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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

35 Years Before The Big Bang Theory

UPDATE: A million thanks to my old friend Naomi, who brought to my attention that James Wolcott's original article on Star Trek fandom is in fact online right here. As I said to Naomi, Wolcott was an even bigger dick than I realized back then. His reductive condescension and dismissive misogyny is - well, icky.


Originally written a few years ago:

I am more than a little verklempt. 

Today I was looking through a folder of my stuff that my parents had given me several years ago -- mostly report cards, high school papers, school play programs, you know the kind of stuff I mean. So I'm turning the pages, and suddenly, there in front of me is a little piece of my personal fandom history that I thought was gone forever. 

It's a letter to the editor of the Village Voice (at that time a widely read alternative New York weekly, for those who don't know) responding to an article about a Star Trek convention I'd attended -- one of the earliest. The letter was published February 23, 1976. I was barely 14, and amusingly enough I called James Wolcott, now culture critic for Vanity Fair and a writer for the New Yorker, a Klingon spy. He did not have kind words for Star Trek fans, and in all my youthful earnestness, I gave him what for. I wish I had a copy of his article, but I'm afraid that really is gone for good. 

Better yet, I even found a photo taken about a month later of me posing proudly in my room in front of the posters and photos I'd no doubt acquired at that same Star Trek convention. I look exactly like the kid who would have written the letter. 

Here's the text:
Dear Editor:
I was shocked by James Wolcott's article, "Big Brother is Trekking You," (Voice, February 2). I find it hard to believe that anyone can so thoroughly miss a point as he has.
Mr. Wolcott is correct in noting that kids (and adults) at Star Trek conventions are serious but he fails to realize why. Star Trek deals with many real problems, and says that we can handle them. This is a message which drives home to today's youth. While the rest of the world doesn't know if it will survive, these kids believe that we can overcome our problems and differences.
I also refuse to believe that the bases for Star Trek's popularity are "sex, cool, and technology." Do thousands of fans come to a convention only because they enjoy playing with gadgets? Are all those women fans because Captain Kirk turns them on? Do thousands of kids watch the show faithfully solely because they envy Mr. Spock's cool? I find it difficult to believe that all those people of all ages and all walks of life completely miss the messages of a show in which a monster who attacks men is really only protecting her children; in which the racial problems of a planet are overcome through rational thinking and many other such episodes. And why should the cooperation of two men such as Kirk and Spock be macho when they are in fact serving the interest of peace?
I have found that many critics of Star Trek, including Mr. Wolcott, look only at the fans instad of at the show itself. How can anyone understand Star Trek fandom without examining Star Trek? 
Mr. Wolcott must be a Klingon spy.

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