The Final Frontier: How Star Trek Helped Me Become a Writer

Star_Trek3I was obsessed with the original Star Trek series when I was kid. I loved everything from the tacky alien creatures to Uhura’s minidress. I memorized the voiceover:

Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.

No need to go into gender politics here. When I was a kid, I didn’t feel left out by that “man” anyhow. I knew the voice (which seemed like the voice of god) spoke to me too. I was already leaning into my wandering self. The explorer. The adventurer. Yearning to venture out of my rundown neighborhood and away from the older bully girl who lived down the street. By the time I discovered Star Trek, I already had a vibrant inner storytelling life.

For example, I’d make Barbie and Ken have monkey sex in the back of the Barbie airplane even though I didn’t know what sex was exactly. But it felt elicit and thrilling and scary. And then Dawn would get in on it and tie Barbie up because she was jealous. I knew that was almost-perverted because they were still naked (gasp), but I didn’t care. I was telling a story. (Sugar and spice, I was not. I was destined to write crime fiction.)

So, yeah, I inhabited a pretty strange frontier, and somehow Star Trek made that OK. As I grew older, I watched The Next Generation and the rest of the Star Trek franchise. Always, the crew was off on some new jaunt, seeking out new life and new civilizations — all those undiscovered lands. I continued pushing against my tiny known universe and exploring my undiscovered inner lands until one fevered night during high school I penned my first poem. That was it. I was a goner.

To me, the final frontier isn’t space. It’s the human brain. Our big noggins with their billions of synaptic circuits firing off signals that lead to grand feats like writing novels. And sometimes it’s downright scary inside my head as I’m developing a new story idea. It’s a good thing Star Trek taught me that when entering Klingon territory, do it with thrusters on full and Scotty manning the warp core.

That’s not all Star Trek taught me:

When the token black guy beams down to the planet with the team: foreshadowing!

When Kirk puts on his boots while sitting on his bed: subtext!

When Spock battles his emotions: character development!

When the blond chick with the braided bouffant appears: subplot! (Maybe that was only my imagination. I thought for sure there was a romance brewing between her and Kirk.)

When McCoy argues with Kirk, or Spock, or Scotty: conflict!

When the Klingons fire on the U.S.S. Enterprise and the crew tilts in their chairs: crisis!

When Kirk has a nice little chuckle at the end of it all: denouement!

When you think about it, when we start new stories, we’re boldly going where we’ve never gone before, where no one else but us could go. It always feels like the final frontier all over again. But we’re bold, so we go.

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Lisa Alber is the author of KILMOON, A COUNTY CLARE MYSTERY (March 2014). Ever distractible, you may find her staring out windows, dog walking, fooling around online, or drinking red wine with her friends. Ireland, books, animals, photography, and blogging at Lisa Alber's Words at Play round out her distractions. Visit her at www.lisaalber.com.

14 thoughts on “The Final Frontier: How Star Trek Helped Me Become a Writer

  1. Star Trek and Barbies. Love it. I played with Barbies until I was in high school, enacting multifaceted dramas that went on for years. Big surprise that I went on to write novels.

  2. Hey Lady-Best blog ever and I thought I was the only one who did that with Barbie and Ken. You have taken many of us back in time with that one and the Star Trek analogy is grand, especially for those of us who are Trek Freaks. Nicely done.

    • Hey! Thanks! Now I’m trying to imagine what kind of shenanigans your Barbie and Ken got up to … Given your prodigious imagination I probably come nowhere close!

  3. People used to look at me like I was weird when I told them how I played with my Barbies, but now I know I’m not the only one 😉

    I love how you describe the human brain as the final frontier, and a sometimes scary place. One of my creative writing mentors used to always tell me, “If you’re gonna go there, go there.” Your post reminded me of her.

  4. BEST. BLOG. EVER. Seriously Lisa, this post is spot on about Star Trek and how it jump starts our creative side byexploring the new worlds of our imagination.

    Well done my friend.

    • I agree. Pooh Bear isn’t meant for sure adventures…But, jeez, Barbie! Given the ridiculous, unrealistic body evil Mattel gave her, how could she not have x-rated adventures? 🙂

  5. Ha ha! I tied up my Barbie too and always wondered what weird sick thing that said about me. Now I know it was just my inner novelist ratcheting up the tension on my heroine. Thanks! And I agree about Star Trek. The writing was always great. It’s one of the only shows that regularly invaded my dreams.

    • You sicko! But then, I always knew that about you. Still waters run deep…or would that be still waters run a little twisted? Hey, but whatever makes us good novelists in the here and now, right?

    • Hi Kristan! Thanks for visiting! Have to say, I’m so relieved that I’m not the only one who got up to nasty Barbie shenanigans. Whew! It’s funny how we think we must be so weird — then find our we’re normal (or almost) as pie. Going to check out your post right now. Long live and prosper!

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