Tag Archives: Boldly Reading

Lessons from Fan Fiction

Personal Background

I have been writing (with considerable time off), in some form or another, for the past 4 1/2 decades, no exaggeration. My initial writings were crudely drawn images in old calendar books that would have otherwise been discarded. Inevitably, they were all about more or less the same thing – anthropomorphized dogs going on adventures.

I used to own (many of them are still in my parents’ house) little plastic farm animal toys.

English: Two plastic animals (a sheep and a st...
English: Two plastic animals (a sheep and a st…

Many of these came from my father’s business trips to Munich, and they were fairly well detailed. When not drawing picture books, I would play act stories for these toys. Usually, it was some sort of journey.

The toys still exist, but the old calendar books are long gone, in some landfill somewhere (they were discarded before recycling was really mainstream).

As a teenaged girl, I had diaries, but all of those are also gone to a landfill. I did not get back to writing anything resembling fiction until my senior year in High School, when I had an AP English teacher who encouraged such things. I took Creative Writing in college, and a Law School boyfriend also encouraged me to write. Then I set it all aside until maybe 2000 when I did some short works and then started writing fan fiction in 2004.

After a few more short works, I set it aside until 2010. Ever since starting up again (with Reversal), I have written something pretty much every day, whether it’s Star Trek: fan fiction, wholly original works, blogging and/or fiction outlining.

Lessons Learned (in no particular order)

Write to keep writing

While I suffer from writer’s block, just like every other writer, I suffer from it less than I probably should, because I make an effort to write nearly every single day. This keeps it all going.

Take and Keep Notes

I have a large timeline for fan fiction, spanning a few millennia. I have other timelines for wholly original fictional universes. These are kept with MS Excel. Timelines are incredibly useful, as you immediately know things like ages, and if character lifetimes overlap.

Fiction Stacks
Fiction Stacks

I keep wikis (more like informal detailed outlines, as I am the sole contributor) for all major series, and separate ones for wholly original fiction. These are for world-building, and they contain everything from character heights to birthdays to naming conventions for various items. It’s all decided once and the references are at my fingertips.

I also keep a list of plot ideas, which also contains possible titles, species ideas, possible character names, etc. (Eriecho was originally going to be Klingon). This ‘parks’ new ideas so that I can concentrate better on the story I am trying to finish.

Don’t Throw Anything Away

Character names from 1986 have shown up in fiction written in 2011, no lie. A quarter-century later, and in a different universe, the names still work.

Your Work Should be Shared

I belong to several writers’ groups online, both for fan fiction and for wholly original work.

Fan fiction in the making
Fan fiction in the making

There are a lot of people who are terrified of sharing their work with others. These are not people holding back because it’s work they want to try to have published. They just plain aren’t ready to share anything.

And that’s unfortunate, as their work can stagnate with no feedback. Fiction isn’t meant to be hidden away, locked in a drawer somewhere.

 

Constructive Criticism is Gold

English: Crystaline Gold
English: Crystaline Gold (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anyone providing constructive criticism of any sort is fantastic. Being told that I need to define a character better, or provide more details, or that a scenario is not credible – any and all of these criticisms makes me a better writer. Learning to take constructive criticism graciously was an enormous lesson I have learned.

 

Destructive Criticism is Dirt

While not everyone will love what I have written, I’ve learned to separate critiques into constructive and destructive, and can tell the difference.

Vermont dirt, up close.
Vermont dirt, up close.

There are those who go into reading a fan fiction who are biased against a particular series, or character or character pairing, etc. They might dislike a certain plot point (e. g. not everyone likes time travel), or they just might dislike all fan fiction.

Most of what these folks say is not worth reading, or repeating. Fortunately, I haven’t run into too many of these folks in my travels.

As for those who engage in personal attacks, they should be blocked without a second thought. No one needs to be trashed in order to be effectively critiqued. Ever.

Do Your Research

In one of my first-ever fan fictions (There’s Something About Hoshi), I misspelled MACO as MAKO, and was corrected by a reader. At the time, I was overly sensitive and felt it was petty. I have since come to realize that of course this person was correct, and they were only trying to help me get better.

Pay it Forward by Reading and Reviewing Others’ Work

Sitting back and expecting everyone else to do the heavy lifting of reading and reviewing is pretty selfish. Writers, of course, should take care not to steal from each other, or plagiarize. But the building, nurturing, and sustaining of writer communities means that you, the writer, need to also become the reader, and the critic. Always be a constructive critic.

Practice and Edit

Not writing does not make you a better writer. Only writing, and reading, can make you a better writer. So do both.

Don’t Crowdsource Your Ideas

I see this a lot, where potential writers, terrified that they have a bad idea, ask their peers for a judgment about whether something is a ‘good’ idea.

This is bass-ackwards. Instead, writers should be writing. Their ideas are, likely, perfectly fine. Why do I say this? Because most ideas are fine; it’s their execution that demonstrates quality, or the lack thereof. Consider the following story idea.

Kafka
Kafka

A suddenly disabled man is late for work one morning. Ignoring his new infirmity, he tries to go to work, as he is the sole supporter of his mostly ungrateful family. When they become, by necessity, more independent, they abuse and neglect him and, unappreciated, he eventually dies. They go on without him.

Don’t know that plot? It’s Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, easily one of the top 100 (if not 50) works of fiction ever written. Ever!

But that plot summary isn’t too promising, eh? It’s in the execution where Gregor Samsa comes to life.

Your ideas are fine, except for the idea that you need others’ approval before you can start writing. Nonsense! Write anyway.

You’re Better Than You Think

Unless you are out and out plagiarizing someone else’s work, there is probably someone out there who will like your writing. That leads to my next point.

Find Your Ideal Audience

Sites which cater to, say, only Star Trek: Enterprise will not appreciate Star Trek: Voyager fan fiction as well as sites that focus on it. That may seem obvious, but it’s a point that people sometimes seem to miss. If your work isn’t being read, try other sites. You might do better elsewhere.

Fix Your Technical Problems Before Posting

Always look over spelling, punctuation, capitalization, word choice (e. g. make sure you are using the right words, and they mean what you think they do), and grammar. A few stray errors are fine, but try to fix most of it before posting. This is a courtesy to your readers.

Not Everyone Wants to read your entire Saga

Readers’ time is as precious a your own.

Busy
Busy

Their not wanting to read your entire 10 million word saga is less a reflection on your abilities (or their love of your work), and more on their own busy lives.

Expecting your audience to read your entire saga is a discourtesy; you are not being respectful of their time. Respect their time by mixing in some short stories as most people can find the time to read something less than 10,000 words (even better, less than 5,000).

Compete With your Peers

This ups your game considerably. Put yourself out there, and don’t expect to win. Competitions are also a great way to get more people to read and review your work.

Keep Track of your Stats

You don’t have to be as analytical as I am, but it pays to at least have a handle on what’s popular, and what isn’t. These findings will probably differ from site to site, and having objective data means you’ll have a better idea of whether a story will go over well or poorly at a particular site.

Use Your Time Wisely

We all have lives, so writing time often has to be rationed. Determine what you want and need, and how well various sites satisfy those wants and needs. Do an informal cost-benefit analysis – does a site offer ease of posting? Better critiquing? A bigger audience? A better-matched audience to your work?

Build a Readership

Book reader
Book reader

When I learned I was going to be published, I told pretty much everyone in my network. A lot of people said they were excited about potentially seeing my wholly original work in print. This is not only ego-gratifying, it’s also, potentially, a source of reads (and even sales) and reviews for professional work. I’m not saying to become a writing mercenary.

Rather, cultivate and nurture your most loyal fans.

That doesn’t just mean being kind to them (which should be a given), and thanking them (another given); it also means listening to them. Do they want to see more original characters? A new horror story? More time travel? Do they think your last book dragged in the middle? Take them seriously. They are really trying to help you succeed. Let them.

Upshot

I have come a long way from picture books that I showed to no one, and stories that I left to rot in a trunk and are no more. Fan fiction has improved me as a writer, and has taught me to believe in myself. It has led me to becoming a published author. I owe it a lot.

Thank you.


You can find me on .

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In Character – Kevin O’Connor

English: HG Wells
English: HG Wells (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now, now, Darlin’, my name is Kevin O’Connor and I have no idea why I’m here, but I’m a-gonna try to do this right, even though there’s a buncha stories in the Times of the HG Wells collection that I am not in. So you might see a story and I’m not there, but that’s all right ’cause other characters, they need to get their due, too.

And before I say anything, the blog owner really should mark the 2013 Blog Year in Review.

Now that that’s outta the way, uh, where were we? Yeah. I’m takin’ over this blog, even though God knows I’m not much of a writer. That’s a soft skill, yanno, like public speakin’ or sales. But gimme a time ship any day, or even a replicator.

New coffee maker
New coffee maker (Photo credit: scriptingnews)

The Commission sent me to pre-Warp a few times – I had to keep long sleeves and long pants on, and a high collar, all on account o’ my scales – you know my Mama was a Gorn, right? And I swear it was like them old coffee makers was speakin’ to me.

So in case you’re unsure, I am an engineer.

Anyway, damn your eyes, or maybe damn mine, but there are questions to answer, and here I am, wastin’ time even though time is my business, Darlin’.

It’s all, uh, here.

Transitions

How do you handle them?

So I’ll tell you about my biggest transition, which was when Josie went from bein’ her beautiful, vibrant, funny, sweet self to, well, you don’t wanna know. Damn Piaris Syndrome. Dammit all to hell. It just takes ever’thin’. It rips it out and it stomps on it and all it does it hurt ya.

But lemme start from the beginnin’, see? I met her, it was at this party, it was, uh, it’s all in a story called The Point is Probably Moot. And she was, well, here’s a pitcher of her.

Jhasi Tantharis (Josie O'Connor)

Ashley Olsen at Luna Park, Sydney
Ashley Olsen at Luna Park, Sydney (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wasn’t she a peach?

She was Aenar, yanno. Blind as a bat. And I took her to a ballgame for our first date, and I messed up and I called her Josie even though her real name was Jhasi. But she laughed at that but she did grab a cap from the wrong team. I think that was a joke on her part, way back when. It’s all in The Honky Tonk Angel. That is, if you wanna look. I don’t mind waitin’, Darlin’.

But it all went bad, when she got sick. It was, see, in your time period, it looks kinda like lupus to start, and then it gets a lot like Lou Gehrig’s disease and then it just eats away ever’thin’. And then in the end, y’see, you lose your thoughts and your mind and your memories. Hardest part was when she didn’t know me.

‘Scuse me, I gotta take a break, okay?

=/\=

Okay, I’m okay now. It’s, see, there’s a story called Candy and it’s about when we renewed our vows. We did that on account that, well, she was a few months from, man, it was a few months before she died.

So how did I handle that? Rick Daniels says I was brave. I guess; I dunno. I like to think that bravery is runnin’ and dodgin’ phasers or stuff like that. I just did what, you know, any husband would do, I think. I have to think that.

Do they frighten you? Inspire you? Sicken you? Amuse you?

So what did this transition do? Well, it scared the crap outta me to start, of course. I mean, you fall in love, you marry, and you make plans, yanno? And we wasn’t gonna have kids, but we still figured it would be, like my family motto says, it would be forever.

Whatever forever means, when there’s cruel mortality, I suppose.

"Forever"
“Forever” (Photo credit: seanmcgrath)

It’s a joke, or at least that’s how I saw it at the time. It just hurt like you wouldn’t believe. It was as if I’d been stabbed with a sword.

It was terrible until I met Yilta. She’s a Calafan, see? And they’re really open and kind, and they seem to, in some ways, it’s like they love us better than we love ourselves. I dunno how else I can describe it. But they do. I, uh, I should get a pitcher; I don’t have one right now. She’ll give me a playful punch on the arm when she learns I don’t have a pitcher to show you. But she’s a silver one, so she’s from our universe. She’s got hair and pretty well-developed calloo – that’s the pattern on their arms ‘n legs – so she’s, yanno, she’s been around the block a few times. She’s from Lafa V and her accent, it sounds like an Irish brogue. Very understanding about Josie, and very cute, she is, see. She’s made that transition so much easier.

And it gets me to wond’rin’, even though it’s not one o’ the questions, but I wonder what I’d’a done if I knew Yilta while me and Josie was married. Yilta, I know, she wouldn’t be a home-wrecker, but what happens when it’s all falling apart, anyway? Anyway, you didn’t ask that so I’m left to just wonder.

Tell us about a memorable transition. Maybe one that went well.

Anyway, so that’s the biggest ole transition in my life, or maybe it’s a buncha ’em. It’s going from lonely bachelor to husband to caregiver to widower to, now, heh, boyfriend.

I am over seventy years old in human years and I am a boyfriend.

Yeah, it makes me laugh, too.

Or, if you dare, one that didn’t go so well.

But it’s also, at the same time, it’s the transition that didn’t go so well. ‘Course poor Josie never asked for none o’ that. She was, I mean, she was a kindergarten teacher. She was unselfish and lovely and, man oh man they say God takes people like that young because he needs ’em but I still can’t help but wonder why sometimes.

Bonus Questions!

Let’s say you meet a character. It could be a canon person, or not. They might be from your universe, or not. What would you tell them about a transition that they might be going through? How could you help them with it? Would you help them?

I think ever’body goes through transitions, ’cause otherwise they’re not really characters, see? They’re just flat on a page. If they’re gonna live, they gotta have changes.

So I’ll look at somebody outside my time frame. See, I’m a time guy, so’s I can do that. And I’ll spin the big wheel and will ya look at that? I came up with Eriecho. This is my lucky day; I should play the Ferengi lottery next, I think.

See, Eriecho really had a big transition when she was let outta jail. She had never, ever been free before, and it was strange to her. I think it even kinda scared her, even at the same time as it thrilled her. So she was, you see, she was at a loss as to what to do. And I think she still is. Sure, she loves Sollastek and they’ll get married. And hey, maybe I’ll refurbish one o’ them ole coffee makers and send ’em one but I bet Yilta would tell me we should send somethin’ nicer, too. But she’ll pick out the doilies or whatever. You know how women like to do that.

I think I’d let Eriecho know that it’s not so scary, bein’ free. And you gotta fill up yer time, otherwise you just get bored. But it doesn’t have to be structured, and it doesn’t have to be other people’s ideas of what ya should do. See, we know the alternatives, and Otra sees ’em, and she tells me that that other timeline, you know the one you all call nuTrek or JJ Abrams Trek or whatever? She tells me it’ll resolve itself, and it’ll be better. And it won’t send Eriecho back to jail or anythin’ like that, so that’s good.

So all’s Eriecho’s gotta do – all any of us has gotta do – is just hang in there. And do what we think is right and best. What we feel is honorable or lovin’ or kind or artistic or well-engineered or even just interestin’. We can ride out the transitions, and let ’em wash off our backs.

And lemme tell ya, I weigh nearly a quarter of a metric ton and I got a pretty damn broad back, Darlin’. But Eriecho, see, and anyone else readin’ this? Just roll with them changes, and do whatever it is that you’re doin’ that feels right. ‘Cause I bet it is. You prolly know better ‘n you think.

Hey, mebbe I do, too.

Nice talkin’ to ya, Darlin’. Okay, I’ll give the blog back, now. Thanks for the soap box.

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Starts

Boldly Reading asks us, now, about Beginnings.

First sentences, first kisses, first missions, etc. – what are some of your favorite ‘firsts’ on Ad Astra? What sorts of openings and firsts and premieres get you to keep reading?

I enjoy a good beginning as much as anyone else does, I suppose. Crafting the perfect opening line is a challenge, and some writers do a better job of it than others, just like anything else. Here’s a great one.

“I was sure I was going to die, but was so afraid I wouldn’t in time.”

Little Black Dog’s Aftermath cuts right in, immediately, and you realize that something awful has happened, and is being (maybe) recovered from.

Here’s another.

He spoke flawless Federation Standard, possessed perfect visual acuity and hearing abilities unmatched by human ears.

kes7’s Year One opens not necessarily with a bang, but it’s obvious that whoever this is, he’s physically superior to humans. Is he an Augment, perhaps?

DHA Molecule
DHA Molecule (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And here’s one more, if you’ll indulge me.

“I … I think … I need to see a doctor.”

trekfan’s While You Were Unconscious pulls two people together, although the details are a little … tricky. Yeah, there’s a good word for it.

Bonus questions!

How do you convert blank pages and blank computer documents into works of art? How do you get first ideas? What gets you started, or re-started?

I find that, for me, getting a story started is difficult but of course it’s necessary. Otherwise, nothing is ever produced! But sometimes the ideal opening is elusive. When that happens, I try to write the middle, or even the end. And I will go over and over again, in my mind, when it comes to the opening line of a story. I want the reader to continue, of course, but what I also want is to set the tone.

Reversal‘s opening line was written on the fly (as was nearly all of that story). It is, simply, this –

It didn’t hurt.

I really, really hope the reader’s question is – what didn’t hurt?

It is, possibly, the best opening I have ever written, and it colored the remainder of the story. Other stories have had good openings. I particularly like the ones for Paving Stones (“He’s too young.”) and for Brown (They were both pregnant at the same time.). Both of these opening lines defined the stories that followed, and shaped them.

The Week Never Starts Round Here
The Week Never Starts Round Here (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Often a good opening line can get me going, and can really sustain me. However, sometimes I need to get restarted, especially after I’ve had to leave a story for a while, for some reason or another.

One thing I try to do is to keep writing (this includes blogging). More or less continually getting ideas onto paper or pixels means that it takes a while for all ideas to dry up. But sometimes that’s not feasible. When it isn’t, I also like to just reread my work, and not necessarily the work I’m trying to finish. I just need to, I feel, review past successes, at times, to remind myself that I can still do it.

Here’s to new beginnings for us all.

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What’s Star Trek?

Boldly Reading‘s got another interesting set of questions for me!

Lucky prompt #13 asks –

To go along with this month’s AOS selection, here are some questions to chew on, since so many people feel that the JJ Abrams universe somehow is not Star Trek.

What does it mean to you when a story is described as being Star Trek? What are the characteristics? Is there a bright line between Trek and not-Trek?

What Does it Mean When We Call It Star Trek?

Gene Roddenberry
Cover of Gene Roddenberry

I think it’s mainly about Roddenberry’s general values. It isn’t ships, because people get off the ships (and who’s the say that they won’t stay off the ships for a while longer than just a quickie mission?). It isn’t just phasers and Vulcans and shuttles, because the time of Colonel Green could easily fit into Trek (hell, it’s canon!) and none of those things exist yet.

But maybe not … too much. After all, Roddenberry also, at times, had some ridiculous notions, such as that humanity would somehow be ‘advanced’ enough that mourning the dead wouldn’t happen, or at least not for long, and that trauma would be minimized.

WTF???!!?!?!?

So I think there are some limits there. I think repairing older and antiquated ideas, too –  I have no problem with doing that and still calling it Trek. For example, our current smartphones and tablets are far more sophisticated than they ever dreamed of in the 1960s. Why not have the technology reflect that? I have characters sending and receiving email, and performing what are essentially Google-style searches. I do not imagine those behaviors ending any time soon, and I do not believe that Star Trek loses anything by slipping those bits of reality into the mix. Hell, I think it makes the stories stronger.

Bonus questions!

What are some of your favorite explorations of AOS on Ad Astra? How do you think these stories would change if they took place in TOS or one of the other series?

I like Niobium‘s take on the AOS, and I also enjoyed ErinJean‘s take. I’d love for her to continue in her explorations.

I believe many of us also grab bits and pieces of AOS and dovetail them into ENT or TOS

Original Captian Pike
Original Captian Pike (Photo credit: Dallas1200am)

writings. Captain Pike, certainly, got considerably more depth in the new films. Personally, I now see and hear Bruce Greenwood far more than Jeffrey Hunter in that role. I’ve tried to reconcile the two timelines, at least in part. Melissa and Doug‘s middle son, Tommy, dies in the service of his captain, George Kirk, on the Kelvin, a direct nod to Star Trek 2009.

Upshot

I find questions of what is and isn’t Star Trek to sometimes be a bit disingenuous. People said that ENT wasn’t Trek. They said that DS9 wasn’t. I think a lot of them will come around to AOS being Trek. As for me, the distinction is fairly clear albeit not perfectly. I know, for a fact, that Jane Eyre is not Star Trek. After that, though, sometimes, I’m not so sure.

 

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Canon Species

Boldly Reading brings forth another interesting prompt!

Writing Canon Species

Some Questions

Do you use canon species in your writing? Do you select a species for any particular purpose? E. g. do you add a Klingon during the TOS time period because of the inherent conflict, or a Trill into a DS9-era story because of respect for the character of Dax? When putting together your cast of characters, is species diversity at issue?

For canon alien species that are not well-known, how have you given more detail to their back stories and characteristics? For those that are better-known,  how have you made them your own?

Is there a canon species that you have not added to your fan fiction, but you are considering adding? How will you do that?

Bonus Questions!

Whose canon alien species characters do you like the most? Do you think the character is true to the species? If the character differs from established species canon, is the difference reasonable? If the character is of a species with only a sketchy background, does the author’s vision work within the limited framework established by canon? Can the author’s changes and coloring within the lines fit with how the species was originally drawn? Would you have taken that mysterious though canon species in a different direction? If so, how?

Canon Favorites

I will use canon species when I feel they serve a particular purpose. Sometimes the purpose is to keep canon characters in canon-extension stories (e. g. the E2 stories). And so characters like T’Pol will be included. Another story included Soval. The number of canon species hitting the ENT era is somewhat limited. I do enjoy the Xindi in all of their forms but usually the image is fleeting, like that of the dead Insectoid, She Who Almost Didn’t Breed in Time.

One area that I have truly enjoyed is to bring together canon species in a manner that is different from usual, or to bring more minor canon species to the fore.

Suliban, Vulcans and Enolians

Only seen in ENT, the Suliban are a somewhat stratified society.

H'Shema
H’Shema

On the one side, you’ve got the cabal, which was a part of the less than successfully portrayed Temporal Cold War.

On the other, you’ve got prisoners, such as are found in the Detained episode. That episode, which was relatively similar to the following season’s Canamar episode, ended up being some of the fodder for the Eriecho stories. Eriecho would be a Vulcan, born on the way to Canamar, and the only other female in the entire prison would be a Suliban, H’Shema. H’Shema would be the only mother that Eriecho would ever know, and she would be mourned by Eriecho for a long time afterwards. Enough so that Eriecho would seek H’Shema’s family rather than her own Vulcan roots. H’Shema, a former addict and a thief, is only seen in the haze of Eriecho and Saddik’s memories, but she was clearly loved, and she equally clearly rose up from her difficult and messy past to become a wonderful mother to a lonely, frightened and isolated child. Eriecho never forgets this.

And, because this is Canamar, the Commandant of the prison is an Enolian.

Ikaarans and Imvari

With nearly nothing to go on,  Ikaarans could be nearly anything. All that was known was the look and personality of Karyn Archer, and she’s a hybrid with humans, and possibly with others. For the E2 stories, it was great fun to be able to give them something of a culture. They would have a click language. Their planet would be grossly overpopulated, but they wouldn’t believe in birth control. Much like Carthaginian child sacrifices, their youth would be selected. But instead of being chosen for a fire pit, they would be chosen to serve for a few years off the planet. Young Ikaarans would be sent to mine or grow crops or otherwise contribute to obtaining resources for their overextended world. Their ships would be single-sex, so as to crudely prevent conception. They were able to fulfill tons of purposes within that set of stories.

Imvari
Imvari

The Imvari were never named, and were only shown once, in Star Trek VI – The Undiscovered Country.

All we know about this alien is that he’s huge and his genitalia are in the vicinity of his knees.

Being able to give the Imvari a background as a mercenary species, with an athlete in the upcoming Barnstorming series, gave them the opportunity to fill some niches and get some love. Hell, I even named them!

Cardassians, Gorn and Xindi Reptilians

Sometimes character species would come together in the context of a romance. For the Bron and Sophra romance, I liked the idea of giving a Gorn feelings and behaviors that would be wholly unexpected. The Gorn would love the Cardassian. But his friends, including Xindi Reptilian Tr’Dorna, would scorn his selection of a ‘warmie‘, and would instead push him to not date outside of a reptile-like species.

Andorians and Aenar

Turning the idea of a delicate Aenar to a different purpose, Jhasi Tantharis was always intended as a tragic figure. And before her, the infant Andorian Erell is another tragic figure, destined to never see the end of her first day, as an act of defiance and possibly a bit of perverse love by her enslaved parents.

Klingons and Breen

For both of these rather hostile species, I was looking to have them play against type. Hence the most stable relationship in Intolerance is a Klingon marriage. And teenaged Breen actor, Desh, is a sensitive leading man – forget that you can’t see his face. This is a Phantom of the Opera if you must.

Xyrillians, Tellarites and Trill

Often seen in passing, all three species get a little extra exposure, including the sight of a female Tellarite, Cympia Triff.

Xindi

In addition to the Reptilians mentioned above, Xindi hit most of my series. And they get some extra detail. This includes the Insectoids being referred to in a genderless fashion until they breed, and then being referred to as female (e. g. The One Who Fires a Weapon Very Fast versus She Who Listens Well). The sloth (primates) get a matronymic naming convention, so Aranda Chara is daughter to her mother, Chara Sika.

The humanoids get certain jobs and highlights, including working in Food Service in the Mirror Universe. There’s even an Aquatic, working for Section 31, in Day of the Dead.

The Kitchen Sink

Denobulans are mainly shown in the context of Phlox. Caitians, on the other hand, are included as a part of the ramping up of the Federation.

Ferengi and Betazoids are currently only shown in the deep future, as a part of HG Wells. Q, Tau Alphans and Orions are pretty much confined to cameos, but an Orion-Betazoid hybrid will be shown in the Barnstorming series.

Who to Add?

I don’t honestly know. I’ve added most of the main species that I know of, and to add others would be either for the sake of novelty or to branch out into another area entirely, e. g. Voyager.  Adding Ocampan characters is all well and good, but if I don’t really know how the character is expected to behave, it’s difficult to draw a convincing portrait, even when the individual is supposed to be playing against type.

Others’ Canon Species Work

I particularly like how Jean-Luc Picard handles Vorta. From their devotion to the Founders, to their loyalty to the Dominion, to their sometimes wondering if things are as rosy as the Founders say, Eris and Liska pursue and promote Vorta ideals. But it’s in their personal lives that these characters shine, particularly as they often play against type.

Upshot

One of the ways you know it’s Star Trek is in the presence of canon species. Even an OC-rich environment like the HG Wells stories is loaded with canon species and hybrid canon species.

Otherwise, it’s just another time travel montage. But with Ferengi and the like, it becomes Star Trek.

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Alternate Universes

Boldly Reading asks –

To AU, or not to AU?

To AU or not to AU, that is the question!

Do you like writing alternate universes? Branching your characters off and seeing where a different path goes? Where do you start, and how do you go about it?

New Universes

When I got back to writing, after a hiatus of a few years, I found that the strictures of canon made it hard to get some of my points across. I also had a time travel series that had stalled but was, I thought, salvageable. But changes needed to be made in it.

Clockworks
Clockworks

I hit upon the idea of using Daniels as a kind of anchor character, to give people something to hang onto, when reading the stories. While I had already written some alternate or expanded types of universes, including Gina Nolan‘s world, things came together a lot better and with a lot more detail and finesse when I began to construct the HG Wells universe.

Origins

Beyond the old time travel series, things also began with Temper. After some of the initial reintroduction of the arrangement and the five people in it, the action quickly shifted to 3109. Daniels would be witnessing something that could easily and undoubtedly show that time had been changed. I hit upon the idea of making his sister, Eleanor, the docent at a museum. She holds in her hands a sword, Ironblaze, and explains that it belonged to the Empress Hoshi Sato. Eleanor also performs a few more expository tasks and then the sword begins to disintegrate.

Once that story was finished, I felt there was unfinished business there with the deep future characters, and so I wanted to do more with them. Since I also wanted to incorporate a goodly amount of the old time travel series into the mix, I needed a bigger supporting cast for Daniels. He already had an engineer, Kevin O’Connor, and a boss, Carmen Calavicci. But he needed some more of a supporting cast. I had already created the character of Otra D’Angelo, so I rolled her out, along with a Quartermaster, Crystal Sherwood, and others.

Methodology

These days, I get an idea for a story or a series and put it into a file called, not so imaginatively, Writing Ideas. That file is updated as I think of new things. Sometimes, the idea is a rather small one indeed, such as smart kangaroos, which was the germ of an idea for the Daranaean Emergence series. For the Barnstorming series, the idea was sports in space, but it’s evolving, and it also includes the idea of trying to tie together a lot of what’s come before. Hence successor characters for In Between Days and Emergence come together, and prefigure characters in HG Wells. If I can get Eriecho and Gina Nolan and the Mixing it Up alien hybrids in there, then it’ll be so meta I might as well call it a day.

Once the first idea is out there, I generally let it sit for a while. Often, I’m working on something else, or life has gotten busy or whatever. In the meantime, usually, my subconscious starts to work on things. I might dream about a series, or something like it. I also tend to think about such things while exercising. As I go along, I start gathering together what I want to do and what I want to comment on in my story/stories. For a series, I usually don’t confine myself to just plot. Often, there is something I want to say, some sort of philosophy I might wish to impart. Hence I’ll also think about what that is (e. g. for HG Wells, it was about how fate is quickly changed by little changes in time, and that you can’t necessarily trust your memory. For Emergence, it was about a quest for equality. Barnstorming is turning into knowing your heritage and embracing your past, warts and all).

Construction

Getting an AU together involves getting organized. I keep a large overall timeline. Currently, it’s on this blog, in two pieces, prehistory to 2099, and 2100 to the end. It will likely be divided into a third and maybe a fourth piece, as the pages are getting rather unwieldy. The virtue of having a timeline is understanding birth and death dates more than anything else. If I know that Lili was born in 2109 and died in 2202, then having her meet Gina Nolan, who is from the 2300s, is impossible unless there’s time travel involved, on either or both ends.

I also create a large Word document, which I refer to as a Wiki but, strictly speaking, isn’t, as I don’t make it available for anyone else to contribute to. These Wikis contain the timeline, and they also contain the names of the characters, both main and bit, and even referenced characters. Even locations are listed. Hence, there are listings (such as in the HG Wells Wiki), like this one –

Colombia

World War III starts here, in 2026 (Ohio).

I’ve got the name and the information and the reference. There is also an overall Excel spreadsheet of characters, with names, genders, species (for hybrids, I just list them once, usually by their predominant species or whatever isn’t human. Kevin O’Connor is listed as Gorn even though he’s part-Gorn and part-human). This is also where I list who “plays” a character, as that helps me to better understand people, if I can visualize them.

As can be imagined, a lot of this information ends up in blog entries.

Upshot

I love creating original, alternate universes. If I could not, I imagine I would not find Star Trek fan fiction writing anywhere near as compelling.

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Character Sexuality/Relationship Mixes

Boldly Reading’s Blog Prompt #10 asks about characters’ sexualities in Star Trek Fanfiction. And that can be a bit of a minefield. Here’s what it asks –

Your Questions, Should You Choose to Accept Them

  • There has been a dearth of even minor characters with, shall we say, less mainstream sexual preferences and relationships. Often, a character would behave in this fashion if in the Mirror universe, or under some sort of duress. How would you change that?
  • What would happen to canon characters if their preferences or their relationships were changed? Beyond the obvious choice of bed partners, how would known characters change?
  • Are there circumstances under which characters would behave differently but still within the fullest context of canon?
  • Have you created any original characters who follow less mainstream preference/relationship models? How do you get across their inner workings without continually announcing in every other paragraph something like, I’m gay! Now, let’s get a pizza. ?
  • Television programs and films naturally cater to worldwide audiences and have investors for which they need to show profits. That can hamper all forms of creativity, including the creation of less mainstream characters of any sort, and not just in the sexual arena (e. g. minorities, obese persons, persons with disabilities, etc.). Throw away the budget! How would you rewrite a canon episode or film to showcase a character (main or not) with a less-mainstream preference?

Bonus questions!

  • Have you read others’ non-mainstream characters? Which are your favorites? Which relationships are the most believable? Which scenarios, outside of relationships, are most believable for these characters?
  • Again, throwing away the budget, what would you do if you could make your own new Star Trek series from scratch, where at least one or two characters would be out of the mainstream? How would you handle showing the differences for HBO, or PBS, or ABC Family, if any of those networks deigned to carry your show?
  • Do you read slash (male-male relationships) or femme slash (female-female relationships), either on Ad Astra or elsewhere? Aside from PWP, how did the authors bring home ideas about their characters’ sexuality? Was it clichéd? Did it succeed? Was it hit or miss?

Bringing True IDIC to Canon

What happens when canon characters are altered?

Chapel and crew member
Chapel and crew member

Is it as simple as having, say, Nurse Chapel from The Original Series mooning over Uhura or another female crew member, rather than Spock?

Does the character lose anything? Does the story line?

Do we, as the members of the audience (or the readers, as the case may be) lose sympathy for her if her object of affection is of the same sex as she?

Chapel and Spock
Chapel and Spock

And this scene, from Plato’s Stepchildren, would have a far different subtext.

Or flip it again. What if, in that episode, Parmen had the two kissing couples (Kirk and Uhura are the others, in what was one of the first interracial kisses broadcast on American television) switch partners in a few different ways?

When Chapel and Uhura are forced to kiss, or Kirk and Spock, how do we react as an audience? Do we cheer? Are we repulsed? Do we shrug as if we’ve seen it all before? Do we react cynically, figuring it’s just a ploy to bring in more ratings?

I hope this sort of change would not elicit revulsion. And I certainly hope it would intelligently amp up the drama. Truthfully, if the episode were being aired today, it would likely be far more than kissing, or at least such would be implied. It would be Platonian porn. And that porn would not have to be male-female.

IDIC Original Characters

MACO Private Frank Todd
MACO Private Frank Todd

I’ve enjoyed adding characters with different sexualities.

Diana Jones, Preece Ti, Leonora Digiorno and Leah Benson are all lesbians. Melissa Madden is bi. Preston Jennings, Dave Constantine, and Luke Donnelly are all gay men.

And then there’s Frank Todd.

Frank started off as a protest against various homophobic slurs I was seeing on Trek United several years ago. I wanted a tough but kind character, and so he was written into There’s Something About Hoshi and was given a prominent role. He is so friendly to Hoshi, and so protective of her, that the Arisians even think they are a couple.

Boy, are they ever wrong.

Truth be told, Frank and Dave’s relationship in that story was far more stable and assured than Hoshi and Ted’s. Ted Stone comes across as kind of wimpy, and certainly shy and anything but an Alpha Male, worshiping Hoshi, more or less from afar. Frank and Dave, in contrast, have an easygoing affection. Understated, yes, but they look at each other lovingly and there is a great deal of feeling behind Frank saying, “I’ll see you later.” The subtext should be – I can’t wait to see you later. It was particularly satisfying to add more depth to them, in the E2 stories and also in Detached Curiosity and Idle Speculation and its sequel, The Way to a Man’s Heart. The latter is in the context of a celebration of Turing/Stonewall Week, meant to be a week in June devoted to gay rights and accomplishments.

I love this character so much that I am hunting around for more places to feature him. After all, Frank does more than date.

Favorite IDIC Characters from Others’ Works

Give it up for Andy in SLWalker’s One Minute!

What I like about Andy is that he’s a fully realized character. He has body parts that aren’t genitalia. He has a story line that isn’t wholly about sex.

For Andy, who wants to reach the shadow, it only starts off as being about sex. It very quickly becomes more about human contact. Why is the shadow shunning it? What could possibly hurt that much? Is there any way for the shadow to be healed?

Throwing out the Budget: A New Show with IDIC

If I had full control over a Star Trek series, I would love to be able to add at least one or two IDIC characters, and not necessarily in the context of being a couple. Surely there is room for a character like Jake Sisko, or Chakotay or Chapel, who has a same-sex preference?

Or let’s go for broke.

Maybe that person is the captain.

HBO

For a channel which showed naked men before and more frequently than most others, this posited series can show a lot more flesh. I think the trick would be to keep it from being almost a bodice-ripper.

Excuse me, codpiece-ripper.

It might even be a struggle with the network suits to show exploration, and get the characters out of their bedrooms. I can see it working as almost a modern-day version of Hill Street Blues, a show that had rather gritty police realism but then, at the end, it was often an image of Furillo and Davenport in bed together. It was network television and it was the 1980s and so they were talking with a kiss or two and not much else. But they were still there.

Archer and Daniels in the deep future
Archer and Daniels in the deep future

I can see the time period for this series as possibly being in the deep future, much like Times of the HG Wells.

The extreme future could also allow for showing more interspecies relationships, including bedroom scenes.

PBS

With this more factually-based network, I can see story lines becoming more documentary-like in look and feel. Because I love the earlier years of Trek, I can see it in a pre-ENT time period.

Lily Sloane and Zefram Cochrane in 2063
Lily Sloane and Zefram Cochrane in 2063

For a grittier time, maybe even pre-First Contact (e. g. prior to April of 2063), the Earth would be a post-nuclear horror. Bedroom time would be more urgent and a lot tougher to come by. People would be scratching out their survival. Hence a shaky camera-type realistic story line could work. And what could be more real than a team or a family or a crew or a group or a movement that wasn’t a monolith?

There is also no reason whatsoever why some of the people involved in building the first warp ship couldn’t be gay, lesbian or intergender.

ABC Family

With a far more restrictive network, it used to be that intimations of less-mainstream sexuality had to be a lot more metaphoric. And the same was more or less true of heterosexuality. While a kiss between a man and a woman could be perfectly acceptable, having them wake up in bed together in anything other than pajamas after a good night’s sleep was just plain not going to fly. For a gay or lesbian couple, even a kiss could have been going too far. Would so much as hand-holding be a problem?

Actually, no.

During the 2010 – 2011 season, GLAAD cited ABC Family as being one of the more inclusive networks, with the lesbian character, Emily, in Pretty Little Liars. Their praise for ABC Family continued into the 2012 season, in GLAAD’s Network Responsibility Index report. Even for a network with the word ‘family’ in its very name, times have changed, and characters of all sexualities are embraced and welcomed, and aren’t just cast as victims, self-loathing suicides or criminals.

Scheduled fun for students on Voyager
Scheduled fun for students on Voyager

For ABC Family, I feel that a Starfleet Academy scenario could work the best. This would provide story lines surrounding coming of age, and that can mean discovering and communicating to others about one’s sexuality. This might work best in a post-Nemesis time period, where the technology could be bigger and brighter but not wholly unfamiliar and, if not set too deeply into the future, guest characters could believably interact with the new series’s characters.

Slash

Perhaps the hardest sell for a lot of people is slash, and the problem is that it is often misunderstood as to what slash truly is. In its original form, it was TOS-based, and it showed a sexual relationship between Kirk and Spock, essentially pulling their friendship to the extreme.

Slash takes tons of forms, e. g. m/m (two men), f/f (two women), chanslash (underage children), original slash (both characters are original ones), etc. It also does not, necessarily, contain overt sexual situations or behaviors (reverse slash). Then there’s also PWP (porn without plot; or plot, what plot?), which is pretty overt porn with little to recommend it beyond basic titillation.

While I have read slash, and I enjoy excitement as much as the next person, I’ve found straightforward PWP to get unintentionally amusing after a while. Hence I personally tend to stay away from it, but that’s for all forms of sexuality that it may showcase. I kinda like plot with my sexy stories. But hey, that might just be me.

Contamination by Odon is a femmeslash story about Hoshi and T’Pol that brings together

Hoshi and T'Pol
Hoshi and T’Pol

Pon Farr and bi-curiosity in a way that is safe for teens (the story is, to my mind properly, rated T) but gets across the characters’ sexuality immediately. Could this even work on a more conservative network?

I don’t see any reason why not. Hell, it’s actually a bit less sexy than what the UPN network was really showing when ENT was in first-run.

Upshot

A character’s sexuality is as much a part of a person as their eye color or their height, and it’s just as mutable, particularly after maturation. To create a ship or a series with absolutely no one with an alternative view is downright unrealistic. The percentage of out-and-out 100% homosexual persons is rather small, but the percentage of people who are bi, bi-curious and/or sympathetic to gay rights is considerably higher.

There is a lot of room under the umbrella called Star Trek, and fan fiction proves that anyway, by bringing poetry, different pairings, horror stories, alternative timelines, expanded universes, original characters, and extremely long story arcs which can work side by side with what happened on screen and in the officially sanctioned books.

To keep non-mainstream sexuality out of Star Trek is a misplaced notion.

IDIC for the win!

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Original Characters and Settings

Original Characters and Settings

Boldly Reading asked, in Blog Prompt #9, about original characters and original settings.

  • What’s the best setting for an original character? Is it as a lone figure, thrust into a canon ship or situation? In a group of original characters but still in a canon ship, situation or series? Or as a stand-alone crew, group, political party or other agglomeration of individuals?
  • When do original characters and scenarios tip the scale from new spins on familiar works to out and out non-Trek? Is there a bright line between Star Trek and not-Star Trek?
  • How can original character love interests be integrated into a more canon scenario? What about original character leaders?
  • For canon characters who have very little back story or screen (or authorized book) time, what’s the tipping point between when canon converts into what is, for all intents and purposes, an original character?
  • For representations of canon characters in fan fiction that are not well-portrayed (e. g. the author misses the mark and does not accurately represent the canon character’s language, ideals, vision, etc.), can the situation be salvaged by rewriting the story with an original character?
  • For original settings, what makes them unique? Can an original setting be so extraordinary that it, in a way, almost becomes a nonliving type of Mary Sue?

Bonus questions!

  • Who are some of your favorite original characters that you have created? Do you feel they fulfill their purposes?
  • What happens when you take a Mary Sue test?
  • What are some of your favorite original settings that you have created? Did they work?
  • Who else’s original characters do you enjoy reading the most, and why?
  • Are there others’ original settings that you like reading the most? What makes those original settings your favorites?

A Cast of Hundreds

When I last checked, I had created over 300 original characters to encompass various scenarios. These included figures from as far back as 1775 (including Benjamin Warren)

The Lone Original Character

I’ve found that I rarely do this, as I love making characters so much that I just can’t resist tossing in several as points and then counterpoints and then even more. A Hazy Shade is one example of, truly, there only being one original character. In that story, the sole original character is Jonathan Archer‘s wife, a Calafan named Miva. Other single-OC stories

Original Characters and Settings
Susan Cheshire (Yvonne Nelson)

include Atlas, with its very brief glimpse of Susan Cheshire, and Penicillin, which is an interplay between canon character Jay Hayes and Lili O’Day. For all of those stories, they are short and the OC (except for in Atlas) acts as a sounding board and a counter to the canon character.

A Small Bouquet of Original Characters

Perhaps the best example of this is in The Light, where Jewish crew members get together to remember a lost life and to celebrate Chanukah. Because none of the canon ENT characters are known to be Jewish, the story would have rung hollow if I had tried to shoehorn someone in, such as deciding that Hoshi Sato is suddenly Jewish. While that is not an impossible situation, it seemed unlikely. Further, I wanted the Jewish characters to be young people, more or less fresh out of school. Hoshi would not fit into that fairly limited scenario.

Therefore, The Light centers around Ethan Shapiro, Karin Bernstein, Andrew Miller and

Original Characters and Settings
Josh Rosen (Seth Green)

Josh Rosen, with a quick appearance by Muslim crew member Azar Hamidi. The seven main canon characters all make appearances, though.

A Larger Bevy of Original Characters

In order to best accommodate the E2 scenario, I needed to fill the NX-01 with people. This meant making sure that all of the women were accounted for, along with a lot of the men. People would flit in and out as the story line is somewhat episodic and the chapters can often read like vignettes. I was able to use a number of characters I had already created, such as Deborah Haddon, a fact that not only saved me ramp-up time but also dovetailed rather nicely into my preexisting fanfiction. After all, if I said that Deborah was on the ship in 2157, in Reversal, then it made sense for her to have also been on the ship in 2154, when the ship was kicked back in time, in Reflections Down a Corridor and Everybody Knows This is Nowhere.

I also made characters to make specific points, such as Mara Brodsky and Robert Slater, as I wanted someone to be cuckolded. When Slater was cuckolded by a canon character, Walter Woods, that worked well with marrying canon and original characters – and eventually quite literally marrying them. Original characters were also created in order to fulfill certain roles on the ship, as Communications would have to be handled on second shift and night shift. Maryam Haroun and Chip Masterson, respectively, fulfilled those roles.

Lone or Few Canon Characters

The best example of this is in the HG Wells stories. As Temper makes clear, the sole canon character is Richard Daniels. Richard needs a support team, which includes people like

Original Characters and Settings
Boris Yarin, MD

Boris Yarin and Crystal Sherwood. By giving Rick occasional missions to the NX-01 or elsewhere in canon, and having him eventually need to confer with ancestor Malcolm Reed, I was able to provide more canon credibility to these stories.

In the upcoming Barnstorming series, the few main canon characters are Martin Madden and Wesley Crusher, but the crew of the Enterprise-E is seen, as Madden lives and works there. Keeping a few canon characters on hand, I feel, can make a story a lot more Trek.

Canon Characters Begone!

The Eriecho series is 100% fanfiction characters, and it will likely stay that way, as are Gina Nolan‘s universe and the Bron-Sophra-Skrol-Tr’Dorna group. Even without canon

Original Characters and Settings
Bron

characters, the situations or the history or the species can bring back the Trek part. For example, Eriecho’s story is precipitated by the events in the JJ Abrams timeline, whereas Gina’s world is built upon the foundation of the Dominion War. Bron and Skrol are Gorn, Tr’Dorna is a Xindi Reptilian and Sophra is a Cardassian. These three canon species bring that story line squarely into Trek, I feel.

Will I ever write a story with 100% original characters, 100% original species and completely outside of any sort of canon scenarios? At that point, I feel it starts to tip perilously close to not-Trek. But there are a ton of canon scenarios, and those can include very non-canon people being off their ships. After all, characters are born, have relationships and possibly marriages, have families, have jobs and retirements, and they also die. Just because a kiss between a Gorn and a Cardassian has not been shown on screen – or between two completely original species, such as a Calafan and a Daranaean – does not mean it’s wholly not-Trek. But I do recognize that it can be a far harder sell to the reader. For a scenario such as that, the reader, I feel, needs to be prepared with a lot of earlier work bringing these original species into the Trek-like fold.

Adding Original Details to Canon Characters

In many ways, this is the very purpose of fan fiction, to fill in the blanks where canon left off, or a show was cancelled too soon or the like. The three canon characters I have done this the most with have been Malcolm Reed, Jay Hayes and Richard Daniels. Have I done well by them? I like to think so, but it’s hard to say (and it is particularly difficult as all come from ENT).

Malcolm Reed

During the run of ENT, this character was the tantalizing fourth or fifth out of seven, sometimes the sixth, but rarely in the top three and virtually never first, when it came to story line development, writer affection or plot twists. Even when the story line centered around Malcolm, he never seemed to get his due.

Fan fiction has allowed me to give him a wife and a child, and it has allowed me to give him quirks like lactose intolerance and personal interests like crossword puzzles. Stay tuned, as there is a lot more Malcolm to come!

Jay Hayes

Original Characters and Settings
Jay Hayes (Steven Culp)

For a character seen in five episodes and who only had a first initial, I have given him ex-girlfriends, an earlier posting on Titania, and an alternate timeline wife and two children. Along the way, Jay also got a love of blueberries and was also not too adventurous in his diet, never having tried either figs or parsnips until prompted to do so.

Will there be more Jay? I adore this character and so I’ll find a way, but right now I don’t have anything specific planned.

Richard Daniels

For a character with no first name, he’s gotten a reputation as a ladies’ man, a pair of somewhat more serious ex-girlfriends, and a great love. His off-hand canon statement of being mostly human led to not only working out how he was put together, but it also led to a thought experiment about unlikely hybrids, resulting in characters like Boris Yarin and Kevin O’Connor.

Richard flits in and out of my fiction and he may or may not turn up again. Because of Multiverse II, I’ve seen more interest in the HG Wells universe, so it’s very possible that he and his group will get new adventures, much like Another Piece of the Action.

Original Settings

From the beginning of In Between Days, I decided that humans would have, even as early as 2151, colonized all available surfaces within the Solar System. This means the planet Mars but also a ton of moons, such as Titan, Titania and Ganymede. In order to give these locations a bit of spice, I decided on some set characteristics, such as Titania being a Southerner’s paradise and Mars having cities all named after metals.

The E2 stories allowed for more original settings, including writing Phnom Penh during the Third World War and three new planets, Paradise, Amity and Speakeasy. In order to give the latter three believability, they were given certain problems. Paradise is often too hot, and there are no natural pollinators. Amity has poisonous malostrea. And Speakeasy isn’t supposed to exist at all, and is only dimly lit.

Favorites and Mary Sues

Of course I love Lili O’Day, and I strive to keep her out of Mary Sue territory. She burns

Original Characters and Settings
Lili O’Day (Naomi Watts)

things. She often avoids people. She gets jumpy and nervous and it is not necessarily endearing. In Everybody Knows This is Nowhere, she is particularly unfair to José Torres. She does, at times, fail the Mary Sue test, I admit. But I believe that her overall arc comes down rather favorably on the believable end of things. She does have a lot of adventures and I do spend a lot of time on her, but that’s also because I love the character so much.

Pamela Hudson, another favorite, more or less stays out of Mary Sue territory due to her often sour disposition and her many screw-ups in life. Things turn out for the best for her, but she has a tougher row to hoe than Lili does.

Eriecho stays out of the world of Mary Sue due to her poor upbringing and her violent past. I’ve barely scratched her surface; time in Canamar is not fun. As I unwrap more layers of this character, I think she will leave Mary Sue far, far behind.

 

Original Characters and Settings
Levi Cavendish (Edward Norton)

Levi Cavendish stays well away from Mary Sue, even though he’s a genius, because he’s so damned messed up. Otra D’Angelo has her own weaknesses, even though she has what is essentially a psionic-style gift for seeing temporal alternatives. But it gets her a pretty raw deal with the enemy.

Canon character Wesley Crusher is often seen as a Mary Sue, and that’s unfortunate. A lot of people love to hate this character. I’ve done my best to try to rehabilitate him, particularly in Crackerjack.

Love for Others’ Babies

Captain Sarine‘s Kalara is perhaps the best-realized female Klingon I have either seen or read. I’ve also enjoyed the interplay of thebluesman‘s Captain Dylan and Dr. West. Miranda Fave‘s wacky Tabatha (don’t call me Tabby!) Chase and her crew get things done with few stuffy conventions and a lot of flair. And Mistral‘s Shand feels very much like a real alien person. Enough like us to be someone we could work with, but enough unlike to keep us a bit … unsettled.

In the scenery department, kes7‘s Tesseract universe puts together a crazy-advanced ship with the right kinds of off-kilter people who can make it run. And trekfan‘s overall Hank and Bethany mythos brings those two original characters from home to the Pearl to marriage and domesticity, and eventually to Hank’s end.

Upshot

I cannot imagine fan fiction without original characters, and I confess it often dismays me when people do not try to write them. Even poorly realized Mary Sue to the hilt creations are, at least to me, an attempt to go outside oneself, and stretch those creative muscles. For better or for worse, original characters and scenes, I feel, take it all to the next level.

Damn, I’m gonna go out and make myself some more characters!

‘Cause 300+ just aren’t enough.

Branching to other fandoms

Cheating on Star Trek???

In response to Blog Prompt #8,  my main participation in other fandoms is in reading or in viewing. I know of fan fiction works in any number of other fandoms (they’re all over fanfiction.net), but I don’t find myself participating in them. Rather, I step back and mostly leave it to the professionals.

Hobbit/LOTR

But not completely, as I’ve recently done some informal beta reading of some Bilbo/Thorin slash in the Hobbit universe.

Thorin meets Bilbo
Thorin meets Bilbo

In all honesty, I’m not so sure how I feel about it. I like my friend’s work, and I think it’s respectful and true to the characters. The voices seem authentic, even if the actions seem less so. Slash doesn’t make me squeamish, but I think this may bug me a tad as these are characters I read about when I was very young (as in, if memory serves, eight years old). Also knowing enough of Tolkein’s motivations – he had wanted to write a boy’s adventure story and he’s not much for female characters. Hence there are a lot of guys.

It makes me wonder if the times had been different, if we wouldn’t see slash arising from classic war pictures. E. g. Stalag 17 or The Great Escape or The Longest Day. Some of this may be why I’m so drawn to developing and realizing historical crossovers, e. g. Concord and Day of the Dead.

Does it inspire me? I’ve been checking out Game of Thrones a bit recently, and that, coupled with listening to Jane Austen’s Emma on podcast, is starting to creep into the language and speech patterns I use for some characters, particularly for Vulcans. I often have major issues with writing Vulcans unless I logically impair them somehow. But giving them Regency speech patterns seems to be assisting with that. I don’t know if that’s inspiration for me. Perhaps a more descriptive term would be a paradigm shift. So maybe I’ll finally get better at writing standard-form Vulcans, and will give them more dialogue than just saying that something is logical or fascinating.

Why Haven’t I Leaped?

The only other fandom where I was actually inspired to write anything (but never finished it, alas), is Quantum Leap.

Cover of Quantum Leap#10, art by C. Winston Taylor
Cover of Quantum Leap#10, art by C. Winston Taylor (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Beyond enjoying the show, I did start to write a story, about a stockbroker at the time of the 1987 crash. I recall the guy was African-American and his name was Jordan something or other (like Gordon Gekko, huh) and was called Jordo. He was going to find his happy ending by quitting and taking up with the woman who worked at the local coffee shop, if I am remembering it all correctly.

I was never inspired to finish it, although I did create the HG Wells stories as a kind of anti-Quantum Leap. The idea is to be where people (almost like Sam and Al) try to improve the future by ‘fixing’ the past.

I decided that the idea is, ultimately, an arrogant one. What if the fixing screwed everything else up, making it even worse?

But as for the actual fandom story, no, it died a long, long time ago and was never revived. I’m not even so sure why I selected the main A story for it, but I know I was keeping with their canon, which puts Beckett’s leaps into about 1953 to 2010 or so. But truly, the 1987 crash was not that compelling a news flash, at least not for this sort of drama.

Upshot

I’m a fan of any number of works. I’ll watch James Bond films on a rainy day, or the Planet of the Apes movies, or Star Wars. I don’t run to turn off Doctor Who or Red Dwarf. I still love everything I’ve seen of Peter Jackson’s take on the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, even though I’ve watched much of it multiple times.

But none of them move me to write, or at least to finish. And none of them have inspired me to such creativity as Trek does.

I guess this is just the universe that speaks to me the most, and the best, and the clearest. This is the one that tells me to write.

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Self-Promotion

This is in response to the Boldly Reading blog prompt #5.

Sell yourself. Sell your story.

The prompts to date have been of a more reflective nature. Asking you to pose questions of yourselves. Not an easy thing to do. However, I think this next prompt is a little harder to do. I want you to sell yourself. Sell your story. Sell your character.

This is a little opportunity to give yourself a little love. This is a chance to advertise a story of yours you have a soft great big proud spot for. To talk our arms off about a character or characters of yours that you positively gush over. Perhaps maybe you’ve a story that’s been missed over or a character not quite got by the readership. Well, here’s your opportunity to tell us about them in your words. Don’t worry about it being egotistical (cos I’m telling you to do it – so there’s no vanity of vanities going on). Don’t suggest another person’s story/character to write about (cos that will be a prompt down the line). Just write about a story/series/character of yours you want to shine a light on.

Love, Sex, Forever and the Afterworld

For Star Trek fanfiction, a truly irresistible scenario is ENT’s E2 episode.

Lorian
Lorian

In this canon story line, the NX-01 is shot back in time to 2037, and the ship turns generational. In canon, Hoshi marries and has two children, Toru and Yoshiko. Phlox marries MACO Corporal Amanda Cole and they have nine children. Jonathan weds an Ikaaran woman named Esilia. Tripp and T’Pol wed and have a son, Lorian. Travis marries MACO J. McKenzie (I name her Julie). And Malcolm dies without offspring.

That’s Star Trek: Enterprise canon.

Fairly recently, I wrote a series which encompasses this time period. I wanted to add an extra layer to it all, so there are actually two kick backs in time. One is, in some ways, happier than the other. But they both have their purposes.

Lili is of course present, as is Jay Hayes, who is not mentioned in the episode but naturally had to have been there. One group of secondary characters who make appearances are the characters from The Light, such as Karin Bernstein, Andy Miller, Josh Rosen, Ethan Shapiro and Azar Hamidi. Azar is given a love interest, Maryam Haroun, and a rival, the canon character R. Azar, who I have named Ramih.

Other secondary characters in the mix are Chip Masterson, Deb Haddon, Brian Delacroix, Craig Willets, Jenny Crossman, Aidan MacKenzie, Quartermaster Sekar Khan, MACO Frank Todd, David ConstantineJosé Torres, Chef Will Slocum, canon MACO Daniel Chang, Sandra Sloane, Shelby Pike, Gary Hodgkins, Tristan Curtis, semi-canon character Patti Socorro, Diana Jones, Meredith Porter, Rex Ryan and several others, enough to populate a ship with nearly ninety regular crew members. Time traveler Richard Daniels even makes a few appearances, as does Jay’s old girlfriend, Susan Cheshire.

Four books in total were written. The first of these is Reflections Down a Corridor. The crew begins to come to grips with the fact that they are never, ever going home again. People, tentatively, begin to explore each other. And the ship starts to commit to surviving in the Delphic Expanse. They obtain two planets, Amity and Paradise, and begin to hunt procul. But watch out for the malostrea! And, in addition to Xindi, the Enterprise also has to deal with a species from my own fiction, the Imvari.

The second book is dedicated more to the many hookups and relationships, both positive and negative, that such a scenario generates. It also contains some rather disturbing scenes. It’s called Entanglements and is the shortest of the four pieces.

The third book, The Three of Us, continues the first kick back in time, as the uneven ratio between men and women begins to be better resolved. The Ikaarans are brought onto the ship, and I have expanded their culture and physiology beyond the scraps that were shown in canon. While there is one main triad that is the three people of the title, there are other groups of three that the reader should be looking for. And this is also where Lili’s dreaming starts to get interesting, and her subconscious fears are allayed by dreams of the not yet born Doug Beckett. Even more disturbing scenes pepper this story, and a reference in Multiverse II will be made a bit clearer here.

The fourth and final book, Everybody Knows This is Nowhere, brings the first kick back in time to 2154, as the second kick back occurs, and then slips in more final pieces of the puzzle as the second kick back (as in canon) meets the people of the prime timeline. And, after Jay’s canon death, his will is read, and bequests are given. Because the beginning of Everybody Knows is quite rough on the characters, Lili is again comforted subconsciously. But this time her comforter is Malcolm’s counterpart, the as-yet unborn Ian Reed, a character seen in the story Throwing Rocks at Looking Glass Houses. As in The Three of Us, disturbing sequences are placed within the story line, and readers of Multiverse II will recognize one character.

Why I’m Touting It

It’s not just because it’s a labor of love, dense with characters and plot. I also like the message of it, the overall arcs, too. Depression gallops among the crew. People do bad things. And they also do very good ones, and I like to think that the characters are believable. The below decks world is visited over and over again, and not just from Lili’s perspective. Time passes, and when you’re not exploring, that time is sometimes passed in odd ways. People say things about each other (or write them in log entries) that are cruel, or are kind, or are incomprehensible. Behavior is not always justified or understood. And that’s what real life is like.

I have seen other fan fiction about this time period, and it is often extremely ‘shippy. I will admit that Entanglements in particular is pretty darned relationship-centric. But in some ways it has to be. Time is ticking and people have got to get their ducks lined up. And they do so in strange ways, some of which are more romantic than others. And they sometimes have Buyer’s Remorse as well.

I also wanted to give it some action that occurs outside of bedrooms. A few battles are fought, and some nasty crimes are committed, which have consequences and aftershocks. Not everyone comes off well. Sometimes silly things happen, too. Through it all, the message, that real love is forever, and it crosses every plane we can think of, and a lot that we haven’t, is presented, hopefully loud and clear but not too heavy-handedly.

A great deal of work was put into working out the plotting and giving the characters their due. It’s a bit of a cast of thousands or at least dozens, and personalities don’t always shine through as well as maybe they should. But I like to think that most of the characters are knowable, even if they aren’t sympathetic.

Upshot

There is a time commitment in reading this series, to be sure. But I hope that the reader feels rewarded at the end. And I hope that others will take a chance on it.

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