Trekkie (glossary term)

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Synonyms: trekker, STrekfan, strekfan, stfan
See also: X-Phile, Wingnut, Brony, Browncoat, FoLC, Scaper, Senner
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Tradition holds that Trekkie is a term used by outsiders to describe Star Trek fans and that the competing term Trekker was used by Star Trek fans to describe themselves. Some of the nuances have been lost by now.

This distinction, however, may never have been universally true: for example, see Trekkie Talk, published in Australia in the 1970s. At times, "trekkie" was considered offensive, but the explanation for the difference between the terms has been in wide circulation long past the point where anyone actually cared; because the distinction was recorded in a variety of sources, including academic publications and statements by industry people connected to the franchise, new generations of fans could read all about it, but the original context was lost.

fan-made button reading I'm a Trekker. These buttons were most likely worn at conventions and other fan gatherings

The Earliest Use

Deck 6 (May 1970 issue) is perhaps the earliest use in print making a distinction between "trekkie" and "trekker." The editor writes: "... when I start acting like a bubble-headed trekkie (rather than a sober, dignified--albeit enthusiastic-- trekker...)."

David Gerrold states that he began to hear it used in 1973. [1]

Definitions from "The STrekfan's Glossary of Abbreviations and Slanguage"

From 1976:

Trekkie: "Although the mundane world makes no distinction between Trekkie and any other term for the ST fan, Trekkie is considered odd, unfitting and even derogatory to some serious ST fans."

Trekker: "This term is more accepted within fandom and carry the connotation of the serious, mature student of the show and of fandom."

Fans Respond

[1974]: Like all Star Trek cons, this one had its share of Trekkies. To some people Trekkie refers to any Star Trek fan, but most ST fans find the word demeaning. I myself apply the term to female ST fans who squeal at the thought of just seeing one of the Star Trek cast in person. There were defiantly some of those at Houston. Trekkies are usually less mature than most ST fans and tend to make a nuisance of themselves. [2]
[1975]: The appellation 'Trekkie' never bothered me, until someone started screaming it ain't dignified. Yawn. It's okay, I guess, altho' personally prefer Trekfan. Of course, 'Starswarmies' wouldn't be bad, either, if the general population associated them with intelligent, concerned, orderly beings. The trouble with 'Trekkie' is that it conveys a teeny-bopper image -- not the word itself, but the image of 'fans gathering at conventions to get a glimpse of Mr. Spock,' as some TV newspaper columnists have written... [3]
[1975]: Trekkie' comes from the 'Trekkiebopper' as an analogy of the then current term, 'Teeniebopper' (See the TV Guide of the same period). 'Trekfan' is mostly a midwest term, coined by the locals on the examples of genfan [general science fiction fan], comicfan and serconfan etc. The plural is trekfen. Other terms are Trekfan, Strekfan, strekfan, STfan... Captial usage is variable, but generally, trek fan and trekker are uncapitalized. Trekker is an East Coast term, I am unsure of the derivation.[4]
[1976]: What many people outside of STAR TREK fandom don't seem to realize is that there are two rather distinctly different types of Star Trek fans: Trekkers and Trekkies. And Star Trek fandom tends to suffer because of this misunderstanding. There are two different outlooks that separate the Trekker and the Trekkie: The Trekker is the serious, dedicated, and hardworking fan who is seriously into ST fandom trying to get something constructive done while still meeting people and making friends. But Trekkies- are. inconsiderate, disruptive kids who are simply along for the ride. The Trekker sees Star Trek as the only recent television show that treated science fiction in an adult, painstakingly authentic, highly entertaining manner by craftsmen who (because of their dedication and skill) make the future come alive. Trekkers give freely of their time, energy, and resources to get things done. They tend to be the organizers, the volunteers, the hard and consistent workers, the editors and officers. They run the service organizations like the Star Trek Welcommittee. Prime examples of Trekkers: John and Bjo Trimble, David Gerrold, Allyson Whitfield. Trekkies on the other hand, see Star Trek as just another exciting TV show. And the fandom associated with it simply another "in-group" they can try to join. They can always be seen, running all over, zapping everyone with their toy phasers, dressed in their spockears and uniforms. They are consumers of anything that says Star Trek or has a picture of Spock on it. Their only aim is to have fun. Trekkies are. forever quoting their favorite character, but are very apathetic when it comes to working on club activities and volunteer projects. Trekkers are responsible for most of the good things that have been done in Star Trek fandom. Trekkies, unfortunately, are responsible for the bad impression the general public has of Star Trek fans.[5]
[1977]: The argument is all about the nicknames for Star Trek fans, besides "Trekfan", "Freak", and "Them Nuts". "Trekkie" and "Trekker". Now in print it is generally "Trekkie". (From Gerrold, no less.) I do not know if this is only in the Northwest, but also used is the term "Trekker". Fine, Nifty. "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." But, there are those who go into cardiac arrest at being deferred to as "Trekkies", preferring "Trekker" as they feel "Trekkie" is too close to the despised term "Groupie", and they consider themselves seriously. "Trekkie" does sound rather like a little girl clutching a Spock doll, but that's no reason to have a heart attack. Trekker, on the other hand, also sounds a trifle stupid. The 430-odd people of the USS Enterprise are trekkers, they are going somewhere. The rest of us who sit on our bums and watch them are trekkies, recipients of their trekdom. [6]
[1977]: Many, many times I have been insulted by being called a "Trekkie". How can that be an insult you inquire? Simple. In implying that I am a "Star Trek" follower they must realize that in being a "Star Trek" follower I have dignity. Therefore, I do not wish to be lowered, nor do I wish the name of "Star Trek" to be disgraced.

Allow me to explain. When you use the word "Trekkie" you make someone sound like a freak-type groupie. On the other hand, when you say "Trekker" you allow the person a little dignity and pride. "Trekkie" sounds childish. "Trekker" is bold and worthy. Like "soldier". "Trekker" is dependable. In using the word "Trekkie" you are degrading the name "Star Trek" itself. It sounds like "Treky". Is that what we want to be called...? A "Treky"?

So please, we have a certain image to uphold; therefore, in the name of Trekkers everywhere, correct friends, relatives, and newspapers when they carry out thoughtless acts. [7]
[1980]: The term "Trekkie" is often used to make fun of Star Trek fans, attempting to picture them as juvenile science fiction groupies. The term "Trekker" is somewhat better, but still bears too much resemblance to "Trekkie" to be acceptable. Thus, the term "Trekkerian" has arisen to indicate those individuals seriously into Star Trek, not only on the level of a quality science-fiction program, but as an approach to life, a philosophy that all individuals can benefit from studying. The principles of IDIC, of the Prime Directive, the message of hope and love seen throughout the series can, if applied to our own lives, enrich them enormously. [8]
[1981]: A couple of years later, I came under attack in the pages of an east coast fanzine. The reason was unimportant, it was just my turn in the bucket; but one of the crimes I was accused of committing was of "pandering to the massed Trekkies at Torcon II." [...] Trekkies?!! I hadn't seen any Trekkies. I had seen two thousand science-fiction fans, ninety percent of the attendance of the 1973 World Science Fiction Convention. What made them Trekkies all of a sudden? That they were willing to sit an hour and a half in a very hot room waiting to see an animated cartoon? They could just as easily been defined as a bunch of science-fiction fans who just like Star Trek a lot. [...] But—one of the things that bothered me the most about that incident was that the author of the article had used the word Trekkie as an epithet—as if it were something to be ashamed of.

It wasn't too long after that, that I first heard the phrase, "We're not Trekkies, We're Trekkers." I heard it from a twenty-three year old man who was wearing a blue velour shirt with a Starfleet insignia over the heart, pointed ears and arched eyebrows. He was carrying a lucite ray gun and wearing flared trousers and boots. He didn't have to explain what he meant—he didn't want to be confused with all those people that everybody was saying such terrible things about. He wanted it understood that he was a serious fan of Star Trek.

I heard that statement quite a few more times—it's even shown up in the letters column of this magazine. And every time I hear it, it distresses me—because it is one more Star Trek fan falling into the prejudice trap: he's accepting the validity of the epithet—that to be a Trekkie is shameful—and he is thereby accepting someone else's definition of that particular kind of identity. When he then says, "Oh, no—we're not Trekkies, we're Trekkers," he is agreeing by implication that yes, "All those terrible Trekkies really are ruining the neighborhood." The fan who said it didn't realize what he was saying, but he was admitting that he was ashamed to be a Star Trek fan. It doesn't really make much difference one way or the other if a fan calls himself a Trekkie or a Trekker or anything else—but the kind of part-time bigots who complain about "all those terrible Trekkies" can't tell the difference and don't care if there is one. This young Trekker who was very concerned that I understand the difference did not understand that it makes no difference at all to the people who laid that head-trip on him in the first place. [9]
[1991]: Are we Trekkies or Trekkers? In my opinion, it's not what you answer to, but how the studio views you that counts in the long run. I don't mind being called a Trekkie... The mundane-on-the-street who views us as weirdoes doesn't seem to care what we call ourselves: it's all one to him or her. And Paramount seems not to care, either. The past few years, the Star Trek people, who used to value every fan (back when they were struggling and needed every fan), now seem to treat Trekkies and Trekkers with equal contempt, and as many of us, including some of the better pro writers, have recently discovered. Will we gain respect of Paramount and the general public through use of a generic word to describe ourselves? We haven't heard yet, have we? As for me, I've been considered a weirdo for over 40 years, so I don't suppose that can be changed. But I feel no qualms about calling myself a Trekkie and proving that Im not a foot or a sucker... It's occurred to me that if we do want the studio's respect... perhaps we shouldn't call ourselves by either name; nor should we call ourselves fans... We should start calling ourselves 'patrons' and 'customers' because that's what we are. Ultimately, as a group, we pay these peoples' wages -- a fact that I think they'd prefer to forget.[10]
[1993]:

So who invented the word Trekkie'? Surely not a fan. I can quite easily imagine a group of hunters prowling around video stores and book shops, calling out "Here Trekkie Trekkie", blowing into a communicator whistle. I once read somewhere that "we" prefer to be called 'Trekkers'. Despite being infinitely more dignified, it still sounds daft - a hike, anyone? So next time you go to say "I'm a Trekker" or "I'm a Trekkie", instead say "I'm a Star Trek fan and I'm proud of it" and see what the response is.

My mind takes me back to the Saturday Night Live sketch set at a Trek convention. All of the people there were the stereotypical fan, as described in my first paragraph. Although sometimes we need to laugh at ourselves (some of that sketch was genuinely funny; some sadly true) it was quite unnecessary for William Shatner to appear and make the comments he did. "Get a life", he said. As fans it's us who gave him a life - a damn good one at that. Surely we deserve some respect from him? At least most of the other stars take the time to talk to their fans at conventions - strange we may be, but we pay their bills and they know it. [11]
[1994]: I was told for years that the Trekkies were the people who just watched the show and were fans and had a good time with it, and the Trekkers were the "get a life, move out of your mother's house and get a girlfriend" people. These are the ones who not only can exzplain how warp engines work, but they petitio9n the government to use them. Then I came to college this fall and got a lot of people pissed because I called them trekkies. I guess the definations were reversed whereever they come from. [12]
[1994]: I've always viewed 'Trekkers' as the people who are way too serious about what they're called (and about the show), and 'Trekkies' as people like myself, who have a good sense of humor about it and don't much care what they're called (within reason :). [13]
[1994]: "Trekkie" was the original term used for Star Trek fans, but be cause it was also frequently used as an insult, someone somewhere came up wi th "Trekker". Many people think Trekkie is insulting and many others think that Trekker is snobbish and arrogant. There is ABSOLUTLY NO Distinction bet ween the two, which has cuased me to revert to calling people "Star Trek fans." [14]
[1997:] Are we STILL talking about this?

Let me start off with a joke that someone else posted....

What's the difference between a trekker and a trekkie.... Trekkers wonder what sex is like in zero g and trekkies wonder what sex is....

That said.

I am an original fan of Star Trek. I started out as a trekkie. We were all called that at the beginning. Then, there were those of us who moved beyond being groupies and became trekkers. I think, but am not certain, that the phrase was actually put into usage by Bjo Trimble. She is definitely an original ST fan.

I and many others have been calling ourselves trekkers for over 20 years. Trekkies are groupies. Those people who get married in line in costume and who indeed make it a point to be dressed in costume. They are the ones who seek out the camera showing the rest of the world that ST fans are a bunch of groupies. Trekkers duck the camera. Geez, how many ascension ceremonies do I hear of being preformed at cons?

Trekkers have outgrown the need to be groupies. We are professionals but admit that part of the impetious to becoming a professional was began with Star Trek. I am a writer. I started out writing ST fiction. In fact, examples of that work got me legitimate work. I have even done articles about the original series and ST:TNG. I too acknowledge my debt to ST. But, I guarantee you that I don't have a costume in my closet. [15]
[1997]: I believe that "Trekkers" refers to ST fans, whereas "Trekkies" refers

to the hopeless and blind ST fanatics.

You don't hear too much about "Trekkies" anymore -- probably b/c there doesn't seem to be too much to be fanatic about anymore. Though I personally think DS9 is Great! [16]


[2001]: Trekkie is such a negative, inflaming word to my generation of fans; I see fire every time it’s used in relation to my work. Despite the fact that I break it down systematically, multiple times, in my writing, still, about the half the time writers who write about Textual Poachers use the word ‘Trekkie’, and the rest of them describe the book as being about Trek fans despite the fact that it’s about all sorts of media fans.[17]

Meta/Further Reading

External Links

References

  1. Pride & Prejudice, David Gerrold, from Starlog #43, February 1981, page 22-23
  2. HoustonCon 71-74: Star Trek's Koenig a Big Hit, Archived version
  3. from The Halkan Council #9 (August 1975)
  4. from The Halkan Council #9 (August 1975)
  5. from A Piece of the Action #37 (March 1976)
  6. from Saurian Brandy/Dandelion Wine January 1977
  7. from Saurian Brandy/Dandelion Wine January 1977
  8. from the editorial of Universal Understanding #1
  9. Pride & Prejudice, David Gerrold, from Starlog #43, February 1981, page 22-23
  10. from Comlink #48 (1991)
  11. Martin Eade in Constellation #144
  12. Lysator, Cassie N., dated January, 1994.
  13. Lysator, Angela R, dated January, 1994.
  14. Lysator, DARVOS, dated January, 1994.
  15. What Do We Call Ourselves?, comment by Mark, November 9, 1997
  16. What Do We Call Ourselves?, comment by Phillip, October 23, 1997
  17. Henry Jenkins. Intensities interview at Console-ing Passions, University of Bristol, July 7, 2001. pdf