On the Pledge

I hope the recent appeals court ruling banning the phrase “under god” from the Pledge of Allegiance stands. I can’t see any logic to it not standing. But what does it really matter? No one has to say the Pledge of Allegiance if they don’t want to.

As an atheist am I glad that someone with cojones has stepped up to the plate and said, “Y’know, there’s this thing we have called Church/State separation, and we don’t want to endorse any particular religious viewpoint, and while ‘god’ is a sort of generic deity word the vast majority of the American populace reads it in this particular fashion, and as a consequence the Pledge endorses a certain, particular view of the deity which excludes perhaps five out of a hundred Americans, and that’s not fair to them”? Absolutely.

I wish someone in authority would say that saying “God bless America” every time someone sneezes or breaks winds isn’t a good thing, either. Isn’t it wonderful? The past six months I’ve felt unwelcome in my own country because I happen not to believe in god. Having Bush II and his thugs equate atheism with barbarianism isn’t the best way to promote acceptance and understanding of the religiously-challenged like myself.

Weird as Hell

An e-mail message I received. It reads like spam, but if it’s from a spam-master, it’s from the most fucked up spam-master ever….

Hello,
If you are a time traveler or alien and or in possession of government or alien technology I need your help! My entire life and health has been messed with by evil beings! If you have access to the carbon copy replica model #50 3000 series, the dimensional warp, temporal reversion or something similar please reply! I simply need the safest method of transferring my consciousness to my younger self with my current mind/memory. I need an advanced time traveler to work with who can help me, I would prefer someone with access to teleportation as well as a variety different types of time travel. This is not a joke! I am serious! Please send a separate email to me at: Dragonball03@aol.com if you can help! Thanks

On Star Trek Movie Names

Random brainwave I had this morning…

The Classic Trek films had impressive sounding names. Maybe not impressive sounding, but descriptive. The Star Trek: The Next Generation films, by contrast, have positively dull names.

If you were given the power to give the NextGen films names like the Classic Trek films, what names would you give them?

My picks:

  • Star Trek VII: The Passing of Generations
  • Star Trek VIII: The Dawn of Tomorrow
  • Star Trek IX: The Price of Liberty
  • Star Trek X: ?

(As Star Trek: Nemesis isn’t out yet and I haven’t read the script even though I’ve had it for a few months, I don’t know that an suggestion for it is appropriate yet.)

If you were given the power to give the Classic Trek films names like
their NextGen counterparts, what names would you give them?

My picks:

  • Star Trek Reunion
  • Star Trek Vengeance
  • Star Trek Rebirth
  • Star Trek Contratemps
  • Star Trek ?
  • Star Trek Denouement

(Boiling Star Trek V down to a one-word title is leaving me stumped.)

Other thoughts? Suggestions?

Observed at Wal-Mart

This afternoon, toiling my way through the aisles of the local Wal-Mart, I chanced upon the books aisle and began to browse. I didn’t need more reading material–I have enough of a backlog to last me until sometime in 2006–but it’s always interesting to see what Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, thinks of the reading habits of the American public.

Imagine my surprise to find a Philip K. Dick book there. In Wal-Mart.

Spielberg’s new film, Minority Report, opened on Friday, based on a short story by Dick. Hyperion reissued one of his story collections, the one containing “Minority Report,” a few months ago. Wal-Mart, doubtless to capitalize on the success of Minority Report, carries the book.

What surprises me so much about seeing Minority Report in Wal-Mart is that Philip K. Dick is not the kind of writer the typical Wal-Mart customer would read. Nightmarish dystopias about worlds where time runs amock, where people aren’t really people, where schizophrenia opens doors into the past, where god is the perpetrator of the greatest crime in human history, aren’t the kind of gooey, simple reading material that Wal-Mart usually carries. I can easily see someone picking up Minority Report, taking it home because they saw the newest Tom Cruise movie, sitting down to read, and throwing the book down because some of the ideas are just too weird for them.

On the other hand, Wal-Mart’s customers could probably do to have their minds blown, to have their complacency shaken. Philip K. Dick wouldn’t be a bad place for them to begin.

On Deep Space Nine: "Fear, Itself"

Tom Sharp raised the question, “Could [“Fear Itself,” published in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds V] be considered a part of the DS9 post-finale stories I have listed at DS9 Avatar?

There are two possible answers here, and each has their reasons:

Yes, include it–“Fear Itself” takes place post-“What You Leave Behind.”

No, don’t include it–“Fear Itself” doesn’t adhere to the post-Avatar continuity (such as Ezri’s rank/position).

If you go with the former, then any story set after “What You Leave Behind” could be considered a “relaunch” story, regardless of quality or continuity. (I’m curious to see how The Captain’s Peril fits with non-Shatnerverse continuity on this point.) If you go with the latter, then you’re acknowledging that Marco has a “master-plan” and has the right to pick and choose what’s important for his overall vision. (Which we know he does–witness his decision to set aside all DS9 novels published prior to the Millennium trilogy and The Lives of Dax.)

Here’s a way to think about it. Marco is now DS9‘s executive producer, and he has a writing staff producing “official” stories. There are “unofficial” stories out there, though, in which Marco has no part, and while they might use his characters and situations, they aren’t really part of the overall DS9 relaunch. This isn’t any different than Rick Berman being the executive producer of Enterprise, and Pocket producing a series of novels using the characters; Berman gets to decide what’s real (his show) and what’s not (the novels). It’s the same thing.

Yes, for some people this concept is going to cause massive cognitive dissonance. They could point to “Fear Itself” as proof that Jake survives whatever trials he’s gone through since Avatar, which isn’t necessarily true–just because we know Rising Son is about Jake doesn’t mean Jake makes it out alive. James Dixon will write angry notes in the next edition of his Chronology about Pocket’s massive insensitivity to macroTrek consistency. But you know something? What matters, in the end, is the individual stories themselves. Robert Mendenhall had a story he wanted to tell. Marco’s stable of writers had stories they wanted to tell. If the stories “mesh” into some greater tapestry, then that’s wonderful. If the stories don’t “mesh,” then so what? I’m not suggesting that continuity is a bad thing–far from it, I like interstory continuity as much as the next person–but I think it does a disservice to the writers of future DS9 novels if they need to stay consistent with a barely remembered novel or short story from five years ago. Marco has established a new starting point–Avatar–and I think that’s a fine way to go, especially as it’s a clear starting point. It’s a vocal minority wailing about the loss of Wrath of the Prophets and the Dominion Wars novels, but they’re missing the point–Avatar was meant as a new beginning for the novels and a continuation of the series itself, not as the next novels in the sequence.

I’ve been giving some consideration to the implications of Tom’s question–should Avatar have any bearing on a Strange New Worlds story set after “What You Leave Behind”–because of a story I’m writing for submission to the next SNW anthology. Like “Fear Itself,” it’s a Jake story. Like “Fear Itself,” it takes place after “What You Leave Behind,” two years after, in fact. I’m going to attempt to stay reasonably consistent with what we know thus far about the post-Avatar continuity, but I’m also not going to relentlessly name-drop from Avatar and beyond because there’s (1) no point to that, and (2) no quicker way to getting the story tossed in the circular file because of the contest rules. More importantly, continuity with Avatar is not a major issue in the story–Jake doesn’t spend any time on the station in this story, there’s only one Starfleet character in it, and there’s never any reason for me to need to refer to DS9 at all. Unless Marco decides to make Jake a cloistered monk in Unity, I think I’m treading on safe ground writing about Jake two years after “What You Leave Behind.” :)

First tests

This inaugural post says nothing in particular. Instead, it’s a test to see how the system functions, what cosmetic and structural changes need to be made, etc.

ETA (6 October 2007): This, believe it or not, is the first “official” post on this blog.

The posts prior to this? At one time I thought it would be neat and nifty to go back through old e-mails I’d sent out and clean them up as retrospective posts.

There’s one catch, however. I wrote a hell of a lot of e-mails about Star Trek and Doctor Who. Not a lot of e-mails about what the hell I was doing.

“The Psi Phi Project” posts are taken from posts I’d made on the Psi Phi Star Trek Books Bulletin Board. The timestamps on those posts are accurate. They’re specifically about what was going on in Star Trek fiction at the time. With sidelights on other things relating to Star Trek fiction.

Other prior posts were taken from Keith DeCandido’s newsgroup, back in the days when he had his own newsgroup.

The 9/11 post was a melange of posts and e-mails from a variety of sources. If Christopher Tolkien could edit The Silmarillion together from a disparate set of papers that spanned his father’s sixty year writing career, I could edit together a post on 9/11 from what I’d said on the subject in other places.

So, that’s what came before.

What comes after?

The first “content” post I made was on finding a Philip K. Dick book at Wal-Mart. At the time, I had no idea why I had a blog. It seemed like a good thing to do for my writing career.

The blog was not heavily trafficked in its early days. The blogging software I used — Greymatter — was not at all easy to work with. When I upgraded to WordPress two years later, posting became far more frequent. There’s a lesson in this; your choice of software does make a difference in your productivity. If you make it easy for someone to do something, they’ll do it. If you make it tough, they won’t. ;)

To this day I don’t know why I have a blog. I’m a bit scattershot in my topics, yet I think that’s the strength of this blog. It’s really a case of whatever it is I have on my mind, within limits. I keep a lot of things private and personal, and I try not to involve third parties to the extent that I can.

All of that said, this post is where it all began. All three hundred thousand words (as of this writing). Tempus fugit. :cheers:

On K.W. Jeter's Warped

The impression I’ve gotten over the years is that most of the Star Trek novel readership hates K.W. Jeter’s Warped. I’ve always been more than a little mystified by that reaction; I found Warpedto be an engaging and unusual novel that had a good deal more depth than other Trek hardcovers of the period.

Warped is not an easy novel to read. Few other Trek novels play as convincingly with the idea of a reality-clasm. In many respects, Warped is a Star Trek novel as Philip K. Dick might have written it, as it
touches on the traditional phildickian tropes:

  1. what does it mean to be human,
  2. how do people respond when the world they know begins to disintegrate, and
  3. how do people respond when confronted with the reality of the nearly divine?

K.W. Jeter was a friend of Dick’s during the last years of Dick’s life, and as a consequence, I think that some of Philip K. Dick’s outlook on life seeped into Warped.

I enjoyed Warped, but I know that a good many people didn’t. I think it’s unfair, though, to blame the subsequient lack of DS9 hardcovers on Warped.

On Deep Space Nine's Tenth Anniversary

Marco gave us all a pleasant surprise with these announcements:

1. The mass-market edition of THE LIVES OF DAX (originally published as a trade paperback in 1999), which will be reprinted under the new DS9 logo, identifying it as part of the relaunch.

To everyone who hasn’t read The Lives of Dax yet, buy it in mass-market in January! Great anthology, with some killer stories (literally!).

In thinking about The Lives of Dax, I’ve noticed there’s a sort-of Doctor Who connection. Tobin reminds me greatly of the second Doctor, and Joran is reminiscent of the sixth Doctor. (Interestingly, Tobin is the second Dax, and Joran is the sixth Dax.) I’ve thought about writing an essay on this, but the analysis doesn’t hold up–Jadzia, the eighth Dax, isn’t the gently naive fool the eighth Doctor is, and there’s no ninth Doctor (except for Rowan Atkinson, who really doesn’t count) to measure Ezri against. Quickly, these are the personality parallels I’ve noted:

Lela is the rebel against her society, like the first Doctor.
Tobin is the clown, like the second Doctor.
Emony is the physical one, like the third Doctor.
Audrid is the gothic one, like the fourth Doctor.
Torias is the self-sacrificing one, like the fifth Doctor.
Joran is the bombastic, unstable one, like the sixth Doctor.
Curzon is the manipulator and the diplomat, like the seventh Doctor.

And there it all falls apart. It’s not the best analysis, and it really does misread some of the hosts, but I thought it made for an interesting parallel between the two characters.

Heck, in The Lives of Dax, Ezri even got a regeneration story, like the Doctor would. :)

2. RISING SON by S.D. Perry. This mass-market book is “The Jake Novel,” a story that runs parallel to everything that’s occured in the DS9 relaunch since Avatar, and explains exactly what happened to him.

I can’t wait for this.

3. UNITY by S.D. Perry. This is the celebratory DS9 tenth anniversary hardcover novel. This is a landmark story featuring a few things a lot of people have been waiting for, plus some other things they may not be expecting. :)

Unity suggests a couple of things, based solely upon the title:

  1. Bajor joins the Federation.
  2. The relationship between Bajor and Cardassia, hinted at in Avatar, is explained.
  3. Ezri solves her mental stability problems, becoming a more unified personality.

Or it could be none of these. But just going from the title, any of these might be possible.

In any case, I’m looking forward to this.

In addition, there’ll be a celebratory all-DS9 anthology published later in the year, featuring stories set throughout the run of the TV series, by a variety of new and familiar authors. More information on this project to follow.

Excellent.

On the Christmas Round-Up

Ah, Christmas. It’s over. I think I can breathe now.

What an incredible Christmas! At Electronics Boutique, we would do as much in a single day as Payless would do in an entire week. There were moments of extreme insanity. I know people keep talking about the terrible recession we’ve found ourselves in, but I didn’t see it. Sales were stronger this year than last. Great stuff.

Yesterday was insane. People returning the games they didn’t want. People redeeming the gift cards they were given. Honestly, yesterday was busier than any day during the Christmas shopping season. Simply insane.

The one thing I was looking forward to the whole Christmas season was Christmas Eve. Sci-Fi was showing the Paul McGann Doctor Who film, and I hadn’t seen it since May 1996. (Yes, I took the plunge and bought a DirecTV system in the fall. Really nice, really nice.) If I could just make it another day, that would put me one day closer to seeing Paul McGann as the Doctor. I went ahead and taped it, went to Chameleon Circuit and printed out a video cover for it, and now it’s filed away on my shelf.

Impressions after five years? I never thought it was a bad film, though Daphne Ashbrooke never really clicked for me. (Honestly, I thought she was at her best when the Master had mental possession of her and her eyes were black.) Eric Roberts was okay as the Master. The thing had a simply fantastic look. Yes, it looked completely different than anything Who had done before, but there’s nothing wrong with that. No, the story doesn’t entirely hang together (and the Seventh Doctor suffers a “stupid death”), but that’s nothing new in Doctor Who. There’s one aspect of the eighth Doctor’s personality that I’ve never seen picked up elsewhere, that habit of dropping hints to random people on their futures.

I did some mental comparisons between the TVM and the McGann Big Finish audios. It seems to me that the McGann audios are the one place were the four-episode structure isn’t appropriate because that structure isn’t representative of his “era.” And had the TVM gone to a series, it wouldn’t have been structured the way Doctor Who had been structured in the past. I can’t imagine FOX broadcasting Doctor Who as a series of multi-part half-hour episodes. I can’t imagine any American broadcast network doing that today.

I went to see Lord of the Rings on Christmas Day. Damn, but that film was brilliant. I’ve read the novels eight or nine times now, and I can’t think of a movie that so clearly captured the spirit and feel of its source material. This is Tolkien’s world, and what changes there are I understand. I understand the need for the time compression (the first book spans about fifteen years between Bilbo’s eleventy-first birthday and Frodo’s departure from the Shire, while perhaps months pass during that time in the movie). I understand the need to dramatize the Saruman/Gandalf confrontation at Isengard (the books might be Hobbit-centric, but the story isn’t) instead of simply having Gandalf relate the tale at the Council of Elrond. I can understand the need to end the film with Boromir’s death (which opens The Two Towers) instead of with Frodo and Samwise’s departure (which occurs first in the books, but isn’t as dramatic a breaking point). I have to admit, there were moments that had me in emotional straits. Gandalf’s fall into the chasm. Boromir’s fall at the hands of the Uruk-hai and his death in Aragorn’s arms. (I also feel that’s the one scene where Tolkien is improved upon; Boromir’s death in the book is fairly flat, but evokes genuine emotion in the film.)

Oh, and how can I forget the Balrog? The whole Moria sequence was downright exciting and creepy.

Damn, I’m going to have to go see LOTR again. And to think next Christmas we’ll get another film, so if Episode II sucks (as I fear it might), I know they will be another brilliant genre film coming at the end of the year.

I haven’t been to see Harry Potter as yet. I read the first book, I liked the first book, but I haven’t felt the overwhelming need to go see the film. But I will, and probably soon.

Oh, one final note. Next time you’re in Waldenbooks, look to see if they have the Deep Space Nine: Millennium trilogy trade paperback. Flip through it to the end and you’ll find a timeline I compiled. My first published credit. :)

On Star Trek: Phase II

Star Trek: Phase II. In the 1970s Paramount wanted to start a new television network, and they wanted to launch it with a new Star Trek series, bringing back together as many of the old crew as they could. Only, it didn’t happen.

Instead, the pilot story, “In Thy Image,” became Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Two scripts were later recycled for Star Trek: The Next Generation. And Pocket Books published a cool compendium of information of the series-that-almost-was.

Sometimes the idea is floated for Phase II novels from Pocket. Personally, I’d love to see Phase II novels. I don’t know that they would be practical or feasible, however.

The first objection is the “So what?” factor. A Phase II novel would be fairly disconnected with the Trek universe; it shares its roots with the original series, but someone whose frame of Trek reference lies in the 24th century would be lost; Picard’s past isn’t Lieutenant Xon’s future. The Kirk of Phase II isn’t going to be lost in the Nexus. The Spock of Phase II isn’t going to become an Ambassador, isn’t going to die saving the Enterprise, isn’t going to be reborn on the Genesis Planet.

I think that’s a false argument. For once with Star Trek, the fates of regular filmic characters aren’t known, and they can be grown and changed in any direction. Sulu could be killed, Chekov could be maimed, Scotty could meet his true love and leave Starfleet. In other words, the character growth that readers have always wanted with the classic characters can be fulfilled with Phase II, even if it is its own little pocket universe.

Is a Phase II series feasible? Perhaps not. I’ve heard that the Phase II book didn’t sell well, and Pocket seems to developing enough novels-only franchises that the schedule probably can’t accomodate much more.

But I’d still be interested to see Pocket try a Phase II novel or anthology.