News Ticker

MIND MELD: Remembering Terry Pratchett and Leonard Nimoy (Part Two)

[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

Sadly, the genre community has recently lost both Leonard Nimoy and Terry Pratchett, so I asked our panelists the following question:

What did either, or both, icons of the SFF community mean to you?

Aliette de Bodard
Multi-award winning author Aliette de Bodard‘s next novel is House of Shattered Wings, coming out this fall.

I did not watch Star Trek, and so have very little to say about Leonard Nimoy’s meaning to me–though, seeing the lovely things he did and wrote while alive do make me regret this. However, I have a lot to say on Terry Pratchett.

It’s hard to describe the impact Terry Pratchett had on me–but I’ll try. I first came to Discworld via the French translation of The Colour of Magic, when I was a teenager: I bought them as they came out in paperback format, slim grey volumes with Josh Kidby’s illustrations as a cardboard insert; and read them cover to cover. A lot of the jokes were lost on me at the time because I had very little fantasy culture (it would be many, many years before I understood that the beginning of The Colour of Magic was referencing Fritz Leiber); but I still found them hilariously funny, and so different from the other stuff that was for sale in the very small science fiction and fantasy section of my local bookshop. As years passed and I caught up to existing translations, I started reading the books in English rather than wait for them to come out in French. I taught myself English via the Discworld, slowly and sometimes painfully making my way through Mrs Cake’s incomprehensible dialogue and the various footnotes of the books; learning about British culture and British humour through Pratchett’s gentle sendups (I’m sure I got about 10% of the jokes, but hey. 10% isn’t bad!); simultaneously reading Wyrd Sisters and Shakespeare and grappling with understanding of the latter while howling at the former’s jokes.

My family moved to London, where I lived for two years, dedicating my pocket money to buy the Discworld books and slowly growing my shelf of battered paperbacks that I reread over and over with growing pleasure. My English got better; so did my sense of humour in the language (and, as anyone will tell you, sense of humour is one of the hardest things to learn in another language). I moved back to Paris; became fluent in English (1); I became a writer of science fiction and fantasy; and always, I bought the Discworld books, now in hardback as I had caught up to English publication. I would pre-order and devour as soon as they were released, and eagerly wait for the next one, year after year. I was devastated by Terry Pratchett’s diagnosis, but there were still books. Everything, I thought, was going to be OK.

Pratchett is gone; and there will be no more books; and the world is a smaller, darker place without him–it was too soon, far too soon for him to be taken away; and my heart goes out to his family and his friends and the people who knew him. I only met him for thirty seconds at the Glasgow Worldcon–inadequate, even if I had been less tongue-tied and less star-struck, to convey all of this. But he’s still here in my way of thinking; and in my language; and in my writing.

(1) I’m sure Pratchett would have found it very funny that I only became fluent in English long after I’d ceased living in an English-speaking country.

Rachael Acks
Rachael Acks is a writer, geologist, and sharp-dressed sir. In addition to a steampunk mystery novella series, she’s had short stories in Strange Horizons, Crossed Genres, Shimmer, Daily Science Fiction, Lightspeed, and more. She’s also written six episodes for Six to Start’s Superhero Workout game. Rachael lives in Houston (where she bikes, drinks tea, and twirls her ever so dapper mustache) with her two furry little bastards. For more information, see her website (http://www.rachaelacks.com) or watch her tweet (@katsudonburi) way too often.

As a writer and nerd, both Leonard Nimoy and Terry Pratchett have been incredibly dear to me, in different ways, and in the same way.

I grew up as a Trekkie, watching Leonard Nimoy as Spock. My older brother actually identified with the character more than I did; I was more in to Uhura just because she was a girl, and she was on the bridge crew, and it was important to me when I played pretend. Also, the entire Vulcan emphasis on logic didn’t really do it for me—and still doesn’t, honestly. For all I am a scientist, I don’t believe humans are at our best when we lionize one positive trait (logic) at the detriment of others. But as I got older, Spock became increasingly important to me because of the humanity that he had such trouble embracing and Captain Kirk always emphasized. I started to realize that his humanity, and with it a deep and abiding love for and kindness toward all living things, was just as much a part of Spock as his logic, if so much more subtly played.

Spock wouldn’t have been the character he was without the man who played him and imagined an alien who was so deeply humane. And after reading Leonard Nimoy’s memoirs and watching him tweet, it’s so apparent that the humanity that moved Spock also moved the man who played him. Until his death, I’d actually never even heard about how, using Spock, he comforted a young, biracial woman who once wrote to him. But after reading about it, I thought—of course he did. Just like of course he told all us nerds that we could consider him our grandfather.

Terry Pratchett, I started reading because my mother bought a copy of Good Omens. I was hooked from the first footnote. I remember, shortly after, when I bought a book by Neil Gaiman and realized that he wasn’t the source of those wonderful, hilarious footnotes that had me laughing out loud—literally the first time a book had ever caused me to laugh out loud. I checked a few Terry Pratchett books out of the library then and discovered the footnotes I’d been looking for, and Discworld. I read all of those books, though the ones featuring Vimes or Death as main characters were always my favorites. At first, I mostly read the books because they were that hilarious, even moreso than Douglas Adams’s work in my opinion.

But as I had with Leonard Nimoy, I realized later (after I read Night Watch) that underneath it all lay a great, loving heart. There was such compassion in everything that Terry Pratchett wrote. Night Watch was the first book I’ve ever read that made me both laugh out loud and unabashedly cry—both while riding on a bus. It almost felt like Terry Pratchett used the humor to get your guard down, and then snuck in when you weren’t looking to punch you solidly in the heart and remind you, this is why people, and life, and the world are so fragile and important.

While their media and methods were different, the reason I respect and love both of these men is the same: they both put so much heart and humanity in everything that they did. In that, they were so alike, and I will miss them terribly. I’m still trying to learn that lesson they each offered in his own way. Some days it’s easier than others. But I think the best way to honor the legacy of both these artists is to try to find humanity and compassion in what I create and remember to love that even on the worst days.

The best anyone can ever really do is leave the world a better place than when they came into it. I know they both did.

K.V. Johansen
K.V. Johansen is the author of Blackdog and two other adult novels (or one two-part novel) set within the same history, The Leopard: Marakand Part One, and The Lady: Marakand Part Two, all epic fantasies from Pyr. She has an M.A. in Medieval Studies and had also written two works on the history of children’s fantasy literature, two short story collections, and a number of books for children and teens, including the award-winning young adult series The Warlocks of Talverdin and the Torrie middle-grade fantasy adventures. She spends too much time on Twitter and lives in Canada with a celebrated mitten thief, a.k.a. the Wicked Dog. Her website is at www.kvj.ca

My first encounter with Terry Pratchett’s works was away back in the eighties, when I used to scan along the sf shelves at the W.H. Smith in the mall. Intriguing covers or titles would get me to read the back and a few random pages, and I usually went home with something. I was, however, very picky, especially when it came to fantasy. So, there they were, two titles, I think, about 1985/86? American covers. I did read the back of one, which was as far as I got. Ick. Clearly (imagine a Kirsty/Kassandra/Sigourney voice here) yet another bad American (sorry guys) bit of what ought to have been confined to oblivion in someone’s juvenilia drawer, a feeble attempt to capture a faint hint of Tolkien while, worse, trying to be slapstick. Bored of the Rings meets Terry Brooks? I recoiled and went away.

I was young. The young are so dreadfully prejudiced and inflexible.

Some years later … many years later, while on a visit, I was vacuuming my sister’s room. I picked up a book off her bed. Johnny and the Bomb. I started reading. A while later I finished the book and realized that, having read the whole thing crouching on the floor where I had been standing when I picked it up, my legs were asleep. So, naturally, I sat down on the bed and read the whole thing again. (I’m a fast reader.) Then I went to the nearest town, which had at least a used bookstore, and bought all the Pratchett they had (Guards! Guards! and Maskerade.) Whether I ever finished the vacuuming I don’t recall, but I did track down nearly all the then-extant Pratchett within a very short time.

Since then, as a feral academic specializing in children’s fantasy literature, I have written about Pratchett in Quests and Kingdoms: A Grown-Ups Guide to Children’s Fantasy, have given guest lectures on his writing to undergraduate English classes, and used Wintersmith as one of the texts when I was an instructor for the Science Fiction Foundation Masterclass in Literary Criticism in 2014. I can pick up almost any book by Pratchett, open it anywhere, and just start reading and lose myself. He’s someone to pass an idle hour with, to share with a friend by reading aloud on an evening of fire and wine, and to turn to when the world has grown grey and heavy and seems on the edge of being too much to bear.

It isn’t Pratchett’s places, his worlds of Blackbury and the Disc, Mau’s Nation and Dodger’s London, that make his writing so important to me, but his sharp humour, his insightful view of the world, and his people, especially the latter. Even in the earliest Discworld, there is depth, not so much in the story or the world at that point, before he really hit his stride, but in Rincewind, who travels through the clichés of heroic fantasy found in Jones’ later Tough Guide to Fantasyland desperately trying to survive Fate and cheat Death, grimly clinging to his ever-frustrated desire for logic and reason, and becoming what he would more strongly become with each successive book, a sensibly-cowardly, humanist, Everyman.

Each book by Pratchett is not only an adventure — entertaining, emotional, thoughtful, exciting, with comedy thrusting itself into the spotlight and the potential for tragedy skulking in the wings — it is an exploration of a psychological geography. What Pratchett is really — though not exclusively — guiding us to discover as each story unfolds is his heroes’ internal landscape — sometimes literally so, if you think of Johnny Maxwell, Vimes, and Death. Pratchett’s characters are thinkers, and his heroes worry about questions of right and wrong not only in the world at large but in their own motivations and actions. (Granny, of course, we meet when she has arrived at a place of self-certainty; we pick up only the faintest hints of turmoil beneath her adamantine surface.) Witnessing the evolution of Granny Weatherwax and Samuel Vimes as literary characters and as people (and influenced also by Harriet Vane and a few of Bujold’s characters) I found myself some years ago, when I had only a couple of books to my name, questioning my own characters more deeply. I began to demand more of them, that they have more self-awareness and introspection, that they exhibit more multi-layered and conflicting motivations in their interactions with others, and that they be more interrogative — and assertive — of their own morality or self-will. That, I think, has made me a better writer; it has also made me read other authors differently. I think about the underlayers of the characters more. Sometimes, I think I may be thinking about the underlayers of real people more, too, and I wonder if that also is not owing in part to Pratchett.

Rachel Cotterill
Rachel Cotterill is professionally and perpetually indecisive, splitting her time somewhat haphazardly between writing, computing, linguistics, recipe development, and travel. She’s half of the feminist SF book blog Strange Charm and her third novel, Watersmeet, is a romantic and optimistic fantasy published earlier this year.

Growing up as a quiet, studious, rather geeky girl, it’s probably no surprise that I took refuge in science fiction and fantasy. Whether in books or on screen, I’ve always loved to immerse myself in other worlds, so it goes without saying that Terry Pratchett and Leonard Nimoy both played a large part in shaping the landscape of my childhood.

I’m crap at talking about people – and I knew neither of them personally – so I’ll talk about a couple of characters instead.

People have never made much sense to me. People are messy and irrational; we overreact to the most inconsequential things; we engage in petty squabbles that serve only to make things worse for everyone. But as a child, the thing that made the least sense was that no-one else seemed particularly troubled by this.

Spock was, I think, the first time I saw my own confusion mirrored in fiction. His wish for logic above all struck a definite chord, but at the same time, he struggled with the same human failings that affected everyone else. I watched Star Trek wishing I’d been born a Vulcan, but I also knew I wasn’t. Fortunately, Spock also showed me that it was possible to have deep, meaningful friendships with people… even while accepting that they sometimes perplexed you.

A little later, when I discovered the Discworld books, it was Granny Weatherwax who taught me a different approach. Esme showed me that you don’t have to weaken yourself to fit in, as long as you’re also strong enough to handle the fact that some people may not like you for it. She stressed the importance of doing the right thing, not necessarily the easy thing, and her actions demonstrated time and again the power inherent in making rational, considered, and committed choices. (And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that she, too, succeeded with the support of a small group of friends who were particularly forgiving of her personal foibles.)

The world is a poorer place without Nimoy and Pratchett in it, but the beauty of art is that it keeps on giving, even after its creators have died. These are modern classics: the next generation of kids will still have these characters to guide them. And I think that’s important.

Andrea Johnson
Andrea Johnson blogs over at https://littleredreviewer.wordpress.com/ where she reviews science fiction and fantasy books and talks about other nerdy stuff. She’s an interviewer at Apex Magazine, a beer snob, and lives in an apartment that looks like a library exploded. She can be found on twitter at @redhead5318.

voyage2I was driving home from work when I heard the news that Leonard Nimoy had died. The first thing I did was call home. “They just said it on the radio, Leonard Nimoy died,” I told my husband. I’m not the kind of person to call him from work for every little thing, but this wasn’t any little thing. The next night, I talked with my Dad on the phone about Nimoy. “Of all the Star Trek characters, he was the only one who was any kind of spiritual touchstone”, said my Dad, of Nimoy’s Spock. My Dad got me into Star Trek when I was a kid. We watched Next Generation religiously together, and had Daddy-daughter dates to the movie theater every time a Star Trek movie came out. Even when I was old enough to go out on dates with boys, I had to see Star Trek movies with my Dad. Every few years, when another Star Trek movie came out, we were both a little older. As Leonard Nimoy’s and Walter Keonig’s hair grayed, so did my father’s. When Nimoy showed up in the newest Trek movie as an ancient time traveler, I realized my Dad would be that old one day. That was a sobering moment for me.

A evening or two after learning of Nimoy’s death I watched Star Trek III: The Search For Spock (during which I realized that even though the movie is about Spock, Shatner can’t help but hog the screen), followed immediately by Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. I made it through both movies without crying.

In the days that followed, all the conversations I had with my nerdy friends included some variant of “did you hear about Leonard Nimoy?”. Yes, I’m completely aware he did more with his life than just Star Trek, but Star Trek is the context in which my friends and I know him. We talked of other TV shows he’d been in, video games he voiced. It was odd, I rarely talked Star Trek with this group of friends, our favorite fandoms were more along the lines of Firefly and Babylon5. But suddenly, Leonard Nimoy was the glue holding our group together. We spoke of him in tones of voices used for acquaintances and neighbors, with a casualness reserved for people we knew personally.
I saw countless articles online about Nimoy, and I read very few of them. I get through the steps of mourning at a snail’s pace, so I expect it will be a while before I’m ready to dive into the minutiae of Nimoy’s life and legacy.
I’ve veered quite a ways away from the original question, of what Nimoy’s work meant to me. I guess it boils down to that he was the spiritual touchstone of something that helped me forge bonds and create connections with people I care for. For someone who has never been very good at expressing herself verbally, that is a very big deal.

Joanne Hall
Joanne Hall lives in Bristol, England, with her partner. She has been writing since she was old enough to hold a pen, and gave up a sensible (boring) job in insurance to be a full time writer, to the despair of her mother. She dabbled in music journalism, and enjoys going to gigs and the cinema, and reading.Her first three novels, which made up the New Kingdom Trilogy, were published by Epress Online. Since then she has had to move house to make more room for books. Her short stories have been published in several anthologies, including Dark Spires and Future Bristol, as well as a number of magazines. A collection of short stories, The Feline Queen was published by Wolfsinger Publications in April 2011, and her latest novel, The Art of Forgetting was published by Kristell Ink in two volumes in 2013 /14, and the first volume has been longlisted for the 2014 Tiptree Award. With Roz Clarke, she has co­edited two anthologies, Colinthology and Airship Shape and Bristol Fashion. She is also one of the founders of Bristolcon. Her blog can be found at www.hierath.co.uk, and she’s always happy to hear from readers.

I suppose it’s a generational thing.

When I was still quite little, my mum introduced me to Star Trek via re-runs on BBC Two. She had watched them all the first time around, but when I was growing up the BBC was re-running lots of classic 60’s genre shows that she had first watched when she was my age, and now we watched them together. Not just Star Trek, but The Man From UNCLE, and a whole bunch of Gerry Anderson shows. But Star Trek was her favourite.

I was never sure about Kirk. He came across as a loudmouth, an arrogant womanizer who didn’t take advice well. But Spock – I liked Spock. He was calm and logical and even though he didn’t fit in well with the rest of the crew, they respected him, teased him gently and looked out for him. As a girl who was a very square peg in a round hole, I empathised with his awkward Vulcan ways. So my mum was Team Kirk and I was Team Spock.

A few years later, by chance, I bought a copy of Wyrd Sisters with my birthday money and took it to my bedroom to read it. My mum came upstairs to ask me what I was reading, because apparently I was laughing so loudly I was drowning out the TV. So when I was finished I lent it to her, and she read it, and promptly went out and bought me copies of Mort and Equal Rites so that she could read them when I was done with them (or possibly before I was done with them…)

So my mum introduced me to Spock, and I introduced her to Pratchett, and now within a month both of them are suddenly, painfully gone. There’s a lot of my growing up tangled up in their work. It would be hard to untangle the strands of Trek fandom and Discworld love from the fabric that makes me me without the whole thing collapsing into a blubbery mess.

But not just growing up. My mum and I haven’t always seen eye-to-eye, I love her dearly but we are very different people. But the thing that brings us together is shared fandom, and that means a lot. To me, both Leonard Nimoy and Terry Pratchett, beyond any of the wonders they have created, mean warmth, and security, and snuggling on the sofa, and a shared love. They brought my mum and me closer together at a time when we were both struggling with my ongoing depression. And, certainly with Terry Pratchett, at a very dark time they made us both laugh at the same things, and that means more than I can say.

Jaym Gates
Jaym Gates is an editor, author, and communications director. Her editorial work includes the anthologies War Stories, Genius Loci, Geek Love, and Broken Time Blues. More about Jaym can be found at jaymgates.com, or on Twitter as @JaymGates.

I could spend hours dissecting what Terry Pratchett’s work meant to me, and still not cover everything. Suffice to say, in brevity, that he was the one author I ever sent a fan letter to. He showed an angry teenager that wit and grace could overcome nearly anything, that anger should never rule me, that humor is never out of place but takes many, many forms.

I was rereading Night Watch for about the 20th time the night before he passed, and…in a few days or weeks or months, I’ll finish rereading it, and then I’ll do my first read-through in the proper order. I’ll probably re-read them many times, and each time, I’ve found something new. Pratchett’s words will never stop teaching and reminding me of who I want to be. His writing elicits laughs even while they point out injustice or human fallibility, and tackles some of the hardest subjects in life in a non-confrontational way, letting his characters speak for themselves.

I wish we had been able to hear many, many more words from him, but his characters taught me more humanity than any living person I’ve ever met. I can’t think of a better legacy to leave.

Francis Knight
Francis Knight is the author of the Rojan Dizon series. The third and final in the series is Last to Rise.

When the call was put out to authors to say how they felt about the passing of Nimoy and Pratchett I suspect there were many, many responses from people who have a lot of feels about the one, other or both of them because they were both iconic and extremely influential.

I’ll start with Nimoy, and, of course, Spock. It’s hard to separate the two, because for many they were the same. Lots has been said about the ground breaking nature of Star Trek, how it opened things up about race – a black woman who isn’t a maid! – and all nature of other things. Much has been rightly said about Spock and the use of him to highlight racism (or rather speciesism as a metaphor for racism). While I am sure he was hugely influential in that regard, along with Uhuru and Sulu, for me his main appeal was this – he made it OK to be weird. And after a while, not just OK, cool.

Some of us are, shall we say, wired differently. Our brains sometimes run on other rails. We get funny looks sometimes if we aren’t careful and let that leak out. Spock wasn’t like the humans on the SS Enterprise. He was different not just outside, but inside too. He thought differently. Very differently. He got funny looks when he let that difference show.

And he was cool. He was awesome. He was different. The others came to like and respect him just as he was. He made it OK to be a bit weird compared to the rest.

I shall always love him for that lesson. OK, and for the fact he’s the only fictional character to make my husband bawl like a baby, no matter how often we watch his death scene.

And on to Pratchett.

Many people can remember where they were when Kennedy was shot, or the Berlin wall came down. I can remember exactly where I was and when it was I saw my first Pratchett novel. 1990, in a dingy squat in Brighton. A crusty (if you don’t know you probably don’t need to know) ran in, dreadlocks bouncing, shouting ‘Guys. Guys! GUYS! You have to read this book!”

That book was Guards! Guards!

And so a love affair was born. Pratchett became, and remains, the author whose books I love the most. Books that comfort me when reading, or life, feels jaded. That always reach me in a new way. His gentle wit – and not so gentle evisceration of the stupidities and injustices of life – will be with me long after other more “worthy” books have faded in my mind. He didn’t just make us laugh – he made us think while wiping away the giggling tears.

More than that, he has perhaps been one of the greatest influences on writers in the genre in recent years, and that can only be good. Listen in to writers talking, or go to a writers’ forum.

Where are the older women in SFF? someone will ask. In roughly three nanoseconds, someone else will mention Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, Lady Sybil.

Can I write in omni? How do I do it well? Go read Pratchett someone will say.

Can I start with description? Or stop for an explanation? The “rules” tell me I mustn’t. Make it interesting, or funny, someone will answer, and you’re gold. Like Pratchett.

Footnotes? Pratchett.

I’m a guy, can I write realistic women? Why not, Pratchett writes some of the best, most realistic women characters out there.

Basically, in the end the answer to almost any writing question is “Go read Pratchett, and learn from the best”.

They say a man is not dead if his name is still spoken. Older readers are sharing his books with younger ones, with glee. Saying “Dude, dude! You have to read this book!” These scenes may or may not involves dreadlocks, but that’s not important.

Pratchett’s name will be spoken for many years yet.

Beverly Bambury
Beverly Bambury gives creators more time to create. She does social media management and planning, as well as publicity campaigns for writers, comic creators, and local small businesses. Learn more at beverlybambury.com.

leonard-nimoy
Leonard Nimoy was my first love. Well, it was Mr. Spock. I was a wee five or six years old and often watched Star Trek reruns with my family. I was drawn not to the dashing and handsome Captain Kirk, but to the logical, intelligent, distant Spock. It was a sign of the geek I was to become.

I also spent many hours watching In Search Of back then, too. Nimoy’s big voice drew me into a weird world that defied understanding. It was a sign of my yet-to-mature love of creepy and scary things. When Nimoy came out with The Full Body Project, my affection for him was renewed yet again.

I’ll always wish I could have met Leonard Nimoy, but I am grateful for all the stories about him that have come out since his death. I believe he was a good man, an ethical and empathetic man. I think we can all learn a lot from him in our efforts to live long and prosper.

Sherwood Smith
Sherwood Smith writes fantasy and science fiction for young and old. Latest book is Hostage, sequel to Stranger, a YA utopian dystopia (with cool powers) written with Rachel Manija Brown. Latest solo book is Rondo Allegro, a Napoleonic era romance.

 

Though I never met either Leonard Nimoy or Terry Pratchett, it felt like a double sonic boom when they died so close together. With Pratchett in particular I loved reading every online tribute that included a personal anecdote, which gave me a bit more of an inner picture of the human being behind the books I love so much.

Nimoy was both more accessible in image and yet more reclusive as a person, as it was difficult, nearly impossible to separate out the half-Vulcan science officer Spock from the American who studied acting.
star trek
The sense of loss that I feel is consequently different for each: Spock belongs to my teen and college age years. Though it was evident that we were supposed to find Captain Kirk the focus for romance, it was always Spock for everyone I knew. Back in 1970, when my family finally got a second TV (and color, yet!) and I was able to watch Star Trek reruns every day at five, some fannish friends passed purple mimeo’d fan fiction from hand to hand. Though occasional fan stories were action-oriented, and often Captain-Kirk centered, most of it involved Spock, pon farr, and emotional and physical trauma on the part of the science officer who distrusted emotion and yet never quite felt part of either the Vulcan or the Federation world.

Though I am sorry Nimoy has left us, and there won’t be anymore old-Spock in movies, wherever the franchise goes, I think a strong part of my sense of loss is for those young days when fandom proliferated so wildly, exploring different ways of storytelling.

With Pratchett the loss is specific: no more of his books, after the one already in production. But here on my shelf are the ones he spent his life writing—full of humor, wit, irony, but never smugly cynical or diminishing. It’s his sense of compassion, and wisdom, that brings me to reread them. In that sense he stays with us—both of them stay with us—through their art and how they imbued it with the best of what humans can do, and be.

Sarah Olsen
@miminnehaha is Sarah Olsen offline, but if she ever writes a book it will be mostly for the purpose of adopting a pseudonym. She’s been reading science fiction and fantasy for close to four decades, but has no memory for detail, so must reread constantly those books she likes best. This is not as much a hardship as it might sound. She has recently begun to review books on SF Signal.

spockOne of my earliest memories is waking up on my grandparents’ couch with my uncle at my feet and an alien on the tv beside us. Saturday morning was the sci-fi slot on our local station: I knew all about Sleestaks and Cylons and The Final Frontier before I knew how to tie my shoes.

This would have been the late 70’s; my uncle was the age my son is now. I was three, four, five. Those Saturday mornings were sublime.

I adored Land of the Lost. I admit it. I loved Battlestar Galactica— I thought Starbuck and Apollo must have been modeled on my uncles. Eventually, The Adventures of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century was added, but it was less beloved. So much chrome.

But the main attraction, of course, was always Star Trek. It wasn’t The Original Series yet; we had no idea it had been or would ever be more than a Saturday morning diversion. But it was the obvious king of the TV sci-fi court to us.

I liked Captain Kirk a lot. I ate up those idealistic speeches. I’d have stowed away on the Enterprise in a minute! But he seemed seriously erratic to a little kid like me. Dr. McCoy was much too grumpy to really like.

But Mr Spock was honest, and calm. He was a scientist. Spock seemed to know everything. He had less trouble working with dark-skinned ladies, or dudes with accents, than with their bombastic Captain. He was half-alien, but oh, so familiar. He was rational. He was eminently trustworthy.

And I wanted to trust Mr. Spock. I wanted to trust in the show’s vision of a more-equal society, of respect for colleagues, of the advancement of knowledge as the height of human endeavor.

It was the seventies.

I didn’t watch The Animated Series; I didn’t love the movies. In the years Before The Internet, Leonard Nimoy was no more than a fixture in the background of my personal universe.

But a fixture he was. Choosing, in his public and his personal lives, to embrace the role he played in Star Trek and in people’s lives. He enhanced the perpetuation of the Star Trek universe. He encouraged the community with a willingness to be poked fun at, from his audio recordings of the seventies to his appearance on The Big Bang Theory. He stood up for equality for his castmates time and again. And a generation knew, I knew, that idealism and earnestness were fine ways to be in the world.

I saw a tweet of his, last November, which had been retweeted tens of thousands of times. He’d extended the offer to be the Internet’s Honorary Grandfather. The tweet had been circulating nearly a year. And my reaction wasn’t “look at fandom phenomenon!” or “oh how I love the internet,” or “how sweet.” I said out loud, “Validation!”*

Because when Leonard Nimoy offered to be the Internet’s Honorary Grandfather, and thousands of people immediately accepted, it wasn’t just another online connection. It wasn’t just another nerdgasm for fandom.

It was an acknowledgement that Leonard Nimoy had always been the honorary grandfather of choice to a peculiar, enthusiastic, idealistic swath of the population. He made it true over the course of forty years.

Helen Lowe
Helen Lowe, is a novelist, poet, interviewer and blogger whose first novel, Thornspell (Knopf), was published to critical praise in 2008. Her second, The Heir of Night (The Wall Of Night Series, Book One) won the Gemmell Morningstar Award 2012. The sequel, The Gathering Of The Lost, was shortlisted for the Gemmell Legend Award in 2013 and Daughter Of Blood, (The Wall Of Night Series, Book Three) is forthcoming in January 2016. Helen posts regularly on her “…on Anything, Really” blog and has recently commenced a new series, Fantasy Heroines That Rock My World on SF Signal. She is also active on Twitter: @helenl0we.

Growing up, Star Trek was almost an ubiquity: from an early age, I loved space craft and space travel, monsters and death rays, and the whole idea of the unknowable and unknown in all its forms. Star Trek was always there, playing and replaying in my TV viewing ’verse, always boldly going beyond those unexplored frontiers that morphed into the Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager, as well as all the movie versions…But although I love SF I was never really an avid Trekkie, mainly because despite my enthusiasm for space ships and monsters it’s characters that really speak to me—and most of the first generation characters were largely an interchangeable blur. All part of the ubiquitous Star Trek background, sure, but with no one really standing out: except for Spock. Leonard Nimoy’s Vulcan was always my favorite character and the one I always recall first when I think Star Trek. As a kid, I really liked that he was different: not just the point-y ears that so obviously signalled “difference”, but his adherence to logic over emotion. In that sense he epitomized the possibility of space exploration offering something genuinely other—and provided an excellent foil to Captain Kirk, who to me exemplified a longstanding, if not tired, stereotype. But the important point about Leonard Nimoy, his genius, if you will, is that he made Spock’s otherness convincing, inspiring me to consider how that quality could be portrayed in my own fantastic worlds.

(Sir) Terry Pratchett has also been something of an ubiquity throughout my reading life. Whenever I browsed in the SFF sections of both bookstores and libraries, his works—usually with their distinctive Josh Kirby cover art—were always present. (And still are.) Again, just as the ideas and expressions of Star Trek, such as (er, coughs) “mind melds”, “set phasers to stun” and “beam me up” (if not juxtaposed with “Scotty”), were part of the zeitgeist, I did not have to actually read Pratchett’s books to be thoroughly aware of their basic content. Yet while appreciating the cowardice of Rincewind, the dubious provenance of the Luggage, and the personification of Death, I was not really a Discworld or Pratchett fan—until I finally read Equal Rites and met Granny Weatherwax. I rather liked Esk as well, but was definitely hooked by the progressive development of Granny’s character throughout the book—not least that, despite considerable adroitness in the practice of “headology”, she turns out to be no mean exponent of actual, (hem: bad-)asskicking magic. Equal rites, indeed. Overall, however, I think Terry Pratchett’s most significant contribution to SFF was through a body of humorous works that like all the best comedy, both work in their own right while frequently illuminating more serious matters. Sadly, I have yet to identify an obvious successor to his literary legacy.

About Paul Weimer (366 Articles)
Not really a Prince of Amber, but rather an ex-pat New Yorker that has found himself living in Minnesota, Paul Weimer has been reading SF and Fantasy for over 30 years and exploring the world of roleplaying games for over 25 years. Almost as long as he has been reading and watching movies, he has enjoyed telling people what he has thought of them. In addition to SF Signal, he can be found at his own blog, Blog Jvstin Style, Skiffy and Fanty, SFF Audio, Twitter, and many other places on the Internet!

1 Comment on MIND MELD: Remembering Terry Pratchett and Leonard Nimoy (Part Two)

  1. This is a great tribute to two men who’s work helped me grow into a somewhat cool human being. Star Trek, of any flavor, was always allowed on in my house growing up as a kid. It was one of those shows that my parents never got tired of or had to monnitor (when we were young). And it was a lucky thing too, as we weren’t allowed to watch MTV until we moved out of the house. So all my cool fashion sense comes from Star Trek, mostly The Next Generation.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: