There’s no denying it. Comic books and science fiction have more than their fair share of “only for geeks.” While I would be hard pressed to deny whoI am, I will say that my love for science fiction goes far beyond just pure escapism.
Now, I could talk about how I think comic books represent a reassuring world where the good guys triumph and where the human spirit and concepts of justice and loyalty are all that is necessary to be a hero, and how I believe that science fiction represents an optimism about the future and the importance of human emotions and morals. But instead of “taking my word for it”, why not hear Reading Rainbow host and the actor behind Star Trek’s Geordi LaForge LeVar Burton take on the subject (yes, the quotes were an intentional Reading Rainbow reference):
I’m one of those people that believes that there was some kid back in the 1960s watching Star Trek, and he kept seeing Captain Kirk pull out this communicator and flip it open – and that kid grew up and became an engineer, a designer of products, and we now have a device that is more common than the toaster. How many flip phones do you see on a daily basis? That which we imagine is what we tend to manifest in third dimension – that’s what human beings do, we are manifesting machines. The metaphor of a man who has an external electronic device, something man-made that serves him and somehow serves humanity, and that he becomes so aligned with that device, with the power of that device, that at one point he can discard it – I think that’s a real metaphor for the human journey. One day we won’t need a transporter device to get from one place to another. And it begins with the wheel and then migrates through airplanes to some future technology that we can’t produce yet but we can imagine. Imagination is really the key part of the human journey, it’s the key to the process of manifesting what our heart’s desire is.
When I was a kid, it was comic books that pointed me in that direction and from comic books I went to science fiction literature, which is still one of my most favorite genres of literature to read. Don’t underestimate the power of comics and what they represent for us and how they inform us on the journey of being human – because it’s powerful. It’s very powerful. They give us permission to contemplate what’s possible. And in this world, in this universe, there’s nothing that is not possible. If you can dream it, you can do it.
To many African-Americans, like Burton and fellow Star Trek actor/fan Whoopi Golderg, Star Trek holds a very special role in their minds:
When I was a kid, I read a lot of science fiction books and it was rare for me to see heroes of color in the pages of those novels. Gene Roddenberry had a vision of the future, and Star Trek was one that said to me, as a kid growing up in Sacramento, California, “When the future comes, there’s a place for you.” I’ve said this many times, and Whoopi (Goldberg) feels the same way – seeing Nichelle Nichols on the bridge of the Enterprise meant that we are a part of the future. So I was a huge fan of the original series and to have grown up and become of that mythos, a part of that family, and to represent people dealing with physical challenges, much like what Nichelle Nichols represented for people like Whoopi and myself, I can’t even begin to share with you what that means to me.
While I was fortunate enough to be born in an era where nobody questions the role of Asian-Americans in industry and science, I can also see why many Asian-Americans would have been similarly inspired by George Takei’s role as Sulu in the original Star Trek series.
I consider myself, unabashedly, a big Star Trek fan. Being a big fan means a lot of things. It means that I can quickly engage another Star Trek fan in a myriad of conversation about alien races and science fiction scenarios and debates about “which captain was the greatest”.
It also means that I can recognize a Klingon Bat’leth, a traditional weapon of the Klingon race:
What being a fan doesn’t mean, however, is that I take said Bat’leth and use it to rob a store:
COLORADO SPRINGS — A surveillance picture released by police Wednesday afternoon shows a man armed with what appears to be a small Klingon sword, holding up a 7-Eleven convenience store.
That same man robbed another 7-Eleven store store a half-hour later, and remains at large, Colorado Springs police Lt. David Whitlock said.
The first robbery was reported at 1:50 a.m., at 145 N Spruce St. The clerk told police a white man in his 20s, wearing a black mask, black jacket, and blue jeans, entered the store with a weapon the clerk recognized from the Star Trek TV series.
The robber demanded money and left with an undisclosed amount.
A half hour later, police received a call from a 7-Eleven at 2407 N. Union Blvd., where a man matching the previous description entered the store with a similar weapon. He also demanded money from the store clerk. The clerk refused and the robber “transported” himself out of the store on foot.
Both clerks described the weapon as a Star Trek Klingon-type sword, called a “bat’leth.”
Neither clerk was injured in the robberies.
It especially means that I wouldn’t try to rob a store with a Bat’leth that is too small for even a child Klingon warrior to use:
Now, this is a bat’leth that you might be able to rob a store with:
The “holy grail” of aging research is the ability to actually reverse the aging process. Or in other words, turn the clock back on this aged fellow on the left and transform him back into the handsome young thing on the right:
Of course, as with all things biological, nature figured this out long before any pharmaceutical/cosmetics company or scientist did. The creepy thing though, is that the solution nature came up with comes in the form of a jellyfish. An immortal jellyfish.
Turritopsis nutricula has a magical gift which countless celebrities would kill for — it has the ability to become young after each round of mating. As far as I know, no other species can do this, and as far as scientists can tell — this little jellyfish can “become young again” (as in return to its “juvenile” polyp form) as many times as it wants.
The consequence? It’s spreading like a cancer — where it once was only in the Caribbean, it’s now everywhere. Imagine if Paris Hilton never died because she never aged. But, she kept reproducing. Yeah, that’s how intense this is.
I just discovered, with much sadness, that Majel Roddenberry, wife of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, the actress who played the ever-memorable Lwaxana Troi, and the voice of all the various incarnations of Star Trek’s “computers” has just passed away.
I just spent the past couple of minutes browsing her Wikipedia page, and found some amusing anecdotes:
She first appeared in Star Trek’s initial pilot, “The Cage”, as the USS Enterprise’s unnamed first officer. Barrett was romantically involved with Roddenberry, and the idea of having an otherwise unknown woman in a leading role because she was the producer’s girlfriend is said to have infuriated NBC executives who insisted that Roddenberry give the role to a man. In Star Trek Memories, William Shatner noted that women viewers felt she was “pushy” and “annoying” and thought that “Number One shouldn’t be trying so hard to fit in with the men.” Barrett often joked that Roddenberry, given the choice between keeping Mr. Spock (whom the network also hated) or the woman character, “kept the Vulcan and married the woman, ’cause he didn’t think Leonard [Nimoy] would have it the other way around.”
I don’t know what Gene Roddenberry was thinking, but Star Trek would always cast her in the role of women who fell in love with men who could/would never return their affection: first as a woman who fell in love with the non-emotional Spock [on the left] and later as the outrageous mother of Deanna Troi [on the right] who chased Captain Picard and Odo:
That Mrs. Roddenberry will reprise her role as “the computer” in the new Star Trek movie has just made it a lot more meaningful for me.
I decided to indulge in a little sci-fi geekdom and looked at some coverage of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine online and found this gem from Andrew Robinson about his experiences playing one of my favorite characters of all time, Elim Garak, the “plain, simple tailor” — and I happen to concur:
Q: I’ve enjoyed your work ever since I saw you for the first time in “Dirty Harry,” and your portrayal of Garak on DS9 was one of the many reasons it was such an enjoyably complex and thought-provoking show. But for some reason DS9 is not the “popular” Trek, which I think is unfortunate. What’s your take on this?
AR: It’s not the most popular because it’s the most morally ambiguous. Whenever you have characters who are gray rather than black and white … Although they are more interesting, they are more difficult for people to get a handle on. I loved DS9 because they were gray, because the characters were not easily definable, but that’s not for everybody.