Lower Decks Interview: Frank Hawkins, USS Athena | UFOP: StarBase 118 Star Trek RPG

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Lower Decks Interview: Frank Hawkins, USS Athena

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We’re here with another interview with a newer member of our community. The title of this column is “Lower Decks,” hearkening back to the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode titled “Lower Decks,” in which junior officers aboard the Enterprise-D speculate on the reasons for recent unusual actions taken by the command crew near the Cardassian border.

I’m Ens. Frankie Ryan of the Constitution for the Community News team, and this month I’m interviewing the writer behind Frank Hawkins, Assistant Chief Engineer of the USS Athena. Ensign Hawkins has been a member of the Odyssey-class vessel since since 239312.07. His character double-majored in science and engineering.

Ryan: Tell us a little bit about the writer behind the character Frank Hawkins. Who are you and where in the verse do you come from?

Hawkins: Hello everyone. Thanks so much for the interview. My name’s David, and I hail from the state of Florida in the United States, although I spent a good part of my life in Texas.

Is this your first experience of simming or have you done similar forms of roleplaying before?

I’ve had no prior simming experience. I’ve had plenty of writing experience in the form of short stories, and collaborative writing. However I haven’t been part of any group this large. I’ve mostly written one-on-one with a writing partner, or a small group of no more than 3-4 people. We didn’t use any special formatting, and although I’ve written in screenplay format, SB118’s particular style was new to me.

Can you tell us where you drew your inspiration from in actually creating Frank and what made you pick your duty post?

Originally I’d had the idea of a gifted individual, in the range of someone who has moments of brilliance or genius. An inventor archetype, more so than the analytical type. I wanted to put a spin on that, so instead of having the expected upbringing and academic backstory, I wanted him to be more of a small town guy. With a bit of southern color to him, growing up on a small trading ship with Ma and Paw on the frontier.

My first choice was science. However I wasn’t offered that, instead being offered engineering aboard the Athena. On hindsight, ENG should have been his first choice. I didn’t realize this until I actually did research on the technology and the fact that the engineer, in my mind, is much more a hands on, active role than that of the research scientist. It fits him better.

I still gave him the double major, in case he needed to be moved around in departments. It also gave him a broad and interesting canvas to draw from for those moments when I want to let his strong suit take center stage, drawing upon engineering principles and scientific ideas to solve problems in unique and, hopefully, interesting ways.

And now I love engineering. Much more so than I would have thought. I was never into the technical side of Trek, I’m mostly a character writer. But it’s easy to use for driving the plot, and you can get your hands into so many aspects of the story. I’m hoping I can remain in Engineering for a while to come.

Where would you like to be in the next six months as we head into 2394?

Wherever the road takes me. Our ship is pretty eclectic, and that’s putting it mildly. We’ve got the fast and loose, and the by-the-book characters. It’s quite a mix.

As far as writing goes, however, I’d like to (and already developing) get involved in mission plots, and running MSNPC’s. I’ve already done this actually, on our last mission towards the end (running an MSNPC that is). I enjoyed that quite a bit, as it gives me some more outlet for my creativity. I can play with ideas and situations in some ways more freely.

I wouldn’t mind moving up to full time department head. I believe I’m a strong enough writer to bring something to the table in that regard.

What about the next few years? Do you see Frank taking command of you his own vessel?

I can see this happening in the future. For the long term though, I’d very much like to serve as an XO for a good while and enjoy that role. Riker’s duty was my favorite on TNG.

Is there anything you would like to see happen during your time in the community? Either a mission on board the Athena or an addition that is felt fleet-wide?

It’s tough to answer. Your outfit has been around for quite a long time, and I can’t offhand think of anything that is missing.

As far as missions. This is also tough. You can only supply situations, complications, twists, and things like that. In a fiction story, none of that is structure. In other words, the stuff that happens to the characters isn’t important. What’s important is the decisions they make. Impossible decisions, that touch upon internal flaws and goals. So a mission that forces the crew to make those kind of decisions, and confront their internal flaws, would be appealing. It’s something I’m struggling with as I start writing my own proposals. It’s a difficult thing, because you can’t foresee how scenes will end. You can’t plot out in a formula how tension is built and released. A guide on how to work these concepts in, or translate them into this format, I think would be helpful. (If such a thing doesn’t already exist.)

Since you are quite new to the community, could you tell us about your time at the Academy? Was it what you expected? How did the experience play out?

I really enjoyed the Academy training with Commanders Brell and Williams. I felt welcomed, and their feedback and advice helped me acclimate myself to the conventions in use.

I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it certainly exceeded my expectations. I felt welcomed into the fold from the start. As far as how it played out–it went in many different directions and I never knew where it would turn until the next sim came out. That was both daunting and thrilling. I’m used to writing the entire piece, and all the characters involved. Not having that skeleton to work form, already penciled in, was something I struggled with.

However, once I “got it” it clicked, and it’s an exciting way to write. I will say this: I was sorry when it ended. I wanted to continue the story.

Can you recall your first introduction to the Star trek universe? Do you have a favourite episode? Maybe a favourite movie?

First introduction was The Original Series as a kid. I watched it with my grandfather. I fell in love with the show and the characters right away. I enjoyed all of the characters on that series, it would be hard to pick a favorite.

For The Next Gen, I loved the dynamic with Riker/Troi. But the character I enjoyed the most was LaForge, because he was the most human out of all of them. As any Trekker worth his salt, I could go through each series and point out my favorite episodes and characters.

However, I think the one that stands out for me is the TNG two-parter Chain Of Command. It turned the ship upside down. Jellico strolled in and built tension wherever he went. The scenes between him and Riker were the best writing I’ve seen on the show. And who can forget Picard’s ordeal in the belly of the beast.

Film: Wrath of Kahn, hands down.

What is your favorite part of being a member of the community thus far?

The camaraderie. I’ve made personal OOC contact with some of the crew, and we’re having a great time talking about simming, Trek, and anything else that pops up. I really enjoy having a group of like-minded trekkers to write with and just spend time with. It feels like part of a family, and every day I learn something new, or make a new friend. It’s a good feeling. Thanks so much for letting me take part in the interview. I look forward to a long and healthy career with SB118.

It was a pleasure to have you! Thank you David, live long and prosper.

You can read more about Ens. Hawkins on the wiki.