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Trek Literature "...Good words. That's where ideas begin."

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Old August 20 2008, 05:53 PM   #1
Dayton3
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Why Don't Trek Writers Like "writing battle scenes"?

I've heard it many times from the writers of Star Trek novels:

"I don't like writing battle scenes".

Why?

I for one love writing battle scenes. Bringing things like that to life in the mind of the reader. Describing things that you could never afford to put onscreen.
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Old August 20 2008, 06:09 PM   #2
Christopher
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Re: Why Don't Trek Writers Like "writing battle scenes"?

Dayton3 wrote: View Post
I for one love writing battle scenes. Bringing things like that to life in the mind of the reader. Describing things that you could never afford to put onscreen.
You can do that in any kind of scene in prose.

I think you're unfairly generalizing; there are Trek novelists who do great battle scenes, like David Mack and Diane Duane.

Me, I'm a sensitive soul and I don't enjoy writing scenes where the protagonists kill people, regardless of the reason. Life is precious to me and it's unpleasant for me to get into the mindset of characters who value life yet still have to take the lives of others. I want my heroes to strive to preserve life, not end it. Plus I'm more interested in exploring ideas and characters than just writing action.

Also, I don't enjoy writing battle scenes for the same reason I don't enjoy watching them -- because it's boring to watch or read about people or ships shooting at each other and getting killed or blown up. It's repetitive, it's callous toward life, it doesn't advance the story, and it doesn't reveal anything about characters. I'm more entertained by action where the characters are using their ingenuity and courage to solve dangerous problems. For me, the most exciting action scene in all of Star Trek is probably the opening of ENT: "Divergence," where Enterprise is racing out of control at high warp and Columbia has to rendezvous with it and flip upside-down and merge warpfields, and Trip has to climb across a thin cable at high warp... that is just the coolest thing ever. And nobody's using a weapon or trying to kill anybody. (Okay, it's the result of the Klingons trying to kill them, but the Klingons aren't involved in the scene.) It's about people facing a dangerous situation with courage, skill, and imagination, doing daring and clever and heroic things to preserve life. That's the kind of action sequence that thrills me.

You're clearly a person who enjoys martial fiction, war stories, battle scenes, etc. But that's never been what Star Trek is primarily about. The reason you don't get enough battle scenes to satisfy you in Trek fiction is because ST is not a war-driven universe and never has been. War stories have occasionally been part of it, but it's far more eclectic than that. As someone suggested in another thread, there are other lines of fiction that would probably satisfy your tastes more. Maybe something like Battletech or some of the computer game-based lines Pocket publishes.
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Old August 20 2008, 06:38 PM   #3
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Re: Why Don't Trek Writers Like "writing battle scenes"?

Dayton3 wrote: View Post
I've heard it many times from the writers of Star Trek novels:

"I don't like writing battle scenes".

Why?

I for one love writing battle scenes. Bringing things like that to life in the mind of the reader. Describing things that you could never afford to put onscreen.
Because people are different, and like different things.

Which is kinda the basis of the whole Star Trek philosophy.

And just for grins... who are these many writers you've heard this from, or are you just talking about Christopher?
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Old August 20 2008, 06:39 PM   #4
Steve Roby
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Re: Why Don't Trek Writers Like "writing battle scenes"?

Christopher wrote: View Post
But that's never been what Star Trek is primarily about. The reason you don't get enough battle scenes to satisfy you in Trek fiction is because ST is not a war-driven universe and never has been.
Amen to that.
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Old August 20 2008, 06:55 PM   #5
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Re: Why Don't Trek Writers Like "writing battle scenes"?

I do enjoy writing battle scenes. Although I will confess that after writing the first two Gorkon books and The Art of the Impossible back to back to back, I was well and truly sick of battle scenes....

But yeah, I like 'em.
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Old August 20 2008, 06:56 PM   #6
Dayton3
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Re: Why Don't Trek Writers Like "writing battle scenes"?

[quote=Christopher;1966462]
Dayton3 wrote: View Post

You're clearly a person who enjoys martial fiction, war stories, battle scenes, etc. But that's never been what Star Trek is primarily about. The reason you don't get enough battle scenes to satisfy you in Trek fiction is because ST is not a war-driven universe and never has been. War stories have occasionally been part of it, but it's far more eclectic than that. As someone suggested in another thread, there are other lines of fiction that would probably satisfy your tastes more. Maybe something like Battletech
I enjoyed Battletech a great deal, until the went off the deep end with that weird Jihad and Dark Ages stuff recently.

That said, I see no reason to send massive ships armed to the teeth out into the galaxy if you don't show those weapons being used.

Not all the time mind you. The original series only had a handfull of starship combat episodes.

But I would prefer that the battles be well written.

Not

"The ship was hit again, sparks flew from the consoles"
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Old August 20 2008, 06:58 PM   #7
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Re: Why Don't Trek Writers Like "writing battle scenes"?

Steve Roby wrote: View Post
Christopher wrote: View Post
But that's never been what Star Trek is primarily about. The reason you don't get enough battle scenes to satisfy you in Trek fiction is because ST is not a war-driven universe and never has been.
Amen to that.
Here here.

Thats why it has Trek and not Wars in the title!
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Old August 20 2008, 07:19 PM   #8
Trent Roman
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Re: Why Don't Trek Writers Like "writing battle scenes"?

Well, now you're changing your argument to 'Trek battle scenes are poorly written'. But consider: would you prefer "The vessel was struck once more, and the consoles spat licks of flame?" There only so many times the same sequence can be played out, but space battles in Trek have generally been two ships sitting in space lobbing energy and projectiles at each other, occasionally following 'evasion pattern greek letter' in an attempt to avoid being hit, but that's not the most obvious thing to do with vessels the size of the Galaxy-class or Sovereign-class (Defiant had manoeuvrability, though). Really, spaceship battles in Trek are overblown artillery exchanges, and there's a limit to what you can do with that in prose, where you don't get to see the visual thrill of the SFX.

I'm not a Trek writer, but just for another perspective: I find I greatly enjoy writing scenes of interpersonal combat (hand to hand, hand weapons, even gunslinging to a more limited extent), but much less larger-scale conflicts. There's an inherent narrative challenge to depicting clashes between armies or ships (naval and spaceborne). You can give an overview of the various fronts and exchanges from the point of view of an detached, omniscient narrator, but the downside to that approach is that such scenes will be depersonalized, perhaps harder to relate to at an emotional level. Or you can choose to focus the scene through the eyes of a participant, but in that case 'you' the reader should only be able to see that part of the overall fight the character can, so it's a limited perspective, particularly when you add in the chaos that inevitably comes up in combat and the fact that your character ought to be concentrating on not dying rather than making a detailed account of the action around him or her, and you end up with a scene that may be emotionally gripping but not particularly enlightening as to the overall narrative of the battle. There are ways around these limitations, like having a character be the detached observer, or present a post-mortem of the battle to/from your involved character after he or she is done trying not to die, but those come with their own problems, one of which is that they can't be duplicated too often before becoming flagrant crutches.

Fictitiously yours, Trent Roman
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Old August 20 2008, 07:34 PM   #9
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Re: Why Don't Trek Writers Like "writing battle scenes"?

Hey, a battle scene can be cool at times but as Christopher pointed out and Steve Roby "amen-ded", Star Trek is about discovery, learning and exploring. If you want thrills and danger, well, space is plenty dangerous all by itself-you don't necessarily need a bunch of bloodthirsty aliens shooting at you. Sometimes it happens-but I always liked those episodes where Picard figured out a way to avoid battle. It made moments like Ch'ntoka(spelling?) all the more poignant.
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Old August 20 2008, 07:34 PM   #10
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Re: Why Don't Trek Writers Like "writing battle scenes"?

I love battle scenes, but only one of the pitches in with Marco at the moment really has them...

They all come down to how they're handled, really.
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Old August 20 2008, 08:50 PM   #11
Dark Gilligan
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Re: Why Don't Trek Writers Like "writing battle scenes"?

Dayton3 wrote: View Post

That said, I see no reason to send massive ships armed to the teeth out into the galaxy if you don't show those weapons being used.
Because Starfleet isn't a military organization. It's a science and exploration-driven organization with defense capabilities.
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Old August 20 2008, 09:02 PM   #12
Turtletrekker
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Re: Why Don't Trek Writers Like "writing battle scenes"?

I can't speak as to why the writers don't like writing them, but I know why I don't like reading them-- they tend to bore the snot out of me.

I enjoyed Michael Stackpole's Rogue Squadron novels, but would tend to skim the battle scenes lest I fall asleep with the book in my lap.
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Old August 20 2008, 09:15 PM   #13
Dayton3
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Re: Why Don't Trek Writers Like "writing battle scenes"?

Dark Gilligan wrote: View Post
Dayton3 wrote: View Post

That said, I see no reason to send massive ships armed to the teeth out into the galaxy if you don't show those weapons being used.
Because Starfleet isn't a military organization. It's a science and exploration-driven organization with defense capabilities.
That isn't what has been indicated onscreen
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Old August 20 2008, 09:18 PM   #14
Dayton Ward
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Re: Why Don't Trek Writers Like "writing battle scenes"?

[GalaxyQuest]

Dude, did you even watch the show?

[/GalaxyQuest]
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Old August 20 2008, 09:18 PM   #15
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Re: Why Don't Trek Writers Like "writing battle scenes"?

^ A few months back there was a thread with a lengthy and detailed debate on this topic. The end result is that there is ample conflicting evidence for both positions, and a person who subscribes to one opinion or the other is almost never swayed to change his/her mind.

To one and all who visit this thread, I beseech thee: In the interest of going forward with all of our lives, let's not re-open that can of gagh, please.
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