What makes a fan a fan? Fan is a contraction of fanatic. You’re here reading this because you’re a fan. You might be a fanatic. But on whatever level you’re at, you share the same love that we all have for one specific franchise: Star Trek.
I know people who collect all manner of things: scale models of ladies’ shoes; china cats; beer mats; husbands. The variations are endless. Likewise people follow other people on social media. It’s a past-time that shares much with a physical collection. You want to know as much as you can about something, want to surround yourself with everything related to it/them. Sometimes, though, you can like something without having an emotional link to it. Fans of Star Trek probably aren’t like that. They’re not dissimilar to fans of sport, or of Harry Potter, of Marvel, or Game of Thrones, Doctor Who…and many, many more.
I’m old enough to remember a time before the internet, before streaming, on-demand, ‘phones that you could only make and receive calls on, music that you had no choice more or less to listen to on those round plastic black things with little holes in the middle. A time when you watched an episode of Star Trek and had absolutely no way of ever seeing it again unless some kindly person who sorted out the schedules of television programming decided it was ripe for a repeat; a time when the only way to relive an episode was to grab a battered-but-very-loved copy of a James Blish paperback and read his adaptations.
Time was that fans made up their own magazines, fanzines they called them. Usually A4, photocopied, blurry, articles about old episodes, old books, new episodes, new books. Sometimes even a bit of fiction. Yes, those treasured sheaths of paper were where fan fiction began. Some weren’t very good, some were sublime, some even became fully-fledged commercially available publications (Dream Watch Bulletin, I’m talking ’bout you) but made nevertheless with love and dedication.
Now we have websites, fans like us who have taken the idea of a fanzine and turned it into a shiny, colourful and professional-looking (well, we think so!) place to air the similar thoughts our predecessors with their Xerox machines had.
For us, of course, it’s Star Trek, that loved and hated franchise, with its swishing doors, flip-case communicators, strange spaceships, pointy-eared hobgoblins and people with funny foreheads. But we love it.
I was never a gregarious child growing up. I’m not particularly much now either in my adult life. Girlfriends, relationships, raised kids…yes, I’ve done all that and more. But Star Trek, while not always at the forefront of my day, was always there in the churning mists of life, beckoning me to sit down and escape from the clutches of modern living. It still does that now.
I have other interests, of course I do. But it’s occasionally indefinable as to what pull Star Trek truly has. I love the characters, the music, the sets, the effects, the hardware…I love the stories (yes, even the more challenging ones about Spock’s brain or moving along home). But most of all I love the universe it’s set in. From the more cerebral viewpoint, it talks of unification, compassion, acceptance, equality and peace. It also has fantasy, wonder, amazement, excitement, passion, drama and bemusement. Ten of those nouns I try to instill in my life. It’s not always possible, sometimes it’s downright impossible. But I try. A couple are unavoidable.
Many people turn to Star Trek because it allows them to be free of their earthly straits. Those even less gregarious that me, or those who are so terribly unfortunate in their lives that it’s literal escapism, find it more appealing. Some like it just because it’s fun.
But when there’s a message of hope and acceptance, even if it’s buried in the most tongue-twisting TNG technobabble, then it makes the Star Trek experience far more rewarding.