Warp Factor Trek

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From the age of about eleven, David Mack has found that music inspires his writing. It definitely proved inspirational when it came to writing his new Star Trek: Picard prequel novel, Firewall, which also has an audiobook version. I recently enjoyed asking Mack about both releases.


David Mack doesn’t know a lot about the audiobook release of Firewall, which is narrated by January LaVoy, but has heard good things about it so far. “I know that January LaVoy is an accomplished actress and an experienced audiobook reader, but I don’t listen to audiobooks, so I can’t comment beyond that,” he explains. “I’ve not heard much about the audiobook, but those who enjoy them seem pleased with this one.

Mack was only marginally involved with the production of the audiobook. “All I know about the making of the audiobook,” he says, “is that the producers, as usual, reached out to me for guidance, regarding pronunciation of new names in the story (people, planets, etc). For that, I filled out a phonetic guidance sheet they sent me, and I also sent back a recording of myself reading the names I had made up. I try to remember that, just because a name’s pronunciation seems obvious to me, that doesn’t mean objectively that it is.

Mack is appreciative of the audiobook’s cover. “I do like the cover art by Cliff Nielsen,” he remarks. “When I first saw it, I wondered if maybe we should have gone with something more action-oriented. But over time, I came to appreciate the introspective quality of the illustration; it really does capture the mood of Seven being focused on an inward search for identity and meaning throughout the story.” As for how the illustration looks as the audiobook cover in particular, Mack notes, “It’s fine. They didn’t print over her face, which is the important part.

Spotify playlist

David Mack was, of course, involved with putting together the Spotify playlist which inspired his writing of Firewall. It features a lot of punk and movie soundtrack cues.

One inspirational track which Mack feels is relevant to the beginning of the novel is the song “Running to Stand Still” by the band U2. “It’s a song about a woman whose life has stagnated, who is yearning for something more but is stuck and is feeling the need to escape that, full of despair and ennui, but not allowed to show it. And I thought that is the perfect song to encapsulate where Seven is, at the beginning of Firewall.

In his writing of Seven, Mack also took influence from the JJ Wilde song “The Rush”, which is about feeling ashamed of lustful desires. He describes it as a “great song” and highlights one particular lyric: “It’s times like these that I swear to God, oh, that my mother can’t see me, and if she did, I don’t know how I would keep it together.” Mack explains, “It’s basically a perfect encapsulation of where Seven is, mentally and emotionally, sort of near the beginning of the book, shortly after she’s struck out on her own. She’s finding life as an independent adult is not what she expected. Human relationships aren’t what she expected, and everything is sort of feeling weird and alienating. So, she’s dealing with a lot of conflicting emotions about what she wants, who she is, and what she’s going to become.

Mack also discovered that having recently gotten into Australian punk rock, particularly the band Amyl and the Sniffers, turned out to be inspiring and helpful for setting the book’s emotional tenor. A few of the band’s songs even directly inspired elements of the novel. For example, Mack decided to give the Fenris Ranger vessels the model number “Starfire 500”, the title of a song by Amyl and the Sniffers. “The funny thing is that the real life inspiration that they named the song after is a model of roller skate,” Mack comments. “So, real life roller skate inspires a song, which inspires name of starship. So, the Starfire 500 you could say is named after a song, or you could say it’s named after a roller skate.” Mack also named a bar that Seven frequents “Monsoon”, after another song by Amyl and the Sniffers, “Monsoon Rock”. Another song of theirs, “Control”, is one of Mack’s favourites and set the mood for a scene between Seven and a woman meeting in the bar, while another of the songs, “Freaks to the Front”, served as the imagined backdrop for when Seven first arrives there.

Mack imagined a scene with Seven meeting her Fenris Ranger love interest in the book, Ellory Kayd, to the Joan Jett song “Crimson and Clover”. He raves, “It’s one of the great lesbian love anthems of all time.” Mack selected another of Jett’s songs, the defiant “Bad Reputation”, to characterise the end of Seven’s Firewall arc, by which time she is determined to be herself — a Fenris Ranger.

Although Mack has arranged a Spotify playlist full of songs that inspired him while he was writing Firewall, he adds, “There was also stuff that I listened to which isn’t on the Spotify playlist but which was definitely in rotation. There’s a band out of Australia called The Chats, and they have an absolutely hilarious album called High Risk Behavior, so I was listening to that a lot, because that’s some good stuff. I was also listening to Coachwhips, some Iggy Pop in there, but Joan Jett was definitely foundational.

The Spotify playlist is available here. Mack has posted a full guide to the playlist here. Please let us know if you’re among those who have been enjoying the audiobook of Firewall.

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