Join us for another in a series of interviews with winners of awards from our recent 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 Commodore Aron Kells playing a Human/Romulan Male Commanding Officer assigned to the USS Thor. He won the Honour of the Admiralty, which recognizes those who have served as staff members for a minimum of five years in a multitude of disciplines. From facilitating our task forces, engaging with the Captain’s Council, and leading with the utmost dedication, these writers volunteer their time, effort, and skill to building our game and community and have comprehensively earned the respect and loyalty of members.”
DeVeau: Hello Commodore! I know it’s not been that long since your last interview, so instead of asking about OOC information, would you be willing to share with us some things about your character, Commodore Aron Kells? Maybe some things most people don’t know about him?
Yeah! I came up with Kells more than a decade ago when I returned to the fleet in early 2011 after some time away. I wanted to portray him as enthusiastic and eager, the model of an excited young officer – if you’ve seen Lower Decks, Tendi is a great example of what I was going for. A lot of what I simmed on the Drake, set the stage for his character basics – an arc in which he discovered that his maternal grandparents were (in)famous scientists, including that he was partially Romulan through his grandfather – and his penchant for temporal shenanigans, which ended up being a handy way to jump him from ensign to commander when I regained my pre-leave rank.
All the foundations come from those early days, but I’ve gradually emphasized and de-emphasized portions of his character over his career. For example, I’ve always written him with a background as a science officer and, specifically, as a life sciences specialist – but only since I took command of the Thor have I written him as really interested in cosmozoan life (think space whales and so forth). It’s consistent with his character background but represents a change from the way I would’ve written him ten, five, or even two years ago, which has been important to me to keep things fresh with very established characters like Kells.
And he’s married! Ish, anyway. I haven’t fully and totally nailed this down, but Kells and Nic del Vedova have been together for a long time now, after they both dated around in the first few years I wrote them together. I very much enjoy writing relationships with other simmers, but I also wanted to establish that not all captains are perpetually single, and so I finally made the (personal) decision to link them officially a few years ago. And now, as I had Del say in a recent sim, space husbands! Again, ish.
What was your first experience as a staff member in SB118? What was the transition like and how did you adjust?
I’m actually going to skip over the first time, which didn’t last more than a couple of months, and focus on the second time when I was writing for Aron Kells and took command of the Mercury. Back in 2012, I had been writing Kells as the chief science officer. Marissa then tapped me, aka Kali Nicholotti, to come over as her XO on Starbase 118 Ops (a position you now occupy, Amanda!), and I expected to lay down some roots there. I wanted to write on Ops for a while since it had a long, rich history and seemed ripe for exploration — but about a month after I got there, I had another opportunity come knocking. The CO of the Mercury had recently retired, and they had brought in a new CO to replace him — but then, just about a week later, the new CO announced things had changed abruptly for him and that he also needed to retire. The EC kept the ship going, and so they offered it to me.
Frankly, I don’t know that anyone expected the Mercury to survive after that. But it had a really dedicated XO (Lyle, aka Arden Cain, who I don’t believe is currently with the fleet, though he has been back in the years since) and a strong core of simmers, and we pulled it back from the brink. In that first year of COing, I ended up with an incredibly talented crew, whether they were new to the fleet, had transferred over, or were returning from LOAs — and many of those names are still going to be familiar to folks today: Quinn Reynolds, Roshanara Rahman, Mei’konda, Evan Delano, Raissa Moonsong, and, of course, Alora DeVeau!
Would you mind sharing some details about the other commanding officers that you’ve played over the years?
Of course! At the time I’m answering these questions, I write for Aron Kells, but by the time this comes out, that may have changed. Maybe more about that.
After Kells, I played Cassandra Egan Manno for the greatest amount of time. She was an interesting contrast for me because I wanted her to counter a lot of Kells’ weaknesses — he’d kind of ended up in command accidentally, in a fictionalization of how quickly I’d returned to COing, but Egan Manno was the consummate career officer. She rose through the ranks in operations, mostly in engineering, and had always had her eye on command, since she had a clear sense of how starships operated. Kells was also a confirmed bachelor at that point, and Egan Manno had a family — husband and children — and I was interested in playing with that dynamic. She’s still a character I return to, though she didn’t last long in the field — after I retired her as my primary character, she became a starbase commander, and then returned to Earth after her post, Astrofori One, was destroyed in a Tholian conflict. I write her as an NPC admiral from time to time, and I incorporated her in unusual ways in other characters’ lives.
My first primary character with the 118 fleet was Aresee Lily Ventu, who was promoted up through commander and, briefly was the CO of 118 Ops. Since I invented Kells, and over the last decade, I’ve played Ventu as an important political PNPC who was an ambassador-at-large for the Federation for many years. Nowadays, and for the past few years, she’s been a member of Federation President Narala’s cabinet as the Secretary of the Exterior for the Federation. I don’t use her very often, but she’s a prominent character to pull in when I want to add some big stakes to a situation!
I also briefly played Zalea Solzano when I was CO of the Za, but she didn’t last too long, either. I designed her as an older character, one who’d been a CO for years and years, so long that she had adult children who were themselves in Starfleet, and who still found joy in exploring the frontier. I still really enjoy that character idea, but Zalea very much went with the Za, since its mission imperative was to explore at the very edges of Federation space, and so I’ve assumed that she’s doing just that and haven’t returned to her for a few years.
I’m also eyeing another CO transition soon, probably to Ossa V’Airu, who I wrote as an MSNPC for a recent Thor mission and who would be my first nonhuman PC! I have a very clear story arc in mind for her – she’s a tactical operations specialist who’s still haunted by the Dominion War and what she did then, and so she’ll be perfect (or “perfect,” at least) to lead our upcoming Gamma Quadrant missions to explore the Dominion’s former sphere of influence.
I’ll also admit that I have a couple of commander-ranked characters waiting in the wings for their chance at command. Both Lia Rouiancet and Nic del Vedova are characters I’ve written for years, including stints as my PCs, and my long-range plans include transitioning to one of them to take them through promotion to captain and beyond as they head into command. The stories haven’t worked out just yet, but it’s gonna happen for (at least) one of them!
What are some of the ways you’ve served SB118 in an OOC capacity?
I’ve been a part of group leadership for a long while, first as a member of the Captains Council (which all first officers and commanders-and-above have access to as a matter of course), then the Captain Council Magistrate, then Captain-at-Large for the Executive Council, and finally as a member of the Executive Council.
I’ve occupied a couple of member support roles during my time — as the Academy’s cadet steward going back a few years, though not for more than half a decade, and later as the promotion coordinator across the whole fleet. The latter role is one that no longer exists, because while it was a great idea — to coordinate with the command teams across all our ships, make sure that promotions are done in a fair way and that folks get a fair shot as they approach the promotion to commander — it ended up being largely replaced by the player achievement system that most ships now use, which ensures that promotions are equitable across the fleet.
I enjoyed my time in various groups and taskforces, including the News Team, the Training Team, the Species Development Committee, and more. Nowadays, I’m only an active member of the Veterans Affairs Committee, where I see myself as the great-grandpa of the group. Not that I’m very wise, mind you. Just that I’m old.
I’m also one of the graders for the exams that candidates take for promotion to commander and captain. This is something I like a whole lot — I’m university faculty in (one of) my day jobs, so giving meaningful feedback that’s meant to improve folks’ knowledge of content and structure is my bread and butter!
You’re well established as a leader in SB118. What does leadership mean to you, and what sort of qualities do you think are essential in a leader?
Humility is a big part of it. This came up in the Year of the Commodores chat that happened back in November, how COs certainly can develop their characters over time, but how that often takes a back seat to the plot at hand. The key for long-term development at any rank – because, truly, you can be an excellent leader even if you and your PC are ranked at ensign, and I’ve had some really excellent acting department chiefs at ensign during my time here – is that balance between writing an interesting character with clear arcs and room to grow, and being able to advance the plot and make sure that story progression and character advancement for others are available.
Where do you see yourself regarding SB118 in five years?
I hope I’ll still be kicking around! I was a CO for about four years running when I commanded the Mercury-Garuda-Invicta, and my goal is to continue COing for a longer continuous period this time around. It’s been about a year and a half since I took command of the Thor, so fingers crossed! I also hope that I’ll be COing some bizarre-looking ship like the Invicta or the Za, something the fleet’s never seen before, but you’ll have to stay tuned for that (since I don’t even know what I’m going to find between now and then!).
Thanks for your time, Commodore Kells!
You can read more about Commodore Kells on the wiki.