Monday, July 14, 2014

The History of "Between the Stars"

My “career” in fan fiction began with just one ship—the U.S.S. Journey. I selected the Nova-class for my series because at the time (some 16 years ago now), no one else seemed to have one. All the fanfic series I came across online were based on Sovereigns, Defiants, Galaxies or Intrepids—and later, Akiras became a heavy favorite as well. I wanted to be different, so I picked a little ship with a little crew. Sadly, I’ve not written as many stories for my very first crew as I would have liked, but I am hoping to change that in the near future.

Over the years, I have come to be acquainted with numerous fan fiction writers, some of whom I admire greatly, whose writing styles may well have influenced my own as it evolved from blatantly amateurish to decent, and from decent to exceptional (in most cases!). I’ve also edited/proofread and co-written a story or two with other writers, most notably Joseph Manno of Star Trek: Liberty, whose Captain Luciano Mantovanni became an acquaintance of Journey’s commanding officer, Serutian Hale, in "Vice and Virtue". I also conceived of a second starship and crew, the Nebula-class U.S.S. Columbia, commanded by Captain Lindze Regan.

Then came along 2010, and a group project that would eventually be known as Star Trek: Tales of the 11th Fleet. It was to be a shared universe wherein all the writers agreed to abide by canon whilst setting some ground rules of our own, making it a universe that each of our ships existed in and that our characters would, occasionally, come across each other. We set our beginning in the immediate post-Dominion War period and used what seemed a common but nonetheless plot-rich scenario: the Federation lending aid to the devastated Cardassian Union. 

Initially I was to write for the Columbia mainly, with Journey stories being added in later on, but the space station which was to be the 11th Fleet’s base, Sanctuary (formerly Empok Nor), kept crowding my mind. The crew for the station was made up of what were supposed to be NPC-type characters that every writer could use whenever their ship stopped at the station, but because ideas for the station’s crew kept pushing their way to the front of the line in my mind, I asked my fellow writers if they minded my adopting all the station’s people for my own and writing for them instead. No one minded at all, and so my imagination was free to explore Captain Synnove Natale and her crewmates with abandon.

Over that first year, TOT11F gained a respectable following. Other writers joined us, among them Sam Redfeather, Miranda Fave, and The Lone Redshirt. That first year was the best year… and pretty much the last year. As enthusiastic as we all were about creating a new universe, there were, unfortunately, some behind-the-scenes issues that affected the group’s outlook. Of course, everyone’s private lives becoming complicated at the same time (ain’t that how it always happens?) didn’t help matters. And so about the middle of our second year, the lack of activity and consistent writing made it clear that the group was fighting a losing battle to stay alive.

Now, that didn’t mean the people who’d lived ever so briefly in that new universe were gone forever. In recent months, I in particular—and, as it turns out, two other of the writers in the group (Fave and Kahless of Vulcan)—have sensed that, although quiet, the heart of the TOT11F universe beats still. We had all fallen in love with the characters we’d created there and didn’t want to see any of them fall by the wayside. Thus, we decided that even though we had all gone our separate ways, we still shared a universe. Characters like Fave’s Tabatha Chase, my own Jodhaa Ra’kir, and Kahless’ Zuna Sarrana all lived in the same place and time, along with all of the other characters and ships each of us had created for the TOT11F universe. I was beyond pleased to be able to continue to share a universe with these writers (and, if I’m not mistaken, TLR’s John Colt and the S.S. Eschaton), who are each superbly talented.

One other element that mayor may nothave proven to be detrimental to our group, but which we all thought perfectly acceptable, was the inclusion of alien species from other science fiction franchises, such as Star Wars. We believed that by changing the species names and giving them a background a little more befitting to the Star Trek mythology could only enrich the universe we were trying to create. Unfortunately, just because we liked it didn't mean others would, and as it turned out...not many did. Although we did our best to integrate these species into a Trek universe, readers could only seem to identify them as their original SW progenitors. 

I can't say whether the problem was with how we were writing them or if the readers simply lacked the necessary suspension of disbelief required to see these characters as anything other than what we'd based them on, but in either case, readers were sadly turned off by their inclusion, and I read a number of people saying they'd not give the group's writing any credit (some said outright they'd never read it) just because we had Trekkified Star Wars aliens. It was, according to one very opinionated writer, "an insult to Star Trek" to include them at all. 

Frankly, I think that's crap. There's not a thing wrong with a writer choosing to enrich their universe by adding more than is already there, even if the new elements are inspired by a competing franchise. However, even I felt the pressure of wanting to please the readers of Star Trek fan fiction, and so when I decided it was time to take up the mantle again, I set out to eliminate many of the crossover species by searching for "canon" counterparts. Although the original version of some of my characters will remain fondly remembered, the new versions are just as pleasing to work with, and in one or two cases, their stories might but be better off for it. I guess we shall see! 

So, deciding to move forward with my own TOT11F characters (after notifying the others of the changes, should they need to implement any) left me in a bit of a quandary: What did I call my series? After all, I had so many ideas for starship crews—including civilian vessels and a Border Patrol crew—not to mention that I, too, had a Federation starbase and a colony venture I hoped to write (the latter was initially conceived as a joint project of mine and Miranda Fave’s, but we’ve each decided to do it separately; it stands to reason that there would be multiple missions for such a project). Tales of the 11th Fleet wasn’t going to work anymore because three of the writers were no longer with the project, and the other three—including myself—were going in their own directions.

Thus began the wracking of my brain for a title that would encompass all of my Star Trek writing endeavors—past, present, and future. I wanted a title that would be applicable to starships, starbases, and planets since I have intentions of writing all three. Several ideas were conceived of and discarded. I asked for advice from my closest Trek writer friends (Fave and Kahless among them, since their characters would at least be mentioned on occasion and might make rare appearances) as to what they thought I should call my new series—or website, to be more accurate, as I was in the process of building one. This one, in fact. :)

And then it hit me… Star Trek: Between the Stars.

BtS (the abbreviated title) fits perfectly what I have in mind for my fan fiction. I think it a title that quite nicely covers every aspect of a futuristic mythos that features human beings traveling through space, settling on other planets and building space stations, meeting and befriending (or not!) numerous species of alien life forms. It covers the crossovers with other writers that will be featured or linked here (such as stories by Kahless or Miranda Fave), and all the endless possibilities for discovery, romance, danger and intrigue my imagination can come up with. 

After all, between the stars lies adventure!