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 Ensign Tan playing a joined Trill male security/tactical officer assigned to the USS Gorkon.
Taybrim: Tell us a little about the writer behind the character — where in the world do you hail from?
Tan: I hail from Canberra, Australia, meaning that I’m on the opposite time zone from most folks onboard our ship (we’re mostly Americans and Europeans). I’m a software engineer and writer by day, having written and published 25 novels. By night I’m also a software engineer and writer, just usually asleep. Outside of work, I have a strong personal interest in Antarctica and autonomous sea drones.
What duty post are you playing, and how’d you choose it?
I’m playing Security! I chose it because my previous characters were Security, Ops and Helm, and out of the three of them, Security was my favourite. Security is one of those posts where the perception of what makes a good security officer — dumb muscle — is very different from the reality. Providing security on a starship is more than simply walking the corridors and arresting people. It’s ensuring that the ship’s computers are secure and uncompromised, it’s assessing the intentions of visitors to the ship, it’s checking incoming cargo and provisions to make sure they’re safe, it’s vetting the civilian residents and performing undercover operations when required. You’re basically a detective, ICT specialist, applied psychologist, and secret agent all wrapped into one. It’s a fun post and there’s a lot to do.
You are a returning member, how has your past experience shaped your current character?
As the player of a joined Trill, the past character influences the previous one significantly. Last time I was playing Safine Tan, also a security officer, and I needed a brief LOA due to real-life taking the wheel… which was convenient, since she’d just been shot by Jem’hadar intruders! The LOA stretched out a lot longer than I anticipated, and the end result of that was that what I had anticipated being a serious but survivable injury turned into the Tan symbiont getting a new host. However, as she’d just been joined herself (long story), I decided to do something interesting. Safine’s still around as a PNPC, but with her nervous system irreparable damaged by the injury, and having lost her symbiont now to boot, she’s Safine Rael again, and adjusting to a life without joining, without the use of her legs, and without her job as a Security officer. So it’s safe to say that Safine remains a big influence on Serren so far, and her story is not done yet.
As for how the past influences me as a writer, the examples are too big to list. It’s interesting having an insight into the Fleet’s history that a lot of writers simply weren’t around for; Mikali sh’Shar, one of my PNPCs, was around for Operation Bright Star, a “Summer Blockbuster” back in the day that was extremely formative to her. Her experience is an interesting way to introduce the other writers in the fleet to a significant, fleet-spanning event that they weren’t around for, and to delve into some of the personal consequences of interstellar war.
When I had my “big break” from simming, I needed a reason as to why Mikali wasn’t around and why her career hadn’t progressed… so I wrote that she had, quite sadly, relapsed her pre-Starfleet drug addiction, and only semi-recently had gotten herself clean. What will happen to her now, going forward, is a bit of a mystery; her goals are to regain her commission and regain custody of her young daughter, but there are substantial obstacles in her way and in a shared writing environment like Starbase 118, it’s impossible to see where the future will take you.
It’s interesting writing these stories, and sharing with the fleet some of its history.
Are there elements of real life that you especially enjoy incorporating into your simming?
Some, but I try to keep my characters separate from myself. I’m boring; I’d much rather get into the headspace of new, and different, characters and their wonderful lives in the UFOP!
That said, all writers put a little bit of themselves into every character they write, so there’s definitely bits of me that show up from time to time in different places.
What inspirations did you have in creating your character?
Oh, all sorts of places really. The great thing about being a joined Trill is that your inspiration can come from yourself; it can be tricky to sometimes play a character that is recognizably similar to one from the past, but also, distinctly different. And Serren is different from Safine and also Alleran, so… it’s interesting.
Other than that, my inspirations come from DS9 (my favourite series), but also from the recently aired Lower Decks. Serren is quite similar to Boimler in that regard; he’s sometimes nervous and worried about his career advancement, and he feels as though he has a lot to prove to many people. If I had to pick anyone who was a distinct influence for Serren, it’s definitely Brad Boimler.
Thanks for your time, Ensign Tan!