Friday, March 26, 2021

OH, CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN!

We all know that Captain James T. Kirk died (rather ignominiously, IMHO, but that’s another post) in STAR TREK: GENERATIONS, the seventh in the original film series of the TREK franchise. But William Shatner, the actor who played him in The Original Series and most of those films, just turned 90 years old this week (on March 22). That’s right, count the years, 90.

Even he can’t quite believe it. “It’s a bit embarrassing,” he said in an interview on Fox News. “Who wants to be 90? I don’t want to be 90, but I’m 90!”

Not that his age has slowed him down any. He has a new movie out, SENIOR MOMENT, about a former NASA test pilot who loses his driver’s license after drag racing around town, and, forced onto public transportation, meets a new love. The film is packed with star power—Christopher Lloyd, Jean Smart, Esai Morales—and a certain kind of corny charm, judging by the trailer. It debuts today both in theaters and on demand.

You have to admire a guy who just won’t give up what he loves no matter what the calendar says. Now that James Brown has passed on, Shatner is surely the hardest working man in show business. Or at least the most visible one.

I’ve been a fan of the actor since before I even knew who Shatner was. He attracted my attention when I was a mere youngster (and had the bejeesus scared out of me) in that famous episode of The Twilight Zone in which he battles the gremlin on the plane’s wing that only he can see, “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.” He was in an earlier Zone episode, “Nick of Time,” about a fortune-telling bobblehead in a small-town diner that almost traps a newlywed couple in a web of fear. When I look back at the most memorable episodes of one of my favorite series, that one stands out, too.

But then Shatner donned the uniform of Captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise, and I was hooked. There are times when the casting of actor with character just matches perfectly, and this was so clearly one of those times. We know it, because the first pilot of Star Trek, starring Jeffrey Hunter as Jim Kirk, demonstrates just how badly the character could have been portrayed—as a wooden, by-the-book flyboy straight out of the Hollywood mold.

But Kirk as Shatner plays him is smart, quick-thinking, intuitive, action-oriented but not impulsive. He is compassionate to those in need and loyal to his friends and crew. He seeks the opinions of his senior officers, but makes his own decisions, often synthesizing the disparate notions of the logical Spock and the emotional McCoy into a reasonable solution to the problem at hand.

William Shatner as James T. Kirk: in command.

And Kirk is human. So human. Passionate. Full of doubt. Willing to take risks and break rules. Sometimes wrong. And given the chance to attain a Paradise of peace and serenity without challenges, he passes, every time. As he tells the renegade Vulcan Sybok in STAR TREK V: THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY, “I need my pain!”

Kirk is a complex character that draws on deep reserves of light and dark within himself to command his ship. The classic episode “The Enemy Within,” in which a transporter malfunction splits him into his “dominating” half and his “compassionate” half provides the perfect example. Neither half can command without the other. “Meek” Kirk hates his darker self but must embrace him to become fully integrated again and save the ship.

In fact, I believe the writers of Star Trek: The Next Generation needed three characters to replace Kirk—the cerebral Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart); his action-oriented Number One, Cmdr. William Riker (Jonathan Frakes); and the intuitive Counselor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis). I recently watched the first season of Picard, the Paramount+ series about that captain’s post-Enterprise adventures and found it only mildly entertaining. I love Patrick Stewart as a person and an actor, but Picard just doesn’t do it for me as a captain. He thinks too much.

A few posts back, my fellow blogger K.M. Fawcett challenged us to name our favorite starship captains. As for other Starfleet captains, I enjoyed watching Voyager’s Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew), but had no particular emotional attachment to her or her crew. I couldn’t get into other older iterations of TREK, for various reasons, so their captains are lost to history. Now, Christopher Pike (as played by Anson Mount in Star Trek: Discovery) has some real potential. He has the presence (and the looks—wowza!), and the powers-that-be have hinted that a series may be in store for him and Ethan Peck as Spock in a prequel to the five-year mission of Kirk’s Enterprise. I’d definitely watch that!

I love Mal Reynolds of the Serenity and James Holden of the Rocinante, but their ships and crews are small and independent. You can’t really compare them to Kirk, who acts on behalf of the Federation and whose actions have galactic scope. (Well, Holden’s affect the solar system, but, too often in the wrong direction because the boy doesn’t think!)

Han Solo, too, is an indie operator. He doesn’t command a crew. (Chewie is a partner.) I doubt that anyone would ever follow him, even if he deigned to lead them.

No, Kirk is my captain. He has always been my captain—my first hero in the TREK fanzines I wrote and the model (at least a little) for Sam Murphy, the space pirate captain of the Shadowhawk, hero of Fools Rush In, Interstellar Rescue Series Book 3.

So, happy birthday, Bill, and thanks for giving us this character for the ages.

Cheers, Donna

 

Friday, March 19, 2021

Release Day Eve: Lost Serenity #scifi #adventure

Happy Release Day Eve to Lost Serenity! And boy, I never thought we'd get here. It's been a long, dry, hard haul since the release of the last main book in the series - Keir's Fall back in 2017 - with the last side story - A Merry-traxian Christmas - officially released 2019.


And now the latest story comes out tomorrow, with the main book three due in edits in June and hopefully releasing later this year. So I won't be keeping you hanging for long. Because, oh yes, Lost Serenity ends with a cliff-hanger!

Now, while I didn't struggle with a title on this one, since I had a discarded one to reuse, this story brought up the issue of trigger warnings.

Now, I have certain things that I will not read and that get an author put on my DNR (Do Not Read) list instantly if there's some graphic content I haven't been warned about. And maybe that's not always the author's fault, because we can't think of everything. Plus trigger warnings vary for people, I get that. With Lost Serenity, one of the main themes in the story is something that would not cause me acute distress if I read it in another book - well, not entirely true as it would depend how invested I am in the character and how it affects them - but I am well aware that what upsets one person may be the thing that devastates another.

When I raised the discussion in an author group, there were mixed responses which didn't help me decide one way or the other. I know specific things that upset some of my author friends and have caused them to leave or never become invested in a franchise. Others think trigger warnings are unnecessary and/or overkill, and never/rarely use them. I have three books where I've warned about explicit, violent, and/or gory content because...well, they are actually things that would bother me or, as a mum, concern me if my kids were to read them (that said, two of them have read my zombie stories). But putting one on this particular story might be big spoilers. What to do?!

There was controversy on Twitter (isn't there always?!) back in January where an author not only publicly refused to put trigger warnings on their work but specifically set out an essay in their Author's Note about why they would never, and telling readers not to be a Karen. Well, I decided that's just not me. So Lost Serenity has a trigger warning and spoilers be damned...


How could a moment's anger destroy so much happiness?

It is a question that will haunt him. When an old enemy comes to Kasha-Asor to kidnap their daughter, armed with a weapon that could end everything, Keir is forced to leave an injured Quin on Lyagnius. But his quest for a cure and their missing daughter will come at a terrible cost.

Book #2.5 of the Redemption series. Releases 20th March, 2021 (pre-order available now)

Trigger warning: the loss of a child.

In the meantime, I'd be interested to know why and what trigger warnings you've put on books, or why you don't.

Critter Update
My furred and feathered friends are all doing well, though I think they'd like it to be sunnier, warmer, and dryer, much like myself. Astrid is looking particularly fed up.
Writing Update
I'm still trying to iron out some issues with a paranormal short that will be part of my holiday collection. One day I might finish the Easter one and be able to publish the set. One day... Book three of my Redemption series will go to my editor in June, come what may.






Friday, March 12, 2021

Who Said it had to be Aliens?

Lately, I've been tuning in to a lot of history shows about ancient civilizations and what became of them. What I'm finding as a frequent theme is, "Wow! How did they DO that? It would be almost impossible for us to replicate that achievement even in this day in age!"

And then, often, the answer that seems the logical conclusion for them is: "It must have been aliens that provided the tech."

Wait! Who said it had to be aliens?

Our humans ancestors have been present on this planet for around six million years, and as a species we have been physically and mentally equivalent to modern humankind for probably around 200,000 years. That's a whole lot of time to just be hanging around twiddling our thumbs, considering what we've been able to achieve in just the last few short decades. 

After all, our parents or grandparents went from horse and buggy to space age in just one lifetime.  

According to the general consensus, what we define as "civilization" has only been around for about 6,000 years. Not long at all, in comparison. That period encompasses the construction of Stonehenge and the most ancient pyramids in Egypt. 

But...

It's become obvious that civilization dates back much, much earlier. There have been many discoveries--some quite recent--that have set our previous understanding of ancient civilization on its figurative ear. 

For one, there's Gobekli Tepe in Turkey, featuring elaborate carvings dating to around 11,500 years old (some sources say up to 13,000 years old), and believed to be the world's oldest temple, it covers about 22 acres, though much of it has not yet been excavated. For some unknown reason, the site may have been buried and abandoned at some point in the past. No one is sure why.

Here's a brief video that talks about the discovery and how it has impacted established beliefs about  ancient civilization.


 

But Gobekli Tepe is far from alone in terms of age, and it's age pales in comparison to some of the far older discoveries of human activity. 

Here are eight of the other oldest known archaeological sites:

Tell es-Sultan  Age: over 10,000 years (circa 9000 BCE). This ruin is the oldest part of the Jericho, and is often referred to as the oldest town on Earth. By 7,000 BCE (around 9,000 years ago) it was a large fortified town, and it is believed that around this time the walls and tower of Jericho were built.

Tell Qaramel. Age: over 12,000 years (c.10,900 BCE). A settlement now located in present day Syria. Tell Quaramel was discovered in the 1907s, but escavation didn't begin until 1999. More recent research suggests that Tell Qaramel might be even older than original estimates.

Lascaux Cave Age: about 17,000 years (c.15,000 BCE)  This cave complex in France has one of the most extensive collections of ancient cave paintings found in the world. It has over 6,000 depictions of animals including bison, ibex, horses, stags and aurochs, along with humans. 

Cave of Altamira Age: over 27,000 years old (c. 25,000 BCE) This site in Spain was first escated in 1879, but many scholars of the day rejected the site because the cave paintings were so different from other ancient paintings found in France. In 1902, it was revisited and the work found there taken seriously. Originally open to the public, it was closed in 2002 due to damage caused by artificial lighting and a mold that began to form on the images. In 2014, the site was reopened to the public on a limited basis--but only to five visitors who must wear protective suits and are chosen by lottery. 

Murujuga.  Age: about 30,000 years old (c. 28,000 BCE). Western Australia. Sacred indigenous land containing one of the largest--and oldest--collections of petroglyphs in the world. It contains at least a million individual images, including now extinct animals. The Aboriginal people are believed to have been living in the area for over 50,000 years.

Chauvet Cave. Age: about 36,000 years old (c. 34,000 BCE). France. A cave settlement with cave paintings considered among the best preserved in the world. Evidence shows there may have been two periods of settlement of the caves, with the second being 31,000 to 28,000 years ago.

Cave of El Castillo. Over 40,800 years old (c. 38,000 BCE). Spain. World's oldest known cave paintings to date, causing researches to question if the art was created by modern humans or Neanderthals because of the extreme age.

Theopetra Cave. Over 135,000 years old (c. 133,000 BCE). Greece. Following decades of research and excavations, it was revealed in 2012 that the settlement in Theopetra Cave was the oldest archaeological site in the world. Theopetra Cave holds artifacts that date to the Paleolithic, Mesolithic, and Neolithic periods and includes a 23,000 year old wall that was believed to have been built as protection from cold winds. It is the oldest known man made structure in the world.

Because many of these ancient sites were located inside caves, they were protected through eons of time to be discovered by modern scientists. But what about all the structures and belongings and art work that didn't stand the test of time and the elements? How much has been buried or turned to dust, and how far back does civilization truly extend? How advanced were some of these ancient cultures? 

How much of what once was has been lost to time?

The Legend of Atlantis tells of a civilization that once existed and was thriving around 12,000 years ago by some accounts. It was said to be very advanced and wealthy culture with flying ships and other amazing technology. 

But if it--or a civilization like it--ever existed, why haven't we found any evidence of it?

It's interesting to note that the Younger Dryas Event, an apocalypse that befell the Earth approximately 12,000 years ago (give or take a millennia) occurred at roughly the time this civilization was said to have been swallowed by the sea. 

Though it hasn't yet been determined what exactly triggered the Younger Dryas, most agree it resulted in a huge flood of water entering the oceans from melting ice sheets, so much water that it affected weather, rapidly changed the climate, and triggered a mass extinction event that killed off all the large land animals such as mammoth, camels, horses and saber-toothed cats in North America. Maybe the culprit was an asteroid, or a volcanic eruption, or some other natural catastrophe. We're not sure. Whatever the cause, it was a powerful enough event that it could have destroyed entire civilizations. Think what something like this could wreck on our modern society? 

But if a civilization like Atlantis did once exist, what happened to all that technology? Hmmm. Could it be that the survivors settled throughout the world and passed down some of their knowledge and techniques. Maybe to the pyramid builders of Egypt, Central America and Asia? Or maybe they passed on knowledge to the inhabitants of Easter Island who built huge, multi-ton stone statues--the moai--that their legends claimed were walked into place by levitation. Or maybe some of the survivors weren't confined to Earth. Why did the people of Nazca build great images that could only be viewed from above? From the air or from space? 

And some even claim there is evidence of a nuclear war in India--some 8,000 to 12,000 years ago. Nuclear capabilities?

Where did that knowledge come from? 

Well...who said it had to be aliens? Maybe we were once capable of all of this and more, and whether by disaster or other unknown reason, that knowledge was lost.

In case you're wondering if I've suddenly been swept up in some huge conspiracy theory (LOL) the answer would be no. Or not really. But these thoughts and ideas did provide the basis for the backstory of my ongoing SFR WIP--The Draxian Trilogy. 

And now you know what all this has to do with Science Fiction Romance. :)

In the event you have an inquiring (and wandering) mind (like mine), here's a video that explains in more detail about the Younger Dryas event. 



Until next time.



Friday, March 5, 2021

Game of Characters

In my last three blog posts, we discussed Building Character: How to Bring People (and Aliens) to Life Through Words. You can find Part 1 here, Part 2 here and Part 3 here. This month, I thought I’d share a characterization game my daughter and I used to play. 

A few years back my daughter (now 20) came to me with a list of Disney princess movies she used to watch over and over when she was younger, and asked me to list my favorite princesses in order from most favorite to least favorite. What my writer brain heard was, "Which heroines do you like the best and why?" We each put them in our desired order and then shared and discussed our lists. Then we did the same for the Disney heroes, the Disney villains--which was an interesting discussion about what makes a villain enjoyable to watch--and then she surprised me with wanting to list the sidekicks in order. 

Hmm...first we had to decide who the sidekicks were. Disney movies tend to have a bunch of them. For example in The Little Mermaid, Ariel has Flounder, Scuttle (the seagull), and Sebastian the crab. This got us into a fun conversation about sidekick characters and mentor characters. The writer in me was totally geeking out! After explaining what a mentor was, we decided that Flounder was Ariel's friend-sidekick and Sebastian was her mentor-sidekick. In Cinderella, Jacques and Gus are Cinderella's sidekicks while Fairy Godmother is her mentor.

This game was fun for a number of reasons. The writer in me enjoyed talking about what made good heroes, heroines, villains, and sidekicks. The mom in me enjoyed learning more about my daughter and why she liked certain characters over others.

I challenge you to play this game at home with your family or maybe with your writer friends. You don’t have to use Disney princesses. Why not make a list of 8-10 starship captains? For example, in no particular order…

James T. Kirk (Star Trek)
Jean-Luc Picard (Star Trek: The Next Generation)
Kathryn Janeway (Star Trek: Voyager)
Han Solo (Star Wars)
Malcolm Reynolds (Firefly)
Peter Quill aka Star-Lord (Guardians of the Galaxy)
Lone Starr (Spaceballs)
The Doctor (Doctor Who)

The catch is that you cannot simply list the characters in the order you like best. That's too easy. You must discuss the reason WHY you chose one over another. You'll learn more about each other, plus, if you're a writer, it's a fun way to discuss something you love--characterization--without boring your family.

So who was my favorite Disney heroine? Well, it was a toss up between my two favorites: Beauty and the Beast's Belle and Mulan. Belle is adventurous. She sacrifices herself to save her father (very heroic). She stands up to the beast (a pretty kick-butt thing to do). And she loves to read!

Mulan is not a princess. She's better. She's the hero of China! She pretends to be a man to save her elderly father from going to war (again heroic). She trains hard in the martial arts and fights the Huns (very kick-butt). She uses her wits to solve problems (smart heroines are awesome).

But there can only be one winner. I chose Belle over Mulan because, like me, she loves books. :)

Who was last on my list?

Snow White - a woman happy to cook and clean for seven men. Is she crazy? I can't relate.

If you'd like to play this game in the comments section, these are the nine Disney "Princess" movies we used: Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas, Mulan, and Tangled.

Or play using the starship captains named above.

Or feel free to make your own list and tell us about it in the comments. 

 

Stay safe out there,

~K.M. Fawcett

Author and Martial Artist

www.kmfawcett.com

About Spacefreighters Lounge

Hosted by 5 Science Fiction Romance authors with 8 RWA Golden Heart finals and a RITA final between them. We aim to entertain with spirited commentary on the past, present, and future of SFR, hot topics, and our take on Science Fiction and SFR books, television, movies and culture.