The New Star Trek Series: Hermeneutics and Ferengi Trek

Star Trek is back, baby.

CBS announced that a new TV series of Star Trek will premiere in 2017. I simply cannot wait for this. It was personally some of the best news I’ve gotten in a long time. I teared up some.

There’s a lot to say about all of this. And I’ve read a lot of think pieces–some which I’ll try to link to here. But pretty much everything that can be said so far about the topic has been said. So a lot of this post is a synthesis of what I’ve read (if any of my students are reading–I’m trying to cite via hyperlinks, as is the custom for blogs). But I do want to focus on the distribution model for the new series, which is perhaps the most controversial.

What will the new series be about?

The announcement says that it will not be related to the new movie coming out, Star Trek Beyond. What does this mean? It probably won’t feature the new Kirk/Spock/McCoy etc. That’s all I get from that. Some have speculated that it will take place in the Prime timeline (Michael Dorn’s negotiations for a Captain Worf show seem to suggest this is possible). Others have expressed a preference for the Romulan War storyline we didn’t get to see in Enterprise.

This is all wrong and won’t happen.

The 2009 reboot was necessary to clear up the continuity so that future Star Trek could tell new stories without being bound by the extensive history of the Prime timeline. Paramount invested a lot of money in this new storyline. The new series is most definitely going to happen in the new timeline. We should stop calling it the Abramsverse or NuTrek. Fans use those terms to express the fact that they’re upset with the new direction of Star Trek. I’m among them. I’m not a fan with the plot technicalities introduced by transporters that can move people across thousands of lightyears, as shown in the new timeline. But I have to accept it. The new timeline is Star Trek now.

And that’s the way it’s always been.

Next Generation upset fans by screwing up the ideal of the Starfleet captain. Deep Space Nine upset the Rodenberry anti-war focus by telling a serialized war story (that, still true to Trek, was anti-war). Voyager upset TV tropes by portraying a competent woman in command. Enterprise upset fans by reinterpreting continuity and providing a cultural arc for the Vulcans.

Star Trek isn’t static. Star Trek is defined by the culture and the time that is written and produced. It is a response to that culture and time. As my hermeneutics professor, Dr. Strege, would say: Star Trek “forms and is informed by” the community that it exists in. It is always already a cultural artifact.

Star Trek always changes in each iteration. This one will be different. And that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

Accept it. The new series is in the new timeline. Enjoy it. We’re all going boldly where no Trek fans have gone before.

Along with the next generation of fans, who know Trek because of J.J. Abrams. And God bless him for it.

How will people watch the Star Trek series?

They will have to pay 6 bucks a month to CBS to watch it via their streaming service. This I have one philosophical issue with.

As a practical matter, it makes sense. CBS has been trying to get into the future of TV via their own streaming service. I almost signed up for it when I was watching Madam Secretary. I most definitely be signing up now that Star Trek is on it. They got my money. It’s 6 bucks. I can afford it. And I want to watch it. Plus, now they have Supergirl. And I find CBS to have some of the better news programs on network news, from Scott Pelley to CBS This Morning to CBS Sunday Morning. So it’s fine. Whatever. I like CBS. I don’t mind spending some money.

But Star Trek is about a future where money doesn’t exist. Primarily because money leads to greed, and greed is something that humanity needs to grow out of. In Star Trek’s future, we grow out of it. We abandon greed. We become better.

But we’re not there yet. And that’s the philosophical issue.

On the one hand, it’s philosophically contradictory. It’s like Walmart selling Che t-shirts. It’s capitalism promoting socialism. It’s one philosophy supporting another philosophy that seeks to undermine it.

On the other hand, Star Trek has always been paid for. In the past, it’s been via ads. So there’s always been money involved. But there is something that feels especially perverse about asking viewers for 6 bucks to watch Star Trek, rather than viewing ads. Not everyone can afford the extra 6 bucks. I’ve been there. And Star Trek is about our future as humanity. It should be for everyone. It is essentially egalitarian. And now it is not. It’s Ferengi Trek. Quark would be proud of this move by CBS. I am not. I’ll watch, but I have misgivings, and I’m hoping they’ll relent in some way.

As Spock would say, “There are always… possibilities.”

Final Word

I’m excited. I’m happy.

And I think it’s important there will be a new series. Star Trek comments on our culture not only by offering dystopian warnings, but by offering us a positive outlook on the future that we can strive for.

We need this. This is a terrifying time to be alive, sometimes. And it’s going to be nice for once to have a voice in the culture that says we can go into the future… boldly.

In Defense of Academic Writing: A Response to @sapinker (Part 1)

In Steven Pinker’s recent piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education, “Why Academics Stink at Writing,” Pinker argues that academic writing suffers from a number maladies, including self-conscious stylistics, a “curse of knowledge,” and a lack of “incentives to write well.” I want to address each of Pinker’s points in detail. This first post will focus on the “self-conscious style” argument.

“Self-Conscious Style” Features Serve Functions Other Than Indexing The Author’s Membership in Academe

Pinker, drawing from Thomas and Turner’s style typology, asserts that academic writing is “self-conscious.” Academic writers, Pinker argues, are marked by a goal of “not so much communication as self-presentation—an overriding defensiveness against any impression that they may be slacker than their peers in hewing to the norms of the guild.” Pinker favors an alternative style, which Thomas & Turner call the “classic style.” In describing this style, Pinker says, though not explicitly, that the style has as its underlying ideology a correspondence theory of truth: a statement is true if it ‘corresponds’ to or matches something in reality. This theory of truth is not consistent with  many schools of thought in the humanities, such as Reader-Response theory, or the philosophical paradigms informing some social sciences, such as Social Constructivism or Critical theory. It’s not even consistent, as Pinker later notes, with post-positivism, which many physical and biological scientists espouse. But, according to Pinker, it doesn’t matter: classic style is clearer than the self-conscious, and that is why academic writing stinks. (more…)

#AcWriMo Day 16: In Which I Ramble About Limits

1. What did I accomplish?

Tonight I started setting small, manageable goals. I have been working on big goals and big accomplishments because of the time frame, but these night work sessions took a VERY HEAVY toll and knocked me out for a day. I was able to sustain a good work habit working late for awhile, but I can’t sustain it for a month. It’s not possible. And while my AcWriMo goals are still possible, I think I will have to move some other goals around. 

More specifically, I have finished my most pertinent reading for my first prelim. I am continuing to read as I write, but I had to decide (as I have heard many say) that at some point, you have to say: I have read enough. And I have. This prelim draws on texts that I have been reading for over two years. I am ready to write. I understand the material. The extra reading will largely, I believe, simply be a gatekeeping measure–a peppering of citations to show I have consulted the relevant sources. But my research area is well-documented and much of the literature is somewhat repetitive as a result. New knowledge takes awhile to develop–each new article adds something new, but a small something. And the bulk of the stuff is repetition of things I learned in other sources.

So I am writing. As questions arise, I will consult relevant sources. But I am getting started. And it is going well–I’m planning a writing binge this weekend. If I can knock this baby out by the end of the weekend, I will be in good shape. And it is possible. The prelim is roughly 20-30 pages normally–that’s doable if I sacrifice some rest again. I do have a concert to attend Sunday night (see this post to learn more about why I’m excited about seeing Derek Webb), so if keep my eye on THAT ball, I can get this done.

Oh and I presented at conference. So one of the tasks that was hanging in the air is COMPLETELY done. Just need to update the CV.

2. What can I do better?

I may have to push the second prelim to December. I don’t think it’s possible anymore. I think setting that goal was folly–a feature of sometimes believing I have superhuman abilities. When you get this far into grad school and accomplished a lot, it’s hard not to sometimes feel like you can do stuff that you can’t really do. Which is, I think, a really important point that many grad students forget. We all overcommit. It happens. And it’s important to set goals. And during November, it’s important to set big goals. But two 20-pagers in a month with research only completely done for one? Come on. We all have limits. And I’m not talking about work-life balance stuff. That’s important (although I sacrifice it sometimes, like during AcWriMo), but it doesn’t apply here. I’m talking about the limits of the human body.

What can I do better? Just be honest about what’s possible. I can run on a little sleep. I can’t run on virtually no sleep.

With that, time to hit the sack.

Why @derekwebb Should Come Back To Twitter

It started with this:

And then this:

And that was it. Derek Webb was done with Twitter. (more…)

#AcWriMo Day 9

What did I accomplish?
I completed my poster this weekend, which was a new addition after the abstract I submitted was accepted. I have been reading, but not NEARLY fast enough to get the prelim done. I’m going to have to binge on reading in the next few days so I can start writing by next week. Furthermore, I simply do not see it as being possible to get everything that I need to get done without adding one more writing project–another prelim that is inclusive of topics I’m currently researching. To manage this new goal, I’m dropping another one: no substantial blogging (read: non-AcWriMo blogs) until everything else is done. I am now officially in over my head. But I don’t care. This is what I live for. It WILL get done. I can lose some sleep for this.

What can I do better?
I’ve been productive in the evenings because I am a nightowl. But mornings suffer from lack of productivity. Using the JFDI approach, I’m going to have to grit my teeth and tell myself: “It’s just for this month. You get to sleep during December.” I have time on Tuesdays and Thursdays to get an article read. So that’s the plan.

I know none of this is healthy. But if I want to finish this stuff, I have to sacrifice. It will pay off in dividends later.

Let’s do this.

#AcWriMo Day 3

1. What did I accomplish?

Yesterday I completed a submission to a journal of a book review I had completed awhile ago. I had initially selected a certain journal, and I formatted my text to meet their word length requirements. But then I found out that they did not have open submissions for book reviews, so it took some time to find another journal that did have open submissions for book reviews. After that, I set up my account with the journal, wrote a cover letter, wrote an author bio, and then hit submit. My first single author pub is in the review process.

I have accomplished one of my goals already–which means that I can now focus more on my prelim and book chapter. I also read some of my current article, but because of the focus on the book review, I did not meet my 2 article requirement. I’m now considering limiting my daily reading load to 1 article a day–this seems more manageable because the amount of time I have each day for reading varies widely–but one article is always possible.

2. What can I do better?

Tonight was my night out with friends. I don’t regret this choice, as I think it’s important to do, and it is often difficult to schedule around our various responsibilities. But the result is that I won’t get any writing done tonight. It is not a good start. I admit that. But given the unpredictability of scheduling these biweekly outings, I’m willing to chalk this up to an anomaly. I will have to make up for it tomorrow by doubling down and reading more (and faster). My goal then will be to have read three articles by the end of the day tomorrow. I’ll be reading some tonight to try to get a jump on tomorrow’s big reading day. I’ll also take a stab at the book chapter as well tomorrow evening.

Overall, I’m feeling like #AcWriMo is starting off well–with one goal down, I can narrow my focus and energy to really get something done this month.