The LIEF Erikson

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Star Trek in Australia

What’s the difference between a Trekkie (Aussies never talk about Trekkers) and any other Science Fiction fan?

There have been books written and movies made about the fan phenomena that Star Trek caused in mainstream western society. We who are old enough to remember the first run of the Original Series have seen the fans of the TV and movie “franchise’ (as the media moguls like to call it these days) change from young alternative lifestyle rebels into young adults who dreamt of ethics and order in their future and finally into parents of children for whom Star Trek was a safe and entertaining alternative to the gutter trash dished up in the name of reality.

Perhaps one difference is that Trekkies have a habit of grouping together into monolithic clubs. STARFLEET International has the singular honour of being listed in the Guiness Book of Records as being the largest fan run organisation in the world. It’s also been around just about the longest as well – 30 years this year!

Those twin characteristics of size and age can be a sign of instability though. When an organization gets too big it can loose contact with it’s origins, it’s purpose. Age, can be a sign of conservatism, of a lack of change and a sure fire target for the young to label you as outdated and no longer relevant.

It might come as a surprise to some to realize that until recently, Sydney, Australia had a star trek club, a chapter of SFI that was 25 years old. Unfortunately the club seems to have adjourned for the last time, with it’s senior members not renewing their memberships in SFI and the club - the USS Southern Cross – no longer showing in the SFI “Vessel registry” as an active chapter.

Why they folded I don’t know. I suspect it was a combination of member attrition and no recruiting programme, the usual death knell for trek fan clubs. The unfortunate thing is that it leaves Australia without a viable, recognized Trek Fan organization. Perhaps the time will come for a new chapter in the future, but for now it is probably best to simply dim the running lights in respect as another old Reliant class is decommissioned.

Personally I think Trek fan clubs will enjoy a revival with the probable demise of the current series, “ST: Enterprise”. From my contacts in the States, I have heard that the quality of this final season is outstanding! I expect to see a cottage industry of Fan Fiction and other Fan productions such as movies, catering to those who want to keep the magic alive.

The value to being part of a large Fan organization is that there is strength in numbers. There are things that a club can do that an individual can’t. What is more the nature of SFI as it stands is open and relaxed enough that it has a place for fans of all sub-genres: Star Wars, Farscape, lord of the Rings … what it boils down to that membership of SFI can be seen as the base, the foundation, the cornerstone of a club whose options are limitless.


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