All posts by jespah

Shuttlepod pilot, fan fiction writer, sentient marsupial canid.

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

This is a wholly original sentient marsupial canid species. Pronounced: Da-ra-NAY-un.

What’s a Daranaean?

Spotlight on Original Species – Daranaeans
Mistra, a 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 are divided 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 arranged 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, as opposed to 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, but 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.

Spotlight on Original Species – Daranaeans
Baby Inta, a 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

Spotlight on Original Species – Daranaeans
Very Young Seppa, a third caste female

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 shown in Some Assembly Required.

Spotlight on Original Species – Daranaeans
Cria, a tween secondary female

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 shown in Temptation.

Young Adulthood

Spotlight on Original Species – Daranaeans
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

Spotlight on Original Species – Daranaeans
Dratha, a 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, shown above, have children on a regular basis until menopause, and are then expected to continue helping the young adult children prepare for life in their own housholds.

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

Spotlight on Original Species – Daranaeans
Adult Vidam, son of a Prime Wife

Daranaens are ruled by 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 (pictured to the 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 ties can be broken by the Alpha. 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 shown in 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 shown in 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.

Spotlight on Original Species – Daranaeans
Young Trinning, son of a secondary

Researchers, such as Trinning, shown 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,  and are needed 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 named Elemus. It occurred in February of 2160, and did not go too well. First contact is shown in The Cure is Worse than the Disease.

Second contact went considerably better, and is shown in 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 shown in 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. More insights will be posted!

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.

Progress Report – February 2012

February actually began on January 31st, in the sense that that’s when I last put out a progress report. And it’s ending on the 28th, so, well, welcome to jespah time, I suppose.

Posted Works

The first new work was a response to the Ad Astra weekly free write about making a first impression, and is called Voracious. I have a more expanded view of that story in mind, but that will be presented at some later date, if at all. I then produced two separate ficlets for the Kill Your Darlings prompt. The first one is called Remembrance. The second, much darker one, is called One Last Gift.

Next I worked on the monthly challenge. This is a gauntlet that I had thrown down, about decisions and how they affect timelines. The natural subject, for me, was the Temporal Integrity Commission and the Empress Hoshi Sato. It was a great opportunity to better bridge the In Between Days and Times of the HG Wells series. I imagine it must look as if I had had the idea in mind when I instigated the challenge, but I truly did not. I just tossed out the challenge and then … hey … I’ll write about that. That one is called First Born. I ended up being able to post it on Trek BBS for their challenge, too.

I also gathered up In Between Days weekly free writes so that they could be placed into the archive with some chronological coherence. They were placed hereVoracious, Onions, Letters from Home, Waiting, Apple, Brown, Friday Visit, The Gift, Movie Night, All You Need is Love, Biases, Debate, Hearts in Time and Remembrance have been added. Plus longer stories like Paving Stones, The Light, Reversal, Intolerance, Together, Broken Seal, The Cure is Worse than the Disease, Take Back the Night, Temper, Coveted Commodity, Temptation, Some Assembly Required and Fortune have been linked to, so as to provide better context. I like this idea and will probably do something similar once I have more free writes in my other series, such as the Daranaean Emergence Series or Times of the HG Wells.

I also added a new chapter to Hold Your Dominion, called Stage Eight – Rituals. I hadn’t added to that one for quite a while, but the idea of Valentines’ Day appealed to me.

Speaking of Valentines’ Day, the prompt on February 14th was to do crossovers, so trekfan and I collaborated on what turned out to be a little time traveling dating service story called Hearts in Time. The whole thing was cobbled together in perhaps three hours, which included chatting, editing and lunch. I am so pleased at how well it all worked out. I suspect that that dating service could be conjured up again for another crossover, either wholly within my own universes or with another writer again. trekfan was a joy to work with.

For the altered states prompt, I posted an E2 ficlet called Fear.

On Trek BBS, I received four votes for Coveted Commodity, for their January challenge. This was not enough to win or even place, but I was glad for the recognition just the same, as it was my first time responding to a challenge there. I continued spinning out the PG-13 version of Reversal. I also added First Born as a response to their February challenge.

On TrekUnited, I added Paving Stones to their fan fiction section.

On Fan Fiction.net, I continued adding to the PG-13 version of Reversal.

TrekEmpire has closed, so I will migrate my few story topics (these were already posted on Ad Astra) to TrekUnited.

WIP Corner

The E2 stories continue apace. I’m still not happy enough with them to start spinning them out on Trek United, but I’m getting there. There’s a lot of research and a lot of interweaving between canon and my fanfiction, so it’s somewhat complicated. My inspiration level for them has improved, too, but I also want to make sure I’m not writing myself into a corner. Right now I am cooking along in the middle third or so of the second of three planned books.

One idea that is also kicking around a little is to gather up all of the mirror universe stories I have, of any era, much like the IBD Collection, in order to show the progression. The tentative title is Hall of Mirrors.

Another idea kicking around is a redux of These Are the Voyages. A lot of people hated the TNG holodeck framing device used on TATV, and I am one of them. I just feel that it detracted from the storytelling. Hence I have my own ideas. They are in a very rudimentary stage, and it is looking like it will be a multichapter work. I am holding off, for now, in favor of the E2 stories as they came first, and I am rather inspired in that area right now. But this story (which is right now just called TATV Redux although that will undoubtedly be changed) is also in my head.

Prep Work

I hunted around for a cover for Coveted Commodity, and I found an image I really liked. Fortunately, the ENT covers I have are pretty easy. There are top and bottom pieces that I just reuse, and then I put the actual image in the middle. Hence that one is all ready to go.

I also found some great pictures for Daranaean stories, and now have Vidam as an adult and Trinning as a young boy.

I also created a PG-13 version of Intolerance (it was easier than I had feared), so I am ready to post it on Trek BBS and Fanfiction.net once the PG-13 version of Reversal is finished in both places.

I spent some time on blog housekeeping and updating, including adding quotes to the side bar.

For the E2 stories, I began to find images that I should be able to cobble together into an image of a malostrea, although I might just attempt to draw one. That’s a preview – the name is Latin for evil oyster.

This Month’s Productivity Killers

My husband was sick with a monster cold and so, of course, I eventually was as well. Otherwise, the only issues were with being at home and hearing too much of the telephone and standard neighborhood noises. I was also looking for work, so that took up a good chunk of my time, too.

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Review – Freak School

Review – Freak School

Freak School was one of these odd, serendipitous moments where suddenly all I do is type and it’s as if I’m taking dictation.

Review – Freak School
Freak School

Our story is told only in diary entries, and they are the entries of a teenaged girl. The whole thing is a project for her English class. Pretty soon the diarist – Rayna Montgomery – begins to reveal things about herself. Like, for example, that she’s only partly human. And that she’s been sent to a school for hybrid children because she couldn’t get along with the kids at her old school in Connecticut. She was the victim of some teasing and, because she’s a pretty big girl herself, retaliation was problematic.

Hence Rayna is sent to the Archer Academy at Oberon, a school for troubled hybrid children. In addition to her regular subjects, she’s required to attend Group, which is intended to be a sort of rap session/quasi-therapy. I well recall a class like that when I was in High School (it was the 70s; it’s just what we did back then), and how, in general, it was pretty dull but the dynamics of the group could be of interest.

Rayna deals with a personality conflict with a female classmate, a lovesick male classmate who she doesn’t feel the same way about, and a new student upon whom she has quite the crush. It’s also told with a very heavy Valley Girl type of an accent. I hear Moon Unit Zappa in Frank Zappa’s “Valley Girl” song when I hear Rayna’s voice.

As Rayna herself says, “See – and if you’re some archaeologist digging this up in, like, a thousand years, you should know that there are all of these species in the Federation. Before we all had Warp Drive, we just went our merry ways, but now that there’s been peace for a while – ugh – there’s all this interspecies marriage. So kids like me are born.

I mean, it’s not like we all didn’t try. I tried while I was in Connecticut, but there were just too many rules. And, like I’ve said, I got the worst of both worlds. I’m too short and soft to be menacing, and I’m too freaky-looking to fit in, in Connecticut or anywhere else on Earth.

Let’s just say – despite what my Mom used to say – I am not a pretty girl.”

But she is crafty.

Story Postings

Rating

The story is rated T.

Upshot

It was great fun to write. I can see little typos but otherwise I’m happy with it. And there’s even a sequel.

Portrait of a Character – Gabrielle Nolan

Portrait of a Character – Gabrielle Nolan

Origins

Gabby started off as almost a plot device. I had been working on a series of ficlets surrounding the Breen attack on Earth, and I was analogizing them to the Five Stages of Grief. The Breen attack also felt a lot like 9/11, so I wanted to tell the story from the perspective of a pregnant widow. Gabrielle is not the widow (Gina is); she’s the daughter. So she doesn’t show up until the sixth stage, which is healing.

While I wanted to move the story beyond grief, I also wrote the healing aspect in order to introduce Gabby. This was done as the response to a weekly free write prompt about art. When I saw the prompt, the first thing I thought of was art therapy, and I immediately got the image of a child’s red-colored rounded scrawl into my head, and that would not go away.

Art Therapy

As a part of the commemoration of the fifth anniversary of the Breen attack, Gabby’s school has its students draw, paint or sculpt their impressions of that day. Gabrielle isn’t the only bereft child, as she learns. For Gabby, it’s a day to make a friend, as it is for her  mother, Gina. A part of healing is, I feel, to go outside yourself, and see that others might be in the same boat as you. Art brings it all together, as Gabby’s piece and another piece bring them close to people with a similar bereavement.

Quote

“It’s a tomato.” (when asked about the red scrawl on her drawing).

Appearance

Gabby is shown as both a child and a teenager. For her time as a small child, I see MacKenzie Foy.

Portrait of a Character – Gabrielle Nolan

As a teenager, I don’t really have a visual for her yet. She’s a child of the twenty-fourth century, and a child of tragedy, much like any of the children of 9/11 victims, whether they were extant or in utero on 9/11/01. As a teenager, she is a lot like a typical human teenager – engrossed in her PADD, bored with slow-moving adult things, and intent on fixing up her friends with each other, a little like Jane Austen’s Emma.

In her eyes, her mother sees her lost father, Michael Nolan, much as I expect 9/11 widows see their husbands in the eyes of their children.

Inspiration – Films

Roll it, Aidan!

Films have crept into my Star Trek fanfiction in a lot of different ways.

Screenshot of the title screen of the trailer.
Screenshot of the title screen of the trailer. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the most obvious manner, they have been the subject of the stories Movie Night and Broken Seal. I love the idea that Enterprise had a Movie Night. Canon puts it during a weeknight, but I have changed it to the weekends so that it can be the centerpiece of date night. I have also added a Master of Ceremonies, Chip Masterson, and a projectionist, Aidan MacKenzie. Chip even holds a discussion of the film afterwards if anyone is interested, but the talks are only sparsely attended. Every film in my stories, if it is shown on the NX-01, begins with, “Roll it, Aidan!”

Films also, often, reflect a plot or inspire a character name or even something else. Here are a few films, and where they’ve led me.

Gaslight

In Reversal, Lili goes on a disastrous blind date for Movie Night, but the film is important because it’s about a man trying to drive his wife mad with untruths. It’s an oblique reference to plot points to come.

Dirty Dancing

In Intolerance, Pamela uses the film as a way to determine who’s been sending her sonnets. The film also pushes in some music that’s germane to the plot, such as The RonettesBe My Baby.

The King of Hearts

In Together, Malcolm attends this foreign film – even though, in canon, he’d prefer films with a lot of explosions in them – in the hopes of seeing someone.

Grease

This film is referenced twice. Once, as a quickie Shakespearean reference to Arden (Eve Arden, invoking the Forest of Arden from As You Like It) in Intolerance, and again in Fortune, where it’s used to essentially babysit an ailing elderly character who is losing memory.

Casablanca

This film is the subject of a future date in Fortune, and is referenced as one of the most romantic films of all time.

Rashomon

This film, with its differing perspectives, is called upon to determine whether any portions of several conflicting stories make sense, in Fortune.

Back to the Future

The time ships in the HG Wells series are all named for various bits of time travel pop culture ephemera, including the Flux Capacitor, often called Fluxy.

The Graduate

Even though he’s about her age, in Ohio, when Sheilagh Bernstein says, “Agent Daniels, are you trying to seduce me?” that’s a reference to The Graduate.

Stalag 17

In Movie Night, Malcolm and Melissa make plans to watch this film – it’s one of the few times I have Malcolm going to a movie that he may very well have picked out. This film is also referenced in Day of the Dead and characters Herbie Shapiro and Stanislaus Kuzawa.

The Seventh Seal

In Broken Seal, Chip Masterson hypes this highbrow film, but not too many people show up. T’Pol does, though, as it’s intended to be a film that would probably be more likely to appeal to her than to anyone. Phlox talks throughout the picture as he and Malcolm try to figure out the symbolism, and then Malcolm talks to his girl about it, and asks a bit more about the symbolism.

Cover of "The Breakfast Club"
Cover of The Breakfast Club

Little movie references also abound – Claire Crossman is a reference to Molly Ringwald‘s character in The Breakfast Club. Jeremiah Logan Beckett is, in part, named for Logan’s Run. There’s even a small shout out to The Wizard of Oz in Reversal.

In a small way, too, the Terminator films are also an influence, as the temporally paradoxical character of John Connor is referenced a bit by the equally temporally paradoxical character of Jun Sato.

Undoubtedly, more films will creep in and I’ll have to revisit this topic. Why, I haven’t even mentioned Kramer vs. Kramer!

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Portrait of a Character – Bron

For Valentines’ Day, here’s a look at a character absolutely motivated by love.

The Unexpected Pairing

On Ad Astra, I swear I was only joking when I suggested a Star Trek fanfiction love story about a shy Gorn reciting poetry to a lovely, blushing Cardassian maiden. And then the gauntlet was thrown down – write it!

My first venture into the Bron-Sophra pairing was The Reptile Speaks. What I wanted to get across was the idea of a very unexpected lover. Currently, for us humans, an unexpectedly romantic person or partner might be someone who is of a different race or religion from us, or someone who we might not see as romantic (the stereotypical jock or soldier, perhaps).

Analogous Mixed Pairings Here on Earth

Back when I was a kid, a mixed marriage was considered, generally, as being between two people of different religions. And, a good hundred-plus years before that, technically, it was an issue for Jews if the one of the two parties to a marriage was Sephardic, and the other Ashkenazi. In that case, even a marriage of two Jews could be seen as “mixed”. And of course now you see a lot of mixed race marriages. A major, landmark case, Loving vs. Virginia (Supreme Court, 1967) declared any legislation outlawing marriage between differing races was unconstitutional.

As a Massachusetts resident, I have seen my share of same-sex marriages as well. I recognize that this is not the norm everwhere, but it is becoming so here. These examples are as close as we can get to the concept of interspecies romance and, perhaps, marriage.

Portrayal

For alien characters requiring a lot of makeup and/or prosthetics, it can be difficult to visualize them. But for me, Bron is a classic romantic lead in a difficult body. I think of Leonardo DiCaprio, Leonardo DiCapriowho has made himself somewhat less than attractive in a lot of roles, but has also been a romantic lead. Forget the hair. Forget the skin. Concentrate on the eyes, on the voice, on the body shape and size, on the posture, on the mannerisms, and let your imagination wander. Think of what it was like to be a teenager, or shy, or not fitting in. Think of longing, and of missed opportunities, and of insecurity.

Is there not a soul in the sentient reptile? Hath not the Gorn eyes?

Quote

“Um, I just, I don’t know if you would want to be, to be seen with, with a guy like me.”

A Gentle Dragon?

My hope with creating Bron was and is to put forth someone who is out of left field when it comes to romance and gallantry. Bron’s gentle nature is not readily apparent. You have to look past frightening teeth, claws and scales. You need to see what’s inside the person, and uncover the sensitivity within.

When a weekly free write prompt came up about crying, I decided to continue the Bron-Sophra story with Insecurity. I often have trouble writing characters weeping (and for the life of me, I have no idea why), but Bron’s crying, to me, rang true. He is a teenaged character, with a lot of the insecurities and highs and lows that come from being about fifteen or sixteen or so. And like a lot of less than good-looking guys out there, he worries about his chances with girls and is shy because he doesn’t want to be hurt.

You may not want to hug him, still, but I hope you can see beyond the teeth, the claws and the cold-bloodedness. We may very well find that some of our best and closest alien friends look nothing like us. Why, when you next hear a Shakespearean sonnet, it might just be recited by a guy who looks like this. Bron

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