About a month ago, the 22nd Fleet’s new administration agreed to what amounted to an anonymous Ask Me Anything style interview. In preparation, I
foolishly invited the internet to send me questions for the 22nd Fleet’s officers without any guidance or restrictions as to what those questions should be. The results were not nearly as heinous as one might think (which is to say that some questions came from simmers outside the 22nd Fleet).
After editing the questions for public viewing, I locked the officers into a closed message group and
berated presented them with the burning inquiries you all wanted to know. The following is an abridged transcript that was edited for length and clarity.
ALL: What is your favorite color?
Stephen: CG Blue #007AA5.
ALL: Why is the Trek DH so handsome and charming?
JakeSjet: I don’t know. It’s a curse I bear so that the world is a better place.
Stephen: I’ve never seen his picture but I’m sure he’s handsome.
Sprite: Uh… because the Trek DH emulates our favorite Trek ship captain…?
AlphaJuliet: Why wouldn’t he be? 🙂
ALL: Two years in and the fleet has changed and grown quite a bit–Where do you see the 22nd Fleet in 5 years?
JakeSjet: I see us hosting our own community events, not only 22nd Fleet Week as our anniversary holiday, but events for the entire community highlighting our commitment to bettering our little corner of the internet.
Sprite: I see 22nd Fleet continuing to become a community where all members feel like they are stakeholders. I see us growing our synergistic mix of Trek and non-Trek member sims and building on our flexibility to welcome home sims set in experimental as well as traditional speculative settings.
For players I see us offering a wide variety of Trek and other fandoms with interesting world states. For GMs I see 22nd Fleet offering a robust peer-to-peer support system. For both players and GMs, I see 22nd Fleet in five years as a home base to meet and write with other simmers, to share fandoms, meet and hang out with writer-friends, and generally enjoy this collaborative writing hobby we all share.
Stephen: The only way I can answer this question is by saying what I would like to see it be. I would like this place to be a community of writers enjoying their hobby and I would like for that to include not only our sim model but other types of writing as well. I’d also like to make this a place where people can feel they can come here to develop their skills.
AlphaJuliet: I’m one of those ‘what can we do right now?’ types. I don’t have a 5 year plan 🙂 I think we need to focus on what we want right now and on how we can all make 22nd Fleet a comfy place to be and to write. Then move forward together with a view to improving the levels of happiness, support and fun times. So, my counter question would be – what do y’all want to see in our little corner of the internet in the near future? Do you want small and cosy discussions, general banter, big events? What would you like to see us do together?
ALL: Is the 22nd Fleet a safe space for everyone?
JakeSjet: No. The 22nd Fleet is not a safe space for those who would abuse others and harass members of our community. Those people who would bring strife and discord will find no shelter here.
Sprite: I hope we are all aware that no online space is completely safe. I feel there is more we can all do, as members of this community, to help make the 22nd Fleet discord a more safe place.
The Fleet’s discord server is moderated by officers, but we can’t be on all the channels, all the time. I would really like our members to feel invested as citizens of our inclusive community and speak up to let an officer know if they encounter something that harms them personally or could impact a segment of our diverse members. Please feel free to DM me anytime.
Stephen: Honestly, no, we’ve had some problems as of late especially within the GM Council. This is my primary concern with this new administration and why my community-first effort exists. My goal is to bring us back to how things were when we were first starting out and just wanted a nice community to be a part of.
AlphaJuliet: Spaces are only safe if everyone works together to make them so. We are all responsible for looking out for each other, for respecting other people, and for speaking up either privately or in open channels to help and support each other.
Every one of us has the ability to help, to harm and to upset, sometimes on purpose and sometimes without really knowing offence has been taken. We all also have the ability to learn and to change the way we treat each other.
Our differences are a Good Thing. Different opinions are often the way us humans learn new and interesting things. If we can all remember that disagreements are not always based on emotion, but simply differing viewpoints, and if we can all respect each other enough to know when to talk, when to stop and listen and when to ask someone else to stop, we can make this community a comfortable, fun place to be. But we have to all want it, and we have to work to make it happen.
ALL: How are you facing the new changes from the recent “revamp” vote that expanded the executive function of the officer roles?
JakeSjet: It’s oddly liberating to be able to discuss as officers the ideas we wish to bring to the Council’s attention. Instead of a dozen voices at once all screaming in different directions, we have a small chat that highlights the key points of what we want to accomplish with the goal of ‘What Is In Our Best Interest’. Instead of dreading bringing ideas to the Council, it’s almost as though we want to show off our homework.
Sprite: I wasn’t an officer before, so for me it’s all new. As a GM I was quite frustrated by GM-initiated negative council-forum topics that seemed to suck up officer and GM energy and bring positive progress to a grinding halt. I hope this revamp facilitates keeping GM council activity focused on improving the fleet, and if it doesn’t work out, we can try something else. Like everything else, we are a work in progress.
This is a bit like volunteer gigs I’ve done before where I wasn’t the most knowledgeable or best qualified – just a community member with enthusiasm for the community plus available bandwidth.
Stephen: I think that this was a great step, I’ve always been pro entrusting the officers to carry out the duties they were elected to do. I also think that we need to be holding the officers accountable and take steps to remove officers who aren’t holding up the duties they volunteered for. And we will be addressing this moving forward with a committee to come up what we want our new standards to be moving forward with sim activity and community activity.
AlphaJuliet: I am very much pro-GM (and player) input towards improving and guiding the 22nd forward as a team. I also want community input to be constructive and positive with a view to help focus on the right changes being made. Let’s encourage productive, useful conversations.
Officer Specific Questions
Chair: Will the new Code of Conduct ever evolve into a judicial function like a “JAG Office”?
Stephen: I don’t foresee that as the future of our code of conduct the officers will moderate the community based on the powers that were given to us by the GM Council. Anything beyond that will be brought before a review before the council. The GM Council is our “JAG Office”.
Trek: Why doesn’t the fleet have an unbiased news agency, such as the Ferengi News Network that tells citizens the truth about the Federation?
JakeSjet: A good question! Mostly the 22nd Fleet doesn’t have an overarching news agency is because in the past those sort of projects have been used to incorporate all stories into a coherent narrative for a wider Fleet Canon. They help set up pacing, and paint the wider picture as opposed to the sim’s own relatively narrow view. Now, saying that, one of the things that was brought up in the last few months was the use of the 22nd Fleet’s news channel to tell brief stories of our various sims, a sort of Multi-Verse News Service or some such. Perhaps even a report to the Starfleet Temporal Office of Branching Timelines keeping an eye on all of the possibilities our writers come up with? I’m open to ideas. 😉
FDO: Will the 22nd Fleet consider hosting SciWorld or FallFest in the future?
Sprite: I would love for 22nd Fleet to host SciWorld or FallFest in the future. Taking on a project like that would require approval and support from the GM council, and the involvement of many volunteer participants from our community, to plan and execute. To get to that point I think we need to focus on strengthening internal confidence in ourselves as a community. Hosting would give 22nd an opportunity to share our collective experience and enthusiasm for this collaborative writing hobby. Plus we could sneak a few more non-Trek topics into the schedule alongside the expected Trek topics. 🙂
Ops: What does the future hold for the diverse divisions? Will we see more anytime soon?
AlphaJuliet: More Divisions? I don’t think so right now, no.
Sims based in universes other than Trek? Absolutely, yes.
There’s a vast amount of other genres for RP out there in the online world with everything from D&D to Superheroes to Period Dramas and home-brew sci-fi and supernatural RPs. The fact that 22nd Fleet is primarily a Trek-based Fleet simply means it attracts more Trek players. In my personal experience, most Other Genres tend to be Indie games rather than look to be part of a Fleet. So, ultimately, it’s up to us to decide who/what we want to attract and how we go about that.
Chair: Concerns over conflicts of interest arose in the past regarding previous chairpersons holding all the keys to the fleet infrastructure–can you speak to whether or not a conflict exists being an Officer and a trustee of the Infrastructure Committee?
Stephen: Personally I feel the conflict with the previous chairperson “holding all the keys” was nonsense. We exist as a community because of the time and dedication of the original chairperson who not only supported it financially by continuing up until recently being a fantastic webmaster that developed some great features for us to use.
I think, security wise, the less people with their hands in the pot is the best. And so the committee I proposed was used to help quell the fears with worry. I also was sure to include people that I have no personal previous ties to and at least one member who is not an officer. All in all they also were the two most responsive people when asked for input on what our hosting solution would be and to offer to help support the fleet financially.
Trek: Why do you think Star Trek remains the largest division in the fleet?
JakeSjet: I would argue the logistics of that question. The 22nd Fleet are a group of writers at their core, that a great many of them express their love of storytelling through Trek is coincidental. I have the privilege of helping to manage part of that team, a team I see expanding ‘Trek’ into new places. One day the question of Trek or Other won’t apply, because we are all simmers.
But to your question in its original form: community. Each sim is a collection of people telling a story they are a part of communally, be that on a ship, a planet or a space station. That sort of close-knit writing group is hard to find, and people gravitate into little shoals of interest. I like DS9: you like DS9. I thought the VOY episode “Year of Hell” should have been the entire plot of the show: you might agree. Star Trek is a communal touchstone for some, much in the same way that Firefly and Star Wars had their flare-up in recent years.
FDO: As the newest officer role, the FDO has been less refined than the others. What new definitions and dimensions are you bringing to the position?
Sprite: My emphasis will be on what makes membership in 22nd Fleet a “value added” experience for players and GMs.
Currently one usually positive aspect of 22nd Fleet is its discord server, a community where players and GMs can find friendly and familiar folks who share this awesome hobby, to chat with about our favorite fandoms, food, dad jokes, etc., and ask for technical help and information.
I’d like to develop support for our members with more “value added” content. I’ll be concentrating effort in the Mentoring Committee to prepare resources for new GMs, and initiate an on-request mentor program for GMs. It’s my hope we can expand the mentor program to include players seeking assistance and support.
Ops: With the burst of content from Disney/LucasFilms in recent years, why do you think Star Wars still lags behind Star Trek in terms of fleet activity and is that of any concern?
AlphaJuliet: It’s not lagging, we’re just not set up to attract non-Trek RP right now, the non-Trek sims we do have are from existing GMs branching out into other genres. Most non-Trek RP doesn’t go looking for a Fleet, they do just fine on their own in Indie sims. Just drop ‘Star Wars RP Discord servers’ into Google and there’s plenty going on. They’re just rolling with their own little communities.
Chair: Should the fleet expect any more major reforms or have we reached an equilibrium of sorts?
Stephen: The concern over what our fleet standards should be in that my vision of a writing community that offers more than just sims as well as what we want to set the standard for being an active Game Manager and member in good standing are of concern of multiple GMs. We are working on forming a committee that will help update our charter and bylaws to allow for various different activity levels and what we as a community can do to offer more to our members and people who may not have the same availability or interests as others.
Trek: While the fleet was founded on the idea that GMs are the final authorities on their own sims, we’ve nonetheless seen experimentation in shared canon groups–do you wish to promote more of such collaboration within the largest division or do you feel more that GMs should remain separate unless they have a strong desire to link sims?
JakeSjet: I believe the shared canon concept is a good thing when all of the GM’s agree it’s a good thing. Right now the Messier 4 group is our only shared canon group, the three GM’s running within it are close friends and work ideas off of each other. The larger that group gets, the more idea, the more chance that those ideas might conflict. So far we’ve avoided that. I myself have seen when a shared canon was used and abused by people who believed they could tell the story better. At that point, a shared canon becomes a chain around a sim. So in short, yes I’d promote it. But only as a joint endeavour, with every GM an equal partner in the creative kitchen so to speak. Thou shall not make your fellow simmer’s fun bad…or something smart like that.
Ops: Same question about shared canon. Would it help, hinder, or have no effect on the smaller divisions in your opinion?
AlphaJuliet: I think this is a personal decision for GMs to make on their own on a sim by sim basis. Sharing universe/canon between GMs can be great fun, but only if people want it and only if it works for the GMs in question. It’s not something I would actively push for, no. It’s something I support though. Our two Firefly sims operate in the same time-frame so Zuzutoo and I have discussed writing crossover plots in the future. More Firefly sims and GMs are very welcome to join us! Currently all the Star Wars sims are set in different eras, and Misc sims operate in different universe entirely by the nature of their current worlds so not so simple there.
FDO: There have been several committees of late that have been examining ways to restructure existing processes and how to structure new ones. Which committees are still active, which ones have completed their roles, and might there be any new ones on the horizon?
Sprite: Recently the Grievance Policy was replaced by the new Code of Conduct, approved by the GM Council, and added to section 2.2 of the Charter, so the Grievance committee was disbanded.
Other committees that still exist are the Awards Committee, the Mentorship Committee, and the Public Relations Committee. Anyone who is interested in joining one of these or new committees likely to be formed in the future, please send me an email or DM on discord. I also plan to post committee adverts in the #community-openings discord channel.
Chair: It’s true that you left the 22nd Fleet for a time–can you speak to what led to your departure and subsequent return?
Stephen: My departure was because I needed to take a break and it was hard for me to separate myself from the council and the operations of the fleet. It continued to be hard and I kept in the loop through various members. I had thought of returning multiple times after my departure and finally did. I at times regret my choice to depart but I’m also glad that I did. And I’m glad that I’m in the position to be here now and to take my turn as Chair and to help direct the fleet after some difficult times.
FDO: Do you have a promotional or advertising strategy in place? What sorts of things can folks expect to see on that front?
Sprite: I’ll be crafting an advertisement that highlights what makes 22nd unique and a great home for simmers – what distinguishes 22nd Fleet among other Star Trek sim Fleets, and what advantages non-Trek sims gain by joining.
Adverts in Trek-related discord servers are a given. Advertising for sims in other fandoms is a challenge because those tend to be independent sims or part of forum-based organizations that don’t allow outside advertisements. I plan to look for new advertising venues and reach out to sims run in a variety of formats. I welcome leads!
Trek: What do you feel is the biggest distinction between serving as Chairperson and Trek Division Head?
JakeSjet: Scope. From the running of sims to the infrastructure of the 22nd Fleet, nothing is beyond the purview of the Chairperson. But as a Division Head that scope is focused, more straightforward. The position requires someone not only with passion, but with the will to back it up and remain engaged.
Ops: Out of any genre, franchise, or title in existence, what would your wildest experimental sim idea or fantasy be?
AlphaJuliet: Ninja Space-Ghostbusting Mutant Dragon Marines with Moth Ships, Thunderbird Valkyries, Battlecats and Dark Matter Dragons…
Wow, though, that’s an epic question, thanks. For me, it’s more about the characters and the player chemistry rather than the need to experiment genre wise, my world building skills are secondary to hearing those character voices. I do love a good homebrew sci-fi universe though. Maybe something like a mix of supernatural, quirky random fortune and Iain M. Banks-esque sci-fi. If y’all reading this have a wild idea of your own though, bring it on in, I’ll listen.
Chair: Various committees notwithstanding, are there any general needs or services within the fleet which would benefit from someone jumping in to help?
Stephen: To touch on the various committees in existence, they are mostly led by Sprite and their membership and operation are being reviewed as she transitions into her new role. I know that I would like to see the mentorship committee expand to include non-GM members and deal with membership as a whole and not just for GM matters. Those committees not included, that’s a hard question to answer… for the moment I have nothing but that could change a few hours from now so just keep an eye tuned for announcements and in our community recruitment channel on Discord.
FDO: As the only officer who has not previously served, how well have the day-to-day responsibilities matched your expectations, and what advice would you offer to anyone else who might think to serve in the future?
Sprite: I knew the FDO position would take a significant chunk of bandwidth, but I seriously underestimated how much time would be involved.
My advice to my replacement after the next scheduled election (and to myself): a) don’t neglect your own sim, that’s why you’re here in the first place, b) find assistants and committee chairs and delegate (still working on that), c) prioritize doing Awards on time, that’s what members notice most, and d) try not to over-commit (I may be failing at this, actually.)
Ops/Trek: When it comes to accepting new sims, what do you look for?
JakeSjet: Well apart from the standards we set in the By-Laws (length of membership in the 22nd Fleet, conduct and other factors) I like to see creativity. If I was to go around all of the swimming groups in our community, I think I’d find a lot of the same old same old. The same stories being told in a different way. And that’s not a bad thing, it’s a comfort food of sorts I’ve been known to indulge in. But I hope to see in a sim application is someone taking a risk, using their creativity to craft something truly unique.
I’m still waiting on the Starbase-with-warp-engines sim to turn up. One of these days.
AlphaJuliet: I look for enthusiasm from the GM and a clear idea of the world they’re working with – not just the genre specific stuff, but “could players make a character for this sim and have some fun in their sandpit.” The application doesn’t have to be complicated, showy or something wildly ‘different’ so long as the creative spark from the GM themselves is there, they have a few ideas for the first few stories and there are some fun/challenges/adventures to be had. If your sandpit is a good one, and you care about it, then others will too.
ALL: A few months ago there was a GM Survey that checked the pulse of the fleet and was used to determine what actions and measures ought to be taken to ensure a healthy and thriving community. How would all of you rate the progress made since that time?
Stephen: The GM Survey occurred during my hiatus from being a GM within the 22nd Fleet. I have looked through some of it and responded to some of the discussion on it but haven’t delved completely in it. It was something that I personally placed on the back burner when taking over as chairperson and the discussion had seemed to also die out on the forum. A lot had happened and we needed to move forward and change before I wanted to go back through it. So I think we have, at least as a council, made some forward progress in healing but we need to keep transitioning into this new administration, this new fleet revamp, and decide what kind of community that we want to have.
JakeSjet: I would say that the actions and measures highlighted by the survey remain in the forefront of the officers minds, but were overcome by events of the last few months. But they remain, and we remain committed to following through with them.
ALL: Engagement tracking shows that most members of the fleet aren’t actually tracking with too many fleet events, meaning that unless someone is running a sim, they are more likely not to engage with fleet activities. Is there a systemic cause for this, is it a fluke, and is there a way or even a need to address it?
Stephen: The way that our community is currently developed isn’t to serve the members it is to serve the GMs. The foundation of our community is to support sims not the members. This is something that I want to see change… we should be a community of writers and we should support the writers and we should also support the GMs but we need to decide if that is what we want as a group. We need to decide where the support should be driven and we absolutely should be providing more ways for those of us not wishing to be GMs to be involved with the community as a whole.
Outside of Discord what would a non-GM member do for our community the way it currently is?
Sprite: What Stephen said.
I’ll just add that many GMs join their sim to a fleet in the hope that it will be a source of new players, so developing aspects of 22nd that will appeal to players, and engaging players in our community, benefits all of our member sims.
Like Stephen, I would also like to see this community be more supportive of writers, those who GM a sim, and those who keep sims active by writing for them. Interested GMs and players may not be aware they can join the Awards, Mentor, and Public Relations committees. (You can, DM me!)
JakeSjet: Timing, life, the afterglow of 2020 radiating into 21’: there is a buffet table of reasons. I also think one reason for a lack of engagement by the 22nd Fleet community is that for a time, at the beginning of 2021, our Fleet discord was not a happy place. We were not a happy Fleet. Why turn up to any event if you know there is going to be tension? Why get close to something that keeps throwing sparks? I’d like to think that now that we are past that point, we can begin to rebuild the level of trust needed to bring back our community spirit: Trivia Quizzes, writing contests, maybe even art contests to help show off our great members.
AlphaJuliet: There isn’t anything I can really say on the two ALL questions that hasn’t already been said tbh.
LIGHTNING ROUND! (one word or phrase replies)
JakeSjet: Peter Grant
Sprite: Essun/Damaya/Syenite (The Fifth Season, by N.K. Jemisin)
Favorite sci-fi hero?
JakeSjet: James Holden
Stephen: Jason Nesmith
Sprite: Snake (Dreamsnake, by Vonda N. McIntyre)
AlphaJuliet: Han Solo
JakeSjet: Dr. William Weir
Stephen: No idea unless patient charts count
Sprite: Solas (Dragon Age: Inquisition)
Favorite fantasy character?
JakeSjet: Minalan The Spellmonger
Stephen: Justin (editor’s note: Justin the Unicorn)
Sprite: Jacky Rowan (Jack the Giant Killer by Charles De Lint)
AlphaJuliet: Carrot Ironfoundersson
Favorite plot/character inspiration?
JakeSjet: The attack on Earth in Titan AE
Stephen: Not sure but my favorite character to write is CAPT Eugene Cavett
Sprite: The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
Favorite sim fleet?
JakeSjet: Seth Legacy Alliance, my first sim fleet and home town so to speak.
Sprite: 22nd, duh
Conclusion (because this was ultimately a lab paper)
That was a lot of fun! Many thanks to the officers for subjecting themselves to the
slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune battery of questions from anonymous sources. While they recover with the pastry, protein, and malted beverage of their choice (seriously, internet, you left those out of your questions?), I hope everyone else has enjoyed the extra insight into the 22nd Fleet officers and knows what to expect in the months to come.