Sci-Fi Fandom, the Prequel

Stardate Feb. 22, 1975: It's Northern California's first Star Trek convention, held at Lincoln High School in San Francisco. The long lines, crowded rooms, and boisterous reception for guests George Takei (Sulu) and James Doohan (Scotty) surprise everyone, including the organizers. A series of locally produced conventions follow. It's the birth of an obsession, all lovingly chronicled in Tom Wyrsch’s Back to SpaceCon. The hopeful outlook of “Trekkies” — here always respectfully referred to as “Trekkers” — has long been a joke to many. We see one young man interviewed at length who has legally changed his name to James T. Kirk, and plenty of others on the same wavelength. Admitting to being a Star Trek fan was like “coming out of the closet,” says one person, completely without irony. Yet Wyrsch’s film, which consists largely of home-movie footage of the various conventions, shows how these gatherings are full of a gawky enthusiasm that has vanished from the online fandom of today. No snark, no sarcasm, just joy at meeting fellow enthusiasts. Also pleasant to note is the lack of commercialism. Sure, the rooms were full of dealers, but most of what we see being dealt in Back to SpaceCon are fans wearing their delightful handmade props, souvenirs, and costumes. This trend continued after 1977 when the success of Star Wars brought in a new wave of fans with homemade Wookie outfits and the like. The end of this glorious period was, however, nigh. The day came when a convention was flooded with representatives of George Lucas, and only licensed Star Wars merchandise could be sold. The original conventions ended shortly thereafter. The 1980s had arrived, and the dream was over.
Thu., April 14, 7 p.m., 2011

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