Resistance is NOT Futile

 

All the stars and planets were aligned…Just after the election I had a birthday, which I share with my binary brother, Lewis.  In sixty years, we’ve never spent a birthday apart.  Like so many of us, he was shocked, saddened, crushed by the election results.  There was only one thing to do.  We played space age hooky, beamed him out of the office and transported ourselves to the Seattle Center.

Specifically, to the EMP, which is celebrating 50 years of Star Trek.

I hardly remember life before Star Trek. And talk about The Next Generation! My children absorbed Star Trek by osmosis in utero. As I ascended the stairs to the EMP tribute, the Star Trek theme song elicited a visceral response that only gets stronger as I get older.  I’ve lived long enough now to see many of these stories played out on my planet in real time.


The Star Trek universe was built upon a future where poverty was eliminated, equality and diversity went hand in hand, and the good of the many took precedence over the few.  Humans had learned to cooperate, and put an end to war.  All of Earth and the Federation of Planets collaborated on peaceful missions of exploration.  What a concept!  A bit rosy, but a vision worth striving for.

My brother and I arrived early and shared the floor with only a few others, including a very cute couple in Star Fleet uniforms.

We had shared a womb for nine months, and managed to both fit into a Borg Regeneration Chamber too.

Star Trek had action and adventure, but was also thoughtful and intelligent.  Writers could get away with astute critical social commentary, because it was all happening in another universe. Thinly veiled stories posed tough questions about civil rights, social disparity and racism in our own society.

Martin Luther King was marching for basic civil rights and a place at the lunch counter for African Americans when Classic Trek was filmed, featuring a black woman as Lieutenant Nyota Uhura, fourth in command on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise.  Her surname means ‘freedom’ in Swahili.

It wasn’t long before a woman would captain the Federation Starship Voyager.

A black man was in command of the space station, Deep Space Nine.

Julian Bashir, whose Arabic name means “bringer of good news,” was the doctor on DS9.

In the original series Lt. Hikaru Sulu was played by George Takei, who is gay.  Fifty years later, in the most recent Star Trek movie, writers gave Sulu a child and a husband, a powerful tribute to the actor who first brought Sulu to life. More importantly, it was an unwavering moral and political statement of inclusiveness that brought tears to my eyes.

For just a little while, it felt good to be in a place of Equal Opportunity bridges, and not walls.  Right now we are in the middle of our own episode, so scary it seems like science fiction, with the world we’ve worked so hard to build spinning out of control.  The incidence of hate crimes is rising dramatically.  Social security is threatened.  Fifty years of social progress is at risk as minorities, immigrants, women, LGBTQ, those with disabilities, and the poor are in danger of being disenfranchised.  The environment is on the brink of ruin beyond recovery because in this episode The Almighty Dollar is worshipped at all costs. In this story, we don’t have other worlds to relocate to after we’ve ruined this planet. Too many episodes begin with civilizations that have self-destructed, or are ruled by uncaring masters who live in the clouds in their own decadent paradise, while the workers they exploit to maintain their carefree lifestyle live in a harsh ugly world. You probably saw “Patterns of Force,” the episode pictured below; there are people old enough to have lived through that reality, and who recognize the signs in our country today.

patterns-of-force-star-trek-women-13190574-720-530

If we wait until the 24th century to be rescued, or for ‘enlightenment’ to kick in, we’re going to find ourselves back in the Dark Ages wondering what happened.  Anyone who has watched Star Trek knows how difficult it is to travel back in time to change the future.   Star Trek’s writers say,  “…start by picking a resolution…then plan each step so it drives the story toward the ending you want…”

Every episode needs conflict to give a story purpose and move the plot forward.  Star Trek writers created a terrifying foe called The Borg...”individuals who have been captured and assimilated…and transformed into mindless worker drones…What’s frightening about the Borg is not their violence…They are unhampered by empathy for other beings, believing their way is perfection…The Borg are, in essence, a virus that uses civilizations as its hosts.”

Can you see where our country is headed? We will NOT be assimilated. Our story must end with a world where people of every race, religion, gender, and sexual orientation live and work together as equals, without fear of banishment, punishment or judgement simply for being who they are.  This episode must end with respect, inclusivity, and compassion for all. We must do whatever it takes to make it so. The reason Star Trek has become such a lasting legacy is because it is hopeful and empowering and delivers a message we need to hear.  The captain’s chair is ready. Let’s take our tall ship, keep an eye on that star to steer her by, and go full speed ahead, warp factor 10. Whatever happens, please remember…Resistance is NOT futile.  It is the only way we ever have or ever will make any headway, and it will be a crucial message to the next generation.

©2016 Naomi Baltuck

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He Lived Long and Prospered

 I mourn the passing of Leonard Nimoy, the actor who brought depth and integrity to the role of Mr. Spock in the classic Star Trek series and films.

I grew up on Star Trek reruns.  The show helped me formulate ideas about writing, as well as life.  It was an enthusiasm I passed on to my kids.

No wonder I became the Proud Mom of a Starfleet Cadet and that so many of our parties…

…favorite toys…

…and family fun has been inspired by Star Trek.

 

Leonard Nimoy co-wrote and directed Star Trek IV, The Voyage Home, which was my favorite of all the Star Trek movies.  His vision for the story was to have “no dying, no fighting, no shooting, no photon torpedoes, no phaser blasts, no stereotypical bad guy.”  It was funny and quirky, and didn’t take itself too seriously, yet its message was important– advocating protection and conservation of our world and its creatures.

There was much more to the man than Star Trek or Mr. Spock.  He was the son of Ukrainian Jews, he spoke and wrote Yiddish, was a photographer, a poet, and a man of principle.

According to NPR, when he found out that Nichelle Nichols wasn’t being paid as much as the other actors on the show, he protested on her behalf.  When he found out that she and George Takei were to be excluded from the animated series, again he went to bat for them and they were hired on for that series.

His last message to his fans was very appropriate, wise, even logical:  “A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP”

He lived long and prospered, but he also lived well.

And we will never forget him.

c2015Naomi Baltuck

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The Future is NOW

Three weeks ago our daughter Bea flew home.  As she packs to return to school, I try to recall where the time has gone. The day after she arrived, we told stories at the Black Diamond History Museum for their Hometown Christmas.

The locals were very friendly!

Black Diamond teems with local history: we found some of it for sale in a great Antique Store next to the museum.

We were treated to the best pizza in the valley at Black Diamond Pizza and Deli.  The owner, Mike, told us he was passing through on a trip from Wisconsin, saw the building, originally built as a bank in 1915, and fell in love.  The rest is history.

In the days that followed we enjoyed many winter walks, like this one at Green Lake.

They often entail impromptu birdwatching.

We celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas at our house.

But we love sparkle all year long, and welcome any excuse to bring more light into our lives.

More cookies too.  There was a flurry of baking…

…for both holidays.

.

Then we drove out of the city…

…to find our tree.

We got a gooder!

This is how you dress for a Northwest Christmas.

We hosted parties for Bea’s NaNoWriMo pals, and the Dungeons and Dragons set. 

We visited friends……and had friends over to play.

On Christmas Eve we broke bread and made joyful music with family and friends.

On Christmas morning some lucky ducks found cool new jammies under the tree.

Very fitting, as we rang in the New Year with a sci-fi party.  Our old friend Sargon served as Master of Ceremonies.

Cap’n Tommy wore gold. Rick and Sue were Red Shirts–those ill-fated crewmen doomed to die violent and expected deaths before the first commercial break of each Star Trek episode. Rick painted His ‘n’ Her phaser burns on the front of his shirt and the back of Sue’s.

Rick and Dorota were smashing as Effie Trinket and Caesar Flickerman from The Hunger Games.

We came as…

Zaphod from Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, T’Pau the Queen Bitch of Vulcan from Classic Trek episode Amok Time, and Doc Brown from Back to the Future.  When Back to the Future was made in 1985, the distant future to which Doc travels is set in the year 2015!  Yikes!  If you think three weeks goes fast, see how fast three decades will sneak up on you.

I thought about that as we toasted the New Year with the traditional Boston Cooler.

  Here’s a toast to you.

May the New Year bring you twice the warmth, wisdom, joy, and sparkle!

But don’t wait for the future to come to you.  Carpe Futurum, guys, before it carpes you!

All words and images copyright Naomi Baltuck

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Proud Mom of a Starfleet Cadet

Last month we attended Sue and Rick’s White Elephant party.  Remember Sue?

Everyone brought a wrapped “White Elephant,” something new or used to pass on.  We drew numbers, with number one picking a gift and unwrapping it.  The next person could choose an unopened gift or lay claim to someone’s opened gift.  But a gift couldn’t change hands more than three times.

I’ve always been a Trek Geek so in my opinion, the best prize was an email address “@ starfleet.com,”and that’s even before I realized it was the gift that would keep on giving.  It was snatched twice by Star Trek officianados, AKA Trekkers.  When my daughter Bea’s turn came, she commandeered the Starfleet address and no one could take it from her, as she was the third to claim it.  At the holiday’s end, she returned to school.


Soon after, I received my first email from my cadet at Starfleet Academy.  She had enlisted!

Dear Mom and Dad,

 I just wanted you to know that I have settled into my dorm room and all is well. My roommate is an Aaamazzarite. It is a little awkward between us still because I can’t pronounce the name of her species. On the bright side, however, Aaamazzarites are hairless, so vacuuming is quite easy. It’s better than last year, when I roomed with that girl from Sigma Iotia II. She kept trying to extract protection money from me and teach me some weird game called “bizz fin.” 

I started classes yesterday.  I’m pretty excited for Andorian Early Empires, though there is only one other person in the class, and he’s…well…Andorian. Wish me luck. I’m also in Xenolinguistics, Intelligently Fudging Incident Reports (which, legend has it, Kirk got an A+ in), and the Starfleet Graphic Novel Project, which follows the struggles of 13 female Starfleet captains back when sexism was still a thing.

 I also made a couple of friends. One of them is a fellow student of xenobiology. We’re both interested in extraterrestrial ecology. He seems pretty fun, although he’s strangely obsessed with mustaches. The other guy is a Ferengi. He talks really quickly and likes juggling gold-pressed latinum. Unfortunately for him, he is very good at juggling but has no latinum to juggle. He plays the Vulcan lute surprisingly well. 

Anyways, I’ll let you know how things go. I love you and miss you!

 xoxo,

Bea

Upon reflection, Bea at Starfleet Academy made perfect sense.  She was always keen to explore strange new worlds…

–especially her own little world.

I recalled the voyages of the star child Beatrice.

Her ongoing mission…

…to seek out new life…

…and new civilizations.

 Rife with pirates…

…cannibals…

…and pink fuzzy brainsucking creatures.

From the tiny…

…to the towering.

And at great personal risk…

…To boldly go…

…where no man has gone before.

She is well qualified.  A Starfleet cadet needs to be flexible.

She always manages to bounce back…

…blend in with the locals…

…and keep her head.

We can hardly wait to beam down to the Academy in San Francisco to check out her new Starfleet digs.

Barring any transporter accidents…

…which can get SO messy.

We’ll tell you all about it.  In the meantime…

Dear Bea, 

It’s good to know you are all settled into your dorm.  Life goes on, but it isn’t the same without you.  To cheer ourselves up in our Empty Nest, Dad and I took a short trip to Risa.  When they say what happens at Risa stays at Risa, they aren’t kidding.  He left six bars of gold pressed latinum at the Dabbo tables.  It’s lucky I’m such a cheap date.  All I needed was a l’il sippy cup of Romulan Ale, and a few hours in the Holo Suite.  I like that program about The Battle of Hastings, only I programmed it so that King Harold Godwinson could kick William the Conqueror’s ass right back to Normandy.

The bad news is that we asked Grandma to take care of your pet tribble, Odysseus, while we were gone.  Unfortunately, Grandma forgot she wasn’t supposed to feed it.  By the time we got home, five days later, there were eight generations of tribbles crammed into the cage, and they had all died of suffocation.  We put them in stasis and can have the funerals—228 of them–when you come home for spring break.  Maybe we can get you a nice Cardassian Vole.  

Don’t turn your back on that Ferengi, and don’t get killed!

Love,

Mom and Dad

 

Copyright 2014 Naomi Baltuck

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Beam Me Out of the Closet, Scotty!

Okay, true confession.  Only a handful of you know my closet is crammed with Star Trek gadgets like my Borg Cube piggy bank, my Star Trek sound effects keychain, and plastic pointed ears.  By the age of sixteen I had attended my first Star Trek Convention, and knew every classic Trek episode by name and by heart.  When I left for college, Star Trek stayed home.  Then life, career, and family caught up with me.

But Star Trek left its mark.  As a kid I watched a lot of junk on TV, hardly noticing the difference between good and bad writing.  Well, that’s not quite true.  I knew all the writing on Gilligan’s Island stank, but watched it anyway.  I was fourteen when I noticed that the Star Trek reruns I was watching ran the gamut in quality.  Most were fine, some shone brilliantly and others fell flat.  I began to compare and analyze each episode, from the trashy Turnabout Intruder to the exquisite City on the Edge of Forever.

Each show featured the same cast, and followed the same format.  Each began with Red Shirts, those unfortunate crewmembers doomed to a cruel and unusual death before the first commercial break.  Law of the Universe.  I could live with that.  Many resorted to technobabble to explain and/or justify that week’s dilemma and resolution.  I could live with that too.   So what made one episode a masterpiece and another an epic failure?

Strange new worlds, the aliens that populated them, killer epidemics, and intergalactic wars provided intriguing backdrops.  That was enough for the action figure collectors.  But it was the emotional complexity of the cast I found most compelling.  Kirk, Spock, and McCoy were all so different from each other.  What interested me was their reactions to problems, interactions with each other, and their internal struggles.

My favorite episodes were lighthearted, like The Trouble with Tribbles or A Piece of the Action.  Other favorites, like Friday’s Child or Journey to Babel, gave us comic relief in between moments of high drama.  Many episodes were thinly disguised commentary on our own society.

A few shows were obviously written by people who didn’t understand the characters or who sold them out to squeeze a plot from a limp and pale idea.  The Galileo 7  was bad writing, and character assassination, pure and simple, of poor Mr. Spock.

From the simple exercise of comparison and analysis, I learned that I love humor, and use it now in whatever I do.  I prefer character-driven fiction.  I learned how to set up a story, and build tension, and be true to my characters.

I hope you will embrace whatever series, book, or show inspired and helped make you the writer you are today, be it Star Trek, Nancy Drew, Harry Potter or The Simpsons.  Analyze it, explore it, own it!

Whatever works for you, may you live long and prosper

Was there a particular book, author, or television series that influenced or influences your writing?