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 Lieutenant JG Kivik playing a J’naii genderless Science Officer assigned to Amity Outpost.
DeVeau: Tell us a little about the writer behind the character — where in the world do you hail from? Anything you’d like to share!
Kivik: I’m very grateful to be from Vancouver, BC on the West coast of Canada. Growing up, I found myself drawn to the performing arts – possibly as an only child looking for more attention – and spent a lot of time through my teens in theatre programs. As an adult, I developed an interest in working ‘behind the scenes’ that, after some years of directing and producing, eventually led me into studying business. I now work in the administrative side of arts education, but I’ve never given up my love of creating things.
What do you like about Star Trek and what was your introduction to it?
My Dad is a lovable dopey nerd. When I was little, we would watch The Next Generation together – though at the time I simply called it “Saturn” for the ringed planet in the show’s intro. My whole family would later gather to watch episodes of Voyager and Enterprise when they ran.
I think what I love most about Trek is its informed optimism. The shows have never put rose-coloured glasses on the viewer, but presents us with a possible future brimming with diversity, inclusivity, openness, opportunity, camaraderie… and then it makes us ask ourselves, “How do we make that a reality? What will it take?”
Have you had experience with roleplaying before?
I got my introduction to RP, perhaps oddly enough, through a Lord of the Rings forum-based RP in the early 2000’s. I was in sixth grade and, after switching schools unexpectedly, going through a bit of a rough time. I escaped into Peter Jackson’s adventurous movies and Tolkien’s deep fantasy world. In my teens, I returned to forums for Battlestar Galactica and Aliens-inspired RPs, but also took up playing regular “World of Darkness” games with friends.
I’m now an avid D&D-er. I GM for a couple friend groups (we’ve just crossed the 1-year mark on my current campaign) and I’ve also just taken up a character in my Dad’s online campaign!
What attracted you to SB118?
I love GMing for my D&D group, but I had started to miss getting to be a ‘player’ (I think this is a common feeling among many GMs!) A friend of mine mentioned participating in an online game and I was reminded of my time playing forum-based RPs as a teen. A little Googling for ‘the best online roleplaying group’ led me to SB118 and I was very impressed with the group’s history and organisation.
The deciding factor was meeting people on the Discord channel. I’m a fairly reserved person (at least for a former theatre kid) and I don’t take to the general chats very often, except to lurk, but the enthusiastic and warm welcome I received when first poking my head in to ask questions just blew me away.
Why did you choose to play a J’naii?
The episode of TNG from which the J’naii originate (“The Outcast”) made quite an impression on me as a kid. I won’t go into too much detail, but the J’naii are a majority-genderless people with a persecuted minority of gendered people. I recall being deeply disturbed by the injustice of it all – the episode ends with the central character, Soren, forcibly undergoing the sci fi equivalent of ‘conversion therapy’.
On a personal level, I’ve tried to cultivate a strong awareness of my own advantages and priveleges as a cisgender straight white man. I think that it’s crucial to openly discuss issues of inequality, marginalization, and abuse from people in places of power. I’m very fortunate that both my parents are dedicated feminists and advocates/allies for sex, gender, and racial equity – and my mother is getting her Masters in Counselling at age 60!
Putting myself ‘in the shoes of’ a character whose past and present is intrinsically entangled with gender identity – who is, themselves, a scientist dedicated to honest study of the subject – has been a rewarding opportunity to further educate myself and, I hope, to better understand the experiences of those going through these things in the real world.
What are your goals for Kivik?
My long-term goals are perhaps best summed up by the word “Representation.” IC, I’d like for Kivik to motivate real meaningful change on J’naii for gendered individuals through scientific and diplomatic channels. My hope is that the people of J’naii can become more accepting and loving of one another, despite their fear, and perhaps one day even be accepted into the Federation.
OOC, I’d like to build the lore for J’naii – the planet and the people – and expand on their culture, history, and science, such as through my IC scientific research paper, Gender Expression In J’naii: A Cross-Discipline Study.
In the short term? Gosh… I just try to surprise myself!
Thanks for your time, Lieutenant JG Kivik!
You can read more about Lieutenant JG Kivik on the wiki.