In Which I Introduce Alan J. Decker: An Interview

I am positively spoiled with choice among talented friends so I'm not holding back.  I'm introducing you to yet another one of the writers in my life that I adore.  Meet Alan J. Decker, better known as CmrdAJD, the creator of Star Traks (a Star Trek parody site), father, and all around amazing guy. 

VampireNomad:  Thanks for chatting with me, Alan.  I guess I should start with an obvious-to-me question right off the bat.  Are you Alan Decker or CmdrAJD on my site?  Or both?  I mean I do have two names going and so does Jennifer so....  

CmdrAJD:  I'm fine with either.  My real name has been synonymous with CmdrAJD online for almost 20 years now, so I think the anonymity boat has sailed, returned to port, and then sailed again.

VampireNomad:  Haha!  I like that.  As I've been embracing the union of VampireNomad and Corinne Simpson of late, I appreciate that.  How did you get the CmdrAJD nickname?

CmdrAJD:  Wow.  We're hitting the dark secrets right off the bat.  The name comes from my college days.  During my Freshman year, I started writing a comedic Star Trek fanfiction series called Star Traks.  All of the characters were loosely based on me and my friends.  My character was the first officer, who had the rank of commander.  The Commander nickname just kind of stuck.  My students when I taught college even used it.  So when it came time to pick an online identity, it seemed natural to go with something based on Commander Alan J. Decker.

VampireNomad:  See, I confess I knew that story, being that we're friends and all, but I asked anyway so I could lead into Star Traks and how we met.  Will you tell the readers how we met?  Should we?

CmdrAJD:  Sure.  You're the one who made contact with a strange man online.

VampireNomad:  Well "strange".  That was back in the halcyon days of the internet before social media.  When all we had were websites and email addresses.

CmdrAJD:  Yes, indeed.  When I graduated college, I had a number of Star Traks stories and nothing to do with them.  Then I learned about these new fangled web pages and decided to make one for myself as a place to put the stories.  Lucky for me, you somehow found them and liked them enough to write me.

VampireNomad:  I believe the subject line of my first email to you was "Over one thousand people and only one bathroom" in reference to the Enterprise schematics. Which brands us both as righteous nerds.

CmdrAJD:  It certainly told me that you knew your Trek and appreciated the absurd.

VampireNomad:  And then I came to New Orleans to visit you.  Well, Baton Rouge.  Louisiana, anyway.  Tell me a favorite story from your time living in the deep south.

CmdrAJD:  I spent a lot of my life in the South.  I was born and raised there until I turned 12, and then I went back for grad school.  Let's see.  A story.  In 1980, my family lived in Alabama.  That January or February, we woke up to snow.  Now it was only an inch or so, and it all melted by lunch time.  Years and years later, I met someone from Alabama who asked me when I lived there.  I told him that I couldn't remember but that it had snowed.  He immediately said, "Oh, you were there for the Winter of 80!"  Obviously those few hours of having a bit of snow on the ground left quite an impression on the state's populace.

VampireNomad:  Oh man, that is amazing.  Living as I currently do in Narnia circa the Jadis years, I can't imagine being able to date anything just by snowfall. 

Let's talk books.  Who is your favorite author?  And what is your favorite book?  (They don't have to be related.)

CmdrAJD:  My favorite author is Douglas Adams.  His books taught me so much about narrative voice and writing humor.  Star Traks wouldn't exist without him, which means that I never would have met you, so in effect, he is responsible for our friendship.  My favorite book is a tough one.  I love 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy'.  'American Gods' and 'Neverwhere' by Neil Gaiman are both wonderful.  I recently read 'Looking For Alaska' by John Green, which affected me far more than I was expecting.  It's a graphic novel, but I think 'Watchmen' is an incredible piece of work.  I believe Time Magazine named it one of the 100 Greatest Novels recently.  I loved 'Ready Player One' by Ernest Cline.  It pretty much pushes every geek nostalgia button for me.  Still, after all of that, I have to go back to 'Hitchhiker's'.  Usually once I've read a book once, I'm done with it.  I remember the story too well to read it again, but I pick up 'Hitchhiker's' every few years and love it just as much every time.

VampireNomad:  Well I'm grateful to Douglas Adams for our friendship.  Are 'American Gods' and 'Neverwhere' related?  Which should I start with if I'm looking to dive into Gaiman?

 CmdrAJD:  No, there's no relation.  I think you'd enjoy 'Neverwhere' quite a bit.  Really, though, you should try 'Sandman', which is the comic series he wrote for DC's Vertigo imprint in the 90s.  It's about Dream, who is one of the Endless.  They're embodiments of concepts, and...I can't even begin to describe it.  The series is incredibly imaginative, very literate, and really an amazing piece of work.

VampireNomad:  That sounds awesome!  I'm putting it on my list.  Let me ask you something "completely different", to paraphrase Monty Python.  If you had to vaguely summarize your life using a Star Trek episode, which would it be?

CmdrAJD:  Wow.  That's an interesting one.  I'd have to go with "The Trouble With Tribbles."  Things started out cute and funny, then got a little dramatic, before turning out pretty okay with a slight hint of a continuing future threat.

There was even some reproduction involved.

VampireNomad:  Bwahahahaha!  Oh man, best answer ever.  

CmdrAJD:  :)

VampireNomad:  You have a son and a daughter so let me ask you, as a father and a writer, what are the top three things you would want to impart to them?

CmdrAJD:  This is hard to do without coming across as overly simplistic.  If I had to distill it down to three basic concepts, it would be 1) Respect yourself and others.  We all have differences whether it be gender, religion, skin color, bands we like, sports teams we support, and so on.  None of those differences matter in terms of a person's worth.  2) Think for yourself and never be afraid to question, and 3) Be curious about the world and always be eager to learn new things.  2 and 3 are kind of related there, aren't they?

VampireNomad:  But they're still important to stress independently.  Being willing to think and being curious are valuable pieces of advice.

 CmdrAJD:  I tried to stress that when I taught as well.  Many of my students seemed far too willing just to accept things as they were and never question how and why they were that way.  I remember one woman yelling at me "Because that's just the way it is!" when I was pressing the class to give me a reason that there are more women's clothing stores in a mall than men's clothing stores.

VampireNomad:  Okay, in closing, what is one pop culture thing you want to recommend to people, be it book, show, film, or whatever, and why?

CmdrAJD:  One?  Really?  I only get one?  Ok.  Star Trek and Doctor Who are institutions at this point.  They don't need my help.  Go get your hands on "Firefly" and the follow-up film Serenity.  It's a show that was unfairly treated by the FOX Network and marketed incredibly badly.  The space western concept seems odd, but the show has wonderful characters, fantastic dialogue, and great humor.  There's only around 14 episodes and the movie, so it's not a huge time investment.  You also get to see earlier career moments for actors and writers who have gone on to great things.  Nathan Fillion is on "Castle."  Morena Baccarin (I'm pretty sure I misspelled her name) is on "Homeland,"  Christina Hendricks from "Mad Men" is on a couple of episodes.  Ben Edlund, who created "The Tick" wrote for Firefly.  Jane Espenson went on to write for "Battlestar Galactica," and now she's working on "Once Upon A Time."  And, of course, the show was created by Joss Whedon, who did that tiny art film, The Avengers last year.  "Firefly" is damn good TV.

VampireNomad:  Well presented case.  applause

CmdrAJD:  Thank you.  I had to focus instead of recommending "Ready Player One," "Pushing Daisies," "Wonderfalls," "The Prisoner," "Buffy," and so on.  You may have noticed that I'm not good at picking JUST ONE THING.  This is why I love the tapas concept...and buffets.  I can have a little bit of everything.

VampireNomad:  Oh I will second "The Prisoner" right away though!  That is seriously twisted quality programming there.

CmdrAJD:  Right.  But not the A&E remake from a couple of years ago.  Even Ian McKellen couldn't save that thing.

VampireNomad:  No, HELL NO not the remake.  Just like we pretend "The Saint" was never a film.  And "The Avengers" (not the Joss Whedon art film) was never a film.

 CmdrAJD:  Oh come on.  Sean Connery in a giant teddy bear outfit is a moment for the ages.

VampireNomad:  Please... don't... don't....  

Well we could go all night but all good things... must come to an end.  (Did you like the intentional Star Trek: TNG quote there?)

CmdrAJD:  Of course, Q.

VampireNomad:  Haha!  Thank you for this chat.  It's been awesome.  And welcome to VampireNomad: the site!

CmdrAJD:  Thank you very much.  It's been a pleasure to spend this time typing about myself.

 Find Alan Decker on Twitter as @CmdrAJD.


- Corinne Simpson