Back in 2011, the ever-ebullient Bob Greenberger was contracted to write Star Trek: The Complete Unauthorized History for Voyageur Press. He solicited sidebar contributions from several other Star Trek writers and fans, including myself. I was excited to be able to contribute to the book. In fact, I’d actually helped the book happen behind the scenes. At the time I worked for Zenith Press, another imprint for the same publishing company that owned Voyageur Press. One of their acquiring editors had asked me, as the company’s resident Trek fanatic, if I thought they should do a Trek book. My response was probably something along the lines of, “Uh . . . YEAH!” We kicked some ideas back and forth, and I dropped Bob’s name as a possible author for the book. Happily, it all came together, which is never guaranteed in the publishing industry.
Then things took a twist. One day I was in my cube working on one of my projects, probably a World War II book, which was a specialty of Zenith Press, when Voyageur’s publisher dropped by. He said that it would probably make sense to have the company’s resident Trek fanatic be the editor for Bob’s manuscript, if I was interested in doing it. My response was probably something along the lines of, “Uh . . . YEAH!” So I took on the project (and suggested adding the silhouettes and Vasquez Rocks to the cover). But now that I’d become the editor, my previously contracted sidebar got a little weird. I would essentially be submitting something to myself. It seemed awkward, but I wrote the sidebar. When the manuscript went to the copyeditor, I explained the situation and said, “Be ruthless on mine.”
The copyeditor took that to heart and responded that some of the stuff I covered in my piece was similar to the other sidebars, and since I already felt uncomfortable about it, his suggestion was to simply cut mine from the manuscript. That was absolutely the right call, so Bob and I cut my sidebar and I didn’t have to feel weird about it any longer.
I stumbled across the piece in my computer files recently and thought that the sidebar, and the story behind it, might be of some passing interest to my fellow Trek fans. So here it is. (Side note: as the book was unauthorized, we generally couldn’t use official photography from the franchise, so much of the book is illustrated with photos of my personal memorabilia collection!)
Old Fans, New Fans
Tucked away somewhere in a box in the basement is a get-well card I received from a classmate in the third grade which reads along the lines of “Get well soon so you can come back to school and play Star Trek.” That would have been about 1972, so I’ve been a Star Trek fan for four decades. Not as long as some, but it still easily qualifies me as an old fan.
Flash forward from my childhood adventures aboard the Enterprise to about thirty years later, the early 2000s. My daughter, Ella, asked me, “What’s this Star Trek thing you’re always talking about?” I decided to introduce her through the animated version, thinking the cartoons might draw her in more easily than the original series. I figured she’d like it, but I didn’t foresee that she would love it and instantly become a fan. But even though she started about the same age I did, her experience of Star Trek is wildly different than mine.
For fans who came to the franchise in the twenty-first century, there is a wide-ranging body of TV series and movies that already existed when they started watching. That’s a completely different way of exploring the Trek universe compared to those of us who experienced its growth in real time, especially those of us who lived through the decades of a single show being the whole universe. In those pre-VCR years, you had to have a channel that syndicated the show or you had no Star Trek. I grew up out in the country with just four TV stations. There were whole years when I had to go without Star Trek on the screen. I once went to a family reunion, which required an uncomfortable overnight Greyhound bus ride, largely for the off chance that I might get to see some Trek. Indeed, it was on in Colorado, and I got a fix. But now Ella can sit down in a coffee shop with her Wi-Fi iPad and stream any of the series from Netflix.
A side effect of this is that Ella accepts all these shows as Star Trek without pause. While I’ve embraced the new entries in the franchise as it grew, I can still understand why some people are devoted to just the original series or how people who started by watching The Next Generation in the 1980s can have a different view that doesn’t quite embrace the show from the 1960s. When you’re a more recent fan, however, it’s all there at once. You can watch an episode here and there from across the Trek timeline whenever you want, instant gratification instead of investing seven years in finding out if Voyager got home or not. I think this makes it easier for new fans to embrace everything, while old fans experience “you ruined my childhood” moments while watching a new incarnation.
Of course, there are even newer fans now, who started with the Abrams reboot and only know Chris Pine as Captain Kirk. (Cue sound of older fans gasping.) Recently, Ella was stunned that one of her eighth grade classmates didn’t know who William Shatner was. But there’s no way around this for a franchise that’s been chugging along for nearly fifty years. And without new fans, where would Trek be? Still rerunning those same original episodes? This old fan and his new fan offspring—as much as we love the Shat—are glad that Trek keeps growing. We can’t wait to see what new versions await us in the future, and we hope that those new versions introduce even more new fans to this universe that we love.