Category Archives: Review

Review – Throwing Rocks at Looking Glass Houses

Review – Throwing Rocks at Looking Glass Houses

Throwing Rocks at Looking Glass Houses is yet another multi-dimensional title. The rocks would be a shattering of conventions. The looking glass of course is a reference to the Mirror Universe. And the glass houses naturally are exactly where you don’t want to throw any rocks. Furthermore, I decided on rocks rather than stones as they imply irregularity and roughness. This contrasts with Paving Stones as there the action follows set patterns and traditions.

This story upends those traditions and it shows just how Hoshi changes everything.

Background

I wanted a transitional story, a power grab, showing Empress Hoshi getting where she wanted to be.

Barking up the Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Throwing Rocks at Looking Glass Houses

This would take place between the end of the canon episodes, In a Mirror, Darkly and In a Mirror, Darkly II and before Paving Stones Made From Good Intentions.

Therefore, it had to be before Doug became a Lieutenant Commander, running Tactical (after defeating Chip Masterson and Aidan MacKenzie in a competition). Ian (Malcolm‘s counterpart) and T’Pol had to still be alive. Phlox would still be the doctor; this would be before Cyril Morgan.

But things would be changing.

Plot

Barking Up the Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Hall of Mirrors | Throwing Rocks at Looking Glass Houses
Hall of Mirrors

Having declared herself Empress, Hoshi has to consolidate her power. She has to eliminate threats and pick up allies. This means ruthless Machiavellian efficiency.

Furthermore, she has to get rid of the Emperor, who I write as a descendant of canon mass murderer Philip Green. Green brings along only three bodyguards, foolishly underestimating her bloodlust – my original characters, José Torres, Brian Delacroix, and Andrew Miller.

The story is punctuated with quotations from Sun-Tzu‘s The Art of War and Machiavelli’s The Prince.

Story Postings

Rating

The story is rated T.

Upshot

I like how it turned out. In particular, I enjoyed putting together Hoshi’s plan and showing her nastiness. Her impatience with science and with delays, her casual approach to murder and her lust are all on display. I really like the final product.

Review – More, More, More!

Background

More, More, More! was one of the fan fiction first stories I ever wrote.

Barking up the Muse Tree | Jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | More, More, More!

It has some improvements, with a few character and situational changes. But it still shows, I admit.

For the first few stories, I based them on the five senses. This one was based on hearing. Therefore, it made sense to me for there to be music and dancing. But there’s a lot more (pun intended) going on than all that.

Plot

The captain is having lunch in his mess when things suddenly feel strange. He gets up, but he collapses. The steward, Preston Jennings (who has that job after Daniels and before Lili), expresses alarm, but the captain waves him off.

Then the captain barges in on a crewman. And then, in the hallway, he collapses again. But this time, he’s raving and he’s violent. Quickly, crew members bring him to Sick Bay (including, probably, Preston). And almost as quickly, he is temporarily relieved of command, by T’Pol and Phlox, with Hoshi as a witness.

But then Daniels appears, and suddenly the story is not what it seems.

What is happening? The captain’s brain is a colonization site for a tiny species. Of course, this is affecting him, and that will simply not do. Furthermore, while the tiny species might not be important to the timeline, Archer most certainly is. Daniels must save Jonathan’s confidence while, at the same time, preventing the destruction of the tiny species. The Nokarid do not mean any harm. They have no idea what is going on.

Music and More

More, More, More by the Andrea True Connection

During the course of the story, it becomes apparent that there’s going to be a mixer between the Enterprise and the Columbia. It’s to be a disco party, and the sound system needs tests. Every now and then, Chip Masterson‘s tests come through, loud and clear, on the intercom (originally, I had Travis doing this). The entire playlist was not up until I wrote On the Radio.

Here are the songs from the story.

Story Postings

Rating

The story is rated K+.

Upshot

I like it better now, certainly. There are a few parts that I would change, but I like the story enough to have given it a sequel. It’s redeemable, but I know my writing is better now. It’s pure fluff, and I rarely write pure fluff any more.

Review – The Further Adventures of Porthos – the Stilton Fulfillment

Review – The Further Adventures of Porthos – the Stilton Fulfillment

A Stilton fulfillment? Don’t worry; I will explain

Background

After The Adventures of Porthos, there was a call for a sequel.

Barking up the Muse Tree | Jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | The Further Adventures of Porthos – the Stilton Fulfillment
The Further Adventures of Porthos – the Stilton Fulfillment

I got the chance to provide one when the Trek BBS had a monthly challenge in December of 2012 for ironic wish fulfillment. Porthos would get what he always wanted – more cheese – but it wouldn’t quite agree with him.

Plot

Review – The Further Adventures of Porthos - the Stilton Fulfillment

The Caitian Ambassador and his family are coming to the NX-01 for dinner. The captain is anxious for everything to go right, and wants to perhaps convince the ambassador to become a more formal ally. The ambassador’s young daughter. Parenelsa, is shy and sweet, but she warms up to Porthos, who begs at the table. And so she feeds him.

And feeds him and feeds him.

The problem arises when Porthos has a reaction. That is, he breaks wind. Malcolm, who is at the dinner and is bored out of his mind, volunteers to take the dog to Sick Bay. For Malcolm, it’s also a chance to get his own treatment, as he is lactose intolerant, a revelation I first made in Intolerance.

And then the ship is attacked.

Story Postings

Rating

The story is Rated K.

Upshot

The story works out well. A lot of little players get shout outs, including the idea that this is something of a sequel to A Single Step, too. Lili even makes an appearance.

My peers agreed with me, and the story won the monthly challenge.

Review – If You Can’t Stand the Heat

Review – If You Can’t Stand the Heat

If You Can’t Stand the Heat is an old, old story.

Background

When I was first writing Star Trek: Enterprise fanfiction, I began with an idea about writing stories about the five senses.

Barking up the Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | If You Can't Stand the Heat
If You Can’t Stand the Heat

This story covers taste.

I despised the last episode of Star Trek: Enterprise, These Are The Voyages, but I had no problem whatsoever with Jonathan Frakes playing the NX-01‘s chef. An older man seemed right for the job.

Plot

Review – If You Can’t Stand the Heat

The chef (originally named Paul Mayer – in later fan fiction, I call him William Slocum) starts  preparations for dinner like he would any other day, by deciding that he’ll make roast chicken. This is before Lili O’Day is hired and after time traveler Richard Daniels departs, so his main helper is Preston Jennings. The Xindi War has not yet started, so he has a multitude of assistants.

When he can’t find his assistants anywhere, and he needs a lemon, so he contacts the ship’s first Botanist, Naomi Curtis (Shelby Pike, like Lili, is brought in after the start of the Xindi War). She doesn’t know what’s going on, either. Because her own helpers are gone, too. So she heads to the kitchen. And when the door slides open it’s obvious that the hallways are freezing. Plus they smell vaguely of rotten eggs.

What’s going on?

Story Postings

Rating

The story is Rated K.

Upshot

Without giving away spoilers, the story does prefigure goings on in later stories such as The Mess and Reversal. One thing I do like about the story is that, although it’s really an alien of the week one-off, it does introduce Slocum pretty well, and it also provides the reader with some context about how things were before the Xindi. E. g. the Enterprise had unnecessary personnel. Replacing Naomi with the more skilled and versatile Shelby makes sense, as does moving Jennings to Navigation and replacing him and anyone else working for Will, with Lili.

As an older story, I can see the holes in the plot and would have emphasized the cooking a lot less.

Recipe for Roast Chicken

Ingredients

1 (6 pound) chicken
also, 1 bunch of celery
1 small bag of baby carrots or 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into half lengthwise
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Paprika to taste
1 lemon, halved
1/2 head garlic
1 medium white onion, quartered, plus 1 onion, sliced in rounds

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Rinse the chicken with cool water, inside and out. Lay the sliced onion, the carrot and celery on the bottom of a roasting pan. Season the bird all over with paprika, salt and pepper. Stuff the cavity with the lemon, garlic and the quartered onion. Place the chicken, breast-side up, in the roasting pan. Roast for 20 minutes.

Turn down the heat to 350 degrees F. and cook for 20 minutes per pound. Hence for a 6 pound chicken, that’s 2 hours.

Review – If You Can’t Stand the Heat
Roast chicken

The chicken has finished cooking when an instant-read thermometer reads 165 degrees F when you insert it into the thickest part of the thigh. The legs of the chicken should wiggle easily from the sockets, too. Finally, remove the chicken to a platter and let stand for 10 minutes, so the juices settle back into the meat before carving.

Review – Fortune

Background

When I first wrote Fortune, the idea was to tie up the In Between Days series.

Barking Up The Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Fortune
Fortune

I was not tired of the characters or of their situations, but it seemed as if they needed an end point. Furthermore, I was thinking about the canon episode, These Are The Voyages, and trying to make some sense of it. I came to the conclusion that the professional writers wanted some end of series closure and they also wanted some ownership of the fate of what was possibly the most popular character.

Therefore, I decided to create some closure for my characters. These would be the main characters only (at the time, Pamela Hudson was still not considered to be a main character), e. g. Doug Beckett, Leonora Digiorno, Melissa Madden, Lili O’Day, and Malcolm Reed. Four of the characters had already had a story more or less assigned (albeit not completely devoted) to them. Lili’s story was in Reversal, Malcolm’s was in Intolerance, Melissa’s was in Together and Doug’s was in Temper. Therefore, this story would go to Leonora.

Plot

When Temper ends, Lili has some surprising and wonderfully good news for Malcolm. When Fortune starts, Malcolm is processing it. Jonathan Archer asks him what’s wrong. But nothing is wrong – everything is very, very right, but it’s also rather private. A joyful celebration is held, and the family is then reunited for Declan‘s birth. The family sweetly dreams together, and the relationships are reinforced. These are between Melissa and Leonora, Doug and Melissa, Lili and Doug, and Malcolm and Lili.

Barking up the Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Billie Holliday singing God Bless the Child
Billie Holliday singing God Bless the Child

Leonora in particular has a wonderfully vivid dream of Billie Holliday singing “God Bless the Child“.

It seems like everything is right.

But there are storm clouds on the horizon. There is unfinished business, and it needs to come to a resolution before the family can truly move forward.

Music

Story Postings

You can find Fortune here:

Rating

The story is rated M.

Upshot or, What’s Your Fortune?

Too many specifics will mean revealing too many spoilers. Suffice it to say, the story does not end the series. I am happy to continue these stories. Because I want to give these characters and their overall family their measures of forever. So that is either in this life or in whatever may or may not come beyond.

Barking Up The Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Fortune Cookie
Fortune Cookie

I am proud of this story and hope it does the characters justice.

Review – The Adventures of Porthos

Review – The Adventures of Porthos

Porthos has such fun adventures!

Background

When I was first starting to write Star Trek fanfiction,

Barking up the Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | The Adventures of Porthos
The Adventures of Porthos

I seized upon an idea to write about the five senses. More, More, More is about hearing; There’s Something About Hoshi is about touch; If You Can’t Stand the Heat is about taste; The Puzzle is about vision; and The Adventures of Porthos, as would befit a story where a dog is the star, is all about smell.

Plot

The story starts off with Porthos narrating the action. Because he is a dog, he’s not too communicative in terms of language. Instead, the world divides into good smells and bad ones.

Review – The Adventures of Porthos

Most of the Enterprise is on the side of what Porthos refers to as good smells, everything from Sick Bay to the remnants of a cheeseburger that Hoshi ate for dinner. He listens to Captain Archer (Alpha) make plans about meeting a species called Azezans. Being Porthos, he doesn’t pay attention to every single syllable. He has acute hearing but, let’s face it, like many dogs, he sometimes only listens to what he really wants to hear.

The same scene is then repeatedly normally, and the story goes on that way throughout.

Porthos sees action when Archer learns that the Azezans are the victims of oppression. Captain Archer finds their predicament uncomfortably familiar, but he is initially unsure as to exactly why that is so. This ends up as one of my first links to Jewish characters and the Holocaust, as the reference is painfully close to the Judenrat.

Story Postings

Rating

The story is Rated K.

Upshot

I love dogs and I believe that they truly think quite a bit like this, paying somewhat selective attention and continually being distracted by the various aromas around them. They apparently understand some 200 – 350 or so words, so it would follow that a lot of what Porthos hears is just so much semi-random noise to him.

Furthermore, the emphasis on scents prefigures the Daranaeans, and the switching between the scenes was altered to great effect in Reversal. I like the story but don’t love it; the Alien of the Week plot could have been stronger, I feel. But the story had an unexpected, award-winning sequel, The Further Adventures of Porthos – The Stilton Fulfillment. And, as I have explained, it showcases some concepts and techniques that I have improved over time. I think it’s a decent older story.

Review – First Born

Background

First Born has an irresistible background, I feel.

Barking Up The Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | First Born
First Born (Jun Daniels Sato)

In response to prompts about disciplining and decisions, I wrote First Born, a story about Richard Daniels, the Empress Hoshi Sato and their son, Jun Daniels Sato.

The story works as a bridge between In Between Days and Times of the HG Wells. Other such bridges include November 13th and More, More, More!

First Born Plot

In Reversal, I established that the Empress had given birth to Daniels’s child, but she thought him (the elder Daniels) to be dead. But Daniels isn’t dead.

Therefore, there had to be another side to the story.

This story explores the fallout at the Temporal Integrity Commission, and in time itself. Eleanor Daniels, Rick’s sister, is a docent at the Temporal Museum on Lafa II. She begins by lecturing about Empress Hoshi’s five children, but suddenly she shakes very, very slightly and ends her sentence talking about Hoshi’s six children.

Uh, oh.

Fallout

Variant logo based on the Terran Empire symbol...

Rick is hauled into his boss, Carmen Calavicci‘s, office. She is, understandably, livid. Carmen has been looking the other way for a while as he’s been bedding women in time. She has been figuring that it’s a way for him to cope with the fact that there are often deaths, or he has to restore deaths. So she has been kind or, at least, indifferent. But this is something else entirely, as the Mirror government is breathing down her neck. They demand that Jun Sato‘s existence be wiped out, thereby restoring Aidan MacKenzie‘s son, Kira, to his rightful position as first born heir.

Rick and Carmen meet with a Mirror government representative and begin to sort everything out. Rick wants Jun to live, but how much of a pound of flesh with the other side of the pond extract in order to make that happen?

Story Postings

Rating

The story is rated K+.

Upshot

I like the interplay among Carmen, Rick, and the Mirror representative (Ray Jiminez), as they essentially wheel and deal the past. It makes you wonder if that might eventually really happen.

Review – The Reptile Speaks

Review – The Reptile Speaks

A reptile speaks?

Background

I can’t recall the precise circumstances, but I was a fairly new member of Ad Astra and we were talking about mixed-species couples in Star Trek fanfiction.

Barking up the Muse Tree | Jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | The Reptile Speaks
The Reptile Speaks

My point was, as we get deeper and deeper into the future, we’d start to see a lot of – to us – bizarre combinations.

Why wouldn’t a Gorn recite love poetry to a lovely, blushing Cardassian maiden?

And so someone threw the gauntlet down and told me, write this.

Plot

For teenaged boys Bron and Skrol, the upcoming Sadie Hawkins dance is an occasion for nerves. Skrol is trying to make time with his girl, Tr’Dorna. Skrol encourages Bron to ask out Tr’Dorna’s roommate, Etrina. But Bron will have none of that – he likes Sophra.

Oh, and did I mention that the boys are Gorn, Etrina and Tr’Dorna are Xindi Reptilian, and Sophra (and her roommate, Ylinka) is a Cardassian?

Perhaps that detail shouldn’t have been left out.

But, truly, teens are teens, wherever you go, and whatever age adolescence happens for a particular species (for Vulcans, it apparently happens somewhat later). And so there is a bit of a push and pull. Who will end up together? Will she accept or repel Bron’s advances? Bron’s got a secret weapon, but you’ll have to read the story in order to find out just what it is.

Story Postings

Rating

The story is rated K.

Upshot

Finally, orn are nearly universally hissing, sneering bad guys, and I wanted there to be a way to redeem them. After all, they’re not too terribly different from Xindi Reptilians, and that species saw redemption by the end of ENT. Plus, I would hope that, eventually, the entire galaxy will be at peace. That means breaking bread with Gorn. And if they are at all like Bron, and even Skrol, it’ll be easy.

Review – Temper

Review – Temper

Background

I originally wrote Temper for two reasons.

Barking Up the Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Temper
Temper

One, I wanted to introduce a way into a vague idea I had for a Star Trek fan fiction time travel series. And two, I wanted to not only continue the story of Doug, Lili, Malcolm, Melissa and Leonora, but I wanted the kids to be older without aging Lili and Doug quite so much. After all, Doug is fifty-five when he meets Lili. Therefore, he would be in his sixties for any stories where the children could really interact and be an integral part of the plot. But a time travel story could rather neatly fix all of that.

Beyond that, I also wanted a way to continue the saga of the Empress Hoshi Sato and her son, Jun, the son of time traveler Richard Daniels. Furthermore, I wanted more kids in the royal family. For the Empress, it would be a Machiavellian move – she would have several children of different fathers, thereby diversifying genetically and, perhaps, given the tenderhearted paternal feelings that go along with the Y Chromosome Skew, she would get the male members of her senior staff to keep her alive, at least until her children reached the age of majority. And in Temper, they are just about all there.

Plot

The story begins with a snapshot into how the arrangement among Malcolm, Lili, Doug, Melissa and Leonora really works. Doug and Melissa are out hunting linfep, and then perrazin, with phase bows. Malcolm and Lili are going on vacation to Fep City. And the children are either with Leonora or are being cared for by Yimar. The occasion is that Melissa wants to have another baby.

But then Malcolm must return to the Enterprise, and Lili comes home early. Time Traveler Richard Daniels arrives and tells her that he needs Doug for something. She’s not so sure she believes him, and is a bit peeved that he’s landed his ship, the brand-new HG Wells, right on top of her day lilies. In order to fix this, he adds a drop of his blood to the soil but does not tell her that it’s spiked with stem cell growth accelerator.

Rick Steps In

When Doug and Melissa get in, and Malcolm is reached via communicator and Leonora arrives separately, Rick tells them why he needs Doug – the Empress is experimenting with what’s called a pulse shot. She’s looking to get over to our side of the pond, because she thinks that she can get more ships like the ISS Defiant.

But her few attempts are clumsy, and they wreak havoc with time itself, causing breaks in 2166 and 2161, including people from our universe crossing over to the Mirror and being trapped there (this includes the three eldest children, Joss, Marie Patrice and Tommy). Rick’s best information is on 2166, so he needs that part repaired first. Doug is the logical choice because, being from the Mirror originally, he sports a radiation band that matches that universe. Lili is chosen to accompany him because she’s considered non-threatening and, with false calloo tattoos on her arms and legs, she can pass for a Calafan. Rick explains that he cannot go as the Mirror government of his time period forbids it. This is due to the debacle about the siring of his son, Jun, which is explained in First Born.

Once Doug and Lili cross over, they find a totalitarian regime and just what’s going on with their children.

Music

Temper is less musically-driven than Together, but that makes sense as it is more of an adventure tale than a love story. However, there are still individual themes.

Story Postings

Rating

The story is rated M.

Upshot

I like, for the most part, how the story turned out, but it is deeper into my universe. Therefore, it can be a confusing read for someone who is not fully familiar with works that cover the earlier time periods. I do make an effort to create stand-alone stories, but I believe that the effect was somewhat mixed here. Temper is usually on the lower end of read counts for the first five big books (Reversal, Intolerance, Together, and Fortune are the other four), along with Intolerance, but in the case of Intolerance, it’s because it’s a shorter book. I suspect that Temper is a bit harder to get into. A pity, as it’s the lead-in for the HG Wells stories.

Review – Day of the Dead

Review – Day of the Dead

Background

Day of the Dead. More than just a holiday, it also references the horrors of a particularly infamous period is history. On Ad Astra, there was a prompt about the burdens of command.

Barking up the Muse Tree | Janet Gershen-Siegel | jespah | Day of the Dead |

I had been kicking around an idea about Tripp Tucker being caught in a temporal interphase (which is canon in Star Trek) and liberating the Dachau concentration camp. Hence I decided to put that together with the prompt.

Tying In

The idea about Dachau was to tie into Milena Chelenska, who is Richard Daniels‘s love interest. For her, there would be a bit of a back story, as Tripp would deal with the problems that come along with witnessing just so much horror.

Furthermore, there would be a tie into Wesley Crusher, as I liked the little family and backstory I had created for him in Crackerjack and wanted to revisit some of that as well.

The backdrop to it would be Halloween, and then the Day of the Dead.

Plot

As Halloween rolls around – and this is the last Halloween of Tucker’s life, although of course he doesn’t know that – Tripp arranges with Chip Masterson to have a number of classic horror films shown. On the actual day, they show John Carpenter’s Halloween.

But before that, the NX-01 goes about some of its regular business. And the reader should be seeing that life is going on, and they are all moving forward with their lives.

Malcolm is on Lafa II with Lili, for Declan‘s birth, and Aidan MacKenzie is running Tactical in his stead. Travis has just met Ellen Warren. Jonathan is talking about his new ship, the Zefram Cochrane. Lucy Stone, the new Science Ensign, is catching the eye of both Andy Miller and Chip Masterson, even though Chip is married to the pregnant Deborah Haddon. In short, everyone is going somewhere. But Tripp Tucker is living in the past.

Movie Night

For Movie Night, he can’t ask either T’Pol or Hoshi to join him, as they are both exes of his. These are references to the Star Trek: Enterprise canon relationship with T’Pol and the fanfiction relationship in Together. But he sees MACO Corporal Amanda Cole, and begins to flirt with her rather openly. Phlox is also present, and they talk about the picture.

But then Commander Tucker vanishes.

Meanwhile – well, meanwhile in the story, but not in history – Wesley Crusher is considering the aftermath of a static warp bubble experiment where his mother, Beverly, could have lost her life. But he’s lost the warp bubble, and doesn’t know where it went.

Coincidence?

Review – Day of the Dead

Nope, it’s just another temporal-spatial-somatic interphase, much as happened in Concord.

So, where does Tucker end up? Why, he’s in the Forty-Second Infantry Division, and it’s April 29th of 1945. They are about to liberate the Dachau concentration camp.

The remainder of the story deals with Tucker’s displacement, getting him back, and how both the NX-01 and the Enterprise-D work to solve their own, respective, problems.

Music

As the plot unfolds, classic spooky music shows up, and each chapter begins and ends with lyrics as follows –

Story Postings

Rating

The story is rated K+.

Upshot

I added a number of questions about command and promotions, as characters flirt with garnering more responsibility, and how they will deal with such things. In addition, the changes made during the story have the potential to affect the principals for years to come. The burdens of memory and the horrors of war intersect, as Tucker discards his love of horror, and Wesley thinks outside of his own personal bubble, and they both think and act outside themselves.

This story won the challenge; it was my second win (after Paving Stones Made From Good Intentions). I am immensely proud of it, and have featured it in the second Adult Trek Anthology.