At StarFest last week, one of my students was interviewed by a reporter for the Denver Examiner. The article has just now come out. Relevant quote:
Mackenzie Kircher-Smither, New Albany, Ind., 19, was dressed up as a Star Trek cadet for a college course. She came here to Denver with her classmates on a mission to interview other trekkies and Starfest attendees about the importance of Star Trek. “It is a folklore class and we are doing our own examining of the Star Trek culture.” They interviewed other trekkie fans and writers of fan fiction to see the influences and affects Star Trek had on their lives.
The full article can be found here: Nerds Unite at StarFest.
This past weekend, I took 13 of my “Folklore and Star Trek” students to Denver, CO, to attend StarFest, a mid-sized science-fiction convention. Throughout the semester, we’ve been examining the relationship between popular culture and folk culture, and fan conventions are the perfect place to see this process in action. Fans take the characters and worlds of television shows and use them as a base for their own creative adaptations. We saw numerous such examples: a booth filled with homemade books of fan and slash; the many costumes worn by attendees, some that were truly artistic masterpieces; performances of Klingon folk songs and steampunk martial arts. My favorite was the art room, where fans could sell their own artwork inspired by science fiction and fantasy. Although most of the works were paintings and sketches, there were some sculptures, homemade books bound with leather, and some stunning pottery. Continue reading
Despite some minor travel scares (a student with no ID!), my “Folklore and Star Trek” class has arrived safely to Denver, CO, to attend StarFest. I have never had to organize such a large-event and I lost much sleep worrying whether we would all somehow miss our flight, or that our transportation to the hotel would not show up, or that the hotel had overbooked and canceled our rooms. But everything ran smoothly and we settled in without any issues. My students were giddy with excitement the entire trip and immediately ran off to join the festivities once we checked in. Continue reading
Yesterday, six students from my “Folklore and Star Trek” class joined me for the 2-hour drive to Louisville to see Star Trek: The Exhibition. The exhibit contained props, costumes, and replicas from the show, including a captain’s chair. Although my students enjoyed the exhibit, I was a bit perturbed by certain aspects. The exhibit was sponsored by AT&T and they kept plugging their products throughout, emphasizing that AT&T devices were headed the way to Star Trek technology. And of course, no photos were allowed so that the exhibit could change for a picture in the captain’s chair. The capitalistic aspects went against the ideals of the show, and left me indifferent toward the exhibit.
Today I gave what I considered a great class on science fiction conventions for my “Folklore and Star Trek” course. We have been considering how folklore and popular culture interacts, so today I presented four different kinds of conventions categorized based on where they fell on the folklore-popular culture spectrum. The more a convention is organized by amateur fans without institutional support, the more folkloric the convention is. Continue reading
This week in my “Folklore and Star Trek” course, we’re looking at fan-made productions, including fan and slash fiction, and actual fan episodes. I’ve come across a surprisingly well-produced series called “New Voyages” that picks up where the Original Series ended. Yesterday, we watched two episodes from the show that depicts same-sex relationships–a topic that Roddenberry always wanted to broach but that he never did. It’s interesting to see how in fan production is more progressive and imaginative in some ways than the actual show. Continue reading