You may have noticed that I’ve been blogging less frequently in the last several months. Part of the reason is that I’m trying to make some headway on my devil project during the semester, so a lot of my excess intellectual energy is taken up with that. (Though I’ve written posts on the devil in earlier phases of my research, I generally don’t find it helpful to blog about something that I’m actively drafting.) I’ve also continued to be generally busy for the whole school year, as The Girlfriend’s move to Minneapolis has further complicated an already travel-heavy lifestyle (by my standards).
All of that presumably makes sense. What perhaps makes less sense is that I’m contributing multiple posts per week to the Daystrom Institute, a Star Trek subreddit. I mentioned this a couple months ago, and things have if anything gotten worse since then. I’ve continued to stake out unpopular positions — for instance, I think Enterprise was actually pretty good, all things considered — but my most explosive contributions have challenged the “fundamentalist” approach to Star Trek that most hardcore fans embrace. Most recently, I proposed that maybe we shouldn’t take the specific future calendar dates mentioned in Star Trek literally, since doing so results in the bizarre situation that Star Trek’s future takes place in our past (most notably, Khan should have been a warlike dictator in the 1990s).
Why bother? I think part of it is a simple desire to satisfy my desire for online argument in a no-stakes environment. It’s much easier to agree to disagree about the dating of the Eugenics Wars than about serious political issues. In a weird way, too, these very debates are becoming a kind of “comfort food,” much like Star Trek itself — because they really do feel like debates with biblical fundamentalists. More specifically, they’re like an idealized version of those debates, with the edges sanded off and some (though strangely not all!) of the self-seriousness and self-righteousness deflated. I was always fascinated with the Bible and wished that I could find someone willing to discuss and debate it without prematurely shutting down the conversation or worrying about my soul. It’s really hard to find that sweet spot with the Bible even now.
This exercise is also helpful in that it retrospectively shows the fundamentalist enterprise to be one of treating all the biblical traditions as belonging to a coherent “fictional universe.” Obviously biblical fundamentalists don’t embrace that term, but neither do Star Trek fundamentalists — for them, we must treat the onscreen events as real, or else we’re lost in the seas of relativism. The only difference is that the Star Trek fundamentalists no longer view Star Trek as our possible future. Their strict adherence to the canon means that all the events we see are also the result of an alternate past (which “forked” with the premature invention of transparent aluminum or something). The biblical fundamentalists, by contrast, are willing to continually retcon the struggle against Antiochus Epiphanes or Nero into the future.