Social Sci-Fi

September 1, 2011 § Leave a comment

Most of my friends and family have no real opinion about my nascent love of science fiction, and for my part I mostly keep to myself about it. It’s a system that works very well. I can count on one hand the number of people that I know for sure would willingly sit down and watch an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation with me. Of those, one is a person whom I introduced to the franchise (read “younger brother”) and the other is a guy who I’m pretty sure had watched every episode of TNG before I became a fan. At least I know for sure that he’s seen every one of them as of this post.

I mention my relationship to Star Trek not because I believe it’s the be-all end-all of science fiction, but because it’s arguably the best-known and most easily accessible science fiction for the uninitiated. (We’ll leave Star Wars off the table.) Even people who think sci-fi is for losers are likely to have heard of it; some may even have come across the phrase “Live long and prosper,” or references to a “Vulcan nerve pinch” (more on that a little later.) And let’s face it—watching something on television at least has the potential to become a public experience. When was the last time you and a buddy picked up two copies of a novel and tried to keep pace with each other? Unless you’re holding a book in your hand or telling someone that you’ve decided to severely narrow the number of jobs that actually require your degree (read “have just announced that you’re majoring in English”), you’re more likely to be asked about your favorite TV show than your favorite author.

Among my peers, very few could identify the name “Isaac Asimov” if they saw it on a book that I was holding. It would take a second question—“What’s it about?”—before I could be properly assigned my due place in the taxonomy of people who read in public. But say “Star Trek” and they immediately start contorting their fingers.

Which brings us back to the Vulcan nerve pinch. One time, in an informal setting at church, we were talking about SEC football. My antagonist in this story was a Georgia Bulldogs fan—one of my closer friends, actually. (I’ll call him Ronaldo.) Ronaldo started naming SEC football teams and had stumbled through a good number without mentioning the Commodores. After reminding him of this, I reached up my hand, made the VU sign (thumb, pointer, and middle finger extended, with the other two folded into an open palm) and said “go ‘dores.” Ronaldo interpreted this as my attempt at a Vulcan nerve pinch. I interpreted his hysterical laughter as well-meaning and eventually got my explanation across.

But who the heck starts a nerve pinch by lifting their arm over their head, then ends it without pinching?



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