MARK: Hi, Jamie! It’s kind of cool for me to interview you because it was your article on metagaming that landed me here at Starbase 118. So my character and I thank you!
JAMIE: Awesome, you are most welcome! It’s great to be here, and I’m really glad to hear that!
Congrats on starting your Captaincy Exam. I was hoping we could backtrack a little to explore how you got here. You took a pretty big step as a player back around November 2015 when your character was promoted to Commander. Commanders, OOC, are the first level of “staff” here. What has that been like for you, these past four months?
I have really enjoyed taking command of StarBase 118 Ops! I have a wonderful crew and a great staff. Everyone was so supportive of the change and we gained some fantastic writers along the way in the past few months. I could not be happier with the team we have on Ops!
If you’ll let me go back a little further still, I’m curious about your transition from writing for a starship to writing for a starbase. What was the transition like for you?
I started simming on StarBase 118 Ops back in December of 2014, when I was offered the Executive officer position under then-Commander Leo Handley Page. I love writing on a starbase! Deep Space Nine is my favorite Trek series, so when I first graduated from the Academy, I had requested placement on a starbase and was sad that I was placed on a ship. I was extremely excited to be transitioned to the base when it reopened! It gives me a chance to really focus on long term character driven storylines and developing serial plots.
So you’re simming on the starbase for about a year as First Officer, when StarBase 118 Ops is handed over to you. You’re in command and in your Captaincy Exam. That’s big! Tell me about that.
I’m the sort of player who loves a challenge, so the road to captaincy has been thrilling. I absolutely love being the ‘storyteller’ and I was extremely excited when I was first offered the ExO position on Ops. Being able to move to command with a great crew and a year of story building was a privilege and I’m really happy where I am both in and out of character in the game.
It seems to me like this is primarily an OOC experience, for you as a player, but it really parallels an IC experience for your character—no? Like the Academy exam for new players, it’s interesting to me how logistics outside of the fictional narrative are answered with IC parallels.
It is an interesting process! I have to say that Jamie-the-player is far more experienced with simming and staffing RPGs than Sal-the-character is with command. I started simming in 1997, and carried on Storytelling on several RPG chats for nearly 15 years. There are still some surprises for me because this is the first time I have gotten a command rank in this game, but it’s been more fun writing Sal’s journey from an authorial point of view. He’s the more tender-and-seeking soul, out in a big crazy galaxy, while I get to be the somewhat evil puppetmaster constantly throwing things in his path for him and his crew to overcome!
Normally a captain-to-be is given a ship to command. Do you feel like your Captaincy Exam will be different, having an entire starbase as your “training ground”? Instead of a possibly more intimate ship?
It is certainly different because there is a stability to a starbase that a ship does not have, while there is a mobility to a ship which a starbase does not have. In planning starbase missions you really have to consider ‘what things go on with a space station?’ More things will ‘come to you’ and you can host more impressive events because the starbase has all the resources right there. On the other hand it’s much more difficult to just ‘go out and explore’ and find something interesting.
It takes some mental gymnastics to ‘shift gears’ and think about staying put and what sorts of things will come to you. You have to scale the action to manageable chunks, and decide what to focus upon and what to just narrate as part of the plot that goes on behind the scenes. I find I have been rewatching more and more episodes of Deep Space Nine to get inspiration for new plotlines as we move forward.
Tell me more about your character, Sal Taybrim. Taybrim began as a counselor. A Betazoid counselor, actually. Surely you had the shadow of TNG’s Deanna Troi to contend with, how your character might be similar or different. One distinction is Sal originally trained in Science.
I did take inspiration from Deanna Troi when I originally created the character! I had the idea of a very personable, warm character who was very friendly and liked to talk a lot. But I also wanted to play a character who was much older than the usual academy graduate, so I started to work up a backstory that took into account a former civilian career that bridged to a Starfleet career. Funny enough, Sal landed quickly back into science because at the time the fleet had too many counselors and not enough science officers. Though my favorite department for Sal (beyond command) was the few short months he was a chief diplomatic officer. It was the perfect blend of politics and counseling that I really enjoy writing about.
Notably, as a female player, you decided to make your Betazoid counselor male. And I also notice your resigned secondary character, Shar’wyn Foster, the “Tribble Whisperer”, was also male.
Quite true! I do a lot of tabletop roleplaying where I play female characters almost all of the time. I find that when I’m playing with other players face-to-face, most tend to see my character as they see me. Because they see and hear a female player, they always assume a female character is behind that portrayal, so I find it much easier to fulfill those expectations in tabletop roleplaying. But as a writer, I love telling stories about both female and male characters; and on the internet people can’t see your face when you’re writing, they just take you by the words you put down on the page. So I get to play all my male characters online, and my female characters in real life!
Sal won the November Featured Bio contest in 2014 so your writing enthusiasm paid off. You’ve also contributed quite a number of News and Forum articles. I’m guessing a love of writing must be fueling your interest and stamina? And a love of Star Trek, of course.
Like so many other writers on StarBase 118, I want to write a novel someday, and so I continually write to sharpen and hone my skills. For me, that day will probably be when I retire from my current job—so I have a lot of years to keep practicing! Writing is one of my primary pastimes in ‘real life’ along with running, cooking, reading and knitting—I guess I really like quiet pastimes!
“Curiously enough Sal has never had a romantic relationship, despite constantly seeking social interaction. Hmm…”
What does that “hmm” mean? Are you wondering, as much as me, why this is the case for Sal? A few months ago in a character development thread in the forums, you wrote:
“I think Sal wants a partner / soulmate – but Sal’s not even sure who or what that wants to be.”
Playing Sal for two years, I kind of imagine you as the writer feeling as frustrated as Sal must!
Actually, no! I am the sort of person who loves the chase as much if not more than the final romantic pairing. I like the interplay of tension and the slow, realistic build of of two people getting to know one another before they take the plunge into a committed relationship. I also adore writing deep friendships, so romance is sort of a side benefit for me in a story! That, and I find that romantic relationships can turn sour if players develop them too fast—jumping in before you really know the other character and writer can lead to disaster!
Sal’s bio describes his friendship with Chythar Skyfire as close and brotherly. And Sal is listed as “chosen family” on Chythar’s bio. The relationship looks deeply intimate—the two met with Sal as Chythar’s counselor, and became closer when Chythar telepathically connected to Sal’s damaged Betazoid psyche. But again, no romance.
We had bantered a few ideas back and forth, but the real reason nothing blossomed was the simple mechanics of ship movement! Sal went to the Darwin for a short time, and then Skyfire transferred to the Invicta (then the Garuda). It’s really hard to write a deep relationship across ships so the development of what was going on stalled a bit. It did give me a lot of time to think about Sal’s background and how he feels about family and romance—something that I keep working on and developing my ideas for what I would like to see eventually happen. But overall I like to keep my options flexible because you never know what changes the storyline will bring.
You started writing for Starbase 118 in October 2013, you’re coming up on three years. You’ve played a number of duty posts, on a number of ships, and you’ve taken on increasing challenges and responsibilities both IC and OOC. We all wish you godspeed on your Captaincy Exam, and to close, how about you tell me what stands out to you looking back over these 3 years.
I think, after all the ups and downs, bad stories and good ones what stands out the most is that the progress to a great tale is a journey in and of itself. My memories are built on little snapshots of the high points. A quote here and a scene there stick out in my mind and sometimes I chuckle that my character who is a warm, genteel commander was once a snappish, argumentative little ensign. It’s the changes that are most intriguing, and overall the most fun after all the years!