Portrait of a Character – Brian Delacroix

Portrait of a Character – Brian Delacroix

Brian Delacroix was born as a foil for Doug, but also to be a friend to Lili.

Background

For most wars, there are often underaged volunteers who somehow sneak in and break the rules. This was the kind of person who I wanted Brian to be. And then, I found, I wanted him to be a bit more than that.

Personality and Personal History

Brian doesn’t have too much of a history. He doesn’t have a planet or country of origin or anything like that. He’s just an underage Security crewman.

Because he’s young and short and babyfaced, he’s got a lot to prove, particularly as a member of Security, so he can be somewhat Napoleonic in his behaviors.

When he gets a chance, in Reversal, to do something else, he rises to the occasion and shows that he has some talent. This eventually becomes his new profession, and he leaves Security. In Together, he helps Yimar and gets a sweet reward for his efforts. In Fortune, the culmination of his education is shown, and we see his granddaughter, Susan, who we learn is attending a High School for the Gifted.

Actor Portrayal

Barking Up The Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | David Faustino as Brian Delacroix (image is for educational purposes only)
David Faustino as Brian Delacroix (image is for educational purposes only)

I hit upon the idea of David Faustino as he’s a short guy who has been acting since a rather early age. He also is relatively muscular. And this would be a requirement for someone so small to get Security work.

Within Brian Delacroix, there is a bit of a loose cannon underneath. You should worry a little bit that something might happen if this guy snaps. He goes down a different path, and it ends up being the best thing for him, but the reader should consider that things could have worked out far differently for him.

Mirror Universe

Portrait of a Character – Brian Delacroix

Things go differently – that is to say, horribly wrong – for Brian’s counterpart. In the Mirror, of course, you only move up when you assassinate your superior officer(s). And in Throwing Rocks at Looking Glass Houses, he guards the Emperor and then, after the Emperor is assassinated, is about to lose his virginity to Empress Hoshi.

In Paving Stones Made From Good Intentions, the first time we see Brian, he is just itching to throw Chip Masterson and Aidan MacKenzie into the agony booth. For him, getting rid of those two means that not only can he move up, but he also has, perhaps, a bit of a shot with some of the women.

However, by the time we get to Reversal, Brian has become little more than a mindless drone of a soldier. His gambit to move up goes horribly wrong.

Quote

“Well, whose morality applies to us? I mean, aren’t there species that still have child brides? Do we go by their rules, or ours?”

Upshot

For every underaged soldier, a hope for a better future or a highly developed sense of patriotism can cause them to leave home early. They might lie to their Recruitment Office and hurl themselves at enemy fire. Brian Delacroix is one such soldier. But, at least on our side of the pond, he makes it through to the other side. And he gets more out of life than just learning how to wield a weapon.

Review – The Light

Review – The Light

Light shines throughout the galaxy.

The Elevator Pitch

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.

Barking Up the Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | The Light
The Light

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.

Spirituality

Review – The Light
Position in which a Jewish kohen places his ha…

I am, as they say, a nice Jewish gal. And people like William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, but also Armin Shimerman, connect 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 have to, for example, be able to travel on the Sabbath. This means Orthodox Jews are out of the question. But Conservative Jews (which is my background; 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.

Bereavement

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 Plot

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 the Admiral says they won’t communicate during the Sabbath. Jonathan presses the matter, still not convinced that he’s the best man for the job when the Admiral tells him to 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 has an interest 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.

Support

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. They say the prayers.

Celebration

Barking up the muse tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Dreidel | Chanukah | The Light
Dreidel

Ethan’s mother – who tells him to talk to that nice girl Karin a bit – insists that he celebrate Chanukah. So he invites all of the attendees at the service to a little party  on the next night. The party is in the Observation Lounge. Like all good parties, there’s a little dancing, a gift, good food to eat, and there’s a little bit of romance.

Story Postings

Review – The Light

 

Rating

The story is rated K.

Upshot

For the most part, I like it. 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.

And what happens to Ethan, Karin, Andy, Josh and Azar? To find out about them, and even about their Mirror Universe counterparts, there’s more in the In Between Days series, and even a little bit in the Times of the HG Wells series.

Portrait of a Character – Pamela Hudson

Portrait of a Character – Pamela Hudson

Pamela was originally a plot device. I was told – get a crew member to loosen up. Really loosen up.

But Pamela had other plans.

Theme Music

Portrait of a Character – Pamela Hudson
Amy Winehouse performing in Berlin in 2007

I was out walking, thinking over Intolerance and how to write it, when Amy Winehouse’s You Know I’m No Good came on the iPod. And that was it.

I listened to the song, over and over again, and Doctor Pamela Hudson was born.

Personality and Personal History

Controlling but out of control, with a healer’s profession but a selfish streak, Pamela was meant to be a femme fatale from the very beginning. In Intolerance, she is first introduced when Travis has figured out that there are female medical students coming to the NX-01 for an Immunology rotation. The assumption is that the women are single, and so he and Tripp Tucker and Malcolm Reed decide to compete for the women. When Pamela walks by, she’s wearing a not-too-revealing outfit, but her lips and nails are painted dark purple, and her hair is back and threatening to tumble down. So she puts her left hand up, and they see that she’s got a leather bracelet on and no rings on that hand. Wordlessly, she has communicated to them – I’m available.

She’s also communicated to them – I might be more than you bargained for.

Pamela is a child of privilege, and brilliant to boot (she went to Harvard Medical School), but her family carries a dark secret – ever since she was five years old, her father sexually abused her, while her mother watched. Her sister, Lisa, was unaffected.

She’s also (in conversations with fellow student Blair Claymore) established as being quite sexually liberated, to the point of worrying Blair. Blair, in contrast, is shown as the good girl. Both are attractive, but it’s Pamela who really turns heads.

In Together, her feelings are hurt when she is rejected – a rather unfamiliar scenario for her. In Temper, her Mirror counterpart is seen. In Fortune, she finds a soulmate in an unexpected place. And in Remembrance, her grand-nephew presents her eulogy.

Mirror Universe Counterpart

The Mirror Pamela has things even tougher than the one in the Prime Universe. In Temper, she is little more than one of José Torres‘s playthings (as are Blair and Karin Bernstein) in one of the alternate timelines. In Fortune and in He Stays a Stranger, she’s shown as a pinup girl. It’s unclear, at least in Temper, whether she’s a lab assistant or a doctor, and in the other Mirror Universe stories, she may be little more than a prostitute, if that.

Portrayal

Portrait of a Character – Pamela Hudson
Kaley Cuoco

I struggled a bit with figuring out who should “play” Pamela. I wanted someone who would be beautiful and sexy and smart, but also could evoke a certain amount of world-weary ennui. To my mind, Kaley Cuoco fit the bill rather well. Not only does she have serious geek cred, she also has some drama cred. I also felt she would be the kind of woman who Tripp would joke about as, “Please, you’re talking about the future Mrs. Tucker.”

Quote

“Never arrive to a party early or on time. No one should. It’s like the old Steady State theory of the universe. No beginning and no end. Or maybe it’s just turtles all the way down.”

Upshot

Portrait of a Character – Pamela Hudson

For a character who was originally supposed to be a one-off, Pamela graduated to In Between Days main character status. However, as something of an outsider, she doesn’t fit the profile of the other In Between Days main characters like Lili O’Day or Doug Beckett.

Pure id, but with a heart underneath all that leather and langor, Pamela is, ultimately, a femme fatale motivated by good.

Inspiration – Education

Background

I actually have a bit of training in creative writing, and I like to call upon it as I write, in particular when I write longer pieces.

My two sources of creative writing education were my 12th grade AP English teacher, Kitty Lindsay and the poet George Starbuck, who I studied under while I was a student at

Myles Standish Hall at Boston University in Bo...
Myles Standish Hall at Boston University in Boston, MA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Boston University. My undergraduate degree is in Philosophy – I did not take more than the one creative writing class although I do wish I had.

But let’s get down to brass tacks, shall we?

I’ll start with Kitty’s biggest and best mantra for writing, which was, simply, characters-conflict-crisis-change.

What does it all mean?

Characters

I don’t think you’ll find anyone who disputes the need for good, solid, memorable characters. However, there are those who would rather see (mainly) Star Trek canon characters in fanfiction stories. I disagree but do not, of course, begrudge these people their opinions.

Don’t get me wrong. I like the canon characters in pretty much all of the series (I am even okay with Wesley). But this does not mean that other characters and other situations don’t appeal.

For example, the Reversal storyline hinges, to a large extent, upon the fact that Lili and Doug are pretty much down to their last chances. I needed for Lili to be an original character, as there was no one else aboard the NX-01 who would have fit the bill. The character had to be human (so T’Pol was out), had to be older (so Hoshi was out) and had to be someone who would normally be underestimated (so Erika Hernandez and Amanda Cole were out).

Character creation is an ongoing process. Generally, for me, a character springs up but then changes as more back story is added. Shelby Pike, for example, arose as a former ballerina but she didn’t originally have some issues with confidence. Declan Reed wasn’t originally an artist. And Aidan MacKenzie was originally just a pretty face. He didn’t get any depth until later.

Travis Mayweather
Travis Mayweather (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For canon characters, I don’t change anything that’s already been defined. Hence Captain Archer is still Scott Bakula, Charles Tucker still has a Florida accent and Travis Mayweather remains a space boomer. But there are all sorts of other things that I was able to add and define and then refine.

For example, as I write Malcolm Reed, he has a knack for giving exceptionally good presents, for children and adults. The Travis I write is not interested in parenthood, although his Mirror Universe counterpart is. The Phlox that I write tells bad jokes that often backfire.

Without characters, stories aren’t worth reading.

Conflict

For longer works, conflict is key (for very short slices of life, it can be skipped). Otherwise, stories meander and seem to have little point. In Reversal, the conflict between the Enterprise (in our universe) and the Defiant (in the Mirror) with the Calafans is a big driver of the piece. Without these conflicts, the story is mainly a bunch of dreams, and so is (I hope) interesting but, ultimately, somewhat soulless.

Crisis

Also known as climax, this is what the story is moving toward. In Reversal, I actually played on the synonym and then that led me (because my mind is in the gutter) to the idea of physical climax. And so I decided that, instead of one large climax (which would be male), I would go with a number of small climaxes, which is more female in nature. The smaller climaxes included the rescue, the movement of personnel off the Defiant and the aftermath of getting to the Enterprise.

Change

Characters and situations that do not change leave a reader, when a work is finished, with a feeling of “what was the point of all that?” I agree – and I despise when that happens. In Reversal, Lili ends up with a boatload of changes, but one of the biggest ones is that she begins the story essentially alone in the dark and ends it, again in the dark or at least semi-darkness, but she is no longer alone.

Edit It. Cut that story until it bleeds!

That is the other mantra that Kitty had for me (and my fellow classmates). What it means, simply, is – don’t waste the readers’ time and good faith.

I have seen plenty of stories out there that seem to have extra stuffing in them. And one of the issues with Reversal is that, toward the end, I had some trouble letting it go. It wasn’t until I began to seriously think of a sequel that I was able to finally wrap things up. But if I were writing the story today, I would likely trim some of the chapters. As it is, between its initial posting on Trek United, then its addition to Issuu and then to its archiving on Ad Astra, the story has undergone some changes. Most are fairly cosmetic in nature, but I have attempted to tighten up the prose, which I feel makes for a better story.

Whimsy

Professor Starbuck was a different teacher and so he had different ideas of what made for good creative writing. I well recall a number of exercises – one was to write about a far older relative and then to write about that person as a fourteen-year-old. Plus we wrote quite a bit of poetry.

One of the main things I learned from him was an appreciation for whimsy. There are plenty of ways to not take things quite so seriously, even when they are incredibly serious.

The Time Traveler's Wife (film)

In the Times of the HG Wells series, I made it a point to give the time ships silly names. They are all named after something to do with time travel pop culture, such as the Flux Capacitor and the Audrey Niffenegger (she wrote The Time Traveler’s Wife). There is even whimsy on top of whimsy, as there is one outlier. One of the time ships is a successor vessel to the original Audrey Niffenegger and is simply called Audrey II, after the man-eating plant in Little Shop of Horrors.

Sports are another occasion for whimsy. A MACO is named Rex Ryan, after the current coach of the New York Jets. Gina Nolan‘s maiden name is Righetti, and she confirms to Kittris (who was named after Kitty Lindsay) that she is a descendant of 1981 American League Rookie of the Year Dave Righetti. Baseball player Ty Janeway has a fairly obvious origin, as do Mirror Universe baseball announcers Ted Trinneer and Jeff Blalock. Mirror Universe baseball is one big joke, with twelve team members instead of nine, twin pitchers and catchers and four bases. Even in a highly charged romantic moment, Doug dons one of Lili’s baseball caps and says, “Hey, I could play fourth base.”

Word Choice

Another thing I learned from George was the importance of word choice. For the story Paving Stones Made From Good Intentions, the title was changed twice. 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.

Upshot

In particular, when stories appear to be winding around a bit too much, or seem to be getting too wordy, I try to remember these lessons. I hope I’m doing my two teachers proud.

Thanks, Kitty and George.

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Portrait of a Character – Jun Daniels Sato

Portrait of a Character – Jun Daniels Sato

When I wrote Reversal, one of the things I wanted was for Empress Hoshi to have a child. This was a somewhat quick decision but, the more I thought about it, the more I loved the idea for Star Trek: Enterprise fanfiction. The intention was, essentially, that Empress Hoshi, like Livia from Suetonius, would be a viper of a mother, breeding as much as possible (and with as many different men as possible) so as to assure the succession. For Hoshi, it’s also a matter of personal survival.

The Plan

Hoshi knows that the way that anyone moves up in the Mirror Universe is via assassination. She’s got an enormous target painted on her back. So she needs protection.

At the same time, she’s one hot little number. And, in my fanfiction, about three-quarters of all of the children born in the MU are male, which is reflected in things like starship crew manifests. Hence it’s a combination of lots of men plus a sexy young Empress looking for protection. So she hits on a plan.

The plan is to have as many kids as possible, but all by different fathers – the members of her senior staff. She knows that there’s been a genetic mutation which not only skews the number of offspring in favor of males, it also skews male behavior in favor of good fatherhood. Therefore, in order to assure the survival of their offspring, these men won’t go after Hoshi (at least not while the kids are small). And then, when the kids are bigger, it’s a lot harder to just kill them off.

But this all comes later. Before the plan is the seduction.

The Seduction

In First Born, we see the aftermath of the first birth. Whether Daniels seduces Hoshi, or it’s the other way around, is tough to say (as of this posting, I haven’t written it yet). In that story, I establish Daniels as already being a womanizer. As for Hoshi, her round heels are canon. So who goes after whom?

Does it really matter?

The product of that first seduction is Jun (pronounced JOON). The problem is, much like John Connor in The Terminator, he’s temporally paradoxical. Because Daniels works for the Temporal Integrity Commission, a lot of fancy footwork must be performed in order for Jun to be able to live. The first requirement is that he not be able to father a child.

Another piece of allowing Jun to live is the condition that Daniels never see his son. By the time of Reversal, Daniels’s death has been faked, and Hoshi is looking for a spare heir – a little brother for Jun. She ends up having a total of five more children. All but one of these are male.

Personality and Personal History

Jun is, like most Mirror persons, a ruthless killer. In First Born, before all of the changes wrought by the Temporal Integrity Commission, it’s revealed that he kills off all of his male siblings in order to consolidate his power. This ends up being another detail that has to be changed in order to assure his survival.

Furthermore, Jun has a bratty and violent streak that all of his half-siblings have. In Coveted Commodity, he’s seen throwing a little knife against a wall – a gift from the Empress that’s referenced in both First Born and Reversal. In Reversal, he won’t come when he’s called and instead is put through conditioning training at an extremely young age.

In Temper (this is an alternate future of 2178), he plays third base on the Empress’s baseball team and battles his next in line brother, Kira, in a sword fight. This fight is over a girl because, in this alternate timeline, Empress Hoshi has skewed the male to female ratio even more. In part this is to oppress women, in part it’s to assure her own survival, and in part it’s to shore up her fading looks.

In The Point is Probably Moot, Jun (in the correct future) is acting as the new Communications Officer, following in his mother’s footsteps in 2192. In Shake Your Body, and then in He Stays a Stranger, Jun is temporarily wiped from existence.

The only person who Jun can, truly, call his “father” is Aidan MacKenzie, the babysitter (Kira’s father), who is not a biological relation at all.

Prime Universe Analogue

While Jun does not have a Prime Universe counterpart, he does have an analogue, in the sense that there is a character who is not a mirror image but is, rather, a similar personality. That person is Joss Beckett, as both of them are the first born children of their respective parents and both have a heightened sense of duty. The pressure is on both of them to take care of things, although Jun is considerably more likely to ignore that duty than Joss is.

Quote

“Someone’s got to be the court jester.”

Portrayal

When I think of Jun,  I think of a part-Asian, part-Caucasian man with a bit of a nasty streak. I hit upon the idea of Survivor winner Yul Kwon.

Portrait of a Character – Jun Daniels Sato
Yul Kwon

Kwon works, partly because of his overall look as a bit of a toughened guy, but also the beard evokes the classic Mirror Universe image.

I’m also thrilled with the fact that he is Korean (as is the actress playing Hoshi, Linda Park, even though that character is actually Japanese) and is an intelligent guy, a graduate of Stanford University and Yale Law School, even.

Theme Music

Jun’s theme is from an alternate timeline. It’s Edwyn Collins‘s A Girl Like You. I wanted to not only evoke a part of the plot of Temper, but I also feel that the distortion in the song evokes the distortion in the Mirror Universe.

Upshot

Because Hoshi is a former linguist, all of her children’s names are meaningful. Jun means truthful – an absurdity, considering all of the lies that need to be told in order to ensure his survival.

Angry, evil genius Jun only exists because of a choice that isn’t really much of a choice, and a mistake and a bunch of Temporal Integrity Commission thumbs on the scale of history. But he makes the most of his life, passing on his ideas and his passions if not his genes. In every scenario, he and Kira succeed Hoshi and rule the Terran Empire. Not bad for a guy who wasn’t supposed to exist in the first place.

Progress Report – March 2012

March 2012 was productive.

March 2012 Posted Works

I began the month by answering a prompt on Ad Astra about seasons. I had thought a bit about all four seasons but I was stuck a little on spring and autumn. But I liked winter, so I posted A Hazy Shade, which is a reference to the old Simon and Garfunkel song,  A Hazy Shade of Winter. That one will go in context at some point. I also added a story about the summer, called And the Livin’ is Easy. That, too, will get some context.

I also started to post A Long, Long Time Ago on Ad Astra. This is really the start of the Times of the HG Wells series, although I had also written a prequel, First Born, which I posted on Ad Astra, Trek BBS and Trek United. On the former two forae, I entered it into their monthly challenges. It did not win either challenge, but did receive some votes. Barking up the Muse Tree | Janet Gershen-Siegel | jespah | Quill | March 2012

Furthermore, I finished Reversal on Trek BBS and also spooled out Intolerance. Reversal and Intolerance have both gotten some very nice comments there, and a lot of views.

More Postings

The same has happened on Fanfiction.net, e. g. I’ve finished Reversal and am beginning Intolerance there. As on Trek BBS, these are the T-rated versions of the stories.

I also created responses to monthly challenges and posted them. These stories are A Kind of Blue (for Ad Astra’s Bring the Sunshine challenge) and The Black Widow (for the Trek BBS What if …? challenge). As is perhaps obvious, the two works took me in rather dissimilar directions.

Furthermore, I joined the Star Trek Logs forum and began adding fan fiction almost immediately. The reception has been good so far. I have added Voracious, Onions, Letters from Home, Paving Stones Made from Good Intentions, The Light , Waiting, There’s Something About Hoshi and Reversal (in progress) this month.

WIP Corner

In addition, I continue to draft the E2 stories. I am in the midst of the third book, and there should be four. It’s threatening to become about the same size as the Wells series. I have had a lot to say, and the characters have taken me in a lot of unexpected directions, for which I am grateful. So I am now beginning to circle back to some of the initial points that I had wanted to cover. But those chapters are rather long, and take a lot of time to write.

Prep Work

Prep work consisted of creating a bowdlerized version of Together and an HTML-coded version of Ohio.

This Month’s Productivity Killers

Looking for work continues to be both a boon to my writing (no real work distractions) and a hindrance (being home all day, I hear every little noise, plus of course I have to look for a job).

I also switched to Internet Explorer 9. While that fixed problems I was having with Flash and Java, it created other problems. So now I can no longer post in the Ad Astra archive, or put reviews there, or respond to reviews. Hence I use Chrome whenever I go to the Ad Astra archive. This eats up time.

Furthermore, my parents visited for a few days, in order to watch my husband and me run the first 5K of the season. Fun but of course, there isn’t a lot of computer time when we’ve got company.

More Distractions

Joining a different forum meant more time spent posting stories (and posting so as to get to know the other people on that board) rather than creating. Plus I overhauled my website a bit in order to better handle links to sites where my work is posted. However, I believe that the changes I’ve made in the website have made it easier to work on when I join more forums. One thing I have to remember is that not every story needs to be posted everywhere.

Portrait of a Character – Tr’Dorna

Portrait of a Character – Tr’Dorna

Oh, it’s so difficult to be a teenager, even one as popular and lovely as Tr’Dorna.

There’s the grooming – for after all, you’ve got to have nice teeth and beautiful eyes! There’s showing just enough to your boyfriend without revealing your tail too quickly. There’s being sympathetic to your roommate, who might not get a date even to the Sadie Hawkins Dance. There’s being kind to your boyfriend’s roommate, who is fraught with insecurities. And this doesn’t even take schoolwork into account.

And then, of course, there’s the matter of keeping your scales looking good.

I Was a Teenaged Xindi Reptilian

There are no female Xindi Reptilians shown in canon. And there are no young Reptilians shown, either, unless you count the occasional nameless aide who has no lines.

What are their teenaged kids like? What about young girls?

I figured they would be a bit like our own teenaged girls. Sometimes impulsive. Sometimes a little wicked. Sometimes very kind. Flighty, maybe. Overly concerned with appearance, possibly. In short, much like us.

Personality

Tr’Dorna is originally introduced in The Reptile Speaks, as being Skrol the Gorn‘s girlfriend. Since there are no female teenaged Gorn at Picard High School, Skrol goes after Tr’Dorna, and urges his roommate, Bron (he is also a Gorn), to hook up with Tr’Dorna’s roommate, Etrina, another female Xindi Reptilian.

Tr’Dorna is portrayed in that story as a little bawdy, teasing and flirting and weighing her options as to whether she will show Skrol her tail, which is a prelude to serious foreplay and possibly sex. She also encourages Etrina to find someone for the dance, particularly when it looks like it isn’t going to work out between Etrina and Bron, and even pumps up Etrina by referring to her friend as the “picture of health”.

When Skrol talks about getting her a tiger lily wrist corsage, he mentions that it will bring out her eyes. In canon, Reptilian eyes are yellow, so hers would be a more orangey-yellow in color.

In Insecurity, it is she who Skrol turns to in order to comfort a lonely and lovesick Bron. Here she is sympathetic and kind, telling Bron that his girl is probably missing him as much as he is missing her. Bron refers to her as “a really sweet and smart lady”.

Portrayal

Portrait of a Character – Tr’Dorna
Hayden Panettiere

It’s tough to envision alien characters as being “played” by humans, particularly when so much makeup and such an enormous amount of prosthetics would clearly be needed. But I see Hayden Panettiere  as Tr’Dorna, just kind of a fun-loving young girl with a mischievous smile.

Quote

“All I’m saying, Bron, is that you can only go on the facts you’ve got, and what’s, well, what’s logical, whether we’re talking about how Sophra is spending break, or how Etrina is. Don’t look at me like I’m a scaly Vulcan or anything! Just, you’re jumping to conclusions and assuming a lot of things. Have a little faith, okay? We girls usually aren’t so different from you guys. We’re not out to actively try to hurt you. I think that’s even true of a warmie like Sophra.”

Upshot

Tr’Dorna may be a little boy-crazy, and she doesn’t exactly make schoolwork a priority. But she’s a good friend, and has a decent head on her scaly shoulders.

Spotlight on Original Nonsentient Species – Linfep

Spotlight on Original Nonsentient Species – Linfep

People have to eat, and not everyone is a vegan. Therefore, some alien food animals had to be devised. Hence, linfep were created by me. They are a wholly original species.

Linfep are essentially hares with tusks or fangs. They are native to Lafa XII and live and scamper in undergrowth. They are one of the chief foods for another nonsentient species, perrazin, but are also hunted or raised for food for the sentient Calafans.

Since they are very rabbit-like, children are somewhat fond of them. In Fortune, a little Calafan girl has a stuffed linfep doll. In Friday Visit, Chelben, who is about four or five years old, shows Doug a picture he has drawn of a linfep.

Spotlight on Original Nonsentient Species – Linfep
Kevin, the Lost Bunny of the Apocalypse

Admittedly, I was thinking a little bit of the comic strip Prickly City and its character of Kevin, the Lost Bunny of the Apocalypse, when I came up with linfep. Essentially I envision – like I do for much of the Lafa System – a place similar to Australia, where interesting or seemingly harmless animals can pack quite a punch.

Hunting

Linfep (the plural does not have an S) are vegetarians, and are the subjects of a hunt with phase bows in Temper. Melissa and Doug – the hunters – have to be quiet when approaching these shy creatures. A rustling in the undergrowth reveals one, which is dispatched with one shot.

Etymology

Like much of the Calafan language I have created, the name of this species is a compound word. Fep is also the name of the second-smallest star in that system, and the word means small. Lin means mouthful, so a linfep is a small mouthful, and a grown human or Calafan will want to eat more than one in order to be satisfied.

Portrait of a Character – Chandler (Chip) Masterson

Portrait of a Character – Chandler (Chip) Masterson
Actor Jason Bateman

Chip Masterson’s name was, perhaps, the easiest part of him to come up with. He’s homage to Star Trek Deep Space Nine actress Chase Masterson.

It wasn’t until Together that I established that he real first name is Chandler and, yes, that’s a connection to the show Friends.

However, I didn’t see Matthew Perry in the role. Instead, I see Jason Bateman, mainly because of his work on Arrested Development, where he is the level-headed person amidst all the crazies.

Chip, in my fanfiction, is sometimes level-headed, but also willingly joins in with the silliness, often as a partner in crime with Aidan MacKenzie. Chip definitely has a silly side and, in Together, he even dreams of doing stand-up in a little club on Risa.

On the NX-01

Chip starts off in Tactical, which is where he gets to know Aidan. However, by the time of Together, he has transferred over to Communications, acknowledging that he is a natural gabber and better suited at connecting people as opposed to blowing stuff up. Like Aidan, he’s an Ensign.

Movie Night

As the person with probably the best appreciation of the arts on the Enterprise, Chip picks the movies. He has eclectic taste, serving up everything from Stalag 17 to Dirty Dancing. In Broken Seal, he and Aidan, who acts as the projectionist, are even blamed for the problems with The Seventh Seal.

He also conducts a little discussion afterwards. Attendance is spotty at best.  In Intolerance, for Dirty Dancing, he talks about the soundtrack, which is a mix of 1960s and 1980s music, and has the attendees try to guess which decade a particular song came from.

Relationships

Chip and Aidan are not only friends, they are also roommates. Chip also appreciates Hoshi Sato as his boss. In the E2 stories I am currently writing, he also helps to train and accommodate the newest member of the Communications team, Crewman Maryam Haroun. Because Maryam is a Muslim and needs to pray several times per day, Chip’s night shift sometimes starts early or can end late, so that he can cover when Maryam is praying.

In Together, he helps Deborah Haddon pick up the pieces and they begin dating. By the time of Temper, she’s proposed to him, and they are married by the time of Fortune. During the initial celebration of the first child born to a crew member becoming a parent, he begins to thank the captain who corrects him and instead tells him that the celebration is for Malcolm.

Quote

“So this Klingon, an Andorian and a Vulcan walk into a bar. And the Klingon’s a male, super-tall. And he’s completely buck naked, except for a strategically placed piece of string to which there’s attached this note. So the bartender gets curious and he reads the note, which says …”

I’ve never finished the joke. Have at it in the Comments section if you’d like to write a punch line for Chip’s joke.

Mirror Universe

Chip in the MU has a lot more on his mind, and has no time for antics. He never switches over to Communications, and instead is promoted to run Tactical at the end of Reversal (his start in Tactical is shown in Paving Stones Made From Good Intentions). He also runs Game Night, intended to be the counterpart to Movie Night. He takes bets like a bookie (betting in the MU is canon) and collects like a loan shark.

Because Deborah is taken away from him, he ends up, eventually, as one of the Empress’s conquests, fathering her twins, Takara (the only girl) and Takeo. All of the Empress’s children have meaningful names. Takara means treasure while Takeo means warrior. These are her fourth and fifth eldest of the six total children, and are being raised to be as bratty as the others, as is shown in Coveted Commodity. In Temper, with its three separate alternative timelines, Chip’s fate differs. The only constants are Science Officer Lucy Stone, and his two children with the Empress. Fortune follows Chip to his later life, and He Stays a Stranger to a much later time in his life. As one of the only halfway decent people in the Mirror Universe, Chip represents a bit of hope in that wasted landscape.

Upshot

Portrait of a Character – Chandler (Chip) Masterson
Jason Bateman (mirror Chip)

Traveling the stars is serious business, and the Xindi and Romulan Wars were no laughing matter, but the crew always needed a release from unrelenting problems.  Without someone like Chip, life on the NX-01 would be so much tougher. Even the crew of the Enterprise needs a little whimsy in their lives, and for that, Chip’s your man.

Review – Crackerjack

Crackerjack Story Origins

Crackerjack was originally written as a gift for a younger fan who wasn’t really old enough to be reading my racier material. This fan likes Star Trek: The Next Generation, so I 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 Plot

Barking Up The Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Ted Williams Hits a Home Run | Crackerjack
Ted Williams Hits a Home Run

The story begins with an old man asking his grandchildren if they ever heard of the time he watched Ted Williams hit a homerun. 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.

Barking Up The Muse Tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Brownstones | Crackerjack
Brownstones

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.

Charity and Loathing

As Geordi waits, Wesley runs out to look for a place to get breakfast. It rains a bit, but then the rain stops. When Geordi puts his palm up to check if the rain has really stopped, someone presses coins into his hand, thinking he’s a panhandler. Wesley finds a lunch counter and leads Geordi there. When they enter, the proprietor refuses them service and they are directed to a sign on the wall that says, Whites Only.

A newspaper then reveals the date – September 1st, 1941.

How do they get to the ballgame? How do they get back? All can be revealed by reading, of course.

Racism

Star Trek often covers socially difficult subjects such as racism, so I wanted to confront it head-on. The time period, I feel, is a great one, as it is pre-war and pre-Jackie Robinson, but attitudes are starting, slowly, to change. Plus the presence of a Whites Only sign was very logical for the time and place in question.

Geordi, of course, was a logical subject for racism, in particular because his infirmity makes it impossible for him to actually see why people are prejudging him. Wesley works, not only as Geordi’s companion, but also as a wide-eyed observer who doesn’t understand why the people of the time are acting like they are – and why some are kind or even overly protective. The people of the time aren’t just one big mass. Some care, some act but are inept (such as an anonymous person giving Geordi charity), while others are pettily cruel.

Time and Place

One of the ways I set the scenes was with music of the time. Take the A Train shows up, but so do The Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B, Stardust and Frenesi. Each chapter begins with a link to a YouTube video. The music is mostly horn-driven and tends to be from big bands.

The chapters also each begin with a picture. There’s Ted Williams, another is of a streetcar, another is of a row of brownstones, etc. The pictures are all in black and white, not only to evoke the sense of an old black and white film, but also to bring home the idea of racists seeing the world in terms of only black and white.

Furthermore, I wanted to evoke a bit of the old TOS episode, The City on the Edge of Forever, although that one takes place in 1930. One of the backdrops to the story is the prospect of imminent war, where bullets aren’t going to care one whit about the race of the person they strike. In Crackerjack, the bullets are going to be flying at Americans in only a little over three months’ time.

Interphasing

An interphase is a canon construction, and refers to a kind of temporal, spatial or somatic displacement, often without intention. While I handle interphases in other stories, I wanted this one to be more of an engineering problem, rather than a philosophical musing. For Wesley and Geordi, it’s a problem to be solved, rather than a reason to question existence.

Framing

Another aspect of the story is framing it as a tale told by an elder. The elder is Wesley, who you never otherwise see as an extreme elder. I wanted it to be his perspective and his long-term hindsight that would shape the narrative. Also, as Wesley learns about racism, I wanted him to be teaching his grandchildren the same lessons, that there are some people who don’t get along with others, and sometimes that’s for the most unfair reasons.

Barking up the muse tree | jespah | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Camera | Crackerjack
Camera

Memory is also key to this story, as it is about Wesley’s memories. But it also covers the memories of the people they meet. Plus there’s the memory of the reader about that time, or about what they’ve learned of that time. Or it’s what they, personally, have experienced of racism, and also of human decency.

But don’t worry about forgetting. Your memory has enough film in it.

Music

The music was great fun to put together.

Story Postings

Rating

The story is rated K.

Upshot

I like this one, but the problems go away 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.

Jespah's Ad Astra Journal Community Site and Star Trek fan fiction site

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