Learn more about how to be a great simmer in this interview with a winner of a Duty Post award 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, and this month we’re interviewing the writer behind Lt. Commander Quentin Collins, playing a Human male science officer assigned to the USS Arrow. He won the Cochrane Award which is awarded to those science officers who have contributed greatly to the advance of science in the midst of their Starfleet career, by staying knowledgeable about their field, participating in the community of science, but most importantly, by placing their knowledge at the service of their ship and its mission.
GALVEN: First off, It’s an honor and a privilege that we could sit down together for an interview and answering a few questions. Could you tell us a little about yourself for our readers out there?
COLLINS: THE HONOR IS ALL MINE. As people have surely seen by now on the Discord, I could talk forever, so this is WONDERFUL for me. My name is Justin and I am a full-time/freelance writer from the north of Texas! I’ve been writing full time for a living for about ten years now. Mostly I focus on feature writing and criticism, mainly comics and movies BUT I’ve started to put in a number of pitches for work-for-hire comics and audio scripting. To try and “level up” as it were in my writing career.
I found the 118 toward the end of 2018, was given my first posting shortly thereafter, and it’s been just a delight and privilege to get to hone my prose and create here with so many other wonderful writers and creatives.
Winning such a distinguished award in our community must be a great feeling! Congratulations by the way! What have you done since then regarding where you’re at now within the science field?
It has been such a whirlwind, to be honest! I try not to get in my head around Awards Season, that way I don’t put any pressure on myself and the work, but I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a big deal for me. I know it sounds kinda hacky, but it’s just a privilege to be nominated at all.
But since then I think I’ve done okay for myself when it comes to “science lore” for the ship and crew. Captain Oddas was always really amazing about allowing each station to really step up when it comes to how to implement their career path into narrative and ongoing action so that was always a neat bit of support I always had on-mission. Better still that she allowed me to be kind of weird with my ideas too. Be it a huge sheet of reflective metals thrown across the prow of the ship to protect us from energy bleeds or magneton pulses collected and dispersed through the ship to purge it of EM interference, Captain Oddas was always there to say “well, just don’t break the ship at least.” OFF-mission as well, I think our format fosters a real sense of creativity and allows us to have the run of the table when it comes to what we want to develop IC.
I haven’t “published” anything just yet, but I’ve absolutely been thinking about how and what I can add to our mythos here. The most tangible thing I can think of right now is the new translation device I got to workshop with Chloe Waters to be able to integrate it into her look and equipment IC. I’m really proud of that in particular as it is the far most “useful” thing I think I’ve done here thus far.
Captain Oddas Aria mentioned in his presentation that you’ve told him why a particular piece of a mission needs changed because the science doesn’t work. Could you provide us an example on what they mean by that and why can’t it be whatever it was originally?
HA! Well, to be totally honest, I think Captain Oddas is perhaps OVERselling my abilities as a writer a bit here, but I appreciate the compliment all the same.
Honestly, I think me coming from a background of playing and running a ton of Table Top Role Playing Games has given me a bit of an edge when it comes to IC “problem solving”. I feel like if I look at a scene long enough, I can find SOME way to make it work or find some kind of way to move us forward to the next problem (as this is often something that comes up in my OWN plotting during deep work). While also keeping in mind our own “rules” and limitations of the format, which I think provides us as players a pretty good rubric of what you can and cannot do in narrative.
The best current example I can think of was during a plot where we were having to deal with a duplicitous Fleet Admiral who had designs on framing Captain Oddas for a crime she didn’t commit. We were coming up on Starbase 821 and Shayne had mentioned the threat that came with us fully docking and “handshaking” with the base’s systems into our own computer core, which contained uncontaminated evidence of the Admrial’s crimes.
We all panicked! How were we supposed to keep the chain of evidence clear for us to clear Oddas’ name?! But me being the one with the technobabble, I pitched a way we could telegraph a “Warp Core leak” (by charging up a big hunk of radioactive metal we had the in holds and futzing with our own Core a bit), thus giving us a reason to dock OUTSIDE of the base via a telescoping hardline, keeping our core contained, and allowing us a little more time to try and clear our Captain’s name.
I am ALL ABOUT trying to find these “outside of the box” ways to tackle problems in narrative.
The Cochrane Award is awarded to those who show great knowledge and participation within the community of science. Your character focused on Xenology and Anthropology at the Academy. What have you expanded on IC in those chosen degrees regarding character development?
That’s a WONDERFUL question. While again, I haven’t “published” anything here IC just yet, this is absolutely something that I have been thinking about and seeding within sims.
Quentin very much is a creature of history. He finds a real power and confidence in learning about cultures and how they influence a society’s behavior. With the transition into First Officer, I’ve let it fall by the wayside a bit (sadly), but it is totally something I want to pick up and run with a bit more when I get the chance.
On the Eagle and Juneau, I had started building out a plot in tandem with a PCNPC on Lightside Station (aka The Spike) which found Quentin chasing down leads on an ancient civilization with ties to the Mithgiln Scholar Caste (and maybe something “unexplainable” he saw as a young man at sea!). I had also started to go into a bit more detail regarding the “legends” of Quentin’s hometown, which eagle eyed readers will probably recognize as “one of the most haunted fictional towns in Maine”.
I feel like this sort of “history” is another wonderful thing about the process here at the 118. We are given this tremendous canvas to start with and then we are allowed to add to it as we want as we start to build the “lives” of our own PCs and IC careers. It really has reenergized me as a creative and makes me excited to sit down in my office most days to figure out where and what we are going to get up to next.
The science duty post is a particularly interesting one to write for given the many possibilities. What advice can you give the readers that choose the duty post?
Another WONDERFUL question!
I actually have two bits, I think. One was given to me by Captain Oddas and it is “you get out what you put into things here.” Meaning, if there is something you want to see done IC or for your character, make it happen! If there is a plot twist you think will jazz up a mission and get people excited about posting, pitch it! Your Command Staff and mentors are more than happy to listen to your suggestions and will more than likely help you find a way to make it BETTER and even MORE FUN to write through once you kick it off. The same goes for Task Forces and OOC guilds. There is ALWAYS a place for you here as long as you are willing to ask after it.
The next one is a bit more Science focused and it’s “don’t be afraid to get weird”. The beauty of a Science posting is that you already have huge and wildly useful tool kits at your disposal. The Periodic Table, our own Wiki’s Science sections, and Memory Alpha just to name a few! The real trick is finding out how to make those tools work for your character and your ship and the ways you can might surprise you, if you are willing to experiment a little. Will it probably be a little silly sometimes? ABSOLUTELY. Will it not be technically “workable” science? Probably. But none of that takes away from how fun it can be to write.
And lastly, now that you’re the first officer of the USS Arrow, do you have any more aspirations within the fleet? Are there any OOC activities you’re associated with, or any you’d like to join?
First Officer was something I didn’t even have on my radar until a few years from now, so that was another huge shock and honor for me. But again, I would be lying if I said I HADN’T been thinking of what kind of ship Quentin could command. What kind of Captain he could be. It is absolutely something that has been on my mind (for probably longer than I would like to admit, honestly).
OOC I definitely would like to be more of a resource for sure. I am already our ship’s Co-Forum Manager which is a real treat for me. I am a big child of the forum dominated internet of the late 90s so I try to stay as active as I can there. I have also had the privilege of starting a regular stint with the Federation News Service which has ALSO been a huge blast. I think the FNS is a vital and very productive arm of our narrative here so it’s been so fun being able to contribute to it and add to the rich texture of the 118.
Honestly, I’ll write whatever. I am still just happy to be here.
Thanks for your time, Lt. Commander Quentin Collins!
You can read more about Lt. Commander Quentin Collins on the wiki.