Today is the 25th Anniversary of “Star Trek: The Next Generation”‘s debut on television, one of the most significant pop culture events in my life. Here’s why…
This summer, I visited an old friend in San Francisco and we got to talking about writing.
“I still think the best thing you ever wrote was that ‘Star Trek’ book,” he said.
“I was 12. I’m not sure that’s a compliment,” I said, because, um, I write for a living now and I sure hope my skills have improved.
“No, I just mean that your dedication to it was just so pure,” he said. “I mean, think about it — you wrote a novel when you were 12.”
It’s true. For about a year, all I cared about was racing home from school, plopping myself down in front of our Dell desktop and composing what was essentially young adult “Star Trek” fanfic. I was a shy tween, a follower and not a leader, and a serious “Star Trek” fan. This, mind you, was well before it became cool to be a “Star Trek” fan so I kept my fandom quiet amongst the few friends I had, knowing they wouldn’t understand my devastation over Lieutenant Tasha Yar being killed off “Star Trek: The Next Generation” by that evil oil slick (so devastated that I cried and wrote actress Denise Crosby a letter, begging her to come back to the show), let alone that my reason for not hanging out after school was to write my great “Star Trek” novel. In fact, I kept my 200-page (single-spaced!) opus a secret from almost everyone (except my family and a few extraneous others) until college when I decided I just didn’t give a fuck. (I even convinced a few friends that it was really fun to get stoned at night and watch the opening credits to “TNG” because you actually felt like you were going into warp drive with the ship.)
Anyway, my book — of which there is one copy in existence, printed on tractor feed paper, and I have it — was called Academy Days and it was about a bunch of the characters on “TNG” when they were at Star Fleet Academy together. The main character, however, was named Robin and she was technically based on a character played by Ashley Judd who appeared on one episode of the TV show (it’s called “The Game,” if you’re interested). But, let’s be real, Robin was basically me and Academy Days was my love story. I was already at the point of liking boys, but boys didn’t like me, so with Academy Days I got to pretend one of them actually did and imagine what it would be like to be in love. All within the space traveling atmosphere of the 24th century, of course. The object of my/Robin’s affection? Wesley Crusher, the teenage son of TNG’s resident doctor, played by Wil Wheaton, who was naturally my celebrity crush in “real” life. Wil wasn’t popular with the teenage girl set the way, say, Joey Lawrence was, but he still occasionally appeared in the pages of Tiger Beat. Yet, because he was mostly known at the time for his role on “Star Trek,” none of my friends — who were waaaaay too cool for shows about space and stuff — understood why I loved him. Plus, he was a total beanpole. But I thought he was dreamy. With Academy Days, I got to make Wesley (and thus, Wil, as they were one and the same in my mind) treat Robin/me the way I hoped a boy or man would someday — with respect and encouragement and unwavering devotion.
At the time I had no idea about the ups and downs real relationships have. My parents appeared to be happy together and I never knew them to fight (I found out much later, when they divorcing, that any fights were just hidden from my younger brother and I). They were soul mates and so were Robin and Wesley and someday I would find my soul mate too. I would know it when it happened and it would be everything I’d imagined it to be. (This fantasy was further supported by my intense love of soap operas, another post entirely.) It really should come as no surprise that with such idealistic and romantic expectations, coupled with my introverted personality, I didn’t have my first kiss until I was 18, didn’t lose my virginity until I was nearly 21, and didn’t have my first real boyfriend until I was 23. I delayed those milestones for as long as I could, because the circumstances that presented themselves never fit my magical expectations, and when they finally happened they were, surprise, surprise, a disappointment. It took me a long time — long after I stopped working on Academy Days and lost interest in Wil Wheaton — to find a balance between my romantic expectations and how cynical reality could make you. But I’m so glad to have had — created! — a safe outlet for myself to explore those feelings and desires that I, as a young teen, wasn’t yet prepared to put into practice.
Nowadays, I don’t spend much time daydreaming about my future love life and how it will be. I occasionally pick up Academy Days and have an affectionately embarrassed laugh at 12-year-old Amelia’s romanticism and awkward grasp of fake technological jargon, but mostly, I’m proud of her. She was so unapologetically herself. So while I don’t think Academy Days is my best writing, sometimes I think it was the most brave.