How Star Trek Changed My Life: Kelly Rowles

By Kelly Rowles - September 21, 2010

I have been a Star Trek fan since birth. My parents were both fans of Star Trek: The Original Series before I was even a twinkle in their eye. My mom had a life-sized poster of Captain Kirk on her door as a teen. I never had a chance. Trekdom is in my blood. 

I was watching episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation when I was in elementary school. Some of my first novels were The Romulan Prize by Simon Hawke and Dark Mirror by Diane Duane (which I stole borrowed from my mom). My friends were reading about Black Beauty, and I was reading about a Dyson sphere. My friends had Princess Barbie, and I had Star Trek Barbie. They had Furbies, and I had Tribbles. Let’s not even talk about the three shelves full of Playmates Star Trek action figures!

By the time I was in middle school, I had joined a Star Trek role-playing group called the United Space Federation on AOL. I had created my very own unique Star Trek character and spent more money on AOL bills than I’d care to admit ( I cheered when the unlimited usage plans were released, and so did my parents). I ended up making friends in that role-playing group - friends that started just as online pen pals, who I eventually met in person. Here it is almost 15 years later, and we’re all getting married and having kids, but still stay in touch.  Some of us are still members and still playing (myself included). In fact, my boyfriend and I originally met through the group, back in 1996 (pictured together with Shatner and Nimoy above). 

During high school, I took the writing skills my Star Trek role-playing had helped to hone, and applied them to the school newspaper and yearbook. By the time I got to college, I was working for an independent magazine as a features writer, getting to cover various geeky topics and events. 

And then, just a few short years ago, I was suddenly attending fandom conventions as a bona fide member of the press, running my own conventions blog, Convention Fans, getting quoted by CNN, and interviewing some of my geek idols. Just last month I interviewed Manu Intiraymi (Icheb from Star Trek: Voyager) for Voyages magazine. It’s been a crazy and incredibly fun ride to this point in my life, and I owe so much of it to Star Trek.

I know some fans are reluctant to admit how much Trek has influenced their life. They don’t want to be inundated with naysayers who chide them for basing their life on some television show. But Star Trek has always been about more than entertainment, at least to me and countless thousands of others. I’m not afraid or ashamed to say that Star Trek has influenced my life (and for the better). 

Star Trek has a distinct philosophy and worldview that it espouses, which is especially prevalent in The Original Series and The Next Generation. Gene Roddenberry, the much-beloved creator of the franchise, was a noted humanist, and those views were part of the show from the beginning. Entire books have been written about it, but to boil it down rather simply, some of the messages in Star Trek are that everyone is equal, human beings are capable of saving themselves through hard work and ingenuity, being different is a good thing, peace is something to strive for, sacrifice is honorable, and expanding your mind is important.

I took those messages to heart as I was growing up, especially since Trek was reiterating what my parents had already strived to teach me themselves. Sitting down and watching Next Generation reruns every day after school with my snack helped reinforce those messages. I’m not saying I would have run around beating up my fellow students if I had watched Power Rangers instead, because thinking a television show has that much impact on a person’s behavior is a little tin-foil-hatty to me. That said, I think Star Trek did a great job of showing how the philosophies and lessons my parents wanted me to learn translated into “real life” applications. (After all, Star Trek was intended as a mirror for us, not some distance science-fiction universe we couldn’t relate to.)

Star Trek not only helped influence who I am, but also what I do for a living. I know, it sounds crazy to say that role-playing a Starfleet officer helped me to become a professional editor and writer, but it did. In my teens, I’d spend hours writing stories (by myself and with friends) about the missions our characters were going on. I would write for an entire weekend, crafting elaborate 10- and 15-part epic stories. It was great getting to write for an audience who wanted to read my work, and offer helpful suggestions. I know my parents were a little worried about how much time I was spending in front of the computer, but I think having an essay featured on StarTrek.com is finally enough to convince them that it all worked out for the best (right mom and dad?).

My love for writing and storytelling was born out of my Star Trek fandom. It was carefully nurtured by some incredible teachers along the way (thanks Mr. Allman and Mr. Plyler). It was given a chance to be successful by some trusting editors and managers in my adulthood. Along the way, I always had the encouragement of my parents and friends (many of whom were fellow fans and role-players themselves). 

Thanks to Star Trek, I’ve met lifelong friends and the love of my life, and I have the opportunity to do what I love for a living. How could I not thank Star Trek for influencing my life?

 

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