Less organic intellectuals than morbid symptoms

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L.I. Underhill is a media critic and historian specializing in pop culture, with a focus on science fiction (especially Star Trek) and video games. Their projects include a critical history of Star Trek told through the narrative of a war in time, a “heretical” history of The Legend of Zelda series and a literary postmodern reading of Jim Davis' Garfield.


  1. Adam Riggio
    September 25, 2013 @ 11:52 am

    You know, the stereotype of the lone, socially awkward, spotty, hyper-nerdy male Star Trek superfan is so prevalent that I've thought that it couldn't be entirely true. Sadly, I think it's only in the last few years that nerd culture has come to be seen for all the nuances and diversity that it really has, and has had from the beginning.

    Also very much looking forward to your take on the slash fiction.


  2. Iain Coleman
    September 26, 2013 @ 10:31 pm

    A very interesting account. I was vaguely aware of the whole letter-writing thing, but the details are fascinating.

    Just one question: how do you pronounce "Bjo"?


  3. Josh Marsfelder
    September 27, 2013 @ 7:39 am

    I believe the "B" that stands for Betty is meant to be pronounced-So it would be something like "B-Jo".


  4. Alphapenguin
    September 28, 2013 @ 11:50 am

    You know, it's funny that one never hears about the contributions of female fandom to this whole enterprise (pun absolutely intended). And by funny I mean tragic. Seriously, this is the first time I've ever heard of any of this. I can't thank you enough for doing this project.


  5. Josh Marsfelder
    September 29, 2013 @ 11:40 am

    You're very welcome, and thank you for reading it!

    One of my Twitter friends gave me a link to a survey of Star Trek fandom, and one of the biggest things it highlighted was that the fandom is actually largely female (a 57%/43% split advantage women, according to this study). This actually doesn't surprise me in the slightest: In my experience there's at least two distinct Star Trek cultures.

    1968 is when I think this divide started to become apparent. It gradually becomes more distinct and blatant throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Actually, the post for Monday (as of this writing) talks a bit more about the kind of thing that made up early female fandom.


  6. Iain Coleman
    October 1, 2013 @ 1:27 pm

    Thank you. I had always, ignorant of its derivation, pronounced it as if it were some Scandinavian name, so "Byo". Must recalibrate.


  7. Josh Marsfelder
    October 1, 2013 @ 2:16 pm

    No worries. I did the same thing before I figured out "Bjo" was supposed to be short for "Betty JoAnne".


  8. Daru
    October 4, 2013 @ 1:03 am

    I had read quite a bit about Bjo's campaign in various Trek biographies. Illuminating hearing about the numbers of women involved in Trek fandom. I do as a male get rather fed up with the overall terrible image of the white geeky male fan (even though I am one!) I do feel pretty lucky though to have a female partner who shares a love of sc fi, Trek and Doctor Who with me.


  9. Jack Graham
    October 4, 2013 @ 10:42 pm

    It's also interesting to me that this all happened in 1968 – the absolute peak year of popular resistance and protest in the second half of the twentieth century, coming after the rise of the civil rights movement, etc. At the very least, the 'Save Star Trek' people must have had an awareness, at the back of their minds, of the other issues people were waving placards about. This is a very polite, middle-class dabbling in the safer style of protest – writing letters asking for concessions, at the initial suggestion of a personally-interested bigwig – but still, it looks like a whimsical demonstration of the way people in '68 thought they could change the world through demands… especially if one of the key issues was an attachment based on progressive representations.


  10. Froborr
    October 9, 2014 @ 11:02 am

    Ah, this was great to read, as it really highlights a point I think too few people in a variety of fandoms get. (Most recently I blogged about this in regards to the Legend of Korra fandoms inability to understand Nickelodeon's decision to make the series web-only.) You never explicitly state it, but you seem to get the fundamental truth of television as a capitalist enterprise: viewers are not the customers; shows are not the product. Advertisers are the customers, viewers are the product being sold, and shows the equipment used to manufacture that product.


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