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

Wednesday, March 25th, 2020 | Posted by Adrian Simmons

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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

Wednesday, January 29th, 2020 | Posted by Joe Bonadonna

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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

Thursday, December 26th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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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

Sunday, October 7th, 2018 | Posted by Adrian Simmons

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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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Modular: Take Command of Star Trek Adventures

Monday, March 12th, 2018 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

Star-Trek-The-Command-Division-Cover-No-LogosFans love Star Trek for different reasons, and when a fan moves into gaming within the Star Trek universe, those reasons usually inform the type of character they want to emphasize in their games. Do they want to be, like Spock or Data, the science officer who can coolly reason through any problem that comes up? Do they want to be the medical officer who saves lives while chaos erupts around them? The security officer who goes hand-to-hand with a Klingon warrior? The engineer who can make any technological miracle into reality? The hotshot pilot who can maneuver through any cluster of asteroids? Or the Captain of a starship, in charge of herding together all of these elements as they explore the distant unknown regions of space?

A handful of games have been versatile enough to cater to all of these types of fans. The video game Star Trek Online just celebrated its 8th anniversary, and it has a diverse style that allows easily for group or solo play, where players can create characters and take missions that interest them. There are missions that are mostly story-driven diplomatic missions, and some that are primarily about shooting the bad guys, either on ground away missions or in starship combat.

Last August, at GenCon, Modiphius Entertainment released the public version of their tabletop roleplaying game Star Trek Adventures. I’ve been running a group through since December 2016, when the game came out in a public playtest, and have been really pleased with it through all of the transformations into the official release. The system does a great job of allowing for diverse characters and capturing the feel of an episode of whichever Star Trek series is your cup of tea. (Earl Grey, hot, of course.)

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Tell Me A Story: Levar Burton Reads

Monday, February 12th, 2018 | Posted by Elizabeth Cady

Reading Rainbow

Admit it. You are singing this song in your head right now. And possibly craving fruit loops.

I’m a child of the 80s. And 90s. I’m technically a member of a little sliver generation in between Gen X and the Millennials, and even that depends on who wrote the chart you’re looking at. But the point is, Levar Burton was a pivotal figure in my childhood. First through “Reading Rainbow”, the long running and highly acclaimed literacy program for children on PBS, and then via “Star Trek: The Next Generation”. I still remember the first season of Reading Rainbow: it premiered in 1983, and I was an avid watcher. When “The Next Generation” premiered four years later, I was just at an age to appreciate it. So when I heard that Burton was launching a new podcast series for adults via Stitcher, I was quick to subscribe.

It has been an outstanding addition to my podcast feed.

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Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: Desperate Hours – A One-Two Combo

Saturday, September 30th, 2017 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

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This week saw the first new Star Trek TV show debut in a long time. If you missed it, or because subscribing to CBS All-Access for a single show irks you, it was more than pretty good. In fact, I downright enjoyed myself in a way I haven’t since the Star Trek: Enterprise debuted in 2001. And it was my 12-year old son’s first real experience of Star Trek.

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GenCon 2017, Pt. 2: Science Fiction Edition

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

starfinderScience fiction themes were front and center at GenCon this year, in a way that surpasses what I have seen in previous years. Usually the science fiction games are almost entirely tied into existing property lines, like the various Star Wars miniature battle lines produced by Fantasy Flight Games. These were certainly present, but they were matched by new science fiction games that had an appeal independent of being tied to well-established and beloved properties.

I’ll dig into several of these games more deeply in future full reviews, but for now here are some high-level looks at some of the new science fiction-themed games and expansions from GenCon.

Starfinder

The release of the Starfinder Roleplaying Game was one of the central events of the convention, the science fiction/space fantasy game set in the distant future of Paizo’s Pathfinder universe. We’ve spoken about Starfinder previously (see here, here, and here). I’ve been enthusiastic about the prospect of this game since the day it was announced, so it’s a pleasure to see that its release was an astounding success. As Erik Mona of Paizo explained to me, the company had looked at their past records and brought more copies of the Starfinder Core Rulebook than the number of any previous book they’ve ever released at GenCon … and it sold out in less than 7 hours. (The PDF, however, is available through Paizo.com for only $9.99!)

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Modular: Star Trek Adventures is Versed in Multiple Techniques

Friday, April 7th, 2017 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

startrekadventuresThis week marked the -46th anniversary of First Contact Day, the date in 2063 when Zefram Cochrane was the first human to create and engage a warp drive (time travel situations excluded), as depicted in the film Star Trek: First Contact. As such, it seems appropriate to look at the state of affairs with the upcoming Star Trek Adventures roleplaying game, slated for a 2017 release from Modiphius Entertainment.

Modiphius has been playtesting the game since late last year as an open live playtest, using gamers from across the world as guinea pigs to find bugs in their design and crowdsourcing improvement suggestions. In addition to the Alpha set of rules for playtest, the Round 1 included a generic “starter” adventure that all of the playtesters could run through. I discussed my thoughts on this shortly after I playtested it, back in December, playing the group with a mix of Star Trek enthusiasts and their less-enthusiastic spouses, all of whom are relative novices at roleplaying games.

Earlier this year, based on feedback from the first round, Modiphius released a second round of playtest, as well as new adventures focused on the specific ship that you signed up to test for, allowing them to test science/exploration missions vs. combat-oriented missions vs. diplomacy missions, and so on. The new set of rules contained updates to earlier rules, but also a key new gaming system: starships. Once we provided feedback on the Round 2 playtest, playtesters were given access to the character creation system.

So let’s take a moment to dive into Star Trek Adventures …

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Star Trek Movie Rewatch: Star Trek: First Contact (1996)

Wednesday, January 11th, 2017 | Posted by William I. Lengeman III

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As a TOS fan who came to the other Star Trek series relatively recently, I have to admit that The Next Generation, although entertaining, didn’t grab me as much as its predecessor. Nor did the first entry in the TNG run of movies — Generations.

Fortunately, First Contact fares quite a bit better than that installment.

Part of the appeal this time around, in this the eighth of the Star Trek movies, is that it centers on the Borg. Who were the most effective of all Star Trek villains, in my opinion. They first appeared in Star Trek: Next Generation and then in each of the TV series after that. They turned up very frequently in Voyager, which featured Seven of Nine, a “recovering” Borg/human, as a regular member of the cast.

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