Tag Archives: Star Trek

5 Reasons Why You Should Read Science Fiction and Fantasy

This past weekend I tried to remember the first science fiction or fantasy book I ever read. After a lot of deliberation, I believe that traditional fairy tales were what originally drew me into this genre.

Some of my earliest memories about books in general involve borrowing fairy tale collections from my local library. After I’d read all of the sanitized versions of them, I moved on the dark and often gory originals.

My second clear memory of the sci-fi genre was watching reruns of Star Trek: The Next Generation. There were two episodes of that show that I wanted to watch over and over again because of how much they blew my mind: Genesis and Sub Rosa. Before seeing them, I never would have imagined that people could evolve backwards or that an entity could need a candle to survive.

I don’t know how many of my readers are already fans of science fiction or fantasy, but there are several reasons why you should give them a chance if you’re not currently reading them.

They Ask Questions Without Always Answering Them

One of the things I found soothing about fairy tales when I first began reading them is how predictable they were. It was common to have three tasks to perform, a talking animal to guide you on your journey, an old woman who would help or hinder you depending on how kindly you treated her, and a happy ending for everyone who had a pure heart.

It came as a surprise to me, then, to move into older, darker fairy tales where these things weren’t necessarily true. Sometimes the protagonist ended up with the prince, but in other stories she before they could be reunited. As I gradually switched to reading and watching more science fiction and contemporary fantasy*, this unpredictable nature of the plot only grew stronger.

I love the fact that these genres don’t always tie everything up into a neat, little bow. Sometimes the good guys win. At other times, they might lose or the line between good and evil could be drawn in more than one place depending on how one looks at the facts. The open-ended nature of what it means to be a good guy and why bad things happen to good people appeals to me quite a bit.

*See also: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and many other of Joss Whedon’s TV shows.

They Teach You Important Life Lessons

Not everyone is who they appear to be.

Always overestimate how much time you need to do something. It’s better to impress others by finishing it early than it is to disappoint them.

If you’re able to help someone in need, do it. You never know when your fortunes might reverse and you might be the one who needs help next.

Equality is for everyone.

Don’t wear the colour red if you’re out on a mission.

Dragons and old, tired arguments with the people you love must never be roused from their slumber for no good reason.

These are only a few of the life lessons I’ve learned from fantasy and science fiction. I could have easily filled this entire blog post with nothing but a list of the things I’ve learned from sci-fi. It’s not just entertainment. It can also teach you things that will last an entire lifetime.

They Introduce You to New Ideas

The sci-fi genre is the perfect place to explore things you’ve never thought about before and imagine how our world could be different than it currently is.

Xena: Warrior Princess and Buffy the Vampire Slayer not only introduced me to the idea that a woman could save the day, they didn’t make the genders of their heroines a big deal.

Xena and Buffy were both too busy fighting monsters to worry about whether or not other people approved of them being heroic. That was something I rarely got to see as a little girl, so I relished those glimpses of worlds where your gender didn’t affect what role you’d play in an adventure.

They Imagine the Best and the Worst Case Scenarios

At various points in my life I’ve drifted back and forth between preferring utopian and dystopian sci-fi stories. There have been times when I’ve craved the hope that can be found in imagining a world where prejudice and many other forms of inequality no longer existed.

Watching Captain Picard and his crew explore the galaxy was magical. Here was a world where your gender, race, and species didn’t have any affect at all on what jobs you were allowed to do from what I could see. Was it perfect? No, but it was whole lot better than our current world.

On the flip side, sometimes it’s interesting to explore a future version of our world where everything has fallen apart. One of the things I enjoyed the most about the first six seasons of The Walking Dead was seeing how Rick reacted when every attempt he made to keep his children and community safe eventually fell apart in the most dramatic ways possible. At what point should someone try something completely new? Is it okay to stop admitting newcomers to your safe area once they’ve betrayed you a few times?

They Prepare You For Uncertainty

Will the future be paradise or a post-apocalyptic hellhole?

Nobody knows, so we must prepare for both possibilities. I love the fact that sci-fi is so focused on showing where we’re headed as a species and how small changes in our society today could have a massive affect on whether future generations will bless or curse our names.

A few years ago I underwent some testing for a possible medical problem. (Spoiler alert – it ended up being nothing to worry about at all).

While I was waiting to hear whether or not the abnormality my regular doctor had discovered was actually something to be concerned about, science fiction and fantasy showed me how to exist in that narrow space between health and sickness.

I hope I won’t have to walk down that dark passageway again for decades to come, but I know that my stories will be there to comfort and distract me if I do.

Does Starfleet Have Pride Parades?

Today’s post will be shorter than usual because I don’t believe in stretching my ideas out to fit a predetermined word count. If I can say it in 700 words, I’m not going to give you a few thousand of them just to fit the pattern of many of my previous posts here. (I’m planning to talk more about why it’s so important to avoid padding out blog posts next week, so stay tuned!)

A few days ago, I started wondering how Pride Month would be handled in the Star Trek Universe. Those of you who follow me on Twitter might remember my tweets about it.

The topic remained so interesting to me I decided to write about it some more today. There were¬†some episodes of older Star Trek shows that briefly touched on LGBT issues, but the UF Starfleet calendar¬†surprisingly doesn’t show anything LGBT-related for any month out of the year.

Star Trek’s Take on¬†LGBT Issues

When I watch those old episodes today, some of their conflicts feel horribly outdated and out-of-sync with Starfleet’s culture in general because of how much attention was paid to worrying about something that shouldn’t be a problem at all in that universe.

Yes, I know that these episodes were written in the 1980s and 1990s when LGBT people experienced more overt discrimination than we do today. My point about them sticking out like a sore thumb still stands, though. They didn’t fit in with the inclusive tone of the show when it came to gender or race.

Starfleet isn’t an easy place to thrive. Their standards are strict and set quite high, but those expectations have absolutely nothing to do with the species, age, gender, sexual orientation, or race of anyone who works for them. The very idea of judging someone based on that stuff goes against everything Starfleet stands for.

So I have a tendency to fanwank certain scenes as completely out of the norm for the characters in this universe. Believing that gender identity and sexual orientation are still considered to be controversial in a society where all of the other forms of prejudice aren’t entertained doesn’t make sense.

It would be like writing a story set in 2017 about someone who is deeply prejudiced against Irish people and who meets very little opposition to their bigotry no matter where they go in our world or who they meet. While such a person may very well exist and privately have those thoughts, the kinds of things that might have been okay to say against the Irish in the 1800s would be more than enough to have permanent, negative consequences for the person who voiced them today.

Let Alien Worlds and Cultures Be True to Themselves

Obviously, the experiences that any writer has in our world is going to influence how she or he writes about the imaginary places they create, but there is such a thing as allowing one’s own prejudices and assumptions to have too much of an impact on how those fictional places are described.

This is much easier to do than to say, of course, but that doesn’t make it any less important.

One of the things I love the most about the science fiction genre as whole is how unafraid it is to push back against cultural norms and ask questions about why certain things happen.

This is a genre that isn’t afraid to ask questions or imagine worlds much more just than our own. With this in mind, I don’t think any of the Starfleet vessels would have any problem at all with Pride parades, parties, or other events. If LGBT officers or residents wanted to celebrate, they’d be totally welcomed to.

Maybe the world has changed ¬†enough that we’ll see regular LGBT representation on Star Trek: Discovery this autumn. My fingers are crossed that it will be.

What Shows Are You Looking Forward To?

We are quickly sliding into the winter season here in Toronto, and that means a lot of time spent watching TV for my family.

My excitement levels are quickly rising for them, so today I wanted to talk about some of my favourite shows.

Glitch

I gushed over this show on my old site last month:

Glitch is an Australian sci-fi show about a small-town cop named James Hayes who is trying to figure out why six people have risen from the dead in the local cemetery. None of the dead remembers their previous identities, and all of them have come back in perfect health.

The link to my blog post is spoiler-free for anyone who hasn’t tried this show yet, but the link to the Wikipedia article about it discusses all of the episodes in a lot of detail.

My desire to know what is going on with these characters has only grown stronger in the last month or so since I finished the season one finale.

I can’t count how many times I’ve asked my spouse for theories about what is happening with this community. He had a fascinating theory about part of the mystery, but I think I’ll wait to share it until season 2 is released. I have a funny feeling that he is right.

He’s amazing¬†at figuring out where show writers are going with certain clues, so I don’t want to spoil anyone’s enjoyment of the first season.

fuller-houseFuller House

Raise your hand if you were fan of Full House in the 1990s!

What I liked the most about the first season of Fuller House was that it embraced its cheesy origins. There were definitely a few scenes in season one whose syrupy sweetness made me cringe a little, but sometimes fluff is a good thing.

It’s¬†nice to watch something lighthearted that doesn’t require you to¬†think about the difficult things in life. A lot of the other programs I watch are serious and dark, so I appreciate the break I get from this one.

I will say that the creators did excellent¬†job at bringing these characters to the twenty-first century, though, and I’m looking forward to seeing what everyone gets up to in season two.

star_trek_discovery_logo-svgStar Trek: Discovery

Anyone who follows me here or elsewhere online has no doubt figured out by now how much I like the Star Trek universe.

It’s been a long time since we had a new Star Trek series, so I’m excited to see what will stay the same as well as how it’s been adapted to fit a 2017 audience.¬†There were certain things that were done in the original series that weren’t repeated later on because of how society changed between the 1960s and later eras.

For example, none of the other captains were quite as, er, popular with the ladies they met on various planets as Kirk was back in the 1960s. I’ve joked about how many kids he probably fathered during his career with Starfleet, although I’ll leave it up to the hardcore Trekkies to come up with¬†actual figures there. Ha!

On a more serious note, every captain has seemed to have a quiet and mysterious streak to their personality. That’s something I really hope will be continued in Discovery as it makes getting to know the person¬†in charge a little more challenging than it would otherwise be.

I was disappointed to learn that Discovery has been pushed back to a May 2017 release date, but I have been keeping an eye on this fan site for new developments. Hopefully we’ll know something more about it soon.

Fair warning: the guy who runs it shares all of the new information he uncovers even if it wanders into mild spoiler territory. I don’t mind reading them in this case, but I know that some of my followers don’t feel the same way.

call_the_midwife_titlecardCall the Midwife

I originally started watching this British drama because I’d read all of the¬†memoirs¬†it was based on and couldn’t wait to see how certain stories would be translated to the small screen.

Jennifer Worth, the main character of the first few seasons as we’ll as the author of the books, saw a lot of terribly sad things during the years she worked in the East End of London. It was a time in modern history when birth control was basically non-existent, healthcare¬†was only just beginning to become available to everyone, and many different kinds of people were forced to hide huge secrets¬†in order to survive.

Later seasons start telling fictional stories instead of true ones, but that hasn’t dampened my enthusiasm for this series at all. The nuns and midwives have such interesting lives that I’d watch them even if people stop having so many babies in the East End.

I’ll be talking about all of these shows on Twitter¬†in 2016 and 2017.¬†I hope to hear from you over there if you’re a fan of any of them!

A Day in the Life of a Non-Enterprise Star Trek Captain

monday-blogs-1The other day my husband wondered out loud what it would be like to run any ship in the Federation other than the Enterprise.

Let’s think this through.

Your ship would quietly begin to catalogue two galaxies that had started to run into each other while Captain Kirk discovered yet another earth-like planet that shared the same wildlife, history, topography, language, and culture as our planet.

When Captain Archer’s crew suddenly became extremely ill¬†from a mysterious disease that humans have no immunity to, you’d be trying to figure out how to spread out what was often fairly limited shore leave among your crew members in the most equitable way possible.

The most exciting part of your day would be figuring out what kind of protein¬†the cook was serving that day. While the food was always excellent, sometimes you couldn’t tell if you were eating chicken, tofu, or something else entirely.

Their stories would make you shake your head when you met crew members from this ship at Starfleet Academy reunions or other celebrations.¬†Sometimes you wondered if they were exaggerating when they talked about the things they’d seen out there. The known universe is a mostly empty place. You’ve known captains who spent years¬†between one anomaly and the next one.

None of the other ships in the entire fleet run into gods, time loops, or the Borg even 5% as much as the Enterprise crew somehow manages to. The whole thing is incredibly bizarre. What is it about that specific ship that draws such strange circumstances to them?

With that being said, people who transferred from the Enterprise to other places¬†sometimes talk about missing the monday-blogs-3adrenaline rush of a crisis.¬†Mapping new parts of space is important, but it’s quite rare to run into any hostile, or even sentient, species. Mostly you’d find the occasion¬†planet that had¬†developed simple forms of life. The exobiologists always found them exciting, but they generally looked quite similar to¬†Earth amoebas or slugs to¬†anyone else who happened to take a look at the petri dish or aquarium.

Of course, no other ship¬†had such high death rates, either. It was both a blessing and a curse to be assigned to that crew. A lot of people wrote out their wills and settled their affairs beforehand in case they were part of the unlucky percentage who didn’t survive their stay. Their excitement at being assigned to such a prestigious ship was always dulled by the threat that this transfer could also be the thing that lead to their death.
Yes, between 80 and 95% of the people who served on the original Enterprise survived over the longterm depending which role they held there. In a time when people almost always lived to a ripe, old age, though, these statistics were alarming. You would probably get through a few years on the Enterprise without any permanent injuries before being transferred elsewhere in the fleet, but the chances of losing at least one of the friends you made while working there ranged from possible to fairly high.

Is it possible to feel jealously and relief at the same time?

You ask yourself these questions every time a new position becomes available on the Enterprise and your transfer request for it is turned down.