For the fourth month in a row, we’ve continued to grow!
Though the early part of the year tends, traditionally, to be one of the group’s slower times, that wasn’t true in January of 2015. In fact, there was an increase of almost 20 posts on average over December!
The crews of the Duronis II Embassy and the Atlantis both posted well more than 300 sims each for January. The Embassy hosted the crew of the Victory and several guests from the Executive Council to celebrate the promotions of Admiral Turner and Captain Nugra at the end of January, and that certainly contributed to their sky-high post count for the month! Elsewhere in the fleet, the Constitution posted enormous gains — 90 more sims in January than in December! Gemini and Victory also posted gains, while Columbia stayed steady around the ~150 posts per month it’s established. Starbase 118 Ops started strong, with nearly 180 posts for the month, and we’ll look forward to seeing more from Commander Handley-Page’s new crew!
January 2015 is the best January the group’s had since 2012 — well done, everyone! Typically, January is followed by a post decrease in February, due in part to the loss of a few days at the end. In fact, in the last six years, only 2011 saw a gain in February over January. Will 2015 show a similar trend? Stay tuned to find out!
It’s with a heavy heart that I announce that the November & December 2014 round of the Writing Challenge will be the last regular Writing Challenge of the contest as we know it. Going forward, we will hold Writing Challenges only during special events — for example, during our yearly Writing Improvement Month — and we will be working to incorporate much of what kept the Writing Challenges going for so long into the Top Sims Contest. The decision to end the Writing Challenges wasn’t easy and involved a lot of discussion on the Executive Council, but it’s our hope that by ending the Challenge now, we will be able to improve the many forum contests (Top Sims, Featured Bio, and Graphics) that also exist.
I know that many of you will be disappointed by this announcement, so I encourage you to remember the Challenges on the forums — a favorite story or theme, perhaps, if you’re a regular writer, or something you learned or enjoyed writing as a result of the Challenge. I look forward to reading your remembrances, and I’ll start off with one of my own: In August of 2005, I was a cadet and was just poking around the forums for the first time when I noticed the Writing Challenge that was going on at the time. The theme, “Devil in the Dark,” seemed to be encouraging a lot of grimdark, gritty entries, so I decided to write something lighthearted about a Q who went by X. That story, “X Factors,” was named the Challenge’s winner when I was barely an ensign, and it established my interest in and association with the Writing Challenges from the very first.
I look forward to reading about your memories! Help us celebrate the end of this great contest in style!
2014 saw a lot of new COs for our fleet — Captains Blueheart, Frost, Nugra, and Livingston, and Commanders Faranster and Handley-Page all took that central chair, and in a fleet of nine ships, six new captains in a single year is a pretty big deal! Each of those new COs has been an asset to the fleet and helms a unique and productive ship, but — in many of these cases, and in previous years — new commanders haven’t had much time to serve as first officers or in other capacities on their vessels before being rushed into command. This isn’t ideal because it puts a lot of undue stress on newly promoted officers.
Enter the new role of Promotion Coordinator. This position’s goal, according to its proposal before the Executive Council, is “to create a central resource officer for all promotions in the fleet, but primarily for staff promotions to commander, captain, and above.” What does that mean? The Promotion Coordinator will work with lieutenant commanders and commanders (and above!) and their COs and mentors to help everyone more smoothly and effectively through the promotion process and ensure that the group is building up a strong bulwark of talented command candidates.
The first Promotion Coordinator will be Fleet Captain Egan Manno (also known as me!), so please drop by my little corner of the forums with any questions you might have. And if you’re a command-minded lieutenant commander, you and your CO should expect to hear more from me soon!
Congratulations to Chris, the writer behind Sinda Essen and Jhen Thelev, who has won the November & December 2014 Writing Challenge. This is Chris’s sixth win, an unprecedented number in the history of the Challenges, so special congratulations to him. Judge Jamie, the writer behind Lt. Cmdr. Sal Taybrim, had this to say about the piece:
I think the plot and the twist was well developed and delivered. The whole idea behind the piece was one of the best of the round. I particularly liked how you sprung the Klingon attack with very little preamble. Marsha was surprised, the audience was surprised, it pushed the action forward in a big burst – a very nice effect!
This round’s runner-up was a first-time entrant, the writer behind Maxwell Traenor, who received his honor because of his short story “Chocolate.” My comments, as judge Cassandra Egan Manno:
It’s as stilted and awkward as I’d expect a first contact between a physicist and an alien over food and drinks to be. What really makes that atmosphere work, though, is that it revels in its minutiae — the untranslatable “cuisine” and “dessert,” the description and delight involved when Maxwell eats that desert. In my experience, it’s very difficult to write an awkward story that isn’t constantly tripping over itself to prove its awkwardness, but “Chocolate” pulls it off: We’ve already seen, by the time the dessert arrives, how uncomfortable Maxwell is feeling, so that provides a whole different perspective with which to view his sudden obsession with the dessert. … The twist, such as it is, is both funny and oddly touching, as Maxwell’s companion protests ignorance and Maxwell himself doesn’t ever want to stop eating. “Delightful,” in retrospect, is definitely the right word to describe “Chocolate.”
Please drop by the forums to offer these writers, and all our entrants, your congratulations if you haven’t yet done so!
As part of an ongoing overview of the whole fleet, we’d like to present for you the posting totals and simming trends for and through December. These number will give you some idea of how active our ships are month-to-month, as well as how the whole fleet is doing.
As we’d hoped, December finished out the year strongly with an average gain of about 15 sims per ship over November! Of course, the actual numbers look at little different from the averages, and again a few ships made huge gains (of over 15 sims or more), including Apollo, Columbia, the Duronis II Embassy, Garuda, and Gemini. Atlantis and Victory turned in their usual strong numbers, and Constitution made a small gain over November’s total to post a solid, stable total for the month.
Only January of 2014 exceeded December in terms of total sims — and that’s without including our newest simming installation, Starbase 118 Ops and the USS Albion, launched just before the new year with Leo (Commander Leo Handley-Page) in command. Ops and Albion look like they’re going to be a simming powerhouse, so you may expect the January 2015 numbers to increase again for what may be our fourth consecutive month of growth!
One of the community’s most prolific contributors, Rich, the writer behind Lt. Cmdr. Roshanara Rahman (and a suite of other characters!), has introduced us to the eminent Martian fleetworks. The Utopia Planitia Fleet Yards are a new resource that should be both an excellent resource for current writers and help to attract new members. Among other useful things, this resource lists ship types by function (cruisers, explorers, science ships, and so forth), explains the starship registry number scheme, and provides a historical database of Starfleet (and pre-Starfleet) starships. Says Rich, writing on the forums,
For a while now, we’ve had a lot of conflicting tech information spread across the various ship sections on the wiki given that much of it is sourced from outside. Some of the information is from Memory Alpha aka the “canon wiki” whereas other tidbits have come from fan sites and other RPGs. I think it’s time 118 has a database of its own. … We’re not trying to duplicate Memory Alpha: we’re trying to go beyond it.
It’s an ambitious project, but one that has already seen near-completion and is available for use! This is one more evolutionary step for the 118Wiki, which is already one of the finest and most comprehensive Star Trek wikis on the web. Our thanks and congratulations to Rich for the creation of this wonderful tool!
Take a look at Utopia Planitia on the 118Wiki and head over to the forums to see the full announcement!
2014 is almost over, and that means that the end of the year’s last Writing Challenge is just around the corner! This year, we’re ending on an operatic note in the best traditions of the big emotions of Star Trek: We want you to show us your very best “Love & Betrayal”!
For our final Challenge of the year, the writer behind Nathaniel Wilmer and our previous Challenge’s winner asks you to consider a theme as old as writing itself. With clear roots back to the first recorded epics, including The Epic of Gilgamesh — so famously used by Jean-Luc Picard in the TNG episode “Darmok” — there’s no more mythic or archetypal way to close out 2014!
Is what ways will your characters access this theme? Will they be the lovers or the beloved, love unrequitedly or reciprocally, love from far or near; or will they be the betrayer or the betrayed, the watcher or the enactor or the friend? There are endless ways to interpret this theme, and the judges look forward to seeing what your take on it might be.
The judges look forward to having each entry play havoc with their emotions, but remember that all stories must be submitted by Friday, December 26th. Good luck!
Many congratulations to the writers behind Ensign Leland Bishop and Ambassador Della Vetri! These writers’ stories were selected by the judges from the September & October Writing Challenge, “Run Shivers Down My Spine,” as co-runners-up, a very unusual honor indeed! Their stories — “The Last Night on Lookout” and “The Touch of the Sleeper,” respectively — stood out for a variety of reasons. I’ll let the judges’ comments speak for themselves! In response to “The Last Night on Lookout,”
The morbid images, crafted so subtly by the author, are what stuck with me: Whether it’s the final sentence of the opening paragraph that so wonderfully plays with language and image (“choking … on Lookout”) or it’s the final line (“How sad it was that the poor man beneath him hadn’t had time to shave”), this story refuses to sit down quietly and instead forces the reader to consider it head-on. That’s really a fancy way of saying that I was hooked…!
In response to “The Touch of the Sleeper,”
This is a solid story, a double-braid that considers two archaeotechnology specialists on the one hand and their subject on the other. Perhaps it’s the theme or the time of year, but I saw this as a nice riff on Frankenstein’s basic territory, and it was a pleasant little riff! There’s a good escalation of tension throughout the piece, and it’s handled well: I felt the sort of full-body realization of my heartbeat that means that what I’m reading is doing a good job of scaring me — or at least signaling to me that it’s about to do so.
Well done, you two! Please offer these talented writers your congratulations if you haven’t done so already!
The year’s final Challenge, “Love & Betrayal,” is currently ongoing and will end on Friday, December 26th, so be sure to hurry over to the Writing Challenge Forum for guidelines, deadlines, and inspiration!
As always, don’t forget that you can pick up a complete collection of all this round’s short stories, in PDF format, for free. Get yours here!
As part of an ongoing overview of the whole fleet, we’d like to present for you the posting totals and simming trends for and through November. These number will give you some idea of how active our ships are month-to-month, as well as how the whole fleet is doing.
November saw some great gains for many ships of the SB118 fleet, including the Atlantis, which was up to 319 sims from 225 in October, and the Apollo, up to 177 from 113. Columbia and Victory also saw gains, while Constitution and the Duronis II Embassy stayed around their previous posting levels. The Garuda, after its stellar October, returned to high-normal posting levels, at 230. Overall, November was a gain for the fleet over October, for our second month in a row of a trend of growth.
As you’ll see below, the fleet is also doing much better than at the same time last year. While 2013 had been outperforming 2014 since July, November reversed that trend and gave 2014 and almost 40-sim-average boost over 2013. Well done, everyone! Let’s see if we can keep that momentum going into the final month of the year!
The number of service ribbons that can be awarded to characters for In Character actions continues to grow! Today, we’d like to announce the Captain’s Commendation, an all-purpose ribbon that can be used at a commanding officer’s discretion to recognize exemplary service. While it is a catchall award, it still requires unusual action that should result in formal recognition. From its proposal:
Several times, I’ve found myself at a loss when I want to recognize a character with a service ribbon at the end of a mission, but none of his/her actions seems to fit any of the existing categories. Even the Legion of Merit, which seems like the ribbon with the broadest definition, doesn’t work – because a lot of the time, those characters haven’t necessarily gone beyond the scope of their duties, but they did perform those duties very well, in a timely fashion, etc.
… The Captain’s Commendation Ribbon, then, will recognize characters performing outstanding acts and deeds during a mission or other critical situation whose actions may not quite fit within the more narrow contexts specified by the other service ribbons. It will be a lower level and more generalized IC award COs can bestow upon those under their command as they see fit to properly recognize these actions (and thus provide another way for COs to boost morale and encourage good simming within their groups).
Let your characters shine — they might just receive special recognition! As always, remember that you can read more about all service ribbons on the wiki!