Archives for posts with tag: Star Trek

Anyone who’s read my musings here for any length of time will have noticed that I’m interested in a very wide variety of topics. That interest in just about everything started when reading classics like Treasure Island and A Tale of Two Cities as a kid. It spread, as opportunities for travel grew as an adult, and became pretty much a cofoundation of my life with writing once telling stories decided to become my life. Today, TV, movies, and the internet, along with books, feed my voracious appetite for information. What better time for an information junkie to be on the planet than during our great Information Age?

Two of my particular sources of fascination have long been medical science and ocean travel. Sailing ships and their adventures are attractive for their drama and romance. The concept of transferring navigating the globe in vessels of canvas and wood lends itself perfectly to extrapolation into space. Trade the canvas and wood for titanium and transparent aluminum, and you’ve hitched your wagon to Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek, though he used the analogy of a wagon train traveling the great unknown. Some of us are born adventurers, whose passion for the stuff of myth and dreams leads us to explore space in our minds and on paper…and for some lucky few, in real life. As writers of science fiction, we may invent diseases horrific and space born, but none may be more horrific or devastating than the one I just read about in this National Geographic article.

Often I don’t eat very much at all or enough fruits and vegetables. If left to my natural appetite, I eat one carb heavy meal a day, with a little grazing on the side. I have had the habit of making jokes about it, saying something like: “Time to eat a salad or some fruit. Don’t want to give myself scurvy!” After reading this article, I don’t think I’ll be quite so quick to make light of such a terrible illness.

I’ve known about scurvy since ninth grade general science. Rickets too, which led to a similar joke, because I don’t like to drink milk. The very idea of scurvy carried a slight air of mystery and romance, because of its connection to sailing expeditions. Ninth grade children weren’t informed in their textbooks of just what it did to the human body. Now that I’ve been enlightened, all traces of romance and mystery have disappeared. All that’s left is an education on an obscure medical crisis that was also absolute tragedy.

Some of my favorite fiction to write involves medical backdrops. I have a feeling a space faring version of scurvy now lurks in my futuristic writing future. Anything can be expanded on, tangented from, and transferred to space. Scurvy included, though it’s going to be hard to “improve” on this very real horror from our earthbound past.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/01/scurvy-disease-discovery-jonathan-lamb/?google_editors_picks=true

I can’t let the 50 year anniversary of Star Trek pass without marking it as special to me. I stumbled into The Original Series long after its original run. I’d seen the movies and some franchise episodes. I liked them, but it was reading the novels that made me love them so much that I wanted to write my own Trek fiction. This avalanche of inspiration led me to watch… everything Trek. All that amazing Star Trek goodness inspired me to not only play in Gene Roddenberry’s sandbox, but also to continue what I learned from that into creating original fiction.

The end result to date of falling in love with Kirk, Spock, and Bones is that I won publication in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds anthologies VII, VIII, and Ten. The thrill of seeing my byline on those pro sale stories will forever be a landmark of my life, as a reader, a writer, and a human. That experience instilled in me a great love of writing and a work ethic that has led me this year to another longheld dream come true, being published in Analog.

Today, on the date when Star Trek first aired 50 years ago, I salute The Great Bird of the Galaxy. He enhanced my life in ways he never knew, but that I will treasure forever.

Catching up on some movies again. I’ve heard so much about The Hunger Games that it almost seems like I’d already seen it. Once I had I thought it lived up to its hype, which is a difficult feat. Especially these days, with movies constantly trying to one up each other more than ever before. The glut of big bang franchises makes it ever harder to grab enough spotlight to stand out, entertain, and be memorable. The Hunger Games managed to hit all three.

My favorite thing about this movie was the way the simplistic lifestyle of the regular people was constantly thrown visually against the sleek, modern way of life of the government seat. Particularly during the fight to the death in the wilderness, and the way it would cut to the high tech behind the scenes machinations. That was one of the most shocking  juxtapositions of the haves and have nots I can remember seeing in moviedom. As well as the contrast of the Tributes fighting with blades, bows and arrows, and bludgeons, while the techies sat at their consoles gleefully sending in predatory beasts and finding new ways to pit Tributes against each other. Add in the giant screens the folks back home were glued to throughout, and you have a crazy, relentless, brutal and primal version of The Truman Show, as a peripheral plot.

Some of the violence was shocking, edging into The Lord of the Flies territory. I thought it was very realistic. Take anybody, even children…perhaps especially children…and give them no choice but to fight, little hope of survival, and the promise of great spoils for the victor, and the flight or fight adrenaline rush becomes the driving force of their existence. On some level as well the celebrity status attainable by the victor would be an almost irresistible goal.

Enter Katniss Everdeen. A young girl who impulsively takes the place of her little sister. How unlikely is that? About as unlikely as her progress through the game using her wits, her courage, and her compassion, unlike her tooth and nail opponents. However unlikely, that too is realistic. In most groups of even the most down trodden, forced into ruthless brutality, desperate people, there lurks a hero. It would be easy to dismiss Katniss as a fictional device, but it happens in real life enough to make us proud to be human beings. The funny thing is that true heroes don’t usually set out some day intending to achieve something amazing. They fall into situations that lead them to rise above the circumstances… rise even above themselves.

That Katniss also managed to outsmart the system was the coolest part. Unlikely? Maybe. One James T. Kirk set an impressive precedent, though. That Katniss Everdeen Kobayashi Marued the Hunger Games a la  our beloved captain made her a hero for the ages. Okay, so maybe my enjoyment of the movie  skewed a bit Trekward. At least I didn’t place mental odds on who the Redshirts were. I have actual Star Trek movies for that.

The Hunger Games (2012) Official Movie Trailer

Kobayashi Maru

As soon as I saw the headline of this article, my brain started screaming: Impossible!

No matter how much we may have spent our Star Trek loving years dreaming of an honest to goodness, real life replicator, the concept seemed so far beyond possible that it still lives just outside the realm of possibility.

It’s moved!

Now, according to this article, the impossible may be right around the corner. And in a machine the size of a coffee maker, instead of a wall size apparatus hidden behind the magic food slot. I can’t say I understand the descriptions of  pods and tubes and natural dehydrated ingredients yet. Just as I didn’t understand a thing about microwave ovens when I first got one, except that I could have a baked potato in a few minutes instead of watching one hiss and spit through the glass door of a toaster oven for an agonizing hour or so. What I do understand already about this replicator thingie is the all important information that it will make me chocolate soufflé on demand. One that even chefs can’t find fault with.

And that seems to be just the tip of this culinary iceberg miracle. Not only will it free me to enjoy home replicated food instead of slaving over a not hot microwave oven, it will leave me convinced that a transporter will soon whisk me to any place my wanderlust desires.

Two to beam up, Mister Scott. Me and my chocolate soufflé.

This Entertainment Weekly article about a recent backlash by Star Trek fans against Into Darkness gave me a lot to think about. On one hand it’s reassuring to know I’m not alone in struggling with the new vs old versions. On the other it’s a little disturbing that it means so much to so many of us.

Yes, us.

I am one of those strange creatures with the ability to quote Shakespeare, adore Virginia Woolf’s fiction, write poetry, and all the while carry around a near encyclopedic mental database of all things Star Trek. I came at it sideways, picking up a Next Generation novel on a whim and getting hooked. The thing about Star Trek novels is that they’re not the sweet little Mary Sues or hurt/comfort shoulder patting in space that scoffers think they know about. The crew and relationships are deeper delving than hour long TV episodes allow room for, and the science is, in my opinion, far from the pseudo variety.

In fact, many of the 200 plus Star Trek novels I’ve read have been some of the most challenging reading of my life. Some of it is written by actual scientists, some by knowledgeable laymen, and some by people with the kind of imagination that lends itself to believable scientific adventure. We’re starting to see more and more of the extrapolated science from all the way back to the TOS days of primitive FX and a super franchise in the making finding its feet. Extrapolation that was extrapolated further in the novels. Set that kind of writing down into the middle of the established Star Trek universe and you have books that both entertain and educate. Are they all wonderful? No. But a surprising number actually are.

So then I moved on into the Star Trek televised alphabet, TOS, TNG, DS9 and on to the single word series–Voyager and Enterprise. That lineup is not only chronological, but also lists my favorites in descending order. I loved all the movies to varying extents.

Then along came the reboot. I was thrilled at the prospect of new Star Trek. And equally wary of Star Trek that new. Intellectually, I understand the need to move some dusty franchises into the 21st century. It makes sense as far as demographics and box office potential are concerned. It even has a lot of merit creatively. However, it’s difficult to move fans who have been deeply dug into a decades long franchise on to what feels at times like a betrayal of trust.

The big reboot movie had a lot going for it. It takes advantage of state of the art FX technology to look amazing. It gives us an acceptable new younger version of the old crew, particularly in Zachary Quinto’s Spock and Karl Urban’s delightful channeling of DeForest Kelley’s Bones. I really did enjoy it. It was just unfortunate that Vulcan is my favorite alien world and Amanda my favorite peripheral character.

The pain!

It’s also unfortunate that although I fully understand that Nero’s actions split the timeline, my other timeline loving brain just will not stop trying to analyze the two (while I watch the movies), make them fit like the pieces of one puzzle, and long for the “real” timeline that is, at least for the foreseeable future, lost to us. Except for poor original Spock, who is now part of the other reality.

That’s my problem right there. The reboot, even though it’s the one we “visit” now, is still the other reality to me, while Admiral Sulu carries out deep space missions and Ambassador Spock may visit his father on the Vulcan where he undertook Kolinahr and carries fond memories of his mother’s life well into her old age…in the real reality.

I actually thought I had a handle on it, but when I watched Into Darkness, fully prepared for the other reality, there went my brain again, trying to force it to be what I love. It is not. What it is is a whole nother Star Trek, with delusions of original magic. I miss the Star Trek where Kirk doesn’t defy the prime directive, however noble the cause. Where he doesn’t indulge in threesomes…onscreen anyway. And above all where the  beautifully stoic Spock who is my favorite Star Trek character is not in an everyman romantic relationship.

And there we have the saving grace of the whole Trek-we-know vs reboot thing. Just because there are new movies and their accompanying offshoots about a new timeline it doesn’t mean we have to give anything up. It’s all still there. All the TV, movies, novels, and games set in the original timeline didn’t disappear when the new one formed. The timelines now run on parallel tracks. One a wagon train to the stars, the other a bullet train to distant worlds.

I’ll eventually get my brain to settle down and watch reboot movies for what they are, and not what they might have been. In the meantime I intend to embrace boot up and reboot as equally as I can. I’d rather wrestle with Star Trek’s split personality than have no Star Trek at all.

This article is the kind of thing that makes my brain go all blinky and pingy, like a pinball game that just hit five free plays. I think my favorite the-future-is-now wonder is the small clothes cleaner that uses ultra sonic waves. How much longer until we can hop into a sonic shower and pretend we have to report to the Enterprise bridge, as soon as we’ve grabbed breakfast from a food slot?

The mirror that doubles as a computer display is an intriguing concept. As long as it’s one way viewing. Google Glass’ mobility brings up enough privacy issues. I wouldn’t want to broadcast toothbrushing or just how bad a bad hair day can really be first thing in the morning!

The flying car seems on the brink of causing traffic jams in the sky. I don’t know which worries me more. The prospect of having to learn how to fly one or the knowledge that way too many people currently behind the wheel have yet to master the elusive art of ground travel. People are reckless and roadragey as it is. Flight lane rage doesn’t bear thinking about.

A fridge that can offer me recipes, based on its contents? No, thanks. I’ll reconsider when it can offer me the hot meal of my choice and spit it out of a slot next to the ice water dispenser. Bonus points, if it can make coq au vin and chocolate mousse cake, with raspberry sauce. Hold the seeds.

The pinball brain thing? That comes from all the glimmers of science fiction ideas such articles give me. There are so many new and exciting things afoot in the modder than current con world of invention and awe. It’s exciting for everyone looking for a better tomorrow today, and extra exciting for science fiction fans who have been waiting for the real world to catch up with our expectations ever since Jules Verne’s imagination taught us to believe the impossible just might be possible after all.

Someday.

Someday is now, for a lot of the things we’ve longed for. Jetsons envy may soon fade into the past. Personally, I’m hoping for a Rosie the Robot maid. After all, someone has to remind me where I put my invisible when off TV.

Articles like this are a word-filled goldmine for me. Immediately following that bold statement comes my confession that in no way do I understand a large portion of it. I start reading, and soon detect imminent brain implosion.

While I am endlessly fascinated by science, I have no delusions of being a scientist. That’s why what I love to read and write is called science fiction. Science fiction is born out of real life scientific discoveries, prototypes, and ideas extrapolated into future permutation– The reality is that it’s a way fun game of what if, triggered by whatever may be a budding reality or mere gleam in the minds of people with great big brains.

Nobody ever told me how to do it. Somewhere along the way my brain started thinking extrapolation was what it wants most to do. Honestly, I think it comes easiest to worriers. Let’s face it. Worrying is the ultimate, inherent game of what if. Chicken Little taught it to us as children. What if the sky falls? What if that impertinent asteroid decides to hit us in February? What if we have a secret colony of monkey astronauts on the moon poised to shoot it off its expected orbit with bananas gnawed into delicious pointy salvation missles? Anything is possible with enough imagination and a goofy sense of humor.

So I read stuff and watch stuff and absorb stuff. If I don’t understand every nuance of the science, I get the gist. Several things in this article leapt out at my particular imagination, my sense of humor, and the rubbery, expandable corner of my mind where worry lives.

–The first was the term “propellantless propulsion”. I understand what it means, but it made me laugh. It sounds like something Professor Farnsworth would say on Futurama. One of those nonsensical terms he tosses out like a too skinny Robot Santa from an Xmas parade float.

–The idea of solar sails is fascinating. I first encountered it in an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space 9, involving a father and son journey powered by solar sail. The conceptualization was beautiful, as was the bonding experience. There is no reason ships that sail the depths of space cannot be things of beauty. Just as there’s no reason mere concepts cannot be realized, given enough time, imagination, and technological advancement.

–Continuing the Star Trek theme, I am intrigued by the idea that this solar sail launch would carry some of the cremated remains of The Great Bird of the Galaxy himself, Gene Roddenberry, and his wife Majel Roddenberry. As a long time admirer of their work, I think it’s incredibly touching that technology has advanced to a point that it can actually take them boldly into space. Not many of us can follow our dreams quite so literally.

–And the idea that solar sails may someday be able to help warn us of dangerous near earth objects is reassuring. Just because scientists are certain the upcoming encounter will be but a near miss does not mean they all will be. It seems to me that events like the one depicted in the movie Deep Impact are inevitable, over the long course of earth’s history. I feel better knowing that technological advances are constantly finding ways to keep the sky from literally falling another day.

So from this one article I got an unintended laugh, a bit of relief from the minor worry that distant objects we don’t even know exist may have us in their sights, information about new and improved upon scientific discoveries and advancements that may find its way into my fiction and my dreams, and a reminder that reaching for the stars is never foolish. Even death can’t keep the boldest dreamers tethered to the earth at their feet.