On a fandom list, someone made the comment about "us and them" I hear a lot of in fandom. In fandom, we have words like "fan" and "mundane." I am not sure if "mundane" comes from the Piers Anthony Xanth series (their name for outsiders who didn't have magical skills, but necessary for breeding stock), or if it goes further back than that. Fandom is full of people who have a sort of "us versus them" attitude, mostly due to early childhood trauma, and so they view "mundanes" as pathetic sheep with no intellectual creativity, low tolerance towards differences, and ... well, it's almost like a "jocks versus nerds" thing. I have disagreements with a lot of that, but that's not where I want to go with this entry.
I want to talk about Star Trek.
Many fen either love Star Trek or hate it. I take that back, most like Star Trek, but don't like the fans, which seems contradictory at first, but I think many of them are embarrassed by their Trek brethren. Many see Trekkies, or Trekkers, or Trek fans as nerdy unwashed and overweight fanboys who wear Spock ears or Klingon foreheads that quote episode numbers and have a nasal honking laugh. Well, I am here to tell you, those people exist outside of fandom, too, and Trek didn't make them that way (just go to an anime con... or a gun show). But a lot of non-nerdy people who are really into intellectual and speculative literature at sci-fi or fantasy cons get told by non-fannish relatives, "Oh, you like Star Trek! Alf was MY favorite!" And they cringe. The same cringe I think the Nation of Islam gets when they hear, "How come you made Osama Bin Laden hate us?" It makes you want to go, "No no NO! You see, they are NOT us, and ... ah, forget it!"
Recently, on an unrelated matter, I was speaking with some gaming people in the Midwest, and when I mentioned something about Deep Space 9, and one of them went into a tirade about how at some con, the DS9 people started fighting with the Classic Trek people, and how he wished that Trek fanboys would all leave fandom. On the fandom list, other people also mentioned the whole "Trek cringe" thing. Recently, Star Wars has gotten some attention, when Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog was talking to some adult in a Darth Vader outfit about the buttons on his costume, and he goes "which one of these is for your mom to come pick you up?" Now, I thought that was funny, but it angered a LOT of fen. Nanoo, nanoo.
I can't solve other's problems. My view on Star Trek is not always the popular one in fannish circles. First, I thought the old series was campy, and poorly acted. But I do tip my hat a little because they did tackle a few pressing social issues, and some of the sci-fi greats of literature wrote some of the episodes. But man... so garish! The movies were the same way, I thought, and viewed them almost as bad at Battlestar Galactica. When "The Next Generation" came out, I hated it. I gave up after a few shows because it was so campy, so bad, and it just seemed to suck greatly. When I wrote skits for Prune Bran, I attacked them mercilessly (sorry, Wil). I didn't get back into it until the mid 90's, when I found that around season 3 or so (there were 7 seasons), it started not to suck. I also found out that Gene had gotten ill, and someone else had taken over (Rick Berman?). Then they started to focus more on characters, less moralistic endings, more mystery, and the series seemed so much better. Then Gene died, and the series was great until it ended.
Then they tried with Deep Space 9, which... I think had trouble finding its audience. But it also lasted 7 seasons, partly due to contracts with Paramount, and UPN generally sucking as a channel anyway... it was a LOT better than other stuff they had (or still have). I never found many people who were really into DS9, and even less into Voyager and Enterprise. I stopped watching after season 2 of DS9, because it bored me. I liked Voyager better, but I seem to be a lonely voice here. I have never watched a single episode of "Enterprise."
What REALLY ticked me off about Star Trek was how Paramount treated their fans. Fox is kind of the same way, yes, but Paramount was trying to sue fan web sites, who were doing nothing but spreading the fan base for them , for free! But Paramount got greedy with images, sounds, and other "licensed material," and wanted the golden profit. They didn't see the effect of slow and steady fanbase, they only saw quick and rich... screw the future. They were really out of touch with their fans. At least Fox didn't go around telling Star Wars Lego sites to shut down or go to court.
Years ago, I was not so kind to Trek fans. I attended a Novacon (local Trek convention) for a few hours because I was with a friend who had to pick up something. While I sat in the lobby, some girl, dressed in a flawless Starfleet uniform and carrying a stuffed cat, sat in the chair adjacent to me. She then talked AT me, totally in character, about a planet of android kitties, and Federation politics. This is one of those moments where you wonder if you're on Candid Camera. I mean, far be it for me to mock those who speak in character: I have friends who work the Renn Fests. But even they will speak for only a minute, and then pass on the act to the next passer by. This girl was obviously had a few screws loose. For one of the longest hours of my life, she went on and on, speaking as if she was reading a storybook to schoolchildren, about her tirade against the federation for them to take the cat people seriously. At first, I interacted with her, because I made the mistake of thinking she'd start acting normal or move on. But she didn't. Finally, I gave up, but I was too cowardly to suddenly stand up and walk away when my friends told me to wait in the lobby. I got to spend an hour (and I watched the clock) staring at this girl and her intricate details. For instance, I noticed her red curly hair was greasy, and kept in place with a broken banana clip. Her mouth had slight smudges around it, and she smelled vaguely of patchouli, wet bread, and rank sweat. Her untrimmed nails were dirty, and the stuffed cat looked old and like it had been loved almost bald, ala the "Velveteen Rabbit." I pictured a shattered child in an adult body, gripping onto this relic from her past and living in a fantasy Trek world where there was no disease, poverty, or parents that beat you. It was a strange contrast: pristine costume, dirty body. Her eyes were looking at me, but not really focusing on my face, like she was in some... drug-educed stupor. I don't think she was retarded, because her choice of language seemed educated with complex words and phrase chains. In fact, she presented her case very well, like Sally Struthers when she goes on about children suffering somewhere. It was the subject matter was so... damn, I hate to say it, but she REEKED geek.
For years that hour haunted my mind. I cringed when I thought about it, and how a lot of non-fen see us fen this way. I made a comment on a public list about "unwashed Klingons," and that drew a lot of fire. It drew fire from friends of mine who I didn't know were "from a clan." They educated me thusly: "We are part of a Klingon clan, not so much to discuss Trek, but to study strategy and engage in play politics. Like this year, we're having a blood drive. The clan that donates the most blood wins the Blood Quest, and gains honor! And it's no sillier than the Elks Lodge." Touche. I now know several people in "Federation Ships" as well as Klingon Clans, and none of them are "unwashed" anything. They are all really decent people. Foot? Meet my mouth...
Anyway, it seems that in fandom there really is an uneasy peace between "what we are" and "what the mundanes think we are." I still have them. I don't tell work a lot that I go to sci-fi cons, although they do find out sooner or later. I worked with one guy who really had a thing about it. It made him angry, which is fairly unusual, especially in the technical field. He kept calling me nicknames like "Spock" or "Data." Around his office was a whole bunch of pictures of high-end foreign sports cars, so I started making comparisons about his hobbies and NASCAR, which made him cringe. When he'd call me "Spock," I called him "Billy Bob Joe." This didn't solve anything, and things between us continued to get worse (or at least he reacted like it was) until he was cut during a layoff. In all my life since high school, this has been the only incident of its kind. Many fen act like this happens all the time, but if it does, I have been really lucky. But I do take precautions, like instead of saying I am going to a science fiction convention, I'll say, "I am pushing my book," which is 100% true, but is sort of a lie by omission. Recently, I described an anime con as "a Japanese media culture exchange," to avoid the risk of explaining, no, I didn't like watching films of schoolgirls having sex with octopuses. I know I am not the only one who does this, but I still feel kind of guilty about it.
This entry was originally posted at http://www.punkwalrus.com/blog/archives/00000326.html