My Promise as a Writer

I promise to entertain you to the best my twisted little mind can manage. I will take you from the light, and into darkness. I might even let you see the sunrise at the end of the journey, but that I can't promise. My stories will sweep the hair from you brow, leave your stomach in knots, and suck the air from your lungs. But no matter how far we descend, I will offer you a fragment of hope to cling to. I will treat you to dark fantasy, science fiction, horror, and anything that falls into the strange and disturbing. Will we re-emerge into the light? Well, that is the point of taking the journey. I hope you will join me on these adventures.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Pike Place Zombes is FREE!

Pike Place Zombies is now available on Smashwords! (Conveniently in time for Halloween. . .)

George Mapleton finds himself the sole survivor of the zombie apocalypse in downtown Seattle. Rather than flee, he dedicates his time studying the undead for the purposes of science until he is forced to make a decision for the future of humanity.

Download Pike Place Zombies here!

Friday, August 3, 2012

11 REASONS WHY SISKO IS THE BEST STAR TREK CAPTAIN

1. He wore the most hats: officer, full time ambassador to the Bjorans, religious icon, and father. As much as I love Captain James T. Kirk, I regretfully admit there is not much depth to him. He was all about being the captain while exploring love with exotic aliens. He was the playboy of space, and that about sums up the character.

Jean-Luc Picard was a great captain. Like Kirk, he was larger than life, but unlike his predecessor, he focused more on bettering himself through scholarly exploits. He was an explorer of not only the cosmos, but of himself. He also erected a stronger barrier between himself and those who served under him than we saw with Kirk (though this barrier was a bit eroded for dramatic purposes in the four Next Generation films.)

Captain Kathryn Janeway. . . She could have been the best. She should have been the best. My thoughts about Janeway can be read in 11 Reasons Why I Hate Star Trek: Voyager.

Captain Jonathan Archer headed out into space after all the others, though he was the first (damn prequels!) He is clumsy in his trail blazing as can be expected for someone performing a duty that has never been done before (with the exception of the Vulcans and the Andorians. . . and the Klingons. . . and Romulans too.) Ultimately, Archer fits into the mold of the three previously mentioned captains in that he is a captain/explorer.

Buried in the middle of this dog pile of captains is Benjamin Sisko: commanding officer of a space station; explorer of the Gama Quadrant; ambassador to the Bjorans; the Emissary of the Prophets to the Bjorans; and the father of Jake Sisko. Sure, many of the other captains shared in similar duties, but Sisko was the only one of the group to perform all the duties full time, rather than when the need arose. Kirk was the only other captain to have a child, and even then he was not involved in raising the kid (yeah, I know. He didn't know about David until Khan tried to kick his butt for a second time.) Sisko had more jobs to perform at a single time than any other Star Trek captain.


2. He can sing better than Kirk, Spock, and Data . . . combined! There seems to be an alarming trend among Star Trek actors with so many of them attempting to expand their entertainment value through breaking into the music industry. These attempts seem to lie somewhere between professionally cut albums to independent. How these tracks come about are not the problem since many garage bands are more worthy of Justin Beiber's money than he is. The problem is the . . . artistic? . . . choices.


William Shatner destroyed Elton John's haunting Rocket Man. Watching the performance makes you wonder if Shatner was serious, or simply having fun. Looking deeper into his musical career (which is thankfully a shallow pool), and we come to realize it was a serious attempt. And. The. Voice! Shatner sings like he talks. "But. Bones. . . WHAT! Canitbe?"

Leonard Nimoy made me afraid of Hobbits long before I learned how read. I'm talking pooping your pants terrified. After watching his video about Bilbo Baggins, is it any wonder I did not read The Hobbit until I was thirteen? I think not!

Brent Spiner is arguably better than Kirk and Spock when it comes to singing, but not by much. I can not listen to him sing without hearing Data. Perhaps in a live production I'd feel differently, but until that happens I will be reminded of all the TNG episodes in which Data is attempting to explore humanity. Listening to a Spiner track feels like the producers of Star Trek decided to make a few extra bucks by producing a tie-in album. Data sings the classics! The ballads of the 60s and 70s sung by Data! 1980s rock with vocals by Data!

Then comes along Avery Brooks with a voice from the land of milk and honey. I could listen to Captain Benjamin Sisko sing all day long.

3. He knows when compassion is needed, and when to administer the tough love. Sisko was a hard man when events required cold action. Jadzia Dax nearly died of blood loss in the DS9 episode Change of Heart, but survived due to Worf's willingness to abandon a crucial mission in favor of saving the life of the Trill he loved. Though Sisko understood Worf's position, he was not slow in jumping down the Klingon's throat, and questioning Worf's sense of honor.

In For the Uniform, Sisko made an entire planetary atmosphere uninhabitable for most forms of humanoid life, creating hundreds of refugees for no other reason than to capture the turn cloak, Michael Eddington.

As the conflict with the Dominion intensifies, Sisko is ordered by his superiors to remove all Starfleet personnel and equipment from the space station. Soon after the withdrawal, Sisko learns his son, Jake, was left behind. When asked if he intended to turn the Defiant around, and rescue Jake, Sisko basically said his son was man enough to make his own decisions, and live with the consequences.

If that's not enough, Sisko even sent the woman he loved to prison!

But Sisko was not made of ice alone. He had a heart, and that is what drove him to form the decisions he made, and to commit to the actions he took. Numerous times he extended aid to the Dominion when the need arose. He coddled Alexander Rozhenko, Worf's son, and the all around worst Klingon. His vigil over Jadzia as she lay dying in sick bay is heart rending. The situation was what dictated if we saw the Ice Captain or the man with a generous heart. Both aspects of his personality were mesmerizing to watch.

4. He met young Captain Kirk, and got his autograph. Trials and Tribble-ations was a fifth season episode of Deep Space Nine, and is perhaps my favorite episode of the entire franchise (surprising since I normally hate time travel episodes). The melding of the DS9 crew with the TOS crew was ingenious and fun. Near the end of the episode, Sisko does what many fans have done before and after. He approached Captain Kirk for no other reason than to get his autograph. I doubt anyone in a similar situation would have done otherwise.

5. He looks good with hair, bald, with a goatee, and as a Klingon. Avery Brooks is one of those assholes who looks good no matter what. I'm sure a baseball bat to the head would fail when it comes to ruining his good looks (please do not try to prove me wrong should you happen to come face to face with Brooks).

Sisko had the appearance of a tightly groomed Starfleet officer when he first appeared on screen. As the seasons passed he began to shave his head. It was a great choice. Some people look silly with a bald pate, others look better. Sisko definitely looked better. Soon after, Sisko grew a goatee, and the image of space faring bad ass was complete. That is until the need arose for Dr. Bashir to perform a bit of cosmetic surgery in the name of espionage. Sisko came away with the ridges of a Klingon, making him look more intimidating than Worf. Imagine the other Star Trek captains as Klingons. Doesn't work too well, does it?

6. The universe was against him, and he stood tall. Though Sisko carried himself with confidence (as is to be expected of a person in command), he was truly the underdog. Here is a list of the struggles he continually faced:

Factions of the Bajoran government resented his presence.
Starfleet brass was not happy, and rather vocal, over his role as a religious icon for the Bajorans.
Section 31 continually interfered with the running of the station.
The Maquis proved to be an annoyance, forcing him to deal with their anti-Cardassian antics.
The Cardassian's proved to be an annoyance, forcing him to deal with their anti-everyone antics.
The Klingons alternated between wanting his head and agreeing to fight beside him.
The Dominion wanted to destroy him.

All of the Star Trek captains had their share of troubles, but Sisko had more to sort through at a single time than what faced Kirk, Picard, Janeway, and Archer.

7. He captained the Defiant, the coolest ship since Kirk's Enterprise NCC-1701. In 1977, we were introduced to the Millennium Falcon, the coolest spaceship to hit the big screen (you know, back when George Lucas knew how to make a good Star Wars movie). The small ship captained by Han Solo was held in high prestige among many science fiction fans (and still is), but something happened nearly thirty years later. In 1994, season three of Deep Space Nine aired, and Star Trek fans were introduced to the U. S. S. Defiant. Star Trek took the concept of a small ship with impressive fire power and high maneuverability, and out did the Falcon. I was among those who quickly forgot about Han Solo's hamburger inspired ship.

Interesting Federation ships dot the history of Star Trek. There is something pleasing within the look of the awkward ships based on the original Enterprise (Kirks, not Archer's). The list includes The Reliant, seized by Khan; The Excelsior (preferably under the command of Captain Sulu), U. S. S. Grissom, and the U. S. S. Pasture, commanded by Captain Beverly Crusher. The Defiant was the first ship to truly break from the basic design mold, and it was refreshing.

8. Sisko was not merely on the front line of the Dominion War. He WAS the front line. The Dominion ruled space in the Gama Quadrant, a galaxy well beyond Federation controlled star systems, with the wormhole in the Bajoran system providing a bridge between the two sectors. The first obstacle in the conquest of Alpha Quadrant planets and the Federation was the space station Deep Space Nine, under the command of Captain Benjamin Sisko. Starfleet offered little in the way of defense for the quadrant at the commencement of the war. They turned a space station serving as a hub of commerce into a weapons platform, and provided Sisko with one ship, the Defiant. He had limited resources, little to no support, and faced an enemy equally willing to go around or through him. The Federation seemed unwilling to admit war was inevitable. To lose the space station was to lose the war, and to lose Sisko was to lose Deep Space Nine. Without Sisko in command, protection of the Alpha Quadrant would fall to the reckless Klingon Empire and the self serving Romulans. Sisko was the only captain who was indispensable in the crisis which faced him. (Yes, the crew of the Enterprise curtailed a war between the Federation and the Klingon Empire in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, but Kirk and McCoy were not instrumental to thwarting the plot. Everything that was needed was found on the Enterprise, as Spock pointed out. Spock rescued his friends not because he needed to, but because he wanted to save them.)

9. He ripped the bottom out of Section 31, the Federation's ugly side. An aspect of Deep Space Nine I cherish is the bold move to show the Federation is not perfect. In the real world there is a perceived need for nations to commit ugly actions. With Deep Space Nine, we see the same is true when we learn of Section 31, the assholes of The Federation. These are black ops types represented by Luther Sloan. They poison people, kidnap, commit murder, and engage in acts of terrorism. Section 31 justifies its actions in the name of preserving The Federation when more acceptable means of diplomacy fail. Sisko devoted himself to destroying the organization the moment he uncovered its existence. That takes some serious courage. Section 31 had the means and amnesty to do with Sisko as they pleased. This was a shadow civil war Sisko and his officers fought independent of The Federation's resources, whereas Sloan had every conceivable weapon at his disposal. This goes beyond the genocide Picard thwarted when Starfleet brass ordered him to release a virus into the Borg Collective. Unlike the Borg issue, we were not permitted to forget about Section 31's activities after they were first introduced. The shadow organization continued to shape the series, and even spilled over into Star Trek: Enterprise.

10. He joined the Wormhole Aliens, and became a god. (I wonder if he drinks with Wesley Crusher at the Human to God Pub?) During Sisko's struggles to maintain possession of Deep Space Nine, he managed to anger the Wormhole Aliens (or Bajoran Prophets if you prefer). Their penalty came at the conclusion of the Dominion War. Sisko was not to finish out his natural life. Instead, he was to join the Wormhole Aliens, and live as they do, outside of time. So basically Sisko's punishment was immortality. . . Tough break! Thinking about what he will miss is sad, but only at first. The Wormhole Aliens proved time and again they know all that occurs in the Bajoran star system. So no, Sisko will never hold his unborn child, or sleep next to his wife, or stand proud when Jake writes his fifth novel. But Sisko will see all of those events. The sadness belongs to his family and friends who will not share those moments with him.

Earlier in the series, the Wormhole Aliens proved their power was unlimited when they wiped out an entire Dominion fleet in less than a second. Sisko is now eternal and all powerful in his new home. No other Star Trek captain can make that claim. Both Kirk and Picard rejected the offers when such powers were made available to them. I wonder if Sisko would have rejected godhood too if the choice had been his.

11. He told the second favored Star Trek captain, Jean-Luc Picard, to go piss on himself. Star Trek: The Next Generation had a few more seasons remaining and was still going strong when Deep Space Nine first aired. The original episode of DS9 contains a few moments of torch passing between Jean-Luc Picard and Benjamin Sisko. In their first encounter, Sisko is not shy in telling Picard his beloved Federation sucked, but he did not stop there. He proceeded to remind Picard of being assimilated into Locutus of Borg, that he, Sisko, was on the front lines of the Battle of Wolf 359, and that Picard was responsible for the death of Sisko's wife, Jennifer. Already fans of the franchise had spent hours debating who was the better Star Trek captain: Kirk or Picard. And here comes Sisko, telling the Federation poster boy what he can do with a long stick. I cannot think of a better way than to tell an audience to prepare to dump preconceived notions.

Related Links:
11 Reasons Why I Hate Star Trek: Voyager

William Shatner sings Rocket Man
Leonard Nimoy sings Ballad of Bilbo Baggings
Brent Spiner sings Rosie
Avery Brooks sings The Best is Yet to Come


Author Links
Shadows Beyond the Flames for the Kindle

Shadows Beyond the Flames for the Nook
J. M. Tresaugue Books

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Saturday, July 21, 2012

11 REASONS WHY I HATE STAR TREK: VOYAGER #11

11. Finally, the series finale views like it was ghost directed by William Shatner. After seven years of ignoring lessons well learned while working on The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, producer Rick Bermen and writer Brannon Braga decided the time was ripe to implement those fourteen years of experience smashed into twelve when conceptualizing Voyager's big finale. There is a slight problem with this. Seven years of lazy writing and decisions cannot be fixed overnight without firing the entire writing team, and brining in fresh talent. Watching the final episode, Endgame, brings to mind the series finales of the preceding Star Trek titles, though not in a good way. Endgame comes across as though C and D list writers decided to plagiarize previous episodes in the franchise, namely All Good Things. . ., which concluded The Next Generation's television run, and What You Leave Behind, the bittersweet send off to Deep Space Nine.

All Good Things . . . was a fantastic story spanning three time periods in Picard's life: the present, taking command of the Enterprise D, and Picard as an old man. Picard is cast as the underdog in each of these time periods. The current time setting has his crew supporting him, but only tentatively. The past Picard's crew are unsure of their new captain, and go so far as to openly doubt him. In the future sequences Picard is cast as a crazy old man worthy of pity and succeeds in accomplishing his goals by trading upon the benevolent indulgence of those who formerly called him their captain. We also have Q in the episode, once again challenging Picard to save humanity while doubting the captain's intellect along the way. This provides us with a nice full circle scenario as we were first introduced to Q in Encounter at Farpoint, the original episode of The Next Generation. A wonderful story, great characters, and the proper amount of conflict combined with the overall Star Trek feel. All Good Things . . . was perfectly executed.

With Deep Space Nine, we see the epic conclusions to The Dominion War and the centuries long struggle between the Bajoran Prophets and the Pah Wraiths in the masterfully rendered What You Leave Behind. We see our heroes triumph, and the villains fall. We see noble sacrifices, we witness evil turn upon evil, and nothing is left the same when all is said and done. The episode is filled with drama, action, and passion, all to leave you wanting more while knowing this is it. You will only make the mistake once of watching What You Leave Behind without a box of Kleenex within reach. The level of emotion as the characters say farewell to each other is as heart rending as the final episode of M*A*S*H and the final three episodes of Babylon 5. I doubt there are many television shows with such a strong conclusion.


At this point, Star Trek is proving it cannot fail to please when wrapping up a series. And then Voyager comes along.

I have a near perfect image of Rick Berman and Brannon Braga in my mind, talking to each other as the conclusion of Voyager's seventh season approaches. What to do? How to end the series to ensure Voyager's final episode will be remembered for years to come? Naturally, they discuss what made All Good Things . . . and What You Leave Behind such excellent viewing. From there it is a logical conclusion to plagiarize from themselves. Steal a bit from The Next Generation and grab some from Deep Space Nine, throw in a bit of original thinking, and Voyager's final episode, Endgame, is born.

Like with All Good Things . . ., Endgame deals in time travel. The episode starts thirty-two years after Voyager returned to Federation space, having been gone only twenty-three years rather than seventy-five. Janeway is an admiral because apparently the new Starfleet (post Captain Kirk) looks for officers with the ability to fail with upward momentum--the best way to explain why Picard was never promoted to admiral.

Janeway is plagued with guilt. We learn her decisions in the Delta Quadrant resulted in the deaths of Chakotay and Seven of Nine, who had a clumsily written romance late in season seven (it reeks of after thought.) Tuvok has succumbed to insanity, and the rest of the crew has aged under the ministrations of bad makeup, though they fail to develop as people. Older Janeway cannot live with the guilt anymore. She decides a bit of time travel is in order to set things right, proving once and for all she is not command material. These events are tragic (if you care about the characters), but not a reason to alter the past. Starfleet personnel and the Maquis adoptees knew the risks. And what about all the other members of her crew who died along the way? Why not go back in time to the point they encountered The Caretaker? Or better yet, why not go back in time to the moment before they entered The Bad Lands, and curtail the events leading to Voyager being tossed into the Delta Quadrant? I smell a plot hole. Point being, she could have saved many more lives than those three. Janeway is a bit cold hearted and selfish if you ask me.

As expected, Older Janeway meets up with Old Janeway, who is still aimlessly cruising the Delta Quadrant. They argue for no other reason than to increase the drama. Seriously, of the two, Older Janeway has the better notions. However, she wins the arguments by repeatedly stating, "I know because I was once you." I can except that argument once. After the second time, well I stopped paying attention to their spats since the resolution is predetermined.


Old and Older Janeway form their plan, and this is where Berman and Braga decided a touch of Deep Space Nine was necessary. No one who has watched What You Leave Behind can forget the bittersweet conclusion, and that is what they wanted with Voyager. How to accomplish this? By forcing Older Janeway to sacrifice her life. The problem with her death is in the timing. Older Janeway takes one for the team while the bridge of Voyager fills with cheers, smiles, and back slapping as the ship returns to Earth. There is one exception. Old Janeway! Yes, Old Janeway is mourning Older Janeway's death, and thereby the only person on the bridge who is moping around (not to mention isn't this a bit self indulgent? To mourn herself?) The music and closeups on Janeway's face tells us we are supposed to be sad, but that is made difficult if you never liked Janeway to begin with. Not to mention the joyful crew celebrating the achievement of their goal pretty much neutralizes the pity party.

On a lesser note, The Doctor finally picks a name after seven tedious years of debate. He settles on Joe. That's right! Joe! Why? Because the hologram got married to a flesh and blood woman (a sign marriage equality is honored by the Federation? We can hope.), and decided to take her grandfather's name. (I suppose in the future people have fetishes for their grandparents.) No other explanation is given. For all we know, Grandpa Joe made his living ripping the ears off of Ferengi, and selling the bloody lobes as fertility charms. Joe! What a let down!

I cheer every time I finish watching Endgame for one reason, and one reason only. It means I don't have to watch Star Trek: Voyager again for a damn long time.

Watching Voyager is painful. I'm talking more painful than watching a little person ride Captain Kirk like a horse. Plato's Stepchildren is perhaps the worst episode in The Original Series, but every one involved can blame the drug culture of the 1960s when pressed for an explanation (this also works for the Alice in Wonderland ride at Disneyland--the original park in Anaheim, California). Voyager does not have that excuse. In fact, it is guilty of regressing in the expectations of television viewers. The continuous storyline was finally taking shape in the weekly shows, gradually leaving behind the episodic format--though more than a fair share of these type of shows still exist. We had watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Babylon 5, and Deep Space Nine, all of which required a continuous story arc for their success. Even elements of Seinfeld and Friends relied upon building on previous episodes. The days when the Reset Button was pressed at the end of the episode were thankfully dwindling as television began evolving into something more sophisticated, culminating with (what a surprise!) J. J. Abrams' Lost.

Yes, Voyager aired before Lost, but that is not an argument for demanding forgiveness in not keeping up with the more sophisticated tastes and trends of the viewing audience, particularly when this new sophistication was helped along by the producers of Star Trek through the seven year run of Deep Space Nine. As was previously mentioned in this blog series, the producers returned to the format of 1980s television in that the most entertaining segment of any given episode was the opening credits. That is what you have in Voyager. Jerry Goldsmith, who wrote numerous Star Trek scores, beginning with Star Trek: The Original Motion Picture, wrote a beautiful piece of music. The shots of Voyager flying through space, navigating around asteroids and planetary bodies is breathtaking. But that is all Voyager can hope to be. A lovely score, and gorgeous special effects. In all else it fails miserably.

Reason 1
Reason 2 (Part 1)

Reason 2 (Part 2)
Reason 3
Reason 4 (Part 1)
Reason 4 (Part 2)

Reason 5
Reason 6
Reason 7
Reason 8
Reason 9
Reason 10



Related Links:

Kirk Ridden Like a Horse

Voyager Theme


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Shadows Beyond the Flames for the Kindle

Shadows Beyond the Flames for the Nook

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Thursday, July 12, 2012

11 REASONS WHY I HATE STAR TREK: VOYAGER #10

10. Voyager stole the final three seasons of Enterprise. I know I am in the minority in that I have a great time watching Star Trek: Enterprise. Seeing Starfleet in its infancy was fun and fresh. There was no Federation, but we knew that was going to change as Captain Archer worked to bring stability to the relations of the space faring races. I thought it was a bold and wise move to cast the Vulcans as a flawed and arrogant race still in the process of evolving into the culture we came to know through Spock. The Xindi War in season three was mesmerizing, leaving me to believe the pending Temporal War would supersede all other Star Trek conflicts. The Temporal War was never to be. I was crushed when Enterprise was canceled after four seasons, leaving us to leave us wonder how Archer formed the Federation.

I also loved Archer's Enterprise. The ship was the perfect meld between Zefram Cochrane's first warp vessel, Phoenix, and James T. Kirk's Enterprise NCC-1701. The design department did their job well, leading me to believe they toured Navy museum ships. When comparing the ship from The Original Series to the one under Archer's command it is like comparing a factory fresh Humvee to a Model T. When throwing Picard's Enterprise D into the mix, Archers Enterprise NX-01 looks like a horse drawn buggy. This is how things are suppose to be when writing a prequel series (this is intended for you, George Lucas.) The production team went out of their way to ensure the technology fit with the era, but such hard work failed to be appreciated.




Voyager, however, got a full seven season run (apparently the magic number christened by The Next Generation.) The success of Voyager mystifies me to no end. Sure, Star Trek: Enterprise had its fair share of garbage episodes, but that comprises roughly fifteen episodes of the ninety-eight episode run. Voyager, however aired one hundred seventy-two episodes ranging from laughable to horrendous. Before forming a counter argument, please let me remind you of Paris knocking up Janeway with lizard babies.

Here is a Wiki article detailing what we missed out seeing due to Enterprise's untimely cancellation:

At the time of its cancellation, planning for a proposed fifth season of Enterprise was underway. Most details of this never-made season come from comments made by producer Manny Coto who in 2009 stated that two arcs of this season may have been to show the 'origins of the Federation' and 'whispers of the Romulan war', and consequently, the Romulans would have been the major villains of the season.

Coto also stated that had the series been given a fifth season, the recurring Andorian character of Shran may have joined the Enterprise in an advisory role.

Other possible plans for the season included: an episode showing the construction of the first starbase; a Borg Queen origins story with Alice Krige as a Starfleet medical technician who makes contact with the Borg from Season 2's "Regenration" and becomes the Borg Queen, and a Mirror Universe arc spanning four or five episodes.

There were also hopes for an episode in which T'Pol would finally meet her father and discover that he was in fact a Romulan agent who had posed as a Vulcan officer prior to faking his own death. The revelation that T'Pol was half-Romulan would have shed light on her affinity for humanity and as well as her interest in experimenting with emotions."

I hope that excites you more than anything found in Voyager. Personally, I will never forgive Voyager for stealing the final three seasons of Enterprise. (Yes, I agree the theme song for Voyager is better than the puke inducing disaster we are treated to with Enterprise.)

Reason 1
Reason 2 (Part 1)

Reason 2 (Part 2)

Reason 3

Reason 4 (Part 1)
Reason 4 (Part 2)

Reason 5
Reason 6
Reason 7
Reason 8
Reason 9

Reason 11

Related Links:
A Look at What Could Have Been
Voyager Theme
Enterprise Theme

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Shadows Beyond the Flames for the Nook
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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

11 REASONS WHY I HATE STAR TREK: VOYAGER #9

9. The DVDs were formated by computer science flunkies.


Admittedly, the box sets of Voyager have nothing to do with the story construction of the series, but I feel compelled to include this product fiasco in the list since the inattention to quality follows Janeway and crew to home video.

I began my first all inclusive Star Trek marathon after Star Trek: Nemesis was released on DVD. I knew I'd eventually come to the end of Deep Space 9, and be forced to watch Voyager if this was to be a true marathon. I immediately hopped online in search of the cheapest box set of all seven seasons. I settled upon the Japanese version for a Chinese-American audience I know, bizarre, but it does exist. I once held it in my hands. (The collection is no longer in my hands. I can find nothing online that suggests what I referred to is indeed the Japanese version for a Chinese-American audience. What I did find is the collection is labeled as the Chinese region free box set. For some reason the box, when it was in my possession gave me a different impression, so that is the one I chose to run with.) I soon regretted the decision when learning some episodes froze anywhere between one to forty minutes into the show. Some episodes were completely unwatchable. In fact, entire discs refused to load. Unfortunately, I did not learn this until well after the option to return the box set to the retailer had expired. I was stuck with a seven season box set in which four episodes in season one refused to play, and anywhere from eight to ten episodes were unwatchable in the following seasons. That comes to roughly fifty-two to sixty-four episodes lost out of 172. That is no small number! Foolishly, I blamed this on an old DVD player. The issue remained when I was forced to replace the player after it crapped out. At that point, I blamed the version I had purchased, only to learned better a few years later.

In 2008, the announcement so many of us had been waiting for finally came. A new Star Trek movie was in the works to be released in 2009. That was when I decided it was time to replace my Voyager DVDs with the standard rainbow box sets. I sent the Japanese version for a Chinese-American audience to my brother with a warning of what to expect. This year, 2012, I finally got around to taking the cellophane off of the box sets as I forced myself to include Voyager in the latest marathon. I quickly realized the newer purchase was plagued with the same problem as the first box set. I initially suspected different episodes were formated wrong, causing me to regret sending the first attempt to own Voyager to my brother. If only I had kept the Japanese/Chinese-American version I could have mixed and matched with the purpose of creating my own glitch free collection. I was in error there as well. The affected episodes remain the same. There are simply fifty-two to sixty-four episodes I will never see, and I am mostly fine with that knowledge. Voyager was a terrible show, so missing out on nearly a third or more of the episodes simply speeds up the viewing. Though annoyed I did not get all of what I paid for (twice), this is truly a gift from Paramount. I definitely will not be buying Voyager on Blu-ray when Jayneway and crew make that transformation.

The packaging of the box sets is horrendous as well. The Japanese version for a Chinese-American audience crammed all seven seasons into one giant rectangle, and the discs were housed in plastic sleeves. You know, the type of sleeves that scratch the hell out of your DVDs and CDs. (You: Stream it! Your music and movies/television show, just STREAM IT! Me: Stop screaming! I'll get to that point soon.) So I wasted a pile of money on buying CD cases. I even went so far as to color co-ordinate the cases with the traditional Voyager box sets. My homemade box set was an eyesore in the Star Trek collection, but more important than aesthetics was being in possession of a complete Trek library after years of searching and finding amazing deals on new and used DVDs. Contentment was achieved until learning not all the episodes loaded. (I like the caption at the bottom of the set: The Complete All Season On DVD.)

Years later, when I replaced the original Voyager purchase, I was dismayed at the crappy plastic sleeves holding each box set together. Pull the DVDs out too hard, and you risk ripping the plastic. The cases are no better in that they are made of brittle plastic, open faced, and held together by Scotch tape. Unlike all the other box sets from TOS to DS9 and skipping over to Enterprise, you cannot flip the leaves of the set to a fully open position. The tape won't take the strain, and then you are standing in the living room with a mess of open faced cases lying around your feet. With luck, none of the DVDs popped free, rolled in the direction of something sharp (or a hungry dog) and gathered a scratch or two. So you stuff the now loose leafs back into the cheap plastic sleeve only to find Voyager now rests upside down on your shelves to keep the DVDs from falling out the next time they are dusted off for a trip to the DVD player. Even some of the labels on the sleeve were applied upside down. So much for quality control.

I suspect streaming through Netflix will nullify this argument, but I will never know through firsthand experience. I was among those who jumped ship when Netflix made the entertainment blunder of the century. I also refuse to pay for streaming a show currently collecting dust on my shelves. I would find it endlessly amusing if the same improperly formated episodes fail to stream. Yet, I'm interested to learn if Netflix fixed what Paramount home video flubbed twice. (Vaguely related question: Has Netflix resolved the bandwidth and buffering issues, or is that still an on going problem? Can't say I miss spending three hours to watch a ninety minute movie.)

I've freely admitted throughout this series on the points where I lacked information that may or may not have been explained in Voyager. This ninth reason serves to explain the source of these gaps in my knowledge.

Reason 1
Reason 2 (Part 1)
Reason 2 (Part 2)
Reason 3
Reason 4 (Part 1)
Reason 4 (Part 2)
Reason 5
Reason 6
Reason 7
Reason 8
Reason 10
Reason 11

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

11 REASONS WHY I HATE STAR TREK: VOYAGER #8

8. A plethora of shuttlecraft from nowhere. Voyager lost a shuttlecraft seemingly with every course correction, so it is reasonable to think Captain Jayneway would be limited to sensors and transporters rather quickly when considering the ship carried eight shuttles. Not a chance! Voyager junked between thirteen and seventeen shuttles in accidents and attacks. Throughout all this destruction only two shuttles were built from the ground up to support Voyager in its missions. I have some possible explanations for the uneven ratio: 1) Jayneway created replacement shuttles from sheer will power; 2) The shuttle bay also serves as a giant replicator; 3) The writers think Star Trek fans are pimple faced idiots.

The shuttlecraft repair crew is a weak explanation as to why Voyager maintained a fully functional shuttle, ready for flight at a moments notice in that the writer's failed to conduct research to match Voyager's crew complement of 150 people. The crew for a single fighter plane is in the area of twenty-five people, including pilots. Lets do the math: Problem 1) 25 X 8 = 200. Problem 2) 150 - 200 = -50 . . . This means no one is left to run the ship, and the shuttle maintenance crew still remains undermanned! The poor bastards should have unionized under the Maquis! I suppose it is possible to manage with a smaller flight deck crew, but only under the assumption the shuttlecraft are used on the rarest of occasions rather than with the frequency seen in Voyager.

The loss of the shuttlecraft is a running joke shared by many fans and detractors of the series. Speculation exists the joke is also shared by the writers. If true, it's a terrible running joke in that it rips the viewer from the tentatively held suspension of reality. A successful running joke works within the structure of a story, like in the case of Morn in Deep Space Nine. We never hear Morn utter a single syllable, but the other characters continually complain he talks to excess. A better example of a running joke is the entire series of Arrest Development.

Voyager's shuttlecraft blunder is nothing less then lazy story telling, a disease that runs rampant throughout all seven seasons.

Reason 1
Reason 2 (Part 1)
Reason 2 (Part 2)
Reason 3
Reason 4 (Part 1)
Reason 4 (Part 2)
Reason 5
Reason 6
Reason 7
Reason 9
Reason 10
Reason 11

Related Links:
The Coffee Nebula: Shuttlecraft Status

Ex Astris Scientia: Voyager Inconsistencies

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

11 REASONS WHY I HATE STAR TREK: VOYAGER #7

7. Voyager boasts ship design brought to you by the production team for Battlefield Earth. That's right! I have no problem comparing the quality of Star Trek: Voyager to Battlefield Earth. After arguing the differences, what it all comes down to is a rotten apple has the same problem as a rotten orange. In the instance of Battlefield Earth, the design team tried too hard to create something we had never seen before on the screen (does not matter if it was based on the book or not), and came up with designs that fail to inspire awe. In Voyager, the problem is the basic root to all the issues of the series--blatant laziness.

Sure, ship design could have been worse. The Original Series with its budget and technological constraints relied upon flashy lights to represent starships on more than one occasion. This light show bled into the first seasons of The Next Generation, but thankfully was abandoned well before Deep Space Nine aired. I must also acknowledge, like with creature design, ship design is a difficult conceptual beast. The best designs incorporate something familiar (saucer section as flying saucer, and engineering section with warp nacelles as space shuttle launch thrusters), tweak it, and present the audience with something it has never seen before, at least in the form seen on screen. Seeing something familiar draws us in while making the design pleasing on some level, even if we don't understand why. Granted, creating something completely foreign can work, but this is a rarity. As with characters, we need to connect with the machinery, and if it does not grab the eye we, reject it. The most frequent response Voyager pulled from me was: "What a lame design!" More often, I simply averted my eyes, dreaming of the long gone day of TOS with its alien vessel light shows, or even TNG's use of the same ships episode after episode (sometimes flying upside down or backwards to give the false appearance of a new ship). Voyager's problem was in attempting to give us something never before seen in Star Trek while refusing to acknowledge one of the most important tenants of design: Familiarity! People crave familiarity--that's why everything looks the same! After all the years of experience behind the design team, I would have expected fewer poopy ships in Voyager's seven year run.

I will cover only a few of the ships for the sake of some form of brevity.

U. S. S. Voyager: From the years of Kirk to the unveiling of the U. S. S. Defiant in Deep Space Nine, Federation ships were bulky. Until then, U. S. S. Reliant was the only ship with a bulging saucer section that was not attached to an engineering section by a thin neck. There is something aesthetically pleasing about the awkward appearance of these ships, but I can understand the desire for a change after thirty years of Star Trek. For some reason, the production design team on Voyager thought the change needed was to trade bulky for stubby. The saucer section is not a saucer, but more like an egg set on a thick neck worthy of a linebacker. The rationalization for Voyager's stubby appearance was the result of a defensive design against the Borg, and this makes sense. This concept was carried over to Jean Luc Picard's Enterprise E, a fine looking ship though it is the second most hated Enterprise with Archer's NX-01 taking the lead. What makes Enterprise E work is the sleek look created by long lines. Janeway's ship began with a great idea, and ended in lousy execution. The failure reaches a lofty pinnacle of crap when looking at the saucer section from below. This view inspires me to think of the ass end of a squid. Ship design should never cause someone to think of any creature's butt. (I suspect I would be making simian jokes if they had decided to go with two saucer sections.)





My problems with Voyager's appearance does not conclude with the saucer section. There is no true need for the warp engines to realign themselves when the ship engages warp speed. I am sure there is an explanation, but I missed it (chances are that is explained in Reason 9.) Whatever the explanation happens to be, it is nothing but technobabble, which translates to unnecessary. (Technobabble: a long standing tradition in Star Trek of speaking technical nonsense with the purpose of making the episodes sound smart. . . ) In all honesty and fairness, I hated the saucer separation of Enterprise D. I suspect some of the women and men among the production crew agree since you never see the Galaxy Class vessels involved in The Dominion War separate the saucer while engaged in battle. A reason existed for the separation. In the Federation's lack of wisdom, they included whole families on a science vessel performing double duty as a warship. The saucer separation was designed to provide escape for noncombatants (you know, children!) Though it does not make sense to put families on a warship, it does make sense to get civilians the hell out of a combat zone. I could grudgingly accept the saucer separation though I loath it (and the reason why it was necessary) with a passion. The realigning of Voyager's warp engines is nothing more than a ploy to give the ship a functioning visual uniqueness, a method to differentiate it from the other ships. Unfortunately, it did not work nearly as well as it did with Picard's Enterprise D (keep that saucer section in place!) and Sisko's U. S. S. Defiant.

I required two full seasons of The Next Generation to warm up to Picard's Enterprise, another admission sure to earn scorn. After seven seasons of Voyager, well I was ecstatic to be performing a Google search to remind myself of the ship's design. This was two days after watching the final episode.

Kazon Ships:
What we see here is the result when you start with a Mon Calamari Cruiser as the base design, add some wings, and give it a goatee. Kazon ships are what I imagine ancient Egyptians constructed if they shifted the focus from building pyramids to space travel. The only missing detail are hieroglyphs of cats. Oh wait! The bow does resemble Anubis. I guess dogs are better than cats? I really hate seeing faces worked into starship designs. To make matters worse, the Kazon ships are not the only time Star Trek has stolen from Star Wars, and that I find terribly sad. (Just because George Lucas . . . borrowed . . . from Gene Roddenberry does not make it okay.) The details surrounding the rock-headed Kazon are painful to contemplate. it is now time to forget about them--until the next all inclusive Star Trek marathon. . .









The Delta Flier: How I imagine the inspiration for the design behind Tom Paris' go cart shuttle craft project is like this: A frustrated artist has been submitting excellent ideas for months on end, all to be rejected with the same statement, "It looks Federation, but it looks too Federation. Call me when you get it right, and we'll do lunch, K?" The poor woman is sitting in her cubical, staring at her computer screen, and nothing is coming. She has already submitted fifty excellent concept designs. So she stares, and stares, and stares. This goes on for a week, a month, longer. The project started in the summer, and now there is a Santa Claus on every street corner, selling maps to the homes of Hollywood stars. Slowly, she is going insane. The twentieth of December rolls around, she has not done her Christmas shopping, is hating herself, her job, and her life. Self mutilation sounds like an excellent idea. So she grabs a pencil, sticks it under her pinky nail, and lifts to feel the exquisite pain as the nail separates from the flesh. Ignoring the blood, she stares at the nail, laughs hysterically, and sketches her detached pinky nail with a pair of warp nacelles.



The following day she gets a call from Rick Berman. "Hey! Love the Delta Flier sketch. I'll send a car for you, and we can talk about it over lunch. By the way, did you spill a strawberry smoothy while you were working?"

The design blunders continue with nearly every episode, including stealing from previous series like Deep Space Nine. I am nearly certain I saw Breen ships with a tan finish appearing in Voyager's sixth season, and continuing to make appearances through season seven. I was unable to dredge up an image, and am forced to refuse claiming this is true with any amount of certainty. I provided a link below under Related Links to highlight some of the ships appearing in Voyager. I admit, some are interesting, but for the most part we are treated to garbage. There are a few ships obviously designed around insects . . . That has never worked out well before. In fact, the only time it did work was a few years later when Joss Whedon attempted to give the world Firefly. Rick Berman, you are no Joss Whedon!

Reason 1
Reason 2 (Part 1)
Reason 2 (Part 2)
Reason 3
Reason 4 (Part 1)
Reason 4 (Part 2)
Reason 5
Reason 6
Reason 8
Reason 9
Reason 10
Reason 11

Related Links:
Ships of Star Trek: Voyager

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

11 REASONS WHY I HATE STAR TREK: VOYAGER #6

6. Setting course for plot holes and do nothing episodes is a scientific specialty of Star Trek: Voyager. There are one hundred seventy-two episodes of Voyager, resulting in a minimum of one hundred seventy plot holes, or so it seems. But never fear! I will confine myself to the first episode, thereby attacking the whole reason Captain Kathryn Janeway (there is a cumbersome name for you!) sentenced her crew to a seventy-five year return trip to The Alpha Quadrant and Earth.

After going through a rift in space created by some bizarre satellite/alien thing called The Caretaker, the crew of Voyager find themselves in orbit around a settled planet. There are rock headed Kazon on the surface in shanty towns, and Ocampans beneath the bedrock in what appears to be a Logan's Run paradise (minus the murders at age thirty since the Ocampan life span is about the same as your dog.) The Caretaker had brought Voyager to the Delta Quadrant (some how sensing the ship's presence across the universe) with the intention of making babies. That failed. The Caretaker's purpose for mating was because he/it was dying, and feared for the continuation of the Ocampan society, a justifiable fear since the damn satellite had been taking care of its pet dogs for so long they could no longer feed themselves--much like your dog if you locked it in the bathroom while on vacation. A threat of invasion from the Kazon also existed, though I do not know how serious this was since we saw only the one shanty town and the two ships which Voyager and Chakotay's Maquis ship did a fine job of thwarting. The Caretaker's response to the threat was to use its last power to take pot shots at the planet until all the entrances to the Ocampan underground paradise were sealed. The rationalization was this would afford the Ocampans time to learn how to take care of themselves. I'm not sure how being buried alive will cause anyone to become self-sufficient. More likely it will only prolong death until the air runs out. (And if you are thinking their air is supplied by generators: What happens when those generators break down and the puppy-dog Ocampans are unable to repair them? Sadistic!)





Janeway sighted the Prime Directive, the Federation's none interference policy, as her excuse to go along with The Caretaker's plan. I simply think she is sadistic, preferring to see millions of people buried alive over returning her crew home safely. The Caretaker's plan was faulty at best, and Janeway jumping on board rather than reprogramming the satellite to send them home is unjustifiable. There was a better solution. The Caretaker was in possession of a vast library of data the Ocampan's could have benefited from accessing. Just a thought. (I postulate the Prime Directive dictates they had no business in the Delta Quadrant--particularly those sectors claimed by governments other than The Federation, as in the entire quadrant--and were obligated to temporarily seize control of The Caretaker.)

Slightly less obnoxious than plot holes are the, "do nothing" episodes. These are episodes in which nothing matters at the end, typically found in time travel episodes concluding with only one or none of the characters remembering what transpired. This is different, though similar, to hitting the reset button at the end of each episode (a TNG scientific specialty) with the intention of retarding character development and maintain the status quo. Reset episodes have the potential of entertaining the audience, where as the do nothing episode is a complete waste of time as nothing matters because nothing really happened.

The episode Before and After in season three is a perfect example. Kes finds herself in the future with no knowledge of how she got there, and has no grasp of the situation she is thrust into. A decent hook on the surface. Kes spends the episode traveling back in time, and a temporal paradox must be resolved or something or other will come to an end. Eventually the crew of Voyager succeed in saving her butt, yet she is the only one who remembers what happens. And those future moments where the episode begins, when she is older and married to Tom Paris? Yeah, they do not matter either since she leaves the ship at the end of the season. So much for her daughter and grandchild. So much for the death of Captain Janeway in The Year of Hell--dumb, dumb, dummmmb! Nothing in the episode mattered. A complete waste of the viewers time. (Wait a second! Paris made babies with Captain Janeway, and followed that up with making a baby with Kes. I bet B'Elanna Torres is next!)

There are more episodes in Voyager that fit these parameters. You can take my word for it, or watch Voyager for yourself. Should you feel the need to torture yourself, I promise to stand ready to provide comfort. No one should have to go through this alone.

Reason 1
Reason 2 (Part 1)
Reason 2 (Part 2)
Reason 3
Reason 4 (Part 1)
Reason 4 (Part 2)
Reason 5
Reason 7
Reason 8
Reason 9
Reason 10
Reason 11

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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

PROJECTS IN THE PIPELINE

I have my hands in a number of projects at the moment, and the time has come to fill you in on what is happening in this small corner between the freezer and an old China cabinet.

1.
I'm working hard on Tourney of Diplomacy: Book One of the Purity War. When publishing Shadows Beyond the Flames, I had foolishly and naively stated I hoped to release Tourney at some point between July and December 2012. I will be missing the July deadline, and have no doubts a miracle will be in order to achieve the December deadline. A significant portion of the issues is the result of losing more than half of the electronic files for Tourney. There are four electronic copies of the files (I am a back up nut), and the same sections in all of these copies is missing. I suspect this is a result from when I was forced to switch operating systems. Fortunately, I insist on a paper back up as well, bringing the total to one master copy, and four back ups. Rest assured the paper copy is not corrupted--though it was nearly damaged when the utility room flooded. Being forced to rely on the printouts has resulted in retyping entire chapters, and thereby delaying progress. I offer my extreme apologies in this matter. I do not wish to offer a revised date since I am unable to determine when that will be. That was the bad news.

The good is news is R. A. Falcone, who created the cover for the short story The Manual (found in Shadows Beyond the Flames), has agreed to provide the cover art for Tourney. The first concept sketch has been submitted, and I am pleased with the results. I will keep you posted through blogspot, Twitter, and Facebook as to the progress on Tourney.

2.
July 29th 2012 marks the one year anniversary since the publication of Shadows Beyond the Flames. I am currently going through all the wonderful feedback, and making corrections. Thank you to all those who participated in helping me hunt down and kill all the nasty typo vermin. The second edition will be ready to launch within a few weeks surrounding the anniversary date.

3.
Sam of Green Cove, the Twitter fantasy series has not died, though followers may believe otherwise. Sam died a second time, and for this I am truly sorry. I have not abandoned Sam's story. In fact, the work continues. Again, I was being naive, thinking if I wrote two or more installments a day I would be able to keep ahead of the daily tweets, a handy notion when considering sick days and vacation days--not that I am permitted much of either. That did not work out so well. Currently, I am plugging away at Sam's story. I had jumped in thinking I had a nice little tail to tell, and since then have learned it was much more complex than originally imagined. Seems to happen to me rather frequently. When Sam last appeared on Twitter, we were at episode 57. I now have 240 episodes penned, expect another 200 to 250 until completion, and then it is time to revise. Originally I had hoped for a nice and tidy 365 episodes for obvious reasons. A full year to tell the story feels right. I might even push it to eighteen months when Sam is ready for his re-re-relaunch. I will examine a 365 day run for Sam once the final episode has been revised. I am also exploring various platforms for Sam of Green Cove to avoid losing the story among all my other tweets. I will inform you of the ultimate decision as soon as possible. I have learned my lesson with Sam (twice) and will not post new episodes until the entire story in completed. I think that is the only fair solution for those who are a bit angry at my inability to keep up with Sam. For those who have read the first 57 episodes, do not worry! You will not have to read them again. The first 57 will be retweeted the day prior to Sam's re-return. You have waited long enough to travel alongside Sam, and I refuse to make you wait an additional 57 days.

4. I am also working on a super secret squirrel project. I am not permitted at the moment to discuss the details, but will provide updates once I am able to do so.

5. I am madly working on a zombie related short story set in downtown Seattle. Pike Place Zombies will be released on various ebook platforms with a price tag of FREE! The short story is my, "Thank you!" to all the readers of this blog and Shadows Beyond the Flames. Again, I will provide an update as the release date draws closer.

6.
With all theses projects I am still blogging. All I hope to accomplish with these blogs is to entertain. I hope I am succeeding in this endeavor.

As you can see, my hands are typing all over the place, the red pen is scratching and scribbling, and there is quite a bit of muttering as a tricky sentence is reshaped. I am currently on a five week cycle as follows:

Week 1: Tourney of Diplomacy
Week 2: Sam of Green Cove
Week 3: Super Secret Squirrel Project
Week 4: Pike Place Zombies
Week 5: Write and revise as many blogs as I can.

All the work is accomplished when my six month old daughter is asleep, so progress will be slow. (I'm sure those with children understand, and I beg for the understanding of those with child-free homes.) Some of the projects are close to wrapping up, like Pike Place Zombies, and The Super Secret Squirrel Project. This will free up more time for
Tourney and Sam of Green Cove. Again, I apologize for the delays. I'm looking forward to presenting some exciting stories to you in the near future, and learning from your feedback. Check back regularly for updates!

Thank you!

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Friday, June 8, 2012

THANK YOU, MR. BRADBURY!



Like so many fellow readers of Ray Bradbury, I was sad to awaken to the news on the morning of June 6th, 2012, to learn the iconic writer had passed away the previous night. Though I expected this day to come since hearing of his stroke in 1999, I had secretly hoped Mr. Electrico's benediction for Bradbury to "Live forever!" was more than high carnival drama. (Yet, Bradbury will live forever through the novels and short stories he leaves behind.) The blow of the news was softened a bit as I learned of Bradbury's passing in an email from a dear friend. Moments later my wife called from work to ask how I was handling the news. She knows me well. She knows I rarely mourn the passing of a stranger, though I may have enjoyed her/his work. Ray Bradbury is an exception to this rule. Please forgive me as I embark on this self indulgent remembrance.

I first heard Bradbury's name from my older brothers. They had read Fahrenheit 451 as part of a high school literature course. I was smart enough at the time to have the thought: "Well if both of them had to read the Berrybury guy, then I'll most likely have to read him as well. Better figure out what he is all about." So I questioned my oldest brother, learned the name was not Berrybury, but Bradbury, and came away with a magical title swirling around in my mind: Something Wicked This Way Comes. I soon found a copy of the book, and fell in love with how Bradbury terrified me. (I have nightmares from Something Wicked This Way Comes to this day.) I was hooked on Bradbury long before reading the last page.

I quickly jumped into Fahrenheit 451, and again was amazed to find something wonderful happening between the pages. When seeking the third Bradbury to read, I soon realized I was making rapid progress through his more celebrated works, so I shifted to titles rarely found in the articles of accolades. I possessed enough brain power at that time (somewhere in the quagmire of middle school) to realize I had discovered something amazing, and all from eavesdropping on a conversation between my brothers. It was glorious! I read Bradbury after Bradbury--that is, when my nose was not in a western. Soon I realized the goldmine was bound to dry up under my voracious reading. Having not yet learned the value of rereading a book, I set upon a campaign that is still with me. A campaign of Bradbury conservation, as in I allow myself no more than two titles a year. Without this exercise in discipline, I knew I would have read through all the current titles before graduating high school, leaving me to suffer dry spells between the following releases. Agonizing! Unbearable! Knowing there are Bradbury titles waiting to be read provides a touch of soothing during the absences.

Upon entering high school, I soon learned Bradbury was common ground between myself and many of the teachers. A fantastic discovery. My sophomore English teacher, Mrs. Richardson had never read Ray Bradbury, but she was a curious soul. I brought to class my copy of Something Wicked This Way Comes for her to borrow, and I never saw it again. I hope she enjoyed it so much she felt compelled to keep the book. I had Mrs. Richardson again my junior year, thinking the book would be returned. I was not entirely upset when that failed to happen. Every high school has at minimum one teacher who the boys worship. Mrs. Richardson was that teacher. I have since bought a second copy of Something Wicked This Way Comes, and I guard it with a passion.

Fast forward to my senior year, specifically December 4th, 1993, the day Frank Zappa died. I was spending the weekends with my father. Saturday morning I was informed we had an exciting outing planned for the night. I grudgingly agreed, though what I desperately wanted was to enjoy these last few months of teen angst, alone and in my room. We made the drive from Lake Forest, California to Mission Viejo, and I'm thinking: "Dad, I've been to the mission far too many times. Can we just get pizza and go home?" Dad parked the car outside the Mission Viejo library, and now I am thinking: "But what can be so exciting about this small thing?" All these jerkish thoughts are washed away the moment we step through the doors. There is a poster of Ray Bradbury's face with the caption: Special Appearance Tonight. Ray Bradbury Lecture and then the time and date. I happened to have my copy of Fahrenheit 451 in the backpack (I suspect my dad's hand in this.)

The evening was one of those surreal moments when you think you are taking everything in, you are convinced you will remember every last damn detail, and realize two minutes later little to nothing penetrated into long term memory--much like watching the birth of your children. Only the highlights remain. I remember watching Bradbury walking out onto the stage, thinking he was smiling for the only pimply geek in the audience, me. (Remember, I was a teen, so the world revolved around me.) I do not remember a thing about the lecture, to my shame and regret, beyond his discussion of Fahrenheit 451. He told the tale of being unable to sell the book to a publisher as the book was considered too inflammatory for the mass market. Eventually, a man willing to take risks came along, chopped the book into quarters, and published it over the first four issues of his fledgling magazine. This risk taker was Hugh Hefner. So what did I take away from the lecture? Ray Bradbury was in Playboy. I remember my hormonal response whispered in my dad's ear. "That is awesome!" (I have since learned the articles and short stories found in Playboy actually are better than the pictures--ignore my wife's laughing.)

After the lecture, Bradbury sat down at a table in the lobby, and immediately began signing books. The facilitators of the event were allowing him to sign no more than one book per person. Dad being the great fellow that he is picked up a copy of The Halloween Tree so I could have two books signed by Bradbury. As I'm waiting my turn, the librarian informs us there are books on sale directly from Mr. Bradbury. That was when I learned he bought his unsold titles from the publisher when they went out of print. He stored these books in a warehouse rather than let them return to the pulp mill. This also enabled him to offer out of print titles to his fans. I thought, and still do, that this was an amazing and generous effort on his part.

I grabbed peeks of Bradbury from between heads and over shoulders as I waited in line. Living in Southern California, I heard numerous horror stories of people having chance encounters with celebrities, and was understandably nervous, fearing I'd endure a horrendous moment. I observed Mr. Bradbury, and he had a genuine smile on his face. He was shaking hands, taking books, talking, signing, laughing, returning books, and shaking hands once more. Next person. Repeat. I was beyond impressed. Bradbury, at that moment, surpassed being my favorite writer. He became my number one role model.

Eventually I found myself standing face to face with the legend, trying not to squeak in fear under his radiant smile. I handed over Fahrenheit 451, and barely manage to ask: "How old were you when you sold your first story?" He replied, "I was eighteen. Why? Are you a writer?" I sheepishly admitted that I was. At that point, Mr. Bradbury launched into the story of his first sale. I felt important, like I was the star, but I also felt guilty. All the other people had a minute with Mr. Bradbury, and here I am getting a personal story spanning ten or so minutes. Amazing! After Bradbury concluded the story, the wonderful woman behind me tapped me on the shoulder. Here I was, afraid this gray haired woman was going to ask me to stop taking up so much of Bradbury's time, and let others have their chance. Nope. Instead I found her shoving a copy of Zen in the Art of Writing into my hands, saying: "I think you need this more than me." Mr. Bradbury immediately grabbed the book from my hands while showering the woman with praise: "You are an amazing woman. Wonderful. Such a wonderful, generous person. God bless you! Thank you!" Bradbury asked my name, signed the book, and that was the end. I came away with three signed books when I was suppose to have one signature. Truly a magical night brought to you by my dad, Mr. Bradbury, and a mystery woman whom I will never forget. (The story of Mr. Bradbury's first sale can be found in Zen in the Art of Writing.)

I waited to read the inscription in Zen in the Art of Writing until after dad and I returned home. It was an attempt to prolong the magic, to enjoy the greatness of the evening for as long as possible. Mr. Bradbury wrote: Jim, Good luck! Not much, but it worked like a benediction upon an eighteen year old boy. I have cherished that book ever since--it never gets packed in a box when I move, but instead goes in with my luggage. Those simple words--Jim, Good luck!--are ingrained in my mind. They flash through my thoughts multiple times each day, and should I fail to write less than a paragraph a day I feel guilty. As though I have failed to measure up to Mr. Bradbury's faith in an unknown kid, scrawny and covered in pimples.

Ray Bradbury was the first author I met at a book signing. Though I enjoyed all the other writers' lectures and signings I have attended since then, Mr. Bradbury will always outshine them all.

A day of dread and sadness arrived come June 6th, 2012. It was the day we learned Ray Bradbury died on the previous night, June 5th. I knew instantly two things were going to happen in the course of my day. I would find myself in the bookstore, and at home I would be searching through the DVDs. I picked up a second copy of Fahrenheit 451 since my signed paperback is close to falling apart. I decided on a hardback to ensure many years of multiple readings. I waited for my girls to come home, sat them down, and made them watch Disney's weak adaptation of Something Wicked This Way Comes. They loved it. For years I have attempted to get my girls to read Bradbury, and with no success. Perhaps that will now change.

Later that night, as I was getting ready for bed, my thoughts were on Mr. Bradbury. I do not write fan letters since I have nothing to say the writers have not already heard, but last night I began to regret the decision. I wanted to thank Bradbury for that magical evening all those years ago in Mission Viejo. I wanted to tell him I'm working hard at writing. Most of all, I wanted to thank him for being who he was, a generous heart, an amazing writer, and an inspiration. So I will say it here:

Thank you for all the joy, Mr. Bradbury.


Fahrenheit 451


The Halloween Tree








August 22, 1920 - June 5, 2012

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

11 REASONS WHY I HATE STAR TREK: VOYAGER #5

5. Voyager is The Cheese Factory of outer space. Star Trek is no stranger to cheesiness. This dates back to The Original Series, culminating in the third season (also known as the turd season) with the episode Plato's Stepchildren, in which we find Spock dancing with Captain Kirk. Each spin-off series since has found it necessary to include a surreal episode filled with cheese. This generally takes the form of a mad carnival intended to bring Alice in Wonderland to a modern audience. The result, however, lies somewhere within the neighborhood of Tim Burton's failure. Over the top acting combined with weak riddles and slightly macabre carnival costumes does not make for good television. What it does is annoy the viewer to fits of vomiting.

I was unable to remain in my seat when I first viewed Voyager's attempt at the surreal, The Thaw. I left the episode playing for no other reason than I cannot turn off Star Trek once I have hit the play button (I'm seeking professional help in this matter.) Yet, I am unable to be entirely miffed with The Thaw as it provides me with forty-five minutes in which I can do chores rather than warm the couch cushions. Honestly, I'd rather do just about anything than watch this episode, like, oh I don't know, pick up dog poop? (My oldest asked if I'd rather pick up dog poop with my bare hands than rewatch The Thaw, to which my answer is, "YES! Absolutely!")




This episode is seconded only by another Voyager blunder, Threshold, in which Janeway and Paris "evolve" into catfish looking salamanders due to a faster than warp experiment. "Evolve" was the writers' word of choice. Most folks with a high school education would recognize this as devolution, but according to Voyager, regressing to a more primitive life form is evolution. Semantics aside, the fact that Lizard Paris is into cougars, and dug Lizard Janeway's tail so much. . . well let me simply state they had babies on a swampy planet in a steamy way. After recovering, Janeway and Paris left their immature offspring to fend for themselves on the planet. Perhaps they were ashamed of what led to the making of those babies? Regardless as to whether or not they wanted to legitimize their children by doing the proper thing (now that I think about it, perhaps abandoning the lizard babies was the proper thing), the episode leaves the thought in the viewers head that Paris is into older women. Does this mean he has mother issues?

Even Brannon Braga, the writer of Threshold, has nothing kind to say concerning the episode. He sums it up best with a concise critique: "Out of a hundred and some episodes, you're gonna have some stinkers! Unfortunately, that was a royal, steaming stinker."

I could go on, but The Thaw and Threshold do so well in portraying the cheese factory of Star Trek: Voyager. This series alone is capable of constructing a space station with enough fire power to destroy an entire planet, and with cheddar alone.



Yum!

Reason 1
Reason 2 (Part 1)
Reason 2 (Part 2)
Reason 3
Reason 4 (Part 1)
Reason 4 (Part 2)
Reason 6
Reason 7
Reason 8
Reason 9
Reason 10
Reason 11

Related Links:
The Agony Booth recaps Star Trek: Voyager, Threshold
Kirk and Spock cutting a rug

Author Links:
Shadows Beyond the Flames
J. M. Tresaugue Books
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