Protocols was written in response to a prompt about arts and crafts, and covers a small missing scene from the third season of ENT. Namely, it’s the celebration of Captain
Archer‘s birthday. As a result, it was meant to be a bit of a contrast to the ENT canon Silent Enemy episode, wherein the executive staff celebrates Malcolm Reed‘s birthday. Because the Xindi war is raging, I wanted it to be different.
For Lili to ply her trade as a combination sous-chef, pastry chef and saucier, she needs to be able to expertly handle a pastry bag and tip. Although art runs in her family (in Fortune, she reveals that her mother was a potter), Lili isn’t meant to be a fine artist. Therefore, she traces the image of a shuttle, and of Captain Archer, onto the top of the cake by projecting an image with her PADD and then following along with icing.
Lili makes one big error by writing out Happy Birthday, Jonathan! instead of Happy Birthday, Captain Archer!Chef Slocum points this out to her, but it’s too late to fix it. Slocum tells her that Archer has been in a foul mood ever since the Loque’eque virus (from the canon Star Trek: Enterprise episode Extinction). A little apprehensive, she serves the birthday dinner, and then the dessert, which is a strawberry shortcake. She has chosen strawberry because, unlike in Silent Enemy, she has been taking note of the food preferences of the executive staff. If strawberry isn’t Jonathan Archer‘s favorite, it’s probably close enough. In Local Flavor, Travis comments that he’s going to miss her strawberry shortcake.
After the cake is cut and the dinner is over, the captain approaches her. Lili immediately apologizes for being overly familiar and not following proper protocols. But the captain sees things differently, and urges her to make the same cake, with the same greeting on it, the following year, assuming they make it out of the Xindi war alive.
I like how the story flowed, from Lili’s task to Will Slocum scolding her, to the dinner (which includes referencing to the canon conflict between Malcolm Reed and Jay Hayes) to the short post-dinner conversation. I’m very happy with how this ficlet turned out.
Lili has to, at some point, join the NX-01. She is essentially drafted during the Star Trek: Enteprise canon Xindi war, and is meant to replace steward Preston Jennings and an unnamed sous-chef and an equally unnamed pastry chef, as non-combat personnel really need to be whittled down.
I had already showed her being drafted in Voracious. Hence this would be a scene that would take place not too much later.
There were hints about this story, too, in He Stays a Stranger, where a far more mature Malcolm and Lili, in a shared dream, recall their first meeting –
[They] saw the day they had first met, a day near the start of the Xindi War, when Captain Jonathan Archer had brought a new sous-chef onto the NX-01 and introduced her to the senior staff as she served a Harvest Salad, her specialty from her old restaurant, Voracious. They shook hands and looked in each other’s eyes then, too, and Malcolm remembered he had thought that her eyes and hair were pretty and she had a lovely smile, and Lili remembered that she had thought he seemed very intelligent and well-mannered, not to mention a little cute.
The Set Up
For a new sous-chef on a starship, her first day had to involve making a meal.
I also made sure to
have the meal coincide with Major Jay Hayes‘s first day as well. That way, there could be the canon tension between him and Reed as an underlying part of the story. Furthermore, Tripp Tucker‘s very recent bereavement was also meant to be evoked in the tale. As Lili is a chef, I also wanted to give a canon shout out to Hoshi‘s canon experimentation with cooking in the Singularity episode.
The meal is a Harvest Salad, which is one of Lili’s specialties.
The captain and the senior staff are made to wait as the chef and the new sous-chef are a bit late. Hence the captain makes use of the time in order to introduce the new MACO CO, as it’s also his first day. As should be expected, there’s already a bit of tension between Hayes and Reed by the time Chef Slocum and Lili walk in.
Lili is nervous meeting new people and starting a new job. She fusses over the placement of the flatware and forgets she’s still holding a teacup when she comes over to be introduced. She drops it twice – once, when Phlox grins at her too widely. The second time is when she and Malcolm are chatting.
Because the salad contains varied fruits and nuts, it can symbolize some of the disparate elements that are coming together. Lili spends some of her getting acquainted time asking various senior staffers what some of their favorite foods are, and promises to give them portions with extras of their favorites. It is in this scene that Malcolm’s canon love of pineapple, and Tripp’s canon love of pecan pie, are both reiterated. Jay Hayes reveals a preference for blueberries, whereas Captain Archer’s preference for strawberries is not revealed until Protocols.
I like how it turned out; plus it was well-received. The idea of Lili giving the senior staff a little taste (quite literally) of home, and promising to provide a little bit of comfort right at the start of the canon Star Trek: Enterprise Xindi war was an irresistible premise. I like to think it was executed more than adequately.
I was, in all honesty, spinning it out from nothing. I had nearly no plan for the story, no outline and at first I wasn’t even saving it to Word. And so, when I was saving the first post, the topic had to have a name. On an impulse, I named it Reversal.
It was a rather earthy dream, truth be told. And it was about a character on Enterprise. And I woke up, thinking – there’s a story there.
From such beginnings, I developed an idea. The septum between the Prime Universe and the Mirror would be thinner at one particular point in the galaxy. This was in parallel to the reality of the Earth’s crust. It is not uniform. Hence I wanted the separation to not be of uniform thickness/difficulty in crossing.
Bare Bones Story Line
The idea was for it to be possible to cross the boundary between the Prime Universe and the mirror through the dream state. The concept was that, for a certain species, the connections would be normal. And then, as the NX-01 Enterprise on our side, and the ISS Defiant on the other, enter that same system, the psionically charged atmosphere would cause two people to simultaneously start to pick up on that same wavelength. But for them, it would be a romance.
It starts off with a bang. The first line is – It didn’t hurt. I love this opening line, as the reader should immediately be thinking – what? What didn’t hurt? Was it supposed to? And then the story moves along from there. The first dream is a coupling dream, where a fantasy is played out in what seems to be a normal Freudian fashion. People kiss, their clothes fly away and of course more happens. It’s pitch black. They remain silent, although they can hear each other breathing. But then the heroine – Lili O’Day – breaks the spell by incoherently calling out loud.
And so we’re off to the races, for the next two scenes shift from her and her roommate in our universe to her fellow and his roommate – a woman – in the mirror. We know Lili’s name, but not the guy’s. He’s just referred to – and rather pejoratively at that – as the old man. His name is kept out of the first few chapters as he is a counterpart to a canon character.
Clues are dropped and some come from the characters’ speaking whereas others come from Lili talking in her sleep or references from the twin surfaces. Something is going on, in both universes. There is more happening than just the dreams.
From the beginning, I wanted the story to have symbolic meanings. For the title, the first half of the word, rêve, is French for dream. This also works as the second half symbolizes waking life. Plus there is the word itself and its connotations of reinvention and retrograde changes.
Other symbols abound. After the first dream, Lili – who is the sous-chef on the Enterprise – is ordered to make every meal with oranges for one day. When she goes to sleep that night, she reeks of oranges, and it’s the first word that her fellow says to her. So, not only can he smell her, but there is also what oranges kind of mean. They are of course seen as being different from apples (and apples connote temptation and the fall from purity). Oranges, I felt would symbolize sunshine and happiness, and warmth and light.
Another symbol or rather symbols is the quadruple star system. The largest star is a white giant named Lo, which should make the reader think of the phrase lo and behold. The second-largest star is a yellow medium-sized star intended to be like the sun. It’s called Abic (Ay-bick) and is a bit like abba, the Hebrew word for father. The third star is a small orange star called Fep. The smallest one is a red dwarf (yes, it’s a shout out to that TV series) called Ub. Hoshi herself explains that there are value judgments behind the names – Lo is for goodness, Abic is secondary, Fep is small and Ub is sinister.
The five main books in the In Between Days series are each about one of the five main characters (Pamela Hudson is essentially the sixth main character, but she isn’t connected with any book as well as she is with Intolerance). Reversal is, essentially, about Lili. From learning about the fire that killed her parents, to getting to know her as a chef, a lover and a friend, to even peeking at her finances, Lili is all over most of the pages, particularly in the dream sequences and the Prime Universe scenes. This is Lili’s tale.
It’s just the gift that keeps on giving; it’s so incredibly dense with plot. I am grateful to have such a pond to fish in. Apparently readers have agreed; on various platforms, it has racked up over 500,000 reads.
Voracious grew out of a Star Trek fanfiction idea to not only give Lili O’Day a little more backstory and fill in a blank in her life, but also as a response to a prompt about making a good impression.
Chef William Slocum has been charged by Captain Archer to replace three people – a sous-chef, a pastry chef and a saucier. Plus, for his own preferences, Will doesn’t want to be fetching and carrying. He’d rather not be cleaning off tables or serving food. His current steward, Preston Jennings (seen in More, More, More!) had been the replacement for Daniels and has been moved over to Navigation. Furthermore, Will can’t just ask Preston to drop everything and serve food all the time, as the Xindi war has just started.
Will has a free evening on Earth and takes a cab to a new fusion place that had received a good review prior to the attack on Earth. Voracious is in San Mateo. The meal begins with Will asking the server what’s good. She recommends two of Lili’s specialties – the Harvest Salad and the Duck Burger. The Harvest Salad is mentioned in both Reversal and Fortune. The Duck Burger gets a shout-out in Together. Will decides to have both, plus a glass of the house Shiraz.
He ends up loving the salad and its orange vinaigrette dressing (a reference to the later importance of oranges in Reversal and Fortune) and asks to meet the chef. The server arranges it and Will heads to the kitchen.
Lili is tasked with not only cooking, chopping and making sauces, but also cleaning up. She barely notices him as he comes in, and has him put a carton of blueberries away (blueberries will become important in the E2 stories). And so already Will is able to check off two of his requirements – saucier and sous-chef, and probably also table-cleaner. When she offers him some of the New York-style cheesecake she’s made that day – and complains about having to also balance the books on top of everything else she’s had to do – he is sold. At the end of the story, all they have to work out are the details.
I like the way it turned out and I think it provides a decent introduction to In Between Days. For a while there, it was the first story in that series because it fully takes place in 2153, as opposed to Paving Stones, which has a flashback to 2109 but mainly takes place later. I also like how Lili, who is a major character in the series, is barely seen. She’s the ghost of later, seen through the eyes of Chef.
Paving Stones was one of those stories that emerged nearly fully-formed in one quick session.
One thing that didn’t go so smoothly was the choice of a title. It evolved as follows – The first title was Paving Stones Made of Bad Intentions, as it is a Mirror Universe story. However, I didn’t like the idea of going with a straightforward opposite. Instead, I wanted for it to be a lot clearer that the centerpiece scene was an act of love, albeit somewhat misguided love.
The second iteration was Paving Stones Made of Good Intentions, which corrected the idiom and better evoked the undercurrent of it being the road to hell. But I didn’t love how it flowed.
The final title was Paving Stones Made From Good Intentions. This title brings together not only the fact that the centerpiece scene is happening because people mean well but also because this is the road to hell. Furthermore, I wanted the title to effectively denote that the road to hell is actually deliberately and actively fashioned from these good intentions, rather than somewhat more passively made of them. A subtle difference, to be sure, but the idea was that the intentions are in a somewhat more refined form. It is – there are good intentions but they are perverted and shaped into the paving stones, as opposed to just laid down in the roadbed.
When I wrote Reversal, one of the things I had Doug describe was his early childhood and how he was sent off to boarding school. But I didn’t go into a lot of detail. Hence I wanted a little more about that. In addition, this is Doug’s first real meeting with Lili. So, while he doesn’t necessarily sugarcoat things, he doesn’t go into a lot of excruciating detail. Plus, for Doug at the time, his going away to school occurred over four and half decades previously. Hence some detail or another may have been forgotten.
In Reversal, Doug also briefly mentions that he received his promotion to run Tactical in a manner where he did not have to murder his superior officer. It was important to me, given the way that the overall story arc was to go, that he not be the killer of Ian Reed, Malcolm‘s mirror counterpart. And so Doug had to be put in charge of Tactical on the Defiant, somehow.
Furthermore, the story was written as a response to Ad Astra’s January 2012 Pathways challenge, wherein the writers were challenged to come up with stories about formative stages or scenes in an older character’s life. I had originally considered writing about Lili O’Day and the house fire that had killed her parents, but I was thinking about that and suddenly one word hit me, and it wouldn’t let go. And that word was indoctrination. Once the word grabbed me, writing the story was a lot like taking dictation. Very few changes, apart from minor cosmetic ones, were made after the first draft was written.
The Five Signs of Weakness
I wanted a kind of distorted version of the Ten Commandments or the Golden Rule. Over time, I had already written several mirror universe stories, so there was already a framework. And in Reversal, Doug acknowledges that there are signs of weakness and that he cannot show them, for that’s a confession of vulnerability that could cost him his life. The signs, at that point in the progress of my writing, were somewhat underdeveloped but they did include not acknowledging an injury and not admitting to love. Doug himself sees the development of his nascent conscience as probably being what the mirror would think of as the ultimate sign of weakness. After all, in the mirror, how can you act if you’re tripped up by guilt?
In order to convert these somewhat incoherent ideas into lessons digestible for a child, I created a maxim of five signs of weakness for all mirror children to learn, and have to repeat back to their elders.
I will never show physical weakness.
I will never show weakness in trade.
I will not show mental weakness.
I will not show weakness in my dealings with others.
I will never show weakness when it comes to justice.
During the course of the story, Doug and his parents explain what each of the signs really entails. For example, mental weakness not only involves not knowing how to do something, but also not keeping apprised of rumors and intelligence. Doug is told to keep his eyes and ears open, and not wait for people to impart lessons. He is encouraged to have intellectual curiosity, but it’s not about books or mathematics. Rather, it’s about the various whisperings around an encampment or a barracks or a starship. In many ways, Doug is being told to eavesdrop, as not knowing certain things could harm his career or even cost him his life.
Jane Eyre is a favorite book and it was a definite influence. I liked the idea of a school where children would be intimidated (Lord of the Flies and Tom Brown’s School Days also came to mind). Jane’s Lowood School and the school in Tom Brown’s School Days served as models for the Triton Day School, where Doug would be, essentially, indoctrinated into the ways of the mirror. The softness of his mother, Lena, was to be forgotten or, if it was recalled at all, to be ridiculed and dismissed with a sneer. I even had Doug taken to school by a Mister Brocklehurst – a direct reference to Jane Eyre. The school was also portrayed as a place where Doug’s beloved stuffed toy would be taken from him and used to harm him. In Fortune, Doug confirms that gentler children were bullied and harassed and that, in order to survive, he had to become hardened.
Originally a giraffe, the stuffed velociraptor represents childhood innocence, but with a cruel twist. The toy is shown at the beginning and is Doug’s sole comfort as he listens to his parents argue about his fate. The toy’s banishment from the breakfast table, and Lena’s inability to find it signify that Doug’s innocence is already, irretrievably, lost. Finally, the choice of a velociraptor is not only to show menace behind the plush, but it also foreshadows his predecessor at Tactical’s fate – death after being mauled by a Gorn, who resembles a velociraptor rather closely.
For Doug, running Tactical is a useful promotion, but not one that he had originally sought. If Ian Reed had lived (in canon, there’s an even shot as to whether Malcolm’s mirror counterpart would survive a Gorn attack), Doug would have remained as CO of the MACOs on the Defiant. Instead, Doug is placed into direct competition with Aidan MacKenzie and Chip Masterson. As is true in my fanfiction, the Defiant is a confusing mess, and Doug must figure things out quickly. Hence the flashback to his being sent off to school, where he clearly also had to do a lot of fancy footwork in order to get up to speed in a hurry.
One thing that Doug learns from Lili is forgiveness, and so, off-screen, he does eventually forgive his parents. By the time of A Kind of Blue, they are already naming their first-born son after Jeremiah (Doug’s father) and Lena.
And by the time of Together, that son, Jeremiah Logan Beckett – who they call Joss – is carrying around a stuffed dinosaur of his own. But in Joss’s case, it’s a much gentler stegosaurus.
I have been working in the corporate world, in some capacity or another since 1986. Frankly, it was even before that, as I would temp as a college and Law School student in order to make some summer spending money.
One of the things I have perfected over the years is what’s called an Elevator Pitch. The gist of an elevator pitch is that you have the time of an elevator ride (e. g. thirty seconds to two minutes, tops) to make your pitch to a prospect employer who you, presumably, meet serendipitously in an elevator.
This means that you need to strip your resumé and work history down to bare bones. A doctor, for example, can’t go into the details of some operation she performed last year. Instead, she says something like, “I’m an orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine. The Boston Celtics call on me when their medical staff is stumped.” In a very short amount of time, you get a very good idea of what this woman can do, and how trusted she is in the medical establishment.
For Star Trek fanfiction writing, I think there is a need for what is essentially the equivalent of an elevator pitch. That is, it should be a short piece which accurately gives the reader a taste of your universe, your ideas and what you can do. The Light is one such story.
History of the Story
This Star Trek:Enterprise fanfiction story did not set out to be that way. Instead, I was in the middle of spinning out Reversal (pretty close to the end) when in late 2010 I was asked to provide a story for a project called the Trek Twelve Days of Christmas. The only catch was that the story had to be fairly short – that is, it could not be a full-fledged book like Reversal.
I hit upon an idea. There would be some characters from Reversal, but really only minor ones, and the story would revolve around them. It ended up being just one of the minor characters from that story. And, the kicker, because you can find scads of Star Trek holiday stories about Christmas, this one would, instead, be about Chanukah.
I am, as they say, a nice Jewish gal. And people like William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, but also Armin Shimerman, are connected to Star Trek and are Jewish. Plus there are things like the Vulcan salute, and various space episodes centering around World War II, such as TOS’s Patterns of Force. Judaism is a part of Star Trek. But how to add it in, particularly without being overly preachy?
I hit upon the idea of Jews who are somewhat religious but not so much that they cannot function on a starship. That is, they had to, for example, be able to travel on the Sabbath. This meant that Orthodox Jews were out of the question. But Conservative Jews (which is how I was brought up; this references a sect and not a political affiliation) would work just fine for my purposes.
Chanukah was a natural introduction as a lot of people are familiar with it. The celebration, a festival of lights, also includes foods made with oil, such as potato latkes (pancakes), spinning a top called a dreidel and exchanging presents. The candelabra is called a menorah.
In order to add a little emotional heft to the story, and to explain why Captain Archer and the senior staff would be interested in the Jewish contingent on the ship, the story begins with a death. This link to the past also links us, the people of the present day, to the people on the NX-01.
The story begins with an Admiral telling Captain Archer than Crewman Ethan Shapiro‘s great-aunt, Rachel Orenstein, has died. Jonathan wonders why the crewman’s family wouldn’t just tell him and is informed – they won’t communicate during the Sabbath. Jonathan presses the matter, still not convinced that he’s the best man for the job when he is told that he must act quickly, as this is a major news story. Why? Because Rachel lived for one hundred and twenty-seven years (which places her birth in 2029). She broke all previous records and, therefore, the press is interested in her family.
As Jonathan informs Ethan of the death, Ethan asks for leave for the unveiling of the head stone, explaining that the funeral will be too quick for him to ever get back to Earth in time. He also asks to be connected to the Starfleet Rabbi, Leah Benson.
He returns to his quarters and waits for his friends. Lieutenant Reed comes by briefly, in order to offer his condolences as he is Ethan’s boss. The other three Jewish crew members arrive – Josh Rosen, who is in Engineering; Karin Bernstein, who works with Ethan in the Tactical Department; and Andrew Miller, who works in the Biology Lab and is half-Jewish. Andy is perhaps a year older than the others.
When they speak with the Rabbi, they ask how they are ever going to get a minyan together. In order to say Kaddish (the prayer over the dead), ten Jews must be present. Karin’s presence counts (that wasn’t the case when I was a child), but then what? There are only four Jews on the ship. The Rabbi tells them that they can temporarily deputize some non-Jewish friends.
When the time comes for mourning, Captain Archer brings along some friends to help. These include Hoshi who, when asked if she can read Hebrew jokes, “I’ll muddle through”, Malcolm, Phlox, T’Pol and a Security Crewman, Azar Hamidi. Azar notes that Hebrew can’t be too far off from Arabic. The prayers are said.
Ethan’s mother – who tells him to talk to that nice girl Karin a bit – has insisted that he celebrate Chanukah, so he invites all of the attendees at the service to a little party, to be held on the next night. The party is held in the Observation Lounge. Like all good parties, there’s a little dancing, a gift is given, good food is eaten and there’s a little bit of romance.
For the most part, I like how it turned out. There is a bit of shtick, though, particularly when Ethan and his mother talk. I could have probably trimmed that a bit, as Linda Shapiro comes across as a bit of a stereotype. But I do like using this story – which only contains a little over 3200 words – as one possible elevator pitch when people ask me how they can get an inkling of how I write. For a positive, K-rated peek at my world, read The Light.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The music was great fun to put together.
The story opens with Duke Ellington’s Take the A Train, which is not only used to set the scene but also to evoke motion, travel and distance. In this case, the traveling is temporal as well as spatial.
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.
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 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.”
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 fanfiction, 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.
Brown 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.