IDIC (glossary term)

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If you're looking for fanworks titled IDIC, see that disambiguation.

Synonyms: I.D.I.C., Kol-Ut-Shan
See also: Vulcan, Your Kink Is Not My Kink
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“Until humans learn to tolerate -- no, that’s not enough; to positively value each other -- until we can value the diversity here on Earth, then we don’t deserve to go into outer space and encounter the infinite diversity out there.” -- Gene Roddenberry

IDIC is a canonical term from Star Trek: The Original Series and stands for "Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations." In Star Trek canon, IDIC is a Vulcan philosophy and also a prestigious Vulcan award of merit. The phrase in Vulcan is Kol-Ut-Shan.[1]

"The glory of creation is in its infinite diversity."

"And the ways our differences combine to create meaning and beauty."
-- Miranda and Spock, "Is There In Truth No Beauty?" (Star Trek: The Original Series)

"We've each learned to be delighted with what we are. The Vulcans learned that centuries before we did."
"It is basic to the Vulcan philosophy, sir. The combination of a number of things to make existence worthwhile."
-- Kirk and Spock, "The Savage Curtain" (Star Trek: The Original Series)

In my time, we knew not of Earthmen. I am pleased to see that we have differences. May we together become greater than the sum of both of us.

-- 'Surak', "The Savage Curtain" (Star Trek: The Original Series) [2]

The Philosophy

Gene Roddenberry originated the IDIC philosophy as a Vulcan belief:
"Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations represents a Vulcan belief that beauty, growth, progress -- all result from the union of the unlike. Concord, as much as discord, requires the presence of at least two different notes. The brotherhood of man is an ideal based on learning to delight in our essential differences, as well as learning to recognize our similarities. The circle and triangle combine to produce the gemstone in the center as the union of words and music creates song, or the union of marriage creates children. [3]

Star Trek fandom quickly adopted the IDIC philosophy and internalized it to the point where it has become a cornerstone of real world fannish interactions. [4] "IDIC" is often used in fandom as shorthand for "To each her own," or to indicate respect for fans with different preferences -- primarily, in the matter of whether or not one approves of explicit, X-rated fanfiction, especially slash and depictions of unconventional sexual practices. [5]

Because for all that Trek was supposedly about New Worlds and New Civilization, when it was at its best it was always about understanding youself by seeing yourself through new eyes. IDIC isn't about notching some kind of cosmic bedpost, it's about the way that listening to a thousand different viewpoints is still not enough to tell the whole story - but that doesn't mean you stop asking. [6]

However, some fans are "turned off" by the Doylist revelation that the introduction of the IDIC symbol was pushed into the show by Gene Roddenberry, as a commercial for IDIC merchandise. [7] The practice of offering a premium within a program (for kids or adults) is as old as radio. Roddenberry may have been thinking of this practice when he thought of putting the IDIC on the show, rather than merely offering it to fans.[8]

Responding to a question on Quora, "IDIC (Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations) is, essentially, a recipe for pure chaos. However Vulcans are all but defined by their adherence and respect for logic. How are these two fundamental principles not completely at odds with each other?", Josh Engel wrote:

Written 20 Mar 2014
Well, given that the entire thing is mostly a way to sell merchandise, I don't really give it a whole lot of thought. Look at the shots of the IDIC; imagine them with QVC text over them. That's exactly what was going on.

As philosophy, there's just nothing there. Supposedly, Roddenberry half-assed something out there, but if it ever existed it hasn't been preserved.

So, we can make something up. It's notable that this isn't too long after Chomsky made a major realization out of the fact that we can make an infinite number of novel sentences through combinatorics. This was a major shift in the way we thought about language, since it overthrew a behaviorist model in which every sentence you spoke was primarily based on sentences you had heard before. It wasn't a very good idea in the first place, and Chomsky's new model is the foundation of modern linguistics.

That jibes with what little we get describing it:

Dr. Jones: The glory of creation is in its infinite diversity.
Mr. Spock: And the ways our differences combine, to create meaning and beauty.

Yeah, it also combines to create infinite suck, and there's no moral philosophy implied. It's just a reminder of the way the interest in life is in its combinations rather than just a bunch of arbitrary stuff. Pretty thin philosophy for a money grab.[9]

Origins

Advertisement for the IDIC in Inside Star Trek 12, May 1969.

Fans first heard of the IDIC in the summer of 1968 via a "Vulcan Pendent" announcement, probably written by Roddenberry himself and published in the first issue of Inside Star Trek (July 1968, pp. 15–16). It describes "ardent rock hound and amateur lapidary" Roddenberry as having come up with the Vulcan philosophy after he presented Leonard Nimoy with a unique "hand-crafted piece of jewelry," a "pendent" [sic] of polished yellow gold (circle) and florentined white gold (triangle), with a stone of brilliant white fabulite — an artificial gem "developed by the laser industry and used in space mechanisms for its optical qualities," and thus well-suited as a gift for an actor in a science fiction show. Readers were encouraged to submit their interest in such a product to the Star Trek Enterprises mail order firm. It was noted that "less expensive materials" would keep costs down. The IDIC was first offered for sale in May 1969, first as a special announcement sent out to fans and then on page 4 of Inside Star Trek 12.

The Vulcan IDIC pendant was designed by Gene Roddenberry as a marketing premium long before the third season. As early as the end of the first season, fans of the show had begun writing in asking for copies of the scripts, film clip frames, etc., and these were soon sold through Roddenberry's "Star Trek Enterprises", run at that time by Bjo and John Trimble before Roddenberry renamed it Lincoln Enterprises and turned it over to Majel Barrett. As evidenced in some of his letters and memos, Roddenberry was fond of circle-and-triangle designs and had wanted to use them for purposes of theatrical unity as early as the first season's "The Return of the Archons".

The appeal of a pendant or medallion with a Vulcan theme for young viewers in the 1960s cannot be overstated. There was already a demonstrable fan craving for any souvenir of the show, and this was the first item to be specifically manufactured for the fans. Medallions on long chains were extremely stylish in 1968, many featuring Gerald Holtom's familiar peace symbol. The IDIC was instantly and enthusiastically embraced as a "Vulcan peace symbol". Along with the Vulcan hand salute and the phrases Peace and long life / Live long and prosper, IDIC was a recognizable code symbol for the growing subculture of Star Trek fandom.

It was a masterpiece of timeliness and astute marketing instinct on the part of Roddenberry. Star Trek was first developed in 1964 and came to fruition in 1966, almost exactly coinciding with the hippie/counterculture movement with its 'peace' hand salute and identifying phrases like "do your own thing", "make love, not war", being "on the bus", and "turn on, tune in, drop out".[10]

According to the blog Star Trek Fact Check, "Roddenberry first tried to include the IDIC at the end of 'Spock's Brain"... In a July 10, 1968 memo to Fred Freiberger, Roddenberry outlined his idea for a scene with the IDIC. Perhaps emphasizing the importance the jewelry had to Roddenberry, the memo was titled 'Spock's Medallion.'

"This proposed epilogue began with Uhura presenting Spock with 'a boxed item from the junior officers of the vessel, which they have had made up to show their delight that Spock has been brought back to life.' Inside the box, of course, is the IDIC medallion, which Roddenberry says 'has great meaning to all Vulcans' and is 'like the cross' to Christians and similar symbols to other religions and creeds. ... Freiberger elected to ignore Roddenberry's story suggestion, likely because it was too late to implement in the episode."[11]

Roddenberry was successful in inserting the IDIC into the episode "Is There In Truth No Beauty?". According to William Shatner in Star Trek Memories, the book about TOS he dictated to Chris Kreski[12] Roddenberry sent down several pages of new script for the dinner scene, in which Spock was to give a long-winded explanation of the philosophy. The actors all knew IDIC was a mere advertising toy. Worse, Leonard Nimoy found the dialogue "deadly dull and almost completely pointless... we were both just babbling at each other." The episode's director, Ralph Senensky, said that Leonard Nimoy first phoned producer Fred Freiberger about the IDIC debacle; Freiberger wouldn't do anything, so Leonard called Roddenberry.[13] Nimoy confirms this in Star Trek Memories and adds: "Overnight, the irrelevant scene had been replaced with a far more irrelevant scene. The dialogue now consisted of Diana Muldaur asking me something like, 'What's that medallion you’re wearing, Spock?,' and I explain that it's an IDIC and then I proceed to spend the next page-and-a-half explaining exactly what this IDIC is and why it's so great."

While Senensky remembered Roddenberry "vehemently denied these accusations" that the IDIC was a premium,[13] Shat said in his book that Roddenberry was honest about that.[12] However, the actors refused to film the scene until Roddenberry cut out the lengthy exposition.[14]

In I Am Spock, Leonard Nimoy remembered objecting to the ethics of a product insertion. While he liked the IDIC philosophy, he didn't appreciate Spock being used as a "billboard" and "the whole incident was rather unpleasant; Roddenberry was peeved at me for not wanting to help his piece of mail-order merchandise get off to a resounding start, and Fred Freiberger was peeved at me for going over his head."[15][11]

Roddenberry agreed to rewrite the scene, but explained -- again showing he had confused tie-in merchandise with in-show premiums:

The inclusion of the IDIC in that script was valid. I truly believe in the statement -- in the message behind it -- Infinite Diversity, Infinite Combinations. Why wouldn't I want that in the show? In that episode, in particular, because of the woman character having studied on Vulcan. And then taking that philosophy and making it available to the fans was something I wanted to do. Imagine the power of that -- kids wearing that and explaining to their parents and their peers what it meant. To be able to get those kind of ideas across to people who might not have ever seen the show was worth doing. Look, tie-in merchandising is part of the business of television. We had it from the start of Star Trek, with toys and comic books, and the ship model, and the record albums. Leonard didn't see how making those records was a form of exploitation, but he felt that marketing the IDIC was. He missed the point. If we were going to sell anything, it should be something with a positive message and philosophy behind it.[16]

Steve Smyth has this to say about its manufacture:

As Joshua Engel writes here, IDIC (infinite diversity in infinite cash), was purely a money grab, however, it came back to bite Gene in the ass.

He never had the pin design copyrighted, I think for fear of a legal dispute with Paramount. Remember, Paramount didn't want to pay any of the principle cast for their likenesses. The only way Leonard agreed to do Star Trek: The Motion Picture was for Paramount to pay him likeness royalties, and the only reason they did that was to get Robert Wise to direct the movie. No Nimoy, no Wise... or something like that.

Since Gene never had the design registered, shortly after this episode aired, knock off IDIC pins showed up at SF conventions around the country, selling for higher prices than the Lincoln Enterprises "official" version. Since the knockoffs were handmade, they commanded $20 or more. The official one was $7.50.

Not bad, but the knockoffs tended to be more robust. I had friends with LE pins where the plating had rubbed off, or the "white gemstone" had fallen out, or the triangle had detached due to a bad soldering job. I think what distinguished the knockoffs from the original ones was that the knockoffs tended to be cast from one piece of metal, and the settings were from better suppliers. I saw a really nice one at a con made from a solid sterling silver Triangle, solid 22k gold circle, and zirconium for the gem, in a pro setting. 75 bucks back in the day, but worth it if you were into it.[17]

This is probably the reason Paramount's never made a fine collector's edition IDIC, because you can get IDIC earrings and pins at cons and terrible to great ones on ebay every day of the week and twice on Sunday.[18]

Fan Uses of IDIC

Star Trek fans were immediately attracted to the IDIC and Lincoln Enterprises was soon flooded with orders. The symbol was subsequently offered as pendants in three sizes and as earrings, pins and patches. The largest pendant went for $7.50. Apparently Roddenberry failed to trademark the symbol for the reasons Smyth speculated, or he wanted to leave it free for public use like Gerald Holtom's original peace symbol. Today, the IDIC symbol is printed on t-shirts and hats, and has even turned up on scrabble tiles for use by crafters.

Many fannish institutions have taken their name from IDIC or related subjects. IDICon, a K/S con was held in Houston throughout the mid-'80s. The Surak Awards were named after Surak, founder of the Vulcan IDIC philosophy.

There have been several Star Trek zines and newsletters called IDIC, and others with IDIC themes, such as the United Federation of Planets Journal, which has the subtitle, "Dedicated to the Universal Understanding of I.D.I.C."

In 2009, Vividcon's Challenge show had IDIC as its prompt.

The Philosophy as Fans Saw It

IDIC was invoked frequently in the debates concerning Slash Controversies in the mid- to late 1970s. The pages of the letterzine Interstat became the home of much of this lively debate. Fans who objected to depictions of their beloved heroes in homosexual relationships, for whatever reason, were reminded that the universe has room for all and that diversities are required for health and growth. Those who felt that homosexuality itself was immoral often received an education on the gay rights movement, then in full swing. Although there were times when people seemed to use "IDIC" as short for "don't like, don't read", on the whole the discussions were intelligent and thoughtful.

  • In a 1985 issue of Interstat, a fan responds to a new subscriber's complaint about fans arguing with each other: "Those who bellow 'IDIC!' loudest in public are often those who displaythe crudest understanding of the concept...IDIC...is not a delicate, hothouse, faraway philosophical idea. It's a tough, adaptable, demanding, way of living one's life. IDIC, when confined to a television or movie screen or to the printed page, is a very pretty thing. IDIC in everyday life isn't quite so attractive; it's often aggravating as hell and ugly as sin... [reading Interstat, I] began to realize that what I was witnessing—the blood feuds, the elite alliances, the extravagant praise and vitriolic condemnations—was IDIC in action. Within the pages of Interstat...within ST fandom itself...IDIC works. Oh it creaks and groans and more often than not seems past the point of total disintegration...but it does, somehow, hold together."

Meta/Further Reading

References

  1. IDIC on Memory Alpha, the Star Trek wiki
  2. Cheap Thoughts: Variety, the Spice of Life
  3. Inside Star Trek 1, p. 15.
  4. Star trek and sacred ground by Jennifer E. Porter and Darcee L. McLaren.
  5. bradygirl_12, Recs, The Nature Of BDSM, D/s, and Other Things I understand I'm probably in the minority with this opinion but that's fine. I am happy to honor IDIC. :) Posted Jan 3, 2010. Last accessed October 25, 2010.
  6. melannen, In which I cannily pretend to talk about Star Trek, but am actually talking about fanfic instead. Posted May 4, 2007. Last accessed October 25, 2010.
  7. kindkit, TOS reviews I sort of enjoyed the discussion of the IDIC symbol (yay Kirk for coming to Spock's defense) but knowing that it was just a marketing ploy by Gene Roddenberry rather palls my enthusiasm. Posted July 10, 2009. Last accessed October 25, 2010.
  8. He stopped just short of having a special announcement at the end of the show offering IDIC to viewers for three Geritol labels and a dime. In fact, it's clear that he didn't understand the difference between tie-in merchandise (like the Enterprise models, comic books and toys) and premiums displayed in-show. For some background and examples of radio premiums, see Jim Harmon, The Great Radio Heroes (MacFarland, 2001), and the website Old-Time Radio Premiums.
  9. Josh Engel, responding to a question by Craig Weiland on Quora, "How is IDIC not completely antithetical to logic?", March 20, 2014.
  10. What we think of as "hippie" things were a combination of art and political-philosophical movements ca. 1963-1967. Originating with the Beats, they included the Diggers, the Artists Liberation Front, various craft entrepreneurships, Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters and Timothy Leary's League for Spiritual Discovery. In 1967, lured by two years of media hype about an ecstatic utopia of free sex, drugs and psychedelic music, thousands of young people flocked to the Haight-Ashbury and other districts where this was taking place. These seeking people were the ones the media referred to as "hippies". Most of them didn't realize that this was a small cultural experiment, still very much under construction, and while some of them came to understand and joined in to help, the influx of seekers essentially destroyed it. The "Summer of Love" was actually the end of the "hippie movement" on a wide scale. The movement did not die but diffused into a number of channels including commune experiments and the back to the land movement, natural/organic food, quantum mechanics research, psychedelic and progressive rock (some of which, combined with classical, jazz and indigenous/tribal music into New Age/space music) and the development of personal computers/internet. Use of LSD to gain insight and self-understanding, as well as for recreational purposes, began as early as 1960.
  11. 11.0 11.1 "Don't Know Much About Vulcan Philosophy" in Star Trek Fact Check, August 23, 2013.
  12. 12.0 12.1 William Shatner and Chris Kreski, Star Trek Memories (Harper, 1993), pp. 287-289.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Ralph Senensky, "Is There In Truth No Beauty?: Filmed July 1968", in [Ralph's Cinema Trek] probably in March 2011.
  14. Senensky confirmed this in an interview with Edward Gross for Starlog 172 in November 1991, quoted in Marc Cushman, These Are The Voyages: TOS -- Season 3 (Jacobs Brown Press, 2015).
  15. Leonard Nimoy, I Am Spock (1995), p.123-124
  16. Gene Roddenberry, interviewed by Marc Cushman in 1982 and 1990 and quoted in These Are The Voyages: TOS -- Season 3.
  17. 50th anniversary official replicas with 18k gold circles and rhodium-plated triangles are selling on eBay for $350. "This recreation, painstakingly handmade by a traditional jewelry atelier in New England, is the result of a collaboration between Roddenberry Entertainment and a community of Star Trek prop replica enthusiasts, who worked together to ensure that this is the most faithful replica ever produced. Access to original dress uniform braiding and Bill Theiss insignia patterns was obtained and used in concert with sophisticated digital modeling software to ensure that the sizing and shape contours were a perfect recreation of the original. Evoking Star Trek's simultaneous long history and vision towards the future, futuristic fabrication methods such as high-resolution 3D printing and laser micro-welding were combined with ages-old traditional hand florentine finishing techniques to yield a model with the correct contours and texture."
  18. Steve Smyth, responding to Craig Weiland's question "How is IDIC not completely antithetical to logic?", Quora, Feb. 5, 2016.