Spoil a Trekkie
February 8, 2014 10:04 AM   Subscribe

I would like to indulge my daughter's Star Trek obsession. All suggestions welcome; specific question about Trek conventions follow:

My daughter, age 11, has developed into quite the little Trekkie. She binge-watched the whole original series, has watched a couple original series movies, and has started TNG. Watching with her I feel that overall this is a pretty sweet obsession as obsessions go, and I am happy to indulge it a bit.*

I got her the Star Fleet Technical Manual last week and she lost her mind with happiness.

I've told her we'll take her to a Star Trek convention too, but when I started looking into it, they seem kind of problematic. Here's the link I found. They seem really expensive, and also kind of scammy how besides paying admission, you have to pay like 90 bucks to stand in line to meet William Shatner or whatever. So first question is, for those with experience with fan conventions in general, is this kind of pricing scheme typical? Also, for Trek fans, are Star Trek conventions fun? Can you imagine an 11 year old girl (who is a gigantic Trek fan, but has trouble connecting socially) having fun there?

Finally, is there other fun Trek related stuff she would enjoy? She's read a couple Trek novels from the library but if you have recommendations for specific ones that are better than others (and are appropriate for a pre-teen), I'd love to hear them. And any other Trek goodness.. please bring it on.

Thanks in advance and, Live Long and Prosper!

*Note to the judging judgers: We have had a low screen time household for my daughter's whole life, and most of the time she gets between zero and about 3 screen hours a week. I've allowed much more leeway in support of her Star Trek obsession because she loves it! Also, I'm not in the habit of spending big chunks of cash on her passing interests - just take my word for it when I say I buy her much, much, much less stuff than most of her peers of the same or lower income than us. But again, she fucking loves this and I want to indulge it.
posted by latkes to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (21 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I went to my first (small, Midwestern) convention at age 7 with my mom and I stood in line for ages to get Marina Sirtis's autograph. It was awesome. I see no reason an 11 year old wouldn't enjoy the same experience.

There are Starfleet Academy books for young adults that follow some of the TNG characters as "college students" at the Academy. Might she like those? They're quick but light fun reads.
posted by olinerd at 10:16 AM on February 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

I had SO MUCH FUN when my uncle took me to a Star Trek convention when I was probably...9? She will be really into it, and you guys can definitely make it fun. Getting autographs from even someone relatively minor (and hence less expensive) will be a thrill. Ask me about my Aron Eisenberg autographed photo sometime.

I'm not even such a Trek fan now, but I have really fond memories. I think the message you give her by taking her is also really valuable, to wit: your interests, however atypical for your gender/age/whatever, are valuable and worth pursuing and I will support you in them.
posted by c'mon sea legs at 10:21 AM on February 8, 2014

You can follow this blog for Trek cast appearances. At some of the cons you don't have to pay to get a quick autograph, but you might have to show up at the right time.

Some of the more general comic/fan cons (listed in the link) might contain enough Trek-related content to interest your daughter, and the entrance fee is pretty reasonable -- you can just go for one day to try it out. If anything else there are books, toys, and T-shirts to bring home.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:22 AM on February 8, 2014

I went through a huge TOS novel phase when I was in high school. I don't remember any problematic content at all...just fun stories of all my favorite characters and situations. I've perused the list here to see which ones I can remember reading, but only Spock's World jumps out for sure. There were others...I had a shelf-and-a-half of them in my room.
posted by jquinby at 10:24 AM on February 8, 2014

besides paying admission, you have to pay like 90 bucks to stand in line to meet William Shatner or whatever.

Fan conventions are a little bit like Las Vegas, in that different components will appeal to different attendees. I went to a Star Trek convention last summer specifically to get a photo taken with the TNG cast. I wasn't interested in anything else (merchandise, panels, autographs, etc). I came, waited, got my photo, and left. By the same token, many of the people doing those other things weren't in line for that photo op.

So if ninety bucks for a snapshot isn't in your budget, there are other things to do. Honestly conventions are often underwhelming, but I don't think I've ever regretted going to one. Sometimes the value is just in discovering that although you still love the TV show, you're maybe less interested in making the passion an all-the-time thing. You're glad you went but not hurried to go back.

Can you imagine an 11 year old girl (who is a gigantic Trek fan, but has trouble connecting socially) having fun there?

Speaking only from my own convention memories around that age, it was a lot of fun to go with friends and/or to wander on my own.
posted by cribcage at 10:37 AM on February 8, 2014

Yeah, it's been a long time for me too, but I don't remember any problematic content in Star Trek TOS novels. As a suggestion, Uhura's Song has remained generally popular within written SF fandom.

With regard to cons, many general interest conventions have Trek-related programming, like a single star from one of the TV series doing signings. I happened to see Marina Sirtis at Gen Con for example. So you might look around at other SF, gaming, anime, or comics events to find one where there happens to be a guest your daughter would want to meet and other programming you'd both enjoy. Even then, there's likely to be a cost for getting into line, but it may be cheaper.

If you have some time to invest in this, I'd also suggest getting one of the old Star Trek RPGs and running one-on-one games with your kid as the star. There was a really old one from FASA that only covered TOS, then one from Last Unicorn that covered several series with different rulebooks, and then one from Decipher that I think had fewer products than the other two. I think all you'd need is a core TNG rulebook and maybe some adventures or a setting supplement.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 10:57 AM on February 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Aww, when I was your daughter's age, I was heavily into TNG, and saving my allowance up for the TNG novels that came out every month or two. I'm sure if I go back I'll start finding problematic content to some degree or another, because these are cheerfully pulpy mass-market paperbacks written 15-25 years ago, but at worst, they'll at least be conversation starters. Didn't do conventions until I was in college, though, but I do remember seeing middle schoolers having a blast at X-Files conventions. Though I stood in line for a number of autographs, and I don't remember having to pay an extra charge for that, even for Gillian Anderson or David Duchovny; don't know that I'd find it worth it atop convention pass charges. But there's usually plenty of other stuff to do even without the autograph lines.
posted by Pandora Kouti at 10:59 AM on February 8, 2014

Just one more thing -- if you're looking for other birthday or similar small gift ideas to keep her geekery going, ThinkGeek has a pretty great Star Trek selection. omg that Uhura satin robe is that new?!
posted by olinerd at 11:44 AM on February 8, 2014

I haven't been to Star Trek conventions but I've been to a lot of others. Just going to a convention is fun. You don't have to do any or all of the extras. That said, for a gigantic media property like Star Trek, you should probably ask around to find out which conventions are the most fan-friendly. Many conventions have Facebook pages or online bulletin boards where you can connect with other parents who are bringing their kids in advance.

I'm going to a Doctor Who convention next week, and there are always lots of kids. Some programming is late-night and clearly marked "not for kids." They also have special events that are aimed at younger fans, though. Some of these, such as gaming sessions, are a good way to make friends at the con.

It is impossible to guarantee that you and she won't see some inappropriate PDA or other shenanigans, but then again, that's true just walking downtown (or going into school...). I went to my first convention when I was 12 and I was fine.

If you're in the Bay Area too, Wondercon used to be our general media convention of choice, but they moved it to SoCal. :/ I've never been to Baycon, but it'll be in Santa Clara this year and might be worth a try. (Actually, I think I'll go -- I'm so over FanimeCon.) They have no useful info about this year's programming, but maybe you can find the last couple of years' worth. I would bet money there will at least people in ST costumes walking around.

And then there's the official ST thingie in December. You probably know someone who's been, so ask them!

Good luck and have fun!
posted by wintersweet at 11:47 AM on February 8, 2014

I'm a pretty big Trek fan, but my SO is an even bigger one. One of his fondest childhood memories is when he went to a Trek convention in London when he was 13 or so and got to visit a replica of the bridge from TNG. I think the recreation of sets and props stuff was more meaningful to him than the panels/meeting the stars, so it might be that your daughter would be super happy to go even if you don't pay an extra $90 to see Shatner.

I don't have any con experience myself, but the biggest hit this Christmas with my SO was the plushie Enterprise I got him - I think it was around $20 from ThinkGeek, and it has a little thing you press to fire "photon torpedoes" (it lights up and makes a space noise). If your daughter would enjoy Earl Grey tea and is getting into TNG more, they've also started selling a 'Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.' themed caddy (I saw it on Amazon) - or you could always drink the tea yourself and give her the caddy...
posted by terretu at 12:51 PM on February 8, 2014

If she likes the Star Trek novels, Diane Duane's Rihannsu books are excellent, as is Uhura's Song (this may be a bit Mary Sue depending on your tastes, but I loved it when I was a preteen girl, so your daughter may concur). Most of the Star Trek novels are pretty meh, but I remember those standing out for their strong female characters & really great worldbuilding.
posted by angst at 12:57 PM on February 8, 2014

Eee! I was a huge Star Trek nerd when I was her age, and everything is amazing.

And oh, the novels! The earlier ones are the best - Diane Duane, AC Crispin, J.M. Dillard... They're great for little nerd girls who are reading at a higher level than the rest of the kids. I still have a pile of my originals - 25 years old, all yellowed and beaten up and so well loved.

I did get to go to Creation cons, and although they were a rip-off, getting to see all the actors on stage and hear their stories was pretty awesome. But I was much more interested in the dealer's room, because it was filled with so much awesome stuff that I never saw anywhere else.

But if you want to try something a bit smaller, check around for local comic cons or the like. The dealer's room will still be awesome, there should be at least a couple of neat people there, and it should be an amazing thing to see.
posted by Katemonkey at 1:15 PM on February 8, 2014

Nthing the Diane Duane TOS novels - the Rihannsu novels are really fun and The Wounded Sky is on my List of All-Time Favorite Books.
posted by darchildre at 1:32 PM on February 8, 2014

They seem really expensive, and also kind of scammy how besides paying admission, you have to pay like 90 bucks to stand in line to meet William Shatner or whatever. So first question is, for those with experience with fan conventions in general, is this kind of pricing scheme typical? Also, for Trek fans, are Star Trek conventions fun? Can you imagine an 11 year old girl (who is a gigantic Trek fan, but has trouble connecting socially) having fun there?

When I was around that age going through exactly this thing, our local (New Orleans) Star Trek Convention was set up with a general admission price, which got you into the various talks/panels/Q&A sessions. Back then, these kind of worked like a Barnes & Noble book signing or something, where they'd get 2-3 Trek personalities to come, and if you paid admission to the event you could line up to get stuff autographed. It wasn't a "meet" kind of thing, though -- it was literally getting an autographed photo (you had to supply the photo or other memorabilia), and you didn't actually get to talk to the person or anything, just a signed thing.

Nowadays it seems like, on top of the general admission price that gets you into all the various events and sessions (which may or may not involve celebrities), various personalities also have tables, where you can pay a fee to "meet" them, pose for a photo, get an autograph, etc. My understanding is that the interactions are more substantial, but yeah, you definitely pay for the privilege. As opposed to the old model where you'd line up for an hour to get an autographed photo or script, and maybe they'd get to you, maybe they wouldn't, and you weren't going to get to talk to the person or anything.

Under this model it seems like the organizers are able to get a lot MORE personalities to come, even to relatively obscure locations. Growing up in New Orleans we felt lucky to get Brent Spiner or Terry Farrell, there was no chance Shatner or Nimoy were going to show up, or that there would be a full on reunion of the whole cast of any series. So on the one hand, you now have a chance you otherwise wouldn't have unless you lived in a major city, but you pay for that chance.

I would only take her to a convention if you can find out about the actual events in advance and make sure that people she's interested in are actually doing panels or talks you'll have access to with general admission, rather than just tabling if you're not up for blowing another $50 to get a photo with Patrick Stewart.

It is probably better to find a smaller, cheaper con where someone she's an especial fan of is going to do a Q&A session than to fork over a lot to go to a con where William Shatner is just signing autographs for $70. So look at the actual schedule of events, not just the list of names.

I really enjoyed the few cons I went to at that age, and I especially enjoyed the panels, where you got to hear funny behind the scenes stories and potentially ask people questions. So I would encourage you to spend the money if there's an actual experience there she'd be into having.
posted by Sara C. at 2:05 PM on February 8, 2014

Along the lines of the novels, I bet you could find a bunch of them for 25 or 50 cents apiece and give her a big box full. That would be fun!
posted by Sara C. at 2:12 PM on February 8, 2014

The animated series could be fun for her.... But it could also be slooooooow for a modern kid. She also might really like Voyager... Lotta girl power in that show. It's full of lady scientists who kick butt.

It does my heart good to hear about the next generation of old school Trekkies. That stuff deserves better than to just be fodder for goofy memes.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:04 PM on February 8, 2014

Agree with the suggestions of Diane Duane's Trek novels. I'd also recommend Sarek by AC Crispin and Imzadi by Peter David. They're both love stories, but appropriate for a pre-teen (I read them around that age and loved them). I'd also recommend you get her a copy of the Star Trek Encyclopedia. Though a lot of the information can be found online, there's something just geektastic about being able to page through "the reference book to the future." Oh, and I'd also recommend The Art of Star Trek, which is beautiful and fascinating.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:08 PM on February 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

Oh, also, this depends on your screen time rules or how much effort you're willing to put in, but you can also introduce her to fanfiction.

I'm not saying get her an AO3 account or let her loose on Google, but there is the utterly adorable all-ages Kirk/Spock archive if she leans that way.

Or just let her write her own. They'll be terrible and ridiculous and will probably include a 12-year-old super genius who comes to the ship and saves the day, but they'll introduce her to writing fiction, and the feeling of creating something in this world you love is amazing at such a young age.

(Mine was 13. And she was part Romulan and saved the Enterprise from a Romulan invasion. While refusing to date Wesley Crusher and convincing Riker that women could be geniuses.

I keep meaning to transcribe them so they're on the Internet, but whenever I start, I end up unconsciously fixing the spelling and grammar errors. And that's part of the charm, dammit.)
posted by Katemonkey at 3:15 AM on February 9, 2014

Also, holy smokes, have you seen Evolution Expo?

They have an entire track devoted to getting kids into science!
posted by Katemonkey at 3:20 AM on February 9, 2014

I go to conventions all the time, both anime cons and also general science-fiction and fantasy cons like DragonCon and San Diego Comic Con. The first convention that I actually went to when I was about 12 or 13 years old was a local Star Trek convention. I also have a lot of friends who are part of the organizations that help run conventions, so I can clear up some of things that are involved in the costs of attending a convention. Your impression is that costs to attend the convention and costs to get an autograph are "scammy," but by and large they are how cons operate these days.

First of all, it is really expensive to put on a convention. Costs of running a convention can include renting the convention space, renting security guards for the convention (can't have that many people without convention security!), running convention logistics (computers-printers-badges-lanyards for registration, marketing, information booklets), and for some of the very large conventions that are run in convention centres they may have to pay additional fees to use the convention caterers, because attendees will need to eat. In addition, if the convention wants attendees, they will have to get guests, and these are often actors, directors, and writers of the media that the fans consume, in your case, Star Trek actors, directors, writers, etc. Actors aren't cheap and don't appear at fan conventions for free. They are likely to be paid somewhat for their time to attend a panel, or at least flown out to the convention in first class with hotel and all other expenses paid. This all costs money, and part of what covers all of these expenses is the attendance fee that you pay. It can be anywhere from $45-150 for a weekend depending on the size and location of a convention. From what I understand most major actors will also do some autograph and meet-and-greet/photo sessions. They charge for the privilege of talking to them and having a photo with them, because their time is worth money.

I remember meeting Edward James Olmos at DragonCon in 2008, and I paid $60 for a photo, a short chat, and to get one of my Battlestar Galactica DVDs signed. $60 was a decent price, but some bigger names were charging higher than that. Some smaller actors were charging as little as $10-20. It's just the way it is, if you want an actor's time, it's now standard to pay for it.

At any rate, if you don't want an autograph, the cost of the full convention attendance should let you into all the panels, where usually the actors are talking about their experiences. These usually come with a group Q&A session at the end. It is not one-on-one time and you don't get an autograph, but is a chance to interact with the actor if you and your question are chosen.

If you're interested in taking your daughter to a convention, look up the convention website, Facebook, or forum. There is often talk going on there and a preliminary schedule of events.
posted by the_wintry_mizzenmast at 6:11 AM on February 9, 2014

Response by poster: Guys, these have been really great answers. We're finally going to a convention in two weeks and she's now read and enjoyed many of the novels recommended here. She has an Uhura nightgown and some Trek drinking glasses and has now finished the animated series and is still working her way through TNG, which she wants to finish before starting the other shows. Best answers to all!
posted by latkes at 6:25 PM on November 30, 2014

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