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Tony, aka Kells

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Posts posted by Tony, aka Kells

  1. Greetings, everyone!



    Want to read the Challenge entries, but don't have time to sit down at your computer? Need a way to take them with you on your tablet or mobile device? Now you have it! Please enjoy this full compilation of the July & August Writing Challenge, available with all the entrants' stories and judges' comments. This is a PDF document with interior hyperlinks to each story for your ease of navigation, so do please read at your leisure.



    Let me know if you enjoyed this easy way to read! Also, if you would prefer to have this as an ePub or .mobi file for your Nook or Kindle, let me know by replying below! The conversation is easy, and I'll do it and post new versions if anyone would like.



    Thanks for reading! Get yours here!


    • Like 1
  2. "Fatal mistake"

    Writer's Character: Jalana

    Comments from Judge 1 (Character Cassandra Egan Manno)

    I'll admit that, upon my first reading, this story was a heartbreaker. Poor Claire, the kidnapped kindergarten teacher, sentenced to death for wearing green! Where this story could have been preachy or ham-fisted, however, it's pleasingly abrupt; I thought the end, which ends without rescue or execution, but with Claire alone and despairing, is incredibly strong and incredibly gutsy. Well done! I also like the scope of the story: There's no galaxy at stake here but, as many stories did this time around (and I love that they did), the major stakes are personal and manifest in monologue or dialogue. Claire, with the unknown lizard alien, jogs between the two, and the result is a pleasing but distressing story about what happens to a Starfleet officer when there is no rescue at the end of the day. Very strong stuff!
    Claire's fear and despair are written very convincingly, and I'll admit that my only sticking point in this story is that they might have been too convincing for the ultimate reveal that Claire's sin was that she wore green. The crime seems too cartoonish because of its buildup, and I'd challenge this writer to think about her strengths (emotional writing, character creation, pacing) and question the decision of the crime's reveal. For example, I could see a story in which the first thing Claire understands is that she's been sentenced to death for wearing green. As a result, she not only despairs but has to grapple with the absurdity of the situation, and I think that recognition (of absurdity) would make this story even stronger. The Federation may be all about IDIC (the Vulcan philosophy of Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations), but some of that starts to look exceptionally absurd when seen close up, especially when it tries to kill you.
    Comments from Judge 2 (Character Ren Rennyn)
    This story, with its twist ending, could be compared to a Twilight Zone-style tale, where the resolution is unexpected and unjust, leaving the reader off-balance at the end. The identity of the main character, not a Starfleet officer, but a teacher, is smart and effective. Claire was brave enough to join a mission to deep space, but didn't sign up for something like this. I instantly felt for her, and the tragedy of her end is enhanced by this.
    Claire is disoriented by darkness, bright lights, and untranslated speech. The alien speech had me just as disoriented, putting me into the story to sense what Claire must feel. It punctuated her thoughts, adding layers of confusion. More could have been made of Claire's growing ability to see and identify details, but it forms a strong line through the story as it stands, up to the moment her fate becomes clear. The identification of colors - the aliens' blue and purple uniforms, their red eyes - cleverly foreshadows the final surprise without giving it away.
    There are a few spelling and grammatical errors, particularly in the use of run-on sentences. These could easily be improved by some light editing. The creativity and strong use of details in this story had me on the edge of my seat throughout.
    *****
    "Fashion Misunderstanding"
    Writer's Character: Idril Mar
    Comments from Judge 1 (Character Ren Rennyn)
    Here's an engaging story that capably combines personal characterization with established Star Trek canon. There are several elements at play here - Klingon history, Kirk and Archer references, and use of a well-established 118 character - that could easily overpower or confuse the story. Instead, the elements are well-balanced and used to good effect. Without knowing a great deal of Mar's established history, I have enough of a sense of her that the story entertains me without interruption. References to canon play their part without stealing focus. Klingon and Trill characteristics are explained in brief where they effect the story, feeding the reader information as needed, leading to the final joke. The story works for me as a Star Trek fan, and would work for a non-fan as well.
    The third-person narration is told mostly from K'tal's perspective, but a couple of times, it shifts to Mar's perspective in a way that can be jarring. Smoothing this out would take the story all the way from sim style to short story style, Either way, it's an entertaining story and well told.
    Comments from Judge 2 (Character Sal Taybrim)
    I admit I am a fan of lighthearted stories. I find they often put less focus on flowery writing and get to the nitty gritty of plot and character development than the dark and brooding stories.
    I found this an enjoyable little story arc. Tightly written and amusing. I found the language was clear and the descriptions clean. It is a good, solid entry to the challenge.
    To make this story better, I would love to see a stronger development of K’tal as a Klingon. I admit I found myself wondering what species he was at first because he didn’t really seem very ‘Klingon Warrior.’ A good strong characterization would not only make this story shine brighter, but could bring out even more comedy. I also think you could explore the relationship K’tal had/has with both Mar hosts. Develop how well he knew Azulay and how he reacts to Idril. These relationships and the development and humor that comes from them could bring their piece from a good story to a great one. Or in other words – character development is the difference between a story that I am glad I read, and one that I want to read all the sequels to.

    *****

    "Dressed to Kill........"

    Writer's Character: Hannibal Parker

    Comments from Judge 1 (Character Cassandra Egan Manno)

    This story takes the Challenge's topic and runs with it! The story chooses for quiet reflection for its short length, and it eschews dialogue entirely, a choice I was excited to see this writer had made! Well done! The colors here are sumptuous, and the repetition of colors and color-related words -- aqua blue and tanned, notably -- immediately create the evocative atmosphere (tropical, vacation, even paradisical) I think the writer had in mind.
    I'll admit that the story's description of Kamela left me a little uncomfortable. She appears to be less of a character and more of an object for the unthinking consumption of the reader; it's notable that the only time in which we get to see her thoughts, outside of physical descriptions of her, are when she's thinking of a pair of men (Parker and Tredeau). I can see shades and flashes of Kamela as a competent professional -- an SFI agent, a very respectable and professional position -- but I would like to see her thoroughly explored as a character, not as an object. I would challenge the writer to put her in a situation in which there are no romantic moments or thoughts of love or seduction involved. How will she respond? What sort of intelligence agent is she? Show us the character beneath the blue and tan and I will happily follow you!
    Comments from Judge 2 (Character Sal Taybrim)
    This entire piece feels like one long gratuitous camera-pan up a half naked woman’s body that is oh so prevalent in today’s action movies. (Except in some Marvel movies where they pan up, say, Thor’s naked chest so the ladies get their cookies, too…) So I am of a mixed mind of this: it takes the theme and runs with it, making the intentions extremely clear. I like clarity, and I like it when a story can clearly communicate what it is and what it is doing in a short space of time. On the other hand I found myself a bit bored with what seemed like a typical titillation trick and wanted to see the actual action and characterization of the story. You know, the good parts where the seduction and subsequent assassination happens, or we find out about what makes Kamela tick.
    My biggest problem with this story is the sixth paragraph. It should the most engaging part of the story, the part where it brings everything else together and binds it into her motivation for this intensive fashion focus. But the language falls apart. This paragraph is very difficult to read. There are too many pauses, run-on sentences and rambling narrative. Right in the area where you need to punch your readers with the raison d'etre. Re-writing this to make this paragraph concise and focused would really help tie to this story together, as well as emphasizing the idea that Lieutenant Allison is doing this for a reason: her mind is focused, clear and every bit up to this part has been meticulously planned for this very good reason.
    Grammar Nazi quibble: Way too many ellipses. Seriously, three is all you need unless you’re going to start writing in ASCII. Also, don’t use ellipses when a comma will do, it breaks the flow of your writing.

    *****

    "Re: Implementation of a New Fleetwide Uniform"

    Writer's Character: Atherton Grix

    Comments from Judge 1 (Character Sal Taybrim)

    This one is interesting because it completely breaks from the normal forms and puts the action into the tone of a first person letter. At base I think this is a very interesting structure. I like the tone, I like the idea of a story communicated in correspondence. The writing is very clean and easy to read.
    The problem? It is much too short. There is no story structure that is uncovered in this piece, and no characterization. We don’t get a feel for Commander Eckleston – while the letter keeps the same professional tone throughout I found myself asking questions like ‘is she obsessive? Is she pedantic? Has she posed these changes before? Do her colleagues like her or dismiss her as a harpy always pressing the same topics over and over again…’ There is so much potential in this story that remains unexplored.
    If you like the correspondence format, consider the following ideas to strength your storytelling within the piece:
    1. Write a much longer letter. Make the personality writing the letter of the sort where she/he will rant, rave/lecture/somehow recap the story to this point. How many times have new uniforms been proposed? What prompted the proposals? What is Commander Eckleston lost a child to a problem with the current duty uniform and was seeking to correct this or she is obsessive about bio-polymer fabric because she developed the technology….
    2. Write a correspondence with several letters that develop the plot. How the letter is taken by the person receiving it matters a lot to a developing plot.
    Always focus on what the story is – this becomes your plot. Make sure your story, no matter what form it takes – tells a story. If it just sets a story up, your audience will keep scrolling down, looking for the next installments and get disappointed when they don’t show up!
    Comments from Judge 2 (Character Toni Turner)
    Mr. Grix's offering was refreshing due to the unusual format. I think we all tend to forget that letters can tell a story as well as manuscripts. But in this letter, I think that mark was missed. While it did make me want to see the new uniform and promised that the attachment would show it, I was disappointed that, alas, the attachment didn't materialize.
    Although the reason the "Think Tank" had come up with the idea was clear, I found myself wanting to read more about the hazards of the current uniform, or better, Commander Eckelson's personal tribulations with it (e.g. Did it ride up in embarrassing places? Did women have to tape the necklines to prevent fall out? Was static cling a problem? Were the skirts too short/too tight or pants too floppy?).
    The point is, it was a well written letter, but it missed the chance to be a great story, when there was so many stories to be told. Having said that, I loved the format, and Grix's writing style, and would like to see more of it. Keep up the good work!
    *****
    "Dress Greens"
    Writer's Character: Irina Pavlova
    Comments from Judge 1 (Character Cassandra Egan Manno)
    Wow! I've read and reviewed several stories involving Irina and her struggles to assimilate into times and places unfamiliar to her, and I think this may be the finest entry I've read. The titular focus that allows Irina to access her thoughts and feelings, her dress greens, are a clever gateway for the storytelling, and there's an emotional depth here that I appreciated and seems entirely warranted by Irina's situation. The recitation of Irina's vitali statistics -- her height, her weight, even the height of her shoes' heels -- compare favorably with other post-war writing I enjoy, most notably with Tim O'Brien, specifically his often-taught short story "The Things They Carried."
    In future stories of Irina -- and I hope there are many more to come! -- I would strongly urge the writer to continue uncovering her emotional underpinnings. I found the sections when Irina was most cerebral, dealing in her own mind without lots of external action, to be the most effective way to explore those underpinnings, and I thought that, again, her inspection of her uniform and her awards, as well as her reactions during Waltas's speech, to be very fine. However, I was a little disappointed when she actually ran from the hall. In my mind, it would have been more effective to watch Irina think about running away, but not actually doing it -- because she is, after all, an experienced professional, and she would know that such an action would accomplish nothing -- but I want to see, in the story, the fruition of that realization.
    I was a little distracted by some common mistakes (comma splices or omissions, confusion with its/it's, your/you're, etc), so I would recommend running future stories through spelling and grammar checks to ensure that the presentation is the best it can be!

    Comments from Judge 2 (Character Toni Turner)

    Irina Pavlova hit new heights in characterization and descriptions in this story of a woman surviving 219 years and finding herself dumped into a virtually new world. The only thing that had stayed the same was that she was a Marine. But a Marine whose fear of the alien world made her reluctant to step into the future.
    The descriptions of the only uniforms she had were so vivid, I could visualize them. I imagined the physical changes of her body made her uncomfortable. But despite all the struggles, in the end, she faced the future for her child
    Kudos on a nice piece of work, Irina. Well done!
    *****
    A final, general note from the writer behind Judge Sal Taybrim:
    Consider reading your piece out loud, either to yourself or to another listener. This will highlight where your language stumbles and when things do not flow properly. I found that several stories were trying to paint an intriguing picture of what was going on, but I was continually tripped up on fractured structure. It was much like looking at an abstract piece of artwork, trying to gather enough clues to piece the whole scene together.
  3. Thank you to all our entrants in the "Fashion" Writing Challenge! Before I reveal the winner and runner-up of this Challenge, I want to note that the judges had an extremely difficult time declaring a winner this time, and at times it looked as though there would be a three-way tie. As it was, there were single-point differences between our top three contenders, so I want to offer those two who made it to the top with some hearty congratulations!

    Our winner for this round is the writer behind Jalana with her story "Fatal mistake"! Our runner up is by the writer behind Irina Pavlova with the story "Dress Greens"! Congratulations!

    I'd like to recognize my fellow judges for this round: the writers behinds Fleet Captain Toni Turner, Lieutenant Sal Taybrim, and special guest judge Lieutenant Ren Rennyn. My special thanks to the judges for writing extra reviews for this round to ensure that every story received two!

  4. Welcome to the last Writing Challenge of the summer of 2014! Appropriately, this Challenge is going to be hot!

    FASHION

    The winner of our May & June Challenge, Brian, aka Lieutenant Ren Rennyn, offers the following prompt:

    I'm rewatching TOS, and got to "Is There No Truth In Beauty?", where (spoilers) Dr. Miranda Jones' elaborate dress turns out to be a sensor web that allows her to "see." It got me thinking about how fashion is used in sci-fi, whether as a plot device, or to set the scene, define a culture, or place us in a certain time.

    There are plenty of ways an entry for this Challenge could unfold, and in addition to Brian's example of Dr. Jones, I'll offer these inspirations from TNG, courtesy of io9: Seasons 1-3 and seasons 4-7.

    As of today, Tuesday, July 1st, this Challenge is open! All entries must be received by Monday, August 25th in order to be considered for this Challenge.
    As always, please remember:
    *Your work must be completely original.
    *You must be the sole author of the work.
    *Your story must take place in the Star Trek universe, but may not center upon canon characters.
    *Sign your final draft as you would a post on your ship.
    *Your story must be between 300 and 3000 words.
    For any questions you might have, remember that you can always post questions to this thread or visit the Writing Challenge website.
    Good luck!
    • Like 1
  5. Greetings, everyone!



    Want to read the Challenge entries, but don't have time to sit down at your computer? Need a way to take them with you on your tablet or mobile device? Now you have it! Please enjoy this full compilation of the May and June Writing Challenge, available with all the entrants' stories and judges' comments. This is a PDF document with interior hyperlinks to each story for your ease of navigation, so do please read at your leisure.



    Let me know if you enjoyed this easy way to read!



    It's available here!


    • Like 1
  6. "Reality of command"
    Writer's Character: Atherton Grix
    Judge's Character: Toni Turner
    This was a well-written entry, in that it told the story of why and how Commander Cain found himself in such a predicament. It was indeed a complicated turn of events as Mr. Grix explained in detail, giving the reader a satisfactory account of the circumstances that brought Cain to the point of almost losing his career in Starfleet.
    Although I liked the story, I kept waiting to find a better sense of remorse in Cain. And the fact that he chose to become a political pon, rather than face a court marshal for disobeying orders that caused fatalities, didn't say much for Cain's ethics, nor the Admiral's for offering him another ship. For those reasons, I had a difficult time equating that this was a true "Reality of command" in all cases. But that is not to say it doesn't happen in our real time, or that it won't in the future.
    Overall, it was a very solid story. Well done, Mr. Grix!
    &
    "Reality of command"
    Writer's Character: Atherton Grix
    Judge's Character: Cascadia Rainier
    This was an interesting take on the overall theme this month, offering a glimpse of the aftermath of an obviously difficult decision that caused the death of others and the downfall of a Starfleet command officer. Of course, as we learn as the story comes to its end, things are not always as they appear. A secondary course of action is interjected towards the end, giving the afformentioned officer another way out - a way that he takes.
    Overall, the story has all of the components of a potentially good tale, with a plot that is not only alluded to having already happened, but one that is played out throughout the story itself. I enjoyed reading the story, having met Cain IC at least once. At the same time, I felt as if some of the spelling errors detracted somewhat from the overall feel of it. I also felt that the story ended on a flat note, without actually having climaxed to its potential heights. Finally, it's never made even remotely clear just why this Nova class was needed by this Admiral, or why it's important enough to wipe clean a court martial worthy offense, which might have offered a lot of depth to the story otherwise.
    Still, on its own, the story was certainly intriguing and appeared to close the chapter of an officer who had been with the fleet for some time (and whose writer has moved on to a new character) which is always nice. There is the potential for a future, despite the actions leading to the current point, and we may not have seen the last of Arden Cain. This was a great addition to a very strong showing this time around. Thanks for sharing this with us and I look forward to future entries!
    ***
    "Orders and Consequences"
    Writer's Character: Kaitlyn Falcon
    Judge's Character: Toni Turner
    Mr. Falcon spun a tale reminiscent of "Swiss Family Robinson," taking into account that command was more like a family decision. It was simple question of going fight the Fury without back up, or follow orders? . . . but Mr. Falcon made it much more than that with words that flowed seamlessly from on sentence to the other as he presented every provocative thought. I kept asking myself if he ever stopped to realize that Starfleet Command could have had a plan in mind for the Fury that any interference would have messed up. Regardless, the story held my interest, and was well worth the time to read.
    Well done presentation, Mr. Falcon!
    &
    "Orders and Consequences"
    Writer's Character: Kaitlyn Falcon
    Judge's Character: Cassandra Egan Manno
    Good work here! Many Challenge stories that center on established characters will either spend no time offering those characters origins or they'll spend too much time hashing through a character the writer has known for much longer than the audience. In this case, neither is true, even though this writer has clearly written for Robert Falcon for a long time. The story itself is paced well and has a clear arc toward its conclusion, and I applaud it for being able to juggle so much when not just Robert himself but multiple characters and the Yorktown are part of an ongoing plot. However, I'll offer one note for potential revision there: It seems to me that there aren't necessarily stakes for Robert here, and that, by the story's end, though things may change in the future, we haven't been shown and have no guarantee that the events of the story and Robert's musings will have an impact upon what happens next. I would like to see more of these stories entered in future Challenges, but I think that they'll only be stronger if they're forced to stand alone not just in terms of their characters but also in the consequences for those characters. All in all, some very good work here, and I do look forward to the next entry!
    ***
    "River of Time"
    Writer's Character: Irina Pavlova
    Judge's Character: Cascadia Rainier
    This story was an interesting tale involving everything we love about sci-fi; time travel, distant worlds, and impossible plans. Underneath it all was the idea of right and wrong in a quite ambiguous sense. Was it right to want to go home? How would that change time? Was it the right choice to avoid the plans that were made? We can all relate to the desire to return to a point in our past to right the wrongs made, and in this story that return is possible. The question remains, however, is it right?
    As such, this story really fills in the theme of this particular writing challenge. It was easy to read and easy to follow. The biggest downfall in my eyes, and a place where potential improvement might be made next time, is near the end. The turnaround from a well planned mission to return to her home back in time to her crying and scrapping the plan was overly fast compared to the rest of the story. I feel as if this emotional part of the story had so much more potential and could have been far more impactful if given the attention other aspects of the story had been given. I really wonder where it could have gone had this climax been as deep as the rest of the story.
    Aside from that, the entry was a good example of good writing challenge material. I wholly enjoyed the read and I can't wait to see what you enter next time. Time travel is a topic we all consider, being involved in science fiction. Is it right though? That is something we can only really explore here, and you've done a fine job of that and more!

    &

    "River of Time"
    Writer's Character: Irina Pavlova
    Judge's Character: Sal Taybrim
    This story was very smoothly written. I felt the descriptions and dialogue flowed well, and carried the reader along at a good pace. I particularly appreciated your attention to canonical detail in this work. There are a lot of little historical facts in there that ring true from various Trek episodes. This grounds this story in a canonical reality and gives a little headnod to readers who know Trek canon well. I also appreciate you posting the song that inspired this work and your thought process behind it. I believe that having a song as inspiration helped give this story a strong narrative form.
    To make this story stronger, I think you could add more emphasis and exploration of Pavlova’s internal conflict. It is such a fast turn around that it leaves the reader wanting. Starting with the conversation with T’Sal the story could slow down and get fleshed out. There is the classic sci-fi debate of time travel (does one small chance cause a cascade effect that could drastically alter history, or does time flow like a raging river and one small change is but a tiny pebble thrown within) – how does T’Sal convince Pavlova that her journey will drastically alter history (after all, Kirk brought Gillian Taylor back with him on his slingshot and history seemed ok…). Perhaps most importantly exploring what about the Duronis Embassy really calls to Pavlova. What can outweigh the desire for home? What about the people mentioned has formed such a strong bond with Pavlova that she turns back?
    Overall I feel that this is a very good structure and a strong idea that could use more fleshing out to make the whole narrative feel complete. This story shows good improvement and I look forward to seeing further entries!
    ***
    "The Wind Knows a Song for the Ages"
    Writer's Character: Ren Rennyn
    Judge's Character: Cassandra Egan Manno
    "The Wind Knows a Song for the Ages," Ren Rennyn
    I both admire and commend this story first for its cleanliness and its solidity, and though that might sound like faint praise, I use it very intentionally to start off this review. The writer knows what he's doing, not just with regard to his work on the level of the sentence, but also when I consider the arc of the story overall; Dr. Atell's character arc is pleasant to track and is both suited and sized for a story of this length; and the plot of the story isn't either overly simple or too ambitious, given the story's length. "The Wind Knows a Song for the Ages" -- which, by the way, is an absolutely fantastic title -- is one of those rare stories for which I can't immediately suggest a direction for revision, mostly, in this case, because it's built so well. If I had one recommendation for this writer's future stories -- because I certainly want to see more from him! -- I'd ask him to have more fun with experimentation. What would happen to the story if it wasn't wrapped up quite so neatly, or if it was first or second person, or if it was epistolary? This story shows off the writer's chops very well, so I'd encourage him to break his mold. However, I don't want to detract from the fact that this was a very good story told excellently -- very good!
    &
    "The Wind Knows a Song for the Ages"
    Writer's Character: Ren Rennyn
    Judge's Character: Sal Taybrim
    This story gets major kudos for keeping me engrossed and guessing to the very end.
    I particularly like how you created characters for this, instead of taking already created characters. These characters were given life and personality in a very short amount of time, in a way that sucked the reader in. In many ways this feels like a piece that was created for an audience and it shines for that fact. I felt like as a writer, you were crafting a piece for others to enjoy, to chew on and think about. I greatly appreciated reading it.
    In the end, the only thing I wished for was a little more insight into Altell and why she was so driven, and so focused on her scientific preservation over the life of her lab assistant. Truth be told this is a minor quibble – something that came out on a second reading. The first reading I was simply hooked on finding out what they would find and whether Roupo would make it through.
    This story makes the reader struggle with the concept of ‘right’ as it carefully balances in a morally grey area. I find that balance is the most intriguing part of the story in the end, the question of whether it is more right to preserve life or knowledge.
    Overall a fascinating and thought provoking read!
  7. Thank you to our entrants in the "Do What Is Right, Not What Is Easy" Writing Challenge! As it's the last day in June, I'm pleased to bring you the results of this Challenge.

    The judges agreed unanimously that "The Wind Knows a Song for the Ages," written by the writer behind Lt. JG Ren Rennyn, should be our winner! Please join us in congratulating him and our runner-up, the writer behind Lt. Kaitlyn Falcon and "Orders and Consequences." Many congratulations to you both and a big thank you to all of our entrants!

    I'd like to recognize my fellow judges for this round: the writers behinds Fleet Captains Cascadia Rainier and Toni Turner and Lieutenant Sal Taybrim. My special thanks to the judges for writing extra reviews for this round to ensure that every story received two!

  8. Unfortunately, that you cannot do. The Challenge rules state that all stories must be original, so the story must be one written specifically for the Challenge. However, you should feel free -- if you write using sim style -- to repost your Challenge entry to your ship list after you've submitted to the Challenge!

    • Like 1
  9. (( Counselling Suite, USS Garuda ))


    ::When he was still a young child on Earth, the juvenile advocate in New York City insisted that he be entered into regular therapy sessions. The distaste from those days still lingered with him as he pressed his finger to the panel next to the counseling suite. ::


    :: He had nothing against counselors, of course - those he’d dealt with were some of the most sincere people he’d ever met. It was the therapy process that made him uncomfortable. Seeking it out made him feel as if he were still broken in the same way that eight-year-old boy on Vulcan had been all those years ago. ::


    ::The doors opened, and the tall security officer stepped into the room. He’d spent the better part of his life avoiding offices like this one, but it was nice. The Garuda’s normal lighting had been replaced with a full spectrum “skylight” that mimicked real sunlight so accurately that it warmed the skin. There were several soft chairs and sofas, as well as a coffee table, and a much larger table off to one side of the room. Pieces of art were scattered around, and fresh -- or freshly replicated -- flowers stood in a vase on the table. There was no sign of a desk or personal workspace; all in all, it looked more like a living room than an office.::


    Delano: Good morning, Commander Valen.


    :: The younger officer eyed the furniture as if evaluating his options. He finally settled on a small sofa that looked more practical than some of the other options. ::


    Valen: Call me Carys. ::She deposited herself in one of the chairs nearby, legs crossed.:: I'm not one for formality.


    ::That much was evident from her uniform. Jacket unzipped, the teal collar underneath unfastened to below the hollow at the base of her throat, she was hardly a good example of a neat and perfectly pressed officer.::


    Delano: Of course, Com-- Carys.


    :: The man’s cheeks blushed green. ::


    Delano: I’m still getting used to that. The Academy is so rigid compared to actual Starship duty. At least compared to the ships I’ve served on. I’ll try to remember.


    ::She grinned at him, a quiet chuckle escaping her lips.::


    Valen: All I can ask. So what can I do for you?


    Delano: I was going to make an appointment, but the counseling suite isn’t far from my quarters and ::He paused, then started again.:: I’ve been having a little trouble lately, and I’m not sure if it’s something I should be concerned about.


    Valen: ::She nodded.:: This is a good place to find out. What's the trouble?


    :: He looked at the carpet and adjusted his position on the sofa. ::


    Delano: (quietly) It’s hard to explain.


    :: He took a moment to collect his thoughts before continuing. ::


    Delano: I’ve been an officer for over a year now, but I still feel like I’ve just left the Academy. I’ve been thinking about home a lot lately, and now… I don’t know. I worked so hard to get out here. Now that I am, I’m wondering if it was all a mistake.


    :: He looked to the counselor. ::


    Delano: Maybe I’m just homesick.


    Valen: Where's home?


    Delano: Earth. Near a place called Seminoe.


    Valen: Do you find that you're thinking about anything in particular? ::She gestured in the air.:: Places you've been, people you spent time with, certain events?


    :: That was another question that was difficult to answer. ::


    Delano: Juvenile records are sealed once a minor reaches adulthood, correct?


    Valen: They are.


    :: He nodded. ::



    Delano: There was an incident when I was very young. A boy from my school class was teasing me and I lost control. I hurt him… badly. When it was settled,I was sent to five years on Vulcan, effectively exiled from Earth while my father arranged for me to learn some basic Vulcan meditation techniques. If he hadn’t intervened, I would have been in a correctional facility instead. I’ve been thinking a lot about that moment. What happened. Why. How it shaped me.



    Delano: (After a pause, he added) And my parents. Home too, of course. I miss the people I left behind, but I’m under the impression that much is normal.


    ::She offered him a smile, and nodded.::


    Valen: It certainly is. ::She paused.:: If you think back to that time, how you felt. Are there parallels to how you're feeling now?


    Delano: Parallels? No, not exactly. Shadows, maybe? I talked to a lot of counselors after it happened. As an adult, it seems pretty obvious now that I felt like an outsider. The kids in school used to make fun of my ears and eyebrows and such. It used to make me so angry. What I’ve been feeling now - I’m more depressed than angry.


    Valen: Anger can lead into depression, especially if you believe that you *shouldn't* be angry. You can start to internalise the anger, feeling guilty about it, trying to hide it from others, and so the slippery slope begins. ::She let that rest for a moment, then continued.:: Has there been anything in particular on the Garuda that's troubled you?


    Delano: There was the incident with Doctor Saveron when I first came on board.


    :: He explained how the Vulcan’s unexpected appearance had brought back unbidden memories and emotions from the time he’d spent on Vulcan. ::


    Delano: For a very brief moment, all the shame and frustration of those years just came back at me, and I nearly lost control.


    :: As she nodded, he flushed again, averting his eyes. ::


    Delano: This probably isn’t the kind of thing you would want to hear from a security officer.


    ::She smiled in response, the silver chains of her earring swaying as she tilted her head to the side.::


    Valen: It's why I'm here; you've realised you have a problem, and you need a little help with it. It's no different than heading to sickbay with the 'flu.


    Delano: Perhaps, though I don’t think this is going to be as simple as a hypospray.


    Valen: True enough. ::She chuckled.:: But then I'd be out of a job, wouldn't I?


    :: He mirrored her smile as best as he could. In a way, it felt good to talk about this with someone. He hadn’t been this candid with anyone for a very long time. He trusted the Carys, but Evan had always valued his privacy. Only his family - and Mei’konda - knew all of this.::


    Delano: One of the security professors at the Academy at a lecture used to say something like:


    ::He lowered his voice to sound more authoritative ::


    Delano: “Behind every good security chief is a really good ‘shrink.’”


    Valen: Wise man.


    Delano: I thought it was a joke, but I guess I know what he meant now.


    ::She smiled at him, offering a nod.::


    Valen: When we're inside our own heads, dealing with things on our own, it's easy to fall into circular thinking. We can just go around and around, never making any progress, feeling worse with every circuit. A good counsellor can help you step outside of that, give you the tools to recognise unhelpful thought processes and provide you with the tools to get past them.


    ::She paused, tapping her leg in thought.::


    Valen: So you've told me a lot about what brings your mood down. What makes you feel good?


    Delano: I honestly enjoy my work. Even when I was in Operations, I felt productive and useful. Everyone on Garuda has been very welcoming.


    Valen: It's great that you're fulfilled by your work, but there's more to life than our jobs. What do you do with your own time?


    Delano: Outside of work? I guess I like being active. Solving problems. Improving myself. Helping others. Always working towards a goal. I spend a lot of time in the gym and using exercise programs on the holodeck. But I guess that’s just part of my job.


    :: He looked genuinely surprised. ::


    Valen: You look as though you've never thought about it in that way before.


    Delano: I mean, I always have enough to keep me busy. But I was never much for idle hobbies. Alora-- Lieutenant DeVeau, I mean, was suggesting I try taking up a musical instrument a few days ago.


    Valen: If you enjoy it, that's reason itself to pursue it. Many people find it helpful to have an outlet completely unrelated to their work. Learning an instrument might suit how you like to spend your hobby time -- progressing, improving, working toward a goal -- while with the advantage that you'll never have to fret about how your progression may or may not affect your work.


    Delano: It sounds like a good idea. I’m not sure music is the right direction for me, but I’ll come up with something.


    Valen: We've covered a lot of ground so far. I think it might be an idea to leave it there for today, unless there's anything you want to talk about?


    Delano: Not really. I just felt like I needed someone to talk to about all of this. I really appreciate you making the time without an appointment.


    ::She beamed a smile at him, rising from her chair.::


    Valen: It's no problem. I'll schedule another session, if that sounds good to you. Just let me know if the time doesn't fit into your schedule, and we'll rearrange.


    Delano: Thank you, Carys.


    Valen: I'll see you soon.


    ===


    Lieutenant (JG) Evan Delano

    Assistant Chief of Security/Tactical

    USS Garuda


    and


    Commander Valen Carys

    Counsellor

    USS Garuda

    • Like 1
  10. Welcome to our first summer 2014 Writing Challenge, everyone!

    For this round, and as the heat begins to creep up, we'd like you to consider a potentially divisive topic:

    Do what is right, not what is easy

    As chosen by the winner of our last round, Travis -- aka Lt. JG Tyler Kelly -- this may be one of Starfleet's guiding principles, or it might be a justification for atrocity. He writes:

    I think it would be interesting to write about a time when you have to make a choice between the greater good and simply 'going with the flow.' Maybe a superior officer gives an order that you have a moral objection to. Maybe there are people dying of a curable disease on the planet below but the Prime Directive tells you that you can't intervene.
    As Starfleet officers our characters face these kind of decisions from time to time and it can be a very interesting idea to explore.
    What do you think? Do any of these scenarios sound familiar to you as a writer or any of your characters? How can you take this idea and apply it beyond what you might expect? We look forward to finding out!
    As of today, Monday, May 5th, this Challenge is open! All entries must be received by Tuesday, June 24th in order to be considered for this Challenge.
    As always, please remember:
    *Your work must be completely original.
    *You must be the sole author of the work.
    *Your story must take place in the Star Trek universe, but may not center upon canon characters.
    *Sign your final draft as you would a post on your ship.
    *Your story must be between 300 and 3000 words.
    For any questions you might have, remember that you can always post questions to this thread or visit the Writing Challenge website.
    Good luck!
  11. Greetings, everyone!



    Want to read the Challenge entries, but don't have time to sit down at your computer? Need a way to take them with you on your tablet or mobile device? Now you have it! Please enjoy this full compilation of the March & April Writing Challenge, available with all the entrants' stories and judges' comments. This is a PDF document with interior hyperlinks to each story for your ease of navigation, so do please read at your leisure.



    Let me know if you enjoyed this easy way to read!



    Get yours here!


  12. "The Bunny Abides"
    Writer's Character: Tyler Kelly
    Judge's Character: Toni Turner
    "The Bunny Abides," although a tragic story, caught my attention with the purity of Mr. Kelly's creativity. It was a fast moving plot, that sucked you in from beginning to end, gave hope for the characters' survival, then snatched it away, staying true to the premise of the research being a "total failure."
    I enjoyed the fact that Kelly let the reader see the plot from the viewpoints of Flagg and the Commander. Flagg, a broken desperate man crazed with grief from losing his family,yet still striving to the end to reach help; the Commander, a true Starfleet officer, realizing their fate was sealed from the beginning, but saving the USS Exodus from the same destiny.
    And then there was the Bunny. . . A beloved pet, innocently infecting those in contact with it. Well done, Kelly! Very imaginative.
    &
    "The Bunny Abides"
    Writer's Character: Tyler Kelly
    Judge's Character: Sal Taybrim
    This story gets major props for being ambitious. Of all the stories I found this idea the most compelling and it had the most lingering, haunting ending. If the technical aspects of this story were in place it would be an easy first for me, but there were several major areas where the writing could use improvement and polishing.
    I like the idea that one simple animal could be the catalyst for destruction like the eye at the center of a hurricane, but overall this story left me wanting. I think the deaths of both the named characters on the shuttlecraft and the whole of the Exodus crew are cheapened by a lack of characterization.
    The whole story could slow down and delve deeper into how Flagg’s broken mind was working when he decided to try to ran the shuttlecraft into the Exodus, and focus on the pain an innocent creature inadvertently caused.
    My first read through of this was slowed by several tense and grammatical errors.
    I kept wondering why the scientists weren’t infected and wiped out years ago. Suspension of disbelief was difficult when the shuttle careened into the Exodus as well. Why didn’t the shields hold up? How could an entire bridge crew be sleeping on the job?
    This was a good starting idea, but it could use editing and strengthening of both the technical aspects of the writing and the plot to really shine.
    ***
    "Run, Rabbit, Run!"
    Writer's Character: Irina Pavlova
    Judge's Character: Cascadia Rainier
    This story showed an incredibly unique approach to dealing with the topic of a rabbit. One never expects it to take the turn it takes where the hunter becomes the hunted. There are mentions of trouble with going back in time, which seem to manifest themselves in the dream Irina has the night before returning to her time. This shows insight into the conscience of the character and was a very interesting way to build the story indeed.
    While the ‘whole story’ is not known to everyone (I’m assuming it is to those better acquainted with Irina), the story does perfectly well as a standalone segment without a ton of background. Everything mentioned in the beginning has a point later, tying each thought together in an intricately beautiful way. As the reader approaches the end, the connections begin to coalesce, leaving us all wondering where it’s all going. The end is simple enough, with the dream unable to scare her from the attempt and her end goal. Though it also leaves us wondering what she really will find when she goes back in time.
    Great job!
    &
    "Run, Rabbit, Run!"
    Writer's Character: Irina Pavlova
    Judge's Character: Sal Taybrim
    This is extremely difficult to evaluate since this is an IC post. It strongly feels like a cut out of a larger picture, like someone took a scissors to a painting and they are only giving us a small square of a larger picture. I would suggest that if writers submit posts as entries in the future that they take the time to edit and add into their posts enough background information and characterization so the story can read clearly as a stand-alone to an outside audience who may have no information on the overall plot.
    Problematically for me, the main character, (presumably the author’s PC?) comes off as staggeringly overpowered for her age in the first section. I felt like I was reading an excerpt from Ender’s Game rather than Star Trek. Without any further characterization, it made it difficult to connect with said character.
    This is also obviously a part of a larger storyline that the audience does not understand the connotations of by simply reading the post. It is a character piece, which makes it difficult to know what development has come before, so I must solely focus on the development in the piece.
    I don’t get much of a sense of Irina other than she’s lived many hundreds of years past a normal human lifespan, she has an issue with her father (?) and she is a mother. However elements of her personality do not shine though.
    The description and setting in this piece are solid. I would say this story has the strongest writing in a purely technical sense. There are a few, but not many grammatical errors. The description of Sochi and Irina going through her box of trinkets is the strongest part of this post. The dialogue could greatly use more characterization and reaction from the characters, it reads very drily.
    ***
    "Watch your head!"
    Writer's Character: Jalana Laxyn
    Judge's Character: Cassandra Egan Manno
    Hands down, my favorite thing about this story is that it's just so much fun. It's essentially a good-natured roast of the Apollo's major characters (with its writer's PC as the big baddie, of course!) starring Lewis Carroll's Alice (of Through the Looking Glass and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, aka Alice in Wonderland). It's a big, fantastic idea and the story bounces right along, taking me from one character introduction to the next as Alice chases the White Rabbit through the decks of the Apollo. Even though I'm not super-familiar with the Apollo's crew, I knew enough (and the story explained enough) that I was right at home and enjoyed the story's character reveals as I thought I was meant to. Those character reveals definitely offered me most of the pleasure I found in the story, and therein is my major critique -- though it's not really a critique at all, really: There's nothing in the usage of Alice or Lewis Carroll's mythos that is absolutely integral to this story, by which I mean that this could've easily been a play on Peter Pan or a fairy tale and achieved the same pleasurable reveals of the Apollo crewmembers as familiar characters. If I would suggest one thing for this story, it would be that the story do more with the inherent weirdness of the Apollo-as-Wonderland: Really dive into the weird descriptions and sensory details that we (and our characters!) take for granted. Honestly, I'd love to see more of this sort of story, even if it isn't a return to Wonderland, so maybe that's a useful piece of advice for when the Apollo crew find themselves in Never-Neverland next time...?
    &
    "Watch your head!"
    Writer's Character: Jalana Laxyn
    Judge's Character: Sal Taybrim
    I always liked dream-plays – part and parcel of being in technical theatre. This was fun: a short, lighthearted wild romp in a fantasy Apollo.
    I imagine that this story, too, is more amusing if one was familiar with the Apollo and could catch the character references and/or take amusement at the dream-like character portrayals of PCs. That said, unlike Run, Rabbit, Run I felt this was a stand-alone post and I was not consistently asking questions of ‘why is this happening to the characters’
    I do think that in a dream play style of work, solid description is everything. I would have liked to know more about the failed experiment – what about it was dangerous/forbidden/hallucinogenic?
    I think that there is enough setting and description in this story to buoy the reader along. It works. However, I also feel this story could have benefited more from stronger description. A really vivid, poetic, visceral view of all these strange dreamscapes would have really made this story pop. Knowing it’s written from the point of view of Alice, the author could have played with having a pinpoint on Alice’s perceptions – and really playing up what Alice saw. If the Andorian was a blue giant, play up the description of his knees because they were at her eye level, or the smell and taste of the rapids as she was plunged into them.
    And yes, I wanted Alice to confess at the end to bring everything full circle…
  13. Thank you to everyone who entered our "Rabbits" Writing Challenge! I'm pleased to bring you the results now:



    I'm excited to announce that the winner of the "Rabbits" Challenge is the writer behind Tyler Kelly, with his story "The Bunny Abides"! Our runner-up, with her Lewis-Caroll-inspired story, is the writer behind Jalana Laxyn and "Watch your head!" My congratulations to all of our entrants and these two writers in particular, and please join me in congratulating these talented writers in this thread!



    My special thanks to my fellow judges for this round, the writers behind Fleet Captain Cascadia Rainier, Fleet Captain Toni Turner, and Lt. JG Sal Taybrim -- and a special note of thanks to Jamie, aka Sal Taybrim, for crafting responses to each of the stories for this round!


  14. Good news, everyone! It's Writing Challenge time!

    I'm pleased to bring you our Challenge topic for March & April, and it's one of the most unique ones the Challenge has yet seen. The theme for this Challenges is (drumroll)....

    Rabbits!

    Indeed, it is so! Writes our previous winner, the writer behind Sal Taybrim:

    "Very simply, the story must include or focus on a rabbit/hare/bunny. This need not be a Terran mammal. Room for creative interpretation is not only allowed, but encouraged. Mechanical rabbits? Alien hares? Killer bunnies?

    Certainly even Star Trek had tread this path before:
    320x240.jpg

    This could even go dark if someone was creative enough (are rabbits now extinct?) or surreal... or humorous..."

    The choice is yours, of course, and I look forward to seeing what you talented writers devise.

    As of today, Tuesday, March 4th, this Challenge is open! All entries must be received by Friday, April 25th in order to be considered for this Challenge.

    As always, please remember:
    *Your work must be completely original.
    *You must be the sole author of the work.
    *Your story must take place in the Star Trek universe, but may not center upon canon characters.
    *Sign your final draft as you would a post on your ship.
    *Your story must be between 300 and 3000 words.

    For any questions you might have, remember that you can always post questions to this thread or visit the Writing Challenge website.

    Good luck!

  15. Greetings, everyone!



    Please enjoy this full compilation of the January & February Writing Challenge, available for the first time with all the entrants' stories and judges' comments. This is a PDF document with interior hyperlinks to each story for your ease of navigation, so do please read at your leisure.



    Let me know if you enjoyed this easy way to read!



    Get yours here!


    • Like 1
  16. "Conspiracy Theories"

    writer's character: Sal Taybrim

    judge's character: Velana

    This story made me smile, not only for poking much fun at the reboot movies (which, let's face it, kind of had it coming), but for making us feel mightily for this poor kid who wanted to believe so badly. I love a good beginning quote and this one was perfect for what followed. The dialogue was great, the idea was well-executed, and the reader was left wondering if the alternate timeline wasn't just a one giant conspiracy to which we have all fallen victim. Kudos for pointing out plot holes in the reboot timeline that have been much discussed, but never explained.

    ***

    "The Rescue Plan"

    writer's character: Rode Mitchell

    judge's character: Velana

    While I really enjoyed the premise of this story, I feel like there was so much further that it could have been taken. We got a sense that Captain Jackson was thinking about his crew, but we never got a sense of him as a person. Was being a hero more important to him than sleeping for a century while his friends and family grew old and died? Also, why was a rescue mission so imperative to Starfleet that they sacrificed a crew of officers and Marines? We've seen stories about lost colonies and ships before, so that does happen, but what was it about the Monitor that made retrieving their descendants so vital? All of these questions were raised, but not answered in this story. I think with some fleshing out, the story of this crew would be one for the history books.

    ***

    "New Beginnings"

    writer's character: Ceilidh Riverview

    judge's character: Toni Turner
    "New Beginnings" took a different approach that I found most creative and clever, especially given the title, and the repercussions of the ending. It was a presentation of a theory that had me enthralled throughout, imagining the the benefits of "combining parts of A.I. technology in replacement limbs with injured vets", and how wonderful it would be to mend those broken lives. Yes, I was taken in just as the people in the story were, until the ravages of the act became known, and I felt their outrage, and disappointment, but fictionally, the "New Beginnings" would be something so all-consuming, that it would go far beyond reason in a endless quest for knowledge.
    ***
    "New Beginnings"

    writer's character: Ceilidh Riverview

    judge's character: Cassandra Egan Manno (please note that this double review was a mix-up on my part; however, in the interest of providing feedback, here it is!)
    This is a fascinating story with a lot to enjoy, so allow me to take you through some of my favorite moments, as well as those that I think were pulled off with the most skill. I'm always going to give props to high-concept stories, and this is no different: In my opinion, Trek severely lacks stories that investigate the ramifications of intelligent AIs and bio-machinery (like prosthetic limbs), and I was happy to see this story tackle that concept. It's also pleasingly conversational -- which makes sense, since much of it is told as a personal log -- and I thought the structure of the story was at its strongest when it let sentences stand as paragraphs. The bookending of the story as a case study that Ceilidh was reading was a good idea, but I'm not sure that it worked in practice; I think the story would have been just as effective if had just been the story of Eve, since Ceilidh doesn't answer the question that I wondered, too: What happened to Eve? Finally, I'd like to offer some praise for setting the story on Mars, because I think the red planet is vastly underutilized as a setting on Trek! However, that comes with a question: Given that this story revolves around a car crash and artificial limb replacement, I don't see why it's necessary to set the story in the twenty-third century. If the story had just updated its tech a bit, I think it would've been fine. Minor quibbles aside, quite a good entry, and an unexpectedly chilling take when the primarily upbeat story is compared against the image that inspired it!

    ***

    "Back-up Plan"
    writer's character: Kieran Waddell
    judge's character: Cassandra Egan Manno
    It isn't easy to wear many hats in just over twelve hundred words, but this "Back-up Plan" is a good example of a story that does so. At times a character piece, an action sequence, and a celebration of UFoP history (look for the references to Hollis and the USS Paladin, among others!), this is an ambitious little story that captures in parts the image that inspired this Challenge. However, the "muchness" of this story is also the aspect I would have liked developed in more detail. When the story starts off with Leanna, I was intrigued by her history, her physicality, and the way her actions were described ("...interrupted by urgent bleating from her scanner and she rapidly cursed, silenced it with a jab..." is a very pleasing set of words to me!) -- but when it switched to action, I wasn't quite ready for that yet, as I still wanted to know Leanna better! Major props for making the hero of this story a female character and a physician, though! A strong entry for this image-inspired Challenge: Well done!
    ***
    "Going home"
    writer's character: Richard Matthews
    judge's character: Cassandra Egan Manno
    Stories that examine the writer's PC in greater detail are always welcome, because they can provide development for both the writer and the reader that sims during a mission or shore leave couldn't. "Going home" is no exception, as we get to see during its course more of Matthews's life aboard the Vigilant. It handles well the trouble that such stories often have, too, of not providing those that aren't familiar with the character enough background to understand the emotional stakes involved. It's a very cerebral piece, and that works well for what's happening here; I didn't want for more action and was happy to engage with the dialogue and thinking going on here. If there's one thing I could suggest to this writer, it's to add that little spark of something extra for his next entry: This was a well-done, strong, competent story, but it just didn't have that interesting high-concept quirk or memorable character or snappy edge to its dialogue that pushed it over the edge. My suggestion, then, is to really focus on a single aspect (like one character, or the dialogue, or a unique structure) and develop it strongly for your next entry. The foundational skills are all here in spades, it's just a matter of making them work wonderfully for you!
  17. Thank you to everyone who entered this special image-inspired Writing Challenge! I want to especially thank our first- and second-time entrants; it's always fantastic to have new writers in the Challenge, and in this case, it really paid off!

    I'm pleased and honored to announce that the winner of our first image-inspired Writing Challenge is Sal Taybrim, with his story "Conspiracy Theories"! We have a tie for runner-up: Ceilidh Riverview, with "New Beginnings," and Kieran Waddell, with "Back-up Plan." My congratulations to all three of you, and please join me in congratulating these talented writers in this thread!

    My special thanks to my fellow judges for this round, the writers behind Fleet Captain Toni Turner and Lieutenant Commander Velana!

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