Today the most surprising thing happened!
I’m ending off my Anglophone Popular Cultures course with a discussion of SF and its role in (and effect on) Western popular culture. Last week, we watched Blade Runner and there was a panel discussion on The Fifth Element and Brazil. Today, my lecture focused on getting students not to think of SF as an attempt to literally depict the future, and instead to focus on the symbolism or metonymy in SF.
(For example, working off Thomas Disch’s wonderful statement, “The car is the hidden meaning of the rocket ship.” (Rough paraphrase, but he wrote something very close to that.)
Though I didn’t use the word metonymy, you can imagine that this might have been a little heavy going for my students, so the second half of class, we watched (most of) an episode of the original Star Trek Series — specificially, “The Gamesters of Triskelion.”
We had fun watching it, laughed along with the gags and marveled at what 60s SF looked like, and when I got up to stop the video, there was this guy in the back of the class — a Korean guy, and pretty obviously a professor — who said, “That’s ‘The Gamesters of Triskelion!'”
I’m sure I said, “Yes, it is! Hey, don’t go away… I’ve been looking for you!”
I said that not because I’m a creepy stalker, but because there are a bunch of SF novels in the library, and I’ve long been convinced that someone on campus is a closet SF fan, or at least someone with an academic interest in the stuff.
Well, it turns out this guy’s not the mysterious professor responsible for those books. He didn’t even know about them, but he is a big Trek/SF fan. Not only did he know the episode by sight, but he also said he has a copy of the full original series, remastered on DVD. Indeed, he even managed to confirm the direction I’m going on my presentation, to be made in Fukuoka this fall, when he took a stab at explaining why SF isn’t very popular in Korea, while fantasy is.
When we were exchanging email addresses and phone numbers, I mentioned that I’m an SF writer, and he said, “Wow! I thought I was the only Asimov’s subscriber in Korea!” So did I, but I’m very happy to discover otherwise!