Author Spotlight: JULIE EVANS

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

JULIE EVANS: Though I co-wrote an unpublished Star Trek: The Original Series novel-length story, completed in 1990, I didn't write fan fiction on a regular basis until 1998.

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?

In some ways it is easier to write about characters in an established universe like Star Trek, since many of the details of science and so on are already set down. The challenge comes in delving deeper and exploring new aspects of that universe and those known characters, while remaining essentially true to both.

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

The very first piece(s) of fan fiction I read was a Star Trek: The Original Series fanzine I got at my first convention, back in the early 80's. I no longer have that 'zine unfortunately, and I don't recall what the stories were about.

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

The TOS novel was the first completed piece (typewritten), though it's never been reproduced on a computer or shared on the Internet (at 500+ pages, I don't think it will ever happen either!). My first piece shared on the Internet was "Last Evening on Voyager," a short AU P/T story focusing on Voyager's return home after 5 years in the Delta Quadrant.

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

The "Cracks in the Wall" series by the P/T Collective. It was immediately clear how much fun the writers were having with that series, and I wanted to be a part of it, as a reader and a writer.

What is it about Voyager that inspires you to write?

The characters. I like them, and I enjoy exploring what makes them tick.

Who is your favourite Voyager character to write? Who is your least favourite?

By a small edge, probably B'Elanna, though Tom is right up there. In my P/T stories I've alternated between their viewpoints, depending on which one feels "right" for a particular story. I also like writing Janeway a lot. As for least favorite, I don't really dislike writing any of them, though sometimes it's hard for me to get inside Chakotay, probably because of his lack of strong definition as a character on the series.

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

Voyager's greatest strength is the fact that the characters were intriguing from the outset. It's greatest weakness—too many times the characters were plugged into a plot simply to serve that plot, and made to do things that didn't make any sense or lead to any real development. The characters never reached their full potential, and could have been explored much more deeply than they were. On the plus side, Paris and Torres made out fairly well in the final analysis, both individually and in their relationship—far better than characters like Kim, Tuvok and Chakotay, who were underutilized, underdeveloped or both.

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?

Voyager is my favorite, because of my fondness for the characters. I can't completely discount the influence of fan fiction, since reading and writing it heightened my sense of connection to the characters (and added depth to the characters that weren't always well-served by their inconsistent development on the series). I've wondered if I would have the same affection for Voyager if I hadn't been so involved in fan fiction over the last three and a half years of its run, and I honestly don't know. Maybe, maybe not.

As for the highest calibre, each series had its strengths. TOS had its individual classic sci-fi episodes, its unbridled optimism for the future, and the unsurpassed chemistry of the Kirk-Spock-McCoy triumvirate. DS9 had the most consistently good writing of all and the best developed secondary characters, though its dark edge was sometimes depressing. Voyager had the best primary ensemble cast, and the strongest and most accomplished female characters. TNG wasn't first in writing or in chemistry between its characters, but, after its first two sub par seasons, it pulled all those elements together and achieved a near perfect balance (as well as serving the classic Star Trek theme of optimism about the future) that to me gives it the edge as the overall highest calibre series.

What is your favourite Voyager episode, and why?

It would be easier to name ten than just one ;-) If I must name only one, then my favorite (which isn't the same as my opinion of the best in terms of overall writing and execution) is "Blood Fever." It's my favorite because it is the episode that sold me on P/T, and it propelled me into the world of Internet fandom and fan fiction, from which I've gained countless hours of enjoyment and many lasting friendships.

What is it about Tom and B'Elanna that draws you to them, and inspires you to write?

I suppose it is the complexity of their characters. They are both flawed individuals, yet well meaning and stronger than they think, and that makes them compelling. It's the same thing that makes their relationship compelling. The fact that neither of them—nor their relationship—are perfect, leaves a lot of room for exploration and growth. I admit to being disappointed at first that their relationship was so fraught with problems (and so often ignored by The Powers That Be), but their long, difficult road from initial courtship to eventual marriage allowed for fan fiction to delve ever more deeply into the complexities of the two characters and their relationship. In the end, the portrayal was also more honest and realistic than a quick, smooth "Harlequin"-type resolution would have been.

What has been your favourite episode strictly in terms of P/T interaction? Least favourite? Why?

Favorite would be a tie between "Blood Fever"—it had the first mutual admission of their strong attraction to each other, and it is still the sexiest P/T episode—and "Lineage," where for the first time Tom and B'Elanna were able to resolve a deeply divisive issue (rather than retreating) and strengthen their bond to each other in the process. It was the episode that seemed to mark their arrival as a truly committed couple.

Least favorite was "Vis a Vis." Tom's dissatisfaction came out of nowhere, and B'Elanna seemed to accept Tom's (really Steth's) cruel treatment of her in the transporter room scene as something not unexpected (judging from her lack of follow up, as opposed to her behaviour in "Alice"). Tom can be occasionally thoughtless and self-involved, but he's never been deliberately cruel, so it really bothered me that his actions in that scene didn't raise a red flag in B'Elanna's mind. This episode made it seem like B'Elanna and Tom didn't really know each other, and that their relationship was very superficial. The final scene was also the only time I ever perceived absolutely no physical chemistry between the two of them. Maybe it's because by the end I was already deeply disappointed in the episode.

Do you find yourself identifying more with Tom or B'Elanna?

I identify with B'Elanna's basic intensity and emotionalism, but I also identify with Tom's sense of humor. For me, I guess it just depends on the day ;-)

If you had been given the opportunity to write an episode of Voyager, what story would you haved liked to tell?

I had a story idea once where Voyager comes upon a colony populated by several hundred children, some of whom are human, and others who are mix of several other Alpha quadrant races, as well as Talaxian and Ocampan—all the races that populate Voyager in fact. It turns out that they are the actual progeny of the crew of Voyager, in various combinations, courtesy of genetic samples unknowingly taken from the crew during their first months in the Delta quadrant. This was done by an advanced race who assumed the Voyager crew would never survive their perilous journey home, and thought they were doing them a favor by preserving their genetic heritage. To allow the children to more quickly reach an age where they could fend for themselves, the advanced race sped up their maturation process threefold (making them teenagers or nearly so by the time Voyager finds them). The thrust of the story had to do with how the crew all deal emotionally with the fact that these are *their* children genetically (whether the doctor shares the knowledge of which specific children came from which specific crewmembers or not), and how they arrive at the decision whether to relocate their children to Voyager, or leave them behind on the planet where they've been raised (by local caregivers) and are content to remain. I never worked out the details, but I thought the idea had a lot of potential.

I also had an idea for a "Demon" follow up with the duplicate crew—how they adjusted to life on that planet (some more easily than others) and eventually asserted their "humanity" over the silver goo component of their natures (remember the duplicate Harry's blank, listless bliss?). Then "Course Oblivion" aired, and while it isn't one of the absolute worst of Voyager, I still kind of resent that The Powers That Be didn't just leave the duplicate crew alone to pursue their lives on that planet and perhaps make an appearance at a later date—them or their progeny—instead of simply killing them off simply for quick dramatic effect.

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

Again, the characters. TNG's characters were a little too perfect at times, TOS's characters were peripheral and undeveloped beyond Kirk, Spock and McCoy, and DS9's characters weren't as easy to warm up to (especially in the beginning) as Voyager's were.

Who is your favourite professional Trek author or authors?

Christie Golden, Peter David (especially his earlier novels), Vonda McIntyre (going way back here), and more recently S.D. Perry and Jeffrey Lang/David Weddle rank high on my list. There are others, but those were the first that came to mind. Oh, and Andrew Robinson—wow, what a great job he did with "A Stitch in Time."

Who is your favourite fan Trek author or authors?

There are just too many good ones to name favorites without going on and on, so I'll be diplomatic and refrain from answering with specific names ;-) Suffice to say, there are several dozen whose stories I enjoy.

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

One—better writing. I know that's general, but with more effort at consistency and more focus on developing the characters in the situations they faced rather than relying on "high concept" ideas, the series would have been better. Two— a more even focus on each the characters. Less Seven and Doc, more of everyone else. Three—for P/T, I wish they'd portrayed the fun and the sexual chemistry in the relationship more often, the way they did in the early courtship phase. We saw that occasionally, but mostly we saw Tom and B'Elanna dealing with the fallout of the heavy issues that often arose between them. I wanted to see more bantering, more of them having fun together, goofing off on the holodeck or wherever, and more open expressions of their passion for each other.

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?

The only trend I don't like is one that surfaced in the past year or so—the tendency in some fan fiction to demonize the characters. I mean by that not just illuminating their faults, but portraying them as unworthy people (Janeway as insane or downright evil, B'Elanna or Tom as cruel and abusive, Harry as devious and dishonest, etc). Once the characters cross that line from basically decent to unprincipled or immoral (and that line is to some degree subjective) then I don't care about them anymore because they're no longer the characters I know and love. Other than that personal dislike, I enjoy reading just about any kind of well-written story.

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?

It would probably be my AU "Aurora" series (though that's four stories, not just one story). As for a single story, maybe "The Second Drawer" because it was weird but it apparently worked.

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

I don't know if I'll be remembered for one particular story, but probably again for the "Aurora" series, or perhaps for my many episode codas in general.

Now that the series has ended, and with very little closure for many of the characters, what do you see as the future of these characters?

I think the ex-Maquis will be pardoned for any past crimes. I can see most of the Voyager crew staying in Starfleet if they are invited to remain. Janeway and Kim are the most ambitious, so I can see them attaining the same positions they had in the AU "Endgame" scenario—Janeway an admiral and Harry a captain. Chakotay I can see teaching at Starfleet Academy or elsewhere. I see Chakotay and Seven breaking up ;-) As for Janeway and Chakotay getting together, it makes more sense in the future than Chakotay and Seven ever did. The doctor will continue at Starfleet Medical, Tuvok will probably stay in Starfleet too and eventually retire to Vulcan. I think Tom will be a pilot as long as possible, and B'Elanna a top engineer—if not on a starship, then maybe designing engines at the Mars Orbital Facility while Tom does test piloting. Maybe as they get older they'll move into those careers we saw in the AU "Endgame" scenario—Tom as a holonovelist, and B'Elanna as an attache to the Klingon empire. As for P/T, I think they're forever :-) And finally, will Miral be an only child? Who knows!

Are you planning on continuing to write Voyager stories, and if so, set in the Delta Quadrant? Or the Alpha Quadrant?

I'm writing for the Voyager 7.5 season at the moment—currently co-authoring an episode with Jamelia, who I can say is one of my favorite fan fiction authors—so I'll probably be busy with that for a while. As for other projects, I have ideas for stories set both in the Delta Quadrant and the Alpha Quadrant. It's just a matter of whether I'll get around to writing them all some day! But I hope to keep writing Voyager stories in some form for the foreseeable future.

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