The Future of Star Trek Fandom

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Title: The Future of Star Trek Fandom
Creator: M.J. Fisher and John Baker
Date(s): April 1977
Medium: print
Fandom: Star Trek: TOS
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The Future of Star Trek Fandom is a 1977 Star Trek: TOS essay by M.J. Fisher and John Baker.

It was printed in Spectrum #31.

Some Topics Discussed

  • the trends, and where fandom was headed: "The future fandom that we envision looks upon this present period in fannish history as a halfway point in the chronology - We believe that fandom will remain quite active well into the 1980s and in general, our future fandom is based at that point in time."
  • Star Trek fandom will divide into two eras: 1. a pre-movie or a revival period, 2. a post-revival period
  • procons and their future challenges
  • fan campaigns and the pressure to bring back the third season of the show, and to convince Paramount to make Star Trek: The Motion Picture (the latter at the time of this essay was still three years from release)
  • Star Trek fandom will fade and die, but fans learned a lot of new skills

From the Essay

Before we were able to convince Paramount to go ahead with the movie, almost all of the fannish activities were geared toward revival. Pleas for revival letters filled the various newsletters and fanzine, flyers telling fans how to write a decent revival letter were carried in more fanzines than can be counted, and there was even a massive organization, S.T.A.R., whose sole purpose was revival... even STW, although not a revival organization itself, had a revival department and distributed its share of flyers too. Revival was the common goal of this period, the one activity that most fans had in common. During this time, it was our binding force, our unity, our strength.

The period following the revival period is difficult to predict from this viewpoint of fandom in the 70's. After the movie is out no one really knows what can happen. More movies, a new series, or perhaps a series of movies-of-the-week are all possible suggestions, each one being prone to the conditions and of the studio, the network, the producers and the individual actors. It's possible, some people believe, that the movie will be all that we'll achieve and that further gains will be made toward additional movies or a series.

Unfortunately, the revival mechanism cannot work indefinitely because of the nature of Star Trek. How more years of ST can be filmed before the actors decide to quit? Before the studios or network decide that it doesn't make enough money? Or before the public loses interest? Most people don't believe that Star Trek will remain viable and will continue to attract more fans each year than it loses beyond the 1980's. Gunsmoke and Bonanza lasted longer, but science fiction shows traditionally attract a smaller audience than shows like Gunsmoke. When an audience drops below a point where it can make the advertisers money, then the show is dropped. The minute Star Trek loses its audience, it too will be dropped because it will no longer be paying for itself....

The estimate of the 1980's gives us plenty of time however. ST's ratings were incorrect once and the networks and studio will study them more carefully next time around. Some people have suggested that the actors could be changed as they grow older and drop out of the cast of their own choice and in this way the show could be filmed indefinitely. That's a possibility, but in most cases a change in cast usually makes ratings drop. With everything considered, the chances look slim that Star Trek will have any hope of keeping an audience past the '80s.

Star Trek fandom should centime to grow into the 1980's. In the professional field, there will undoubtedly be books left on the market. Even if popular markets stop buying the Star Trek books, then at least the major ones (TMOST, TWOST) will continue to be sold to high school and college bookstores for SF courses. Be sure however, that many of the ST books will remain in prominence for many years to come. The more obscure professional publications, such as the blueprints, be discontinued, but most of the others should continue to make their authors $$ for some time to come. Star Trek toys will still be much in evidence in stores too, just as you can find Superman and Batman toys in stores decades after the characters were originally introduced to the public. By all outward signs, you'll find evidence of ST almost as much in the 1980's as you find today.

The only thing you won't find in abundance is the procon. The best explanation I have heard of the dilemma of the pro-con came from Beverly Clark who related a prediction about procons from a friend who is a con committee member. The big procons, she says, have driven the fancons, even the larger ones, out of operation. The procons themselves will no longer have the virtue of novelty. Most fen who are interested in going to one have already been to one before and not too many people will be willing to fork over a hefty sum to see something a second time. Indeed, because of the numbers of people that are handled in procons, most of them must use a similar plan of organization which makes many of them seem alike and leaves very little room for creativity and originality...especially In case where the con promoters are nonfans. Even the Trekkies, who comprise the vast majority of people at procons, can only gawk at the stars, from afar, so many times. One or two procons is all it takes, and beyond that level you reach a saturation point. Procons are reaching their own saturation point right now. The only successful procons in the future will be those that will be able to draw out the people who have never been to a con before. It will require massive advertising campaigns to coax more people out. This will probably make procons more "big business"-like than ever before.

Fancons, on the other hand, will still be around. Fancons in one form or another,have always been around it seems. They may not be as big as they once were, but fancons of the 80's may even be more widespread and more frequently scheduled than they are how, since by then we will have had more experience with small cons. Someone has to get the hang of things eventually...or one would hope so.

What else will you find in fandom of the future? Well, we suggest that as Star Trek begins taking in fewer and fewer fans, that fandom will begin to take in fewer & fewer neofans. That seems reasonable, doesn't it? It should also seem reasonable then that fandom will experience a decline in the number of small newsletters and local club zines that these neofans produce. There will be fewer dittozines, which is what many neofans start out publishing. Fanzines in mainstream fandom will see very little of this decline of neofan publications. Instead, mainstream fanzines will experiencea shift in emphasis toward more diverse.audiences. We suggest this because the revival incentive will be gone from the fandom of the future so that the common interests of fandom will also tend to drift apart. There will be fewer genzines that carry a little bit of everything, for everyone,,arid more specialty zines that dwell on a particular theme or area of fandom.

Beyond the 1980's, few people expect fandom to remain as large and as viable as it is today. Some people expect fandom to die out completely by the end of the decade but we believe that ST fandom may very possibly continue well on past the year 2000 in much the same way a Sherlock Holmes fandom continues to exist today, held together by a few die-hard fans. It is probable that fandom will fade away with a whimper rather than a bang, as it slowly fails to take in more fans than it loses. Local clubs will be the first to disappear since they are run mainly by fringe and neofans who do not have a big stake in fandom. Star Trek's appeal will fade first among the fringe fans as time progresses...and local clubs rely almost solely on fringe fans for their membership. Also because of this, the large cons will be next to disappear since they too rely on fringe fans, minicons should continue for some time. By the time fandom has dwindled down to a few select score of people, the large, extravagant fanzines will have disappeared. If fandom ever does die out, personal letters to other fans will be the last activity to perish

This may all be a somewhat depressing scenario to many fans especially those fans who have only recently discovered fandom. To these people, fans and fandom are a new experience - alive and viable, and active in all sorts of areas. Dwelling upon the demise of fandom isn't really the most palatable of subjects then. It's important however to look ahead and plan for eventualities, and to have a realistic approach to the future. Science fiction fandom might conceivably last for centuries, provided new science fiction is produced continually. Star Trek was, more or less, a one-of-a-kind occurrence and its fandom cannot last forever. The most important thing to realize when discussing Star Trek fandom from birth to death,is the gains that we made in fandom, as well as our greatest achievements. It's quite possible that Star Trek may turn out to be one of the most widely followed television shows of all time. Certainly it will have been considered on of the finest examples of televised SF to have been produced. Fandom will not have existed without its accomplishments either. The letter campaigns have shown to a lot of people that it is possible to make yourself heard. Just recently, the letter campaign to name the space shuttle was encouragement to many people in the space program that it is possible to raise the public awareness about space flight again.

Perhaps the best feature that fandom offers to recommend itself in the history books is the home that it has offered to countless fans, and the proving grounds it has become for many writers. We suspect that before fandom passes on that there will have been quite a few fans from its ranks move on to professional writing. In many instances fandom offers the only training ground for novice writers simply because the beginning writers don't know where to send their material. Fandom can prove to be immensely helpful in that respect because it teaches many people how to communicate. Finally, fandom has been a home for more people than one could count, who had no one else that they could relate to, or no one else they could turn to. There are a lot of special people in fandom, people with a shared spirit and ideal, and people with a seemingly common bond and compassion which is unique. If fandom is ever remembered for any one thing in the future we would like to see it remembered for the people that made it special, and made it great.

Reactions and Reviews

As for your analysis of fandom and the future, the only factor that you failed to consider is the new movie (if and when it does come off). With any type of major ST publicity, there comes an influx of neofans writing to STW (I receive about 5-6 letters a week from fans who have just discovered ST fandom who read my address in "Mudd's Angels") who in turn wish to join fandom. Any analysis of the future of fandom has to take into account any major influx of neofans into fandom because of the media. I cannot comment directly on the impact [that the neofans had] the last time because I was too busy processing and mailing out Directory orders to notice what happened. I can say, however, that the Directory changed from being club-oriented to being zine-oriented, and this trend does not seem to be dying down. [1]


  1. ^ comments by Allyson Whitfield in "Spectrum" #39