Friday, January 27, 2012

Flash Friday: "A Thousand Slinkies"

Dear Editor,

I am writing about the unfortunate opinion article that you ran on Sunday.

Every word was dishonest, down to the very title. The event was not "a show of waste with pollution as the grand finale." As my secretary takes this dictation, I am having craftsmen attach magnets to poles, the better to fish the slinkies out of the river. Furthermore, the slinkies will be recycled in a second marathon down the mountain.

To answer your question, I received each and every slinky as a Christmas gift, and that is why there is no "paper trail" as you so dramatically put it. I was as shocked as you to learn about the robbery at the warehouse three states over. To accuse me of such things is beyond disrespectful.

To show that I am and always will be a gentleman, I invite you and your pithy writers to attend the upcoming event. You at least I expect to see once again at the betting tables. I believe I have a photograph of you having a grand old time at my first prestigious event.

Until then,
Frederick Astor

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

TNG Ep. 63: Yesterday's Enterprise

The Enterprise's universe turns on its head when an older version of the Enterprise hops into the future through a time rift created by a battle with Romulans. On the new Enterprise, the Federation is at war with the Klingons and Tasha Yar is still alive. Guinan can sense that they are in a "wrong" timeline, and her advice prompts Picard to send the old Enterprise back to its battle and its death, putting the universe back in order.

LAME. And I'm not automatically saying that just because Tasha Yar was in it. I can't say that doesn't prejudice me, but I try to like every episode of Star Trek. I've even tried to like episodes of Enterprise. But that's a different story altogether.

So: lame! I think what I didn't like was Guinan. Not the acting, but the vague things she had to say. "Oh, Captain, things just aren't right!" Pahlease. This is like when Troi used to say that she felt "anger" and then that was all she could tell us. Maybe it would be cool if she could remember exactly what the real time line was like, instead of getting these impressions. Meh. Maybe what I didn't like more is that we still don't know much about Guinan, and in many ways this episode was about her, yet we learn almost nothing about her. Boo.

What I did like was that this episode gives Yar a more meaningful death. It's like the writers are trying to make up for how crappy the writing of her death was in season one. This also has the unfortunate side affect of reminding you of season one.

The best thing about this episode? Christopher McDonald is in it! I spent the entire time wondering where I had seen "Richard Castillo" before, and the answer is every where.

PS. Apparently I have no taste. According to Wikipedia, this episode was one of the higher ranking episodes when it aired and lots of reviewers like it and blah blah blah.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Brainstorming is not Writing

Since I talked a lot in a recent post about all my accomplishments for the year, it's only fair that I mention a failure. Just before NaNoWriMo, I posted about a story that I was writing "by the seat of my pants" even though I'm typically more of an outline person. While it did help me get back into the joy of writing, that story sputtered out almost as soon as the post went live. So, for NaNoWriMo, I tried an approach more in line with my natural tendencies, to great success. First of all, I used "write or die" to hammer out in half an hour what would normally take me all day between taking care of the wee ones. I find marathoning the most useful for longer stories, to minimize distractions. For flash fiction I'd rather take my time with each draft, minimizing editing.

Secondly, I outlined using the notecarding method. If I ever want to pick up that other story, that's what I'll have to do. Let's keep the bulk of the brainstorming in the brainstorming phase, shall we? Otherwise I'll be all "oh, look! A butterfly!" And then write a flash piece about it. But the point is that my WIP will still be sulking in the corner, pointing an accusing finger at me. Or, by this point, billowing away as dust in the breeze. Dust under a million butterfly wings!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

TNG Ep. 62: A Matter of Perspective

It appears as if Riker has murdered scientist Dr. Nel Apgar when the research station blows up just after he has transported away. The Tanugan investigator agrees to hear more of the witness' accounts before taking Riker in for a trial. This allows the crew to do their own investigation in an attempt to clear Riker. Following Tanugan laws, the witness testimony is used to create several holographic versions of events witnesses before the explosion. Riker's testimony and the widow's testimony are vastly different, yet both contain some of the same clues that eventually clear Riker. The research station appears to have blown up because the jealous Dr. Apgar attempted to shoot Riker, but the phaser beam bounced off of the transporter beam and into the fancy machine nearby. Actual dialogue and other facts are left unverified for the audience.

In other words, Riker may or may not have seduced and/or assaulted Ms. Dr. Apgar. It's tempting to be annoyed by the ambiguity, but in the end I find myself won over by the point that the episode was trying to make: witnesses remember the exact same events differently. We all see life through our own filters, and we go even further and edit our memories of the events after the fact. We don't even have to do it on purpose. Riker sees himself as a lady's man, and Dr. Apgar's wife sees herself as a loyal widow. The audience is left to assume that the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Riker was probably a little inappropriate, perhaps in response to a bit of innocent flirting. We've seen him flirt with plenty of other women, though we'd be disinclined to believe that he would kill in the name of jealousy. Unfortunately for Riker, the Tanugan people don't know him from Adam (or... Tanugan...?), so he's got to go through all that objective law stuff.

He'd better thank his lucky stars that Geordi's as smart as he is, and Picard as stubborn. If Picard can hold off Q, he can certainly hold off the Tanugan investigator. And Troi? she wasn't much help, except to let us know that all the witnesses were telling the "truth". In this case, if she had been of help, I would have been quite annoyed. She's an empath - she's not clairvoyant.

In conclusion, today's lesson is that I'm a sucker for correctly employed psychology.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

YA Report: Hearts of Smoke and Steam by Andrew P. Mayer

I'm pleased to point you to a review I wrote for a steampunk superhero book that I thoroughly enjoyed. The review goes something like this:

The Society of Steam makes you wonder why all super hero stories aren’t set in 1880s New York City. The adventure-quality superheroes fit with the big machines of steampunk like two cogs in a clock. The subgenre is a perfect stage for Andrew P. Mayer, who utilizes his experience as a video game designer to bring his readers cinematic visuals they won’t soon forget...

Head on over to the SFFWRTCHT blog to read the rest of the review.

Look for more information on The Society of Steam trilogy and Andrew P. Mayer on his website, There is also an adorable little “newpaper” website for the trilogy at

Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday Flash: "After the Funeral"

He cries at the word bedtime as Mommy unbuttons his black jacket with fumbling hands. Her eyes are a scary red as she forces them into the routine of pajamas, tooth brush, and bedtime story. He waits until she flips the switch and clicks the door shut before he sits up against the darkness. There is still a piece of the routine missing, the hug that would make him feel safe again, if only he could stay awake long enough to hear the front door open.

But, like the night before, sleep steals him away before Daddy can come home.

Oh, my! This one's a drabble.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

TNG Ep. 61: Deja Q

Q appears on the Enterprise bridge as a human, stripped of all his Q powers, as punishment for his past unfair treatment of humans. Picard allows Q to join the crew, but not before throwing him in the brig. Q then helps the Enterprise save Bre'el IV from its falling moon, although Geordi does most of the real work. Aliens called the Calamarain then attack Q, endangering the Enterprise. Data intervenes to save Q, risking his own life, so Q decides to go off on his own rather than risk getting Data and the rest of the crew killed. Witnessing this act of selflessness, the Q continuum restores Q's powers. Q returns to the Enterprise briefly to thank Data for being nice to him while he was human - his gift is that Data briefly experiences laughter.

Have you noticed that a lot of planets are named with the numeral IV? Where are the first III Bre'el's, eh? I suppose we'll never know because they're somehow even less important to the episode than Bre'el IV and its looming moon of doom. Once Q shows up, we're pretty sure that somehow he - no wait, Geordi? - will straighten that whole mess out.

Silly names aside, this episode is designed to make us start taking Q more seriously. Paradoxically, it accomplishes this by having Q take humans more seriously. His empathy is faint, but it's a start, and it in turn makes him more sympathetic to us. No longer is he the PIA godling running around zapping people for the fun of it, with no internal consequences. Now, if he zaps, he might actually experience this little thing called guilt. He might have internal motivations that the Enterprise crew can understand and manipulate, which could sure come in handy when he's threatening to zap crew members to death for the fun of it. And, in the future, those crew members on his zap list probably won't be Data, because Q now has some modicum of respect for the android. Data is, after all, a better human that Q.

It was also a nice touch to see more of Guinan. We still know so little about her, but we were already introduced to the fact that she and Q despise each other, so it would have been negligent for her not to antagonize Q during his stint as a human. The fact that she does so with a fork just notched her up on the list of characters I care about. I'm sure she could do a lot more to him with her unknown superhuman powers, but instead she's just mean, like Q has been to the Enterprise crew. TAKE THAT, you... spork lover... you!

PS. The actor for the Q^2 is named Corbin, which is just cool. It sounds like my child's name without having anything to do with his name, etymologically speaking.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Friday Flash: "Lilith"

She looked up out of thin gray walls that curled up over her bare skin. Later she would think of it as a sarcophagus, but for now it was simply the first thing she'd ever seen, along with his hungry face.

"Lilith," the man above her demanded in a booming voice that echoed inside the coffin. She took his proffered hand, having nothing else to do. His tone was soft when he added, "You will be a fine wife." All she could think about was that he had cloth to cover himself, yet she did not. It was cold.

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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

TNG Ep. 60: The High Ground

Dr. Crusher is abducted by terrorists while delivering medical supplies on Rutia IV. The "separatists rebels" are using an unknown form of teleportation that the Rutian government cannot track, and therefore they cannot rescue Dr. Crusher. Meanwhile, Dr. Crusher develops some sympathies for her captors - who then attempt to blow up the Enterprise with her son on it. They cannot blow up the Enterprise, but manage to abduct Picard instead. This abduction, however, allows the Enterprise crew to locate the rebel base and overwhelm the rebels with superior fire power.

This episode gets major Soap Opera Points, and I say that with glee. Remember how excited I was when Dr. Crusher came back on the show? This is one of the major reasons why, because I was hoping to see more of this. I like the conflict of the best friend falling in love with the widow, and Picard and Beverly are both so professional that it adds another layer of conflict and a bit of realism to explain why they haven't gotten together already. Imagine poor Dr. Crusher trying to explain that one to Wesley. "Wesley, Picard and I are getting married." Woah! Woah. Ok, so, we didn't even get to hear "I love you"... but the implication is there!

Dr. Crusher and the Captain aren't the only thing emotionally charged in this episode. The plot goes beyond moral ambiguity and hits close to home by referencing then-current politics, saying that, according to Star Trek's history books, the UK will be united by 2024. Yeesh, but it gets complicated trying to work out the verb tenses in a sentence like that. The UK will have been united? Ha. Anyway, Data's little mention of this "fact" was so controversial that the episode was censored in the UK [see here]. It was probably not so much the "united" part that bothered them, but more the idea that the unification would occur due to a successful terrorist attack. Are terrorists always the bad guys? Probably not in the clear-cut way we tend to think of them. Us-versus-them thinking helps us preserve that "us" that "they" are against, because otherwise we develop things like Stockholm Syndrome, which you can see how much good that did Dr. Crusher, seeing as her kid almost died any way. But you know how the saying goes, that in the end it's the winners who write the history books. There's some truth to that. Just ask the Confederate South what the US Civil War was all about, and then ask a middle school student.