I don’t know if anyone noticed, but I didn’t post a blog last week. My apologies. I got a bad cold and was stumbling around in a dextromethorphan haze for a few days. Always a good time. Here’s something they won’t tell you on the box but totally should: Never mix NyQuil and DayQuil. See? I’m looking out for you guys.
So it came blog day and I was still really foggy, trying to put some coherent thoughts together about all the crap I watched while trying not to die on my couch. And I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Instead, I took the week off to get my head straight and try to write something really great. Something meaningful and well-crafted. Something with heart and with purpose. Something I could be proud of, that might stand out from the normal brain drippings you find here week after fucking week.
And there was just…nothing. A whole lot of nothing.
Too much pressure maybe? My brain retreated like a skittish cat under a bed. The thing just gave up. Or, perhaps, I’m intellectually understimulated and I can’t think of anything to say because everything feels the same and therefore nothing matters anymore. Which is probably the case, but is a somewhat disturbing proposition. I decided to embrace my mindless state and flung myself headlong into a Star Trek marathon. And lo! The gods of science fiction did bestow upon me worthy brainfood. Because they are good and merciful and love us.
In season two of the Original Series, there’s an episode called “Who Mourns for Adonis?” Brief rundown: the Enterprise gets trapped in orbit around a planet by the cheesy giant cartoon hand of an alien claiming to be the god Apollo (cue the space race reference from 1967, and any number of Stargate references). A landing party is sent to the surface to negotiate the ship’s release. This faux Apollo feeds on the adulation of lesser beings and demands that they stay and worship him in exchange for his providing them with paradise forever (cue Jitterbug Perfume reference). Furthermore, he’s very keen on having a more…intimate sort of worship from the lovely Lt. Carolyn Palamas, Enterprise’s resident historian/anthropologist/archaeologist. She falls in love with him and wants to stay on the planet (because clearly a heteronormative monogamous relationship is a better option than a successful career as a space-hopping scientist, right sixties America?). Not to spoiler anything for you, but they use her against Apollo, smash his tacky temple with phasers, and save the day, etc, etc. Because Kirk’s there, so they have to win. Obviously. You ever think that the crew on Next Generation got into so much nasty trouble because Picard never went down with a landing party? Just something to ponder for your next Kirk-versus-Picard debate.
I bring this up (and made you suffer through my hamfisted summary) because there’s a Kirktastic monologue in the middle of this episode that very well may have renewed my faith in myself as a writer about pop culture. In exactly sixty-one seconds. Impressive. And because I know almost none of you will click on that link, I’ve taken the liberty of typing out the whole motherfucker for you here. So there.
KIRK: Give me your hand. Your hand. [Lt. Palamas takes his hand.] Now feel that. Human flesh against human flesh. We’re the same. We share the same history, the same heritage, the same lives. We’re tied together beyond any untying. Man or woman, it makes no difference. We’re human. We couldn’t escape from each other even if we wanted to. That’s how you do it, Lieutenant. By remembering who and what you are. A bit of flesh and blood afloat in a universe without end. The only thing that’s truly yours is the rest of humanity. That’s where our duty lies. Do you understand me?
And she does understand. Putting aside any weird sexist shit that Trek may have perpetrated in those early years, this is definitely a case of the young lady being a standup Starfleet officer and saving the asses of a bunch of guys who, frankly, didn’t stand a chance without her. Good for her, although if I deconstructed this episode to much, I’d probably find more to bitch about than to praise. Anyway, not the point. The point is that while that little snippet of wonderful might seem trite or heavy-handed (of course it’s trite and heavy-handed! It’s Star Trek!), it kind of reminded me why I love scifi. It’s not the cool aliens and the awesome ships and the fun explosions. That stuff’s all just gravy. No, I like scifi because all scifi, at its core, is about people being the best that they can possibly be. Technology, exploration, ingenuity, compassion, diplomacy, cooperation – these are some of the things that challenge us to be better people (or humanoid aliens, whatever, fine), and they’re absolutely necessary to good scifi, in some combination.
“But Vanessa, scifi is just meaningless genre entertainment and you’re dumb for thinking it’s so deep and important.”
First of all, fuck you, hypothetical critic voice from my head’s darker and more dangerous regions. You don’t get a vote here, not today. I’m well aware that it’s entertainment, yes, but it is far from meaningless. Wouldn’t it be great if we could end hunger and homelessness and eliminate greed by using replicator technology in a non-corporate-fuckery kind of way? I say we’ll be there within a couple hundred years, building on the current 3D printer. What about cell phones and tablets? Star Trek did it fifty years ago and now we carry that shit around every day. We have fucking ion drives, y’all! We could conceivably even be warp capable soon, if the government would stop funding wars instead of the space program. We just need to get our priorities straight, put people ahead of money. And if we got out there into the vasty depths, armed with science and a spirit of open-minded curiosity, maybe we’d realize we’re not alone and that would slap us into shape. We’re small, yes, but we’re not insignificant. We’re not weak. We can do so much, and we can do it better. And not just in space, you know. Disease, hunger, climate change – we just have to throw science at that shit until something works. Or diplomacy or policy change, something, any innovative idea. My point is that science fiction is a way to get into people’s heads at a formative age, inspire them to think and to learn and to solve problems, and maybe one day they’ll change the world. We just have to tell them that they can.
I know it seems like I’m getting worked up over nothing. I’ve been in a very “what’s the fucking point?” place lately. I get excited about something and immediately tell myself that it doesn’t make any difference. And that simply isn’t true. It’s not healthy. Scifi or fantasy or books or music or whatever – at the end of the day it doesn’t matter if it’s important in the greater scheme of things. It’s important to me. These are the things that shape the way we all think, about the world, about art, about our relationships, about ourselves and what we stand for. What we fight for. What we teach our children to fight for.
So I’m not going to listen to that impish little voice in my head that says a thing I like is dumb or isn’t worth writing about. And I’m certainly not going to listen to that bullshit coming out of anybody else’s head, either. It has exactly zero impact on other people’s lives that I like the things I like. How is it a detriment to anyone’s existence if I squee like a silly fangirl about something they don’t enjoy? It’s not. There’s no way it could be. And while I enjoy a lively debate, I see absolutely no merit in tearing each other down over our fandoms. That’s just a waste of time. And time is short, friends. Painfully, horrifyingly short. Let’s use it to gather up the things we love, feed on them, and try to make something good that someone else can feed on. What else are we here for?