Tags: star trek

Home ill; Some movie-fail; Star Trek needs a gay dude

I realized yesterday that I'll soon be confronted with what will probably feel like a strong need to see the Star Trek Into Darkness film when it releases this spring. Which involves the extremely rare action for me of actually going to the cinema. But so formative to my geekiness was original-era Trek, that I tend to still pay attention when a new product comes out, even a weak TV series like Enterprise or a total disappointment of a film like Nemesis. The most recent movie-going that Jeff and I did was in 2009 when we went twice, for the Abrams Star Trek movie (because it was the new Trek movie) and for Avatar (because we were curious about 3D, which I did not end up liking that much).

I haven't even seen a lot of home video in recent years, but I have occasionally made a point of catching up on a few things now that I have streaming capacity on the TV (love ya, Apple TV!). For example, I recently saw the latest of the Nolan Batman films. It was too dark, by which I mean that most scenes were literally not adequately lit; too noisy, by which I mean that the sound design was bloody awful; and it barely made a lick of sense. This week Jeff and I watched Scott's Prometheus, the Alien-universe prequel-type film from last year. I find that I might just not be able to suspend disbelief and open my imagination widely enough to apprehend the preposterousness of this film. Is there going to be a good story ever again in SF film, or will it henceforth never be anything but visuals and noise? Last really good SF story in movie form I saw: Boyle's Sunshine which I happened to watch on DVD the same day in 2009 I saw the Star Trek movie. Then just yesterday morning (yeah, I have been lolling about ill with a nasty cold, wasting vacation days from work to recover), I watched Steve Miner's 2008 film Day of the Dead, which is a direct-to-video abomination billed as a "remake" of Romero's 1985 film. I happen to adore Romero's film, and while I know it's not everyone's cup-a-tea, when compared side-by-side with Miner's version, it is the deepest, richest, most nuanced thing ever. Holy fuck, was that remake bad! It has frak-all to do with the Romero film other than rehashing some character names, and is just generally horrible. But now, as I write this, I wonder how much worse it really is than Prometheus: it is a very low-ambition failure with no apparent effort exerted to make it good, while it looks like they actually tried really hard with Prometheus. I sometimes think I'd rather watch an undisguised piece-of-crap movie than an overwrought and pretentious one that makes no sense.

I wonder which one of those Star Trek Into Darkness will be? Because I bet it won't be great. The teaser trailer kind of tells me that already, and probably tells me everything I really need to know about it: random baddie endangers whole Earth for a probably totally-out-of-proportion reason/Kirk and crew narrowly save the day somehow after lots of exploding. I can probably just skip it and miss nothing important by doing so. But I know I won't because I still house a small ember love for that universe even though it's wronged me again and again and again. And, if nothing else, the current Trek cast is chockablock with cute dudes. So there's that at least: it will be a visual delight. One possibly better suited for homeviewing. Alone.


I was thinking about the prospect of this film last night while watching an episode of original Trek--the third season entry "That Which Survives." Ever since George Takei came out as gay, and I rewatch episodes of Trek with him in them, I have a quick sequence of thoughts kind of like this: He was totally gay when they were shooting this scene in 1967; that's so awesome; that so fuckin' sucks that he couldn't be out back then!; George Takei is awesome! and so on. While it's fantastic that he is out now--and very vocal in the rights cause--how awesome would it have been for a young kid (such as myself at the age that I fell in love with original series Trek) to have known that back then? To have even have been able to have considered it as a real possibility? Because I am a Trekker from way back, I have carried an ever-embiggening chip on my broad shoulder about the fact that this utopian sf concept, in its many hundreds of hours of TV and film, has never one goddamned time managed to get a gay character worked into the canon universe or even speak of the subject matter in a way that is in the slightest bit grown-up. I was stewing over that last night when I had this brilliant brainstorm: they should make new-Sulu in the new movies gay. It would settle my longstanding complaint and might be kind of a cool homage to original-Sulu actor Takei. Uh, but then this morning I found this recent article online by Dan Wohl where he makes much the same case that I was going to make here, but markedly less bitchily so. So go read his item and come back. Probably skip the reader comments, though, as a slight majority are beside the point or hung-up on some kind of weird geek hairsplitting about whether the Abrams universe is a full-on concept reboot (it is) or if it is an "alternate" or "alternative" timeline created from the "original" universe at the occasion of Kirk's birth (it is not; and I'll be happy to argue it in an extremely pedantic fashion some other time).

The handful of attempts previously in the Trek canon of even approaching the topic of non-heterosexuality, as summarized in the linked article, were few, thin, disappointing and even offensive, and left behind not one single real LGBT character of any type. The TNG episode "The Outcast"--which was celebrated at the time as Trek finally addressing gayness--offends with its built-in assumption that gay people must certainly seek to live in a heteronormative roles in order to be happy. I feel about this the same I way I did several years ago when I was asked by an acquaintance to assess whether it is Jeff or me who is the "woman" in our relationship: extremely annoyed. Also, it goes a wholly unnecessary step further and includes in the "science" of the show a cure-the-gay therapy that takes care of the whole problem and gets those pesky gender non-conformists back in line. Then there was the Enterprise episode where the Vulcan mindmeld was somehow a stigmatized stand-in for either AIDS and/or non-conformist sexuality, but it was so light-handed and timid a tale that I wonder if anyone noticed. (You know how Enterprise could have tackled this rough beast of an issue? Put a fuckin' gay dude in the main cast of characters. Done.) Then there was the lame lesbian kiss episode of DS9, the TNG tedium where Crusher gets kinda squicked out when her Trill friend switched bods from male to female, and the good old evil bisexual chicks of DS9's "Mirror" universe. Egads. And that's about it. So timid has Trek been that even in the supposedly daring "The Outcast" every single member of the genderless race was, in fact, plainly and unambiguously female. I bet they could have mixed that up a bit, cast some small-boned boys among the women, maybe even had one of them be Riker's love interest. That would have been risky and cool at the time. Hell, it would be now! That was over twenty years ago! Jeeezus! No wonder I am so annoyed! There's been zero progress in twenty years!

I want Trek to start having a gay dude in the main canonical cast. Period. I will abandon further following of the franchise if it doesn't get one pretty soon because this future world that has every kind of humanoid-with-weird-forehead creature in it, but yet somehow does not have a single gay person, speaks to me less and less every time a new show or movie appears. And while I'd be delighted with any sort of LGBT person or genderqueer character or any relief at all from the hetero-conformism that is all we have been given so far, I am actually being very specific here in my wish that this character, when he appears, be specifically a gay male. Why? Because I like to think about it grossing the shit out of the ugly, typical fanboys of my generation. While some of them were/are lovely people, so many of them were also grotesquely immature sexually, creepily sexist, rabidly homophobic--and all of that from a cohort of people who should have counted their stars had anyone--female or male--ever wanted to kiss them. Ever. It is these people in particular, the yucky fanboys of old (who often made me feel like an outcast among the most outcasted of outcasts) who I want to see flock like dorky, aging sheep to a new Star Trek film and be presented with the blunt fact of a gay dude in the main cast. But, no, that's not all I want. I want this, too: that main-cast gay dude, in one scene, full-on makes out with his lover in such an in-your-face way that you see their tongues enter each other's mouths and you just know for a fact that they are both boned hard in their Starfleet uniform pants. That would get me back into Trek for sure.

Box 120: Evidence of my pre-internet existence found

I found some evidence of my teenage activities (which pre-dated a bit my use of the internet) on a wiki site called Fanlore, a neat repository of info that I'd never seen before.

For a couple of years when I was in high school, I published a monthly Star Trek fanzine called The Alternative Warp, (which has entry here at Fanlore.) In some ways, it's a bit of an embarrassment because there wasn't much to recommend it as far as the quality of its content, but for me and my co-editor and our handful of other contributors (all of us being 14 and 15 years old at the time), it was still a pretty solid effort: monthly publication schedule for almost two years, full-size pages, typical issue-length of 32 or more pages, serious effort at making it look decent (in the pre-computer age, yo), cover artwork of no worse quality than the writing inside. It was a mix of fiction, non-fiction, letters, news items, opinion pieces and other random stuff. It fit well with my general interest in writing and my student journalism activities, and it was good fun for those last couple years of teen-hood right before having a driver license and a car opened up a world of other stuff to do at night.

Much of the article about it on the Fanlore site is text copied from a post that I made on the M-Brane SF site on the occasion of Trek's 44th anniversary when I was feeling old and remembering The Alternative Warp #4, our big 20th anniversary extravaganza (kudos to whomever found that post, it being nearly as obscure as its ancient subject matter!). It's kind of exciting in a dorky way to see it referenced anywhere at all. None of its content ever existed in an electronic form, and whatever extant print copies of it may remain on Earth are surely brittle and warped with age, pages probably stuck one to the other by toner decay, so it's kind of cool to know that something I did way back then is noted in the big online record of Stuff That Happened even if the work itself doesn't survive.

But evidently a couple issues are still to be found in "Box 120" of something called the Ming Wathne Fanzine Archives Collection at the University of Iowa. Evidently Ms. Wathne amassed a vast collection of fanzines in numerous media properties and bequeathed the entire collection to the University. According to the catalog, in Box 120 are issues #13 and #14 of my zine and according to the image credit on the Fanlore page, it is from those copies that the images of those covers were grabbed. #13's cover is copied here. Until today, I had not seen it in over 20 years! I can still interpret the headlines: "New Trek cast" refers to the announcement of the actors cast for Star Trek: The Next Generation, which would start its first season a couple months later; "Awards progress" has to do with a (largely fraudulent) poll that we were running to designate best-ofs in fiction etc. from the zine's first year; "Stamp drive" refers to a rather extensive piece that I researched on an effort by some über-fans (but we didn't say über back than) to get the post office to issue a Star Trek commemorative stamp (which effort also scored me the awesome prize of a handwritten note from Isaac Asimov stating that he didn't know anything about the stamp campaign); and "Brazil review" is there because I'd recently seen the Gilliam film, was obsessed with it, was obsessed with making other people see it, and I wrote a little article about it.

This cover art itself was source of mild controversy at the time, but I assume it won't cramp anyone's style all these years later. It was drawn by an artist named C. Kyle (am about 99% sure that C. stands for Christine). We ran this Kirk cover, and also a Spock cover and a McCoy cover, all drawn by Kyle, in three consecutive months (the McCoy image can be seen on the Fanlore page). After we had done so, we received a gently scolding letter from the late Bill Hupe, who was a huge publisher and re-publisher of fanzines. Hupe was a big deal. We called him a "fanzine mogul" and we dreamed that he would for some reason "buy us out." But he was a subscriber to my zine, and even purchased from us random, stupid merch that we sold to raise extra money (homemade tribbles, for example--which got us another cease-and-desist, by the way, from David Gerrold's assistant). Evidently these Kyle covers had previously appeared in some of Hupe's publications and we ran them without proper attribution. Which was really more the artist's fault than ours for not mentioning that they were not previously unpublished. We just published pretty much anything anybody sent us. But I didn't want Hupe angry with me, so I replied with an apology and ran a statement in a subsequent issue properly crediting the items. And here it is again!

Dream Journal: Slash

On those rare occasions when I just say "fuck it, I'm sleeping for a long time tonight," and I end up getting about eight or nine more or less uninterrupted hours (usually a couple on the couch until Maus, the cat, ushers me to bed), I tend to have very weird and very long and drawn-out dreams of great detail and complexity (and usually with frustrating story-lines) during the last hour or two in bed. I haven't kept up on these dream journal entries lately (though old ones can be found by the tag below) but this morning's sleep-borne vision was so crazy and so genre-related that I must report it. Readers of more sensitive tastes should leave the room now, for this dream was imbued with the essence of Picard/Riker slash.

I'd imagine that anyone geeky enough to read my LiveJournal knows about slash fiction. But if not, a working definition: a fan-written fiction based on characters from TV, movies, and books centered around a couple of those characters having a (usually homo)sexual relationship with one another. Star Trek slash, centered on Kirk and Spock (K/S was the fanzine genre abbreviation in the old Universal Translator and Datazine guides, and that's where the "slash" came from), dates back almost to the beginning of Trek. 

So, back to my dream...I don't remember everything that happened during the several subjective days that this dream transpired over, but I vividly recall a sequence where I was in bed and naked with another dude. In the dream context, I understood without any difficulty that I was Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Federation starship Enterprise NCC-1701-D. And I knew that my bed partner--while he did not look anything at all like actor Jonathan Frakes--was, in fact, Commander Riker, my "Number One." So while I looked basically like I do in real life, and while my bed partner looked basically like he does in real life (will not be saying who that real life person is publicly), we were, in fact, Picard and Riker. Except we also had a LOT of tattoos, way more than in real life. But here's where it gets weird and frustrating and starts to bear all the hallmarks of an early-morning dream: I am trying to, ya know, get it on with my Number One but the fact that our bedroom opens into the bridge of the Enterprise proves a constant distraction. People are continually trying to report stuff about the Romulans and some kind of nonsense from the Judge Advocate General's office and facts about the Medusans and shit about the DS9 wormhole, and my "Riker" is very, very interested in all of this minutiae, and I am continually cock-blocked. Until I finally woke up from this crazed Trek-sexual fantasia.

I hope someone reads this and then writes the slash-fic based on it.

Dream Journal: VHS

This morning's pre-waking dream combined two recurring elements from my dream world: a tedious task that resists completion and from which I keep getting sidetracked, and "lost" episodes of original-series Star Trek.

In this dream, I was attempting to record a VHS duplicate copy of a set of never-before-seen Trek episodes. As I recall, the complete plan was to record the VHS dupe from a DVD, and then later take the tape home and somehow transfer it again, this time to a DVD. Why I wasn't just copying the DVD in the first place, or just stealing the original, I have no idea. This kind of stuff doesn't make sense after I wake up. But it did in the dream. I was using a VHS recorder that evidently belonged to Jeff's mother (we were at her house, combined with elements of a school). It was very large, like one of those really old ones from the late 1970s that was about as big and heavy as a small car. At one point I noticed that I was working with it outside and it had melting snow on top of it, with ice dripping on it from above. Realizing that this might ruin the machine and end my plans for it, I brushed away the snow and then tipped the whole machine upside down and poured a lot of water out of it.

Later, I was indoors with it trying to link it to the machine that I was copying from and also trying to get the picture to display on a TV. Then there were about a dozen TVs and other devices arrayed around me, and I was plugging a coaxial cable into one and then the next for a long time trying to get things set up the right way. Then when I was finally ready to record my copy, I discovered that I didn't have a blank tape. Jeff's mom had a bunch of tapes sitting around, but they were all obviously used. None were labeled but I could see that they had all been stopped in the middle of the tape after playing or recording something. I really wanted a fresh new tape for this project. Then I saw she had some tapes still in their original cello packaging. But then my hopes were dashed again when I realized that they weren't VHS tapes but rather audio cassettes. I asked J's mom if I could record over one of her used tapes. She was OK with it but she wanted to play each one of them to make sure that there was nothing important on them, which for some reason involved re-wiring my whole co-ax cable set-up. And it continued in this exasperating mode for a while, and the dream ended with the "lost" episodes of Trek tantalizingly close but still outside my grasp.

The seed for this dream might have been planted the other day when we started packing for our move and I decided to once and for all get rid of the last of VHS tapes, the audio cassettes and the machines that play them. I haven't had these devices in service for about a decade and I let go of the vast majority of the tapes a couple of moves ago, but I was still hanging on to the machines and a few of the most treasured tapes just in case I someday felt like I "needed" them. This is too much like hoarding behavior, and I made the decision that I wasn't going to haul around this junk anymore. Also, it fits with my current attitude about obsolete storage media. Budgetary restrictions of recent years have made it impossible for me to continue my habit of days bygone of buying CDs and DVDs. I have not acquired a brand new one, using my own money, of either in about five years. I have gotten a handful of DVDs as gifts, and I have a pretty cool little collection of movies from back when I was a buyer of discs. After I start my new day job, my income will increase a bit, and it would be perhaps affordable again to buy discs once in a while. But I won't be doing it. All those DVDs and CDs (and yes, soon the brand new BlueRay discs, too) are almost as obsolete already as those VHS tapes that I canned a couple days ago. I was browsing Netflix the other day and discovered a bunch of movies that I own DVD copies of that I can stream online at essentially zero cost since unlimited use of the streaming service is included in the minimal amount we pay Netflix for our one-disc-at-a-time version of their mail delivery service. Why would I even bother to get the disc out ever again?  If it were to ever happen in real life that those dream episodes of lost Star Trek finally appear, I hope that instead of screwing around with machines and physical media to get at them, I can just stream them online.

Dream Journal: The Klingon Library Ship

Last night's strangest dream was compiled out of science fictional geekiness, but with a strong overtone of secret, forbidden lust. I found myself traveling aboard (or was possibly an officer aboard) a space ship much like the Klingon ship from Star Trek pictured below. The interior of the vessel contained a bridge much like what one would see in movie/TNG-era Trek, but it also had portions of my home in it. For example, there was a library much like the room in which I am writing this post, but it was cast in a dim, reddish glow (I suppose an effect of it being a room on a Klingon spacecraft). I remember having an understanding that the library space was a primary purpose of this ship and that the books would be of major importance when we reached our destination. The captain of this vessel was actor Nick Stahl, looking much as he did in the 2001 film Bully

and he and I were evidently having an illicit sexual relationship, which required a lot of sneaking around to avoid the appearance of impropriety in the eyes of other members of the crew. The scene that I remember most clearly where this problem arose was one where we were on the bridge of the ship, and he told me that we needed to go to the library to discuss the planet Kaitain, and consider changing course for it. Evidently some elements of the Dune universe were working themselves into this dream milieu, since Kaitain is the homeworld of the Padishah Emperor. I had a strong feeling of anxiety that he was being too obvious. I thought that if any of the rest of bridge crew were paying attention, then they would see right through his scheme to get me alone in the library. But then we did manage to sneak away to the library, and once there started indulging our passion. He said, his mouth against mine, "Don't even talk about Kaitain. I don't want to hear about it." And that's about all I remember (without getting into a "too much information" situation), except that I noticed that the reddish glow in the library was actually caused by a hanging lamp that I built in wood shop class in eight grade. This lamp still exists at my father's house. It's basically a wooden box with a bunch of holes in it that I cut with drill press. Some translucent red plastic covers the holes from the inside, and it does indeed cast a reddish glow. 

When I decided to start noting some of my dreams in this Live Journal, my motivation was to record things that could one day inspire fiction, since I do indeed get such inspiration from dreams fairly frequently. This dream, however, does not seem to have a lot to offer in that regard, but it was such a weird amalgam of random stuff in my head from so many different sources that I decided to make note of it anyway. 

Dream Journal: Back to School

I get a lot of my writing prompts from dreams. Both novels that I have attempted to write in recent times (my sf novel tentatively titled Shame and my NaNoWriMo novel Days of the Dust and the Diane Rehm Show) both originated out of events that happened in dreams, as have several short stories. So I should probably do a better job of documenting interesting dreams when they happen in case something useful happens during them. So I might just do that here in my LJ instead of trying to start a separate dream journal that I will forget exists and not bother returning to often enough for it to be useful.

Early this morning shortly before I woke for the day I dreamt the following:

I was in some sort of college setting that was compiled out of elements of Grinnell College (where I was student from 1989 to 1993) and the Saint Louis Art Museum (where I was executive chef from 1998 to 2003). Speculative fiction writer and well-known blogger K. Tempest Bradford was conducting a film/lecture series that consisted of episodes of Original Series Star Trek and the Planet of the Apes movies. I attended a screening of Return to the Planet of the Apes. During the film there was blurry sequence during which I had a quick, breathless sexual encounter with a dude who used to work for me as a busboy during the Art Museum days. Then events transitioned away from that and I was standing in a lobby outside the screening room speaking with Jeff. We were scheduled to attend a class taught by author and professor Samuel Delany. I told him that I had invited Tempest Bradford to come to the class as a guest speaker because she had a very interesting analysis of Return to the Planet of the Apes and the Star Trek episode "The Lights of Zetar" and I was sure that Professor Delany would be interested in hearing it. Next, we were seated in our "classroom," though it was located outdoors on the campus grounds in an area that looked like the central campus area in front of the Forum at Grinnell during an autumn morning. In this outdoor space, we were seated around the briefing room table from Star Trek, complete with the view screens as in this image of Kirk sitting at that same table aboard the Enterprise:

So we sat at the table and waited. I somehow knew that Bradford would be delayed. Professor Delany and my classmates (who were Jeff and my long-lost friend and co-worker Jimi from the Museum days) seemed impatient with the delay and I felt very much under pressure. I felt as if I were being regarded as a fool for having sidetracked the class with this Planet of the Apes/Star Trek business. Jimi kept looking at a pocket watch and fidgeting. Jeff looked at me with some amusement at my discomfort. Delany, however, did not seem to mind and made some remarks about Star Trek, including referring to some "lost episodes" (this is a perennially recurring thing in my dreams: ever since I was young teenager, I've dreamed that there exist lost episodes of original Trek that will one day resurface, and I am always very disappointed when I awaken and know it's still not true). Jimi seemed increasingly impatient for the class to end, and I pointed out that it was scheduled to last for another hour anyway whether or not my guest speaker ever showed up. "It's true," Delany said. Then I guess I woke up.

I don't know if any of the elements in this dream have any particular "meaning" beyond just being the usual subconscious clatter of memories and desires, but I wonder if the relatively comforting thought of being back in college surfaces in dreams because of mounting real-world stress about what the future holds for me vocationally. I wonder if there's any way I could go back to grad school? Would I even want to? We're moving away from OKC soon, and even though I badly want to get out here, I think I am very worried about the next phase.

A casual tweet reminds me a childhood geekfail!

A moment of serious  geekdom:  The other day, I noticed that I and a few other people were included in a Twitter #followfriday shout-out from writer Dayton Ward. He is probably best known for his Star Trek tie-in books and is generally a cool dude. He is someone whom I follow on Twitter and with whom I exchange some Twitter dialogue once in a while, and I frequently recommend him to other tweeters. So there’s nothing unusual in the fact that we would mention one another in #followfriday recs from time to time. But what jumped out at me this time was the fact that one of the other people mentioned in that same tweet along with me was Bob Greenberger.

About 23 years ago (goddamn, saying that makes me feel old), I was a fifteen-year-old publishing a Star Trek fanzine. I was also a big fan of DC’s Trek comic book series. Greenberger was the editor of that title at the time. My co-editor and I decided that it would be a spectacular coup if we could manage to get an interview with Greenberger to publish in our zine. Our process of getting such interviews was to write to Trek luminaries and ask them if we could call them on the phone or send questions for written response--remember, this was the mid-1980s, there was no web or email, so this was all done on paper and by the US Postal Service. Usually we would get no reply at all, but occasionally people would respond. We had already done such interviews with authors David Gerrold and Vonda McIntyre by this method (Gerrold over the phone and McIntyre on paper). So I was delighted to get a reply from Greenberger’s office, which seemed favorable toward granting our interview but requesting that we first send a media kit to his assistant (we didn’t know what that was and had to research it), and then arrangements would be made. So there was correspondence and even a couple of phone calls to Greenberger’s office...and it seemed somewhat a hassle to get through the official hoops and actually get the interview scheduled. Then, to my horror, my co-editor, who was getting impatient to get this article done, called Greenberger’s office and left a rather rude message complaining about his assistant and what a pain she was to work with and couldn't we please just bypass her and get to business? Thanks!

I did indeed get a phone interview with Bob Greenberger, but first I had to issue a very embarrassing phone apology to him and his assistant for our zine's rudeness. Looking back on it, I think he understood that we were dumb kids and perhaps had some sympathy for us. He did give us the interview, after all, when he probably should have just told us to fuck off. So anyway, after I saw the Twitter handle @bobgreenberger in Dayton’s tweet along with my own @mbranesf, I think I gasped a little bit. I know I thought to myself, “Could that be the same Bob Greenberger that I am thinking of?” I checked his profile and, sure enough, it was the same guy. My next thought was, “Damn, I hope he doesn’t decide for some reason to look at my profile and somehow figure out that I am that dumb-ass kid who bungled into an interview with him over two decades ago.” I realized that I was a still (quite irrationally) very embarrassed over the details of my encounter with Greenberger all those years ago, so much so that it actually seemed plausible for a moment that he would still remember any of that!  Or care about it!  When in fact I’m sure he forgot all about it immediately after it was finished, and even if I were to speak to him again now and recount all these details, I am certain that he would have no idea what I’m talking about.

Once I realized how silly my initial reaction was, I felt better about it. Indeed, I felt rather pleased, in a very geeky way, to be mentioned in the same Twitter-breath with someone of that stature and someone so well remembered from my Star Trek fanboy past.

[The image is of an issue that was written by Walter "Chekov" Koenig. I had a copy of it.]