Star Trek

Star Trek Universal Translator Coming Soon?

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

Image Credit: Natalia Pankova (www.freeimage.com)

Image Credit: Natalia Pankova (www.freeimage.com)

According to this article on Geek.com, we might not be that far away from a Star Trek-like universal translator.

On May 27th, 2014, Microsoft publicly demonstrated for the first time a new feature they’re developing for Skype called Skype Translator. This will allow Skype users to talk in their own language and for the listener to hear a real-time translation in their own language. So, if you needed to do business with someone in Germany, and you only spoke English, Skype Translator would make it possible for you to talk to each other.

This program is still in the early stages, so I’d imagine the translations it’s able to produce right now have about the same accuracy of Google Translate and that the speech interpreter needs to be “trained” to your voice in the same way Dragon speech-to-text software does. Despite all this, I can’t help but see how it’s brought us one step closer to the very cool universal translators that make possible communication between races in Star Trek.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to one day be able to travel without worrying about the language barrier thanks to an app on your cell phone?

What do you think? Would a universal translator be a good thing or a bad one? And do you think it will ever be refined to the point where it’s able to quickly and accurately translate speech for us?

My ebook Frozen: Two Suspenseful Short Stories is on sale for 99 cents over the summer.

Twisted sleepwalking.
A frozen goldfish in a plastic bag.
And a woman afraid she’s losing her grip on reality.

Wondering what this blog is all about? On Tuesdays, I cover something science fiction or fantasy related. On Thursdays, I talk writing. I’d love to have you sign up to receive my posts by email. All you need to do is enter your email address below and hit the “Follow” botton.

Enter your email address to follow this blog:

Why We Ought to Ask Ourselves “Can We” Rather than “Should We”

Star Trek Into DarknessBy Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

In the newest Star Trek movie, Into Darkness, Kirk faces a series of choices where the outcomes are lose-lose. Does he let Spock die or break the Prime Directive and reveal their ship to a primitive society? Does he allow their ship to explode or fix the problem but irradiate himself to death?

Every time he makes a choice, it seems like someone is ready to tell him he made the wrong one. Finally Kirk is fed up.

“I don’t know what I should do,” Kirk tells Spock. “I only know what I can do.”

Granted, the situations Kirk faced are ones we’ll never deal with. And there are situations where we need to think about should and shouldn’t, right and wrong.

But what about when we face a choice without a clear right or wrong? A choice where each path holds potential drawbacks. Maybe in those cases we should worry less about should we or shouldn’t we and think more in terms of can we or can’t we.

Because there’s a difference, and making ourselves phrase the question as a can rather than a should often changes our perspective on the core of the issue.

Last week, for example, my husband’s car reached the end of its life, and we started asking ourselves the inevitable questions.

Should we buy a new vehicle or a used vehicle?

Should we trade in my truck and go down to being a one-car household?

I was making myself sick wondering what we should do. Once I started thinking about it in terms of can do, the answers were easy.

Can we really afford a new vehicle without putting ourselves in a bad financial situation?

Maybe some people would have said we should have taken on the crushing debt to buy a new car because of the warranty or reliability or it looks nicer. Phrasing it as a can question made the answer simple for us.

Can we really afford to pay for and maintain two vehicles when my husband goes back to school in the fall?

Maybe some people would have said we should keep two vehicles because of the inconvenience of me not having a car at my disposal. Phrasing it as a can question, though, helped us get down to what was really the issue for us. We’d made a choice to sacrifice in the short-term to send my husband back to school in order to help us reach our long-term goals. We can’t make payments on two vehicles while sending him to school, and my truck doesn’t get good enough gas mileage to be our sole vehicle when he’ll have a two-hour commute each day.

Yes, it’s semantics, but changing the way we ask a question can sometimes also change the way we look at it.

Is there a question you’re facing where the answer becomes easier if you ask it as a can rather than a should? If you’re in a two adult household, do you share one car or each have your own?

I’d love to have you sign up to receive my posts by email. All you need to do is enter your email address below and hit the “Follow” botton.

Enter your email address to follow this blog:

And don’t forget that you can receive a free copy of my guide Everything You Always Wanting to Know about Hiring a Freelance Editor by signing up for my newsletter. <–Click right there. You know you want to :)

How Close Are We to Having Star Trek Holodecks?

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

If there’s one thing every science fiction fan wants, it’s a Star Trek holodeck.

For those of you who don’t know, a holodeck is a simulated 3-D environment filled with holograms. In other words, it’s like being inside a movie while watching it. You can also be a character in the story if you’d rather. The holodeck is completely immersive, allowing you to touch, smell, see, taste, and hear the holodeck environment as if it were real.

And we might not be that far away from getting it.

In December 2012, the University of Illinois created CAVE2, a hybrid reality environment that was basically 3-D glasses and a circular wall of high definition television screens. They touted it as the closest we’ve come to the technology seen in Star Trek. You can see the trailer they created for it below.

And while I’ll admit that it looks pretty cool, it’s not the closest we’ve come. That honor goes to a simulator created by The Gadget Show a year earlier.

The hosts built their “holodeck” environment around a first person shooter video game. (In a first person shooter game, the screen already works so that what you see on the screen is supposedly what your “character” in the game sees. You are the character rather than watching a character move from an outside perspective.)

They installed a multi-directional treadmill to allow the player to run, and motion sensors so that when you jump or crouch, the game moves forward in kind. Paintball guns shoot the player when their character in the game is shot. LCD lights, surround-sound speakers, and a wrap-around screen make them feel like they’re right inside the game. It’s not exactly a holodeck, but it’s pretty close. 

The Gadget Show doesn’t allow their videos to be embedded so I can’t share it here. If you’d like to watch the whole thing, you can see it on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eg8Bh5iI2WY&feature=player_embedded. It’s well worth the time.

If you could play a character from one of your favorite books, who would you want to be?

I’d love to have you sign up to receive my posts by email. All you need to do is enter your email address below and hit the “Follow” button. You can also join me on my Facebook page.

Enter your email address to follow this blog:

And don’t forget that you can receive a copy of my suspense short story “Purple” by signing up for my newsletter. <–Click right there. You know you want to :)

Are Small Things As Valuable as Grand Gestures?

Willie Mays In the Cards Deep Space NineBy Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

We often underestimate the power in small things.

In “In the Cards,” an episode in the fifth season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, everyone on the space station is feeling frightened and depressed due to the deteriorating situation with the Dominion (a powerful force from a different quadrant that wants to enslave their quadrant).

Jake, son of the station’s Captain Sisko, is worried about his father and decides to cheer him up by buying him a mint-condition Willie Mays baseball card at an auction. Unfortunately, someone with more money buys the card out from under him. When Jake and his friend Nog try to buy the card directly, the man says he won’t sell—but he might trade if they could get him the items on a list he gives them.

Jake and Nog go around the station, exchanging favors for the items. Finish Chief O’Brian’s work so he can take some much needed time off. Rescue a teddy bear. Remove the feedback from some Klingon opera. Help write a speech.

Each favor they trade is small, and the boys don’t think anything of it because they’re focused on acquiring the baseball card. They’re so focused they miss what’s going on around them. The mood of the station is changing.  

The people they helped are feeling happier and more hopeful, and they, in turn, are spreading that happiness and hope to others.

It got me thinking about how I react when I know someone is struggling. I’m a fixer by nature, so if I can’t think of a way to solve their main problem or if there’s no way for me to solve their problem (since I can’t cure cancer and I’m not independently wealthy), I often freeze.  I don’t know what to do.

I’m so focused on making the grand gesture that I miss all the little things that would have cheered them up and made life just a bit more bearable, no matter what else they were facing.

One time I came out of a fundraising dinner on a cold, Ontario winter night. Rain had turned to freezing rain had turned to ice during the dinner. I was dressed in a knee-length skirt and open-toe heels, shivering already from the short walk across the lot, and my heart sank at the thought of struggling to chip the ice off my windshield so I could safely drive home. But when I reached my vehicle, the man who’d parked next to me was just finishing clearing off my windows. I didn’t have to do anything but get in and drive away. It made all the difference to me.

A new book for them to read while sick. A $5 Starbuck’s gift card tucked anonymously into their mail box. A funny card.

Every day is filled with the “little” opportunities to make a difference.

What little thing did someone do for you lately that made all the difference? Better yet, what little thing are you going to do for someone else today?

I’d love to have you sign up to receive my posts by email. All you need to do is enter your email address below and hit the “Follow” button. You can also join me on my Facebook page.

Enter your email address to follow this blog:

Related Posts:
Do We Have the Right to Judge Other People?
Source Code: Does What You Do Matter?
The Missing Hunger Games Line

Do We Have the Right to Judge Other People?

Don't Be a CardassianBy Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

Since when do we think it’s alright to condemn someone when we don’t know all the facts and don’t even bother to consider their side?

In “Tribunal,” an episode in the second season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Chief Miles O’Brian heads off on vacation with his wife, but he’s arrested by Cardassians before they can reach their destination.

The Cardassians refuse to tell O’Brian what he’s been charged with. According to the Cardassian legal system, the charges aren’t announced until the trial.

“How can we prepare for the trial if we don’t know the charges?” O’Brian’s wife asks.

“Mrs. O’Brian,” the Cardassian Archon says, “there’s nothing for you to prepare. Your husband’s verdict has already been determined. He is guilty. The trial will reveal how this guilt was proven.”

True guilt or innocence, extenuating circumstances, none of it mattered.

While this might be an extreme situation, we do it almost daily on a smaller scale.

We judge people even though we have no idea what their lives are really like or what goes on in their head and heart.

I was hurt by this recently.

I set goals for this year that I felt would allow me to achieve my dreams while still enjoying my life and being fair to my husband, family, and friends. I didn’t set these goals hastily. I looked at what my life was and what I wanted it to be. Talked with my husband. Considered the implications.

But when I shared my goals with a friend, she felt free to criticize those goals, calling into question my work ethic and suggesting I wouldn’t succeed at my dreams if I held to those goals.  

The judgment on me was delivered without any real knowledge of how hard I planned to work, how dedicated I am, or what other responsibilities I might be juggling. She doesn’t live in my house, let alone in my skin.

I know this person meant well, and I’ve worked through the anger, hurt, and self-doubt the words caused. But I’ve wondered since if this person stopped to think about how those words might affect me, or did she value speaking her mind and being “honest” over everything else? Did this person stop to think that her way might not be the only way, might not be the best way? Did this person consider that the type of life I want isn’t wrong simply because it’s different from hers?

And I think those are questions we all need to ask ourselves when we feel the need to give our unsolicited opinion.

We seem to have this tendency to judge people when we haven’t walked in their shoes and never can because everyone’s life is different. I’ve done it. And it was arrogant of me.

When we criticize the woman who says “no” to volunteering at the food bank, or at the cancer walk, or at the fundraiser for juvenile diabetes, we can’t see that she spends her days caring for her elderly parents and that her body aches so badly in the morning she can barely get out of bed.

When we criticize the family with the unkempt yard, we can’t see that both parents are working double shifts to save enough for their kids to go to college and spend what little free time they have helping with homework.

When we tisk-tisk the woman in front of us at the grocery store because her cart is full of paper towels and she should use washable cloths because it’s better for the environment, we can’t see that she’s got three children at the age where potty training accidents, vomit, and spilled juice are the norm.

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” – Henry David Thoreau, Walden

It’s so easy to talk about what someone else should do. It’s so easy to think our lives are more difficult than anyone else’s. But in truth, we don’t know what happens behind closed doors and everyone has their own private struggles.

I know there are times when we need to speak the truth in love because a person is doing something that could hurt themselves or others. There are times when someone wants our opinion.

But unless that’s the situation, perhaps the best policy is to shut up and give people the benefit of the doubt unless there’s something we can do to make things better for them.

What do you think? Have we become too quick to judge others? What do you think is the best way to handle it when someone judges you unfairly?

I’d love to have you sign up to receive my posts by email. All you need to do is enter your email address below and hit the “Follow” button. You can also join me on my Facebook page.

Enter your email address to follow this blog:

Related Posts:
How Much Responsibility Should We Take for Others’ Actions?
Should We Bother Making Resolutions?
Do You Need to Slow Down?

Should We Bother Making Resolutions?

New Year's Resolutions and GoalsBy Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

What does it say about human nature that we continue to make resolutions every January even when year after year we fail to keep them?

Maybe that failure isn’t such a bad thing.

In Season 3 of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, a teenage character named Nog wants to apply to Starfleet academy to become an officer. This wouldn’t be strange except for one thing.

Nog is a Ferengi.

For those of you not familiar with the Star Trek world, Ferengi are motivated by profit. Their self-worth depends on how business savvy they are. No Feregi has ever joined Starfleet because there’s no profit in it. They’re not even members of the United Federation of Planets.

But Nog wants something different. His father doesn’t have the “lobes for business” and Nog knows he doesn’t either. He doesn’t want to spend his life a failure.

So he decides to apply for Starfleet. Everyone tells Nog he won’t make it. Before he can even apply, he has to pass a battery of pre-tests. He fails. And fails again.

When it comes to the resolutions we make, the goals we set for ourselves, whether we make them at the beginning of the year or some other time, many of us are like Nog. Failure after failure piles up.

But we keep making them for a simple reason.

Making resolutions, setting goals, even if we fail, means we want to be better. (Tweet that)

Nog wanted to join Starfleet because he wanted something better for himself.

I used to rebel against resolutions and talk about how stupid they were. After all, if you really wanted to change, wouldn’t you just change? And didn’t most people break their resolutions before January was over anyway?

But my thinking has shifted a little recently. Whether we want to call them resolutions or goals, whether we make them in January or July, it’s important for us to be regularly evaluating our lives, deciding what we’re unhappy with, and figuring out what we can actively do to try to make those things better.

If I’m being honest, part of my past rebellion against “resolutions” was my fear of setting a goal I couldn’t reach. (I am a type A perfectionist after all.) I didn’t want to embarrass myself with a failure. I didn’t want to face the disappointment of wanting something and not achieving it.

That attitude won’t get me anywhere. So I’ve set some extremely ambitious goals for myself this year. And maybe I will fail. But at least I’ll have tried. At least I’ll be one step closer to being who I want to be and to having the kind of life I want to have.

What’s one big goal you’ve set for this year? Do you hate resolutions?

I’d love to have you sign up to receive my posts by email. All you need to do is enter your email address below and hit the “Follow” button. You can also join me on my Facebook page.

Enter your email address to follow this blog:

Image Credit: Miguel Saavedra (from sxc.hu)

Related Posts:
How Do You Deal with Grief?
What Star Trek Race Are You?
Why Does Fear Exist?

How Do You Deal With Grief?

Sad Doggie by Amber WestBy Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

She dried her tears and they did smile
To see her cheeks’ returning glow
How little dreaming all the while
That full heart throbbed to overflow.

With that sweet look and lively tone
And bright eye shining all the day
They could not guess at midnight lone
How she would weep the time away.

–Emily Bronte

Very few of us know how to deal with grief in a healthy way.

In “Extreme Risk,” an episode in the fifth season of Star Trek: Voyager, Chief Engineer B’Elanna Torres is running dangerous holodeck programs with the safety protocols turned off. To hide what she’s doing, she treats her injuries—some of them very serious—herself.

When she goes to the holodeck to test out an experimental new shuttlecraft they’re building, she turns off the safety protocols and is knocked unconscious. The ship is moments away from exploding and killing her. Voyager’s commander finds her just in time.

As the commander and doctor investigate, they find out what B’Elanna’s been doing. The commander confronts her, and B’Elanna admits she’s been trying to feel something.

A few months earlier, she’d received a message from home that all her friends were dead—killed in an attack. B’Elanna doesn’t know how to deal with her grief so she buries it under adrenaline rushes.

Grief can’t be tricked, and it can’t be ignored. Ignoring it puts our health—both emotional and physical—in danger. Ignoring it can also cause us, like B’Elanna, to act in inappropriate or dangerous ways because, even though we don’t want to admit it, grief is rampaging around inside of us, smashing things, until we let it out.

I’m not a counselor, but in my own experiences with grief, I’ve finally figured out three important things.

Allow yourself to grieve around someone you trust. Because B’Elanna tried to hide her grief, her friends couldn’t help her. In a way, I understand why she did it. She felt like she needed to maintain her appearance as someone who was strong and independent.

I’m a shower crier (a person who cries in the shower so no one else knows they’re doing it). It started when my best friend died in university. I was rooming with another friend who fell into a deep depression because of our loss. She talked about wanting to die, and I was afraid that if I showed her my own grief, she wouldn’t be able to handle the added burden. I chose to be the strong one, and somewhere along the way, I forgot how to let other people help me with my grief. It’s not healthy. It means sometimes I’ll break down over something stupid and little because I try to hold too much inside. And it’s a difficult pattern to break.

Don’t force yourself to recover before you’re ready, but don’t wallow in it either. In “Extreme Risk,” B’Elanna tries to artificially cheer herself up by eating banana pancakes, a favorite from her childhood. They don’t taste the way she remembers, and she leaves them after a couple of bites.

A lot of times, we feel like we have to “get over it” because some cultural norm says the appropriate period for mourning has passed. That’s not true. Everyone mourns on their own timeline, and when we try to rush our grief, we never properly deal with it. It’ll come back on us later when we’re least prepared to deal with it.

On the opposite side though, we shouldn’t feel like we need to wallow in our grief. After my best friend died, I felt like I couldn’t smile or laugh, even if I wanted to. I was worried that if I did, people would think I didn’t miss her or that I never really cared about her. Those moments where happiness tried to return made me feel disloyal to her memory. It took me a while to figure out that those flashes were normal and healthy. They didn’t say anything about my relationship with Amanda.

Don’t expect your grief to look like anyone else’s. Grieve in your own way. Part of B’Elanna’s problem was she felt like she was abnormal because she felt numb after learning about the loss of her friends. She kept taking crazy risks because she wanted to feel something, anything.

My husband and I have discovered we deal with grief very differently. I need to work. The only thing I know to do is to keep my mind occupied. My husband, on the other hand, can’t work. He can’t focus. He needs time to himself.

Neither way is wrong, and the faster we figure out how we need to grieve, the faster we’ll be able to deal with our grief.

Do you have any other tips for dealing with grief?

Image Credit: Amber West from WANA Commons on Flickr

I’d love to have you sign up to receive my posts by email. All you need to do is enter your email address below and hit the “Follow” button. You can also join me on my Facebook page.

Enter your email address to follow this blog:

Do You Need to Slow Down?

Because I’m headed to Virginia this week to spend Thanksgiving with my husband’s family (and because I assume many of you will be feeling the rush of trying to fit a week’s worth of work into less than a week’s worth of days), I decided to refresh and replay one of my favorite older posts for you.

Are You Living Life At Warp 10?

Do You Need to Slow Down?

I first heard about warp 10 through the Season 2 episode of Star Trek: Voyager called “Threshold.”

The starship Voyager is stranded in the Delta quadrant (Earth is in the Alpha quadrant). Even if they could travel at their fastest speed the whole time, they’re still 75 years from home. And more than anything they want to get home to the loved ones who think they’re dead.

Lieutenant Tom Paris, Voyager’s pilot, along with his two closest friends, comes up with a plan to get them home sooner—warp 10. Theoretically, warp 10 is impossible. You wouldn’t really be moving at all. You’d be everywhere at once. By traveling at warp 10, they could simply be home again instantly.

Paris, however, has solved the puzzle, and they’ve equipped a shuttle with warp 10 capabilities. Before he leaves, the doctor warns Paris there’s a two percent chance he could die due to a rare medical condition. He decides to take the risk. He argues this is his one chance to do something truly great, something that will go into history books.

He breaks the warp 10 barrier, and for a moment, it’s amazing. He’s everywhere. He can see Voyager and knows they’re looking for him, but he can also see home, their enemies, everything. The data he collects is invaluable.

And he’s achieved his goal. He’s made history.

Although Paris doesn’t die due to his medical condition, his time at warp 10 mutates his genes. He can’t drink water or breathe oxygen anymore. Before the doctor can treat him, his mind goes, he kidnaps Captain Kathryn Janeway, goes back to warp 10 to find a planet, and they both end up mutated lizards on a non-oxygen atmosphere planet with three lizard babies.

Living life at warp 10 is like that (minus the kidnapping and lizard babies of course).

You move as fast as you possibly can, and for a moment, it’s amazing. You’re able to be everything for everyone and do everything you need to. You’re doing it because you have a dream of doing something important, and that dream is worth the risks and sacrifices.

Except if you only stay at warp 10, you find yourself mutating into something you don’t like. I don’t like how tired I am and how I can’t enjoy the simple things that were once essential (you know, like Paris and his water and oxygen). I don’t like how I sometimes snap at my loved ones. I’ve been moving too fast for far too long.

So while I want the experience of life at warp 10, the discoveries it brings and the chance it provides to reach my dream, I’m trying to also come back and get a treatment of slowing down and enjoying the simple things in life. Being able to successfully live life at warp 10 requires finding balance.

After all, I don’t think my husband would really appreciate me having lizard babies with someone else.

What keeps you moving at warp 10? What do you love about it? How do you make sure you don’t miss the simple pleasures along the way?

I’d love to have you sign up to receive my posts by email. All you need to do is enter your email address below and hit the “Follow” button. You can also join me on my Facebook page.

Registration is now open for the next round of my Twitter course where I walk you through how to make the best use of your time on Twitter and save you from the learning curve. Click here to register. Registration is also open for Story in a Sentence: Creating Your Logline. Click here to register. Both classes start December 1st.

Photo Credit: Mat Mie (via sxc.hu)

Enter your email address to follow this blog:

How Much Responsibility Should We Take for Others’ Actions?

Responsibility for Others' Actions and VoyagerBy Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

How would you feel if you were being held legally responsible for someone else’s actions?

In the Star Trek: Voyager episode “Random Thoughts,” the crew of the starship Voyager is visiting the Mari homeworld. The Mari are a telepathic people who’ve virtually eradicated crime by outlawing violent thoughts.

A man bumps into Voyager’s chief engineer, B’Elanna Torres, while she’s on the surface negotiating a trade. Being half-Klingon and having the temper Klingons are infamous for, B’Elanna thinks about hurting the man who bumped into her. A few minutes later, he beats up another man in the main square and claims he doesn’t know why he did it.

B’Elanna is arrested for harboring violent thoughts. The punishment is a dangerous medical procedure called an engrammatic purge, which is designed to remove the offending images from her mind. The equipment isn’t designed for Klingons and could leave B’Elanna with permanent brain damage.

Captain Janeway argues with the Mari officer that B’Elanna can’t be held accountable for something someone else did.

“His mind was contaminated by the image,” the officer says, “and it resulted in a loss of control. He may have committed the physical act, but it was instigated by you.

B’Elanna barely restrains herself from going toe-to-toe with the officer. “Where we come from, people are responsible for their own actions.

I can see both sides of the argument.

In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell talks about people being “infected by examples.” Studies have shown that when a suicide is highly publicized, the suicide rate skyrockets for a few days after. The effect is so powerful it even determines the mode of suicide. For example, if a single person kills themselves by driving into a pole, that kind of suicide increases. But if a person commits a murder-suicide instead, that kind of suicide increases. To someone who’s already troubled, another person’s actions make it more acceptable for them to act in a deviant way.

Gladwell gives an example we’ve all had experience with—jay-walking. You’re standing at a crosswalk, waiting for the light to change…right up until someone crosses against the light. Somehow their law-breaking gives you permission to break the law, and you’re trotting across the road after them.

While I don’t think B’Elanna (or any of us) should be held legally responsible for someone else’s actions, I wonder if we don’t have some moral responsibility for the way what we do affects others.

Yes, we’re all ultimately responsible for the choices we make. None of us has the right to blame someone else for what we’ve done. But, on some level, aren’t we also responsible for how our actions hurt, help, or push someone else toward a specific path?

What do you think? Should we feel any responsibility for how our actions influence the actions of others? Or is what they do 100% on their heads?

I’d love to have you sign up below.

Image Credit: Nicole Shelby from Stock.Xchnge

Enter your email address to follow this blog:

Why Does Fear Exist?

Purpose of FearBy Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

Fear can kill us in more ways than one.

In the Star Trek: Voyager episode “The Thaw,” the crew of the starship Voyager finds a planet that suffered an ecological disaster. Five of the aliens who lived there placed themselves into a timed stasis, set to release them when the surface was safe for them to live on again. The only problem is, when Voyager finds them, their scheduled time to emerge is four years in the past.

The crew brings the stasis pods on board Voyager to see what went wrong. Two of the aliens are dead of heart attacks, and the other three should have emerged, but for some reason, they haven’t. The problem isn’t mechanical, and they can’t wake them. They also can’t simply shut down the stasis pods without causing brain damage because all the aliens’ minds are connected to the central computer.

Two Voyager officers use the extra stasis pods to go in and see what’s happening. They find that the virtual reality where the aliens’ consciousness lives while they’re in stasis is pulling from their own fears to create Fear, a cruel, horrifying being. The two aliens who died were killed because Fear guillotined them, quite literally scaring them to death.

Fear refuses to release the surviving aliens—and now one of the Voyager officers—because, without them, he will cease to exist.

To rescue them, Captain Kathryn Janeway needs to figure out what it is that Fear wants. Why does fear exist?

“Why do people enjoy dangerous sports?” she asks Voyager’s doctor. “Why, after all these centuries, do children still ride on rollercoasters?”

She has a revelation about the answer, and she convinces Fear to trade her for the hostages.

“You show remarkable trust, Captain,” Fear says when she enters his world. “How could you be so sure I’d keep my word?”

“I’ve known fear. It’s a very healthy thing most of the time. You warn us of danger. Remind us of our limits. Protect us from carelessness. I’ve learned to trust fear.”

As Janeway’s consciousness filters into the system, Fear realizes she’s tricked him. She’s not actually in a stasis chamber at all. They’d found another way to let him feel her mind without putting her in danger of becoming trapped.

She tricked him because she realized the real reason for fear’s existence. “You know as well as I do,” she says, “that fear only exists for one purpose. To be conquered.”

It seems so simple. Whether we conquer fear by removing the threat, backing away from the limit we were about to break, or understanding, as Franklin D. Roosevelt said in his first inaugural address, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” fear only exists to be conquered. It was never meant to be an emotion we lived with constantly.

The unhealthy type of fear (that doesn’t warn us of danger or exceeded limits) is the hardest to conquer. Fear was, quite literally, all in the aliens’ heads, but they couldn’t control their emotions enough to get rid of him. He held them prisoner—just as our fear, fear created by our minds rather than by reality, so often holds us prisoner.

And just like Fear killed the aliens, our fear can kill our dreams.

In his speech, Roosevelt defines this type of fear as “nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

So what can we do to make sure unhealthy fear doesn’t stop us?

Learn to recognize when fear is hiding behind the mask of other emotions. Fear is sneaky. When you snap at your spouse because they were late getting home, you’re probably not actually angry. You were afraid something bad happened to them. But they don’t know that, and your fear just hurt your relationship. Until we recognize fear, we can’t deal with the root cause and stop it from hurting us. We can’t conquer it.

Let go of your illusion of safety. I’m a hypochondriac (and very embarrassed to admit it, actually). I routinely believe I have cancer, a blood clot, food poisoning, or a host of other problems most people have probably never heard of. Does fearing them actually keep me safe from them? Nope. Sometimes fearing something has zero value.

“Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold.” – Helen Keller

Recognize that failure can be a beautiful thing as long as we use it to learn. Many of us let fear of failure hold us back. If you try to reach your goal and fail, you’re back in the same place as if you’d never tried. So not trying doesn’t protect you; it keeps you stuck. In fact, if you don’t try, you’re actually further behind because you haven’t learned the lessons failure taught.

Have a contingency plan. I get laughed at sometimes because I’m extremely detail-oriented and I have contingency plans for my contingency plans. But I’m rarely caught off guard with something unexpected. I’m not afraid or stressed out because I know that if something goes wrong, I have a plan to deal with it, and I know it won’t take me long to recover. My much-mocked plans are actually my secret source of confidence.

Have you let fear hold you back? What’s your best tip for combating unhealthy fear?

I’d love to have you subscribe below.

For an excellent post on how fear can be a gift, check out August McLaughlin’s Lifesaving Resolution #4: Trusting Your Instincts.

Image Credit: Lena Povrzenic (from www.sxc.hu)

Enter your email address to follow this blog: