Each month, we interview a captain or first officer of the fleet to gain more insight on what it takes to command a ship and learn more about how each of these staff members found their way into these roles. Last month, we interviewed FO of the Constitution, T’Mar.
This month we’re interviewing FltCapt. Zalea Solzano – Tony – who just launched a very unique new ship, the USS Za. Let’s get started!
WOLF: FltCapt. Solzano, congratulations on your recent ship launch! How does it feel to be back in the command seat?
SOLZANO: It’s exciting, definitely! We’re doing a bunch of things with the Za that we’ve never done before. Of course, the Chariot class is a new design for the fleet, but what simming ultimately comes down to is the simmers themselves–if you have a good group of people, you might well have them flying around in a giant shoe, since it’s really the community feeling that matters. We have a couple of simming firsts for the Za, too: In recent years, the Za is the first ship launched specifically to leave Federation space as a deep-space explorer, and a lot of the Za’s new simmers have been (rightfully!) excited about that. We also launched with a relatively inexperienced crew: Of our launch group of 14, 4 were ensigns straight from the Academy and 3 others were ensigns from other ships in the fleet. It’s been enjoyable for everyone to find their feet, I think!
Before launching Za you had stepped away from command for a while. What were your motivations for stepping away from command, and what got you excited to get back into it?
During my time as a CO with SB118, I’ve mentored four officers through to the rank of commander and two to the rank of captain. That mentoring has been really fun for me, and that’s one of the biggest reasons I wanted to get back into a CO spot. Both IC and OOC, I really enjoy seeing the development of a ship’s command staff and seeing those folks rise through the ranks and, hopefully, command their own ships in turn. Then, too, it’s just fun for me to pull a ship together and watch a group of writers cohere into a community of simmers!
The USS Za is a design the likes of which we’ve never seen before! Where’d you find this ship and what compelled you to choose it as your next command?
You should see the file of bizarre ship designs I have squirreled away….
I definitely like the more unusual designs. Star Trek continues to have a really active fan community, and a lot of those fans (including some that we have here!) are wizards when it comes to image creation and manipulation. See, I have a whole lot of fan ship designs saved, but I rely a lot on what the talented graphics artists of the web have managed to create over the years. In this case, I liked the design of the Za and I was pleasantly surprised by how many fans had also liked it and by how many high-quality images of the ship there were.
Both the Za and the previous ship I created, the Invicta, were designed and created by fans. We’ve seen some other noncanon designs in the fleet recently, too, from Star Trek Online, but–I’ll be honest, I’m not super thrilled with a lot of STO designs. Some of them, like the Oracle class, are a nice development–and others, like the Horizon, are new interpretations of what was a cool concept (the Olympic) in the first place. But I’ve been disappointed by a lot of STO ships, which I don’t think take a lot of risks and embrace the “what next?” of starship design in the same way that, say, the Miranda-class Reliant did in Star Trek II, or the Defiant did as DS9’s principal starship. So I really appreciate the fan creations I’ve been lucky enough to find and use, because I think they take the design risks I’m looking for!
Tell us more about your plan for the Za over the next year in terms of plot direction.
The Za is headed for the edge of known space. Over the next year, we’ll be heading from the furthest reaches of the Federation toward the galactic south. We’re looking to hit the very edge of the galaxy — “where the stars end” is our ultimate goal. Along the way, we’ll seek out a lot of new worlds and civilizations, but we’ll encounter some old faces, too, for a good balance of old and new. For example, our first mission has already introduced Bron, captain of the Klingon Bird-of-Prey Krorgh, who believes that the Za represents a mission of colonization and expansion for the Federation and doesn’t like their presence very much. Bron and his crew will recur as sometimes-antagonists, sometimes-allies for the Za, and we intend to include other familiar species in concepts at the same time we invent new ones.
Zalea Solzano is a new character for you. What’s she like?
I’ve explored a lot of different duty posts and areas of service with my previous characters. Aron Kells was primarily a scientist. Cassie Egan Manno was an engineer and, later, an administrator, before moving up into command. Lily Ventu was a counselor and a diplomat, and the latter is what most folks would recognize her as today. With Zalea, however, I wanted to do something entirely different, and so I gave her the background of a medical doctor. Not only that, but she explores a couple of other ideas that I haven’t gotten to with my other characters: First, she’s a dedicated family woman, with children now in their 20s, one of whom has joined Starfleet herself. I wanted to explore that angle because we tend to see a lot of single folks on the canon Treks, yet some of the most poignant moments for me (like Ben and Jake Siskos’ relationship) were family moments.
Besides the fact that she’s moved around a lot, though, I don’t know much more about Zalea. My personal preference is not to know a whole lot about a character when I go in, because it’s much more fun to learn on the way. For example, I decided when I created her that Zalea would refer to all of her officers by their surnames only–no ranks, no titles. But why does she do that? What in her past led to to making that part of her command identity? I don’t know, but I’m interested to find out!
Talk to us about your writing style. What’s your process for putting together a sim?
One of the things I really like about being a captain is wrangling the plot together. I don’t mean that in terms of pushing it forward (though I’m not afraid to do so when I need to!), but rather of collating it and making sure it makes sense for others. One of the things I really like to do is keep my CO character in one location (usually, and naturally, the bridge) and coordinate things from there: Ask for and receive reports, issue new orders, serve as a point of contact for returning away teams, and so forth. Therefore, my process for putting together a sim requires a lot of sifting through everything that’s been simmed to best come up with a response that incorporates everything that’s going on at any given time. Put another way, I don’t just respond to tags, I try and respond to all large plot developments and help to keep everything on track for everyone, as much as I can!
That’s only for my CO, though. For PNPCs or MSNPCs, all bets are off. With those, I try and keep everyone on their toes. In my last mission on Invicta, I played a benevolent planetary leader whose master plan was to activate dormant telepathic abilities in her entire species. That plan certainly kept the crew on their toes!
You’ve been a member of the Executive Council since 2014 when you became the Captain at Large. What’s it been like for you working on the EC? What would the members be interested in knowing about how the EC operates?
I view the EC, and my role on it, similarly to how I view myself as a CO, at least in terms of how I put sims together: We’re a large fleet of many simming installations, and it’s the EC’s job to think about and act in the best interests of the fleet. Sometimes that means expanding the fleet, which I’m very happy to say was able to happen with the Za. At other times, unfortunately, it means contracting with a ship’s decommissioning. As someone who’s been through more than a couple decommissionings during my time with the fleet, I can tell you that it’s very last thing I like to see as I’ve been in the awkward place of establishing new ties on another ship. But it’s important to keep in mind that the EC does it very best to come up with alternatives in all situations and act only in what we’ve deemed to be the best interests of the whole fleet.
I’ve worked with many different folks on the EC, and it’s been a real pleasure to watch some of the changes–at the same time it’s been a real shame to see others leave the discussions. Jay, aka Rear Admiral Jaxx, was one of my mentors and I thought very highly of him, and so it was very disappointing to see him go. On the other hand, I was more than happy to join the EC with you, Jordan (Fleet Admiral Wolf), and Ann (Rear Admiral Turner) and, later, to vote to include Emma and James (Fleet Captains Reynolds and Renos) as full members, as I’ve respected all of them for a long time.
One final EC thought: Please, don’t see us as scary or intimidating, because I promise we’re not! While I don’t want to speak for anyone else, I volunteer myself as approachable by anyone (on the forums, by email, however you like!) and I want to be available if anyone ever needs anything.
Thanks so much for your time!
You can read more about FltCapt. Solzano on the wiki.