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The Season of Gaming: Star Trek

The Season of Gaming: Star Trek

There has been something of a Star Trek television renaissance in recent years. Ranging from the all-too-near future (first contact with the Vulcans is slated to take place in 2063, after all) to the far distant future, the ever-growing setting provides ample fodder not only for new episodes and storylines, but for gamers who want to experience the universe by diving into the setting, there are a variety of different games that offer different levels of engagement with the themes of the show. And ones which, if you’re looking for a game to play while in lockdown with family over the holidays, might do the trick … particularly if your family consists of Trek fans.

One of the more curious Star Trek games I’ve run across was the Ferengi-themed sales game Star Trek: Galactic Enterprises, a card game where you spend bars of gold-pressed latinum in an effort to corner the market on a given product. There are of course the various games that are just re-skins of existing games that incorporate elements from the setting, like Star Trek Monopoly, various editions of Star Trek Fluxx, Star Trek Risk, and even Star Trek Catan.

But beyond those games, there are some which delve much more deeply into the concepts, alien species, and lore of the Star Trek universe to provide a more immersive gaming experience, boldly going where no game has gone before.

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The Continuing Mission: Star Trek Adventures

The Continuing Mission: Star Trek Adventures

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Star Trek has been a revered franchise for decades, and the FASA Star Trek RPG released in the 1980s is a oft cited classic game. The current RPG, Star Trek Adventures, is published by Modiphius. Supported by multiple supplements, adventures, and a forthcoming Klingon core rulebook, Star Trek Adventures is a compelling RPG that will let you live out your own Star Trek stories, regardless of era.

The game is oriented toward The Next Generation era of Star Trek, but the rules allow and often speak specifically to running games in the Original Series and Enterprise eras (Deep Space Nine and Voyager fall within The Next Generation era). Even the Kelvin timeline (i.e., the new film series with Chris Pine as Captain Kirk). Modiphius does not have the license rights to the newer Discovery, Picard, or Lower Decks series showing on CBS All Access, but adapting the game to suit those settings is readily done.

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Star Trek Brought Women into the Science Fiction Community

Star Trek Brought Women into the Science Fiction Community

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In an August 7th post on his Whatever blog, “Oh, Christ, Not the Science Fiction Canon Again,” John Scalzi said, “As a practical matter, the science fiction “canon” is already dead.” The term “literary canon” refers to a body of books, narratives and other texts considered to be the most important and influential of a particular time period or place. (The Daily Nebraskan)

For me, and this is personal experience, the field began changing when Star Trek brought a flood of women, fans and then writers, into the science fiction community. That was at the end of the 1960s, when the first show was running. I was hanging out in Devra Langsam’s living room in 1967 or 8, when the first Star Trek convention was being planned. I don’t know if her Spockanalia was the first ST fanzine, but it was damn close, and I was in one of the issues. I also had a story in Star Trek: The New Voyages, a collection of ST stories written by fans, which was published in 1976. (I want my ST credentials to be clear. The story is listed as being co-authored by me and Ruth Berman. I helped come up with the plot, but Ruth did almost all the work.)

I was away from SFdom while I lived into Detroit, though I published my first stories while I was in the Motor City. I rejoined fandom in the 1970s, when Patrick and I moved to the Twin Cities. Sometime, either in the late 70s or early 80s, I noticed that most of the fans of color and GLBTQ fans were coming from media fandom. It struck me as very important that media fans be made welcome in book fandom and at cons, or else fandom as I knew it was going to wither and die. I started doing GLBT panels and panels on race and science fiction. The GLBT panels went well mostly. The race panels were problematic, largely because there were too many white people on the panels, including me. I also did a few class panels. These tended to blow up, because the issue of class is both hidden and highly emotionally charged in the US. Race in also hidden, at least to white people, but it wasn’t a topic I could handle.

I must have been doing feminist panels in this period, but I don’t remember them, except one at Minicon when one of the women on the all-woman panel said, “We are never going back.” I said, “It is always possible to be pushed back. Look at Nazi Germany.”

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Robots, Deep Space, and Star Trek: Free RPG Day at Games Plus in Mount Prospect

Robots, Deep Space, and Star Trek: Free RPG Day at Games Plus in Mount Prospect

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Free RPG Day is not something I can remember ever taking part in…. mostly because the only local gaming store here in St. Charles died ten years ago. But when I saw the Facebook announcement from Floyd at Games Plus on Friday (above), I was intrigued enough to make the 30-mile drive to Mount Prospect Saturday morning.

Games Plus is easily the best gaming store in the the Chicago area — perhaps in the entire country. It’s the home of the Games Plus auctions I’ve written about extensively for the the past 10 years. Like all retail stores, it’s struggled as a result of the pandemic, and I was overdue for a visit to show my support (and spend some money) anyway.

And several of the items in Floyd’s pic grabbed my attention, especially the Dungeon Crawl Classics adventure from Goodman Games, the Root the Tabletop Roleplaying Game adventure, and the Warhammer Wrath & Glory module. It’d be a challenge narrowing my selection down to two items, but I figured that’d be part of the fun.

So what is Free RPG Day?

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One Impossible Thing at a Time: Star Trek: Picard

One Impossible Thing at a Time: Star Trek: Picard

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It’s not the way I would have done it.

But it is pretty close!

Star Trek: Picard (ST:P), now available for free at CBS All Access, is the antidote to Star Trek: Discovery. As opposed to the heedless headlong rush of Discovery, Picard takes its time, building a story slowly and meticulously.

Others have said it before and likely better, but I’m going to say it myself — ST:P is made to appeal to people of, well, a certain age. Maybe age is not the right word, maybe it is made to appeal to people of a certain mileage. A mileage that includes some success, some failure, some pain, some loss, and some punishment for good deeds. ST:P has, as some of the best Star Trek has, a kind of multi-level relevance that is hard to beat.

Speaking of which, some people object to the overt political message of this series. I am not one of those people. If you are one of those people, hey guess what, we’re not gonna agree.

And, of course, it has Patrick Stewart, an iconic actor, reprising his iconic role as Jean Luc Picard.

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Rogue Blades Presents: Who Was Your First Hero?

Rogue Blades Presents: Who Was Your First Hero?

Kirk-Spock-McCoyDo you remember your first hero? Any kind of hero. It could have been a hero from a movie or a book or a television show, even a hero from real life.

As a child of the 1970s, one might think Luke Skywalker was my first hero, but I would turn eight years old a month after the original Star Wars was released in theaters, and by then I already had plenty of heroes.

Re-runs of the original Star Trek TV show from the 1960s were still airing, and I watched every one of them. Of the crew of the Enterprise, Captain James T. Kirk seemed the most heroic of the figures presented to us viewers, or at least he stood in the most traditional of the heroic modes.

Then there was the Six Million Dollar Man, starring actor Lee Majors from 1973 to 1978 on television. For those not familiar with the series, Majors played U.S. astronaut Steve Austin who was seriously injured in an accident. Not only did Steve survive his accident, but the government decided, “We can rebuild him. We have the technology.” And they did. Steve got some bionic legs and an arm and an eye. He fought crime. And Bigfoot. It was awesome.

Some might not consider Godzilla a hero, but by the time of my childhood in the ’70s, Godzilla was mainly a good guy, so he was a hero of sorts to many of us. For better or worse, my first Godzilla movie was Godzilla vs. Megalon, a film sometimes not remembered fondly by Godzilla fans. Either way, I was maybe five years old when my dad drug me into an old downtown theater to witness the spectacle of this movie, and again, I have to say it was awesome.

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Star Trek: Discovery: A Quick Dive Into the New Face of the Franchise

Star Trek: Discovery: A Quick Dive Into the New Face of the Franchise

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Review’s Log, Stardate 2020.3.18

It’s not how I would have done it.

Honestly, any review/criticism of a beloved franchise that doesn’t begin with those eight words is committing a significant lie of omission. Indeed, I feel that all future reviews should be required to begin with those words, or the INHIWHDI acronym. Consider it a new Prime Directive for our wounded age.

Reviewer’s Log, Supplemental

Timing is everything, and Star Trek: Discovery (ST:D) really drew the short end of the stick on this one. When I got CBS All Access I didn’t know it was all access. As in the entire CBS backlog. Original Series Trek, Next Generation Trek, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and the Animated Series from ’74.

It is not ST:D’s fault that I dove right into the Animated Series (ST:TAS) as soon as I realized I had it. And ST:TAS was just as weird/cool/funky as you would think it was. It was also delightfully subversive and progressive. Uhuru commands the Enterprise twice. Is there even a live-action Trek that has a black woman in the big chair? Chapel solves The Problem once and solves The Other Problem once. Also, Kzinti.

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IMHO: Giving Voices to Your Characters

IMHO: Giving Voices to Your Characters

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James Doohan (as Scotty): “I’m giving her all she’s got, Capt’n!”

I owe a great debt of gratitude to my two good friends, who were of immense help to me in the creation and shaping of my two (so far) volumes of Mad Shadows. Neither are strangers to Black Gate, for I interviewed both of them for this e-zine: Ted Rypel (author of the Saga of Gonji Sabatake: The Deathwind Trilogy, Fortress of Lost Worlds, A Hungering of Wolves, and Dark Ventures); and David C. Smith (author of the Oron series, The Fall of the First World Trilogy, the original Red Sonja novels (with Richard L. Tierney), Dark Muse, the recently-released Bright Star; Robert E. Howard: A Literary Biography, for which he won the 2018 Atlantean Award from the Robert E. Howard Foundation, and many other novels, including Waters of Darkness, on which we collaborated.) Both gentlemen write wonderful dialogue, and taught me how to make my characters “talk like real folks.”

Now, I don’t claim to be a great writer nor do I think I’m a “know-it-all” when it comes to plotting, creating characters, telling a story and writing crisp, entertaining and enlightening dialogue. I am far from being a literary genius. I’m not a college professor or a grammar Nazi. I’m not here to tell you what to do and how to do it. We each have our own styles and methods. I’m here to just pass on my own way of doing things, hoping what I have to say will help a writer or two. As far as creating compelling dialogue is concerned — and we’ve all heard this one — my personal rule is:

Give Each of Your Characters Their Own Unique Voice.

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Vintage Treasures: The Space Anthologies, edited by David Drake with Charles G. Waugh and Martin Harry Greenberg

Vintage Treasures: The Space Anthologies, edited by David Drake with Charles G. Waugh and Martin Harry Greenberg

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Covers by Walter Velez

Almost exactly a month ago I wrote about a trio of military/adventure science fiction anthologies edited by Joe Haldeman, Charles G. Waugh, and Martin Harry Greenberg, and published by Ace Books between 1986-88: Body Armor: 2000, Supertanks, and Space Fighters. Today they’re called the Tomorrow’s Warfare trilogy, and they’re a fun and collectible set of vintage paperbacks well worth tracking down, especially if you enjoy 80s-vintage military/adventure fantasy or are even remotely curious about 80s science fiction in general. Check out all the details here.

Haldeman did no further books with Waugh and Greenberg. But I suspect the three he did were fairly successful, as scarcely a year later David Drake picked up the reins and produced three books with them in the exact same vein:

Space Gladiators (1989)
Space Infantry (1989)
Space Dreadnoughts (1990)

These are loosely referred to as the Space anthologies (by me, anyway), and they followed the same formula as the previous titles, with stories from the most popular writers of the day including a Retief novella by Keith Laumer, a Dorsai tale by Gordon R. Dickson, a Magnus Ridolph novelette by Jack Vance, a Falkenberg’s Legion story by Jerry Pournelle, a Hammer’s Slammers novelette by David Drake, a Thousand Worlds tale by George R. R. Martin, plus the Hugo-award winning “Allamagoosa” by Eric Frank Russell, the classic “Arena” by Fredric Brown (inspiration for the famed Star Trek episode of the same name), and fiction by Isaac Asimov, Brian W. Aldiss, Arthur C. Clarke, Fritz Leiber, Joe Haldeman, Poul Anderson, Algis Budrys, Jack Williamson, Michael Shaara, Mack Reynolds, C. M. Kornbluth, and many others.

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Quatro-Decadal Review, November 1979: A Brief Look Back

Quatro-Decadal Review, November 1979: A Brief Look Back

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When you’re seven years old, you do not see what’s coming next between these two

I’m about to get into the November 1979 science fiction magazines. Dive Deep. But, there is a fundamental difference between November 1969, and November 1979 — I was born in 1969, but by 1979 I was 10 years old. I remember 1979. Or pieces of it anyway.

Before I got into the magazines I thought I’d see what I could recall from my younger years. In short — Star Wars is what I remember.

It loomed large over almost everything in my life at the time. I think I went to see it like… 7 times? And back then, back in 1977, that took work, dude.

I remember disco, I remember “Disco Duck.” I had, by 1979, watched the entire run of Star Trek (and I have to say, when you are 8-10 years old, each Star Trek episode was almost as good as Star Wars).

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