Good evening everybody. The baby went to sleep a little early tonight so there's a good chance we're going to finish up the submitted questions here tonight.
Hello BBJ Panel,
Thank-you for the opportunity to ask questions on Janeway's floor-eaten end. This first won't be a short one, I'm afraid, as I'd like to give it a little context.
I first saw Voyager at the science fiction club at university. As a young woman with aspirations for a career in science I was really excited to see a woman scientist captaining a ship, but unfortunately there were some male club members who disagreed. They didn't think a woman was competent enough to captain. These were educated young men from a first world country - and tempting as it may be to cite "no true Scotsmen", they were also ardent Trek fans. Their belief in IDIC just didn't extend to the half of the human race with a uterus. My question is this: what value do you see in the removal of such an aspirational figure? Especially when it's clear that both genders could use the help!
First off, I find the reaction of your fellow club members astonishing. And your sentiment was echoed by others at the panel who have had similar experiences, which left me equally dumbfounded. Put simply, this has never been my experience among Trek fans, and I have yet to meet a man who would express such a sentiment to my face...and live.
Maybe you and I are hanging with different people. Though clearly, what you have described exists. This is another part of the sexism question that I find odd and interesting at the same time. I don't know how old you are, but as I was growing up, it was never suggested to me that there were limits to what I could do because I was a girl. And had it been, I'm sure I would have taken issue with it. From society as a whole (growing up, as I did in the south)...from the subconscious messages received from seeing mainly white men in positions of authority...you would have think that over the years something would have slipped through the cracks to make me doubt my potential. But my real life experiences on a daily basis always proved the opposite. For most of my life, the boys were trying to keep up with me, even in sporting events, which were a passion of mine as a child. If anyone expressed anything akin to what you are saying, I'm sure I would have simply written them off as quite stupid and gone on my merry way.
So I come into this without some valuable experience that might make me feel differently, but I am certainly opening my mind to believe.
That said, did the people in your club change their mind as the series progressed? If they did, cool. If not...maybe we're asking too much of a television or book series? Is it possible we're going to need a bigger boat?
Looking at Voyager
as it is presently configured, a female is in command of the entire fleet. Both men and women captain each of the fleet vessels. The only other fleetwide position of authority is held by B'Elanna Torres. If Janeway were the only Trek character or Trek Lit character who could inspire, I might see things differently. Nothing we have done changes or erases the history she made as the first televised captain of a ship. If I'm reading you right you're saying, we have to keep showing her in her position because to remove her from it might confirm in some very stupid people's minds the notion that a woman wasn't fit for the job in the first place. Had she lived, she likely would have been Admiral of the Fleet. That position is currently held by another woman. So if we are sending message at all, it's that people who think a woman shouldn't be in charge need to get over themselves because it's not going to change.
Supplementary questions, if I may:
I have seen some Trek writers argue that Janeway shouldn't be exempt from stories that might (but haven't) been told about her male counterparts. Do you agree with this, and how does your agreement or disagreement impact on your political views on movements such as affirmative action?
Except they have been told...most notably, Sisko, if we're trying to use apples and apples here. And I said in a post upthread, I do agree that giving women a special status in Trek, a society in which sexism is supposed to no longer be an issue, is problematic for me.
But we're not living in the 24th century now, by which time I hope a lot of what we seen in Trek will have come to pass. We're living in a far less progressed society in which programs like affirmative action absolutely have a place. First, because anything that makes a conservative's head spin or a Tea Partier's head asplode thrills me to no end. And second, because if we're ever going to see the future Trek promises, we have to work with what we have now and try to fix it. But that doesn't mean we write Trek as if it were happening today. We're presenting what is in some ways an idealized future, one in which descrimination based on gender, species, sexual orientation, etc. etc., is simply no longer part of most people's day to day lives. So to protect Janeway feels wrong. She doesn't need it. A lot of people living in America and the rest of the world, however, in the here and now, do.
Star Trek has traditionally been an aspirational product. Do you think this branding has changed with the past few years of doom-and-gloom from Pocket, including the slating of its two most aspirational minority characters? By which I mean killing off the only female captain in a very thinly-veiled punishment for arrogance, and the reduction of the only black captain to the deadbeat dad stereotype. Do you not find it galling that the captains who are shown most capable of successfully navigating family and career are the white males? (Please note I am not saying that white male characters should be first against the wall come the revolution, only that the chips are falling along traditional power patterns that are no doubt entirely acceptable to my old fellow club members).
Let's talk first about the doom and gloom thing. Stories are aspirational in as much as they show people we can relate to struggling against obstacles and overcoming them in a way that makes us look at our own lives and think...I could do that. There is no question that a lot of the stories told recently have been darker. But they do not descend into complete gloom for me because at the end of the day, the Federation is still standing and still trying to uphold its values.
I also believe very strongly that people who create anything, including writers, are especially sensitive to the events of the world. So when we're trying to present something we believe to be true enough to write about, that's going to be informed in large part by how the world around us feels. I don't know about you, but the last ten years or so of my life in this world have felt pretty challenging. Some might react to that by writing super happy stories that allow us to escape from the real world. I react by taking the stuff that is annoying me the most at any given time and seeing if it informs what I'm working on in any way. I don't know how to avoid letting the struggles we are faced with now creep into the stories I am writing. I'm not sure I'd know what to write about, otherwise. I think we're seeing bigger obstacles now than we might have seen before in Trek because we're seeing some pretty massive obstacles in our everyday lives. So we're trying to tell stories about how to get past the really really big stuff.
Or it could just be me.
As to what Peter David did in Before Dishonor,
stressing Janeway's arrogance and attempting to use it to justify her fate...that's just a place where Peter and I disagree fundamentally about Janeway as a character. All I can say is that had I written that book, that would not have been my choice.
Nor can I really speak about what David George has done with Sisko. In that instance, I know there is more story coming so before we get a judge's ruling on whether or not he has taken the character somewhere no human being in his circumstances could possibly have gone, I'd like to see the rest of the story and how that pans out.
Finally, we haven't had much time watching Picard or Riker successfully navigate what it means to have a career and be a father. I think the jury is still out on that one. But for what it's worth, and despite the fact that B'Elanna is not a captain, I devoted an entire story thread of Children of the Storm,
to the challenges she faces as Fleet Chief and the mother of a young daughter. Again...that's probably my life informing what I'm writing about...but also, another story I hadn't seen a lot of in Trek Lit and was only too happy to explore.
Finally, I have seen Janeway's death praised in some quarters as a result of anything-can-happen, no-one-is-safe storytelling. Do you seriously believe that this is the case - can you realistically see Pocket killing off Captain Picard in a Deep Space Nine novel, for instance? If not, why not?
I realise that there's a few questions there. Believe me, I could have asked a lot more! I understand that you will have limited time and may not be able to answer all of them. Thanks for the opportunity, though.
I do believe the stakes are higher now for all of our characters, primarily because there are no canon stories on the horizon about them to contradict what we're doing. And the stories we are presenting have all been approved by the licensor so I can only assume that they, too, appreciate the risks Trek Lit has been willing to take.
As to killing Picard..um..yes. In a DS9 novel? I don't know. That part is tough for me too, but I did a fairly lengthy description of Trek Lit above that should shed some light for you on why Janeway's death happened in a TNG book as it did.