It was the best of gifts, it was the worst of gifts—i.e., those unsent.
Standing just inside the B. Dalton Bookseller’s store in then-gleaming-new Crossroads Mall… little did I know I was about to begin a conversation that would totally transform my life.
Or, at least, ring wildly ironic in a few years.
But throw the concepts of "Christmas" and "Star Trek" at me today so as they overlap, and this is the memory that always leaps to mind first, among the many. Do you have one similar?
It’s holidays 1975, and I’m out with my mom to shop among the mobs at Crossroads. When what to my wandering eye should appear … than a slick vinyl-bound “book”—all black save for a front-pocket insert card, adorned by a curvy-groovy ‘70s font that proclaimed its simple title: the Star Trek Star Fleet Technical Manual.
(Yes, THAT one. The Technical Manual, the granddaddy of them all.*)
Except that, as it turned out, this actually became the gift that wasn’t.
You see, this was… well, a long time ago. We had the classic but lowly little pocket-sized paperback, The Making of Star Trek, to satiate the exploding media hunger for anything about a dead little ‘60s show. a phenom that was rewriting pop culture back when seven academics were the only ones to even use the term “popular culture.” Yes, we had TMOST—but that was it.
And now, here in this crammed southside OKC mall bookstore in the middle of crazed Christmas kamikazes, I sat eyeing this beguiling and mysterious new book that seemed to silently scream Star Trek in all-new, exciting ways—damn you, shrink wrap! And somewhere in the back of my mind danced vague recollections of the phrase “New York Times bestseller list”— vague, mind you, thanks to our primitive media-unsaturated world at the time.
Thus, within seconds, the following brief exchange ensued:
Me: “Okay, Mom—here it is—here’s what I really, really want.”:
Mom: “Hmmm. (Looking it over.) Welllllll, I don’t know, Larry. $6.95 for something that doesn’t really exist?”
And just like that, it was over.
Now, this is the same Mom that supported—nay, indulged—every hobby I ever came up with for years: stamp collecting, model railroading, model rocketry, books… you name it. I had no room to stand on for a counter-attack. And besides, we had lots more existing stuff from the existing world to cross off our lists.
But you can be sure, as it turned out, that that became a conversation that I would tease my mom about to this day. Forget about the fact that I simply bought the TM on my own over spring break a few weeks later, while staying with my older brother in his college town —a book that launched hundreds of debates and “a-ha” moments with a couple of buddies at school. Forget the fact that in the next few years and well into college, Mom dutifully stitched up a leatherette medi-kit pouch for my handmade med props… along with a McCoy duty tunic. And dress uniform. And a command gold tunic. And an engineering red…
And forget the fact that her boy later made a living, met more than a few friends, traveled the world and even had a family thanks to that “thing that doesn’t really exist.” We’ve had a good laugh over that one for a long time.
It was indeed, the most memorable gift I never got.
Fast-forward through life to today: The trademark lines of a certain Paramount franchise did indeed turn up on many a Christmas morning in the blur of memories since then. And now, here it is Christmas 2011, and what am I doing today?
Well, not saying I’m such a better, more insightful adult provider than my mom—that’d be a stretch for sure. No way I’m going there.
But as for me, I’ve got not one but two toddler-sized great-nephews… and each one is gonna be learning basic concepts thanks to the colorful mugato, Gorn and Big E crew faces to be found in a little book they’ll find under their tree this year: the just-released Star Trek Book of Opposites beginner book from David Borgenicht and Quirk Books. Count them as “happy” as well as “full” of their first Star Trek imagery—straight off the Great Bird express.
As I hardly have to tell you all… it’s never too early. For Star Trek, or Star Trek holiday memories.
My season’s best to all the gift-givers out there of every stripe! And a safe and “ahead full” new year to all Treklanders everywhere.
(*And yes, I know: the Enterprise blueprints pouch had already come out the year before. I was yet unaware. And such is the barometer of Trek’s rapid mainstream market saturation.)
Larry Nemecek, author of The Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, Star Trek Magazine columnist and longtime editor of Star Trek Communicator, is currently producing The Con of Wrath, a documentary about the biggest failed convention “success” ever. He most recently appeared in Trek Nation and The Captains of the Final Frontier two-hour specials and, in a non-genre turn, guest-starred as Caleb McCoy in the mockumentary web series Divine White’s Introduction to Hollywood. Larry shares his years as Star Trek author, historian, consultant and insider online at conventions and on larrynemecek.com. Check out his posts and original video chats with all your favorite Treklanders at his own Treklandblog.com, plus @larrynemecek on Twitter and Larry Nemecek’s Trekland on Facebook.
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