Star Trek isn’t what I think of when I think of science fiction. But it’s very clear that it’s what many people think of, including members of the media. That surprises me – but maybe it shouldn’t.
There are two poems about Star Trek in Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand (“In Which I Materialize, Horribly Maimed, in the Transporter Room of the Enterprise” by John Dolan, and “Lament of the imperfect copy of Ensign Harry Kim” by Tze Ming Mok). For the record, there’s also a poem about Dr Who – Louis Johnson’s “Love Among The Daleks”, which dates from 1970, and was the poem from the anthology published in Wednesday’s Dominion Post newspaper. And we could have had a very good Battlestar Galactica poem as well, but we decided Battlestar Galactica might not be widely enough known to make sense to most of our audience.
Here’s the thing. When I think of science fiction, I think of authors: Kim Stanley Robinson and Ursula Le Guin, Gene Wolfe and Nalo Hopkinson. And I think of TV series: Battlestar Galactica (the dark, political modern reimagining, not the clunky 1970s original) and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. But I was never a huge fan of Star Trek, either in its original incarnation or one of its many subsequent series and ventures into film. I haven’t even seen the latest Star Trek film, and while I’ll probably watch out for it on TV, I don’t feel any great urge to see it on the big screen. To me, Star Trek was usually too chocolate-boxy, too predictable, too lame. (“From hell’s heart I stab at thee, Kirk!” – of course, a couple of the movies were honourable exceptions.)
But Star Trek, in all its primary-coloured glory, still seems to be what most people think of when they think of science fiction. I wish that wasn’t the case, because I think this contributes to science fiction not getting its due as a genre that can provide a perspective on the world and the universe not readily available by other means. (Then again, since we entitled one of the sections of Voyagers “The Final Frontier”, I suppose we can’t complain too much!) But it looks as though it will be quite some time before the influence, benign or malign, of Star Trek fades from public consciousness.
How about you? What do you think of when you think of science fiction?