Jun 20

Who is the real life Buck Bokai?

As of the real life 2015, there are still no Major League Baseball teams other than in the United States and Canada. In fact, the closest thing to any international competition is the World Baseball Classic, a tournament played once every three or four years, and hasn’t really caught on with American audiences. Still, it would be fun to guess which 2015 major league rookie is the real-life of Harmon Buck Gin Bokai might be, as this year, 2015, was his rookie season in the Star Trek timeline.

Buck_bokai

The two players I’ve narrowed the list down to are players with the potential to have careers similar to that of Buck Bokai based on commentaries regarding those players.

 

Carlos Correa, shortstop for the Houston Astros, Age 20

The Puerto Rican born Correa has been a decent hitter in the minor leagues, who has already hit a professional career high 10 home run in the upper minor leagues and now added two with the major-league parent club. This mirrors comments about Bokai’s career:

In his first three years in the Major Leagues, Bokai, a switch hitter, hit twenty home runs a year right-handed. After his manager moved him to second in the batting order, Bokai never hit more than ten home runs a year batting right-handed.

Various scouting reports indicate Correa is a gifted hitter, who may make a change from shortstop to third base as Bokai did.

 

Jung Ho Kang (pronounced Zhung-oh Gong), reserve infielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Age 28

Like Buck Bokai, Kang is can play shorstop and third base. So far during his first year in the American major leagues, he has been a solid hitter in a reserve role, coming off career highs in batting average, doubles, home runs, and RBI’s with the Nexen Heroes in 2014. He could eventually usurp a starting role from one of the Pirates’ incumbent players. Despite being a starting shortstop in Korea, scouts believe he will eventually make a move to second or third base.

 

 

Jun 18

Does tolerance go both ways?

It absolutely does. That lesson has been imparted throughout the Star Trek universe in rather clever ways. More to the point, what one side in a conflict says about the other side should be taken with a grain of salt. One should take care to be skeptical of someone who claims to be a victim of persecution are subtly illustrated in numerous episodes.

 
“Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” (TOS): Lokai, a member of an unknown alien race comes aboard the Enterprise after the ship intercepts him in a stolen Starfleet shuttlecraft. He is to be tried for theft of Federation property, but not if Bele, another member of this race distinguished as literally black on one side and white on the other, has anything to say about it. Bele claims Lokai has committed numerous crimes against his race. Simple enough if the Federation respects a foreign judicial system. But not so simple when the question of what crimes Lokai has committed comes up. From a human perspective, Lokai’s only “crime” is being different, different in a manner Kirk and Spock don’t realize until it is pointed out.

The only “resolution” to the story is the Enterprise arrives at Lokai and Bele’s home planet to find that the two sides have destroyed each other over their petty hatred. We don’t learn once and for all who was right and who was wrong. One particularly telling scene (that was removed from syndication) depicts Lokai speaking to crewmembers about his experiences with being part of an oppressed ethnicity. Spock overhears this and becomes concerned that maybe Lokai is attempting to garner sympathy from third-party observers in order to cover up the fact that he is guilty of universally criminal behavior. The overall moral of this story is what can happen when mutual hatred can spin out of control–a very valuable one when the United States was in the midst of the Civil Rights movement and the world was in the midst of the Cold War.

 
“Transfiguration” (TNG): Commander Sunad of Zalkon claims that the individual aboard the Enterprise known only as “John Doe” is a criminal. Despite Beverly’s insistence that “Doe” hasn’t committed any crimes by Federation standards, Picard still invokes a duty to respect Zalkonian law whether they agree with it or not.
In these circumstances, we can clearly see that the criminal offenses these individuals are guilty of—raising awareness of societal injustice in Lokai’s case or spreading “lies” that turn out to be true in “John Doe’s” case—are not considered criminal offenses in Federation society. But why should Starfleet tread carefully when mediating these issues and not be too quick to take sides?

 
“Nemesis” (VOY): Chakotay is seemingly rescued by the human-looking Vori after his shuttle was shot down. He begins to sympathize with the villagers, who have been victims of horrible atrocities at the hands of the hideous reptilian looking Kraydin. Back on Voyager, Janeway has been conferring with an ambassador of one of these warring parties. In one of the more shocking plot twists, we do not see Ambassador Treen until the end of the episode’s penultimate act (he is a Kraydin, not a Vori). Chakotay has been subjected to a very elaborate and persuasive form of propaganda. He is set straight when he encounters a Kraydin solider who is really Tuvok in holographic camouflage. That is not to say that the Kraydin are the “good guys” and the Vori the “bad guys” instead of the other way around. When Chakotay asks if the allegations of the Kraydins’ war crimes are outright false, Janeway’s only answer is that the Kraydin accuse the Vori of the same crimes.

 
“Night” (VOY): Voyager is forced to travel through a stellar void over the next two years to the annoyance of the natives. These aliens crash the ship’s systems, send a representative aboard who then assaults a crewmember. These are clearly hostile acts, yet the intruder is still treated humanely out of an understanding of their fear of the unknown. When another vessel comes to their rescue, its captain has accounts of his race’s, the Malons, experience with the natives of this void. Further investigation reveals, though, that the Malons have been dumping lethal amounts of radioactive waste in the stellar void with no regard for the safety of the natives, an atrocity Janeway and company cannot abide.

So we can see the benefits of not quickly taking sides since one might eventually see that a person who claims to be persecuted only has a persecution complex (the aforementioned Voyager episodes provide more concrete examples).

But what about intolerance of intolerance? Is that the same as intolerance of an alternative lifestyle? Yes and no.

“Rights. Rights. I’m sick to death of hearing about rights! What about my right not to have my life’s work subverted by blind ignorance?” Commander Bruce Maddox, “The Measure of a Man” (TNG)

Recent events have demonstrated that even those who call themselves Star Trek fans will accept only the most limited of integration only in theory by demanding the “homosexual agenda” needs to stay out of all things Star Trek. After all, Christians have the right to their beliefs that homosexuality is a sin. It’s about time someone drew the line against gay rights activists bullying anybody who dares to disagree with them. IDIC, man! Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations, not Infinite Diversity in Approved Combinations.

Whoa, let’s back track a little. How is George Takei being a bully by pointing out the injustice or potential injustice of Indiana’s newest “religious freedom” law? He is merely one man expressing an opinion on how to respond to what he considers an unjust law. Nobody is forming no go zones along Indiana state lines. I personally do not care one way or the others who does and does not set foot in the state of Indiana, or for what reason. I applaud the Indiana governor’s effort to reach out to gay rights’ activists and explain how this “religious freedom law” does not conflict with established anti-discrimination statutes and to try to make the letter of the law clearer for all concerned parties. Discrimination, in and of itself, is not a civil right. On the other hand, the rights of private businesses are a much greyer area.

Patrick Stewart is among those who have weighed in on the gay wedding cake debate, even opining that a private business should not be compelled to cater a same-sex wedding if that conflicts with the employees’ personal beliefs. Even if courts are ruling otherwise, nobody is flogging anyone in the town square for refusing to cater a same sex marriage (despite what some episodes of South Park would have you believe). Nobody is forcing the most devout Christians into attending same sex weddings or burning down any churches.

In the words of Patrick Stewart’s own Trek character: “It is not our place to impose Federation standards on others.” On many occasions, Star Trek has depicted Klingons, Romulans, Cardassians, Bajorans, and even Vulcans being intolerant of differences and expressing backwards beliefs. But how do our Starfleet heroes respond? Do they say, “You will reform your society to fit our ideals, or else”? No. At worst, they only give speeches about how wrong that alien government is. Benjamin Sisko is still entitled to his opinion that Gul Dukat is a sociopath. If he’s being intolerant of Cardassian intolerance, so be it.

The Federation’s highest law still prohibits more direct interference in the affairs of alien societies. The overall reasoning is to let these oppressive societies reach a Federation level of enlightenment on their own. The Klingons evolving from a race of thuggish brutes to a warrior culture with a more enlightened code of honor (but not because of direct Federation intervention) are one such example. “But what if they never do?” was the question posed by an immortal guardian of the now extinct Tkon Empire. In reply, Will Riker said that is a chance we must take. And that is, unfortunately, the drawback of a free society. We can only hope that whether or not gay couples have as much right to marry and patronize public places as straight couples won’t even be an issue a hundred years from now. It shouldn’t even be an issue now, except activists on both sides of these social justice issues can over-complicate matters.

 

Jun 17

A look back at Trek alum’s “Game of Thrones” character

Julian_Bashir,_2375 SiddigDoran_Martell_Prince_of_Dorne

Now that Season 5 of HBO’s Game of Thrones has concluded, I have to say I was a bit less that impressed with Star Trek: Deep Space Nine cast member Alexander Siddig’s role as Prince Doran Martell, not because of his acting, but because of the story centered around his character.

Book readers knew of the character of Doran Martell as early the first novel of the series written by George R.R. Martin, as the Crowned Prince of Dorne, the last of the Seven Kingdoms to become part of a united Westeros a century and a half after Aegon the Dragon united the continent. He is alluded to again in the second novel (the second season of the TV series) when Hand of the King (their version of a Lord Chancellor) Tyrion Lannister proposes marrying off his niece Princess Myrcella to Doran’s son Trystane. And when a royal wedding between King Joffrey and Lady Margaery is on the horizon, Prince Doran is unable to attend, because of a debilitating case of gout, and sends his brother Oberyn the Red Viper as a representative of Dorne in his stead.

Actor Pedro Pascal (Oberyn) provided the “template” for the Dornish accent, which sounds very much like a Castilian Spanish accent. Alexander Sidding had the accent down perfectly. I was excited before the start of Season 5 to see how Sidding took on the role of Prince Doran, considering the character in the two most recent novels had a brilliant master plan seventeen years in the making to avenge the brutal murder of his sister, who had married into the now-deposed royal family. He reveals his intentions after derailing his daughter’s efforts to use Princess Myrcella to avenge the now deceased Oberyn. On the television series, we saw a different story that seemed awfully bland.

In Siddig’s portaryal of Prince Doran, we don’t see someone with a debilitating illness, we mostly see a guy in a wheelchair looking down on his son and future daughter-in-law and going, “Awww, what a cute couple they make.” His nieces, the Sand Snakes, were advertised as these badass woman warriors. They just have the look of a superhero trio, each with their own unique weapons and superpowers, that seems out of place for a more adult-themed fantasy franchise. The resolution to the question of whether or not Dorne would declare war on House Lannister (the Queen Mother’s family) over the deaths of Doran’s siblings seems woefully anti-climactic. He proclaims that, despite his brother’s girlfriend’s recent shenanigans, there will be no war. The princess can go back to  the capital with his son, who will represent Dorne on the King’s Council.

********************WARNING: CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS********************

Since this is Game of Thrones, and once viewers grow to root for and care for particular characters, they die, those plans are naturally ruined.  In any case, this latest plot twist leaves a lot of unanswered questions as to what the fallout will be, especially how Siddig’s character will react to this betrayal.

Jun 16

Who Stole What From Whom?

This seems to be the most hot-button issues among the fan-bases of Star Trek and Babylon 5. The simplest answer is often that Deep Space 9 was on the air first, and therefore, the premise of Babylon 5 was pirated from the Trek spin-off. The writers of The Big Bang Theory seem to operate under that assumption. Sheldon Cooper’s dislike of B5 is a reflection of a panel of writers having seen the series and not “getting it”. Sheldon had even gone as far as to call the series “hopelessly derivative.” In Sheldon’s defense, though, some aspects of B5 came from the Lord of the Rings franchise, such as Rangers keeping an eye out for a returning darkness and the planet Z’ha’dum being based on a place called Khazad-dum.

 
Looking back at the biography of J. Michael Straczynski, he had the idea for a science-fiction series set in a central location for well over half a decade before B5 went on the air.

 

Taking note of the lessons of mainstream television, which brought stories to a centralized location such as a hospital, police station, or law office, he decided that instead of “[going] in search of new worlds, building them anew each week”, a fixed space station setting would keep costs at a reasonable level.

 

In fact, according to JMS, he pitched his idea to Paramount back in 1989. That idea would later become Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, while JMS’s idea would became a Warner Brothers TV series a month after DS9’s first airing. Suffice to say, JMS was an innovator in every sense of the word. Babylon 5 was one of the first TV series to contain an ongoing story-arc, a concept he had brought to the short-lived sci-fi series Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future, which also depicted a greater reliance on CGI that B5 is known for.

 
The Babylon 5 television series centered around a more “realistic” view of the future where all the problems of crime, poverty, and prejudice haven’t been solved with more “realistic technology”—jump gates that open portals into hyperspace as opposed to warp drive and starships with rotating sections that create gravity rather than an artificial gravity field. While Deep Space Nine does largely keep to the Trek precepts in terms of a more utopian humanity, it carries the warning that it could all be washed away more quickly than one might think because of war and politicians in high places making a few compromises. Groups like the Maquis and Section 31 drive home the point that it is “easy to be a saint in paradise.” We see throughout the series that our heroes live in less than idealistic times and must play fast and loose with the rules from time to time.

 
So, yes, Deep Space Nine was derived from Babylon 5 more than the other way around. The question now becomes, is that necessarily a bad thing? I say no simply because ideas are not conceived in a vacuum. Additions to scientific knowledge happen largely because of scientists refining and correcting the ideas and theories of their predecessors. Sheldon may needle Leonard for not having done any “original research”, but replicating the research of earlier scientists is the very definition of science’s self-correcting mechanism.

 
And with that in mind, ideas in the creative arts are refined and improved from those of their predecessors. The original Star Trek series itself was in some ways a Western-themed TV series in outer space at a time when Bonanza and other Western-themed TV series were big hits. It was rife with allegories to highly relevant political and cultural phenomena from the Cold War to the hippies. Just about any work of fiction is based on ideas and events that existed long before that work of fiction. Various elements of George R.R. Martin’s novel series were based on real-life historical occurrences, in addition to the War of the Five Kings being largely based on the Wars of the Roses.

 
I could go on forever with this, but my point is that one TV series was derived, rather than stolen from the other. JMS had observed that good writers borrow and great writers steal. I have followed this philosophy with my fan fiction writing by incorporating what made B5 better than Trek and incorporating that back into Trek fanon.

 

 

Mar 24

In memory of one of the fanon family

Fox's "24" Cast Reunion Party DVD Release and Premiere of Season FourActress Alberta Watson has passed away at the age of 60 after a long battle with cancer. She was best known for her role on 24 as CTU boss Erin Driscoll and Nikita as Senator Madeline Pierce.

AlbertaWatson-LimisVircona

I had gradually started envisioning Watson in the role of Limis Vircona during a binge-watching of 24, as she had numerous characteristic with Driscoll. She and Jack Bauer were more alike than either was prepared to admit–both strongly results oriented leaders. At the beginning of Day 4, Driscoll on doing things by the book, and on holding Bauer accountable for his indiscretions, which included the shooting of the future Captain Richard Robau. But on seeing the positive results that came out of Bauer’s improvisational torture methods, Driscoll had started to approve of more extreme methods of interrogating various persons of interest, including the hippie son of the Secretary of Defense and one of her own employees suspected of being a double agent. While the character was never seen again after her daughter’s suicide, it would have been interesting to see how this incident would have hardened Driscoll even more down the road.

Throughout my Star Trek: Lambda Paz fan fiction series, Captain Limis Vircona had exhibited similar characteristics to that of Erin Driscoll–a hardened and stoic demeanor, a results oriented leader who was willing to push envelop to deliver positive results. The first such instance was in using torture to extract information vital to the war effort from a prisoner, which would have long-ranging personal and legal ramifications. While publicly deploring the actions and methods of Section 31, Limis had admittedly accepted help from them and will approve of their methods when convenient.

In any case, there will be no “recasting” of the character since it is only fan-fiction. Similarly, some have said they could envision no one besides Andreas Katsulas in the role of Tomalak, a major player in Romulan political intrigue in more recent Trek novels.

Aug 01

Boldly Speculating: A Brief History of the Klingon Empire’s political structure

Klingon_Empire_logo

Even as their empire expanded to the stars, the Klingons have maintained a feudal social structure. Under such an arrangement, each of the Great Houses are represented on the Klingon High Council. Such a government structure is far from a representative democracy, as only the interests of the highest social class are represented. As a warrior culture, the warrior class is the highest social class.

In the 9th century AD (by the Earth calendar), the three major nations of Qo’Nos were united under the banner of Kahless after he slew the tyrant Molor and conquered the Fek’Ihri. As the first emperor, he established a code of honor roughly similar to the Hamurabic code that became the basis of Klingon society and culture. Prior to Kahless’s rise to power, emperors rose to power through subversion and conquest. The most prominent instance of such an occurrence was the rise of Emperor Sompek and the Sack of Tong Vey (“Rules of Engagement” [DS9]). In early modern times, however, each emperor was descended from Kahless in much the same way that the earliest Islamic leaders were descended from Muhammed up until controversies over the true line of succession arose. Similar controversies likely took place in Klingon history during the interceding fifteen centuries. Furthermore, civil wars were once again commonplace, especially when an emperor left no male heirs. Among the most prominent of power struggles was the execution of Emperor Reclaw I and his entire family. Through succeeding generations, official historical accounts posited that such an uprising never occurred to prevent the Empire from descending into anarchy the likes of which hadn’t been seen since before the time of Kahless, when in fact, members of the first ruling family of the Third Dynasty were given the names and titles of the old royal family to create the illusion of an unbroken line. While such information was readily available by the 24th century, even Lady Sirella, Mistress of the House of Martok, still believed herself to be a descendant of Princess Shenara, daughter of Emperor Reclaw I. (“You Are Cordially Invited…” [DS9])

Over the centuries, the High Council gradually gained political power in much the same way Great Britain’s Parliament grew in political power. By Earth’s late 21st century, the position of emperor had been abolished (“Rightful Heir” [TNG]). Perhaps, at some point, the Empire had experienced a conflict similar to the First English Revolution when the drawbacks to monarchical succession became more and more apparent. Succession, more often that not, falls to the monarch’s closest male heir, and if that monarch is incompetent, his people suffer for it for the rest of his natural life (barring the occasional assassination or coup d’etat) .

After the last emperor’s passing, the head of state for the Empire has seemingly changed in name only. The Chancellor of the High Council holds the position for life. He can overrule a majority vote of the Council at his leisure. Because the Chancellor is the head of an autocracy, he is also known as Supreme Commander of the Klingon Empire. (“Reunion” [TNG])

As of the late 24th century, the Klingon High Council consists of representatives of twenty-four noble houses. That number has fluctuated over time depending on Houses that have gone extinct, have been disbanded or dishonored, and Houses that have been elevated to nobility. The House of Mogh and, possibly, the House of Duras are examples of disbanded or dishonored Houses. (“Redemption, Part II” [TNG], “Past Prologue” [DS9], “Firstborn” [TNG], Star Trek Generations, “The Way of the Warrior” [DS9], “Soldiers of the Empire” [DS9]) On the other hand, the House of Martok rose to noble status through the accolades of its patriarch, a common warrior from Ketha Province who eventually became a general in the Klingon Defense Force and potential successor to Chancellor Gowron. (“Apocalypse Rising” [DS9], “Once More Unto the Breach” [DS9], “Tacking Into the Wind” [DS9])

One can rise to the position of chancellor in three ways:

1) Challenging the sitting chancellor to a fight to the death. If victorious, the challenger can accept the position or turn it over to someone else, usually a member of the High Council (“Tacking Into the Wind” [DS9]).

2) Be named heir to the chancellor, as was the case when Azetbur succeeded her father Gorkon in 2293 following his assassination (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country).

3) If the chancellor leaves no heirs, as was probably the case with K’mpec at the time of his death in 2367, a member of the High Council or other prominent warrior can stake a claim to the chancellorship, which is won by Rite of Succession. (“Reunion” [TNG], “Redemption, Part I” [TNG]) By the latter half of the 24th century, this was probably the most common method of succession outside of assassinating an unfit leader. In some cases where the chancellor did leave an heir, an Arbiter of Succession may reject his or her claim on the basis of having “won no battles, or shed no blood for his people.” (“Redemption, Part I” [TNG])

As a general rule, women may not serve on the High Council, nor may be named leaders of their Houses (“Redemption, Part I” [TNG], “The House of Quark” [DS9]), except under one of two notable circumstances.

1) A chancellor’s daughter is his only heir, as a result of having no sons or all his sons having died in honorable combat. (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country) General Chang, theoretically, could have challenged Azetbur for leadership of the Council. Yet, to avoid exposing his role in the Khitomer Conspiracy too soon, he opted for a more stealthy approach—see that the assassination of the UFP President was carried out in the hope the Federation would retaliate and declare war on the Empire. As one of Chancellor Azetbur’s advisers said, “Better to die on our feet than live on our knees.”

2) If a House patriarch has no male heirs when he is killed in honorable combat, his widow or a female relative may assume leadership of that House if she chooses not to marry the victor in said honorable combat (“The House of Quark” [DS9]). Grilka, Mistress of the House of Kozak, had initially chosen to marry Quark, a Ferengi, in order to prevent rival House leader D’Ghor from laying claim to House Kozak’s assets. This marriage served the secondary purpose of allowing Quark to dig up proof of financial malfeasance on D’Ghor’s part. Once D’Ghor was expelled from the Council by ritual discommendation, Grilka was granted leadership of her House.

Because Duras died in disgrace as a result of Worf, Son of Mogh, having claimed Rite of Vengeance, Lursa and B’Etor were most likely barred from representing the House of Duras on the High Council. And despite tradition that a Great House carries the name of its living patriarch, the name House of Duras remained after his death. Again, this was possibly because of the circumstances of his death or because of the lack of a male figurehead leader. Similarly, the House of Mogh still carried that name after Mogh’s death due to the lack of a single leader coupled with Worf’s service in Starfleet and the Council’s use of the House of Mogh as a scapegoat for the Khitomer Massacre. The second born son of Mogh, Kurn, was eventually granted a seat on the Council after the House of Mogh was formally exonerated. In the interceding years, leadership possibly belonged to a nephew and cousin of Mogh.

In effect, the Klingon political structure still follows feudal traditions, albeit far more complex than most feudal societies on Earth. For example, the notion of fighting and dying for one’s own nation did not arise in western Europe until early modern times. In the Klingon Empire, however, the noble Houses control their own armies (those who fought the most recent civil war) while a single entity that is loyal to the Empire as a whole comprise the bulk of their military forces (the Klingon Defense Forces). To what extent these political traditions remain in the near future is uncertain since as an outside observer suggested, “The Klingon Empire is dying, and I think it deserves to die.”

Jul 11

Boldly Speculating: The evolution of Starfleet

While not a military organization, as Jean-Luc Picard suggested, Starfleet is still an organization steeped in present-day military traditions. That is obvious from the traditional military parlance, the uniforms, and the rank insignia. More on that later.

A very sore subject, especially among those who don’t acknowledge Enterprise as part of the canon, is the existence of a pre-Federation Starfleet vessel called Enterprise and whether that is considered a continuity error. James Kirk’s ship was the first Federation Starfleet vessel to bear the name Enterprise. At no point during Enterprise (as far as I can tell) was Jonathan Archer’s Enterprise ever referred to as USS Enterprise or Starship Enterprise, but rather Earth ship Enterprise. Similarly, there’s been a first seafaring vessel named HMS Enterprise, a first seafaring vessel named USS Enterprise, a first aircract carrier USS Enterprise (the eighth US naval vessel of that name overall), a first space-shuttle Enterprise, etcetera. There was even an interstellar XCV class Enterprise that probably predated the NX-01–seen only in artistic renderings. In any case, we can safely say there was a Starfleet before there was a United Federation of Planets. The year of Starfleet’s founding is unknown, but perhaps can trace its origins back to the 2030’s when the NASA-owned explorer ship Charybdis, under the command of United States Air Force Colonel Stephen Richey, was launched . With that in mind, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration of the 2030’s was one of many organizations under the jurisdiction of other various nation-states (i.e. Great Britian, Russia, China) that pre-dated Starfleet and the United Earth Space Probe Agency (UESPA).

UESPA was a name first used in the original series episodes “Charlie X” and “Tomorrow is Yesterday”–before the writers had settled on the name Starfleet. While not heavily used in subsequent dialogue of this series or its spinoffs, UESPA is certainly a significant government entity founded shortly after the launch of Zefram Cochrane’s first warp-powered space vessel. One of its earliest contributions was the launch of the Friendship One probe in 2067, two years after the assumed launch of SS Valiant (back when the franchise implied we’d be part of an interstellar community by the 1990’s just like in 2001: A Space Odyssey).

In effect, by the mid 22nd century, when the first Warp Five capable starship was launched, Starfleet was the space program and the MACO‘s were the military. Those differences were reflected in their respective uniforms. The MACO uniform resembled Army combat fatigues while the Starfleet uniform resembled a NASA flight suit, right down to the mission patch. Following the Xindi attack on Earth in 2153, a unit of MACO’s was assigned to the Enterprise, an arrangement analogous to Marine detachments assigned to US Navy ships and aircraft carriers.

How the Xindi Incident and the Romulan Wars influenced Starfleet’s mandate in the UFP’s early years is uncertain. Federation politicians were understandably spooked by these conflicts, and that was reflected in the hierarchyl of Starfleet as the Federation’s military arm. By the 2230’s, however, with these threats having waned, Starfleet shifted most of its focus back towards exploration. During this era, the uniforms closely resembled the casual attire of crewmembers on the International Space Station (different color polo shirts to indicate affiliation with either STS-131 or Expedition 23, as well as differing mission insignias). The latter was practiced through most of the 23rd century with each starship having its own insignia. Uniform design had also begun to emphasize certain military designs starting with stripes denoting rank on the cuff of the sleeve, as seen on a US Navy service jacket.

The late 23rd Century saw a change to a more militarized style of uniform jacket, resembling a standard US military service jacket. At this time, the Federation had neither fought in any major wars nor stood on the precipice of war. Perhaps the narrowly averted war with the Klingon Empire in 2267, along with a re-emerging threat from the Romulan Star Empire, put Federation politicians and Starfleet brass on alert. With the Klingons vowing that “there shall be no peace as long as Kirk lives”, the Federation Council had every reason to suspect that either peace or war was on the horizon. Peace did come in the form of the Khitomer Accords of 2293, but the Starfleet brass still remained on high alert out of concern that weapons of great destructive potential would fall into the wrong hands (as was feared after the Cold War ended) and that the Romulans would make every effort to undermine a possible Fedeation-Klingon military alliance. Such a situation did come to a head during the Tomed Incident in 2311. The result was the Treaty of Algeron, which redefined the Neutral Zone and imposed a prohibition on the Federation developing cloaking technology (a seemingly one-sided agreement, but the Romulans most likely gave up something big in return, not mentioned in canon–metagenic bioweapons, singularity explosives).

Even with possible conflicts with these perennial enemies defused peacefully, the Federation faced the possibility of all-out war with the Tholians, the Cardassians, and the Tzenkethi. Over time, hostilities remained confined to the border regions of these hostile empires and Starfleet could start to shift more of its focus back towards exploration. And by the latter half of the 24th Century, Starfleet uniforms once again resembled NASA flight suits, albeit composed of a thinner fabric. This style remained in place until Q’s warning that the Romulans and the Klingons were nothing compared to what awaited humanity came to pass.

By 2373, the Federation was faced with a second Borg incursion, coupled with the prospect of war with the Dominion. These crises saw a return to a more militarized style of uniforms, that has remained in place after the war’s end. Federation military policy of the near future is uncertain, but in light of the very first major conflict where the very existence of the United Federation of Planets hung in the balance, the powers-that-be will remain far more alert than at any other point in UFP history. At the same time, UFP politicians have taken to heart President Dwight Eisenhower’s warning of a growing military-industrial complex.

Starfleet’s prioritization of interstellar exploration and militarization can be simplified down to the most basic explanation of opportunity cost. A nation’s economy devotes its resources to producing guns, butter, or some combination of the two. Producing more guns means sacrificing butter and vice-versa. So far, Starfleet has been very adept at deciding on the right combination of guns and butter.

Jul 05

Brought to you by MirandaFave

The idea of a group of surviving members of the Maquis being part of the crew of a Starfleet vessel fighting in the Dominion War first came to mind after reading the novelization of Voyager’s series finale. This particular version “Endgame” featured those family reunions we didn’t get to see onscreen and cliffhanger ending leading into the very first Voyager re-launch novel. But what was in store for Chakotay, B’Elanna Torres, and the rest of the Maquis crewmembers? When war with the Dominion broke out, all the survivors of the Dominion’s mass eradication of the Maquis were issued full pardons, which also included those serving on the Voyager.

That became the seed of an idea for a character in my own Deep Space Nine re-launch series—an ex-Maquis who was granted a Starfleet commission during the Dominion War and quickly rose through the ranks. That character is now Deep Space Nine’s deputy chief of security Jonas Escobar. When putting my first DS9R story to paper, I was reminded of one of my older ideas of an original starship crew that included Maquis survivors. And there was an opportunity to make up for where Voyager went wrong. And what if the captain was a Maquis and the first officer a Starfleet veteran? There was plenty potential for conflict ala Abrams-verse Kirk and Spock mixed in with an impulsive field hand clashing with his or her by-the-book boss, as very often seen in 24, The Closer, and the three Stargate spin-offs.

The sources of conflict in Lambda Paz were not limited to philosophical differences between Starfleet and Maquis. Chief engineer Charles “Chaz” Logan is a major stickler for protocols as a career starship designer and supervising engineer. Maquis crewmember Erhlich Tarlazzi, knowing this from the outset, takes pleasure in giving Logan a hard time. This conflict is meant to portray one of those characters fans love to hate in a more sympathetic light. In the Next Generation episode, “The Arsenal of Freedom”, he clashed with Geordi LaForge, who was ironically his eventual successor as Enterprise-D chief engineer. Through the course of Lambda Paz, he is revealed to have a reputation for testing the patience of veteran Starfleet officers, usually when he demands his superiors don’t “break his ship.” He has, on the other hand, gotten his ship and crew out of many jams, proving he can be just as creative as his colleagues in with more field experience.

An additional source of conflict has been Doctor Aurellan Markalis and the second incarnation of the Emergency Medical Hologram (introduced in the Voyager episode “Message in a Bottle”). While supposedly an upgrade over the Mark One based on the insufferable Dr. Lewis Zimmerman, this one has certain eccentricities (the first words to his new captain are: “What the hell are you doing in my sickbay?”) that drive Markalis to sabotage his program and make it look like a random malfunction. One particular thing to keep in mind, though, with character conflicts is leave some potential for reconciliation or coming to some kind of mutual understanding. While the EMH-Mark III can be just as condescending and sarcastic as the previous versions, Markalis finds this one more tolerable and open to learning from his social blunders. At that point, she becomes his social mentor, friend, and eventual lover.

The conflict between captain and first officer seemed the most volatile at the beginning, with Commander Ronnie Kozar resorting to outright insolence, and even dirty tricks to subvert the captain’s authority. Eventually, the combination of Kozar’s lecturing of his crew and the captain pulling no punches when laying down the law leads to a cessation of hostilities. While no longer conspiring to commit mutiny, Kozar still does not hesitate to point out when he thinks Limis is in the wrong, knowing that while Starfleet respects the chain of command, it does not want officers who will blindly follow orders.

Of great importance to keep in mind is this motley crew can still learn to tolerate each other in reaching their common goal, though it is far from easy. This is often achieved through finding some common ground, seeing in the good qualities in a fellow officer, or realizing the maxim that opposites very often attract. These have formed the basis for the friendships and even romances. Despite their polar opposite personalities–Kozar being highly duty-bound and Morrison being a notorious womanizer–they are like brothers who have each other’s backs. Two of the Year Two romances (Sara-Rebecca and Sh’Aqba-Tarlazzi) have consisted of a rigid-minded duty-bound person who learns from her partner how to loosen up and do things in the spur of the moment once in a while.

Conceiving of these characters and their interactions with one another has been an experience in learning on the job. Finding certain niches was part of the process of conceiving of the characters, but that was not confined to their shipboard responsibilities. What seemed good in principle very often turned out not to be the case in practice. I had opened Lambda Paz with four characters who were in the engineering department, leading to the question how to best utilize all four of them. This issue was resolved by giving Rebecca Sullivan additional responsibilities (such as shuttle pilot and nightwatch flight controller) and expanding Logan’s role by making him a consultant to all the chief engineers in the Seventh Fleet, allowing more room for sh’Aqba and Tarlazzi to be at the top of the engineering department.

Equal air time is the key to whether or not the regular characters work out (not in the literal sense, though). Does each character provide some worthwhile contribution to the many complex stories and character relationships. If, on the other hand, I start to feel that I’ll have a hard time giving certain characters something worthwhile to contribute in the future, the best course of action is to either write that character out, but leaving some avenue for a return.

Jul 05

Blog Like A Boss Prompt #6: Writing a summary, how do you do it? And what about the story summaries of others draws you in?

I had to look back through the blurbs of most of my works that I have published to the AdAstra Archive over the last five years. They are mostly summaries I had composed to remind myself of what the story is about. In most of my stories, such as in Star Trek: Lambda Paz, I have largely kept summaries very concise, usually one, two, or three sentences. That is fairly easy with flash-fiction since it is usually just one scene. “Doctor Julian Bashir sees something not quite right with the new Defiant, is quick and to the point. These quick and to the point statements are especially important where the narrative involves a lot of details leading up to that point. For instance, with “Moral Dilemma”, a lot happens leading up to Captain Limis Vircona using “extreme interrogation methods” on a prisoner. There is plenty backstory leading up to that all-important event. In addition to the summary, what ropes readers into this story is a teaser similar to that of Deep Space Nine episode “In the Pale Moonlight”, where the central character reveals in a log entry the major plot of the story—“ I was going to bring the Romulans into the war.” –or—“I may have become the enemy I seek to destroy.”

In subsequent stories, I kept true to this approach by providing a clear and concise statement—a mission statement, if you will. During the course of my undergraduate college years, I had mastered the craft of writing five page term papers and even a ten-page term paper. In order to fill up that many typed pages, the writer must say a lot, give a lot of background information about various topics covered while still remaining true to the thesis statement. That thesis statement is that all-important sentence or opening paragraph that outlines the major point being made in that lengthy term paper. When writing works of fiction, as with expositional works of non-fiction, the longer the work is, the broader the thesis statement or topic sentence. That’s not to say a story summary should open with “a bunch of stuff happens leading up to this big event.” That’s way too vague. Rather the summary should make general statements that are open to interpretation such as major characters facing “their biggest challenge to date”, or a reference to “the Federation’s darkest hour.”

In certain cases, a very lengthy and complex story require a more lengthy and complex summary, but at the same time, the author should get to heart of what that story is about. In the case of my longest stories, with regard to word count and chapter count, I try to make a good opening statement and a good closing statement. For instance, the summary of “Omega” opens with an explanation of the major adversary at the beginning of the story and closes with what the stakes are for the heroes when their actions reveal a grand conspiracy within their own government. In the case of “To the Bitter End,” the overall story takes place on four different starships, so four quick statements of what is in store for each of the four groups of characters. On the other hand, while not a very lengthy and complex story, “Across Two Universes” required additional exposition. Anyone who knows the grander details of my Lambda Paz series knows that Year Two is concurrent with Deep Space Nine’s final season (2375). Opening the summary with, “In 2387…” should be enough of an attention grabber. “Hmmm, is one of those reset button alternate future stories?” An effective closing statement must therefore address the effect of the parallel reality featured in the two most recent Star Trek films has had on the Dominion War a century later.

In terms of what grabs my attention in a summary, that rarely ever plays into whether or not I read the story in its entirety. These summaries are merely an idea of what to expect in the forthcoming narrative. When the story summary does factor, I look for clear and concise (and sometimes broad) statements about what I will be reading. What is most likely to grab my attention is tie-ins to televised episodes.

Jul 03

Blog Like A Boss Prompt #4: What character do you love to write most? What about them makes them so compelling?

So many to choose from. I’ll include a full list in a later blog entry. But one of the complex characters I’ve enjoyed writing is the often socially challenged Doctor Aurellan Markalis (named for James Kirk’s sister-in-law, Aurelan, but once I had realized the misspelling, I well into writing Lambda Paz stories and the alternative spelling stuck).

AurellanMarkalis-lab_coat_zpsb7cc56ddSarina_Douglas

Faith Salie as Aurellan Markalis (left) and Sarina Douglas (right). Early on, I had envisioned Faith Salie in the role of Markalis just because her character on Deep Space Nine was somewhat similar–in the role of mute autistic savant in “Statistical Probalities” and a person who, despite her superior intellect, was still a kid in “Chrysalis”.

Despite not having much of a social life and having devoted much of her life to academic and career pursuits, she is not discouraged by having been diagnosed at an early age with Asperger’s syndrome. My wife and I are both self-diagnosed “aspies”, who both have extended family who have been diagnosed with this condition, along with when I worked at a school with students at various points on the autism spectrum. So we are greatly aware of its basic traits. We both have seen these traits in ourselves and relatives.

What has become most compelling about writing this character is I have a soft-spot for the adorable dorks (mostly I’m married to one). She has a bit of Amy Farrah Fowler by thinking about romantic relationships in very technical terms, a little April Kepner in her tendencies to rant at a mile a minute, plus sometimes being overly candid like Chloe O’Brian or bursting into tears for silly reasons like Jessica Day. These behaviors may be off-putting to others, but Dr. Markalis, at least, strives to improve herself and her social skills and is open to trying new things, making her one of the most human characters in my Star Trek fanon.

Older posts «