Join us for another in a series of interviews with winners of Duty Post awards from our recent 2020 Awards Ceremony. Our goal is to give you insight into how our fleet’s best simmers write, and imagine their characters.
This month we’re interviewing the writer behind Commander Ash MacKenna playing a human female Intelligence Officer assigned to the USS Arrow. She won the Black Cross: “This award is given to a member of the Intelligence community that strives to accomplish the goals of Starfleet Intelligence, while simultaneously upholding the ideals and structure of Starfleet command. This person has the cunning to gather intelligence by means of deceptive dialogue or espionage, as opposed to force drawn confessions. While matters of intelligence are often game changers, this person strives to attain those goals within the boundaries of their Commanding Officer, and the regulations of Starfleet.“
TIERNEY: Tell us a little about the writer behind the character — where in the world do you hail from?
MACKENNA: Though I spent most of my life growing up in the shadow of America’s space program on the space coast of Florida, I currently reside in the exact center of the state of North Carolina, surrounded by woods, cattle fields, and the Uwharrie Mountains.
Captain Oddas Aria of the USS Juneau said in her presentation that you collect information from both conventional and unconventional sources. Working in a world of technology and diverse species, could you give some examples of where you obtain information?
I think the information aspect can be a tricky thing, especially depending on the mission. Of course there are set sources and things that are known OOC’ly in the mission build, but within the Trek universe there is a wealth of places to potentially get bits and pieces of intel that can be used to build stories to provide information on just about anything. There’s everything from rumors that go through civilian populations on starbases, legends from primitive races met and catalogued along the way, patterns in movements and actions not outwardly spoken in words, and of course a number of databases that provide a place for intelligence officers across starfleet to combine the mass of information they see, feel, and hear in their travels.
You’ve also provided mentorship to new writers and crew in the Fleet. What drives you to help others be the best they can be?
To me, there’s more to the game than just playing it, and while I very much enjoy writing itself, I also love to read a good story. When I can help others write better, get more involved, throw more plot twists in and just play the game on a higher level, then I also get to enjoy the end result along with everyone else around me. Beyond that, I feel like by boosting others, I boost myself, and together we all make things nicer, better, and more fun for all.
Your character, Commander MacKenna, comes from a family of farmers and archaeologists. How do you see that influencing her?
I think Ash’s upbringing was one where she was allowed to be the strange child that she was rather than being forced into a mold somehow. Her parents being what they were simply allowed the freedom for this to be. She could wander out into the great outdoors and find the patterns in the grasses and the sky, to touch and smell and truly feel her surroundings, and to really uncover her specific strengths. That has, over the years, led from her being an incredibly debilitatingly shy provisional ensign a decade ago, to a very quiet, mostly withdrawn, but intelligent and confident (in her own way) officer.
Intelligence officers were never that common in the television or movies. What advice can you give to other intelligence officers in the fleet who are striving to sim realistic characters?
I would just say to communicate first with the staff, and then make sure that you aren’t suddenly in possession of all the information and all of the solutions at once. Intel can be precarious because it does allow for the potential to be overpowered if you consider the position like that of a spy. In reality though, Intel officers are less like James Bond, and more like puzzle masters who look into seemingly basic, harmless data, pull out patterns, and find the meaning to them in the context of whatever the issue is. Working with other departments and other officers allows for a nice addition to a story that simply adds more depth rather than taking anything away from anything else.
Lastly, Was there an inspiration for your character? Perhaps a Star Trek character, an investigator from a drama, or maybe even a real life detective?
Would you believe it if I say that Ash was inspired by my daughter, and some of the bits of myself that never got the chance to be. The character has given me a chance to delve into those bits, while conveying a sort of pride in the things that I love about my daughter at the same time.
Thanks for your time, Commander MacKenna!
You can read more about Commander MacKenna on the wiki.