Canon and Nitpickery in Star Trek Fandom and Other Religions

Recently, Adam Kotsko blogged about Star Trek and canon (a subject of ongoing interest of mine, as you are undoubtedly well aware). Here is an excerpt from there:

am a Star Trek fan, and I’m here today to talk to you about canon. But I will warn all the hardcore fans who are relieved to be on safe territory: my fandom has taken a strange form. When I was a kid, I was a loyal Next Generation viewer, and I even read a couple of the novels. But I only seriously dug into Star Trek as an adult, when The Girlfriend suggested we try a Next Generation rewatch—which inevitably turned into an epic journey through all the Trek series and movies. By that time, of course, I had been thoroughly trained in cultural analysis and critical theory, and I tended to read Star Trek “as literature.”

So when I talk about canon, I am talking about the strange claim that all of these different stories, written across the last fifty years by dozens of different people, are somehow all “the same” story, that they all fit together as a portrait of a consistent “universe” with its own history. I have already compared the Star Trek canon to scriptural canons in a scholarly article (paywalled journal issue link), and here I would like to pick up on a point that I briefly address there: namely, the tendency for sprawling scriptural canons to develop a “canon within the canon” that guides the interpretation of the rest. In Judaism, for example, the “canon within the canon” is the Torah, while Christians privilege the New Testament as the standard by which their hybrid canon is to be unified. And in Star Trek, of course, the “canon within the canon” for the vast majority of fans is Next Generation

For those interested in Star Trek and/or canon, but especially both, the whole post is worth your time.

Kotsko followed up with a post on rewatching an episode of Discovery, in which he opines:

The basic mechanism of committed Trek fandom is the dialectical interplay between the two impulses of escapist pleasure and dyspeptic nitpickery—as well as their cross-pollination in nitpicking other people’s pleasures, ruining them, and in reveling, joyfully, in the perfect picked nit (especially when you can also provide a clever, No-Prize solution to an apparently insolvable problem of canon).

This can be true of Star Trek fandom, and of religious adherence as well – but surely it doesn’t have to be.

One thing seems sure – this is a blog series that no one interested in Star Trek and/or canon is going to want to miss!

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  • robrecht

    Finally, someone who understands that appeals to ‘canon’ only obscure the fact that there are many divergent voices collected within a canon that certainly do not speak with univocal authority and consistency. Qoheleth and the Deuteronomist do not agree with each other any more than James and Luther or the various writers working on episodes of the Star Trek original series. But if Next Generation is supposedly the ‘canon within the canon’ for the vast majority of fans, that’s just plain demographics or generational (no pun intended) bias.