Join us for another in a series of interviews with winners of Awards from our 2021 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 Captain Randal Shayne playing a human male commanding officer of the USS Arrow. He won the James T. Kirk Cross, given to those who show outstanding potential in the field of commanding.
DeVeau: Hi Shayne! We’ve heard from you before, but is there anything else you’d like to share about yourself that you haven’t yet? Hobbies, interests outside of SB118?
Shayne: Howdy! The honest truth is I don’t have much to tell you. The fleet keeps me nice and occupied, and though I’ve made forays into writing my own fiction or generally trying new things, a combination of graduation from school, a somewhat hectic home life and my ongoing career efforts (struggles) mean that time always seems in short supply.
That and I’m just incredibly boring.
From your last interview, it’s obvious that Star Trek has a special place in your heart. What are your favourite episodes and/or characters, and how have they inspired you?
I wish you could see the evil grin that crossed my face when I read this question. The cracking of knuckles might have been a bit much, I admit, but there’s nothing like a juicy interview question. Because Star Trek is such a big part of who I want to be, there’s been influence from almost every series, season and character in my writing. We’ve based an entire campaign arc on the Sheliak from “The Ensigns of Command”, and character-wise, I’ve tried to infuse the best parts of every bad-miral and crap-tain into Shayne’s slow command acclimation. “For The Uniform”, “Lower Decks”, “Balance Of Terror”, “Chain Of Command”- so many good examples of varying command approaches featured in Trek form the foundation of my writing. When I watch episodes nowadays, I usually analyze the leadership present in them, good and bad, and in that way, I suppose every episode and character has inspired me.
What inspired you to create your own character, Randal Shayne?
At first, it was based very much off me- a creative savant I am not. However, as relationships in and out of character took off, and events swept Shayne up beyond what I could immediately control, I quickly adapted to leading where the madness took him. Part of his character throughout has been based in trying to keep things in order, which is a losing battle in any circumstance, but a fantastic catalyst for conflict, development and general believability. From this, relationships, both pursued and incidental, have softened or hardened his personality in ways I couldn’t have predicted, and I’m pleased to say that he is a different person now than he was from the start, in a fashion I feel is believable.
For a short answer to this question, I took a few of my own traits, slammed them together, and watched other characters whittle away at his sanity until fun things happened.
Would you share a bit about your journey to Captain?
Insert Willem Dafoe’s creepy pseudo-smile here.
It was, uh… not the smoothest ascendance to the captaincy the fleet’s ever seen. I felt out of my depth for a majority of my first year, constantly worried that things were going to go wrong, but also worried to change anything for fear that I’d accelerate the process. It also wasn’t a particularly good year for… anything, really. Trying to compete for people’s time during a full blown pandemic crisis was challenging in the extreme, and we saw a great deal of turnover.
That said, with perspective on my side, I look at the first chunks of time in the captain’s chair as one might view a bowling ball trundling down the lane. At first, it goes terribly wrong; the bowler steps over the line and falls on his rear, and the only thing that keeps the ball from settling into the gutter are the bumpers on either side, which give nasty jolts whenever the ball careens into them. Over time, however, the ball finds something of a rhythm, and collides with some of the pins. It’s not the best throw ever made, but it got a few things right, and the next throw will be even better.
In the presentation of the award, the environment on your ship was mentioned, as was the term ‘collaboration’? How do you foster both a positive atmosphere as well as creativity and collaboration on your ship?
Ah, finally! A question I feel qualified to answer!
I have been on a lot of ships in my time (I believe Arrow is number 10) and I’ve seen a lot of styles for writing, atmosphere and engagement. Generally I found that the more advanced, technologically sophisticated, and large a ship was, the more avenues players had to do their own thing. That’s great, but as a collaborative experience, we really want to encourage people to engage with one another. With that in mind, from the very beginning, I made some choices about what I wanted, and how I’d get there. I knew I desired a more tightly-knit crew; I wanted friendships to blossom and conflicts to brew (in character). I wanted things to feel lived in and hearty and, at times, adversarial to the crew. I wanted a small vessel, little more than a dinghy in the galactic scheme of things, and I wanted her to bear the scars of her former mistreatment. I specifically inflicted the curse of no holodecks; god forbid these people should talk to one another. In essence, we’ve always been something of an underdog.
To coincide with this harsher style of frontier exploration, I wanted to foster creative solutions to our predicaments. Want a holodeck? Build it yourself out of spare parts from across the Alpha Isles? Want a living history section of our ship? Make it (and then put it on the wiki!). Want to try something new? Innovative? Different? Odd? Potentially illegal? Run it past the staff and we’ll do everything we can to bring it to life. Riding the edge can be risky, but I’ve found it offers the best of both worlds, and I am immensely proud with the results this far into our voyage.
What advice would you give to your fellow officers, especially those who wish to seek out command one day?
Have command of yourself before you command a ship.
When you’re a CO, you have responsibilities. In this fleet, you’re trusted as a steward and a teacher. Getting your first command is not the time to start developing these skills. It’s time to put weight on them, and to put them to the test. Developing your leadership capacities first, refining habits to help keep you organized, and familiarizing yourself with the bylaws and expectations of our fleet will ensure that the shift to command is less of a hard, painful struggle, and more of a rewarding transition into a role you’re prepared to take on.
Thanks for your time, Captain Shayne!
You can read more about Captain Shayne on the wiki.