Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Consider your audience

An a teacher, I spend a lot of time demonstrating to young children how to write for a particular audience, and how to deconstruct already-published texts to determine the audience they are aimed at, and how successfully they target particular people. Knowing one's audience, and the social relevance, can really help one to write a focused piece.

I often find myself scratching my head when mulling over what will go into my next blog, and how I will say it. From the heart? Wacky and hilarious anecdotes? Innermost secrets? Exhaustive TV trivia?

Because even after four months now, I'm not so sure who is my blog audience. Sure, I get a few comments under some entries, a few emails from fellow bloggers and total strangers, and have even found a few (new and) long lost friends. Until I can work out just who you all are, and how to say it, I guess you just have to put up with what you get. (Or do the people who won't put up with it define who's left of my audience? I dunno...)

As I mentioned, recently I was asked to introduce an amateur "Star Trek" fan film at a science fiction convention. My first thought was, "Who will be my audience?" Now, I'd been to many ConQuests before, and I felt I knew who made up those audiences in the 1980s and 90s, but were ConQuest attendees still the same make-up of audience in 2006? Additionally, would the "2001: A Space Odyssey" lead actors, Gary Lockwood and Keir Dullea, be in attendance at the gala banquet, when I'd be delivering my speech? Should I, then, incorporate a few "2001" jokes into my speech?

I do have a "2001" anecdote: 33 years ago, the high school I attended as a teenager had three adjoining classrooms converted into a makeshift assembly hall. The back wall had been painted with a huge, makeshift white rectangle and, after seeing several films on it, a group of us were asked to spend a free period extending out the two sides: to create a widescreen frame for screening... "2001"!

Now, "2001" is a good film, but the English teacher made us watch "2001" at least four times before he sent back the film canisters to the distribution company. Therefore, my memories of "2001' are quite muddled. The starchild scene, for example, was probably only understood by the back few (rather hazy) rows: the kids who were smoking those weird-smelling cigarettes in roll-your-own ciggie papers.

In honour of Mr Lockwood and Mr Dullea being expected to sit through my little fan film, I decided to present them with little autographed paintbrushes. I took the liberty of signing the brushes (to increase their value on eBay some day?) - and for a little $$$$ thrown into the charity box, I'd even personalise them. (Well, at least they didn't have to paint a wall to see the fan film...)

So, there I was: fully prepared for my speech - with props in hand and all - and the guests decided to try a different Brisbane eatery that night. Maybe they suspected I really was going to make them work for their supper?


In any case, would these be called my brushes with fame?

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Fast week

I realised yesterday it was a week since my last entry. Where did that week go?

Today, two TrekBBS pals, Jean Prouvaire and the_real_adamj, and I attended the Sydney Kick-Off Meeting for NaNoWriMo, the (Inter)National Novel Writing Month at Books Kinokuniya. There were about forty enthusiastic people there, many of whom were back for their second, third and fourth attempt in the annual endeavour. I think I may have been the eldest. (Sigh...)

It seems we each have to produce about four typed pages daily to achieve the goal of a novel manuscript completed during November 2006. Mmmm. It might have been a fast week, but I fear that November will be a slow month. Or perhaps not? Wish us luck!

Coincidentally, when Jean contacted me about the project, I'd just bought a very cool "imagination" blue turquentine gemstone bracelet from Dreamworld, while I was away on vacation. The green "success" adventurine gemstone necklace I once wore certainly worked: days after buying it, I found out I'd succeeded in getting a job as editor of a professional journal. (When the leather lanyard broke four years later, it was perhaps a harbinger that my highly-coveted job was about to end.) I pray that my new "imagination" bracelet lasts at least the month. A little extra imagination will come in handy. (Or do they resemble worry beads too much?)


Captain's Log: Supplemental. Curiously, a rival company with similar gemstone jewellery, associates blue turquentine with "success", not "imagination", and green adventurine with "fortune". I really don't care if I get imagination, success or fortune, just so long as the gems do their bit!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

"Assimilate this!"

I can't believe that some "Star Trek" fans are still complaining loudly about the Klingon, Worf, seemingly giving up his post as an ambassador (as shown in the final television episode of "Deep Space Nine") to return to Starfleet (in the last, rather unpopular, ST feature film, "Nemesis").

On the ST bulletin boards I visit they'll say, "I wish he hadn't come back as Worf, to be honest. What a shame and a waste. Not to mention a slap in the face to DS9 continuity and fans."

Well, some fans would have said that actor Michael Dorn abstaining from an appearance in "Nemesis" would have been "a slap in the face" to fans.

The choice for Worf to be in Starfleet uniform, rather than ambassadorial robes, at the Riker/Troi wedding scene in "Nemesis" was actually Dorn's. When asked by screenwriter, John Logan, he supposedly said, "I want to be in my spacesuit like everyone else."

The "Next Generation" feature films aren't made just for fans of TV's DS9 (which had tiny ratings compared to TNG's TV run). For many members of the cinema-going general public, the last time they'd seen Worf (in the movie "Insurrection"), he was a Starfleet officer. You can't saddle every guest appearance at a wedding with a backstory and still progress the action. ("Oh here's Mr Worf. Why did you give up your ambassadorial post after only a few years in the job? Did Chancellor Martok regret asking you to be an ambassador?" "Wesley! You're no longer travelling the universe with your superpowered friend, the Traveller? Welcome back to Starfleet." "Guinan! We do miss you so much after the crash of the Enterprise-D's saucer. Are you still tending bars somewhere, or are you in retirement?" Ick.)

At a wedding, characters such as Worf, Wesley and Guinan are just going to be there. (Just check out the Wesley lines in the bonus footage of the two-disk DVD. They sound extraneous and don't progress the action in any way.) I think back to family weddings I've been to: I don't necessarily know who all those people are, and I usually go home having only spent a few minutes with some of them, still no wiser about how they spend their lives. And I may not see them again until the next wedding or funeral.

Movies that explain everything leave people with nothing to discuss, except whether they liked it or not. Fans have been discussing the untold dangling plod threads from "Nemesis" ever since it came out. Nothing wrong with that. We never found out everything that had been happening for Kirk, Spock, McCoy, etc between the original series of "Star Trek" and "The Motion Picture" (TMP) - or between TMP and "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" - either. That's what the licensed tie-in novels are for!

Incidentally, Worf's career changes (from Klingon ambassador in DS9's "What You Leave Behind" finale to Starfleet officer in "Nemesis") are tracked in an excellent nine-part novel series, "A Time...". The four-part saga "The Lost Years" did similar duty for post-TOS, and novels like "Ex Machina" and the new "Crucible" trilogy cover the post-TMP time period.

I'm anxiously awaiting a huge new book, "Voyages of Imagination" by Jeff Ayers, due any day now, which tracks every licensed ST novel and short story ever written. It will be a very cool thing to have: b/w cover art of every book, brief plot summaries, interviews with authors and editors, and the latest version of the ST novel timeline. Over 800 pages. (I'm probably buying two copies: one to keep in mint condition and one to scrawl in the margins!)

Sunday, October 15, 2006

My Chinese tattoo names

Every so often I play an ego-boosting/self-indulgent/curiosity-feeding game with the Google search engine and check out where "Ian McLean" and "Therin of Andor" are being discussed on the Internet, and what's being reported and by whom. It's often very enlightening, and I've even found some new and old friends by browsing Google in this way. I've also found places where my work has been plagiarized, sometimes quite blatantly, with no effort being made by the other person to acknowledge me or seek my permission. Some people don't realize that "Ian McLean", "Therin of Andor" and "Lindsay Street Productions" are all me, and it's given away some strange behaviours out there.

Today, Google showed me that someone had quoted my Blogspot profile to add the name Therin to a site called Chinese Tattoo Names. How cool!

Therin ChineseIan Chinese

Check out your name. It might just be there. All the common first names seem to be represented, but Blogspot profiles seem to be offering them some unusual names, too.

Friday, October 13, 2006

ConQuest in review

As Australian fan-run, "Star Trek" and science fiction media conventions go, ConQuests in Brisbane are certainly predictable, reliable, informative, friendly annual events. The recent ConQuest Silver Jubilee convention filled in all the blanks and coloured by all the numbers. I did have a predictably reliable, informative and friendly time.

Even though the last few weeks of the school term were a blur, I managed to book some air flights online and began to anticipate a relaxed holiday away from Sydney, departing mere hours after farewelling my students for their spring vacation.

I travelled to the first ConQuest 25 years ago, when I was a wide-eyed, naive "Star Trek" newbie - actress Grace Lee Whitney (Yeoman/Transporter Chief Janice Rand) was the last minute special guest of honour, much to my surprise - as I was, erm... "volunteered" to represent New South Wales fans, and the ASTREX "Star Trek" club, at the inaugural meeting of a national committee to establish a consistent set of rules/suggestions for running annual NatCons and organised fan Awards. Grace was a very exciting guest - well, I thought so but she was "too American" for some rather critical fans' tastes. And, according to an interview Ms Whitney did for Starlog magazine years later, meeting Australian fans actually helped her over her disappointment about not being in "Star Trek II", and put her on the road to recovery from many of the turmoils that had dogged her career.

During the next week, a friend and I were able to meet Grace for coffee at Sydney's airport when she flew in from Brisbane on her way home, and escort her to the international terminal. She made me promise to visit her in Los Angeles, and it was a thrill to do so in January 1984, just days after she'd filmed her secret "Star Trek III" cameo.

I raced back for the 1983 ConQuest, anticipating another last-minute guest, but the surprise was... no guest! It was at that con that I became aware of one of ConQuest's most unique and rather quaint attitudes to conventioneering: timetables were made to be broken, at least in Queensland. I've never understood the logic of spending months planning and promoting a full (and often multi-strand) order of events, only to leave each event to ran way overtime, and then have a seated audience waiting interminably for the next speaker to arrive. Only a few ConQuests over the decades have escaped this modus operandi.

My next ConQuest wasn't until 1989, having regretted letting 1988 go by and hearing how great it, George Takei (Mr Sulu) and Expo were! In 1991, I ended up on a panel about "Star Trek" fandom with no less than James Doohan (Scotty), John deLancie (Q), Richard Arnold ("Star Trek" Archivist) and New Zealand's Lana Pennington-Brown (who'd eventually become the namesake of DS9's Pennington School). At 1992's robot-themed convention, I stripped an audience member to his underpants and painted him metallic gold from head to toe!

At 1994's ConQuest, which had Jonathan Del Arco (Hugh the Borg) as guest, and a time-travelling theme, I was Master of Ceremonies. We started with the Closing Ceremony and time ran in reverse all weekend, finished up with the Opening Ceremony. Did I mention that I love running gags at conventions? Ironically, this convention (and Robocon) ran pretty well to time!

After that the next few conventions become a fuzzy haze of distant memories, but with ASTREX imploding back in Sydney, as an Official Australian Star Trek Club was licensed by Paramount, the annual pilgrimage to Brisbane was becoming a most welcome respite, and my only face-to-face contact with other "Star Trek" fans.

Anyway, this year's ConQuest put Gary Lockwood ("2001: A Space Odyssey" and the second "Star Trek" pilot, "Where No Man Has Gone Before") and Keir Dullea ("2001"; "2010") in the international guest spotlight, along with now-regular ConQuest visitors Richard Arnold (former "Star Trek" Archivist) and the wacky Katy Manning (Jo from "Doctor Who").

I guess I enjoyed the "2001" talks, although there was very little "2001" discussed in those sessions because Katy Manning, playing interviewer, keep taking the actors back to their roots. I was only on a day membership this year, so her promises to get back to "2001" the next day were lost on me. I much prefer Katy as a guest, rather than as a guest interviewer. No matter, there was a great room party on the Friday night, the Saturday night had the aforementioned banquet with "Starship Exeter", I was reunited with many old friends - and I snagged an excellent rarity from Richard Arnold (former ST Archivist at Paramount, and "ST Communicator" columnist) in his "Star Trek" auction: a German disco version of the theme from "Star Trek Generations", complete with Patrick Stewart frequently stating "Make it so!".

Interestingly, Richard got to see his first fan film that night! I understand he'd not seen any of the current crop up till now - although he knew about them, of course, and is friends with several people who've been making "New Voyages" episodes. (He spoke about them during his auction.) According to people at his table during the screening, Richard was pleasantly surprised and interested in "Exeter"; especially cool for me since it has no canonical characters in it (except a pre-ST VI Chang) and, had "The Savage Empire" been a licensed "Star Trek" novel or comic proposal, it would never have passed muster under Richard's old vetting rules when he worked at Paramount.

Going to Brisbane for the convention also gave me a great excuse to "do the rounds" of some favourite haunts: books and collectibles shops like Pulp Fiction, Daily Planet, Ace Comics, Egg Records, Comics Etc and the huge Toyworld in the CBD. Alas, Pippin's Old Toys had abandoned their shopfront in Clayfield.

Not to mention the Big Brother house at Dreamworld! But that's a post for another day.

As I said, ConQuests are certainly predictable, reliable, informative, friendly annual events. You get much closer to the celebrity guests of honour at these fan-run conventions than the larger commercial ventures and, if you can adjust to the laissez faire timetabling, you'll have a great experience.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Starship Exeter at ConQuest 25, Brisbane

As I mentioned previously, I'm just back from Queensland where I was asked to present the first Starship Exeter episode, "The Savage Empire", in which I have a cameo appearance, at the 25th annual science fiction media convention, ConQuest.

It played in three sections during intervals at the gala banquet, held on the Saturday evening, and I was asked to introduce the episode with a few anecdotes about the fan film's producers, how I came to be involved, and previous ConQuests I've attended.

A little daunting, since it has been several years since my last ConQuest, and I wasn't sure how my audience would react. I wasn't even sure how many people would be there, whether the celebrity guests would be in attendance, or whether most Queensland fans had already viewed the Johnsons' films via the Internet. Luckily, I can tell you that the reactions to "The Savage Empire" were extremely favourable. (Wait till they see the new episode!)

I'm used to seeing the footage on a tiny mpeg frame on my iMac's monitor screen, or sometimes via DVD on a television screen. At ConQuest, Sonja the media magician projected "The Savage Empire" onto a Very Large Wall! Scary!

The souvenir convention book said of my spot:

"Ian McLean came to Star Trek and science fiction media fandom by way of Filmation's animated Star Trek (coming soon to DVD!) and Star Trek: The Motion Picture. He spent over a decade as President of ASTREX, a Sydney-based fan club. A frequent visitor to ConQuest, Ian was often featured as a panelist or Master of Ceremonies. These days, Ian is a frequent poster on Psi Phi, TrekBBS and Blogspot ("Have Phaser, Will Travel").

"His Andorian persona, Captain Therin, has been similarly prominent over the years, appearing in fanzine fiction, at costume parades and gala film premieres, and hosting live convention gameshows. Sale of the 23rd Century and Perfect Botch won National Science Fiction Media Awards in the category of Best Australian Audio-Visual. Most recently, Therin had a park named after him in the Pocket novel, Andor: Paradigm by Heather Jarman (Worlds of DS9, Volume 1).

"Ian launched his exhaustive Rogues' Gallery of Andorians onto the Internet in 1997, with the aim of cataloguing every appearance of antennaed blue aliens in Star Trek - and was soon contacted by Jimm and Joshua Johnson of the USA, who were developing Starship Exeter, a Trek-inspired fan film. It sounded like a pipe dream, but Ian was invited to make a guest appearance, as Senator Therin of the Andorian Planetary Council, in their first episode, The Savage Empire. Therin's scene was shot in Sydney on video and mailed off to Texas where it was integrated into the main footage. The Savage Empire was released online in 2002 to great acclaim. It has inspired a wave of similar fan films, many with production qualities that seemingly surpass the 1960s source material and take the humble Star Trek fanzine to a new plane of existence.

"Starship Exeter: The Savage Empire will be screening during the Saturday night banquet."

Wallowing in the crucible

A "Star Trek" novel, "Crucible: McCoy: Provenance of Shadows" was my vacation reading of choice last week. 628 pages, on super slim paper to keep the chunkiness to a minimum, it was indeed an excellent selection!

I was staying with some old ST friends in Brisbane, in sunny Queensland. The sun was up at 5.15am every day, light streaming into my room. Nothing else to do but read, until the household was awake for breakfast. One of my hosts is also about to give birth to her first child and needed lots of naps, so I had David R George III's literary company, off and on, for a whole week. I got totally sucked into the universe that is "Star Trek: Crucible", greedily sneaking off for extra chapters at every opportunity.

Cover art by John Picacio

The events stretch from the end of "The City on the Edge of Forever", one of the most popular TOS episodes, until several years after retired Admiral McCoy's visit to Picard's Enterprise in "Encounter at Farpoint" (the premiere episode of "The Next Generation"). Even though the "Crucible" trilogy purposely works in its own continuity, as regarding other ST novels, it seemed to me that David George purposely worded his description of the Enterprise's return from "Out there, thataway" (in ST:TMP) to include wiggle room for a recent and popular novel set in that time period, "Ex Machina".

That Filmation's animated ST series of the 70s (TAS) is so well referenced was a delight to me! Many more aspects than I expected: first names for (Paul) Bates and (Jimmy) Clayton, welcome cameo appearances by Randi Bryce and M'Ress the Caitian, and cheeky references to Mantilles, Dramia II, Edoans, Phylosians, Vedala, Aquan surgo-ops and even practical joking computers!

I'm very curious how much the upcoming "Spock" and "Kirk" instalments of this new trilogy will intersect the "McCoy" novel, and how much will focus on new events, and events barely hinted at in "McCoy". The three covers will make a triptych mural, too. A very cool 40th anniversary event!

Crucible: triptych cover
Art by John Picacio

Captain's Log, Supplemental: Too cool. Over on TrekBBS, David R George responded to my review thusly.

I've just spent the morning updating my Toon Trek pages to include all the "Crucible" TAS references.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

"That is all."

I'm back!

Due to a nagging lower back and leg pain in the weeks before I started my recent holiday, I made myself promise to have a sabbatical from all computers while I was away in Brisbane. Even though the friend I was staying with had Internet access ("I..... neeeeed..... to Blogggggggg...."), I think I showed great restraint!

Will start putting up my news tomorrow, but here's a clue as to what I've been up to:


Captain's Log: Supplemental. After several attempts to master Bluetooth - and make it talk to my iMac and several other friends' mobiles - I've finally managed to coerce a friend to Bluetooth my phone's pics of the Big Brother 2006 House onto his PC, and then email them across to my computer. So here they are:


Above: Big Brother bathroom ("clothes on" version); the yard; the Friday Night Live arena.


Above: Big Brother lounge room with Eviction Couch; kitchen close-up; the communal bedroom.


Above: Another section of communal bedroom; more wacky games costumes in the arena; the kitchen again.