To boldly Peep where no one has Peeped before!
Yeah. That sounded less creepy in my head.
(* = with acknowledgments–and apologies–to The Daily Show)
To boldly Peep where no one has Peeped before!
Yeah. That sounded less creepy in my head.
(* = with acknowledgments–and apologies–to The Daily Show)
Regular followers of this space know I’ve been writing various things and bits for Insight Editions for the past few years. It started with the Vulcan and Klingon Travel Guides before I was asked about writing for another of their imprints, IncrediBuilds. My mission: write “guidebooks” to go with special, eco-friendly wood model kits they were creating for the 10+ age bracket. I started with books for the original U.S.S. Enterprise and its counterpart from Star Trek: The Next Generation. These were followed with a deviation to another licensed property, Toy Story, for which I wrote the books to go with models of Sheriff Woody and Buzz Lightyear. Both of these were fun because I got to go for an audience that was slightly younger even than that for which the Star Trek kits were intended.
Oh, and it’s possible you may have heard about my coming Kirk Fu book.
Another project I did for Insight/IncrediBuilds last year and which is getting set for release is a return to the Star Trek realm, and this time we’re doing the Klingon Bird- of-Prey!
As with all IncrediBuilds kits, this little guy is designed to be assembled without the need for glue or tape or anything else holding it together. Even though it’s meant for slightly smaller hands, the model has a few itsty-bitsy parts, and the guidebook also includes tips on painting and customizing the model. Once you put it all together and maybe slap some paint on it? For my money this may be the best of their three Star Trek offerings to date.
As for the book I wrote, I cover a general history and lineage of this ship class, notable Klingons who’ve commanded such vessels, and battles and other encounters which have involved Birds-of-Prey. There’s even a section about the “H.M.S. Bounty,” the ship captured by Admiral Kirk and his crew in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and used so extensively in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Finally, I step out of the box a bit for an overview of the ship’s design for the films and how it was used in later movies and TV series episodes, as well as how it inspired designs seen in the prequel series Star Trek: Enterprise and Star Trek: Discovery.
As with my previous IncrediBuilds collaborations, I had a lot of fun writing this one, thanks in no small part to my editor at Insight, Holly Fisher, with whom I’ve worked on all of these to date and who’s been awesome from the jump. It’s always fun to delve into a bit of Star Trek lore and present it in a way younger readers might enjoy. There are already plans afoot for more of these book/model kits, and I’m obviusly hoping Insight will see fit to bring me back for more IncrediBuilds action.
In the meantime, the Star Trek: Klingon Bird-Of-Prey IncrediBuilds kit will be released on or about March 23, and you can pre-order your very own copy (or six) by clicking on this little linky-type thing right here.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be over here putting one of these together. For the children, you understand.
“Mister Scott, an alien object of unbelievable destructive power is less than three days away from this planet. The only starship in interception range is the Enterprise. Ready, or not, she launches in twelve hours.”
Can ya believe it? Forty years ago today.
Warts and all, it’s still an indelible part of my childhood. I remember standing in the lobby of the theater waiting to go into the auditorium, and looking at the ginormous display they’d erected. The brand-new Enterprise in all its glory, along with monster-sized heads of Kirk and the rest of the crew, including the weird-looking bald lady who was intriguing to my 12-year-old brain on a level I couldn’t quite fathom at that point.
I’m oversharing again, aren’t I?
At the time, 12-year old me didn’t think Star Trek: The Motion Picture was as good or entertaining or fun as the original series. Like 2001: A Space Odyssey or Close Encounters of the Third Kind to name a couple of examples, I only learned to appreciate it much later. For whatever the hell my opinion’s worth, it remains the one Star Trek film that really tried to be something other than an expanded episode of its parent television series. It was a flawed yet noble effort, and it paved the way for the juggernaut that became and remains “the Star Trek franchise.”
So, yeah, I have a soft spot for this flick.
Several years ago, I wrote about it for Tor.com as part of a “Star Trek movies” theme week they did, covering a bit of its troubled production and what I at least think I saw in the (sorta) finished product at the time, and why it’s managed to still grab my attention every so often in the years since:
And if that’s not enough, check out this poster, which is just painted in Awesome:
The film also features what I still consider to be the best Trek film score to date.
Star Trek: The Motion Picture was also the beginning of Simon & Schuster’s association with Star Trek publishing, which continues to this day. They observed this anniversary in their own way this year, re-issuing Gene Roddenberry’s novelization of the film in a slick new trade paperback edition as well as enlisting frequent Star Trek book narrator Robert Petkoff to provide an all-new unabridged audio adaptation of the novel. I hadn’t read the book in decades so I was eager to revisit it via this format. Listening to it back in October when didn’t provide quite the same level of excitement as I got from reading the book for the very first time back in 1979, but it still brought back a lot of memories about the anticipation I had for the film.
Throughout 2019, I’ve been anticipating celebrating this particular Star Trek milestone. I wondered if they might bring the film back to the theaters as had been the case for a number of other films observing anniversaries this year (Alien, The Shawshank Redemption, and Forrest Gump are just a few titles that got my money when they were the subject of event screenings at local theaters). When I heard they were adding this to that list, I plunked down coin so fast it made light bend. Kevin and I took in that screening back in October and yes – the Enterprise has never looked better than it does as depicted here, displayed on a huge movie screen the way it was meant to be seen.
Happy Birthday, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, you imperfect yet strangely lovable beast, you.
Captain of the Enterprise, huh?
Close to retirement?
I’m not planning on it.
Let me tell you something: Don’t. Don’t let them promote you. Don’t let them transfer you. Don’t let them do anything that takes you off the bridge of that ship, because while you’re there, you can make a difference.
Released on November 18th, 1994, just six months after Star Trek: The Next Generation completed its seven-year television run and proved to naysayers lightning could be captured twice–albeit in a slicker and shinier bottle–Star Trek Generations launched Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the crew of his starship Enterprise to the silver screen. With the cast of the original series having taken their final bow three years earlier in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, the time had come to pass the baton so another crew might boldly go on to successful cinematic adventures.
However, and perhaps due to concerns Picard and company might not entice enough viewers to follow them from their televisions to theaters and while also hoping to attract that larger mainstream audience films need to thrive, the decision was made to stack the deck, so to speak. Therefore, this “next generation” of Star Trek films (see what I did there?) would be given a sendoff by none other than the legendary James T. Kirk himself.
It actually wasn’t a bad idea, in and of itself. Besides, the idea of a character from a previous series helping to launch a new one had already been done twice before (McCoy appears in the TNG pilot, “Encounter at Farpoint,” and Picard himself appears in the first episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, “Emissary”) and had become something of a Star Trek tradition that would later be observed in the first episodes of Star Trek: Voyager and Enterprise, to say nothing of “original Spock” being on hand for the 2009 reboot film.
Generations opens in the 23rd century, nearly 80 years prior to the events of TNG, with Kirk, Scotty, and Chekov on hand to celebrate the launch of the U.S.S. Enterprise, NCC-1701-B, the successor to the starship said to be retired after the events of Star Trek VI. When “Stuff Happens” as it always does, the trusty trio is on hand to help save the day and the lives of a number of refugees from a disabled spaceship that’s been caught in a mysterious “energy ribbon.” However, that comes at a steep price: the death of Captain Kirk…or so we’re led to believe.
Flash forward 78 years to Picard’s Enterprise (NCC-1701-D on your scorecards), where they encounter Dr. Tolian Soran, a dude who’s hellbent on finding his way back to that aforementioned energy ribbon. Oh, and did we mention he was one of those refugees Kirk and the gang saved all those years ago? Oh, and did we also mention Guinan, the Enterprise‘s enigmatic bartender, is also a refugee? Remember this…it’ll be on the test later.
Hijinks ensue, eventually leading to a confrontation between Picard and Soran on the surface of an uninhabited planet, where Soran has developed a means of changing the ribbon’s course through space. This is done by blowing up key stars and sending gravimetric shockwaves that alter its trajectory, and he’s been hop-scotching through the quadrant in order to move the ribbon close enough for him to get into it. Why? Because when he and Guinan and the others were transported from their doomed ship decades earlier, they were in the ribbon’s grip; phasing in and out of our space-time continuum, and part of each of them is still in there, somewhere, so they feel a constant yearning to return to “that place.” It’s sort of like longing for Taco Bell even though you get there too late for FourthMeal.
Of course, this whole “blowing up stars” bit also has the effect of destroying any nearby planets, including inhabited ones. As that’s pretty much a huge buzzkill for anyone living on said worlds, Picard has to stop Soran before he can blow up this planet’s sun and wipe out the civilization living on an adjacent world. That doesn’t work out so well for Picard, who’s helpless to watch as Soran launches a rocket into the star, destroying it and bringing the ribbon to him. As the Enterprise, in orbit above the planet and getting its ass kicked by a Klingon ship, crashes on the surface, the planet is destroyed by the shock wave from the exploding star just as Soran and Picard are swept up in the ribbon’s effects.
And that’s when shit gets weird. Why? Well, let’s just say once he’s in the ribbon, Picard should probably have a sit down with astronauts Bowman and Cooper and discuss bizarre trips through spatial phenomena, amirite? And that’s before he runs into the aforementioned James T. Kirk chopping wood outside a remote mountain cabin.
1994 was a fantastic time for Star Trek. Two successful television series were in first-run syndication and the original series cast had bid their fond farewells. Star Trek: The Next Generation had wrapped, but Star Trek: Deep Space Nine had just started its third season and Star Trek: Voyager was waiting in the wings, and the TNG crew of course was now transitioning to the big screen. Merchandising was cooking with gas, and Star Trek was even embracing the still-minty fresh World Wide Web. Did you know that Star Trek Generations was the first film to get its own promotional website?
Though not a perfect film and not my favorite of the bunch, I still have a soft spot for Generations. In many ways, it really was the “passing of the torch” so far as Star Trek in the mainstream went. After saying goodbye (so we thought) to Kirk and his crew in the previous film, the events in Generations serve to cement the transition, figuratively and literally, and tell old-school Trekkies our Star Trek, the one we’d grown up with, was over. All good things, and all that, right?
Meanwhile, the TNG cast does get a bit of a short-shrift here, with so much time given over to Picard’s “Brave and the Bold”-esque team-up with Kirk. It wouldn’t be until their next outing, Star Trek: First Contact in 1996, that they’d get the screen all to themselves…sorta.
The story takes a bit of heat for a few logic problems, and the more vocal critics maintain that screenwriters Ronald Moore and Brannon Braga actually did a better job with their script for the TNG series finale episode, written in two weeks, than the film, which was the result of months of work. I tend to forgive Moore and Braga on this point, as the story they were asked to write was saddled with various studio requests and directives in order for the film to be the “baton pass” from Kirk’s era to Picard’s.
The scene where Kirk tells Picard not to retire is perhaps my favorite of the film. Until that point, Picard had largely been portrayed as the leader who manages situations while sending others to the front, which of course was a completely different (and arguably more proper) approach than what we’d seen Captain Kirk do every week on the original show, when he beams down and gets into trouble episode after episode. For me, this scene is a turning point for the character not just for actor Patrick Stewart, who would see Picard’s action quotient increase in the subsequent films, but also those of us who ended up writing the character in different media. I always look to this moment between Kirk and Picard to explain or justify why Picard continues to eschew retirement or promotion in the novels set after the TNG movies.
That’s my story, anyway, and I’m sticking to it.
Generations also has special meaning for me because I used the film’s climax as a point of departure for “Reflections,” the story I submitted to the very first Star Trek: Strange New Worlds writing contest back in 1997. You know how things went down after that.
So, Happy 25th Anniversary, Star Trek Generations. That predator time seems to have been pretty good to you.
Holy crap, 2019 is a blur.
A good portion of my month was devoted to various aspects of my consulting duties with CBS, which continues to be a source of much fun. A lot of reading, reviewing, commenting, and such is the usual order of things, but then every so often I get asked to actually write something from scratch or contribute to something already in motion. Such was the case during the latter half of the month. One of those you’ll read about below, whereas other things you’ll never even know I was there. 🙂
With all that said, here’s the October rundown:
In early 1983, the 24th Marine Amphibious Unit was deployed from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina to Beirut, Lebanon. They were sent as part of the peacekeeping force originally inserted the previous year into the conflict raging there between Christian and Muslim factions.
On the morning of October 23, 1983, 36 years ago today, an explosives-laden truck driven by a suicide bomber destroyed the headquarters building of the 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, killing 241 Marines, Sailors, and Soldiers and wounding more than 100 others. Minutes later, a second truck drove into a barracks building housing French peacekeeping forces and detonated, killing 58 French paratroopers and wounding 15 others.
The bombing resulted in the highest single-day death toll for the Corps since the Battle of Iwo Jima during World War II, and the costliest day for U.S. military forces since the first day of the Tet Offensive during the Vietnam War. The harsh lessons imparted on that fateful Sunday morning in 1983 resonate today. They remain relevant even as American military personnel continue to stand in harm’s way around the world.
The following poem is cast in bronze at the official national Beirut Memorial near Camp Lejeune:
THE OTHER WALL
It does not stand in Washington
By others of its kind
In prominence and dignity
With mission clearly defined.
It does not list the men who died
That tyranny should cease
But speaks in silent eloquence
Of those who came in peace.
This Other Wall is solemn white
And cut in simple lines
And it nestles in the splendor
Of the Carolina pines.
And on this wall there are the names
Of men who once had gone
In friendship’s name offer aid
To Beirut, Lebanon
They did not go as conquerors
To bring a nation down
Or for honor or for glory
Or for praises or renown.
When they landed on that foreign shore
Their only thought in mind
Was the safety of its people
And the good of all mankind
Though they offered only friendship
And freedom’s holy breath
They were met with scorn and mockery
And violence and death.
So the story of their glory
Is not the battles fought
But of their love for freedom
Which was so dearly bought.
And their Wall shall stand forever
So long as freedom shines
On the splendor and the glory
Of the Carolina pines.
— Robert A. Gannon
BOOM! Just like that, 2019 is half over.
June continued the trend of the past few months, with a whole lot of stuff going on, writing-wise. Some of it I can talk about, but there’s a bunch more about which I’m not yet cleared to discuss. Such is life, I suppose. Once that happens, I’ll be free to share some insight into the busy yet oh-so-fun chaos that’s been my life for a bit.
The biggest thing on my plate at the moment is the current novel-in-progress, but various other smaller, faster-burn projects have come and gone or are still active, as well. Plans and schemes are in the works.
With more redactions than the Mueller Report, here’s the June rundown:
If you’ve been reading my (admittedly infrequent) updates the past couple of months or so, you know I was invited by editor Danielle Ackley-McPhail of eSpec Books to contribute a story to a brand-spankin’ new anthology she was editing, Footprints in the Stars.
According to Danielle, the book is “put to bed” and is now at the printers, which means we get to share stuff like the book’s full front and back cover. Behold, yo:
As the back cover copy states:
To follow in the footsteps of those who have gone before, first we must find them.
Dreaded hope settles over mankind as we stare into the heavens, looking for a sign we are not alone. Fearing we will find it, puzzled when we don’t.
Among the stars or in our own backyard, lose yourself in the wonder of these tales as we humbly posit mankind’s reaction to the awesome certainty that ‘they’ are out there…or at least, they were…
Footprints in the Stars
Sounds pretty cool, amirite? The book will contain all-new stories by the likes of Gordon Linzner, Ian Randal Strock, Robert Greenberger, Aaron Rosenberg, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Jody Lynn Nye, Christopher L. Bennett, James Chambers, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Russ Colchamiro, Judi Fleming, and Bryan J.L. Glass.
Oh, and me.
When Danielle invited me to submit a story, she described in her original pitch, “all of the stories will revolve around the central theme of humanity discovering evidence that we are not alone in the universe.” She stressed that she wasn’t looking for “first contact stories,” so we had to dig a little deeper and come up with something else.
When I started, I had what I thought was an interesting idea for a story. Then, as time passed and I started playing around with writing it, an idea for a completely different story began to take shape. Before I knew it, I realized this newer idea was something I wanted to dig in on, not just for this story but perhaps setting things up for a novel at some point. To her credit, Danielle did not, in point of fact, beat me with a tire iron when I changed lanes on her, and instead welcomed not just my idea but also the possibility of me exploring this notion further with eSpec.
I guess we’ll see.
You can check out the full deetz about the anthology over at the eSpec Books blog. As for the book itself? It’s due to premiere at the upcoming Shore Leave convention the weekend of July 12-14, which is when I’ll be able to get my grubby paws on my very own copies. Awwwwwww, yeah.
Many thanks to Danielle and Mike McPhail and eSpec Books for inviting me along for the ride!
I don’t typically advertise when I’m away on vacation, preferring instead to surprise readers after I’m back and let you know that HEY! I was on vacation last week.
So, HEY! I was on vacation last week.
It was an epic road trip in which Clan Ward joined forces with two other families with whom we’ve become good friends since our move to Ward Manor 2.0 in 2014. Our kids all go to the same schools, participate in the neighborhood swim team and other local activities, and my wife along with one of the other wives actually works for the third wife, so we find ourselves together in all sorts of weather and circumstances. 😀
This time, it was a 2,100-or so mile excursion: first to Nashville, Tennessee, where we spent mine and Michi’s 28th anniversary and St. Patrick’s Day. We followed that with a jaunt to Destin, Florida for a few days lounging on the beach, checking out local sites, and eating all manner of things plundered from the ocean that was RIGHT THERE. The last couple of days were spent in Hot Springs, Arkansas at the historic Arlington Resort Hotel and Spa, located right in the heart of the action directly across the street from Hot Springs National Park, Bathhouse Row, and all sorts of local coolness.
It was this past Saturday afternoon, as Michi and the girls were availing themselves of the hotel’s embedded Starbucks cafe when the barista started making small talk, which brings us to the reason for this latest blog posting and its title. As she prepared the girls’ triple latte double caff whatevers, the barista pointed to a building across the street and casually mentioned, “They used it for the Daily Planet building in the old Superman TV series.”
Monday: Escape with their lives from New York.
Tuesday: Impersonate F.B.I. agents in Chicago.
Wednesday: Steal plane in New Mexico.
Thursday: Almost kill each other by accident.
Friday: Almost kill each other on purpose.
What happens when an ex-cop turned bounty hunter is sent to find an accountant who embezzled millions from the mob, and who’s now being hunted by mobsters as well as the FBI as he tries to get his fugitive from New York to L.A. before the accountant’s bail bond defaults?
Comedy gold, that’s what.
After a string of dramatic turns including the previous year’s The Untouchables, Robert De Niro goes totally against type as he shifts gears for this comedy-action fest. He plays Jack Walsh, a bounty hunter sent to retrieve federal fugitive Jonathan “the Duke” Mardukas (Charles Grodin) after he jumps bail. Mardukas has millions in mob money stashed somewhere, and Jimmy Serrano, the guy from whom he took it, wants that shit back. Meanwhile, the FBI’s got their own case building against Serrano, and they want Mardukas as a material witness. Walsh doesn’t give a damn about any of that, as he just wants to get the Duke back to L.A. and the bail bondsman who’s going to pay him $100,000 for the job.
Released on July 20th, 1988 – mere days after Bruce Willis’ breakout hit Die Hard – Midnight Run is basically “The Odd Couple on the lam,” as well as a bit of a salute to the classic Bob Hope/Bing Crosby “Road” pictures of the 1940s and early 50s. De Niro and Grodin play off each other to absolutely epic effect, their efforts supported by stellar performances from the likes of Yaphet Kotto as FBI Agent Alonzo Mosley, Dennis Farina as Jimmy Serrano, John Ashton as Walsh’s rival bounty hunter, Marvin Dorfler, and ever-reliable Joe Pantoliano as skeevy bail bondsman Eddie Moscone.
Director Martin Brest, who two years earlier had given us the first – and still the best – Beverly Hills Cop, manages to strike a pretty decent balance of action, humor and quiet character moments throughout the film, while Danny Elfman provides a rollicking musical score to wrap around the whole thing. It’s not a perfect movie, and there are a couple of places where the “guys who hate each other eventually become friends” trope starts to wear thin, but De Niro and Grodin’s chemistry is more than enough to elevate the material and cement Midnight Run as one of my all-time favorite “buddy flicks.”
Thirty years after its original release, I still laugh out loud at the rapid-fire dialogue from De Niro and Grodin to say nothing of the rest of the cast. I’ve been known to hold up my end of entire conversations with quotes from this flick.
Trivia: Did you know there were three made-for-TV sequels in 1994, made as part of Universal’s “Action Pack” TV-movies? I’ve never seen them…and I’m not sure I want to. I mean, “Action Pack” gave us stuff like Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and TekWar, but they also gave us Team Knight Rider and sequels to Smokey and the Bandit. So, you know…tread carefully.
There’s been talk of De Niro and Grodin teaming up for a proper sequel to the original film, but the last news I heard about this was a couple of years ago now. I’d be in line for it if such a project ever came to fruition.
Meanwhile, I think I’ll be spinning this one up tonight.
“See ya in the next life, Jack.”