Sunday, January 25, 2009

Dis'in The Final Frontier

I've only been cruising the Speculative fiction (and a host of related sub-genres) author's community for a short time. Still, during my little tour, I've discovered what I feel is quite the unsettling trend. It seems that the great and powerful Star Trek, in all of its associated manifestations, is getting "no respect." Alas, surely this can't be so? Well, yes. In fact, in a surge of pretension and supposed testament to "Art" (art with a capitol 'A' not art as in Bob Ross and that great *magic* card illustrator you adore) authors of science fiction everywhere are turning up their collective noses at the Trek and heaving one big indignant snort.

Shame on you! Seriously, shame. I'm not nor have I ever been a "trekkie." I haven't seen all the episodes, don't know Spock's birthday, have never attended a convention and couldn't tell you the designation of any of the ships if I was sitting on them. I think Voyager was terrible.
Granted, I have a secret crush on William Shatner (yes, even now) have been known to impersonate a Ferengi, and personally own a Klingon forehead piece. But I bought it in a box of junk at an auction, so it doesn't count, even though I kept it and have worn it a few times. (not in public)

SO what is the problem? Why have all the science fiction authors and potential authors conspired to mutiny against the Trek? What is so wrong with having all alien races look like humans with a few strategic wrinkles?

Well, I think it has something to do with science. The science that right now is sort of catching up with science fiction. String theory, quantum physics, robotics... I read somewhere that a lot of authors are afraid to try to write science fiction. There are more than a few science fiction writers with serious degrees in the hard sciences, and I, for one, would not want to compete when it comes to factual details. I can live a long life without receiving angry letters about the faulty science in any of my stories. I enjoy reading hard science fiction, but I can safely say, it's probably not in my future as a writer. I used to enjoy reading "sci-fi". Now I'm told that is a terribly derogotive term implying Star-Trekkian connotations. (WHAT THE?) Anyway, I wouldn't use it around any authors of serious science fiction, if I were you.

So here's what I think about all the Star Trek derision: get over yourself. Seriously. As authors of speculative fiction, traditionally, our purpose is two-fold. Entertain, and educate. Now, which as a reader do you feel is more important??? I'm guessing it's not educate, (this is genre fiction, after all) but let's look at that one first anyway.

The science of science fiction, (sci-fi, sci-fi, sci fi!) has never really been the science of what is. It has been the science of what could be. It's been about our wildest imaginings of the future, not our careful, safe, reasonable predictions about the future. Get it? When Star Trek aired, it was the 'impossible' devices and events that captivated the world's imagination. It was these impossibilities that attracted the attention of scientists. Scientists who then strove to make the impossible happen. Has anyone seen "How Star Trek Changed the World"? Let's talk, cell phones, sliding doors and CAT scans people. Phew.

Now, now, now... I know the Trek is riddled with sad little errors and terrible suspension of disbelief. All the aliens breathe air. (almost all) The ship designs are faulty. (Wilbur, that thing will never fly) Klingons completely changed in appearance between the original and second series. (???) All of this leads us to the one major saving grace that redeems all minor errors...Entertainment.

Has there ever been a more successful franchise in the history of entertainment? Seriously, people sleep in line for days for new Star Wars, but I've seen a woman who lives every day in her star fleet uniform. (Okay, probably not a good example FOR star trek) BUT... the phenomenon of Star Trek is unbelievable. We don't understand it, we can't analyze it, but, I mean, Wow. Really Wow.

People love the Trek. Readers love the Trek. Readers buy books. hmmmm.

I don't want to mimic or even emulate Star Trek, but I think there's something to be learned there. What captivates millions of imaginations so completely? What is it that inspires so many adoring fans? Characters? Stories? Exotic Settings? Something about the Star Trek franchise rings true with the target audience, and they can't get enough of it.
I don't know about anyone else, but as an aspiring author, I think I could live with the idea of thousands of rabid fans, waving their federation credit cards and screaming in Klingon for my next installment. Maybe it's just the Ferengi in me talking.
What about you?

Live Long And Prosper,

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