Skip to main content

Listen: Bob Rehak on "Treknology: Reference Materials and Worldbuilding in Science Fiction Fandom"

Rehak Second Tuesday

Audio Player Controls
0:00 / 0:00

Earlier this semester, Associate Professor of Film and Media Studies Bob Rehak presented a lecture on "Treknology: Reference Materials and Worldbuilding in Science Fiction Fandom" during the Aydelotte Foundation's Second Tuesday Arts & Humanities Cafe series. 

Vast and detailed narrative worlds underpin some of our largest fantastic-media franchises such as Star Wars, Star Trek, Harry Potter, and The Lord of the Rings. This talk examines the role of fan-generated reference materials -- blueprints, schematics, and technical manuals -- in mapping the "future history" of Star Trek during the 1970s, as the original television show inched toward rebirth in feature films, new TV series, and videogames. While "treknically" oriented fans debated the fine points of starship engineering and warp nacelle configuration, the reference materials they generated served not just to stabilize and solidify Trek's storyworld, but to facilitate its expansion into other media such as tabletop wargames. This case study of grassroots transmedia adaptation avant la lettre raises questions about the relationship between licensed and unlicensed creativity, the limits of authorship and canon, and the role this legacy continues to play in contemporary blockbuster storytelling.

Rehak teaches popular courses in animation and cinema, video games, and television and new media. He serves on the editorial boards of Animation: An Interdisciplinary Journal, Transformative Works and Cultures, and the Journal of Fandom Studies. His co-edited anthology Special Effects: New Histories/Theories/Contexts was published by Routledge Press in July, and he is now completing a book on the intersection between movies and video games.

Audio Transcript

Bob Rehak:   Okay, so for the purposes of time, I'm not going to show you how this all comes out. Rest assured there's a resolution and the fans are sent home happy. But the reason I start with this is because in a large way fan studies, academic fan studies started here. This was kind of the shot heard around the world in terms of how academics responded to fans. So what happens about five years after this skit airs in 1986, is Henry Jenkins, who's now not just the grandfather of the field, but still a practicing and very central, powerful member of academic fan studies, publishes a book called Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture. 1991.

His very first chapter is called Get a Life. It talks about the Saturday Night Live skit for all the reasons that we find it funny, and we find it funny probably without needing to reflect on it too much, because it's so unerringly skewers the stereotypes that we may all hold of media fans in general and Star Trek fans in particular. They're emotionally immature, they haven't moved out of their parent's basement, they certainly have nothing resembling normal adult relationships, they're over invested in trivia, they're over invested in the objects and collectables that you might, and perhaps worst of all, they can't tell the difference between fantasy and reality. They conflate the two zones. Maybe we can even carry that further and say that for them, the fantasy has become the reality. They live within the fiction of Star Trek.

So Jenkins goes on from there to correct, point by point, the stereotype of fans. One of the things he starts with is he begins an argument that's going to go on for the next 20 and 30 years, which talks about fan activity far from being the mindless following of a script given by a show. A script not meaning just the teleplay, but kind of the template for the reality of the series. And says, actually fans are constantly doing, first this act that he calls poaching, which is they're looking very closely at these details and then they are picking out the very few pieces that appeal to them that speak to them. Then secondly, they are taking that poached material that they don't own, that they've, like poachers, crept on to the textual territory owned by another, in this case the producer, Paramount and the owner, Gene Roddenberry.

And then they are taking those poached pieces of media and they're doing something new with it. They're transforming it. So they're engaged in the production of artwork. They write zines. They create letter columns. They may put on performances. That's encapsulated in this piece of, not quite fan art. This is actually a meme or a trope that you'll see played across the internet with any number of fictional universes plugged in. There's a great one of Star Wars with Darth Vader on lead guitar.

But this is an example of a transformative fan work, which takes the elements of the fiction and re-situates it, in this case for comic effect, infusing it with nostalgia for arena rock area of the 70s perhaps, and getting a little bit more to the heart of the type of transformative work that Jenkins says we need to be paying attention to. He would talk about recasting the fiction and its characters into new scenarios. So some of you may have heard of slash fiction and this is what we would call the creation of romantic relationships, and often very openly sexual relationships, between characters and among characters who in the official text don't have anything resembling this type of relationship.

In the left hand corner we see Captain Kirk romancing Princess Leia. You have a crossover between two universes here, Star Trek and Star Wars. Then down here you have Kirk and Spock getting together. This is where the term slash comes from, because the shorthand for the form refers to taking two male characters and slashing them, K/S, Kirk/Spock. You can find Slash Fiction usually about two males characters based on almost any franchise that's built around that. There's Starsky/Hutch slash ... There's a giant slash community around the currently running show Supernatural, and so on.

Jenkins will further go on to argue that most of the producers and consumers of these transformative works of fiction are women, which also contradicts the reality given to us by the Star Trek convention skit where it's all men in the room. In fact the absence of women physically in the room and as part of the men's lives is used as yet another signifier of their complete loserdom, their state of total and utter fail. "Have you ever kissed a girl?"

So, that's the starting point for my investigation into fandom, which actually wants to turn the camera back on that skit and ask what other things are going on, and particular, what might be happening among this group of largely male fans who are engaged in a different type of fan appropriation, and a different type of transformative work. But it's work that is perhaps harder to tell from the official text and may in fact exist to reinforce the meanings and the reality of that text.

So if we look a little more closely at, this is what film people would call the mise-en-scène of the skit, the physical setting, the set dressing. We can see little clues to the type of thing that I'm interested in, which is that in the background and on the walls you see examples of set designs and even projections of not the physical space that was built to make Star Trek, but the fantasy space, the bridge of the enterprise, the layout of the shuttle craft. Down here there's a shuttle bay. To a fan's eye, especially one oriented toward this type of technical detail, these are total signifiers of credibility and authenticity. In fact we revisit the Get a Life skit, we'll notice that while the script is inviting us to laugh and to enjoy these loonies, actually somebody who's a fan must have been involved at some point behind the scenes at Saturday Night Live to put the right posters up and to put the right little statues of Captain Kirk and even to get things like the insignia on the shirts.

So that skit, the Get a Life skit, is not just speaking with one voice, it's kind of looking both ways and it's both affirming and holding up the reality of Star Trek as given and believed in by these fans, and undercutting it. The type of thing that I'm talking about today, and I hope this link works. We'll see. Has to do with the type of fan activity that takes that fictional world and anatomizes it into blueprints and reference materials. In some ways it's that simple.

When you cast back to that childhood Bob in his room, what I was doing was I was pouring over the blueprints and designs of the fictional world. I wasn't as invested in the characters of the stories. I was definitely invested in the world of Star Trek. The Alkar's blueprints database, which is, and I just add this in case you're interested, because there seems to be a link to arena rock of the 70s emerging here. This is half of a site that's run by a guy who is also a giant fan of Rush. You can toggle between his Rush shrine and his Star Trek blueprints shrine. I corresponded with him. He's a totally nice guy who makes no effort to reconcile those two things. He just says, "I'm about Rush and I'm about Star Trek blueprints." So you can see all sorts of materials and clicking them here takes you to, again the types of things that you see in the Star Trek skit.

Okay, so now let's ... Oop, let me toggle back over here. Not to that. To PowerPoint. Thank you. Okay, so what I want to do in the talk today is address this issue of technical fandom, focus on Treknology and then I want to ask not just what type of fan work is it, how does it relate to that fictional series, but how could we approach it as something other than the quirky obsession of fans who just really, really like knowing things about how the enterprise works and the fictional technologies, the tricorders and phasers that they use and so on. How in effect is it a generative fan movement that actually does things and makes things, and how in a way does that very trajectory of technical fandom lead to the production of more Star Trek and eventually to intersections with that hallowed but separate realm of the producer. So the people who make Star Trek. How might they be listening to and speaking to and profiting from the labor of all these Treknically oriented fans?

One starting place is to remember that with any of these materials, there's not just the mapping of a world, but there's also the making of a new one. So as I was reading my blueprints as a kid, I was also doing things like building the Starship Enterprise in the form of this plastic model kit, which had it's genesis at exactly the same moment as the official Star Trek series. A representative from AMT, Aluminum Model Toys, a manufacturing company in Michigan was hired by Desilu Studios and Gene Roddenberry to make sets for the show, to build things like the bridge or the shuttle craft. As part of the deal, AMT got the license to release things like the Starship Enterprise model kit, which in the year of its release, 1967, I think is literally when it came out, it immediately became the company's best selling model kit to date. The show might have had a limited audience, but even then you were seeing the movement of the show into material forms that were being taken up perhaps on a larger scale by fans of the show's technical side, its hardware side.

I was also reading books as a kid, like The Making of Star Trek, written by Stephen E. Whitfield, AMT representative. You see, it's all about uncovering the conspiracy. Who in the process of forming the contractual liaison with Desilu and Roddenberry becomes very interested in talking about how the show is made. So The Making of Star Trek is the first example of a type of publication that's become very commonplace now, which is the behind the scenes book. If you go into one of the few remaining physical bookstores now, you will find often what lasts and what persists are the shelves full of coffee table book art about Pixar productions, about the latest Transformer movie, and so on.

So the peering into the production side, especially of special effects intensive productions, productions whose worlds in other words, have had to be designed and built from the ground up, can be traced back in some ways to Star Trek and this publication, The Making of Star Trek, which featured among other things, some of the first schematics of iconic ships like the Enterprise. In this case this was a design of Walter Matt Jefferies, an aeronautics engineer who then worked as a draftsman on numerous television productions and gave us not just the Enterprise, but ships like the Klingon battle cruiser and the Romulan war bird, and these technical elements, these hardware elements that have gone and in some ways to become stars in their own right for these technically oriented fans.

I'm going to return to how reference materials began to be produced by fans in the 70s, but I want to signal by my interest here is actually to talk about how reference materials contribute to the world building around a franchise, not just in the ways I mentioned, but also for the ways that they facilitate transmedia travel. As I said, my superhero costume project was interested in this. It's another theme in my work, but essentially the idea of transmedia is, it's an emerging model of media studies in which the emphasis falls on the world that stands behind all of the different incarnations and all of the different potential entry points to a show.

So to pick one example, The Walking Dead, a very popular show, has a world behind it and Jamie I'm partly doing this for you.

Jamie:   I'm [inaudible 00:12:02] for you.

Bob Rehak: Oh, awesome. Good. See, synergy. It just goes hand in hand here. Anyway, The Walking Dead has a world which is primarily known to us through the AMC television series, but there's also a popular series of video games which work almost like mini episodes. Yet, they don't just retell the stories that are given on the show. They explore side alleys. They branch out. They introduce new characters. They weave in and out of the show's continuity. That would be an example of transmedia storytelling, and as you can probably guess, it's something that producers and companies and studios are very, very interested in now because the more you can multiply the revenue stream and the audience by getting them into your world through all of these different conduits, the better. And in a way, the more you have to relieve yourself of the problem of original design by continually revisiting a world that already has been built and designed for you, is the other advantage. In some ways, they're consolidating the creative energy and the production base, and in other ways they're multiplying it and making it speak to different audiences.

So again, I'm interested historically in how this process might have emerged, not as a strategy of corporate, synergy and control, but in fact the opposite, how it might have started in grassroots ways and almost by accident or let's say not by accident, but through the intentions of fans who were really out to inhabit this fictional world. Then only slowly got noticed by producers who then said, "Ah ha, we can start to speak to these fans and offer them coherent worlds, which sure, some transformative fans might rewrite and might write their little slash stories off to the side, but that's not how we're going to capitalize on this amazing thing we've created. So there's an eventual convergence point between the fan-ish and the producerly that's really interesting to me in all this.

As an example of all the types of transmedia travel that I want to talk about here, I want to turn to an area of media studies that's not actually talked about very much. I just went to a conference in Atlanta, Society for Cinema and Media Studies, and I talked to somebody as we were walking in who said, "Oh, I'm really going to put the M in media studies because I'm talking about ..." and it was television soap operas or something like this. I trumped her, because I said, "Oh, I'm talking about table top war games." I don't mean to sound mean at all. I'm actually sort of doing injustice to my colleague, but I was proud of myself and got a compliment after the talk for talking about the realm of gaming and specifically of solid gaming since to the degree that games are studied now within media studies often is the video game on the computer or console that we look at.

Certainly an important text game in the 70s was Netrek, Classic Trek. It goes by many different names. This adaptation of the logistics of starship travel and galaxy exploration and most of all, combat, arose on university mainframes. You would play these over a telephone line, and was extremely popular. It spread virally among those communities of, let's hypothesize, largely male college aged hackers who wanted to combine their interests in these new interactive technologies with this interactive fictional space of Star Trek.

Then where I really want to go with this, if I'm making a link between the drafting of and pouring over reference materials and the solidification, the materialization of these worlds is into the realm of games that actually rely on miniatures and figurines as part of their gameplay. So leaving the virtual 2D realm of the computer screen and getting into what might be familiar to you through Dungeons and Dragons or other games where not just counters on a map, but physical embodiments and symbols of your character reside and interact with each other with the help of a dungeon master. Obviously if you're simulating starship combat on a hexagonal map that indicates light years of interstellar space, the game is a little different. The investments in role play and identification are different, but that's the territory that I'm exploring today.

So okay, to take a step back into production, I've referenced how the world of Star Trek had to be built from the ground up, and here you see sort of behind the scenes into the production of the original series where the crew is being shot on this starship bridge set and then you see some of the props that had to be designed and built to bring this world to life to give characters something to hold and work. Now far from being random, this was the collaborative synthesis or several different craftsman who were all working under a design bible. This was literally what it was called, the Star Trek Bible, written by Gene Roddenberry. The bible was given to all new writers for the show, because it was a semi anthology series format in which different stories were told every week while maintaining a set cast and a more or less established setting.

The bible talked a lot about the technical details of the show. There are three settings on a phaser, no more than three. You have to pick from those. You can't just make up a new setting for a phaser, nor can you make up a new warp speed. It's one through nine. Maybe it gets reworked later on down the line in another franchise installment, but we'll get to that. The world had a consistency. Yet that consistency was sort of an uneasy thing, as the very presence of a bible might suggest.

If you have to keep referring back to a kind of look up sheet that tells you how the universe works, it suggests that there's a certain gappiness, an unevenness and an instability which I would argue simply comes from how television works, especially television back in that era where you had shakeups in the creative cast. You had a kind of coming and going group who week by week were trying to produce consistent installments of this fictional window and details would often be missed or forgotten. Someone might actually let a fourth phaser setting into the mix. Then the problem was how do you reconcile this, especially how do you reconcile this as a fan who is watching? Imagine ourselves in the persona of the Trekologically oriented fan. They really do want to make it all more consistently, when a crew member is mentioned in passing or a planet is mentioned, whether at the center of an episode or just in the throw away line.

There were fans early on who were tracking that kind of stuff and watching the reruns. No VCRs, no way to revisit the text in any kind of reliable way, but depended on syndication and repeated viewings to try to stabilize this fictional universe. Here's an early fan publication from 1968. Again, I want to stress how early all this happened. We often think in fan studies that fandom arises in relation to Star Trek in the 70s as a result of the conventions that began to happen and that were the center piece of the Saturday Night Live skit.

But before that, just at home, fans were maintaining file card indices and it was from a file card index maintained by one fan, Dorothy [inaudible 00:19:15] that Bjo Trimble, another fan, assembled the Star Trek Concordance, which came out with multiple volumes. Each new season would bring a new volume where they were tracking all of these characters and these alternate histories, designs of ships, designs of aliens, and the Concordance wasn't our only example of this kind of early reference work. Trek, the magazine for Star Trek fans, which begins in 1974 and runs until the early 90s, is specifically oriented toward answering the questions about Trek's universe that you may never have thought to ask, but the answers are there if you look for them.

They would devote chapters to how the star date system works at the start of every show. The captain announces what star date it is. So a relationship between star dates and faster than light travel and our own dating system, our own calendar system was worked out for fans. Jeffrey Mandel's the Star Fleet Handbook, which again came out in volumes, keeping up with the series and also providing articles in detail on say the biography of [inaudible 00:20:24] how the communicator works and news about the upcoming Star Trek movie.

So an interesting fusion of focus on Star Trek as an artificial media production and entertainment. The full consciousness of it as an entertainment, and a product, and this seemingly contradictory investment in the hypotheticals of Star Trek's universe. Probably the biggest reference oriented Treknological fan, at least as represented in the publication record, was a man named Franz Joseph. His full name was Franz Joseph Schnaubelt, but he published all of his work under the name Franz Joseph, who in 1975 published the general plans to the USS Enterprise. This was a set of blueprints showing, what is it? It says the complete set of 12 authentic blueprints, and I think I've actually blotted out the small print which was so exiting to me as a kid. I still have this in my office by the way. It's a collector's item.

But it says something like the complete plans to every room on every deck of the Starship Enterprise. What I didn't tell you was that in parenthesis you could have added, even the toilets. Because if you ever wondered, yes, there are toilets on the USS Enterprise. There are two actually on the bridge, but they're hidden behind doors.

Then Franz Joseph also in 1975 published the Star Fleet Technical Manual, which gave blueprints of and schematics of lot of other contents of the universe here. Now, if you're looking at the covers that I'm showing you, you may note that there's a difference between these publications and the fan publications that I was showing you a minute ago, because the pathway here involves Franz Joseph first showing his work at Star Trek conventions and selling them just to fans through a limited license with Paramount. So he got permission just to market his technical materials, which were not seen by Paramount as a threat or copyright infringement.

Then Valentine Books takes those publications and actually releases them on the mass market, where again, and I don't mean to keep going to this point, they become best sellers. In 1975 a New York Times bestseller list features a little blurb about these technical manuals, which are the first time that such materials have appeared on a best selling list. Maps, histories, diagrams, timelines don't ultimately end up here. If the question you're wondering now is the same as in my mind, which is were those in the fiction or non fiction section? I don't know. I need to look that up. It's an interesting question, isn't it?

All right, so paying attention to the types of ships that are detailed here, I'll note that for the Star Trek viewers among you, while this ship is a well known one, it's the Starship Enterprise class, the other ones were extrapolations. These were Franz Joseph's attempt to fill in the rest of star fleet and give us ships that had their engines in different places and were designed for different things. You have a heavy duty Dreadnought. You have a smaller, faster Destroyer Scout and we have a Transport Tug. The reason that these things are important is because that's actually how we trace, almost like a little radioactive tracer inside a transmedia body. It's how we map the travel of this particular invention through the networks of media production.

Oh, and here I'm actually going to skip past this for a time, but there is a website that details all the ways in which these designs start to show up in the Star Trek films and the adaptations that come out towards the end of the 70s. What I want to talk about is, now the association early on in Star Trek between the future history that it was giving us and the game, or the concept of the game.

So up here, the chuckle that just ran through the room implies that you maybe already familiar with the 3D chess that Star Trek characters played in the rec room during their downtime. This was actually a repurposing of a 1965 game, so something that had come out before the series, but was built into the mise-en-scène of the show called Space Checkers. Then you very quickly started to see licensed games like the Star Trek game in 1968, which moved Star Trek toward that kind of transmedia adaptation into game form that I was referring to. In this game there was a rudimentary form of that starship combat. There was a game board that was meant to represent space and players had to move their ship counters around exploring different planets and engaging in occasional bouts of phaser and photon torpedo fire.

But what's interesting to me in this project is actually how the fans were at the same time creating their own games, which were arguably much closer to the fictional reality of the show. In 1972, Lou Zocchi of Game Science, if you know that company, releases the Star Trek Battle Manual. This was a set of plans for staging starship combat. This is not technically accurate. Again, ship spotters will note these are ships from Star Trek: The Next Generation. I can't find a picture of the old classic style game being played, but this gives you an idea of how it would work. [inaudible 00:25:30] would actually be a perfect place to do this, gamers.

This is a model of combat simulation that H.G. Wells actually writes about in the early part of the 20th Century in a book called Little Wars, which is about taking toy soldiers and ranging them over a carpet and moving the formations around and having them fire on each other. The means of fire are pieces of string and rulers, which are used to direct the fire and then to measure whether you hit the thing you're shooting at. Then turn by turn, you're able to move your ship relative to each other, and you play out this kind of material manifestation of starship combat on this broad playing field.

Zocchi gets into trouble with Paramount, because his designs are seen as coming too close to, in fact just literally appropriating the designs from the show. So after Star Trek Battle Manual is released, almost a year later, Zocchi comes out with a game called Alien Space, which simply strips away all the trappings of Star Treknology and replaces them with generic alien ships, but that followed the same system of combat rules under the surface. So you see in which the transmedia component and Star Trek's intellectual property can actually come and go just depending on the surface or the skinning of the game.

So this is a long quote, and I don't mean to bury us in it, but this is just reaching back to an earlier form of the war game called [inaudible 00:26:57], which stressed the importance of making battle fields as accurate as possible in terms of the distances that are represented on them, and the layout and the topography and other ways in which as the bolded line stresses, the game stops being an abstraction and beings to evolve toward something entirely novel, a simulation. This takes us in the realm of kind of the not just for fun types of war simulation that might happen at a war college or the Department of Defense and so on, where war game science is being practices in very serious ways from mid century onward.

But what I'm interested in here is how it represents a prime point of convergence for Treknologically oriented fans whose life consist of, or I should say whose creative imagination consists almost entirely of these look up tables and statistics and chartings of the actual energy output of a starship and how much space it might cover in a particular turn, and how it intersects with the real world simulation ethos of a war game to make a kind of perfect package of fantasy gaming that nevertheless has this heavily statistical component and can be traced back to the world of Treknology.

So sure enough Zocchi returns in the '76 with the Star Fleet Battle Manual and here two important things have happened. One is his game has become much better behaved in terms of space usage and so it can now be played on a table top. And two, he's got a set of ships that can be bought through his company, Game Science. This is also about capitalizing on the need for these little miniatures that you can buy from certain places, and he's building those ships and designing them along the lines of all the invented ships that Franz Joseph added. So you have things that look like the Starship Enterprise, but you also have Dreadnoughts, Scouts, Destroyers, Tugs, and this, and I don't even know what that is, because my fandom goes so deep and then I stop.

But what I would say ... Oh, and the interesting backstory to this is that Zocchi has actually over this time become friends with Franz Joseph, who share an interest in this world of Star Trek, and it is through Joseph's limited license with Paramount that gives him permission to embroider the Star Trek universe in certain very particular ways right around the edges, that Zocchi acquires the rights to the ships where there's that gray zone of crossover between the ships as given in the series canon, the official officially produced series text, and then this realm of fan extrapolation, which again, I'm implying this and then I'll state it outright, is tolerated and even starts to be encouraged by the rights holders of Star Trek, because it doesn't explicitly rewrite the reality of the universe. Instead it builds on it and it builds on it in ways that are commercially friendly. So an audience for games is expanding that overlaps with the audience for the television show, the movie that's inching toward release in the late 70s.

Okay, so I'll just briefly gesture at another game that came out in 1979. This is Stephen Cole's Star Fleet Battles and as you'll see here, it's a similar concept. The miniatures are maintained. The rules of play are slightly different, because here too, Franz Joseph was involved and Joseph is basically a pacifist in orientation who is offended or feels distaste toward the combat simulations that have come out to date, and specifically asks Cole to invent a game that is a little more geared to exploration, encounters with alien races and so on, that aspect of Star Trek's future.

But nevertheless, the focus on starship technology as an aspect of game play is really, really strong, and the innovation that Cole and Star Fleet Battles introduces here is called the SSD, or Ship System Display. This is card that you'll carry around with you, D&D players have the equivalent in your character stat sheets, but these track your starship and you can fill in the boxes and check them off to indicate how much of your energy you're allocating per turn, where you've taken on damage and so on.

Okay, so as time goes on the world of Star Trek gaming continues to build. It moves into the digital realm very strongly, and yet there's still a tendency to produce games on the material side as well. So just referring to a few here ... Let me see if I can get my notes so that I actually name these correctly. This is where I always stumble, because I have not kept up in my Star Trek gaming the way that I should. Oh yeah, up here we Star Fleet Command from Interplay Entertainment 1999, the RPG Prime Directive from Amarillo Design Bureau in 1993, and then card games such as Star Trek Battle Force, Amarillo Design Bureau 2001. My point in showing this to you is just to stress that while we consider Star Trek primarily a kind of passive media franchise, we see movies, we watch the television shows, we may read the comics, there's a realm of interactive Star Trek that has really extended over the life of the franchise, which again is a kind of understudied area in media studies.

So with all this where I'm going to end is to suggest that all of the things I've been talking about, these Treknologically oriented fans, and the connection to interactive spheres of gaming, transmedia extension, is a really crucial part of understanding how Star Trek has survived all this time. I did it by eating and sleeping, but Star Trek has also had, in a way to nourish itself and to grow. I would argue that it grows in part because of the investments of the transformative fans and the fans who do things other than the nerdy activities of the reality embroiderers, but in a very real way, the reality of this alternate universe, this future history, has been fed continually by this narrative of development of an alternative world in all of its nuts and bolts.

Even when those nuts and bolts become the object of a kind of fetishistic attachment itself by fans, which can be seen both to unify all the different television productions that are summarized here, and to mark points of difference and divergence, because you're not just seeing the replication of the same ships over and over again. Just as you don't see the same captains or the same demographic and ethnic types reproduced guilelessly from incarnation to incarnation. Star Trek has had to evolve and while that evolution has occurred on the level of its fiction and of its characters, it has also importantly evolved at the level of its invented technologies. Even something like what for me was a kind of bridge too far, which was the 2009 reboot headed by J.J. Abrams who before The Force Awakens took another longstanding science fiction franchise and rebooted it with new actors.

Even there ... This is J.J. Abrams' Enterprise in the middle flying by two of the classic incarnations of the Enterprise. Even here you see a kind of genetic inheritance through the ship designs, which are different enough to distinguish it as a commercial product and as a unique set of storytelling possibilities, but united enough to make the Star Trek universe cohere.

So that's essentially the map of this type of fandom that I'm writing about and I appreciate your attention to it. I hope I haven't taken you too far down the rabbit hole and that you can emerge still feeling like you have lives. I know that in about 5 or 10 minutes I'm going to go back to my life, but in the meantime, thanks for your attention. 

Submissions Welcome

The Communications Office invites all members of the Swarthmore community to share videos, photos, and story ideas for the College's website. Have you seen an alum in the news? Please let us know by writing