A Hyatt Trek: My First ST Convention!

17 03 2011

4875869583_70c352a63cIt’s appalling that I haven’t been to a Star Trek Convention, isn’t it? You can say so. It’s completely pathetic. But, you know, I’m a bit of a pup yet and I haven’t previously been able to afford the event. You have to do it right, I discovered.

Shall we chronicle? Shall I do a fascinating exploration of the socio-psychological dynamics of this momentous event full of people as nerdtastic as I am?

Um. Probably not. It was surprisingly small. I was disappointed in the lackadaisical vendor room and there weren’t very many spectacular guests.

But once I got past that original disappointment I came to embrace the eternal truth that Size Does Not Matter.

After all, how can one complain at seeing and meeting Leonard Nimoy. He is Spock. He is not Spock

He stood on stage with a kind of reverence I had not seen in youtube videos of his public appearances. He gave a nod to Japan and expressed a sort of baffled sadness that made me wince and feel like I was the only one there. He was gentle in his talk. He showed photos from his life. He talked about being an artist and having a fixed point of honor throughout his time on this earth:

What’s he that wishes so?

My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin;

If we are mark’d to die, we are enow

To do our country loss; and if to live,

The fewer men, the greater share of honour.

He read this and I mouthed the words along reverently… I’ve been using that word somewhat excessively lately throughout my writing. I tend to personally be irreverent, so the converse of such a state is an interesting turn for me. It’s a shift in respect, in my reaction to my environment.

With Mr. Nimoy’s enunciation of “honour” the crowd awed slightly. He himself mimicked his initial reaction as a young boy, with similar great awe.

Before seeing Mr. Nimoy speak to a truly captive audience I met a Klingon! Upon seeing him first arrive somewhat earlier I thought to myself: “batlh,” Honour.

See my theme here? It’s the theme of Star Trek. One cannot traverse wide open space and interact with people of all different experiences and perspectives without a sense of reverence, without a sense of personal honour.

Lionel Trilling did a series of lectures at Harvard in the 70s that were published in his book Sincerity and Authenticity. I read it my first semester at Cal and was baffled. Then I started all over again. He talks about a shift in public perspective from a sense of public sincerity to the practice of internal personal authenticity. To be sincere is to publicly express that which is societal and good. It’s external. To be authentic is to be true to a personally constructed identity. Both of these roots have their own problems.

Being too sincere or too authentic can be symptoms of self deception. To live for society turns one into a shell in existential crisis. To be too authentic is to be isolated.

I believe that upon experiencing this Star Trek Convention I have seen my first real working example of what I think is a balance between Sincerity and Authenticity.

The people were friendly and out in public and polite and involved. Strangers came up to me and complimented me on my uniform (yes I wore a uniform and I totally made it, too.) The vendors were personable and reasonable, bargaining with ease and making truly fantastic Trek jokes.

There was an acceptance of performativity. These lovely people could interact with anyone. I met and saw no scared stereotypes because such stereotypes can’t leave the house. By being too authentic they’ve cut themselves off from the world and can’t engage (at impulse or warp).

But at the same time nobody goes to a Star Trek Convention if they’re James-Dean cool. They don’t go if they’re focused solely on living a publicly-approved sincere lifestyle. That’s because that which is subculture is sincere only to its own community.

I am not James-Dean cool.

So it seems like I have degenerated into some kind of pretentious analysis. But it’s only for my dueling reverence and irreverence over the experience.

I asked the Klingon for a photo. He said, “Come ‘ere, Woman!”

At that Convention I bought a replica phaser and a combadge and pips for my TNG uniform. It does not matter what I bought. It does not matter that I paid money for a photo with Leonard Nimoy. It does not matter that I wanted to possess a photo of me with a badass Klingon.

For while it may seem frivolous or insincere, for me it’s a personal expression of awe. My journey toward authenticity lies partially in Star Trek. I love Star Trek because I covet honour.

When I took a picture with Leonard Nimoy I said I hoped he was having fun. He said he was. I didn’t need anymore than that. As I mentioned in my post about Wondercon last year, I don’t need anymore from my heroes than they’ve already given me. Nimoy isn’t an idol to be worshiped. He’s an artist, a poet, a photographer, a teacher. He held our attention like a king on a mound, but he was a man, a man of honour.

As I left that convention and felt the sun on my hair, a phaser in my hand and a smile stealing my face I felt as though, for me, it were Saint Crispian’s Day.

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One response

18 03 2011
Eric

I always wonder whether these artists truly appreciate their fans, it seems as though Nimoy does.

Re: public sincerity and authenticity, the relationship between the two is what I find interesting. I think, you’ve found a decent balance. Also, that Klingon is giant, which is to be expected, I suppose.

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