Tag Archives: writing

Guest Post by Will Hindmarch: Learning to Write

Writer and game designer Will Hindmarch is an occasional contributor to WWdN and constant mooncalf. In a good way.

When the writing is tough, I doubt a lot of my words and think hard about whether I really know what I’m doing or not. Where do I get the nerve to try to be heard or read?

As David Simon once put it, who died and made me Storyteller?

Thinking back to some of the lessons I’ve learned as a writer and narrative designer, I think about all the hours I’ve logged — through doubt and confidence, pain and passion — writing things I thought I might not be able to write. A lot of my knowledge was given to me by teachers and mentors but I think maybe none of it really made sense until I dared to fulfill or defy the lessons given unto me. I could train and train but only while I was writing did the full substance of the lessons make sense to me.

When the student is ready, the blank page shall appear.

It takes many forms. I’ve logged a gazillion hours telling collaborative stories through tabletop RPGs, which are a great way to learn adaptation, improvisation, and quick development of ideas as they happen. It’s a great medium for learning — you can imagine how excited I am by the prospect of a tabletop RPG show from my friend, games master Wil Wheaton. (So do fund the hell out of that, if you please.) We can all glean lessons from that kind of play.

Combine the experience points I’ve earned from RPGs with the  time I spent in the authorial batting cages of Ficlets (where I got to write stories in tandem with Wil) and you get my newest game design, which itself combines narrative gaming with actual writing.

That’s Storium.

Continue reading

First Contact and The Wil Wheaton Project

My new show premieres a month from today, on the network that I like to call “the network formerly-known as Sci-Fi,” but since that makes people who changed its name mad at me, I won’t call it that in this post.*

Seriously I’m bolding this because it’s important: The Wil Wheaton Project premieres at 10pm EDT on Tuesday, May 27th, on Syfy™ Syfy: Imagine Greater, and also watch WWE.**

(All silliness aside, everyone I’ve been working with at Syfy has been super awesome, super supportive, and as excited about this project as I am. I wouldn’t feel okay making jokes at the network’s expense if I didn’t know that they have a good sense of humor. We shot some promos last week where they let me really rip some of their own programming, because we did it in a funny way, and not all networks would let us do something like that.)

Okay. So, to business:

I’ve been meeting with my staff of writers, segment producers, researchers, and other creative people a couple of times a week for the last month or so, and we’ve been figuring out what shows we love, what shows we hate, and deciding how we’ll cover those shows as their (and our)season unfolds.

There are scripted shows we love, like Orphan Black, Game of Thrones, and American Horror Story. There are scripted shows that are so awful, it’s almost hard to figure out which joke we’re going to make (see: pretty much everything on the CW). There are some really great things online that I’m not going to describe now because I want to keep them to myself, and then there are the vast numbers of unscripted paranormal “reality” shows that are so insanely horrible, they actually come back around the track and end up being good: Mountain Monsters, Ghost Hunters, Ghost Adventures, Adventure Ghosts, Monster Ghosts On The Mountain Having An Adventure***.

When we get  together for these meetings, we watch clips that the creative team has found, and then we pitch jokes to each other. It’s a really fun process, where we’re basically watching hilariously bad stuff, and then seeing who can make the room laugh the hardest. It turns out that all the MST3K I watched in college was actually contributing to my education, and I’m using the skills it taught me to this day.

I’m super happy and grateful that I’m working with people who are funnier and smarter than I am, so I have to push myself to keep up with them. I’m already a better comedy writer than I was a month ago, and I’m pretty excited that I’m leveling up those skills.

A couple weeks ago, we were pitching ideas to each other,  and we came up with something we think will be really cool and probably pretty funny. It’s called First Contact.

The idea is for you to tell us a story about a memorable time you met someone famous who you looked up to or admired. Whether it was funny, awesome, awkward, awful, or some combination of them all, we want to hear it.

All of us on the creative team will go through anything you submit, and we’ll pick out a few of our favorites to be animated and recreated on the show. I’ve talked to some of my friends who are voice actors, and I’m super happy and excited that some of the very best actors in the business are going to be part of this.

We had to talk to lawyers and people who wear suits every day to get permission to do this, and they said that it was okay, as long as I said precisely the following:

This is what I need from you:

- We want to see you on camera telling the story.  

- Make sure you are talking directly to camera in a well lit room.

- Go someplace quiet with no noise and absolutely no music playing in the background.

- Your story must be true and authentic in describing the people and events that took place. No fibs, please.

- Please try to keep these stories under 2 minutes.  The shorter the better.

Once you’ve recorded your story, upload it to Youtube and send the link to HEYWWP at gmail dot com

Be sure to include any contact info so we can let you know if we plan on using your story.

Before you record, think about the details. I’m sure you were excited and nervous to meet your favorite celeb in real life.   Did it take courage to go up to him or her?   What was going through your head?  What did you say?  What did they say?  What about them surprised you?  How did it end?  Were your friends jealous?  

 

I’ll add that details about the time, place, and other environmental elements will give our animators stuff to work with. Speaking as a storyteller myself, I encourage you to get to the emotional center of the story as quickly as you can, because that’s how you connect to an audience. If you’d like an example of a first meeting that wasn’t particularly awesome, you can listen to my WILLIAM FUCKING SHATNER story from w00tstock.

If you have any questions about this, ask them in comments and I’ll do my best to answer them as quickly as I can.

*OMG this hand that feeds me tastes SO GOOD!

**OMNOMNOMNOMNOMNOM please don’t cancel me before i even start i’ll be good i promise

***some of these don’t actually exist, but they could, with just a little bit of creative editing.

Now I have something where I didn’t have something before.

My friend Cory Doctorow says that he can write simply by sitting down and opening up a vein. It doesn’t matter where he is, or what’s going on around him. When it’s time to write, it’s just his brain and the place he puts the words.

I admire that, and wish I could do it, but it’s just not possible for me. I need to be in a calm and quiet place, both emotionally and physically, and depending on what stage of a project I’m in (rough draft, last mile, rewriting, outlining), I may need other existential things, particular bits of music, types of coffee or tea, things like that.

I guess it’s different for every writer, but I have these — you know, I sat here for almost a full minute typing and deleting the word “silly”, before deciding that it isn’t silly at all — rituals that let me open the creative vein that Cory can tear open at will.

The important thing, I guess, is that the words get written and the story gets told, and what the specific the steps are from idea to publishing don’t really matter, at long as you take them.

Today, I had the barest hint of an idea, and I wanted to know what it would turn into, if I worked on it. Imagine seeing something far away, though clouds and haze. It could be a mountain, it could be a thunderhead, it could be a tumor pressing against your optic nerve. The thing is, you don’t know what it is until you get close enough to see it clearly. You have to take the steps.

So I put on my running shoes, and I went out for a jog, letting my mind wander around, until that hint of an idea began to coalesce into something more tangible. After about forty minutes, I had enough to write down some broad strokes, knowing that once I started writing the actual thing, I’ll know how to fill in the gaps that were left today.

I took literal steps to get my brain going, and to start the process of turning a few scattered “what if…” ideas into something that may turn into an actual story. I don’t know what will come of it, and I don’t know when it will be finished, but I took the steps, and now I have something where I didn’t have something before.

anyone interested in a short fiction collection?

I have a question for everyone who reads my blog: if I put some short stories I'd written together into a little collection and sold it at Lulu, would you be interested?

I ask this because I collected a few short stories into a limited edition chapbook for last year's PAX Prime, and it's been sitting here, in my computer, just sort of staring at me accusingly and asking why I didn't release it to anyone in the world who wanted it.

It's just four short stories – well, two short stories and two stories that are slightly-longer than flash – that haven't been collected in any other place.

It will be available worldwide (anywhere Lulu ships). I'll keep the price down, and offer it in print and digital editions (probably around $7 and $5 each, if I've calculated the economics on Lulu correctly) … but here's the catch: it will only be available for one week. (I don't have a good reason for that, I just think it's cool to make something that's a limited edition. Wait, that's a perfectly good reason; a cromulent reason, even.)

Here's the introduction to the PAX edition:

The Day After and Other Stories

Every year, before the summer convention season gets underway, I pull a few excerpts from whatever I plan to release in the fall, take them to my local print shop, and make a deliberately lo-fi, limited edition chapbook to take with me on the obligatory summer convention circuit.

I’ve done previews of Dancing BarefootThe Happiest Days of Our LivesMemories of the Future, and in 2008, I pulled together a sampler that eventually became Sunken Treasure

While Memories of the Future is 2009’s “big” fall release, it didn’t make sense to me to release a Memories-based chapbook this summer, because one already exists. 

It looked like there wasn’t going to be a 2009 entry in the traditional Wil Wheaton Zine-like Chapbook Extravaganza, until I realized that I have several pieces of unpublished fiction sitting in my office, just waiting to be published. 

“Hey,” I said to myself, “people keep asking me to write and release fiction, and I’ve been waiting until I have an actual novel to give them. But these things totally don’t suck, and I bet readers would enjoy them.”

“That is an excellent idea, me,” I said. “And have I mentioned how smart and pretty you are?”

“Oh, stop it. You’re embarrassing me,” I said.

Together, myself and I collected some of my (mostly unpublished) fiction and put it into this chapbook, for safe keeping.

Even though this is limited to just 200 copies, it represents a significant step for me in my life as a writer, because it’s the first time I’ve collected and published stories that I made up. (You know, like a writer does.) I hope you enjoy it, and thanks for your support!

Wil Wheaton

Pasadena 

2009

So, knowing all of this, are you interested?

…and the livin’ is easy.

Hey, remember when I posted stuff in my blog every day and we all had a good time while learning? It's a distant memory, but if you squint, you may be able to pick it up.

Anyway. It's summer, I've been working on awesome projects that I can't talk about, finishing up awesome projects that I've talked about a lot already (Memories of the Future, special edition of Happiest Days, etc.), and since Ryan came home from school and I have my whole family together under one roof again, I'm not especially motivated to stay at my computer after I'm done working, you know?

To close some tabs, though, please enjoy these things that are all related:

Indie Kindle Author lands book deal

Author Boyd Morrison sold two books, the first one called The Ark, to Simon & Schuster. Boyd uploaded and sold the books himself and raised awareness for his novels by being a member of Kindle Boards and generally self-promoting.

He will be published in hardcover in 2010 and is working on his next book featuring swashbuckling adventurer Tyler Locke.

Kick ass, Boyd Morrison! I hope your experience in traditional publishing is better than mine was, and I hope you'll keep your fellow authors informed about your experience.

Author Michael Stackpole: "I don't worry about pirates."

Bestselling novelist Michael Stackpole says he's making great money
selling fiction directly off his site; he doesn't worry about pirates,
"People downloading my stories from the big torrent sites were never
going to buy them anyway. It's no money out of my pocket."

I have a similar philosophy, and I consider myself tremendously lucky to have the kind of relationship with my customers that I do.

Sunken Treasure has gotten some incredible reviews at Lulu:

I hadn't read any of Wil's books, and "Sunken Treasure" seemed like a
good place to sample his writing. My favorite chapters were those about
his childhood – the bad Star Wars trade, the arcade games, auditions.
There's something about the way he captures the true sense of those
times and weaves in pop cultural references so naturally. In those
chapters, I forgot I was reading and was totally drawn into the
storytelling. It felt like being there. I also liked the chapter which
was an on-set diary about a recent acting job – a very open and
engaging account of how it happens and what it's like.

Wil's writing is very honest, clever, vulnerable, raw, and
unprocessed. He's not afraid to show his doubts or fears, and he's not
embarrassed to share his highs. It makes him very real and very
likeable. After reading this sampler, I wanted to know more about him.

Finally, I simply appreciate the fact that this is an independently
published work. I think a lot of people shy away from self-published
books because they're concerned about unchecked quality. The writing
here is terrific and there is a feel of integrity and control in
presenting it.

So…yeah, that's pretty awesome. I love it that so many readers enjoy
Sunken Treasure, and the biggest complaint is that it leaves people
wanting to read more (kind of the idea, but don't tell anyone I said
that, okay?)

This morning, Twitter user @KenMcConnell said: "Wil (@wilw) Wheaton's Sunken Treasure used on Scribd page for ad copy. Cool for him! http://bit.ly/19Y18W" I grabbed a screenshot, because it's one of those things I kind of want to remember when I'm in the adult diapers stage of my life. If I haven't kicked the everlivingshit out of this dead horse, allow me to take a few more whacks (slow, then fast): publishing with Lulu has been a fantastic experience for me. It's easy, the quality of the final product is fantastic, and it frees me up to do the creative stuff I couldn't do when I was fulfilling orders in my living room with the occasional help from my friends and family. If you're considering publishing, I suggest you give Lulu serious consideration.

When I was in Portland, working on Leverage, I spent all of my non-acting time writing stories. When I wasn't writing, I hung out with John Rogers and talked about writing stories. I'm not sure if I grew a level, but definitely gained a whole lot of XP: I wrote a short story that I love (to be released in the near future after I give it a second draft and Andrew applies the Red Pen of Doom) and began work on another that shows at least some promise.

Ryan just wandered out of his room and sat down next to me on the couch with his laptop.

"Dude, you have to see this!" He said, pointing to something on the screen.

"Who is this is?" I said, glancing up from my own laptop.

"Check it out!" He clicked the mouse and flipped the screen toward me. This is what he showed me.

"Dude…" I shook my head.

He giggled. "I totally got you."

"You totally did."

It's really great to have him home.

time to write

Working on Leverage inspired and stirred up all those weird things in my brain that make me an artist. In an effort to maintain the creative momentum I experienced while working on the show, I went directly from wrapping my episode to working on this series of short stories I’ve wanted to write for a long time, but for one reason or another never developed past the beat sheet.

I have a routine that goes something like this: I get up between 8 and 9, grab some coffee, and read some news. About 40 minutes later, I eat breakfast, and then I start writing for anywhere between 4 and 5 hours, usually until hunger drives me away from my desk.

The thing is, it’s not non-stop writing for all that time. There’s a lot of thinking, a lot of wandering around (mentally and physically) and more than a little bit of goofing off online while I try to stay out of my brain’s way long enough for it to cough up the ideas. It’s easy to feel like I’m not really working, and I’m sure it would appear that way to the average observer.

In today’s Los Angeles Times, writer J. Robert Lennon wrote an amusing and very truthful column about exactly what it is we do when we’re writing.

Ask a writer what she values most in her creative life, and she is likely to respond, “Time to write.” Not many of us have the luxury of writing full- time; we have spouses, families, day jobs. To the people closest to the writer, “writing time” may seem like so much self-indulgence: Why should we get to sit around thinking all day? Normal people don’t require hour after continuous hour of solitude and silence. Normal people can be flexible.

And yet, we writers tell our friends and children, there is nothing more sacrosanct, more vital to our intellectual and emotional well-being, than writing time. But we writers have a secret.

We don’t spend much time writing.

There. It’s out. Writers, by and large, do not do a great deal of writing. We may devote a large number of hours per day to writing, yes, but very little of that time is spent typing the words of a poem, essay or story into a computer or scribbling them onto a piece of paper.

Maybe it’s a little too “inside baseball,” to be as funny to normal people as it is to me, but I totally relate to everything he says. In fact, I need extra time to write, so I’m taking June and July off from my columns to write fiction, and get Memories of the Future and the Subterranean Press edition of Happiest Days out the door (Happiest has been held up by me; I had a technology problem that seriously cockblocked me on my edit, and then I couldn’t find some important stuff to go in the book, but finally found it about two weeks ago. Those of you who pre-ordered and are tired of waiting shouldn’t direct your hate-lasers at Subterranean, and should instead focus them on me.)

Lennon eventually says:

The truth, of course, is that writers are always working. When you ask a writer a direct question, and he smiles and nods and then says “Well!” and turns and walks away without saying goodbye, he is actually working.

If a writer is giving you a ride to the bus station and pulls up in front of the supermarket and turns to you and says, “Enjoy your trip!,” she is actually working.

I have to apologize to Anne all the time, because while we may be in the same location, physically, my mind is frequently off in some other place, its hands filled with soft mental clay that it hopes to shape into something recognizable. There’s a line in Stand By Me where Gordie’s son tells his friend that his dad gets weird when he’s writing. I’ve heard my own kids say that, and if I can confess something real quick … it always makes me happy to hear that.

While I worked on Leverage, I had a beer with John Rogers almost every night after wrap. We talked about all kinds of stuff, from D&D to comics to our wives to working in the entertainment industry. At least once a night, John would point out how lucky we are to have jobs where we get paid to make stuff up and entertain people. I couldn’t agree with him more.

LEVERAGE: day four

Woke up early yesterday and wrote for about an hour. Met Rogers and walked to a fantastic place for breakfast (forget the name of the place, but President Clinton ate there once and they have something named after him on the menu.) Had a delicious tofu scramble thing, and the most sensational French press coffee I've had since I got here.

Took Rogers to Powell's, because, he said, if we didn't go right then, he probably wouldn't make it there on his own. I couldn't let that happen, for obvious reasons. While we were there, I got a couple of the Fighting Fantasy books I loved so much when I was a kid: The Citadel of Chaos and Seas of Blood. Citadel of Chaos even has little kid writing on the character sheet inside.

"This could have been me," I said to John.

"I would have copied it onto an index card and written all the stats there, to keep the book pristine," he said. I remembered that I'd done exactly that with one of my Lone Wolf books, so I could keep the character more portable.

While we were talking, I had a little bit of a realization:

"I just realized why these books and these games are so important to me," I said, pointing to all the D&D books that surrounded us.

"During a childhood that was completely abnormal, filled with things that I didn't choose for myself, these games were something I chose to read and play. These games were part of my normal."

"Oh, so you were like everyone else who played D&D when they were a kid," John said.

I smiled. "I guess so, yeah."

We bought some books, looked like creeps when I wanted to walk into the kids' section to see if they had any classic Choose Your Own Adventure books (John, a little too-loudly: Why do you always want to go into the kids' section? You're a 36 year-old man! Me, much too-loudly: Because it's a great place to meet new people!) Sadly, they did not.

We walked back through Portland, and got to our hotel about fifteen minutes before a massive rainstorm showed up. I wrote for the next few hours (it always amazes me how much writing I get done when I'm on my own, away from home. I don't think about it too much, though, because I don't want to mess with whatever makes it work) before I met up with my sister, who I haven't seen since she moved here a year ago.

We spent the afternoon together dodging the rain (I sent this to Twitter: "Me: Okay, looks like the rain's let up. Guess I can go outside. The Rain: He's outside again! Resume downpour! AHAHAHAHA!!!!") and catching up. It was awesome, and totally the best part of an already-fantastic day.

I took her to the set to meet some of the cast and crew, and then I went on a local television show called The Square, which was a lot of fun. If you visit their site, you can watch me do my thing and see for yourself.

Then I went back to the hotel, finished reading SHATNERQUAKE (review forthcoming), enjoyed a lot of awesome Star Trek puns from followers on Twitter (UHURACANE, SULUNAMI, SPOCKALYPSE, TSUNIMOY, and DEFORESTFIRE among them search "@wilw" from last night if you want to see them all), and went to sleep happy; I really love being here.

LA Daily: A Gamer’s Arcade Memories

This Week's LA Daily was knocked out of my brain by 8 bits of sound this weekend:

My son is home from college, visiting briefly before he goes back
for his summer session, so I've been making a concerted effort to cram
as much writing as I can into limited working hours each day, so my
evenings are free to spend with him and the rest of our family. This
weekend, my wife and I took him out to dinner, where I found myself in
front of a Centipede arcade machine, drawn there by the unmistakable
sound of the player earning an extra guy.

Something caught in the mental driftnet, and I began to reel it in.
"I have to play this," I said, doing my best not to be as manic as
Richard Dreyfuss behind a pile of mashed potatoes.

They looked at each other, warily. "Okay…" my wife said.

I dropped a quarter into the slot, felt the trackball fit
comfortably beneath my right hand, and began to play. By the time the
first flea dropped, I'd retrieved a childhood memory from the early
'80s.

You can read the whole thing at the LA Weekly.

serve the servants

My friend Otis wrote, "I’m in one of those stupid cycles where nothing is quite interesting
enough for a blog post. I’m not getting out much for obvious reasons
and home life is fairly rote (except for the parts that aren’t)."

I sure am glad he wrote that, because I've been feeling this weird, uninspired malaise for weeks, and I haven't quite been able to identify exactly why until just now: I've been so busy finishing Memories of the Future, I haven't been getting out and doing anything that's interesting enough to warrant more than a passing mention on Twitter. Boy, am I relieved to know that it's not me, it's just my life that's boring at the moment. (Or, um, something like that. That sounded funnier in my head. Anyway, moving on…)

Otis and I are alike in a lot of ways, and often say that I'm the West Coast version of him, and he's the East Coast version of me. The obvious reasons he referred to are all related to the recent birth of his second child, and while my reasons are similar, they are also profoundly different: the child I've been caring for is a bunch of words in a manuscript, not an actual human being in a crib. It's a comparison that probably seems presumptuous and wildly inappropriate to normal people, but if you've ever done work that's creatively demanding, I think you'll be able to understand the parallel.

Speaking of creatively demanding work: Around the middle of the day on Friday, I finally finished all the major rewriting and editing on Memories of the Future, and sent it off to Andrew for judicious application of his Red Pen of Doom. I still need to write the introduction and the acknowledgments, but I think I'm going to put that off for a day or two, because I seriously need to recharge if I want that stuff to be written from a point of view that's enthusiastic and celebratory, not worn down and exhausted.

Before I save this, I wanted to share something I came across this morning that's incredibly valuable for writers. From Ken Levine's blog: What do you do when you get stuck?

This happens often as you write your script or novel. You come to a
point where you think you’ve written yourself into a corner. A plot
point requires something and you just can’t get there. Wait
a minute, he can’t swim to safety; he’s in a wheelchair. Exactly how is
she going to get to the Pope to sell him Girl Scout cookies?

This is one of the benefits of a being in a partnership – sometimes he can solve it.

But when working alone, here are four handy tips…

And now, I'm off to write this week's column for the LA Daily. I'm looking forward to that, because there's an arcade machine involved.

It’s misty and stormy, and other words that are not also stage names for strippers

Remember when you had some huge project due in middle school, and you really didn’t want to do it, so you just kept putting it off? Then, when you finally get to work on it, it’s actually more fun than you thought it would be and you wonder why you didn’t want to work on it in the first place?

Welcome to me, working on The Last Outpost. Yes, the episode is still tedious and the Ferengi are so fucking lame if they were horses we’d have to put them down, but once I decided to just relax and not worry about making the damn thing something it’s incapable of being, I found some amusing bits.

BEHOLD:

Picard asks Troi is she’s sensing anything from the Ferengi ship. That’s good, since it’s kind of her whole job and everything. She says she’s sensing nothing, so maybe they can block their thoughts and emotions. That’s bad.

Data says that we don’t know that much about the Ferengi, which is bad, but we do know a few things about them that seem to be reliable, which is good. Data says the Frogurt is also cursed.

Riker tells Data to just get on with it already, so Data says Ferengi are like Yankee traders from 18th century America. This indicates that, in the 24th century, the traditional practice of using 400 year-old comparisons is still in vogue, like when you’re stuck in traffic on the freeway, and say, “Man, this is just like Vasco de Gama trying to go around the Cape of Good Hope!”

And…

Tasha, Worf, Geordi, Data, and Riker all head to the transporter room, where the writers try to make us believe they’ll be in real danger on the planet, but we know it’s pretty safe when they beam down, unaccompanied by even a single Red Shirt.

The planet looks really cool, and it’s one of the first times we can see the difference in budgets and technologies available to the original series and the Next Generation. It’s misty and stormy, and other words that are not also stage names for strippers. We discover that energy in the atmosphere has messed up the transporter’s coordinates, and Riker’s been beamed down alone. He quickly finds Data, who again uses the word “intriguing” to describe things. He keeps using that word. I do not think it means what he thinks it means.

Riker and Data scout around, and find Geordi suspended upside down when – oh! here come the Ferengi! Holy shit! The evil Ferengi! They’re finally here, in person! We can see more than just their moderately scary faces, and they are…uh…short. And bouncy. And they wave their hands over their heads a lot. And they don’t like loud noises. And they carry whips…and wear Ugg boots. Um. Wow. How…intriguing.

Oh, and one more bit, which – I’m not going to lie to you, Marge – was the part I had the most fun writing, for reasons which will reveal themselves momentarily:

Back on the Enterprise, we discover that, like the script, things have gone from bad to worse. The lights are out, the ship’s heating is nearly gone, and Picard has had the remaining power rerouted to the family decks, where he asks Doctor Crusher how Wesley is doing.

Now, listen, fan fiction writers: It’s not because Picard is actually Wesley’s father, as many of you will argue on Usenet over the coming seven years; it’s because Picard knows that Wesley could totally figure a way out of this, and he’s right. Off the top of my head, I can suggest that Wesley would generate some sort of Enterprise-enveloping control field with one of his science projects, using an electro plasma system energy converter, to reverse the polarity of the Navigational Deflector to emit an inverse tachyon pulse through a subspace beacon, while rerouting the power from the impulse engines through the Okuda conduits to the forward sensor array’s antimatter pod, using the auxiliary fusion generator to turn the power back on and save the day.

Sadly, we learn that Dr. Crusher left Wesley in their quarters to stare death in the face alone, without even the benefit of a sedative. Picard reassures her that leaving Wesley alone and fully conscious was great parenting, because he has the right to “meet death awake.” Legions of Trekkies agree, then curse Picard for getting their hopes up.

It truly is one of the most tedious episodes of the first season, but I realized while working on the rewrite that I’d somehow managed to spread some funny bits fairly evenly throughout the synopsis, so even though it’s not slap-your-knee funny, it’s not boring, which was my primary concern.

I don’t include many bits that aren’t in the synopsis, so here’s part The Bottom Line:

TNG’s struggle to find its way continues with this episode. Obviously, it fails spectacularly with its introduction of the Ferengi, who were intended to replace the Klingons as a terrifying and worthy adversary to the Federation, but were a total joke until Armin Shimmerman brought Quark to life on DS9, and repaired much – but not all – of the damage.

However, If you take away how outrageously lame the Ferengi are, this episode has some cool elements to it. The planet looks great, and the effects that lead to the revealing of the Portal, its point of view about itself, and its interaction with Riker are straight out of classic Star Trek. In fact, the entire story of the titular last outpost would have been a very strong one, had the Ferengi not been so weak and laughable. Imagine, for example, the relationship between Kirk and the Romulan Commander in Balance of Terror, and put them into this situation, where they are forced to cooperate.

See? It’s not all jokes and snark. I manage to sneak some semi- thoughtful stuff in there between the facepalms.

When I send this to Andrew, I’m done with the bulk of the work on this book. All that’s left is transcribing some interviews I did with friends from the show so I can include a few of their thoughts (I’m not saying who I talked to, nyahh nyahh) and then I have to put everything together in one big tile and read it all, looking for jokes or phrases that I repeated and areas in the behind the scenes stuff where I can add additional material.

Yep, this is dangerously close to being finished.