Difference (Star Trek: TOS story)
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|Fandom:||Star Trek: The Original Series|
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It was published in the print zine Fesarius #5.
Part of a Challenge
This story was published as part of a two-story challenge: "What would be the effect of the ST universe if Christ were not an influence?"
For those who are interested in following the Delphian Chronicles, DIFFERENCE is the first story in the universe, though not the first to see print. It takes place during the brief hiatus between the end of the third season adventures and the beginning of Kraith. In as much as the Delphian Chronicles are at root a protest against the Kraithian tendency to glamorize the Vulcans at the expense of the Humans, and are therefore built around the major events and turning points in Kraith, it has been necessary to take Kraithian characterizations into account, particularly in the matter of Spock. Also, although the story is intended to stand on its own merit, when one is dealing with an entire universe of stories, it is inevitable that strings will be left hanging. Bear with me; I do intend to develop some of those strings in greater detail in future stories. Finally, I feel it is necessary to emphasize that this story was never intended to be the Great American ST Novel. If it entertains, that is sufficient. If it succeeds in capturing at least a little of the flavor of the original Star Trek, so much the better. If it gives you, the reader, something to think about, that would be best of all. Either way, I hope you have enjoyed it. -- Theresa Holmes
Art from the Print Zine: By the Author
A selection from a much bigger offering.
Reactions and Reviews
[The two stories] are "the 'rival' stories... on the general theme of just where did the Roman Empire go wrong, specifically in regard to the impact of Christianity. Their answers are about as opposite as it's possible to be. Holmes, in her 'Difference' claims that without the 'moderating, unifying influences of Christianity, ' the Empire of Rome would have centralized into a totalitarian state that managed to withstand the periodic invasions from the east (Goths, Huns, Turks), developing into a sort of precursor to the German Third Reich, only much longer lived... Holmes gets 10 out of 10 for her sincerity, but minus several million for her Mary Sue character, Elanor MacPhail. Granted, 'Difference' was written five years ago when the syndrome was more prevalent, but here she is again, calling her superior officers, 'Spock' and 'Penda' (while they rather humbly say 'Ms. McPhail'),... dragging around an ill-tempered reptile that only she can control, and telling Kirk, Spock, and Scotty their business. Unnaturally, everyone is thrilled with her performance... Where 'Difference' says everybody should have a god, preferably the same one, Leslie Fish in 'Sunset and Evening Star' is all for celestial-free enterprise. Christianity laid the Empire low. Not only that, it proposes a conspiracy of truly cosmic -- or paranoid -- dimensions. Yeshua ben David, see, is this super-version of Rev. Sun Yung Moon, a Being on the same order as Apollo and Kulkukan, as was Yahweh before Him; they are like these soulsuckers who entrap humans with the Beatific Vision and occasionally instigate religious wars to skim off a load for some theocentric purpose... Her presentation of the early Empire will indeed upset notions some readers may have formed from Sunday School... a must-read for anyone whose personal beliefs, religious, atheist, or agnostic, can withstand probing. 
One complaint about the editorial handling of this event [the story challenge]: I don't think there was enough clarity concerning the fact that this was a writers' challenge and that the writers involved represent two differing world views. Since the gap between issues four and five was so long, I'm sure that there were those who did not remember what this issue was going to be about. And neos, or fans who have never read FES until now, were probably a little confused. This is very minor and it doesn't require a great deal of intelligence to figure out what's going on here.Anyway, "Difference," by Holmes, is the first story, and concerns the Big E's encounter with an alternate earth. Our heroes get caught up in the ensuing conflict between ancient Celtic druids and Romans (who are, by the way, supported by the Klingons). The Enterprise people expend a lot of effort to get these Celts on the right track of overthrowing the evil Roman empire — including have Spock appear as a messiah to them (to compensate for the fact that, on this earth, there is no prophet Jesus Christ who founds a philosophy that spreads throughout the known world). The main character is a female Scottish officer, Elanor MacPhail, a native of some Christian colony of the Federation (Delphi). Unfortunately, she comes forth as a blatant MarySue. She knows everything — what's right and what's wrong — does all the things on the ship Spock should be doing, and, of course, saves the ship through her miraculous, god-given mystical powers. She's also rather sanctimonious. The only thing missing from the MarySue stereotype is that none of the principal officers is madly in love with this woman. Holmes writes Elanor's speech in a very wooden, messy, and incomprehensible Scottish accent. Later on, though, Elanor speaks in perfect American English. This lapse of dialogue serves only to confuse. Finally, Holmes does not even answer the BIG question. We never learn, from her point of view, just what the ST universe would be like had Christ died an unknown. The story comes off being very dogmatic and shallow. 
The Enterprise and a pursuing Klingon ship go into the galactic barrier and come out in an alternate universe in which Christianity never developed. They also go back in time to 24 3 A.D. to Roman occupied Britain. The Klingons back the Romans, and the Enterprise crew backs the local Celts who are trying to drive them out and regain their land. The author introduces several new members of the crew, the most important being El-anor MacPhail, a telepath and a super-Christian from a space colony called Delphi. She is instrumental in effecting the resolution of the plot which saves the Enterprise and brings a Christian-type message to the Celts while violating the Prime Directive in almost every way possible. 
Fan writers, by and large, have trouble thinking up interesting and believable alien sociology. The last thing I'm willing to waste my time or money on is "My Jesus is better than yours and I've got a Vulcan Master to prove it" kinds of nonsense. If you want good fan fiction on religious themes, try Fesarius V which finally came out this fall, in my opinion a story can say more of a truly religious nature by how its characters treat each other and do their jobs than any number of religious ceremonies, sermons or pious invocations of this or that god will ever provide. After you've read the stories in Fesarius V, disconnect your prejudices and judge both stories on the basis of plot, characterization, motivation and style and then give an honest judgment on which is the more truly "religious" tale. 
'Fesarius 5' is basically a two-story zine, containing what the advertisement in 'Universal Translator' calls the "writers' battle" between Theresa Holmes and Leslie Fish. The source of the authors' contention is what would have happened on Earth had Christ not existed. Theresa's solution in 'Difference' is that the Celts would have overcome the Romans and (with a little ethical help from Spock) set out on a course of wise government and ultimate freedom. The prediction seems perfectly reasonable but as far as the "writers' battle" is concerned it's a 'no contest'. 'Difference' is a good enough gen zine story but ultimately unmemorable against Leslie's long (159 pages reduced type) and powerful narrative. 
Telepathic like all Delphians, she becomes the chief navigator on the Enterprise; she is accompanied by her Delphian singjoy, an eight-legged creature resembling a little dragon. Only she can control it. Elanor is descended from engineers and thinks -- and sometimes speaks -- in impenetrable Delphian Common -- which seems very like a thick Scots accent. She also is the ship's expert in several languages. She has many of the good ideas during the story, so many that Spock relies on her advice.