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Archive for October, 2015

Thoughts on Star Trek: Enterprise

I recently read an article about the failings of Star Trek: Enterprise and it made me want to spell out my own problems with the series. Star Trek: Voyager remains my most hated series and it’s the only one I stopped watching episodes of. Even then, when they announced their last season, I watched the last season — including that shameful series finale where they basically rubbed their greatest success being Star Trek the Next Generation in the face of Enterprise’s fans. I watched both J.J. Abrams films to my shame. There is a real problem I and other Star Trek fans have to cope with that we will watch ANYTHING labelled Star Trek. That really has to stop.

Anyway — Star Trek: Enterprise.

So, first and foremost, I HATED that theme song. It was just terrible. And the theme song for the Mirror-Mirror episodes was SO good, why couldn’t they have just used that theme? Opening with subtle threat and menace before building into music befitting a young, inexperienced species taking its first steps into a universe fraught with peril? It would have been great.

The Vulcans… I know some people consider the treatment of the Vulcans to have been one of Enterprise’s flaws but I consider it one of their greatest successes. I LOVED the way they treated the Vulcans on Enterprise. Logical doesn’t equal nice. The Vulcans were a logical race in a hostile galaxy with as far as I can tell only the humans, a very minor species/government at the time, as allies. They would have had to have been more militant to survive. The words “Vulcan Combat Cruiser” alone I found thrilling and fresh, as well as the scene where the Vulcan captain says the specs on their tractor beam technology are classified. That the Vulcans treated Earth as a third world country fit the setting and was a jarring, fresh take on Star Trek that dramatically differed from the super-powerful super-benevolent Federation we’d gotten used to.

Having a Vulcan First Officer/Science Officer aboard was a far cry from the “welcome shout out to an older, beloved series.” Spock as a half-Vulcan wrestling with human emotion was awesome. T’Pol was just boring. She’s the only character I’ve ever known who could have an illicit shipboard tryst with another officer and have THAT be boring…

The Andorians were awesome. I loved the Andorians every moment they were on the screen and their ships looked fantastic! The Vulcan ships looked great too. I would have loved to have seen a regular Andorian character on the show. Jeffrey Combs character would have made a MUCH better alien first officer than T’Pol. And the possibilites for scenes between him and Malcolm would have been terrific.

About the ships in Enterprise, the appearance of the Vulcan vessels has given rise to what I call “the Vulcan engine problem.” Namely, why didn’t the humans abandon the nacelle design and go with the round warp engine design the Vulcans used? On the surface of it, the Vulcans are more advanced than Humanity. They’ve been in space longer. They’re logical guys. They’ve got better technology than us. Bottom line, if we’re just trying to get out into space and the Vulcans have better drives than we do, why not just copy the Vulcan design? The problem with that is you don’t know WHY their drives are different. Oh, you might assume that it makes the ships faster or more efficient, but the Vulcans can be, if you’ll pardon the word, a bit inscrutable. They might use round warp engines because its more efficient or better in some way that’s really important to them but that is less important to the rest of us. For example, if the warp field created by the round drive is more stable than that created by two overlapping nacelles, but it makes the ship slower and/or less manoeuvrable, that might be something the Vulcans might go for but other species not. And then there’s the whole history of technology just on this planet to consider. There might be legal ramifications of all things. Vulcan patent law or insurance provisions might mandate the round design. Round warp drives might make more efficient use of some element that’s rare on the worlds the Vulcans have colonized but is plentiful in human space. Who can say? The point is that I’ve learned that you can’t just blindly imitate the work of someone more advanced or proficient than yourself. You may be copying things that don’t aid your efforts and even, in fact, work against them.

I didn’t care much for Archer as a captain. I suppose that it took me this long to even mention him demonstrates how little regard I had for the character. He was boring. Picard was sanctimonious and annoying but I’ll take that over boring. Picard, at least, was a product of his time. He, with his every word, conveyed the philosophy and beliefs of the Next Gen Federation and while I didn’t always agree with him or his decisions, Patrick Stewart did an excellent job of conveying Picard’s position.

I adored Porthos.

Hoshi, Trip and Malcolm were wasted. Malcolm especially. The whole MACO’s thing was ridiculous. If I had been Malcolm, I would have resigned. “It’s Security’s job to see to the safety of this ship and its personnel. If the captain believes that an entirely outside force is necessary to do that job, then I have failed not only the service but each and every single one of my fellow security officers and thus tender my resignation, sir.” I’m sorry to harp on this but displacing Security like that was shameful, humiliating and obscene. Bringing a single MACO aboard as an advisor, or a senior one as an advisor and an enlisted one as a drill sergeant could have been used to good effect in building tension but Enterprise squandered THAT opportunity too. “I don’t know what this is but settle it!” “It’s settled, sir.” Right. Back to boredom.

I would have enjoyed the show more if they hadn’t kept violating the canon of Classic Trek. Meeting the Klingons day one, episode one, was a terrible indicator of mistakes to come. We shouldn’t have seen Klingons until season three. They should have just been this ominous presence people talked about on Enterprise’s travels, almost like the Boogey Man and then, when they DID show up — it should have been the Classic Trek Klingons not the new ones. And when they did introduce the Klingons, it should have been with the music from Classic Trek. That would have been UNBELIEVABLY awesome.

Cloaking devices. Cloaking devices. Cloaking devices. They should NEVER have introduced cloaks to Star Trek: Enterprise. “The selective bending of light rays is theoretically possible,” says Spock. How the FRAK can it be theory if a Starfleet vessel has encountered several ships equipped with cloaking devices and even knows the TERM!? They should have followed the canon of Classic Trek strictly — I mean, having a person on staff as a Continuity Cop and everything — and not violated it even once. And before you say, “but the Temporal Cold War changed things,” the “temporal cold war” was just a bad idea all the way around as was introducing time travel, Borg, Ferengi, etc. to an era that didn’t need them and could have introduced other technologies that were crucial and unique to the era but were flawed and later abandoned.

Transporters should never have been seen in the series. Classic Trek NEEDED a cheap way to get the crew down to the planet because they couldn’t afford to show shuttle landings every episode. That’s why transporters were introduced into the original series. Enterprise had the special effects to show shuttle landings, ship dockings and they did such things and did them repeatedly throughout the series. Eliminating transporters would have been one easy way to emphasize that this wasn’t any of the Trek series we’d seen before and it would have eliminated the whole “how do we keep them trapped where there’s danger instead of beaming out” problem EVERY Trek series has had to deal with. Dumb.

The missiles were the sort of thing they should have gone with but in more places. A technology that’s less advanced than what we’re used to seeing but that it’s completely understandable at a glance why we haven’t seen it in later era series.

I too thought they should have focused more on plots about how the Federation came to be, leading up to the First Romulan War, foreshadowing events that were spoken of in Classic Trek’s past, like Garth of Izar’s famous battles and things like that. I read that they had planned to go back to that sort of thing with the proposed next season that they had pitched doing on Netflix but it didn’t happen.

Doing the First Romulan War over two seasons, and I mean two full seasons, not that Next Gen crap of a war starting in the season finale and being resolved in the season premiere next episode, would have been terrific. Well, it would have been if they’d followed canon and had NO communication between the combatants. “No Earthman, Romulan or ally has ever seen the other,” is what Spock says and I would have stuck to that meticulously. If I violated it, I would have explained it with a “no one can know our most vicious blood enemy is genetically the same as the Vulcans” and had the crew sworn to secrecy or some such. Whatever it took so that all of Spock’s comments in “Balance of Terror” would have been logical and consistent.

Finally, I would have given almost anything for a “Man-Tzenkethi War…” (Larry Niven’s Kzinti were introduced to the Star Trek universe via an animated episode based on his short story, “The Slaver Weapon” which I believe Niven himself wrote. The issue of whether or not the Kzinti are or are not part of Star Trek has been questionable ever since. The only part of the Star Trek franchise that still ever uses the word ‘Kzinti’ is Star Fleet Battles and even then, when the time came to create Starfleet Command, a video game based heavily on SFB, they changed the name Kzinti to Mizak. Many people have used the Next Gen race name “Tzenkethi” as a replacement to refer to an entirely Star Trek hostile feline alien race.)

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Fantasy, science fiction and steampunk author Brandon Black is the editor of New Orleans By Gaslight, a first of its kind anthology of steampunk and gaslamp fantasy poetry and fiction set in Victorian-era New Orleans. Brandon is also the web content manager for the Week in Geek, New Orleans’ favourite fantasy and science fiction themed radio talk show, every Thursday at 6 pm CST on FOX Sports 1280 AM. Click here to check out Brandon’s ever-expanding list of published works.
All content copyright © Brandon Black


DANGER: EROTICA!

This post contains a scene of explicit sex. You have been warned.

This is a scene from the cutting room floor if you will from my story “Songs of the Divine Pulsation,” a steampunk erotica story I published in New Orleans By Gaslight. This scene wound up being cut from that story after David Ducorbier, local celebrity and man about town, physically lifted up the pages with this scene on it from my story and dropped them to the floor as being non-essential to the plot. I agreed with him then and when I returned to “Songs,” to add back in some of the material I had cut from it, this scene remained on the cutting room floor. That said, I still think it has some lovely writing.

Dave said I just want to get it on with Marie Laveau. He may be right about that.

The scene involves one of the main characters of “Songs of the Divine Pulsation,” a young black man named Evan who has a great deal of mystic potential and has elected to study under the New Orleans sorceress Sabine rather than with the voudouns of the city.

Evan and Marie

by Brandon Black

Evan gathered tools and supplies from his basement lair to take back to Sabine’s workshop. He placed the metal implements in a large bag for the trip. A knocking sounded on the door and Evan went to answer. The open door revealed none other than Marie Laveau.

Evan stood, silent, in surprise for a moment.

“Hello again,” Marie said.

“Hello,” Evan said with a nod, clearly wondering what this was about.

“I wanted to talk with you again about studying at our temple,” Marie said.

“Why are you so interested in me?” Evan asked. “Or is it that you just can’t stand to see me trained by Sabine because I’m black and she isn’t?”

“It is about Sabine. But it’s not entirely about race. It’s more about the fact that she does nothing with her power. I serve the lwa, I serve the community. People like you and I are rare. Everyone has the basic potential to serve the spirits but only a handful of people are strong enough to be adept at it. I just hate the thought of someone like you, someone who could be a houngan, a strong one, and a real asset to this community, going down her road and never doing any good for anyone.”

“I see,” Evan said.

“I just want you to see what we have to offer. Come to the peristyle and see what we do. It may interest you.”

“I’d like that. When?”

“Why not right now? We’re having a ritual tonight. Come to the salon. My peristyle, my temple, is out back. Come see how your ancestors served the spirits.”

“Let’s go,” Evan said with a nod.

Marie led Evan through the streets of New Orleans to one of the older neighbourhoods and a lovely, if modest, house with a building in back. The pair of them went up the stairs and into the house. Each and every room of the house held a small shrine, some just small tables with a cloth and statuettes and offerings but others the size of large dressers and covered in an array of exotic objects, incense holders, candles and candle holders, statuettes and figurines, carvings of snakes, skulls and sundry other mystic symbols all festooned with swirling pictographs and painting. Cigars, cigarettes, candies, flowers, coins, dollar bills and glasses and bottles of rum were left in offering on the various altars all over Marie’s home. Adjacent to the master bedroom, was the house’s temple room, painted entirely in black, with a main central altar and two sub-altars in the corners, more elaborate than anything he had seen in the house before.

“This was our main temple before we built the peristyle in back. We still hold certain special rituals here.” Marie led him back into the master bedroom and they sat down. “So, what do you think?”

“I am impressed. And curious. I want to learn more about what it is you do.” Evan said.

Marie smiled, triumphant.

“But,” Evan continued. “I’m happy learning from Sabine and Vespers. I’ve learned a lot and I know there’s more, much more, to learn. I’m not ready to give it up.”

“What has she taught you?” Marie asked.

“How to marshal and gather the forces of my body and spirit, how to commune with the Divine Presence,” Evan said. “She’s shown me things I never thought were even possible. I won’t turn my back on her or her teachings.”

“So, show me.”

“What?” He asked.

“Show me what you’ve learned,” she said.

“Are you sure?” Evan asked.

“Yes. Show me what you’ve learned,” Marie said.

“All right,” Evan smiled and began to unbutton his shirt.

“What are you, ” began Marie but Evan simply lifted his index finger gesturing for her to wait a moment and finished opening his shirt. He lifted a hand towards her and waited. She offered him her hand in return and he placed it flat over his heart, enfolded his hands over hers and closed his eyes.

In his mind’s eye, he gathered himself and his flows in his heart chakra, felt the probing, questing essence of Marie’s life force from her hand, felt it interweaving with his own flow. His eyes were closed but he knew when she felt the connection too when he felt the gentle shudder of surprise trickle down her fingertips.

Evan opened his eyes and smiled and drew Marie close; she spoke no word of restraint, made no move of resistance. She pulled the shirt from him and cast it to the floor. Evan brushed his lips gently against hers, his mouth open, exhaling gently across her lips before drawing her into a warm kiss. As their lips met and Marie’s hands began to rove across the warm flesh of his naked, muscled chest, she reached down to unbuckle his belt. Evan kicked off his shoes and let his pants and underwear fall to the floor. He began to disrobe her, helping her out of her dress. Evan knelt before her and removed the dress and allowed her to slip out of her shoes, one at a time, placing them together besides the dress. He then stood as she turned around and he began to unlace her corset, his fingers working quickly and nimbly as it too then fell to the floor. Marie lifted her hair with both hands as he undid the drawstring on her chemise and lifted it over her head. The garment removed, she shook her head, letting her long, luxurious hair fall gracefully about her neck and shoulders. Finally, he turned her around and reaching for the drawstring on her waist, undid and slid down her bloomers, his fingers sliding gracefully down the curving flesh of her backside, and pulled her bloomers to the floor as she stepped out of them.

The resplendent form of her nude body before him, her pert, shapely breasts and erect nipples, her generous and supple curves revealed before him clad only in her soft, immaculate mocha skin, Evan felt his manhood stirring and taking her hand in his, he led her to the bed and wordlessly bid her to lay down, which she did.

He placed his palm flat over her sex not in contact with her skin but an inch or so away from her.

“Close your eyes. Move your pelvis forward slightly in time with your breath. Breathe in, breathe out, draw full and complete breaths from your diaphragm, ” he drew a fingertip across the curve of her stomach. “Let your belly and your pelvis rise and fall as you breathe, that’s it, now imagine as you do so, that your drawing your breath through your flower, inhaling and exhaling prana, or life force. In, out, in, out.”

Evan straddled the edge of the bed and leaned down and kissed her gently across the lips, keeping a hand on her rising and falling belly.

“In, out.”

He kissed her on her throat and opened his mouth slightly to exhale across her skin as he drew his lips gracefully down the curve of her slender neck. Marie trembled.

“In, out.”

Evan kissed and suckled at Marie’s breasts, cupping her breast delicately with his right hand and drawing his thumb across her erect nipple. He drew two deep breaths in time with hers, exhaling across the nipple of one breast while fondling the other with his right hand.

“In and out. In and out.”

He began to plant gentle kisses down the warm curve of her belly and then drew his thumb across the soft sable fur of her womanhood once, twice.

“In, and out.” Evan exhaled across her pearl in time with her inhalation before placing his mouth to her flower. He licked, delicately, up and down the curve of her petals before kissing her on her feminine bud. He flicked his tongue in sensuous curving patterns across her bud while pushing two fingers into her warm, wet and inviting womanhood.

Evan moved his tongue in swirling patterns across her delicate, delectable flesh, drawing across the petals of her feminine flower, kissing her on the inner thigh, before returning to tease and entice her pearl. Marie rolled her hips gently from side to side in a rocking motion and moaned with pleasure.

He turned her over and worked two fingers of his left hand slowly into her sex, which was wet and pliant. Marie moaned louder as he pushed deeper into her and deeper. With his right hand, he drew his fingertips up along her backbone from the base of her spine towards her head, lifting his fingers from her to start again at the base of the spine tracing upwards.

“The kundalini, the primary motive force of the body, resides in the base of the spine. All these techniques are eventually aimed at liberating that force, freeing it to flow unchecked upwards through the chakras of the body towards the top of the head, the crown. The goal is expansion of consciousness through the union of the body’s vital flows. One with body and mind, one with the universe.”

The echoing sound of mighty drums rolled outwards from the peristyle as the evening’s ritual began. As the servants of the lwa, clad in white, danced their way around the circle in celebration of spirits ancient, African and powerful, Marie and Evan made love in time with the pulsating, pounding beat roiling from the temple.

Evan removed his fingers from her flower and anointed his shaft with her juices. Evan lifted her buttocks until she was up on her knees and he moved in behind her. Rubbing himself from the tip of his shaft to its base, he placed his other hand on her beautiful, curvy behind. Then, wordlessly, he spread her buttocks apart with his hands and gripping her tightly, pulled her into him, thrusting forward into her. Marie let out a sudden cry of surprise and then whimpered, shuddering, as he thrust deeper inside.

Evan pulled her hips into his in time with the drumming, the deep chocolate tones of his own skin against the lighter mocha of her soft, curvaceous derrière. He thrust into her over and over plumbing the deep recesses of her full, supple buttocks, again and again and again.

When Marie came, it was with the force of a thunderbolt and every muscle in Evan’s body went rigid as he climaxed and he felt the two of them speared through, transfixed, by the black current of the void flowing through them both.

That indescribably long moment passed, both their bodies went limp and the two of them collapsed together in a heap of spent, sweating flesh.

Evan rolled off of Marie and still panting for breath, looked her deep in the eyes and smiled.

Marie smiled back at him. “Well, that was something.”

Hearing the ongoing ritual in the peristyle behind Marie’s salon, the two dressed quickly, Marie handing Evan a shirt and trousers both made of white cotton as was the custom for worshippers to wear within the confines of the peristyle. Clad for ritual, the two joined the other celebrants, taking their place in the circle and dancing to celebrate the ancestral spirits of their common homeland.

Sweat pouring down their faces, drummers strummed their hands across their doumbeks attaining trance weaving a staccato lattice of sound as men and women partook of the long-standing communion of the Cosmic Dance, each one unique dancing as their hearts and spirits directed yet at one with the circle of rhythm and life all around them.

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Fantasy, science fiction and steampunk author Brandon Black is the editor of New Orleans By Gaslight, a first of its kind anthology of steampunk and gaslamp fantasy poetry and fiction set in Victorian-era New Orleans. Brandon is also the web content manager for the Week in Geek, New Orleans’ favourite fantasy and science fiction themed radio talk show, every Thursday at 6 pm CST on FOX Sports 1280 AM. Click here to check out Brandon’s ever-expanding list of published works.
All content copyright © Brandon Black