Lower Decks interview: LtJG. Choi Ji-hu, Constitution | UFOP: StarBase 118 Star Trek RPG

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Lower Decks interview: LtJG. Choi Ji-hu, Constitution

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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.

This month’s interview is with the writer behind LtJG Choi Ji-hu playing a human male assigned to the Constitution.

WOLF: Tell us a little about the writer behind the character — where in the world do you hail from?

CHOI: I hail from the distant realm of Toronto, Canada, where I live with my boyfriend and our grumpy goblin of a cat. I’m a journalist, game maker and writer. I won’t bore you with my resume, but a couple of professional projects I’m especially proud of are a column I write with a colleague on lesser known LGBTQ history, called History Boys, and I’m also currently on the writing team of a dystopian science fiction resource management game called The Last Taxi!

Is this your first simming experience, or have you done other forms of role-playing before?

I’ve been a tenacious escapist for as long as I can remember! I did forum roleplaying in high school, and then really came into my own when I was introduced to tabletop roleplaying in my early twenties. There’s something really magical about the kind of collaborative storytelling that happens in Dungeons & Dragons, or SB118. At the moment I’m running two D&D campaigns and playing in another, and one of my players introduced me to SB118!

What duty post are you playing, and how’d you choose it?

I sort of decided on engineering in a similar way to creating a D&D character! I started with a character concept, which was something like “cyberpunk hacker/AI enthusiast/burgeoning mad scientist.” I spent awhile going through the Academy course list and figured out Ji-hu was a double major Engineering/Science with specializations in computer systems, artificial intelligence and not having a social life, with a few SIGINT courses thrown in to satisfy his hacker side.

From there I fleshed out his background as a socially anxious child who spent his developing years on the web with his only social outlet being hacking and a wonky starship simulation game that he played competitively, which was the roundabout way he found himself applying to Starfleet. In character I left a lot of room for his career to develop organically in terms of wherever he ended up, as he could have easily been placed in Science or even Intelligence, and I’ve certainly explored a little of both in the short time he’s been on the Constitution. I really love being an Engineer, because I adore treknobabble, and a world where technology influences everything is a playground to a nerdy computer systems expert!

Where would you like to be in a few years? Have a taste of command of your own?

I’ve been apprenticing with the Constitution’s staff, which has been a really amazing experience. I can’t imagine more dedicated and lovely people than the players behind Jalana Rajel and Maxwell Traenor. I would love to get involved with training and mentorship, as having such a positive experience on the holodeck was what got me so engrossed in SB118 so quickly.

I sort of have a narrative daydream for Ji-hu, which is something I’ve started laying the groundwork for in character. My near future plan is to have him stream into Starfleet R&D, and applied sciences (like I said, “mad scientist”) with the hopes of maybe eventually collaborating with other players on a command opportunity, ship, task force or campaign with a heavy focus on experimental technology. Like I said, I’m already laying the groundwork for a long term project that Ji-hu’s going to be working on, but I’m very open minded to letting his story be shaped by his experiences aboard the Constitution! I think one thing that’s really exciting to me as a player is the opportunities for cross-fleet collaboration–I’ve already been brainstorming with a couple of people with similar narrative interests.

Do you take any inspiration from films, television, or books when writing your character?

Oh, loads! I’m actually super embarrassed to say that before getting involved with SB118 my exposure to Star Trek culture was very limited–but I’m working through all the series now, and wish I’d gotten started years earlier! I’m a huge gamer, and draw a lot of inspiration from the Fallout and Mass Effect series, which are favourite of mine. One of my favourite science fiction writers, Robert Charles Wilson, has influenced a lot of my ideas about posthumanism as well–recommendations would be The Affinities and Spin. If I haven’t made it blatantly obvious, I also adore speculative fiction stories about artificial intelligence philosophy and sad robots. If I have a creative obsession, it’s the melancholy of an artificial lifeform trying to be more human, so from Star Trek Data’s obviously a favourite, and “I, Borg” is one of my absolutely favourite TNG episodes so far.

Looking back on your experience so far, what would be one piece of advice you’d give to anyone who’s just joined?

I have two, the first is straight out of Dungeons & Dragons: have short-term and long-term goals or projects for your characters. I find having concrete plans really grounds your character in the world and their career, and always gives you something to fall back on. For example, at the moment my short-term plans for Ji-hu are to build up his confidence in terms of seeking out command opportunities, and my long-term plan is to explore the creation of a new form of artificial intelligence, however that ends up happening.

The second is also extremely applicable from D&D (everything in life is): be interested in the lives and goals of other characters, both as a player and as characters. We’re a collaborative storytelling community on a scale I would have never imagined before getting involved in SB118, and there’s nothing more exciting to me than when other players take an interest in my weird little characters, and I can’t help but return the favour. If you take an interest in other people’s characters, and plan a sim or joint post with them, the magic that can happen is indescribable. It’s what we’re here for, I like to think.

Thanks for your time!

You can read more about LtJG Choi Ji-hu on the wiki.

About Tristan Wolf

FltAdml. Tristan Wolf, real name Jordan, founded UFOP: StarBase 118 – a Star Trek Play By Email RPG – in June of 1994. He previously served as the Commanding Officer for a number of simming installations, notably the first of StarBase 118 Operations. He currently lives in San Francisco with his partner and their Humane Society rescue dog named Baxter. Jordan works in politics, loves scifi (natch), fantasy, and new technologies.
View all posts by Tristan Wolf