We’re going to flashback to December 2nd, 2023, for WonderCon 2023 at Resort World New York City, where BlackSci-Fi.com spoke with the author of The Autobiography of Benjamin Sisko, Mr. Derrick Tyler Attico.
The Autobiography of Benjamin Sisko is a brilliant dive into the life, love, and history of one of Starfleet’s most important Captains. Written as a beautiful and personal conversation between a father and son, this autobiography dives in and informs the character that is Captain Benjamin Lafayette Sisko.
BlackSci-Fi: Before we get to your involvement with writing the book, tell us when you found Star Trek in your life, what was that magic that kept you in this universe?
Derek Tyler Attico: My parents introduced me to Star Trek when I was around five or six. I remember watching The Original Series with Captain Kirk, Mister Spock, and Doctor McCoy. The ships and technology were cool, but what stood out to me was that in every episode, the crew of the Enterprise tried to help people, and violence was usually used only as a last resort. Over time, as I grew up, I found myself coming back to Star Trek over the years because every iteration of Trek had themes of science, friendship, exploration, and hope. As I started to write Star Trek stories professionally, I soon came to see these are foundational elements in all Trek stories, and this is the magic that makes Star Trek work.
BSF: With all of the Trek that we have today, is it safe to say that DS9 is your favorite? If not, which holds your number 1 spot?
DTA: I don’t have a specific favorite; I love different Star Trek series for various reasons, and I do love them all. That being said, I love Deep Space Nine because it is still the most realistic of all the series and the only series to show the Trek universe constantly from perspectives other than that of Starfleet and the Federation. DS9 gave us religion from the Bajorans, Government from the Cardassians, profit from the Ferengi, and control from the Dominion. But more than that, it delved into why each species held its beliefs, and then we got to see those play out against and sometimes with those of the Federation and Starfleet. In short, the diversity of DS9 is part of the reason the show is so good, and its themes are forever timeless.
BSF: How did you get involved with this project in particular?
DTA: You have to go back to 2016, I wrote a Star Trek: Strange New Worlds short story, Strange New Worlds was an anthology contest by Pocket Books/Simon & Schuester and I wrote a Benny Russell Deep Space Nine story called The Dreamer and the Dream. It did well, was received well, and in 2019 there was a podcast where someone was talking about the autobiography series of Captains and how the Janeway autobiography was being done, but they skipped over Benjamin Sisko. Someone on Twitter said if they ever do a Benjamin Sisko autobiography, they should look at this guy Attico because, in 2016, he wrote that short story. What happened next was Titan Publishing, the people who do the autobiographical series, got wind of that, read my 2016 short story, and said you know what, he would be a good fit for the autobiography. They reached out to me and we talked, I mean, this is over a couple of years, we had a couple of conversations and they liked my ideas for what I want to do for the Autobiography of Benjamin Sisko and I got the project.
BSF: The book is laced with Easter eggs.
BSF: But more than that, this is probably the Blackest Star Trek thing I have ever read! I felt like the only starship name you missed was Muhammad Ali.
DTA: That would have been a good one.
BSF: A heavy cruiser.
DTA: Well, if I write another Star Trek book, from your suggestion, it would be in there a heavy cruiser called the Muhammad Ali. Yeah, man, you know, Benjamin Sisko is a Black man, it’s written by Derek Tyler Attico, a Black man. This is a Black culture and I was just going to put that culture in the book. There’s no reason not to right? I mean, in the 24th century, we’re all one people and we all embrace each other’s culture, so I just went to town.
BSF: I’m curious as to the decision that New Orleans is not frozen in time, but it stays New Orleans throughout the 200 years, throughout the Eugenics War, or World War Three. It’s still New Orleans as we know it today with some transport technology. What was the decision to keep it in that time bubble?
DTA: In thinking about what I wanted to do in New Orleans, I looked to Joseph Sisko, on the show Joseph doesn’t like replicators, he doesn’t like transporters, and I thought a lot about him that was like I can deconstruct that character and about the reasons why he doesn’t like those things, you know, and not just making something that’s funny or whimsical. I can do a deep dive into his psyche and what that opened up for me first was New Orleans. New Orleans, is a surface Industry City, so it just didn’t make sense that it would just turn on a dime automatically. They would embrace, you know, replicators and transporters and all that, it just didn’t really make a lot of sense without them staying in touch with their culture, the people, the music, and the food. And Joseph was the way that I looked at New Orleans, I looked at New Orleans through the eyes of Joseph Sisko.
BSF: Again, I really enjoyed the book, I loved all the easter eggs and interconnectivity. I was thrilled by the inclusion of deep-cut characters, SPOILER ALERT, like Tryla Scott because you don’t know what happens to her, I like that she’s still alive. I’d still like to see her as a captain of a ship, but that’s another story.
DTA: Well, there are some nuggets I left there for her. Because when Sisko was talking about her at the end, he was quoting what she said, and if you read the quote when she resigns her commission, someone else in Star Trek uses those exact words. And if you figure out what Sisko was saying that will allude to a few different things.
BSF: Another SPOILER ALERT, the Benny ending. How significant was it for you to incorporate some of your other stuff, so we get that meta ending?
DTA: It’s very meta. It also goes into that 2016 Benny Russell story I wrote, because they kind of inform each other right? I felt I had to address in some way, somehow, Benny Russell in the Autobiography of Benjamin Sisko right? And this was a way to do it, and still cover Benjamin Sisko’s entire life. And then in that last one page, I give you an ending to Benny Russell’s story that, you know, kind of like bookends Benny Russell’s story. It shows you that he’s finally got his stuff published. And even from what he says it has not been easy, but he’s published. Star Trek is doing well, so I wanted to leave the reader with something that not only was hopeful but continued that dreamer in the dream of Benny Russell.
BSF: When you were writing the book, were there any ideas that your editor said “Nah, you can’t do that.” and you had to pause?
DTA: Well, I think the only time that it was like pull back a little was when I realized that everyone was when I realized that Geordi, Janeway, and Riker, they were all there at the Academy in the same year, they overlapped. I wrote that scene with all of them at the same time and my editor and everybody was like, that’s just a little too much. And I was like, you know what, that’s right. That was a good call on their part, so I just put Geordi in instead.
BSF: What’s on the horizon for you? Where can folks follow you?
DTA: I got some stuff I’m working on but I can’t talk about, unfortunately. I’m getting ready to do some of my own stuff and this is the time to launch it. I’m gonna do it anytime, It’s now, right? So look for that coming next year.
BSF: And can readers follow you?
George Carmona 3rd is a contributing writer on comics and nerd culture for BlackSci-fi.com and Comics Beat. He is the author of the DC Super Friends Joke Book from Penguin Random House and a co-creator of the Access Guide to the Black Comic Book Community.