Remembering Leonard Nimoy

Normally, I’m pretty good with words. At the moment, I’m not at my best, for reasons I hope are self evident. However, I’m going to do my best to remember someone who gave more to my life than he ever knew.

I never got to know Leonard Nimoy the way my fellow cast members did, so I can’t remember him in the personal way that they can. I didn’t know Leonard as a friend, or even as a colleague. I can’t tell you what he was like off the set, because I never had the privilege of visiting with him off the set. In fact, by the time he worked on Next Generation, my character was off exploring other planes of existence, and I was a nineteen year-old kid who was stumbling around, trying to figure out what he was going to do with the rest of his life.

When you are part of the Star Trek family — and that’s what it is, in ways that are as wonderful and complicated as all families are — you are part of a very small and special group, where news travels fast. Though I never got to be close to Leonard, I knew that he was a wonderful and lovely man, because that’s all anyone ever said about him. I feel that I haven’t earned the right to eulogize him, but a lot of people are asking me to, so if you’ll allow me a few minutes of your time, I’d like to do my best to remember Leonard the way most of us will be remembering him today: as the actor who played a character who was deeply important to all of our lives, because everyone who watched and loved Star Trek is part of our extended family.

When I was a kid, long before I put on Wesley Crusher’s sweaters or piloted the Enterprise, I loved Star Trek. I watched it all the time in syndication on our black and white television, and when the other kids at school wanted to play CHiPs or the A-Team on the playground, I wanted to turn the jungle gym into the Enterprise. On those rare occasions that I convinced my classmates that we were boldly going toward new worlds on lunch recess, one of the Cool Kids would claim the role of Captain Kirk, and I would always happily assume the role of Mister Spock.

I was too young to fully understand why, but as I got older and looked back on those years, it became clear: I identified with Spock because he was weird, and cerebral, and he was different from everyone else. He was just like me, but the things that made me a target of ridicule on the playground made him a valuable and vital member of his ship’s crew. In ways that I couldn’t articulate at the time, I wanted to be Mister Spock because if I was, I could be myself –quiet, bookish, alien to the people around me — and it wouldn’t be weird. It would be awesome.

When I was cast to play Wesley Crusher, and became part of the Star Trek family, one of the first things I got excited about was meeting Mister Spock, and the actor who played him. It never happened, really, so I never got to know the man behind the ears and the eyebrows and the character that meant so much to me. But as I said on Twitter this morning, we in the Next Generation stood upon his shoulders, and we got to explore a universe that wouldn’t have existed without him. I’ve met thousands of people over the last decade, who have told me that Wesley Crusher meant the same thing to them that Mister Spock meant to me, and for that I am eternally grateful to everyone who was part of Star Trek before I was, including Leonard.

Mister Spock made it okay for me to be the weird kid who eventually grew into a slightly-less weird adult, but it was Leonard Nimoy who made Mister Spock live, and who made Star Trek — and every science fiction TV series since 1966 — possible.

Thank you, Leonard, for making it okay to be me, and for making it possible for me to explore brave new worlds, and boldly go where you had gone before. I wish I’d gotten to know you the way so many others did, because everyone says you were as awesome and wonderful as I hoped you would be. Rest in peace, sir.

 

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please prepare the cabin for arrival

As I write this, I am 34,998 feet above the skin of the Earth, traveling East at 527 miles per hour. The captain just announced that we’re about to land, and I have about five minutes of Internet left before I have to buy more.

Looks like I picked a really bad time to write a 1500 word post about a bunch of cool and interesting stuff that’s happened since last Friday.

(In the time it took me to type out those words, we descended a little over two thousand feet. I’m not sure why I felt that was worth mentioning, but then again I’m not even sure why I’m going to be clicking publish in about ten seconds.)

I’ve found Serenity, and you can’t take the sky from me

Something very awesome happened today. I can’t say anything more about it (for now) but I can finally talk about this other awesome thing that I’m super excited to be part of!

In the upcoming Firefly Online game, I get to be the voice of the male avatar!!

This just in from Firefly Online HR: Wil Wheaton has joined the FFO voiceover team and will be playing the part of you – that is, he will be giving voice to the male player character. We couldn’t be more excited that Wil is taking on this huge part. (There’s lots of Chinese cursing too!)

I am so excited to be part of this, and not just because it means I get to finally be part of the best universe in the ‘verse.

…well, maybe it is.

A little.

…okay, it totally is.

I’m recording my dialog in a couple of weeks, and when the game is released in Spring, I’ll be there with you as we pilot our own ships, interact with our favorite brown coats, evade the alliance, and, of course, aim to misbehave.

I’m incredibly grateful for this opportunity, I can’t wait to be a leaf on the wind.

…shoot. now i’m sad.

the point of view that creates the world

I imagine my creative process as a cycle of filling up a reservoir with inspirations and ideas, and then emptying it out into various creations. Sometimes that reservoir is drained in one explosive surge, but mostly it’s emptied out a little bit at a time, into different projects.

Recently, I’ve been using my creative reserves to power the writing on the Tabletop RPG show, and whatever is left is going into Radio Free Burrito.  My stupid random thoughts and links, once the exclusive property of my blog, are filling up Twitter and Tumblr, and I haven’t had much to say here, anyway.

BUT.

I have a new Tabletop for you:

Most of the things I’ve been consuming are helping me power up and work on the Tabletop RPG show (all day today I have conference calls with our writers and designers!) and I would like to share some of the ways I’ve been refilling my creative reservoir, starting with books:

And Podcasts:

Also, movies:

Some TV:

And Anime:

So my reservoir is slowly being refilled, at a rate that is just slightly faster than it is being emptied … and neat stuff is happening.

that time I got to see the Arecibo telescope

JCCC5069

I suck at mornings, especially when I’m on a (working) vacation.

But getting up at oh-my-god-it’s-still-dark-out-why-am-I-awake o’clock to go see the Arecibo telescope with my own eyes (and two busloads of nerds) was totally worth it.

The thing about this is that it’s so huge, it sort of distorts the scale of itself and creates the illusion of not being a thousand feet across. But it’s a thousand feet across.

While we were there, I got to watch the detector move, which made me way more excited than I thought it would. Unfortunately, we didn’t discover any aliens or distant galaxies while we were there.

But look at that picture, and just think about this incredible thing that humans built in 1962, existing, harmoniously, next to all that natural beauty. In fact, it doesn’t just sit there beside the natural beauty, it is able to exist precisely because of the conditions created by that natural beauty. I think that’s really neat.

Sometimes we humans don’t suck.

How not to solicit business in 2015 or ever

This email was waiting for me when I got back from the JoCo Cruise:

worst-solicitation-ever

Maybe it’s the fact that the boat is still moving, or the fact that I have real coffee in my veins for the first time in almost two weeks, or maybe it’s just because I’m easily amused, but here is my response:

wil-wheaton-terrible-solicitation-response

Happy Monday, everyone! May all your emails today be amusing.

Guest Post by Will Hindmarch: Here’s to Wil Wheaton

Will Hindmarch just posted a thing here on WWdN earlier today and the bio on that post is pretty much still accurate.

On behalf of Stephen, Ryan, and Shane, I’d like to thank Wil Wheaton for having us at the blog this week. None of us wrote as much as we meant to (we have our reasons), but we got to talk on email about all the things that can get in the way of writing. Cheers, friends.

At the same time, thank you, WWdN readers, for sharing your time with us this week. We appreciate it.

And, Wil? When next I’m in LA, can I ring the RFB bell?

Guest Post by Will Hindmarch: Inspiration

Will Hindmarch is a freelance writer, game designer, and narrative designer. He co-founded Gameplaywright Press, assistant directs the Shared Worlds writing camp, and is a producer of Story Club South Side in Chicago.

Here’s the task they before me: Run a casual D&D game over one lunch break per week. A mere 60-70 minutes of play per week with a cast of more than ten player characters rotating in and out? Teach the new edition of the game and a world to explore in that limited time? Make an experience that’s coherent and compelling even for players who might take a few weeks off between sessions?

Sounds like a fun challenge!

The game is set in a fantastical city that was under quarantine for a strange disease. But sometime during its period of isolation … everyone inside the city disappeared. As a result, there are just two humans left in the world: a barbarian and a paladin, both of them PCs.

What makes this one difficult—and I’m a little surprised by this—isn’t crafting a compelling a world for casual and intermittent players; I’ve done that lots. It isn’t managing the dramaturgy for ten PCs; I’ve done that before. It isn’t even conveying the world through brief bits of text to minimize the game’s footprint on the lives of the players; that’s an inspiring challenge. No, it turns out the trick is juggling my own inspirations.

This is something I struggle with sometimes. I pretty carefully control what sort of inputs I take in—what shows I watch and when, what books I read and when, what games I play and when—not only to manage my time, but to influence what influences me. When I was writing my story about the white deer, for PleasureTown, for example, I put together an atmospheric playlist and read some Walt Whitman to get me in the right sort of place. (I also mined a bunch of details from my own childhood.)

When I’m writing about the faux-Elizabethan political intrigue in the City on the Saturnine for my stealth-adventure RPG, called Dark, I try to take in a diverse array of material but I also worry about sparking ideas that I won’t be able to work on for months. If I can’t put space-alien horrors into my fantastical Renaissance, I try not to consume much about space aliens.

Or I tried.

Too many great stories, too many glittering inspirations, move in my peripheral vision, all the time! How can I watch True Detective or Automata when they’ll make me want to work on projects that aren’t scheduled until later in the year? I don’t want good ideas being misspent on the wrong projects!

That right there is where I am a moron. As if creating something good diminishes some other thing that is good. What is that?

For me, at least, the truth is that inspiration and action are all about the collision of ideas in unexpected intersections. Withholding a good idea—”saving” it—is so often folly. Ideas aren’t worth much. Work has value. The writing has value. The application and implementation of an idea—that’s what’s valuable.

If I apply some influential idea to a project and it doesn’t stick, I’ve still got the idea.

If I apply an influential idea to a project and it doesn’t do everything I wanted, but it does something, that’s a kind of progress on the project, and I’ve still got the idea.

If I apply an influential idea to a project and it changes the project, that’s either an enrichment or an option to keep or reject—which is my job as the writer. And I’ve still got the idea.

Ideas aren’t currency. They aren’t electricity. They’re knowledge. They’re like lessons. We don’t spend a lesson to act on it. That’s why lessons are precious.

Ideas get conjured at the crossroads of information, where two notions collide and inspire, throwing light and shadows on the nearby buildings, and in the aftermath … there’s no wreckage. The notions survive and their fusion creates a new idea. That’s the whole point! This is a creative process … not a destructive one.

I’ve always kept notebooks. Lots of notebooks. Each major project gets its own book and certain themes of potential projects—games, novels, scripts—get notebooks, too. That’s where ideas live.

To my surprise, what sparked my realization and reminded me how to manage the influences on my own imagination, was taking an hour off to play some Destiny. The grand, enthusiastic melange of epic fantasy and sci-fi in the Destiny universe  reminded me that my job isn’t to recreate any one genre by following customs and redecorating a well-trod space, but to make the thing I’m making as good as it can be.

Destiny’s little doses of lore—either in the Grimoire or in the text of bounties and quests and items—combine to convey a robust and wonderfully strange world. We’re still early in the life of Destiny’s story, I’m sure, yet those bite-sized doses of fictional data fascinate me. (Destiny depicts a world that I am this close to writing fanfic for—something about the way dust drifts through the city beneath the Traveler, the glint of metal on the lunar surface, the hints of everyday heroism—so write me, Bungie, if you want great fiction set in the Destiny galaxy.)

In my case, my goal is to make each 60-minute D&D session an exciting episode of play. That comes first.  And that means the players and their characters are the priority. I knew all that … but I’d also sort of forgotten it, you know? My desire to impress these players got in the way of how much I love to inspire them.

Guest Post by Ryan Wheaton: Dear Samantha

Ryan Wheaton is a writer. He wrote the following bit of flash fiction, for example. He likes Twitter and sirwheaton.com.

Samantha, you were in the garden again today. I watched you from the window. It rains most days, today wasn’t an exception, but it was only a light drizzle and you had that ridiculous sun hat on. Who knew sun hats could do more than offer shade.

I try not to dwell on it. I try not to think about it anymore. But you still smile at me, smears of dirt on your cheeks. And that smile, it only reminds me how much I miss you. How desperately I wish you were here—or even gone entirely. That smile isn’t yours. This one, though. The picture on the sill. If only I had let you stay there, as you were. Frozen in that moment, content in your garden, happy as daisies.

I’d only been on the Ethics Board for a year. At the time, the world’s leading surgeons and scientists gathered to attempt an impossible feat. Technology had far surpassed practiced implications. Abhorrent, vulgar violence trampled our court systems behind the guise of mental disease. Once potent minds toppled like redwoods. They’d lie to rot while doctors poured water and sunlight through IVs hoping to bring them upright again. Glorified gardeners shameless pruning over-ripened vegetables.

The Board partnered with a dozen private developers in search of a fix. Within the sterilized bunkers of bioengineering corporations, pharmaceutical firms, immunological task force factories, dwelt answers. We plucked the worst cases from their beds and brought them in. Poking, prodding, drilling; we treated them like what they were: animals that didn’t have the faculties to resist or even squeal.

We’d lived together so happily in some nowhere town where street lights turned on one by one as the sun set. Kids hid and hollered, skinned their knees, fell from trees, and smiled. You taught elementary school, just 12 kids at a time. Almost all of them lived on our street. Our life was picket-fenced. So secure, so perfect. But, when the Board took me up, without a sideways glance, you left it all.

I was never much for remembering the days. It must’ve been a couple years after the move. I’d been coming home later and later, and one night the house was dark, your car was gone.

You’d been in an accident. The hospital took you through surgery, hours and hours of cutting and clamping and sewing. You were so broken. Pale as the starched sheets. Quiet. So, so quiet and still.

I spent hours, days tearing through files, cases, notes, documents. Each moment struck like a hammer, minutes driven into my memory likes nails. There’d been someone. A vendor? Scientist? Some greasy-haired executive. It was months ago, a passing meet up at a conference or a hotel bar. I’d been alone when he gave me his card. I remember his hand was so cold, stiff like leather. He rambled about some biosensor, transducer, or isolated analyte. His number, his card, it was somewhere here. And I found it.

In a fevered sweat, I called.

It hadn’t rung once before a voice answered. “Hello. Is this—” he paused. “Ah, yes, mister, excuse me, Doctor Howard, wasn’t it?”

“Ye—yes,” I fumbled, my tongue thick. “Yes, it is. We met some time ago. We spoke of—”

“Of course, of course! Dr. Howard, please. You talk as if we’d met in passing. My, you were almost an entire ream to the wind. Hell of a day you’d had. Pulled … how many plugs was it? God himself would have knelt to Jameson without a second thought.”

He paused.

“Who—I’m sorry, I—,” I labored for words, some kind of response.

“My apologies, though, a bit brash considering the circumstances. You’ve changed your mind then? I doubt any of your colleagues would agree, but empathize, certainly yes. They’re not monsters,” he laughed. A wet, hoarse bellow. “Again, so, so sorry. But, yes, the implant, hmm,” his inflection inviting.

“Y—yes. What … does it, can it do. Once more, I only vaguely recall,” I lied. It was was like a sleeper recalling the shade of black inside his eyelids.

“A biosensor, Dr. Howard. Well, of sorts. It’s a capacitor, biosensor, and microprocessor all in one. If I might boast a moment, it’s truly delightful,” he squeaked. “My associates and I have isolated the, I guess you might call it, flavor of electrical analyte that … oh my! Dr. Howard, you sly hound. You’ve let my tongue wriggle all about, my cheeks are absolutely aflame. Shame on you,” he giggled impishly. “Trade secrets come floundering like salmon over the falls. You’re some kind of wizard, doctor.”

“I’m, of course, yes. I was just unsure of … well, there’s been an accident. My wife—” I’d spent years working atop the summit of medical brilliance. Some of the world’s greatest minds that had saved countless lives, bore the weight of impossible decisions with resounding strength and conviction. But, not once, had we glimpsed a solution. We’d set out to research and develop our understanding of utilized technologies so we might advance outdated principles of ethics and conduct. After which we could further the development of solutions. But we’d failed. Failed so perfectly that none of us had ever noticed when it’d happened or what we’d become. We sat like supreme judges in a high tower.

“Dr. Howard? Hello? Blast this cordless phone. It’s more magic than function. Hello? Hello, Dr. Howard can you hear me,” he hollered.

“Yes! So sorry. My wife has been in an accident and is—”

“I’m fully aware of the situation Dr. Howard. We only need your approval to move forward,” he said.

“Approval? I don’t understand.”

“Well, we can’t very well proceed with such things in the light of day, in a manner of speaking. With your approval, your wife will awaken tomorrow, credit given to whomever poked and prodded at her. You know, the ones that spoke of waiting and praying, perhaps even hoping. All that nonsense,” he muttered.

“Yes. Please. Whatever has to be done. I’ll pay whatever amount, whatever I have is yours.”

“Doctor Howard! I am astonished. Money? Such trivialities! We do this for science! For humanity! We only request that you never speak of our little conversation here to anyone ever,” he said.

“I understand.”

“Oh, and before we part here, just a few minor dots and crosses. Your wife has been brain dead for some time. The device will work, of this I can assure you. But it will take some time for your wife to regain, well, herself,” he said. “Now, please declare clearly, ‘I approve of the aforementioned discussed herewithin.”

“I approve of the aforementioned discussed herewithin,” I declared.

You awoke the next morning. Confused and unable to speak. You’d retained motor function, which was even more of a miracle. The doctors kept you for a more days to run scans and tests, but you woke so suddenly, the life took some time to come back.

The day I wheeled you out of the hospital, the day you wobbled like a newborn deer up the driveway and into our home, I was beyond thankful, happy, elated. It wasn’t until weeks later that I began to see the changes. The differences.

I cry for you every night and miss you every day. I’m sick with regret for not spending every moment with you. Angry that I chose my job, chose to uproot us from a life we could’ve had. But, as I watch her out in your garden, trimming your roses, pulling your weeds, smiling at me with your mouth, I’m disgusted. I hate myself for trying to bring you back to me. And I’m sure of it now, that God exists. Because I see the Devil reflected in her eyes every night.

Guest Post by Stephen Toulouse: Sometimes the Words Hide

This is a guest post by Stephen “Stepto” Toulouse. Stepto has worked for HBO, is the former banhammer at Xbox, and knows a thing or two about online communities and computer safety. He is an author, comedian, and leader of The Steptos.

He made a comedy album you can get on Bandcamp (cheapest option), iTunes or Amazon and wrote a book called A Microsoft Life. He blogs at Stepto.com.

Sometimes the words hide.

At first, I didn’t know what I was looking at. In my lower field of vision was dark blue, in the upper third a soft taupe. In the middle, in my near field, a round spot of black surrounded by tan, with a beautiful ring of light brown inside of it. Something pink, and I could hear breathing? Wait. I had just been in a shuttle hadn’t I? Atmo was out along with gravity and I was struggling to orient myself in freefall to get to a control panel. Was that the breathing?What was I looking at?

Those wisps of sleep-thought dissipated instantly, wiped into my brain’s incinerator with one swipe of a dog’s tongue across my face. My dog, Basil Hayden. It was morning, he was at the side of the bed expectantly looking at me. Important dog things needed doing with my supervision, and I dared be slow to wake, and ponderous.

The dream clung at me somewhat, staying with me even as with each waking moment it became more ephemeral and shifty. I was in trouble? Was it in space or an airplane? I could remember feelings even as the details left. I went through my morning routine twisting over it.

There were words there, I kept thinking, there was a story there. Just the thing I needed to break through some fog I had been having around tying up a variety of writing.

We all get writer’s block in some form. Sometimes nothing comes. Sometimes writer’s block can take the form of lots of things get put on paper but none good or satisfying.

Sometimes the words hide.

Every writer has their way of dealing with it. You can play their game and go looking for those words. You can sit on the couch, watch a film and refuse to give into their demands to be found so that they  come crawling back to you. You can bribe them, be stern with them, even attempt a “no strings attached” hang out with them. But they will, in the end, do as they please.

Our terror is that they are gone forever. Like an insomniac who fears they will never sleep again we push that fear back, knowing that adrenaline will only make the problem worse.

My words had been hiding lately, that morning when I got up. I’m more of a “I refuse to play your game” type of writer and am content to wait in panicked patience for them to shuffle back. When they came back I dutifully stopped what I was doing and gathered them around me.

“Don’t hide again!” I said. “I need you!”

“We won’t.” they replied, “until next time.”

50,000 Monkeys at 50,000 Typewriters Can't Be Wrong

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