Things I learned from Brent Spiner (Wondercon 2010)
As I mentioned, I love Wondercon. I don’t think anyone doubts my love of it. This year I discovered something new to love about Wondercon and that is the possibility of meeting your heroes and discovering they’re nice people in real life.
I have posted before about my issues and concerns with the idealism of and the ability to “know” people you’ve never met. I do not know Brent Spiner in real life, nor do I know Marina Sirtis; no matter how much she may know about my name. There is a risk in adoring actors (or any famous people) such that an idealization of them can disguise itself as familiarity, as knowing. Brent Spiner can use contractions, is very expressive, does theater, and apparently doesn’t like cats (poor Spot, you’re still a pretty cat to me). This trivial knowledge, however, does not make a primary source on any actor I may like.
This is where Conventions (sci-fi, comic, or otherwise) provide a great service; they give people the opportunity to meet eyes with a living-breathing person rather than an idealization. The experience I found to be illuminating, and rather than being let down that Mr. Spiner does not in fact have yellow eyes, I felt enriched at having had the opportunity to say “I really love your work. I am thrilled to meet you” and getting back a natural unexpected response.
Even though he did not shake my hand for he “shook a gentleman’s hand earlier and got leprosy,” the friendly fist-bump we shared infected me with a case of the giggles. I had bound across the giant room at Moscone; taken a mad dash from Marina Sirtis’s presence into the mischievous gaze of a nice, real human being (rather than an android).
Our conversation was brief but pleasant. His sense of humor struck me; its quirkiness and his quickness to make fun of me for stumbling over my words (I asked him to sign a photo of himself “to me” and he noted the strangeness of autographing himself for himself) left me feeling rewarded. I was rewarded for my anxiety over allowing myself to feel too familiar. The reward itself was being able to swoon slightly, place a hand over my throbbing heart and exclaim with no pretense whatsoever my appreciation of his work. His Work, his Talent; not merely my appreciation of his existence as some sort of object for my idolatry.
I learned from Mr. Spiner as he encouraged me to place a few candles and a place to kneel beneath his photo– which I promised to frame expensively– that I don’t have to be ashamed of my quirky obsession with Star Trek or its actors (I bought this on Amazon.com on Saturday night). Nor do I have to feel uneasy admitting that I searched through youtube videos following Wondercon for more examples of Brent Spiner’s quirky sense of humor and stage talents. In the end I learned that all obsession, fascination, and fandom are not created equal. Just because neither Brent Spiner or Marina Sirtis will remember my face, my name, or how we met, the experience isn’t negated. I don’t need them to remember. I didn’t know them before. I don’t know them now.
But we saw each other. It’s just wonderful to have learned my sci-fi heroes are nice in real life.