Remember our last log entry, and exploring the meaning of what it means to be a fan?
Well, disputed definitions aside, here’s one sure way to tell if fandom is in your DNA: history. History!
What I mean is, your own fan history—of the local variety.
Look, compared to the Star Trek boom years of the 90s and early ‘Aughts, it’s been pretty quiet these past few years, blockbuster movie or no—and that’s exactly why so many of us pine for a TV series return. The amount of canon and characters being pumped out each week these days is, well, practically zilch. Even with novels, comics, ST Online and the assorted fan film or video mash-up to produce, a lot of us are underwhelmed.
And have a lot of time on our hands.
Which, on the other hand, points up exactly the upside of these “fallow” years. You newbie J.J. Abrams-induced Trekfans may not realize it, but amid the gloom–n-doom following the Enterprise TV cancellation in 2005 emerged one silver lining: fan power! We miss that press of cool new adventures each week, sure—especially when two shows were crankin’ it out. But, as Ron D. Moore, myself, and a few others pointed out at the time, not having to devote hours to harvesting information or keeping up with it all allows fandom to take a breath and use the hiatus in constructive ways. In a way, even to take Star Trek back! (Funny how the end of weekly Trek coincided with the explosion in social media, huh?—from YouTube to Facebook and Twitter, and likely beyond. And even more, by the time I finish typing this, most likely!)
Still, even amid those mashups and fan films, I’ve detected another new wave that’s become a new target of fan energy and passion—and boy, is it welcome: local history, of the geek kind. It seems everywhere I turn, I see fans spending at least part of their newfound spare time investing back in their own area’s local fan story—the clubs, the conventions, the personalities. And with a reminder that we are marking Star Trek’s 45th year, it’s a trend that comes none too soon. Our fan pioneers are why we and our Star Trek franchise are both still around, despite the ridicule and disinterest of the “mundane” world they usually encountered. And they, and all their lovely artifacts and photos—in mimeo and Polaroid even—will be harder and harder to come by as the years pass.
It’s a good deal of why I’m thrilled to be producing my first documentary, The Con of Wrath, about both a subject and a wry title I can take no credit for—the biggest convention meltdown-turned-miracle in history. I was, however, a young witness to that 1982 Houston infamy, and those involved—from the Star Trek II cast, who were almost all there, to the local show committee, and even dealers and fans—are all excited to help me tell what I call a “riches to rags to riches” story that so evokes the spirit of Star Trek. It also finally allowed me to have that great long interview with producer Harve Bennett, at last! What’s more, we are set up as well to ask fans everywhere to help in either of two ways, or both: memory stories from “survivors,” submitted via YouTube video entries, for consideration for use in the doc… and also small-to-middlin’ “folk donations” at any of eight levels, in return for PBS-style thank-you gifts.
As a journalist and a history buff myself, that urge to record our Trekfan history with the clout to do it right really began over a decade ago with our “First-Person Fandom” series back in the old Communicator magazine. I’m so proud we got started “early” with major interviews with author/insider Joan Winston and with Star Trek Welcommittee’s Shirley Maewski, precipitously each just about a year before they died. Thank goodness others jumped to record interviews when they could over the years—as Paul Newitt did in the singular surviving interview with Franz Joseph Schnaubelt, beloved instigator of Star Trek tech fandom with his Star Trek Technical Manual and iconic 1973 Enterprise blueprints.
But now I see the trend everywhere—and best of all, it’s local! For one, filming The Con of Wrath has inspired the veteran Houston circle to reconnect , airing out their own files and collecting a lot of memories, especially online—or adding to earlier steps. Back home, I’m very proud of my ol’ buddy Mark Alfred, who has already archived online so much of our Trek and general sci-fi fandom history and artifacts from STAR OKC for Oklahoma City and the region. (Both those groups, long before even Starfleet International with its ship-named chapters, have roots as chapters of the original 1970s Star Trek Association for Revival as “STAR-bases.”)
And now it turns out fans in the Bay Area have taken it a step further, and completed a delightful documentary, Back to Space-Con, commercially available from fan producers Tom Wyrsch and Strephon Taylor. Their online trailer shows off modern-day chats plus tons of great archival footage and interviews from these 1970s sci-fi conventions in the San Francisco area—including our Trekland heroes as well.
We should all be so lucky to have so much surviving film footage, much less stills, from our own locales—but who knows until you look into it? Perhaps the grand old fans of your city have priceless gems—fliers, program books, autographs, and of course photos and even video. Don’t poo-poo even the “recent” ‘90s, either… it’s already been two decades now. It’s never too early to gather material—or pick the brains of those who were there.
So, what say you? Are you doing your bit to preserve your local club or convention history, oral and visual, before it’s too late? Or—if you could pick any moment in Trek fandom history to recreate or document on film, what would it be?
The clock is already ticking…
----------------------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 Biography Channel’s The Captains of the Final Frontier two-hour special 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 .