The Klingon version of "Yes, and…" mostly involves trying to stab someone in the throat with the tip of a Bat'leth before they can get farther than two words into an improv routine.

#198 — Improv Dramedy

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Well, that took a while, but here we are! Hi again!

I’ve been missing Worf, even though I don’t really have a specific spot in the game for him at the moment, so when I sat down with my wife to watch Dramatis Personae we both were kind of like Oh, Hmm, Klingons! and the skeleton of this strip immediately wrote itself with that opening ship-blowin’-up sequence. I even masked up a new screenshot of him, for that “The Klingon ship explodes…” panel.

But this episode! Telepathic matrix thing takes over the command staff and makes ‘em act out some old weird tragedy, right? Yeah? I may or may not do anything else with the episode, depending on whether a solid set of jokes come to me to pair up with the narrative ideas that came to mind, but boy oh gosh as an actual episode of television it was not great. One of those ideas that maybe worked better on paper than it did on the screen; I enjoyed watching the cast do silly hammy shit and it’s interesting to see glimmers here of the alternate characterizations we get in the eventual mirror universe episodes, but all in all I found myself kind of wincing my way through it.

Also, Odo, the hardboiled space constable detective, has a really terrible habit of gawking openly at people he’s suspicious of. Takes him until the third act to even try to be meaningfully sly about the whole thing; up until then he might as well be shouting I THINK YOU’RE ACTING SUSPICIOUSLY at anyone about whom he’s developing what we are I think meant to assume is quiet suspicion.

Like a pulp noir novel that opens with “I was working overtime on a bottle of rye when she walked in, all legs and trouble. I shouted ‘YOU HAVE VERY LONG LEGS AND ARE TROUBLING’ at her.” C’mon.

Also, while the show’s plot was probably just ‘casting’ Dax and Bashir as in-character-in-the-telepathic-matrix as a distractible daydreamer and an opportunistic, ambitious courtier, respectively, I prefer to think that they were both misbehaving because of incompatible brain chemistry; Dax’s hybrid Trill brain got her stuck in a ruminative fugue state rather than playing her part, and Bashir’s (spoiler alert for later seasons!) genetically engineered brain performs off-spec, either because of the actual genetic tampering or because of the underlying originally-kind-of-a-dumb-kid hardware.

Also also, Odo gets rid of the telepathic matrix by opening the airlock door while they’re all in the room, instead of just saying, hey, let’s all run outside this room real quick and I’ll blow the airlock? What? YOU’VE ALREADY ESTABLISHED THAT THE MATRIX THING IS TRAPPED IN A STASIS FIELDY WHATEVER THE HECK, MAN.

In summary, I am a fan of Star Trek.

Unrelated! My band is riiiiiiight at the tail end of a preorder/fundraising campaign for our new album. If you’re interested in getting yourself a copy of the new album on vinyl, you can snag a copy including shipping in the US for $18! What a deal! You can also just chuck a couple bucks at us for support if you feel like it. Album will come out for free on mp3 as well, no record player required if that’s not your bag.

We’re about 90% to our goal with all of two days left, so if you’re inclined, hop to it! Thanks, it means a lot.

Also unrelated! I am attending the XOXO Conference in Portland this weekend; if you happen to be attending as well, feel free to drop me a line and maybe we can meet up at some point and exchange high fives or Spock gang signs or whatever.

Uptime notes! Obviously there’s been a lull in new strips lately, but beyond that I also want to acknowledge the literal site down-time recently; I’ve been having trouble with pharma hacker bullshittery at exactly a moment when I wasn’t in a place to keep fighting off the shitweeds every couple days. Hopefully I have some of that hammered down now, but it’s possible things will continue to be bumpy, so bear with me while I figure out what’s what.

I also considered having Geordi be visorless up until that last couple frames and just put on his visor, but let's be honest, getting any more visually ambitious in this context is just asking for trouble of the DRAWN BY BILLY KEANE, AGE 5 variety.

#197 – Always With The Wet Places

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YEEEEAAAAAAAUUUUUGGHHHHHHHHH

Last time I was at the beach; this time I’m at a lake. Will large bodies of water never cease meddling with Larp Trek’s update schedule?

Anyway, the computer where Larp Trek’s assets live isn’t in the same state as me right now, so time for another wrist-cramping, face-mangling pen-and-ink comic. I feel like the visual gag of Geordi putting on sunglasses would have benefitted greatly from any sort of preemptive sketching on my part to figure out the composition, but, yes: lake.

I actually kind of like that second Data, as far as these things go, but on the balance it’s not exactly clear that that first Data is actually even supposed to be Data. ADVENTURES IN LINE ART.

Anyway, probably some actual traditional Larp Trek again next week. For now I’m gonna go back to ignoring the internet and drinking beer and playing bluegrass and pretending that the water in the lake isn’t incredibly cold to try and fool other people to also jumping in.

Alternate dialogue for those blank post-exit panels:

Reg: Goodbye!
Deanna: Good riddance.
Riker: Good luck, Reg. You're gonna need it.

#196 – It’s been ten minutes, Lwaxana needs to change clothes

13 Comments

See you later, empathgator! I’m not sure if Larp Trek readers are actually going to get to see any of that dinner date — it may be better left to the imagination — but for now I think it’s high time DS9 got a chance to be a thing that practically exists again.

I appreciate Wes’ dedication to something resembling a narrative thread, even if it’s a thread that’s looming up mostly whole cloth. You can’t weave an omelette without warping a few eggs.

Metaphors: one of my strong points.

Anyway, the elevator scene seems like it’d lose some of its emotional depth once it’s just Odo trapped in there alone for no reason, so we’ll see what happens there. Possibly not much! Stay tuned!

Yep, apparently I'm just shipping b-list TNG characters now.  That's just...that's where my life is I guess.

#195 – Reggie d’Lwax

32 Comments

There’s a restaurant in town called Pine State Biscuits that makes really, really great buttermilk biscuit sandwiches, and one of their choices is called the Reggie and then there’s another one where you take a Reggie and add a fried egg and it’s called the Reggie Deluxe.

I only point this out because (a) apparently I’m all about breakfast food in Larp Trek writeups this month and (b) the way my brain works when I’m writing the strips and the post titles and the commentary and so on is basically a constant churn of free association, the writing staff in my brain endlessly, spasmodically throwing shit against the wall to see what’ll stick.

And “the Reggie Deluxe” can’t stick because it’s a totally personal reference that only a portion of Portlanders would get and even then it wouldn’t make any sense, it’d just be “oh, right, that, uh, biscuit sandwich?” and a big lame flop. It’s a hopeless non-joke.

But my brain: HEY WHAT ABOUT REGGIE DELUXE, MAYBE WE CAN DO SOMETHING WITH REGGIE DELUXE, SHE’S CALLING HIM REGGIE, REG, REGGIE, REGGIE DELUXE, MAYBE MAKE A BISCUIT JOKE, OR JUST, I DUNNO, HOW ABOUT REGGIE DELUXE

And it’s like, no, that doesn’t make any–

REGGIE DELUXE, TYPE REGGIE DELUXE SOMEWHERE, I BET YOU CAN WORK WITH THAT, SEEMS LIKE A WINNER

Anyway, there’s your incomprehensible title explained. I felt like it was either compromise or have an aneurism.

But, yeah, those two! Reg and Lwaxana! Sure, why not.

I’ll say, I don’t really think it’ll last; technically I could just declare that it does, Golden Rule of Larp Trek Canon and all that, but it doesn’t really seem like a long-term fit even if I wanted to upset the fabric of the universe as blatantly as all that.

More of a brief weird mutually-beneficial fling, Lwaxana getting to recalibrate her non-telepathic people-reading skills, Reg getting to, y’know, have a woman actually pay attention to him just out of interest, yadda yadda yadda. They learn, they laugh, they love or maybe at least like-like, then Lwaxana realizes she’s seeing a man who is severely under-socialized and can’t really keep up with her (and is also Starfleet and so has no money of the useful sort, she can’t live on post-scarcity military rations and free healthcare).

Reg in the meantime is blissed out short term but ultimately can’t ever really get over the fact that however admiring her attentions, Lwaxana really does find him interesting more for being unusual than for being fundamentally her type, not an object of unabashed attraction so much as one of curiosity.

She can’t read his mind and he’s never been in the position to, of all things, break up with a woman, so the parting is delayed and stumbling and just as awkward and stilted as you would imagine. Not unkind, and for both of them a relief once it’s done, but far less romance holonovel than 4D interactive Seinfeld rerun. Reg gets back to engineering, Lwaxana ships off toward the Husband Sector.

Deanna does a lot of intense meditating but it doesn’t really help. Neither does aerobics with Bev, who cannot stop smirking.

At this point Riker's not even trying to think up witty interjections; he's just watching Lwaxana work and nodding appreciatively and taking notes.  Game recognizes game.

#194 – And I Said What About Breakfast Epiphanies

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If you find yourself thinking of …like being nibbled to death by cats, it is now time for the intercanonical high-fives. I sort of wish Vir and Londo had had a morning talk show or something.

Also, I apologize more than usual for today’s title.

I have enjoyed the Lwaxanaian riffing and am enjoying throwing Reg into the pot here to see what cooks up — possibly some sort of anxious gumbo? — but I’m also sort of yearning to get back to anything actually DS9-related before autumn so I’m planning to wrap this thing up in a couple more strips and see if we can pick the game back up.

All through the day
Aimymime, Aimymime, Aimymime
All through the night
Aimymime, Aimymime, Aimymime

#193 – Adventures In Not Mind-Reading

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More with this on Tuesday! It turns out I have a little more Reg headcanon than I had thought, so. Yes. We’ll get into it.

For now let’s just just give Lwaxana’s narcissism a round of applause for the narrow save there. That last few panels is one of the more blatantly sitcom swerves I’ve written in a while, and I didn’t really know it was coming when I first started painting myself into this particular corner the other day; characters sort of running away with themselves is a thing that happens.

Anyway, at least Wes is off the hook for now.

DATA: Elementary, my dear W--

TROI: I will literally unplug you.

#192 – The Art Of Deduction

36 Comments

Very spiritual people, the Dopterians.

Anyway, it’s true, as far as we know: Reg hasn’t even shown up on TNG quite yet in Larp Trek time, and certainly hasn’t shared the screen with Lwaxana. I was actually more worried that I might have given him a throwaway line in the previous several strips and forgotten, but we’re clean. We’ll get into that more on, let’s say, Friday.

But can we talk for a minute about Deanna Troi and being an empath and dealing with ambient feelings of attraction and other emotions from crew-members? Because I feel like it’s something the show never really dug deep on, and I feel like the reason for that is mostly because the show in question was Star Trek and digging deep would have been uncomfortable in a way that Trek conventionally tries not to be, in it’s show-to-show status-quo approach to dealing with characterization.

Like: when a traumatic or upsetting or damaging thing happens to a character, that’s something to introduce in act I and resolve two minutes before credits. Or stretch it out across a two-parter or make a quick callback to in the following episodes, on special occasions. This is the nature of the episodic, writing-for-syndication format of TNG and TOS in particular. Status quo. Has it upsides and downsides from a storytelling perspective, but regardless of the merits it’s a practical fact of how the show tended to be structured in terms of character development. I know I’ve ranted a little bit about it before, as someone who tends to prefer a continuity-heavy story arc in my TV.

So what do you do with Deanna Troi? Here’s someone unique on the Enterprise (or at least presumably very nearly so; maybe there’s an empathic or telepathic ensign in engineering somewhere who just doesn’t rank for bridge diplomacy who we never get to see?), in that she has this capacity to sense what others are thinking. It’s a major duty for her, part of her job. But what do we see of it?

1. Quickie bridge-duty reports: Captain, I sense the Ventrusian is angry, but not lying.
2. Very Special Episodes. Which are fine as a way to explore some of Deanna’s powers and cultural background and whatnot but tend to involve extreme one-off situations prompted by abnormal conditions/anomalies/villains/Lwaxana/whatever. All tied up with a bow and packed away at episode end so we can get back to status quo.

What don’t we see?

3. Deanna seriously coping on a daily basis with the strangeness and isolation of being an empath out of water. Or Deanna seriously leveraging on a daily basis the subtle social advantages and exploitative possibilities of being an empath among normals.

And one answer to why is easy enough: this is Next Generation, where the default state of all our characters is generally of ethically-defensible happiness with their life and work unless otherwise necessary to an episode. People have bad days; they don’t have bad years. Major cast members sometimes do bad things; they are not bad people.

And so Deanna dealing with low-level stress from constantly being exposed to other people’s general mental bullshit seepage, or to other people’s specific judgemental/lustful/contemptuous/whateverful thoughts about her? Not on the table. Neither is the possibility of Deanna being a low-level creeper, the kind of person who while having their good sides is also unambiguously willing to do something not-so-cool like play off emotional vulnerabilities just because it’s personally convenient.

(And really, isn’t it sort of remarkable that on a ship full of people who can’t read minds, from cultures without mind-reading, who know she sort of can–or among the less-precisely-informed maybe think she really can–there’s no sense of constant unease from a lot of the crew in her presence? That’s a utopic degree of trust and acceptance. But that’s TNG.)

And so we’re stuck with the easily-parodied “I sense an obvious emotion” stuff and the occasional mind-meld or mental-rape episode and not a whole lot of episode-to-episode insight into Deanna’s strange-but-banal experience as a telepathic outlier. She’s just there, so often, and kept safe by her there-ness, and as a result we as viewer are robbed of an actual progressing, detailed portrait of the social/mental/emotional life of an alien working to assimilate into a culture she would have to be more or less constantly aware of her outlier status in.

It’s kind of a bummer, really.

Feel free to imagine Riker making a dirty joke out of frame.

#191 – Temporal Anomalies

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So it’s the twentieth anniversary of the airing of the finale of TNG, All Good Things…. It got me thinking about Star Trek, which always gets me thinking about Larp Trek, and I sat down and managed to chased down a couple strips’ worth of dialogue this afternoon, something I haven’t been able to get myself to do for going on two months now, and here we are.

I don’t know if this will be Larp Trek being back or not, because even after some conspicuous time off from it I don’t really know where I am with it. But at least there will be a couple of strips in the next little bit. And maybe more after that? I hope so.

It’s a weird time for me on the internet and in life: Metafilter, the site I work for and the web community I care a tremendous amount and that at least some of you know well too, is dealing with a financial crisis and it’s been a weird, busy week dealing with that. It’s a big long complicated story — here’s my boss Matt’s rundown on some of it — but it’s been a stressful thing for a long time in the run up to our public announcement Monday that things had gotten starkly bad.

Maybe that played into Larp Trek’s going idle? I don’t know. Mostly I think it was just the accumulated weight of trying to write three days a week and get a strip put together, of butting my head against a deadline nobody but me was enforcing and not enjoying the panicky feeling when the writing wouldn’t come. Not doing it for a couple months might have washed some of that out of my system, rested me up. We’ll see.

But one thing I love about my job is that it gives me the flexibility to do weird creative stuff with my time. Stuff like this. Between the weird rollercoaster bad news + catharsis thing with Metafilter, and the reminder of TNG, tonight I’m feeling at least a little more connected to what got me started on this project in the first place, and I hope that’ll add up to something.

Sorry for going dark on you guys. Sometimes it’s hard to just come out and say “it’s hard”.