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The year was 1995. As a young urchin I was soaking up every morsel of comic book, sci-fi, fantasy, geek and nerd-culture I could readily find in an effort to understand this life as we know it. A Star Wars fan for life i felt like some sort of anomaly as i tuned into the nightly screenings of Star Trek : The Next Generation.
My brother who was also a fan of the Trek sweeped into the living room one night, just around the time that Captain Jean Luc Picard was screaming about there being four lights…..
“There’s a club just for Star Trek fans!”
And it was in our town!
The Bangor Star Trek Club were “a friendly bunch of local fans who get together every Tuesday night from 7-9pm to talk Trek and play RPG” in the local library, through the park which was a short walk from our house. And we planned to attend!
As Tuesday grew closer and closer the club was all i could think about. The Star Trek club would represent my first interaction with other like-minded nerds. It would be my first steps into sharing a fandom. I thought of meeting people like me. People who appreciated fiction and television. I couldn’t wait to be surrounded by others who felt passionately about a series which was so important to me.
Tuesday came and we embarked on our journey through the park. On the way we talked about the other fans we would meet with great excitement. We arrived at the library and made our way to the room where the club was scheduled to meet. The shouting greeted us from far down the corridor. We could hear them. Fans! Like us!
“Klingon Disruptors use a beta band frequency!”
“They only use radiation whereas a Federation phaser is a focused energy weapon!”
I couldn’t believe it. I thought of all of the things I could learn from these fans. The knowledge and experience of others who knew the Trek and could impart that knowledge. This was it. My first steps into a larger world.
The room was chaotic with body sweat and ill-fitting t-shirts. A set of tables were pushed together in the centre of the room with some Spaceship miniatures on it. 4 grown men argued over the models placements and threw tantrums across the room at each other. At the back of the room 2 more men fought a losing battle with some wiring at the back of an ancient television and VHS player. The spectacle was overpowering. We stood in the doorway drinking it all in. It was toxic.
Upon noticing our presence and after what seemed like an eternity (but in reality was a couple of seconds) – they all froze and looked at us. Outsiders had disrupted the sanctity of their club. Their fragile eco-system had been unbalanced. Another eternity later one of the guys at the gaming table snatched a model off another and shouted “THIS! Goes here!” Akin to a rallying call the throng unfroze and continued the chaos. One of the tv fixing crew stepped forward and cleared his throat. He looked exhausted.
He welcomed us to the club and explained that there was a special event on in the club that night and that we would be required to pay £3 each. We explained that we had no money with us and he accepted that we may pay the next week.
The special event in question was the premiere of the new Star Trek show : Voyager. In those days it was much harder to get hold of new television shows, especially ones that aired only in America. We didn’t have the internet and any information came from sci-fi magazines and word of mouth. So as you can tell this was an exciting development.
The captain of the club showed us around the room and introduced us to the crew who routinely grunted and muttered in our vague direction.
We took our seats around the VHS trolley and the screening began. The others playing space battles with models had presumably already seen it as they detailed the episodes entire plot and ending with great nonchalance. Unperturbed we watched this new adventure……
15 minutes in we were finding it hard to hear the television. The space battles behind us were escalating to all out war and the television volume was up as far as it would go. By this point we were literally hugging the tiny Tv with our ears to the speaker in an effort to hear the output. When we requested quiet the scene became rude and obnoxious. It was useless.
We gave up and left. Utterly defeated and vowed never to return.
This experience left me very weary of other fans. I understand that this was a poor introduction to the fandom in general, but ultimately it hasn’t stopped me from meeting and having meaningful connections with like-minded Trekkies.
It’s worth noting that fandoms (much like everything in life) will always have a negative element embedded within them but i believe this comes from a place of passion for the source material – a passion that can sometimes manifest itself negatively.
To this day my brother and I never paid our entrance fee to the Bangor Star Trek Club Voyager screening. And I’m fine with that. Last i heard (through friends of friends) the club were looking for us to pay our £6 debt. We have avoided them up until now – but occasionally I’ll see a shadow, or a bush move. I’ll hear a phaser powering up. Or a comm badge beep. And I’ll flinch.