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From here, light and sacred draughts

From here, light and sacred draughts

I apologize for beginning another post with an apology, but such is my nature.  I apologize for the delay between the last post and this one.  I had every intention of assembling another item while I was traveling, but good intentions are usually the first thing to be jettisoned when the luggage begins to get heavy.

Thanks for the feedback on the Data posts.  Hopefully, I’ll be posting the cover in the near future.  Pocket’s art department and I went back and forth a few times last week trying to find something that was both doable and aesthetically pleasing.  I don’t think I’ll be shocking many people when I say that I’ve found a lot of the Star Trek book covers fairly unimaginative, though I appreciate the complexities the artists and licensors face.  I approve of the recent trend toward featuring the ships on the covers (the new Seekers series’ covers are particularly attractive) for the simple reason that the “floating head” school of cover composition is hard to take.  I’m sure it’s been done before, but maybe we need to have a Top Ten Trek covers discussion sometime in the future (especially since a couple of mine will be contenders).  As I recall, Boris Vallejo did a bunch of covers back in the 1980s.  Some of those were keen…

ITEM! For those of you who are attending Shore Leave this coming August, David Mack and I were tossing around the idea of doing a Trek and Wine pairing session.  Does Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir go better with TNG?  Is it better to sip a subtle Pinot Gris while watching Voyager or pound an oaky Chardonnay?  Should one even consider wine for DS9 or go just break out the bourbon?  These are questions we may want to consider.  Any interest out there?  Hands?  Drinking and nerdiness – Do they go together?  Personally, I’ve always found they do, but I’m a writer…

ITEM!  A couple folks asked me about the traveling.  Most of it is for the Day Job (which I like very much, thank kew), thought the Significant Other and I do try to get out once in a while.  Most of the business travel is to the UK and points around the US, which suits me well since I speak no languages beside English (and I’m a little shaky there a lot of the time).  The highlight of the recent trip was a two-day stay at the University of Cambridge (that’s what they call it) and the opportunity to wander around and see how the Upper Crust live.  Also as part of the Day Job, I’ve been to quite a few universities and colleges, but, my goodness, this Cambridge place lives up to its reputation.  I only took a couple of pictures (I’m not much of a photographer, honestly) and I’ll see about posting them, but I don’t know if photos would even capture the twin impressions of History and Privilege.

I like History — I was a graduate student in History — especially the History of Science, so it was a treat for me to walk around with a colleague who graduated from Cambridge and have his say, “That was Issac Newton’s office.”  and “Here’s the corner outside the pub where Watson and Crick realized that DNA must be a double-stranded molecule.”  I mean, that’s super-cool.

HOWEVER, that leads to the question about whether the kinds of minds that Cambridge has produced can only emerge when also carefully tended and coddled by a veritable army of gardeners, cooks, cleaners, and groundskeepers?  Or are these things even related?  Frankly, I’m not sure how much coddling the average undergrad receives — probably not much more than your US student — and much of the love and attention is lavished on the Institution, not the institutionalized… Still, my lower middle class soul was both shaken and stirred, gripped by both envy and an emotion I can only call pique.  “How dare so few consume so much?” or something to that effect.  It makes a boy want to get out the torches and pitchforks, except, of course, Cambridge is already equipped to handle that sort of response from the masses.

On the other hand, there’s actually a tea shop called “Auntie’s Tea Shop.”  Who could be mad at that?

Auntie's Tea Shop

Auntie’s Tea Shop

ITEM! Does anyone know where I get this ITEM! nonsense? No? Am I the only one who read Stan’s Soapbox back in the 1960s and 1970s (which is another way of saying “Am I the only one old enough to have read Stan’s Soapbox back the 1960s and 1970s?”)?  This is by way of saying that maybe next time I’ll post a few lines about my love of comics, especially Silver and Bronze Age Marvel Comics.  We’ll see what else comes up.

Next post: The Origin of Kirby (the cat, not the comic book artist) ,and the frequently asked question, “How hard is it to get a literary agent?” (The answer, kids, is, “It’s hard.”)

Kirby and the Queen Bee - original art by Chris McLoughlin, circa 2004

Kirby and the Queen Bee – original art by Chris McLoughlin, circa 2004

Data-centric, Part 1

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As previously mentioned, I have a new book coming out in late June/early July, depending on your locale.  The title is The Light Fantastic, or Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Light Fantastic. It’s a sequel of sorts to my 2002 book Immortal Coil and very much follows on the heels of David Mack’s excellent Cold Equations trilogy, which, among other things, brought Data back from the pitchy abyss where he was sent at the end of Nemesis, the last Next Generation movie.  

Margaret Clark, who has been working with the Star Trek franchise for the better part of a decade, contacted me in early 2013 after Cold Equations was published to report that (understandably) Immortal Coil had benefitted from David Mack’s trilogy with a bit of a bump in sales.

“Talley ho!” I exclaimed, or something very like it (In fact, I almost never say “Talley ho!” but since what I likely uttered was an indecipherable “Blargh?”-like noise, I’m going to tart this up a bit).

“Indeed,” Margaret likely said.  And then, “Maybe you’d be interested in following up on the events of Mack’s story?”  This was spoken in the Long Island lilt in Ms. Clark’s voice that, if you’ve ever spoken to her, you immediately understand to mean, “You really should write another book if you know what’s good for you.”  I don’t mean to imply that Margaret is harsh or punitive in any way, but she has a way of phrasing things that you know what she means, even if she isn’t stating it flatly.  Have you ever heard a character in any Quentin Tarantino movie?  It’s something like that.

To which I replied, “Let me think about that.”  Pause.  “Okay, sure.  How about this…?”  Because, friends, as it happened, way back in 2002, after Immortal Coil was published, but before Nemesis limped into and out of theaters (No, in fact, I didn’t like it very much), I had concocted an idea for a second Data-centric story that would have picked up some of the threads of Coil, but headed off in a somewhat different direction.  My thought, at the time, was to push Data into a less sunny, funny place.  Not necessarily “Dark Data,” but I thought it would be interesting to introduce some ambiguity into his usually Ones-and-Zeroes/Black-and-White worldview.  In retrospect, I’m not sure I could have pulled off this kind of transformation back then, but, as it worked out, I didn’t get the chance.

They blew up Data good – boom-chakalaka-crash — broken crockery everywhere.  Even though I knew it was coming, I was surprised by how sad it made me, not the least because the character’s sacrifice seemed so meaningless and undramatic.  It felt, for want of a better word, limp.  Not a noble passing and certainly nothing like the drama they had wrung out of Spock’s “death” a couple decades earlier.  Perhaps part of the reason it didn’t work for me was because it felt so impermanent and reversible.  The set-up was so obvious.

And then the Star Trek franchise holders surprised me by not taking the obvious route and reviving Data in a couple years.  A decade passed and then a little more and, man alive, it seemed like something was going to stick.

And then David Mack came along and put Humpty Dumpty back together again, but in a way that actually mattered.  There were stakes, dammit.  He didn’t take the easy path and while Data’s “death” still felt cheap, David made his resurrection count. Pipers were paid.  It was very well done.  There was the moment in Persistence of Vision where it dawned on me what was going to happen, when I figured out Soong’s plan, and I actually said, aloud, “Oh, no!”  Which, frankly, surprised me because, despite having written as much about Noonien as most of the Trek writers combined, I never really liked him that much.  It was always kind of a dick, if truth be told, even when he was trying to be a good dad.  

But, here he was doing something not only noble and self-sacrificing, but doing it in a very self-aware manner.  I don’t have the book anywhere near to hand, so I can’t quote the scene precisely, but I have a distinct memory that Soong more-or-less said, “I haven’t always been a good father.  I hope this makes up for some of that.”  Which, if you know me even a little bit (and I know some of you don’t) is precisely the kind of thing that goes to the core of my Grinchy heart.

And there, I think, I have to stop.  This post has already gone on much, much longer than I had expected.  I just added “Part 1” to the header and will return as soon as possible with, as Paul Harvey used to say, “The rest of the story…”

“Who’s Paul Harvey?” you ask.  Go look it up.  The wondernet is your friend and wants you to use it all up…

– From my hotel room in lovely Durham, NC.