My two earliest memories about sci-fi involved the two biggest names in Sci-Fi of all time: Star Wars and Star Trek. I remember being not quite yet in pre-school and playing Star Wars with a Fischer Price F-15 and a GI Joe turret cannon playing out the trench run scene while it played out on the TV on HBO (I feel like in those days it played aired on HBO about four times a day). The other was having my first die cast model of the USS Enterprise, the refit model that debuted in The Motion Picture.
I loved that little starship. I took it everywhere with me; to the grocery store, to grandma and grandpa’s, and to pre school. I was insanely proud of it, which was ultimately my downfall. I showed it to one of the kids in the preschool (her mom was also the teacher which only made her more of a brazen little brat). She screamed, “I DON’T CARE!” and knocked it out of my hand. The warp nacelles and pylons broke away and no amount of Elmer’s Glue would mend it. I think it was ultimately one of five Enterprises that my parents would buy me only to be lost or destroyed.
While Star Wars was my gateway drug, Trek became my addiction, almost a religion. I remember making my parents rush home from some event on a Sunday night so that I could watch ABC air The Wrath of Khan. And there was no greater joy than when my parents rentied a VCR so that we could watch the The Search for Spock. I was adamant that I had to sit down in front of the metallic box that seemed to be the size of a coffee table so that I could “man the conn” and run the machine.
It wasn’t until around the time of Search for Spock that I recall Star Trek airing on local syndication on Saturday afternoons. But when it did, I devoured it. I would watch any episode no matter how many times I’d seen it before. I forced my friends to play Star Trek in the back yard (always with me in the captain’s seat) and I would get mad if they “wouldn’t play right”. When the family got our own VCR I couldn’t wait to record it on TV and would later be reviled to find out that the version I knew so well was not the theatrical version (they’d added maybe fifteen minutes to the television edit for some reason). To this day I know that film better than any other movie in the history of mankind and can deliver the dialog at the drop of a hat.
When Next Gen came out in 1987 it proved to be a real game changer, and I still watched it with a religious fervor; even feigning illness to get out of soccer events if they ran late and would force me to miss an episode. Then came the books! Were they great? Sometimes no, but damnit they were Trek and they gave me more of Kirk, Spock, and Bones–the holy trinity of Trek!
It didn’t take long before the would-be writer in me began to write his own terrible fan fic, often inserting myself or someone like me into the stories.
Star Trek and Gene Rodenberry’s Utopian future taught me so much, back when that was science fiction’s goal. It taught me about the horror of war, of racism, and what the future could be. Most importantly, it was the spark that lit my early creative instincts ablaze.