Star Trek Voyager: Lower Decks

archivist's spotlight: monkee

Mary "monkee" Wiecek, thirty-nine, is a full-time Mom who lives in Ohio with her husband and three children. In her rare free time, she likes to paint, write, and play on the computer with her internet Trek friends.

LOONY ARCHIVIST: How long have you been writing fan fiction?

MONKEE: I wrote my first story in November of 1997.

What do you see as the unique challenges of writing fan fiction? How do you cope with the often widespread view that writing in an established universe—be that a television series, graphic novel series, fan fiction, or other shared worlds and collaborations—is easier than creating original characters and settings?

Writing in an established universe is easier than creating original characters and settings—that's what's great about fanfic, because everything is set up for you, and you can just have fun with the writing. Ironically, though, that fact also creates the biggest challenge of writing fanfic, which is to keep the characters in character. If you have Janeway, for example, doing something out of character, everyone knows instantly! There's always a little bit of elbow room, because everyone sees the characters a little bit differently, but you can't make any drastic changes. That's one good thing about writing "Lower Decks" stories—you are basically creating an original character. You can take a few more liberties with their personalities.

As one of the fan writers who has had fiction published in a Star Trek: Strange New Worlds anthology, what advice would you give other fan authors trying to get published?

First, read the list of suggestions that the editor's themselves have compiled. I think the full list is at the back of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds III, and it's probably also up at their webpage. Good advice from the people who will actually be reading your story.

I've also observed, and this is good news for "Lower Decks" writers, that they seem to like stories told from the perspective of peripheral characters—lower deck characters, or characters that were only in an episode or two (the temporal investigators on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, for example), but cried out for some kind of follow-up. They also seem to like stories told from the perspective of an alien observing the Starfleet crews. I've also observed that there are a lot of stories that, in some small way, tie some of the series together. If you can bring a classic Star Trek element into a Star Trek: Voyager story, it might give you an edge. Or not. I'm only guessing based on what I've seen.

What was the first piece of fan fiction you ever read?

A wonderful pair of stories by Sharon Nuttycombe—Heaven and Ale, and Ale's Well that Ends Well. I highly recommend them—they're hilarious!

What was the first piece of fan fiction you ever wrote?

A short Janeway/Chakotay story entitled The Last Thirty Seconds of the Year of Hell.

What is it about Star Trek: Voyager that inspires you to write?

The characters, first and foremost. They put together the most interesting and appealing cast of characters of all the Treks. The premise, too—being stranded a lifetime from home has a lot of dramatic potential.

Who is your favourite Star Trek: Voyager lower decks character to write?

Probably Samantha and Naomi Wildman are my favorite. I'm a mother myself, so I can easily slip into Samantha's head, and since I have kids, I can carry over my experiences with them and write Naomi, too.

What do you believe are Star Trek: Voyager's greatest strengths, and greatest weaknesses, as a series?

Greatest strength? The characters—what a compelling group of people to tell stories about! Greatest weakness? The failure to do justice to those characters. I think, really, that they've tried. But the characters needed consistent development and they didn't get it. They needed stronger storylines that continued throughout the series. Not story arcs, necessarily, but. . . take Janeway and the Fair Haven thing, for example. They should have been showing us all along, in various scenes in various episodes, that she's in a unique situation and she's lonely. Instead, they just threw it into this one ill-advised episode (Even the awful Spirit Folk had a different focus). It's hard to explain. The writers and producers do try to do this, but not enough.

Which of the four Trek series is your favourite, and why? Which of the four Trek series do you believe to be of the highest calibre?

Star Trek: Voyager is my favorite because I love the characters, and I love Janeway. I love that they have a woman Captain—I wish they would do a better job with her, but Mulgrew makes up for a lot of their failures. Highest calibre? Probably Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. For me, character development is the most important thing, and I think Star Trek: Deep Space Nine did that best. But I loved all of the series, for different reasons.

What is your favourite Star Trek: Voyager episode, and why?

I suppose I'd have to say Timeless, because it was really an amazing hour of Star Trek: Voyager. The anticipation of the crew, the dramatic crash, the angst, the older Chakotay and Harry, the ice planet—and there was even a hint of Janeway/Chakotay there for me. I'm also quite fond of The Cloud, though, so it's a tough call. In The Cloud, everyone had at least one really good scene, and I just loved the camaraderie that was beginning to show with the characters, and it had Sandrines, which I loved. Other episodes I loved for various reasons were Muse, Bride of Chaotica!, Scorpion, Part 1, Shattered, One Small Step, Living Witness, Tinker, Tenor, Killing Game, 'Pathfinder, and Future's End.

Thirteen! You asked for one and I gave you thirteen! Well, just to make it an even number, I'll add Resolutions.

If you were given the opportunity to write an episode of Star Trek: Voyager, what story would you like to tell?

I would have done an entire episode, in maybe the second season or so, based in the alpha quadrant with the loved ones of some of the Voyager staff. Janeway's fiancée—does he go on with his life, or wait? Paris's father— is he plagued by regrets about his relationship with Tom? Harry Kim's parents— how do they deal with the loss of their only child? Etc. And our characters could have appeared in flashbacks. It would have been awesome! I don't, for the life of me, know why they never did an episode like that. The people left behind are half of the story!

What do you think sets Star Trek: Voyager apart from the other Trek series?

Not too much, and that's the problem! Only superficial things are different. The woman Captain. The combined crews. The lost-in-space theme. They shouldn't have been superficial, but the writers didn't address them as well as they could have, so most of the episodes could easily have been Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes. Too bad.

Who is your favourite professional Trek author or authors?

I like Christie Golden's Star Trek: Voyager stories, because she seems to understand the nuances of the characters quite well. I'm also fond of some of Peter David's Star Trek: The Next Generation novels.

Who is your favourite fan Trek author or authors?

I don't really have one favorite. Michele Masterson is wonderful, and she also wrote my all-time favorite Janeway/Chakotay fanfic, Contrition. I love Emu's stuff, too, particularly the amazing Absumption. Every single one of the writers in august's archipelago of angst is outstanding—they all write unique, edgy stories. The Star Trek: Voyager 1001 group, of course, has some excellent writers. I've recently discovered the stories of Penny Proctor (E.J. Andrews), too, and have spent many happy hours at her website. Morgan Stuart has only written a few Trek fanfics, but they were all outstanding. There are at least a dozen others, but that's a start.

If you could change three things about Star Trek: Voyager, what would they be? I.e., what three things would you like to see on Star Trek: Voyager?

1) Less Seven of Nine! Seven was a good character, and Jeri Ryan is a good actress, but she was horribly overused, and many of her episodes were too similar. She took time away from other characters that we also cared about. Tuvok and Chakotay were both sadly neglected because of her. (Neelix and Harry, too, of course, but that goes without saying!)

2) More of a focus on the characters. I wish they'd spent more time in almost every episode on the people—show us what their lives are like in this extraordinary situation they've found themselves in.

3) I wish with all my heart that they'd done more with the Janeway and Chakotay dynamic. It wouldn't even necessarily have had to be romantic. The two of them had a wonderful chemistry going, and it was wasted! Wasted, I tell you!

What would you like to see change in the fan fiction written about the series? What trends would you like to see make a comeback or fade away never to be seen again?

I'm generally pleased with the fan fiction out there. Of course, I wish my favorite writers would write more stories.

I think if there's any trend I'd like to see disappear, it would be the simpering, weeping Janeway story. I've never seen Janeway act like that on the show, and the Janeway in my head certainly doesn't either. But whatever. There really is room for all kinds of stories.

If you had to pick just one Star Trek: Voyager story you have written that you would want to be remembered for, which story would it be?

Argh! That's like Sophie's Choice! No, it isn't at all, of course, but still. . . I guess one story that I'm fairly pleased with is Command Styles, which I thought had a little bit of every aspect of the Janeway and Chakotay relationship. M'Ina is my favorite of my "Lower Decks" stories, probably because I poured my heart into it.

Conversely, what one story do you think people will always remember you for?

My epic Janeway/Chakotay story, Finding Peace.

What do you see happening in the series finale of Star Trek: Voyager? What would you like to see happen? What do you think you would really hate to see happen?

Well, I've read all the spoilers and I'm not optimistic, but for the sake of argument, I'll just assume they aren't true. I'd like to see Voyager get home with all hands alive and well. And if they can't get home, I'd like to see them decide that, as Chakotay once said, home is where you happen to be. Then they could just accept the fact that they aren't going to get home for awhile and make their own happiness on the ship. I think they should do something with the Voyager as family theme that they've carried over the years. What would I hate to see happen? Two things—I'd hate, hate, hate to see Janeway die or sacrifice herself. For me, Janeway is Voyager—I want her to have a happy ending. The other thing I'd really hate is for Chakotay and Seven to fall in love. C/7 in the finale is probably going to leave me with a really bad feeling about the show. Maybe that's unreasonable, but there you are!

All of monkee's fan fiction can be found on her website, Mary's Page

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