Each month, we interview a captain or first officer of the fleet to gain more insight on what it takes to command a ship and learn more about how each of these staff members found their way into these roles, and what’s been happening under their command.
This month, we’re interviewing the Commanding Officer of the starship USS Arrow, Randal Shayne, a human male.
DeVeau: You shared a little about yourself in your last interview. Would you be willing to go a little deeper? Other than writing, what sort of hobbies do you enjoy? And how did you get into communications?
SHAYNE: I’ll answer the second question first, as the response is simpler; I realized how many relationships in my life, be they familial, collegial or academic, were weaker than they might otherwise be. I traced most of the problems down to communication, or lack thereof. That, combined with a unique hatred of unclear instructions and grammatical mistakes, helped me realize that communications was a field I wanted to dedicate myself to as a profession. I realized how desperately almost any company or institution in the world needed guidance to clearly communicate, and I could easily see myself as some kind of consultant… expert… person… thing…
What I didn’t see coming was just how few companies recognized that about themselves, which explains why I’m currently landscaping forest preserves in the Chicago summer alongside a group of recently released felons.
As for new hobbies, I’ve had to get creative. A chronic ear condition that started a year ago (that hopefully I’m making small bits of progress against every day) means that my normal binging of Skyrim for 48 hours at a time is no longer feasible. As such, I’ve taken to less plugged-in hobbies. I’ve continued an obsessive patch collecting spree, I’ve started to create a physical 118 shadowbox (it doesn’t get any more unrepentantly geeky than that) and I enjoy organizing and building unique Lego models that you won’t find in a boxed set.
I’d love to give you more, but at the risk of hitting a more serious note, I’m in a time of significant transition. I hope that down the road, I’ll be able to give better answers as a result of finally settling into a new, improved normal.
In your last interview, you also mentioned that the Arrow has the “makings of character-driven story growth and plotting.” Could you extrapolate a bit on that?
Happily! I chose Arrow for a number of reasons, but one big rationale in particular. She felt like a proper first command. Picard had the Stargazer, an overworked, underpowered vessel, always on the verge of flying apart at the seams. I wanted that exact feel for my first command. It feels more real to me, it feels more purposeful, and it offers so many otherwise underutilized opportunities for the crew to engage, which is where that character driven growth comes in.
We’ve just celebrated our third anniversary, and I would not give up the stories, character development, and writing depth I’ve enjoyed reading for anything. I’ve watched members of my crew go from pleasantly distant colleagues to fiances. I’ve read as young ensigns have blossomed into senior officers, recognizing and making use of Arrow’s absent holodecks or battered engines or limited science facilities to explore the boundaries of creativity. I’ve been inspired as places, objects or people that were simply invented for the purposes of a single mission receive painstaking artistic rendering or even sweeping, meaningful tales of their own.
This is, of course, due to the commitment, brilliance, and community of Arrow’s writers. And yet, I feel like the ship is almost a living being too. It’s received such love and attention from everyone aboard that it feels almost wrong to dismiss it as a figment of imagination. It’s not to me, and with every sim I read, I feel like I’m not alone in that. It feels alive, and with that life come possibilities I never could have imagined on my own. That’s why I say she’s a perfect place for character-driven stories- because the more we write, the more she becomes a character in her own right.
God, was I always this long-winded?
You also spoke about some challenges you faced. What were some that you had in the last year, and how did you balance them all out?
Coming to terms with my ongoing health issues has been incredibly difficult, and my writing and leadership suffered. Were it not for my team of staffers, there is no way I could do it. COVID’s ongoing threat has lessened, but has never truly gone away. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I am not good with paperwork and bureaucracy, and it has been a struggle to make sure every fire has been put out in reasonable time. I may be captain, but most of my staff has more professional life experience than I do, and they’ve been gracious in both relieving me of some tasks, and in providing me insight and suggestions based on their own trials and tribulations.
A lot has happened over the last year. Could you highlight some of your favourite moments in Shayne’s journey over the last year?
Goodness, that’s a tall order. Certainly I’ve enjoyed the first few sims from our newcomers especially; realizing that we had onboard a veritable troupe of gifted wordsmiths from the start was a “cheshire cat smile” moment for me. Bolians and Gorns and Betazoids, oh my!
Around November of 2022, our rates of simming slumped, and to my great shame, not even I made full time. I was determined that would not happen again, and watching as we not only steadily increased in later months, but blasted past 200 in March really brought home how much of a team effort this is, and how much I can count on my crew.
Something I’d struggled with was trying to find Arrow’s purpose, and moral balance, in the Isles. With our initial job of protecting the colony on Theta 122 done, it was gnawing at me just how out of control everything in the region felt. That changed when we enjoyed our first active combat mission against the Sheliak. It felt like such a bold new adventure and a stance that was long overdue, and my crew handled it with aplomb. All of a sudden, a new sense of direction and possibility opened up. That was a thrilling realization to be sure; taking charge of the story in a big way.
Lastly, I’d say the character moments. The upcoming marriage between Lts. Jacin and Dewitt has brought out some of the best relationship moments and resonating interplays I’ve seen thus far. Reading about realistic recoveries from injuries, or watching as tangible quandaries about leadership resonate with authors and readers alike makes this supposed hobby (at least to me) a genuine exploration of the better side of humanity. I love taking something I’ve learned from written stories, or from OOC conversations with others on my ship, and bringing it to the real world to guide me in this nutty reality. Bridging that gap, however temporarily, still brings a wonderful shiver to my spine.
What are some things you are looking forward to doing with your crew over the next year?
Oh, god- everything. I want to do everything. Specifically, I want to build on what we have. I want to continue helping aspiring writers reach their position goals, be it a chief role or a captaincy of their own. I want to develop the region we’re in further by taking concrete steps towards the next chapter in the Isles’ history. I want to continue making Arrow the perfect ship for us; changing it and at the same time imbuing it with a unique identity that speaks of its past, its future, and the lives held aboard her. I want to get to the bottom of mysteries three years in the making, and now that I may finally be getting surgery, I’ll be able to concentrate on that. I want to watch marriages grow and relationships blossom. I want to explore strange new cultures and the boundaries of the sentient self. I want to seize the day, and make every moment we have on this beautiful bucket of bolts meaningful to every other. I want to build.
What about Shayne? What are your plans over the next year for him?
I want to build with him too. There’s a ready room that he wants to make into an impromptu bedroom for when he needs to be on the bridge at a moment’s notice. He wants to grow real fruit in the botany section. And, of course, he wants to continue serving his crew and his ship as the best leader he can be.
Personally speaking? I want to see him grow, too. Shayne started out as a very flawed, if not unfit captain, thrown into a situation he couldn’t have predicted or managed well. From those dangerous beginnings, he has gone from a questioned, terrified figurehead to a flawed but resolved commanding officer, finally able to think about tomorrows without a pursuing sense of dread. He’s got a long way to go before he’s the captain he should be, but I cannot wait to continue that goal into our fourth year.
Oh, and he’s going to learn how to make a decent lemon square.
Thanks for your time, Captain Shayne!
You can read more about Captain Randal Shayne on the wiki.