After reading Madeleine Albright’s book about her pin collection, and spending the rest of the day on Thursday photographing a few of my pins to post here in the next few weeks, I thought I would share a couple of my favorites. Favorites come and go, and they’re not all here, but these…these are special.
Warning for minor spoilers from both last season and shows that have already aired this season.
As I look at my Christmas gifts, and my recent birthday gifts before that, I am struck, but not terribly surprised by how much relates to the variety of fandoms and pop culture things I am involved in. Many of these things have stayed with me since my teen years, to the point that I no longer participate, but they still hold an important place in my heart. The one example that comes to mind was my getting a new messenger bag: ThinkGeek’s Bag of Holding. It’s so glorious that I’ll be writing a separate review of it. My son was a little annoyed that I would be getting it – it was a little expensive, but with the thirty percent discount that was offered, it was well worth it. He was still a little annoyed and exclaimed, “You don’t even like Dungeons & Dragons!” I think I may have snorted. I was momentarily speechless.
I don’t like Dungeons & Dragons?! Do you even know me?! I had been playing Dungeons & Dragons since high school. In our school cafeteria, we would use the half-pint milk container as a six-sided die. Every weekend in college, we’d get together in the blue room to play. Dave, our DM (dungeon master) would not let us have any alcohol. We got stupid. We were probably the only group on a Saturday night not drunk. We would play all weekend, talking time only to sleep before the next night’s game.
I met my college roommate in a study hall through a conversation about character sheets.
My oldest son used my original books when he and his friends played Dungeons & Dragons.
Not a fan?! Harumph!
Glancing at The Walking Dead trivia box, the Hufflepuff necklace, the Supernatural zipper bag, the Star Trek 50th anniversary gold ornament with sound, I saw just how many fandom things there are, and I also realized how difficult it was to get some of them.
Thursday’s milestone birthday of the beginnings of Star Trek reminds me of the influence pop culture has on all our lives. Star Trek simultaneously showed us the future as well as holding a mirror up to ourselves and our society of the time. I’m not sure that was recognized as much at that time. Like many things, we don’t realize its value until it’s gone. Another lesson of Star Trek is to aim high and keep trying. The pilot was rejected as too cerebral, and they came back as cowboys in space while keeping its special-ness. Star Trek: The Motion Picture was a not-very-good-movie, but they forged ahead and the second one is remembered by everyone, reuniting the original guest star Ricardo Montalban as Khan Noonian Singh. The original show was cancelled after seventy-nine episodes, but has been and continues to be well-loved on the convention circuit and in movies, spawning spin-offs, fan fiction, and is known for its very cerebral fans.
In the reboot/non-reboot, Kelvin timeline, the first thing that fans said were how well the new cast held up visually and in temperament to the original cast. I recently saw Star Trek Beyond without knowing it was co-written by Simon Pegg and I loved the references to original moments of Star Trek from McCoy’s claims to be a doctor to the subtle looks between him and Mr. Spock and the underlying respect each has for the other despite McCoy reaching past his unconscious bias of the green-blooded, unemotional Vulcan, something prevalent [racial bias] in the world of the 1960s, sadly as much as it is today. Star Trek speaks a universal language that we understand regardless of our native spoken language.
The final frontier.
These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise;
It’s five year mission:
To explore strange new worlds,
To seek out new life and new civilizations,
To boldly go…
Where no man has gone before.
These iconic words from Gene Roddenberry, brought to life by William Shatner have withstood the test of time.
Fifty years ago today, Star Trek began what would be its fifty-year and ongoing mission. Roddenberry’s vision for the future is still some way off, but I just saw a video on the realities of transparent aluminum, most of us use communicators in some fashion or another, and having a Black woman superior to us in the workplace is more common than 1966, although we could do better.
In 1966, it was somewhat controversial to have such a mixed race crew, let alone the actors who played them. While Jim Kirk was born in Iowa, Williams Shatner hails from Canada. He is still a Canadian citizen, and not a naturalized American. He, Leonard Nimoy, and Walter Koenig are all Jewish. Sulu and George Takei are Japanese. Nichelle Nichols was a Black woman. She and Shatner hold the first for an interracial kiss on television. Pavel Checkov’s character was a breakthrough especially during the space race of the 50s and the 60s. The idea of working with the Russians was nearly impossible to imagine then. And of course, Jimmy Doohan’s Scotty gave homage to the many Scotsmen and women who led the industrial revolution and got the engines running.
Even in today’s Kelvin timeline, not reboot (according to Mike and Denise Okuda), there is an homage given to the original cast as well as bringing the story into the 21st century for us moviegoers.
I’ve watched every iteration of Star Trek including reading the comic books, every new series (Deep Space Nine is my favorite after the original series), every movie, every animation. Wasn’t there a Star Trek meets Scooby Doo or am I imagining that? Somewhere in the depths of my basement boxes is a photojournal of Trouble with Tribbles that I had once memorized. I learned Klingon as a young adult, and went to conventions so long ago that there were no charges for photos or autographs.
Reflecting on 50 years of science fiction, watching it intersect with science fact, sitting in the captain’s chair at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, and forging our own new worlds through our own inspiration to write and world-build.
Star Trek is many things to many people. I have been a fan my whole life, and will continue to be into the next half century and beyond.
Happy Birthday, Star Trek!
And many more to come.
The stories yet to be told are out there, and I for one, can’t wait.
Finding the words on a day like today is not an easy thing to do. The text message found me in the grocery store. It wasn’t a gasping shock after hearing about his health problem earlier in the week, but Leonard Nimoy was one of those few that were supposed to be immortal.
He was an inspiration to me, seeing him on television, growing up, he was a part of my family; not just my Star Trek family. I was born the same year as Star Trek, Star Trek being a couple of months older. I dreamt Trek, I wrote fan letters and fan fiction, I read the fan magazines, collected the trivia, learned Klingon, and through it all was the cast beside me in my living room, sharing the cheese doodles, memorizing lines.
And at the top of that list was Leonard Nimoy. Tall, dark, and handsome. Growing up Jewish, it was nice to have someone of my faith to look up to, that everyone loved. Even some of the Vulcan rituals were reminiscent of theology and customs I was already familiar with.
I watched all the Treks. My favorite movie is one that he directed: Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. I remember him from Mission: Impossible and In Search Of, particularly the search for Noah’s Ark. His singing was…. well, he had a great sense of humor. Through all of his enterprises, whether acting, singing or inspiring, he showed the one thing that we all should value: No matter the outcome, try new things. You can never go wrong if you put yourself out there and do your best, and most important of all, have fun.
In the 90s, my husband (before he was my husband) and our friends went to many conventions. We were lucky enough to see Leonard with William Shatner in Manhattan and with Patrick Stewart in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, one of our road trips and well worth it.
Leonard Nimoy is a greatness in a sea of greatness, and he will be missed.
Live Long and Prosper, my friend.
I’ve been reading a lot recently about whether or not it’s valid for a person to use fictional narrative in describing the events of their life. For example, when I go to Chuck E. Cheese with my kids and I get a wary feeling, I’m reminded of Sam (from Supernatural) at that kids’ play place where he’s terrified of clowns. I don’t pretend to be Sam, and I’m not terrified of clowns, but I empathize with him and I get the feelings he felt, and yet they’re still my feelings. What I’m feeling is valid, and in trying to make sense of the strangeness in my mind, I equate it to Sam Winchester.
This is normal.
Not only is this normal, it is what writers want you to take away from a piece of writing, whether it’s a book, television series or a movie. Writers write, and readers don’t read. They feel. They long for. They want. They want to be.
If all you get from every piece of fiction you encounter is purely as an escape, I feel sorry for you. You’re missing a lot of the point. Yes, fiction can be an escape, but it is more than a simple escape from your life. I’m not suggesting that you will get the personal feelings from every piece of fiction, but something should speak to you in a very personal way, and for some of us, we need, absolutely need to talk about it, to put it into terms that our friends will understand when we’re too emotionally withdrawn or fragile to talk about the real life issue. We can, however, use our shared fictional experience to relate it to people to understand our mental or emotional space.
How many of us watched Nichelle Nichols on Star Trek, and say to ourselves, “Look at that beautiful, self-assured Black woman holding her own on that man’s ship”? How many of us wanted to be Uhura? I’m not African-American, but I wanted to be Uhura. No offense, but I didn’t want to be Yeoman Rand. We saw her in the context of secretary, and there’s nothing wrong with being a secretary, but Uhura was a Lieutenant. She was the officer in charge of communications. She was gorgeous and yet she wasn’t reduced to her looks. As a Black person, as a woman, she was equal to the rest of the crew. No one singled her out as different, and she was a role model.
In many of those role models we find ourselves, and sometimes our self comes to us in the strangest of places, where we’d least expect it.
Some writers will beat you over the head: 50 Shades of Grey, Twilight. You don’t think because the writers have told you the story. If you like that sort of thing, great; have at it.
But some writers are much more subtle. Stephen King, Bernard Cornwell, Russell T. Davies, Ben Edlund. It’s a little easier I think to be subtle in the writing of a television series like Doctor Who and Supernatural (the two I currently watch regularly). Easier because there are more than words to the story. We get a fuller picture because of artist intent, the actors’ facial expressions, hand gestures, if their words match their faces.
Because of that overall and more complete picture we truly see the ‘magic of television’, and we can relate the narrative much more to our own lives.
There are superficial ties. When I say the word, ‘well’ in a conversation, in my head I hear David Tennant saying, ‘welllll, four things and a lizard.’ I usually don’t say this out loud.
From last week’s The Great Escapist, It is one thing to say that Castiel is lying in the middle of the road and Dean nearly runs him over. It is quite another to have Dean slam on the brakes, the Impala screeching to a halt, the car barely stopping before he jumps out and the look on Dean’s face says it all, but before the emotion can take over, Castiel asks for help, but not in a begging ‘please help me, I need you,’ but in a humorous way, the way Dean relates to, the subtle, dry, humorless-humor that Misha Collins displays so brilliantly. On his face, you see:
Thank G-d you didn’t run me over, Jimmy’s vessel would not have taken well to that.
Thank G-d it’s you and not Crowley or Naomi.
Relief to see his friends.
Relief and pushed down joy that it is Dean, that they are reunited, that maybe they can talk about what needs to be talked about, but not yet, oh hey, by the way, I’m fucking bleeding.
Fuck, this hurts, would one of you pick me up and by one of you I mean Sam, like NOW.
When I get in the backseat, I better not get blood on the upholstery.
That’s what Castiel is feeling.
But what am I feeling?
Why am I worried? Why am I elated at this brief tease of a reunion? Why am I jumping up and down and fist-pumping? Why do I want to both smack Castiel and hold him close?
The main reason is that I care. But why do I care?
Because I live a life, and I can relate to these things. I can feel the emotion of a loved one being hurt, being the victim of violence, returning to a loved one, missing someone so much that seeing them for the first time is painful and ecstatic and wonderful and scary at the same time as you wait for their reaction, frightened at the sight of blood, so many emotions and feelings that I only have because I have something in my real, non-fiction life that makes this scene important to me.
I’ve talked recently about my friend being murdered and another friend being shot (during the same violent act) and so many things revolve around this anniversary that is coming up next Tuesday. My senses are a bit heightened, especially in this storyline: to the blood, the victim (in this case Castiel) being the victim of a gunshot wound, the reunion after the act, the relief that he is okay. I could even stretch it to a domestic violence relation with the angel involvement, calling Ion his brother before pushing the angel blade bullet into his eye and the abuse that Castiel has taken at the hands of Naomi for millennia, family in the very strict, blood sense of the word.
If I didn’t feel these things as they relate to my real life friends and their pain, I wouldn’t be human. Superficially, the writer wouldn’t have done his job either. The writer wants me to feel. Why else would he write? Most of them (us) don’t do it for the money (although some would be nice). We write for the human experience, the need to make people feel things, and to make them feel things that they haven’t necessarily experienced but can still relate to.
I’ve never been shot (and I hope to never be), but I can imagine the pain; I can imagine the wet, dripping, sticky stuff on my hands as I try to keep it together. I’ve had to keep it together before. I can extrapolate what I read in a book or see on the screen to my own life and feel the empathy. Or the pain. Or the longing.
Another thing that writers do is create parallels.
Why do I care about the abusive nature of John Winchester? Well, in my case I wish Dean could have had a father like I had. I had a great Dad. Not everyone does, and this shows some people who have not so great Dads that they are not alone, and if Dean can get through it, so can you, but Dean doesn’t do it alone. And being able to ask for help or lean on a trusted friend is a good message to send to folks in a similar situation.
In Houses of the Holy, when Sam talked about his faith and the look on his face when the light came from behind the angel statue, I knew exactly that feeling from my last year of attending Mass at the Catholic church. I believed what he was saying because I’d said those very same words; I had that very same look on my face. I wasn’t appropriating Sam’s character or minimizing my own faith journey; I related. And I cried over it. Real tears.
When Bobby says, ‘family don’t end with blood, boy’, I feel that, not because I had such a crappy family; I didn’t and I don’t, but I’m close with people I never expected to be, people not of my blood, but if asked, I would share my blood with them.
And no, creepy, stalker people, I don’t mean some kind of Satanic blood ritual; I mean a transfusion or bone marrow or whatever my non-blood family needed.
Because they are my family.
When Eric Kripke or Russell T. Davies makes reference to the Judeo-Christian Bible, whether it’s through the literal (Kripke) or the abstract (Davies), we know what they’re talking about. We have a base for knowledge. We all have some kind of religion, yes, even atheists. There are many things that atheists believe with the equal zeal as a religious person believes, and that’s why many of these narratives speak to all of us on a basic level.
Look at Doctor Who. One single entity, yes a man, but with two hearts, not of the Earth, but loving the Earth and her people so much that he can’t stay away. He’s worshipped like a G-d, and when he’s not recognized as one like in the episode where we first meet The Master, ‘you don’t know who I am? My, the end of the universe is a bit humbling,’ he even begins to believe he is a G-d. It was almost his downfall in Water of Mars. Just look at this week’s Supernatural when that same thing happened with Sam, talking to G-d’s scribe, Metatron: “How do you not know who we are?! We’re the friggin’ Winchesters!”
The visual of the trinity, so prevalent in Christian mythos: The Doctor, Rose, Captain Jack, and with every companion, The Doctor and Donna, The Doctor and Martha, there is always the shadow of Rose. Infinite combinations of threes: Doctor, Jack, Martha. Doctor, Amy, Rory. Even now, we have the Doctor, Clara and the Tardis. Pay attention this season, clever people.
In Supernatural, we have Dean, Sam, Dad. Bobby, Dean, Sam. Dean, Lisa, Ben. Dean, Sam, Castiel. There are almost always two henchmen with Crowley and Naomi.
Lucifer fell, leaving three Archangels: Michael, Rafael, Gabriel.
Metatron hiding on the Earth, not human, but living as a human, not only before the modern age of religion, but before Christ himself. And isn’t that what G-d did with Jesus? He put Him on the Earth to live as a man, to understand man, to have compassion and empathy for man, and then to die as a Man and to come back as a G-d, not on his own, but with the worship of G-d through Him. You come to the Father through Me.
Sam and Dean are with Metatron, who wrote all of the tablets. Technically they don’t need Kevin; Metatron can help them with the rest, but Kevin is family. He’s not blood. They can justify abandoning him as choices that he made as Prophet or there is a big picture here, but that is not acceptable to Dean. Kevin is family, family don’t end in blood, family doesn’t get left behind. Dean is the patriarch and he’s the glue that holds them together, that keeps the family together.
These are all narratives that we, on some level can relate to.
We’re supposed to relate to them.
If I didn’t relate to the characters and situations and make parallels to my life and use those examples to grow as a person, I wouldn’t be doing my job as a reader or a watcher of fictional television. The writer wants me to draw those parallels.
It’s easy to mock what you don’t understand, and so when I see someone mocking me (or others) for taking the stories too seriously or that we should just get a life, I’m disheartened. I understand the subtext of the fiction because I do have a life. I feel badly for those people who engage in the fandom or just watch the series and don’t see the bigger picture; the picture that relates to my real life.
For Dean and the Doctor, I see so many things that they overcome and I feel as though I can overcome my own obstacles. I have depression. I talk about it a lot. I use coping mechanisms. But in addition to that, my depression takes up about 80% (or more) of my constant, so when I read something, I relate it to my depression. When I watch something, I relate it to my depression. My life revolves around my depression and it can rule me or I can rule it, and in Dean and the Doctor I see new ways to cope and control because in them, I see myself. Good G-d, Donna! Donna was a perfect role model for me; I loved her, and I am so sorry she’s not with the Doctor anymore. I just couldn’t relate to Amy as much as I loved her. But I still watch.
I still watch because there is always something that someone else can teach me.
That is what the fictional narrative is.
Pick a show. Any show that you have some kind of familiarity with, and watch an hour or two. Write down the character that you most identify with. Write the character that rubs you the wrong way, and then write down why. I bet it’s because they remind you of someone. Write down a flaw that a character has that you also have. How do they cope? How can you cope? Do you get any ideas from the show? I sit with a little notebook and I don’t take notes as much as I take ideas.
It’s not delusional, or getting lost in the story; it’s being human and fulfilling my part of the narrative contract with the writer.
So, when I write meta (or anything really) that comes from the heart and I relate it to Supernatural, Doctor Who, Star Trek, Daydverse or any number of things that have been filtered through my head and heart for the last four decades, they almost always refer to parallels in my life and revolve around my depression, anxiety, sense of self-worth, friends, lovers, family, kids, education, hobbies, travel, stress, life trauma, coping, advising, experiences, and my life intersecting with the fiction that I’m attracted to is my narrative and I intend to claim it every chance I get.
In a couple of weeks I’m taking a trip, kind of spontaneously, and I’m a little nervous, but I’m trying to look at it as an adventure. I don’t have many of those.
I travel very rarely. As a kid, my family took yearly, sometimes twice yearly vacations. I went with my college roommate to the UK in 1987; alone to North Wales in 2009; to visit friends in Denver in 2011. As an adult, three trips in three decades are not very much.
I’d like to travel more, but money is certainly one issue. I’ve also only recently begun to enjoy some of my own time alone. I always hated the aloneness, but I started taking random ‘field trips’ and where once I thought eating alone in a restaurant was sad and lonely, I kind of like it now. I have time to think. I have space to write. And lunch in an actual restaurant is about the same price as going to McDonald’s or getting an actual meal at Starbucks without the noisy, bustling background. I also like libraries and parks with trees, but that’s me.
I am also a very nervous traveler. I couldn’t get on the last two airplanes without a special talisman to calm my nerves (as well as a prescription pharmaceutical). I travel so seldom that it churns up my stomach and I hate all of the things you need to do for travel with the packing, security, where to put my bags once I get onboard, who will I sit with and a million other anxieties tied up into what amounts to a fifteen minute procedure.
This upcoming trip is by train, and I’m excited (mostly); I haven’t been on a train since my first trip to the UK on BritRail. This journey will be twelve hours between onboard and changing trains in NYC with just enough time to buy breakfast. Is it wrong that I am really, really looking forward to a real NY egg bagel with cream cheese? On the way back, I’m hoping for a knishe. Oh, it’s been too long! And of course, another fifteen hours back including a five hour layover.
I always feel that I need to bring everything but the kitchen sink just in case. What if I need X, Y or Z? When I travel by air, I have the need to buy a bottle of water and a Time magazine. I’m not sure why that is and I don’t know if that little ritual will hold up for Amtrak. I should be able to bring my own water and save three dollars. I always bring a snack that I almost never eat and my journal which was missing for a while. This trip, I also have the luxury of a Kindle Fire, which will most certainly be welcome.
Although after much searching, I’ve finally found my special journal that’s gone with me to Wales and Denver, been to Tea Tastings when I was notating the experience, and my Fall Writing Retreat both in 2012. I will be sad when this journal is all full. I should have enough pages for this trip, possibly one more, but no guarantee of that.
The main reason for this trip is friendship with a side of fandom. I was supposed to visit my best friend before the summer, but that fell through so when he suggested coming for the fandom party/dinner/viewing of the finale of this season’s Supernatural, I rearranged my schedule to be there. There will be good friends, committed fans, good food and of course, the finale.
I haven’t done one of these types of things since the days of Star Trek: The Next Generation, possibly Deep Space Nine. Yes, my family does make a big deal of Doctor Who night and my son got the dinner he begged for: fish fingers and custard, and our weekend schedule does revolve around Green Lantern: The Animated Series, and this weekend is Free Comic Book Day, but I haven’t been to a convention (maybe soon, though – *crosses fingers*) in about a decade. For the weekly watching of Star Trek, we would head to our friend’s house and we would get chicken parm heros and drink soda and eat ice cream and laugh loudly and cheer and gape at the wonder of the Enterprise and her crew.
Now, it is a new group, a new fandom, very Supernatural-type Americana/diner food and I’m excited for it. Apart from my best friend, I have not met anyone who will be there. To begin a friendship with a base already in place is one of the wonderful things about fandom. Hey, I know your name, and we like this thing and yes, I think we can be friends, pass me a chip.
There is something so brilliant about people and food and traditions that are continued by new people and while it’s different, it’s the same or at least similar, and in some cases it’s better, and it’s really comfortable. We don’t know each other, but we kind of know each other. I am a tiny bit nervous, but that’s just my personality bleeding through. It’s not at all like going to my sister’s and explaining what fan fiction is or how I know that Misha Collins’ wife just published a book on stewardesses or why I care or why I laugh harder than everyone else when a Moose shows up on the local news in someone’s swimming pool or confuse her by rattling off my own personal canon for Harry Potter.
My sister is a fan of many things, but she is not in fandom and that is sad.
The second part (or first….) of my quick trip is visiting friend; good friend. We talk often but see each other infrequently (sadly) and I’m looking forward to this very much. We only get one day together before the fannish things begin and the good thing is we are both in better places since we last saw each other and he gets to show me around his town and his animals and his space and we get to talk and talk and catch up on and store extra hugs and make more plans, and it gives me time to breathe and remember how to do that and not worry about this school thing or that financial thing and I’ll gather ideas and prompts to occupy my second ride on the rails for the trip back.
I would love to travel more; just get up and go.
This little thing has been just an introduction. I hope to have more stories about my trips, past and future wanna-be’s, things I’ve learned, things I’ve forgotten, places I want to see and things I want to do. My mind yearns to take my kids places but it also yearns to go out into the world by myself. My most recent visit to Wales was that. I traveled alone, did things that I would have refused if you asked me first and I learned how to be by myself, which is always a good thing.
We all need that time to ourselves, to find ourselves and be available to the others in our lives and that is the one thing that I want when I travel; to come back a slightly different person.
If I know, I’ll let you know who I am when I get back.