Kelli Fitzpatrick is an author, high school English teacher, and activist from the rural town of Beaverton, Michigan. Her short story “The Sunwalkers” was selected as a winner of the Star Trek Strange New Worlds 2016 writing contest and is published by Simon and Schuster. She currently writes for the Star Trek Adventures role-playing game line from Modiphius. And I tracked her down for an interview! Yay!
Michael: How did you get involved with working on the Star Trek Adventures game?
Kelli: I met line editor Jim Johnson through a friend and asked to pitch for the game. I was one of the winners of the Strange New Worlds contest in 2016 and very much enjoy writing for the Star Trek franchise. The Star Trek Adventures RPG presented an opportunity to continue telling stories in the Star Trek universe inside a very well-designed game system and in collaboration with a team of talented writers and creators.
What distinct perspective do you feel you bring to the game?
As a female author, I always try to bring an awareness of gender issues to every project I work on, as equity and strong female representation are aspects of the industry I care very much about. As a Strange New Worlds author, I have the benefit of having written Star Trek fiction in the past, which has been helpful in conceptualizing new Star Trek Adventures plots.
Finally, as a teacher, I try to bring empathy and ethics to the forefront of the discussions I’m a part of whenever appropriate, and I think that meshes well with the highest values of a game set in the Star Trek universe.
How much creative freedom were you given when you were commissioned to work on the
I am afforded a great deal of creative freedom on the projects I work on. As Jim Johnson has said in interviews, he trusts us as writers to come up with bold ideas and exciting, original Star Trek stories. It’s very much a positive work environment of utilizing creativity rather than limiting it.
Modiphius has an excellent set of writing guides to help us produce consistent, quality game content that is true to Star Trek. Depending on the project, I might be assigned a topic, a general plot outline, or cleared to build a species or an adventure from scratch. Some of the projects I work on are highly collaborative where the creative energy is driven by a writers’ room approach, which is both highly effective and highly rewarding.
I know you did quite a bit of work on the new Klingon Core Rulebook. What part did you have in that? What was the most fun?
Anytime you get to research Klingons is going to be a blast. I wrote six sidebars throughout the book: The Klingon Civil War (p. 29), The Boldness of Our Allies (p. 31), General Martok Becoming Chancellor (p. 43), Death of a Flagship (p. 252), Retaking Deep Space 9 (p. 256), and The House of Duras (p. 349).
Sidebars are really fun to write because they are often tiny flash fiction pieces or in-universe ephemera that flesh out memorable events from different perspectives. My favorite one to write was the ballad for Lursa and B’Etor (Death of a Flagship) as I got to give the Klingon women a lyrical sendoff befitting their boldness and cunning. I also enjoyed writing the priorities of Martok’s administration and rewatched every Martok episode as research to make sure I knew all the motivations he would carry into his term as Chancellor.
Let’s go back in time a bit. Talk to us about how you got involved in writing.
I’ve been writing stories and poems for as long as I can remember, but I got serious about it around 2015. I started competing in international flash fiction and screenwriting competitions and placed a few times. Getting a story published in the Star Trek Strange New Worlds anthology in 2016 launched my career as a professional author and Star Trek writer, and I haven’t looked back.
When did your passion for Star Trek first develop? What was your first exposure?
I have early memories of the whales in The Voyage Home and of recognizing Geordi on TNG
(it’s Levar from Reading Rainbow!).
The first show that I really watched regularly was Voyager, so that became my baseline for what Star Trek looked like: a strong female captain on the bridge, and a crew that never gave up and supported each other as a family. I was extremely inspired by the leadership and empathy of Captain Janeway and the discipline and grit displayed by the crew in holding to Starfleet values and ethics even when stranded so far from home.
Do you play STA on the regular? If so, what is your crew like? What character do you
Yes, my group plays weekly and I always look forward to it! Our characters are on a Luna-class science vessel on a deep space exploration mission, and have encountered several new species. I play the Bajoran chief engineer and enjoy getting to utilize my Technical Manual frequently during gameplay. (I most recently used it to look up how ship-to-surface communication works. Lots of cool diagrams).
What have you noticed about public reaction to the game? What about STA struck a different chord with the public do you think?
The reactions to the game I have seen have been overwhelmingly positive, and I credit three things: game design, Star Trek ethos, and the STA community.
This game was my first RPG experience, so I can vouch that it is simple to pick up and start playing (especially if your GM eases into the rules). This is a game that allows Trek fans to delve deep into the milieu, and because it is built around the mission of Starfleet, it is an RPG uniquely focused on duty, values, and humanitarian considerations. (If you’re playing with the Klingon Core Rulebook, that might vary, but you’ll likely still have a strong code of honor!). In that sense, it’s a game that allows players to role-play the best versions of what humanity might be in the future, and that is an uplifting experience.
Finally, the STA community is interactive and highly supportive, and those new to the game can find lots of resources at Modiphius’ blog, on the Continuing Mission website, and in the Facebook group.
Who is your favorite character in Star Trek? Why?
Captain Janeway will always have the chair in my book due to how much she inspired me—I modeled much of my teaching and leadership styles after the way she runs her ship. I must say I am loving the character of Commander Jett Reno on Discovery for her humor, wit, and unorthodox approaches to problem solving, so she is definitely on my shortlist of favorite characters.
I am with you on the Jett Reno point too! What is your favorite part of the Star Trek canon? (TV, movies, book) Which series do you like the best?
I enjoy Star Trek in all its iterations, having grown up reading the Pocket Books and watching several series. Voyager will always be the series closest to my heart, though I think DS9 has the best re-watch value and arguably some of the most satisfying character arcs in the franchise (looking at you, Damar). I am also really enjoying Discovery for its creativity, representation, and gorgeous cinematography.
What would our readers find you doing if it isn’t writing/playing RPGs?
I am always writing sci-fi and fantasy stories, writing essays on a variety of geek franchises, and doing editing and proofreading work. I also tutor online, lead writing groups, teach writing workshops, and frequent conventions. For several years, I have volunteered on the Boards of some local nonprofits, and occasionally paint murals if the opportunity arises. In my spare time, I love running, reading epic fantasy, and (in the Before Times) traveling and exploring new places.
Whoa. You are a busy person. You may not have time for my last question, but I will ask it anyways. If you were a component on a starship, what component would you be?
I would probably be the Universal Translator as I enjoy helping people better understand the world around them through the power of language. Either that or the ocean tank in Cetacean Ops so I can chill with the dolphins!
Haha! Both great choices, Kelli. Thanks for letting fans of STA get to know you a little better! You have us a good reading list to catch up on and we look forward to more of your talent being displayed on behalf of the Star Trek universe!
Do you want to see more of Kelli’s great work. Check out her Website, which includes links to other works:
Thanks very much for this interview. It was great to read! I am very curious now about the Modiphous writing guidelines.
I have to agree with Ms Fitzpatrick on Discovery – it is great how creative that show is and how they are growing Star Trek while staying true to its core.