Tag Archive: Star Trek


My Lost Star Trek Sidebar

TrekUnauthBack in 2011, the ever-ebullient Bob Greenberger was contracted to write Star Trek: The Complete Unauthorized History for Voyageur Press. He solicited sidebar contributions from several other Star Trek writers and fans, including myself. I was excited to be able to contribute to the book. In fact, I’d actually helped the book happen behind the scenes. At the time I worked for Zenith Press, another imprint for the same publishing company that owned Voyageur Press. One of their acquiring editors had asked me, as the company’s resident Trek fanatic, if I thought they should do a Trek book. My response was probably something along the lines of, “Uh . . . YEAH!” We kicked some ideas back and forth, and I dropped Bob’s name as a possible author for the book. Happily, it all came together, which is never guaranteed in the publishing industry.

Then things took a twist. One day I was in my cube working on one of my projects, probably a World War II book, which was a specialty of Zenith Press, when Voyageur’s publisher dropped by. He said that it would probably make sense to have the company’s resident Trek fanatic be the editor for Bob’s manuscript, if I was interested in doing it. My response was probably something along the lines of, “Uh . . . YEAH!” So I took on the project (and suggested adding the silhouettes and Vasquez Rocks to the cover). But now that I’d become the editor, my previously contracted sidebar got a little weird. I would essentially be submitting something to myself. It seemed awkward, but I wrote the sidebar. When the manuscript went to the copyeditor, I explained the situation and said, “Be ruthless on mine.”

The copyeditor took that to heart and responded that some of the stuff I covered in my piece was similar to the other sidebars, and since I already felt uncomfortable about it, his suggestion was to simply cut mine from the manuscript. That was absolutely the right call, so Bob and I cut my sidebar and I didn’t have to feel weird about it any longer.

I stumbled across the piece in my computer files recently and thought that the sidebar, and the story behind it, might be of some passing interest to my fellow Trek fans. So here it is. (Side note: as the book was unauthorized, we generally couldn’t use official photography from the franchise, so much of the book is illustrated with photos of my personal memorabilia collection!)

Old Fans, New Fans

Tucked away somewhere in a box in the basement is a get-well card I received from a classmate in the third grade which reads along the lines of “Get well soon so you can come back to school and play Star Trek.” That would have been about 1972, so I’ve been a Star Trek fan for four decades. Not as long as some, but it still easily qualifies me as an old fan.

Flash forward from my childhood adventures aboard the Enterprise to about thirty years later, the early 2000s. My daughter, Ella, asked me, “What’s this Star Trek thing you’re always talking about?” I decided to introduce her through the animated version, thinking the cartoons might draw her in more easily than the original series. I figured she’d like it, but I didn’t foresee that she would love it and instantly become a fan. But even though she started about the same age I did, her experience of Star Trek is wildly different than mine.

For fans who came to the franchise in the twenty-first century, there is a wide-ranging body of TV series and movies that already existed when they started watching. That’s a completely different way of exploring the Trek universe compared to those of us who experienced its growth in real time, especially those of us who lived through the decades of a single show being the whole universe. In those pre-VCR years, you had to have a channel that syndicated the show or you had no Star Trek. I grew up out in the country with just four TV stations. There were whole years when I had to go without Star Trek on the screen. I once went to a family reunion, which required an uncomfortable overnight Greyhound bus ride, largely for the off chance that I might get to see some Trek. Indeed, it was on in Colorado, and I got a fix. But now Ella can sit down in a coffee shop with her Wi-Fi iPad and stream any of the series from Netflix.

A side effect of this is that Ella accepts all these shows as Star Trek without pause. While I’ve embraced the new entries in the franchise as it grew, I can still understand why some people are devoted to just the original series or how people who started by watching The Next Generation in the 1980s can have a different view that doesn’t quite embrace the show from the 1960s. When you’re a more recent fan, however, it’s all there at once. You can watch an episode here and there from across the Trek timeline whenever you want, instant gratification instead of investing seven years in finding out if Voyager got home or not. I think this makes it easier for new fans to embrace everything, while old fans experience “you ruined my childhood” moments while watching a new incarnation.

Of course, there are even newer fans now, who started with the Abrams reboot and only know Chris Pine as Captain Kirk. (Cue sound of older fans gasping.) Recently, Ella was stunned that one of her eighth grade classmates didn’t know who William Shatner was. But there’s no way around this for a franchise that’s been chugging along for nearly fifty years. And without new fans, where would Trek be? Still rerunning those same original episodes? This old fan and his new fan offspring—as much as we love the Shat—are glad that Trek keeps growing. We can’t wait to see what new versions await us in the future, and we hope that those new versions introduce even more new fans to this universe that we love.

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ImageAnd by “we” I mean “me.” June 23 saw the release of my latest Star Trek novella, The More Things Change, an eBook exclusive for Kindle and Nook and such. It’s been four years (!) since my previous Trek book, Honor in the Night in the Myriad Universes: Shattered Light anthology. 

Where Honor in the Night was my Trek version of Citizen Kane, a hundred-year-long story about Nilz Baris and an alternate timeline of the Federation, The More Things Change is a very focused story only covering a few days of adventure for Christine Chapel and Spock. Here’s a synopsis: 

When Dr. Christine Chapel and Spock have to evacuate Audrid Dax from the Enterprise due to a medical emergency, Chapel is frustrated by Trill customs that don’t allow her to treat her patient. Chapel finds herself questioning her long-term plans while also dealing with Spock’s changing personality following his mind meld with V’ger. Soon, however, they have bigger problems when an unidentified vessel ambushes their shuttlecraft. They are forced into a dangerous cat-and-mouse game to evade their attacker long enough to get Dax to the Trill doctors who can save her life. Along the way, Chapel discovers much about herself, Spock, and the secrets of the Trill. 

This was a fun story to write. The Chapel character wasn’t always served that well by the original series, and so the goal behind this story—thanks to the input of my editor, Margaret Clark—was to redeem her, to make her a strong character and define an arc for her that led from the often insecure nurse of the show through becoming a doctor in Star Trek: The Motion Picture and then on to the responsibilities she shoulders after leaving the Enterprise, as glimpsed in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. In addition, I got to play with her feelings for Spock, and how her growth through the years would affect her unrequited love for him, and, in turn, how that would be affected by Spock’s own personal changes. 

That’s a lot of character-driven stuff, but it’s held together by the action of the story, as Spock tries to evade the hostile ship that’s pursuing them. I got to write intimate character scenes between Chapel and Spock as well as tense action scenes as they try to stay alive on a damaged shuttle. Plus, a Dax is in the house! I just hope the readers enjoy the story as much as I enjoyed writing it. 

To be completely self-serving, I now quote one of its first readers, Eric Cone, who posted this on Facebook: “If you want a quick, change-of-pace thrill-ride, get the Star Trek: The More Things Change eBook by Scott Pearson. I finished it in about 3 hrs and literally could not put my Nook down. . . . Fast-paced, funny, and highly-entertaining, this one is a real treat.” 

Your mileage may vary, but thanks Eric!    

My Harlan Ellison Story

ImageIn the early 1990s I worked at Barnes & Noble. It had been announced that Harlan Ellison was publishing his original teleplay for the Star Trek episode “The City on the Edge of Forever.” This was exciting news; the bad blood between Ellison and Gene Roddenberry over the script was legendary. One customer placed a special order for the book, and as I was in charge of special orders, and was also a fan of Ellison and Trek, I was keeping a close watch for its arrival. The announced publication date came and went, but no book. 

I called up Borderlands Press to see what was going on and found myself speaking with the publisher, Thomas Monteleone, whose name sounded familiar to me. He explained that he was a writer too, and I realized I had read one of his books, The Secret Sea, a sequel to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. We chatted about that a bit, and then he explained that Ellison’s book was running behind schedule but they were trying to get it wrapped up. 

Time passed. I checked back in with Borderlands a few times as the book came up on my unfilled special orders report. One day I was told that Ellison had instructed the publisher to have his increasingly impatient fans waiting for the book to call him directly. I was given a phone and fax number (yeah, fax . . . it was twenty years ago). 

I scoffed at the idea—like Ellison wants people calling him and nagging about the book—as I dialed the number. Someone picked up, and a gruff voice said, “Yeah?” 

Holy. Shit. I knew right away that this actually was Ellison. I was on the phone with Harlan Ellison! I explained why I was calling, then didn’t have a chance to say much else for maybe fifteen minutes as Ellison went off on one of his trademark rants against Gene Roddenberry and Paramount. He was hilarious, joking darkly that Roddenberry had died before Ellison could get even with him (Roddenberry had passed away the year before, in October 1991). He explained that his introduction for the script was still growing, that he just couldn’t stop adding stories about his long-running feud with Roddenberry. Outside of calls about getting published, it was the most amazing phone call I’ve ever had. 

More time passed. I had another brief call with Ellison, a nice little chat. Still more time passed. Then he won a Bram Stoker Award in 1993 for his novella Mefisto in Onyx. I felt like congratulating him, but felt self-conscious about phoning him again. I didn’t want to be that guy, taking advantage of having his number. I decided on a compromise: I would fax him my congrats and also ask about City, which still wasn’t out. I jotted a quick note and hit send. It seemed like the sheet of paper hadn’t even fed all the way through the machine when I was paged. 

“There’s a guy on the phone wants to talk to you,” my disbelieving coworker told me. “He says he’s Harlan Ellison.” 

Oh. Shit. Ellison does not come across as a guy who’s going to call some bookseller to thank him for the congratulations. Something must be wrong. I took a deep breath and answered the phone. 

“Did you just fax me?” Ellison growled. 

“Yes.” 

“Why? Just to chat?” 

“Yes, sir.” I think I did call him sir. Seemed like the thing to do. 

“Well, you just woke up my sick wife and me . . .” That was only the start of him ripping me a new one. Turns out his fax machine was in his bedroom, and—it belatedly hit me—it was two hours earlier in California. So now I was being Ellisoned. 

I quietly took my chewing out. When he had finished, I apologized, explaining that I had assumed I was sending the fax to an office, so I had not even considered the time difference between Minnesota and the West Coast. After a moment of consideration, he allowed that he could see that, but . . . 

“You have my phone number, too?” 

“Yes.” 

“Lose it.” 

“Yes, sir.” 

So that’s how I got Ellison’s phone number, had the beginning of a beautiful friendship, and then poured it all down the drain. 

The book eventually came out as a limited edition hardcover from Borderlands in 1995 and in an expanded paperback—with a longer introduction!—from White Wolf Publishing in 1996. It’s a must-read, really.

A Tolkien Fanatic Ramble

ImageI first read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings in the late seventies—wow, that’s thirty-five years ago. I was immediately entranced and read them once a year for several years following, then sporadically throughout the intervening years. One of the times was while I was a stay-at-home parent. They say it’s good for language development to read to children essentially from birth, and I found out that it doesn’t take as long as you might think to read all four books aloud to a baby. I eventually lost track of how many times I reread them. I would guess at least a dozen, perhaps fifteen or so.

One of the reasons the books are so captivating for me (and for many people, I would guess) is that they seem so real. Strange to say about a fantasy with dragons and giant spiders, but the sense of a vast history beyond the pages you’re turning creates that feeling and pervades The Hobbit and, to a greater extent, The Lord of the Rings. That impression of a deep history wasn’t achieved solely through well-turned flashbacks in the narratives at hand; Tolkien had created a rich tapestry of Middle-earth stories even before he wrote The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings. Those early stories, tinkered with by Tolkien in various degrees for decades (and touched upon in the appendices of Rings), were released posthumously, sometimes in multiple forms, in several books: The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, The Children of Húrin, and the multivolume History of Middle-earth, all edited by Christopher Tolkien, J.R.R.’s youngest son. I’ve read them all. 

That foundational work outside of the four best-known books informs the destinies of Bilbo and Frodo. Just as the rough edges of World War I would eventually boil over into World War II, so too would Isildur’s cutting of the One Ring from Sauron’s hand at the end of the Second Age of Middle-earth lead to the War of the Ring some three thousand years later in the Third Age, as told in Rings. I don’t mean to imply any historical allegory—Tolkien said he disliked allegory—but to emphasize that the “reality” of Middle-earth is enhanced by such connections and consequences running through the various works. 

With all that said, it’s clear I’m a Tolkien fanatic. So it was a bit of a dream come true to become professionally involved in a book about Middle-earth. In an earlier age of the world, I was consulted by a coworker at my then-employer, Quayside Publishing, about whether I thought we should do a Middle-earth book of some sort. I said YES. (As an aside, during this chat I was asked the same question about Star Trek. My equally loud YES to that eventually led to Robert Greenberger’s Star Trek: The Complete Unauthorized History, which I edited.) And, lo, thus was the humble beginning of Middle-earth Envisioned: The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings On Screen, On Stage, and Beyond by Paul Simpson and Brian J. Robb, out now in time for that Middle-earth fanatic on your holiday list. Just helping it along in that little way was fun, but there was more to come. 

I’ve known Paul for several years. I first worked for him when he was editing the official Star Trek Magazine, contributing articles about my first fanatic fave, which I’d discovered prior to Tolkien by about five years. Reversing roles, he wrote That’s What They Want You to Think, a conspiracy 101 eBook, for me at Quayside. Then he invited me to contribute a sidebar to the Middle-earth book. Woo-hoo! That meant I would be professionally published in my favorite fictional past as well as my favorite fictional future. I jumped at the chance, and you can read the result when you rush out and buy the book, which is gorgeously designed and illustrated. Go ahead, I’ll wait here, you can grab it from your local bookstore or order it from Barnes & Noble, Waterstones, or Amazon

My sidebar, “Middle-earth Beyond The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings,” talks about those other Middle-earth texts mentioned above and how Peter Jackson drew on those sources for his film adaptations of the four novels. For space reasons, I wasn’t able to include every example of material outside the novels that informs the films, so what follows are a few interesting tidbits. 

In part, The Silmarillion recounts the strife between Ilúvatar—the creator—and Melkor, who is, to greatly simplify things with a common archetype, a fallen angel. Melkor became the Dark Lord Morgoth in the First Age of Middle-earth, and he created the Balrogs, the last of which appears in The Lord of the Rings. Morgoth’s chief servant was Sauron, also a terrible threat across the ages of Middle-earth. These are prime examples of the deep history that resonates throughout Tolkien’s writings.

Jackson & Co. expanded Arwen’s role in the Rings films to counterbalance the novel’s dearth of female roles. When her father, Elrond, counsels her to leave Middle-earth by foreseeing her future after Aragorn’s death, his dialogue draws directly from Appendix A of Rings. Arwen and Aragorn’s future son, Eldarion—whose appearance in a vision turns Arwen away from the Grey Havens and back toward Rivendell—is another detail drawn from Appendix A.

 Expanding The Hobbit into a three-film extravaganza also necessitated drawing on additional sources. The first film, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, includes a meeting of the White Council—Elrond, Gandalf, Galadriel, and Saruman—where Gandalf expresses concern about how Sauron could use Smaug if the dragon were not destroyed, which is taken straight from dialogue in Unfinished Tales (although in a different setting). 

Hardly a complete list, and more examples will certainly appear in the remaining two parts of The Hobbit. Now that a whole new generation of viewers have been drawn into Tolkien’s world by these films, I hope young fans discover that not only is Middle-earth more than the films, it’s more than the four books that inspired the films, and is well-worth exploring more deeply.

My Patrick Stewart Story

ImageBack in 2001, I had the pleasure of seeing the Guthrie Theater’s production of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? The play starred Mercedes Ruehl, Bill McCallum, Carrie Preston, and some English chap named Patrick Stewart, who seemed very familiar to me. 

It was a great production, and all the actors were very good. I decided to try to get a memento of the performance. I packed up my paperback copy of the play and mailed it to Patrick Stewart care of the Guthrie. I enclosed this sincere and silly letter: 

Dear Mr. Stewart, 

I’ve followed your work for many years now, so it was a pleasure to see last Sunday’s matinee of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, a thoroughly entertaining performance. I wonder if it wouldn’t be too much trouble for you to sign the enclosed copy of the play and send it back to me in the enclosed return mailer. If the rest of the fine cast had time to sign it as well, that would be most appreciated. 

This was the first time I’ve seen the play on stage—I have, of course, seen the film version many times. Now, having seen it performed live, I understand Albee’s negative comments about the film, although I don’t entirely agree with him. The stage play, especially in the first act, is much funnier than the film. I think the black and white cinematography combined with the closeness of the film medium made for a darker, more claustrophobic atmosphere. And yet, this seems to me a valid interpretation, not necessarily ruining the play, as Albee has said; look at some of the marvelous reinventions of Shakespeare that have been done over the years. But perhaps if Shakespeare were alive today he would consider Ian McKellen’s fantastic fascistic interpretation of Richard III (which I also had the pleasure of seeing on stage) a ruining of the play as well—and who would have the nerve to disagree with a nearly four-hundred-and-forty-year-old man, especially given Elizabethan bathing habits? 

Congratulations on a fine performance. In fact, I hope to see the play again this month. Thank you for your time. 

Sincerely,

[signed] Scott Pearson 

PS: I guess I should mention that I’ve been a raving Star Trek fan for almost thirty years. Do with that information what you will. 

Only a week or so went by before my book came back signed by all four of the actors, as you can see in the photo. That’s so cool. It’s a fun coincidence that the book was published by Pocket Books, who also publish Star Trek fiction (although this edition came out a couple years before Pocket got the franchise license).

So that’s my Patrick Stewart story.

I just watched Star Trek Into Darkness for the second time courtesy of the newly released DVD. (Side note: because we’re still rocking DVD instead of Blu-ray, we shrugged off the controversial marketing ploy of spreading the extras across multiple vendor-specific Blu-ray releases and just bought the cheap DVD.) Being hardcore Trek geeks, my daughter and I had attended a 3-D midnight premiere back when it hit theaters. We came down on opposite sides of the fence on the film, which you can hear us discuss on our podcast, Generations Geek, Episode 9, “Into Geekness.” The kid loved it and went back to it a couple times in theaters, but I was not highly enamored of JJ’s second film after finding the first one an entertaining joyride (even if the script was in need of a coincidencectomy or two or three). I was in no rush to see it again. [Spoiler alert: the rest of this post contains spoilers.] 

As often happens in these situations, I found the second viewing much more entertaining because, knowing what was coming, I wasn’t as put off by several key what-the-huh moments of the screenplay (e.g., hiding a spaceship from a nonspace-faring race not in space where they couldn’t possibly see it but instead offshore right by them where it’s quite possible they will see it). I touched upon some of those moments and the increasingly bizarre backlash against fans who didn’t like the film from fans who did in a couple of previous blogs, “JJ Trek’s New Clothes” and “Deja Vu(lcan).” To recap, my objections to the film are not a manifestation of some sort of subconscious problem with everything beyond the 1969 cancellation of the original series; in fact, my problems with STID often have little to do with Star Trek as such (certainly nothing to do with judging whether it’s “really” Star Trek…I find that notion as annoying as judging whether someone is “really” a geek); rather, my problems are frequently with issues that I would be critical of regardless of the specific film in question or the genre to which it belonged. In a nutshell, plot points that make no freaking sense, like the parenthetically aforementioned hiding of the Enterprise underwater. It’s kind of like Batman telling Robin, “No, we’ll hide the Batmobile outside of the Batcave. No one will think of looking for it there.” Or when the Enterprise gets shot to pieces over the Moon causing it to fall almost immediately into Earth’s atmosphere. I’m no rocket scientist, but I believe there’s this little thing called “about a quarter of a million miles” between the two. If I trip on my doorstep in St. Paul, Minnesota, I don’t land outside of a pub in Warwickshire, England. I wish I did, but gravity and space and time behave in largely predictable ways, as Newton and Einstein might tell you (if they weren’t in fact still dead). I don’t like my movies to disregard all common sense or matters of scale. If JJ Abrams made a movie about climbing Everest, would the lead character start out in L.A., get on a bus, and an hour later get dropped off at base camp? Would the mountain be five miles up but only two miles down? These things matter. A story that makes sense matters. That’s the difference between a well-crafted screenplay and just a series of exciting set pieces that barely hold together under the weight of all the details being ignored to make them happen. 

All that said: Scotty. He kinda steals the show. Simon Pegg is just brilliant in this role. And I noticed one line he has that I missed the significance of the first time round. Complaining about having the Enterprise underwater, he says that they’be been there since the night before, which implies they went underwater under cover of darkness, which is a nice detail. Still no explanation of why they’d go underwater in the first place, but still a nice detail that also implies they were thinking of leaving under cover of darkness as well. 

Other quick thoughts: I want to write fan fiction about that navigator with the shaved head, because she looks like she could kick some serious ass. I hope she’s back in the third film. 

Dammit, I miss Pike already. Greenwood nailed that role to the wall and then hit it with three bull’s-eyes, if I may mix metaphors, and I believe I just did. Although many people didn’t like how Kirk’s a bit of a dickweed in JJ Trek, I didn’t mind it, especially while watching him get his ass chewed by Pike. Of course, that fabulous scene in STID is undercut by the fact that Kirk almost immediately gets the Enterprise back again after Pike, once again, gets attacked by a vengeful madman. If I were Kirk’s superior officer in that universe, I would never punish him, because you’d know within moments you’d be getting eaten by a Gorn or something, and Kirk would suddenly be a hero again. Just let the dickweed do what he wants, admiral, it’s not worth the risk. 

After the torpedoes detonate aboard the Vengeance, I know things got pretty hairy aboard the Enterprise, what with there only being about a mile and a half between the Earth and the Moon, but maybe if someone had told Khan that they still had his crew alive, he wouldn’t have plunged the Vengeance into San Francisco, killing untold thousands. Or maybe he would have, because, you know, vengeful madman. 

Concurrently with seeing the film again, I was reading the novelization by Alan Dean Foster. He tried to cover up lots of plot holes with a geeky spackle of technobabble and a fresh coat of retcon, but there’s only so much you can do with some of these things. He didn’t touch the Enterprise underwater. I mean, come on. 

But anyone who loved the movie should read the book…there are bits here and there where I don’t know if they’re Foster’s work or represent scenes in the script that didn’t make the final cut—maybe they’re in some of those deleted scenes you may or may not get to see by tracking down all the versions of the Blu-ray—but they are some nice little touches. I won’t spoil them with examples, you can look for them like Easter eggs.

A Mixed Milestone

Back in 2004 my Star Trek story “Full Circle” appeared in Strange New Worlds VII. It was my first sale to a major publisher, Simon & Schuster. I’d had a handful of publishing credits in regional magazines and poetry anthologies previously, but being included in a book from one of the Big Six was a step up. 

Present day: I just updated my website to include my latest publication, the short story “The Squire and the Valet” in the anthology ReDeus: Native Lands. Thanks to the one-two-three punch of the ReDeus anthologies Divine Tales, Beyond Borders, and Native Lands published over the last year by Crazy 8 Press, I’ve reached a milestone of ten anthologies, including my Star Trek novella Honor in the Night in Myriad Universes: Shattered Light in 2010. 

It’s a bittersweet achievement, unfortunately. The publishing industry is in a state of upheaval, and a few months ago I lost my day job as an acquisitions editor. So although my new anthology debuts at Shore Leave 35 the first weekend in August, for the first time since 2006 I won’t be at the con to sign books, meet fans, and hang out in the bar with the amazing group of writers—you guys know who you are—who have become dear friends over the last seven years. 

One doesn’t get into the writing business because it’s easy, however, so this is just another rickety rung on a tall ladder I continue climbing. My eleventh anthology, A Quiet Shelter There, including my story “On My Side,” should be out in 2014 from Hadley Rille Books. And I’ve got some interesting irons in the fire that I will post about when and if they come to fruition. Stay tuned.

Deja Vu(lcan)

Last week I commented on my growing frustration that a number of Trek fans who have enjoyed the new film are dismissing those fans who didn’t enjoy the new film as just suffering from original-series sour grapes. I’ve now realized this is deja vu all over again.

While going through notes on possible blog posts, I rediscovered my unfinished review of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. I never finished writing the review because my daughter and I talked about the film in our podcast, Generations Geek (Episode 4: The Day the Geek Stood Still). There in the review was a rant about a similar topic, but with Star Trek scratched out and Middle-earth written in. So, begin Hobbit rant:

I need to comment on an article with a title that really burned my lembas: “Dislike Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit? Then You Don’t Know Tolkien.” Granted, the article is a little more focused than the headline would lead you to believe, replying to specific negative comments from professional critics, but it still rubs me the wrong way.

I first read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings in high school and although I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve reread them, I’d guess well over a dozen times (including once aloud to my then baby daughter). I’ve also read, among other things, The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, The Children of Hurin, and the twelve-volume The History of Middle Earth. I’m very excited that the fiftieth anniversary edition of The Lord of the Rings finally says “They can go ten miles north to Brandywine Bridge” instead of “twenty miles.” (Those of you who know what I’m talking about KNOW what I’m talking about. Am I right?)

I own the animated The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, but not the animated The Return of the King because it’s a train wreck (people who think Bakshi’s LOTR film is bad really need to check out this “kid-friendly” version of the last book by the same people who made the lovely cartoon Hobbit: it includes orcs singing the song “Where There’s a Whip There’s a Way,” which is simultaneously the worst Middle-earth song ever and the best S&M song ever). I own Jackson’s theatrical and expanded versions of his Lord of the Rings movies.

All of that background is to say, ZOMG, if I wasn’t thrilled with the first Hobbit movie, don’t presume that means I don’t know my frakkin’ Tolkien. I’m not going to tell people they shouldn’t like the film simply because of my own lukewarm response, so do me the courtesy of not dictating that I should like it by questioning my Tolkienitude if I don’t.

End Hobbit rant. So, people, please: if you enjoy a film, that’s great, you got your money’s worth. Tell me why you love the movie, I’d like to hear your opinion. But if I don’t like the film, don’t undercut my point of view by implying I just don’t understand or I’m not open to new interpretations. Listen to what I’m saying about the movie. The film you love may not be perfect, but I’m not saying you shouldn’t still enjoy it. As filmgoers, we weight the various elements of a movie in different ways, so our scales will balance out differently. One person’s minor flaw is another person’s final straw.

JJ Trek’s New Clothes

Another Trek fan has posted that most people who don’t like Star Trek Into Darkness just haven’t accepted that this is an alternate timeline. This attitude is really starting to tick me off.

Nearly all of my problems with the movie have to do with its problems as a movie, regardless of it being Trek in general or its specific timeline. If you like the movie, that’s fine, I’m glad when people like Trek, but don’t dismiss my criticisms with a whitewash of “Oh, you just don’t like it because it’s not Shatner and Nimoy.” 

I don’t care that it’s not Shatner and Nimoy, and I certainly don’t care that it’s set in an alternate timeline. I wrote an alternate timeline Trek novella for Simon & Schuster! I enjoy alternate timelines, and rebooting the franchise in an alternate timeline was the right decision. 

But when I read a book or watch a movie, I hope for a certain level of quality in the writing. That includes believable characters with relatable emotional arcs, as well as consistent plot points that evolve organically as complications develop from the actions of the characters. 

As a film, Into Darkness fails upon those points, and any other details about timelines or actors are irrelevant. Now come the spoilers. Hiding the Enterprise underwater made no sense. Hiding cryopods in photon torpedoes made no sense. Relying on a madman frozen for three hundred years to design new weapons made no sense. Harrison fleeing to the Klingon homeworld made no sense. The idea that a giant warship could be built in secret made no sense. And so on. 

That’s just sloppy writing. You can either try to persuade me that I’m mistaken with details from the movie or even just say I’m taking it too seriously. But please don’t brush me aside as some sort of disgruntled fanatic, which is really just sticking your fingers in your ears and saying “Lalalalalalalala” in a Pee-Wee Herman voice. Feel free to enjoy the movie in spite of these flaws, but don’t disrespect my reasons for not liking the movie.

Shore Leave

After too long an absence from posting while breathing deeply of the existential malaise emanating from the publishing industry (and please check out Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s fabulous blog on the subject), I’m back with fun news. It’s that special time of year known as Shore Leave!

I can’t overemphasize the importance of this convention to me. I first attended in 2006 with my second inclusion in the contest anthology Strange New Worlds. Still feeling rather fannish, I was nervous to be hanging out with writers like Greg Cox and Margaret Wander Bonanno. But over the years I’ve gotten to know a lot of the Trek writers, and they’re now friends and peers, people I stay in touch with year around via email, Facebook, and other various internet connections. In addition to gaining friends, getting to know people like Marco Palmieri, formerly the head of the Trek line at Simon & Schuster, also helped my career along as I sold a short story and then a novella thanks to Marco’s invitations to pitch. I look forward to Shore Leave for the chance to see the gang in person and to interact with all the great fans.

This year I’ll be taking part in five events. Friday night I’ll be an usher at the big celebrity roast of the fabulously nice Bob Greenberger. Following that is the annual Meet the Pros autographing session, where I’ll finally be signing copies of Myriad Universes: Shattered Light, containing my novella Honor in the Night. Saturday at 1 I’ll be in Salon A for the Star Trek Magazine panel, led by the magazine’s editor, Paul Simpson. I’ve had several articles published in the magazine. Later in the afternoon, at 4 in the Belmont Room, I’ll be on the Myriad Universes panel, with a smattering of authors who’ve been included in the three volumes of the series. On Sunday at 11 in Salon F I’ll be part of the Making of a Reboot panel, led by Kevin Dilmore, as we make the case for what TV show we’d each like to reboot and how we’d approach it. I’m rebooting the classic British series UFO.

I hope to see you there!