Reviewing the AXANAR reviewer!!! (editorial with three exclamation points!)

Last summer, shortly after an early version of the 90-minute AXANAR script was leaked, a detractor going by the name of Kate Stark (pretty sure that’s a pseudonym) wrote a 19-part, 30,000-word blog series essentially ripping the poor draft version of that script into tiny literary pieces…trampled under the feet of a very self-important and erudite reviewer.

Yep, 19 parts, 30,000 words.  Don’t believe me?  Just click here and then scroll down to the bottom and click “Older Posts.”  Also, that’s just July.  Remember to also scroll to the bottom right for the blogs from June!

So yeah, that happened.  And the detractors, of course, were ecstatic.  Not only was someone reviewing the Axanar script, but the reviewer seemed to be REALLY smart and really HATED it (like 30,000 words worth of utter disdain written so intelligently!).  The high-fives and posted photos of pies were flowing like water over Niagara Falls on the detractor Facebook groups for quite a while.

But then…frustration.  There was no new Axanar anything left to review and eviscerate.  The 19-part blog series was all but forgotten.

Until last week, that is.  I rescued blogger Kate Stark from endless months of boredom and obscurity by releasing the first-ever Axanar illustrated short story: Why We fight.  Finally, the reviewer’s poison pen—er, keyboard—could come out of hibernation once again!

This time the blog series was much shorter: only 7 parts and 6,000 words.  (Just FYI, my short story itself was a total of 1,900 words.  So, yeah…three times as long.  FUN!)

Actually, it’s a very intelligent review (read part 1 here).  You know it’s intelligent because the reviewer almost immediately compares my short story to one of Ernest Hemingway’s works (and of course, finds my story lacking).  By the time you get to part 7, I’m being criticized for everything from bad character development to using too many question marks and exclamation points.  Hey, that’s my thing!!!  Isn’t it???

I wasn’t going to say anything, but then Kate Stark did something that changed my mind…

My loquacious reviewer decided to show me how it was done by rewriting my short story from scratch (in just a few days) in a way Kate thought it would be better.  Yep, you can read it here.  Go ahead; I don’t mind.  It’s actually fairly decent.  I don’t mind admitting that.

So add another 2,600 words for the story, and Kate has now spent more than 7,600 words on me.  And that’s when I decided to spend about a thousand words (well, 1,346 words with this intro) responding to the review and the rewrite.  After all, I’m assuming Kate would feel better knowing I read both the review and the new short story.

And thus did I write the following comment and post it on Kate’s blog page that included the rewrite of my story.  And since I likely get many more readers (not bragging—Kate’s blog is just way more niche than mine), I figured I’d reprint it here to share with all of you guys…

A little over-written (like your review), but basically decent. I know what you were trying to do, and I used to do that, too, when I was younger: “Never criticize another unless you can do better yourself.” So you showed off your talent. Totally fair.

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, though. “Why We Fight” was never written to win any awards or be better than Hemingway (thanks for mentioning him, though; I’m flattered even if I didn’t measure up). Instead, I just wanted to have some fun with the short story. I can write something with more gravitas and emotion like you just did; it isn’t that hard either (as the rapidity of your own efforts demonstrates). But that wasn’t what I was going for. Instead, “Why We Fight” was just an itch I wanted to scratch. The story came out of me in just a few hours…if that. I didn’t put too much time into revisions because, frankly, it was mostly the way I wanted it after only a few pass-through edits.

Many people enjoyed it—it’s had a few thousand reads so far—and I’m pretty happy with it myself with the words and the punctuation marks (thank goodness exclamation points are free!!!!!), the Oxford commas, and the pretty pictures. I’m certainly flattered that you felt strongly enough that you wrote nearly 6,000 words (yeah, I counted) about my 1,900-word short story. And I read every word that you wrote. It’s all fine. Everything you said is perfectly valid. But to be honest, it wasn’t really necessary. This was a fun little diversion for me. I already got my six-figure book deal back in 2011(yeah, bragging…because I can), which is enough for one lifetime for someone who was never looking to become a professional writer anyway. I just enjoy putting words together.

I’m kinda like Mr. Tanner in that way:

In fact, the song in that video I just linked to is the reason that I don’t review Star Trek fan films on Fan Film Factor. I certainly could. I live in Hollywood and could certainly tell most of those folks a thing or three about screenwriting, framing shots, editing, lighting, using a friggin’ clip mic on a windy day, etc. But that’s easy. What’s not easy is actually MAKING a fan film…even a crappy one. And I always give credit where it’s due.

These folks deserve my respect for putting themselves out there. And any negative review I post criticizing those fan producers doesn’t serve to make me any grander, but it can have a deleterious effect on these people who only wanted to share their love and passionfor Star Trek with others. Like me, they didn’t ask to be reviewed. Unlike me, many of them might end up feeling so discouraged that they never try to make a fan film again, never strive to be better and go farther with their efforts. My words have the potential to wipe away their feelings of fun and accomplishment and replace them with embarrassment and despair.

I don’t ever want to be that guy. Do you? (Oh right, already answered.)

So as I review the reviewer, I find you lacking only in that you felt you needed to write this magnum opus in the first place. I know that, deep down, you wanted me to read it. I did. I’m certainly impressed with your smarts and literariness (hmmmm…spell check didn’t catch that; I guess it’s really a word–I was trying to be facetious). But it’s also clear that you had an Ax to grind, and so I suspect I could have written “The Tempest,” and had Prospero been named Garth, you still would have found something to criticize (in seven parts, no less!)

I’m fine with what I wrote, K.S. I love how it came out, and I love how it’s energized the Axanar fan community all over again. And yeah, it was meant to be a geek-fest for those wanting to know the names of all the Ares-class ships (alphabetically, in fact…that was the drinking game, by the way) and see young versions of Matt Decker and Ron Tracey. And yeah, it had Garth being the legend. That’s what we Axanerds want. Garth is like Kirk, and Kirk would have delivered the same kind of speech (as he did in “Balance of Terror”) because Kirk’s also a bit larger than life. No need to write anything different…at least for me. And ending the story with Garth telling Sonya to order a drink, tying into Sonya’s line in Prelude, that was just Axanerd icing on the cake! For those of use who loved Prelude, this story was perfect.

I’m sorry if you didn’t like it (it was hard to tell from your review), but hey, as we say in America, “That’s why Baskin Robbins has 31 flavors.” (Do we actually say that? Well, I say it!) As for writing 6,000-word reviews, well, as you can see from that video I linked to, you can do just as much damage with four lines.

Something to think about perhaps?

I awoke this morning to a polite and upbeat response from Kate, which I’ll share with you now.  Does Kate get it?  Do I?  I’ll let you folks decide…

Hey Jonathan!

Thanks so much for such a thoughtful reply to the “Why We Fight” critiques.

I think you’re correct that it doesn’t take more than a line or two to destroy something. That’s why Twitter is the death of discourse. A sporking-style critique, however, shouldn’t set out to destroy something. It should set out to understand something. It looks for what works, what doesn’t, why it does or doesn’t work, how it does or doesn’t work, and how it fits in with a broader understanding of stories. They’re much closer to informal literary analyses with a bit of sharp humour than they are, say, a movie review.

That’s why there’s so much overlap between writers and sporkers. Only people who love the craft will spend so much time with something that doesn’t work for them. It’s also why it was so important to me that I post my own story. It was a demonstration that I am a part of the community, not apart from it.

35 thoughts on “Reviewing the AXANAR reviewer!!! (editorial with three exclamation points!)”

    1. I actually kinda like the first definition better. 🙂

      But yeah, Kate’s basically trying to justify supercilious pedantry with the ultimate intention of doing little other than saying, “I am better than you, and here’s why…” And the “why” then goes on for seven parts. It’s not noble by any stretch, and it says a lot more about the insecurities of the sporker of wanting/needing to be thought better of than the author he/she is reviewing.

      In the end, though, I’m very happy with the story…and I never really expected the detractors to celebrate or embrace it. I didn’t really write it for them anyhow, and in a way, I’m kinda glad Kate sporked it…as it just helps to reinforce what the rest of us knew all along about the detractors.

  1. Damn an erudite response, well spoken and intelligent in it’s done with respect.

    1. The rest of the detractors could learn a lot from both Kate and me. It is possible to communicate without getting down into the mud and feces. In fact, it’s actually a lot more pleasant for all involved! 🙂

  2. Kate’s really hung up on that “sporking” term, isn’t she?
    Sounds like someone trying hard to make “fetch” happen…

  3. Hmm, sounds very much like a pseudointellectual to me, very reminiscent of the EMH Mk I.

    What reads as most bizarre comes from the opening line of “Hey, I’m doing this on my Friday night for free”, as if this person expected that they were doing you a favour or something by doing it. It just feels like this person has a highly inflated sense of self-worth.

  4. You don’t really need to have nice perfect prose to write a comic script–just enough for the Illustrator to draw on. In fact, as a fan of Axanar, I was able to visualize the story. Every bit of the dialogue kept my interest going.

    IMO, I thought you did a super, professional job. The title was fantastic, that’s what got my interest and got me to read the story. I thought the format (dialogue, story, etc.) was exceptional.

    By the way, some of Kate’s critique was full of bs.

    1. Some of Kate’s criticisms were valid, and some were self-indulgent to her own sense of intellectual superiority. She saw certain things as being objectively black and white rather than subjectively up to interpretation.

      For example, to Kate, the first several lines of the drinking game was wasted when I should have been establishing who these characters were. But in fact, the drinking game did just that. These young officers were enjoying a night out drinking, and one of their games was to try to name all the ships in the Ares class alphabetically. It’s the kind of thing that soldiers whose lives were consumed by this conflict would do. Obviously, they all knew the names of all of the Ares ships. But did they know them all ALPHABETICALLY? Sure, it’s a kind of a stupid game. What bar game isn’t? It would be the equivalent of having a story about Congressional interns in Washington, D.C. having a drinking game naming all of the Republican senators in alphabetical order. The rest of us would think it was the nerdiest, most pointless drinking game ever, but for senate interns living this stuff daily, it would be perfectly normal.

      Instead, Kate spends nearly 650 words explaining how this doesn’t work. Why? “…there’s no tension because there are no stakes. There’s no goal and no conflict. There’s no subtext. It’s a list of names.” Yes, Kate, yes it is. Sorry you didn’t like those ten names…representing about 25 words (including the names of the speakers) in a 1,900-word story. But just because those first 25 words don’t contain tension, stakes, goal, conflict, or subtext…that doesn’t mean they’re objectively a wrong or weak way to begin the story. That judgment is subjective, not objective.

      On the other hand, spending 650 words explaining why those 25 words don’t work–that’s kind of ridiculous, self-indulgent, and self-important. It’s also quite intellectually close-minded…the mark of a truly poor reviewer.

  5. “Sporking” – that’s new to me and the online spell-check rejects it (will look further after I finish this). But Kate’s 7-part effort is summed up by being described as meretricious sesquipedalianism (the spell-check rejects that too, but it’s correct English – perhaps not correct “American”).

    1. Actually, I tend to be petty sesquipedalian myself, but you can blame Patrick Stewart for that. 🙂

      The thing about the word “sporking” is that it comes from the assumption that you are reading/reviewing something that is so bad as to make the reader want to tear their own eyes out with a spork. Therefore, defending the concept of sporking does, by its very nature, defend the practice of harsh ridicule, which should never be the primary rationale behind writing a review.

      1. Although said with a grin, I don’t think you can be accused of wasting words, of ever over-stating your argument or viewpoint – even though it was said perhaps in jest, you do yourself an injustice. And you are spot on in your comment about ridicule being totally inappropriate in a review. I have never known you to even imply ridicule let alone use it; fairness being a hallmark of your writings. Keep ’em coming!!!!! (some spares – !!!!!).

        1. Well, if that doesn’t put me into a good mood for “A Wrinkle in Time” (which is getting awful reviews), I don’t know what will! Thanks, Bryan. 🙂

  6. I’ve just read Kate’s story and will refrain from comparative criticism (well – for me, yours had more immediacy), but one thing incited my predilection for pedantry (do you like that phrase?!). Good science fiction, while transcending known science, always remains scientifically accurate when within the realm of known science.

    As a retired Chemistry prof, I reacted immediately to her dialog phrase, “…but it was real alcohol, not the synthetic stuff…”! No matter where it comes from or how it is made, alcohol is alcohol, CH3-CH2-OH, ethanol. No differences, even in science fiction.

    1. Well, remember that you also have to believe in transporters, faster-than-light travel, and that every alien race looks humanoid except for the eyebrows and foreheads.

      Gene Roddenberry established, in TNG, the idea of Synthehol, a synthetic alcohol that produced a similar “kick” and buzz to “real” alcohol but was easily dissipated if the ship had to suddenly go to red alert. It was a contrivance, of course, but it allowed for the creation of a Ten Forward lounge that served mixed drinks without creating a situation where the XO or chief engineer would suddenly be unfit for duty in an emergency until after they sobered up.

      My only issue with the story was that both the human female and the Vulcan were nicknamed “Val.” What are the odds? But more practically, it created a potential initial confusion for the reader that could have been completely avoided were the female to be named just about anything else. There’s my constructive review: 50 words. 🙂

      1. The two Vals thing is spot on. She also tends to be more descriptive than is necessary.

        1. I won’t fall into the trap of criticizing Kate’s writing choices. They are hers to make and are neither right nor wrong. She wanted to go for overly descriptive prose as a counter to my minimalistic approach. That’s fine. Here choices were all perfectly valid for what she wanted to do.

  7. I did say,”…while transcending known science…”, (perhaps I should have said,”…where transcending…”) meaning the large body of science fiction that innovatively (hmm – spell-check doesn’t like that either) sneaks around the borders of science to come up with warp drive etc etc. Actually modern physics has areas where some particles appear to exceed light speed, and other phenomena where specific sub-atomic information appears to be spread through the universe instantly. Although disputed, enthusiastic minds suggest these observations, if correct, may provide a window of opportunity for future (w-a-y future) development of FTL travel or even instantaneous travel. Fun to speculate.

    But OK, I accept Synthehol as an alcohol replacement (wish we could use italics), similar in its effects, but easily neutralised in the system. As long as the wording isn’t interpreted as “‘synthetic alcohol” which does offend scientific sensibilities. 🙂 .

    My comment on your story having greater immediacy was because, even without the great graphics, I could picture everything clearly in my imagination, right from the beginning – the reality of those opening competitive exchanges contributing to the creation of a lifelike scene. (Somehow I managed to miss the name duplication; don’t quite know how I missed that. 🙁 )
    (I promise I will now shut up!)

  8. It can be said that the opposite of love is not hate but indifference. Someone who would spend that much time and energy is utterly not indifferent. I’ve known some really fun obsessives in my time on earth and can enjoy their nature. And I can be one myself: I won’t tell you how many hours upon hours I once spent trying to find a one penny error in a bank statement.

    And the world is full of people who totally believe they can do something better and give it a go. Sometimes they succeed and sometimes they don’t but I also give props to someone who tries. They have, in a sense put their “money” where their “mouth” is.

    So to me you went a overboard in your post and were too dismissive in the tone of voice I “heard” when I read what you wrote.

    So when Kate wrote that she’s an Axanerd, I agree.

    1. Gut feeling here, but I don’t think Kate is an Axanerd. The detractors all seem to want Axanar to fail in some way–to never come out, to not be any good if it does come out, etc. The farther Alec Peters can fall, the better…as far as they’re concerned. Kate’s obsession with all things Axanar is similar to Captain Ahab’s obsession with Moby Dick. Ahab was never a big fan of the great white whale, even though he spent his every waking moment thinking about the creature. In that case, Ahab’s hatred was, itself, also the opposite of indifference.

  9. 90 minutes – Oh what could have been – I’m still hating CBS for cutting Axanar down the way they did, and, then, instead of giving us something just as good if not better giving us what the frack Discovery’s supposed to be – Unbelievable… *smh* / :/

  10. Always been my thought if complainers about trek fan films bothered to put that inclination to a script they could do some good not just spend all this back n forth bs . but thats how the media works . personal opinions , then attacks , then solutions ( normally parting ways ). Be nice if ppl got inspired vs angry n critical of others efforts . but thats humanity …i get bitched at over lack of punctuation but im no english major so irrelivant in my arena .

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