Christmas and Easter nihilists

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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 19, 2013 @ 11:53 pm

    So I'm very interested to see what you have to say about Spock's Brain when we come around to that one.

    I, at least, am one other Star Trek fan who's counted the Omega Glory as pretty racist, and the cheese liberally applied throughout as the cast and crew's attempt to make it non-horrifying.

    Your approach to literary criticism is quite intriguing as well. You and Phil Sandifer both have introduced me to new ways of reading texts, which I was never exposed to as a student. However, my own graduate background is in philosophy, and I never did a literary studies course beyond the second-year level (another casualty of hiring mediocre per-course professors to teach lower-level courses is that they lose a lot of good students like me to other disciplines). Are these other approaches to reading standard issues in graduate programs in literary theory? Or are you an eccentric in this area as well?


  2. Josh Marsfelder
    September 20, 2013 @ 11:06 am

    What's funny to me is I never took a literary studies course either. My specialization was, and still is, in Anthropology and Social Studies of Knowledge.

    So I suppose in that regard I'm pretty unorthodox. What was great about the programme I took is that we strove very hard to be inclusive and multidisciplinary; to take the best approaches we could find from sociology, history, cultural studies, media studies, philosophy, social justice activism, art and creative writing and apply them to the issue of studying technoscience, but more broadly studying how positionalities interact in Western and Non-Western societies.

    In many ways this is just what postmodern anthropology, Social Studies of Knowledge and Science and Technology Studies are, but even by that standard my department was made up of radical extremists. The fact we were dismissed by our university on one end and the more orthodox parts of our discipline on the other (a discipline that is already treated with a good amount of suspicion) has been an enduring touchy subject for me.

    And I'm one of the most renegade of the people that came out of my programme, which is I guess as concise an articulation of my own positionality as there is.


  3. K. Jones
    September 23, 2013 @ 5:34 pm

    I dislike literal Parallel Earths when they're not in Parallel Universes, almost as much as I dislike "too human" aliens. Miri is the next worst culprit, a literal Space Earth, but early Trek and budgeted sci-fi was riddled with human-aliens. I love "near-human". I do. Vulco-Romulanoids (they never looked right after TOS ended and the ditched the yellow-tinged, green-blooded makeup and allowed for pink faces) … Klingons (the more werewolf feral, the better). Alien and eerie or brutal and bestial but recognizable, and basically filling the same roles as vampires or werewolves in the last 100 years of Pop Culture, or Faeries, Elves or Dwarves of fantasy of history, or equivalent angelic or beast-man archetypes of other cultures.

    But direct parallels are an affront to my admittedly incredibly loose standards for sci-fi budgetary needs. Modern Star Trek curtailed it by walking the line of prosthetic foreheads (I'm a great lover of prosthetic masquery, so even Gorns stick in my memory as gorgeous while Parallel Humans feel lazy).

    This is the worst example of that. If you want to do post-Apocalypse Earth where the Cold War ignited and the world became twisted and weird, do a Multiverse skip. If you want to be Jingoist, tie it to Kirk's nation of origin and the actual emotional toll of seeing a parallel Iowa, glowing with radiation … Scott seeing a parallel Britain scorched … Uhura seeing South Africa blasted, Sulu seeing the ruined temples of Old San Francisco, Chekov Russia, and on down the line. Even Spock would be moved at the imagery.

    Moving beyond the might-have-beens, never-weres and trying to ignore altogether the seriously endemic problems already highlighted … I actual like Woodward returning as Captain Tracey, a new wrinkle in the "Bad Starship Captain" trope … a new type of anti-Kirk … completely psychotic … without getting too deep in the weird synchronicity with Star Trek: Insurrection … that film really needed Ronald Tracey to be transferred from here, there. Not some bureaucratic Admiral pulling strings … a proper anti-Captain, gone psycho from a slaughtered crew, and stirring up with space pirates to stripmine their own homeworld.


  4. Daru
    October 2, 2013 @ 10:18 pm

    Hey Josh – Thanks for being so 'stubborn and belligerent' and finding the drive to carry on with your work in the face of patriarchs.

    In a lot of ways my writing voice as a teen was stifled by the school I attended, my voice didn't 'fit'. I later discovered that the teacher involved had been pulled up on underage sex charges with a pupil – which was terrible to happen and at the same time undermined any of the last vestiges of faith I had in the patriarchal structures of control around me.

    Found my narrative voice through my own weird art, improvisational drama and professional storytelling. Nicely, in recent years I have found again my love of writing – that part took a while though!


  5. Josh Marsfelder
    October 3, 2013 @ 3:48 pm

    Thanks for the support!

    I suppose all of us who end up on paths like this have moments when we realise systems of power and oppression for what they are. For me it was a lengthy series of events that put me in opposition to "The Way Things Are". Well, I eventually figured out I don't at all like "The Way Things Are" and that there has to be more to life.


  6. Daru
    October 3, 2013 @ 11:09 pm

    Absolutely – so glad to support voices such as yourself, Jack and Phil. It can take time, that path of realising our own particular form of opposition and developing the tools to express it. I agree there is always more to life than "The Way Things Are" – or as folk say here where I live in the Borders of Scotland "it's aye bin" (or "it has always been this way, and always will be"). My love for Star Trek and Doctor Who is based on the fact that for me both shows are indeed about championing life.


  7. Josh Marsfelder
    October 4, 2013 @ 7:54 am

    I definitely agree. And while my love of Star Trek is frequently built around what it could be and what I wish it was instead of what it actually is, even that still comes out of the appreciation for love the franchise demonstrates.


  8. BerserkRL
    December 14, 2013 @ 11:03 pm

    Everybody wants prosthetic foreheads on their real heads.


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