Progress Report – September 2013

Progress Report – September 2013

September 2013 was productive.

Posted Works

Barking up the Muse Tree | Janet Gershen-Siegel | jespah | Quill | September 2013

The month began with posting Flip to Fanfiction.net. I also added Gremlins, Finnan Haddie, Bread and Escape. I posted There’s Something Else About Hoshi to Arch Angels.

On Ad Astra, I responded to the Steal All the Toys Challenge with I Got Married to the Widow Next Door, which takes place in trekfan‘s Chronicles universe. I enhanced The Cajun Caitian with Dear Naurr.

Also, for a weekly prompt about drinking to forget, I decided to concentrate on Carmen Calavicci, and posted It’s Not Really a Reset if you remember it. In addition, for a prompt about below decks characters, I gave some love to Crystal Sherwood, with Preparations (this included a shout-out to the Tellarite sport I’m developing, Kreesta).

I also posted a new Eriecho story, which expands Beats and The Mundane World and is a response to the Expand Your Mind Challenge, Recessive.

Milestones

Individual Read Counts

For individual read counts, the following stories have 20,000 or more on one URL –

In addition, for individual read counts, the following stories have 10,000 or more on one URL –

All of these were accomplished on Ad Astra.

More Accomplishments

Also, the following stories have between 5,000 and 9,999 reads on one URL –

Again, these numbers are all coming from Ad Astra.

Combined Read Counts

So apart from the others at over 5,000 reads for just one URL, the following combine to 5,000 – 9,999 reads when you consider all postings’ URLs –

WIP Corner

I continued adding to Play, which is the second story in the Barnstorming series. kes7 created a great playground for us to collaborate, so I worked on Paradox, a story crossing between Tesseract and Times of the HG Wells. Steff also added Lili as a shout out in her story, The Cajun Caitian, so I added a story where Lili and FalseBill‘s Naurr have a correspondence, and am hoping Bill and I can continue it and eventually place it on the archive.

Prep Work

I added to the Star Trek Expanded Universes Wiki. This included adding more linking to this blog, as I learned that it is proving to be a source of some traffic.

This Month’s Productivity Killers

As ever, the search for work continued, and it could sometimes be difficult to carve out time for myself.

Character Sexuality/Relationship Mixes

Boldly Reading’s Blog Prompt #10 asks about character sexuality in Star Trek Fanfiction. And character sexuality can be a bit of a minefield. Here’s what it asks –

Your Questions, Should You Choose to Accept Them

  • There has been a dearth of even minor characters with, shall we say, less mainstream sexual preferences and relationships. Often, a character would behave in this fashion if in the Mirror universe, or under some sort of duress. How would you change that?
  • What would happen to canon characters if their preferences or their relationships were changed? Beyond the obvious choice of bed partners, how would known characters change?
  • Are there circumstances under which characters would behave differently but still within the fullest context of canon?
  • Have you created any original characters who follow less mainstream preference/relationship models? How do you get across their inner workings without continually announcing in every other paragraph something like, I’m gay! Now, let’s get a pizza. ?
  • Television programs and films naturally cater to worldwide audiences and have investors for which they need to show profits. That can hamper all forms of creativity, including the creation of less mainstream characters of any sort, and not just in the sexual arena (e. g. minorities, obese persons, persons with disabilities, etc.). Throw away the budget! How would you rewrite a canon episode or film to showcase a character (main or not) with a less-mainstream preference?

Bonus questions!

  • Have you read others’ non-mainstream characters? Which are your favorites? And which relationships are the most believable? Which scenarios, outside of relationships, are most believable for these characters?
  • Again, throwing away the budget, what would you do if you could make your own new Star Trek series from scratch, where at least one or two characters would be out of the mainstream? How would you handle showing the differences for HBO, or PBS, or ABC Family, if any of those networks deigned to carry your show?
  • Do you read slash (male-male relationships) or femme slash (female-female relationships), either on Ad Astra or elsewhere? Aside from PWP, how did the authors bring home ideas about their characters’ sexuality? Was it clichéd? Did it succeed? Was it hit or miss?

Bringing True IDIC to Canon

What happens when we alter canon characters?

Barking up the Muse Tree | Jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Nurse Chapel and a female crew member | Character Sexuality
Barking up the Muse Tree | Jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Nurse Chapel and a female crew member

Is it as simple as having, say, Nurse Chapel from The Original Series mooning over Uhura or another female crew member, rather than Spock?

Does the character lose anything? Does the storyline?

Do we, as the members of the audience (or the readers, as the case may be) lose sympathy for her if her object of affection is of the same sex as she?

Chapel and Spock
Chapel and Spock

And this scene, from Plato’s Stepchildren, would have a far different subtext.

Or flip it again. What if, in that episode, Parmen had the two kissing couples (Kirk and Uhura are the others, in what was one of the first interracial kisses broadcast on American television) switch partners in a few different ways?

When Chapel and Uhura are forced to kiss, or Kirk and Spock, how do we react as an audience? Do we cheer? Or does it repulse us? Do we shrug as if we’ve seen it all before? Do we react cynically, figuring this type of character sexuality is just a ploy to bring in more ratings?

I hope this sort of change would not elicit revulsion. And I certainly hope it would intelligently amp up the drama. Truthfully, if the episode were being aired today, it would likely be far more than kissing. Or at least such that would be the implication. It would be Platonian porn. And that porn would not have to be male-female.

IDIC Original Characters – Character Sexuality Matters

Barking up the Muse Tree | Jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Luke MacFarlane as Frank Todd (image is for educational purposes only) | Character Sexuality
Luke MacFarlane as Frank Todd (image is for educational purposes only)

I’ve enjoyed adding different character sexuality.

Diana Jones, Preece Ti, Leonora Digiorno and Leah Benson are all lesbians. Melissa Madden is bi. Preston Jennings, Dave Constantine, and Luke Donnelly are all gay men.

And then there’s Frank Todd.

Frank started off as a protest against various homophobic slurs I was seeing on Trek United several years ago. I wanted a tough but kind character, and so I wrote him into There’s Something About Hoshi and gave him a prominent role. He is so friendly to Hoshi, and so protective of her, that the Arisians even think they are a couple.

Boy, are they ever wrong.

Stability

Truth be told, Frank and Dave’s relationship in that story was far more stable and assured than Hoshi and Ted’s. Ted Stone comes across as kind of wimpy, and certainly shy and anything but an Alpha Male, worshiping Hoshi, more or less from afar.

Frank and Dave, in contrast, have an easygoing affection. Understated, yes, but they look at each other lovingly and there is a great deal of feeling behind Frank saying, “I’ll see you later.” The subtext should be – I can’t wait to see you later.

It was particularly satisfying to add more depth to them, in the E2 stories and also in Detached Curiosity and Idle Speculation and its sequel, The Way to a Man’s Heart. The latter is in the context of a celebration of Turing/Stonewall Week, meant to be a week in June devoted to gay rights and accomplishments.

I love this character so much that I am hunting around for more places to feature him. After all, Frank does more than date.

Favorite IDIC Characters from Others’ Works

Give it up for Andy in SLWalker’s One Minute!

What I like about Andy is that he’s a fully realized character. He has body parts that aren’t genitalia. He has a storyline that isn’t wholly about sex.

For Andy, who wants to reach the shadow, it only starts off as being about sex. It very quickly becomes more about human contact. Why is the shadow shunning it? What could possibly hurt that much? Is there any way for the shadow to be healed?

Throwing out the Budget: A New Show with IDIC

If I had full control over a Star Trek series, I would love to be able to add at least one or two IDIC characters, and not necessarily in the context of being a couple. Surely there is room for a character like Jake Sisko, or Chakotay or Chapel, who has a same-sex preference?

Or let’s go for broke.

Maybe that person is the captain.

HBO

For a channel which showed naked men before and more frequently than most others, this possible series can show a lot more flesh. I think the trick would be to keep it from being almost a bodice-ripper.

Excuse me, codpiece-ripper.

It might even be a struggle with the network suits to show exploration, and get the characters out of their bedrooms. I can see it working as almost a modern-day version of Hill Street Blues, a show that had rather gritty police realism but then, at the end, it was often an image of Furillo and Davenport in bed together. It was network television and it was the 1980s and so they were talking with a kiss or two and not much else. But they were still there.

Archer and Daniels in the deep future
Archer and Daniels in the deep future

I can see the time period for this series as possibly being in the deep future, much like Times of the HG Wells.

The extreme future could also allow for showing more interspecies relationships, including bedroom scenes and all sorts of character sexuality.

PBS

With this more factually-based network, I can see storylines becoming more documentary-like in look and feel. Because I love the earlier years of Trek, I can see it in a pre-ENT time period.

Lily Sloane and Zefram Cochrane in 2063
Lily Sloane and Zefram Cochrane in 2063

For a grittier time, maybe even pre-First Contact (e. g. before April of 2063), the Earth would be a post-nuclear horror. Bedroom time would be more urgent and a lot tougher to come by. People would be scratching out their survival. Hence a shaky camera-type realistic story line could work. And what could be more real than a team or a family or a crew or a group or a movement that wasn’t a monolith?

There is also no reason why some of the people involved in building the first warp ship couldn’t be gay, lesbian or intergender. Or trans.

ABC Family

With a far more restrictive network, it used to be that intimations of less-mainstream sexuality had to be a lot more metaphoric. And the same was more or less true of heterosexuality. While a kiss between a man and a woman could be perfectly acceptable, having them wake up in bed together in anything other than pajamas after a good night’s sleep was just plain not going to fly. For a gay or lesbian couple, even a kiss could have been going too far. Would so much as hand-holding be a problem?

Actually, no.

Setting the Pace

During the 2010 – 2011 season, GLAAD cited ABC Family as being one of the more inclusive networks, with the lesbian character, Emily, in Pretty Little Liars. Their praise for ABC Family continued into the 2012 season, in GLAAD’s Network Responsibility Index report. Even for a network with the word ‘family’ in its very name, times have changed. Hence all sorts of character sexuality are embraced and welcomed, and aren’t just cast as victims, self-loathing suicides or criminals.

Scheduled fun for students on Voyager
Scheduled fun for students on Voyager

For ABC Family, I feel that a Starfleet Academy scenario could work the best. This would provide storylines surrounding coming of age, and that can mean discovering and communicating to others about character sexuality.

This might work best in a post-Nemesis time period, where the technology could be bigger and brighter but not wholly unfamiliar and, if not set too deeply into the future, guest characters could believably interact with the new series’s characters.

Slash

Perhaps the hardest sell for a lot of people is slash, and the problem is that it is often misunderstood as to what slash truly is. In its original form, it was TOS-based, and it showed a sexual relationship between Kirk and Spock, essentially pulling their friendship to the extreme.

Slash takes tons of forms, e. g. m/m (two men), f/f (two women), chanslash (underage children), original slash (both characters are original ones), etc. It also does not, necessarily, contain overt sexual situations or behaviors (reverse slash). Then there’s also PWP (porn without plot; or plot, what plot?), which is pretty overt porn with little to recommend it beyond basic titillation.

While I have read slash, and I enjoy excitement as much as the next person, I’ve found straightforward PWP to get unintentionally amusing after a while. Hence I personally tend to stay away from it, but that’s for all forms of character sexuality that it may showcase. I kinda like plot with my sexy stories. But hey, that might just be me.

Plot and Ponn Farr

Contamination by Odon is a femmeslash story about Hoshi and T’Pol that brings together Pon Farr and bi-curiosity in a way that is safe for teens (the story is, to my mind properly, rated T) but gets across the characters’ sexuality immediately. Could this even work on a more conservative network?

Hoshi and T'Pol
Hoshi and T’Pol

I don’t see any reason why not. Hell, it’s actually a bit less sexy than what the UPN network was really showing when ENT was in first-run.

Upshot

Character sexuality is as much a part of a person as their eye color or their height, and it’s just as mutable, particularly after maturation. To create a ship or a series with absolutely no one with an alternative view is downright unrealistic. The percentage of out-and-out 100% homosexual persons is rather small, but the percentage of people who are bi, bi-curious and/or sympathetic to gay rights is considerably higher.

There is a lot of room under the umbrella called Star Trek, and fan fiction proves that anyway, by bringing poetry, different pairings, horror stories, alternative timelines, expanded universes, original characters, and extremely long story arcs which can work side by side with what happened on screen and in the officially sanctioned books.

To keep non-mainstream sexuality out of Star Trek is a misplaced notion.

IDIC for the win!

Review – Atlas

Atlas Background

Atlas gives Jay a backstory.

In response to a weekly prompt about painting a scene, I submitted Atlas. As far back as Reversal, I had described Titania as a kind of Southerners’ paradise. This story gave me an opportunity to showcase that.

Plot

In late April of 2133, Jay is a sergeant and is under a Major Ian Landry. Savvy fanfiction readers will recognize Landry as being one of Doug‘s kills, in the Mirror Universe, as described in Fortune.

Barking Up The Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | In Between Days | Atlas
In Between Days

The MACO unit has just gotten an assignment to Titania.

While Jay is an NCO, the military presence is new. Hence not all of the barracks buildings are up. Therefore, even though he isn’t supposed to, he must bunk with the enlisted personnel.

Jay meticulously sets up his area, following every regulation down to the minutest detail. His neighbor, Mercer, is a lot less careful. Plus the remainder of the enlisted men only imperfectly execute the unpack order. Only Jay gets everything right.

English: False color image of Titania.
English: False color image of Titania. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As a result, he gets Cinderella Liberty, and takes his time off to go to the Bar District of New Natchez. He has some small adventures, and even sees a woman who will eventually turn out to be Susan Cheshire, although he does not approach her.

Story Postings

Rating

The story is Rated K.

Upshot

I like the little look into Jay’s background. At the time, I was writing The Three of Us, and it struck me that I had very little on Jay’s background, and that needed to be rectified. There are a lot more stories I could tell about Jay; I have barely scratched the surface there.

Inspiration – Pets

Pets and Origins

Pets inspire. A lot of my characters come from, in one way or another, people I have known. But some come from animals.

Dogs

I am a dog person and make no secret of the fact. The first dog character I wrote in Star Trek fanfiction was the Star Trek: Enterprise canon character, Porthos, in The Adventures of Porthos.

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

Caitians of course are canon, and they are felinoid. So the idea was to respond directly to that, with a canid species. I had been reading about the marsupial wolf and so the two ideas were combined, and the Daranaeans were born.

 A Dog’s Eye View

Their personalities tend to be canine, too, from their pack-like hierarchy to their desire to sleep communally to the lower castes’ need to serve. The pack structure is shown off in The Cure is Worse Than the Disease and Beta individuals challenging the Alpha are shown in Take Back the Night.

In the upcoming Barnstorming series, their sports are even doglike, including mazes (based upon lure coursing), ring throwing (based upon frisbee) and staggered relay (based on agility).

The hyperactivity of the press parallels, in particular, terriers that I have known. The sentient marsupial canids are great fun to write.

Cats

M'Roan, a Caitian | Pets
M’Roan, a Caitian

I am allergic to cats and have never had one as a pet. However of course I have known plenty of felines as pets. For Caitian character Parenelsa, her shyness is absolutely based on shy and withdrawn cats, as in The Further Adventures of Porthos – The Stilton Fulfillment. But Ambassador Gopalahr, and the explorer, M’Roan, are a lot more adventurous. M’Roan was shown off to quirky effect in A Single Step.

In The Continuing Adventures of Porthos – The Future Cat, I confess I was a bit nervous about writing Spot, Data’s cat.

Lizards

We had an iguana when I was very young. So I have thought a bit about Iggy when creating reptile characters.

A Xindi Reptilian
A Xindi Reptilian

These include Skrol and Bron, D’Storlin and my favorite, the best-realized one, Kevin O’Connor.

I have tried to play against type with all of them, giving them more warmth and depth and trying to stay away from the simple idea of ‘coldness’.

Upshot

Inspiration is all around; you just have to know where to look for it. You might even be scratching it behind the ears right now.

Original Characters and Settings

Original Characters and Settings

Original characters are a lot of fun.

So Boldly Reading asked, in Blog Prompt #9, about original characters and original settings.

  • What’s the best setting for an original character? Is it as a lone figure, thrust into a canon ship or situation? In a group of original characters but still in a canon ship, situation or series? Or as a stand-alone crew, group, political party or other agglomeration of individuals?
  • When do original characters and scenarios tip the scale from new spins on familiar works to out and out non-Trek? Is there a bright line between Star Trek and not-Star Trek?
  • How can original character love interests be integrated into a more canon scenario? What about original character leaders?

Plus

  • For canon characters who have very little back story or screen (or authorized book) time, what’s the tipping point between when canon converts into what is, for all intents and purposes, an original character?
  • Also, for representations of canon characters in fan fiction that are not well-portrayed (e. g. the author misses the mark and does not accurately represent the canon character’s language, ideals, vision, etc.), can the situation be salvaged by rewriting the story with an original character?
  • For original settings, what makes them unique? Can an original setting be so extraordinary that it, in a way, almost becomes a nonliving type of Mary Sue?

Bonus questions!

  • Who are some of your favorite original characters that you have created? Do you feel they fulfill their purposes?
  • What happens when you take a Mary Sue test?
  • What are some of your favorite original settings that you have created? Did they work?
  • Who else’s original characters do you enjoy reading the most, and why?
  • Are there others’ original settings that you like reading the most? What makes those original settings your favorites?

A Cast of Hundreds

When I last checked, I had created over 300 original characters to encompass various scenarios. These included figures from as far back as 1775 (including Benjamin Warren)

The Lone Original Character

Barking up the Muse Tree | Jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Yvonne Nelson as Susan Cheshire (image is for educational purposes only)
Yvonne Nelson as Susan Cheshire (image is for educational purposes only)

I’ve found that I rarely do this, as I love making original characters so much that I just can’t resist tossing in several as points and then counterpoints and then even more.

A Hazy Shade is one example of, truly, there only being one original character. In that story, the sole original character is Jonathan Archer‘s wife, a Calafan named Miva. Other single-OC stories include Atlas, with its very brief glimpse of Susan Cheshire, and Penicillin, which is an interplay between canon character Jay Hayes and Lili O’Day. For all of those stories, they are short and the OC (except for in Atlas) acts as a sounding board and a counter to the canon character.

A Small Bouquet of Original Characters

Perhaps the best example of this is in The Light, where Jewish crew members get together to remember a lost life and to celebrate Chanukah. Because none of the canon ENT characters are known to be Jewish, the story would have rung hollow if I had tried to shoehorn someone in, such as deciding that Hoshi Sato is suddenly Jewish. While that is not an impossible situation, it was unlikely. Further, I wanted the Jewish characters to be young people, more or less fresh out of school. Hoshi would not fit into that fairly limited scenario.

Barking Up The Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Seth Green as Josh Rosen (image is for educational purposes only) | Original Characters
Seth Green as Josh Rosen (image is for educational purposes only)

Therefore, The Light centers around Ethan Shapiro, Karin Bernstein, Andrew Miller and Josh Rosen, with a quick appearance by Muslim crew member Azar Hamidi. The seven main canon characters all make appearances, though.

A Larger Bevy of Original Characters

In order to best accommodate the E2 scenario, I needed to fill the NX-01 with people. This meant making sure that all of the women were accounted for, along with a lot of the men. People would flit in and out as the story line is somewhat episodic and the chapters can often read like vignettes.

I could use several characters I had already created, such as Deborah Haddon.  And that not only saved me ramp-up time but also dovetailed rather nicely into my preexisting fanfiction. After all, if I said that Deborah was on the ship in 2157, in Reversal, then it made sense for her to have also been on the ship in 2154, when the ship was kicked back in time, in Reflections Down a Corridor and Everybody Knows This is Nowhere.

Message Characters

I also made characters to make specific points, such as Mara Brodsky and Robert Slater, as I wanted someone to be cuckolded. When Slater was cuckolded by a canon character, Walter Woods, that worked well with marrying canon and original characters – and eventually quite literally marrying them. Original characters were also created in order to fulfill certain roles on the ship, as Communications would have to be handled on second shift and night shift. Maryam Haroun and Chip Masterson, respectively, fulfilled those roles.

Lone or Few Canon Characters

Barking up the Muse Tree | Jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Henry Rollins as Boris Yarin, MD (image is for educational purposes only)
Henry Rollins as Boris Yarin, MD (image is for educational purposes only)

The best example of this is in the HG Wells stories. As Temper makes clear, the sole canon character is Richard Daniels. Richard needs a support team, which includes people like Boris Yarin and Crystal Sherwood. By giving Rick occasional missions to the NX-01 or elsewhere in canon, and having him eventually need to confer with ancestor Malcolm Reed, I was able to provide more canon credibility to these stories.

In the upcoming Barnstorming series, the few main canon characters are Martin Madden and Wesley Crusher, but the crew of the Enterprise-E is seen, as Madden lives and works there. Keeping a few canon characters on hand, I feel, can make a story a lot more Trek.

Canon Characters Begone!

Barking up the muse tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | The truth about Bron | Original Characters
The truth about Bron

The Eriecho series is 100% fanfiction characters, and it will likely stay that way, as are Gina Nolan‘s universe and the Bron-Sophra-Skrol-Tr’Dorna group. Even without canon characters, the situations or the history or the species can bring back the Trek part.

For example, Eriecho’s story arises from the events in the JJ Abrams timeline. Whereas Gina’s world comes from the Dominion War. Bron and Skrol are Gorn, Tr’Dorna is a Xindi Reptilian and Sophra is a Cardassian. These three canon species bring that story line squarely into Trek, I feel.

Full Originality

Will I ever write a story with 100% original characters, 100% original species and completely outside of any sort of canon scenarios? At that point, I feel it starts to tip perilously close to not-Trek. But there are a ton of canon scenarios, and those can include very non-canon people being off their ships. After all, characters are born, have relationships and possibly marriages, have families, have jobs and retirements, and they also die. Just because a kiss between a Gorn and a Cardassian has not been shown on screen – or between two completely original species, such as a Calafan and a Daranaean – does not mean it’s wholly not-Trek.

But I do recognize that it can be a far harder sell to the reader. For such a scenario, the reader, I feel, should read earlier work in preparation. That can bring these original species into the Trek-like fold.

Adding Original Details to Canon Characters

In many ways, this is the very purpose of fan fiction. It is to fill in the blanks where canon left off. Or a show was subject to cancellation too soon, etc. The three canon characters I have done this the most with have been Malcolm Reed, Jay Hayes and Richard Daniels. Have I done well by them? I like to think so, but it’s hard to say (and it is particularly difficult as all come from ENT).

Malcolm Reed

During ENT, this character was the tantalizing fourth or fifth of seven. He was sometimes the sixth, but rarely in the top three and virtually never first. This is when it came to storyline development, writer affection or plot twists. Even when the storyline centered around Malcolm, he never seemed to get his due.

Fan fiction has allowed me to give him a wife and a child, and it has allowed me to give him quirks like lactose intolerance and personal interests like crossword puzzles. Stay tuned, as there is a lot more Malcolm to come!

Jay Hayes

Barking up the Muse Tree | Jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Steven Culp as Major Hayes
Steven Culp as Major Hayes

For a character seen in five episodes and who only had a first initial, I have given him ex-girlfriends, an earlier posting on Titania, and an alternate timeline wife and two children. Along the way, Jay also got a love of blueberries and was also not too adventurous in his diet, never having tried either figs or parsnips until prompted to do so.

Will there be more Jay? I adore this character and so I’ll find a way, but right now I don’t have anything specific planned.

Richard Daniels

For a character with no first name, he’s gotten a reputation as a ladies’ man, a pair of somewhat more serious ex-girlfriends, and a great love. His off-hand canon statement of being mostly human led to not only working out how he was put together, but it also led to a thought experiment about unlikely hybrids, resulting in characters like Boris Yarin and Kevin O’Connor.

Richard flits in and out of my fiction and he may or may not turn up again. Because of Multiverse II, I’ve seen more interest in the HG Wells universe, so it’s very possible that he and his group will get new adventures, much like Another Piece of the Action.

Original Settings

From the start of In Between Days, I decided humans would have, even by 2151, colonized all available surfaces within the Solar System. This means the planet Mars but also a ton of moons, such as Titan, Titania and Ganymede. To give these locations some spice, I decided on some set characteristics. For example Titaniais a Southerner’s paradise. Plus Martian cities are all named after metals.

The E2 stories allowed for more original settings, including writing Phnom Penh during the Third World War and three new planets, Paradise, Amity and Speakeasy. In order to give the latter three believability, they got certain problems. Paradise is often too hot, and there are no natural pollinators. Amity has poisonous malostrea. And Speakeasy isn’t supposed to exist at all, and is only dimly lit.

Favorites and Mary Sues

Of course I love Lili O’Day, and I strive to keep her out of Mary Sue territory. She burns things. And she often avoids people. She gets jumpy and nervous and it is not necessarily endearing.

Barking Up The Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Naomi Watts as Lili O'Day (image is for educational purposes)
Naomi Watts as Lili O’Day (image is for educational purposes)

In Everybody Knows This is Nowhere, she is particularly unfair to José Torres. She does, at times, fail the Mary Sue test, I admit. But I believe that her overall arc comes down rather favorably on the believable end of things. She does have a lot of adventures. Plus I do spend a lot of time on her. But that’s also because I love the character so much.

The Raw Deal Characters

Pamela Hudson, another favorite, more or less stays out of Mary Sue territory due to her often sour disposition and her many screw-ups in life. Things turn out for the best for her, but she has a tougher row to hoe than Lili does.

Eriecho stays out of the world of Mary Sue due to her poor upbringing and her violent past. I’ve barely scratched her surface; time in Canamar is not fun. As I unwrap more layers of this character, I think she will leave Mary Sue far, far behind.

Barking up the Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Edward Norton as Levi Cavendish (image is for educational purposes only) | Original Characters
Edward Norton as Levi Cavendish (image is for educational purposes only)

Levi Cavendish stays well away from Mary Sue, even though he’s a genius, because he’s so damned messed up.

Otra D’Angelo has her own weaknesses, even though she has what is essentially a psionic-style gift for seeing temporal alternatives. But it gets her a pretty raw deal with the enemy.

People often call canon character Wesley Crusher a Mary Sue. A lot of people love to hate this character. I’ve done my best to try to rehabilitate him, particularly in Crackerjack.

Love for Others’ Babies

Captain Sarine‘s Kalara is perhaps the best-realized female Klingon I have either seen or read. I’ve also enjoyed the interplay of thebluesman‘s Captain Dylan and Dr. West. Miranda Fave‘s wacky Tabatha (don’t call me Tabby!) Chase and her crew get things done with few stuffy conventions and a lot of flair. And Mistral‘s Shand feels very much like a real alien person. Enough like us to be someone we could work with, but enough unlike to keep us a bit … unsettled.

In the scenery department, kes7‘s Tesseract universe puts together a crazy-advanced ship with the right kinds of off-kilter people who can make it run. And trekfan‘s overall Hank and Bethany mythos brings those two original characters from home to the Pearl to marriage and domesticity, and eventually to Hank’s end.

Upshot

I cannot imagine fan fiction without original characters. Plus I confess it often dismays me when people do not try to write them. Even poorly realized Mary Sue are, at least to me, an attempt to go outside oneself. They mean people are stretching those creative muscles. For me, original characters and scenes, I feel, take it all to the next level.

Damn, I’m gonna go out and make myself some more characters!

‘Cause 300+ just aren’t enough.

Portrait of a Character – Levi Cavendish

Portrait of a Character – Levi Cavendish

Levi Cavendish has a wacky history.

Origins

Before I began writing Star Trek fan fiction, I had a time travel series in a kind of embryonic state. The inventor of the technology, who would be the director and also a bit of a difficult person, but also the lover to Otra D’Angelo, was to have the name Levi Cavendish. But then I started writing Trek fan fiction, and Levi turned out quite differently. I like him a lot better these days. He’s really gotten a lot more character development in Multiverse II, including becoming temporally paradoxical, and vanishing from existence.

He is also, along with Otra, the developer of Otric Theory. Levi named it after her, an act that he does not recognize was out of affection. But at least Otra knows.

Portrayal

Levi is played by Edward Norton. I particularly love him from the Fight Club era.

Barking up the Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Edward Norton as Levi Cavendish (image is for educational purposes only)
Edward Norton as Levi Cavendish (image is for educational purposes only)

He just looks as itchy and twitchy as I think of Levi.

An actor playing Levi has got to be someone who is smart and creative. However, ultimately, he must also be hamstrung by a bunch of different tics, quirks and downright disabilities. I believe Norton can really do that.

Levi’s got major issues.

Personality

Portrait of a Character – Levi Cavendish
Yes, Levi is this weird (Edward Norton)

Squirrely, nervous and suffering from a number of personality disorders, Levi is a misunderstood and underestimated genius. Nobody seems to get him, except for Otra D’Angelo. And even she doesn’t always.

His home is decorated in stills from the Twilight Zone and other bits of classic science fiction memorabilia. His wardrobe is mainly uniforms for the Temporal Integrity Commission, or functional things. Beauty, aesthetics, and form don’t really hold much meaning for him, except as they serve function.

With Adult ADHD, high-level autism, hyperactivity, occasional stuttering and an inability to look most people in the eye, it’s a wonder that Levi can get anything done at all. He has a wacky fundamentalist mother who changes her religion as often as many people change their socks. Plus there’s a father who abandoned the family years ago. And he now has a court order to spend time with Levi (and can’t wait until Levi’s thirtieth birthday, to be freed of his obligations), it’s a wonder that Levi is even on the same planet as sanity.

Relationships

Otra D’Angelo

Levi is odd enough that he knows that he will do lots of things for Otra. However, he does not truly comprehend that his actions are out of love. Even in his dreams, when he can get the girl, his romantic line to her is, “My foot hurts.”

So yeah, he’s pretty messed up.

Theme Music

Levi’s crazy antics spell sped-up rap-type patter to me.

But this one really speaks to me about Levi, from the fast talking to the weird-looking lead singer to the hard to hear Spanish chatter, Wall of VoodooMexican Radio.

Mirror Universe

Portrait of a Character – Levi Cavendish
Mirror Levi (Edward Norton)

There’s no reason why Levi can’t have a Mirror Universe counterpart. However, it’s likely that someone as messed up as all that would not survive for very long on the other side of the pond.

Hence, I can see a Mirror Levi as not being autistic or hyperactive at all, or not for long, if he was ever to have a prayer of surviving past about his tenth birthday. Instead, his genius would be ruthless. Plus he would be cruelly efficient and perhaps even sadistic. He would probably be an extremely scary individual.

Quote

“Can’t hear chatter on the comm anymore. Throw the pies at the Chilo, Maren. Please.”

Upshot

This character was not truly, fully realized until Multiverse II. But now he’s a much better and more deeply three-dimensional character than ever before. I like him, no matter how much he might annoy or at least baffle the other characters.

Review – The High Cost of Dissidence

Review – The High Cost of Dissidence

The High Cost of Dissidence gives Charlotte her say.

Background

In Reversal, when he’s unsure whether he’ll be separated from Lili, Doug investigates Lili’s Mirror Universe counterpart.

Barking Up the Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Hall of Mirrors | The High Cost of Dissidence
Hall of Mirrors

In Fortune, Norri refers to that counterpart as Charlotte. Lili and Charlotte begin life somewhat similarly, but things diverge rather quickly. For one thing, Charlotte has a little brother, Declan (and, when Lili and Malcolm have a child, they name him Declan Reed in honor of the boy with no counterpart).

In addition, much as is shown in Paving Stones Made From Good Intentions, Charlotte goes away to boarding school at a young age. At the time of The High Cost of Dissidence, Charlotte is nine, and Declan O’Day is seven. Hence he is close to starting boarding school as well.

Plot

The story begins with Charlotte coming home from school, for the first time in months, and noticing that things are not right. She may be young, but she’s no fool. Hence she figures out quickly that the family’s expensive and fancy possessions are no more. There is no more car. There is no more flash cooker. Most of the furniture is no more. And her parents are arguing.

Review – The High Cost of Dissidence

What are they arguing about? It’s Pete, her father. He’s ruined them all, by carelessly mentioning that things under Emperor Philip Green IV (the same emperor as the one defeated by Hoshi in Throwing Rocks at Looking Glass Houses) are less than optimal. He has lost his job, his wife, Marie Helêne, can no longer sell her pottery, and they are falling, ever and onward, into financial ruin. Things are not going to get any better, but at least they are together.

And then, much like happened in Nazi Germany, there’s an ominous knock on the door.

Story Postings

Rating

The story is Rated T.

Upshot

One of the easiest ways for the suspension of disbelief to come crashing down, when it comes to the Star Trek Mirror Universe, is the sameness of the lives of the counterparts, particularly given the backgrounds of violence, fear and intimidation in most of the episodes centered around this alternate universe. Although it is, technically, possible to have an evil version of everyone but nearly all else be the same (including parentage), the likelihood just plain isn’t there.

Therefore, when I was first spinning out Reversal, I decided Lili’s counterpart would have a brother. So he would, unevenly, not show up in the prime universe. Furthermore, the biggest divergence between the two Lili/Charlotte counterparts occurs here, and I had not written it before. Readers only glimpsed Charlotte and her mother in a photo, and they never saw Declan and Peter O’Day.

I like how it turned out; it rips off the sexy, campy veneer of the Mirror Universe and exposes it as the totalitarian nightmare that it should be.


You can find me on .

Spotlight on Alien Hybrids

Background

Alien hybrids are 100% Star Trek canon. Spock is one, Worf’s lover, K’Ehleyr, is one, their son Alexander is one, etc.

Barking up the Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Alexander | Alien Hybrids
Alexander, an alien hybrid (his parents are both human-Klingon)

For hybrids, I imagine that life is not easy. Even Worf, who is not a hybrid, but was raised by human adoptive parents, could not fail to get into what we would call trouble. Which is what most Klingon families would simply refer to as defending honor.

Fitting In

I write most hybrids as having some adjustment issues. Adolescence, in particular, has got to be difficult. But adults, particularly talented ones, are going to be a bit better situated.

Barking up the Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Spock | Alien Hybrids
Spock

Consider Spock, the best-known hybrid of them all.

His backstory is loaded with teasing and other evidence of not being accepted. The vaunted tolerant Vulcans aren’t so tolerant when their race is mixed with another’s. This attitude is reflected by a lot of the Vulcans in the earlier seasons of Star Trek: Enterprise.  T’Pol, Soval, and others often look down their noses at humans. And in the fourth season, we humans do it right back to them, as John Paxton has a human-Vulcan hybrid created, Elizabeth Tucker, and the intention is to repulse everyone. But the opposite occurs, and Elizabeth’s death is haunting to not only her parents, Tripp and T’Pol, but also to others who will eventually form the Federation.

Overcompensation

Like we can see happen in the real world, people who don’t easily fit in can often overcompensate, and try to be better than everyone. Is that what happens with the canon character, K’Ehleyr? Possibly. But she’s also immensely talented.

Barking up the Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | K'Ehleyr
K’Ehleyr | Alien Hybrids

It’s not overcompensation if you really are that good.

But I can’t help feeling that, sometimes, the writers may have overdone it with her. She can sometimes feel a little bit like the John Prentice character in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? and can be a little too good to be true.

Add in a tragic ending and then there’s no way to tarnish her halo, eh?

My Own Hybrid Characters

They run the gamut. And the deeper future should, I feel, have a lot more alien hybrids, and in all manner of different combinations. IDIC means embracing a lot that we, today, would find more than a little peculiar. Here are some stand-out examples.

Interphases

The earliest timeline appearances of alien hybrids fit rather snugly with the canon ENT episode, E2. Since it’s canon that Archer married an Ikaaran, the idea is that there would be other alien brides. For my own sanity, I went with Ikaarans as being the brides in both iterations, although women of different species could very well have been brought aboard.

Aaron Gregory Archer

In the second kick-back in time, he’s the son of Jonathan and Esilia, and weds Lili and José‘s daughter, Maria Elena Torres.

Henry Archer

In the first kick-back in time, he’s the son of Jonathan and Ebrona, and weds Lili and Jay‘s daughter, Madeline Suzette Reed-Hayes.

John Phlox

In the first kick-back in time, he is the first hybrid child born, the eldest of Dr. Phlox and Amanda Cole.

Charles Tucker IV

In the first kick-back in time, he is one of the twin children of T’Pol and Tripp, and becomes the captain after Jonathan dies.

Lorian Cyrus Tucker

During the second kick-back in time, this canon character (his middle name is my own invention) becomes captain upon the death of Jonathan Archer. He is the only child of Tripp and T’Pol.

T’Les Elizabeth Tucker

During the first kick-back in time, she is the other twin child of Tripp and T’Pol.

Times of the HG Wells

Otra D’Angelo

This human-Witannen cross can see temporal alternatives.

Richard Daniels

It is canon for Daniels to say that he is human, more or less. According to the scan that his sister, Eleanor, demonstrates during Where the Wind Comes Sweepin’ Down the Plain, the siblings’ heritage breaks down as follows – 18% Calafan, 4% mirror Calafan, 13% descendant of Neil Digiorno-Madden, 41% descendant of Joss Beckett, 11% human, 5% other mirror human, 8% Vulcan. 

Kevin O’Connor

Kevin is half-human and half-Gorn, and weighs almost a quarter of a metric ton, but he’s the sweetest person you’d ever want to know.

Polly Porter

Polly is partly-Betazoid, but is mostly human and is missing most of the qualities of Betazoids.

Boris Yarin, MD

Boris is a dangerous combination of human, Xindi sloth and Klingon.

Alien Hybrids in Other Stories

D’Storlin

D’Storlin, a human-Xindi Reptilian hybrid has a lot of trouble and takes his frustrations out violently.

Rayna Montgomery

Rayna, a human-Klingon hybrid, gets kicked out of her regular school because she can’t get along with her classmates. Yet her school is full of alien hybrids.

Upshot

Hybrid characters should be a large part of most Star Trek fan fiction, unless the time period is ENT or earlier. And even the ENT era can readily accommodate them. After all, not every hybrid is partially human.

These characters can break and bend the molds of characterizations and species types. What about Vulcans with emotions, or Klingons without honor? Hybrids, it is likely, can change the paradigm in all sorts of ways.

Branching to other fandoms

Cheating on Star Trek???

In response to Blog Prompt #8,  my main participation in other fandoms is in reading or in viewing. I know of fan fiction works in any number of other fandoms (they’re all over fanfiction.net), but I don’t find myself participating in them. Rather, I step back and mostly leave it to the professionals.

Hobbit/LOTR

But not completely, as I’ve recently done some informal beta reading of some Bilbo/Thorin slash in the Hobbit universe.

Thorin meets Bilbo
Thorin meets Bilbo

In all honesty, I’m not so sure how I feel about it. I like my friend’s work, and I think it’s respectful and true to the characters. The voices seem authentic, even if the actions seem less so. Slash doesn’t make me squeamish, but I think this may bug me a tad as these are characters I read about when I was very young (as in, if memory serves, eight years old). Also knowing enough of Tolkein’s motivations – he had wanted to write a boy’s adventure story and he’s not much for female characters. Hence there are a lot of guys.

It makes me wonder if the times had been different, if we wouldn’t see slash arising from classic war pictures. E. g. Stalag 17 or The Great Escape or The Longest Day. Some of this may be why I’m so drawn to developing and realizing historical crossovers, e. g. Concord and Day of the Dead.

Does it inspire me? I’ve been checking out Game of Thrones a bit recently, and that, coupled with listening to Jane Austen’s Emma on podcast, is starting to creep into the language and speech patterns I use for some characters, particularly for Vulcans. I often have major issues with writing Vulcans unless I logically impair them somehow. But giving them Regency speech patterns seems to be assisting with that. I don’t know if that’s inspiration for me. Perhaps a more descriptive term would be a paradigm shift. So maybe I’ll finally get better at writing standard-form Vulcans, and will give them more dialogue than just saying that something is logical or fascinating.

Why Haven’t I Leaped?

The only other fandom where I was actually inspired to write anything (but never finished it, alas), is Quantum Leap.

Cover of Quantum Leap#10, art by C. Winston Taylor
Cover of Quantum Leap#10, art by C. Winston Taylor (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Beyond enjoying the show, I did start to write a story, about a stockbroker at the time of the 1987 crash. I recall the guy was African-American and his name was Jordan something or other (like Gordon Gekko, huh) and was called Jordo. He was going to find his happy ending by quitting and taking up with the woman who worked at the local coffee shop, if I am remembering it all correctly.

I was never inspired to finish it, although I did create the HG Wells stories as a kind of anti-Quantum Leap. The idea is to be where people (almost like Sam and Al) try to improve the future by ‘fixing’ the past.

I decided that the idea is, ultimately, an arrogant one. What if the fixing screwed everything else up, making it even worse?

But as for the actual fandom story, no, it died a long, long time ago and was never revived. I’m not even so sure why I selected the main A story for it, but I know I was keeping with their canon, which puts Beckett’s leaps into about 1953 to 2010 or so. But truly, the 1987 crash was not that compelling a news flash, at least not for this sort of drama.

Upshot

I’m a fan of any number of works. I’ll watch James Bond films on a rainy day, or the Planet of the Apes movies, or Star Wars. I don’t run to turn off Doctor Who or Red Dwarf. I still love everything I’ve seen of Peter Jackson’s take on the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, even though I’ve watched much of it multiple times.

But none of them move me to write, or at least to finish. And none of them have inspired me to such creativity as Trek does.

I guess this is just the universe that speaks to me the most, and the best, and the clearest. This is the one that tells me to write.

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Portrait of a Character – Carmen Calavicci

Portrait of a Character – Carmen Calavicci

Carmen Calavicci serves a lot purposes.

Origins

For the Temporal Integrity Commission, Richard Daniels could not possibly be doing everything himself. Quartermaster Crystal Sherwood (and the other employees) would need direction as well. Therefore, their ultimate boss, I decided, would be an admiral.

Her name is a riff on Sam Beckett’s companion character in the Quantum Leap television series, Admiral Albert Calavicci.

Portrayal

Carmen is played by Annabella Sciorra. I wanted someone in my Star Trek fanfiction who would be younger than your standard admiral, and who would potentially be unconventional.

Barking Up the Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel |  Annabella Sciorra as Admiral Carmen Calavicci (image is for educational purposes only)
Annabella Sciorra as Admiral Carmen Calavicci (image is for educational purposes only)

After all, a lot of what the Temporal Integrity Commission does is off the books and not perfectly organized. I wanted the deep future to be somewhat like that, not so easily recognizable to both us and canon characters of earlier time periods. This is not wholly at odds with Star Trek canon, as Daniels does often seem to be flying a bit by the seat of his pants.

I wanted everyone to be doing that, and so Carmen, the ultimate improviser, was born.

Personality

No-nonsense and efficient, Carmen calls her charges ‘children’ much of the time, and truly cares about whether they’re all right. After all, despite the many physical enhancements they have, and the technology they possess, it’s still a dangerous business to travel in time. Plus I hear a British accent when I hear Carmen’s voice; she just strikes me as someone who’s mid-level posh. However, she’s also more than willing to street fight if it comes to that.

Carmen battles both migraines and alcoholism, but she has both more or less under control. Most of the time.

Relationships

As of the writing of this blog post, Carmen has no known relationships. The only bit is a short, drunken hookup with Rick, which they both regret in the morning.

Mirror Universe

Portrait of a Character – Carmen Calavicci
Mirror Carmen (Annabella Sciorra)

There are no impediments to Carmen having a mirror counterpart.

Maybe she does. It’s highly doubtful that she would be an Admiral, even that late in history, long after the fall of the Mirror Empire.

And like most Mirror Universe women, she would likely not receive good treatment, and would use her body to gain privileges. However, as a woman aging, she would be losing her advantages.

FalseBill has written a version of an MU Carmen and has named her Genofeva. She and Carmen are both in Dishing It Out.

Quote

“I, God, this is an awful day and I don’t expect any of you to be unaffected. Three deaths in one day! I’d be shocked if any of you truly were unaffected. But we have some sort of issue, so I’m afraid we don’t have the time or the luxury allowing us to mourn even a little bit.  I suppose we’ll all collapse later and become raving basket cases. As for the change, no one can pinpoint it yet.”

Upshot

Carmen is very nearly cigar-chomping, and does not suffer fools gladly. But she needs more back story, which I will write for her one of these days.