Hub of the Universe is a gift to a Star Trek fan fiction writer who goes by the moniker of funngunner.
Boston is often called that. So I played on the title and the imagery. The character has a description as being from Boston but little else. He did not even really have a look to me. Seth McClusky’s main description was ‘barrel chested’ and nothing more. He was the kind of forgotten third of a love triangle as well. Hence I decided I would shake that up. Seth would get a back story. And he would get a friend and a rough family life. I wanted to give him a personality and a history.
Just after World War III, Seth McClusky thinks about leaving Southie and hitches a ride with Jennie from the block, AKA Jennie O’Connor. Sharp-eyed readers will pick up on Jennie’s surname. Because she is a consanguineous ancestor of deep future engineer Kevin O’Connor.
And even sharper-eyed readers will notice her widow, Milagros Torres. Because Torres is a consanguineous ancestor of José Torres. Furthermore, in both cases, the characters are linked to future engineers, as is fitting, for Jennie herself is an engineering apprentice when she dies in Brazil in the Xindi attack on Florida and South America. As a result, Jennie’s little story is almost a harbinger of future In Between Days events.
I love this title so much, I am more or less reusing it. But this time, for the 2016 NaNoWriMo novel, the circumstances are rather different. Hence that novel is called The Real Hub of the Universe.
However, the accents are admittedly a little difficult and may be hard for some readers to get used to. But I wanted Seth and Jennie to be real Southie people, and that meant more than just the occasionally dropped R.
As for the story, Seth’s original creator loved it.
As is often the case with non-white characters who I write, it is important to me that they be ‘played’ by people of the correct ethnicity. I also like this lovely actress, who has good comic timing and seems to be very intelligent. I have ‘cast’ her in some of my original fiction, too.
Smart and creative, Moni is a historian. In 2285, as a way of testing the potential of time travel, she and Makan Sinthasomphone attempt to send Agent Robert Lennox to the April 1775 Battle of Lexington. But things don’t go according to plan. In part, it is her creativity that helps to put things right.
Monisha has no known relationships, and she is not seen long enough to establish any.
There don’t seem to be significant impediments to Monisha existing in the Mirror Universe.
A beautiful woman in that rough place probably wouldn’t be a historian, though.
Unfortunately, the way I write Mirror Universe women is that they are often overly sexualized. Monisha probably would be, too, particularly as the study of history isn’t exactly valued there, except in the context of conferring greater glory on despots.
“I wonder what they would have seen. I hope it wasn’t just poor Agent Lennox being jettisoned into deep space with neither a ship nor an EV suit.”
I would love to be able to pull in her and Sinthasomphone again some time, although I am unsure of when and how I would do it. But the development of reliable time travel has the potential to be a rather interesting story.
Portrait of a Character – Marie Helêne Ducasse O’Day
Marie Helêne Ducasse O’Day was originally not to be seen.
In order to explain why Lili O’Day was so isolated in Reversal, I needed for her family to be gone. As a result, I randomly chose a house fire, at age nine, as being the cause of her orphaning. And therefore, Lili needed to have parents, even briefly.
I have no idea who this woman is. The image comes from Flickr, and I was really looking for a fair-skinned and fair-haired girl of the right age. The woman’s image was a bonus, as was the painting on the little girl’s face. I mean no disrespect in continuing to use this image.
If I were to cast Marie Helêne now, I would choose a middle-aged blonde actress, possibly someone like Mary Stuart Masterson. As a bonus, I ‘cast’ Ms. Masterson in a wholly original trilogy, The Obolonk Murders. I like this smart and lovely actress who feels natural-looking.
Smart and artistic, Marie Helêne is a potter in both universes. In the Mirror, that makes her something of an elite. In the prime universe, her artistic bent passes along to Lili and to two of her three grandchildren, who she never sees, Declan Reed and Marie Patrice Beckett.
Peter Thomas O’Day
Marie Helêne’s only known relationship is with Pete. They have a good relationship in both universes.
In the Mirror, Peter and Marie Helêne have a difficult life, as Pete says something he’s not supposed to, and inadvertently is branded a dissident.
However, in the Mirror Universe, Pete Marie Helênedeliberately set the fatal house fire. This is because they have no other options.
“They’ll never let you come back. And the kids and me, we’ll never recover. Charlotte will end up turning tricks this afternoon, or I will! And Declan will become a thief, if he’s lucky, and he lives that long.”
Historical circumstances make it so that this character can’t appear much more than she already has. But any time I write Lili remembering her childhood, Marie Helêne isn’t far behind.
February 2015 was another fairly light month as I was busy with work, school, podcasting, and my published work. It was also the snowiest month in Boston’s history so I was rather busy shoveling snow and dealing with all of that. Yes, it was really that bad.
Twenty Star Trek fan fiction stories now have 10,000 or more reads, either individually or in combination. And another twenty stories have 75 or more reviews. However, the only story with both is Reversal. In addition, the only non-fan fiction story with both is Revved Up. Hence I have a pretty decent readership but not an overwhelming one. And that is all right!
See the Stats page for individual read and review counts.
I continued working on The Badge of Humanity, the last of the wholly original Obolonk trilogy.
I worked on promotions for my published work. I also believe I may have a viable idea for this year’s NaNoWriMo.
This Month’s Productivity Killers
School at Quinnipiac<, plus continuing to support my published work, both (understandably) kept me from writing more fan fiction. The incredible snowfalls didn’t help, either.
Biases gave me a chance to create a new character. Bridie Kelly came out of whole cloth and, unlike nearly everyone else I’ve created for Star Trek fan fiction, she does not connect up to the Reed-Madden-Digiorno-Beckett-Hayes-O’Day family.
So I wrote this short story in response to a prompt of the same name. Being here in Boston, you can hear the Irish brogue on most days. Hence I kept hearing the phrase, ‘No Irish Need Apply‘ as I thought of what would become this story.
For Bridie Kelly, it’s the chance to get a new, decent job. She is a highly skilled nurse’s assistant and caregiver. But she’s tired of seeing sick and dying children (her earlier posting was at a children’s hospital). For Soval, he’s getting up there in years, even for a Vulcan. His aides don’t quite know what to do with him, as he needs care. Plus he’s lost his logical focus and, instead, is impatient. He might also have a bit of the Vulcan equivalent of Alzheimer’s (which is not canon although I think it should be).
Much like Flip; Confidence; A Long, Long Time Ago; Gainful; and Voracious, this is a job interview story. I like the interactions, in particular how Bridie conducts herself and pushes past her doubts. I’ve had people ask for a sequel, or there are even people who ‘ship her and Soval! I think that’s nuts. This is a job interview and nothing more. People can certainly get along without romance becoming a part of it. Not every story merits an extension, or should end with a kiss in front of a sunset backdrop.
The prompt was about “a page from the past”. I had long thought about dropping a Star Trek: Enterprise character into the extreme past, and had even done this with a pair of TNG characters, in Crackerjack.
But I wanted to go back even further, so I hit upon the start of the American Revolution and a local pair of battles – Lexington and Concord.
And what better person to toss into that pressure cooker than someone who would be in trouble the minute he opened his mouth?
Reed is unceremoniously dumped right into the middle of the Battle of Lexington, and that’s only the start of his troubles.
Because he’s wholly unprepared for this form of warfare, he becomes injured, but not horribly so. However, in 1775, infected injuries could easily result in a loss of limb or life. I deliberately made it so that the surgeon in the regiment had already died, and the village doctor had joined the militia. These absences meant that Malcolm would have to be treated in some other fashion.
At the same time, the man next to him, Robert Lennox, is a lot worse off, and may die.
A Place to Go
The quartering of troops is very real to history, and so I had Malcolm’s commanding officer push for a farmhouse to accept the two injured men. Malcolm is apologetic at the same time that his commander – the true to history Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith – is rude and blustery. The mistress of the farmhouse accepts the two wounded men as she has very little choice in the matter. She is a colonial and is sympathetic to the revolutionary cause. Her husband has even gone to fight for it. But she is alone and is not about to let Malcolm or Robert die on her doorstep.
Some Soon to be Familiar Names
The mistress of the house introduces herself as Charlotte Hayes, wife to Jacob Hayes. She and her servant, Benjamin Warren, keep the home and assist the two wounded men.
Because the Concord story begins right before Voracious, the names O’Day and Hayes are not yet familiar to the characters. Furthermore, the name Warren also figures in my stories. In Crackerjack, Wesley’s wife’s maiden name is Warren. And in the E2 stories, there is a Science crewman with the name of Nyota Warren, who ends up with canon character Billy Dane. Benjamin is an ancestor of them just like Charlotte and Jacob are ancestors to Lili and Jay (thereby making Jay and Lili distant cousins).
How Did He Get There? And How Does He Get Back?
Without giving away too many spoilers, suffice it to say that Malcolm’s presence in 1775 is due to a defective temporal experiment. His return can only happen if the experimenters figuring out the problem, and solve it.
I love how the historical aspects worked out. I did a great deal of research in order to understand how the farm would run, what things would cost and any number of other details. The story was extremely satisfying to put together. And it is easily one of my absolute favorites.
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
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 theAudrey Niffenegger(she wroteThe 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 inLittle 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 YearDave 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.”
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.
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.