ST: Voyager Liveblog — S1, E2: Parallax

(So I mentioned on FB that I was beginning a watch of Star Trek: Voyager. When the show first aired I watched the premiere, hated it, and never watched the show again, but some friends have convinced me to give it another shot. My FB friends suggested that I should liveblog my viewings. I mean, it was like, one person, and another chimed in and said it was a good idea, but I have decided to run with it. The premiere was both better and worse than I remembered, but I’m not going to rewatch it, so the liveblogging starts here, with the second episode, and will end whenever I lose interest, I guess.)

You guys B’elanna Torres has anger issues on account of Klingons. (Being mixed race is even harder when you live in a universe that has racial determinism; just ask Tanis Half-Elven!) Anyways Torres attacked some engineer in engineering over an engineering disagreement and boy is that engineer (his name is Lt. Carey, Engineer Esquire) mad. Chakotay’s like Dude chill I got this and then tells Torres she needs to make him look good by not murdering anybody for a little while because he wants her to be the new chief engineer. I am trying to imagine Geordi or O’Brien settling technical disagreements with fisticuffs. I guess maybe if they were shirtless. Is that sexist?

Also the ex-Maquis all want Chakotay to lead them in a mutiny because Torres might get punished. The way that this is presented reduces all the complexity of the Maquis situation that we saw in DS9 to a group of rebels with the psychology of three-year-olds–when someone tries to give you consequences, you throw stuff and refuse to listen to them. I hope we get a little deeper into the Maquis thinking than that.

Harry Kim is an ensign so it totally makes sense that he would be in a senior staff meeting, right? Oh, Harry. I can’t decide if the fact that Harry is the most boring character ever is a step forward in terms of racial representation–see, Asian people can be boring too!–or somehow plays into existing stereotypes. I’m sort of serious about this.

Suddenly Voyager is caught in some plot! An unidentified ship sends them a distress call; it’s getting hauled into a black hole, and Janeway wants to help them, because she hasn’t seen all those TNG episodes where causality is turned inside out and she doesn’t realize yet that it’s the Voyager. Torres and Lt. Carey disagree about how best to do this, but Carey’s tractor beam idea wins out.

Janeway doesn’t like Chakotay pushing Torres as the new chief, and he doesn’t want to be her token Maquis officer. The conversation they have about this is interesting, actually, and it gets at the very real problem of integrating the Maquis into the crew, and getting the Starfleet staff to accept them as peers or even superiors. The problem is that this episode started with the focus of “Torres has rage issues therefore the Maquis can’t be trusted,” so the conflict has been off-center from the word jump. But Janeway is being a boss, even if she can’t see Chakotay’s point that the Maquis can’t feel a part of the crew if they’re all relegated to low-tier assignments.

Kes is going to start a hydroponic farm and she needs soil samples, so she goes to sick bay to get some from the doctor. Picardo is pretty great in this role, not gonna lie, and the scene that follows has only tangential bearing on the A plot, but it’s a nice interaction. Kes is nice. Everyone likes Kes. That’s why they’re going to kill her SLOWLY.

Carey’s tractor beam is operational, but power fluctuations start pulling the Voyager into the event horizon. Carey has to manually shut down power to the tractor beam. Janeway gives up on this idea and heads for the Ilidaria system, where Neelix thinks they can get help.

Janeway has a meeting with Torres, who does everything possible to make the captain and the audience dislike her. She’s defensive and paranoid, and storms out after Janeway asks her why she left Starfleet Academy. “I didn’t want anything to do with Starfleet then, and I’m sorry that I have to now,” she says, while her eyebrows try and fail to make any sense with her prosthetic forehead.

The doctor calls Janeway to inform her that he’s been shrinking five centimeters every hour, something that Picardo plays with perfectly injured dignity, and that several crew members have been reporting headaches and dizzy spells. Janeway groks that this started at about the time they encountered the quantum singularity and its subspace distortions, which the doctor huffs that he should have been informed about this. Janeway agrees, but their convo is cut short by another camera tremor. They’ve encountered another black hole, except actually it’s the same one, because they never went anywhere.

After the commercial break they try again, with the same results. Janeway calls for analysis and diagnostics, because diagnostics are like bathroom breaks for Starfleet. When that’s all done they’re going to have another meeting. Chakotay asks who is going to represent engineering, and Janeway says Carey, but agrees to let Torres attend as well. Carey delivers this news to Torres and tells her not to talk at the meeting unless she’s asked a question. “Just remember that I speak for engineering,” he says, because he is the Lorax. The Borax. The Dilithorax. Who cares because hopefully by the end of this episode he will be dead or otherwise not matter. Carey leaves and another woman working in engineering tells Torres “You should have broken more than his nose,” so either she’s flirting or everybody hates Carey, or both.

Tuvok and Harry are talking about the singularity and the drama in engineering when Harry gets one of those sudden headache and dizzy spells. Tuvok takes him to sick bay, because senior officers do stuff like that, because who has time to delegate? Seriously, what does Harry Kim have on these people? Is his dad Q or something?

In the meeting, the doctor is two feet shorter and it gives B’elanna an idea about the subspace distortions. See blah blah blah you don’t really expect me to transcribe all this technobabble do you? Anyways she doesn’t break Carey’s rule about talking out of turn and Janeway’s like “Make it so” or whatever her catchphrase would be. As Chakotay leaves, he and Janeway exchange the slashiest look ever anywhere.

Torres does her magic and clears up the distress transmission and the visuals, and unsurprisingly it’s the Voyager. Dramatic music, cue commercial.

Torres says the other ship is just a reflection of them. Paris, who is insufferable, points out that this appears to violate the rules of causality, and Janeway patiently tells him that Yeah sometimes physics is like that, suck it up. Torres has an idea of how to get out, and Janeway’s all for it. They send warp particles out at the event horizon to try to rupture it; they make a crack, but it’s too small. They’re going to try to wedge it open, but they can’t send the beam from the distance they’re at, so they have to take a shuttle. Paris, who is insufferable, offers to pilot it, but Janeway’s like Thanks son, I got this.

On the shuttle, Torres tells Janeway she left Starfleet Academy because she knew she couldn’t make it. Janeway tells her that some of her professors thought she could. I don’t know if Torres is supposed to be some hard-luck inner city kid in this scenario or what, but it’s coming off a bit odd. She’s feisty! She’s argumentative! She has a bony forehead! All she needs is for someone to believe in her!

They get ready to fire their wedge beam, but there’s more subspace distortion. (Subspace Distortion is my favorite Mike Ness-fronted future punk band.) The shuttle and the Voyager are both affected, but Torres’s plan manages to widen the rupture to the point where the Voyager MIGHT fit through–Harry helpfully says they have less than two meters of clearance on either side. That means Paris, who is insufferable, is going to pilot the ship through as soon as the shuttle docks.

On the shuttle, Janeway and Torres are confronted with two Voyagers, and they’re not sure which one to dock with. This is a neat twist, I gotta admit. “Well, this is a problem,” says Torres. And here’s another situation where Janeway is a real captain, because they disagree about which one is the right one based on almost no evidence, and Janeway listens to Torres but trusts her own argument. “If you’re wrong,” Torres says, “We’re going to have a long time to debate it.”

Janeway’s not wrong, and she gets to make another command decision as soon as they get back to the bridge. The rupture’s collapsed to the point where it’s too small for the Voyager to pass through cleanly. “In command school,” Janeways says, “they taught us to always remember that maneuvering a starship is a very delicate process. But over the years I’ve learned that sometimes, you just have to punch your way through. Mr. Paris, full impulse power.”

So two episodes in, here is what I am impressed with: this show really knows who is in charge. Respect.

It works, which probably doesn’t even qualify as improbable, but I’m not going to spend much time on that quaint notion that Star Trek is science fiction in anything but the trappings. The point is that Janeway and Chakotay’s trust in Torres is validated, and she gets the engineering post. Carey is surprisingly gracious about it. Janeway tells Chakotay that two crew members have already filed complaints about the promotion, but she thinks Torres will do fine.

The show squanders a bit of my goodwill by having two cutesy tags. 1: Chakotay asks Janeway a hypothetical: if their positions had been reversed and they were on the Maquis ship, would she have served under him? She tells him that one of the perks of being captain is that you can keep some things to yourself. 2: The doctor calls to ask if anyone’s ever going to fix his projectors, and Paris, who is insufferable, comes in to find him sitting doll-sized on a chair. Paris, who is insufferable, tells him that he likes the doctor better like this, and not even Robert Picardo can conjure up an expression to make that anything but a groaner.

All in all? A pretty good episode after the rocky start. Janeway is indeed badass, and an interesting contrast in command to Picard or Sisko. Star Trek is always playing the Captain-as-parent angle, but already Mulgrew is pointing up how gendered that is–Picard and Sisko are all about the exasperated indulgence and the occasional yelling, while Janeway is all about the observing and the listening and the relating and then the DECIDING. That’s pretty awesome, in fact. Also Torres is fairly likable when she’s not having to play HULK SMASH or HULK AVOID FEELINGS.

Next up: Maybe Neelix matters or something? STAY TUNED.

Sense8

I can’t claim to have ever cared much for the work of the Wachowskis: the Matrix (the first one) was pretty but left me cold, and I frankly haven’t sat through the entirety of any of their films since. But Sense8 looked interesting, and oh my god it is.

It’s sort of a slow build, with a lot more focus on the characters and their connections in the first couple of episodes, but it pays off; I cared more about this cast than about the cast of any other recent show with the exception of Orphan Black. I was invested not just in their safety but their happiness and their relationships.

The relationships! I don’t know if I have ever seen a story like this that portrays love–romantic, platonic, and familial–in such an adorable, moving, believable, and non-cloying fashion. The handling of the queer characters is exceptional. There is a trans character played by a trans woman! Who is confronted with realistic resistance from family and other characters! But is in a loving and sexy relationship! And is defined by characteristics other than the fact of her being trans! I mean, one would have hoped that Lana Wachowski would handle this well, but you never know.

In fact, while the show does have lots of cool mind-talking and body-hopping and crazy shit, it’s as much if not more about the newly-forming connections between the leads, and the ways that they are forced to confront their secrets–there’s a neat safe motif (as in a big metal box that locks) early on that calls attention to the fact that nearly all of these people have something big locked away that is going to bubble up to the surface as a result of becoming bonded with one another.

There is also abundant action of a few varieties: sequences that poke fun at the Wachowski’s own signature operatic violence; action that solves short-term problems while creating longer-term ones; and your basic cathartic over-the-top violence-solving-problems action. One could wish for more of the former two and less of the latter, but there’s a lot going on with this action–each of the characters has different skills, and sometimes they can be there to help each other, and sometime they can’t, and sometimes they handle things in a pretty unconventional way. Shout out to the great Doona Bae, who gets to kick the most ass.

I am just gushing here, so I will stop, but come on! Gorgeous cinematography; amazing use of scoring and soundtrack; calling out and responding to verbal misogyny; hot kinky sex; just, like, ALL THE THINGS and ALL THE GOOD and I am in love with the cast and I can’t wait for another season. Y’ALL SHOULD WATCH.

Glitter & Mayhem Available!

Hi folks! Just wanted to let you know that a new anthology that I’m a part of, Glitter & Mayhem, edited by John Klima, Lynne M. Thomas, and Michael Damian Thomas, is now available! You can learn more about it here. My story, “Apex Jump,” concerns a rural Minnesota roller derby team who find themselves skating against a team from a long, long ways away. The early reviews are very positive, so check it out!

I went outside and read a Jack Vance story in the sun

I went outside and read a Jack Vance story in the sun.

Winter is traumatic. Vonnegut said that November and December were not Winter, they were Locking, and March and April are Unlocking. Vonnegut was right about so many things, and yet I’m not sure I agree with him about this. Winter isn’t just about putting things away, it’s about scorching the earth. Winter tears things down. Spring is about rebuilding those things again, stubbornly, even grimly at times, despite the shock of the cold that bleaches all the color from the ground and strips the trees naked.

I wore sandals. It happens that I am out of socks, so I started a load of laundry before I left the apartment. I sat on a bench in a park and read in the full sunlight. I burn easily. I may have burned already.

In my youth I was one of those weird kids who didn’t like to play outside with other children. I sat inside and read instead. I was allergic to many things, including loud groups of people. I am still allergic to many things. It wasn’t until many winters had passed that I really came to appreciate sitting outside. Even if a runny nose or hives followed.

It has been a long, long winter here. It is orgiastically beautiful today. There is a feeling in my chest like a sob of relief trying to escape. I went outside and read a Jack Vance story in the sun.

Anniversaries

Today would have been Fred Rogers’s 85th Birthday. Mr. Rogers, for me, has been one of those cultural figures whom I loved as a kid, derided as a young adult, and appreciate even more now that I am old enough to recognize how challenging it is to maintain that kind of gentle love and compassion in the face of, well, the world.

Yesterday was the 10-year anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq war, or really the second Iraq war, unless you are an Iraqi, in which case I’m sure it’s called something else. My preferred name for it would be long, profane, and contain a lengthy list of war crimes committed by the leaders of my country, so I won’t include it here.

I understand that there is a need to mark important events, but there are anniversaries I don’t care to think about, and the Iraq War is one. On the one hand, it’s a bloody, wasteful, criminal mistake that my country made, and that’s worth reminding people of so that they don’t do more bloody, wasteful, and criminal things, even though they probably will anyway. (Mr. Rogers, grant me optimism and patience.) On the other hand, this country does bloody, wasteful, and criminal things on some scale pretty much every day, and I don’t need my life to be an endless list of them. I don’t have the stamina for it.

Some anniversaries should be noted. Personal milestones, sure. Birthdays. Three years sober. Four and a half months since the time you and your SO first made eye contact across a crowded room. Why not? I mostly stick to the big ones, but there are a few holidays I’d like to add to the calendar, like, say, Johnny Cash’s birthday, or Dorothy Parker’s, or Fred Rogers’s. But I’d rather think of March 19th as the first day of Quinquatria than have it be a remembrance of something so shameful.

Gooseberry Bluff Community College of Magic: Episode Two Released

The second episode of the serial is out today!

In which Joy portals to the UK to interview the mother of the missing professor, but may be in danger of being disappeared herself.

If you haven’t ordered it yet, you can do so here.

Remember that 1) It’s $1.99 for the whole thing, not per episode, and 2) You can get a free Kindle reading app for your smartphone, tablet, or computer.

A couple of people have asked about availability outside of the U.S. The latest information I have is that while it won’t be serialized elsewhere, the complete e-book and the physical book will appear in Canada, the UK and Australia at the same time as it does here. Unfortunately, that won’t happen until October, but I promise it will be worth the wait!

More to come!

Gooseberry Bluff Launch Day

In honor of launch day, I did a questionnaire with Jodi Chromey at Minnesota Reads:

Today is the launch of Gooseberry Bluff Community College of Magic: The Thirteenth Rib a new Kindle serial by all-around awesome David J. Schwartz. This harkens back to the old-timey days when authors, like Charles Dickens delivered fiction serially. The ‘Gooseberry Bluff Community College of Magic’ will follow “Joy Wilkins, an undercover agent with the Federal Bureau of Magical Affairs, as she starts her first semester of teaching and investigating the alarming activity at this school of magic on the border of Wisconsin and Minnesota.”

I know, right?

Anyway if you want to know more about David, here’s the part I’m stealing from his bio: He is the author of the Nebula Award-nominated novel Superpowers as well as the novella The Sun Inside. He has written more than twenty-five short stories, which have appeared in such publications as Strange Horizons, The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror collections, Paper Cities, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and the World Fantasy Award-nominated anthology Twenty Epics. You should probably just follow him on Twitter, he’s funny

Now on with the show!

What book(s) are you currently reading?

I just finished Louise Erdrich’s The Bingo Palace; I’m working my way through all of her books, slowly. I’m also reading Italo Calvino’s The Uses of Literature , a graphic novel by Leia Weathington called The Legend of Bold Riley, and a soon-to-be-released book by my friend Rick Bowes, Dust Devil on a Quiet Street.

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character? Who?

Many! Sally from Encyclopedia Brown was probably the first. Eowyn was a big one. As I get older it takes more for me to fall for anyone, though, whether real or fictional. I have a little bit of a thing for Albertine Johnson from Louise Erdrich’s books, but that may be because I still don’t know her that well. Shy, quiet folks are so intriguing, or at least I hope they are, because I am quiet and shy.

If your favorite author came to Minnesota, who would it be and what bar would you take him/her to?

If my favorite author came here it would probably be the mid-eighties, because my favorite author is Kurt Vonnegut and if I was to bring him back to life I would choose to have it be at a time when he seemed a little less unhappy than he did later. Not that the eighties were a happy time, or that I would be of legal drinking age, but let’s not overthink this. Was Sweeney’s around then? I think I’d take him to Sweeney’s, and have some bourbon perhaps, and talk about what an asshole Ronald Reagan was. Is. Time travel is confusing.

What was your first favorite book?

The Poky Little Puppy

Let’s say Fahrenheit 451 comes to life, which book would you become in order to save it from annihilation?

Don Quixote in the original Spanish. Might as well aim high!

What is one book you haven’t read but want to read before you die?

I tried reading Remembrance Of Things Past (or are we supposed to call it In Search of Lost Time, now?) at one point and simply couldn’t get through the first book. Someday I’ll try again, though I won’t force myself to read it if I hate it again. I think it’s important to read the classics, but I also think it’s important to give yourself permission to put a book down if it isn’t doing anything for you.