Monday, December 31, 2007

Firefly Fans Vs. Star Trek Fans

Hardcore fans of Joss Whedon's briefly-aired science fiction series Firefly tend -- loudly -- to regard Star Trek as a disastrously awful excuse for science fiction.

I've recently read a bunch of essays by dedicated Firefly fans, and pretty much every one of their authors went out of their way to punch Star Trek in the mouth. (With the exception of David Gerrold, and even he couldn't resist taking a few pokes at Trek.) Star Trek is held to be childishly utopian (and therefore not "real" science fiction), anti-feminist to the point of misogyny (not enough women behaving like men), militaristic (they wear uniforms), fascistic (the state controls the economy), impossibly antiseptic (they wear "Day-Glo" uniforms, and their starships are clean instead of being littered with dusty crap), hierarchical (they have a rank structure), culturally imperialistic (the Federation expects everybody else to respect individual liberty), paternalistic (can you say, "Prime Directive?"), scientifically implausible (the Trekiverse is full of aliens with bumpy foreheads and cute pointy ears), and the story-telling jejune to the point of being fit only for low-grade morons incapable of appreciating serious fiction.

In short, serious Firefly fans look down on Star Trek fans, and miss no opportunity to say so.

So, having heard how Firefly fans feel about people who like Star Trek, I naturally wonder whether Star Trek fans will similarly find so many things to dislike about Firefly. Somehow, I doubt that -- my guess is that Star Trek fans are more tolerant of other worldviews.

What does it tell us that plenty of Star Trek fans are happy to disagree with things that Gene Roddenberry said, compared to the defensiveness of Firefly fans when someone doesn't join them in deifying Joss Whedon?

It's important to understand that I enjoyed Firefly. I thought the characters and stories were generally very well done, and I respect many of the world-building decisions made in creating the Firefly 'verse. But there's something about the way the heavy-duty Firefly fans want to treat Star Trek that puts my back up. (Some Babylon 5 fans were the same way.) They remind me of powergamers who go onto forums to trash any change to "their" game, as though they enjoy competing to see who can say the most brutishly disgusting things about any creative act that doesn't fit into their personal beliefs about how things should be. Maybe I'm just not seeing it, but I can't recall ever hearing Star Trek fans run down anybody else's science fiction universe in this way. Even the old "Star Trek vs. Star Wars" debate seems like more of a fun bull session than an attempt to tear down somebody else's world.

So am I wrong? Or is there something about these two franchises that attracts different kinds of people?

What's wrong with enjoying both?