Star Trek News and Analysis

Compiled by Carl Slaughter: (1) Star Trek scandals. ScreenRant lists “Star Trek: 15 Dark Behind-The-Scenes Secrets You Never Knew”.

  1. The series creator tried to ruin Wrath of Khan

Star Trek: The Motion Picture was over-budget and underwhelming. In response, Paramount removed Gene Roddenberry as Executive Producer and made him a consultant. They brought in Nicholas Meyer and Harve Bennett to shepherd the sequel, The Wrath of Khan. Only, Leonard Nimoy was going through a phase all Trek actors have: he was sick of playing the character and wanted out. To appease him, it was decided that Spock would be killed off early on.

Then, “somehow,” the script was leaked, and fans had a shared nervous breakdown. The source of the leak was never truly revealed, but the actors and producers largely accept that Gene himself leaked the pages of the script. He was vocal about not wanting Spock killed off and was frustrated with the darker plot, as well as the theme of growing into middle age. He wanted to sabotage the project, or at least have Spock’s death taken out of the script. In the end, it was just rearranged, and, if anything, it made the film even better.

(2) Star Trek controversies: Next, ScreenRant totes up the “15 Most Controversial Things Star Trek Has Done”. Call this the controversial kiss compilation.

  1. Trill Wives Kiss

For all of its inclusiveness regarding things like race and class, Star Trek has always been a bit skittish about portraying gay characters. One of the reasons for this might be how much their simple explorations of any kind of same-sex romance riled audiences up. We can see that at play with Deep Space Nine’s episode “Rejoined”.

While they were introduced in Star Trek: The Next Generation, DS9 let us fully explore the aliens known as Trills. Science Officer Jadzia Dax is one such alien, and she hosts a symbiote that has inhabited generations of previous Trills. In “Rejoined”, Dax is reunited with another Trill who used to be her wife in a previous life. Despite cultural laws forbidding it, the two resume their old relationship, giving us our first onscreen, same-sex kiss in Trek history.

The moment was sweet, but very controversial, with some TV stations refusing to air the episode and others editing the kiss out. Paramount was inundated with negative phone calls regarding the episode, forcing staff to work back-to-back shifts just to deal with the volume of calls. While the episode has aged well, Trek hasn’t done much more in terms of gay representation.

(3) Undeveloped Star Trek episodes: Memory Alpha knows about the “Undeveloped Star Trek episodes”.

In his introduction to the 1994 book Lost Voyages of Trek and The Next Generation (p. 3), Edward Gross commented, “Perhaps most surprising in the Star Trek mythos is the sheer quantity – and in many cases quality – of unfilmed adventures that have spanned from the original through various aborted attempts at revival throughout the 1970s and right in to The Next Generation. In many cases, these scripts and treatments were left unfilmed due to political reasons, studio indecisiveness or ego. In others, they just weren’t up to snuff and probably wouldn’t have made a decent episode of Lost in Space.

(4) Star Trek writers talk about the unsold spec stories they wrote and pitched. Vulture talks to the writers about “8 Star Trek Spec Scripts That Never Saw the Light of Day”.

Almost every episode of Star Trek: The Original Series begins, “Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilization. To boldly go where no man has gone before.” The opening promised a whole new world of adventure and discovery. And this utopia of exciting new ideas expanded beyond the screen all the way to its writers room: Star Trek had a famous open-submission policy, meaning any writer, anywhere, could submit a script.

The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager helped launch the careers of several great TV writers. Ron D. Moore (Outlander, Battlestar Galactica), Bryan Fuller (Hannibal, American Gods), and René Echevarria (Teen Wolf, Terra Nova, The 4400) all got their start pitching for the show. But spec writing, obviously, didn’t always lead to success (not the first time at least). Sometimes your episode would get produced, sometimes it would get you in the door to pitch, and sometimes, well, you just had to keep trying….

Jane Espenson (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Once Upon a Time, Husbands, Battlestar Galactica)

The only [spec] whose plot I recall at the moment was the one that got me invited in to pitch at the show. It was about Data using the holodeck to put himself in situations calculated to evoke strong emotions, hoping to feel happiness or love … but when the simulation goes awry (someone reprogrammed it? I forget), he does get a taste of emotion, but it ends up being anger. He has to confront the downside of being like a human being — not all emotions are positive. It reads like it sounds — a fun little thought experiment, certainly not enough to provide the spine of an episode. But it got me in the door!

(5) Jason Isaacs interview: The incoming captain tells Entertainment Weekly how much he admires the archetype — Star Trek’s Jason Isaacs explains why William Shatner is a genius”.

Yeah, what he’s doing with really tough dialogue in those scenes, the way he knows which lines to just casually throw away and others where he just really sells it.

It’s so tough. He sells everything. People who think he’s hammy are people responding to other people doing funny impressions of him. If you watch the original he’s utterly brilliant. He was one of Canada’s top Shakespearian actors. He brings that level of commitment and epic high stakes to what could have been ridiculous dialogue. He and [Leonard] Nimoy together were a genius double. Anyone who thinks they’re hammy should try to do it themselves. I’m trying to do it now and, I’m telling you, it’s not easy.

Sci-Fi Video Roundup for October 16

Compiled by Carl Slaughter: (1) The case for Gul Dukat

(2) Honest Trailers:  Next Generation series

(3) Discovery: Spore travel technology explained

(4) Discovery is really about Section 31

(5) Discovery is being heavily pirated  — Ars Technica says the first two episodes of Discovery are both among the 20 most pirated TV shows.

(6) Orville is Star Trek

(7) Majel  Roddenberry

(8) Batman’s greatest failures

(9) Honest Trailer:  Burton’s first Batman movie

(10) How McDonald’s got Tim Burton fired from Batman

(11) Marvel’s seeming plot holes

(12) Dark side of Star Wars

(13) Why we will never see an Ender’s Game sequel

Science Roundup

Compiled by Carl Slaughter: (1) Black hole pairs: “Scientist Find Treasure Trove of Giant Black Hole Pairs”.

For decades, astronomers have known that Supermassive Black Holes (SMBHs) reside at the center of most massive galaxies. These black holes, which range from being hundreds of thousands to billions of Solar masses, exert a powerful influence on surrounding matter and are believed to be the cause of Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN). For as long as astronomers have known about them, they have sought to understand how SMBHs form and evolve.

In two recently published studies, two international teams of researchers report on the discovery of five newly-discovered black hole pairs at the centers of distant galaxies. This discovery could help astronomers shed new light on how SMBHs form and grow over time, not to mention how black hole mergers produce the strongest gravitational waves in the Universe.

(2) It’s for you: “Scientists made the first ‘unhackable’ quantum video call”.

Traditional methods of digital communication rely on certain mathematical functions, which can be hacked with the right tools and know-how. Quantum communications, however, send information embedded in entangled particles of light, in this instance by a satellite named Micius, in a process which is said to be completely unhackable. It’s so secure that anyone even attempting to infiltrate the communication without authorization will be uncovered. As Johannes Handsteiner from the Austrian Academy of Sciences explained, “If somebody attempts to intercept the photons exchanged between the satellite and the ground station and to measure their polarization, the quantum state of the photons will be changed by this measurement attempt, immediately exposing the hackers.”

(3) NASA / Russia moon station: “NASA and Russia agree to work together on Moon space station”.

This is part of NASA’s expressed desire to explore and develop its so-called “deep space gateway” concept, which it intends to be a strategic base from which to expand the range and capabilities of human space exploration. NASA wants to get humans out into space beyond the Moon, in other words, and the gateway concept would establish an orbital space station in the vicinity of the Moon to help make this a more practical possibility.

(4) I like ?. Pi, the Golden Number, impossible engineering, and the Egyptian pyramids..

Alma Alexander’s Collection Benefits Refugees and Migrants

By Carl Slaughter: Keep watching for Alma Alexander’s new collection, Children of a Different Sky, coming out this Fall. It is a themed fantasy anthology, about migrants and refugees, and it is a charity anthology, with all the profits from the sales of the book above anything required for housekeeping and production are going straight to two selected charities working with refugees and migrants both in the USA and globally.

CARL SLAUGHTER:  What prompted you to do an anthology with this theme?

Alma Alexander

ALMA ALEXANDER:  There are seven words that underlie the status of any refugee in the world, ever: “There but for the grace of God…”

It is not a new issue — people who run from disaster in the hope of finding a better future have always been with us. But what IS new is that now it is all being televised on 24-hour 7-days-a-week news channels, always available online on news websites.

We can no longer hide from the misery of these displaced souls because we see them running now — we see them on the crowded boats on open seas, we see them clawing to shore and drowning on the doorstep of salvation, we see them languish in camps where conditions are enough to horrify any sane mind, we see them crowding against barbed wire and against walls and being denied harbor because they are hated and feared and basically unwanted by the populace already on the ground in the places where the migrants wish to go.  People who cannot see that the refugees in this restless and lost crowd might one day, some day, just as easily be themselves.

We see them being stamped on the forehead with their ethnic identity and country of origin, and being denied visas in pieces of legislation from the top of the world’s governments – meeting quotas, or banning outright anyone from country X on the basis that they were born there.

I never ran from a “hot war” but I have family who have done just that. And I, myself, left the country of my birth when I was very young – and got set adrift on the currents of the world. On the one I gained the life experience of living in seven different countries on four different continents before I was 40; On the other hand I lost the threads that bound me to my place of origin, making me a cultural refugee.

It was possibly the reframing of my own existence in those terms that made me eager to do what I could to help other people in a similar or worse situation, and the only way open to do that for someone like myself is to do that thing that I do – Tell Stories. And since there is always strength in numbers and I knew many stellar writers whom I knew I could ask to help this endeavour and who, if they were on board, would make a magnificent contribution.

That is how Children of a Different Sky came to be.

CS:  Why does the speculative fiction community need stories about refugees and immigrants?

AA:  I have always strongly believed that fantasy — not just any stripe of fiction but sometimes outright fantasy — is the only way to tell the real truth.

It isn’t that the speculative fiction community needs stories about refugees and immigrants – it’s that the WORLD does, in order to understand ourselves. These days more than ever just casting one’s eyes over the day’s headlines is enough to make anyone sane want to dive under the covers and refuse to get out of bed. It’s overwhelming, because it’s all too real, happening right now, happening to all of us, and we are all individually too small and too helpless to do anything about it.

But when we pick up a story, we can take that one necessary step back, take a deep breath and since all these things happen to someone in that story rather than to ourselves we can find ways to feel empathy and outrage and anger — and perhaps the strength to take whatever small steps each of us individually can in order to right the world’s gigantic wrongs.

This vision, this strength, this is something that is a gift that speculative fiction can offer — and learning about others, other human beings who have felt the kind of loss and dislocation that any migrant can tell you about, is much easier and much DEEPER when viewed through that thin silver tissue of lies that is fantasy. What we bring is not “truth and nothing but the truth” – but the emotional truth, the human truth. Without that underlay everything is just statistics.

We aren’t telling individuals’ own “true” stories here. First and foremost, we cannot, because these are THEIR stories and not ours and they will choose when or how to tell them. But we are telling stories LIKE theirs, in the hope of shining a light into the dark places where silence can no longer be permitted to linger. We, and our stories, are pulling the curtains open adn saying, look, look at this stage and at the people suffering on it.

CS:  Are there any modern parallels?

AA:  All you need to do is turn on the television, scan the news of the day on your phone, even pick up that dying purveyor of news which our ancestors knew as the newspaper (fewer  and fewer of those. I don’t think I know many people who read an actual paper these days, and some of THOSE only when they’re handed the thing while staying at a hotel or something, as a stopgap measure before they can get back to a digital existence…)

Human migration has always been with us – but it’s only in recent years that it’s become a sort of horrible terrifying reality show. These days you can easily pick up images of bleeding and shell-shocked kids, of women clutching a baby in one hand and a pathetic bundle of possessions in another, of desperate men pushing their families into overcrowded boats and pushing the boats away onto the waters not knowing if they will ever see them again. The sheer weight of heartbreak on the TV news every night can be overwhelming.

And there are always the historical underlays to go back to – things like the concentration camps which awaited those who could not become refugees back in 1940s Germany, and in numberless other places. There is always that dichotomy of taking in those who are fleeing and being afraid to take them in because those already on the ground are afraid of being overwhelmed by them. And yet we keep on creating circumstances, mostly wars, which dislocate more and more people and send them on this endless quest for sanctuary in places strange to them, places which will insist that they lay aside all the things that make them who they are in order to enable them to integrate into a new and unfamiliar place.

The choices are stark, and are made every day, right here, right now – take in everyone? Pick and choose? Pick and choose how? And what if you turn away the little boy who will grow up to become another Steve Jobs, or a little girl who might grow up and find a cure for cancer, or a woman who might give birth to either of those children…?

CS:  Are there any personal connections?

AA:  I began to consider myself a “cultural refugee”, someone who had left behind a native culture as a child and has been unmoored ever since. I have immediate family – a first cousin and (at that time) two very young kids one of whom was still in a stroller – who ran from actual bombs and whose safety was very much an issue at the time. I come from a country which no longer exists, anyway, so I am a refugee in that sense, too. I claim provenance from a place no longer on the maps of the world. So yes, personal connections, in that sense.

But also – I am a storyteller, an empath. I look into the eyes of a child sitting hopeless and hungry in the middle of a row of muddy or dusty tents (it is a blessing if it rains… it is a blessing if it does not…) and I see a yawning chasm of terror and despair. Oh yes, it’s personal. I can see a human being suffer through no fault of their own and my heart goes out to them all.

CS:  What lessons do we take away from these stories?

AA:  We are all human. We need to take care of each other. We NEED to. We need to understand that it isn’t a zero sum game, that it simply isn’t true that for someone to win somebody else has to lose everything.

There has to be a way that our existence matters, has value, and treating any one of us like vermin or worse like collateral damage of no value at all devalues us all. We are human beings, and we have hands and hearts and consciences and spirit and understanding. We are better than our worst aspects. We have to be. We need to live up to our own potential.

Telling stories is one way to bring issues like that to the forefront where they can be picked up and turned over and thought about… maybe that’s what it takes for somebody to gain an understanding of the ties that bind us all.

CS:  Are the stories originals, reprints, or both?

AA:  Two reprints (one story, one poem) and the rest are all luminous, amazing, astonishing originals written for this book.

CS:  What was the selection process?

AA:  There was a core of stories which were solicited from participating authors; there was also an open reading period and several stories came from that “slushpile”, some from names already active in the genre and at least one from a writer who had never submitted a story anywhere before.

The theme of the anthology was the migrant/immigrant/refugee experience, and the story criteria were simple enough: “Make me think; make me feel.”

And oh boy, did the stories in this book deliver on those terms. As an editor, this is a collection of which I am very proud. As a reader…this is one of the most luminous collection of stories I have ever seen in one place. This anthology began as a project with an idea – a charity anthology with proceeds of sales to go to organizations helping migrants and refugees on the ground. During the process of its incarnation, it grew into a living thing with breath and heartbeat.  And every story and poem in this book is one essential component of this transformation.

CS:  Are you at liberty to identify the NGOs that will benefit from this project?

AA:  The organizations chosen as recipients of the proceeds from the sale of this book were chosen by the anthology’s participants from a curated shortlist, That list included some really big fish in this area — organizations such as Unicef, and Doctors WIthout Borders – but those are entities which already, by default, because everyone has heard of them and that’s where they go if they want to make a donation, have a large and remunerative following.

We eventually decided to go with one major recipient, a smaller and more focused organization, the International Medical Corps, and (because one of our authors already has an established connection there) a recipient in the Center for New Americans in Massachusetts.

CS:  What’s on the horizon for Alma Alexander?

AA:  I’m currently working on a new historical fantasy novel, and also tinkering with a new (single author) short story collection, which is at the stage of lacking a couple of key stories that still need to be written — but I am hopeful of getting those ducks in a row soon so at the very least that is likely to see the light of day in 2018.  In the meantime, there are several books which will be seeing reissues in the coming year or two, some newly “remastered” as it were. And I’m mulling the idea for another anthology, soon…


Dean Wesley Smith Interviewed About Pulphouse Relaunch

By Carl Slaughter: Dean Wesley Smith is back. Well, Dean has always been here, cranking out stories faster than we can read them. But after 20 years, he is bringing back Pulphouse.

CARL SLAUGHTER:  What was the original vision for “Pulphouse“?

DEAN WESLEY SMITH:  Pulphouse started off in 1987 as Pulphouse: The Hardback Magazine, edited by Kris [Kristine Kathryn Rusch]. We did the full run of twelve issues and then I started Pulphouse: The Fiction Magazine. The vision for both was to publish short stories and fiction that would be high quality, multi-genre, and different. We were often called “A Dangerous Magazine” but in the Fiction Magazine incarnation I went to more twisted and fun.

CS:  How long did it run and what level of readership did it have?

DWS:  It ran for 19 issues plus an issue zero, so twenty total. I think it lasted about four years and got three Hugo nominations along the way. It was always just under the 10,000 circulation number needed to be a full pro magazine in those days by Locus standards.  Pulphouse, the business, ended up doing 287 different titles in nine years of life.

CS:  How did it evolve and what impact did it have?

DWS:  It started as an idea to do a weekly fiction magazine. That quickly in 1992 became clear that wasn’t possible for a ton of reasons. It would be possible now, in this new world, but we are not going there.

It always had schedule problems and for two issues Jonathan Bond, a young turk writer edited it to try to get a younger look on the thing. And Damon Knight was a special guest editor on one issue.

For the next twenty years I had people tell me how much they loved Pulphouse, so I guess it had an impact. I was too close to it so couldn’t judge.

CS:  Why did it shut down?

DWS:  Two major reasons. Money was the first. Pulphouse Publishing Inc. was behind in money right from the start and even though the Fiction Magazine was profitable, it was too hard to keep things going on my own there at the end.

The second reason was that in 1992 I went back to writing full-time and the writing just took more and more of my attention, so we shut down the company in 1996 and paid back all the debts with writing. I went on to write over a hundred novels for traditional publishers before turning completely to indie through WMG Publishing.

One thing we are doing with the new incarnation is that if you had a subscription to Pulphouse: A Fiction Magazine when we shut down all those years ago, just let us know and we will credit you with a subscription to the new magazine.

CS:  Why bring it back after 2 decades?

DWS:  Honestly, because it was fun and it had attitude. And as a co-executive editor on Fiction River, I kept seeing stories I would say, “This would be perfect for Pulphouse.” So now that WMG Publishing is stable and Fiction River has been going now for over five years, we decided to bring Pulphouse back, let me go at it again and have fun with attitude.

Plus with the technology of this new world, it is simple compared to the old technology we were dealing with in 1992.

CS:  What’s the new vision?

DWS:  Fun and top fiction. No reader from story to story will know what will be next.  And I hope a few head-shakers, readers not believing they read that. In Issue Zero we are republishing a Robert T. Jeschonick story about sentient underwear on a quest. Stunning story that was originally in Fiction River. (Issue Zero will be all reprints. We are giving the issue free to everyone who supports Pulphouse on our Kickstarter.)

CS:  What will it contribute to speculative literature that’s not already on the market?

DSW:  I hope it allows readers to find writers they haven’t found yet. Speculative fiction these days has become very, very small and contained and so many top writers and stories are going unnoticed in the indie world by the speculative fiction world. So I hope to introduce some of those writers inside the field.

The magazine will be very focused on helping promote the writers in its pages, including free ads for their books and lots of links as well as features on the website. Extremely author friendly if I buy your story.

CS:  What’s the business model?

DWS:  Four issues a year in electronic and paper edition, with an active web site with fiction on the web site. Over 70,000 words of fiction. No reviews, no real articles. Just a focus on fiction and fun. The magazine is owned by WMG Publishing Inc. and Allyson Longueira is the publisher. Jonathan Frase is the managing editor and website person.

CS:  What’s the editorial strategy?  What genres and subgenres will be included and not included?  What percentage of new versus reprint?  Open submissions? 

DWS:  Every genre and sub genre welcome if it has the “Pulphouse” feel, meaning twisted in one way or another. Or very, very high quality. So totally inclusive of all genres. Over twenty stories every issue. It is going to be great fun.  It will have about one-third brand new fiction, two-thirds reprints. Understand that a lot of the reprints will be from the old magazines since many people weren’t even born when those great stories were published. Also a lot of great stories from authors collections that were only published indie first. That sort of reprint. It will be rare when a reader recognizes a story. Very rare I would bet.

New authors every issue. No open submissions at this point. I am finding more than enough new and experienced authors in the indie world and through other methods. But if we do open, it will be announced on the website. But we want to get this off the ground first.

CS:  What authors can we expect to see?

DWS:  I’ll attach a few of the covers to show you some of the names. But experienced names like Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Mike Resnick, Steve Perry, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Jerry Oltion, and so on, to really wonderful writers like Ray Vukcevich, Robert T. Jeshonick, Annie Reed, and many, many others.

Star Trek Reunions and Anniversaries

Compiled by Carl Slaughter: (1) Marina Sirtis and Jonathan Frakes discuss reunion of the Rikers

(2) Marina Sirtis on Counselor Troi

(3) Marina Sirtis talks about the first Next Generation movie

(4) Next Generation 30th anniversary cast panel

(5) Voyager 20th anniversary cast panel

(6) Vulcan ambassador Sarek links Star Trek Discovery to the original series