Jul 18 2012

Author’s Commentary: The Quarterdeck Breed

Back in 2002, I was kind of on a writing tear with my fanfics.  I had completed a novella called “The Misadventures of January McKenna,” and since I was on a serious roll, I was looking for another project to work on and I ended up writing an original piece.  I will leave the title of the original piece out of the explanation, other than to say that it was a short story, it was intended to illustrate relationships between commanders and subordinates.

When I was done with that 6,000 word piece, I still had fuel in the tank and so I ended up moving over to experimenting with the concept within the Trek universe.  Thus, “The Quarterdeck Breed” was born.

Origin of a Name

Because I was intending to write about the leadership roles within Starfleet, using the entire scope of Federation history as the backdrop, I needed a good title for the series.  I had a couple of ideas which included the use of an TNG episode title, “The Ensigns of Command.”  And then I recalled that there was a line in a book that I had read years ago that just sort of bubbled up in my memory.  In Gene Roddenberry’s novelization of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, there’s a passage that I’m happy to quote:

Until now, Kirk had not permitted himself to admit how desperately unhappy he had been in the last couple of years.  It was his pride; it was hard to accept the painful truth that his acceptance of Admiral’s stars had been a foolish blunder, even a ridiculous one considering that his friend and mission comrade, ship’s doctor McCoy, had tried so desperately to warn him against accepting flag rank.  Bones McCoy had even invaded staff country at the Admiralty, angrily insisting that James Kirk was one of that “quarterdeck breed” whose symbiotic man-vessel relationship had intrigued and puzzled psychiatrists (and before them, poets) since the days of sailing vessels.  To such men command of a starship is likely to be an ultimate experience – no other way of life, no combinations of honors or gratifications can ever come near the excitement, challenges, and almost total freedom of a deep space command.

Leonard McCoy, retired

“… in simpler language, Captain, sir, they drafted me!”

When I was much younger, I read pretty much all of the Pocket Books’ TOS novel releases.  The novelization for the first motion picture was novel #1, and given that it was co-written by Gene Roddenberry himself, I was intrigued to read exactly how he had intended the story to unfold, even in light of his script and Robert Wise’s interpretation in the film.

What struck me about that line of McCoy busting into the Admiralty spewing admonitions toward Nogura (and later, the talented Jean Dillard would write this scene in her “Lost Years” novel), was that he had really nailed the title down very well.  When you consider the character type that Kirk exemplified, is it no wonder that he never found happiness in life outside of Starfleet?  That led me to wonder how many others in the service were wired the same way; that the center of their universe was located no further than the center seat on the bridge of the starship they commanded.

Birthing the Process

The process that was used in outlining this series served to be useful in my other endeavors, most notably Full Speed Ahead.  Since I was planning on a four-episode series, I was intent on following a set path with each one so I could illustrate the characters.  I wanted to begin within my comfort zone of a post-Dominion War, but I felt like also touching on the TOS-era, during the Dominion War, during TNG, and so on and so forth.

I began with four ships, in alphabetical order: Agamemnon, Bellerophon, Constitution, and Dallas.  I went in order of post-Dominion, further after the Dominion War, pre-TOS, and mid-Dominion War.  Realizing that I needed a couple more stories, I added Eagle and Fearless. My original outline looked like this:

Story Ideas for The Quarterdeck Breed

NCC-11638 Agamemnon (Apollo-class)

Post-Dominion War

Transferring from the rigid command of Captain Simpson and the starship Fearless, Lieutenant Commander Richard James reports aboard the Agamemnon, to assume the position of executive officer under the laid back Commander Henry Grayum.  Assigned to the Border Patrol from the regular fleet, he has to come to understand that out on the border, away from everything he had grown to take for granted, the only thing you can count on is the person sitting next to you.  Conflict, No death.

NCC-74705 Bellerophon (Intrepid-class)

Dominion War

A study of leadership from the perspective of cadets in training at Starfleet Academy.  Cadet Randy Duke experiences a crisis of career paths, but gains insight and direction from Boothby and the son of a famous captain (Cadet Dominic Leone).  No death.

NCC-1700 Constitution (Constitution-class)

Pre-TOS Era

The prospect of a shakedown cruise provides engineer Lieutenant Commander Anastasia Juarez with the opportunity to experience command.  No death.

NCC-44107 Dallas (Miranda-class)

Dominion War

An exchange with a Jem’Hadar attack vessel near the Cardassian border results in a hollow victory as the helmsman Lieutenant Keitaro Ushiyama is thrust into the center seat following the deaths of most of the senior staff.  Crippled and blind, he must do whatever is necessary to get the crew home, safe and sound.  Conflict, Death.

This process helped to flesh out the story idea nuggets that later formed into the short stories that became the first four parts of TQB.  When I wanted to remind myself that I intended for their to be some sort of conflict between two or more ships, or a boarding action of some kind, I made a note of “Conflict.”  When I wanted to (not) kill a character off, the “Death” or “No death” note was used.  Pretty simple, right?

Those who’ve read TQB already can see that are some inconsistencies in how the stories ended up being written.  Some are vastly differently, others are dead-on accurate.  I will save an explanation for each of the stories in separate commentaries for each part.  This is more about the process of writing the series as a whole.

In the next commentary for this series, we will dissect the first part, Agamemnon.