Each month we interview a First Officer of the fleet as part of our “First Officer in Focus” column to get to know them better, and learn more about what their positions entail.
This month, we’re interviewing the First Officer of the starship Constitution, Lieutenant Commander Azura Ada, a human woman.
DeVeau: In your last interview, you told us a bit about yourself. I was wondering if you’d dive a little deeper and tell us more about what you were studying, your dissertation, and your goals for your career.
Ada: Sure! Thank you for asking. I was trained as an experimental psychologist, so I was a major lab rat. I studied music perception and cognition, with a particular focus on how music production techniques shape how people perceive and react to music. My dissertation had to be modified extensively due to the pandemic, but what I ended up doing was looking for and identifying features of music that elicit a short-term automatic attention capture. In other words, I identified some parts of music “grab” your ear and force you to pay attention, even if only for a moment. It’s highly contextual and culturally based, but some obvious things like sudden changes in dynamics, tempo, seemingly “wrong” notes, and a few others.
As for my career, in the (ongoing) process of getting my PhD, I found that I did not want to stay in academia. That took some time to grieve, because I went back to school in the first place because I knew I wanted to teach at a collegiate level. But, I have since found my niche: I teach social skills to autistic and neurodivergent young adults. And it’s wonderful.
When we last did an interview, you were playing Lazarus Davis, but have since switched characters. Would you mind sharing a bit about that shift?
Oh, Lazarus. When I first joined Starbase 118, I had never played an RPG like this. And so I did what I always do when approaching a new RPG: I create a character that is more or less a self insert. It helps me get into the roleplaying component more readily, while leaving more bandwidth to learn the gameplay. When I started playing he and I shared a face, some aspects of a biography, and our insecurities. I also gave him a name that is very dear to me. But as my own journey in life progressed, and so did his, we became different people. As I began my journey of self-knowledge and self-acceptance, he did not. It was too personal to write into the character, and his own arc was unfolding. My OOC name got closer to his IC name, but other aspects of my identity got further as I first recognized my queerness, my neurodivergence, and my identity as a trans non-binary person.. At some point, his face had to change.
When I finally fully appreciated who I was and I took my name and identity as it is now–Lazuli, a trans woman–and all the changes in myself and my perspective that it entailed, all I could do was pity him. I didn’t want a character I pitied, I wanted a character I could love. But I also didn’t want to discard him. At first, I debated him transitioning, but I also knew I didn’t want to write that process as it unfurled in my own life, but I also wanted to be able to talk about some of the experience of transitioning; the whole negotiation of “I’m still me, but also I’m different, but also not” that goes on with each relationship.
Of course, Azura would have little trouble being accepted in Starfleet as a trans woman, so I decided to use one of Trek’s tried and true plot devices: an alternate universe. Due to a science experiment gone wrong, Lazarus and Azura swapped places across their respective quantum realities. Both realities are more or less identical, except that Azura figured out who she was years ago. As such, the biographical parts of their stories and service records are identical, even if their inner experiences and outer presentations are in some ways radically different.
Right now, she’s in the process of explaining to her crewmates that she is the same person they’ve always known, but different, but also not; and she’s going through the same with them.
How are Davis and Ada alike, and how are they different?
They are alike in more ways than not. I know the specific moment where their stories diverge, but they have yet to figure it out. I don’t want to spoil it, so I’ll speak conceptually. Azura’s biggest difference from Lazarus is that she knows who she is. And through that she’s far more ready, willing, and able to connect with others. She’s more relaxed, confident, and collected. Lazarus was (is?) wracked with insecurities and self-doubt. It really inhibited his ability to be present in the moment.
You recently became the first officer of the Conny. What’s the biggest difference for you between that and being a regular player?
I had been part of the Conny staff for some time, which was enjoyable work. I was a helper, and doing this and that along the way. Early on, Lazarus (and by extension, I) gained the informal title of “morale officer,” but now it’s much more official. The role is especially fun because IC Lazarus hadn’t been promoted yet, and now he’s gone. Azura is still in limbo, but on her way to being formally added to the Conny’s roster as the Second Officer.
What has been the biggest challenge in your new role?
Definitely that I am now responsible for staff duties. Before, I would pick up the odds and ends that were needed, now it’s on me to see it through and to delegate as needed. IC, It’ll be very interesting to take on that role.
What are your goals for the future in SB118?
Goodness, I don’t know. I know I want to get more involved with the taskforces again. I’m on a few right now, but I very much want to get back to the PADDcast. It got hard to do that work for a variety of reasons before, but I think things are different now. But I still need to find and get comfortable with my speaking voice before I dive in there.
Maybe someday I’ll take the Big Chair, but I’m in no rush. It’s a lot of responsibility and work, and I want to be sure I’m up for it before I seek it out.
Thanks for your time Commander Ada!
You can read more about Lt. Commander Azura Ada on the wiki.