Star Trek was my first fandom. Star Wars, seen in a crowded theater just before my sixth birthday, was my first fascination with a story but everyone in those days was enchanted by Star Wars. Star Trek was my first experience of what it was like to be part of a community of people who weren’t afraid to love what we loved with depth and imagination. Star Trek was the essence of my late childhood. The character I identified with the most–with his mix of wisdom and naivety, an almost adolescent inability to know when and how to express emotion, his love of peace and his fascination with everything new–was Mr. Spock.
I didn’t know if I should emulate Spock or pity him. I admired the philosophical distance he was able to achieve, stripping away his personal prejudices to approach the cosmos with curiosity. I think that, even then, I understood that being curious about the universe was a way of loving the universe, perhaps the best way, but, like most others, I also reveled in the moments when he was able to express a more basic–dare I say human?–love for his friends. By the time I was a senior in high school, I did everything I could to distance myself from Spock, from Star Trek, from being a fan and everything those things seemed to mean.
Like Spock, I felt myself caught between two natures emerging from two worlds. I wanted to be a student of serious literature, to set aside childish hope and fancy for what I saw as the more relevant cynicism of writers like Henry Miller, Charles Bukowski and Albert Camus. Secretly, I disliked the experience of reading these writers. Secretly, I wanted to spend more time with Mr. Spock but Spock didn’t exist in the realm of “real” literature. His stories didn’t take place in the “real world.” Even the actors who portrayed Star Trek characters seemed to be attempting to distance themselves from their roles.
William Shatner found himself having to endlessly apologize for his exasperated, “Get a life!” command in a parody of a Star Trek convention on Saturday Night Live and Leonard Nimoy eventually supplemented his memoir I Am Not Spock with a second memoir titled I Am Spock. This second book was not a concession to public demand that Leonard Nimoy was and always would be Spock to most of us or, at least that is not what Nimoy’s eloquent New York Times obituary suggests. I believe that the ambivalence that popular science fiction actors felt can be read as an inward expression of an outward cultural confusion. To let the imagination take you away or to stick to the road of cold, hard facts? To have hope for humanity or to remain cautious about our future? To keep our eyes on the everyday world or to turn them toward the stars?
At Grey Havens YA, we do not believe the conflict exists. Star Trek and Doctor Who and Star Wars are “serious” stories. They tell us about our own world by telling us about other worlds. They give us hope by reminding us that, as Spock was fond of saying, “there are always possibilities.” I am proud to be a Trekkie. Today, I am proud to mourn Leonard Nimoy, to interrupt my seemingly important plans for the day to remember what he and the character he created gave to me. At the heart of Vulcan philosophy is the mantra, “Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations.” That is at the heart of Grey Havens YA philosophy, too. As individuals and as a community, we need all aspects of who we are. We need hope and caution, philosophical distance and emotional intimacy.
We need not set ourselves apart from the things we love. We need not worry that our fascination for fictional characters and fictional worlds will somehow keep us from really knowing real people and the real world. We know that all things, even the most seemingly disparate things, meet in the imagination, that we learn about ourselves right here, right now by imagining what it is like to be a Vulcan on a starship in the 23rd century. Even though, as a woman in her forties, I realize that it is inevitable that the actors and writers who shaped my childhood will pass away, I am deeply saddened by the passing of Leonard Nimoy. I am comforted, too, that his legacy will live long in Grey Havens YA and in fandom communities around the world and that it will prosper.
Thank you, Mr. Nimoy.
Today, I learned of Leonard Nimoy’s passing. Just yesterday, I had my picture taken giving the Vulcan salute. This is GHYA co-director, Robyn Bosica, and me on a hard hat tour of Longmont’s new museum amphitheater, one of the places where we hope to continue the Star Trek legacy of imagination and hope.
Send us an owl: What does Star Trek or any other fandom mean to you? Do you have any words of remembrance for Leonard Nimoy?