You probably think I’m crazy.
I don’t dress in the costumes (well, except once for Halloween) but I do identify a lot with the Star Trek world and spend a significant amount of my free time in it. I’ve seen every film and episode at least three times (and probably many more) and I’ve read many of the books, been to a conference once, and now spend time writing my own stories and posting them to “fanfic” sites on the Internet. I’m not a fanatic or anything—really—and you’d never know it to look at me or work with me, but the Star Trek Universe means a lot to me, I guess, on a deep level.
Before you laugh and point, though, realize that over 50% of US citizens admire Star Trek and say that they’re fans. They don’t have to be “Trekkers” or huge fans but they appreciate something about it. It’s really not so different, when you think about it, than all the fans of NASCAR or professional sports. The next time you see a 49ers fan walking down the street wearing a Steve Young jersey, realize, that’s no different than a Star Trek fan walking down the street with a Starfleet uniform on—not that I would be caught dead doing either. : )
I got into Star Trek as a kid. It was all about the adventure and the weird aliens and situations. It was fast fun and very entertaining. By the time Star Trek: The Next Generation was running for a year or two, however, I realized that it was more than just fun. The show made a quantum leap in quality and the stories were increasingly about important issues to society (ours and theirs) and relationships between people. For me, it became something more inspiring than merely fun, at least for me. Well, and a lot others, obviously.
By the time the next series opened, I saw in the characters, stories, and ideas, something that touched me on many different levels. Whoopi Goldberg once explained how important the original series was to her while growing up. Seeing Uhura (the Enterprise’s communications officer) portrayed as a smart, brave black woman with more to contribute than being a maid gave her hope about the future and her place in it. My own reaction was that, maybe, things can improve in the world and that we will solve the problems that face us as a civilization. This reaction was confirmed for me when I read The Ethics of Star Trek, which outlines the underlying ethical themes in the shows and films. Not only was it a vision of the best that humans could achieve, but almost a blueprint for getting there.
OK, I know that sounds like a pretty high expectations, but that’s what I truly get out of the whole Star Trek thing. Day-to-day, it reminds me to treat others and the future in a better way. I started writing my own Star Trek stories in order to explore my own ideas within this fictional world. They probably aren’t good enough to be published but that doesn’t matter to me.
Paramount, the company that owns the Star Trek brand, didn’t see it that way, at first. They saw fan fiction (my stories and the hundreds written by others every year and posted on the Web) as a threat to their “property.” They tried to sue us amateur writers and shut down our sites. But, they recanted some. It’s an uneasy truce, at times, but one that benefits all sides. I’ve written my own characters into the stories, literally making a place for myself in this world, because it means so much to me to make this vision of the world happen. We may never have the cool technologies or meet aliens, but the values built-into the show are the best we have to offer. Why wouldn’t someone want to be a part of that?