Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Ignoring the Prime Directive

As as huge Star Trek fan growing up, the idea of the Federation of Planets issuing a "prime directive" fascinated me. For those of you who are not sci-fi geeks, and who don't really want to read Wikipedia's long and detailed description, the prime directive is a philosophy for space explorer conduct that states that advanced beings from advanced societies are not supposed to interfere in the lives of less advanced beings on their home planets. The purpose was to ensure that the less advanced beings retained the freedom to learn their own painful life lessons about the consequences of continuous bad actions towards each other, such as slavery, war, and killing each other for material gain. Now the definition of "advanced beings" wasn't just that they had developed the technological capacity to destroy others and themselves, but rather that in their enlightened state they would willfully choose not to do so if faced with the choice.

During those Star Trek watching years I spent hours and hours in front of the television, and while I watched the crew of the Enterprise wrestle with their consciences and the prime directive, the US was still in the Cold War with Russia. Growing up, I was always hearing about red phones to be used for ordering global annihilation and red buttons to be pushed to launch nuclear weapons. Such threats permeated the news and seeped their way into fictional stories as well. So as a ten year old, where do you think on the scale of advanced, enlightened beings I concluded my own civilization on Earth was a whole? Let's just say, I was secretly hoping that if there was a Starship Enterprise watching over Earth that some gutsy, irreverent Captain would have ignored the prime directive to help my planet if we started down a destructive path that would result in our complete demise.

I know I felt like that then because I still feel that way.

My editor is a Firefly fan and got me started watching the series. In fact, watching the 2 hour "Serenity" pilot episode was one of the first things I did on my Kindle Fire. My fiancee and I have watched Star Wars probably a gazillion times. Also, the recent Star Trek redo movie that showed the back story of the crew was very well done and I paid movie theater prices to see it on the big screen. The thing about stories like this that draws you in--and all well-done science fiction does--is that they make you think about what would happen if the terrible circumstances came true.

It makes sense to me that I had no problem at all creating my own spaceship and crew when I started the FORCED TO SERVE series. Then after I created them, I fell in love with every flawed character who tries to overcome and do the right thing and/or tries to become the enlightened, advanced beings they appear to be.

I have grandchildren who will one day tell people they were born during the Iraq War. Fast forward their lives. How many more are in their future? I don't know and don't want to contemplate. But I want them to be able to say that their crazy, sci-fi geek grandmother wrote paranormal/space opera stories and played with the idea of what it meant to be an advanced thinking human. They will say that she hated war and didn't understand it. They will say that she never stopped believing that becoming more technologically and spiritually advanced would one day negate the urge that sets one Earth human being against another in deadly conflict.

I chose to have many different planetary beings in my story and only one Earth human--so far. My "Earthling", the emotional first mate on the ship, is Commander Gwen Jet. She is both the hero's and heroine's sidekick in Books One and Two, and the heroine herself in Book Three which will be out this summer. Gwen has in her character some of the best and worst of what I see in those humans whose warrior natures rule them. But my other-planet characters are no less flawed in their own ways. No matter how Mr. Spock-wise or Buddha-spiritual I make those other planetary beings for the sake of trying to show what "advanced" looks and acts like, they all still wrestle with their own personal prime directives. Just like we all do.

With at least half a century behind me, perhaps I've seen as much human progression as I'm going to see in my lifetime, but in this paranormal/sci-fi series I am shooting for hopeful Roddenberry or playful Lucas-esque happy endings. And because love stories are what I most love to write, it's been fun to let my other-world characters be partially redeemed with otherworldly romances.

I tell myself that writing the fight scenes and rescue missions are just a perk of stretching slightly beyond my norm. You don't really need to know how much fun I'm having taking even this short walk on the dark side of characters.

Here's a TED talk I found from a fellow sci-fi creative whose childhood curiosity led him to what he did later in life. He's only four years old than me. I'm guessing we watched the same shows on TV as children. While I'm certainly not in his production league, maybe I'm touching the hem of his robe just a little. Maybe.

Truthfully, it was just very interesting to hear the back story about the origin of this very famous sci-fi geek's creative urges. Listening to his story inspires the sci-fi geek in me to keep writing. It also makes me appreciative of taking my turn to write about space travel and alien worlds.

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