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.
This month, we’re interviewing the First Officer of the starship USS Veritas, Lt. Commander Sky Blake, a Brekkian/Betazoid hybrid female.
GALVEN: Tell us a little about the writer behind Blake. Where do you hail from, and what are you up to when you’re not simming?
BLAKE: I live in Australia, and when I am not simming, I am studying as a cloud student for a Bachelor of Arts. I earned my Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing in 2019, where I was also able to edit and publish a fairly hefty student anthology of works, as well as put together a demo memoir I released that November.
Between writing and reading for my degree and simming, I also consume a fairly unhealthy amount of Netflix, AnimeLab, Playstation games, and iced coffee.
Tell us more about your writing style. What’s your process for putting together a sim?
It depends on how much time I have. If I’m on a tight schedule, I’ll actively look for Blake-specific tags, throw them into a Gmail draft and focus on adding dialogue first, then examine the scene more closely for Blake’s physicality — ie. how is she presenting herself, how is she feeling, is she cold, etc — reactionary type things. After that, I go back through and do a basic edit alongside a pass with ProWritingAid and send. That usually takes me about 15 minutes to a half hour.
On a good day when I can spend up to hours working on a sim, I work properly on narration, backstory and thoughts. I can double check to see if everyone has been included in a scene and add relevant tags for those who may not be. These sims will typically be much longer than my rush jobs, have been formatted properly, edited, and may have about three times more the narration.
According to Blake’s professional history wiki page, she was the USS Avander’s chief of security/second officer in 2389 and then the USS Veritas’ first officer the first time in 2393. What was the experience like transitioning from second officer (2O) to FO?
It’s been almost a decade since I was Avandar’s 2O — the way the position was treated back then is different to how it is now. I feel that 2Os today get a bit more of a presence in the command staff than they did back then. I definitely wouldn’t say I transitioned between those two positions, mainly because when I held them each for the first time, they were not in a period close together. After Avandar, I didn’t serve as Vigilant or Garuda’s second officer.
I became Invicta’s XO as Kinan Venroe/Tristam Core when Fleet Captain Rahman (then-Commander) took command. Invicta was my first outing as an XO, a few months before Veritas launched. I remember it being a very tumultuous few months: a lot happened, IC and OOC, and we were navigating that as the new kids on the block. Rahman already had the experience as an XO and was mentoring me through that.
As second officer on Avandar, I was the IC back-up XO — there wasn’t much I did in the position outside of that, as there were no OOC tasks set for the 2O during that time, and most ships used it almost like an award of sorts. We’ve since strived to make something more important of it.
I think the transition between being a second officer versus being first officer is dependent on your CO. Rahman and I work well together because we defined what my role as XO was going to be before I got it: I’m there to support him, it’s my job to make sure what he says goes — that’s an oversimplification of the XO role, though, and Rahman (and probably many other captains) would argue XOs do significantly more than that. On Veritas, on top of their IC position, we treat the 2O role as the rightful third person in the command structure — they’re there as another pair of eyes for command issues (assuming something cannot be solved directly through our ship staff list) and another face for crew to speak to.
Looking back on your experience so far, what would be one piece of advice you’d give to anyone who’s just joined?
The fleet offers a lot of out of character activities to participate in, but your highest priority should be having fun IC. Be here to have fun with the game, first.
A lot of what you said reminds me back when I first joined and I was given you as my mentor which I can’t thank you enough for all the incredible advice and long emails that I still read when I need to look back on something. Where do you get that kind of insight from?
Much of it comes from what my mentors sent to me. I didn’t start off with a mentor when I joined as an ensign — I only had one on Ronin and Mercury (decaphoebs ago at this point…), and since then, Rahman has been filling that role.
My first mentor who was my Ronin/Mercury captain, set the scene for how I’ve treated my own mentees. He was very big on long emails that detailed everything I needed to know, usually with headers, because that’s how he felt it was best to communicate with me (I’m not sure if that’s how he was with everyone, I didn’t get to see him mentor others). So I’d use those emails like a handbook to refer back to in future.
There have been and will continue to be times where I need advice from other mentors on how to approach something that’s come up, and that’s why the ship staff is there. Outside of this, my advice or guides for other people come from a place of self-ownership. I have matured significantly over the course of my being in 118, and with that comes a lot of understanding. When you’re a ship XO, it is a little sobering to think on how much of a rascal you were and how much your own CO/XO had to deal with that back in the day. I am very much a believer that we learn best by making mistakes, and I try to encourage mistake-making — within reason, of course.
Quite a bit of what I learned from you is how I mentor others and I appreciate that you still take the time to see how I’m doing. Have you experienced any kind of situation where the mentee starts becoming a mentor themselves?
Veritas’ mentor system is managed by the XO — so when we get new members, it’s part of my job to assign them a mentor. I’ve been around for long enough to have or have seen people get mentors assigned to them, only for me to then assign them as mentors to new players. I’m genuinely proud to be a part of that — one of the LtJGs I championed for behind the scenes (don’t tell them that) now serves as an XO themselves. Two are currently weighing up their commander’s practicals. Another just hit LtCmdr. You’re currently serving as 2O of Ops. I was not directly a mentor for all of you, but when “one of ours” gets to where they want to be, and/or starts giving me advice, it reaffirms what I already know.
It is not a bad thing to still receive advice as an LtCmdr and onward. As time goes by, your audience for sims and other types of emails change. Rahman and I are constantly talking about what we can do to make our sims better, what we need to improve on, etc. They’re important conversations to have as writers.
Your mentor should be your first port of call when you’ve got something on your mind about the game. “Back in my day”, you were assigned one mentor, and that was it. If you transferred, you were essentially on your own (whereas, these days your new ship may assign a new mentor to you). My first mentor made it a habit to check in with me once or twice over the years, despite me not playing on his vessel. Sometimes it was just to touch base, others it was to talk about something being discussed on the forums. I think it’s important to keep that door open, regardless of rank.
And lastly, it’s been 8 years since you were promoted to Lt. Commander. Do you have any aspirations to become a Commander and beyond?
I am on the path to being a Commander. I think it’d be nice to drop the “Lieutenant” from “Lieutenant Commander” (though sometimes I fear players don’t realise how much of a sweet spot the Lieutenant rank is). I am not ultimately interested in being a CO — I feel confident as a supportive fleet staff member, and I’m happy as a collaborator on Veritas and what’s coming next after it.
Thanks for your time, Lieutenant Commander Sky Blake!
You can read more about Lieutenant Commander Blake on the wiki.