Monday, April 20, 2015

Silver Tongue, Art, etc.

Alright, so lately I've had a lot going on.  I'm working on a few projects aside from this blog and I have a NEW BOOK coming out TOMORROW! Sorry for the AllCaps but I've mostly been going around all day yelling at everyone in my house about how I have a NEW BOOK COMING OUT TOMORROW!

Here's the cover:

Here's what it's about:
The Colonies lost the Revolutionary War. Now it’s 1839 and the North American continent is divided into three territories: New Britannia, Nueva Espana, and Nouvelle France where seventeen-year-old Claire Poissant lives.

Claire has a magical way with words—literally. But a mystical power of persuasion isn’t the only thing that makes her different. Half-French and half-Indian, Claire doesn’t feel at home in either world. Maybe that’s why she’s bonded so tightly with her fellow outcasts and best friends: Phileas, a young man whose towering intellect and sexuality have always made him the target of bullies, and Sam, a descendant of George Washington who shares the disgraced general’s terrible, secret curse.

But when Sam’s family is murdered, these bonds are tested and Claire’s special ability is strained to its limits as the three hunt the men responsible into dangerous lands. Along the way they cross paths with P.T. Barnum, William Frankenstein and other characters from both history and fantasy as they learn the hard way that man is often the most horrific monster and that growing up sometimes means learning to let go of the things you hold most dear.

Ok, so anyway, it'll be available tomorrow on Amazon and B&N and you can get a real life paper copy or you can do what I always do and buy it for your kindle so you can read it in bed. I'll also be doing a giveaway for the book here on the blog so keep an eye out for that.

Now back to Voyager. The other night I did some Science BFF art. I wanted to do a little piece that showcased all the the prominent female scientists in Voyager but then realized, as I was doing it, that all of the main female characters are (or become) scientists. That's pretty awesome. This ended up just being a portrait of the Voyager Ladies but I'd really like to do a more black-line, cartooney Voyager Science BFFs piece but for now, here's this: 

Alright, I was going to go ahead and write about both "Twisted" and "Partuition" but I think this post is already long enough. So, I'll do that in a couple days. Right now I think I'm just going to spend the rest of the day yelling at strangers about how I have a book coming out tomorrow. 

Friday, April 10, 2015

Voyager Re-Watch: Non-Sequitur

Oh man, ok well I've been putting off writing this post because I felt like I didn't have anything really interesting to say about it but here we go.

Non-Sequitur is an episode that always kind of sticks with me in spite of the fact that I feel it's not a very strong outing for Voyager. Harry Kim is body snatched (for the THIRD time and it's only the beginning of the second season, people) and taken to an alternate reality earth where his girlfriend is all, "You ready to get married, sweetheart?" and he never boarded Voyager and neither did Alternate Tom Paris and now they're both here and Harry's trying his damndest to get back.

Ok, Harry is the whiniest of the Voyager crew (outside of Seska and with her it's less about whining and more just deadly mischief) about getting back to the Alpha Quadrant so it seems both a great and terrible idea to put him on Earth. Great because it should be amazing to watch him struggle with what he ought to do--terrible because that's a pretty big thing to justify. Even in the Trek-Verse where everyone in Starfleet is Level 9000 honorable and duty-bound etc, I buy that Harry will try to go back I just don't... really... care. His reasoning for going back is that he feels guilty firstly about him not being there for Voyager (sorry Harry, I'm not sure that would... uh... matter) secondly, he feels bad about Tom Paris who, in this universe, is shooting pool and wearing a vest and basically spending his days giving no fucks about anything. In actuality, Vest Paris is my favorite thing about this episode.

In my imagination he has a whole closet of these vests. Like Doug.
In Harry's mind, this is a terrible thing. So, I guess he feels like he needs to get back so he can be there for his own Tom Paris? Why doesn't he just stay there with his girlfriend and his Vulcan mocha and give Vest Paris some (apparently) much needed Harry-Time? I suppose this is a case of not an alternate reality but an altered one. Only one can exist I guess? So Harry has to make it right? All this comes out of Harry mocha-dealing friend in about one line of dialogue wherein he's also all like, "Btw, if you super want to fix things you can just fly a shuttle into the space-time-fold..." So that's what he does and then Vest Paris (sadly) no longer exists.

I don't know. I'm just not feeling it. And I guess that's why this episode never really did it for me. After I re-watched this one, I sat around imagining other Voyager crewmen thrust into Harry's position. What would Non-Sequitur have been like had it been a B'Elanna-sode instead? Or Paris himself?

Bonus Points:
-At first I commended Harry Kim for not playing his damn clarinet because his girlfriend was asleep and then, about five seconds later, he's reading the computer screen OUT LOUD. At this point, if I were Harry's poor girlfriend I'd go from, "I'm worried about you sweetie," to "GTFO you turd and go back to the Delta Quadrant!"
-I need my sleep.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Voyager Re-Watch: Elogium

This post is about puberty and pregnancy and periods so if that wigs you out then you're welcome to just look at this instead:
Voyager Bros
In the second season episode, Elogium, Voyager runs into a swarm of spaceborn aliens that jumpstart Kes' weird, Okampan version of puberty. It's a little more intense than human puberty. Basically, once it starts, she has a limited time to decide whether or not to have a child and if she doesn't do it right then and there it'll never happen.

I tend to think of this one as, "The One Where Kes Eats Beetles" but, in fact I ought to remember it as, "The One Where Janeway Comforts Kes About The Stresses And Pressures Of Being A Woman" because that's what happens. Even though Voyager is in a dangerous position with the swarm, even though she's encountering a completely new life form, even though she's got the weight of Voyager on her shoulders, Janeway takes time away to talk to and comfort Kes--who has become almost an adoptive daughter by this point in the second season. It's easy to see why. Kes is innocent and compassionate and curious and intelligent--the kind of daughter it seems Janeway might actually have. She's far from her own culture and has no guidance from others of her species. It all makes the scene I'm referring to incredibly touching. Both actresses--playing complicated characters in complicated situations--excel in this one.

Here's what happened when I started my own period. I was twelve when it happened and, I guess because girls tend to be rather savvy about these things--in the 90s era of Full House and Family Matters and Roseanne--I figured out what to do on my own. But, in spite of my ability to cope, I was terrified. I didn't want that part of my life to start. I'd known since I was a little kid that I didn't want children and now suddenly my body was betraying me. It was signaling to the world--ok maybe not the world but definitely Marcy behind the CVS checkout counter--that I'd become a woman and fully capable producing offspring.

Anyway, standing in the store I stared in horror at the shelves of feminine products I was now obliged to overpay for every month. I got in the car afterward and took out a notebook and did math while asking questions,  "How many days does a period typically last?" "Why do these things smell like perfume? Is that really sanitary?" "At what age is a woman expected to reach menopause?"

I totted up how many boxes of tampons I'd eventually have to buy. How many weeks of my life would be spent concerned about whether or not something had leaked. How many times I'd have to wonder whether I might've gotten pregnant. I was already worried about unplanned pregnancy and I'd barely started my period.

Last year, after months spent in agonizing pain--pain so awful I didn't want to get out of bed in the morning--I sat in the doctor's office as she explained that I likely had endometriosis. It was something I'd suspected for a while. She said if I wanted to conceive it would be very difficult but maybe not impossible. She prescribed medication and some supplements and rest etc.

You might be wondering if this diagnosis brought about any second thoughts. Any re-considerations regarding the choice not to have children. The answer is: Nope. Not even a little bit. Still, it felt once again like my body was betraying me. Again, as I'd done in another hot car, on the other side of the country, nearly twenty years before, I calculated how long I'd be dealing with this. How long would I deal with pain, with daily doses of estrogen--which my body tends to reject? How many things might I miss out on because things inside my body are going haywire? In most instances I'm terrible at math but I still tend to rely on it as a coping mechanism. If I can put a number on the thing I don't want to face it becomes less nebulous. Conquerable. Nothing lasts forever.

In Elogium Kes suffers through her lady time for the course of a single episode. Once they figure out how to get away from the swarm, she recovers and subsequently learns that her Elogium was false. Her true Elogium will likely come later--when it's supposed to. And, hopefully by that time she'll know whether or not she wants to procreate and can make a more informed decision and won't spend so much time freaking out and eating beetles.
In any case, watching this one reminded me that even in Janeway's time, women can't really escape the choices and pressures about having children.

Bonus Points:
-Chakotay catches some crewmen necking in the lift. That's like your friend's dad catching you.
-Who says necking? How old am I?
-This is Ensign Wildman's first episode and I love it.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Voyager Re-Watch: Projections

The Doctor wakes up on Voyager and the ship is EMPTY! It's a MYSTERY! Cut to the opening sequence.

So after I watched the cold open for this one, I went in the kitchen to make an ice cream cone (because obviously) and told Scott that I'd got to an episode where I couldn't remember what was going on. I was SO excited. And I kept waiting for the moment to roll around when I would eventually go, "Oh yeah. This one."

But I sat there, my ice cream long gone, going, "Is it Seska?" "Is it...Vidiians?" No. "It's too early for Species 8675309... right?"

And then Barclay showed up and I totally lost it. I finally just bought in to the fact that I couldn't remember what was going on. I know I watched it. I know I watched it recently. I remembered everything that happened as it happened. But the whole supposedly sinister, probably complicated element behind the Doctor's experience completely eluded me.

In the end, the solution isn't actually complicated or sinister. And maybe that's why I forgot all about it the resolution. This episode isn't really about opposition or conflict. It's about the Doctor's character and about the way he's already grown so much. He's no longer a limited-use hologram without any ambition beyond fixing up whoever it is that's having an emergency. He's a person with hopes, dreams, fears and, as it turns out, love and the beginnings of a family. His experiences (in this aptly named episode) are projections of all these things and they show someone who has already exceeded the limitations of his programming. It's a powerful episode for that reason. Its power is in its simplicity and its reliance on character development rather than a thrilling, rug-pull ending.

Bonus Points:
-This one was directed by Jonathan Frakes (my BFF, obviously)
-This is also the one wherein we get a kind of lampshade for why Paris looks so familiar. Supposedly it's because he's modeled on Barclay's cousin Frank but actually because Robert Duncan McNeil played Nick (the Nova Squadron leader who made Wesley tell dirty, dirty lies) in TNG's "The First Duty."
-Barclay! Anytime Reginald Barclay shows up it's a good day.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Voyager Re-watch: Initiations

When I was a kid I had long, blond curls that (like me) ran wild. I freaked out if anyone tried to pull a comb through my mop and absolutely refused to let anyone near me with a brush. The fine, abundant but curly nature of my hair means that it tangles easily and stuff gets caught in it all the time. Bugs, twigs, bits of lint, you name it. When I was little, and it was really long and completely unmanageable, the inevitable finally happened--I fell asleep with gum in my mouth and woke up with a wad of Fruit Stripe plastered to my already absurd tresses. There was only one option. I don't know if things are different now but this was the 80s and Pinterest didn't exist. My mom chopped it off.

I was thinking about this recently as I re-watched the second season episode, Initiations. In this one, Chakotay goes off to do some spiritual biz and winds up entangled with a bunch of Kazon jerks. Every time I do a re-watch of Voyager, I'm happy to get away from the initial Delta Quadrant aliens. The Vidiians, the Kazon. I'm just not overly fond of them. With the Vidiians, it's the phage--even though I think it's a fantastic idea for a species, a great idea for Trek, and a perfect idea for Voyager--it just bothers me. I feel bad for them and I loathe them at the same time and those are uncomfortable feelings. With the Kazon, I just feel like these guys are a missed opportunity--a bunch of almost Klingons too goofy to really be a menace. Plus, I don't like what's happening on their heads.

What's in there? Seashells? Banana peels?
Fairly sure that's a Nestle Crunch bar lodged in there. 
These kids don't stand a chance. 
Is it a headdress? Is it an autumnal wreath purchased from Michael's? According to Memory Alpha, it's hair--I guess with some stuff in it. Apparently I'm not the only one who had a problem with the Kazon's coiffure. Lots of Voyager fans sent letters to the studio complaining about this species and their number one issue was the hair. And I suppose it is distracting. But, I think more than anything else, the Kazon just never really seem like a viable threat. They always seem a little ridiculous. They're total jerks who run a jerk society, they're mostly morons and they put loofas in their hair. The loofas are the thing that just pushes it over the edge. It's hard to take them seriously.

They remind me a lot of the Ferengi. It seemed clear in TNG that, initially, they meant for the Ferengi to be a real threat. They were to be Picard's Klingons. But, I mean, come on.
When I was a kid, they were only ever referred to as Butt Heads.
In TNG, these guys were all over the place. They were incompetent at times yet managed to find Picard's (supposed) long-lost son and re-sequence his DNA. It wasn't until DS9 came along (with regular characters who could grow and develop--and actors who did an amazing job filling out those roles) that the Ferengi became anything other than a sub-par Klingon knockoff. 

Interestingly, it's one of those talented actors who manages to bring some much needed gravity to Initiations. Aron Eisenberg, who played Nog in DS9, portrays the Kazon kid trying to earn his Ogla name by murdering the crap out of Chakotay. When it doesn't work, they both have to run away and, in hiding, they each learn more about the other. Both Beltran and Eisenberg bring some real emotion to this episode and I'm fairly sure it's the most I ever like the Kazon. 

Oh, and by the way, my hair is still a crazy mess. That's why yesterday (totally unprovoked by a gum/loofah incident, I assure you) I had it cut. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Voyager Re-Watch: The 37s

I'm just gonna get to it--this is the one where Janeway finds Amelia Earhart on a planet in the Delta Quadrant and wakes her up.

It all starts when they come upon a 1930s truck spewing rust into space and then follow an SOS signal to a planet where a bunch of people have been stored on ice for the last couple hundred years. (One of them happens to be Amelia Earhart.) Soon, some other humans show up and spill the beans about how, back in the 30s, a ton of people were abducted from earth and brought to the Delta Quadrant as slaves but they revolted and took the planet for themselves and now they have a great (apparently--we never see it) society that's a lot like Earth. They offer the 37s (the humans who've been in cold storage this whole time) and the Voyager crew the option of staying and making a home there.

Alright, in spite of this episode's slight unevenness, I always find it really endearing. It's the Season 2 opener but it feels a lot more like the Season 1 finale--probably because it was actually written to be so. There's not a lot of danger here. There's not any alien race bearing down on them. There's no phaser fight or dangerous space sickness or imminent need for fuel or any of the stuff the Voyager crew often face. Yet, this is a uniquely Voyager episode. No other Trek  crew would've needed to even consider an offer to stay on an alien planet. Only the Voyager crew, so far away from home, might be tempted by an earth-like society populated by real, actual humans (and not just folks who look like humans but have some variation of a turtlehead or points on their ears) and that's what ultimately makes this episode special.

The last two acts of this one are spent with characters discussing who might stay behind. B'Elanna and Harry consider their options. "Do you really want to be trapped on a ship forever? Don't you want to feel the breeze?" (or something like that) And, when Neelix is questioned by the 37s about whether crew members will elect to stay on Voyager, he becomes more and more unsure as the conversation goes on.

In the end, Janeway has a heart-to-heart with Amelia about the whole issue. She says the crew members who've decided to leave will be in the cargo bay and she's headed there now.

And here's the moment that so endears not only this episode to me but Janeway and, beyond that, Kate Mulgrew. Her performance, as she enters the cargo bay and realizes that no one has decided to leave--that each and every one of her crewmen will stay on Voyager--is beautiful and true. Janeway's glad they're all staying because it shows loyalty and a commitment to their mission and a commitment to her but, more than that, it must be a relief for this character. After all, it was the choice she made that stranded them all in the Delta Quadrant. She must have felt some level of guilt about this over the last six months and now, when her entire crew makes the choice to stay with Voyager--to stay with her--it must be a powerful comfort. They're in this together and, for the first time, this crew really feels like a family.

Bonus Points:
-Holy crap, they land the freaking ship. Seriously. They land Voyager. What more do you need?

Monday, March 16, 2015

Voyager Re-Watch: Learning Curve

Ok so this isn't exactly a huge secret but--I am not the military type. I'm just not. I suck at taking orders. I get really mad when people tell me what I'm doing wrong. I am the WORST at ironing my clothes--literally all I wear are t-shirts and jeans and chucks. I really, really, really hate being around a lot of people for extended periods of time. It's a whole bad scene. And, of course, I'm not overly fond of jogging. Running flat out like a five year old on a sugar high? Yes. Jogging? No.

Anyway, one time when I was eighteen years old and didn't have any money for college and was terrified of the crippling debt I would have to take on in order to pursue my degree--I walked into the Air Force recruitment office in my hometown and asked about my options. "Of course," said the recruiter with all kinds of enthusiasm, "You'd be a great candidate." I'd taken four years of foreign language, my ASVAB test scores were very high, and, this being about 6 months after 9/11, I had all kinds of patriotic spirit. I almost did it. But I didn't. The day of my physical I had a crisis of faith and called a friend who basically laid out all the reasons I mentioned above as to why I should not sign up for military service.

Turns out, I wouldn't have been able to go anyway. As my sister learned, ten years later when she tried to join the Navy, psoriasis--a skin condition that makes vaccines necessary for military service overseas potentially deadly--will get you disqualified. We both have it. Neither of us could go. (My sister's smarter though and managed to hustle herself a nearly full scholarship to a swanky liberal arts college.)

I bring this up because it's what I was thinking about as I watched the last of Voyager's first season episodes--Learning Curve. This one starts out with Janeway in her creepy gothic holonovel. Some glitches occur and soon we realize Voyager's a bit under the weather. Meanwhile, Tuvok encounters a few Maquis crewmen who still aren't adjusted to Starfleet life and he decides to change all that. Mostly by jogging. But also by re-enacting several elements from Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan. In the end, Tuvok figures out a cheese making experiment (it was Neelix) produced a bacteria that essentially made Voyager's biogenic gel packs sick. By the time The Doctor comes up with a plan to give the ship a fever, Tuvok and his Starfleet washouts are stuck in a deathbox cargo bay.

Now, I love a good dairy based catastrophe as much as the next guy but this episode never really appealed to me all that much. Probably all the jogging. Re-watcing it this time, I had another opinion. I just liked it more. Maybe my expectations were lower. Maybe Leonard Nimoy's recent passing meant The Wrath of Khan was on my mind and maybe this near-tribute of an episode hit me a little harder than it usually would have. Maybe I've been thinking a lot about my sister. Maybe I've spent the last couple of years figuring out exactly who I am and who I am not. Not everyone's cut out for military service. Or Starfleet service for that matter. This episode really reminds me of that. As much as I'd like to have put on a uniform, as much as I'd like to picture myself in a bi-color spandex unitard, the truth is I'm just not cut out for it.

Bonus Points:
-The class takes the Kobayashi Maru.
-Tuvok basically quotes Spock's sentiments about the needs of the many.
-Neelix' speech to Tuvok about learning to bend is genuinely awesome.
-B'Elanna literally says, "Get this cheese to sickbay." I love it.
-"I don't want to get to know you...and I don't want to be your friend."--I feel ya, Darby.

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