Over the past few years, Sam Maggs has climbed the ranks from journalist to author to flat-out fangirl thought leader in an ongoing effort to bring women to the forefront of fandom. Most folks familiar with her might be able to name an accomplishment of hers that occurred as recently as the past week, and indeed, Maggs is constantly producing new content for the geek space. Whether she's reporting from the press room at San Diego Comic-Con or co-penning a sercretive new Bioware project, Maggs is fast becoming a powerhouse in the geekosphere. What makes her stand out, of course, is her passion for promoting other women to her fanbase who might otherwise not get the credit they deserve.
Such is the case with her first venture into writing a Star Trek story, coinciding with franchise's 50th anniversary. Releasing this November from IDW, Star Trek: Waypoint #2 features a story that's been overlooked for ages: that of the first-ever ill-fated woman redshirt, and what happened before her death. I chatted with Maggs about boldly going into a character backstory that may have otherwise never been told.
Congrats on the awesome new story! What’s your history with Star Trek -- and what made you want to tackle a story about a character like Yeoman Leslie Thompson, who might otherwise not get this kind of attention?
Thank you so much! I grew up with Star Trek -- my dad remembers watching the first episode when it originally aired 50 years ago, and he stayed a big fan, so it was always on in the house. Voyager was the series that had the most impact on me, partially because it aired during my formative years; but also, of course, because of Janeway. She was such an amazing role model, and I've always wished we knew the stories of more strong and inspiring women through the history of Starfleet. That's how the idea for giving Leslie Thompson the credit she deserves came about.
What kind of research went into the making of this story?
I re-watched her original (and only) TOS episode, "By Any Other Name," but she has such an incredibly brief role. To add to her story, I went back and watched some other seminal TOS episodes, like "Mirror, Mirror," to see where she might have fit in behind the scenes.
When you were planning this, how much leeway did you have with the character’s backstory? What went into bridging her from her on-screen appearance to the page?
I had incredible leeway! I was so lucky that my amazing editor at IDW, Sarah Gaydos, gave me complete freedom to dream up whatever I wanted for Thompson. In terms of moving her from the screen to the page, it was a bit challenging to both remind the audience who Thompson is, and then also add in her backstory in just ten pages. But with Sarah's help and Rachael Stott's astounding art, I think it worked out!
Redshirts are often made into a huge joke because of their unique ability to die at any given time. Did you find that there were any challenges you faced surrounding that old trope with Thompson?
It's easy to forget, when you're watching any sci-fi, that the goons and extras and henchmen who die for the sake of plot momentum or main character development are all (hypothetically) people with their own lives and families and stories. With Thompson, I wanted to give her death meaning. Now, she isn't just another one of the faceless masses who die so Kirk may live. I wanted to make sure that you knewwhy she would have sacrificed her life.
When it comes to pairing artists with writers, a lot of comic publishers do things in different ways. But for this project, you worked with artist Rachael Stott -- someone you’re familiar with -- so what was it like working with a friend?
Though we've never met in person, Rachael and I have been "Twitter friends" for a long time now. I'm a huge fan of her work on Star Trek and also on the Twelfth Doctor comic (did you know Peter Capaldi sent her a hand-painted thank-you card? I freak out about this at least once a week). I was so grateful when she came on-board with the Thompson comic because I knew she would take my ridiculous words and elevate them to something super rad.
If you could choose another slightly-neglected Star Trek story to tell, which one would it be?
Not enough people know that Sulu's daughter, Demora, grows up to be Captain of the Enterprise. She's a pansexual Asian woman in a poly relationship during her time as the Enterprise's XO. More Demora Sulu in everything, please.
Who are some of your favorite ladies from the Star Trek roster?
Janeway will always be my number one. But I also love Uhura, Nurse Chapel, Dr. Crusher, Hoshi Sato, and B'Elanna Torres.
Speaking of, let’s talk about Wonder Women! After the informative Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy, what sparked this kind of herstory look-back?
The idea for Wonder Women actually came up while I was writing Fangirl's Guide - it originally had chapter-enders that were short bios on interesting women in history. They had to be cut for length, unfortunately, but we decided they would make a great book all on their own! I've always been interested in the way in which we see women in history represented - I did my MA in a very particular subset of Victorian women's fiction. When I started to do research for Wonder Women, I couldn't believe all of the incredible stories I was discovering that I'd never read before - it seemed inexcusable that we don't learn about all of these women and their mind-blowing accomplishments in school. I feel honored and humbled to be able to bring their stories to a wider audience.
Do you have any favorites among the women discussed in Wonder Women, or anyone from the book that inspires you in particular?
It's so hard to choose favorites! I have a particular love for Anandi Joshi, the first Indian woman to get a medical degree in America, in large part because she became pen pals with a New Jersey widow (women helping women!). Then there's Elvira Chaudoir, a Peruvian heiress who helped foil the Nazis because no one believed that a party girl could also be very, very smart. Bessie Coleman got her pilot's license two years before Amelia Earhart and proved to the world that Black women could succeed at anything, if allowed. I hope you love them all as much as I do!
What else is on the horizon for Sam Maggs?
I am actually in my first six months as an Assistant Writer for BioWare, working on their brand-new Secret IP. I can't talk about it at all except to say that it's really, really cool.
Star Trek: Waypoint #2 hits comic shop stands in late November.