Loss happens to all of us eventually. So my idea was about how someone who does not really have emotions would react to it. And for Commander Data, his study of emotions has not exactly been good preparation for this.
Yet again, the prompt and the story have the same name.
Geordi and his friends help Data deal with a significant loss.
As a result, this little story is for anyone who has ever had to bury a beloved pet. I have, several times. And that feeling never really leaves you. In addition, for many people, it can feel as awful as the death of a child.
So I originally wrote it as more or less on a lark. In addition, I am more of a dog person than a cat person and so the death of the orange tabby had about as much of an effect on me about as much as it did Data in the beginning of the story.
But later, after having written The Continuing Adventures of Porthos, I decided I kind of like Spot after all. As a result, I truly hope this little story gives her her due. Most noteworthy and surprising to me is how people like this little story. In addition, people have had deeper emotional reactions than I had originally thought would happen. To cry, over this short tale? However, if we are to believe readers’ stated reactions, that has happened, and more than once.
The character is, of course, canon. In canon, he has a lot of trouble with women and never seems to really find anyone. His blindness is established and is basically respected, although eventually, in the films, he gets implants. It probably made for easier storytelling.
This intelligent actor could have usually used better scripts. I would have liked to have seen him confronting prejudice, for one thing. It’s one of the reasons I wrote Crackerjack in the first place.
Very smart and responsible, and uber-nerdy, Geordi is an affable guy who always seems to be in the friendzone.
Geordi has canon relationships but I won’t enumerate them here.
During the events depicted in Crackerjack, Geordi and Rosemary share a brief romance. He pays enough attention to her life to look her up, and he learns that she was arrested with Martin Luther King, Jr. after she married a man with the surname of Warren (which rather neatly makes her an ancestor of the woman I write as becoming Wesley Crusher‘s wife, Lakeisha Warren).
Crackerjack has a ton of period music, but nothing really speaks to me as a theme for Geordi.
It’s hard to say whether a Mirror Universe Geordi could exist at all.
He would be extra-smart, to be sure, but I write the MU as being leery of physical weaknesses and imperfections – and blindness would be right up there as a not so small problem.
If he could easily and seamlessly be fitted with ocular implants, perhaps as an infant, then he could survive and maybe even thrive on the other side of the pond.
“No, that’s all right. But the young lady who is with us, maybe she would like to do that. I can’t figure these people out. Some of them wouldn’t be caught dead being anywhere near me, while others are going out of their way to be kind or even charitable in their own way.”
When I first got the idea of writing Crackerjack, it was not supposed to be a romance. It was to be a story for a young (I believe he was aged 12 at the time) fan. As I developed the story, though, I realized that I wanted Geordi and Wesley to have an ally on the ground. And so Rosemary Parker was born.
I don’t believe I have ever seen this beautiful and sharp actress in a period piece. I bet she’d be great.
Kind and friendly, but also trying to be independent within the confines of her time period, Rosemary is the sort of person who was probably dismissed by the people of her day. When her father angrily tells her to finish secretarial school and then find herself a husband with prospects, she knows he’s only looking out for her future. But she resents that all the same.
A big part of Crackerjack was putting them together. The talk freely and their candid conversations seem more relaxed than Geordi ever had with a woman in canon. Of course it is not meant to be, but they enjoy each others’ company, and he trusts her enough to show her his eyes (the story takes place pre-ocular implants).
Warren (first name uknown)
In Play, which has not yet been released as of the writing of this blog post, Geordi mentions Rosemary, and he says, “She, uh, after 1941, all I know is that there was a woman named Rosemary Parker Warren who was arrested in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1964. She gave her profession as schoolteacher.” Hence Rosemary weds. She has to – she’s an ancestor of Lakeisha Warren Crusher.
Crackerjack is loaded with period music, but nothing really speaks to me as a theme for Rosemary herself.
There are no impediments to Rosemary existing in the Mirror Universe. But her circumstances would be far different. It’s highly unlikely that her father would be a preacher, as I write Mirror religion as being secretive. You don’t want to be indicating in any way that you’re not thinking of the Emperor or Empress 24/7.
Rosemary would be tougher and sexier and nowhere near as sweet. Would she find a man? Possibly; such a beautiful woman would not go unclaimed for long. As for whether it would be a love match or she would be treated well at all, that’s hard to say.
“I get it, it’s because we’re all individuals. Some people are kind, some are not, some are confused, some don’t know what to do, and still others are clumsy but they mean well. It takes all kinds, you know.”
I was happy to bring her up a few brief times in the Barnstorming series. Rosemary gets arrested with Martin Luther King! But I’m not so sure I can bring her back for any other purposes. She’s a lovely character, but where can I put her?
Crackerjack was originally a gift for a younger fan who wasn’t really old enough to be reading my racier material. This fan likes Star Trek: The Next Generation, so I set the story in that universe, but I didn’t want to be on the Enterprise, and I didn’t want to be dealing with too many of the characters.
As a story written for a young person, I wanted a young character, so I hit upon the idea of grabbing Wesley Crusher. He has often – completely legitimately – been criticized as being a “Mary Sue” type of character. This is a character who is impossibly good, impossibly smart, impossibly lucky, etc. It’s a parody of a true character. I wanted Wes to be a bit different.
I also wanted Geordi, as the story was to be about prejudging. Partly that was due to racism, and partly due to his obvious infirmity, blindness. As a pair, I felt they could work together, too, and would believably want to help each other. The title refers, not only to the treat served at ballgames, but also to “an exceptionally good person or thing”. The reader is left to determine just who really is crackerjack.
The story begins with an old man asking his grandchildren if they ever heard of the time he watched Ted Williams hit a homerun. They clamor for a story and he obliges.
His tale begins with the two friends returning from a ceremony on the Kreetassan home world, when they suddenly run into a strange cosmic phenomenon. The phenomenon throws them back in time, to Earth. Because the shuttle they are in is damaged, they are forced to make an emergency landing. Duke Ellington is playing on the radio, and there’s a reference to fighting in the Middle East, and to British residents needing to go to bomb shelters.
They need supplies in order to get back, so they will need to head into civilization.
They change their clothes so as to mimic period garb, but the visor sticks out like a sore thumb. A decision is made to outfit Geordi with sunglasses and carry the visor along in a duffle, if needed. They replicate some money and follow a river toward what they figure is the nearest town.
While in town, they sleep out in the open. In the morning, they realize they’ve been sleeping in a familiar place, at the foot of the statue of Lincoln, at the Lincoln Memorial. They’re in Washington, DC.
Charity and Loathing
As Geordi waits, Wesley runs out to look for a place to get breakfast. It rains a bit, but then the rain stops. When Geordi puts his palm up to check if the rain has really stopped, someone presses coins into his hand, thinking he’s a panhandler. Wesley finds a lunch counter and leads Geordi there. When they enter, the proprietor refuses them service and they are directed to a sign on the wall that says, Whites Only.
A newspaper then reveals the date – September 1st, 1941.
How do they get to the ballgame? How do they get back? All can be revealed by reading, of course.
Star Trek often covers socially difficult subjects such as racism, so I wanted to confront it head-on. The time period, I feel, is a great one, as it is pre-war and pre-Jackie Robinson, but attitudes are starting, slowly, to change. Plus the presence of a Whites Only sign was very logical for the time and place in question.
Geordi, of course, was a logical subject for racism, in particular because his infirmity makes it impossible for him to actually see why people are prejudging him. Wesley works, not only as Geordi’s companion, but also as a wide-eyed observer who doesn’t understand why the people of the time are acting like they are – and why some are kind or even overly protective. The people of the time aren’t just one big mass. Some care, some act but are inept (such as an anonymous person giving Geordi charity), while others are pettily cruel.
Time and Place
One of the ways I set the scenes was with music of the time. Take the A Train shows up, but so do The Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B, Stardust and Frenesi. Each chapter begins with a link to a YouTube video. The music is mostly horn-driven and tends to be from big bands.
The chapters also each begin with a picture. There’s Ted Williams, another is of a streetcar, another is of a row of brownstones, etc. The pictures are all in black and white, not only to evoke the sense of an old black and white film, but also to bring home the idea of racists seeing the world in terms of only black and white.
Furthermore, I wanted to evoke a bit of the old TOS episode, The City on the Edge of Forever, although that one takes place in 1930. One of the backdrops to the story is the prospect of imminent war, where bullets aren’t going to care one whit about the race of the person they strike. In Crackerjack, the bullets are going to be flying at Americans in only a little over three months’ time.
An interphase is a canon construction, and refers to a kind of temporal, spatial or somatic displacement, often without intention. While I handle interphases in other stories, I wanted this one to be more of an engineering problem, rather than a philosophical musing. For Wesley and Geordi, it’s a problem to solve, rather than a reason to question existence.
Another aspect of the story is framing it as a tale told by an elder. The elder is Wesley, who you never otherwise see as an extreme elder. I wanted it to be his perspective and his long-term hindsight that would shape the narrative. Also, as Wesley learns about racism, he also taught his grandchildren the same lessons, that there are some people who don’t get along with others, and sometimes that’s for the most unfair reasons.
Memory is also key to this story, as it is about Wesley’s memories. But it also covers the memories of the people they meet. Plus there’s the memory of the reader about that time, or about what they’ve learned of that time. Or it’s what they, personally, have experienced of racism, and also of human decency.
But don’t worry about forgetting. Your memory has enough film in it.
The music was great fun to put together.
The story opens with Duke Ellington’s Take the A Train, which is not only used to set the scene but also to evoke motion, travel and distance. In this case, the traveling is temporal as well as spatial.
I like this one, but the problems go away rather neatly and easily. If I were writing for an adult, I probably would have thrown in more obstacles. And I might have made the racism harsher than it was. But I like that it’s not quite as hard-edged. I don’t think I needed to really hit people over the head with it.