Progress Report – March 2012

March 2012 was productive.

March 2012 Posted Works

I began the month by answering a prompt on Ad Astra about seasons. I had thought a bit about all four seasons but I was stuck a little on spring and autumn. But I liked winter, so I posted A Hazy Shade, which is a reference to the old Simon and Garfunkel song,  A Hazy Shade of Winter. That one will go in context at some point. I also added a story about the summer, called And the Livin’ is Easy. That, too, will get some context.

I also started to post A Long, Long Time Ago on Ad Astra. This is really the start of the Times of the HG Wells series, although I had also written a prequel, First Born, which I posted on Ad Astra, Trek BBS and Trek United. On the former two forae, I entered it into their monthly challenges. It did not win either challenge, but did receive some votes. Barking up the Muse Tree | Janet Gershen-Siegel | jespah | Quill | March 2012

Furthermore, I finished Reversal on Trek BBS and also spooled out Intolerance. Reversal and Intolerance have both gotten some very nice comments there, and a lot of views.

More Postings

The same has happened on Fanfiction.net, e. g. I’ve finished Reversal and am beginning Intolerance there. As on Trek BBS, these are the T-rated versions of the stories.

I also created responses to monthly challenges and posted them. These stories are A Kind of Blue (for Ad Astra’s Bring the Sunshine challenge) and The Black Widow (for the Trek BBS What if …? challenge). As is perhaps obvious, the two works took me in rather dissimilar directions.

Furthermore, I joined the Star Trek Logs forum and began adding fan fiction almost immediately. The reception has been good so far. I have added Voracious, Onions, Letters from Home, Paving Stones Made from Good Intentions, The Light , Waiting, There’s Something About Hoshi and Reversal (in progress) this month.

WIP Corner

In addition, I continue to draft the E2 stories. I am in the midst of the third book, and there should be four. It’s threatening to become about the same size as the Wells series. I have had a lot to say, and the characters have taken me in a lot of unexpected directions, for which I am grateful. So I am now beginning to circle back to some of the initial points that I had wanted to cover. But those chapters are rather long, and take a lot of time to write.

Prep Work

Prep work consisted of creating a bowdlerized version of Together and an HTML-coded version of Ohio.

This Month’s Productivity Killers

Looking for work continues to be both a boon to my writing (no real work distractions) and a hindrance (being home all day, I hear every little noise, plus of course I have to look for a job).

I also switched to Internet Explorer 9. While that fixed problems I was having with Flash and Java, it created other problems. So now I can no longer post in the Ad Astra archive, or put reviews there, or respond to reviews. Hence I use Chrome whenever I go to the Ad Astra archive. This eats up time.

Furthermore, my parents visited for a few days, in order to watch my husband and me run the first 5K of the season. Fun but of course, there isn’t a lot of computer time when we’ve got company.

More Distractions

Joining a different forum meant more time spent posting stories (and posting so as to get to know the other people on that board) rather than creating. Plus I overhauled my website a bit in order to better handle links to sites where my work is posted. However, I believe that the changes I’ve made in the website have made it easier to work on when I join more forums. One thing I have to remember is that not every story needs to be posted everywhere.

Portrait of a Character – Tr’Dorna

Portrait of a Character – Tr’Dorna

Oh, it’s so difficult to be a teenager, even one as popular and lovely as Tr’Dorna.

There’s the grooming – for after all, you’ve got to have nice teeth and beautiful eyes! There’s showing just enough to your boyfriend without revealing your tail too quickly. There’s being sympathetic to your roommate, who might not get a date even to the Sadie Hawkins Dance. There’s being kind to your boyfriend’s roommate, who is fraught with insecurities. And this doesn’t even take schoolwork into account.

And then, of course, there’s the matter of keeping your scales looking good.

I Was a Teenaged Xindi Reptilian

There are no female Xindi Reptilians shown in canon. And there are no young Reptilians shown, either, unless you count the occasional nameless aide who has no lines.

What are their teenaged kids like? What about young girls?

I figured they would be a bit like our own teenaged girls. Sometimes impulsive. Sometimes a little wicked. Sometimes very kind. Flighty, maybe. Overly concerned with appearance, possibly. In short, much like us.

Personality

Tr’Dorna is originally introduced in The Reptile Speaks, as being Skrol the Gorn‘s girlfriend. Since there are no female teenaged Gorn at Picard High School, Skrol goes after Tr’Dorna, and urges his roommate, Bron (he is also a Gorn), to hook up with Tr’Dorna’s roommate, Etrina, another female Xindi Reptilian.

Tr’Dorna is portrayed in that story as a little bawdy, teasing and flirting and weighing her options as to whether she will show Skrol her tail, which is a prelude to serious foreplay and possibly sex. She also encourages Etrina to find someone for the dance, particularly when it looks like it isn’t going to work out between Etrina and Bron, and even pumps up Etrina by referring to her friend as the “picture of health”.

When Skrol talks about getting her a tiger lily wrist corsage, he mentions that it will bring out her eyes. In canon, Reptilian eyes are yellow, so hers would be a more orangey-yellow in color.

In Insecurity, it is she who Skrol turns to in order to comfort a lonely and lovesick Bron. Here she is sympathetic and kind, telling Bron that his girl is probably missing him as much as he is missing her. Bron refers to her as “a really sweet and smart lady”.

Portrayal

Portrait of a Character – Tr’Dorna
Hayden Panettiere

It’s tough to envision alien characters as being “played” by humans, particularly when so much makeup and such an enormous amount of prosthetics would clearly be needed. But I see Hayden Panettiere  as Tr’Dorna, just kind of a fun-loving young girl with a mischievous smile.

Quote

“All I’m saying, Bron, is that you can only go on the facts you’ve got, and what’s, well, what’s logical, whether we’re talking about how Sophra is spending break, or how Etrina is. Don’t look at me like I’m a scaly Vulcan or anything! Just, you’re jumping to conclusions and assuming a lot of things. Have a little faith, okay? We girls usually aren’t so different from you guys. We’re not out to actively try to hurt you. I think that’s even true of a warmie like Sophra.”

Upshot

Tr’Dorna may be a little boy-crazy, and she doesn’t exactly make schoolwork a priority. But she’s a good friend, and has a decent head on her scaly shoulders.

Spotlight on Original Nonsentient Species – Linfep

Spotlight on Original Nonsentient Species – Linfep

People have to eat, and not everyone is a vegan. Therefore, some alien food animals had to be devised. Hence, linfep were created by me. They are a wholly original species.

Linfep are essentially hares with tusks or fangs. They are native to Lafa XII and live and scamper in undergrowth. They are one of the chief foods for another nonsentient species, perrazin, but are also hunted or raised for food for the sentient Calafans.

Since they are very rabbit-like, children are somewhat fond of them. In Fortune, a little Calafan girl has a stuffed linfep doll. In Friday Visit, Chelben, who is about four or five years old, shows Doug a picture he has drawn of a linfep.

Spotlight on Original Nonsentient Species – Linfep
Kevin, the Lost Bunny of the Apocalypse

Admittedly, I was thinking a little bit of the comic strip Prickly City and its character of Kevin, the Lost Bunny of the Apocalypse, when I came up with linfep. Essentially I envision – like I do for much of the Lafa System – a place similar to Australia, where interesting or seemingly harmless animals can pack quite a punch.

Hunting

Linfep (the plural does not have an S) are vegetarians, and are the subjects of a hunt with phase bows in Temper. Melissa and Doug – the hunters – have to be quiet when approaching these shy creatures. A rustling in the undergrowth reveals one, which is dispatched with one shot.

Etymology

Like much of the Calafan language I have created, the name of this species is a compound word. Fep is also the name of the second-smallest star in that system, and the word means small. Lin means mouthful, so a linfep is a small mouthful, and a grown human or Calafan will want to eat more than one in order to be satisfied.

Portrait of a Character – Chandler (Chip) Masterson

Portrait of a Character – Chandler (Chip) Masterson
Actor Jason Bateman

Chip Masterson’s name was, perhaps, the easiest part of him to come up with. He’s homage to Star Trek Deep Space Nine actress Chase Masterson.

It wasn’t until Together that I established that he real first name is Chandler and, yes, that’s a connection to the show Friends.

However, I didn’t see Matthew Perry in the role. Instead, I see Jason Bateman, mainly because of his work on Arrested Development, where he is the level-headed person amidst all the crazies.

Chip, in my fanfiction, is sometimes level-headed, but also willingly joins in with the silliness, often as a partner in crime with Aidan MacKenzie. Chip definitely has a silly side and, in Together, he even dreams of doing stand-up in a little club on Risa.

On the NX-01

Chip starts off in Tactical, which is where he gets to know Aidan. However, by the time of Together, he has transferred over to Communications, acknowledging that he is a natural gabber and better suited at connecting people as opposed to blowing stuff up. Like Aidan, he’s an Ensign.

Movie Night

As the person with probably the best appreciation of the arts on the Enterprise, Chip picks the movies. He has eclectic taste, serving up everything from Stalag 17 to Dirty Dancing. In Broken Seal, he and Aidan, who acts as the projectionist, are even blamed for the problems with The Seventh Seal.

He also conducts a little discussion afterwards. Attendance is spotty at best.  In Intolerance, for Dirty Dancing, he talks about the soundtrack, which is a mix of 1960s and 1980s music, and has the attendees try to guess which decade a particular song came from.

Relationships

Chip and Aidan are not only friends, they are also roommates. Chip also appreciates Hoshi Sato as his boss. In the E2 stories I am currently writing, he also helps to train and accommodate the newest member of the Communications team, Crewman Maryam Haroun. Because Maryam is a Muslim and needs to pray several times per day, Chip’s night shift sometimes starts early or can end late, so that he can cover when Maryam is praying.

In Together, he helps Deborah Haddon pick up the pieces and they begin dating. By the time of Temper, she’s proposed to him, and they are married by the time of Fortune. During the initial celebration of the first child born to a crew member becoming a parent, he begins to thank the captain who corrects him and instead tells him that the celebration is for Malcolm.

Quote

“So this Klingon, an Andorian and a Vulcan walk into a bar. And the Klingon’s a male, super-tall. And he’s completely buck naked, except for a strategically placed piece of string to which there’s attached this note. So the bartender gets curious and he reads the note, which says …”

I’ve never finished the joke. Have at it in the Comments section if you’d like to write a punch line for Chip’s joke.

Mirror Universe

Chip in the MU has a lot more on his mind, and has no time for antics. He never switches over to Communications, and instead is promoted to run Tactical at the end of Reversal (his start in Tactical is shown in Paving Stones Made From Good Intentions). He also runs Game Night, intended to be the counterpart to Movie Night. He takes bets like a bookie (betting in the MU is canon) and collects like a loan shark.

Because Deborah is taken away from him, he ends up, eventually, as one of the Empress’s conquests, fathering her twins, Takara (the only girl) and Takeo. All of the Empress’s children have meaningful names. Takara means treasure while Takeo means warrior. These are her fourth and fifth eldest of the six total children, and are being raised to be as bratty as the others, as is shown in Coveted Commodity. In Temper, with its three separate alternative timelines, Chip’s fate differs. The only constants are Science Officer Lucy Stone, and his two children with the Empress. Fortune follows Chip to his later life, and He Stays a Stranger to a much later time in his life. As one of the only halfway decent people in the Mirror Universe, Chip represents a bit of hope in that wasted landscape.

Upshot

Portrait of a Character – Chandler (Chip) Masterson
Jason Bateman (mirror Chip)

Traveling the stars is serious business, and the Xindi and Romulan Wars were no laughing matter, but the crew always needed a release from unrelenting problems.  Without someone like Chip, life on the NX-01 would be so much tougher. Even the crew of the Enterprise needs a little whimsy in their lives, and for that, Chip’s your man.

Review – Crackerjack

Story Origins

Crackerjack was originally written as a gift for a younger fan who wasn’t really old enough to be reading my racier material. This fan likes Star Trek:The Next Generation, so I decided to set the story in that universe, but I didn’t want to be on the Enterprise, and I didn’t want to be dealing with too many of the characters.

As a story written for a young person, I wanted a young character, so I hit upon the idea of grabbing Wesley Crusher. He has often – completely legitimately – been criticized as being a “Mary Sue” type of character. This is a character who is impossibly good, impossibly smart, impossibly lucky, etc. It’s a parody of a true character. I wanted Wes to be a bit different.

I also wanted Geordi, as the story was to be about prejudging. Partly that was due to racism, and partly due to his obvious infirmity, blindness. As a pair, I felt they could work together, too, and would believably want to help each other. The title refers, not only to the treat served at ballgames, but also to “an exceptionally good person or thing”. The reader is left to determine just who really is crackerjack.

Ted Williams hits a home run!
Ted Williams hits a home run!

The story begins with an old man asking his grandchildren if they ever heard of the time he watched Ted Williams hit a home run. They clamor for a story and he obliges. His tale begins with the two friends returning from a ceremony on the Kreetassan home world, when they suddenly run into a strange cosmic phenomenon. The phenomenon throws them back in time, to Earth. Because the shuttle they are in is damaged, they are forced to make an emergency landing. Duke Ellington is playing on the radio, and there’s a reference to fighting in the Middle East, and to British residents needing to go to bomb shelters.

They need supplies in order to get back, so they will need to head into civilization.

Ted Williams - Boston - 1941 Home

They change their clothes so as to mimic period garb, but the visor sticks out like a sore thumb. A decision is made to outfit Geordi with sunglasses and carry the visor along in a duffle, if needed. They replicate some money and follow a river toward what they figure is the nearest town.

While in town, they sleep out in the open. In the morning, they realize they’ve been sleeping in a familiar place, at the foot of the statue of Lincoln, at the Lincoln Memorial. They’re in Washington, DC.

As Geordi waits, Wesley runs out to look for a place to get breakfast. It rains a bit, but then the rain stops. When Geordi puts his palm up to check if the rain has really stopped, someone presses coins into his hand, thinking he’s a panhandler. Wesley finds a lunch counter and leads Geordi there. When they enter, the proprietor refuses them service and they are directed to a sign on the wall that says, Whites Only.

A newspaper then reveals the date – September 1st, 1941.

How do they get to the ballgame? How do they get back? All can be revealed by reading, of course.

Racism

Star Trek often covers socially difficult subjects such as racism, so I wanted to confront it head-on. The time period, I feel, is a great one, as it is pre-war and pre-Jackie Robinson, but attitudes are starting, slowly, to change. Plus the presence of a Whites Only sign was very logical for the time and place in question.

Geordi, of course, was a logical subject for racism, in particular because his infirmity makes it impossible for him to actually see why people are prejudging him. Wesley works, not only as Geordi’s companion, but also as a wide-eyed observer who doesn’t understand why the people of the time are acting like they are – and why some are kind or even overly protective. The people of the time aren’t just one big mass. Some care, some act but are inept (such as an anonymous person giving Geordi charity), while others are pettily cruel.

Time and Place

One of the ways I set the scenes was with music of the time. Take the A Train is played, but so are The Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B, Stardust and Frenesi. Each chapter begins with a link to a YouTube video. The music is mostly horn-driven and tends to be from big bands.

The chapters also each begin with a picture. There’s Ted Williams, another is of a streetcar, another is of a row of brownstones, etc. The pictures are all in black and white, not only to evoke the sense of an old black and white film, but also to bring home the idea of racists seeing the world in terms of only black and white.

Furthermore, I wanted to evoke a bit of the old TOS episode, The City on the Edge of Forever, although that one takes place in 1930. One of the backdrops to the story is the prospect of imminent war, where bullets aren’t going to care one whit about the race of the person they strike. In Crackerjack, the bullets are going to be flying at Americans in only a little over three months’ time.

Interphasing

An interphase is a canon construction, and refers to a kind of temporal, spatial or somatic displacement, often without intention. While I handle interphases in other stories, I wanted this one to be more of an engineering problem, rather than a philosophical musing. For Wesley and Geordi, it’s a problem to be solved, rather than a reason to question existence.

Framing

Another aspect of the story is framing it as a tale told by an elder. The elder is Wesley, who you never otherwise see as an extreme elder. I wanted it to be his perspective and his long-term hindsight that would shape the narrative. Also, as Wesley learns about racism, I wanted him to be teaching his grandchildren the same lessons, that there are some people who don’t get along with others, and sometimes that’s for the most unfair reasons.

Memory is also key to this story, as it is about Wesley’s memories, but also the memories of the people they meet, and the memory of the reader about that time, or about what they’ve learned of that time, or what they, personally, have experienced of racism, and also of human decency.

But don’t worry about forgetting. Your memory has enough film in it.

Music

The music was great fun to put together.

Story Postings

Rating

The story is rated K.

Upshot

I was pleased with how this one turned out, but the problems are solved rather neatly and easily. If I were writing for an adult, I probably would have thrown in more obstacles, and I might have made the racism harsher than it was, but I like that it’s not quite as hard-edged. I don’t think I needed to really hit people over the head with it.

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Inspiration – Music

Inspiration – Music

Music is almost a constant in my writing. Characters might have individual or couple or group themes, or a story might have a theme, or even a series. Music can be used in order to evoke a particular mood or time period, and lyrics in particular might steer a plot.

In Between Days series

Inspiration – Music

For a major character like Lili O’Day, music evolves over time. She begins with the theme of Roy Orbison‘s Sweet Dream Baby, and then that evolves to Crowded House’s Something So Strong and then to Blind Melon’s Tones of Home until, finally Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams, as this is a character very much defined by her subconscious.

For Doug Beckett, his music, too, evolves, from Robbie Williams’s Feel to Snow Patrol’s Shut Your Eyes to Dog’s Eye View‘s Everything Falls Apart to, eventually, Billy Joel’s Honesty.

Other characters, like Pamela Hudson, only have one musical theme. When I heard Amy Winehouse’s You Know I’m No Good, Pamela suddenly sprang sharply into focus.

Times of the HG Wells series

For the Wells series, it’s all about time, so music is not only used to set moods, it’s also used to orient the reader as to time and place. Lyrics are displayed, at the beginning and end of each chapter, to continue to bring home the idea of a soundtrack to go along with the set pieces. In addition, character HD Avery is the “music guy” – he can sight-read music and can play piano, guitar and drums. He’s sent on all sorts of musical missions and even, at one point, refers to them as being like Rock ‘n Roll Heaven.

The first mission is about the day the music died, that is, it’s about the deaths of Holly, Valens and Richardson on February 3rd of 1959 in a plane crash in Clear Lake, Iowa.

Inspiration – Music

Because Avery has not yet been hired, Rick Daniels goes on the mission and, as a part of his preparatory work, he listens to music by all three of the musicians. From Buddy Holly, Daniels listens to Every Day and Rave On. From the Big Bopper (JP Richardson), he listens to Chantilly Lace and The Big Bopper’s Wedding. And from Ritchie Valens, Rick listens to La Bamba and Come On Let’s Go. Plus the name of that story, A Long, Long Time Ago, is the first line of Don MacLean’s song about that day, American Pie.

Interphases and Other Series

For the Interphases story Crackerjack, one of the first indications to Geordi and Wesley that there’s a problem is that they hear Take the A Train on the radio.

Inspiration – Music

In the Dispatches from the Romulan War Soldiers’ Marriage Project, the music provided for the many couples’ first dance is a duet by soprano Rosamund Taylor and pop singer Kurt Fong, singing an oldie that works for couples who are about to be separated by wartime and distance – Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.

For Take Back the Night, not only the title should be a tip-off that the Daranaean women are a bit sick of how they’ve been treated, as the first chapter opens with a quote and a link to the Beatles’ Revolution.

Coda

For written fiction online, a link to YouTube can provide a missing soundtrack, and a major or minor key cue to the reader about mood.

Inspiration – Music

Funny thing is, I can’t write while listening to music; I end up paying too much attention to it!

I hope I’ve gotten an appealing and appropriate soundtrack into your head as you’ve read. But if anything seems like it might be better, feel free to suggest it.

Portrait of a Character – Crystal Sherwood

Portrait of a Character – Crystal Sherwood

Crystal is the kind of person who is often underestimated in the world. Her education is fairly limited, but she knows more than a lot of people probably think.

First introduced in A Long, Long Time Ago, Crystal is busy cutting Temporal Agent Richard Daniels‘s hair when he asks her if she knows anything about historical fashions and haircuts. Her reply indicates not only knowledge, but interest in the subject matter, so Rick presents her as a candidate for the Quartermaster job opening at the Temporal Integrity Commission.

Look

Crystal Sherwood
Crystal Sherwood

I wanted Crystal to be a bit petite and young, but also very attractive and stylish. I hit upon the idea of Marnette Patterson after seeing her in Charmed.  The look, to me, is a good fit for a woman who is secure in her looks but not necessarily in her training or her intelligence. This is not a slam on the actress; this is just the look that I was seeking.

Tasks

While a computer could, conceivably, put together a look that would be consistent with a particular time period, I wanted for there to still be some room for error. For Crystal, the job is less about matching the obvious to a time period than it is to also match it to a particular effect needed. When Rick goes to a 1970 college campus in Ohio, she doesn’t just give him sideburns, she also makes sure that he looks young enough to be a graduate student, but old enough to be able to exert a little authority if necessary. She makes Sheilagh Bernstein (who also goes on that trip) look more like a typical coed, as Sheilagh is a trainee.

In Spring Thaw, she outfits Rick in a more old-fashioned style, despite the fact that it’s only a few years before the scenario in Ohio, as Rick is going to a Soviet bloc country.

Other Talents and Ideas

In Spring Thaw, she spends time helping with the decryption. It’s a particularly frustrating task for her, but her confidence is buoyed by Deirdre Katzman encouraging her.

By The Point is Probably Moot, she’s actively looking at alternate timeline scenarios.

In Ohio, she’s also busy fending off the attentions of HD Avery.

By the time of He Stays a Stranger, she goes on her first mission, and has an excellent idea of where the team can meet while planning to restore the main timeline.

Mirror Universe

Portrait of a Character – Crystal Sherwood

There are no impediments to Crystal existing in the Mirror Universe.

But as I write Star Trek: Enterprise fan fiction, Mirror Universe women are mainly chewed up and spat out. Unfortunately, I see that as her fate on the other side of the pond.

Quote

“After the Second World War ended, people didn’t have a lotta money, so it’s reflected in the fashions. They just didn’t have a lot of details. Look at the fifties – just a decade later – and it’s more youth-oriented, and then fast-forward another decade and it’s even more youth-oriented. There’s suddenly all these patterns.”

Upshot

Portrait of a Character – Crystal Sherwood
Crystal

Behind that pretty face, there’s a keen mind and a sensitivity and kindness. Book learning isn’t the only thing valued in the thirty-second century.

Underestimate Crystal at your peril.

Spotlight on Original Species – Daranaeans

Spotlight on Original Species – Daranaeans

Daranaeans are a wholly original sentient marsupial canid species. Pronounced: Da-ra-NAY-un.

What’s a Daranaean?

Barking up the Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Mistra | Daranaeans
Mistra, one of the Daranaeans (secondary female)

Daraneans are residents of Daranaea, a Minshara-class planet located near Klingon space, hence it has a tactical advantage.

As for the Daranaeans themselves, they are sentient marsupials with foxlike triangular faces and fur on most of their bodies. They are very canid in a lot of ways, including packlike behaviors for their social lives, but also their battle plans and even their ship designs.

I tend to use pointy-faced dogs, foxes or bats for pictures. Naturally, the reader will need to use his or her imagination a bit.

Castes

Females divide into three separate castes, depending upon the intensity of their smells. Prime Wives have the most privileges and the most education. Secondaries tend to do most of the reproductive heavy lifting. They also act as primary educators. Third caste females are generally relegated to manual labor, and may be illiterate. All females are sold into marriage, but Prime Wife marriages are generally from private arrangements without the need for a public auction. Wealthy Daranaean males, including members of the Beta Council and most higher-ranking military men, have a wife from each caste.

Pregnancy and Pouches

For Daranaean females, pregnancy has two parts, versus our three trimester configuration. There are about six months of a conventional-type pregnancy, and then another six with the infant in the mother’s abdominal pouch. Much like marsupials on Earth, the infant (called a pouchling at birth) is born very small and helpless. Unlike Earth’s marsupials, a Daranaean mother places the baby right inside the pouch, as opposed to requiring that it crawl there on its own.

Pouchlings nurse and sleep most of the time, and it’s important for the mother to keep the top of the pouch clear of obstructions. Therefore the tops that the women wear can be tied. This allows for air passage. The mother also sleeps on her back or her side while pouch feeding. When the pouchling is a good five months old or so, the mother can lift the top of the pouch to peer at the infant, if she wishes. However, the infant can get cold while doing so. This shouldn’t be done too frequently.

During this time, the mother sleeps with a soft baby blanket in order to pass her scent onto it.

Pouch Emergence

After about six months in the pouch, the pouchling is ready to emerge. First, a hand comes up and holds the top of the pouch. Then, the pouchling generally pushes down so as to get leverage, and may even use the front tied piece of its mother’s top in order to pull up and out.

Barking up the Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Barking up the Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Baby Inta | Daranaeans
Baby Inta, one of the Daranaeans (secondary female)

Once out, the mother cleans the infant and swaddles it, and wraps it in the blanket. Newly-emerged pouchlings can be called infants. They don’t hear or see very well, as a parallel to what newborn puppies are like.

After a few weeks, the infant attempts crawling, and soon will begin cruising and walking, much like a human infant. The baby still nurses, but solid foods can be introduced at a young age, as slightly pointed teeth erupt not too long after emergence. Because Daranaean women have four breasts (two inside the pouch, and two where we would normally see them), the emerged infant can still nurse for a while.

Childhood

Barking up the Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Seppa | Daranaeans
Seppa, one of the Daranaeans, a third caste female, as a child

Very young Daranaean children are kept at home and cared for by the older females. For a very young child, life at home is filled with basic learning such as getting along with others. The family may visit other families or go on trips, which can be educational or just for recreation. Seppa, at right, is only four years old in this picture. A somewhat typical day for Seppa is a part of Some Assembly Required.

Barking up the Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Cria | Daranaeans
Cria, a tween secondary female Daranaean

Young Daranaean children are home schooled. After several years, the males are sent to a big school, as are the Prime Wife females. This is for more advanced learning, such as is necessary for space travel. The other female children remain at home and can continue to be home schooled.

A Daranaean tween or teenager becomes interested in marriage and all that it entails, but marriages generally don’t occur until about ages eighteen to twenty or so. A young Daranean tween girl such as Cria, right, continues her home schooling and helps with chores and the care of her younger siblings, but also has time for some fun and for learning the household skills she will need as a wife. A fairly typical day for Cria is a part of Temptation.

Young Adulthood

Barking up the Muse Tree | Jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Seppa | Daranaeans
A Young Adult, Seppa

Young married Daranaeans are much like young marrieds in any culture or species, enjoying their new lives and working toward the future.

For young Daranaean wives, this means pregnancy or preparing for pregnancy, as the species suffers from Thylacine Paramixovirus and, as a result, big familes are needed in order to replenish the population. A young wife such as Seppa, aged eighteen here, might become pregnant very quickly, and be expected to begin raising a household full of children.

Daranean women of wealth do not work outside the home, as the care of children is paramount.

Daranaean men hold jobs, and there is still a monetary system in place. Doctors include Varelle and Trinning, reporters include Craethe, and Beta Councilors include Boestus and Elemus.

Later Adult Life

Barking up the Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Dratha | Daranaeans
Dratha, one of the Daranaeans (legendary Prime Wife)

For Daranaeans, later life changes, depending upon caste. Prime Wives, such as Dratha, pictured here, can live fairly long lives. For wealthy families, the Prime Wife is treated like a queen and is not expected to help with child care, although she can if she wishes.

Secondaries, such as Mistra and Cria, above, have children on a regular basis until menopause. The expectation is they will continue helping the young adult children prepare for life in their own households.

Third caste females, like Seppa, above, have children until menopause, when they are either euthanised or are donated or sold for medical experiments.

Daranaean men live out their lives and have the longest life expectancy of all.

Politics, Government and Justice

Barking up the Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Vidam
Adult Vidam, one of the Daranaens and son of Prime Wife Dratha

Daranaens have a government composed of an elected Alpha who is advised by an elected Beta Council, which meets regularly and is very open to the press. None of the women can vote, not even Prime Wives.

As a member of the Beta Council, Vidam (right) is expected to present bills, debate on them and vote. Voting in the Council Chamber is open and is accomplished by all of the representatives standing. Then the opponents of a bill sit. Anyone left standing is then counted as supporting the bill in question. A simple majority rules, but the Alpha can break ties. Abstentions are rare – much like dogs on Earth, Daranaeans mainly see their issues in black and white. A debate about granting Prime Wives the right to vote is part of Debate.

Trials are public, and the trial of a wealthy Daranaean, even a Secondary, is fodder for the press. There are no juries, rather, an accused is judged by a judicial panel. A trial is part of Take Back the Night.

Medicine

Aside from the generally fatal Thylacine Paramixovirus, most Daranaeans are usually in good health. Prenatal care is available for Prime Wives only. The other two castes are expected to care for each other. Their infants are delivered at home. Prime Wives deliver in hospitals.

Barking up the Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Young Trinning | Daranaeans
Trinning, one of the Daranaeans, as a child (son of a secondary)

Researchers, such as Trinning, at about age six here, work diligently to try to find a cure for the virus. Research is limited by budgets, training and time. The virus is somewhat similar to canine distemper and Newcastle Disease on Earth.

Daranaean Third Caste wives who are menopausal are sometimes sold for medical experiments,  as doctors need them to test vaccines.

First Contact, Friendships and Relationship with The Federation

First Contact was between the NX-02 Columbia and a pleasure craft owned by a wealthy Daranaean man, Elemus. It occurred in February of 2160, and did not go too well. First contact is a part of The Cure is Worse than the Disease.

Second contact went considerably better, and is a part of Take Back the Night. This generated some friendships between Daranaeans and humans, including Jonathan Archer and Seppa, and Malcolm Reed and Mistra.

In 2191, a young Inta went on a blind date with a human, Hank Harrison. While things did not work out romantically, the two became friends. Their date is a part of Hearts in Time.

Daranaeans became allies with the Federation, and called upon them later, and made themselves available as well.

Daranaean Future

Such a sexist society will need to change in order to continue to grow. Stay tuned. Big things are in store for the galaxy’s only sentient marsupials. I will post more insights!

Portrait of a Character – Charles Tucker III

Portrait of a Character – Charles Tucker III

Portrait of a Character – Charles Tucker III

Why the heck would I want to talk about a Star Trek: Enterprise canon character? After all, doesn’t Memory Alpha do a better job? For canon, yes. No argument here.

But what I am talking about is my own fanfiction. So I’ve got a different take on him.

Portrait of a Character – Charles Tucker III
Tripp Tucker (Conner Trinneer)

Tripp/Trip – What?

First off, I spell it as Tripp, with two P’s. Why? I knew a guy who was a third, and he spelled it that way. To me, one P just looks off. And I am well aware that readers may see the two P’s as being off. So be it. I recognize that this is me being quirky and stubborn, and certainly breaching canon. That cannot be any more than the people who, let’s see, make Tucker gay, make him bi or make him essentially a superhero. Not to mention the folks who insist that he didn’t die in These Are the Voyages.

It’s just a letter, folks.

Marrying Canon to Fanfiction

The writers did a lot to Tripp throughout the course of the show’s four seasons. He got pregnant, he had a relationship with First Officer T’Pol (a Vulcan), he was cloned, he rescued a princess, he lost his sister in the Xindi attack and he met his end, too. In all honesty, I had seen so much of him on screen that I was a bit sick of him when writing my own fiction. He was a major character on the show, but television shows are of a finite size. Therefore, the more screen time for him, the less for other characters.

For me, obliquely referencing him and his exploits often did the trick. In The Reptile Speaks, he’s mentioned in a teenager’s film about sex, as an example of unconventional relations. For the two teenagers talking about him, he’s a source of some amusement.

In Razor, he’s barely referenced, although his identity should be clear to the reader.

A Regular Guy

For me, one of the fun things about writing him is playing on his being, essentially, a regular Joe. In Letters from Home, a riff on the mail distribution scene in the film Stalag 17, he gets a lot of correspondence, but it’s not necessarily of the welcome kind.

In Waiting, he stands in the chow line with below decks characters Shelby Pike, Karin Bernstein, and Andy Miller, among others.

A Romantic Guy

Well, maybe not always heroically romantic. In Intolerance, he eagerly participates in the competition to woo the female medical students, and comments quite a bit on the woman he’s originally assigned to, Pamela Hudson.

In Together, he’s paired with Hoshi who, in the end, realizes that she doesn’t feel about him the way he feels about her.

As of this writing, I am working on a set of E2 stories, and his relationship with T’Pol is covered, including the cultural differences between them. For example, what Tripp sees as a symbol of commitment, T’Pol sees as a religious article – and not of her faith.

A Working Stiff

In Reversal, it is he who does most of the heavy calculations necessary, and he ends up risking his life in order to perform a rescue.

In Temper, he gives his all in service to the Federation, in what feels very much like a lost cause.

Theme Music

Not every character has a theme, but Tripp does, in Together.  The song is Matthew Sweet’s Sick of Myself. I particularly wanted this song for the line, “When I look at you, something is beautiful and true.” That story also has couples’ songs. His (with his partner) is Joe Jackson’s Kinda Kute. I wanted that one for its opening lyric, “You make a guy feel humble.”

The Mirror Universe

At the end of the second canon MU ENT episode, Tripp is about the only one of the main characters who is likely to survive to see another day. Severely scarred, bitter and angry, he epitomizes the skewed life led there.

Portrait of a Character – Charles Tucker III
Mirror Tripp (Conner Trinneer)

Apparently the makeup was intended to evoke the images of Christopher Pike in The Menagerie.

I have written the MU Tripp as being just as angry, but it’s later, so he’s sicker, and realizes he’s dying. He becomes gentler than he normally would be, and seeks solace with an old girlfriend,  Beth Cutler, who accepts him for who he is. In Reversal, the MU Tripp has a lot at stake, and plays off people against each other in an effort to save himself. It is, ultimately, his wish to save others that redeems him, in a way.

In Temper, the MU Tripp again shows a small degree of selflessness, and by doing so he helps to undo the lost cause which threatens the Prime Universe. As I write the MU, everyone is keenly aware of what they owe others, and Tripp is no exception. Since he owes Doug something, he recognizes the debt, and repays it.

In Fortune, the MU Tripp has come full circle but is still a bit wary about strangers. A dynasty is foretold, which shows a major divergence between his fate and that of the Prime Universe Tripp.

Demise

In the Prime Universe, his death is canon, so I don’t mess with that. He is mourned and remembered, and there’s even a charitable foundation named for him, mentioned in Fortune.

Quote

But we’re here to explore and to, to take risks. And I don’t think this is a foolish one.”

Upshot

I enjoy the character but, as I’ve mentioned, I think he was overused, often to the detriment of other characters. But he’s more than just engineering, an accent and a romance. In many ways, his observations are our observations, as an audience and, I hope, as readers.

Tucker is, as in canon, portrayed by actor Connor Trinneer.