic novel, Battlestar Galactica–Counterstrike, produced with Brazilian artist Daniel HDR, for Best Graphic Novel. The latter won its category.
“There are all sorts of awards programs,” Miller told the Community Spirit, “Enterprise War was nominated for a Scribe Award, which comes from my peers in the tie-in author community—but this one comes from the fans, so that feels special. It was nice to see that support.”
Miller added, “I wrote Counterstrike for Dynamite Comics to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the single season of Battlestar Galactica that aired on ABC in 1978-79. Starring Lorne Greene, it was the most expensive weekly television program ever made at that time, created to capitalize on the recent success of Star Wars. While the show’s ratings were all right—it actually beat Dallas, which was in its first season—it was too expensive to continue with. Yet it had many fans, who continued to like the ideas within it; it spawned a rebooted series on the SciFi Channel in the 2000s that saw more success.
“My book commemorated the original with a storyline written and drawn to sort of feel as if it had come from the 1970s. We worked hard to make everything look right, and the artist, Daniel HDR, did a great job. He lives in Brazil, where the TV series wasn’t available, so we worked to make sure he had all the reference materials!”
In addition to the two works nominated, Miller has turned out several other books in various science-fiction franchises, his most recent being a second Star Trek: Discovery book, Die Standing. Miller said that the book, “tells the story of an exile from the Mirror Universe—that place in Star Trek where we saw darker versions of Captain Kirk and Spock, in service to an Empire rather than the Federation. But this is no regular person who’s fled to the familiar Trek universe: it’s the deposed Empress. Starfleet’s spy agency, Section 31, tries to recruit her, but they’re playing with fire, because she very much intends to remake the Federation’s realm in the image of the place she left. It’s a fun journey as we try to see whether someone with that history—literally an invasive species—would upend our world, or whether she’d be changed by it.”
Miller’s first Star Trek: Discovery novel, The Enterprise War, gave fans of the TV series, streaming online on CBS All Access, updates on where the U.S.S. Enterprise and its crew were during the events of the TV series’ first season.
As noted earlier, Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica are not the only science-fiction and pop culture franchises in which Miller has worked. He had a long-running Star Wars comic-book series based on the Knights of the Old Republic videogame, as well as other work set in the Star Wars universe. He’s also written for Marvel’s Iron Man comic book (including creating a character that went on to be a major villain in 2018’s Ant-Man and the Wasp movie), contributed a story to a Planet of the Apes prose anthology, and even found time for an original work, Overdraft. “All my Star Wars and Star Trek prose work is available and in print—it’s both at bookstores and available online, including in ebook and audiobook formats,” he added. “I also have a lot of comics work that people can find, including volumes of my Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic series and graphic novels I did for such Disney projects as The Lion King and Dumbo. For the Amherst area resident, I recommend a visit to Galaxy Comics, Games, and More on Clark Street in Stevens Point; the store can look up and order any graphic novels of mine that are available.”
Miller’s fascination with media tie-ins is shared with many readers. Giving a quick overview of the genre, he said, “Media tie-in novels and comics go back to the Lone Ranger radio show, and they’re a way to expand on the story we see on screen (or hear on the radio, in the Lone Ranger case). People have always wanted to see more stories in these worlds—especially ones that might not fit or be suitable for the screen because they’re too long or too expensive to depict. So that gives writers like me a lot of room to work. When I wrote my most famous novel, Star Wars: Kenobi, it was more of a Western that took place over many weeks in the desert—something that might not have been that easy to imagine being done in a single movie or episode of a cartoon. We get to really spread out on the canvas and do more.”
Even after working in multiple franchises, there are still areas that Miller said he would like to explore. “There are TV shows that never really got any novels or comics—Max Headroom, a science fiction series from the 1980s, is a favorite of mine—that would be fun to work on, though older licenses are sometimes difficult to sell a publisher on. Beyond older shows like that, there are a variety of existing comics characters that might be interesting to write—too many to name, really. But I’m generally kept pretty busy!”
That busy schedule continues to produce books. Miller’s next release is a short story in From A Certain Point of View: The Empire Strikes Back. He added, “It’s a tribute book for the 40th anniversary of that Star Wars chapter. It’s a hardcover and audiobook with stories by 40 authors, all set during the film. I did one for the earlier book, From a Certain Point of View: Star Wars: A New Hope, and that was a great package. Empire is a charity book as well, with a percentage of sales going to literacy efforts, and comes out November 10.”
In addition to ordering available copies of his works from local bookstores and comics shops, Miller offers signed copies via his website, www.farawaypress.com.