Anika and Liz take a trip back to 1995 and the first three stories in the Talking Stick/Circle fic series by Macedon and Peg Robinson, and discuss:
- Usenet memories
- Decolonising Star Trek
- Chakotay, the significance of a Native American writer handling a Native American character, and the … notable lack thereof in the show itself
- Another round of religion in Star Trek
- “People need to understand that Chakotay/Seven was not endgame.”
- Fandom, homophobia and het that’s not heteronormative
It’s the episode where we look back and go, “Oh, YIKES.”
Liz: Welcome to Antimatter Pod, a Star Trek podcast where we discuss fashion, feminism, subtext, and subspace, hosted by Anika and Liz. This week, we’re discussing the Voyager fan fiction series Talking Stick/Circle by Macedon and Peg Robinson, originally published in 1995.
Anika: Long ago.
Liz: This series is almost as old as my sister.
Anika: Classic! It’s older than my daughter.
Liz: Wow. Yeah. So first I want to apologize to you, because when I suggested that we do this, two weeks ago, I had forgotten that the whole series comes to 300,000 words.
Anika: Yeah. I will admit I did not read the whole thing. I couldn’t make — the last story alone is over a hundred thousand words and that’s like a novel. So.
Liz: Yeah. I only read the first three in the cycle this time, which are all less than 10,000 words. I have read the other three, but that was many, many years ago. I remember they were very good. But yeah.
Anika: I kinda like that the first three are the pre-relationship.
Anika: So it’s like, before we get into any shippiness, I don’t know, there’s like a line there. Fan fiction that is about a relationship is different from fan fiction that is about a plot or a story or a character.
Liz: Yeah. And this really felt like it was laying the groundwork for other things. And I do recall, like, the last in the series was not nearly remotely shippy enough for my taste at age 18. Like, there’s a big ensemble, there’s a lot of original characters. It was the very first time I encountered two men who are married to each other in fiction.
Liz: So yeah, I think we could certainly have talked about the last three. Maybe one day we will, but if nothing else, I feel like we can fill an hour just talking about these first three stories in the cycle.
Anika: Yes, and how they set up the rest of it. Like, I think they really set up a playground, I’m going to call it, so that someone else could come in and write about the story circle.
Anika: And it would be an homage, not plagiarism.
Liz: No, I went through Usenet archives, and people were doing that. And at some point, someone, I think, wrote a Chakotay/Tuvok fic with these three stories as the background.
Anika: It makes sense!
Liz: And someone said to Macedon, “Are you okay with that?” And Macedon seems like he was a very, very cool guy, and he was like, “I personally don’t think Chakotay is gay, but I am very happy for this story to be out there.”
Liz: And he was a moderator at alt.startrek.creative. He was very much involved with the fandom until he left in 1997. He moved to Greece, he went offline, I can’t find a single trace of him around anymore. I hope he’s out there, and I hope he’s doing well, because he seems like a stand-up guy.
Anika: It’s like a mystery now
Liz: And Peg Robinson, his co-writer, she is out there, she’s writing original works. She is on Patreon. I had a dig through her Patreon blog posts and she has very good opinions about Star Trek Discovery.
Anika: Good, good to know. Good to know.
Liz: In fact, her take on Discovery was that she had not really clicked with any Star Trek post The Original Series, because she really likes the sense of danger and menace in a big, cold universe where you’re really, really lucky to be on a starship because everything else is unsafe. And she felt like Discovery restored that feeling, and also interrogated the faults in the Federation.
Anika: Very, very cool.
Anika: Yeah. I like to know that someone — I guess I’m still in the fandom all these years later, so it’s not crazy, but I love to see people who had, you know, that level of notoriety to still be involved. It’s like, it’s great that she has opinions about Discovery at all, I guess, is what I’m saying.
Liz: No, I agree. And also going through Usenet, it was really fascinating, and I actually feel like this is a phase of Star Trek‘s history that has been lost. You know, we have the sixties, seventies, eighties with the zines and all of that. There are books written about the first conventions, and then it moved online.
And because, honestly, the Usenet archives on Google groups are really spotty, so much is lost and forgotten. It was fascinating to go through this early Voyager stuff and to frankly, see how much racism there was around a black man playing a Vulcan.
Anika: I thankfully avoided that. I mean, I’ve ranted before that I get upset that Tuvok is the least written about and, like, he doesn’t have a fan following in the same way. Like, you know how I’ve I’ve said that I was in Jupiter Station and there was the J/C Collective, and there are so many, but Tuvok was absent from, he didn’t have an online presence. He didn’t have a fan girl association, and I felt like it was lacking, you know?
Liz: No, I agree.
Anika: But blatant racism, I didn’t see. I curated my–
Liz: Yeah, no.
Anika: As I do now, I curated my fandom very specifically.
Liz: Well, this was on rec dot arts dot Star Trek dot dot something or other [specifically rec.arts.startrek.misc], and–
Anika: I didn’t go to the big ones, I just didn’t even go to — the same way I don’t go to Reddit now. I just, I don’t need to see it. So I like my niche.
Liz: I just found it really interesting that this was a moderated space, the same as the Star Trek subreddit is now, and yet the level of discourse that was permitted and accepted and considered perfectly reasonable has really, really changed. And for the better. Like, so many people who liked Tuvok and liked his casting were making jokes about him being a rapper, you know, Tuvok Shakur, that sort of thing, which simply wouldn’t fly these days.
It actually reminded me a little of Star Wars fandom when The Force Awakens trailer first came out. The stormtrooper takes off his helmet, and you see that he’s John Boyega.
Anika: Yeah. I mean, that was rough.
Liz: Yeah. Oh yeah.
Anika: Star Wars fandom is not a happy place. And certainly the blatant, like, John Boyega speaks and, and he gets yelled at by some of these people. And, and they’re always like, “I’m not a racist. It’s just that stormtroopers are white, and they always have been.” And it’s like, I guess their armor is, but, like, first of all, even the clone troopers aren’t white.
Liz: No, I know!
Anika: Get over it and move on.
Liz: It made me think that, as much as Star Trek still has a racism problem in fandom, we really have been pushed forward in a way that Star Wars wasn’t. And I don’t want to say that anyone who is racist about Sonequa Martin-Green is a troll, but I think that a lot of that attitude has been encouraged by the Fandom Menace, the elements within Star Wars fandom, and Gamergate, and all of that, that have created an acceptable outlet for racism.
Anyway, the reason I’m talking about Tuvok is that Macedon started out as a really big Vulcan fan. Most of his fic is actually about Vulcans, and then Voyager came along, and as a Native American man, he was, let’s say, a little unimpressed with the writing for Chakotay.
Anika: I mean, not as an Native American man, I’m unimpressed. When I say that, I feel like that has also evolved. I remember, I was unimpressed with Chakotay way back when, but, like, Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman was big at the same time, kind of thing. And so it wasn’t like, they’re doing Natives wrong. It was just like, I don’t like this character, is there something wrong with it?
Whereas now, I’m like, wow, everything about this character is just mishandled. And to be honest, same with Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. It’s like, wow, that was an interesting choice that you made. And I loved that show, like, I obsessively loved that show, but it is painful to watch now, in every way, like all of the people of color are just really, really not … it’s not cool.
And I feel like we’re able to say that now, and, like, I can critique and say, you should always have Native people. Like, not just in your series, if you’re going to have a Native person in your series, you have to have a team of people.
Again, I am not in this ethnicity in any way. But the whole thing with the tribes, like, I think the fact that they purposely didn’t give Chakotay a tribe, but what it ends up being is nothing, like you’re putting on the costume of a Native American. You’re not respecting the reality of it in any way.
Anika: And so if you want to have, like, someone be a non-specific tribe, at the very least, you have to have, like, a diverse team of people from multiple tribes working together to create it.
Liz: Yes! Allow me to read the end note for the first fic in this series, Talking Stick.
‘The above story was conceived in something of a pique after watching “Initiations.” I get tired of the Hollywood Plastic Medicine Man. I thought it time a Native voice was heard, speaking for a Native character. I gave him a background and nation, since no one else seemed inclined to do so, and I have endeavored to present something authentic as a counterbalance to the amorphous bit-of-this-bit-of-that-throw-it-in-the-stew “Native American spirituality” we’ve seen.’
Liz: I’m often very skeptical about claims that fandom is so progressive — and I don’t want to discount the significance of adding romance and domesticity to narratives that overlook them — but sometimes I think we give ourselves a little too much credit. But this is truly transformative work at its best. It’s almost doing the opposite of what Star Trek: Continues was doing in terms of a person–
Anika: It’s correcting the issues.
Anika: It’s not continuing them, ha ha, them.
Anika: There are a few different author’s notes, and even in the text, he talks about — as Chakotay, he talks about the experience of a Native man amongst non-Natives, and that’s a perspective that I can never have. It’s just really refreshing to see in fan fiction. I think what you said, that it’s the best kind of transformative work, I think that that is true because it’s not — like, I love all the fan fiction and I love all alternate universes. Every coffee shop AU is the best. But taking assassins and giving them a coffee shop is not transforming — it’s a different kind of transformation.
This is, “I’m taking something that is important to myself, and I’m putting it into this story to solve the problems that I, as this, as this type of person, see within it.”
Liz: Yes. And it’s also a really good set of stories! I should say, the premise of this series is that, early in their voyage home, Chakotay encounters Tuvok preparing an Indian — subcontinental — meal, and they share a conversation and a meal for the first time since Tuvok’s betrayal. And they talk about the value of stories.
This leads Chakotay to begin a talking circle, where the crew come together and pass the talking stick and tell a story that’s important to them. Sometimes it’s funny. Sometimes it’s sad. Sometimes it’s true. Sometimes it’s a tall tale.
And the tension in the story is between Chakotay and Tuvok, who have this history, and also Chakotay and Janeway, because Janeway is very conscious of her role as captain, and of Chakotay’s rather precarious position as first officer and Maquis leader. And so she’s very reluctant to join, and when she finally does that gives rise to a new conflict.
So Macedon wrote the first story, Talking Stick and that’s just Chakotay and Tuvok and the beginning of the circle, and then Peg Robinson wrote the sequel, Circle, which is from Janeway’s perspective. And then we come again to Chakotay’s perspective in A Cherished Alienation, and then they went on.
Anika: And my understanding is that they switch back and forth perspectives and authors. I like that Peg wrote Janeway. I should also — I want to mention that this is written in the first person, because I think that is a very deliberate choice that really puts you into the headspace, like, literally of these characters. And it can be done really poorly.
Liz: And I know that first person is not always popular in fan fiction.
Anika: Well, I think because it can be done really poorly and it’s also, you know, a lot of like Twilight and Hunger Games and stuff are first person.
Liz: It’s sort of associated with YA, and carries that stigma.
Liz: Also reader fic, where the “I” in the first person is you, and you’re being tenderly made love to by a fictional character.
Liz: Not my thing. Super not my thing.
Anika: Right. So it’s interesting. And this is none of those things. This is not YA — they’re definitely very adult, especially Chakotay. Again, I just don’t really — like. Chakotay’s character never really gelled with me.
Liz: I know.
Anika: I liked him in relationship to Janeway.
Liz: But he never quite stands on his own.
Anika: Yeah, but he never quite stands on his own. But this, he’s still recognizably Chakotay, but he is more complete. He just has more of a character. And the, so the voice was just, it was really, I don’t know. I don’t know how to explain, but I felt like I understood where he was coming from as a person.
And I could almost, like, I don’t want to say relate, cause it’s not quite right, but I felt like I was getting his perspective, and I think that I might not have gotten that same if it wasn’t in first person. I think it put me in the mindset of being sort of open to that.
Liz: I felt all of that, but I also think I could hear Robert Beltran’s voice reading this, and that is such a hard thing to capture in fan fiction. And especially, especially Chakotay. Janeway’s voice is much easier. I think Peg does an outstanding Janeway, but I know lots of writers who could write a great Janeway and very few who can write a good Chakotay.
Anika: Right. Which is still, you know, I’m not necessarily going to drop that on the feet of the [fic] writers. I think it’s the showrunners. It’s the era, the era, it’s the original canon that messes up Chakotay and makes it hard.
Liz: I agree. And yet I read the first paragraph, and I want to read it out loud. I know that I won’t do a good job, because when I read these words, I hear them in Robert Beltran’s voice. But the story opens:
‘I want to call here the ancestors. I want to call here the ancestors of my people. They’re in my heart; I carry them with me. Their hands are on my back when I talk. They keep me from falling. I think of them often, here, where the only soil from the land of my birth is that held in a bag which Starfleet regulation does not permit me to carry.’
That’s just — it tells you what this is. Who it is about and what it is.
Liz: I’m just very impressed. Like I wish I could. I wish I could write this well.
Anika: I’m one of those that can’t write a good Chakotay. I write a passable Chakotay, but he’s not — I think it’s partly because I can’t get into his headspace. Especially when I first started writing fan fiction, which was around Voyager time — my oldest Tom Paris fic, it was all Janeway/Paris, is written in the first person as Tom Paris and like, I felt capable of doing that.
And it’s the only I only carried over two of my Voyager stories from, you know, Voyager times, when it was on television. I only put two of those stories on AO3, because they’re mostly terrible. And these ones are like very my first fan fiction, but I’m also like, still super proud of my Tom Paris voice in that one. And like how I just understood Tom Paris, in a way, I guess. And I felt like, you know, bringing it out, you know, putting it out into the ether so that other people could see it, too.
I can’t ever imagine doing that with Chakotay. I wish that I could do a story circle, you know, redux, but I don’t think I could — I still don’t think I could do it. I would not be able to write this. And, I wouldn’t want to try and mess it up.
Liz: No, that’s the thing. And I think it’s important to note that Peg never writes from Chakotay’s perspective.
Anika: Right. I was starting to say I liked the choice that they made that Macedon would write the Chakotay stories and that Peg would write the Janeway stories, and that they were being sort of, you know, “This is from my perspective.”
Liz: Yeah. There’s a concept in publishing and book fandom called Own Voices, which is often misused, you get a lot of people bullying authors into revealing their queer identity before they’re ready. But I do think that there is a lot of value in the idea that a story told from the perspective of one with lived experience of an identity is going to be different and maybe more important and more valuable than someone else’s attempts to write themselves into that identity. And I think this is an own voices fic.
Anika: Yes, this is definitely an Own Voices fic and I think that’s what I like best about it is that it is still recognizably Chakotay, it just takes Chakotay to the next level.
Liz: Yeah. Yeah.
Anika: I like Tuvok as well.
Liz: I don’t think Macedon’s was as good as Peg’s.
Anika: You know why? I think it’s related, because I think that Peg was more in Janeway’s — she was seeing Tuvok from Janeway’s eyes, whereas Macedon was seeing Tuvok from Chakotay’s eyes.
Liz: Oh, that’s brilliant!
Anika: And so I think that, I think it’s related, I think that if you’re in Janeway’s mind, tuvok’s your best friend.
Liz: Yeah, and he’s a cool, low key, funny guy, whereas to Chakotay, Tuvok is very stiff and very formal and not really someone whose words you can depend upon.
Anika: Right. But I think that neither of them wrote Tuvok as well as they do the other.
Liz: No, I agree. But I also think Tuvok is just a really hard character to write. More than any other Vulcan, because he is the most Vulcan.
Anika: Right? Yeah. And the thing is that the funny, sarcastic, family-oriented, like, all of that is what makes him the most Vulcan you know, it’s like all the other Vulcans are trying not to be that.
Anika: Tuvok is very comfortable in his Vulcanness. He just is Vulcan and that’s part of it.
Liz: And it must be said that Tuvok is no more consistently written on the show than any other character. So I think maybe, especially in this early point in the series, you know, they’re writing in season two, then I think that their Tuvok probably seemed a little closer to canon than the guy I’m thinking of in season four.
Anika: Hmm. Maybe. Oh Voyager.
Liz: We love it because it makes us work.
Anika: I’ve reached the part of season three in my photo capping, where it’s like, I don’t remember these episodes at all. How have I seen these episodes? I don’t know. Like, it’s just at three in a row, now, I’ve just been like, I guess I saw this before, but I, don’t remember a single thing.
Like, season three Voyager is really a mess. It’s just not memorable. Like, season one, it was pretty strong. Season two was crazy, wacky, out there. It didn’t always hit, but it was always sort of swinging, you know? Season three is just so bland, like, nothing is happening.
Liz: I always think that I like season three, and then I watch it and I go, maybe I only like bits of season three. But I’m into season four now, and I’m into the run of episodes between Year of Hell and The Killing Game, which means I’m coming up to Retrospect.
Anika: Yay. Lucky you.
Liz: We love it, but it’s maybe not the best Star Trek.
Anika: I mean, it depends on how you define “best”.
Liz: I certainly remember, it was season six when I read this series of fic for the first time, and I was 18, and I’m pretty sure that it was the last one in the series, The Rose and the Yew Tree, I think it’s called — that was the first time that I stayed up past midnight reading someone else’s fic.
And yet I was very judgy of it for being so old. On the one hand, I was kind of like, “None of this is canon,” but also I was deeply impressed that this was like Janeway/Chakotay shipping, pre Resolutions.
I really do love that they saw so much in the first season and a few episodes of Voyager. And I really loved, in the second story, the Janeway story, the scene with Tom and her in Sandrine’s. I was wondering what you, as a Janeway/Paris shipper…
Anika: I mean, that was like catnip.
Anika: Because that’s the thing, as much as I am constantly talking about how I’m a Janeway/Paris shipper, just their relationship at all is what — like, the fic I mentioned earlier, my first person, is not shippy. He’s with B’Elanna, it’s not a romance. It’s just, “Janeway is the person who will understand what I need in this moment.”
Liz: Yeah. The first fic that I finished and posted was just about Q watching Janeway and Chakotay dance and thinking that he could never be as good for her as Chakotay. And it was a song fic, and I had lyrics from a Savage Garden B-side, like, interspersed through the action. So I think your fic is a lot better.
Anika: I love that though. That’s so sweet. This is just so sweet.
Liz: It’s just so something.
Anika: You just said you were 18–
Liz: I was 16 when I wrote that fic.
Anika: Sixteen! That’s a 16 year old’s fanfic. And it’s great and valid and I love it.
Liz: Thank you! But yes, Kathryn and Tom…
Anika: Right. So what I liked is that it played on all the things I like about their relationship, which is that they’re actually super similar, and like, that’s why Tom is so devoted to her, because she’s like what he could be if he tried hard enough. And she believes that, I mean, that’s the Janeway promise, right? Janeway believes in all of her people, even when they don’t, and that’s why they are all in love with her.
Liz: Pretty much!
Anika: And then, like, the shared history with his dad, the really sad and angry backstory that she gave Tom and his dad — Janeway looks up to Admiral Paris, you know, and that’s very canon, she considered him a mentor and has very warm feelings for Admiral Paris.
Whereas Tom is like, “He wasn’t your dad and he was abusive to me all the time and he never looked at me the way you do in that I believe in you way. I was always a disappointment, you know, and he wanted his perfect kid. He didn’t want me.”
Anika: And this particular fic really leans into that where Tom [disabuses] her of her belief in his father and his life. He was pretending all along, he did that to all of his little mentees, especially the cute girls. And I was just like, “This is amazing.” So yeah, I was very, very into that.
Liz: I think, from a cynical 2021 perspective, I am not even surprised at the suggestion that actually Admiral Paris had a whole string of cute young bright-eyed female protegees
Anika: And he was teaching them to be like him, and to only trust him. That was the thing, like, to purposefully isolate them by, you know, saying, “I see your potential to be a leader, but in order to be a real leader, you have to keep everyone else at arm’s length, except me.”
Liz: Yeah, yeah.
Anika: I was just like, that’s some like Palpatine stuff going on there. That’s amazing. So it was just really into it.
Liz: And it’s such a toxic sort of power structure, which I think ties into this whole series’ very jaundiced view of Starfleet and the Federation where, you know, they assigned Chakotay a legal first name because the system is literally not set up for humans with only one given name.
Liz: Yeah. It’s like Chakotay gets the microaggressions and Janeway gets groomed to perpetuate them.
Anika: So obviously I’m a white woman. Okay? So take this with a grain of salt. But my surname as a child was deBoer, D E B O E R, but was with a small D and a capital B.
Liz: Oh, like Nicole deBoer!
Anika: It was Dutch. Exactly. Like Nicole deBoer and my brother would tell people we were related.
Liz: I was about to ask, yeah.
Anika: We’re not, but he would — people would believe it because it’s sort of a weird name, right? Especially with the spelling. But anyway, I went and they couldn’t — like, I went to orientation, or whatever it was, for middle school and they couldn’t find me in the system. I just wasn’t there. And I was like, “I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to be here.”
And so they looked through everything and they found that, because the computer couldn’t figure out that a lowercase D was still a D it threw me to the end. So it was like after the Ws. That’s where I got put in lowercase. And the school was like, “You know, so this doesn’t happen again, we’re going to change it to a capital D.”
And I was like, “No, that’s my name. You can’t just decide that your spelling is better than my spelling because your computer isn’t smart enough.” And so I refused. So then, like through high school, with my homeroom and stuff, I was with the, you know, W, X, Ys.
Liz: You were infiltrating the end of the alphabet!
Anika: So the idea, the idea that Starfleet, a quote unquote utopian society, would force him to have a first name is just, I can’t handle it. I feel like I’m that 11 year old again, being told that I don’t exist because the systems don’t know how to deal with it.
Liz: That, I think, is exactly how Chakotay’s Academy experience goes. And it happens these days, you know, Facebook’s real name policy doesn’t admit certain names, computers still struggle with people who only have one name and no surname. And the idea that this persists into the 24th century, the great utopia, is super depressing. And yet, because we’ve watched Voyager, we don’t really know that it’s impossible.
Anika: Yeah. It’s super depressing, but that’s the thing. That’s why, when you said earlier that people think that they’re more progressive than they are–
Anika: You know, the Ro Laren thing, “I’m not Ensign Laren, I’m Ensign Ro,” that’s a real thing in the real world. I have had that issue, again, with the stupid computers at my school, that I have to input it wrong, I have to switch it around on my end. Like, a person has to do it, in order for the computer to follow along. And it’s just like, it shouldn’t be this way.
Liz: Speaking of Ensign Ro, I was thinking of her in the line where Chakotay is not allowed to carry the bag of soil from his homeland, because of the whole thing where Bajorans sort of have to earn the right to wear their earring through good behavior. Like, this is such a response to Star Trek in the nineties.
Anika: Part of it is, you know, especially with the Bajorans and with Chakotay in this passage, it feels like a whole, you know, “Religion doesn’t belong in my Star Trek” kind of thing.
Liz: That’s it.
Anika: And, you know, it’s like my utopia would just allow people to have whatever belief system that they want to have, and culture and rituals. It’s just like, how is “there is no God” a utopia?
Liz: Exactly. And I think this series doesn’t just return Chakotay’s culture to him, but it adds other religions to the mix as well. There’s the mention of the characters, Jinn Cherel and Chaim Anielewicz — I just said that I would practice people’s names — but they’re a Bajoran and a Conservative Jew, and a couple.
And you’ll notice that the Bajoran doesn’t actually have a gendered name. This is from the era when people had to warn for slash! There is a lot of queerness in this het series. Like, just casual queerness. I’m pretty sure at some point, the married men adopt a baby.
Anika: Right, and it’s not about any of that. They’re just creating a society where that is.
Anika: I love original characters. I know that’s another thing that you’re not supposed to have in your fanfic.
Liz: I mean, we’ve discussed my feelings on Mary Sues, how the only bad Mary Sue is a badly executed Mary Sue.
Anika: Right. The first chapter of the third one, where it’s the young Chakotay and his friends, and one is like part Vulcan. Like I think his grandfather, maybe, was Vulcan or something. And I was like, I want to know everything about this person. I want to know his family tree,
I want to know how it all happened. I want to know how he was raised. And it was not important, but it just got me thinking about all of these things and I loved that
Liz: No, no! I’m like, if there’s a Conservative Jew on Voyager, like, is Neelix’s cooking kosher? How do they practice their religion? Do they do services with the reformed Jews on the ship?
I absolutely know that somewhere out there is a Trekky rabbi who will answer these questions for us if they haven’t already. And probably two more Trekky rabbis to disagree with the first one’s answers. I’m interested in these people’s lives! And like, if you’re a Catholic in Starfleet is there a dispensation to attend a different denomination’s services? How do they take the Eucharist?
Anika: Yeah. Like, there’s a lot of rituals, even in Episcopalians, that, you know, the only people who’ve gone through a certain amount of training and are blessed in a certain way are allowed to even go into the room to get the wafers. My grandmother was one of them. And so I know all of this and I wasn’t allowed to go, I had to wait in the doorway while she was doing her thing to get all of the Communion ready. And so I’m certain that it can’t be replicated.
[For the record, Liz asked Twitter and eventually a Jesuit priest chimed in to say that you could probably replicate Eucharistic wafers, but they’d still need to go through the same rituals as wafers manufactured the usual way for the miracle to take place.]
Liz: I mean, you can’t even make gluten-free Eucharistic wafers in Catholicism, which by the way, I think is bullshit, but…
Anika: And the thing is that I think that vocal part of the fandom doesn’t want to ask these questions, and even part of the powers that be, they don’t want to address it because there’s this weird thing where like, religion — like science fiction is so religious.
Liz: Spock is literally Jesus
Anika: Anyone who thinks that science fiction is areligious — they’re just wrong. It’s super related to all of these questions of souls and the afterlife and how people relate to each other. And like, there’s just so much that is about religion, and is a response to religion — it’s really weird that at the same time, all of those same people, the people who are writing it and the people who are reading it and engaging with it and watching it are very wary of religion.
Liz: I think that’s partially out of a desire to avoid giving offense. And we know that Star Trek V really painted itself into a quarter in that respect. But certainly in terms of filmed science fiction, it’s very hard to do.
And even in books, like I’m reading The Relentless Moon by Mary Robinette Kowal, and I have a lot of issues with it, but one is that the religions seem to be very pastede on, yay. There’s a scene where all of the Christians on the moon attend a service led by Buzz Aldrin — because it’s an alternative history and Aldrin is a Presbyterian. And he gives out the Communion wafers. And I actually — I’m very embarrassed. I thought Aldrin was Catholic, and I was really horrified by this scene because you can’t just give out the Eucharist to anyone, and not anyone can give out the Eucharist.
I was corrected on that point and I’m very sorry that I ranted at my friend for so long before she got a word in. But then I was like, “Well, what are the Catholics doing? And what are the Orthodox Catholics doing? And what are the different types of Orthodox Catholics doing?”
Because there are lots of us and we all hate each other.
Anika: Yeah. So this is related to — cause I was just saying, oh, why isn’t there more religion in my Star Trek? And then I was hearing the little voice in my head that was like, “But Anika, you hated New Eden.”
But the problem with New Eden was the same problem with Chakotay, and I wrote this into our notes, just saying all of it is great and we’re all yay is like — that’s not respectful to anything. You’re just saying that the Catholics and Protestants are the same, and so yay. We’re done. And they also happen to be the same as Jews and Muslims and Wiccans.
And it’s like, okay, you didn’t even have me at Catholics and Protestants, so you definitely don’t have me at the Muslims and Wiccans. Like, no, you don’t seem to know what any of this actually means.
There are similarities, of course, everything is based on the same sort of idea, but they’re not the same.
What I’m saying – how it’s related to Chakotay is, you can’t just say he’s Indian. Like, no, he’s not an American Indian. Where is he from? What is his ancestry? What does he believe in? Do you know how he would answer if you asked him? You can’t just say, “I’m a Native and we’re all great.”
Anika: Like, that’s not a thing.
Liz: And certainly Macedon’s solution is — oh gosh, I’ve lost the beginning — his father was Potawatomi and his mother was Hopi and Navajo and of Nee Me Poo heritage, the people misnamed Nez Perce. I’m sorry. I don’t really know how to pronounce Native American nations. I’ve only recently learned how to pronounce Sioux.
Liz: Anyway. I think giving him a very mixed heritage is a very good solution to a problem that shouldn’t have existed.
Anika: Right. Like that’s saying, “I am all of these things because my ancestors are all of these things.” It’s not saying, “I’m all of these things. because they’re the same.”
Liz: Yes. And I think at some points in the stories, he says, you know, “My father’s family would do it this way and my mother was raised to do it this way.” And obviously, you know, Indigenous cultures do evolve with the times and, an Aboriginal Australian practice now is not the same as it was 200 years ago.
Anika: Nothing about society is the same. We have evolved, as a people, very rapidly in the most recent, you know, 200 or 500 years, as opposed to before then.
Liz: Right. And one of the things that I do like about Chakotay’s culture, as it’s depicted on screen, is that, you know, they show that his people have developed technology to replace, for example, hallucinogenic drugs. Not because I think hallucinogenic drugs are inherently bad, but because I think that’s something that would happen. You know, if you have the technology to avoid it, then some people are going to use it and others will do it the traditional way. And that was cool.
I was intrigued to notice that Macedonian really liked Tattoo, the episode Tattoo.
Anika: Wait. Okay. So Tattoo is the one where the aliens planted Native Americans. Okay.
Just making sure I knew what you were talking about.
Liz: Yeah. He wrote, on the 15th of November, 1995, “I promised a review of the episode from a Native point of view. For the first time I find that I don’t have any real gripes to make about the Native American element. My gripes are more general, no less gripes but I wasn’t gritting my teeth at plastic medicine man.”
Macedon’s final note on this episode really broke my heart. “Please tell me they finally hired a native consultant.”
Anika: I’m sorry. I’m sorry, Macedon
Liz: Yeah. They had one all along. It’s just that he was a white man.
Anika: Oh dear. And you know, that’s just one of those really sad tales where they tried. Hust, they don’t get a gold star for — sorry, you don’t get a, “you tried” star because it was that bad.
Liz: I mean, it was known since 1984 that “Jameke Highwater” was actually a white man named Jackie Marks. So … yeah.
Anika: Why do people do these things and why do they somehow get into these positions
of quote-unquote power?
Liz: I don’t know.
Anika: How does it happen over and over again?
Liz: It’s sort of a thing happening in Canada at the moment, several prominent Aboriginal Canadians have been revealed to be white people. It doesn’t really happen in Australia — in fact, it’s basically a far right-wing dog whistle to imply that someone who is known as an a Aboriginal person is really white.
So I have trouble reading the discourse, like, [I read it through] through gritted teeth, but it seems like there’s a level of social cachet in being Native American, that there is not yet in being an Aboriginal Australian. Which is terrible. Like it’s bad either way. Don’t pretend to be–
Anika: Yeah. Just don’t.
Liz: I mean, here I am pretending that I know stuff, but–
Anika: I just don’t have –I am not imaginative in that way where — I cannot. As someone who crafts my personality and I don’t just mean like my online persona or my public persona, it’s like I craft who I am to myself, who I am inside my head, I think about it and build a story for–
Liz: No, no. That makes sense. You build yourself a narrative, but it’s not a–
Liz: You’re not stealing someone else’s narrative.
Anika: Right. And I cannot. And like I said, I’m not imaginative enough to do that, because I can’t lie to myself that way. Like I just, I don’t understand. I couldn’t do it.
Anika: I couldn’t pull it off.
Liz: Like, I have imposter syndrome already.
Anika: It’s so strange. Like, why would you do that? But the thing is that, like, this guy got hired as a Native consultant, so it worked out for him.
Liz: He earned a lot of money! He won a prestigious award for his book that he wrote pretending to be Native American.
Anika: It’s like Rachel Dolezal leading the NAACP, and just like — how? Just — why?
Liz: But don’t you feel bad???
Anyway, before we wrap up, I wanted to point out — we were talking about how fans don’t want a lot of religion in their Star Trek. And to be honest, I’ve seen arguments that even the extremely shallow and poor depiction of Chakotay’s religion is too much for Star Trek.
Anika: Too much religion! Too much!
Liz: And, uh, obviously I disagree and I know we’ve talked about this, but I think it’s a real shame that the depiction of Chakotay has sort of poisoned the well to an extent in terms of Indigenous representation on Star Trek.
Anika: Yes. It’s a real problem. And the thing is. You know, I’ve said that I never loved Chakotay, but now it’s just really hard. I wish he wasn’t there.
I’m listening to the Greatest Generation, and they hate Chakotay. I’m just like, I am so pleased that you agree with me on this, but it’s just making my distaste, you know, build into a fervor.
It’s like why?
And now there’s people who are clamoring for Janeway and Chakotay to be in Picard, or whatever, or even Seven and Chakotay in Picard. And I’m just like, no. I never need to see Chakotay again.
Anika: I don’t care.
Liz: Una McCormack finishes The Autobiography of Kathryn Janeway with a hint that leaves the path open to Janeway/Chakotay shippers. And that is all I need. That crumb is delicious and I do not want another bite.
And I certainly don’t believe for a moment that Robert Beltran will ever return to Star Trek. I do not believe that he is the source of the wedding ring on Seven’s finger in the Picard trailer.
Anika: That’s just absurd. Like, people just need to let it go. People need to understand that the Chakotay/Seven relationship was not endgame. I know that’s, like, the title in all, however, it was not endgame. And then just let it go. It’s just ridiculous to me. And I am someone who is fine with the relationship having happened!
Liz: Imagine if people were still this upset because Worf and Deanna aren’t together.
Anika: Right. Exactly. Exactly. “How is he married to Jadzia, he was clearly still dating Deanna!”
Liz: And how could Deanna marry Will Riker when she was clearly still with Worf?
I mean, I could actually kind of see them all as, like, uh, I don’t want to say a swinger situation, but with an arrangement. anyway. Probably not Worf, he’s very uptight. He’d have to be talked into it, but I think Worf and Riker would be a great pairing. They’re already BFFs.
Anika: I would want more Worf content. I don’t want more Chakotay content.
Liz: Yeah. I would really love to have Worf come back
Anika: And I’ve got enough Riker. Like, I love Riker. I love Jonathan Frakes, but we can
now give some of those–
Liz: I know we’ve said this, but I want Worf captaining the Enterprise and Ezri as his first officer and they’re friends. That’s all I want.
Anika: Yes, exactly.
Liz: Yeah. Yeah. And Chakotay is not in it, but they introduce a new Indigenous character and employ Indigenous writers and cultural consultants, and give that character a meaningful arc.
Anika: We ask for so much.
Liz: We really do. We need to like, make a list of everything we’ve suggested that Star Trek [should do], then send it to them so they can start knocking things off it.
Anika: But they do have, like, 10 shows going on. Like there’s just so many shows.
There’s there’s possibilities for this. It’s not crazy to say, you know, what would be good
is making up for that whole Chakotay mess.
Liz: Yeah. Yeah. You know, look at Rutherford Falls, this seems to be the beginning of a new and exciting period for Native American representation in popular culture, and it would be a real shame for Star Trek to be left behind.
Anika: Not to be constantly bringing up Dick Wolf, but in FBI Most Wanted, there are multiple Indigenous characters.
Liz: See that is genuinely impressive.
Anika: Who are a part of the plot. And so, you know, it’s just sad that, once again, the Dick Wolf universe is doing better.
Liz: Guys, this is embarrassing. We need to step up our game. The Law and Order fans are laughing at us.
Anika: My final thoughts on this are just, you know, read it for yourself. It’s really an interesting look at two things. One, early Voyager fandom, and two, how fan fiction can critique the canon in a positive way.
Liz: Yeah, that’s the thing, I feel like this is an important story, and also an entertaining one. And I think that is such a hard skill and such a challenging thing to pull off. It’s literally a story about people telling stories and yet it doesn’t feel self-indulgent.
Anika: And there’s a note, I think it’s in the second one maybe, or maybe at the end of the first one, there was a note that’s basically like, “We know this doesn’t line up with canon, and we’re not going to apologize for that. But if you just think of it as an alternate timeline, you’ll be fine.” Which is the way I read all fan fiction.
Liz: I read that and thought, ah, Anika is on board.
Anika: Yes. Exactly. But that’s it. That’s all you have to do in this universe, Tom Paris, his dad’s name is also Tom. Like, that’s it. It’s all I need to know.
So especially if you’re someone who either loves, or who — like — me doesn’t understand why Chakotay is even on the show. Those extremes. This is for you.
Liz: Oh, look, because I read this right after The Greatest Generation episode on Initiations came out, I almost dropped a link to the fic in the Facebook group. And I still might because I feel like this fic is old enough to vote and it’s old enough to drink in the U S and it’s still worth reading.
Anika: Especially if you found Voyager on Netflix after watching Orange is the new Black, you know, if you’re a, “I didn’t grow up with Voyager,” [fan], you’re, “I’m experiencing it now from a 2020s perspective,” you know, it’ll help. It’ll make you feel a little better
Liz: The same way I enjoy reading zines from the seventies, I think new fans might enjoy reading fic and even Usenet posts from the nineties.
Anika: Because it’s a part of our — not culture. But it’s a part of our past, it’s a part of our fannish beginning. I feel like fandom history, quote, unquote, hasn’t gotten to the nineties. Like people aren’t writing they might be doing presentations on it, but they’re not up to the writing books about it because it’s still, you know, it’s like, “Oh, it was 10 years ago.” But it’s not 10 years ago, it was like more like 30.
Liz: I actually think it’s a mistake to look at, for example, the Fandom Menace and fandom racism now, without also looking at the way people behaved in the nineties, the way norms have changed. And also the way some of the people who were trolls then are still around now.
Anika: Yeah, Yeah, yeah, exactly.
Anika: I think that it explains the Fandom Menace — the thing is that back then you could say the things that they say, and you wouldn’t be called out for it. Whereas now everyone’s like, “Hey, that’s wrong?” And they just get more angry.
Liz: I will say, like, I read one of the “why are there no LGB characters in Star Trek?” threads from ’95? And it was a very unpleasant conversation and there were a lot of people saying homophobic things, but the guys who were using slurs and being uncivil as well as offensive were banned.
And I think it’s a sign of how fandom’s discourse has evolved that just being homophobic in a polite way is no longer acceptable. But also society has evolved!
Anika: Society’s evolved. And we talk about it more. I have a very strong recollection of, I started a Kim/Kes archive with another young woman. And right before launch, I found out that the reason she wanted to create it was because Harry and Tom fic was the
most popular, and it made her ill because she was raised against that. And so it never launched because I was like, okay, bye.
Anika: She was, I’m going to say, five years younger than me, so at that time I felt like — oh, like I was in early college and she was in high school and I was like, “I am the adult. And so I am going to help you. I’m going to introduce you to the wonders of homosexuality.”
Liz: I think you did the right thing!
Anika: I really tried, but no, she stopped talking to me and then I didn’t make the archive. And that was the end of that story. I sort of hope that she began — she was young and
she was like, not to be a stereotype, but she had a very religious upbringing, an evangelical upbringing. And so I hope that she grew up.
Liz: I feel like chances are good that she did! Like, I grew up in a very conservative Catholic household, and I was raised with a lot of homophobic beliefs, and I was a very homophobic person. And part of what helped me learn better was being in fandom and reading fics like this series, where queer people are just there.
And if nothing else, it was a way to sort of get my initial homophobic response out of the way without affecting other people. You know, there were conversations that only took place in my head. Thank God. So maybe this was ultimately a long, slow wake up call for that girl.
Anika: I hope so.
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Anika: And join us in two weeks, when we’ll be discussing the TOS episode Is There in Truth No Beauty as a tie-in to Star Trek: Prodigy.
Liz: Wait, is it, is there no truth in beauty?
Anika: Is There in Truth No Beauty.
Anika: I changed it in the thing because it was wrong, yeah.
Liz: Wow. Okay. So I’ve been wrong about that for 30 years!