Site FAQ

Written: 1999-10-11
Last revised: 2002-04-23

I have noticed that certain questions keep reappearing in my E-mail, so in an effort to save time, I will put some of the most commonly asked questions here.

Why don't you leave Trekkies alone?

I do! How often do you see me going to Trekkie websites, newsgroups, or discussion boards and harassing or browbeating them? Never! I maintain my website, and when I have time, I deliver the Imperial Smack-Down™ to people who either confront me, harass me, or insult me behind my back. They have no one to blame but themselves. You should be asking why they won't leave me alone.

Why are you so argumentative?

What's wrong with being argumentative? It's bad to be an irrational or dishonest debater, but an eagerness to debate is not a bad thing. It's a form of mental exercise, and there is no better way to hone one's ideas than to pit them against opposing ideas in debate. Unlike religious fundamentalists who are terrified of opposing ideas, or newsgroup and discussion-board Trekkies who tend to seek out friendly forums, I like to exchange ideas with people who don't agree with me. Why? Because the man who prefers to speak only with those of like mind is not learning anything; he is only engaging in intellectual masturbation.

Don't you think Star Trek vs Star Wars is an immature argument?

Yes. Why do you think I enjoy it? We adults must be mature and professional all day, every workday. Many of us have kids and we must carry the weight of that awesome responsibility: an entire lifetime which will be influenced by the lessons they learn from us. That's a heavy load, so why not take the occasional break?

Why can't we be immature in a sci-fi debate, of all places? Why shouldn't we run through the sprinkler on a hot day, buy the Super Soaker 1200 from Toys 'R Us, or crank the heat on the BBQ just to see the flames? Why shouldn't we watch Bugs Bunny reruns instead of the History Channel? Personally, I think that the occasional bout of immaturity is good for the soul.

Don't hold your nose in the air and sniff that I should be more mature about this, of all subjects. You may not want to admit it, but you do have an opinion on Star Wars vs Star Trek, otherwise you wouldn't have made it this far into my website. The maturity complaint normally comes from people who disagree with me but aren't man enough to come out and say that. I'd actually prefer a straight-up attack than this weaselly, sniffy "you should be more mature" bullshit. So release your anger! Strike me down with all of your hatred, and your journey to the Dark Side will be complete!

How do you account for omnipotent beings such as Q?

I don't need to. Q could probably blow up an Imperial vessel if he wanted to, but he's an enigma. His motives are a mystery, and there is no reason whatsoever to imagine that he'll come riding to the Federation's rescue. He's occasionally shown a hint of sympathy for humanity (when he wasn't threatening to exterminate us, which is no small caveat), but he has never demonstrated any interest in the system of government known as the Federation. Why would he care whether humanity is ruled by the fascist Empire or by the communist Federation? You could ask the same questions about any of the other "omnipotent" beings of Star Trek.

Besides, how do you know he's omnipotent? I find it fascinating that because Q does things which seem like magic, most people assume he must be omnipotent. That does not follow; we do things which would seem like magic to prehistoric savages, but we're not omnipotent. Why do we assume he's omnipotent? Has he ever destroyed a galaxy, for example? Has he ever created a sentient species? Has he ever reversed death? If he's omnipotent, then how could his powers be taken away from him, as they were in "Deja Q"? Why could Q continuum weapons be handled by humans, as we saw in Voyager? Q may be able to manipulate matter on a molecular level, live for an undetermined period of time, present himself in arbitrary forms, create convincing illusions and telepathic dream-states, and perform interesting feats such as adjusting lunar orbits, suppressing warp core breaches, time travel, or inducing a supernova, but that hardly amounts to omnipotence. All of those things could be accomplished by a combination of the technologies and telepathic abilities demonstrated by various "mere" mortals in Star Wars and Star Trek.

What about Species 8472, or the Voth, or the Paxons, or the Citherians, or ...

What do we know about these people? I feel that that one-episode wonders are such vaguely defined unknowns that we cannot draw significant conclusions about them. What are their motivations? Why would they get involved? Whose side would they be on? How populous are they? We saw their technological strengths, but what are their weaknesses? Some of them are based on just one homeworld; could they be conceivably wiped out or reduced to a straggler's existence by a single blast from the Death Star superlaser or an Eclipse-class Star Destroyer? What effect would the horrifying chain reaction of a planet-annihilating Galaxy Gun missile have, if detonated in the fluidic space of Species 8472? How much resolve would they show in the face of casualties?

How about Babylon 5? Or Battlestar Galactica? Or Macross? Or ...

Hey, I don't have that kind of time! I can only manage the occasional site update dealing with two combatants, never mind three or more. In any case, the site itself is largely a reaction to certain types of obnoxious Trekkies, and since the fans of other sci-fi series are not as loudly abrasive as these particular obnoxious Trekkies, they have not elicited similar reactions (or haven't you ever noticed that it's always Star Trek vs Somebody Else? You hear very little about SW vs B5, or B5 vs Macross etc., but ST vs everybody else is always a hot topic). Some rabid B5ers are starting to make noise, but they've left me alone so far (perhaps demonstrating that disgression is the better part of valour?)

Besides, SW and ST are my two favourites. I like B5, but ST TOS and the SW classic trilogy were the big science fiction franchises of my childhood. For what it's worth, both SW and ST are distinguished from the others in one important aspect apart from my own childhood enjoyment of them: they share a cheerful, upbeat atmosphere (although ST has gotten darker lately). Even the obliteration of an entire planet in ANH somehow fails to dampen the fun, swashbuckling spirit of the film. This stands in sharp contrast to the gloomy, nihilist atmosphere (eg. Blade Runner) which is so popular in other science fiction franchises. That gloomy nihilism is something which B5 is often guilty of (my son doesn't even like to hear B5, because the background music is so evocative of dark, forboding places and thoughts).

Your site is contradicted by some of the SW tech literature

The same can be said of Curtis Saxton's site. Remember that like Mr. Saxton, I place official literature well below canon sources in the hierarchy. Furthermore, real science is also brought into the picture ahead of official literature. It takes more work to do things this way, but you end up with something that makes a lot more sense. Most of the official literature is not very well-researched. The same can be said of ST, where the TM contains numerous obvious mistakes (eg. power expressed in MJ, or MN-range thrusters for a 4.5 million ton ship).

The WEG-derived literature is the worst. Their research has been deplorably sloppy (witness the ridiculous 5-mile SSD figure, which is clearly contradicted by every film-based source), and their grasp of scale is pathetic. They think that a few thousand stormtroopers can overwhelm an entire planet, and that a few million soldiers is sufficient to serve as a standing army for an entire sector containing thousands of worlds! They thought that the Executor required an extraordinary outlay of cash and manpower, even though the Death Star dwarfs it in scale. They thought the Star Destroyer was the largest vessel in Imperial space before the Death Star, thus betraying an incredible lack of engineering comprehension (a builder whose largest project has been a one-room hut will not suddenly build the World Trade Centre).

Out of the various official sources, I tend to give higher weight to the sources that deal exclusively with the canon films (eg. the SWICS). The so-called "Star Wars Extended Universe" diverges from the films significantly in many respects, and the handful of books which ignore the extended universe tend to be more faithful to the original canon films. Lucasfilm seems to agree; Curtis Saxton was tapped to write the Episode 2 Cross-Sections book, and they are creating a distinct impression that they would like to rectify some of the sloppy mistakes of earlier official writers.

Why did you make this website? Are you nuts?

If you're asking this question, you're not the first. My own wife has asked the same question :)

In any case, I stumbled across Curtis Saxton's famous Star Wars Technical Commentaries a long time ago, and decided that I would make a "vs" version, which compares the worlds of Star Trek and Star Wars. But my site is more fanciful; it is supposedly written by an Imperial officer, so it's full of pro-Imperial propaganda (talking about the illustrious Lord Vader, etc). It also has some educational parts, and a fanfic, which I honestly tried to write in such a manner that it would be entertaining rather than a boorish attempt to say "SW rulez ST sux" in the form of a fanfic.

As for the question of whether I'm nuts, I guess I'll have to consult a psychiatrist about that. But I do feel that I still have a grasp on reality. At least once a day, it does occur to me that Darth Vader was not a real person.

Don't you have anything better to do than this?

Sure. I have other interests. I also have a full-time job and a family to spend time with. This just happens to be a little hobby of mine, and I don't understand why people seem to think I must be spending every waking hour on this. Why do you think I sometimes go weeks or months without updating the site?

Why did you make this site instead of just posting in alt.startrek.vs.starwars?

The newsgroups are a pain in the ass. You have to sift through dozens of posts, many of which contain nothing but immature jibberish from 12-year olds, and if you post something, you need to check every day to see if someone responded to it, because the heavy volume of traffic means that your message will disappear if you let it sit around for a few days. Newsgroups are almost like a prison to which you voluntarily admit yourself, only to wonder why you won't leave.

How do you apply real-life science?

This discussion employs real science wherever possible, along with the scientific method. Of course, there is no such thing as warp drive, or hyperdrive, or Death Stars. But the site is based on suspension of disbelief, which presumes that the canon events seen in the films and shows actually happened.

Suppose we saw a Death Star in real life, and suppose we watched it blow Mars apart the way it blew Alderaan apart? We would not have the option of saying that it didn't happen, because we saw it. We would not have the option of saying that it's impossible, because it happened. Therefore, we would have to accept that it is possible, and try to rationalize it with our existing knowledge of science. We would not discard all of science because of this strange observation, nor would we ignore the observation because it doesn't fit our theories.

That is what suspension of disbelief means, and that is how it applies to science. I am not a researcher or world-renowned aerospace or astrophysics expert by any means. However, my degree means that I've got the background to apply the scientific method, and my training in materials science, heat transfer, thermodynamics, and kinematics can be applied to many aspects of this debate.

Excepting the fanfic of course, this site does not employ pure speculation, unlike some other fan sites such as Graham Kennedy's Daystrom Technical Institute. If it's here, then there's some basis in a canon or official source (see the Canon page for more information).

Why should we apply real science at all? ST and SW don't conform to real science

It is the only basis for rational and objective discussion! What is the alternative? Pseudoscience? Then we'd be no better than creationists. Pure subjectivism? At least it would be consistent, but I have yet to see a "subjectivist" who completely refrains from applying real science- they just do it selectively, thus making them hypocrites. Besides, aesthetic tastes vary from person to person anyway, thus eliminating the possibility of meaningful debate. One could only state opinions without any method of debating their validity.

Besides, I don't see why a purely subjective comparison of the Empire and the Federation would favour the Federation anyway. When it comes to "look and feel", I don't see how someone could look at the appearance of a Star Destroyer (think: M1 Abrams tank) compared to the appearance of a typical Federation starship (think: Mazda Miata), and think that the cute shiny one is the tough guy.

Do you hate Star Trek?

If we're talking about real Star Trek (read: TOS and to a lesser extent, TNG), not at all. I also liked all of the even-numbered Star Trek films, and I believe that Star Trek 6 was the ultimate Star Trek film. It had everything Star Trek should have: a rousing story, a memorable villain, a powerful message for our times (one that was buried in the plot, not preached at the audience), careful use of technology without resorting to meaningless technobabble, and things blowing up.

Do you hate recent Star Trek?

Yes, absolutely. I hate the overbearing, sickeningly self-righteous Captain Janeway character (and why would they cast a woman with a gravelly smoker's voice, for a fictional era in which humanity has supposedly outgrown self-destructive habits like tobacco smoking?). I hate the massive over-use of technobabble, and the cavalier disregard for technical consistency and scientific accuracy (their own tech advisors have publicly complained about being ignored). I hate the blatant preaching. I hate the "soap opera" writing style, which is undoubtedly caused by the fact that Star Trek writers are hired for "general writing skills" rather than any sort of interest or aptitude for science fiction.

I hate the fact that Benjamin Sisko is never criticized for being pompous or wildly overdramatic, even though the vastly superior Captain Kirk is mercilessly pilloried for the very same thing. I hate the fact that most of the DS9 plots are meaningless unless you've watched the previous 30 episodes (there's that soap-opera writing style again). I hate the fact that DS9 is full of their own custom-made religious fanaticism (Christianity is dead in the 24th century, so they had to invent a replacement in order to satisfy their writing habits).

I've seen every Star Trek film. I've seen every TOS episode. I've seen every TNG episode. However, I've seen only a handful of Voyager episodes, and only a few dozen DS9 episodes. Voyager and DS9 do not deserve to be called "Star Trek".

Do you hate Trekkies?

No, just two categories of Trekkies:
  1. Trekkie science-fakers. You know the type: they don't have any real qualifications, but they run around spewing Star Trek trivia and fringe-science jargon until everyone's eyes glaze over, they confidently predict that we'll all be flying around in warp-driven ships with transporters someday, and they read all of the cool science magazines and websites. They think they've memorized enough jargon to make people think they're scientific experts, but they don't get it. Science is not just a collection of arcane facts and terms! It is a method, with well-established ground rules. The fakers are easy to spot- they can spew jargon left and right but they don't use the method and they don't follow the rules.

  2. "Trek is God" fans. You know the type- they believe that Trek is responsible for all that is good and beneficial in society. It promotes social growth. It inspires technological development. It explains to us how we should live our lives. All other sci-fi owes its existence to Trek. Every other sci-fi series has inferior technology to Trek. Every other sci-fi series has inferior acting to Trek. Every other sci-fi series has inferior writing to Trek. Every other sci-fi series has inferior social messages compared to Trek. How annoying! These people never have more than a passing familiarity with any sci-fi besides Trek, and their understanding of engineering is similarly weak, hence their childishly simplistic belief that things like cellular phones wouldn't exist if not for Trek. Their understanding of socio-economic principles is even worse, since many of these people believe the paternalistic TNG-era neo-Marxist society would actually work.

The Trekkies in the "vs" newsgroups often fall simultaneously into both of these categories, and this website was largely created because somebody had to counteract their inane pseudoscientific bleating. If you are a Trekkie but you don't fall into one of these two categories, then none of the criticisms in my site apply to you.

Your site is very one-sided. Doesn't this indicate severe bias?

Ahh, the "one-sided = bias" criticism. Sorry, but strength of conviction is hardly proof of excessive bias! Ask a mathematician about whether 2+2=4, and you'll get a pretty one-sided opinion. Ask a physicist whether E=mc², and you'll get a pretty one-sided opinion. Ask a doctor whether cyanide is bad for your health, and you'll get a pretty one-sided opinion. A one-sided method indicates excessive bias, but a one-sided conclusion, if it comes from valid premises and reasoning, is merely an indication that the data itself is quite conclusive.

Besides, obsessive attempts to "prove" bias are merely ad hominem attacks. Everyone has some bias, but if the method is valid and the observations sound, then the conclusions are valid regardless of the author's personal biases. If you want to attack an argument, find something wrong with the method. Failing that, find something wrong with the premises. If you can accomplish neither, then perhaps you need to rethink your own position.

If you want my straightforward opinion, I think it's pretty damned obvious that a resurgent Empire, with dozens of millenia of space exploration experience, a thousand to one numerical advantage, a thousand to one speed advantage, and astronomical energy-wielding capabilities would make short work of the Federation. I never really gave the whole silly "vs" concept much thought until I realized how many Trekkies were promoting the opposite opinion. That was mildly perturbing, but when I realized that their arguments were almost wholly based on pseudoscience, I decided that someone needed to publicize a more sensible approach. Pseudoscience is a mental disease.

Don't you think there is anything good about Trek?

Sure. Kirk was a great Captain, although I'm not a big fan of the others. Spock was a very original (and in his own quirky way, likable) character, although the "torn between two cultures" idea has been pretty much beaten to death in the new Star Trek. Deforest Kelly's hotheaded Doctor McCoy was a truly memorable character, and far superior to all the Star Trek doctors who followed.

They also have some neat technology: Replicators and transporters in particular. Replicators would be very convenient for items like clothing and household goods, although I would rather eat real food (our lives are synthetic enough already). Transporters would be very convenient for moving parcels around, although there's no way in Hell I would put myself through one. And for what it's worth, I was always quite fond of the original Enterprise design, particularly after the ST:TMP refit.

Finally, it would be nice not to have to work for a living, thanks to the idealized socialist government of the TNG era. But on the other hand, I'm not sure how a society is supposed to function when there's no incentive to work. Note that TOS didn't suffer from this neo-Marxist nonsense.

I guess those remarks sound like backhanded compliments, since many of them are accompanied by a caveat. But take them for what they are, and take Star Trek (particularly TNG and later series) for what it is- an optimistic but naive vision of the future in which the writers never bother to explore the negative side-effects of their tricks, toys, or sociological constructs.

Shouldn't you be more diplomatic toward Trek fans? We're people too.

Of course you are. There is a specific subset of Trek fans which I don't like (described earlier on this page), and if you don't fall into that category, then you shouldn't take any of this personally.

As for my negative comments about certain aspects of Trek itself (particular recent Trek), those are my honest opinions. I'm not a politician, and I do this for fun, not to win votes or sell products. If I spent all my time dancing around sensitive readers' concerns and worrying about politically incorrect or controversial issues, then I wouldn't be having fun any more, would I? It would become work, and I already get enough of that at the office.

If you have constructive criticism (and by that, I mean concrete suggestions), then by all means, say it politely and ship it my way, and I'll take a look at it. But if you have nothing better to say than "I'm offended- change it", then I can't help you. If you're still upset, and you don't feel like sending constructive criticism, then why are you still here? No one's putting a gun to your head and forcing you to read this. Don't you see that "back" button on your browser? That button represents freedom of choice, my friend.

Get real. Aren't your numbers ridiculously high, especially the Death Star figures?

Absolutely. Unrealistically high power is one of the reasons that both Star Wars and Star Trek are unrealistic. But if you are going to employ "suspension of disbelief", then you don't have the option of (for example) declaring that the Death Star didn't destroy Alderaan. It did, and we have to accept that. We can't draw an arbitrary line in the sand and declare that certain canon events shouldn't have happened. At what point do you draw the line between "ridiculous" and "ludicrous"? It was a good joke in "Spaceballs" but it's hardly the sort of thing you might want to claim as a science-based concept.

Can anyone with a brain seriously believe that a reactor the size of a Buick will someday generate many thousands or even millions of terawatts? Sci-fi fans throw terawatt-range figures around like snowballs in February; do they even realize how staggeringly large a terawatt is? How can they declare that a thousand terawatts, or a million terawatts, is a perfectly realistic figure for a Buick-sized reactor while an even higher figure, such as the megastar power output of the Death Star, is somehow unrealistic? I will repeat this once more: all of the figures are ridiculously high. The distinction between "ridiculous" and "really ridiculous" is purely academic.

A Parting Word

George F. Will, the ever-eloquent back page columnist for Newsweek magazine, recently said:

"Intellectual rigor annoys people because it interferes with the pleasure they derive from allowing their wishes to be the fathers of their thoughts."

He certainly has a way with words (not that I necessarily agree with everything he says; for example, I think his 100% party-line position on Israel is brain-damaged), and I think that this particular line is just as applicable to the technobabble-spewing Trekkies as it is to the Washington DC slime at whom Mr. Will's statement was originally directed. I don't understand people who resent a methodical approach. Look, it may just be science fiction, but as long as we're going through the motions of pretending that it's real, then we might as well do it right. Right?

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