Writing Hope – Origins
In the beginning …
I guess I had best start with the beginning. It has something of a circuitous route before I’ve gotten to the point of writing Star Station Hope: Watchtower. Yet not so much in many ways.
For a while now I have had the inkling to write a story or a series of stories based on/about a space station. I guess the obvious appeal was to write something with a grand setting that would also allow for a lot of revisiting of deeper tales and character exploration. Rather grandly I suppose I was thinking of something like DS9 meets Babylon 5.
>insert< PIC OF DS9/B5 meet/CLASH
But don’t worry, I know my limitations – I’m not about to reproduce anything like them!
The two already share a lot of similarities yet I wanted to explore some of the common ground and bridge some of where they didn’t quite match up. What I envisioned was the sometimes diplomatic/ambassadorial aspect that featured in B5 to apply in a Trek setting which we never quite saw in DS9. This naturally was because it originally was a backwater place the role that the ambassadors of B5 never quite cropped up. My scheme was to write about a place where diplomacy, negotiations and spats were going to be an everyday part of life.
The story of DS9 originally was that of a Bajor trying to recover from the Cardassian Occupation. There were lots of everyday conflicts and trust building problems between the Bajorans and Starfleet and then with the Cardassians. In Babylon 5 the tensions and disputes were from the very outset much more galactic and of course it soon would come to the case in DS9 too. My idea was to explore a post DS9 even post Nemesis Trek, fixating on a locale that would play a pivotal role in developing galactic problems, mirroring the arcs of both Deep Space Nine and Babylon 5.
I wanted a large cast like both series had, with main characters and lots of minor/recurring characters. I also wanted to be able to explore some of the lesser seen sides of Trek and so basing the setting on a station would allow me to explore various civilians and characters from enemy/ally parties.
The setting to fit within the Trek universe had to be a station that was going to large but not as ridiculously large as the Spacedock Shroom. And so, I opted for the Regula Research Station – as seen here: Tobias Richter’s Regula Research Station video. We saw this type of station scaled upwards in TNG and DS9 and it clicked with me as the setting for my story. The fact it had appeared alongside my beloved Miranda class in TWoK of course was an added bonus. 🙂
The Universe of the Eleventh Fleet – A Little Background
Those of you who follow some of my writing will know that I’m involved in a shared universe writing project – Tales of the Eleventh Fleet.
The setting for this universe is post DS9. In the wake of the Dominion War, the Alpha Quadrant is a place of uneasy peace, mistrustful allies, bitter resentments, recriminations, devastated worlds, displaced thousands and dangerous situations. The Federation of course, is trying to act for the best interests of all as it sees it, extending a helping hand to the Cardassians and keeping a wary eye on the Breen and their own allies – the Klingons and the Romulans. Pretty much an explosive cocktail with a lot of story potential and as I would come to realise quite a fertile setting in which to build my story of Hope Station: Watchtower.
When I began writing in this universe my sole intention had been to write for a civilian cargo freighter crew – a sort of Star Wars / Firefly meets Trek vibe I suppose (with the caveat that that I had hardly seen any of the Star Wars movies and none of Firefly). The result was ‘The Adventures of the Rhapsody Rabbit Gavilán’.
Then another bubbling idea at the back of my head seemed to fit with the universe in which the RRG was set. It too was to be a civilian ship of sorts, a bounty hunter of sorts with her rabble of a crew, almost A-Team like.
It seemed fitting to match the law holder bounty hunter against the loose lip service rule breaker of Tabatha Chase. And so was born the Étoile Cheval. This time, I stepped outside of the franchise again in search of a suitable civilian ship and this time headed into Firefly territory and selected the Serenity for the basis of the ship.
But the political dynamics and timeframe of the setting had me itching to explore the universe through a more norm referenced criteria – i.e.: with a Federation ship. And so I created the ‘Aegolius Harrier’. Now the Harrier is a down on its luck ship, an ageing Excelsior class ship with a troubled crew and a new captain with a rather disturbing past.
At this stage, you noticed I started with a theme of rather long and ridiculous names. In some universes, everything is the mirror reverse of the prime, in this AU ships get christened with rather outlandish names.
You would think then, with two civvie crews and a Federation ship caught up in the very troubled schemes of the 11th Fleet you’d think I’d be content. That should have been enough to content me … but no … I had the itch to write a ship in the Border Patrol Service within this setting.
Cue the beginnings of the ideas for a ship that would come to be called ‘Cheiron’. (This time, I was a bit more restrained in the name calling.) That ship of course had to be able to get mixed up in the politics and shenanigans.
New ideas … bigger picture
However, with the concept of a Border Patrol vessel, and given that this was set in a shared universe, I had to mindful that I couldn’t step on the writing toes of others. Therefore, I had to figure out a means by which I could set Border Patrol based stories in this setting and where the crew would fit into the ensemble of character ships, particularly those of the Eleventh Fleet charged with spearheading the efforts in and around Cardassia.
The ‘get-me-off-the-hook’ measure was to create a separate entity, a separate command structure within which the ship would operate, that would allow me to tell stories in and around the Cardassian and other borders. To wit end, the ship would need a base of operations to report to, an immediate superior issuing them orders and so came to life the purpose and the reason d’être for Hope Station to be in the Eleventh Fleetverse.
Cheiron would form part of the Sixth Cutter Squadron (or the Sassy Sixth) operating out of Hope Station, known as Watchtower. Watchtower would be the hub of border patrol services in a sector close to Cardassian space and with the scope for even more borders given the three dimensional nature of space, it would allow me to throw Klingons, Tzenkthi and the Breen into the post war mix.
But more of that to come. Anyway, that’s the rough of the how abouts of how the conception of Hope Station came to be. Coming next: Writing Hope – shaping and choosing the characters.