Join us for another in a series of interviews with winners of awards from our recent 2022 Awards Ceremony. Our goal is to give you insight into how our fleet’s best simmers write and imagine their characters and their out-of-character contributions and achievements.
This month, we’re interviewing the writer behind Lieutenant Hallia Yellir playing a female Yelikan Engineering Officer assigned to the USS Excalibur-A. He won the Phoenix Award: “Awarded to Engineering officers who continue this tradition of excellence in engineering.”
DeVeau: Would you tell us a little about the person behind the character? Where you’re from, what things you enjoy, anything you’d like to share!
Hello!! Thank you so SO much for having me! First, my name’s Ryan, I’m a drag performer and costume designer hailing from down under. I’ve always been a huge Star Trek fan, got my start by binging voyager as a kid, and saving up pocket money to buy the DVDs.
How did you get started in roleplay, and what specifically brought you to SB118?
That’s a very broad question — honestly, there are a lot of factors that brought me to 118 back in the day. I had little access to video games as a kid, and during high school I was a very bored kid, and I wanted to do something that differed from anything I’d ever really tried. But I also wanted to flex my creative writing muscles, as that was something I’ve always had an interest in. I’ve dipped my toes into RP before, usually through old forums that were pretty much nearly dead. But my fascination with RP really kicked off with the Fire Emblem community over on websites like Tumblr and Wattpad.
As my interest in RP grew and my interest in media matured a lot more, I started branching out into more collaborative forms of storytelling outside of things like the occasional D&D game. That, plus my love of Star Trek, naturally led me to this growing community we have here!
Fleet Captain Nicholotti mentioned that Engineering was not your first choice. What convinced you to play an engineer?
It was a mixture of the fact that we were already pretty loaded in terms of the science and medical duty posts, and that we had a tough time holding onto Engineers. Hallia is a character that has a strong background in both positions. Naturally, I wanted to hold true to that as much as I could for the time being. I played her as an organic scientist, focusing on a lot of biology-based areas — basically, the sciences I, as a writer, enjoyed. But what originally got me on the track to becoming an engineer was my mentor at the time who suggested a duty post change.
At that point, I was feeling somewhat burned out from writing, and I just wasn’t feeling that spark anymore, and I was considering taking an LOA for a little while. But, thankfully, with the help of the command staff, they gave me a hand in transitioning to a fresher duty post, one that had been empty for quite some time on our ship. So, I dived in head first and it all seemed to stick. I was enjoying myself, and it was helping me properly challenge and develop my character. But it really paid off. It added a very nice element to our narratives as a crew. It really helped round out missions as well as diversify the skills present onboard the Excalibur. Suddenly, we had more people who could tackle different tasks, and it helped add a new approach to any problems faced on missions because we’d be relying less on NPC characters to handle core jobs such as engineering.
What sort of challenges have you faced with this duty post?
My biggest challenge was pacing myself with Hallia’s development as an Engineer. She has no background in engineering, and it was a difficult road to navigate because I didn’t have a reference for what was too much, or what was too little. But I was worried mostly about my writing becoming repetitive or boring to read — especially since I wanted to share common themes from shore leave to shore leave, and me being my anxious self was worried it would appear predictable and formulaic. But I found a balance after some time. It essentially boils down to me learning how to show her growth in the duty post and play to her strengths.
I’d do little things like throwing in some descriptors of her being more familiar with certain devices over others or pushing Hallia into making little mistakes here and there. To kind of tie it all together, though, I really pushed for Hallia to approach every problem with a point of view rooted in the scientific method. She’s a very analytical character, and Engineering was a perfect duty post for me to highlight the glaring weaknesses she shared in the field, as well as show her own strengths in problem-solving. What helped me a lot, though, is how much Engineering and Science overlap as duty posts. There are so many core themes present that both duty posts share, and it really allowed me to ground myself in something familiar.
What do you think you’ve learned the most since playing in this unexpected duty post?
Honestly? To rely on the crew more. Even when some characters don’t share the same duty post, there’s so much you can learn from a senior officer, if you’re, say, asking for advice, for example. Hallia would literally be a sitting duck, panicking as the warp core is seconds from breaching if it wasn’t for the collective support of the other senior staff or any of the other crew who indulged my technobabble shenanigans. They really engaged with Hallia from the perspective of mentors and guides. It allowed me to show off her growth in knowledge without me appearing repetitive or without her being ‘too’ good at the job straight off the bat. But it also lets me really show off her thought process for problem-solving and challenge myself with creative approaches to problems. It was very, very helpful to have that sort of encouragement to be innovative.
Overall, it also just made for some really satisfying storytelling during missions, or even shore leave.
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to play an engineer?
You don’t have to be good at everything to play an engineer, you don’t have to know everything and you have an entire crew and department to rely on. You’re not alone as an engineer. Play on your character’s weaknesses — especially if you’re coming from a totally duty post, but use this in such a way that highlights their strengths. Develop those strengths, see how your character works under the immense pressure of Starfleet. It’s always so, so much more satisfying when you show your character progressing than simply just jumping right to be a tech wizard. It’s cool to see O’Brien absolutely demolishing some encryption like its nothing, or Geordi saving the day by reversing shield polarity. But it’s even more satisfying to watch someone completely out of their comfort zone navigate and learn from an experience.
Another thing — and this can apply to any duty post. But Chief Engineers don’t have to know everything, and I will say this again and again:
The core principle of being a department head is relying on your team/department. It’s an administrative role. You’re not expected to be the next Scotty. At first, it feels like a lot of pressure in and out of character to do well as said department head, but you just gotta trust your gut and go with the flow. Also, the Wiki and Memory Alpha are your best friends for technobabble.
Thanks for your time, Lieutenant Yellir!
You can read more about Lieutenant Hallia Yellir on the wiki.