KRAD COVID reading #94d: Star Trek: S.C.E.: Invincible Book 2, Part 4

For 2021, KRAD COVID readings is covering the only short fiction I didn’t read in 2020: my novellas for the Star Trek: Starfleet Corps of Engineers series, a monthly series of eBooks that ran from 2000-2007. I’ll have a new reading every #TrekTuesday.

This week, we continue Book 2 of Invincible, which was a collaboration between me and David Mack. In this penultimate portion, Commander Gomez has learned the true nature of the monster shii, but she’s also been abandoned by the rest of the Nalori workers, except for Razka…

Check it out! And please subscribe to the channel!

Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “Equinox, Part II”

Janeway goes completely ’round the bend, cluck cluck, gibber gibber, my old man’s a mushroom, etc., because she’s pissed at Ransom for violating Federation principles. So she goes after him, violating all the exact same principles! Sigh. The Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch kicks off season six with “Equinox, Part II.”

An excerpt:

In much the same way that I utterly despise the TNG episode “Homeward” because turned the Enterprise­-D crew in general and Picard in particular into murderers, I also utterly despise this episode, because it turns Janeway into a psychopath for no compellingly good reason, and then changes her back at the last minute. In much the same way that I had trouble sympathizing with the Equinox crew in Part I because they committed mass murder, I have trouble sympathizing with Janeway in Part II because she commits acts of torture, acts of war, and acts of depraved indifference to murder. I can see her anger at Ransom compromising her judgment up to a point, and maybe having her act irrationally. We’ve seen this before, with Kirk in “Obsession,” with Picard in First Contact, and (in a situation with significantly lower stakes) with Sisko in “Take Me Out to the Holosuite.” But in each case, there was good reason for it—in fact, it was kinda the same reason for all three, a past trauma (Kirk’s self-perceived failure on the Farragut, Picard’s being made into Locutus, Sisko’s being tormented by Solok) warping their present-day selves. Janeway has no such excuse, she’s just met an asshole, and it has turned her into the same kind of asshole because the script says so.

I say it’s my birthday….

I can’t say this is my best birthday ever — I’ve had some pretty amazing birthdays, including one of them spent in Venice, Italy — but I think this one may have been the most joyous for a number of reasons, the most obvious being how meh my last birthday was in the early days of the recent apocalypse.

Today, all four parents, the Godmommy, Wrenn, and ToniAnn all joined me at Keens Steakhouse. All eight of us are fully vaccinated, and I must give the staff at Keens high marks. The restaurant had distanced tables and barriers around them, the staff was all fully masked with the high-end masks, which were covering their noses and mouths at all times, and they made sure that everybody who wasn’t actually seated at a table was masked. (They also did temperature checks, which isn’t a terribly useful thing, but whatever.)

The food was, of course, excellent — Keens has been around since the 19th century, and it’s one of the best steakhouses in the world — but what made it wonderful was being able to celebrate with loved ones. I’m incredibly grateful that we were able to do holidays and birthdays and things over Zoom this past year, but there’s no substitute for in-person interaction, and I’m so glad that we were all vaccinated in time for my birthday. Fitting, really, since my birthday was the first big family thing that we couldn’t do last year, so I’m glad it’s one of the first things we could do this year (the actual first was Easter).

I want to thank everyone who wished me a happy birthday today, on Facebook, on Twitter, over e-mail, over Messenger, over text, and over phone. I have the best friends, the best family, and the best fans in the whole entire world, and today was a lovely reminder of that.

Happy birthday to me!

Photo of me with my birthday hot fudge sundae at Keens by ToniAnn Marini

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier‘s “Truth”

It’s a breather between action scenes as Sam helps his sister while trying to decide whether or not to take up the shield, Walker has Captain America taken from him, and he’s not happy, and Bucky tries to figure out what his next step is, there’s a final confrontation with Zemo, and the Flag Smashers make their big play. Plus a provocative cameo by a famous person playing a venerable Marvel character and the triumphant return of Carl Lumbly’s Isaiah Bradley. My review of “Truth,” the penultimate episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier‘s inaugural season.

An excerpt:

Back in July of 2019, when Marvel Studios announced their Phase 4 plans, I wrote the following on this very web site: “Why is The Falcon and the Winter Soldier still being called that when Sam Wilson is Captain America now? Seriously, calling it that when you first announced it is necessary due to not wanting to spoil Endgame, but now we know that the Falcon is the new Cap. So why isn’t this being called Captain America and the Winter Soldier? Particularly now, it’s important to acknowledge that the symbol of the U.S. is currently an African American.”

My opinion in the last sentence of that quote hasn’t changed—in fact, I feel even more strongly about it given the appalling number of incidents involving African-American citizens being targeted and killed by law-enforcement that keep fucking happening (not to mention increased vitriol directed at Asian Americans)—but I also get what they’re doing here. The history of people who aren’t white in this country is awful, and while things are better now than they were in the past, they’re still not by any stretch of the imagination good. The question for Sam is whether or not he will embody the ideals of America, which are often at odds with the reality of America—or will he be seen as capitulating to that reality in defiance of those ideals?

Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: Fifth Season Overview

A look back on a season that was big on high concepts, but not always so much on coherent stories. Having said that, there are still a lot of really good individual episodes, plus some of the best selection of guest stars in Trek history. The Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch looks back on season five.

An excerpt:

It also feels like Janeway is marginalized, which is a bad look for the first season in which a woman isn’t the show-runner. The episodes where Kate Mulgrew does get a lot to do are few and far between, and in many of them she’s not even playing Janeway herself, whether figuratively (“Night” where she’s depressed, “Course: Oblivion” where she’s a duplicate), literally (“11:59,” where she plays her own ancestor), or deliberately (“Bride of Chaotica!” where she cosplays as Arachnia). Having said that, both Torres and especially Seven get a lot to do, as does the EMH, with Chakotay, Paris, Kim, Tuvok, and Neelix all getting a moment or three in the sun, and while they’re not always successful—in particular the attempts at developing Kim are mostly disastrous—at least they’re giving folks a shot.

KRAD COVID reading #94c: Star Trek: S.C.E.: Invincible Book 2, Part 3

For 2021, KRAD COVID readings is covering the only short fiction I didn’t read in 2020: my novellas for the Star Trek: Starfleet Corps of Engineers series, a monthly series of eBooks that ran from 2000-2007. I’ll have a new reading every #TrekTuesday.

This week, we continue Book 2 of Invincible, which was a collaboration between me and David Mack. In Part 3, Commander Gomez sets a trap for the monster shii in the hopes of stopping its rampage once and for all….

Check it out! And please subscribe to the channel!

Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “Equinox

Voyager encounters another ship that got stranded in the Delta Quadrant by the Caretaker, and hasn’t had anywhere near as easy a time with it. The Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch ends season five with “Equinox.”

An excerpt:

In addition, I must sing the praises of the performances. Besides Savage and Welliver, Olivia Birkelund does an excellent job with the emotionally damaged Gilmore, as does Robert Beltran in his interactions with her as Chakotay. Roxann Dawson banters beautifully with Welliver, and Kate Mulgrew’s slow burn as she goes from rescuer to fellow captain to captain who disagrees with Ransom and has to pull rank to get him in line to his captor is a sight to see. It’s in this last mode that that slow burn turns into an inferno, as Janeway is (understandably) pissed. And Robert Picardo is superb as two different versions of the EMH. I especially love the casual way the EMH-E says that his ethical subroutines were deleted right before he knocks the mobile emitter off his counterpart’s arm.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier‘s “The Whole World is Watching”

The lines between good and bad are significantly blurred in this fourth episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, as Sam is the only person acting rationally, nobody trusts anybody, and we’re reminded that no matter what else may be the case, the Dora Milaje will always kick your ass.

An excerpt:

I’ve gone back and forth as to whether or not John Walker is a dick in this space, and this episode makes it clear that it’s not that simple in either direction—indeed, that happens a lot in this episode. In a very revealing conversation between Walker and Lemar Hoskins, we find out that the three medals of honor Walker received were due to a horrible mission in Afghanistan that Walker describes as the worst day of his life. We don’t get specifics, but we don’t need them: the point is that something that we assumed was a badge of heroism (the medals) is in fact an attempt to prettify something very very ugly.

The flip side of that is Karli Morgenthau. She’s trying to help people who have been screwed by the restoration of half of humanity and the attempt to return to normal, but she’s going about it in a way that is also ugly. We pointedly hear a news story that mentions that one of the victims of the destruction of the GRC building last week had only just started working for the GRC and left behind a family. As Sam says to Karli, when you’re killing people, you’re not making the world a better place, just different. If your noble goal can only be fulfilled by leaving children without a parent, then your goal may not be so noble. Then again, even Karli’s fellow Flag-Smashers were caught off-guard and not entirely happy with her blowing up that building…

Margaret Wander Bonanno, RIP

I first encountered Margaret Wander Bonanno through her fiction, specifically the novel Dwellers in the Crucible. This was when I was in high school and devouring Trek novels at a great rate. I was a bit put off by Dwellers at first, as it focused primarily on two original characters, but by the time I reached the end of it, I was overwhelmed by the brilliance of it. More than any other story, this novel showed me the breadth of the Trek universe, how it didn’t need to be limited to the same batch of characters on the same ship. (Given the Trek novels I would later write, particularly The Art of the Impossible, Articles of the Federation, and the Klingon and S.C.E. stories, the notion obviously stayed with me….)

I got to meet Margaret when we were doing The Chronic Rift as a public access show in the 1990s. She was on our Star Trek 25th anniversary panel in 1991, and appeared a bunch more times on the show, too.

We remained friends over the years, and when she came back to writing Trek fiction in the 2000s, I got to work with her a few times: I served as the line editor on her Christopher Pike novel Burning Dreams, I was the continuity editor on her Lost Era novel Catalyst of Sorrows, and best of all, I commissioned her to write the conclusion to the Mere Anarchy eBook series that celebrated Trek‘s 40th anniversary in 2006. Margaret did a superb job with the conclusion of this miniseries, which was entitled Its Hour Come Round, and which included one of my favorite scenes in any work of Trek fiction, a conversation between Raya elMora (one of the recurring characters in Mere Anarchy) and Klingon Chancellor Azetbur (from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country).

Margaret was a good soul, a fun person, a nifty human being, and a great writer. Her bibliography of Trek fiction includes some of the best Trek works committed to prose, from the first-contact tale Strangers from the Sky to the Saavik-focused Unspoken Truth, and she also wrote the Preternatural trilogy for Tor that was a New York Times notable book, and she collaborated with Nichelle Nichols on Saturn’s Child.

She was a wonderful person, and I will miss her a lot.