This is part 2 of the two-part announcement of the Federation News Service launch as a semi-independent organization providing Star Trek content. For more information, see part 1.
Today, we’re talking with Roshanara Rahman – best known as Rich around the community – the First Officer of the Invicta, wiki admin extraordinaire, and the facilitator of our Federation News Service Team!
WOLF: Rich, the recent news of the launch of FNS onto its own website is incredibly exciting for UFOP: SB118 and for the simming community as a whole. Can you point us to the new site, and talk more about how it works?
RICH: Sure! The easiest way to get to the FNS’s new home is to point your browser to http://fns.news. We’ve also moved all of our FNS articles that were previously posted to the wiki onto the new site. Having the FNS on its own site allows us to build a website just like you’d see for any other news source out there, with stories divided into various categories such as arts & culture, science, politics, and more. The only difference of course is this news organization covers the 24th century!
Besides the more polished look, one of the greatest features of the new site is the “submit a news story” link right at the top. We’ve tried to make it as easy as possible for anyone to contribute to the FNS. Even if you’ve never written in a “news report” style before, the form walks you through the process, pointing out where to add your headline, the lead (that ever important first sentence to grab the reader’s attention), and the rest of your story. You can even upload your own image to go with it!
How’d you come up with the idea for the FNS originally, and when did you start the team here on UFOP: SB118?
It came from my love of worldbuilding and of course my love for the world presented in Star Trek. The Federation News Service itself is from the Star Trek canon. Jake Sisko wrote articles for the FNS during the Dominion War. Our iteration of the FNS began in September of 2014 when I set up a wiki page to answer a simple question: what else is going on in the Star Trek universe right now? Our sims are all about Starfleet ships and installations, but what else is happening out there in the Federation? Who won the latest tournament? What’s the state of Federation politics? What’s the newest holonovel to hit the holosuites?
I started with just some headlines under a few typical news categories like culture, politics, and sports. None of them went to an actual story, but it was enough that you could mention some “news” in a sim later. I shared the idea with my shipmate and friend Deliera (Tristam Core), who also began updating the page with new headlines. I felt the wiki was a good home for it to grow because I figured there would be others out there who would have a similar interest in worldbuilding. Sure enough, a few members began editing and updating the page with their own headlines. Others began referencing some of the headlines in their sims, even if it was just a throwaway line about who won the latest baseball game.
When my primary character Roshanara Rahman found herself in a major scandal involving possible sabotage and treason that led to her arrest, I thought it’d be fun to write a different kind of sim, one showing what all these events must look like to someone outside of Starfleet–people like her friends and family and just ordinary Federation citizens. I used a minor journalist character I’d created previously as the “author,” and thus, “The Face of Treason,” the first full-length article of our FNS, was published on October 3, 2014. One of my other shipmates, Cameron (Evan Delano), really enjoyed that sim, and he became the third member of the FNS.
Since we live in the age of social media (one of the rare things Star Trek didn’t predict), I set up a Twitter account for the FNS to retweet the headlines. Shortly after, I talked with you Jordan about how we could grab more attention to the monthly plot summaries of our ships (which I hadn’t even noticed for the first few years of simming). With a few simple tweaks like changing the titles to headlines and adding a quote, they became a lot more engaging to read, and I thought the FNS Twitter and forum would be a great way to showcase the ongoing plots of our fleet not only to our fellow members but to prospective members as well.
Then, at the beginning of 2015, I wrote the second full-length FNS article, this one throwing in a lot of references to the political climate and foreign affairs going around the Federation. Unlike my first FNS article which was written as a special report like a magazine piece, I deliberately wrote this second article as if it were just “any other story” from the FNS’s newswire. I love fictional works and “false documents” that give the illusion to the reader that there is a larger world out there, and I soon found I wasn’t alone.
I received a message from Erin (Anen Sonbef) who was also interested in contributing to the FNS. Once she joined, things really kicked off as we began planning long-running story arcs that would span multiple stories like the 2392 presidential election.
The news about FNS launching was part of a big event at FallFest 2015, which our community hosted. Tell us more about that launch event and the presidential debate.
As we dove into the presidential election coverage, many fun ideas began popping up. Why not campaign sites for the candidates or forum “bumper sticker” banners? And of course, how can you have an election without a debate? Erin and I talked with Jamie (Sal Taybrim), the Chat Facilitator, about hosting a special FNS event later in 2015 shortly before the election. When StarBase 118 was selected to host FallFest, James (Renos) and Jordan were curious if the debate could become part of the festivities, and the timeline worked perfectly.
That said, it was a lot of work! Unlike the US presidential election where only two parties dominate, in our election, we had five candidates each authored by five different writers: Erin, Deliera, Tony (Aron Kells), Nicholas (Ceciri), and myself. While most FNS characters like politicians, scientists, etc. are usually treated as general NPCs, having one writer serve as the “primary” writer for a candidate helped give each candidate a defined voice.
Erin began the first draft of the debate, writing out questions and basing it a bit on the Canadian prime minister debates. Each candidate’s writer then filled in their responses. Because this was going to be a live event, we decided that it’d be best to have most of the questions prescripted so people weren’t sitting for a long time just waiting for the candidates to finish typing. We did though keep audience Q and A sections after the two parts of the debate where our writers would have to think on their feet and answer whatever questions the FallFest participants threw their way. Tony, the writer behind Lily Ventu, recalled that as one of the highlights of the whole experience.
If you missed the debate, you can check out the transcript of it here!
The debate was preceded by a general announcement and overview of the FNS by Jordan about what it is to the FallFest participants. In particular, we’re hoping to reach out to other Star Trek simming groups who might be interested in collaborating together on a shared metaverse through the FNS. Reception seemed positive at the event, so stay tuned for further developments on this front!
FNS also ran an In Character presidential election – how’d that go?
Great! We had 40 votes out of 101 active members at the time of the election, so about 40% turnout, which I’m pretty happy with given the quick turn around after the debate and how we didn’t get to do some of our more ambitious plans like campaign mini websites or forum bumper stickers to raise awareness. Star Trek may take place in the 24th century, but it’s always been about telling stories that have relevance for us today. I enjoyed getting to touch on several real issues going on now through the metaphor of Star Trek.
We tried to keep each candidate to their own platform, and some like Lily Ventu and Kevin Steiner were natural opposites. Ultimately, the numbers showed that just as you’d expect in the real Federation, there’s plenty of diversity in opinion. President-elect Narala certainly has an interesting background coming from Nimbus III, so I’m looking forward to what kind of leader she’ll prove to be in the stories ahead.
Who can contribute stories to the site and how does that work?
Anyone! Absolutely anyone from the newest ensign to the highest ranked admiral can submit a story to the FNS. You don’t even have to be a member of StarBase 118. One of our goals with launching the FNS onto its own site is to engage the larger Trek audience by presenting our Star Trek stories in a more familiar format that most people encounter every day when they wake up to read the latest headlines in their hometown or around the world. Role playing can be a bit of a niche activity, so we’re hoping the FNS can be one way to inspire someone who doesn’t consider him or herself a roleplayer (yet) to try their hand at writing their own Star Trek story.
Once you submit a news story to the FNS, it gets sent to the FNS team, where we review it for proofreading and any editing that might need to be done. I’ve tried to keep the FNS to the same spirit as we see on our ships: anyone can contribute to the story and the Trek universe. While we do reserve the right to choose not to publish a story if we should find it particularly egregious, we haven’t encountered that issue at all. Instead, people have written wonderful articles about all the corners of the Federation and beyond that we don’t usually get to see from the bridge of our ships. As I said earlier, I love the world of Star Trek, and I believe most people out there similarly hold this fictional universe in a special place in their hearts. They know intuitively what’s fair game for a story and what might not work (“Borg invades Federation, destroys Earth”).
Looking into the future, what are our plans for developing this site?
The possibilities are endless, really. Anything that you see now out there in a real life news organization could be adapted to the FNS. We could have columnists who write monthly editorials or even an advice column. If there’s an artist out there who wants to become the FNS’s official political cartoonist, let me know! Ultimately, though, it’s all about having fun, and so my main goal this year is to continue growing our team.
Having simmed with StarBase 118 since 2010, I know what great writers we have out there in the fleet, and I’d love to see more people try their hand at writing an article or two. They don’t have to be long, and they don’t have to be “major” stories. Any story contributes to the milieu of our characters, making the world they inhabit seem a bit more real and larger in scope beyond just their ship. Besides the new submission form on the website, members can start a new thread in the FNS forum and post their stories there.
With the presidential election now over, it’s on to the next big multi-story arcs, and the Fleetwide Plot Arc coordinators for this year Jamie and Chris (Sinda Essen) are keen on integrating the FNS into the ongoing story with the return of the Orion Syndicate! If you even have the slightest interest in worldbuilding or exploring life in the Federation outside of Starfleet, I encourage you to drop me a private message on the forums to join our team. We’d love to have you!