Skip to content

Leonard Nimoy and the Legacy of Fandom

February 27, 2015

nimoy3

The loss of Leonard Nimoy has hit the world hard today – a talented actor, director, writer, and humanitarian. For those of us in fandom, the loss feels personal, which may be hard to understand for someone on the ‘outside’. Even fans who weren’t born when the original Star Trek zoomed onto our (tiny) television screens in gloriously limited special effects feel the void left by his passing. Nimoy, and Star Trek, were so pivotal to the beginnings of fandom as we know it, that it’s difficult to quantify the depth of his contribution to this vibrant thing we call ‘fandom’ or how much the universe feels darker without him in it.

For many of us, Star Trek was our introduction to fandom. It was the one show my little brother and I were allowed to stay up late to watch. I was in love with Mr. Spock, though I was too young to think about anything that would eventually be called shipping; my little brother wanted to be Captain Kirk. Later, when I had children of my own, we crowded around the television set and watched Star Trek: The Next Generation together, continuing the tradition. There has always been something about Star Trek that brought people together – both families and fans. The first fan conventions were for Star Trek, where Nimoy, Shatner, Takei, Nichols, Doohan and Kelley came face to face with the passionate viewers whose letter writing campaigns kept their show on the air (for a few years at least). That campaign is the predecessor to countless social media campaigns to keep our own beloved Supernatural on the air when networks might have shut it down. In a very real way, we are all the descendants of those early Star Trek fans, who began a ‘reciprocal relationship’ with their show because of the depth of their passion for it.

I took my kids to one Star Trek convention when they were little. It was my first time at a fan convention, and I remember being wide-eyed and a little unsure about the whole thing. Then James Doohan took the stage and nervous turned to awestruck. Scotty himself, right there, in person. It was a small taste of the experience I’d eventually have at my first Supernatural convention many years later, but I never forgot it.

nimoy9

A few years ago, when we were researching and writing Fangasm and Fandom At The Crossroads, we went to another Star Trek convention, this time at the invitation of Creation. We were thinking of writing a book about the influence of Star Trek on fandom, so this was work as much as fun, and I didn’t expect it to be emotional.

Then Kathy and I spent three days talking to fans, hearing story after story of how much their fandom was family. Sometimes literally – a three generation family all attending together, grandparents in cosplay and grandchildren in strollers. Sometimes figuratively – fans who found their best friends, their professions, their inspiration in Star Trek. We visited the site where the ‘Star Trek Experience’ had been, recently closed – fans had left thousands of post it notes expressing their dismay about the closing.

G5PvqCo6X2J6a0aAjGwQoxOVGKGHACVD8JjKPfG11NI

is1MSapFIhag-8FKGjPAAhvBrvX5HUM4odV9Mu4h7jw

MiUCDHY1o90hcMtXb_28JZCiGCS0aw4PwrFjHFswVXE

We were privileged to talk to George Takei about his experience spanning so many decades of conventions. And then we joined the gigantic ballroom for something very special – Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner onstage together.

So much for not expecting it to be emotional. After all those years, their chemistry was a joy to see, and a privilege to experience. I couldn’t help but think about Jared and Jensen, decades down the line, doing a reunion convention for all of us whose lives have been changed forever by Supernatural. I have no doubt that their friendship will stand the test of time just like Bill and Leonard’s, with the same sense of humor, friendly ribbing and overwhelming affection. I’m sure there were times when Shatner and Nimoy didn’t see eye to eye, but that didn’t end their relationship or dull their respect for each other.

nimoy

nimoy shatner post on day

This morning, fans and celebrities alike tweeted their condolences and memories. Many genre actors, including SPN guest stars, were in the online waiting room trying to register for their Professional Comic Con badges, alternating between watching the spinning ball and grieving for the loss of a colleague. It was an emotional morning, as people retweeted Nimoy’s last inspiring tweet and reminded each other of some of the groundbreaking things he accomplished.

nimoy4

Supernatural cast and crew, as influenced by Star Trek as most of us were, tweeted their sadness and reminded us of Nimoy’s legacy of inspiration. Even NASA weighed in. How’s that for a legacy?

NASA: RIP Leonard Nimoy. Many of us at NASA inspired by Star Trek. Boldly go…

nimoy nasa and esa

The Monterey Aquarium tweeted what a pleasure it was to have Nimoy there to film Star Trek IV (still my favorite Trek movie of all time. There be whales here!)

We all waited for the one tweet that would make us reach for our second box of tissues, and didn’t have to wait long.

@WilliamShatner: “I loved him like a brother. We will all miss his humor, his talent, and his capacity to love.”

Those of us in the Supernatural fandom have adopted Shatner as one of us, and my first thought when I heard the news was for him and for Nimoy’s family, and for the other Star Trek alums who are still with us. Condolences also to the folks at Creation, who have known the Star Trek actors for decades and think of them as family too.

Today we all felt the loss a little bit like that. Like family. Leonard Nimoy, Star Trek, and those intrepid Trek fans blazed a trail that many of us are happily following today. We’ve come a long way from being summarily dismissed as the ‘crazy obsessives’ featured in ‘Trekkies’ – not far enough, as we found when writing Fangasm – but we’re getting there. Nimoy was happy to be known as our ‘geek grandpa’, and he and Shatner embraced fandom and their own part in its history, setting the stage for the sort of acceptance we enjoy from Jared, Jensen, Misha and the rest of the Supernatural cast. Those early fans, who fell in love with Kirk and Spock so many years ago, proved that fannish passion could make a difference, and that fan communities could be a force for good. They challenged the boundaries of canon with fanfiction and fanart and the earliest of fanvids (made with cutting edge double deck video technology, if I’m recalling a TWC article correctly). They took a page out of Star Trek’s own canon and refused to apologize for being different, just like Mr. Spock. When we asserted the same refusal in Fangasm, it was Star Trek who paved the way for that little bit of courage.

nimoy8

Getty Images

Getty Images

There’s a reason for the cover of the Journal of Fandom Studies.

We’ll miss you, Mr. Nimoy.

LLAP, fandom.

nimoy2

–Lynn
For more of our thoughts on fandom, click
the book links at the top of the page

12 Comments leave one →
  1. Tracy permalink
    February 27, 2015 8:36 pm

    Absolutely beautiful. Thank you for taking the time to write this. Rest in Peace, Leonard.

  2. February 27, 2015 9:28 pm

    Baruch dayan ha’emet.

    That was just lovely, and such an insightful summary of Mr. Nimoy’s (and Star Trek’s) impact. Thanks for writing it and summing up so well how many of us feel. Condolences to his friends and family.

  3. February 27, 2015 10:03 pm

    Thanks for this. I’ve written up my own memories of meeting Mr. Nimoy in a very different setting: musical theatre in Milwaukee, WI back in the 1970’s! Also his premiere of “Vincent” back in 1978. I was an original Trekker, and he’s held a piece of my heat for most of my life. He always will. http://www.bardicvoicestudio.com/live-long-and-prosper-milwaukee-nimoy-memories/

  4. February 27, 2015 10:31 pm

    Beautiful memorial of a wonderful man.

  5. February 28, 2015 12:37 am

    I’ve only been to one dedicated fan convention and that was in Philadelphia 1975 (11 years old): Star Trek! We got to see Nichelle Nichols speak and she was just wonderful. I remember being sad that Shatner and Nimoy weren’t there but enjoyed the at times naughty gag reels (And the two guys sitting in our row who kept yelling, “Jim, he’s dead!”). I loved Mr. Spock and to today feel it’s such a miracle whenever Leonard Nimoy smiles, as if the best brightest thing in the world happened right the heck now. Where’s the Genesis planet when you need it?

    I, too, was so happy when my first favorites began heckling/tweeting the Show boys. Thank you for your much more graceful remembrance!

  6. February 28, 2015 2:14 am

    Reblogged this on Precious Things and commented:
    This made me cry today…

  7. February 28, 2015 4:22 am

    Thank you for this, beautifully written. I’m old enough to remember watching TOS in real time🙂 — they’re not only the reason I’m such a devoted fan of so many things now, but am deeply, irrevocably in love with science fiction. The Star Trek story is one of diversity, inclusion, traveling lightyears into space and coming face-to-face with one’s true nature. Mr. Spock was at the heart of that universe; this is Mr. Nimoy’s legacy.

    Someone posted this on Tumblr today and I found it comforting.

    “According to Vulcan mourning traditions, a death is mourned only if the life was wasted. Leonard Nimoy lived an incredible life and leaves behind a wonderful legacy – one of compassion, creativity, and kindness. Let’s honor his life and celebrate his legacy by making an effort to uplift and encourage our fellow travelers on this little blue planet.”

    #LLAP

    • Laura in Denver permalink
      March 1, 2015 1:04 am

      Nicely put! Thanks for passing on the Tumblr post!

  8. Laura in Denver permalink
    February 28, 2015 9:36 pm

    Yesterday was a sad sad day. Space will never be the same! ! “LLAP” I’ll be watching my favorite Trek movies today.

  9. NixHaw permalink
    March 2, 2015 9:55 am

    This was lovely. Thank you for sharing.

  10. March 8, 2015 2:01 am

    Reblogged this on Little Pwagmattasequarmsettport.

  11. Freya922 permalink
    March 23, 2015 1:54 am

    Always generous, Leonard Nimoy Skyped into our local (but longstanding) Star Trek convention last summer though he could no longer travel. I am so grateful I saw him one last time. He represents everything you said, and more. I loved Star Trek first, and forever. Though in love with much scifi and fantasy, only Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, and Supernatural made me determined to be the best I could be, to never give up, to struggle on…and became so central to my life. There is such a clear line for me directly from Star Trek to our Supernatural fandom…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Longreads

The best longform stories on the web

P.O.P.

Getting Along in a World Full of People.

Pondering Fandoms

From a fangirl perspective

Archaeology and Material Culture

The material world, broadly defined

The Fan Studies Network

Keeping fan studies scholars connected.

%d bloggers like this: