Star Trek and the Marine Corps


Orange kitten perched on a tree branch, green in the background
We’re not as green as the background yet. The flowering trees are just blooming and the maples are letting loose…soon. Now if it would stop snowing!

I’m in the process of using cycling writing throughout my nearly finished book, Cursed Planet.  In the past, it’s been a pretty routine thing.  Clean up typos and sentences that I thought made sense that now have me scratching my head trying to figure out what I was trying to do.  Or removing what I call stubs–something that my creative side brought into the story and then, like a cat, got bored with it and abandoned it.

But there was an interesting article on Star Trek and how the new Marines Corps Commandant is a fan.

It’s a long ways from what it was when I was growing up, but a good, evolving change.

When I was growing up, fandom was just starting snowball.  Star Trek was in reruns on KTLA (first Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea at 4:00 and Star Trek at 5:00).

We had a gym uniform for PT in school, white shirt, blue shorts.  Some of the other students wrote on the back of their shirts their favorite sports teams.  I did Star Trek.  No one made fun of the sports team, but they did of me.  There was one boy who openly sneered and said Little Rascals was so much better than Star Trek. (Little Rascals was also running on KTLA at the time.  I’d watched it, but I never thought it was particularly good.  I think it was more of a nostalgia thing for the adults who had grown up watching it).

Even my guitar teacher got in on it.  Since this was L.A., it wasn’t hard to run into people who worked in the film industry. Her son had worked on the set of the show.  Did she tell me how they filmed the show?  Did she tell me what it was like for him to work with the various stars?   Did she gossip about the stars?

No!  She told me the sets were fake.

Of course I knew they were fake.  Phhtt!

But it was like all this space stuff was just toooooo fake and really I shouldn’t bother.

Star Trek cons were just starting to really get popular then, too.  I attended several of the ones called Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Conventions (I believe these are what is now Comic-Con, but don’t hold me to that).  I remember walking to the hotel where my first con was held, and there was this man costumed as a a Klingon.  Just…wow!

Qapla’!

And reporters would show up at these cons, too, evidently told by their editors to get a story to fill an empty space in the newspapers.  The disdain the reporters had for the cons was pretty evident.  They would look at all the average people standing in line, and home in on either the little boy costumed as Spock or the craziest looking adult fan,  dressed sloppily, and festooned with buttons.

Then the picture would appear in the newspaper, identifying us as Trekkies with the implication that Star Trek was for children or crazy people.

Now it’s gotten a lot of respectability over the last fifty years since it premiered.   Now a Marine senior leader is a fan.

How cool is that?

And for your viewing pleasure, a mashup of MacGyver and Star Trek The Next Generation.

Why The Orville is my SF Fix


When I was growing up, I hit the TV Guide every week to find out what science fiction shows were airing this week.  Then, it was digest-sized and had very short summaries of the shows.  I had to look up one word “ensues” because the description for the Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea episode “Nightmare” used it.  I still don’t have a clue why that particular word was used for that particular episode.

And when the big season premiere issue came up, it was a big event, because I was checking out what new SF shows were premiering.  Most of them didn’t last long.  But there were shows like:

  • Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.  Gil Gerard was in that one as title character
  • Battlestar Galactica.  The original with Lorne Green.
  • The  Bionic Woman.  Spy/tennis star Jamie Sommers becomes essentially a superhero through technology.

There’s been other SF shows throughout the years, like Star Trek The Next Generation and Xena, Warrior Princess, but it’s been a while that I’ve found one I wanted to stick with. Most of them have been getting darker and darker.  Especially since I was able to shake lose some of that dark I got from Desert Storm, I can’t even watch Xena any more.  It’s too dark for me now.

Then The Orville with Seth McFarlane showed up last year.  I saw the commercials and was cautious, because the humor was kind of, well, dumb.  But from all my time enjoying Hollywood TV shows, I know one thing is always true:

Pilots tend to be horrible.

The writers haven’t settled into the show yet or figured out what they want to do.  They’ve written this single episode for the purpose of selling a series to the men with the money.

The actors also haven’t really gotten into the characters yet.  If you’ve ever attended a theater performance, it’s best to see it near the end.  The actors will have refined their roles.

And then I tuned in.  Humor was still awkward.  But the show had something I hadn’t seen for a while.

It was bright.

It was hopeful.

Whoa.

I didn’t realize I’d been missing something hopeful until I had it. We’ve had way too much dark, way too many anti-hero characters, and way too many unhappy endings.

The show has its critics.  A lot of people seem to want it to be a comedy or a drama, so when it blends the two, they don’t know what it is.

But, even with only 13 episodes, it had some very thought provoking episodes, especially towards the end of the season.  Yet, they also stayed on lighter end with the humor, so thoughtful didn’t become dark.

And they treated the women characters as characters, not eye candy.  The women are dressed in the same uniforms as the men, fitted both both genders.  The women also have had some important roles, and even some story lines.  I particularly like the doctor, and at least she had normal kids–not the super-intelligent ones SF shows tend to have (Star Trek The Next Generation, SeaQuest DSV).

But I’m in withdrawal!  The show is not going to premiere until 2019.  It’s for a good reason–more time for the scripts, and also because of the special effects requirements.  Robert Picardo is coming back again (yay!), and they will be adding two new cast members.  Check out the news about the show over on TV Guide.

If you saw The Orville, what did you think of it?

Adventures around the web July 29-August 4, 2017


Manu Saadia on The New Yorker

The Enduring Lessons of Star Trek

Very interesting article on how Star Trek The Next Generation went away from Star Trek’s original concept.  It mentions one of the things that I always had problems with: people all got along with each other.  That made it hard to do stories that were about the crew, without having some outside influence intervene.  I know that idea originated with Gene Roddenberry, but still…

Joris Nieuwint for War History Online

When His Landing Gear Failed, This Harrier Pilot Made An Emergency Landing… On A Stool

The primary thing the military does is train.  Because in war, training’s all you have when things go wrong.  All the training comes in handy in this video.

Zack Walkter on Do You Remember

Meet the First Woman to Cycle Around the World (in 1895)

This is a pretty cool story–and it’s got photos.  This actually started because of a bet two men made!

Josh Jones on Open Culture

Enter a Huge Archive of Amazing Stories, the World’s First Science Fiction Magazine, Launched in 1926

Writers today tend to diss the pulp writers as “hacks,” usually stories unseen because they produced a tremendous amount of stories.  Somehow speed has become equated with poor writing, though this era produced Dashiell Hammett.  If you haven’t read any of his stories, those are really good.  Link from Harvey Stanbrough (spell checker gave me Gainsborough for his name.  Weird).

Gary Grayson

Gary and the Seal in the Scilly Isles

A charming video from Rhonda Hopkins. The seal wants a belly rub and a chin scratch!

Adventures around the web July 15- 21, 2017


It’s been a hot week in DC.  As I write this, it’s 91 degrees at 5:45 AM.  And it’s supposed to be even hotter.   Even the pool water will be hot!

Rūta Grašytė on Bored Panda

Illustrator Reimagines Fast Food Mascots As Anime Characters And Now Everyone Wants To Read Their Manga

A little fun for Friday.  Colonel Sanders, Ronald McDonald, and Wendy’s all reimagined as anime.  I really liked the Colonel Sanders one.  The Hamburglar appears on page 2–not one that’s been seen in years–and he definitely looks more on the bad guy side.

Kristen Lamb

The Creative Benefits of Being Bored

There’s been a lot of online discussion lately about how people are always on.  The slightest hint of boredom and they head over to play a game or look at email.  Sometimes boredom is where the creativity comes into place and the leaps of intuition take place.  At least take a walk today and look at everything around you.  And keep the cell phone in the pocket.  Hopefully it isn’t too hot outside.

Domagoj Valjak on The Vintage News

Patrick Stewart, prepared to play Data in “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” was reluctant to audition for the captain

Gene Roddenberry originally wanted an actor more like William Shatner in Star Trek: The Next Generation.  It’s amazing how much difference an actor casting makes to an entire series.

Nate Hoffelder on Valiant Chicken Digital

Four Things I Learned at WordCamp DC

WordCamp was a weekend conference on WordPress in DC, which I wish I’d known about–I might have gone.  But it lists a couple of interesting features about WordPress that are worth looking at.

Joanna Penn on Creative Penn

How To Write Fast, Publish Slowly And Focus On Your Author Marketing With Rachel Aaron

This is an interview with a writer who writes full time and takes on the myth of “writing fast means your story is crap.”

Kirk Vs. Picard vs Janeaway


This video has celebrities identifying their favorite captains.  Despite the number of series, it was primarily between Kirk and Picard, which an occasional Janewaway.

I like both Kirk and Picard, but for different reasons.  Kirk fits the original series, and is very much of the cowboy era from when the show spawned.  Picard is more thoughtful, ore educated, and fits how the next show was.

The other captains …

Meh.  I want to like Janeaway.  She’s the first woman captain lead on Star Trek for a show that has an unfortunate track record of leaving the women in the background.  BBC’s been showing Voyager, and I’m struggling to stay involved in it.  The scripts aren’t that good.  The show might have suffered from the finding their way home premise.  But also I think the writers struggled with how to do a woman captain.  Janeaway was never consistent–she was either too hard, or too emotional.

And I get it’s tough to have a woman in command and write the character in a way that works.  So many of the traits needed to be in command don’t come off as well with a woman (which is what women CEOs struggle with).  I worked with a powerful woman, and frankly, most people did not like her and said worse behind her back.  But we all respected her and her knowledge.  And we did get occasional peaks inside the armor.

It might be that Janeaway shouldn’t have been on the screen as much and had another character–not necessarily the first officer–to balance her out.  Hmm.  This is where Star Trek’s lack of enlisted comes into play.  That would have been a perfect fit for a Chief of the Spaceship senior enlisted to bring out Janeway’s the better traits to the audience.  A senior chief could do something like this because he or she would have a lot of experience, probably as much as a Navy captain; whereas, it would be more difficult for a lower-ranking officer to do it.

What the Heck is a Military Order


I’m working on a scene in the next book in my GALCOM series (the first is Crying Planet, coming out this month).  The main character is a civilian contractor recruited by the military because she can see ghosts.  So she is serving on this big spaceship, the only civilian there.

And the subject of orders comes up.  Most of everyone’s experience with orders is probably seeing Captain Picard on Star Trek: The Next Generation bark, “And that’s an order!” (or probably any movie with military officers), or soldiers answering “Yes, sir” like robots to a command they are told.

It is a such a different experience in the military from the civilian.  If I got a cold, I can call my boss and tell him I’m not coming in because I’m sick (and he would probably be happy that I wasn’t there to give it to him).  But when I was in the military, my only option was to go to Sick Call.  If the doctor, or more likely medic for a cold, said I was fine, he would tell me to return to duty.  If I was really sick, like with a virus, they might give me “quarters,” which are orders from a doctor that say “Stay in bed for 24 hours.”

But it does look strange to the civilian because they have the choice of deciding while the military does not.

It’s all in the military mission.  We train with the expectation of going to war.  That’s the daily life of the military.  War is where orders become very important.  Orders work hand in hand with the chain of command (that’s the officers) and the NCO Support Channel (that’s the sergeants).  They will be in communication with other companies and battalions to know what’s going on.  For example, they might know that artillery is going to be fired in a particular area and to keep soldiers out of that area.  Obviously, me as the lower enlisted, am not going to know anything about that.  Nor would I need to.

Because the leadership has this additional knowledge though, they are the ones who give us the orders.  And if something goes wrong, they are also the ones who will give us new orders.

War situations cannot ever have a too many chief problem.

It’s chaotic and stressful to start with, so it needs one unified voice,  and that’s how orders fit in.

Inauguration 2017

This morning, we have rain, and it will be turning into sleet and snow later in the day.  Kind of wimpy rain, considering what it’s supposed to turn into.  Anything ice strikes terror in Washington, DC. because we’re such a commuter town.

By the way, Wednesday it was 72 (no, that’s not a typo).  Any bets on what it will be like on January 20?

All the hotels are booked way out to Quantico at least, which is about 30 miles (and probably a 2 hour drive to downtown during rush hour). I was trying to help someone book a hotel, and nothing was available. I told her to start calling around because there might be cancellations, so hopefully she gets a room and not too far away.

New Things in Writing

This week, David Farland had three tips on writing on the senses, which is an advance level skill.  Part 3 talked around something I hadn’t thought about: Light.

Non-appeals. The worst kind of non-appeal occurs when you simply neglect to show us something. For example, let’s say that you start a story and your character goes outside his house. You as a writer might imagine that it is dark, but you’ve never told the reader that it is night time. So when your character gets mugged and can’t describe his attacker, the reader might be confused. (This happens quite often in stories. Always let us know what the light source is in every scene.)

So something new to play with in the story!

Star Trek Christmas Song


A hilarious rendition of “Make It Snow,” Captain Picard style–not that I’m wishing for that evil four letter word.

Hollywood Military: Turning Down Promotions


Still picking on Star Trek here, though I’ve seen this example on shows like Criminal Minds where a really good promotion is offered to a character and they turn it down to stay with the ship/group/etc.

The Hollywood Version:

In one of the early episodes of Star Trek the Next Generation, Riker is offered command of a ship and turns it down so can stay on the Enterprise.  He is later offered command again and turns it down again, for the same reasons. After the second time, Starfleet warns him he might not have another opportunity.

In a way, it’s kind of a pointless episode because we all know the actor isn’t leaving, so Riker’s going to turn it down.  But they make it kind of noble, like he’s turning down opportunities because he’s doing good where he is.

The Military Version:

The Army—and probably the other services—want you to progress in your career.  So much so that they provide opportunities for going to college, such as a program on Fort Lewis where you could go to school on work time.

In fact, you’re expected to progress.

If you don’t, that’s a big problem.  The Army has a time in service/time in grade thing set up, so if you have too much time and haven’t progressed, they’ll kick you out.  There is no option other than to progress.  You can’t homestead where you are.

We had a first sergeant in charge of our company (first sergeant is like a high up personnel manager).  He liked working with the troops, and being a first sergeant gave him first hand experience with that.  A promotion opportunity opened itself up so that he could be a command sergeant major, which would have put him in a more administrative position.

He didn’t want it.  He wanted to stay where he was.

The battalion’s sergeant major told he had two choices: Take it or retire.

So my first sergeant retired.

Hollywood makes it sound like it’s a noble thing to turn down a promotion, but to the Army it’s more like “What’s wrong with you?”

Hollywood Military vs. Real Military


I was watching Star Trek The Next Generation the other day.   It was the pilot episode, part II.  Q (John Delancie) shows up and Picard yells “At ease!”

That’s a standard military order.

What he said next wasn’t: “That’s an order!”

I’ve heard this particular phrase from Hollywood military a lot.  Turned up on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea on a fairly regular basis, and seems to be in just about anything in the media with military.

Never heard an officer in the Army actually say that phrase.

I think this shows up in Hollywood is because a lot of people really don’t understand the rank structure or officers vs. enlisted.  We’re taught right from the first day at basic training about following the orders of the people in charge.

Because in a war, not following the orders can cause soldiers to get killed.  In the film A Few Good Men, Tom Cruise gets a Marine colonel on the stand and traps him into confessing because that movie did understand how orders worked (Tom Cruise was pretty far away from anything military in his characterization though).  Everyone kept trying to say the people involved hadn’t followed orders, but the colonel was adamant that everyone followed orders because lives would be in jeopardy if they didn’t.

The officers don’t need to tell the people under them what they say is an order.  We all know it is.

This is a 7 step illustration of what “at ease” looks like.

Star Trek: Discovery


It was announced over this weekend that CBS would be premiering a new Star Trek series.  I have mixed feelings about it.

I remember when Next Gen came out.  It was so exciting!  The show was back.  I eagerly awaited for each new episode.  Bit that first season was pretty disappointing because the writers hadn’t figured out what they were doing yet.  They repeated episodes from the original series, and made some major missteps.

They eventually found their footing, and the series had some stunning episodes.

My mixed feelings for the new one are because the industry is focused more on dollars than story telling.  They see Star Trek as simply special effects and action in space, and not what it really was.  Sure, the stories had action, but they were about something.  They were entertaining, sometimes funny, and always tested your mind.

A few weeks back, I heard Chris Pine say that society wasn’t ready for Star Trek as it was.  I think it’s not society—we always been ready.  It’s the industry that’s not ready.