Changing the status quo - Good or Bad?

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by Charles Phipps, Jun 26, 2013.

  1. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    ^Yes, Spock did quote the classical proverb "Nature abhors a vacuum" when telling Valeris that he intended her to replace him as science officer.
     
  2. Charles Phipps

    Charles Phipps Captain Captain

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    I also think new characters can be as important as old classics.
     
  3. JD

    JD Admiral Admiral

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    ^Exactly my opinion as well. Honestly I feel pretty much the same way about characters like Shar, Vaughn, Choudhury, T'Ryss, Eden, and Cambridge as I do characters like Spock, McCoy, Data, Riker, Dax, Quark, Paris, and Torres.
     
  4. Charles Phipps

    Charles Phipps Captain Captain

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    A certain characters loss in Cold Equations struck me like a punch in the gut. It seemed like such a waste.
     
  5. Stevil2001

    Stevil2001 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I like changes in the status quo, except when I don't like the changes.

    Hence: yay for Deep Space Nine relaunch, less enthused for post-Destiny universe.

    And hence: yay for The New Jedi Order, despised Legacy of the Force.

    Or maybe I just don't like any status quo changes that have happened since I graduated college.
     
  6. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    ^Well, see, your mistake there was to change your status quo by graduating.
     
  7. rahullak

    rahullak Commodore Commodore

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    Yes, I agree. The Star Trek novel line is broad enough that it can encompass ongoing stories as well as those set during series runs, IMO. Maybe a decision would be taken someday to have such stories for TNG, Voyager, and DS9, if only to test the market.
     
  8. Charles Phipps

    Charles Phipps Captain Captain

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    As a general rule, I look at change as positive whenever it adds to the universe and negative whenever it takes away. I'm not necessarilly opposed to the deaths of characters but I think it should be only when there's either no more stories to be told with said characters or the death results in a better story than anything else which could have been done with them. Which is, honestly, an unreasonably tall order for an author to fulfill.

    For example, I really disapprove of Choudhurry's death in this novel--effectively feeling she was Red Shirted. She was a character I'd really come to like in a very short amount of time and didn't see much point in her death.

    I think they did it with the Borg, though, which is a big accomplishment.
     
  9. JD

    JD Admiral Admiral

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    I keep hoping maybe they'll start doing e-book novellas set during the series runs. It would be a the perfect way to give us episodic stories set during the series, and it would keep the people who don't read e-books from worrying about missing parts of the ongoing stories.
     
  10. Relayer1

    Relayer1 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    It depends - if it is done for story driven dramatic purposes there will be a point. There will be a plot with structure that utilises it.

    It can also be done more in a 'reflecting real life' way, unexpected, senseless, pointless and with no structured story point. Which is not to say that there will not be story opportunities and developments spun off from it.

    Which is more realistic - character 'X' sacrificing themselves heroically to save the ship or dying from disease, accident or just being in the wrong place at the wrong time ?
     
  11. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    The impression I get is that for TNG/DSN/VOY/ENT/etc, post-series continuations are the books that sell the best, and that for TOS, Five-Year Mission books are the ones that sell the best -- and that between them all, TOS books set during the Five-Year Mission sell better than any others and help keep the Trek line in general afloat.

    So, heck, I don't mind putting up with six successful TOS novels where the Enterprise meets a planet-of-the-week if they help subsidize a DSN or TNG Relaunch novel later on. :bolian:
     
  12. Relayer1

    Relayer1 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Δ Agreed - whatever keeps the line viable is good !
     
  13. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Exactly. The problem with demanding that there be a "point" to every character's death is that death is frequently pointless and random. It's hypocritical and dishonest for a story to kill off faceless redshirts casually while never letting the audience lose anyone they care about unless there's some "meaning" to make them feel better about it. Every one of those redshirts was a very important person in somebody's story, important to their families and friends and loved ones.

    That's why I admired what TNG did with Tasha Yar's death. She was killed off just as randomly as any redshirt, but for once they approached it honestly, let us feel the painful consequences -- the doctor's fierce, futile struggle to save her (infinitely better and truer to life than a two-second sensor wave and "He's dead, Jim"), the grieving of her crewmates, the struggle to move on with their duties despite the loss, their bitterness toward her killer, the tearful and cathartic memorial. Presumably the same thing happens offscreen when any redshirt dies, but for once ST was honest enough to let us live through it rather than sweeping it under the rug and having the bridge crew joking and laughing twenty-five minutes later. That's the meaning. That's the point. That no death is unimportant, that every life matters and every loss affects people whether there's some important plot purpose served or not.

    (Which is why I deeply hate it that "Yesterday's Enterprise" denigrated Tasha's death as "pointless" and replaced it with a more cliched, juvenile fantasy of a "heroic" death. It's an insult to every rescue worker or firefighter or police officer who dies in the attempt to save lives. It's never meaningless or pointless to give one's life trying to help others, even if you fail to do so. Armus's act of killing Tasha had no meaning, but Tasha's choice to put her life at risk for others was a profoundly meaningful thing.)
     
  14. RandyS

    RandyS Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Agreed.

    And as far as "changing the status quo" goes. I don't mind the occassional story that does this, but it should be the exception, not the rule.
     
  15. Charles Phipps

    Charles Phipps Captain Captain

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    It is one of the unfortunate facts of life that death is, almost universally, neither dignified or meaningful. Even those fortunate few who live to a ripe old age are often stripped of their dignity before death and those who die in wartime are very rarely allowed the luxury of heroic sacrifice. Instead, it is simply a tragedy they are taken from their loved ones and those they care about.

    However, from a Doylist perspective, Star Trek is a work of entertainment first and foremost. In real life, Captain Spock would have perished in the generator onboard the Enterprise and never had the chance to form the Romulan Reunification Movement or visit San Fransisco. Commander Data would remain merely a backup on B4's hard drive. Harry Kim, O'Brien, and all too many other characters we know and love would simply have perished.

    We cheat, however, because we love our characters. Sherlock Holmes didn't die at the bottom of Reichenberg Falls, Captain Kirk gets revived by the Borg (Shatnerverse alone, I know), Optimus Prime returns from battling Megatron, and so on because we can do that. With the stroke of a pen, Kathryn Janeway is once more commanding Voyager. This isn't bad, IMHO.

    So yeah, I'm okay with keeping our favorite characters safe.

    (Your point is well-received, Christopher, I'm simply venting because I've lost a lot of characters I really loved in Expanded Universes--from Mara Jade to virtually the entire cast of the previous DCU)
     
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2013
  16. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Yes, but what we want from entertainment is emotional impact. We want it to make us feel, and that includes experiencing negative emotions like fear and sadness and anger in a safe, fictional context. If the only characters who die are villains whose demise we're encouraged to enjoy or spear-carriers whose deaths are just incidental plot points, then we're cheated of the opportunity to experience the emotions and drama and powerful storytelling that can come from witnessing characters dealing with death and loss. The scene of Crusher struggling and failing to save Tasha is immensely powerful, one of the most effective dramatic moments in the entire series. That makes it far more entertaining than just seeing some redshirted extra we have no investment in get vaporized and then move on to Kirk making out with a spacebabe. Sometimes entertainment makes you cry. That's part of what we want from it. We want the full gamut of emotions, as long as they're in the controlled, safe conditions of fiction. That's why tragedy has been popular for thousands of years.

    Really, we're talking about two different things. I'm not talking about whether or not characters should be resurrected. That's a separate conversation altogether. I'm objecting to the notion that death in fiction is only acceptable if it has some uplifting "meaning" or "purpose" to make us feel okay about it. Sometimes what we want from fiction is to be shown things that we don't feel okay about, things that we can get upset by along with the characters. And often what we want are stories that challenge cliches and easy conventions, like the cliche of a "meaningful" heroic death.


    Superman's death is a poor example, since it was pointless on a more metatextual level. It wasn't about conveying a thematic point, it was just about making a grab for cash and headlines. And it was executed in the laziest, stupidest way possible by just having some big walking plot device with no motivation show up and randomly pummel Superman to death. It was nothing more than a gimmick, so I'm certainly not going to defend it as something that shouldn't have been reversed.

    There's no absolute rule to these things. Superman coming back from the dead, even if his death had been done well, is something I could accept. I mean, he's Superman. It's not that hard to believe that he could recover from a state that a human couldn't recover from. And he's a mythic figure, an aspirational symbol as much as a character. One doesn't demand realism there. But the problem is that comics resort to the death-and-resurrection ploy far too routinely these days, to the point that no character death carries any real impact because you know it's temporary. Resurrection stories shouldn't be forbidden, but it's a mistake to overuse them.

    The other reason Superman is a bad analogy is because, again, he's a figure of fantasy and myth. Star Trek is ideally more naturalistic and believable. Roddenberry always wanted it to be as plausible as he could make it, even if he didn't always succeed and even if many of his successors haven't bothered. So fanciful tropes like resurrection should be used judiciously, so as not to undermine the credibility of the universe too badly.


    That's all well and good, except they literally had Alt-Tasha say on camera that her other self's death was "senseless." After having Guinan say that it was "empty" and "without purpose." I've explained why I think that's profoundly insulting to the many, many heroic people in real life who've given their lives in the attempt to save others.


    Indeed. That's just one of the many things I hate about the whole Sela gimmick.


    Ahh, but the latter may not be true forever. NASA's already doing proof-of-concept experiments in spacetime warping on a small scale.


    Uncle Ben is a great character, but nobody thinks he should be brought back. And I've heard it persuasively argued that bringing Barry Allen back from the dead not only cheapened his great moment of sacrifice in Crisis on Infinite Earths but undermined the characters such as Wally West who've been shaped by his legacy. As with everything else, it's not a uniform rule. There's no sense in saying that this or any other trope should be approached the same way across the board. There are cases where it works to bring a character back from the dead, and there are cases where it's a cheap gimmick and a lazy exercise in nostalgia. And, just to be fair, there are cases where having a major character die arbitrarily is deeply moving and powerful and intelligent storytelling, and there are cases where it's just a cheap gimmick too.

    But really, what I object to is the double standard, the implausibility of having "our favorite characters" exempt from death's sting while redshirts and spear-carriers are out of luck. Why, in-universe, should there be this overwhelming statistical bias in favor of the characters we know and like getting resurrected? If we'd at least occasionally see Ensign Whoozit or Third Pedestrian From Left getting magically brought back to life, if it were something that could happen to anyone, then it wouldn't be so contrived when it kept happening to a certain starship's command crew or to the members of the superhero community.
     
  17. Charles Phipps

    Charles Phipps Captain Captain

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    Well, I'd argue but you've persuaded me.

    Well said.
     
  18. King Daniel Beyond

    King Daniel Beyond Admiral Admiral

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    As a die-hard fan, I love seeing the Trek characters grow beyond their TV/film roles, and the universe evolve. It's far more enjoyable than endless disposable "planet of the week" stories.

    But I do fear (well, "fear" is perhaps a strong word for it ) Trek lit alienating new fans - I can imagine a casual fan, picking up a post-series novel and, saying "this isn't TNG/DS9/VOY/ENT!"
     
  19. bullethead

    bullethead Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I think that's a fairly valid concern considering the turn Trek lit took with Destiny. Right up until the "A Time to..." books, almost everything felt like a logical progression from the end of DS9 and Voyager, then it felt like the Trek lit authors got a bit too enthusiastic about shaking up the status quo (especially with David Mack providing more detonations than Star Trek into Darkness). It says a lot when Trek lit has more in common with the Star Wars EU than the canon material in terms of tone and general content.
     
  20. Relayer1

    Relayer1 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Δ I don't think that's the case - Treklit is still instantly identifiable, even if new readers do realise that there have been some changes. I don't see that it has a lot to do with Star Wars...
     

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