A THOUSAND YEARS OF DARKNESS
The Star Trek Voyager two part episode of "The Killing Game" aired on March 4 1998 in the United States. Readers are reminded that the story is an über story as it focuses exclusively on the WWII setting of the two part episode. There is therefore no Voyager, no Hirogen or Kathryn and Chakotay.
This story was started in July of 2001. Kathryn Janeway is Katrine du Pléssis and Chakotay is Captain Charles Anson Miller. In the story Captain Miller is "Charles" or "Charlie" depending on who addresses him. Katrine, however, being French, always calls him "Charles" [pronounced "Sharl"]
Since I had not seen the episode at the time, I read as much as I could from online sources, reviews, episode retellings, that sort of thing.
Even then I was intrigued by the World War II scenario into which the Voyager crew had been plunged. Nothing, not the Klingon battles or the crew's battle to outwit the Hirogen captured my imagination more than St. Clair, the town depicted in the WWII setting of Occupied France.
I began to read as many fanfiction stories as I could around this theme, and in this year all those new "Killing Game" fics as well. Almost all of them featured both elements - that of the holodeck simulation and Voyager's crew struggling to outwit the Hirogen. So for instance, Kathryn Janeway was Katrine in the WWII simulation and Chakotay Captain Miller. The question many fanfiction writers posed and answered was this: Would Kathryn and Chakotay have memories of being Katrine and Captain Miller? So, for that matter, would Tuvok, Seven, B'Elanna Torres and Tom Paris have residual memories of their holodeck characters? Would some of the idiosyncrasies of their Voyager characters be perceptible in their holodeck personas?
My primary obsession was the WWII setting, and being so interested in history, I asked myself this question: What if I wrote a story about Katrine and Captain Miller as an über story, i.e. a story set exclusively in the universe of Occupied France? Remember, at that time I had not watched the episodes. It was between 2000 and 2001 that I decided to write a story with these two characters as my main protagonists and have the story peopled by a host of secondary characters. I created little back stories for most of them.
I have been wanting to write the story for so long, but between 2001 and 2015 so many things happened, it became simply a lost thought to resurface at the oddest times. Finally now that I have retired, I had the time to devote to this project, started in 2001 and continued in 2015, fourteen years later.
The title came from Jim Wright's review of the Star Trek Voyager season 4 two-parter "The Killing Game".
"...because the task of fighting the Third Reich was far more desperate than the plight of a single ship and crew struggling merely to stay alive. In short: In WWII, they weren't just fighting for their lives. They were fighting for Humanity. Good vs. Evil. Freedom, or a thousand years of darkness under a blood-red flag."
I wrote Jim at the time asking his permission to use the phrase as a title for my story and was pleased when he agreed! This phrase jumped at me. One of the holodeck characters as a German SS officer makes an impassioned plea for the Reich, and speaks of "a way of life that hasn't changed for a thousand years."
It was only in late 2002 that I watched the two-parter for the first time. I had already written three chapters of the story, all of them random, to fit in wherever I needed to place them within the detailed outline as soon as I started the story in earnest. So much more became clear to me watching the episode, yet I felt I was on the right track.
The research had started in 2000. I'd like to reflect here on the ongoing research done for this story. If this novel does not meet the reader's expectations, then I'll say it was worth writing every single word of it for the sheer amount of knowledge I've accrued through the research alone. Everything, from a bicycle wheel to the scope on an infantryman's rifle was researched. I visited the Cape Town Holocaust centre twice. The second time was only recently. I was allowed to take pictures and could not stop weeping as I looked at photographs, especially of Buchenwald, the concentration camp that features in my story.
One of the [major] inconsistencies in the episode occurs when Katrine reads the message from Allied High Command. She says the 4th Infantry Division would advance to St. Clair. When Captain Miller arrives, he introduces himself as "5th Armoured Infantry". I went with the latter, as the 5th Infantry Division [Mechanised] or the Red Diamonds as they were called, did indeed liberate French towns. This division had an illustrious record during WWII, as they later formed part of Gen. Patton's Third Army.
The liberation of the major towns in France occurred during June - August of 1944. This date has become my mid-point. If I had to create a backstory for my characters, where could I begin? My automatic choice for the prologue chapter was eight years prior, Germany of 1936, the year of the Summer Olympics held in Berlin.
Some thoughts on the research and starting points in the story: When I decided that the Summer Olympics of 1936 Berlin would form the prologue by which I introduced a number of characters, I looked for events in which United States, France and Germany obtained gold.
The most interesting aspect of this selection of events was the United States, because I was looking for an event that would fit Charles Miller with regard to leadership, discipline and focus. I found an event, the coxed eights rowing competition. And guess where I placed Charles? As the coxswain of the US team, their shell [boat] under his guidance. Then I looked at the history of US rowing eights, and the [US] team that won the gold medal [Germany won all other events on the rowing calendar] was the team of the University of Washington. To read up on "The boys in the boat" was my greatest discovery and pleasure. I read the book by Daniel James Brown about the nine students of UW [Udub] and their great victory against all the odds. A film is currently in production.
I have used most of the non-fiction events and details of World War II and placed them in a fictional setting. Most of what the reader will experience here, are events that actually occurred during WWII. The events in "A Thousand Years of Darkness" span roughly ten years.
Some of the scenes described in the story required maps of the region or town, which was a good tool for me to use when it came to knowing where I was at any given point, especially the town of St. Clair and the wine estate of a prominent French family.
The inspiration for many of the scenes of the story came from a host of sources. For the war scenes, I was inspired by the films "Saving Private Ryan", "Inglourious Basterds", "Gallipoli", "The Great Dictator", "Monuments Men", "Casablanca" were but a few of the many war films I've watched. There were books, photographs, paintings, the oddest impulse that have inspired the writing of particular scenes.
Writing "A Thousand Years of Darkness" has had me filled with joy most of the time, but also tears when it came to writing certain scenes, even certain paragraphs.
Acknowledgements and individual chapter information will appear in the end notes of the story.
NOW ON TO CHAPTER ONE...