Each month we interview a First Officer or Commanding Officer of the fleet as part of our “First Officer in Focus” and “Captain’s Corner” columns to get to know them better, and learn more about what their positions entail.
Our last interview was with a commanding officer (Capt. Keelah Rhani of the USS Za), so this month we’re sitting down with LtCmdr. Maxwell Traenor, First Officer of USS Constitution-B.
Let’s get started!
WOLF: Glad to be interviewing you again for our Community News! How have you been since we talked about your role as training officer, last year?
TRAENOR: I’ve been awesome, thank you! I went through a very busy year in real life last year, which necessitated some changes in my SB118 profile, but I’m back to full strength and having a ton of fun, as always. And now that spring has finally sprung and the weather is getting great, there’s little to not be happy about!
What ships have you served on and what duty posts have you played so far in your Starfleet career?
I have been truly fortunate to work with some of the best top officers in the fleet through the ships I’ve served on, as well as the extracurricular groups I have participated in such as the Academy Training group. I started out on the Apollo under Andrus Jaxx, then got to participate in the grand relaunch of the Darwin (now Andaris Task Force) under Renos. When the Za launched, I took the opportunity to help out another new ship and serve under Zalea Solzano and Keelah Rhani. Now, I’m under the tutelage and guidance of Jalana Rajel on the Constitution. What a pedigree of knowledge and experience that I’ve gotten to draw from, and I can’t thank them all enough!
In real life, I’m an aviation meteorologist and air traffic controller, so the Science duty post was a natural fit for my analytical mind. Through the years in other groups and through PNPCs here in SB118, I’ve tried most all other duty posts on for size, but I keep finding myself drawn back to Science. My main PC, Maxwell Traenor, has been a perfect foil for me to explore how a journeyman scientist, with all the attendant stereotypes and traits, could successfully move up the ranks in the command structure of Starfleet. I couldn’t abandon the guy, he still has so many stories to tell, and First Officer is but one more chapter in that story.
What’s your favorite, and least favorite!, parts about playing a First Officer?
My favorite and least favorite part is actually the same thing, believe it or not. Unlike the television shows and the movies, the First Officer (and the Captain, in my opinion) is not the star of the plot or scene, but the facilitator for the other officers to shine as the stars. You’re no longer the specialist; you’re not THE science officer or THE helmsman or THE security officer, you’re there to give context and guidance for those roles to bring their A-game to the plot.
And I absolutely love the challenge of that. How do you make your character relevant and interesting and engageable while deflecting the spotlight onto the others? That’s the fun part. Seeing how you can nudge the other players to advance or twist the plot, give them tools to exercise their creativity, it’s awesome. But, when you lose that crutch of the specialist duty post, it can also get frustrating. In my character’s example, I could always say, “Look, a plot twist. I’m gonna science the heck outta that!” I imagine it’s the same for any command officer, regardless of the duty post they rose from. You can’t look through the lens of a specialist role anymore, you need to be a generalist in order to let the players in those duty posts do their thing. It’s a great challenge, but still a challenge to get used to.
How is the FO position similar or different from your previous posting?
I’ve been a departmental head before, and that experience is helpful in the delegating of opportunities to others. Every member in a department has the right to contribute equally to the plot or storyline, and as a departmental head you need to make sure that you share that opportunity with the others in your department. Now, the entire ship is my department, so I get to share those opportunities with everyone!
Otherwise, it’s still your character, and you still have to be true to them. They don’t magically become this master command officer (or at least they shouldn’t if you value believability), so there’s a continuity in your style and substance as they gradually adapt. Your character is the same person with the same values, skills, tics, emotional baggage, whatever; they’re just doing a different job. So there should be more similarities than differences, in my mind.
Looking back on your experience so far, what would be one piece of advice you’d give to others on how to be a successful First Officer?
Oh, my. Where to start? It can be a daunting role at first glance, especially the administrative side of it. For many, it’s your first introduction to the Captain’s Council and the inner workings of the fleet, and maybe for a few even the first taste of ship administration through the ship’s Staff. It takes time to discover a rhythm and get into the swing of your additional responsibilities. Just remember, nobody works in a vacuum. Ask questions, ask for assistance, don’t be too proud to stick your hand up and say “I need help” or “I need guidance” or “I need a little extra time”. After all, that’s exactly what we tell our new ensigns through the Academy Training group and through each ship’s mentorship program, and this is the same idea. Make sure you practice what you preach, haha!
Let’s talk a little about your OOC work in the fleet. Currently you’re the facilitator of the Top Sims Contest – and I must say, you’ve done a stellar job! What do you find compelling about this role and the contest?
The Top Sims Contest caught my eye almost from the moment I joined the Fleet. As a beginner, it showed me what the fleet valued as far as stylistics and content went. These were the ‘top sims’, after all! It allowed me a window into the other ships of the fleet, see what was the same and what was different from the ship I was serving on in terms of formatting and tone and plots and interpersonal dynamics.
The very first chance I got to be a Top Sims Judge, I jumped all over it. It was thrilling to be able to read all these wonderful and well-written stories, and an honor to help decide who got to be feted for their contributions. If I recall correctly, I actively sought the opportunity to be a co-facilitator for the Contest, and the facilitator at the time seemed a bit hesitant to entrust the responsibility to a relative newcomer as I. Understandably so, I truly feel that the Top Sims Contest is one of our cornerstone taskgroups with a long and storied history, and it requires a dedicated and responsible person. It has been my goal ever since to make sure I live up to that expectation.
I’m still so passionate about Top Sims for a couple reasons – first, as I said earlier, I’m quite analytical, so spreadsheets and statistics and tabulations are right up my alley! But most importantly, I think the Contest awards our Fleet’s writers in a way that most of our other Awards and Ribbons and Badges don’t. When you win in Top Sims, it’s not because you wrote proficiently in your duty post, or because you had perfect formatting, or any other technical reason. It’s because you hit us right in the feels by writing a damned good story. These works of poignant prose are a visceral thing, and it’s the best gift any of us writers can give to each other. We are here to entertain each other and be entertained in turn, and Top Sims recognizes and rewards that. And to be a part of the process that recognizes and rewards those people for their writing is intensely satisfying for me.
Between simming, acting as an FO, facilitating the Top Sims Contest, and participating as a member of the Captains Council in your role as the FO of Constitution, you have a lot going on! Do you have any tips for how to maintain your enthusiasm and keep your participation here sustainable?
Communication, communication, communication. Keeping an open dialogue with the people who you depend on and who depend on you is key. Just like everything in life, there are ups and downs in this game, and we have a fantastic and supportive community here. But, if you’re not letting others know when you’re struggling, whether it’s writer’s block or burnout or RL concerns, then they can’t give you that support and assistance you could use to keep things manageable.
And finally, I always try to remember the passion that brought me here. Star Trek, writing, roleplaying, interacting with like minded individuals… I try not to miss the forest for the trees, and sometimes stepping back and looking at the big picture of how great this group is brings my spirits right back up and my motivation back in full force.
Thanks so much for your time!