Your Moment of TrekZen* – Classic Thankgiving Edition!

We shall all sing songs of the Great Turkey Leg, on our way to the Stove O’ Kor.

Klingon Turkeys

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Here’s hoping you enjoy a restful holiday while being mindful of the current challenges we all face and looking out for our family, friends, and just random people you may encounter during this time. For those unable to do so – servicemembers, first responders, doctors and nurses, and lots of other fine people answering a higher calling or simply having to work a job that precludes them from taking the day off – this year more than any other in recent memory we thank you for your service and commitments and wish you a safe return home. And let’s not forget those who for whatever reason might be alone today, or who might need a helping hand.

(* = inspired by the “Your Moment of Zen” segments from The Daily Show)

Herbert F. Solow, 1930-2020.

In April of 1964, Herb Solow was the vice president in charge of television production at Desilu Studios. It was in this capacity that he took a meeting with a writer/producer looking to pitch his concept for a new television series.

By the end of that meeting, Solow decided to give the writer a shot at developing his premise, after which he convinced NBC to green-light a pilot episode to be produced by Desilu. When NBC studio execs passed on the resulting film, Solow persuaded them to let Desilu try again. NBC liked that second effort enough to commit to a television series order, and the rest is history.

The writer/producer was Gene Roddenberry, and the TV series was, of course, Star Trek.

While there are a large number of people who contributed to the original series, Herb Solow along with Roddenberry, Robert. H. Justman, Dorothy Fontana, Gene Coon, and Matt Jefferies were — as I see it, anyway — the core group of people who laid the foundation upon which rests everything we’ve come to know collectively as Star Trek. Solow, the last of these “Old Soldiers,” passed away on November 19th, not quite a year after we lost Ms. Fontana.

Variety: Herb Solow, Producer Who Sold ‘Star Trek‘ to NBC, dies at 89

Though his role on the series was that of a “suit,” a front-office position which normally did not include input to day-to-day creative aspects of a show’s production, Solow’s ongoing collaboration with Gene Roddenberry and Bob Justman in particular kept him more involved than might be the case on another show. Such was the collaborative atmosphere on the series that Justman even saw fit to honor Solow with his own title card displayed at the end of each episode for the first two seasons, something typically not done for studio executives.

After selling Star Trek to NBC, Mr. Solow shepherded the series through its first two seasons. Along the way, he also oversaw the development of the original Mission: Impossible TV series as well as Mannix for Desilu, both of which aired on CBS. When Desilu was sold to Gulf+Western, the small studio was merged with the television arm of Paramount Pictures. Ultimately dissatisifed with his new role, Solow left Paramount to assume duties as the vice president in charge of television production at MGM, leaving before the start of production on Star Trek‘s third (and final) season. His later television credits include the fondly remembered Bill Bixby series The Courtship of Eddie’s Father and in 1977, he returned to the realm of science fiction TV when he created with writer Mayo Simon Man from Atlantis, the cult series starring Patrick Duffy which ran for a single season on NBC.

Much as been written about the development of Star Trek by writers far more gifted than me. This includes Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, a book Solow himself authored with Bob Justman which was released in conjunction with Star Trek‘s 30th anniversary in 1996. Some might quibble with some of the recollections from 30 years after the events in question – and there are also some straight out factual errors, only some of which were corrected in reprints of the book – but Solow and Justman provide that “first-person” narrative from people there at the beginning that other accounts lack. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. The book makes an excellent companion to The Making of Star Trek, the iconic 1968 tome written by Stephen Poe (as Stephen E. Whitfield) while the show was still in production, as well as David Gerrold’s The Trouble With Tribbles, the book he wrote about the development of his own classic episode of the same name.

Unlike other alumni of the original series, Mr. Solow never worked on any future iteration of Star Trek, but his contributions to what became “the Star Trek franchise” are no less indelible and continue to be felt to this day. May his memory be a blessing.

Herbert Franklin Solow
December 14, 1930 – November 19, 2020

Tuesday Trekkin’: The “original” Star Trek computer game.

Welp. As promised, my latest attempt at an “irregularly recurring” blog feature has gone about as well as one might reasonably expect. The first installment of “Tuesday Trekkin'” was back on Tuesday, October 20th, so if we’re being kind then I guess we’re tapping “monthly” on the shoulder, but let’s reserve judgment until the next entry.

Meanwhile, here we are. What should we talk about? For this latest trip down Memory Lane, we’re going to set the clocks way back. I was in the 7th grade and I was one of a small group of students selected to head off from our school for half a day each week to attend a nifty program where we got to do deeper dives into the areas of science, reading, art, and so on. Most of the classes and sessions were fun, but I remember two things pretty vividly from my time attending the program.

First, it was here that I first found a copy of Richard Matheson’s novel I Am Legend, beginning a lifelong love of Matheson in general and this book in particular. Second, it was here that I got my first exposure to computing technology, at least as it existed in 1979. It looked something like what you see to the right.

Yeah, buddy. A teleprinter, or teletype. No screen, no hard drive, no internet. Just this beast and a phone line to a data center somewhere downtown.

Stop laughing.

Continue reading “Tuesday Trekkin’: The “original” Star Trek computer game.”

Talking Kirk Fu and whatnot with the Funny Science Fiction podcast!

Because I know what you’re thinking: “Wait. How can anybody talk funny about Starfleet’s most feared martial art? Isn’t that blasphemous or illegal or something?”

Turns out, it’s neither.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I sat down with Drayton, Deb, Josh, and Tim, AKA the hosts of the Funny Science Fiction Podcast. That’s right. There were four of them, trying to gang up on me. Good thing I was able to whip out some signature Kirk Fu moves like Rolling Thunder and the Jimmy Wall Banger in order to make my escape.

Okay, not really. Instead, we just ended up chatting for a bit because that’s what geeks do.

The thrust of the interview/fireside chat/plotting global takeovers was Star Trek: Kirk Fu, the odd little tome I wrote and which was illustrated by artist Christian Cornia and published by Insight Editions back in March. Indeed, the book started hitting bookstore shelves riiiiiiiiiiiiiiight about the time everybody was holing up to comply with stay-at-home orders and other COVID-19 protocols that came down what seems like 300 years ago, now. We talked about how the book came to be and how I pitched it to my editor while I was in the midst of working on a different project and figuring this new idea had no real legs. Once my editor called my bluff, I described the process of figuring out exactly how to explain Captain Kirk’s admittedly quirky fighting style, and how to diagram that in a manner one might see in hand-to-hand combat manuals like you’d find in the military. As I’ve discussed before, I’d always intended for the text to play the joke completely straight while allowing the illustrations to sell the fun and even absurdity of the premise. I think it came out great, and pretty much everyone I’ve come across who’s read it or written about it seems to feel the same way, so MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

Along with talking about the book, the topics opened up to include how I approach writing Star Trek stories, what would I do if gifted with one of Star Trek‘s holodecks, being a Rush fan, what “ups and downs” I’ve faced during my writing career, and they even subject me to a little trivia gauntlet. How did I do? You’ll have to listen to the interview to find out.

“But wait, Dayton,” I can hear someone saying. “How does one do such a thing?”

ANSWER: You can hear the entire interview by clicking on this linky-type thing highlighted right here:

Funny Science Fiction Podcast Episode 7: Trekking the Stars with Dayton Ward

Something else we did: I donated a signed copy of Kirk Fu along with a signed promo poster for the book to be put up for auction on eBay, with 100% of the proceeds going to Wish Upon A Teen. The auction is set to end the afternoon of Friday, November 26th, so if this sounds like something you want to get in on, follow this link!

Click me to see the auction!

Many thanks to Drayton, Deb, Josh, and Tim for having me on their show. Maybe we can do it again sometime down the road!

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – 25 years of “Little Green Men!”

“We’re helpless! We’re harmless! We just want to sell you things!”
— Quark

2372: Quark is ferrying his brother, Rom, and nephew, Nog, to Earth to deliver the latter to Starfleet Academy. Nog is set to become the first Ferengi to join that august institution, blazing a path for his people the way Worf did for Klingons a generation earlier. As it approaches Earth, the ship, Quark’s Treasure, encounters a strange malfunction that results in it being sent back through time to the year 1947, after which it crashlands on Earth near the town of Roswell, New Mexico.

Knocked unconscious during the crash, the three Ferengi awaken to find themselves in what appears to be some form of laboratory. Soon, they’re being interrogated by members of the United States Military, who are certain these “aliens” are must be part of an invasion force coming to conquer the world.

Meanwhile, Quark is sure he can be running the entire planet within a year.

Little Green Men,” one of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine‘s most memorable episodes, was delivered on November 13th, 1995 to first-run syndication. Developed as an homage to the great science fiction B-movies of the 1950s (The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Thing from Another World, The War of the Worlds, etc.), the episode delights in sending up the genre. You’ve got your hard-charging general, the no-nonsense Army officer who’s ready to do anything to protect his country from the Commies and his planet from Martians, the academic who wants to understand and communicate with the aliens in order to benefit from their obviously advanced technology, and (of course… :: cringe ::) the nurse who’s tasked with injecting a little empathy while representing the otherwise cold, calculating, and even callous humans around her while doing what she can to avoid harm being visited upon the aliens.

The idea of Ferengi visiting “ancient” Earth and having to interact with “primitive” humans sounds like a concept where the jokes write themselves, and in the early going that’s exactly what seems to happen. Professor Jeffrey Carlson and Captain Wainwright attempting to communicate with Quark, Rom and Nog — with neither group either to understand the other due to the Ferengi’s malfunctioning universal translators — is good for several chuckles at humanity’s expense. Then we turn things up a notch with the reveal that Odo stowed away aboard Quark’s ship, because Rene Auberjonois was always masterful at playing the straightlaced end even stuffy constable for every laugh he could get.

Of course, things start to take a sinister turn when Captain Wainwright threatens to torture and kill the Ferengi if they don’t tell him the truth about their visit here and their motives, but then Carlson and Nurse Garland help free them from the Army’s clutches long enough to make their escape and return to the 24th century.

25 years after its original broadcast, “Little Green Men” remains one of the best episodes from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine‘s seven-year run. It breaks well away from the series’ normal formula, which at this point (in the early 4th season) is starting to take a darker turn as war with the Dominion looms. As a time-travel episode, it ranks up there with the more lighthearted ventures into this realm like Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home or even the instant classic episode that will come in DS9’s fifth season, “Trials and Tribble-ations.” If you’re a fan of the movies to which this episode is a written as a Valentine (and I am, by golly), then you’ll get most if not all of the subtle nods, winks, and Easter eggs to those 1950s gems.

“Little Green Men” also has the benefit of giving a Star Trek twist to a bit of actual modern-day conspiracy theory. Though accounts of something weird happening at or near Roswell, New Mexico in July of 1947 have existed since the say such weirdness supposedly happened, the folding of “aliens crash at Roswell” into UFO lore didn’t actually happen for decades afterward. Films, TV shows, books, and comics have offered different versions of what they think happened (The X-Files, Dark Skies, and the Roswell TV series being prominent examples), but “Little Green Men” proved to be a fun way to spin the tale in a whole new direction.

As with many stories that leave a lasting impression, the episode has provided fodder for a few other tales told in other media, most notably the Star Trek novels published by Simon & Schuster. Greg Cox was able pick up Professor Carlson and use him to every effectively in his two-part storyline The Eugenics Wars: The Rise and Fall of Khan Noonien Singh. And hey! I was able to take several threads from this and several episodes and weave them all through a few stories of my own. First, there was “The Aliens Are Coming!” published in 2000’s Star Trek: Strange New Worlds III anthology. Then, in 2013 I went hog wild with the concept of what happened after the episode in my novel From History’s Shadow. That book begat two sequels, 2016’s Elusive Salvation and Hearts and Minds from 2017, which continued fleshing out concepts I introduced in the first novel.

It’s been a while since I last watched this one. May have to rectify that in the coming days.

Until then…keep watching the skies!

Veterans Day.

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

– Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, 1915

Erin-PoppyField
(Artwork: Erin Ward)

Happy 245th Birthday, Marines!

On November 1st, 1921, John A. Lejeune, 13th Commandant of the Marine Corps, directed that a reminder of the honorable service of the Corps be published by every command, to all Marines throughout the globe, on the birthday of the Corps. Since that day, Marines have continued to distinguish themselves on many battlefields and foreign shores, in war and peace. On this birthday of the Corps, therefore, in compliance with the will of the 13th Commandant, Article 38, United States Marine Corps Manual, Edition of 1921, is republished as follows:

On November 10, 1775, a Corps of Marines was created by a resolution of the Continental Congress. Since that date many thousand men have borne the name Marine. In memory of them it is fitting that we who are Marines should commemorate the birthday of our Corps by calling to mind the glories of its long and illustrious history.

The record of our Corps is one which will bear comparison with that of the most famous military organizations in the world’s history. During 90 of the 146 years of its existence the Marine Corps has been in action against the Nation’s foes. From the Battle of Trenton to the Argonne, Marines have won foremost honors in war, and in the long era of tranquility at home, generation after generation of Marines have grown gray in war in both hemispheres, and in every corner of the seven seas that our country and its citizens might enjoy peace and security.

In every battle and skirmish since the birth of our Corps, Marines have acquitted themselves with the greatest distinction, winning new honors on each occasion until the term “Marine” has come to signify all that is highest in military efficiency and soldierly virtue.

This high name of distinction and soldierly repute we who are Marines today have received from those who preceded us in the Corps. With it we also received from them the eternal spirit which has animated our Corps from generation to generation and has been the distinguishing mark of the Marines in every age. So long as that spirit continues to flourish, Marines will be found equal to every emergency in the future as they have been in the past, and the men of our Nation will regard us as worthy successors to the long line of illustrious men who have served as ‘Soldiers of the Sea’ since the founding of the Corps.

— from The Marine Officer’s Guide

usmc-colors

Happy Birthday, Marines! 245 years old today. Semper Fi!

The way-late October writing wrap-up.

Well, maybe it’s not so late. I mean, the first week of November seems to be stretching into infinity as we wait for election results here in the States. That said, I’ve been so caught up in that and work and everything else that I let this little bit of business fall by the wayside, but worry not! The writing does continue apace.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is mad-writer.gif

It’s “All Star Trek, All the Time” around here. My consulting duties for CBS continue, and things are hopping all over the ranch. Obviously the big deal is the different Star Trek series currently in some phase of production or pre-production. Watching it all come together on different fronts is a total blast. There are also other efforts such as books and comics and other ancillary projects. And in the midst of all that I’m still plugging ahead with my own writing. Here’s the October rundown:

Continue reading “The way-late October writing wrap-up.”

Tied Up With Tie-ins: 24!

It’s been a while since I last added an entry to this irregularly recurring blog series, but hey! It’s actually something of a quiet day at Ward Manor so I figured it was a good time to freshen things up a bit around here.

The idea behind this oddball series is fairly simple: Every so often I take a stroll down Memory Lane with a nostalgic look at a favorite series of movie or TV tie-in books. Most of the time this has meant something from Way Back When, such as visits with novels based on Planet of the ApesThe Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman, and Space: 1999 among others. I’m also up for taking a gander at more recent entries to the genre if the mood strikes (hint: keep reading). Then there are anomalies like the novels that kinda sorta tie into the Die Hard franchise, because I was feeling froggy one evening.

For this latest entry I’ve decided y’all need to stock up on certain catchphrases like “Damn it!” and “Trust me!” and maybe even one or two shots of “Chloe, there’s no time!” Yep, we’re diving into the realm of novels featuring everybody’s favorite troubled counterterrorist agent, Jack Bauer, and the world of 24.

Continue reading “Tied Up With Tie-ins: 24!”