Monday, May 3, 2021

Evolution of a writer.

Writers are an ever-changing breed—fan fiction writers perhaps more so than any other. Our style changes, our characters change… We start out raw and untrained, most of us, and only through critique from our readers and kind assistance from our fellow authors do we learn from our early mistakes and grow in our craft. Some of us stop writing after a while, and some of us—like me—just can’t tell the fantasy goodbye. 

For instance, I started my very first fan fiction story 28 years ago, when I was just 14. Deep Space Nine had premiered that year, and I found myself feeling sorry for Major Kira having lost her entire family during the Occupation. I was inspired by my empathy to begin a story in which a younger sister was found in one of the many orphanages that had sprung up in the aftermath of the Cardassians’ withdrawal. Of course, fans of DS9 would learn in later seasons that Kira’s entire family died either due to illness or hunger. 

I never actually finished that story, but the desire to even start it had ignited a spark. I started collecting the early DS9 novels, and a few years later we had more Star Trek in the form of Voyager (for which I also acquired the first 20 or so novels). A few years into the latter series’ run, I was inspired to try my hand at writing again, this time in the form of a script. Back then, Paramount was still accepting spec scripts—though I never had the courage to actually send it in. Soon after, I was introduced to the internet, where I found chat rooms and message boards and websites dedicated to Star Trek. From then on… I was lost. 😊

Twenty-three years ago, at the age of 19, I began to conceive my first original starship crew. An unjoined Trill was to be my captain, and she was to command a Nova-class ship called Journey (if you have read “The History of Between the Stars”, you know about this already). Regrettably, I didn’t write many stories for this ship and crew, but a love of Star Trek fan fiction remained strong within me. Over the years, I would conceive of other starship crews, and even a starbase crew. I thought writing for two crews, a starship and the starbase that was the ship's home port, was the direction I could go for a successful series. Then, seemingly at random, I wrote some crossover stories with the 1970s sci-fi show Space: 1999. When that happened, when the stories met with such acceptance and praise, I thought that maybe that was meant to be my series. I started preparing some summaries for future stories, planning to go forward with 1999’s Moonbase Alpha and a Federation starship named Messenger

Alas, my Muse—fickle creature that she can be—had to come up with yet another crazy idea, one that wouldn’t really fit smoothly with the plans I was already making. I consulted with a good friend and fellow Trek author, and he suggested that maybe—instead of just sticking with what I was used to, what everyone else did—that I should go with this new idea. Starting fresh, he said, might just be the thing to help me stay focused, something I have advised another writer friend to do many times. I have had lots of great ideas, and created great characters over the years, but I had started and stopped too many times; I felt like I had stretched my proverbial canvas too thin, and feared I would never have a successful fan fiction series.

What was the new idea? Following a single character through her entire career in Starfleet, from the academy to captaincy and beyond. Whether the focus was on her or on one of her friends or crewmates, so long as this one character was in the story, it was a part of her story. I found that, the more I thought about this idea, the more I wanted to run with it. My buddy, when I mentioned it to him, agreed that it was a sound idea (one he'd not really seen before). The first question, of course, that then came to mind was "Do I choose a character I've already created, or do I create an entirely new one?" Either way, it was inevitable that I'd be creating a ton of new characters, most of them one-time or recurring guests, and eventually a crew for the main character's ship when she was made a captain. 

My first thought, once I was certain that I would focus on this idea, was to base this main character on a child of one of my currently established characters, which also meant that—because of who her parents were—the new series would begin in the years immediately prior to Star Trek: Picard (four years prior, to be precise). I instantly knew who I wanted it to be, and so I started thinking up future stories to be written and jotting down short summaries. I was going to have her be onboard a ship through her academy years as well, in a sort of "academy afloat" program (certain Starfleet ships would be designated academy ships, where students would from planet to planet, star to star, etc., instead of remaining planet-bound for most of their academy years). I also decided she needed a core group of friends, so that was more characters to create in addition to the senior officers of the ship. I decided that the captain of the ship would be one of my lower-ranked established characters later in their career. 

Then I came to a point in notating story ideas where I found myself stumped. I had ideas popping into my head that focused more on the senior officers of the ship, notably the captain. And then it hit me, seemingly out of nowhere: what if the captain I'd chosen was the character I should follow throughout her career? After all, she was already established as a senior officer/supporting character in a handful of stories, and I already knew she was a character with potential I'd always meant to explore. Once again, I turned to my trusted friend to see what he thought, and he thankfully supported the idea that making the series lead an established character was worth doing. I already had a ship class chosen (Seeker-class, a fan design by an artist known at DeviantArt as Hellkite that was modeled by kjc733 and textured by Jetfreak), and just needed a name for it and a crew.

Did I choose to make this a future incarnation of one of my previous ships? Did I make it a brand new ship? Believe it or not, this was a hard choice, but ultimately I decided to go with a brand new ship. I now had a premise and ship for my penultimate fan fiction series. 

But I didn't get started right away, and still haven't. I want to wrap up some open storylines first. There are some tales I still have to tell for Messenger and Starbase Echo, for instance, that can actually be tied into the new idea. So those stories will get written before I start on what I once called my “super-secret project”. 

So there you have it: a story about evolution—how I started, how I’ve grown, and where I’m going. If you have been with me all this time or are just getting acquainted with my work, I hope you will hang on for the ride.