It is widely believed that fans of science fiction tend to be of above average intelligence. They may not be renowned for their personal hygiene, honed physiques or sexual prowess, but there is at least a common consensus that they're a fairly bright bunch. There is a problem with this argument, though, and its a problem that is thrown into sharp relief by, to take an example at random for the sake of argument, any given episode of 'Babylon 5'. The following are a few random observations from a recent viewing of said program:
- The acting is of a general standard that would embarrass a cast member of 'Hollyoaks', although only slightly.
- All the human characters have really bad hair.
- All the 'alien' characters have surreally bad hair
- None of the characters has a sense of humour. Even the ones who're supposed to have a sense of humour really do not have a sense of humour.
- Issues of human sexuality and psychological complexity are dealt with in a manner that veers daringly between Bad Soap Opera and Pathetic Adolescent Crap.
- Characters call each other 'Old Friend', for god's sake.
The point I'm trying to make here is that this is a show that, if judged by any sane standards of artistic achievement, is quite phenomenally bad. I take Babylon 5 as an example, although feel free to take your pick from the genre's combined output from Isaac Asimov to Dragonball Z and apply the same criticisms: emotional illiteracy, shallow / juvenile characterisation, shit dialogue. Even relative critical darlings like ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ are still, in terms of literary merit and psychological insight, basically just Soap. Good Soap maybe, but Soap nonetheless.
Given all this, then, why on Earth are supposedly intelligent people prepared not only to accept such nonsense, but to become genuinely excited, even obsessive over it? Why is it so damn cool? (I may as well hold my hands up here; despite being all too aware of its manifold flaws, I watched Babylon 5 religiously. By which I mean every other Sunday, out of a vague sense of duty.) It seems the answer lies in the propensity of a certain personality type to be engaged by abstract ideas and concepts more than by emotion and the finer points of human interaction, and in the related fact that this personality type (analytic, meticulous, mildly autistic) is obviously well-disposed to success in certain areas of academic endeavour.
Or, on the other hand, it might just be bullshit. It must be said that the only genuine Trekkie I've ever known was one of the flat-out stupidest people on God's green Earth. Seriously, we're talking dribbling retard here. Also the biggest ho-bag, but I'm not sure that's relevant.