Monthly Archives: June 2012

Nothing Fancy here

So I’ve been experimenting with a new format for the Star Trek starships I’ve been statting out for the CODA rpg. It’s nothing too fancy, certainly nothing like Captain Kirk above, but I think it looks much nicer than the older format I’ve been using, and the even older format (which you won’t see here) I used to use. So we’ve got the:

  • Borg Probe: Not THAT kind of probe, but the scoutship type. The Borg are cybernetic beings intent on improving themselves in any way possible, which translates into they take your stuff and use it so they have better stuff (stuff being you and everything technological you make). They were originally supposed to be insect-like, but I rather like their cybernetic humanoid look.
  • Tamarian Darmok-class: The Tamarians, or the Children of Tama are a neat alien species. They communicate entirely in metaphor. So instead of saying “Oh God we’re all going to die”, I would say “Leonidas, at Thermopylae”. Instead of “I love you so much I’d die for you”, we would instead say “Romeo and Juliet, when the families fought” or some such.
  • Krenim Warship: The Krenim are another alien of the week whose sole shtick is they are masters of time, and do all sorts of things like wipe out their opponents by making sure they never existed in the first place. Charming, eh?
  • Starfleet Vesta-class: This Federation ship features prominently in the Star Trek: Destiny novels, which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. It continues the original Star Trek timeline beyond the Star Trek: Nemesis movie, but unlike the latter, it manages to be both entertaining and not a total mindwipe.

Hostile aliens

No, I’m not talking about U.S. border issues, though perhaps in a way I am, especially after you read this post. I’m talking about the aliens that are out to get us. They’re here to destroy Earth or enslave humanity, or use human beings as food, what have you. One of the enduring traits Star Trek has in abundance is the belief that there’s always a brighter future out there, just waiting for us to grasp. Yes, we may run into some terrible difficulties along the way, but that’s par for the course, eventually we will find our own way and be at peace with not only our enemies, but ourselves. We will find a way to do no harm. My wife, the yogini (I believe that’s the right term!) would subscribe to this perspective.

So today let’s discuss the Romulans, Klingons, and Talarians. What do these three Star Trek alien species all have in common? They’ve all attacked humanity in some way, shape, or form. They are also all species from whom that initial conflict has resulted from misunderstanding and lack of communication. Eventually (in some cases centuries’ worth of time), that misunderstanding and lack of communication was rectified. It took time, and a communicative effort to truly understand these alien cultures, before humanity could come to an accord with them. Here’s where the hope that pervades Star Trek’s philosophy comes in, for the hope is that though someone or many someones are our enemy now does not mean they will be our enemy in the future. The hope is that if we come to know our enemy, to understand them, by communicating with them, by reaching out to them, they will come to know and understand us as well.

We fear that which we do not understand, and one little nugget of wisdom we can take from Star Trek is that if human beings can come to understand truly alien species, then we can certainly come to understand ourselves, in all our different forms. Eventually.

I hope.

So below you will find some starships for the aforementioned aliens:

Space Stations

The I.S.S., the International Space Station, that intricate marvel of human engineering floating in space, the single largest artificial satellite ever built by humankind. A place of experiments and observations, a place where humans from all Earthly nations can work together, striving for peace and goodwill, all alone in the night.

In the spirit of that august installation, I’ve updated my starships page with two new … well, not starships, but space stations. First up is the venerable Starfleet K-class outpost, made famous by the Trouble with Tribbles classic episode.

Set in the same era, but covered mostly in the Vanguard novels, is the Starfleet Watchtower-class starbase. I’ve got to say that I don’t normally get into reading Star Trek novels set during the Original Series timeframe. But for whatever reason, I’ve just started this series and really enjoy revisiting the classic crew of Kirk, Spock, etc. Perhaps it’s the fact that they have a cameo appearance by Matt Decker, such a tragic starship captain, forced to watch his crew get eaten by the Planet Killer. Whatever quality sets it apart from the other novels I’ve tried to read in that era, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable read so far!

Starships and Aliens galore!

The Xindi-Insectoids are human-sized sentient bugs that have a lifespan of a dozen years. I’m no scientist, but wouldn’t a bug with an exoskeleton that big effectively be unable to move due to the weight of that same exoskeleton? Maybe because it’s an alien bug person it’s got an ultralight exoskeleton. Oh well, check out their Xindi-Insectoid Warship that they use to attack the poor humans of the 22nd century in their woefully inadequate United Earth NC-class.

Just so the giant space bugs don’t have all the fun, by the 24th century we have the Zalkonians using their Zalkonian Warship to asphyxiate people with their choking beam. That’s right, it’s a beam that can choke you from thousands of kilometers away inside your own space ship. I guess that makes sense, I mean, why incinerate someone on their fancy ship with your beams of amplified light when you can just choke them to death and then walk on board their ship and take all their stuff?

Lastly we have the Cardassians (think people with scaly skin and the pallor of a wax sculpture) and their semi-sentient (or is that consciousCardassian ATR-4107 missile.

Robot dreams and the Nature of Consciousness

It’s funny the kind of conversations you can have when tired and on a caffeine high driving down the Interstate at half past 10 at night. My wife and I were discussing her belief that humanity returning to its natural roots, whether in the consumption of organic matter (not that highly-processed stuff so many of us eat now) or a life with less reliance on technology, would lead to a greater spiritual connection with God.

We soon began discussing how our advancing medical technology may soon make it possible for humanity to replace failing organs with lab-grown substitutes or with artificial metal or plastic replacements. We soon began discussing whether a human whose memory is transferred to a machine would truly be considered human. This led to a question many have pondered before us; what does it mean to be human? Would a machine with all the memories, hopes, dreams, emotions, and foibles of a human being actually be a human being, or would it simply be a fancy copy? Can machines like Data from Star Trek, that exhibit awareness of their surroundings, demonstrate a desire for self-preservation, strive to better themselves, and to create more of their own kind, actually be conscious beings? Perhaps they are merely sophisticated machines, and that is all they are. How can we even measure consciousness when we cannot even define it for ourselves? Who’s to say that life and consciousness as we know it on Earth is the only kind that there is in this vast universe?

We discussed more than just these topics on our drive, including but not limited to: Organic machines, transferring human consciousness remotely to organic machines/machines to explore hostile environments, etc. But those are topics for another day!

Human species and the Xindi

I was watching a recent Ted Talk where the speaker pointed out how at one point in the history of our planet, there were nine different human species in existence. Mind-boggling. The subject reminded me of the Xindi people of Star Trek, a group of five related species with a misdirected desire to destroy Earth and humanity for humanity’s supposed future destruction of their as-yet undiscovered new homeworld.

Yeah, so throwing aside the multiple issues of punishing people for what they will or might do but have not yet done, the concept of multiple human species on one Earth is intriguing. Some reports indicate there were a hobbit-like human species living in present-day Indonesia as late as the 19th century! If true, then it’s a testament to the Xindi that they managed not to wipe each other out, because look at our own sibling species: Neanderthals (extinct), Homo Erectus (extinct), Homo Floresiensis (extinct), and so on.

Without further ado, here is the Xindi-Reptilian Warship for the CODA Star Trek rpg.

Doomsday Device

I’ve been on a bit of a Star Trek and History kick lately, and it’s gotten me to thinking. There’s a lot of focus lately on Iran and it’s possible acquisition of nuclear weapons, the ultimate doomsday device created by mankind. Captain Kirk said, and I paraphrase here, that such a device is intended as a bluff, so strong is it that its use could destroy both sides. Is that definition of a doomsday device applicable to our own nuclear weapons? It doesn’t seem like it. We’ve used nuclear weapons already. Twice. Our nuclear weapons may have originally been intended as a bluff, maybe, but its actual effect is as a deterrent. Our proverbial “big stick” to hit people with if they mess with us. The problem we now face is that other people already have that same big stick, and we want to limit who else gets the big stick. But how can we prevent them from doing so when some of those others with big sticks may show others how to make big sticks? Oh well, there’s probably just too many big sticks shoved up in dark places to begin with.

Oh yeah, so here’s my Planet Killer for the CODA Star Trek rpg, Captain Kirk’s doomsday device.