LOONY ARCHIVIST: How long have you been writing fan fiction?
DAVE ROGERS: Barely more than a year now. I posted my first story in May 1999, to
alt.startrek.creative and the P/T Collective Archive.
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?
I think it probably is. I haven't really tried creating my own
universe from scratch, but I can see that has its advantages in that
one has only to be self-consistent, whereas in shared worlds or
historical settings there is the problem of authenticity. That's
largely circumvented in Star Trek fanfic by the enormous wealth of
information available online. If I have a question, I can usually
either find the answer immediately, or be fairly sure that there is
no answer - which means I can make one up, and that's where the fun
starts. Most of my best stories start out as the answer to a
question; I like to look out for cracks in the Trek universe that I
can prise a story into.
What has been your favourite television series to write fan fiction for?
So far I've only written Star Trek, and mainly Voyager. I don't have
a great deal to add to TOS, TNG or DS9. I may find myself writing
some Thomas the Tank Engine fanfic some day.
What was the first piece of fan fiction you ever read?
Julia Houston's "Waves", which I found from her Voyager reviews page.
I really enjoyed reading it, and then from there I went on to the PTC
Archive and read everything in it. And that led to...
What was the first piece of fan fiction you ever wrote?
A story called "Takeover Bid", in response to a PTC Archivist's
Challenge. It's just won Best Torres Story in the 1999 ASC Awards, so
it wasn't a bad start. So really the PTC Archive is solely and
entirely responsible for my starting to write fanfic. Nothing to do
with me, folks. Blame Tara.
What was the first piece of P/T fan fiction you ever read?
See above. Thanks, Julia, if you're reading this. "Waves" set me on a
road I'm very much enjoying travelling.
What is it about Voyager that inspires you to write?
I like the characters, it's as simple as that. They're flawed, human
people in a stressful, unfamiliar environment, having to do
extraordinary things all the time, and they're out on their own,
limited to their own resources. It gives a strong framework for
stories, which makes it easier to figure out the details.
Who is your favourite Voyager character to write? Who is your least favourite?
Tom is definitely my favourite to write because I identify with him a
lot; he makes a very good Mary Sue, in fact. But I find I like to
write him from B'Elanna's POV, which should probably tell you
something psychologically significant about me. Answers on a
Least favourite is probably Chakotay. I find it difficult to get his
voice right. He's not always written that strongly on the show, which
doesn't help, and it's hard to pin down exactly what his role is in
the crew. I'd like to be able to write him better, but it's hard work.
What do you believe are Voyager's greatest strengths, and greatest weaknesses, as a series?
The scenario is a great strength. The Odyssey was, don't forget,
about a lost adventurer trying to find his way home, and it's as
compelling a story now as when Homer wrote it. Kate Mulgrew is
another great strength; right from the start I have never had the
slightest doubts over Janeway's authority as a captain, and that's
entirely down to Mulgrew's outstanding protrayal of her. And the
special effects, though they can never take the place of great
writing, help make everything much more plausible; I never have to
tell myself, "Stop noticing that the white noise generator is just an
Greatest weakness is the excessive importance placed on the reset
button. Voyager, alone of the four Trek series, has tried too hard to
make each episode a self-contained story. It came naturally to TOS,
which had much less of an overall framing story anyway, and to TNG,
whose framing story was mainly just a pair of bookends. DS9 didn't
try to make the episodes self-contained and ended up as more of a
serial than a series in many ways, so I think TPTB over-reacted by
making Voyager, which in some ways has the strongest framing story of
all, too fragmented.
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?
I think DS9 is probably the best written, but Voyager is the one I
like the most. There are great events and strong plots in DS9, but
I've never warmed to the characters. With Voyager I can switch off my
critical faculties, suspend disbelief and go along for the ride
because I'm in the company of friends.
What is your favourite Voyager episode, and why?
"The Chute". Read Ashley Miller's review on Jim Wright's Delta Blues
website. It says it all much more thoroughly and clearly than I ever
could. In one sense it's a story that could work well in any of the
Trek series, because it deals with a truly general dilemma. In
another, though, it benefits enormously from what we know of Tom's
and Harry's very different pasts. I've never tried to base a story
round it, because I can't see any cracks to put one into.
What direction do you see Tom and B'Elanna going in, romantically, and what direction would you like to see their relationship go?
I'd like to see them dealing with their personal issues together
more. There's a tendency for there to be a Tom episode and a B'Elanna
episode, but the events don't always link up too well. I think I'd
probably like to see them married, simply because that's so rare in
Star Trek. I definitely don't want to see them break up; if that
happens, I'll just have to write a coda to every episode and have
them get back together in it. You don't think I'm obsessed or
anything, do you?
What is it about Tom and B'Elanna that draws you to them, and inspires you to write?
They're very well fleshed out characters, with probably the most
detailed backstories in Star Trek. They've got a lot of history
getting in their way all the time, a lot of deep-rooted insecurities
that make it difficult for them to be close, and an appealing blend
of strength and vulnerability. They're both written with humour, and
with strong and different senses of humour. There's also a lot about
them that resonates with my own personality and relationships. It's
difficult to put it in any more detail than that, because in truth I
don't really know why I like to write about them.
What has been your favourite episode strictly in terms of P/T interaction? Least favourite? Why?
Favourite, "Displaced". Late season three was a fascinating time for
P/T watching, less of a will-they-or-won't-they than a question of
when. The way the story is written around Tom and B'Elanna's argument
and serves to highlight it, is very nicely executed. There was a
great feeling of tension between them that seemed to be lost by late
season four. I'd like to see them have more issues like that.
Least favourite - I'm tempted to say "Extreme Risk", except that my
own experiences tally rather well with Tom's inability to reach
B'Elanna when she's in deepest need. Probably "Vis-a-Vis" is the
episode that tries hardest to portray some specific P/T interaction
and most signally fails to make it convincing. It's exasperating,
too, when they had such a perfect setup with B'Elanna's holographic
pregnancy in "The Killing Game". There could have been no end of
issues arising from that; instead, they chose to invent a brand new
issue with no history to make it plausible, and then barely even
bothered to resolve it. Still, it makes more work for the likes of me.
Do you find yourself identifying more with Tom or B'Elanna?
That's a tricky one. As I say above, I like to identify with Tom, but
I often find that I'm thinking through a scene from B'Elanna's point
of view. There are some aspects of them that suggest that that's not
unreasonable; B'Elanna is so emotional and Tom so reserved that she
seems sometimes to express emotion for both of them, so if I'm trying
to get in touch with Tom's feelings, the only way into his heart is
through B'Elanna. It's one of the fascinating things about their
relationship, that their feelings are so strongly coupled.
If you were given the opportunity to write an episode of Voyager, what story would you like to tell?
"Surrogates". I tried to write this story as one that would go just a
little too far for Paramount ever to consider telling it. I don't
want to spoil it for those who haven't read it, but it's a Tuvok pon
farr story, and it proposes a perfectly logical resolution - just one
that doesn't quite tally with conventional morality.
How do you see stories being shaped by their medium? For example, what do you think makes a good episode, as opposed to a novel or short story? What do you see as the benefits and drawbacks unique to the separate mediums (teleplays versus prose)?
That's a hard question to answer, because, to be honest, short
stories are the only thing I really know how to write so far. A good
episode has to be defined, above all, by the need to tell a story
from beginning to end in forty-five minutes, which is an incredibly
rigorous limit that we fanfic writers simply don't, and can't, set
ourselves. A good example: I've just seen part two of "Dark Frontier"
(which tells you how far behind we BBC watchers in Britain are).
There are a lot of events crowded into the last couple of minutes
which, in a novella, would make for a very exciting conclusion. In
the teleplay, though, they give the impression of clutter, because
there are too many things happening in too short a time.
Another big difference, of course, in teleplays versus prose, is that
in a story I can control what the reader does or doesn't see in a
scene, without having to hide details deliberately. It's rather a
cheap trick if it's overused, but there are times when it comes in
useful. In a teleplay, on the other hand, a lot of visual information
can be presented without losing the tempo of the story, which is very
hard to do in prose.
What do you think sets Voyager apart from the other Trek series?
Flawed characters, for one thing, although the characters in DS9 are
rather less perfect than TOS or TNG. There are quite a few characters
in Voyager who simply wouldn't have been picked for the Enterprise,
and in some cases would never have made it into Starfleet. The sense
of isolation, for another; Kirk, Picard and Sisko always have the
resources of the Federation to back them up. Then there's just my own
sense of nonconformism - I'm inclined to like Voyager simply because
it tends to be less popular than the other series.
Who is your favourite professional Trek author or authors?
The only professional Trek novels I have ever read are "Mosaic" and
"Pathways". I wouldn't describe Jeri Taylor as my favourite author in
any category; one of the reasons I wrote the Virtues series was that,
after reading Tom Paris's backstory in "Pathways", I thought I could
Who is your favourite fan Trek author or authors?
Jennifer Lynn Rider. She just won Best New Author on ASC, so I'm not
alone in this. She's a writer who can not only portray and build on
the characters and situations of Voyager, but also construct tight
and effective plots within which the characters can develop and
change. Her pacing is superb, she's amazingly good at handling
conflict, and she works the dark side of Voyager into concordance with
canon so smoothly that it leaves me wondering why Paramount can't
seem to understand their own characters. Quite simply, she writes
work of the standard I would most like my own stories to live up to.
If you could change three things about Voyager, what would they be? I.e., what three things would you like to see on Voyager?
More tension between Starfleet, Maquis and Equinoxers. More of Paris
and Torres actually being affected by what happens in each other's
lives. More continuity - the scriptwriters rely a lot, it seems, on
the assumption that the Big Red Reset Button has been pressed after
every previous episode.
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?
There seems to be a lot of meta-fanfic around at the moment - fanfic
about fanfic, or stories where the narrative is in some way conscious
of being fanfic. While I wouldn't want to see it take over, it's a
lot of fun and I like writing it myself. As far as trends I don't like
in fanfic are concerned, I don't really worry about that sort of thing;
generally, I don't want to dictate what other writers do. We all write
the fanfic we want to, because we want to, and if I don't like what
someone else writes the appropriate response is just not to read it.
If you had to pick just one Voyager story you have written that you would want to be remembered for, which story would it be?
I wrote another PTC Archivist's Challenge story called "Coffin",
which stands out for me as the story which achieves most precisely
the atmosphere and effect I wanted it to.
Conversely, what one story do you think people will always remember you for?
One I haven't written yet, I hope. Maybe the Virtues series, which
generated a lot of comment and, in effect, won me an ASC Award. The
one that had the most feedback, though, was a drabble called "Baby
Talk", which is only a hundred words long but might be the funniest
thing I've ever written.
Stop press: "The Examination for Lieutenant" drabble series has just
smashed that record comprehensively. I think I might be remembered
for a while for those.
What do you see happening in the series finale of Voyager? What would you like to see happen? What do you think you would really hate to see happen?
They have to get home. The whole point of the series has been the
journey home, right from the start. I mentioned framing stories
earlier, something that's developed more with each successive Star
Trek series. TOS didn't really have one, just a situation. TNG had
one superimposed, really, by the first and last episodes, but rather
cleverly done so that the series achieved closure but allowed
sequels. DS9 had a framing story that ended up taking over the entire
series, so that in order to wind up the framing story they had to
completely close down the possibility of any series continuation, and
I'm concerned that TPTB will over-react and try too hard not to do
the same thing with Voyager. If Voyager doesn't come home, characters
I care about will be left out there with Sam Beckett, Smith and Jones
and all the other TV characters that never achieved the goal their
entire existence was aimed towards achieving. If Voyager is
destroyed, then there was never any point in trying to get home.
Dramatically, they need to get home. I'll give Paramount full
creative control over how they do it.
What do you think the future of fanfic will hold, in both online and 'zine fandom?
There will always be fanfic. You can't put the toothpaste back in the
tube. Other than that, I should maybe wait till I've been around a
little longer before making predictions. My main hope for the future
of fanfic is that it will continue to involve me in some way.