Strange New Worlds: Doctor. Doctor.
Strange New Worlds: Doctor. Doctor.
Last year, Pocket Books announced the return of their Strange New Worlds writing contest through their website Star Trek Books. Like hundreds of other aspiring fan fiction writers wanting to follow in the footsteps of authors such as Dayton Ward and James Swallow, I decided to put together a entry for the contest. After a lengthy process, the winners of the contest was announced this morning, and I want to personally congratulate each and everyone of them for their hard work and creativity in crafting a story that will be published as a part of the return to this long-anticipated anthology. I can’t wait to read them.
I first learned of the contest through Dayton Ward’s blog: The Fog of Ward. He had received his start as a professional Star Trek author through the contest when it was first introduced in 1997 with the first volume published in 1998. The contest was held annually over the course of a decade when it was finally discontinued in 2007. In honor of Star Trek’s 50th Anniversary, Pocket Books decided to bring the contest back, and here we are.
When I made the decision to enter the contest, I thought long and hard about what kind of story I wanted to tell. I wanted it to be meaningful. I wanted to comment on an aspect of our society. Also, I wanted to tell a story about one of my favorite characters and important moments in their lives that have only been hinted at in the television series of movies. Within a matter of days, I had decided on two possibilities.
The first story was about Worf and the off-handed remark he made to Jadzia about growing up on Galt and the child he accidentally killed during a soccer match. I was going to use the story to comment on the pressure parents place on their children to succeed at sports as a means to better their lives and get out of their dead-end small town life. In order for the story to be the most impactful, the story would be told from the perspective of a third party. That story ended right there, since the primary character wasn’t featured in Trek and violated the rules of the contest.
The second story was to feature Doctor Phlox and how he met his long time friend Doctor Jeremy Lucas. In Enterprise, Phlox wrote letters to Lucas, and during the fourth season of the show, we finally got to meet him. However, we never got the opportunity to learn how the two had met. That was the story I decided to tell for my entry. With it, I could draw attention to genetic modified foods, anti-vaxxers, and homeopathy. It was a lot, but the story that was starting to take shape in mind could be interesting if done well. I believed I could do it justice and set to work putting together my outline.
Over the next couple of days, my outline took shape. I had Doctors Phlox and Lucas, and introduced an original character, Cheprav “Chep” Margoshill that would bring the two doctors together and allow them to play off one another. Phlox’s wife (Feezal), some of his animals, and Doctor Oratt of the Interspecies Medical Exchange even made a guest appearances throughout the story. Pleased with my efforts so far, I set to work writing the first draft of the story.
Essentially, a Planetary Medical Emergency was declared on a nearby planet and the I.M.E. was calling on all of its members to respond to the crisis. This was to be Phlox’s first assignment since joining the I.M.E. and he was excited to go. It was during the briefing on the crisis that Phlox, Lucas, and Chep first met one another. During the lengthy journey to the Gershen-Siegel system (named after a friend of mine), they trio became better acquainted and a friendship blossomed. Upon arrival, they — along with all of the other I.M.E. medical professionals — set upon identifying the pathogen. Eventually, the pathogen was discovered and upon closer analysis Lucas correctly identified it as a new strain of Anchilles Fever.
The Siegellians were a society that had a religious code that prevented them from using anything other than locally-sourced homeopathic remedies, which placed a major roadblock for the I.M.E. staff in curing the plague ravishing their society. Since the vaccine for Anchilles fever could only be sourced from three known sources, a new solution would have to be devised to accommodate the Siegellian belief system. After some consideration and weeks of trial and error, Phlox genetically modified a local plant to produce the enzyme required to cure the disease. With the plague cured and on their way home, plans are made that sets Phlox and Lucas on the paths we find them on within Enterprise.
I spent the next few days revising the story and getting it ready to send to a few beta readers for feedback. The better part of a week had been spent taking the story from outline to polished draft. It was at that point that I sent the story to my beta readers. Within a few days the first responses came in. I evaluated the feedback as it came in and merged their suggestions into the story. Some of it required me to fix a few grammatical issues, other required certain areas to be expanded or clarified. A few suggestions were discarded, because I didn’t think it benefited the story all that much. In the end, I was pleased with the story I had written.
It was time to submit it to the contest. Referencing the contest rules, I formatted the story as they required and ensured that all of my i’s were dotted and t’s were crossed. I spent the several hours preparing it to send. A week or so before the New Year and three weeks before the end of the contest, I threw caution to the wind and sent it in. The hardest part began — the waiting.
The contest entry period ended on January 15th. After that it was in the judges’ hands. I do not know who they were, though the contest rules describes them as “the editor of the Anthology, one employee of Pocket Books, and one employee of CBS Consumer Products.” Their selection of the ten winners and two runner-ups would be made March 31st. When that date came and went without hearing from them, I figured my story didn’t make the final cut. However, I was eager to see who had won, and waited for the announcement to be made.
And this morning, the winners were revealed. I send my heart felt congratulations to the winners and look forward to reading their stories once the Anthology gets released later this year.
With the contest over, I thought I’d share my entry with all of you. However, it was pointed out to me that I had turned over all rights to the story to contest. So, rather than violate that rule, I thought I’d write about my experiences crafting my entry and the submission process instead.
So, here we are, good readers. That is the story behind Doctor. Doctor. My entry to the Strange New Worlds Contest launched in honor of Star Trek’s 50th Anniversary. I hope you will join me in the coming year and pick up a copy of the book when it gets released and enjoy all of the tales contained within its pages, even if mine is not one of them. In the meantime, I will continue writing fan fiction and original stories and sharing them with you.