A Look At Star Trek’s Kira Nerys – Or: How A Terrorist Could Be Sympathetic in the 1990s

Desperate for clicks. Might as well talk Star Trek again… but not the new trailer that hit. I’ll write about that sometime next week when I had time to think about it more.

Star Trek has been many things over the years, but ever since the 1960s it has never been anything other than safe and samey and conforming to social norms at the time. Heck, the 60s included in that when we look at all the sexism on display…

That is except for one character: Kira Nerys, the female lead of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. A former freedom fighter, terrorist, and now somewhat-supportive member of the provisional government of her homeworld of Bajor.

I don’t think I ever really appreciated the character that much when I first viewed the series, but when I did my English degree in university and combined it with a history topic on the use of terrorism in the media, I was quite startled to realize that Kira is, for lack of a better word, still unique in current day media. Finishing its run in the late 90s, DS9 still feels like the most modern installment of the franchise. Later movies and shows had better cinematography and effects, but being a pre-9/11 show, DS9 was almost prophetic in the way it handled subject matters of terrorism and terrorism. While it handled many other topics with much more maturity than the last 16 years of pop culture entertainment, its most revolutionary storytelling remains the character of Kira.  Continue reading “A Look At Star Trek’s Kira Nerys – Or: How A Terrorist Could Be Sympathetic in the 1990s”

Writing As Workmanship

Last week I finished my second novel this year, an about 90.000 word follow-up to the previously posted Historian’s Crusade. Why is that important besides padding myself on the back? Because when I told it to a friend, who is also my editor, that within five months I had finished two novels, we got talking about output. Not so much about artistic quality, but just the general output level.

You see, for the previous three years and more, I had been tainted by NaNoWriMo and the idea that every story that needs to come out of me needs to be a masterpiece. I talked about this before in one way or another, how NaNoWriMo just encourages bad writing habits. Sure, you’ll have a 50k word novel in four weeks, but you can basically throw it away and start again. I don’t really like the idea of working in multiple drafts that way. Once my story is out, I prefer to wash my hands of it, clean up mistakes here or there sure, but I don’t tinker with the narrative anymore. Because I just know that if I start doing it, I will never stop. That hurts your output.

As artists of any field, I think we all too often want to put quality over quantity. And while that is a generally good attitude to have that will smother the next 50 Shades of Grey right in the cradle, it also stops you from experimenting and working on more. A painter could paint five works in his lifetime or 50, one better than the last. Rather than languishing between publishing any new work, or just finishing it, one could instead get it over with. Whether or not it’s good isn’t up to you anyway, that’s up to the audience. Art needs an observer to even be worthwhile.  Continue reading “Writing As Workmanship”

How To Embrace The Fact That Your Science Fiction Ideas Will Become Outdated

How will you handle the fact that all of your predictions will fail to come true?

We might as well deal with the fact now that every blog post I will be writing within the next however many months it will take something from the writing I do on the side for the final stages of the novel. Everyone good? Great. Let’s talk about science fiction becoming outdated.

Science fiction has always been near and dear to my heart, but when you’re dealing with something long-running like Star Trek, still on the air after 50 years, or are reading an older book like 2001: A Space Odyssey, you are immediately presented with two immediately outdated concepts: a Eugenics War by 1996 and an interstellar humanity with an existing cold war by 2001. What’s the science fiction in that you might ask? If it’s not in the future, then what’s the point, it immediately breaks the immersion. Why would we watch something, read something, that has already gone past the expiration date?  Continue reading “How To Embrace The Fact That Your Science Fiction Ideas Will Become Outdated”

How Agnosticism Informs My Writing

Agnosticism, critical thinking, creative writing and how it goes together.

People often say that what you are informs your writing. I would agree, it informs your themes, your characters, how you write, whom you write. One of the things that, as I have contemplated over the last little bit, was also influenced by it was the way I treat religion in my stories, both the published and yet unpublished.

For me it is usually not a big thing in writing. Characters are rarely if ever informed by what they do, even in backstory you might not read about. And while religion plays a big part in the way many experience life, it never really was for me. My favorite quote on the subject was actually by Roman Emperor, philosopher, and Joaquin Phoenix screen victim Marcus Aurelius:

“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.” Continue reading “How Agnosticism Informs My Writing”

Writing And The Soapbox

When is it okay to soapbox in your writing?

Among writers and readers, friends and foes, the internet and that normal place where they have ice cream, I always read about soapboxing. A soapbox in a modern connotation is something you step on and give an impromptu speech about usually a political subject but also about anything that comes to your mind. At least this is what Wikipedia tells me. From many people online that have either read my writing or with whom I discuss other peoples’ works we often discuss the merits of soapboxing.

Sure, on the one hand its easy to do it. Write what you know and that usually involves our own personal opinions and fields of expertise. For me it worked out fine with my first book The Historian’s Crusade right here on this blog. I was unsure what to really write about, what was near and dear to me enough so that I could put it into a couple ten thousand words, form a narrative. And so I just did exactly that. Right now I think it’s a success, I had fun writing it and it got some pretty decent feedback on the blog.

Naturally, I decided to try the trick again when I wrote my second book on which I am currently sitting at around 60.000 words and still going strong (more updates in the future). Again I chose a subject that was near and dear to me, being a sequel it also deals with history, historicity, reception, ideas, all that theoretical boring stuff that nobody cared about and instead focused on the thinly veiled Star Trek Enterprise pastiche. With the second book though I stood before a big problem: not being able to write for all the different statements I wanted to make and this is where we get to the central crux: Continue reading “Writing And The Soapbox”

Christopher Nolan: The Karl Marx of Superheroes

People who blame Christopher Nolan for dark and gritty superhero films are bad and should feel bad.

Obligatory statement about how my new novel is coming along very well and I’m hopeful to have the reworked version of the serialized novella up in a month or so aside, let’s talk about superheroes for a change.

Watching and reading reviews about an up-and-coming superhero film, you cannot help but think that you are experiencing deja vu in regards to every one of these that isn’t Marvel Studios related or R-rated. The connecting thread? An overwhelming criticism of the film being too dark and too gritty, aka the name for the Fast and Furious reboot I’ll produce one day. Ever since The Dark Knight came around in 2008 all superhero films by DC, as well as numerous tv shows, and some other properties not DC related, have followed a similar style in which they have a similar color scheme to The Dark Knight, a similar cinematography, subject matter, brooding acting style, and a general sense of violence that is considering unsuitable to the way superhero films are supposed to be. I consider myself a detractor of Marvel Studios properties and their habit of veering too far the other direction of playing down darkness.

But I asked myself earlier when I was watching RedLetterMedia’s review of the new Power Rangers movie, if their, and other peoples, use of “Christopher Nolan-y” as a negative description of these types of superhero films that take themselves too seriously. And at that point it hit me: Christopher Nolan is the Karl Marx of superhero films. Both men have created seminal and important works, much greater than the limited field in which they have been intended for. Nolan made what is still my favorite superhero film of all time. It wasn’t despite being dark and gritty and brooding, but good because it’s story could only be told in such a way. His way of film making does, however, not have universal applicability when it comes to other characters. And while Marx observed society and had his own ideas on how capital and society operated which are still worthwhile to check out theories even if you disagree with them, both men suffer from being compared with their imitators and those who have used to apply their work in their own way without their intellect… okay, this is where the comparison is breaking down because comparing Lenin or Stalin with Zack Snyder is too edgy and dumb even for me, but I’m trying to create clickbait here people, so give me a break… Continue reading “Christopher Nolan: The Karl Marx of Superheroes”

Star Trek: A Retrospective (Or Autopsy?)

What went wrong with Star Trek? And when?

For those late to the show: I like Star Trek. A lot. I wouldn’t have written a Star Trek parody/homage novel otherwise. But being a Star Trek fan in this day and age – who am I kidding, every age – means that you are most definitely aware of the limitations of the franchise. There is virtually no mass market appeal, a lot of the old series are so dated in their storytelling that it’s hard to get new people on board, the new tv show is plagued with behind-the-scenes drama, the last movie didn’t do so well… did I miss anything?

Now as an “old-school” Trek fan and having read my review of Into Darkness, you would probably think that I believe the franchise went wrong the moment JJ Abrams took control of it. And well, you wouldn’t be all that wrong, but in search of what made Star Trek derail, as a good historian, I went a bit deeper (Note to self: insert Inception horn. Remove before publishing).

Star Trek is in its 51st year at this point and there are more than enough places it could have gone wrong, but I decided on five specific moments that, even if inadvertently so, caused many more problems in the long-haul or outright destroyed the prospect the show could have had for a brighter future:

I’m not a hardcore TOS fan, but even I will admit that almost the entirety of the first season is a great viewing experience. When it comes to overall quality only latter-day DS9 could surpass it in quality and quantity. Some of the great science fiction writers of Hollywood wrote for it, including the great Harlan Ellison. And then season 2 had a surprising amount of quality drop, barely any of the writers returned. Do you wanna know why? Going by Harlan Ellison’s 200 page “fuck you” to a 20+ years dead Gene Roddenberry, the answer is quite simple: Gene Coon and Dorothy Fontana, the real geniuses behind Star Trek’s early success, called in all their favors with great writers. Then Roddenberry pissed them off. Normally I wouldn’t just believe an old man who’s holding a grudge past the grave, but knowing Roddenberry’s antics? It seems plausible. Continue reading “Star Trek: A Retrospective (Or Autopsy?)”