Author Archives: Joan Marie

About Joan Marie

An experienced writer, Joan is the author of the nonfiction books Voyager: Exploring the Outer Planets, Boldly Writing and Weight Loss Success!, as well as the novels Countdown to Action!, Action Alert!, Deadly Danger!, Situation: Critical!, Extreme Hazard!, and Danger Zone! plus numerous short stories and articles. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and The International Association of Media Tie-In Writers. She has served on the board of directors of both the Minnesota Science Fiction Society and the Mythopoeic Society.

API Examples

An API is a database kept by an entity which allows developers (programmers) to access its data through a particular protocol. Programmers can get a key that allows them entry into the API; they can then gather the data and display it.

Here are 3 APIs that I found:

1. The NASA API at

The NASA API gives access to items such as the Astronomy Picture of the Day, Mars, and Earth pictures. There’s an API access endpoint, documentation, and a getting started guide. There’s an hourly limit of 1000 requests per hour. An API key is recommended but not required (no authentication needed). GitHub has 169 results on a NASA API search.

2. The Goodreads API at:

This API grants access to a lot of information about authors, book reviews, etc. There seems to be less information about single titles, but one can get lists of books as well as entire virtual bookshelf. One can acquire a developer key and there are instructions as to how to how to use the API. The site also has links to a developer’s forum. GitHub shows 95 results for the Goodreads API.

3. The United States Census Bureau API:

This site lists about a dozen categories of survey data. In each category, there’s a summary file and data file with sample calls. Users can get an API key. There’s an API forum and technical documentation. GitHub shows 125 results for the census API.

For more APIs, there’s a directory at:

Reflections on the Fourth Week at The Iron Yard

This week we learned more techniques for using JavaScript code to place items onto a web page. The code we reviewed to do this seemed somewhat complicated, so I “diagrammed” the code and went over it with Jim (our instructor) to make sure that I understood the functionality correctly.

The class format on weekdays (Monday-Thursday) generally has a lecture in the morning, and lab (working on programming tasks) in the afternoon. Friday is entirely dedicated to the lab work. I’ve started to notice that I tend to reach an impasse about 2 pm, when I think to myself, “what the heck does all this mean, and am I ever going to be able to understand it?” Fortunately, Jim is available to answer my questions and point out what steps I can take next, at which time I’m able to continue with the assignment.

This is the main reason I prefer a classroom learning experience to an online learning experience. The lectures allow me to ask questions at the time the time the material is presented; later, in-person advice and guidance is equally valuable to me when I’m in the midst of processing new information.

This week the data we used with JavaScript came from an API (application programming interface). The particular one we used was the Marvel interface at An API is a database kept by an entity which allows developers (programmers) to access its data through a particular protocol. Programmers can get a key that allows them entry into the API; they can then gather the data and display it. In this case, the results can be visually spectacular with the large number of superhero and comic art available that Marvel offers to developers to use.

I’ve checked out other APIs (and browsed through a directory of APIs to see what’s out there), and I’m highly motivated to get to know how to use them, because there are a lot of exciting APIs out there, and I’m eager to try them out.

Running the code

When I was learning computer programming, before the internet, we learned that there were a couple of main ways to run the computer code: first in, first out, where the first instruction to the computer is the first one completed, and last in, first out, where the latest instruction to the computer is the one that is run first.

Now computer code is run with browsers (e.g. Chrome, Firefox), which makes things a little more complicated. The set of instructions are still put on a virtual “stack,” and in JavaScript, instructions are run one at a time. This is fine if the instructions are simple ones, such as console.log (which simply prints to the console). However, if the instructions are complicated and take a long time to run, this can hold up the rest of the code. Meanwhile, the browser is waiting for JavaScript instructions to complete so it can refresh the screen (at a preferred rate of 60 frames per second).

There’s a way to make things run faster. The browser has its own stack/storage for instructions called webapi, and there’s a secondary storage area called the task/callback queue. A programmer can help out by placing a function (or subroutine) within an instruction called setTimeout, which says wait a certain number of milliseconds (at minimum, it can take longer) before running this instruction. In addition, if a programmer knows that something will take a while, the code can be placed within a setTimeout of zero, which means essentially to hold the code until the stack is clear (and then run it).

The structure, then, is this: there’s a stack running the code (instructions). There’s a browser stack called webapi which holds code that is to be run later. There is another intermediate holding area called the task/callback queue. The stack is taking code and running it. The webapi holds code for a certain amount of time, and then places that code into the callback queue. A mechanism called the event loop checks the stack, and if the stack is empty, it places the item in the callback queue into the stack so that it can be run. (Items can also be placed in the callback queue directly for holding until the stack is empty.)

Essentially, we have webapi – – > callback queue – – > event loop – – >stack.

The goal of the programmer is not to “block the event loop” with code that takes a (relatively) long time to run, but to allow the faster instructions to go into the stack, and the more complex instructions to go into the callback queue or webapi to wait and run when the stack is clear.

This produces a web page which loads and responds quickly.

Reflections on the Third Week at The Iron Yard

We continued to learn JavaScript in week 3, focusing on functionality and constructing our own libraries of functions. We also got an introduction on how to place JavaScript on a web page so that the results of the code show up. There was also some review on html and css; I was particularly interested in constructing buttons. On Friday, we had an exercise in which we set up a web page using html and css (which we hadn’t used significantly since week one) from a diagram. The web page I made was less sophisticated than I had hoped for, but this is something I can work on in the coming weeks.

I got another chance to present my code to the class for discussion. We also worked on some team projects, and I’ve been impressed with the results from collaboration.

We were introduced to prototypes in JavaScript, which didn’t make sense to me until Jim went over one of the exercises, and I realized that prototypes are a way to associate a function with an object. It’s generally easier and more effective for me to understand an aspect of code when it is put into practice, beyond just reading about it.

I anticipate even more progress in the upcoming weeks.

Reflections on the second week at The Iron Yard

During week 2 we worked on JavaScript. I was glad that I went through the JavaScript exercises at Codecademy before class started, because we quickly went through the basics and into the more complex aspects of the programming language. If I had not already had experience with those basics, I might have felt lost.

We continued to read each other’s code, which was useful in that we were able to see that, in general, there are different ways for the code to accomplish the same task. Sometimes we paired up to compare methods; other times someone would get up in front of the class to show the code they had written and invite comments. I was able to do this earlier in the week.

On Friday, some of our assigned tasks involved using one function to call another. A particularly complicated assignment required us to write a function where one of the arguments was another function (referred to as a callback). This initially posed a dilemma for me, since I could not see how this could work unless I was able to add functionally within the callback—and, as it turned out, that’s what needed to be done and was actually possible, though not easy.

Along with this we covered “best practices” of coding, as well as the reasons why one style of coding might result in fewer problems than another style. In addition, we continued to learn more programming tools and techniques.

Overall, this continues to be a satisfying learning experience. It is intensive, but the intensity seems to give the tasks focus. Looking forward to seeing what’s next!

Reflections on the first week at The Iron Yard

It’s the end of my first week at The Iron Yard code school. The first week was learning and applying code in HTML and CSS, as well as acquiring and learning to use a set of programming tools. Jim (@JimTheDev) is an excellent instructor: knowledgeable, patient, and upbeat. The environment is fast-paced without being frantic, though the result has been that when I turn in my work for evaluation, I tend to think that I could have done better if I had more time. However, Jim said, and I agree, that in real-world programming, one has to do one’s best in the time frame one has.


Another point Jim made was the value of repetition: performing tasks often until they become second nature. In this way, I’ve managed to learn the basics of the command line fairly well.


Manuals are great for reference, and I prefer to have one around—although, for me, lasting learning has come from applying the code, and to that end, we (the entire class) are getting lots of practice. In my experience, this is the fun of coding, and the time passes pleasantly. However, I’m learning the code and the essentials on how to operate a MacBook Pro and how to inspect a website and so forth, at the same time, which makes the process more time-consuming. I expect that learning the tools and the hardware will take proportionally less time as the course continues.


GitHub was introduced to me as a way to collaborate on code. Right now, though, I’m appreciating it as a way to back up and preserve my code for my own reference.


Overall, it’s been a fun and challenging week.

HTML vs. HTML plus CSS

The first websites I built were using html only. They were functional, but not sophisticated. It wasn’t until I started using software which converted a page of text and graphics to html, and later, WordPress, that I was able to build websites that had anything beyond basic functionality.


CSS (and SASS) is what helps give a website structure and better functionality. The box model, in particular, defines the page. Additional CSS selectors can define characteristics such as line height, fonts, letter sizes, and so forth. These selectors can apply to just one line, to a section of the web page, or the entire web page. Other selectors can be used to structure menus and drop-down menus. The variety and versatility of choices means a wide variety of web formats can be built.


I went over 26 sections at in an afternoon. I would have found them even more helpful had I known about this site before starting code school, because then I could have taken the time to go over the material in more depth, and perhaps test out some sections of code. Showing the code alongside how a web page featuring the code appeared would have been even more useful, in that I could have seen the one-to-one correspondence between the code and the page appearance.


Nonetheless, I have noted the site for future reference, and may find myself referring to it.

Changing Computer Programming Practices

Some observations in learning a computer language for the first time: the internet (as it is known today) was not around when I was introduced to computer programming languages (BASIC, FORTRAN, assembler, etc.). The instruction was primarily in a classroom, using a manual (textbook), followed by assignments where we were asked to write a program to [fill in the blank]. This is the way I prefer to learn anything new (not limited to computer languages). I remember once I got a job where I was taught assembler language through watching videotapes, and didn’t get much out of it. To supplement that, I took night classes in the language, where I learned much more. I find I get far better results from interaction with an instructor and from the use of a written text.

That’s not to say that I don’t get anything from online learning. The Codecademy courses (css, Javascript), were very instructive, and I find that I can interpret code written in those languages fairly well, now that I have completed those exercises. One item I noticed was the vertical organization. In my previous education as a computer programmer, we wrote FORTRAN (for instance) horizontally, though we still used indents to group related items.

The languages themselves retain essentially the same functionality: loops, arrays, and so forth. Javascript reminds me of FORTRAN. The command line codes remind me of the more recent MS-DOS. GIT is different: while I recognize the principle behind it, and realize that it serves a useful function, the commands are not intuitively obvious to me at this point, though I expect that I will become accustomed to them with use.

Learning coding without the use of a manual is also a challenging experience. When I first learned computer programming, if I had a question, I’d either consult the manual, or ask the instructor or the instructor’s assistant. When I was on the job as a programmer, though I could ask my co-workers or my supervisor (and sometimes did), I most often consulted the manual (generally, I knew what I wanted to do, I just needed to find the optimal operation to accomplish the task). In the past year, however, I have found that Google can often answer a coding problem or question, and that it routinely consults message boards where users post their problems and get responses from other users. I have to admit I found it amusing that someone asking a simplistic question can get an answer in an acronym meaning “have you consulted [censored] Google!?!?!” (Or was it “have you [censored] consulted Google!?!?”)

Most of all, I’m impressed by the depth and complexity of the code, which offers a deliciously wide range of options. I’m looking forward to putting all that into practice.

The computer programming experience: learning and application

I have taken computer programming courses before (in programming theory and also in languages such as FORTRAN and assembler language), and I have worked as a computer programmer, so I have had experience in writing, testing, and modifying code.

I’ve found that a flexible attitude (or what author Carol S. Dweck calls a “growth mindset” in her book, Mindset) is an asset in learning and applying coding skills. My experience is that code that reads well does not always perform well; it does not always perform as expected. When that happens, I don’t take it personally or as a failure on my part; I simply go back to the code and see what sort of adjustments need to be made.

This is not to say that the experience is not extremely frustrating; it is. Looking at a section of code for what seems to be hours for a missing parenthesis or misplaced semicolon can be aggravating. Not getting the expected result can be discouraging. This is pretty much inevitable when taking a programming class. When that happens, my plan is to pause, reflect, take a breath, analyze the problem, and where needed, get other ideas on what might be causing the difficulty.

Most of all, I’ve found that, eventually, I can get the code to do what it needs to do. It just takes time, patience, and flexibility.

Modern Surprises – science fiction novel

Having fun while saving the world

Modern Surprises was no ordinary company: the science division had secretly developed a portal that would take them anywhere. The plan was to use the portal to help those in need. However, a billionaire industrialist found out about the portal, and would lie, cheat, and steal to get it. But the Modern Surprises team was not about to let him have it.

“Joan’s prose is always cool, it’s a majority female team and that’s such a good title.” —Paul Cornell, author of Who Killed Sherlock Holmes?

“Modern Surprises [is] a delightful adventure story…. This book is tremendous fun, and has a lot of really strong, fascinating characters, most of whom happen to be female. Really groovy stuff, and you should check it out.” —Keith R.A. DeCandido, author of Dragon Precinct

Wondry Dragon Finds a Home

Children’s Bookwatch: February 2016
James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief
Diane Donovan, Editor
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive, Oregon, WI 53575

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

Wondry Dragon Finds a Home
Joan Marie Verba
FTL Publications
PO Box 1363, Minnetonka, MN 55345-0363
9781936881444, $6.87, PB, 66pp,

Do you like dragons? The follow the adventures of Wondry Dragon as she finds a new home with her new human friend, Rhea in Joan Marie Verba’s delightful story, “Wondry Dragon Finds a Home”. Rhea and her mom and dad have never had a dragon in the house before, and they all learn what Wondry can and cannot do. Rhea and Wondry play together, help out their neighbors — and try to stay out of trouble. Rhea can never tell what Wondry will do next because Wondry is always surprising her with what dragons can do. Wondry will surprise young readers ages 6 to 8 as well! A children’s chapter book story suitable for students in grades 1-3, “Wondry Dragon Finds a Home” is very highly recommended for both community and elementary school libraries. For children’s personal reading lists it should be noted that “Wondry Dragon Finds a Home” is also available in a Kindle edition ($2.99).

Coloring Books from Joan Marie Verba

I’ve recently started putting together coloring books. Here are the first two:

These 25 designs are generic cityscapes for both children and adults who want easy drawings to color. Most of the drawings are simple, though some are more complex. Feel free to color entire sections or individual buildings. You can even create a mural or write on the side of a building. There are dotted lines at the side of each page. There is only one drawing per piece of paper, so if you wish to cut them out and save them, use the dotted line as a guide. Whether you need a coloring book for an adult or a child, this is one to consider!

Paperback available here.

This coloring book is for both kids and grownups who want easy drawings to color. Most of the 26 drawings are simple, and you can add your own designs in the blank areas if you wish. There is only one drawing on each piece of paper (the back side of the page is blank). The dotted lines on each page show where you can cut out the page from the book if you want to display the finished piece, or color the drawing outside of the book. Whether you need a coloring book for an adult or a child, this is one to consider!

Reflections on having lost weight and kept it off for 35 years

October 28, 2014 is the 35th anniversary of my reaching lifetime status with Weight Watchers. I have never been more than 2 pounds over my goal weight in that time, and I have 35 years of weigh-in books to prove it.

I also was an employee of Weight Watchers for 9 years (2000-2009).

In addition, I’m a member of the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR). This is a registry of people who have lost at least 30 pounds and have kept it off for at least a year. The object of the registry is to find out what people who have long-term weight loss success have in common and see if there is anything others can learn from that. (The hope is/was that if everyone overweight follows the same habits, they’ll all be successful, too.)

Still, despite all recent efforts, the majority of residents in the USA remain overweight or obese. Some commentators have said that we simply need to admit defeat and accept it. (One article I read even said it was impossible to lose weight and keep it off long term…another was a little more moderate and said that it was nice that the NWCR people had lost weight, but the NWCR research had no applicability to the average overweight person.)

I’ve been thinking for a long time on the reasons most people haven’t been losing weight and have come up with some conclusions (my opinion only).

First of all, obesity is not simply a physical/biological problem. It also has social and behavioral aspects that are significant and cannot be neglected in searching for solutions.

Scoffers will often maintain that obese people are lazy. I maintain the opposite is true: many individuals are overweight because they are busy: busy with their families (especially if they’re caregivers to children or the elderly), and busy with their jobs (especially if they’re working 2 or 3 jobs to pay the rent). Losing weight is not easy. It takes a lot of effort. The fact is, most people (including me) need a lot of help in order to successfully lose weight and keep it off, simply because it is so hard.

Health professionals are just starting to get a clue about this. Whereas earlier, many naively thought that all there was to weight loss was “eat less and exercise” or “just push your plate away” (and some still do), they are beginning to talk about an “obesogenic” environment. And it is. Food is everywhere. Food is advertised heavily. Food manufacturers deliberately make their food enticing to the taste buds…and the taste buds favor high-fat, high-sugar foods. Healthy foods are expensive and can take a lot of preparation, and can be inaccessible (“food deserts”). A lot of people don’t know how to cook – and home-cooked food can be significantly healthier than food served at restaurants or fast-food places. Those whose taste buds have been accustomed to high-fat, high-sugar foods can find healthy foods such as vegetables and nonfat dairy products tasteless, and not consume them.

Then there’s the social area. There’s a lot of social pressure to eat. Family members who equate love with food can react negatively if their food isn’t eaten. Others want to give you permission to overeat (“oh, going off your diet one day won’t hurt” or “just have a bite”). Significant others can become jealous of or feel uncomfortable with a partner or friend who is losing weight and try to sabotage weight loss efforts.

Food is not just food (nourishment). Individuals can see it as a companion, as well as turn to it for comfort (the problem with comfort food is not that it doesn’t work; it’s that it does). People tie food with other activities, so that the activity seems empty without the food (I’ve met people who find it almost unthinkable to watch a movie without eating popcorn, or to sponsor foodless birthday parties and other celebrations).

The enormous social stigma of overweight also is a major contributing factor. Individuals can be in denial (as I was for years), see the scale as an enemy (I sure didn’t want to get weighed when I was overweight), and therefore avoid getting help. Or, if they attempt to get help, waste time and money and endanger their health by going for quick-weight-loss schemes. (Currently bariatric surgery is offered as a solution. While it does have some degree of success, it is neither quick nor easy and has the potential for complications. Further, I personally know of cases where a bariatric patient has regained all the weight, and then some.)

How about activity? Most people find exercise boring and tedious. There have been advances in this area, yes. Devices such as standing desks and treadmill stations help, and more has been done to make exercise fun and enticing. But there’s still work to be done.

So, in order to tackle the obesity problem, I believe society needs to:

  1. De-stigmatize obesity
  2. Change the obesogenic environment
  3. a. Make healthy food cheap, available, tasty, and effortless to prepare

     b. Teach minimal cooking skills to everyone

  1. Change society’s attitude toward food
  2. Train people ways to deal with anger, frustration, sadness, and trauma other than reaching for a quick snack
  3. Make activity fun and enticing

Can this be done? Based on the attitude change toward smoking (which took decades), I think it could; however, this is not going to be quick or easy.

Back when I was overweight, one of my attitudes that was delaying my start into a weight loss program was the wish and the hope that science would invent a formula which would enable me to eat to my heart’s content, and not gain any weight. I’m glad now that I went ahead and lost weight anyway, because it’s 35 years later and science still hasn’t stepped up!

However, though I applaud all that’s been done so far to address the obesity problem, I now believe that it is essential for science to do just that. Because there are individuals (and I have met them), who, for biological reasons beyond their control, cannot and will not lose weight no matter what lifestyle, behavioral, or eating changes they make.

While researchers are working on this, doctors can be a lot more helpful than they are. The fact is, the average Weight Watchers employee has more knowledge and experience in the scientific, behavioral, and social aspects of weight loss than the average doctor (and doctors admit they get little training in obesity issues – except for the obesity specialists, of course). It’s long past time that physicians stop blaming obese people for their obesity, realize that healthy weight loss requires expert help, and actively extending that help in an empathetic and effective manner.

Again, these are my opinions only, but even though I’m no longer a Weight Watchers employee, I continue to read extensively on the subject of obesity and healthy living (as well as completing a one-year training course as a health coach), and I believe that a commonsense approach can work.



Break the Curse of the Dirty Purse with Machine Washable Shoulder Bags

Need a Clean Handbag? Try a Machine Washable Shoulder Bag

Hi, I’m Joan Marie Verba and I sew the shoulder bags you see on the page. I started using these because I found that whenever I purchased a purse, it would not be long before the purse became stained or dirty, or something spilled on it. Then I’d either have to try to clean it, or I’d have to throw it away. After throwing away a lot of purses, I decided that I needed a purse that I could simply wash when either the inside or outside was dirty. That’s when I started using these, which are machine washable. They’re durable, roomy, comfortable to wear, and have a lot of pockets. I believe you’ll find them as useful as I have. They can be tossed in a washing machine when they get dirty and dried in a standard dryer. The bags come in a variety of colors, patterns, and sizes.

Where can you find these bags? They’re currently featured in a Kickstarter project, and can be found at the site for the bags as well. (Kickstarter link: )

Joan Marie Verba learned sewing from her mother, who maintained a home-based sewing business for over 40 years. She has been sewing shoulder bags for herself for decades, and has recently expanded the line to include other useful washable accessories as well.

Update: this project was funded, but you can order shoulder bags and accessories at any time at:

  • Posted by Joan Marie Verba at 11/17/2013 4:53 PM 


    Star Trek: Into Darkness review
    Joan Marie Verba

    (Yes, there are spoilers, so don’t read this if you don’t want them.)

    Before this movie was released, I read an article that said the studio and production staff wanted this movie to appeal to more than Star Trek fans. This is understandable, and it can be done (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home managed it). However, though this movie did have elements that definitely appealed to the long-time Star Trek fans, it also had some discontinuities where it was not…quite…Trek.
    Even so, I felt this movie was better than the 2009 one (and I found the 2009 Star Trek to be satisfactory). ST:ID avoided silliness such as the 2009 scene where a large beast chases Kirk across a snow-covered plain and into a cave, or Scott being beamed into a water tube.. Star Trek: Into Darkness is serious throughout, and that’s a strength.

    From the publicity before the movie, I also feared a couple of developments, which, fortunately, did not appear . The first was the statement that ST:ID was set mostly on Earth. Maybe if someone timed it, there were more minutes spent on Earth, but to me, the bulk of the movie seemed to be in space, where it belonged (you know, the “Space…the final frontier…” sort of thing?). Roddenberry deliberately avoided Earth in the original series, and Star Trek seldom went to Earth even after that. The second was the movie poster showing the Enterprise descending into a planetary atmosphere. When I saw this, I groaned inwardly, thinking that they were going to go for cheap dramatics and destroy the Enterprise yet again. Well, they didn’t. Good for them.

    There’s also been some complaining about ST:ID being a remake of  Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. So what? The 2009 Star Trek was a remake of The Wrath of Khan (you know, the bad guy wants revenge for losing his wife and picks a member of the Enterprise crew as the primary object of his revenge?). For that matter, Star Trek: Nemesis (which I enjoyed, in contrast to about 90% of other Star Trek fans) was a remake of The Wrath of Khan, with Data in the place of Spock. I find it contradictory for fans who didn’t protest those films copying Wrath of Khan to complain now.

    The movie starts with Kirk disobeying the Prime Directive by (a) saving a planet from destruction and (b) allowing the Enterprise to be seen by a non-spacefaring culture. As a result, he’s demoted. Really? How often did Kirk violate the Prime Directive in the original series and get away with it? And since when is it a violation of the Prime Directive to save a planet from total destruction? Seems to me that the Enterprise did that a lot (in both original series and in TNG), and why? Because it was the moral thing to do, that’s why. Once you’ve saved the planet from total destruction, you’ve already artificially changed the course of history, so allowing the planetary residents to see the ship is a negligible event. Kirk should have demanded a hearing and hired Sam Cogley to advocate his case.
    Then there’s the matter of John Harrison. As “John Harrison, terrorist,” the character works. As Khan Noonian Singh, he doesn’t. I don’t know whether Benedict Cumberbatch (whose performances I enjoyed in Sherlock and Amazing Grace) saw “Space Seed” or The Wrath of Khan before assuming the rule of Harrsion, but he’s not channeling Khan. The personalities are entirely different. It would have been better to cast either Antonio Banderas or Lou Diamond Phillips or Naveen Andrews in the role if they wanted Khan. We needed an actor who projected the viciousness of Khan (as Cumberbatch did), as well as his egomaniacal rants and his explosive anger (which Cumberbatch didn’t). Banderas also has the advantage of having acted with Ricardo Montalban before and could capture his acting style (which Cumberbatch didn’t). It would have been far better for the character to remain John Harrison, terrorist, and say he either was genetically enhanced on Earth (remember, the technique was not lost, it was simply illegal, as we see in Dr. Julian Bashir on DS9), or another crewmember of the Botany Bay. The non-Star Trek viewers of ST:ID won’t notice the difference, of course. But the original Trek fans will.

    (There’s a similar mistake with Carol Marcus. Alice Eve simply does not project the strength of character we saw in The Wrath of Khan. Sarah Michelle Gellar would have been a better choice.)

    Even so, again, I enjoyed the movie overall, and thought it had some nice touches. I was glad that Uhura had more to do, although putting Chekov in charge of engineering was far above his pay grade. I would have preferred to see Sulu get more screen time than he did. McCoy and Scotty seemed just right. They also put in “Cupcake” from the previous movie as a red shirt, and he seemed to have survived the movie!

    What I thought was the best of the movie was the conflict between the idea of Starfleet as a science/exploration fleet or Starfleet as a war fleet, and I’m glad the movie ended with the idea that it should be exploratory. Spock convinces Kirk that killing Harrison (sorry, the guy’s not Khan), with a drone is NOT something they should do, and Kirk agrees. This was a wise move not only because executing Harrison without a trial would be a bad precedent, but also because a drone strike on the Klingon homeworld could have started a war (whether it was in inhabited territory or not) and because it would have killed 72 of Harrison’s associates. And, the ending wrapped up the theme very well: “There will always be those who mean to do us harm. To stop them, we risk awakening the same evil within ourselves. Our first instinct is to seek revenge when those we love are taken from us. But that’s not who we are…” – Capt. James T. Kirk

    Back to the story: upon the Enterprise crew leaving the Klingon homeworld, Admiral Marcus shows up with his super-ship and decides if Kirk won’t abandon his and Starfleet’s principles, Kirk (and his crew) have to go, and he (Marcus) will make sure that Starfleet goes to war. Montgomery Scott, who made his moral choice earlier, sticks to his principles and helps the Enterprise. (Speaking of Scott, there’s an astronomical error when Scott discovers the super-ship: Jupiter’s clouds are in constant motion, and the movie’s special effects department put in a still photo of Jupiter as background instead of having the clouds move, as they correctly did in the movie 2010). I wondered why Scott didn’t disable the super-ship’s weapons systems before Marcus fired on the Enterprise, but at least he was still there to help when needed. I also appreciated the realization of the factor of inertia when Kirk and Harrison arrive and slide across the floor quite a distance before they can stop. I also thought it was nice that Spock contacted his counterpart to ask about Khan. Smart move. 

    When they get to Earth, they correctly say that the Enterprise is in danger if it re-enters the atmosphere, and it did show the heat of re-entry, but unless there was some sort of shielding at work, re-entry would probably have caused even more damage, if not catastrophic damage, before theEnterprise hit the cloud tops. (I was delighted to see that the Enterprisefinally got seat belts for its crew, even though some seat restraints were seen in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.)  I presume the super-ship, which was intact, survived re-entry because of shielding.

    Back on the Enterprise, the warp core needed attention, and this time it’s Kirk that  sacrifices his life to fix things (though I wondered why Kirk didn’t bring any tools in with him). Spock then releases his anger in an all-out chase to get Harrison (J. J. Abrams seems to think Spock needs to have an anger release every so often). I didn’t have a problem with reviving Kirk with Harrison’s blood (though I agree with the observers who said that any of Harrison’s genetically engineered associates could have been the blood donor), because it saves us from having another movie on the order ofThe Search for Spock.  I did miss, however, Kirk saying, “Out there. Thataway!” in response to being asked where to take the ship next.

    In brief, yeah, it wasn’t perfect, it had problems, but in its own awkward way, it got to where it needed to go: putting the Enterprise on a five-year mission “to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, and to boldly go where no one has gone before.” We can only hope that will be the case in the next movie.

    Posted by Joan Marie Verba at 5/20/2013 1:35 PM


    Henry Jenkins is the Provost’s Professor of Communication, Journalism, and Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California. He recently interviewed me about Star Trek, Darkover, and Thunderbirds.  

    An account of early Star Trek and Darkover fan fiction by archivist/chronicler Joan Marie Verba:

    Thunderbirds are Go and Joan Marie Verba Explains Why.

    Posted by Joan Marie Verba at 5/19/2010 1:20 PM 


    On Tuesday, May 18, 2010, I’m hosting a virtual online (re)launch party for my Thunderbirds books, particularly Countdown to Action!

    On that date, if you order one or more of the Thunderbirds novels, you will be able to download free bonuses!

    A number of partners are helping me with this virtual party. These include:

    Dan Poynter, author of the Self-Publishing Manual.
    Peggy McColl, author of Your Destiny Switch and other self-help books.
    Michelle Cimino, Digital Etiquette Expert.
    Hasmark Services, The Heart and Soul of Book Marketing
    Steve Miller and Sharon Lee, authors of the Liaden series of science fiction novels.
    Henry Jenkins, popular culture expert, the author of Textual Poachers, and the Provost’s Professor of Communications, Journalism, and Cinematic Art at the University of Southern California.

    Put the date on your calendar so you won’t miss out on these special offers!

    More information will be posted as the Countdown to the Virtual (Re)Launch continues!

    Posted by Joan Marie Verba at 4/22/2010 8:02 PM