THE PEOPLE meeting in a pavilion at Seattle’s Magnuson Park on a cool, rainy morning in late April look much like any other handful of humanoids. But drawing closer, I see Star Trek magazines on the table and Star Trek-themed masks. Chat about the weather refers to Ferenginar — a famously rainy planet from the world of Star Trek.
The Star Trek Fans of Seattle have gathered to discuss the latest news from a sprawling science-fiction universe that kicked off as a TV series in 1966, picked up momentum with “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” in 1979 and has exploded like a supernova since then.
That’s one nice thing about Star Trek: “There’s so much material,” says group member Sean Quinlan, who listens to podcasts to keep up with all things Trek: TV, movies, books, conventions, graphic novels, collectibles.
Many of the fans have attended conventions, where it’s easy to strike up a conversation based on shared interests.
“We have this common language — ‘Remember when Spock did that thing?’ ” says EV VanderWeil, who brought “tube grubs” (gummy worms) to share at the meeting. “Everybody knows what you’re talking about.”
This group typically meets one Saturday morning a month to discuss Star Trek — what’s going on with current series and what’s on the horizon. When conditions allow, some of them will meet to watch the shows.
Other Star Trek fans are more into cosplay, dressing as characters from any number of races, galaxies and time periods of the fictional universe. Many groups, including Star Trek Fans of Seattle, organize on Meetup. You also can find a local chapter of STARFLEET, an international association of Star Trek fans, via its website.
There’s a lot to catch up on right now. With a handful of Star Trek TV shows launching in recent years, fans have more to celebrate than ever — although they’ll never all agree on which specific series is the best. But Star Trek fans do agree on a lot. For one thing, they’re interested in science and the idea of using it to seek out new worlds.
They appreciate Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and his vision of a mostly positive future for humanity. He imagined that after much hardship, people of Earth would learn to get along and focus their energy on exploration and invention rather than on fighting each other. VanderWeil calls this ethos “the DNA of optimism” that runs through everything Star Trek.
The Seattle group’s organizer, Terri Rollins, says she likes that Star Trek is about our own potential. It gives her, she says, “the hopeful feeling that we’re not going to destroy ourselves in the future, as a race.”
Others say they like the way Star Trek explores how individuals interact and solve problems together. Each person on a starship has a unique way to contribute to the whole. “The captain can look at the first officer or the helmsman, asking ‘What do we do? These people have something to say, and they may have a better idea,’ ” says Gary Coon.
Star Trek’s celebration of diversity — evident from the start and even more prominent in later iterations — encourages fans to go beyond their own origins and dream big. Multitalented Mae Jemison, the first woman of color to go into space, has said Star Trek helped encourage her to pursue becoming an astronaut. As VanderWeil says, “It was always asking ‘What if?’ and ‘Why not?’ ”