“It’s the baseball draft honey, I got Matsui!”
Pete, Paul Rudd’s character from Knocked Up.
In the last 3 days I’ve received emails from bloggers, radio show hosts and even producers at late night talk shows (let’s just say it’s one of the “J” names) asking to talk to me. Despite the serious temptation, I’ve declined all the offers, which has only made some people more persistent. Why are they so fired up to talk to me? I wrote a little ad on craigslist that made that went viral.
Allow me to backtrack to its origins. On Saturday night I came home after spending a solid 6 hours of writing at the library (4 hours goofing around, 2 hours writing; a pretty good ratio). Still feeling that writer’s high, I sat down because I had one more idea I knew I could get out.
Full disclosure: I love Star Trek very much. I was inducted into the tradition of worshiping it at a young age: a friend of the family who baby-sat me in the mid 80’s quelled my misbehavior by pausing VHS tapes of episodes until I settled down; in second grade my most beloved possession was a blue Star Trek lunchbox. Yet it would never cross my mind to dress up and pretend to be part of a fictional realm. I don’t even like Halloween. Or formal wear. But pretending the fiction is real is something Star Trek fans like to do.
It might be difficult to believe now but I had no intention of disparaging an entire legion of devoted Star Trek fans. I mean, these are my people. I was intentionally creating a fictional author who takes things too far. I kept the sentences disjointed; I made him fussy and deranged; I tried to blur the line between improbability and plausibility. To that end, I believe I succeeded. I liked that he got distracted by the idea of defending his decision to make it strictly TNG. I laughed to myself when I wrote the idea of a prescription pad (which is actually drawing on a pretty painful part of my childhood). The line that everyone loves, “Nothing weird is going to happen,” is among the best things I’ve ever written and it really delivers a solid blow to the scene (to borrow a Hollywood term).
I’m disheartened by the things people are saying about the fictional author. Is he sexist? I don’t know if this is the best context from which to judge. He’s reaching out to women for a specific reason as he states, that it’s a requirement of his “script,” but scripts can be altered to include all kinds of characters. Is it because he wants female attention? That’s a possibility and I would hardly call someone sexist for declaring something they want in a manner that doesn’t seem derogatory. Is he creepy? Definitely, but that’s a point I was going for in creating him. Is he harmless? I believe so. The specificity in the ad is related to specificity in humor in general (an idea I learned from hearing Jay Leno talk about jokes) but also serves to make him sincere and if he says “no touching” then it’s probably true. If he’s modeling his script or scenario on the show, then there’s even more reason to believe it because it is set in a future where sexism seems to be thoroughly vanquished (except, of course, in the depiction of it; it’s important to remember what we see on TV is a small part of a fictional universe).
Ultimately, I feel guilty for relying on some tropes and stereotypes which are getting played out in our culture. Are Star Trek fans, and their larger family of “nerds” a visible minority? Not really. Nerd culture has made a huge push in the last 10 to 15 years. You can get nerd gear at most bookstores and video stores. A TV show like The Big Bang Theory subverts the jock/nerd paradigm and perhaps has empowered many people who are young and blossoming into nerds. I sure wish it had been on the air when I was young but I find it exploitative now. And that sense of exploitation and the guilt it entails is why I felt compelled to add that update which urged fans of the ad to both try it themselves and to donate to their local animal shelters on behalf of Data’s cat, Spot. That was an experiment in social media culture, to see if I can turn this into something that actually makes the world a bit better. Which is why I added the second update which both clarifies this is not about sexual exploitation, but about friendship and play.
If anyone is owed an apology, it is the wonderful people who sent sincere responses to the ad. Look: the universe is lonely enough, even more so if you’re introverted, smart and complicated; Star Trek fans are simply smarter than the fans of any other science fiction franchise. These are my people, as I said, and I believe there are people who can find empowerment and a healthy sense of play in making my fictional author’s situation a reality. Star Trek costumes and accessories are cooler, cheaper and easier to find than when I went to my first and only Star Trek convention in 1991. You can put a flat screen TV up anywhere, put some graphics on it, set up some chairs and you’ll have a bridge. Star Trek fans are creative, and I’m sure someone somewhere has built themselves a shuttlecraft. Why not do it yourself? The internet makes it easy to find like-minded people and make this something valuable (as long as you’re cautious about whose home you go to; make sure to meet people in public and get a good vibe!).
Many responders were from all over the place, and I wish I had a shuttlecraft and a bridge to show them. Hell, I might even have donned a costume myself. And it wasn’t just women, as the ad specified, but men too. What I can promise people is that wherever they are, someone else will want to do this too. Almost every adult has an escapist realm they indulge. I know people who compulsively read romance novels, or build up old cars into works of art. Fantasy baseball, fantasy football, the office hockey pools, these are all escapist realms. People who watch Law & Order, CSI, Criminal Minds and other crime shows are indulging in a genre that is more widespread than science fiction. Professional sports is easily the most widespread and intense form of escapism and nearly every single person in the world indulges in some form of participation. To put it simply, there is nothing less redeeming in pretending to be characters from a TV show than putting on a jersey from your favorite football team and watching the game at a sports bar.
As long as what you are doing is not harming anyone or yourself, it’s a valid form of escape.
I hope my joke will accepted as the representation of one singular personality, fictional as it may be, and not of a whole group of people who share a genuine love for one cultural product. I hope that this idea that has its origins in fiction becomes something inspiring that makes people take control of their own wishes to be participatory in a group of their peers. I hope that the loneliness I feel, that goes away when I watch Star Trek, can be conquered by people getting together in their communities. What may start as a mutual love for a show can turn into many good, real connections and I do believe that is the root of why I wrote it in the first place.
If you’ve made it this far, thank you. If you’d like to send feedback you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org