Tag Archives: Star Trek

Still Boldly Going On….

IMproved

A long, long time ago* I wrote a short play that was a spoof on the old Star Trek trope of the guys in the Red Shirts getting killed. It’s not an original idea, but I like to think that my take was fairly fresh at the time. Best of all, it’s a three hander for two males and one female, with minimal set and no expensive special effects…much like the original Star Trek series.

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Like many of my early short plays, the performances have been scattered, and I haven’t managed to see one. But this week (in November of 2017) I got in touch with Send Amateur Dramatic Society (See their website here) and Karen there was kind enough to send through some pictures, which I have placed in the Gallery here on the blog. From the pictures, it looks like the people in Send put more effort into the production than I did into writing the script – I hope their audiences were appreciative of the excellent job they did!

You can read the full text of ‘Strange New Worlds” here, and if you want to see that trope taken a giant step forward, read “Redshirts” by John Scalzi.

 

 

*Yes, I could look it up, but I’m not going to. Sorry. I’m on lunch and time is precious. PRECIOUSSSSSSS!

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Favourite books of the week

Since I raved about LJ Cohen’s space masterpiece last week (or thereabouts) it seems only fair that I mention two books that have been delighting me since then.

Available from Amazon

A colleague at the library asked me if I’d read this book, and I had to admit I’d picked it up a couple of times but not committed to reading it. Finally convinced by the presence of Toffos on the cover, I took it home and read half of it that night, only putting it down because 1am is too late to be reading when you have a 6am start.

The book is a collection of letters written by Nina to her sister Victoria. Nina is working as a nanny to a couple of boys in London in the 1980s, and the letters really concern themselves mostly with everyday life, which sounds dull, but the family live over the street from Alan Bennett (who drops in regularly for tea), a few doors along from Jonathan Miller (who lends them a saw to trim their Christmas tree) and round the corner from a famous novelist.

The everyday life that Nina describes is crazy and strange, and yet completely believable. You only catch a glimpse of Margaret Thatcher once or twice, and there’s no mention of The Falklands War, or Northern Ireland, or unemployment (which are my abiding memories of the 80’s). It’s just the real (and sometimes surreal) life of a single Mum and her two boys, along with the young woman who helps them out with the little things, like cooking and playing, but not cleaning.

And it’s a lot more funny and interesting than I made it sound. Sorry.

Available from Amazon

Continuing the theme of real lives from a time I remember, I picked up Simon Pegg’s autobiography expecting the kind of detail-lite life story that I’ve often read in other celeb’s books. But this is not the case here. While the non-linear structure can make it tricky to parse the actual timeline of Simon’s life (he leaps about through time talking about his developing love of acting and comedy, the girls he’s loved and the major influences on his life and his work), this is a book worth reading. He uses his academic chops to dissect the appeal of Star Wars to the generation upon which it burst, and while I’ve read similar explanations in drier books, Pegg’s love of the movie and his unapologetic dislike of the prequels is backed up with solid reasoning. He’s famous for a quote about being a geek… Hang on, I’ll go find it….

This attitude comes through strongly in the book – Simon has discovered things he loves, and he doesn’t see why they should be treated with any less reverence than sports fanaticism, or classical theatre.

Another thing worth mentioning is his theory of microcosmic accretion (although that’s my term for it). He’s looking at the reason he became part of a group that went on to such success – Edgar Wright, David Walliams, Jessica Hynes and many others. His theory is that similar interests and life views filter people towards one another, which I guess only works if you embrace those loves and are willing to stand up for them. He’s discovered that both he and Edgar Wright were in the same movie theatre for the premiere of “Akira” in the UK when they were in their teens, though they didn’t meet and begin collaborating until years later. He and the woman who ultimately became his wife had many friends in common and had even been in the same locations a couple of times before actually meeting.

We (outsiders) often look at groups that change their chosen field and remark how strange it is that so many people of a similar mind should emerge at the same time – Monty Python, or George Lucas, Spielberg and Coppola. Pegg’s theory is that this is not Fate, but the inevitable consequence of admitting the things you love, and giving full rein to your enthusiasms.

I’m in awe of the fact that he’s met so many of his childhood idols – Leonard Nimoy, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Carrie Fisher, Gillian Anderson, JJ Abrams. It seems the only one he missed out on was Lee Majors. There may be an argument that fortune plays a part in his success, but if so, it’s a very minor one. Simon identified his loves early on, and worked hard to achieve his success. Stand up is no easy route to take, and along the way he’s made sure he kept his friends around him and makes no secret of his admiration for the talents of others.

 

 

Life isn’t binary (or “Why I’ll probably like Star Wars Episode VII AND Star Trek 3”)

Binary Code. Thanks to WikiCommons.

Binary Code. Thanks to WikiCommons.

Since the late 80’s there’s been a vogue for things to be digital. Starting with watches and spreading throughout our lives; we watch digital tv, listen to digital music players, even make the tea with digital kettles.

But digital is a binary thing. On or off. Ones or zeroes. Life isn’t binary, but we like to pretend it is. If you don’t believe me, argue with a US Republican on the internet. They will reason as follows:

“Argument ≠ Republican THEREFORE : Liberal (insert insult)”

(This is, of course, a gross generalisation, and I apologise to the Republicans I have had reasonable discussions with. You both know who you are.)

There’s no degree of political engagement considered, it’s a digital, binary state of on/off, yes/no. And it’s not just politics either. This binary attitude crops up in the important things too.

star-trek-vs-star-wars

TREK OR WARS?

and within these there are binary choices too:

Star Trek                                                                             Star  Wars

Did you like the reboot?                                            Did you like the prequels?

Often we use this binary reasoning to find our tribe, clonking down the branches of a flow diagram where each path has only yes/no choices until we find ourselves at a point where there are no more questions to ask, and we know the people around us are sane, clear thinkers, because they agree with us on everything.

But lately I’ve been noticing the analogue side of life more and more. As the Weasels shuffled themselves into tribes (Whovian, Sherlockian and Merlinian), I felt bad that they felt there were areas they couldn’t go, fandoms that were closed to them because of their choices.

In an analogue world, you can just like something. Not a Facebook “like”, but a faint “It’s ok” with no more commitment than that. Not a ringing endorsement, not a lifelong commitment, not something that will trigger dozens of adverts for similar things… Just an admission that you think it’s ok.

I’m a Star Wars fan, but I like Star Trek. I like Voyager more than Deep Space Nine, but I also like the reboot movies. AND the original series. Come to that, I also like the prequel Star Wars movies, though yes, I can see where they are flawed. From a certain point of view. I didn’t like all the novels and comics, though, and I don’t think I have to.

I’m pretty sure I’m going to enjoy Episode 7, The Force Awakens, and I don’t think that’s a betrayal of anything, any more than it’s disloyal to go watch Star Trek 3 and like it.

Life shouldn’t be about binary choices, where the things you like automatically define things you DON’T like. We should be willing to stand up and be counted, yes, but there will be times when we’re not that fussed about standing up, and may just raise a hand. We just like it, that’s all.

From both sides now…

Some recent discussion of New versus Original Trek on G+ brought this song to mind. Does JJ Abrams really “get” Trek, or is he just taking characters who had some depth and originality and running them through the wringer of the modern, effects-laden action movie?

That’s not the question this post is going to look at, because I thought about it and then thought about how I loved watching the new movie. On one side I have some hard-core Trek friends who decry the many fallacies and inaccuracies in the movie (see this FAQ for some of the better points), but on the other side – maybe on the INSIDE – I am still a kid who loves zippy spaceships, phaser battles and action and adventure in space.

This isn’t the first time I’ve fought this particular battle with myself. I’m a big Star Wars fan. Big. For example, most of you out there will know that Han Solo’s* ship is called the Millennium Falcon. Well done. But did you know it was a YT1300? That’s me. I have a suit of Mandalorian armour in my workroom.

I made this. And I'm remaking it. Sometimes, yes, I wear it.

I made this. And I’m remaking it. Sometimes, yes, I wear it.

So, if anyone was going to react with horror to the new trilogy that George Lucas produced, it would be me, right? So steeped in the lore of the Star Wars universe that I simply wouldn’t be able to bear the mish-mash of ideas and storylines that got run through the mill.

Actually, my reaction to “The Phantom Menace” was about the same as to “Star Trek Into Darkness”. I could see all the objections. Yes, Jar Jar is annoying. Yes, the whole Midichlorians things was out of left field. No, it doesn’t take a Jedi master to spot that Ian McDiarmid was up to SOMETHING… But there were new worlds, new droids, and fighting with double-bladed lightsabres!

When I was a lot younger, we used to watch tv together as a family. We watched all kinds of shows that aren’t around any more: “It ain’t ‘arf hot, Mum”, “The Good Life”, “Some mothers do ‘ave ’em”, “The Goodies”, “The Sweeney”, “Starsky and Hutch”. I sat there and watched these shows every week, and you know what? I couldn’t tell you a thing about any of them. I mean, I might be able to remember some character names, but the actual plot lines? Not a clue. Because I was watching at an age when the spectacle was the important thing, the immediacy. I laughed at the jokes, was excited by the chases, worried about the heart-stopping danger, then let it all drift away afterwards.

Looking at the internet rage over Star Trek, the people sharpening their knives ready for Disney releasing Star Wars Episode 7, I find myself longing for that ability. I love the originals in both cases, and I’m going to carry on watching the new versions because they are new. I’ll continue to divide myself in two, seeing both sides of the arguments, if that’s ok with everyone.

 

 

 

*Anyone who thought his name was Hans Solo, please stop reading. FOREVER.

January Reading

This year I decided to keep a record of the books I’ve read. It’s something I did a long time ago, and it’s fun to see how much (or how little) genre-hopping I do. Most of these books either come from the Library or via Kindle, but some I actually purchased in a real shop.

Perks

The Perks of being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – Yes, the real one. Offered as a free classic on my Kindle, I couldn’t resist, having never actually read the original. It’s amazingly good, with some moments that made me genuinely laugh out loud. Also, it fills me with horror at the notion of evenings spent with nothing but card games, playing the pianoforte and conversation to pass the time.

Darth Plagueis by James Luceno – As with the Star Trek book coming up later, I won’t apologise for reading Star Wars titles. They’re fun, and this one does a good job of filling out the backstory of an important character.

An Apple for the Creature by Multiple authors, including Charlaine Harris

The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor by Robert Kirkman And Jay Bonansinga – Having missed most of the series that features the Governor, the twist at the end of this book had little impact on me. Once I figured it out, I understood what a clever piece of writing it was.

I shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett – the latest, and possibly the last of the Tiffany Aching series. I love this bunch of books, because Terry Pratchett’s witches are a wonderful voice of reason in this mad world (and I’m talking about OUR world, not the Discworld.) Middle Weasel loves this series too, and reads them to herself when I’m not reading them to her.

I, Lucifer by Peter O’Donnell – We have all the Modesty Blaise books. Every now and then I pull one off the shelf to read in a spare moment, and then I have to read several more. It’s like Chinese food, but with crime and assassinations.

Dragon’s Claw by Peter O’Donnell

The Silver Mistress by Peter O’Donnell

Star Trek: Destiny by David Mack – Although the link is to the first in the trilogy, I actually picked up the combined books as one collection for the criminal price of $5. It was a long read, and felt like someone had said “OK, we’ve had enough Borg stories, round ’em off with a bang, please!” I enjoyed it.

Troubled Souls Cover 3

Of course, I haven’t just been reading during January. I also published another e-book of my own, filling in the gap before “The Great Canadian Adventure” is published. If you like quirky, off-beat, first person narrative pieces, then try “Troubled Souls” . I’ve included two new short stories, “Rescue me” and “The Devil Woman and my box” as well as my older piece “Smoke” which you can also read elsewhere in this blog. The final part of the book is composed of teaser chapters from my forthcoming novella set during the zombie apocalypse, currently titled “Eddie Vs the Kingdom of Denby”, which may be the worst title I’ve come up with since “But how was the play, Mrs Lincoln?

I haven’t included in my list a couple of books I’m STILL reading – they’ll appear on next month’s list, if I publish it.

What were YOUR favourite books of January? Which classics have you never read, but always meant to? They’re often FREE on the kindle, you know – go check out the Kindle store!