The greatest heroes and villains of science fiction and fantasy live on in our hearts and minds, long after they have left our screens. That’s often thanks to actors who really invest in these characters — to the point where the stars want to keep the stories going, too. Here are 10 science fiction and fantasy actors who wrote novels about their own characters.
1. William Shatner, Star Trek
Shatner is of course the tie-in champion. He wrote a slew of Trek novels, usually with Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens. Including a series that takes place at Starfleet Academy, featuring Young Spock and Young Kirk. But also a series, beginning with The Return, that undoes the terrible death of Kirk from Generations, in which Kirk comes back from the dead and pretty much single-handedly defeats the Borg and the Romulans.
As Trek Lit Reviews explains:
In some respects, however, reading The Return felt a lot like watching Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. Many parts of the book feel like a massive stroking of William Shatner’s ego. Whenever Kirk is mentioned by the 24th century characters, his exploits and feats of derring-do are talked about in reverential and worshiping tones. He is able to defeat Worf in a bat’leth fight handily, seemingly without breaking a sweat. Riker, while being pursued by Kirk, describes Kirk’s phantom-like supernatural ability to easily get the drop on him. Finally, at the end of the novel, even Kirk’s enemies play up his amazing god-like abilities. Just like the Klingons in Star Trek V, the Romulans in The Return are so awed and amazed by Kirk’s abilities, they can’t help but mention just how awesome he is at every turn. “Kirk must be on that ship!” “Why do you think that?” “How else can they so easily defeat us?” Seriously? Also, over the years since “The Best of Both Worlds,” Starfleet has been contending with the Borg and barely escaping destruction at every turn. Well, no more! Enter Kirk! Silly 24th century, can’t even deal with a galactic menace. Guess Kirk will clean that up for them, too!
Even his prose sounds like it was written by Kirk:
For a year he had known that this day would come. This final moment, when all he had worked for on this world would end in victory, or in final, ignominious defeat.
All or nothing.
It was the way Kirk liked it.
The hot suns of Chal burned at his back. But he did not let their assault deter him from what he must do —
2. Paul Darrow, Blake’s 7
The Blake’s 7 star wrote several tie-in novels. His first is a prequel to the series, titled Avon: A Terrible Aspect, which is now incredibly rare and goes for upwards of $US80 ($105) online. Darrow starts the novel before Kerr Avon’s conception, Tristam Shandy-style — the story begins with Rogue Avon, Kerr’s father, and ends with the murder Kerr commits to avenge his father’s death, which is what causes him to be sentenced to a prison colony and then sets up his meeting with Blake as the series begins.
As Kirkus Reviews wrote, “Welcome to a galaxy-sized solar system where sentences and ideas consist of cliches strung together, characters usually seethe with suppressed fury, and natural laws like gravity are vague quantities to be ignored whenever inconvenient. Stick with the TV series, which is never as bad as this and often is quite watchable.”
3. A Few Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Actors
The most altogether literary cast of a Star Trek series, the DS9 actors have produced some of the best-reviewed fiction by actors. InA Stitch In Time, Andrew J. Robinson explores his character Garak, to generally upbeat reviews. Meanwhile, Armin Shimerman co-wrote a novel about Quark in The 34th Rule, referring to the 34th rule of acquisition, which states “War is good for business.” And people have praised this look at Ferengi ethics and war as having a surprising amount of depth and meat on its bones. Meanwhile, Martok actor J.G. Hertzler pleased Klingon fans with The Left Hand of Destiny, which looks like it was supposed to be the first of a series, but was never continued.
4. The Cast of Highlander, An Evening at Joes
This 2000 anthology contains Highlander stories by the cast and crew. The collection gives fans a look, at last, at the fabled Methos Chronicles, and Jim Byrnes writes about Joe’s experiences in Vietnam. Methos actor Peter Wingfield writes a somewhat abstract, strange short story that has almost nothing to do with the Highlander universe, but which apparently grows on you after re-reading. Most notably, Peter Hudson, who played the evil James Horton, writes a story in which Horton taunts Duncan from beyond the grave. In another story, we learn that the mysterious swordsman Methos once played professional hockey. (Or did he?)
5. Richard Hatch, Battlestar Galactica
The Apollo actor has co-written several BSG novels, including Armageddon, in which Adama dies and Apollo takes over command of the Galactica. Fans who disliked the recent reboot series are happy to see the original series continued in book form — but some reviewers complain that Hatch spends too much time glorifying Apollo (similar to Shatner’s treatment of Kirk). Apparently there’s a bit of “Use the Force, Apollo” going on, as he becomes somewhat Luke Skywalker-esque. Others praise the seriousness and the fact that Hatch avoids being campy in his revival of the classic space opera.
Revolution SF has a lot of praise for these books:
Hatch and his co-authors (science fiction regulars Christopher Golden for Armageddon and Warhawk and Stan Timmons for Resurrection) captured the heart of the original Battlestar series: the mytharc of the House of Kobol and the search for the planet Earth. Old enemies such as the Cylons and Count Iblis and new races such as the Chitain add spice to the original recipe, but the flavour is the same, part mysticism, part history, and part legend. Little details such as single-episode characters, plotlines, and backstories are faithfully incorporated into the action. Hatch captures fans’ imaginations because he is clearly a fan himself.
6. John de Lancie, I, Q
The only TNG castmember to co-write a novel based on his character, de Lancie sets Q in a dramatization of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s five stages of grief, at the end of the multiverse, while he tries to rescue his wife and child with Captain Picard and Data’s help. Q suspects that some other, even more godlike, being is behind the destruction of all timelines — like maybe the super-powerful M Continuum? Or maybe just God? — and meanwhile there’s lots of bizarre fun watching different alternate universes get gobbled up. Publishers Weekly praises the silly inventive storytelling, but warns that “Q’s egotistical ramblings, which work so well on screen, can drag on here.”
7. John Barrowman and Carol E. Barrowman, Torchwood: Exodus Code
In this recently published novel by the Captain Jack Harkness actor and his sister Carole, Captain Jack goes to Peru to uncover the cause of a series of unexplained events including global earthquakes, and the heightening of senses to the point of madness — but only in women. Meanwhile, in Wales, Gwen Cooper and Rhys discover a mysterious alien figure who seems to have some connection to Captain Jack. We also discover that Rex Matheson (remember him?) has become Deputy Director of the CIA. This book has gotten a lot of praise as being a welcome tonic to Torchwood fans who are sad that the show is off the air — but people complain that Gwen Cooper is one of the women having an outbreak of madness, meaning she’s sidelined for most of the book. Also, some Goodreads reviewers warn that if you didn’t like Miracle Day, you probably won’t like this, either.
8. James Marsters and Amber Benson, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Marsters hasn’t actually written a Spike novel — yet — but he’s written a bunch of comics about the character. Most notably, he wrote the soon-to-be-published Into the Light, set during Buffy season seven — in which the newly-ensouled Spike wrestles with his past, with his feelings for a woman, and maybe with his past feelings, as well as several other obstacles, in his attempt to go straight. This was originally going to be the basis for a Spike movie, as Marsters explained to us . Added Marsters, “He’s basically homeless at the start, and he’s really trying to figure out how this revival thing works, and also how to try to be a good person — try to be a hero, try to be a decent entity on Earth, and just these little baby steps that are part of, I think, the beginning of a journey from villain to… I don’t know if hero is the right word, but a good vampire.”
Meanwhile, Amber Benson is actually as distinguished as a writer as she is as a performer. She is the author of several fantasy series. And she also cowrote some Willow and Tara comics for Dark Horse — in the Wilderness series, Willow and Tara are joined by Dawn, and confront some magical murders in the woods off the Pacific Coast Highway. In “WannaBlessedBe,” the magical group at UC Sunnydale wants to be friends with Willow and Tara, but one member is dabbling in magics that are too powerful — summoning a creature called the Morrigan. Slayerlit praisesthe depth of characterization and connection to the character of Tara in these stories. Benson also contributed to the Tales of the Slayers anthology.
9. Lara Parker, Dark Shadows
Reaching back a bit further, Lara Parker played the witch Angelique on the classic supernatural soap opera (who cursed Barnabas Collins), and she’s been writing a series of novels about her character — with the next one coming in August. In The Salem Branch, Barnabas and Angelique travel back to the Salem Witch Trials, and discovers the roots of the Collins family’s wealth run deep. In Angelique’s Descent, we discover the witch’s origins and how she learned voodoo as a young girl in Martinique. In Wolf Moon Rising, Quentin loses a portrait that has kept him young for decades, and also kept him from turning into a werewolf. (So it’s basically werewolf Dorian Grey.) Fans praise the writing and the depth of Parker’s love for the show’s mythos, but also complain about weak plotting. You can read an excerpt from one of the books here.
10. Ian Marter, Harry Sullivan’s War
And finally… the actor who played Harry Sullivan on Doctor Who also made a career of writing Who novels, including novelizations of some of the stories Harry appeared in, but also others. He was known for his somewhat florid prose style (famously, one character’s resentment is like “pus festering in a boil”) and his extreme violence. In Harry Sullivan’s War, the Doctor’s former companion takes center stage, thwarting a sinister conspiracy that forces him to go to NATO Headquarters in Geneva (!), and have a climactic fight scene atop the Eiffel Tower. It’s sort of a James Bond-esque romp in which the Brigadier (now teaching at a boarding school) and Sarah-Jane Smith both cameo. But no Doctor, sadly.