klingon

Acceptability/Assimilation Will not Keep Us Safe

Within fandom, as with the mainstream culture, assimilation into an ‘acceptable person’ is not a way to be safe. For years I have participated in the panels and sundry other discussions about whether GLBT fans should blend into the background, or whether we should be more vocal, and make our presence known and felt. It was a struggle at first, but eventually we came to believe the price of silence too high for us to pay.

In other words, those who were naturally straight-acting, were encouraged not to change their persona at fan events, and those of us who were a bit more obvious in our sexual orientation and gender identity were encouraged to be ourselves. The only exception we stressed was for cosplay (dressing in costume and pretending you are what you are dressed as).

While we always used common sense, we found it was best to be open and upfront about our orientation and identity. The vast majority of negative experiences I have had at fan events were when someone found out I am gay, and felt like I had hidden it from them.

I am very inappropriate

the flag of the Klingons
Image via Wikipedia

I am more inappropriate and direct with people then the average person, and will often introduce myself: “Hello, I am Eric, and I am a gay man, may I presume you are heterosexual.”

It usually gets a laugh, and will often open the door for people to understand the awkward position GLBT people are placed in by society. If we are not open about our identity or orientation, it is assumed we were hiding it.

You don’t have to be as upfront as I am, but be careful not to lead people into believing you are covering it up. This self-serving sense of betrayal is often used as a thin veil to excuse a person’s homophobia. “Well, I just don’t know who you are anymore.” Whoever you are, always be yourself, be open, and be honest.

Klingon Drag Queen

Last year, our first klingon drag queen attended Shore Leave. She was stunning and took the time to make each piece of the costume by hand to express her gender identity and passion for klingons. Unfortunately, she also experienced an inordinate amount of sneers and cat calls as she went through the convention.

Our group also features a number of male-to-female transgenders who often come in costume. They have not faced some of the same hurdles the rest of the community have. When I talked to one who asked to remain anonymous, she told me that her biggest problem at the conventions were that people assumed she merely wore a costume.

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The Stigma of Fandom

Let's face it, Speculative Fiction fandom has a stigma attached to it that no other fans base does.  Music and sports fans are celebrated, while SF fans are often ridiculed for engaging in the same activities.

Rise of Anti-intellectualism

I blame the rise of the anti-intellectual movements which began to organize in 1972, and the culture of ignorant bliss they promulgated for the stigma.  They pushed the image of a good American as a one more interested in might than dialogue.  Following the leader and the trends those leaders established were seen as more valuable than free thought.  Questions were not encouraged.

Civics classes were dropped from the curriculum in the 1970s, and science education suffered soon there after.

This new culture held instinct and feeling as a higher source of insight than rationalism and education.

Never left High School

The tension between nerds and jocks in American High Schools is a schism that has probably always been with us, but in the 1970's and '80's this conflict was moved into the popular culture through movies, music, and television.  These shows portrayed the jock as the hero and the nerd as the misfit who should be mocked and left out.

Dialogue and debate were stripped from our public dialogue, replaced by televised shouting matches.  Pop culture's development was stunted.  Adherents never matured out of the the high school mindset because there was no need.  Pop Culture lowered itself so it would remain accessible to this new class of permanent high schoolers.

The Consumer Culture

There is a financial reason to stunt the growth of Pop Culture.  The less discerning your audience is, the less expensive content is to make, the more people are likely to buy it.

Despite the pleas for better content, the financial benefit of keeping people from maturing and developing opinions is just too high to dissuade them from their present course.

Revenge of the Nerds

In the 1980's and '90's, the misfits started to fight back.  Movies like Revenge of the Nerds, The Goonies, and Mallrats became touchstones for outcasts to rally behind, but the damage had already been done.

The culture had been damaged, and fans were charactured as annoyances.  The misfits, now nothing more than the punchline of a poorly written joke, had to fend for themselves.  We orginized into tighter groups.

The Heart's Ache

Through it all, the fans persevered, because through it all, we knew something the pop culture never will.  We know what it is to find meaning.

The music, books, series, and movies we love gave us meaning.  It is different for every fan, but it is still there.  In our hearts, we know why we are in the world and what we have to do.

Kahless the Unforgettable
Image via Wikipedia

I found my meaning in the Klingons from Star Trek.  While I wouldn't say my life has been a hard on, I still had to fight for everything that I have.  I had to fight for my identity, my life, and my very mind and soul.  Through the Klingons, I learned that life is about the struggle.  It is about the fight not the outcome.

I used to cosplay as a Klingon at the conventions (when I wasn't a vampire).  I took their idea of honor, and made it my own.  It helped me to reign in my temper, and enjoy the struggles of my life.  I am a better person for rejecting the popular culture and embracing fandom.

Unlike so many that I meet, my heart doesn't ache from a lack of meaning.

Laugh if you want to

So laugh at me if you want to.  Tell me that I am taking these silly books, songs, series, and movies too seriously.  That's ok, I am used to it.  My only hope is that if my words can find their way to that one kid who is ashamed of who they are, how they see the world, and how they want to live, it is all worth it.

Fandom quite literally saved my life.  Suicide is all too common among people who don't feel like they belong.  Fandom is the only culture and community that asks so little of its members.

Do you love something so much you want to keep it with you always?  Has there ever been a song that you felt told your story so perfectly you had to love it?  Have you ever seen a show that drew you in so deeply you saw yourself in it?  Have you ever read a book that changed you, and made you better?

I feel sorry for the people who cannot answer yes to those questions, and I hope they will open their hearts and let something in.

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Fandom is not Obsessive Weirdoism!

Patch belonging to First Fandom member Emil Petaja
Image via Wikipedia

Margaret Guroff  is health editor of AARP The Magazine. In her first story for Urbanite, she takes out her inability to build an annotated Moby Dick website out on all fans who are not so swift to give up.

One distinctly modern form of obsessive weirdoism is fandom: becoming so devoted to a work of art that you want to augment or even inhabit it. Out of this impulse was born the Klingon Language Institute (www.kli.org), the phenomenon of “fan fiction” (unauthorized stories by civilians advancing new plotlines of beloved films and TV series) (The Urbanite Magazine),

Merriam-Webster defines Obsession as:

a persistent disturbing preoccupation with an often unreasonable idea or feeling ; broadly : compelling motivation (M-W)

What she fails to see is that fandom is a nascent culture:

a: the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations b: the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group; also: the characteristic features of everyday existence (as diversions or a way of life} shared by people in a place or time <popular culture><southern culture> c: the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization <a corporate culture focused on the bottom line> d: the set of values, conventions, or social practices associated with a particular field, activity, or societal characteristic (M-W)

Fandom began to form in 1960's and 70's, as Speculative Fiction began taking on the role of mythology.  It gave a set of values, goals, and practices that have developed and grown over time.

Through our conventions, filksings, fanfic, and fanfilm, we have developed a culture that is uniquely ours.  Like all subcultures, it is misunderstood and mocked by the dominate culture.  The very idea that we are merely obsessing over favorite stories is an insult not only to us, but to every culture.  These characters are our heroes, and these stories are our folktales.

The problem we are having is that all of the foundations of culture now ( not just those of fandom) are copyrighted and sold by corporations that neither understand nor care that they wield so much power.  Just because our mythology is copyrighted does not change the power these stories have over our lives.  In fact, it only increases our outrage when our stories are treated with the same disdain that corporate media has for the mythology of the Greeks, Romans, or even the beloved stories of the Christian Bible.  The Corporation cares only for its own profits, not the effect it has on culture.

While our interest in these stories may seem obsessive to some, I wonder how they feel about those who share other folktales, or folk songs.  I wonder if she shares this same disdain for others who do not subscribe to her culture.  People mock what they don't understand, and it is clear she just doesn't understand.

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Klingons in the Theater

insignia
Image via Wikipedia

Not since the Klingon Opera have so many Klingons been on the stage.

A Klingon Christmas Carol

On December 13th, for the second year in a row, the St. Paul, MN theater group Commedia Beauregard is performing "A Klingon Christmas Carol." The official press release states. The theater company usually do performances translated into English, and this is the first work translated from English (although some would say that this is being done in the original Klingon). The translation was done by the company along with the help of members of the local Klingon fan club, the IKV Rakehall (Trek Movie).

I hope the level of violence rises to the required level.   A callow dishonorable Scrooge needs to learn how to stand up and be strong.  I can only hope they video it and put it on the web somewhere.

Hamlet in Klingon

I an attempt to get some support from the fans they have alienated, Paramount is filming a production of Hamlet in Klingon for a special feature for the Bluray version of the upcoming movie.

It is too little, too late.  You cannot make up for a movie that is being hyped as a “movie trekkers will cry heresy” during by putting a Klingon Hamlet as a special feature on a medium no one cares about.

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Headlines for November 12th

Here are some quick headlines for November 12th:

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itunesbadge Shadow Informant to ODEO

Star Trek Online Details Revealed

startrekonline We have finally seen Star Trek Online, and while they shared a lot of good information, I don’t think they showed nearly enough gameplay footage. Before we get into the details, I have to say that I am encouraged by the amount of knowledge Cryptic showed about setting and types of stories that are told in the Star Trek series, but the arrogance of the team and the fact that they brought up the nerfing of characters in their first release of gameplay footage worries me.  Grant it, the comments where made in jest, but I am uncomfortable with any developer talking about who to blame for messing up a game while that game is still in development.  I can only hope they will stay true to the vision they laid out and not sacrifice the setting and the story in a vain grasp for popular appeal.

Game Development

Developers Must Watch Series

Cryptic made it mandatory for all of the developers to watch at least one entire series of Star Trek.  They are mining the series and the books to provide detail to the setting as well as inspiration to guide gameplay systems.

Built on the Champions Engine

Star Trek Online is being built on the Champions Online (available in April) game engine.  As soon as they got the license, they began building content and in-game systems.  Once Champions Online comes out we will have a better idea whether this is a blessing or a curse.

Game Takes place Post Star Trek Nemesis

Star Trek Online will take place after the events of Star Trek Nemesis.  Relations with the Klingons are breaking down, and the Federation is in a state of turmoil.  The developers are using the books and series for setting information, especially for information regarding the state of the galaxy after the film.  The films and series are considered hard canon, while the books are considered soft canon.

Windows Only on Release

Cryptic will not have a Linux or Mac version on first release , but left the window open for future version.  They are planning to release the game in less than three years.

Graphics and Requirements

The animations in the game are going to be hand drawn rather than relying on motion capture.  Having played City of Heroes/City of Villains, I am encourage by this.  Any company that can make superheroes look and act naturally in the setting should not have much trouble with aliens and starships.

The game will be playable on as may  computers as possible so, like World of Warcraft, it will be playable on laptops as well as towers without requiring an expensive overhaul of your gaming system.

Gameplay

startrekonline_planet Character and Ship

Every player will be the captain of their own ship.

Play as one of the classic races or create your own with what was described as a City of Heroes style character designer which will give the player many customizable features.

Captains will have a specialty: science, tactical, navigation, diplomacy, or medical.

Gameplay will be squad based.  Each captain will recruit NPC staff they will bring with them on away missions with their own skills and talents.  They will effect away missions, and possibly even the ships stats.  Control over the away teams will be more like City of Villains than City of Heroes where the captain will be able to issue orders and have them carried out.  Players will be able to recruit staff from the races they encounter.

Star Trek Online will not be a level based MMO.  The abilities will be determined by the crew and new ships will be earned as a character gains renown.

The exteriors and interiors of Ships will be customizable.  Within the parameters of the ships class, each vessel will be customizable.   Even the bridge, engineering sections, medical, and holodecks.  I wish they would have said more about the holodecks.

Missions and Tours of Duty

Star Fleet or the Klingon High Council will issued players tours of duty.  In the way this was described, it sounds like you might also receive random distress calls as well as making first contact with randomly generated races.

The Borg or the Tholians will randomly invade. I presume this will be handled like a Rikti in City of Heroes.

Cryptic is planning several style of mission for varied gameplay:

  • Combat
  • Exploration
  • Science
  • Diplomatic

I hope they do not make these noncombat missions into nothing more than running  around clicking on things.  The possibilities are endless if they take advantage of them.

Groups and Guilds

Players can team up in task forces to work on missions together.  They can also band together into fleets.  Fleets are required to have:

  • Star Bases
  • Ship Yards
  • Resource Gathering.

Player v Player

Star Trek Online will not be a PVP centric game.  At launch, PVP will be between the Klingons and the Federation.

Servers

Cryptic hopes have the game take place on a single server so everyone will play in the same world.

I hope to get into the beta, and I wonder if we should start recruiting for the fleet now.

Costumed Unity

936212821_a9b19c882b Families that play together stay together. It is good to see families participating in costuming culture, and well, the suits are nice.

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Friends and families that play together, whether they play games, music, or costuming, knit themselves into a tighter, more personally cohesive group.

There is a strange comradery that arises among people that work on costumes together, or that have set up individually and met at the convention. Last year at Shoreleave, I watched a Justice League form as strangers who dressed as different DC superheroes met and joined up.

As a former Klingon (I have not costumed in too long), I bonded with those who dressed as my fellow warriors from Klinzhai.

This is modern tribalism, and every social group does it, it is just more obvious in SF fandom. Every group as a set of acceptable hair styles, clothing, and jewelry that sets their tribe apart from the others. It is a healthy part of society, so long as we continue to accept people from other tribes as equally valid members of society.

My tribe dresses in the totemic garb of our legendary heroes and villains and enacts the struggle of light and darkness. This is the ritual and the tribal dance of the post-modern age.

(via Boing Boing here and here [thanks Bill])