So I am a bit of a science fiction nerd. It goes well with my scientist persona, and I do my best to hide it behind my librarian glasses. The nerdiness was partially due to environmental influence — my parents are fans of Star Trek and Doctor Who, so I grew up watching both shows with them. However, the rest of the nerdification I really just did to myself.
I own Neelix’s Star Trek cookbook (I recommend the earl grey chocolate cake, apparently a Troi and Picard concoction). One of my life’s goals is to go to the bar with the washroom that looks like a TARDIS. In fact, I was the 12 year old who wrote an X-Files/Sliders/
ST:TNG crossover fan fiction that was longer then my current thesis draft. It was called “One More Crossover For Man, One Giant Headache For Mankind.”* Yes, for serious. I’m dropping that bombshell to try and establish my nerd-cred, since I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but now it’s apparently “cool” to be a nerd. And I want to hang out with the cool kids so, so badly.
What has made me sad of late, and the reason I’m airing out my nerdy-laundry, is that I’m trying to figure out where all the sci-fi went. I mean the type of sci-fi that I grew up with that had actual space in it! And you travelled in the space, in ships! Across the stars!
When I was a wee lass (a.k.a. the 1990s), we had series upon series of Star Trek. We had some show called Babylon 5 that I never watched. Even Stargate eventually became all about spaceships after trying to be Farscape for a bit. Or maybe it was because Stargate became where all Star Trek actors went when they couldn’t find work anywhere else? But I digress, sometime after Battlestar Galactica, the idea of sci-fi being about space travel sort of disappeared. Where did it all go? Is there a Firefly out there that I don’t know about, people? When I look for new sci-fi these days, all I can find is fantasy shows about vampires or supernatural things that are supposedly as cool as vampires.
At the heart of this question, I suppose, is the concern that we just don’t care anymore. Franchises like Star Trek and Star Wars came into existence when the idea of space exploration was popular and when we (the human race) were interested in pursuing these new frontiers. We had just landed on the moon, and next stop (naturally) was Mars! But today we seem to have stopped reaching for the stars (we’d rather just dance with them…). NASA’s space shuttle program has been decommissioned. We have shifted our interest inwards to focus on important things like the economy. These days we seem to be more interested in maintaining the status quo, than silly, romantic dreams like exploration of the universe.
And it makes me sad. Star Trek inspired the scientists and engineers of today to create revolutionary technology: laptop computers, cell phones, medical devices, even the ipad. Without something like Star Trek, what will the next generation be inspired by?**
*As for the crossover, it doesn’t exist online, in case you were wondering. (It was written in the days before fanfiction.net.) I only have one printed copy of it in an old binder of mine in my closet. Don’t tell my boyfriend or he might try and make a dramatic reading of it.
**I’m calling it – someone in 20 years is going to invent vampire birth control. For when you don’t want to die from carrying a half-vampire/half-human hybrid.