Thursday, March 1, 2012

How hard is it to drive a star ship?

At the heart of it my next writing project is going to be a Trek inspired novel.  Plain and simple, I fully intend to introduce to people an epic space fiction closer to Star Trek than Star Wars.  However, I also want to personalize as much of the story as I can, as well as the world in which it takes place.  I could, quite easily, steal the command structure that has become part of the common geek lexicon of Starfleet.  Operations, Security, Science, and Command divisions, each with their own department heads and so on.  And of course when you get to the top of the command chain, regardless of why or how you got in, you are considered a Command officer and put on the red shirt.

So I turned to the old British navy for inspiration.  You have a ship's commander who was a captain if it was a ship of the line, or a commander for a smaller vessel.  He commanded a group of lieutenants, all of whom were training to become captains.  Then there were the various ship's posts such as Master, Boatswain, Gunner, Cook.  They then had men reporting to them. and so on and so down the chain of command.

But what struck me as I started to work on organizational trees was simply how streamlined Starfleet is in comparison.  Everyone has room to advance, for one, from Ensign right up to Commander and never have to actually take command of a ship.  Likewise, there are only a handful of clear departments and heads and "Bridge Officers" to worry about.  Working on my new command structure, I found that I had was creating departments faster than I could fill the posts.  Some questions I found myself pondering:

  • Is shield emitter control the role of the ship's Carpenter/ Engineering or the role of the ship's Gunner?
  • Where does the Cook fall?  Should he report to the first officer or to the ship's Master?  Is Cook a "Bridge Officer" position?
  • What about Sciences?  Do my ships in this world have Science Officers?  Or do they have civilian scientists who sign on as consultants and advisers?  Is the term "Ship's Chemist" too antiquated to be the general term?
  • How do I take my main character and throw her, in a few moments, from a junior officer into the role of commanding officer as my plot requires?
    • Follow up:  How does my main character go from her unique background to being positioned for that catapult in carreer?

At the moment I have become heavily challenged by the fact that I know what I want my plot to do and I want to leave myself room in my world design to actually see that plot through.  I want, terribly, to avoid the situation where I write myself into a corner and then sit staring at the monitor saying to myself, "Wait, I didn't write the world to let that happen...."

And finally I need to be certain that my audience, that is you, dear readers, find a richness in the depth without the need to make your own organizational diagrams to keep track of which Ensign reports to which Lieutenant and who is filling multiple roles within that setup.

Also I need to settle on Lieutenant vs Leftennant...

1 comment:

  1. Your post reminds me of that film Starship Troopers which had teenagers filling posts of responsibility soon after joining the military. I wish the script writers had given as much thought to the need for experience as you have.