The establishment is not something you might link with personal writing. Unfortunately it is there. Writing and the reading that goes with it is a unique taste for everybody. Like fine wine, you eventually end up with a clique that expects and demands an established thought on how things should be. But does it actually taste good?
My First Taste of the Establishment and Writing
There is a period in my life that I harken back to as a good learning experience with a semi-public form of writing. My writing was on show to an audience of writers. In that sense it was peer-reviewed work. Such a set up differs to simply writing a story and being self-satisfied with the result. This story has to appeal to those who are fellow contributors. It feels in many ways exactly like blogging. In the main for BlogPrefect.com I write many articles that fellow bloggers are going to see and they will have their own thoughts on whether these work or not.
If you look in my about page, you’ll find that I mention that I was active in a Play-By-Email (PBEM) simulation. The memories of my adventure there bring some happy and sad memory in equal balance.
So I’m a nerd. It was easy to detect. The PBEM I joined was a Star Trek based affair. The majority of writers were American but there were a few of us from Europe. I remember there being an Italian, three Belgians, two Swedes, another fellow Brit and some other nationalities that I can’t remember.
Writing started out well aboard the USS Endeavour. I got into it quickly. Stories would be fed out from the listserver and sometimes we would personally be contacted to join in on certain collaborative arcs of the plot.
Nothing remains good forever. I ran into problems eventually.
Looking from both perspectives
There was only one perspective at the time where I started becoming what a “trouble maker” for the administrators.
- Contributed a lot
- Got left in the shade and wasn’t included with the thread
- Felt unrewarded
- Despite being in a group of writers, I felt alone
In the two separate times that I had joined the USS Endeavour crew this primary perspective gnawed at me. I found my second time a lot more enjoyable but ultimately I had a blowout on both occasions. This blowout you could say was a ‘creative difference’.
Now of the hindsight perspective, the one that the other player-writers might have seen
On the first ride with the Endeavour I ran afoul of the hierarchy. The root cause was my impetuous nature. I wanted no restriction in writing. My actions over-capitalised the time and attention and didn’t run with the main agenda of the missions. I remember a particularly sharp letter I received from the senior fellow Brit who had been delegated to give me a firm but fair talking to. There was a lack of adult response, I took it badly and was chewed out further.
In my second run with the Endeavour I made life difficult for the department head because my character was so heavily pointed that he rose above the command level. Vernon most probably thought I was jerk and in hindsight, I was a bit. I’d toned down some of my negative behaviour but other aspects took over.
One of my biggest issues was that I wanted to continue the story of my characters and I wanted to do so in volume. On my second round with the Endeavour I was told by the new owner, a guy I liked a lot, that a lot of my “posts” wouldn’t be read. That was the first time my smile really turned to a sad face. In hindsight his honesty meant a lot but the reality was, I was writing for nothing through over-writing. If I had savoured the experience I am sure I would have performed better.
Other small niggles occurred along the way in both the first and second runs. In many cases my better option would have been just to take a rest and start a new character. I didn’t do that. I left in a huff and was surprised that I was allowed to join the second time.
Wrestling with Authority
A lasting imprint of my time with the Endeavour was my disdain with the authority. I made life difficult for them. It was easy to dislike the original leader, Zach Watkins but Brad Wells was a man who was hard not to like. I had been divisive and uncooperative on occasion which led to a deepening rift. On both occasions I’m sure they were glad to see me leave.
I often felt there were the chosen men syndrome. The balance of male to female writers was always low on the Endeavour. This dynamic meant that those chosen men had to earn their spot. There were many great writers but there were many self-indulgent ones. There was an Asian writer from Canada by the name of Syed Mushashid Masood (who now is a lawyer in California) had articles that were difficult to drum up the will to read. Zach Watkins was a big chum of Syed’s so you could always guarantee they would steal the limelight. Mr. Watkins was a very self-indulgent writer, being the Endeavour’s creator it was his baby, in some degrees I can understand that he was the tip of the spear. Being the creator you take extra liberties. Gene Roddenberry would have done the same.
Creating an Extra Layer of Elitism
Zach worsened this situation by creating a sub-sim. He took all of his chosen men off to another simulation that rested as a layer below the Endeavour with an alternate ship. As you can guess, I wasn’t on the list. That bugged me and I didn’t read from the sub-sim in protest.
Without Zach, the clique had mostly evaporated. What I did notice was that many of the assigned department heads were American, considering that half the writers were European, I found this to be unfair.
I don’t enjoy Cliques as a rule. I’m not sure that anyone truly does. If you are in one you might not even realise. It can drive resentment very quickly.
Zach did some other actions that reinforced the clique. There was ‘medalling’ in the system, it was common for the chosen men to normally outperform everyone. On my second run with the Endeavour, it was notably fairer. In hindsight, I should never have chased medals. I should have been enjoying the process anyway. It isn’t about the proverbial ‘fruit salad’ but about the journey. The medals brought out a bad side in me and I think it brought out a bad side in others as well. All I can say is that my approach to them was wrong and I should have just enjoyed writing.
Leaving Under a Cloud
On both occasions I left while it was stormy. It was disappointing but I had to stand by my morals and leave on both occasions. My tenure was about 7 months on the first run and just over a year on the second. The second time of leaving was a lot harder than first. I asked to be written out by one of my friends. The way in which this was carried out was less than I had hoped for. Perhaps this divorce was indicative of what other people thought of me at the time so I shouldn’t have expected more.
Leo Danar Mendokane – Operations Lieutenant (1st Run)
Lt. Mendokane was born deaf from birth and had a special device to allow him to hear akin to Geordie LaForge’s visor. Leo started at the rank of Ensign. He worked on the sensor system. He was later written out when I left ‘in a huff’.
Conrad Lavelle – Operations Lieutenant Commander (2nd Run)
Lt. Cmdr Lavelle worked on the sensor array element, a unique component to the Nebula class starship. He started at the rank of Ensign. For a long period I asked not to promote him but retain him at his Ensign rank.
Carin Vega – Yeoman (2nd Run)
Yeoman Vega, started as a Crewman and worked her way up. Predominantly she worked with the security department. She was the controversial lesbian character I’ll go on to explain in more detail. I enjoyed writing for her despite the mild dislike she courted.
I had a lesbian character on my second run by the name of Carin Vega, she wasn’t my ‘main’ character. I think that a number of readers were uncomfortable with the idea and I found one gent in particular was very unhappy with it. My characters were always unique in some way, a little quirky but clearly this choice drove a wedge. In some ways I was unhappy in that my fellow Europeans showed the most displeasure with the idea and showed a homophobic reaction whilst I had toned down the character to make her conform to a less ‘active/on the hunt’ persona. I can now understand why on television there are selective focus groups. It added a bitter taste and was another contributory factor in my leaving.
Of note: There were only 4 characters that faintly touched on a lesbian theme in the TV shows (Jadzia Dax with an ex-lover from a different body, Kes when a male entity had abducted her, Seven of Nine when the Doctor had assumed control of her body, and Leeta (the Bajoran Dabo girl) — Rom’s wife, who was in a relationship with Ezri Dax in the parallel ‘Mirror’ dimension. Technically there was a 5th mention for Kira Nerys in the ‘Mirror’ dimension but she was Bi, do I count that?) There was no reference in the films.
My observation was that because of the PG rating the show creators only ever lightly touched on the sexuality subject. In contrast there were never any homosexual men hinted at during the various offshoots but feel free to enlighten me if I’m wrong. One of my overall feelings about Star Trek was that it could be gutless at times. There was a disabled character with Julien Bashir on DS9 but they wimped out on making it a “thing”. The Creators often poked a toe in the water but never went the whole hog.
Further to note: I found when I moved on to try to start with another Simulation I tried an alternative Lesbian character and this was met with similar question marks. I didn’t last long there and ended my run with PBEMs. I would never want to make people uncomfortable but I want to write without barriers.
Other Minutiae to Writing in a Star Trek PBEM
We speak of canon. Writing in trek means you have to remain within the established continuity of that prescribed universe. Certain events have to be maintained which adds a degree of challenge. I had the good fortune of owning a compendium by Michael and Denise Okuda which listed all canonical content over a wide span of the shows and films. The USS Endeavour was a Nebula class vessel. Its mass was too big to allow it to land on planets as I was reminded by one of the house anoraks.
So you can see even in something as simple as a writing club/simulation/role-playing game there are a number of factors to take into account. Nobody likes drama.
The old party
In some ways I would like to apologise for my behaviour all those years ago but I expect that all the individuals involved are long past such trivial things. I went on a recent internet search to see where people had ended up.
- Zach Watkins is a University Lecturer of music in California. By chance I found him through a negative review from one of his former students. Karma is sometimes benevolent.
- Syed Mushashid Masood is now a Lawyer in California, as expected, lest he bore others with his reports.
- I couldn’t find Brad Wells, mostly because there are too many people with that name. Facebook wasn’t a thing back then. I wish him well!
- I also found an old trace of Rollins Cody Goetzel but nothing of him recently. Seeing as he was a Jehovah, I was unlikely to find much as they tend to stay away from “sources of evil”. Once again, I wish him well.
Even though I had some unhappiness on the Endeavour, I miss it. To a big degree I loved it but also was crushed by some of the elements. What brought this memory up for me recently was a critique that got under my skin from the kind of person that I could label as ‘establishment’. You always have to look at two perspectives with these situations. There is normally an element in truth about a criticism.
Despite my dislike of Zach Watkins, I can’t deny that he created something brilliant. There are however no vestiges of this vessel or its crew.
Don’t quit because the journey gets rough. Learn to ride with the waves. Simple to say but at times hard to do.
Featured Image – Appears to be a screenshot from Star Trek Generations where the crew are being rescued near the end of the film. Image displays a Nebula Class Starship, USS Endeavour NCC 71805. Star Trek images are copyright of Paramount Pictures.