Friday, September 9, 2016

The "StarTrekking" of Sherlockiana.

During its fiftieth anniversary week, Star Trek is definitely predominating my thoughts, and the latest incursion of Trek into my Sherlockian brain is a lovely little article entitled "Women who love 'Star Trek' are the reason modern fandom exists."

My immediate reaction to that headline was "YES!" And I was immediately rocketed back to a time when William Shatner was hosting Saturday Night Live in 1986 and a Star Trek convention was being portrayed. The con was being shown as all male nerds who referred to the episodes by numerical abbreviations, a trope that any parody of fandom at the time just loved to repeat. Having been to many a Trek convention by that time, my immediate reaction was "Where are all the women?" because that was who tended to dominate the cons.

Sherlockiana in 1986 was another story. We did refer to the Sherlock Holmes stories by abbreviations and America's Sherlock Holmes fan flagship was a boys club with a virtual "No Girls Allowed" sign on its clubhouse. The Shatner skit on SNL was definitely showing the male side of fandom, but it wasn't showing the true face of Star Trek fandom.

Star Trek's first couple episodes are very female-dominant: a salt monster uses female form and its subsequent relationships with men to gain salt to survive, an adolescent with god-like powers has to be taught to respect women and that "no means no." Compare that to Sherlock Holmes, whose first two "episodes" are almost completely male-centered, even if a token woman with no part in the action inspires the action. It wasn't until the start of the short stories, where Irene Adler steps on stage in Holmes and Watson's true "first episode" that their series takes off. Is it any wonder that both of these series gathered female fans around them, when other male-created legends did not?

It would be hard to say that Star Trek would not have a fandom at all if its fans were only male, as Saturday Night Live depicted, but that fandom would plainly be smaller, less con-social, and have not nearly so much fan fiction in it . . . kind of like Sherlockiana was before BBC Sherlock added a whole new wing to the edifice. Yes, yes, Sherlockiana was fine before . . . except for that "boys only" club bullshit . . . but looking at what Star Trek fandom has given the world through its culture is a nice way to look at what that entire style of fanning is bringing to Sherlockian culture.

It is interesting to note that the term "Sherlockian" surely came from inside our little cult, while "Trekkie" came from outside theirs. Had we started in a larger 1960s TV-based movement, we would undoubtedly be called "Sherlockies" or something similarly dismissive. In fact, one of the first appearances of the word "Trekker" in 1970 almost sounds like something a Sherlockian might say in trying to differentiate themselves from what they see as a mere fan: ". . . when I start acting like a bubble-headed trekkie (rather than a sober, dignified -- albeit enthusiastic -- trekker.)"

As someone who could have fallen into Star Trek fandom just as fully as I fell into Sherlock Holmes fandom had the latter not existed, it has always been fascinating to me to compare and contrast the two, but more and more these days, I find them becoming closer than ever before, with Star Trek aging gracefully and Sherlock finding a youthful rejuvenation with BBC Sherlock.

And that's a very good thing.

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