Titan series: In your face Diverse???

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by Nathan, Aug 14, 2014.

  1. Nathan

    Nathan Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    May 18, 2008
    Reading the post about Mack / Lesbian Relationship / Vanguard, I was thinking how Vanguard seemed to get it right with a diverse crew but with Titan is was so “IN YOUR FACE"

    When Titan kicked off, it seemed to be touted as it was the most diverse (or close to it ) crew in Starfleet. It was as if the Titan series was diverse for the sake of being diverse instead of for story telling. That is where that series had rubbed me raw.

    First it was the dino doc, then the 2 foot blue dude, then waterworld gal, the gay guy, the gal who needs the wheelchair cuz of low gravity, now the AI character…UGGH. I get it, you want to be diverse.

    Guess when I read Vanguard and the Vulcan was Lesbian, I thought, “Nice twist, this is getting interesting”, instead of “Great, a Vulcan Lesbian, just waiting now for the Andorian Blind dude, a Midget Tellarite, and some pillbug to make to the Vanguard complement complete.”

    I always thought it would be problematic as the touch screen/computer panels would always have to be re-configured for each species……are the chairs all chairs to fit bi-pedal humans, or does Dino Doc and the 2 ft tall blue guy have “select seating” on various parts of the ship. Are the environmental suits to represent each type of alien on each level of the ship.

    Those are really just nickpicks I suppose, but again, the annoying thing was Titan was IDIC to be IDIC and not for storytelling purposes.

    Almost think of like on a US aircraft carrier, the commanding officer has his clipboard….
    Kentucky rednecks……check
    West Virginia hillbillies…..check
    Utah Mormans….checkAll we need now is some Alaskan Eskimos and we got one helluva diverse crew here!!!!

    Just wondering if anyone thought the Titan series was “diverse to be diverse” and suffered on the storytelling.

    And by the way, no offense to those from Kentucky or those who are redneck and so on.
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2014
  2. Dimesdan

    Dimesdan Living the Irish dream. Premium Member

    Oct 12, 2007
    The Republic of Ireland
    Sort that sodding formatting out!
  3. borgboy

    borgboy Commodore Commodore

    Sep 3, 2005
    If you have to say no offense, then you know you're being offensive.
    Titan' s diversity makes more sense than the lack of diversity elsewhere.
  4. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Mar 15, 2001
    See, I don't understand "for the sake of being diverse" as if it were some kind of exceptional thing. Diversity is simply a matter of reality. We've been told that the Federation is a partnership of over 150 different worlds. Most of its members are not human. Therefore, it only seems natural that its crews would be highly diverse by default, and the human-dominated crews of screen Trek were a failure to capture that logical state of affairs believably -- just as the mostly white Anglo-Saxon crews of American heritage were a failure to capture the actual demographics of the human race believably. Increasing diversity is simply a matter of correcting those mistakes. It should be the default as a simple matter of plausibility.

    Why shouldn't we? Plausibility aside, the fun thing about science fiction is getting to experience the new and different and exotic. If you don't like exploring the alien, why would you be interested in science fiction in the first place? And the value of a plausibly diverse Starfleet crew, one that represents the diversity the Federation is supposed to have, is that you get to explore the alien without even needing to leave the ship. There's enormous potential for storytelling there. The most popular and interesting characters in Trek have usually been the aliens, the characters whose contrasts in behavior, physiology, and worldview with the human crew made for interesting conflicts and character dynamics. There are more stories to be found in the differences between characters than in their similarities, so why not embrace that?

    I have never understood this objection, this assumption that the Luna-class ships were as human-centric in design as most Starfleet ships seen onscreen and had to be retrofitted afterward. I thought the books made it clear enough that the ship was designed from the start to be more universally accessible -- just like modern buildings are designed with accessibility in mind from the start thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

    Again, it's simply a matter of believability. If the Federation really does have over 150 different species in it, if it really is free of prejudice and inequality, then why wouldn't Starfleet include aliens of a wide range of different shapes, and why wouldn't Starfleet technology be designed from the word go to accommodate all those variations? It's unrealistic to expect anything less.

    Besides, the 24th-century touch screens were always designed to be easily reconfigurable to different functions, so it would be simplicity itself to reconfigure them for different hand shapes or languages or visible light ranges.

    That's certainly not how I ever approached it, and I don't believe it's what Marco Palmieri had in mind when he developed it. As I said, the immense storytelling potential of such a diverse crew was the whole point, the main source of interest for me. I didn't just have the characters show up, I explored the ramifications of their differences on their interactions, on shipboard life, on the way they dealt with crises.

    If you'd genuinely meant no offense, you wouldn't have used those slurs in the first place.
  5. Nathan

    Nathan Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    May 18, 2008
    Chris, I was being sarcastic about the "no offense to those from Kentucky" as I still call people hillbillies and it not racially motivated....and no, I don't want to have a tit-for-tat with you on whether you can call someone a hillbilly or not and be insensitive.

    at any rate, I get how Titan tried to be more universally accepted...but sometimes it isn't practical. On an aircraft carrier, are they going to put handicap ramps on all the decks???

    Sometimes it is just impractical. Is the 2 foot guy not allowed on the bridge cuz he can't climb into a seat? Does Dino Doc have a special chair in the ready room? Is really practicable to have the waterworld gal be in a wet suit?

    I all for the diversity of the crew, but when it out shines the actual storyline, I grow weary.

    And yeah, I get how the Federation has plus or minus 150 species, but I want to read a story, not a book about how diverse the crew is
  6. Paper Moon

    Paper Moon Commander Red Shirt

    Oct 28, 2011
    To emphasize a point both Christopher and David Mack have done a great job articulating:

    The Real World is diverse.

    Depending on your tolerance for said diversity, we might even say that the Real World is "in your face diverse".

    Heck, I'm at the office right now and on one side of me is someone whose family is from East Asia, and on the other side is someone who's from South America. (And I am very confident, for reasons not worth going into here, that affirmative action had exactly nothing to do with their presence here.) Unless you try not to see it, the world is extremely diverse. Monochromatic casts are themselves fictions, are themselves departures from reality, are themselves the results of illusions people hold about what the world in general, and America in particular, looks like.

    Now, I'll grant that, especially in Michael A. Martin's last two Titan novels, the prose itself was not always great. And I could see how that might lead to a portrayal of a diverse crew that comes across as ham-fisted.

    But, setting aside the execution of the portrayal, the diversity itself is, as Christopher said, more plausible from an in-universe perspective and better universe-building from a real world perspective.

    And given the number of stories that have been told in the Titan series about the challenges faced by a highly diverse crew as they learn to work together, I feel safe saying that the diversity was not included for diversity's sake, but very specifically for storytelling purposes. (Plus, people who were behind the scenes at the time have said exactly the same. So there's that too.)
  7. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Mar 15, 2001
    In other words, you actually did intend offense. Thanks for clearing that up.

    See, you're coming at it from the perspective that there's a specific "normal" way of doing things and any divergence from that is an inconvenience. But that's a narrow way of looking at it. If the Federation is really made up of hundreds of different species, if humans are just one out of many as they realistically would be rather than the overwhelmingly dominant population they're generally shown to be onscreen, then human convenience would not be the default perspective. There's no reason you can't design a starship from first principles to accommodate all the different member species in the service.

    Try looking at it from the reverse perspective. Imagine that history had gone differently and humans had found themselves a minority in a Federation dominated by, ohh, Aurelians and Skorr. And there were Aurelians who complained about the inconvenience of designing ships to accommodate beings who couldn't fly. Would it be right for the humans to be forever excluded from equal participation in Starfleet because the designers refused to consider their anatomy and abilities from the start of the design process? And would there really be any reason a starship couldn't be designed to accommodate humans (when we have abundant evidence that it can)?

    Okay, now you're actually ignoring a point I've already made. The ship was designed from the start to accommodate its diverse crew. Starfleet engineers aren't idiots, you know. They knew which species would be members of the crew and they had plenty of time to design and build technology that would accommodate all of them. So why wouldn't they have done so?

    Why would that be any harder than putting a human in a spacesuit to go into vacuum, or a diving suit to explore the ocean? Besides, there are maybe a dozen books by this point establishing clearly that, yes, Aili Lavena can manage quite well in her drysuit. So now you're openly ignoring the facts.

    It sure doesn't sound that way, given how far you're reaching to find invalid excuses to argue against it.

    And there's no reason those can't be the same thing. Again, if you're not interested in reading about the alien, why are you interested in science fiction in the first place? Star Trek is about exploring strange new worlds and seeking out new life. It says so right on the tin. Titan was developed under the assumption that most Trek fans liked stories about interaction with alien species and cultures, and was intended to give them more of what they come to Star Trek to find. If you don't like that sort of thing, then I'm sorry, but you're not the target audience.

    Well said. People who talk about diversity as some kind of imposition they resent being forced to acknowledge are trapped in very small bubbles of unreality. It's simply the natural order of things.
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2014
  8. Nathan

    Nathan Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    May 18, 2008
    Guess it in the style of the book. I just thought Titan came off as "hello everyone, we are uber-diverse and we got as many aliens crammed into the crew as possible....that being said....let's get to the story."

    Whereas, Vanguard was like, "Hey folks, interesting story coming your way with diverse characters."

    If it just me, then so be it, just wondering anyone else felt that way.
  9. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Mar 15, 2001
    ^The question is, which Titan novels are you referring to? How many have you read? There have been a number of different writers on the series, so they aren't all the same. If you're only referring to the first novel, it's not uncommon for series premieres to be a bit overloaded with exposition and setup compared to what follows.
  10. Deranged Nasat

    Deranged Nasat Vice Admiral Admiral

    Well, the Luna-class was intended in-universe to break the habit of single or mostly-single species crews, to allow the Federation to truly operate as an integrated collective, whereas practical matters tended to previously get in the way of that (it was just easier to keep things segregated). So it makes sense that the crew are commenting on the diversity - it's important to them in-character, because it's a stated and acknowledged part of their mission profile, to actually try and make the reality match the ideal. There's no such mission profile on Vanguard Station, so no character would have much of a need to point it out.

    If the characters in Titan were pointing out their crew's diversity out of nowhere, it might indeed come across as commentary for the sake of commentary, but it's made clear in the first few books that part of the point of the Luna-class is to test that diversity in the field in a true, nothing-held-back approach to representing the entire Federation. And out of universe, in reality, that is one of the selling points of the series - throwing as many different species, etc, together as possible to see how they make it work (or sometimes fail too). Obviously, that isn't going to be everyone's cup of tea, but I can't say it's a problem for a series to explore its own justification for being a series. :)
  11. Masiral

    Masiral Captain Captain

    Aug 30, 2013
    I'm here. Where are you?
    I somewhat agree with the OP - the first two Titan books did feel more like "hey look at us - we're diverse!" rather than "we're diverse because we live in a diverse galaxy." I love the diversity in the Titan series, I just don't think it needed to be commented on as often as it was in the beginning.
  12. Stevil2001

    Stevil2001 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Dec 7, 2001
    Yeah, there was a little bit too much telling and not enough showing sometimes.

    My favorite scene in the series remains one in Taking Wing (or maybe The Red King?) where you have all these different alien characters sitting at the "Blue Table," spitballing ideas about what's going on.
  13. Paper Moon

    Paper Moon Commander Red Shirt

    Oct 28, 2011
    With this very specific criticism, I think I'm in agreement. But, again, that's more an issue of the execution than of the concept.
  14. Nathan

    Nathan Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    May 18, 2008

    Yeah, I think you are right, it more of the execution than the concept I suppose. Personally, I think in the first couple of books it was like that and with the one that featured the water gal on the cover (I can't think of the title off the top of my head).

    I guess I was annoyed a bit as I was really looking forward to the Titan series (as I a Riker and a Tuvok fan) but it just fell short for me -- heck if some of the characters where to be tossed outside the airlock, I'd just think "Oh well".

    Whereas, Vanguard I became sincerely invested in the characters to include the relatively minor ones.
  15. Allyn Gibson

    Allyn Gibson Vice Admiral Admiral

    Oct 16, 2000
    South Pennsyltucky
    That's absolutely true. Taking Wing is very much a pilot, with all the baggage that carries. The actual plot (the Romulan stuff) amounts to about a third of the novel, while the other two-thirds are devoted to the first day of college when everybody moves into the dorm... err, I mean, meet the characters. :)
  16. Paper Moon

    Paper Moon Commander Red Shirt

    Oct 28, 2011
    The "one that featured the water gal on the cover" is Over A Torrent Sea, by our own Christopher L. Bennett, who spoke earlier in this thread.

    I share your annoyance with how the Titan series has developed. For example, while I understand the constraints imposed by Riker's line at the end of Nemesis that the Titan was off to Romulan space for diplomatic talks, and the obvious opportunity for a sequel to Nemesis that was taken in Taking Wing, I felt it was a bad choice for that to immediately be followed with the catastrophe story in The Red King. Stakes were raised too high, too quickly, which I think put the series off-balance. I'd have much preferred that Orion's Hounds (also by Christopher and among, in my opinion, the best Trek novels to date) or an exploration tale like it, had immediately followed.

    I personally don't care very much for the character of Melora, so I wish less attention had been paid to her. I think that the two books Martin A. Madden [EDIT: er, make that Michael A. Martin] soloed on, Seize The Fire and Fallen Gods, were poorly written, in large part because of one-dimensional character work. For example, Ra-Havreii was depicted as being in the same emotional space about the accident onboard the Luna as he had been since the beginning of the series. Like I said, one-dimensional character work.

    You accuse the writers of being heavy-handed with the inclusion of diverse characters. Like I said, I agree insofar as there have been heavy-handed portrayals throughout the series, here and there. But I don't object to the diversity itself; if anything, I wish they had sunk their teeth more into it.

    But do I think the story-telling itself suffered because they were focusing on diversity? No. In fact, I'd be more likely to say the reverse: the diversity suffered because of focuses on telling particular types of stories.

    And really, it wasn't "the diversity" (whatever the hell that means) which suffered; it was the characters and their development. And that's what you're complaining about, in part, at least: you didn't feel invested in the characters. But I think you're barking up the wrong tree by blaming that on the simultaneous efforts to depict a racially diverse crew.

    Lastly, I want to tackle head-on the heart of your initial complaint: that a depiction of IDIC for the sake of depicting IDIC is somehow a bad thing.

    How is that a bad thing? I don't ask rhetorically; is it boring? cliché? offensive? Why is a depiction of diversity for its own sake a bad thing?

    The question seems ironic to me, given that we are all Star Trek fans here. If you look at the first six seasons of Star Trek that were produced (TOS, TAS and the first two seasons of TNG), you have to admit that the stories are (generally) not what's so compelling. Character development is totally non-existent, so it can't be that either. The characters are all wonderful, to be sure, so that's part of it. But what, at the end of the day, is most compelling about the first twenty percent of our beloved franchise?

    I'd say it was that it depicted a diverse crew of humans and aliens exploring the galaxy in peace. A depiction of diversity for the sake of depicting diversity.
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2014
  17. JD

    JD Admiral Admiral

    Jul 22, 2004
    Arizona, USA
    I love all of the different aliens in the Titan books. I think the fact that there was such a focus on the diversity of the crew makes perfect sense since the whole premise of the series was that it was the most diverse crew in Starfleet. To me, complaining about the diversity in Titan is like complaining about the fact that the Enterprises in TNG and TOS were exploring strange new worlds, or that DS9 was on a space station.
  18. Jarvisimo

    Jarvisimo Captain Captain

    Jan 4, 2011
    Oh man, Ra-Havreii's initial development. Anyone else having Gary-esque flashes to the noise of baboons going crazy-murderous (or the kind of torturous tortured backgrounds mocked so in Team America)?
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2014
  19. Avro Arrow

    Avro Arrow Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Jan 10, 2003
    Aboard the USS Shenzhou
    Oh, so that's why he's not first officer of the Enterprise-E: he quit Starfleet to become an author! ;)
  20. BobtheGunslinge

    BobtheGunslinge Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Dec 4, 2013
    Has any story so far delved into the psychology of a non-humanoid individual or civilization discovering that 90% of the sapient species in the galaxy look very similar, but not like them?