Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Where are the audio dramas?

Last month, Star Trek audio drama fans - yes we do exist! - saw something happen in the world of Star Trek licensed works that was most unusual: the release, by one of the most successful indie audio production houses, of Star Trek professional fiction that did not come from Simon & Schuster!

Star Trek: Prometheus is written by Bernd Perplies and Christian Humberg which was released in 2016 to celebrate Trek's 50th anniversary. The first officially licensed novels released in German, they were followed the next year by their release in English. The trilogy has been picked up by Big Finish! - an award-winning, British producer of audio dramas, both original and based on TV franchises, the best known being its Doctor Who productions.

Sadly, this is not the leap into audio drama I was hoping for but an audiobook, narrated by Alec Newman, a regular at Big Finish who played Malik on TV in the Star Trek: Enterprise Augments arc.

Scripting audio drama seems to be just a step too far for CBS Paramount! Yet the advantages of modern audio drama are quite unique. With skilful audio production, distinctive musical themes and a well crafted script, an audio drama can be immersive enough so that the 'Cinema of the mind' can create alien landscapes and space battles that would cost millions to create on the big screen or small!

There are advantages to the major franchises though that I would have thought would have made audio drama quite attractive, primary among which is money! IMDB says that a Star Trek Enterprise episode cost an average of $5 million to make whereas Variety says that Discovery costs over $8 million an episode!

By contrast, an audio drama production has few of the expensive costs of TV production: No sets, costumes, CGI or film/video capture & production costs. Actual costs are hard to find details of, but this post by an audio playwright will give you an idea of where the money goes, if not how much. It would be safe to say that they would probably be less than one percent of TV video.

Audio drama of a well known TV or movie franchise has a huge head-start with regards to the ease with which an audience can understand and relate to it in audio only. Looking past the vast body of work created by amateur audio drama groups in Star Trek, the perfect example would have to be the three Star Wars radio dramas produced between 1981 and 1996.

The integral role that the audio track played in the success of the movies is seldom touched on. From John Williams’ classic use of musical themes for the main characters to characteristic sound effects like the scream of the Tie fighters and rasp of Vader’s breathing or R2D2’s whistling and the electric hum of the lightsabers. All these things would create a visual cue in most people’s minds.

In the same way, Star Trek has iconic music and sound effects: the fight scene & Klingon themes from TOS or the communicator tweet, the phaser blast and transporter hum. Once you identify a scene as being on a bridge, shuttle or Quark’s bar, most people will be able to visualise it. Because of this an audio drama for Star Trek has a head start over an Indie audio drama because it’s fictional world already exists in most people’s minds, saving the writer countless pages of exposition to create a new one.

There have been many audio books made of Star Trek books but an audio book is subtly different. The exposition, the plot of our story, is driven forward by a narrator who fills in the reader on the aspects of the scene that have to be described, just as in the case of a book.

There *have* been officially licensed Star Trek audio dramas. Between 1975 - 1979 eleven stories were released by Power Records, a label of Peter Pan records, under various guises: as individual single episode records, compilations and, as they are more commonly remembered as. "Read-along" books. Curt Danhauser has done an amazing job of putting together a reference website about them, "A Guide To The Story Records". Curt has put three of these episodes on Youtube as animated comic books…

"Crier in the Emptiness" (11:52)

"The Time Stealer" (16:16)

Passage to Moauv” (16:47)

Eight of these records have been made into an animated series, "The Federation Files", using the Go!Animate system by Glen Wolfe, a prolific fan film-maker who has gone on to make a number of short live-action films which can be seen on his Youtube channel, "Starfleet Studios". For details of his Go!Animate works check his page on the Star Trek Reviewed site.

These audio dramas give newbie animators a "paint-by-numbers" way of learning their skills. "Crier In The Emptiness", for example, has been used as the audio track for a stop motion animation using Star Trek action figures.

Peter Pan / Power Records weren't the only studio making Star Trek read-along books, the House of The Mouse acquired the license to add the early Star Trek films to it's popular stable of similar 'books' released through Buena Vista Records ...

Star Trek: The Motion Picture (#461 pub.1979) Youtube

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (#462 pub.1982) Youtube 1Youtube 2

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (#463 pub.1984) Youtube

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (#452 pub.1986) Youtube

Strictly speaking, I would actually call the Buena Vista recordings "FullCast Audiobooks" because although they rely heavily on their narrator for the exposition of the story, they have the different parts read by different voice actors, unlike an audio book where all the parts are read by the narrator.

The short-lived production company spearheaded by John de Lancie and Leonard Nimoy between 1996 - 2000Alien Voices, is the only other commercial audio production group to do audio dramas with their two-man, live recorded shows, Spock Vs. Q and Spock Vs. Q: The Sequel.

So, as a fan of audio dramas, I have to ask the question, "CBS Paramount, where are the Star Trek audio dramas?" The answer probably boils down to, as with most professional media questions, money - they don’t see any money in it for them.

CBS and Paramount are TV and movie studios and that is pretty much all they do - the creation of TV shows and movies. That's not to say that they are not interested in the money that can be made by the use of their 'Intellectual Property' by others, they will actively encourage anyone who wants to use Star Trek properties in any media imaginable - for the price of a license.

However that is the problem in a nutshell: nobody has approached them to make Star Trek audio dramas. Audio books, yes! Simon & Schuster have a license to market books and has regularly released them in audio book format, over a hundred at the current count.

There is a whole article that could be written about the difference between an audio books and an audio drama. To my mind they are, shall we say, cousins. They share the same physical creation process: the human voice recorded by microphone and edited. They use music and sound effects albeit to different degrees. They share the same physical media and distribution process: CD's and direct MP3 downloads.

Creatively audio books and audio drama are cousins. They share the same physical creation process, recorded by microphone then edited, they use music & sound effects, albeit to different degrees, they share the same media and distribution process. However creatively they are two entirely different animals. An audio book is, as the name says, a narration of a book an audio production is the performance of a script.

Do you want a bedtime story or a movie played out without video on your sensorium?

I still hold out hope that Big Finish will pick up the torch on this but until then – try a fan produced audio drama.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Issue 6 - Acrux: The Manual!

Playing games never goes out of fashion and even today, our whizz-bang computer games are only part of the story. Traditional games such as board, card & dice games are still popular and in fact the granddaddy of modern games, Scrabble, celebrated it’s sixtieth birthday this year!

I make a big deal about fandom being an outlet for creativity but being a fan is really all about having fun and that's the whole purpose behind gaming too. Oh, you can get very technical about it - the Wikipedia article is about as deep as I need to go - but having fun with friendly competition is about as close to a working definition as any.

Today we are going to start a survey of Star Trek fan-made gaming over 2008 but, since they are a reflection and embellishment of professional games, a certain amount of news about the licensed games will sneak through. For the most part Star Trek fan-made games have an enviable relationship with the game licensees. The licensees understand that fan produced modifications (Mods) of their games extend the longevity of their product, so that it continues to attract new players, long past its normal life span, by keeping their fanbase engaged for longer.

I might also take a slightly more relaxed outlook on inclusion of material from previous years so that the survey will be more comprehensive and show a little of the historical background behind their development. As with last year's Gaming Day this will be aimed at people with no experience of gaming as well as those who might be experienced but want to try something a little different.

I must admit to not being much of a gamer myself, although I'm the parent of two obsessed gamers. You could say I've got a Noob's outlook on it all since I'm still looking for the game that suits my style and temperament … and there is such a lot to choose from!

There are board games for young and old and, despite the demise of the Decipher Star Trek Customizable Card Game, there are still professional and fan-made card games available. Tabletop space battle simulations are also enjoying continuing support – and even expansion - from fans as are other types of Role playing Games.

For the computer/gamer historian there are still a few of the original text-based Computer Games online which paved the way for the computer-gaming industry - A historical curiosity which is still of interest to a small core of retro-gamers!

Next in complexity came the 2D Games, games that you played as if you were looking down from the top, "top-down", or from the side, a "side-scroller".
These were followed by 3D Games, characters and ships that existed as a three dimensional, "virtual model" that could be viewed from any direction.

The programs used to create and control these models, the “game engines”, are incredibly complex but in a shining example of how the entertainment industry can work with players, fans are allowed to modify (Mod) their games by creating new models and “maps”. This can be as simple as adding a new character or playing environment or building an almost entirely new game! The guys at SpaceStation K7 for example used Elite Force II, a Star Trek: Voyager based game, to build a complete Original Series Starbase!

Perhaps the biggest news in gaming this year has been the resurrection of the development of Star Trek: Online, a “Massive Multiplayer Online Game” or MMOG that will allow users to interact with each other in an immersive storyline within a graphics-rich gaming environment. Online interaction like this, whether it is in a browser-based game, a MUD, a MUSH or an MMOG adds a social aspect to gaming in clans and guilds that can go far beyond the game itself. My daughter is dating someone she met through her WoW guild. A Boomkin and a mage, it’s so cute!

This is only the briefest of summaries that cannot begin to give you an idea of the breadth of the options that are out there! This present will be released as a series of posts on the Acrux fanzine blogsite that, like the fan film and audio drama days, will grow into a twenty-page fanzine.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Issue 5 - Acrux: The Audition!

Radio drama, as a form of mass-media entertainment, was close to extinction at the start of the 21st century. The public had been lured away by the instant gratification of TV's eye candy and radio in its turn had dropped drama as part of it's programming, focusing instead on news, talk shows and music.

It was in 2001 that audio production and distribution was revolutionized by the release of the iPod and the development of the internet as a public access and distribution platform. Podcasts began springing up as amateurs created their own shows giving news and views on subjects that interested them and it was only a matter of time before creative fans realized that they now had the tools and distribution medium to make and share their own audio dramas.

2008 has been a year of consolidation and diversification in Star Trek audio dramas as existing groups build on their experience and new fans realize that this represents an accessible way of breaking into fan productions. Star Trek: Defiant and Star Trek: Lost Frontier, from Pendant Productions and Darker Projects respectively, still represent the benchmark against which other groups are measured but their position at the top is being assailed by some newer groups that are good and getting better.

Star Trek: The Continuing Mission for example came on the fan production scene at the end of 2007 promising professional level production and delivering just that with two more episodes in '08. Star Trek: Unity released their first episode at much the same time and have followed it up, one year later, with their second episode, the conclusion to the first.

Frequency of production is a problem for all fan productions and audio dramas are no exception. Star Trek: Dimensions, which released a well-received premiere episode in August, has addressed this with a bold decision to voluntarily go into hiatus until March '09 when they hope to have three full seasons finished and ready to roll!

Creatively, Star Trek audio dramas represent a wide spectrum of styles from Star Trek: Eras character-driven 'broad canvas' that spans two hundred years of Star Trek to Star Trek: Excelsior's RPG based, plot-driven action. In between you have the political drama of Star Trek: Diplomatic Relations, the ill-fated Starfleet Renegades and Star Trek: The New Frontier and the unique Star Rabbit Tracks.

This issue of Acrux fanzine, Day six of The Twelve Trek Days of Christmas, is yet another installment in my annual review of Star Trek fan productions, this time covering Trek audio dramas produced and planned in 2008, posted on our Blogsite, to be released on completion as a twenty page fanzine.

[And the fact that I'm punching out issues of Acrux like they're going out of fashion has nothing to do with making up my bimonthly quota for the year! Click the thumbnail to see the 'zine cover]

Click the links to read the articles ...

Monday, 5 January 2009

Issue 4 - Acrux: The Movie!

The public preconception that fan films are all low quality took a severe beating in 2008! The level of production expertise and the quality of scripting and acting has made major advances with certain trends emerging that are working in favour of the production groups. Two groups in particular are garnering a lot of media attention.

Star Trek: Of Gods and Men brought together the best of the amateur, fan production talent and a wealth of professional talent and experience and created a movie that was critically well received. It must surely have opened a few eyes in the entertainment industry for the way that it showed that popular entertainment need not necessarily cost millions of dollars per episode.

James Cawley's, Star Trek: Phase II is another show that has raising eyebrows with it's Nebula and Hugo nominations and it would be easy to say that is due to it's use of professionals who voluntarily want to be involved. They have however remained true to their roots by ensuring a strong contingent of fans in their cast and crew with a regular call for volunteers.

Rob Caves is also branching out into original work with his latest proposal, Frontier Guard, whilst maintaining his commitment to fan film-making by mentoring a number of spin-off series from his recently completed, seven season epic, Star Trek: Hidden Frontier: Star Trek: Odyssey, The Helena Chronicles and Federation One!

A trend that is growing is the concept of joint productions. Star Trek: Intrepid and Areakt Films have proven this with two excellent examples of what can be accomplished by combining their resources of equipment, manpower and talent with the films, Orphans of War and Operation: Beta Shield. Another trend that this Scottish fan production group is perfecting is the vignette, short films that add depth to the plot and characters.

Starship Farragut is following both these by developing on it's strategic partnerships with other fan groups, such as Star Trek: Phase II, and NEO/fx (who are independently creating an animated series based on the Farragut fictional universe) as well as producing vignettes of their own in between the filming of their full sized episodes.

These are just the stars of the Star Trek fan film community, though, they represent the tip of an iceberg that encompasses a vast range of fictional styles and media. For the fifth present in The Twelve Trek Days of Christmas, Acrux fanzine is producing what will become an annual Star Trek fan film review, starting as posts on our Blogsite that will grow into a twenty page fanzine which will be published at the conclusion of the serial posting.

[Those who can read between the lines will guess that I don't have the fanzine finished but I don't want to keep you waiting any longer. This will allow me time to compile a better 'zine whilst giving you, O Hypothetical Reader, your present in installments. Click the thumbnail to see the 'zine cover]

Click the links to read the articles ...

Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Issue 3 - Acrux: The Trekzine!

For one issue, Acrux becomes a Trekzine instead of a perzine, playing host to Star Trek fan fiction, art and poetry. As a perzine or personal fanzine, I try to keep the content as close to 100% my own work as possible but this issue I'm publishing contributions from a number of sources. I have a challenging story written by Robin Woodell and illustrated by Ken Gurton, both from Region 3 (Louisianna & Texas) of Starfleet International, plus the story of a Christmas leave spent by Bones and Scotty in Engineering, written & illustrated by SL Watson. Of course I hope you'll enjoy the other fiction and commentaries from my favourite author - ME!

This year, I turned away from my original idea of a blogzine (a 'zine created using Blogging software) in favour of something more traditional with a pdf file that can be printed out as a 20 page booklet in A3 (or as a digest sized version on A4). Because of this, it can partake in the existing world of fanzines – I’ll gladly partake in a fanzine exchange and look forward to Letters of Comment. However as an electronic file, it also has a foot in the door of the internet such as being available for live browsing on ISSUU. Now if I can just open it up into a few other avenues of distribution …

Acrux is featured on Day 4 of The Twelve Trek Days of Christmas, 2008 along with Hailing Frequencies Open from TrekUnited and Imaginations Unlimited by Jeff Davis, the fanzine of Region 1, Starfleet International.


Saturday, 29 November 2008

Issue 2 now online

All projects must eventually grind onwards and Acrux has finally ground out it's next issue on Issuu of course!

I think you'll find something of interest: news about papermodels, fanzines, IQ 145, Starship Farragut and their new animated adventures produced by NEO/FX, critique on Odyssey, Intrepid, Of Gods and Men and Tamarlane, info on writing for audio dramas and, for those who prefer to see their fanfic in print, the first instalment of Tales of Death and Honour: Motherhood!



Monday, 20 October 2008

Looking for Group: Acrux Christmas Edition!


I'm determined that this year's fanzine day for "The Twelve Trek Days of Christmas" will have a wider choice for you than the two we had last year! We've got a great start so far with confirmed pitches from Imaginations Unlimited, the Starfleet International Region 1 fanzine edited by Jeff Davis, Hailing Frequencys Open, the fanzine of TrekUnited and, of course, Acrux, my very own perzine!

Although in general the submissions are welcomed from any quarter, each 'zine has a different focus with Jeff drawing material mostly from the massive fanbase of SFI's first region whilst the editor of Hailing Frequencies well, I'll let him speak for himself!

I've always wanted Acrux to show more of the fan talent we have in Australia so my focus is going to be on material from "Down-Unda" but not just from Australia - I would like to invite submissions from anywhere in the antipodes, New Zealand, South Africa, South America ... anywhere south of the equator!

"Trekzines" are traditionally mini-anthologies of fan fiction whilst, in general, most SF fanzines tend towards commentary. What I am going for is an entertaining 'zine that walks a line between the two, something along the lines of the Analog model: 60% Fiction, 20% Fact/Commentary, 5% Housekeeping (letters of comment & reviews) and 15% Advertising (see below).

The Christmas issue of Acrux will be a freely downloadable file as always but I will be experimenting with a couple of different media as well. The download will be a "POD-ready" pdf formatted for A4 and US Letter as well as viewable in Issuu and Scribd to get maximum exposure world-wide.

What am I looking for?
  • 3-4 short stories / flash fiction of 2-3 pages each
  • 2 longer stories of 6-8 pages each
  • 2-3 science fact articles
  • 1-2 page editorial (This one's mine!)
  • 2-3 pages of book reviews: fact as well as fiction
  • 2-3 pages of Letters of Comment focussing on the state of Star Trek
  • Articles will be chosen competitively, ie the best get's published, but I might limit them to one per organisation, to try to get a good spread of contributions. However if I don't get contributions of sufficient quality, I'll be bending that rule - I'm not going to knock back a good story just to publish a Mary Sue from the USS Good-Ship-Lollipop!
  • The criteria I will be judging submissions on will be style and originality for fiction and non-fiction (some seasonal, Christmas content will be appreciated), book reviews will be judged on content (current releases will be favoured), Letters of Comment will be judged on wit and commentary as well as your standing in the Trek fan community - let's face it, a letter from J.J.Abrams will be published before one from the C.O. of the Good Ship Lollipop RPG. LOC's could be edited for length on agreement with the author.
  • Drafts are expected to be already edited for spelling and grammar, a badly edited article will reflect badly on you. Gross examples of badly edited articles will be returned.
  • Submissions must be in English but both American and "The Queen's English" spelling and grammar will be respected at the authors request. If you're looking for advise on grammar or style try Lynch's "Guide to Grammar and Style" or anything based on the Chicago Manual of Style such as this although their focus is journalism rather than fiction.
  • If you want submission or general writing advice, Dean Wesley Smith's quidelines for "Strange New Worlds" make good general sense, although the info on hardcopy submission doesn't apply in this case (see below). Even better advise is DWS quoting Heinlein, although you needn't bother sending your FanFic to a Simon & Schuster, send it to me instead!
  • Submissions should be emailed to me at kirok@trekunited.com as either MSWord, OpenOffice docs, rtf or txt files.
There are some conditions I must insist on though for inclusion in Acrux. If you feel your work cannot fit into this then you are still free to excercise your right to publish privately and I wish you all the best!
  • As a fan production Acrux will have adequate copyright disclaimers to acknowledge the rights of the copyright owners but I make no claim to ownership of your work - the original aspects of your work remain yours and i will support your moral right to be identified as the author of the work.
  • I would like the Twelve Trek Days of Christmas to be family-friendly so I must ask that your content be no more than moderate in impact, for example M according to Australian classifications. However in the spirit of IDIC I support the GLBT Trek community, and would welcome a story that shows how a Star Trek future could be free of all prejudice.
  • As a fan production, there can of course be no paid or sponsored advertising however contributing authors will be offered space to publicise the organisation or fan production group of their choice. Authors work will be accompanied with a biographical paragraph unless they wish to preserve their privacy.
  • Space will be allowed for accompanying graphics at the editors discretion
  • The deadline for the Twelve Trek Days of Christmas is Dec 1st with half of December for leeway. There will be a "second string".
I hope you'll consider using this project to make a statement this Christmas of how Star Trek fans can can give during the season of good will. Feel free to contact me on my email address or to join the discussion on the subject on the google group.

My best wishes for success in all your endeavours

-------------------Kirok of L'Stok, Editor, Acrux ------------------
----------------------- bISovbejbe'DI' tImer -----------------------
------------------- When in doubt, surprise them -------------------

Saturday, 26 July 2008

An experiment in online publication

I've had the last issue of Acrux on Issuu for quite a while now and I've been wanting to tryout embedding it in a post so, here goes ...

Pretty slick, eh? just click on it and you go to the full viewer. This might revitalise the idea of using pdf as a format for online publication. You get the best of both worlds: you get a thumbnail to draw the readers in to your publication, an online viewer for them to preview it and the option of downloading it to read at their leasure or keep for reference!

What more could you ask for?


Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Can We Do It? Just watch me, sport!

A mud-map to the development of the House of L'Stok

So, you want to make a fan production? When most people think of a fan production, they think in terms of a fan film. They might have seen an episode of Star Trek: Phase II (until recently known as New Voyages), Hidden Frontier, Exeter, Farragut or Intrepid and thought, wouldn't it be great to do something like that? Well, the good news is you can!

Unfortunately, the bad news is ... it ain't easy!

A full length, live action episode will require the construction of extensive sets which could cost thousands in materials, as well as costumes, props, lighting, cameras, storage space ... and time! Oh, my goodness, yes! It can take anything between two to six years of planning, scripting, constructing, rehearsal, filming and post-production.

There are, however options that can be fun to do, create an entertaining production and be a significant personal and group achievement... without mortgaging your life for years on end! I'm not suggesting that you compromise on quality, but there are compromises that can be made ...

  • Does it need to be a film? If you want to do a fan production, you should not rule out all the other options that are open to the common man today. It could be a fan fiction novel or short story, web comic, audiobook, audio drama or animation... of which there are a half dozen different types, depending on the software you use to create it, ranging from professional quality to the weekend project!
  • It need not be a full episode. Creating a story that will fit in a five-ten minute timeframe, what is commonly called a vignette, is not easy, but it can be done. However, even here there are options if one thinks outside the box... I have a few ideas in that direction.
  • Lastly, although live action filmed against real sets is the Rolls Royce of fan films, live action filmed against a green (or blue) screen with backgrounds 'keyed in' afterwards is an increasingly viable option.

Be very aware though, even these low-key options require significantpersonal investments. For example, it will definitely be a learning experience, so you must be prepared to acquire new skills and develop existing talents. You will need to take on extra jobs: everyone wears at least two hats as a member of the cast and crew of a fan production.

As of the start of this year, I am developing a production group that will explore the options open for low budget fan and Indie production, because some people have original ideas that they want to develop, too. The truth is that, whether you are playing mind-games with someone else's copyright or dealing in completely new fiction, the mechanics of production are exactly the same. I will be focusing on five media options:

  • Writing. This is where it all starts: good storylines, you must have them! I am going to kick things off with some example works of my own, then search for fan and original fiction to produce.
  • Hardcopy. The first step: to investigate options for self-publishing. Learning from overseas experience we might need to develop an audience by offering initial works for free, however options for commercial eBook development on the internet and Print On Demand will be followed. Most noticably I will be looking into the possibilities of Print On Demand in Australia.
  • Audio books. This is the next step: To turn the printed word into the spoken word. It requires the recruitment of voice acting and sound engineering talent and is a step up in production that does not require the specialised writing skills necessary for an audio or video script.
  • Audio drama. I am in the process of putting together a proposal for a Star Trek fan audio drama. This will develop dramatic abilities and organisational skills, it will also be an option for involvement for people who are too shy to be part of a film or too remote from other cast members.
  • Ultimately though, any experimental production group, investigating the possibilities would have to try a video production, a Fan film. When it happens – it it certainly won't happen this year! - my first production will be a "proof of concept" production. It will be complete in and of itself - a stand-alone. What will it be? I'm sorry, but you'll have to sign a non-disclosure agreement to find that out!

Each of these "steps" is an achievement in itself. Some group members – and it will of course be a team effort - might be quite happy to continue with creating written fiction, perhaps turning it into scripts for audio or video production. Other cast & crew members might be happy to stay with audio drama and this is a very viable option in and of itself because Australia has a strong tradition and market for radio drama.

You might be forgiven for thinking that I am aiming low but I can only stress that this is only meant to be a "proof of concept" proposal – I'm not building any media empires here! It is meant to give the participants an introductory experience of a wide range of media so that they can ask themselves, "Where do I want to go to from here?" Believe me there is a whole spectrum of possibilities that can be explored, all of it fun and challenging!

The next question is – fan production or Indie? Will it be based on an established copyright, one of the 'fictional franchises' like Star Trek or Dr Who, or will it be totally original work?

Anyone who's got this far in my fanzine will guess that I have an ulterior motive to create a Star Trek fan production in Australia. Reality must prevail, however: our population is spread so thinly, with such vast distances between that getting the numbers together for a large production will not be easy. Add to this the fact that the average Aussie doesn't have the same disposable income as our American cousins and the smaller fanbase with costumes and props and you'll start to realise the obstacles.

I believe the answer is to develop fan productions in partnership with independent productions. Australia has a strong amateur theatre culture but few venture into video or audio. Our university's are pumping out video and audio trained individuals into an entertainment industry that has to fight tooth and nail against overseas productions. Cosplay is immensely popular and yet ... I've never heard of anyone taking, what is to me at least, the next, logical step.

Whatever I end up doing, completing any of the steps listed will be an achievement to be proud of. I am committed to this because I firmly believe that an involvement in fan productions can be a positive step towards encouraging a viable, small scope, media network within the Australasian region.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Building the Blogzine

Hah! "Adventures in Multimedia" indeed! Like most adventures the first thing you have to watch out for is not to trip and break something when when taking that first step out of the door! Before I start trying to distribute anything over the web, I need to have an efficiently working website / Blog site.

Now, although the Blog template I had originally - "Four Column Fire Template" by Mauriya - worked, there were a few problems with it ...
  • The colour scheme was very primal and blocky, whereas I see it being more dark and dangerous! I could start modifying it, but I decided to try other options instead ... I could always reload the template again afterwards if it didn't work.
  • Whilst I want to cultivate the idea of a "monthly release" of the content on the Blogsite as a fanzine, I also want to get a sense of immediacy about the posts as well. What i would like to do is have a front page that is changed on a monthly basis with certain regular articles that will be released at that time. No worries, That was what I was doing anyway. But I also want to have a regular content that is continually being updated so that my content is not too much out of date at the monthly publication date.

So ... Back to the drawing board!

First off I lodged a call for help on the Blogger help forum regading the ability to show the last ten posts in a specific Tag on a different Blog - no response to date. Moving that into the too hard basket for the nonce, I went in search of a different look. I shortcutted the process by searching in Google on "Blogger template" and viewing the images resulting. I ended up picking up a rather cool black blogger template by DanDyna of Jack Book called Dark Slined Mod 2.0

The template loaded easily enough but when I came back the next day to start modifying it, I found that it had lost all it's unique features and was just a single column text on white screen. Checking on Jack Book, I found that this was caused by him blowing his download limit. However He had obviously been through this before and had a workaround for this which entailed me copying and pasting his CSS file into the template on my Blog, which I assume made it so that the Blog no longer had to look at his website to get its instructions. Worked fine!

Next problem. I liked his header, it looked vaguely like a men at work sign, but I need to put my own header on it, so searching for what looked like a link to a graphics file in the header/centre column, I found it, copied and pasted the graphic in my graphics editor (PhotoImpact) so that I could get the right size (500x250) and made my own. It's a bit of a rushed job but it holds promise! I might change it monthly until I'm satisfied with it.

So how does it work?

Basically Acrux is actually two Blogs ...
  • Acruxfanzine - which is the front page: Editorial, comment, announcements ... basically a defacto webpage
  • Acruxcontent - which is [Duh!] the content: News items on the scope of the 'zine, mostly fan production news

Whenever I link to the Blogzine, I link to the front page which is four columns ...

  • The First column is the Contents column, at the moment showing links to the archive pages of the content Blog for a few Labels - eventually I'll include most of them - followed by the last 10 posts on the AcruxContent Blog using a script that shows them all from their RSS feed. The script is generated by Feed2JS although another similar service here. This is meant to look like the contents of a magazine.
  • The second column has header buttons, which I haven't decided what to do with yet, followed by my own header at the top of the acruxfanzine blog content section. This Comment, news about the 'zine itself, pdf monthly versions, podcasts and audio books that I do.
  • The third column is a Links column with buttons that link to the major Trek fan productions (I've done most of the Fan Film groups so far). I suppose I could use lists but I have a thing for buttons.
  • The fourth column is currently house-keeping: the editorial contents, subscriptions, stats etc.
Changed Acrux Content settings to redirect the site feeds to the Feedburner RSS as per the Help item.

  • Make the Editorial block so that it has a teaser of the full post using "How can I create expandable post summaries?". I've got the first two parts of it done but i can't get the "read more" link to appear - I must be putting it in the wrong part of the template.
  • Ideally, make the Contents so that it shows the posts for the current month grouped by Labels, "FanFilms", "FanAudioDrama" etc.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Feb '08 issue - Paying Your Dues

They say that if a shark stops moving he drowns. I don't know how true that is, but life's a bit like that: without constant change, development - hopefully improvement - we cease to grow. One of the things I am chasing with this fanzine (besides a Hugo!) is the Holy Grail of fan publishing, the 'zine that is up to the minute ... but still tries to follow the look and feel of the traditional monthly fanzine.

At different times I am an apologist for technology, a Luddite who decries the death of hand-crafted word-smithing, the leasure of sitting and reading a book and at others I am constantly looking for more up-to-the-minute information on websites, forums and newspapers. In effect, I want the best of both worlds - the leisurely, considered comment of magazines & books and the immediacy of broadcast news and personal interaction.

What brought this to mind was my leg-work during the week doing research on fan productions - I don't just get it from Google news y'know! I have to go out looking for it! I think of it as "paying my dues". Just like the shark, Star Trek fan productions are constantly in movement, new ones starting up, established groups releasing new productions and the thousand-and-one permutations in between that make it a dynamic field of interest.

The problem is, how best to report it on this 'zine? Ideally news should be as fresh as possible and there should be the option for getting your news as it happens. However many people might only want a 'monthly magazine' type summary of what's gone on during the month so that they can pick and chose what is of interest to them.

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Jan '08 issue - Adventures in multimedia

The Twelve Trek Days of Christmas project was stunningly tiring but personally empowering! It stretched my conception of what I was capable of. Producing the podBooks and being involved with the Podcasts was fascinating stuff! However, to some extent I was on the outside looking in. I was writing about podcasts and organising other people to do the podbooks and it made me wonder if I had it in me to be a creator, to produce a podcast or perform in a PodBook myself?
Never being one to let an opportunity to go to waste, I will now dip my big, hairy toe into the cold waters of podcasting with the first production from the House of L'Stok, "Acrux 0801". It's not a review or a critique - no, no, no, that's way too easy! I leave that to people with thicker skins and a higher regard for their own opinion. No, I see myself as a commentator and citizen reporter of Star Trek fan productions - Whether I am a successful one or not is up to you, oh hypothetical reader ... read more
So, what's this about 'adventures in multimedia' anyway? Podcasts have been around for ages! The idea of a PodBook is not new either, PodioBooks - an institution in itself! - have had the facility to subscribe to a feed of a book for years. However PodioBooks is all original content, whereas there is a whole world of fan fiction out there, some of it very good, that deserves to be distributed in an audio format. Keep your eye on this space for the first of a new PodBook series ... read more

Saturday, 15 December 2007

December Issue - The Twelve Trek Days of Christmas

Well, for me, Christmas starts today, Friday December 14th - the first day of Christmas!

Every day, for the next twelve days, I will feature a different form of Star Trek fan production - a present to you. These will be reported on the Twelve Days of Christmas website, kindly donated and managed by the CO of the latest Starfleet international (SFI) shuttle in Australasia, Cpt Jayden Tyronian of the Shuttle Atlantis, they will be mirrored on most Star Trek media forums as well as being expanding in excruciating detail in this fanzine!

Everybody has their motives, mine are pretty simple. I want to show Star Trek fans the diversity of fan produced media that are open to them. Some, like fan films, are reasonably well known already, others like web comics, card models and filk are relatively unknown. I also want to build bridges. I would like to see Christmas once again be what it was, a time of good cheer and making friends, a time of giving, a time when organised Star Trek fandom can show the world what IDIC means by coming together and giving freely of ourselves.

Besides ... we need a little stress in our life, don't we Igor?

Read more about the Twelve Trek Days of Christmas in my editorial and follow each day as it happens in the contents box on your left.

Saturday, 29 September 2007

September Issue - What are you doing for Christmas?

Everybody likes Christmas presents.

Who doesn't appreciate something given to you for free, without any thought of something in return? Christmas is known as the "season of giving" but what if I told you that there are people to whom giving is a year 'round thing? If you are a Star Trek fan then we have a treat in store for you!

Star Trek fans come in all shapes and sizes, the timid and the bold, the consumers and the creative. Amongst the creative there are those who write, those who act, those who have production skills that can turn out artistic and entertaining productions in a surprising range of media.

I have started a project called "The Twelve Trek Days of Christmas" which is a major collaboration between a wide variety of Star Trek fan groups and individuals to celebrate the season of goodwill and giving. It is first and foremost a fun activity created by Star Trek fans, as a gift for their fellow fans. It is meant to introduce you, the world wide web of Star Trek fandom, to the amazing array of material available for free on the internet.

What are we going to give you? Well ...

On the first day of Christmas
Star Trek gave to me
A Hako Enterprise bridge

On the second day of Christmas
Star Trek gave to me
Two Fanzines …
And a Hako Enterprise bridge

On the third day of Christmas
Star Trek gave to me
Three Wise Men,
Two fanzines …
And a Hako Enterprise bridge

On the fourth day of Christmas
Star Trek gave to me
Four Podcasts,
Three Wise Men, Two
And a Hako Enterprise bridge

On the fifth day of Christmas
Star Trek gave to me
Five fan films,
Four Podcasts, Three Wise Men, Two
And a Hako Enterprise bridge

On the [sixth - eleventh] day of
Christmas Star Trek gave to me

Six Filkers, Filking ...

Seven Music vid's ...

Eight Trekfan podbooks ...

Nine Gamers gaming ...

A Ten page Comic

Eleven Hakos, hacking

A Trek fan calendar

What exactly are they? We're not telling! You can shake the presents as much as you like and try to guess what is inside the wrapping! The surprise will be all the better on the day!

These are all made by fans of Star Trek and, as such, it is meant as a homage to the professionals who have created the films and TV shows, the games and toys, the books and collectables. If you like what we have done then help to keep the Roddenberry dream alive by buying a book or DVD, play one of the cutting edge games or own a little piece of the dream by buying one of the quality, licensed collectables.

It must be stressed that these are all fan productions. The trademarks and copyrights of Star Trek lie with CBS / Paramount and no profit can be directly or indirectly made from these ventures. Any attempt to sell, rent or otherwise make a profit from any of these projects will be reported to the copyright owners for their action.

Saturday, 9 June 2007

Acrux premiere issue - June, 2007


Within the short space of five issues the new crew of the USS Southern Cross, have given me the support and content to create a high quality, fan made newsletter, ScuttleButt, which is available as a free download from our website as a series of free pdfs. Fun though it has been at the time, there is no real space in it for creative content or in-depth treatment of things that might be of importance to me but which would bloat the newsletter. After all, it's never been my intention to turn it into "The Kirok Newsletter". It has become increasingly apparent that I do need a forum for publishing my own work - and the work of others that doesn't quite fit the mold of a club's newsletter.

So here it is. My personal 'zine. In it I not only intend to blatently soapbox about issues I feel are important with Star Trek fandom in Australia, New Zealand and South East Asia, but also showcase the fan productions of Star Trek fans within the region.

What's a fan production? Like a lot of buzz-words it means different things to different people. On Wikipedia, the article on Star Trek fan productions takes the narrow view of seeing them as dramatic productions, covering only fan films, animation and audio dramas. I prefer to take the wider view that a fan production is virtually anything that a fan produces! Fan films, music videos, written fan fiction, filk and poetry! Virtually anything that is of an art or craft nature that expresses your love of the Sci fi genre! Yes, crafts and technology as well! Whether they are paper models or knitting patterns, musical instruments, costumes, Treknology or props!

If what you love dearest is to watch your DVD collection, read the licensed books or see the stars at a convention, I'm right there with ya! These are things that cemented my love of the sci fi genre and I gain great entertainment and satisfaction from my own collections and convention going. However amongst all groups there are those who want to contribute & create and through their own efforts gain a resonance of the feeling they had for the original.

Read more on "The Ravens Writing Desk - June, 2007" by Lt Cmdr Kirok of L'Stok, Editor, USS Southern Cross