Wednesday, May 26, 1999

Trekkies

Posted By on Wed, May 26, 1999 at 12:00 AM

So, how do you say "to be or not to be" in Klingon? Register for a crash course in Klingon composition – "Klingon for Dummies" – at the Interstellar Language School in Red Lake Falls, Minnesota, and you’ll find out.

Be warned: Instruction is tough. From a distance, teachers and students look like they’re gonna kill one another. In fact, they’re only declining a verb. "Hello" translates into "what do you want?" No political correctness for the Klingons, thank you very much, no handicapped parking spots. Only survival of the fittest.

"Actually," one of the linguists attending a Star Trek Convention confesses, "we are planning to translate Hamlet into Klingon." Picture the scene: Hamlet hesitating to make the kill – for five hours! – before an enraged audience. Male and female members of the audience tearing each other’s hearts out in sign of affectionate protest. Youngsters raised on blood, milk and honey counting the dead bodies in the final scene. Thank god everybody dies in Shakespeare! What a refreshing show!

If you’re not a linguist at heart – why would you learn a foreign language when everybody speaks English?! – but were abducted by a UFO and, despite your trials and tribulations, didn’t make it onto "X Files," you could chat with Joyce Mason, the host of "Talk Trek and Beyond" which airs out of Sunland, California, on Sunday nights. "Some people talk French, some talk German, we talk Trek!" beams Joyce.

Or if radio is not your thing, if you’re a recluse, an introvert, a garden-variety manic-depressive, you can simply wear your Star Trek uniform when grocery shopping. Let the cynics throw contemptuous remarks at you! You’re part of a cultural phenomenon of dramatic proportions: Star Trek conventions are held every weekend of every year in at least three different major cities; more than 63 million Star Trek books are in print, translated into 15 languages; "Star Trek" is watched by an average of 30 million fans every week.

Besides, "Trekkies" are the only fans listed by name in the Oxford English Dictionary. As for the merchandise ... every little prop on the show sells for hundreds of dollars: headpieces, jewelry, tricorders, phasers, communicator badges, photos, even the glass from which a sick John de Lancie – even Q gets the flu – took a sip of water on a late convention afternoon.

"I’ve got the Q virus!" the fan who bought the glass for 60 bucks is said to have shouted after gulping its contents.

There’s nothing more touching – more absurd or more endearing – than our benign and utopic obsessions. Beam us up, Scottie, for we have other lives to live and cannot meet the moonlight but on the deck of a brave new world.

E-mail comments to letters@metrotimes.com.

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