Ten years ago, I never would have imagined that the rebirth of my love for a television show would have led me to where I am now: having a small production company that helps other fans create podcasts, streaming, and vidcasts about their nerdery, co-hosting a podcast of my own with nearly 300 episodes under its belt, and being a part of a fantastic global family of Star Trek fans.
Back in 2007, I was still coming to terms with my choice of creative outlet. I was truly emotionally confused that others would think I was insane. You see, in late 2006, I had a really, really, really bad day at work. I can’t go into the specifics of the day without breaching the confidentiality of the situation, but let’s just say I was the insurance adjuster on a very emotionally-charged personal injury case and the person who had suffered the injury got taken for a ride by their legal guardian. It was so bad, that three of the women involved in that case, the settlement judge, one of the attorneys, and me, went out drinking afterwards to come to terms with just how horrible the experience had been.
I Wasn’t Alone In My Fandom
Discovered during that conversation was the fact that all three of us had an affection for Star Trek: The Next Generation. For four hours, we talked about how we wished people could be more like the characters on the Enterprise-D and while they weren’t perfect, at least they tried with every moment, and every breath, to be good people.
Stranger yet (and I’m still unclear how it all started, I’m sure it was the result of one cosmopolitan too many), one of the women sent the other two a short paragraph of fiction. The second paragraph appeared in my email shortly after and I proffered the third. Within the week, we had completed three pages of the worst, most ridiculous, hilarious, and insensitive piece of Star Trek fiction one would ever be cursed with reading. Before you ask, all copies have been burned and every iota of technology once contained said work, have been vaporized so it can’t be used against any of us.
The story? Well, during the drinking/bitch session, the three of us vented about how much we loathed Deanna Troi’s character (until the 5th season, that is). We agreed that her character got better during “that episode where she gets saddled with command when all hell breaks loose” and we really loved her in “that episode where she was turned into a Romulan.” But before all that, we all felt that her character was written so poorly, the show would have been better off if her character had just… died.
So that’s what we did. We wrote a crappy story that killed off pre-season 5 Deanna Troi. After we were done, we laughed until we cried. And we cried, a lot. And that stupid, stupid piece was what started my deeper dive into what, later that year, I would come to know was, “fanfiction”.
Fan Fiction & Community
I had discovered that writing helped me offload a megaton of stress. It became a tool for me to deal with the intricacies and depression of what had become a very challenging career. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret what I do. I love it. I’m also very good at it. Most of the time, I am in a wonderful position where I get to help a lot of people, but back then the job was exceptionally heart-wrenching.
To appear “faithful” to Star Trek, I started to research heavily before writing so my work wouldn’t be as ridiculous as “Deanna Troi Must Die”, and that I would feel as proud reading it as I would if I could have sold it. I bought books, and maps, and technical manuals. And I watched every episode and film. I tripped across Memory Alpha and then, to my joy, TrekCore – and their Omega Sector forum. The virtual library of information on all the Star Trek episodes were there, laid out in easy-to-find tables and pages. The forums were filled with friendly people who, amazingly to me, all loved Trek and all wrote and shared ideas, and prompts, and lore…
I had a blast! I wrote short stories, and novellas and full-length novels. My writing skills improved and so too did my ability to take criticism – for the most part. You see, when I first started writing Trek fanfic I was an absolute stickler for “canon.”
Bear with me here.
Every story I wrote had to rely upon the Star Trek television shows and movies. I refused to rely on anything that came from the novels or any other source. It all had to be ‘legit’ in my mind’s eye.
I learned very quickly, that my stories were flat, boring, and lacked maturity. They were bullshit pieces that most high school kids would roll their eyes at and tell me it was trite bullshit or worse: MarySues. I struggled heavily with writing a piece that would be fun, character-driven, and Trek. I refused to create a character of my own because somehow, I would be breaking some kind of fanfic law. Original characters, in my “Canonite” view, weren’t real.
Pardon me while a laugh for a few minutes.
Okay, I’m back, but I’m still laughing.
Wait… No. I’m. Nope… Still laughing.
Big breath. OK Better.
In other words, I was way too serious for my own good. I had read a couple of books by another fanfic friend that had been about a completely original character, based in the same TNG/DS9/VOY era and fell completely in love with him. In doing so, I got the courage to create my own characters and play with them in this very wonderful, protective environment.
Enter the Novels
But I was still a stubborn bitch when it came time to read the official novels. I’m not exactly sure what it was for me. I think it was a mix of knowing that my fanfic world was all truly unofficial, that somehow having someone else write characters I love in an official publication would somehow make their “histories’ more concrete. Like someone else was treading on our creative territory. I still held to this idea of the novels not being “canon.”
Respect The Riker
I was especially sensitive about the new Titan novels. How would the writer(s) be handling my favorite character? Would they see him the way I do? Would they treat him with respect? Or would they tarnish him and make him something I didn’t think was right. Like somehow I owned that character.
Thank goodness I read them, because I did a lot of growing up. I had one advantage over many others who were in my creative hobby, and that was I never did see that character as being “perfect” to begin with. I felt he was perfectly flawed. And to my surprise and heartfelt relief, so had the novelists. In their hands, my favorite character had become even more dimensional. He dealt with change, politics, work and family life pretty much as close as I had imagined him to have. Sure, there are a couple of tales that I abhorred, but for most part, I loved his character and all the amazing new characters created by the official authors.
The Universe Expanded
The one thing I learned was, I never lost my own creative outlet because someone else wrote that character too. My fics are still my fics. My characters and their challenges are still a part of my mind and heart. But so were the novels. And so were others’ fanfics.
Like an explosion, my life was filled with more stories about this character from myriad sources than I ever thought imaginable. Some I adore. Some I can’t even finish. But most are good, solid stories about a good person who finds his way despite some crazy sci-fi challenges. And that’s good stuff. And I get to plunge into all of it as a fanfic writer. I get to pick and choose what I like and don’t like about others’ stories and I choose whether to be inspired by their work or not. Sometimes I use their tales as bases for my own and sometimes I completely ignore them.
Why am I spouting all of this? Well, it’s because, for the first time in twelve years, more time than I’ve been using Trek as a personal creative outlet, we have a new Trek series in our lives.
Not My Trek
When Star Trek Discovery was announced two years ago, I found myself overcome with many of the same feelings I had experienced 8 years before: that someone was messing with my Trek. That outsiders were going to come in and pull the proverbial tablecloth out from my nicely arranged Star Trek china and dinnerware, sending everything tumbling to the ground, shattering it all into tiny, little pieces – unable to be reassembled into any semblance of what once was. Oh shit! I thought. They’re going to make …
New canon…[Insert Armageddon images here] BUM BUM BUUUUUUUM
I have never been a fanfic writer while a current version of Star Trek airs, I was admittedly, a bit shaken and that feeling of ownership came back like a bad penny.
I can give all of you who are feeling a bit off kilter by the series’ very existence: Free yourself. It’s all good. Ask yourself, are they good characters and people of good character? Are the stories challenging? Do you like them? Do you love them? Or do you hate them? If so, why? Do the stories make you think? Can you be inspired to create from them or even for them? If not, then maybe the show isn’t for you. If so, then join me in welcoming a new chapter into the annals of Star Trek into the library that will, without a doubt, become the inspiration for so many new generations of fans looking to express themselves, and heal themselves, and simply enjoy themselves in the genre’s enormous and always-growing sandbox.
Yes – It’s ALL canon. Every word of it. Every aspect of it.
No – None of it is canon. Not a word of it. Not an iota of it.
It’s simply up to you. And every person’s definition is different.
But it is, all of it, Trek. Every word of it. Every show. And every movie. Every fan production. Every fanfic.
Revel in it.
Hello Star Trek Discovery. You are welcome here. Welcome Discovery!
Get CBS All Access and welcome Discovery – http://cbs-allaccess.7eer.net/c/385323/175360/3065
Watch Star Trek Discovery – http://www.cbs.com/shows/star-trek-discovery/
But, wait. There’s more.
He is the co-owner of Busy Little Beaver Productions and is the producer and co-host for G & T Show and Gates of Sto’vo’kor. He’s directed voice actors, and produced and edited audio podcasts and dramas because he doesn’t have the face for video. He plays well with others and is always on the look out for the next project, the next thing, the next next. If he wasn’t working on something with a half dozen other projects waiting in the wings, somebody please check to make sure he’s still breathing.
During the day, he’s a mild-mannered computer repair man who dabbles in web design in his small, rural, Central California community. He lives with his lovingly dysfunctional family and loyal canine companion and spends most of his time in the closet concocting some hair-brained scheme or another. He’s got an unhealthy obsession with Lego video games, Klingons, and Star Trek Online that borders on the neurotic.
Despite all this, he still finds the time to write the words. Find out what he's doing here.
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