I hate space shit. Generally. Particularly if it has to do with aliens. I much prefer fiction grounded as closely to every day reality as possible. I don’t like science fiction, actually, with some exceptions. I definitely never read more than the occasional high-concept short story. Don’t like the Star Wars movies. The alien fad from the mid-90s–sparked by The X-Files and exacerbated by Independence Day, Men in Black, and head shop t-shirts showing an oval-headed alien in a UFO smoking a bong–annoyed the shit out of me. So when my girlfriend suggested I watch Star Trek: The Next Generation with her I squirmed. I’ve spent my life giving Star Trek a wide berth: the movies, the original series, the spin-offs. To me it represented pure, distilled, escapist Sci-Fi, the Everclear of the genre. But, because I’m weak in the face of her suggestive powers, I watched an episode with her from the sixth season–I don’t remember which one–and then started again at the beginning, with “Encounter at Farpoint“. It was absolutely nothing like I imagined Star Trek being. First of all, I always figured Star Fleet was more of a military operation than just a bunch of science geeks. Also, that episode deals with a high-concept “trial” of mankind.
The episode that really drew me in though was one called “Darmok.” In that episode the Enterprise encounters an alien race, the Tamarians, who communicate only through mythological metaphors. The way we would say, “Christ on the cross,” to indicate vicarious torture and suffering, they use a phrase, “Darmok and Jelad at Tanagra” to communicate that they want to cooperate with Star Fleet. It takes Captain Picard almost the entire episode–the whole time struggling to understand his counterpart and resisting the instinct to confront him violently–to decipher their language.
I spent the next month watching every episode of TNG. This was accompanied with reading dense Leftist books and lifting weights, to make me feel better about my sad, geeky self.
- My insecurity led me to read this book.