Freak Schoolwas one of these odd, serendipitous moments where suddenly all I do is type and it’s as if I’m taking dictation.
Our story is all diary entries. And these are the entries of a teenage 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. This was 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 has 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. She also has 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.”
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.
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.
“It’s a tomato.”
(when asked about the red scrawl on her drawing).
Gabby is shown as both a child and a teenager. For her time as a small child, I see MacKenzie Foy.
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. So she is much like any of the children of 9/11 victims, whether they extant or in utero on 9/11/01. As a teenager, she is a lot like a typical human teenager. She’s 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.
Films creep into my Star Trek fanfiction in a lot of different ways.
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 that 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 has an interest. But the talks only get sparse attendance. Every film in my stories, 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 how they inspired.
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.
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 Ronettes’ Be 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.
This film comes up 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 works to essentially babysit an ailing elderly character who is losing memory.
This film is the subject of a future date in Fortune. The reference is to it as one of the most romantic films of all time.
This film, with its differing perspectives, is to help 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. This includes the Flux Capacitor, often called Fluxy.
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.
In Movie Night, Malcolm and Melissa make plans to watch this film. And it’s one of the few times I have Malcolm going to a movie that he may have picked out. This film also gets a reference 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.
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!
For Valentine’s’ Day, here’s a look at a character absolutely motivated by love.
Bron, Sophra, and The Unexpected Pairing
On Ad Astra, I swear I was only joking when I suggested a Star Trek fanfiction love story about a shy 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 this way. 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 everywhere, but it is becoming so here. These examples are as close as we can get to the concept of interspecies romance and, perhaps, marriage.
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,
who 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.
“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 come from a guy who looks like this.
I wrote Brown in response to a weekly free write challenge on Ad Astra where the subject was pests.
I had established a rodent infestation on the Defiant in Reversal, and had originally intended for the mice to be a bit of comic relief (after all, the Star Trek Mirror Universe can, at least in my fan fiction, be overwhelmingly negative and dark), but they took on lives of their own and became more of a symbol for the chaos and inattention to detail that I’ve laced the MU with.
The Empress Hoshi Sato‘s sleeping around is partly, canon, partly my own doing. I envision her as a bit like Livia in Suetonius, who has unparalleled ambition for her offspring. But for Hoshi, it’s also a matter of survival. She seduces the upper-level men on the Defiant, has a child with them and, if they have even a shred of decency, they will work to at least ensure the survival of their own child.
The story put the two concepts together as Hoshi is followed not too long after the end of the events depicted in Reversal, and she is pregnant by Aidan. But she’s not the only pregnant female aboard, as she has found.
I have experienced mice infestations, and they can get rather bold. There’s also a feeling of invasion, where it seems a bit like your home is no longer your own. For Hoshi, the mice also symbolize a breakdown in authority. All she wants is for the mice to be gone, and they just seem to be multiplying. For Aidan and Chip, shown here a little bit like two partners in crime – which is a role they often fall into in the Prime Universe – the presence of the mice symbolizes a bit of subversion. It’s a small victory for them to see Hoshi squirm.
In my Star Trek fanfiction, Tricoulamine started off as a kind of garden-variety nerve toxin. It’s, in some ways, what a criminal would get as a lethal injection. Or it’s like the cyanide pills that you see in spy movies.
As I progressed with writing fan fiction, I found it was useful for a few other purposes. First of all, it comes in several forms. For humans, it’s either in tablet or injectable form. For Klingons – and it’s not fatal to them; it just knocks them out – it’s a sand-color gas. For Calafans, it occurs naturally in their environment, and is meant to be akin to a form of cyanide being found in peach pits.
It first shows up in Reversal (injectible form), then in Intolerance (gas), then in Temper (naturally occurring), then in Fortune (tablet), then in Escape and The Point is Probably Moot (both times, it’s a tablet. Escape contains a missing scene from The Point). In Fortune and The Point, it comes out that it is particularly difficult to get if you’re not a physician. However, since it occurs naturally in the environment of the Lafa System, if humans settle there, then there is the potential for people to get it without a prescription.
The name is, in part, reflects the poison grain from The Trouble With Tribbles episode for TOS, quadrotriticale.
For Klingons, it just knocks them out, and is not harmful. It’s unclear how long the unconscious state lasts. In Intolerance, the Klingons are out for a few days or so,. However, they are already in a weakened state. So it’s unclear.
For humans, it hits your digestive tract or bloodstream and you’re a goner. Fortunately, it’s fast enough that there is little to no pain. In Temper, a human victim of tricoulamine poisoning appeared to be sleeping.
It is unknown how it affects other species, and since it occurs naturally in their environment, it’s possible that it doesn’t affect Calafans at all.
You can pronounce it as either tri-coo-la-meen or tri-coh-la-meen.
Portrait of a Character – Leonora (Norri) Digiorno
Leonora has a history from before my start writing Star Trek fan fiction.
All characters are me, and I am all characters.
At least, that is, when it comes to the originals. And when it comes to Star Trek canon, there are plenty of things that I add, so those additions are me, too.
Leonora was kicking around for a few years, even before I started writing Star Trek: Enterprise fanfiction, which was back in April of 2005. Actually, it was just her first name. She was originally a kind of foundling. The character was a girl from medieval times who was orphaned by the Black Death and saved (from a bear – hey, I like Shakespeare) by being plucked out for a time travel purpose. I modified the time travel series quite a bit in order to create a series of stories called Times of the HG Wells, but I brought Norri in earlier, for the In Between Days series, although she is seen a little during the Wells series. Confused yet?
I hadn’t originally written her as a lesbian, either, but the idea presented itself because I was looking for a parallel to a day/night concept that I had going on. The In Between Days series gives its main characters active nighttime lives (through the dream state) which are almost as important as their daylight lives. To really bring the point home, I created a bi character, Melissa Madden. But Melissa needed a lesbian lover in order to pull it all off, so Norri emerged.
Norri is the most literary of the main characters in the In Between Days series, starting off as a book editor, eventually getting her PhD and writing a book of her own. At the time I was shaping her, I was working for a book publisher, so she partly evolved from that. Her last name, of course, means “of the day”, so she is not only an embodiment of daytime, she also parallels main character Lili O’Day (who is also “of the day”). Furthermore, five of the six main characters (everyone but Pamela Hudson) are associated with elements. Norri is outside of what we might think of as the four traditional “elements”, and so hers is the Hindu fifth element – communications (sometimes called the ether or the void, which makes sense in space).
It was important for me to see Norri as being “played” by an actress who has played at least one gay character already. She would be young but wise beyond her years, and to be a redhead. Hence, Alyson Hannigan.
I also like the idea of Norri being someone who is somewhat remote. Of all of the main characters in the In Between Days series, you learn the least about her. And that’s by design. Of the five big books in that series, Temper and Fortune have the most information about her, and even then she’s really just a sketch.
She even gets a second nickname which is a misnomer. Malcolm refers to her as “Lioness” or “the Lioness”, when the truth is that her name means “light”. So she’s a kind of double light and daytime character.
As a person, she is forced to rise to the occasion. She must commit some forms of self-sacrifice several times. This is whether it’s to become Neil’s sole caregiver in Temper, or to shepherd children away so that various couples can have their privacy. But she gets her due. And so she is the final commenter and recordkeeper when it comes to the lives of the principal characters in the In Between Days series.
In fact, in his last moments, Tommy thinks of her and also recalls her book, The Human Pioneers of Lafa II.
Her sexuality is rarely at issue. She acknowledges that she was very aware of it certainly by the time she graduated from college. However, her parents were wary of it, and her father hoped she would grow out of it (I explore this in An Announcement). Of course, that doesn’t happen. Her scenes with Melissa are as intimate as those between the straight couples. Norri also begins her romance more conventionally than most of the others do – she meets Melissa in a bar.
Norri barely makes an appearance in the MU, save for her death, which is particularly senseless.
Her murder is recalled, somewhat remorsefully, in Bread.
“It’s not necessarily unfair. You’d be sleeping. Everybody sleeps. I can’t get into your dreams. All that’s changing now, really, is that I know, more or less, what those dreams are. But you and I, we have the big thing, the big love.”
Book smart and funny, Norri is the essence of communication, holding everyone together, and making everything spin.
There are any number of things for me to write about, but I am going to concentrate on my own fiction. This is mainly because I know it, of course, and also because I am, in many ways, my own worst critic. I can look at entries from a year or more ago and cringe. But I guess I go on.
Where everything is
I tend to post most of my works in Trek United before anywhere else. This is partly because that’s where I first posted fan fiction, so I have a history there, and also because they were and are very encouraging. However, I often find myself going back to older works and tweaking them when I post them elsewhere. Sometimes it’s to better dovetail with canon.
Other times, it’s to dovetail with fanfiction – that is, my own universe and my own overarching storylines. After all, if character X is dead in 2157, and in an earlier work, he’s alive during that same time period for some reason, I may switch that up, if it doesn’t destroy the integrity of the older work.
One thing that might be of amusement is that there is a rather strong profanity filter there. I have found I’ve had to get creative with synonyms. I have kept this – I suppose I’m used to it now – when describing what are sometimes very intimate scenes.
Where is More of it?
More earthy stuff can be posted at Trek Empire, but I haven’t yet used it for that, not really. I have plenty of earthy material. More (much, much more) on that later. I just haven’t done much at TE, as of this writing. I also have two drabbles at The Delphic Expanse.
Another place with my work is Trek BBS. So far, I’ve only really scratched the surface there. Yet another spot is Fanfiction.net. Because I can just upload there, I’ve taken to posting three chapters at a time when I’m spinning out longer works. For both of these locations, I have felt the need to somewhat bowdlerize my work, so it’s been the opposite of Trek Empire.
Much more polished works are generally found at Ad Astra (they are also the sponsors of this blog, so I thank them for setting it up). I also like the formatting there, and the critiquing system. It just seems to work out better for most of my fan fic publishing needs.
I also have some works on Issuu, under the Trek United imprimatur. Two of my works there, Reversal and Intolerance, are rated Mature, so they are not searchable that way. I like Issuu for how the covers look with the overall layout of the works. However, the longer works are also on Ad Astra and I have updated them since their publication on Issuu.
Another venue for my work is Merknet. Richard Merk has converted the two longer Issuu creations to Kindle and Nook formats. So you can download those two to your e-reader, if you’d like!
For the most part, when I reference a work, I’ll be referencing Ad Astra. The best and most current versions are pretty much all there, and it’s also for consistency’s sake. If I need to cite a work where the rating has been toned down, I’ll most likely point to Fanfiction.net.
The ratings are all over the place. Some, like The Light, are rated for everyone and could be read to your grandmother without concern. Others, like Paving Stones Made from Good Intentions, are rated for everyone but should make you uncomfortable. Still others go up the ratings ladder. This is eventually to Intolerance, which is T, possibly M in some spots. However, that depends on how you feel about oblique references to explicit acts.
As with anything else in life, I advise discretion. But I don’t try to play a gotcha game with ratings, particularly those for children or teens. I think that most if not all of those are safe for work.
Every now and then, I may reveal something that turns out to be a spoiler. I don’t, honestly, expect anyone to have read all of my stuff or, even if they have, that they remember every syllable of it. But I am going to write here about writing, and sometimes that will mean discussing something that could turn out to feel like a revelation. I won’t use spoiler code.
What this blog is really going to be about
I’ll cover reviewing my own work, and will likely reveal things you might have overlooked, about what I’m really trying to say, or how well (or poorly) I think I accomplished what I set out to do.
Plus I will talk about characters, both canon and original, and will provide pictures for any character where I have an idea of that person’s overall look. I am not so arrogant as to think that what I am writing will be acted by professionals. The pictures are for fun, and to give you an idea of what’s in my head – who do I really see? You may see someone else. Feel free to tell me in the comments section. Perhaps I’ll change my mind. This area will be huge – I tend to do the sprawling Dickensian thing, so I quite literally have a few hundred people to talk about.
I will spotlight original technology and concepts, everything from drugs to sports to original species and their characteristics.
In addition, I’ll also give a progress report, probably at the end of every month, giving an idea of what I’ve done, and what’s on the horizon. This will help to keep me accountable, but I don’t promise anything. Life does intervene at times, of course.
I will give you a look inside my creative process, including the kinds of things that inspire me.
Plus whatever strikes my fancy.
I won’t really adhere to a strict blogging schedule but I will try to get something out twice a week. That may change – life and inspiration and time don’t always combine to create the perfect storm allowing me to keep regular blogging hours. I’ll do what I can.
I’m a woman, born in New Jersey (in 1962) but raised in Pennsylvania and then New York. I attended college in Boston and then Law School in Delaware, and practiced law for a few years in New York until I ran screaming from that life. I met my husband in the late 1980s and we married in 1992. We moved to Providence for work and then to Boston in 1995 and have never looked back.
I currently work in IT, and have a background in corporate training, business analysis, data analysis, community management and social media marketing. I don’t believe in limiting myself or pigeonholing myself. I’ve worked in all sorts of places, from a tiny startup that could fit in my car to a Fortune 50 company.
We have no kids. We’ve had dogs four times – no dogs right now as there is just no time and it wouldn’t be fair. But I do love to see my neighbors’ furry friends, and I will stop and pet pretty much any dog I see, all while playing “guess the breed”. I walk almost every day and run over ten 5K races per year. I am almost always last. Everyone cheers because, I know, they realize that they can finally eat and get their prizes.
I am Jewish but I am pretty lapsed. I do a lot of things that a lot of my characters like to do, such as cook, garden and fish. If I were an ENT character, I’d probably be a cross between Reed and Sato. Reed for his organized competence (at least I like to think that’s what I’m like), and Sato for her fears and hesitations (I know I’m like that). It’s no mystery to me why I tend to write them more than all of the other canon ENT characters (and not in a relationship together, by the way).
This blog is going to be about fan fiction, of the Star Trek kind, mostly Enterprise although I do branch out into the other series’ and the films’ universes on occasion. But my main focus is ENT.
If you don’t like fanfiction, you might want to turn back now. But if you aren’t sure, or if you think it’s just for those who can’t be creative, I urge you to consider a few things.
Fan fiction, in essence, is like an “adapted by” or “based on” credit in the movies or on television. Sure, it’s not 100%, absolutely, completely, utterly, blisteringly, breathtakingly original. But that “adapted by” credit? Let’s see where else it is, or where it should be, shall we?
How about West Side Story, for starters? And they didn’t even credit the original author! Instead, playwright Jerome Robbins and writers Ernest Lehman and Arthur Laurents are shown. Funny how William Shakespeare isn’t listed, eh? Well, I guess the Bard didn’t have a very good agent. Take a look here if you don’t believe me.
Or what about Ten Things I Hate About You? Oh, there’s another one with no credit for poor ole Will. Instead, Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith get the nod. Check ‘em out here.
Willie the Shake isn’t the only writer who gets short shrift with adaptations. What about Clueless? Amy Heckerling is the only writer with a credit. If I were Jane Austen, I’d be a little upset, seeing as its basis is Emma. Don’t believe me? Take a gander here.
There are countless vampire film and television adaptations, copies and suggestions – they don’t all mention Bram Stoker. Twilight certainly doesn’t mention the father of the vampire genre, although it does give credit to Melissa Rosenberg and Stephenie Meyer. Check it out.
At least Charles Dickens gets a “suggestion” credit for Scrooged, but the real billing is left for Mitch Glazer and Michael O’Donoghue. See the list of Scrooged writers.
Adaptations Outside of English
Of course English writers are not the only ones out there who are hit up for adaptations, suggestions and the like, and English language films aren’t the only adapters, but at least Shakespeare gets a mention in Ran, along with Akira Kurosawa, Hideo Oguni and Masato Ide. Perhaps it’s the Eastern cultural imperative to respect one’s ancestors at work here.
Here’s a film based on a Spanish poem – El Cid. And, you may have guessed it, no credit for the original author, believed to be Per Abbad, but plenty of credit for Fredric M. Frank, Philip Yordan and Ben Barzman. Take a look at the list of El Cid writers.
And then there’s The Wind Done Gone and other parallel novels, which use other books’ scenarios as their own. See Wikipedia for a list.
What’s the point of all of this research?
The bottom line is that fan fiction isn’t significantly different. It’s a cousin, if you will, to adapted screenplays, suggested stories and parallel novelizations. Plenty of perfectly wonderful and respected works of art, from the play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead to the book Grendel are all, truly, based on someone else’s universe.
Do you accept those other works? Do you eagerly stand in line for tickets to Wicked, or watch the Clueless TV program in reruns, or read Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea? Then, my friend, you are a consumer of art that is quite similar to fan fiction. Why embrace one and find fault with the other?
Come with me, and explore, what it means to be human – or Vulcan, or Denobulan or even an original species like Daranaean, or Calafan or Witannen or others – in a vast, unfamiliar place, where death can haunt every light-year or love and friendship might just be around the next bend in the corridor or a lift or transport ride away. Come and explore the outer, the other and the new and strange, but also the familiar and homelike part we all have in us.
Writing is not an activity solely the province of those who are paid any more than imagination solely belongs to those who create for a living. Come and see what I made, and where I am taking things and, frankly, where characters and planets and storylines and events are taking me.
I welcome and open my door to you, and am turning on the light, for you to see into my worlds.