I am watching Star Trek while I type this. Since I wrote an entire novel about space, laser guns, and being in space with laser guns, you might think that I really like Star Trek. You’d be wrong. For all of the good things Star Trek has managed to accomplish, it has consistently failed on three accounts.
Firstly, it has failed as a progressive depiction of gender relations. The original series couldn’t go half an episode without insulting women, the “Next Generation” had its only two female characters be a caregiver and an incompetent psychologist wearing a skintight catsuit and NOT a uniform despite being a Lt. Commander, and the latest show – Enterprise – had its two female characters be an abject coward and…you guessed it, another woman in a catsuit.
Secondly, it has failed as a progressive depiction of sexual relations. In this accepting future, Star Trek has exactly ZERO transgendered individuals, bisexuals, homosexuals, or asexuals. There are ONLY straight people in the future, according to Star Trek.
And thirdly, Star Trek has consistently failed to have good science. If you have seen the show, you might be aware of “techno-babble.” For those who haven’t seen it, imagine a string of nonsense technological-sounding words strung together in a fashion that makes no sense. But if the main characters can state this sequence of words in the right fashion, then the problem they face will go away.
All three of these things inspired me to write Debris Dreams. I wanted to write a future that didn’t stick women in catsuits. I wanted to write a future where gay, trans, bi, asexual, and all the other branches of human sexuality exist and are accepted. And I wanted to write a book that at least tries for scientific accuracy, because when problems can be solved by pulling techno-babble out of your ass, then drama and tension are bled away.
There is one thing that I tried to keep from Star Trek while writing my novel. That one thing is why I am still watching Star Trek, despite its flaws. That one thing is why Star Trek has lasted decades and why my dinky little novel (if I’m lucky) might last a few years. That thing? Character. All stories, whether they are about space aliens from Mars or the housewife down the street, need character. When Star Trek was good, it was good because of characters: Captain Kirk and his relationship with Spock, Captain Picard and his relationship with Data, or Captain Archer and his relationship with the small imp that lived in his head and told him to burn things.
That is why, after I had done up pages on pages of calculations for my novel, I spent equal amounts of time thinking about the characters.
Only time will tell if I actually managed it.