My Personal Space... the Final Frontier

As someone who spent far too much of my youth watching science fiction television, I recently suggested a story for a TV magazine about the world of science fiction fans. The editor liked the idea, and asked if I could also provide an old photo of myself dressed in a Star Trek costume.

Star Trek stampUh oh. That’s one of the reasons (apart from my obvious personal interest) that I like writing about this topic: to set the matter straight. People have very strange ideas about science fiction fans, assuming that we all live in our parents’ basements, polishing our Star Wars action figures and spending untold hours watching every episode of our favourite shows on DVD until we have memorised every line. It isn’t really helped by films like Trekkies, a documentary from 1997 that focused on the more eccentric Star Trek fans, like the one who wore her Starfleet uniform to jury duty and the dentist to remodelled his surgery to look like the Enterprise deck, even getting his nurses to wear 1960s-style Starfleet costumes.

Sorry, but I was always one of those – large majority of – science fiction fans who didn’t dress up. For that reason, I was ignored whenever the media came to cover science fiction conventions. They wanted to see the most ridiculous-looking people there, so they could include a photo of them with their article (which was usually entitled “Spaceheads Meet at Convention” or “Love of Sci-Fi is Another World”), or interview them on TV doing their most embarrassing Spock impersonation. Indeed, while I’m happy for people to do anything that gives them joy, I (like most other fans) thought that the people mentioned above were a little over-the-top. I would never participate in such silliness. (Apart from going to the dentist, of course. That would be cool. Having your teeth extracted has never been such fun!) Besides, for heaven’s sake, when will Star Trek fans learn that the show was never a patch on Doctor Who?! Nonetheless, I certainly spent a lot of time showing my affection for such television shows. Indeed, no genre of television inspires such an obsessive following! Why is this? Is it merely an escape into completely different worlds? Not exactly. If I wanted pure escapism, I’d be a fantasy fan (which several people are – and good for them). Science fiction, however, takes us into worlds that are at least remotely possible. The science might be suspect, but shows like this give us glimpses (however fanciful) into the potential of the human race. There is something optimistic about this, of course, but also basically spiritual. While it’s not as profound as reading books written by spiritual masters, I can see why it affected me in such a  way. I’ve also noticed that many other students of Sri Chinmoy were (and in many cases, still are) Star Trek or Doctor Who fans, able to reel of a list of the Doctor’s assistants or recall obscure moments from a Star Trek episode they saw back in 1973. Does this suggest that they were lonely people, desperately in need of a life? No way! (Well… not all of them.) It shows that they saw more to these shows than monsters and cheap special effects.

When she read my article, the editor seemed a little disappointed that I didn't portray science fiction fans in a crazier light. But frankly, most of them aren't crazy. While I still wouldn't wear a Starfleet uniform, I'm happy to have met some people who did.