Monday, May 18, 2009

Farragut: Animated launch imminent?

Playing catch-up with Starship Farragut: The Animated Adventures ...
  • March 1, 2009 – "NEO f/x and Farragut Films today opened their new web site for the special, 2-episode release of Starship Farragut, The Animated Episodes ... The new web site complements the animated episodes with special downloads and biographies on the actors involved with this production,” explained Michael Struck, manager of the NEO f/x team. “In addition, when the episodes are released, the web site will act as a central location to download and watch the individual acts.” [Source:]
  • 06 April, 2009 - "NEO f/x (in association with Farragut Films) has released a trailer for "Power Source", written by Thomas J. Scott. This is the first installment of a special, 2-episode release of Starship Farragut, The Animated Episodes. These new episodes are the first animated Star Trek to be produced since Filmation wrapped production of the original series in 1974. About the episode: Captain Carter and the USS Farragut (NCC-1647) are dispatched to search for the USS Azrael (NCC-517) under the command of Captain Glenn, only to find that they may be the ones being searched for. The trailer is available for viewing and/or download in the "extras" section of the web site. [Source: Starship Farragut]
  • The Extras section of is updated most Mondays and includes some well designed images and DVD labels of the major characters ... DVD labels? According to the FAQ section, "the internet release will include ISO data files and DVD artwork for downloading so you may make your own DVDs". But will they still be computer files or will I be able to play them on my TVs DVD player?
The latest info is that "Power Source" is slated to be released by the end May 2009, they decided against releasing it to coincide with the Star Trek movie, with the comic book (by Kail Tescar of and second episode being released by the end of 2009.

NEO f/x and Farragut Films have just announced ...
The first act of "Power Source" will be released at 8:00 am PST on July 20th, 2009, to commemorate the first moon landing by Neil Armstrong in 1969. Acts 2 and 3 will follow in August, with the entire episode available to download by August 31, 2009

Monday, May 11, 2009

New canon versus old canon

Inevitably the new movie has raised a certain amount of controversy over canon. Unlike most posts, I can't discuss this without mentioning details so ...


Forty years of Star Trek canon has been thrown away!
No it's not. What we have to ask here is: does the universe in which all the other series were set in still "exist"? Spock and Nero are thrown back in time from 2387 to 2258 where Nero destroys the USS Kelvin, killing James T. Kirk's father and altering his life, and then destroys the planet Vulcan making a major change to the United Federation of Planets.

Spock specifically says in the movie that Nero's changes to the timeline create an "alternate universe" which in Treknological terms (what the unkindly might call technobabble) is "a separate and self-contained universe existing as a consequence of different choices and outcomes than those that have led to our own [or prime] universe." The concept is a bit of a stple in sci fi, in one episode, "Parallels", there are Enterprises from 285,000 universes altogether at one point!

The definitive canon answer comes from the writer, Bob Orci, in a conversation he had with Anthony Pasquale in December last year on ...
Anthony: OK so let's call the timeline Nero left, as `the prime timeline', so
that means that the USS Kelvin, as designed and seen in the trailer, that is
also in the prime timeline?

Bob: Yes

Anthony: So what happens with the destruction of the Kelvin is the creation of
an alternative timeline, but what happens to the prime timeline after Nero
leaves it? Does it continue or does it wink out of existence once he goes back
and creates this new timeline.

Bob: It continues. According to the most successful, most tested scientific
theory ever, quantum mechanics, it continues.

Anthony: So everyone in the prime timeline, like Picard and Riker, are still off
doing there thing, it is just that Nero is gone.

Bob: Yes, and you will notice that whenever the movie comes out, that whatever
DVDs you have purchased, will continue to exist.
OK, so where does that leave the destruction of Romulus?
That's canon in the "Prime Universe", it happens in 2387 and it is proving to be an a major stumbling block for some fans. There is a whole section of Trek fandom that specifically focuses on Romulus, with their own fanon lore and language resources, that is understandably upset about the idea that the central planet of the Star Empire has been summarily blown away from Star Trek canon!

The future must seem very uncertain for them however this could be seen as an opportunity for a more exciting future for their chosen section of fandom. If we take the oft given advice that good storytelling needs conflict to excel then this could as literally re-invigorating the Romulan sub-plot. Was Remus destroyed as well? Will the Remans and other subject races use this as an opportunity to throw off the reins of the empire? If relations with the Federation have been improving since the events of Nemesis will the Empire turn to the UFP for help? Or will they see the destruction as a failure of the Vulcans as Nero did and drop back into their old xenophobic ways? The Romulans could be in a lot better situation than the Vulcans are in the new continuity because, as with the ancient Roman empire, there would be survived by colonies, planets and whole star systems that would consider themselves ethnically and culturally Romulan even though they might not have set foot on Romulus itself.

The other vexing problem that the destruction of Romulus will cause, is that some fan productions, most noticably some fan fiction series, are supposed to take place after 2387 and do not (of course) mention the destruction of the Romulan homeworld. I truly sympathise because I know that they not only represent an objective investment of time, skill and commitment but there can also be a very personal attachment between a fan fiction author and their book. I'm sure professional authors feel a similar connection with their work but they are primarily professionals, what they do will put food on their table and send their children to college. A fan fiction author is telling a story that is a part of them, their baby.

The truth of the matter is that no fan production will ever be canon even though the majority of writers and producers try their best to make their productions mesh with established canon, researching the technology, locations and cultures so that their own work rings true to other fans who might be reading.

Fan fiction authors caught in this situation still have a few options. They could add a disclaimer to their story to the effect that their work follows Trek canon up to 2387, a prospective reader could think of them as an alternate reality that branches off at that date. Alternatively, if a large enough number of authors agreed they could cooperate on a continuity that specifically saw the 2387 destruction of Romulus as an event that happened in an alternate universe, making their own "fanon universe". Examples of such Fanon cooperatives are USS Liberty, United Trek and many of the Virtual Seasons like Star Trek: Reborn. Or they could "retcon" their previous works to whatever extent they wanted or felt was necessary to bring it into line with canon.

I would encourage new works to include the 'Romulan event', personally I can see how it could open up a lot of plot possibilities but the idea of multiple alternate universes needs to be handled delicately - at what point does more freedom from canon become anarchy? Would we be in danger of having a Japanese style attitude towards canon where Anime characters and plotlines can change from one season to the next?

Competition from the new kids on the block

Most of the comment leading up to the new Trek movie has shown up our own preferences for Star Trek rather than any objective point, but then, what else would you expect? If you're a Trek fan its because you fell in love with one or other of the shows and your relationship with a new show is going to be as traumatic as taking a new lover!

It doesn't have to be of course.

Just as a widow remarrying doesn't mean that she loves her first husband any less, enjoying this new movie doesn't mean you love the Original Series any less. Its just that ... imagine if she'd remarried and her husband were brought back to life? I don't mean brought back as “the zombie husband from Hell”, I mean just as good, if not better than before? That's the problem facing the Star Trek fan production community right now because, to stretch the analogy to breaking point, some of the current productions are based on keeping that first love alive for fans!

James Cawley, executive producer and star of Star Trek: Phase II, was the first to voice this I think on their forum on March sixth, when he said, “The original continuity and time line are gone forever. With the release of this film projects like this one will soon fade away and become irrelevant.” I've interviewed Mr Cawley and his passion for his production is so obvious that Blind Freddy could see it! For him to say this stunned me!

You have to remember that James is an Original Series purist. His personal collection of costumes and memorabilia is legendary, not surprising considering that he worked under William Ware Theiss as a freelance costumer during the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. He financed and built a replica of the bridge set of the Enterprise as seen on the Original Series that caused Walter Koenig to say, “Thank you. I have come home again,”

However most telling of all is his personal influence on the world of Star Trek fandom with his vision of a continuation of the “Five Year Mission” - the fan film series started in 2003 as Star Trek: New Voyages and now arguably the highest profile fan production series of any genre: Star Trek: Phase II.

Make no mistake, he's no “one-eyed fan” who cannot appreciate the work of another. During a visit to the Paramount studio lot in January last year, JJ Abrams recognised him, invited him onto the movie set to talk about his production and was so impressed with him that he asked him to take a casting call that led to a part in the film.

Nor is there any suggestion of him selling out - James has said all along that whilst he admires and supports JJ's work he still prefers the look and style of the Original Series and his commitment to his dream is unquestionable. Taking all this into account, is it any wonder that this new direction from the studio should cut so close to his heart?

How could fan productions based on the new movie be a problem? Well, Some see the Star Trek fan production community is a “closed set” of people who make and enjoy them and believe the new movie will be competition for the creative resources and fanbase of the established groups

The real question is, are there limits to the resources available? Is there, for example, only a finite number of fans with the talent and commitment to create Star Trek fan films or only so many fans who want to watch them?

Only time will tell but personally I'm optimistic

The whole idea behind the new movie is that it is a new treatment, a new way of looking at an established fictional universe that is aimed a new audience. Considering the strength of some of the reactions of the established Star Trek fans, I doubt if there'll be a vast exodus from their first love. I think what you'll see will be the creation of a new fanbase in Star Trek fandom who will want to expand on their fan experience in just the same way as previous generations have.

Rather than seeing established groups go under, I reckon we are going to see new groups starting up. Will this mean competition for the same audience? I doubt if they'll compete: the style of each will be too different, besides fan productions are non commercial so download hit-counts are really irrelevant.

I can tell you that if, as I expect, the new movie lives up to expectations, I for one will encourage and watch, read or listen to any fan productions based on it. Like the Vulcan said, “Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations”

Hey! You didn't think you'd get away without at least one Trekkie quote didya?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

One step away from the Holonovel?

One of the highlights of Voyager for me was the marvelous pastiche they did of the Captain Proton adventures not just because of the great retro story but because of the all too seldom opportunity it gave Kate Mulgrew to show her talent at comedy, "... and I'm a size four!"

The idea of a holonovel is interesting. It is actually close to what a lot of people in the publishing industry see as the future of the book with its possibilities for intertextuality and who can blame them? The best books are those that we "sink in to", that, through the author's art, let us experience the story through the eyes of the characters.

Many thought that you could not go past the movies for an immersive entertainment experience but where it fails is that it is one-way and the buzz-word of the last decade has been interactive entertainment. Clive Thompson said it best in a Wired article entitled "Forget Film, Games Do Sci-Fi Best" where he mused ...
games have an inherent affinity with sci-fi and fantasy. Those genres are based on what-if premises; they're the literary version of the Sim, the author as world-builder. Part of the fun of watching a sci-fi movie is mentally inhabiting a new world and imagining what it feels like to be inside. But now there's a medium that actually puts you in.
Look at "reality TV". Much as cynics would have us consign them to the rubbish-heap of popular culture, there is no denying that they are here to stay and represent a shift in society's ideas of entertainment. No longer are we content to live vicariously through the actions of some stylised hero played by a professional actor, many now want to live vicariously through the experiences of someone who they identify with more closely, the everyday person who beats all the odds to prove himself a hero, a winner - a David Cook, Paul Potts or Susan Boyle.

You like the idea of a holonovel? Well, the 23rd century isn't as far away as you thought!

Laz Rojas, the incredibly talented Star Trek: Elite Force 2 game modder who brought us the mind-bogglingly complex Starbase 11 and its orbiting dreadnought on Space Station K7 has recently announced that he is currently developing "The Captain Proton Mod", an episodic, multi-map, single-player mod for Raven's Star Trek Voyager Elite Force and the Elite Force Expansion Pack which, in his own words ...
... is based on the metafictional holonovel "The Adventures of Captain Proton" that was featured on various episodes of Star Trek Voyager, including "Night", "Thirty Days", "Bride of Chaotica", and "Shattered". The mod assumes that after Voyager returned to Earth, Tom Paris wrote various Captain Proton holonovels which were published by Broht & Forrester, the same company which published the EMH's opus "Photons Be Free" in the episode "Author, Author".

The Captain Proton Mod includes several episodes that span multiple maps, each of them a separate chapter in the Captain Proton saga. Familiar characters seen on Star Trek Voyager appear, such as Dr. Chaotica, Queen Arachnia, Buster Kincaid, Constance Goodheart, Satan's Robot, Lonzak, and the President of Earth. There are many new characters as well, some friendly, some not so friendly. And there are lots of new models too, including rocket ships and weapons. Among the new weapons are the ray gun brandished by Lonzak and Chaotica's guards in "Bride of Chaotica", as well as a more accurate Proton gun than the one included in the Expansion Pack.

The full mod will be released in the summer of 2009 and will include at least five episodes. Additional episodes will be released later on from time to time as add-ons.
... if you think this is too good to be true and will never come to anything, check out Laz's screenshots of his Work-In-Progress on his website at ...

My thanks to Tryjo Sebo on Hailing Frequency, which is my primary source for all Trek gaming news.

How far can fan fiction publishing go?

Someone asked recently, one of the authors actually, about the possibility of getting one of the eBooks that we published as part of the 2008 Twelve Trek Days of Christmas, printed as a hardcopy printed book. I must admit I would love to see something with my name on the cover on my bookshelf! A vanity? Perhaps. Who is without it? But there is also the sense of accomplishment and empowerment that is to be gained from creating something that you can be proud of.

The simple answer is, yes, you can do it as a home publishing job, no problems. You can download a copy as a pdf from the Issuu Website - there's a link to it on the Twelve Days webpage which will take you to a page like this one - where you choose 'Download'. Please note though, you will need membership of Issuu to use the download facility. The pages are designed to be printed on folio A4 or US Letter paper (ie printed in landscape and folded in half vertically) without any adjustments so that you can print them as a 12 page "booklet", sew them and bind them.

No, I'm serious, it can be done by amateurs! It's not easy, probably on a par with skilled woodwork or needlework, but it can be done.

But could I get it professionally printed, I hear you say.

Well, before I go on we need to be perfectly clear here, we are NOT talking about printing for commercial purposes. I know, you're groaning, you've heard it a thousand times, well one more time won't kill you! ;) We don't own the concept of Star Trek, the universe, any of the canon characters or races, in fact fan fiction authors can lay claim only to the characters, plots and concepts they create ourselves. This means you can't sell your fan fiction, in fact you can't even legally give it away ... if you follow the letter of the law rather than it's intent.

It would be easy to get bogged down in debate about the legal and ethical fine points of copyright but the status quo with regards to Star Trek fan productions is that CBS / Paramount are actually pretty enlightened. Basically it boils down to "if you don't divert any money away from the copyright owners, we won't exercise our rights under law". In a way it is like a 'Mexican stand-off' where both sides, fans and studio, stand to potentially lose everything if one or the other pulls the trigger!

So back to the subject on hand: could (or should) a fan fiction writer or one of their fans be able to have a copy of one of their books printed by a professional printer?

Theoretically, there's no reason why you can't take the downloaded pdf file of one of those eBooks to a "Print-On-Demand" (POD) printer who could use it without any further work to make a hardback book, since I folio A4/US Letter is a common paper size for hardback novels. They'd even have a front and back cover!

Current policy though for most POD printers, for example Lulu which is arguably the highest profile POD outfit on the internet, won't print fan fiction because they say that we don't own the copyright. Well, give 'em an award for stating the bleedin' obvious! Every fan production, not just fan fiction, has some permutation of the standard rider saying, "we don't own it, we're just playing with it!"

I believe that for the publisher the copyright could be a moot point.

What has been copyrighted and protected by CBS / Paramount though? The book? The words on the page? Those funny-looking squiggly things that, in our heads, we turn into the author's words? What if I turned it into an audio book? That's not a book, its not even printed! Or a serial in a fanzine? These are just different media, if I took someone else's work and published it in another media of course I would be stealing it!

What is protected by copyright is the fictional Star Trek universe that CBS/Paramount owns ... and Pocket Books licenses. To my way of thinking the media is of secondary importance.

What are we asking the printer to do? Sell us a book? No, we are providing them with a computer file to print and bind for our own private purposes, we are not giving them the file to print out for anyone else. They do not own the intellectual property of the story in the book, even we as the author only lay claim to our own creations in it, the rest belongs to Paramount! All they are doing is providing us with a service - to print and bind the file.

If you were asking the printer to do 2000 copies, so that it was obvious that you were planning on selling them, then they'd have a duty of care to not only NOT do the job but to warn the copyright owner. However if you are asking him to print a single copy (or up to a dozen if you were rich enough and wanted to give them away) then obviously you are not trying to make a profit, nor could the numbers be deemed in any way to be commercial quantities.

In these terms I believe it would be virtually impossible to show that there was any diversion of money from Paramount. Has Pocket Books lost the potential sale of that book to the person who is having it printed? No, because the fan fiction author would never get it printed by S&S in a pink fit! Have they lost the potential sale of a comparable book to that person? I doubt it. Either they are a fan of the Pocket Books offerings or they are not. On the one hand a fanfic author might be a massive consumer of Trek books to learn from the professionals. On the other hand - and I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings to S&S - many fan fic authors write their own books precisely because they are dissatisfied with the professional offerings and their chances of a sale to them are slim at the best of times.

What's the difference between us providing an eBook for a fan to read or providing them with a file that they could turn into a book if they prefer hard-copy? I think the difference is one of perception. The book is a very visible and well-known icon of the publishing industry - to create one's own books is to set oneself up against a commercial giant and, perhaps more importantly in these hard economic times, a major employer.

Where the media is of objective importance is in the profit margin that could be lost by the copyright owner or licensee. The difference in profit between a hardback or paperback book and an eBook downloaded over the internet is massive! The profit margin for an eBook is actually larger because there are no printing, transport, storage, distribution and retail costs at all!

If the printers and publishers wanted to truly make more money they should embrace fan fiction rather than marginalising it! A printer who does a single copy of a fan fiction novel for personal use is making a profit on the printing NOT the story. They are selling us a service NOT a product. Refusing to do so will not put one penny more into the pocket of the copyright or license owner.

If Pocket Books are serious about wanting to make a profit from their Star Trek license, they could start by releasing all their catalogue of classic Trek novels as eBooks at zero cost to themselves for printing, distribution and warehousing and, after a minuscule management cost realise a profit from their massive back-catalogue that is currently being wasted!

I'd be interested in others thoughts on this. Should authors be able to have copies printed for their own use by professional printers, bearing in mind that this would represent no discernible loss of revenue for the copyright owner or their licensee? Or could this be seen as a dangerous precedent that the unscrupulous might take advantage of? Perhaps it is best for the fan fiction community and those such as myself who are trying to distribute it to fans in a handsome format/media to err on the side of safety bearing in mind the aggressiveness of corporate lawyers?