Saturday, May 14, 2016

Vaka Rangi: Three Year Anniversary

So I'm not going to put too fine a point on it, but this past year has not been an amazing one for me either. But I'm also not going to make a big deal about it-We all have our own suite of hardships to deal with in our lives, and all we can do is continue to carry on to the best of our abilities.
To the future then. Obviously, the post on “All Good Things...” (and some other stuff) goes out Monday, thus officially taking the blog out of Star Trek: The Next Generation as well as the joint coverage of it and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. This is, to put it mildly, a major turning point. Apart from closing off a sustained block of writing for this project that dates back to 2014, this is also the place where I exit Star Trek permanently. Though my affection for the series never goes away and no matter how much my thinking and identity will remain bound up in it, from here on out Star Trek remains firmly and irretrievably a part of my past. There will be a rather lengthy epilogue of sorts once we hit TNN again in 2000, and then Enterprise the following year, both of which bring Star Trek back into my immediate life temporarily. And I suppose I'll have to say something about Star Trek (2009) and its subsequent film series as people have been clamouring to hear my take on it since 2009. But even so, Star Trek is never and will never be again what it was for me when Star Trek: The Next Generation was on the air. This is the point in which I follow Kei and Yuri's lead from last March and exit the narrative for good. My personal story is effectively over.
I've talked about this a few other places, but I thought I'd lay out the biographical reasons for this in one concise essay somewhere. After all, not all of you could be or should be expected to follow me through my scattered podcast appearances and my even more sporadic social media presences. Basically, the two reasons I fell out of Star Trek in 1994-5 can be attributed to two things: Satellite TV and Star Trek Voyager. Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine had been syndicated: For readers outside the United States, in this country we have a handful of national networks (ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX), and each of those networks has their own set of exclusive programming. But, because the United States is so large, we also have regional affiliate stations-Local TV channels that are associated with the national networks, but have news programming targeted to regional communities. Whenever these affiliates are not airing the news or national programming, they have free blocks of airtime they can fill with “syndicated” programming: Shows that aren't tied to a network and can be bought straight from a studio distributor and aired whenever the local affiliates have time to fill (these usually tend to be reruns of ancient, creaking sitcoms from the 1960s). Star Trek: The Next Generation used to be pretty much the only TV show that was produced exclusively for syndication, but things got dicey when Deep Space Nine premiered, leading to those exasperating cases of the shows competing with each other. And things only got worse for the syndication market from there, but that's not my actual point here.
Star Trek Voyager, and later Enterprise, would be different, because they *were* tied to a network, namely UPN, Paramount's short-lived attempt to create its own network to compete with ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX. So, if you didn't get UPN, you couldn't watch them. Now, in 1995 my family got satellite TV to replace our aging analog antenna setup, and at that time the satellite provider we chose did not offer local affiliate channels as part of the package: Instead, you got satellite-exclusive generic versions of ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX and public broadcaster PBS that aired the national shows, but *nothing* from syndication (or any local interest programming, which was PBS' specialty). So I couldn't watch Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine anymore even if I wanted to (and I did want to)...But neither could I watch Star Trek Voyager because our satellite package *also* didn't include UPN until 2001 (just in time for Enterprise, so, you know, put the pieces together). So I didn't watch any Star Trek, save for the odd VHS rental or snippet caught at somebody else's house, between 1995 and 2001.
I knew Star Trek: The Next Generation was over and I missed it, and I tried to keep up with Star Trek: Deep Space Nine by getting its quarterly official magazine from Starlog whenever it was in stock at my local market (which was *very* infrequently) and I'll introduce that on this blog in the near future. But I'll be honest. I made no effort to follow Star Trek Voyager. I can't say it was lingering resentment for the behind-the-scenes consequences of its creation (and you'd better believe I'm going to get into that more: There's way more to it than I've even touched on so far) because I didn't know about that back then (though in hindsight I probably could have guessed), but quite simply because the show didn't interest me at all. There was nothing about it that grabbed me whatsoever. I did try though, I really did: Every time I was over at a relatives' or a friend's house and I happened upon it I tried to give the show another chance, but every time I tried I couldn't last more than a couple of minutes. That attitude hasn't really ever gone away, to be perfectly honest with you. I think this is what separates me from most Star Trek fans: I do not get excited for a New Star Trek Thing simply because it is a New Star Trek Thing. I have no loyalty to the Star Trek name or universe per se, what I like are things that remind me of my happy memories from the late-80s and early-90s and works that reflect the best ideals I saw in them.
Obviously, all this is going to have an impact on a project I've pegged form the beginning as a personal journey. Vaka Rangi isn't just going to end because Star Trek Voyager is coming (in spite of what it did to its franchise), but it is going to change in a number of major and significant ways. The posts themselves are going to radically alter their structure and tone, though this won't be apparent for some time. What is going to be more readily apparent is that this blog's posting schedule is changing, effective immediately. “The Collaborator” will be the final essay to go out on a thrice-weekly schedule. From now on, at least for the foreseeable future, Vaka Rangi will post once a week (barring special bonus posts, like this one), probably on Mondays, unless I get really behind on something.
There are a number of reasons I decided to do this: It's not so much *because* of Voyager as much as I figured this generational shift would be a convenient time to implement the change. The bigger reason is that it was getting to the point where I was getting extremely burned out and stressed keeping the thrice-weekly schedule, and I think too many essays suffered because of it. Oftentimes I'd find myself up until 5, 6, 7 or even 10 in the morning with no sleep trying desperately to meet a self-imposed deadline and word count requirement. And no sooner had I finished the last 1000-2000 (sometimes 3 or 4000) word analytical essay, I had to immediately start work on the next one. That left me with next to no time or energy to devote to anything else, and I've had to table a lot of potential projects because I simply could not give them the attention they required. There reached a point where I simply could not handle it anymore: I needed to cut back somewhere for my own sake. I need more time and energy to spend other places, not just on other projects, but just in my own life (I do have one, believe it or not).
The end result of this is going to not only be better for me, I think it'll be better for the blog too. The first beneficiary is going to be Monday's “All Good Things...” post: I'm fairly proud of how it's turning out, and I know for a fact I could not have written it on the old schedule. I needed a full week to work on an essay of this complexity. And once the later structural changes take effect, I think the combination of them and the new schedule is going to actually speed up the pace at which Vaka Rangi gets through material, and honestly, that's a necessity. If I'd kept doing one episode per post three times a week, this project would never end, ever. There's frankly too much material to get that meticulous, at least as far as I'm concerned. And there's some really fun content coming: I was serious when I said Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine created a shared universe for themselves that takes on a life of its own (in spite of whatever nonsense the TV franchise ends up pulling), because that's the way I've always seen it. I'm going to go all the way to 1996 exploring the ramifications of this to the furthest limit I can. In its death state, Star Trek gets a second life in Summer, 1994: Some of my very dearest pop culture memories are coming, and I'm really looking forward to revisiting them.
And yes, there will be an Ultimate Episode Guide Master Post somewhere in there.
Incidentally, one of those other projects I mentioned above is the actual published, paper-bound version of the Vaka Rangi book series. It's the 50th Anniversary of the Original Series this year, and I really want a revised version of Volume 1, covering it, the Animated Series and Raumpatrouille Orion, out in a format people can buy and read in time for this September's festivities. Cutting back on the new material will also give me more time to do the necessary edits, revisions and expansions to the old material so I can start actually releasing proper books and finally call myself an actual published author! The second book in particular is going to require a *ton* of time because I'm adding an entirely new section. I'm not shopping for imprint labels and I don't think I'll need a layout copyeditor given the wonderful document processor I use, but I am probably going to need a cover artist. So if you're a visual artist or designer and you're interested, or know someone who you think might be, please say so in the comments.
The voyage continues, as it always does. Thanks as always to those of you who still support me and the work this blog tries to do after all this time. I like to think it's accomplished something.


  1. Congratulations, I look forward to what comes next.

  2. Star Trek: The Next Generation used to be pretty much the only TV show that was produced exclusively for syndication

    Er, unless you count basically every cartoon of the late 1970s through the 1980s, and quite a few cartoons of the early to mid 90s.

    I eagerly look forward to the book! My friend and cover designer Viga (a big TNG fan, btw) might be available for a commission. Easiest way to contact her is probably via her tumblr:

  3. I love your blog. I frequently share your posts and I find it very interesting/challenging. I firmly believe this will be one of the resources I hand to my kids eventually when inevitably strongly encouraging them to watch Star Trek.

    I also would strongly encourage you to follow and write about (podcast about) the new, Bryan Fuller helmed show next year. I know this may not be in your plans, but I think it would give you a great and new chance to write a 'first draft of history', or at least, your story... :D

    Anyway, whatever you do, love your work, and it means a lot to me. Keep it up.

  4. Congratulation Josh for reaching three years! Your blog has been a highlight of my week - a place where I find and share inspiration - and I totally get what you are saying about where the blog needs to go and how it needs to change to be manageable for you. Once a week will be great and knowing that you are feeling better about it all with less stress will too!

  5. Hi Josh -- another plea to cover the new show if at all possible. Jacob Clifton over at Zap2It is staffing up and regular deep Trek may be a great (paid) fit over there. He was just dipping back into Voyager if it helps the conversation, adores B'Elanna and Kes.