Book Club Choice #4 Author Q & A

Book Club Choice #4 Author Q & A

Once again, we find ourselves sitting in a book-lined library, a crackling fire nearby (none of the books are on fire), a tray of lovely canapés nearby. I am sitting here with Niobium and we’re here to talk about Indiscriminate Dust.

The Alternate Original Series is sometimes a tough sell. A lot of people don’t feel it is Trek. With your work, you seem to respect AOS and TOS and meld the two, more or less seamlessly. Is that your intention?


It definitely is. I love the AOS for bringing TOS back in a very different way, at a time when our relationship with technology is much closer to how TOS imagined it, and as our understanding of science in general and space in particular is pushing new boundaries. AOS is far from perfect, yet nothing really is–I could go on all day about things in TOS that drive me bananas–but if fan fiction is good for anything that’s tweaking those things to one’s preference.


The story begins with the new Big Three working together as a part of an exploratory landing party. Bringing the overall story line back to exploration and away from big, exploding action is likely not going to be the route that the next movie takes. Certainly current box office figures would point to the next film as being another action flick, at least in part. Do you feel that there is room for exploration for the AOS on the big screen? Or is there another place where canon might handle these sorts of stories, e. g. in accompanying authorized literature?


I think there’s room for it, but the cynic in me has to admit that the people backing the next film’s creation will probably steer it away from exploration as a result of a misguided notion that you can’t blow things up when exploring. I find this sad, as plenty of movies have shown how to knit exploration into action and drama–one need look no further than the Pirates of the Caribbean movies (which are even about ships in uncharted territory!).

I do think accompanying literature is another avenue, and the AOS comics appear to be doing well, but I’m actually not the world’s biggest fan nor consumer of accompanying media myself. If anything, I prefer as few add-ons as possible, because the field feels more open to interpretation when the canon hasn’t been defined and bounded by a book or comic or one-off TV special.


The aliens are never really seen and the reader doesn’t have a lot to really go on. However, that works in the context of archaeology, that the absent natives of this unnamed planet can never really be known. About the only canon species that might fit the bill is (possibly) the Breen, as they may or may not have snouts. Did you have any canon species in mind? Or is this species wholly your own invention? What about the reverence with which the remains are treated?


I didn’t have a canon species in mind, and tried to stay vague so that if one in the width and breadth of Trek happened to fit the bill, they’d slot in, and if not, then the reader is free to imagine them as whatever they’d like to.


Do you think this would happen in TOS, or ENT, or in any of the other series? Picard, in TNG, had archaeology as a hobby, but the other captains did not. Would any other captains have made a different call?


Probably not, but for a beyond-the-fourth-wall reason: the history of archaeology, especially in the US, is fraught with racism, and that permeates a lot of writing about it. If the spirit of Trek is about anything, it’s about stopping and growing beyond that kind of behavior in the long term. With that in mind, I was attempting (to a limited extent) to show how you can do the science of archaeology without being disrespectful of the culture–even a culture that has no descendants to speak of and which has, to all appearances, been eradicated.

I think it would be completely in character for, say, Sisko or Janeway to show respect to a find, but whether or not the Trek writers would go that route is another thing entirely, and has a lot to do with how we perceive archaeology in Western culture.


Uhura in particular gets a lot of screen time in this tale. Do you see her as a peacemaker or even a go-between for Kirk and Spock?

Book Club Choice #4 Author Q & A

Zoë Saldana as Uhura in Star Trek (2009). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is never enough Uhura for me! And only as a side effect of Kirk and Uhura being BFFs. AOS is quite different in that Uhura is the first main cast character Kirk meets, and although they are at odds in most of ST2009, by STID there’s an actual friendship there: Kirk confides in Uhura after Daystrom, and Uhura is in turn the one who encourages Spock to run Harrison down at the end of the movie. It’s so rare for a man and a woman to be shown as close friends without a sexual relationship that I almost prefer writing about them to the classic Triumvirate, and I’m glad the writers ran with that in the second movie. Even though sex was Kirk’s original motive, that never goes anywhere, and he doesn’t make her rejection of him into a point of long-term animosity. (Which is another thing that’s rare in media–that a woman can turn a guy down without fear of retribution, and that the guy can take a no without getting nasty.)


For an intelligent character, is this almost a nascent diplomatic career (or at least diplomatic training)?


I think diplomacy would be something she’d be good at, but more because she’s clearly an expert at decoding language of all kinds: emotional language, verbal language, written language, body language. Diplomacy is grounded in trying to understand your counterparts on their terms, and I think it’s suggested Uhura excels at this.


Star Trek seems to do diplomacy oddly; some people are definitely better-suited to it than others. With Uhura able to get both men to more or less meet in the middle, without either sacrificing their interests or their orders, how does that bode for her own personal future?Will she become a diplomat? Is she stuck playing referee?


I think she would still focus on language, and would refuse to referee in a larger sense. I actually see Kirk as the referee between her and Spock, to be honest, because Uhura is the one dating a half-Vulcan with emotional management issues, and it’s one thing to work diplomacy with those you don’t know and another to work it with your boyfriend and a mutual friend. (Also, the idea of her and Kirk having BFFs-night-out to drink and eat bar food and lament their love lives is a lot of fun.).


I love the curiosity of the characters in this piece, and then stepping back, as if they’ve found an ancient Indian burial ground or the like. Do you see this story as having any parallels to your own personal experiences, where you may have left something alone that was otherwise tantalizing, for the greater good?


Not particularly; I live a very boring life!

Which of your story universes are you closest to or most proud of? (Choose a baby or all of them will perish!)

Despite it being one of my earlier pieces, my personal preference remains Beneath the Enormous Sky, because it’s given me the most long-term ideas to expand from, and was my first real attempt at a longer story (i.e. over 5k) that felt like it came together how I wanted it to. It’s pretty self-indulgent, though.


Expanding on that some have you a particular favorite character or pairing within all your stories?


Definitely Kirk & Uhura BFFs, and I also like writing the AOS women–Carol Marcus, Gaila, and Uhura–and examining how they are amazing and how they interact with all of these other people and one another. With Carol and Gaila’s minimal roles that requires a lot more extrapolation on my part, but I don’t mind that.

When you do write, do you have a particular process? Do you plan the story?

I plan longer stories, and I can usually tell if a story is going to be ‘long’ or not within one or two scenes or scene ideas. Shorter stories (< 3k) I hammer out and then hem and haw over, but seldom plan.


Do you beta the story or run the idea past someone?


I run ideas or concepts past people, but I seldom beta.


Is there an arc to your characters and stories or is it more organic?


I do some of both. I have two series which have themes and arcs specific to them, though I try to keep the individual pieces within them as stand-alone and organic as possible. I don’t expect someone to look at 80k over a half-dozen stories and go ‘oh I’ll just dive right in!’. Everything else is organic, and if it happens to reference any of those I try to keep it natural and something you can read without needing the rest for context, and not let those series’ themes impinge unless it fits the other piece.


Do you listen to music as you write? Must you retire to the study and curl up with a cat (dog, parakeet, gerbil, I’m not picky) on your lap? Do you scribble down stories on napkins?


My writing environment varies heavily, from a full on movie with other people in the room to dead silence, and I don’t have much of a preference for one over the other. I don’t tend to scribble down ideas right when I get them; I usually let a scene or idea (or a significant part of one) form up in my head and then get myself to a computer as soon as I can so I can put it down before I lose anything..

What do you seek to explore when you write? Is the focus on characters, plot or theme?

It varies from story to story, depending on what’s struck me and what I’m trying to do. This one is a bit of characters (Kirk & Uhura, Kirk & Spock, ‘at some point it’s reasonable to expect Kirk will stop leaping off every cliff he finds’) and theme (‘weird things are going to happen to Kirk for all of his life and everyone needs to deal with that’, ‘archaeology doesn’t have to be invasive’, and ‘a star is the worst thing to evolve next to, but it’s kind of all we’ve got’), but I have other ones which are straight up plot-focused.


Care to tease our readers with any story plans you have in the pipeline?


My two larger, longer-term plans are AOS Gary Mitchell and Elizabeth Dehner and AOS Conscience of the King (but since I completely resurfaced Tarsus IV and want to stick with that, it won’t really resemble Conscience of the King), and on the shorter front I have more to add to the WFW #110 piece.


Have you collaborated specifically here on Ad Astra (I’m not seeing it; please point me in the right direction if I have missed it)? Is there a universe you’re dying to write in?


No collaborations yet, since I’m still trying to get a feel for everyone’s EUs.


And to finish, we’ve had the pleasure of reading Indiscriminate Dust. If you would recommend a story of yours to others, which would it be?


The End of Silence/>Bravado for those wanting some TOS in their AOS (since it deals with a familiar topic), or Beneath the Enormous Sky if you don’t mind a very limited perspective story about the perils of exploring space.

Thank you!

AMC Clifton Commons 16, Clifton, NJ, 5/9/09 - ...

AMC Clifton Commons 16, Clifton, NJ, 5/9/09 – 2 of 2 (Photo credit: goodrob13)

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