A reason to live: utopia and social change in Star Trek fan letters

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Henry Jenkins uses Michel de Certeau’s term “textual poaching” to describe how fans rewrite Star Trek television shows and movies in order to produce their own narratives, which they then share among each other in the form of novels and music.1 Constance Penley has also analysed artwork produced by these fans, and Heather Joseph-Witham has looked at their costume-making.2 These studies have brought critical attention to what might have seemed to be an overdone and outdated subject, and have highlighted how important Star Trek fan culture is to the fields of media and reception studies. Yet their work is limited by its exclusive focus on those more marginal fans who are producers of new texts rather than more “ordinary” fans who consume the original text but do not write stories and filk music (a term used to describe science fiction folk singing), dress up or manipulate video material. 3 The Star Trek movies and television shows play an important role in the emotional and affective lives of American fans. Therefore in this chapter I want to investigate the ways in which fans actually talk about the show and their engagement with it.4 Specifically, given the long-running nature of the series, I want to address the differential character and historically shifting contexts of audience reception as found in Star Trek correspondence.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPopular media cultures
Subtitle of host publicationfans, audiences and paratexts
EditorsLincoln Geraghty
Place of PublicationBasingstoke
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
ISBN (Electronic)9781137350374
ISBN (Print)9781137350367, 9781349468348
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Fans
  • Star Trek
  • Letter Writing
  • Audiences
  • Utopia


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