To Triumph and Not to Mourn

As I said in a previous post, the latest Full Speed Ahead story, “To Triumph and Not to Mourn,” was completed. It has now been fully published at Ad Astra!  I wanted to take a few moments to talk about what went into the production, so if you’ve not yet read it (or the immediately previous story, “The Chains of Error“), then please stop reading this post, as I will be exposing a lot of the plot details and it will spoil the story for you.

The Chains of Error coverOne of the most difficult aspects of writing “The Chains of Error” was the scene where Donald Sandhurst has to break the news that Ariel died to Rear Admiral Krystine Leone.  I had to tap into my own personal experiences with a similar loss in my life and hone in on how I tried to handle it.  A lot of memories and pain went into writing that, and damn if I didn’t end up with having to calm down when we finally put that scene to bed.

In “To Triumph,” we overlap the epilogue with the events of the actual memorial service that Sam and I didn’t write in “Chains.”  The memorial service for Ariel held equally strong emotions when putting it down on paper, but thankfully A. J. was there to help refine it and keep it polished rather than the raw emotional scene that had been originally crafted.  I personally feel that the final draft is leaps and bound better than what was in the first draft in conveying not only Leone’s state, but also those reactions from the people who served alongside her aboard Farragut.

Writing the Future to Serve the Past

Another aspect to that scene that made things a little interesting was the introduction of all the characters that had yet to be seen within context of the seven season Full Speed Ahead story arc… which we’ve yet to write.   Fortunately, I have character sketches of them all, and while it was easy to write, I’m not sure if it will be easy to understand from the reader’s perspective, since they’ve no idea who some of these people are and what they (will eventually) mean to Ariel.  It’s like reading a book or perhaps watching a film in reverse to a certain extent; you’re not sure who they are and what the hell they’re doing there.

And that includes Carolyn J. “C. J.” Kircheis.  Kircheis we got to know in “Chains” as a corvette captain and part of the Farragut family.  While I had her full sketch written, “Triumph” required a major fleshing out of her Gallant crew in Kelley, Hiroko, and Karis.  Kelley and Hiroko also made appearances in Gallant, but I didn’t use them within that story as much as I had Kircheis.  This requires some sketching before writing, and thus we had backstories for not just those two, but also Piggy and Grey.  Teelis Tei, on the other hand, is another one of those characters that you will get to meet within FSA’s original run, so she had her background produced ahead of time.

Kircheis is very much the “little sister” of the Farragut family.  She arrives aboard ship at the beginning of the (planned) third season as a new helmsman.  As told within “Chains,” her arrival was marred by her disappointment in not receiving an assignment to Enterprise and to her mind, Farragut is the worst possible place for her to be at such an early part of her career.  Ariel and C. J. start out as antagonists but then come to be close friends over time.

Rihannsu and Romulan

One of the major points of contention I’ve always held with respect to the Romulans as they’re written on the television programs is that they’ve never really seemed to me to be much of an enemy in the sense that the Klingons or the Cardassians are.  To me, I felt as though the depth they’ve written into the Cardassian stories were meant for the Romulans to a certain extent.  That TNG played them off as caricatures of what they intended, even in the episodes that centered around their culture (“Unification,” “Face of the Enemy”) came off as disingenuous at best.  Even “The Enterprise Incident” and “Balance of Terror” never truly scratched the surface enough for me to get a real sense of what that race and culture was all about.  And I would go a step further and say that the Klingons of the TOS era are worlds apart from their TNG-era counterparts.

Diane Duane wrote a series of TrekLit novels in the TOS era when I was growing up and I always felt that her portrayal of their culture as the Rihannsu people were dead-on what I was looking for when I began writing Romulan characters in my own fanfics.  On my online game, Where No One Has Gone Before, the players of that race have to embrace the Rihannsu idea in order to function within the organization.  Therefore, coupled with my own personal reading and the administration of that group from time to time, familiarity with this culture is always present in my mind when I think of the Romulans.

To that end, the story “Agamemnon” presents Nuhir t’Aimne as a khre’Arrain (equivalent to a Lieutenant Commander in Starfleet).  All three names/titles are Rihannsu, pulled from Duane’s own works/lexicon.  The whole notion of this story was to expose the knowledge of the secret wormhole the Romulans were using in Sam’s “At the Gates.”  This was kind of an assignment handed off to me by Sam, when I asked him how I might be able to tie-in the story to his.

Dealing with a Mess

FSA_TFV_Cover-500I had wrestled with a number of ideas and plot points, but none of them really worked out for me.  All of them seemed to gloss over the memorial of Ariel Elannis; none of them allowed me to deal with the grief that C. J. was feeling, as well as shine a light on Leone’s part of the story.  After all, a lot of people read FSA for Captain Leone or Ariel.  I don’t really get a whole lot of feedback on the other characters, so I have to assume that they’re the reason people are turning my pages.

Within “Triumph,” the story isn’t about Leone or Ariel directly; it’s about the one member of the family that no one has really gotten to know.  So, I took the character sketch I had of her from FSA’s season three, and I had to finish it/polish it more to get her to the point of where she was at the time of this new story.  Suffice to say that a lot more “world-building” went into this story than most of my others, which used shared resources.  Gallant isn’t Farragut.  Leone is a rear admiral with her own personal historical changes.  Ariel’s dead.  Kincaid was in the Maquis and is now back in Starfleet.

This was pretty tough stuff to get through given all the unanswered questions I left in “Chains.”  And somehow I had to continue to leave them unanswered, because during FSA’s primary story, those questions are resolved and should add a new layer of appreciation for the story in “Triumph” once all is said and done.

Collaborating Again

In discussing the story with a fellow author, an idea began to form where I could not only deal with the memorial of Arial, but also tie-in to “At the Gates” without having to stretch too far.  By the time the discussion was finished, the other author had invested herself so much into helping me that she offered to help write it as well.  This author has a long history in the Rihannsu area; longer than my own. Far more of an “expert” than I, too.  I gladly accepted that assistance and a plot outline began to take shape within Google Docs (now called Drive).

A lot of voice chats and webchats took place during this project; Skype played a critical role in accomplishing this story.  We discussed the details and hashed out others.  We actually ended up with more ideas on how to apply some of the information to the FSA’s primary thread.  Don’t be surprised if you see her name on a few FSA episodes as I return to that portion of the project.

When you work with different types of writers, you can almost see collaborations as mixing salt with water.  In the episode “Dax” (DS9), there was a line about how when you separate salt from water through a specific process, you’re left with salt.  But when you add that same salt to a new source of water, you end up with a new product.  That’s kind of how I felt about this project over “Chains.”  Working with A. J. was a whole new experience in discipline.  Not to say that Sam has no discipline, but I think that if either or us had the tenacity that she has, “Chains” would’ve taken four months to write (barring any external distractions, of course).  She’s a go-getter, and maybe something I’ve been missing in my amateur career.

As with Sam, I look forward to working with her more on FSA, since she’s expressed interest.

There and Back Again

Ralph Waldo Emerson said that life is a journey, not a destination.  Nothing could be more true about Full Speed Ahead.  Whether it’s the first episode or the most recent novella, the story behind FSA is about self-discovery than anything else.  Though there are a lot of endings to different characters over the planned span of stories I’ve yet to tell, I think “Triumph” demonstrates that one quotation that I think exemplifies how I see storytelling in general:

“There are no happy endings, because it never ends.”
Peter S. Beagle