Star Trek

Star Trek Universal Translator Coming Soon?

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

Image Credit: Natalia Pankova (

Image Credit: Natalia Pankova (

According to this article on, 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.

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How Well Do You Understand Showing and Telling?

Spock from Star Trek

Spock says it would be illogical not to sign up.

I’ve been traveling around the internet again, and I didn’t want you to miss the guest posts I’ve done on showing and telling.

How Star Trek Helps Us with Showing Rather than Telling at Kristen Lamb’s blog

How to Include the Five Senses Without Falling into the Telling Trap at Janice Hardy’s blog

I hope you enjoy them. (And both of them have a special bonus code where you can get 15% off my upcoming webinar on Mastering Showing and Telling in Your Fiction.)

If you haven’t yet signed up for my newsletter where I tell you about upcoming classes, books, discount codes, and freebies, now is a good time to do it. If all goes according to schedule, I’ll have some very exciting things coming out starting next month and my newsletter readers will get a chance to read them for free in exchange for a review!


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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?

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Top 5 Science Fiction and Fantasy Foods that Sound Good Enough to Eat


Turkish Delight C.S. Lewis The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

One of the things I love most is when the creator of another world makes me crave a food or drink that doesn’t exist. For fun, I thought I’d make a list of the top 5 I’m desperate to try.

Klingon Raktajino from Star Trek

My husband frequently jokes that he’s going to buy me a shirt that reads “Instant human. Just add coffee.” So, as you might imagine, a coffee was going to make this list.

Raktajino is a strong, dark coffee introduced to Federation citizens by the Klingons. Barely an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine goes by when someone doesn’t order one. I’ll take mine extra sweet, thank you.

Butterbeer from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Series

I want to go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Orlando just so I can try a butterbeer. Based on the Harry Potter movies, it looks thick and creamy, and it’s topped with foam. I’ve heard talk that it tastes like butterscotch.

EAT ME Cakes and DRINK ME Bottles from Lewis Carol’s Alice in Wonderland

I’d only want to try these in a controlled environment (after all, I don’t want to be eaten by my own cats or crash through the roof of my house), but it’d be a lot of fun to be giant or tiny for a little while.

Turkish Delights from C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Turkish Delights exist in our world. They’re basically flavored gelatin coated in powdered sugar or covered in chocolate. They’re a bit like a giant jelly bean center really.

The Turkish Delights in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe are enchanted so that once you eat one, you desperately want another and will keep eating them until someone stops you or you die. I don’t like that aspect of it, but my theory is that means they’re the most delicious thing you’ve ever tasted. I’d just need to make sure to eat them with someone trustworthy around to stop me.

Fizzy Lifting Drinks from Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

I read all Roald Dahl’s books multiple times as a kid. While I would also love to drink from the chocolate river and try the gum that tastes like a whole meal (as long as I didn’t end up as a giant blueberry), the treat that appealed to me most were the drinks that would make you float. I’ve always wanted to fly 🙂

Your turn—what imaginary food or drink would you love to try?

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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: It’s well worth the time.

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

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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?

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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?

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Image Credit: Miguel Saavedra (from

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

Top 5 Science Fiction and Fantasy Posts

I’m officially on a blogging vacation over the holidays, but I’ve put together my top-ranked science fiction, fantasy, and mythology posts for those of you who might have missed them or are back at your computers and looking for some reading fun.

What Star Trek Race Are You?

The Missing Hunger Games Line

Do We Need to Be a Little More Old-Fashioned?

Who’s Your Unicorn?

Yoda Was Wrong

I appreciate all of you who’ve read my blog throughout 2012, and I hope you’ll continue through 2013. I have exciting things planned, and I look forward to sharing them with you!

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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

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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?

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Image Credit: Nicole Shelby from Stock.Xchnge

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