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”

Mass Effect Andromeda: Almost A Star Trek Simulator

Been absent a bit to work on the next novel (hit the 50k mark) and, among other things, play Mass Effect Andromeda. Here are my thoughts because I might as well post it here. It’s my blog after all.

Finished up Andromeda with 83% completion. Final thoughts? I liked it. It ended up being a lot of fun. During my play through I got to experience the game both unpatched and patched, and while I had rolled lucky on the compatibility dice before, it infuriates me that the game could have easily been better received with just a week or two of updates and some actual play testing. It’s a fucking shame that the game had to suffer from it.

On the game play side of things, the game eventually became a Mass Effect game, meaning the gun play got boring while the biotics/whatever someone else might choose who isn’t ready to be a cool space wizard got really awesome. The upgrade system they implemented though, meant that I didn’t get tired of gun play until hour 40 or so, much later than any previous ME game. Continue reading “Mass Effect Andromeda: Almost A Star Trek Simulator”

The Expanse: Adaptation & Do-Over

When you make changes to an adaptation do it right.

Last week saw the premiere of the second season of The Expanse, one of my current obsessions. In the time since the first season aired, I managed to read all six of the novels currently released and read up on the universe extensively. It was, however, the first season that got me interested in the books in the first place. Just like with A Song of Ice and Fire, better known as Game of Thrones.

This puts me in an interesting position, in where I am already seeing more similarities between Game of Thrones and The Expanse. Both based on popular, post-modern(ish) book series, one fantasy, one sci-fi, both adapted before the series have ended. For the record, I prefer The Expanse at this point, though that is mainly because Game of Thrones is starting to wane on me a bit as it hits its inevitable conclusion. Maybe it’s been too popular and I’m just a contentious bastard. Who knows.

But following The Expanse in both book and tv form, both in the primary text and the secondary interviews with cast, crew, and authors, I have found The Expanse to be the exact way I want an adaptation to handle it’s story. The season two premiere has only deepened that conviction.

What is, in the end, always the problem with adaptations? Either they are too faithful or too far away from the source material. Fans of the source material thus have no reason to actually watch it. Why bother twice? Straying too far from the source material on the other hand, however, leads to the opposite problem of alienation and being the series-in-name-only, or at least too different to bring enjoyment to the people who fell in love with it for different reasons. But I always believed there to be a happy medium.

The Expanse is that perfect sweet spot. The Walking Dead might have been so if it wasn’t completely unwatchable for its padded paddedness (hint: clearly an amateur wordsmith). The Expanse has the benefit of being created by people deeply in love with the source material, and having the two writers on board as producers as well. This leads to them getting to do a “do-over” of sorts on the series itself. Little things, like inserting the novellas and short stories back into the main narrative, or re-working the admittedly janky first novel. For example, in this season they introduce Bobbie Draper into the series, a book early, just as they did Avasarala last year. Both characters didn’t appear until Caliban’s War where they shared a storyline of being “awesome cop, cranky cop”. It makes sense in context. Introducing Avasarala last year meant that the first story/book finally gained the political subplot it originally was missing and all the other books had. It also lead to more characterization and humanization, and the purportedly “greyness” of the character. Season 2 will attempt something similar with Bobbie Draper, the Martian Gunnery Sergeant from hell.

This is where we hit the adaptation problem of casting a 22 year old (ish? There was no official age but I extrapolated from previous roles) in the role that called for a 40 year old Brazillian Gwendoline Christie crossed with 1970s Clint Eastwood, but I understand the limitations of the medium. And to be fair, the actress does really well and as a book reader I recognize Bobbie Draper right there. Which is damn impressive. It’s the only place where the adaptation really suffers: the medium-related limitations. The Belters are supposed to be all really tall and lanky, the Martians are (mainly) supposed to have Texan accents and look Polynesian and Indian, a lot of scenes in zero g barely feel like it. Expenses and casting in Canada being what it is, they did an amazing job nonetheless.

As a writer, seeing the two novelists that make up James S.A. Corey have some creative control and an advisory position for their adaptation is just fascinating to watch as well. Unlike Game of Thrones, The Expanse immediately learned that you needed to make changes to the adaptation and decided to get it over and done with as quickly as possible. Ultimately, this was Game of Thrones’ downfall for more than two seasons after the first three seasons were mostly as straight an adaptation as you can get. But instead of knowing beforehand that the books wouldn’t be finished in time, they decided to keep on adapting as straight as they could. It’s a credit to the showrunners, but ended up being a disadvantage after they had to make the awkward transition from literary adaptation to HBO tv show.

Overall, I’m happy the show is back, and I look forward to appreciating the series once again from the beginning from a new angle. Check it out once it hits Netflix or right now on Syfy or your digital store of your choice.