Fan Fiction: A Mem-Noir: Inspired by True Events
Based on true events, Brent Spiner, of Star Trek: The Next Generation fame, takes a weird, often hilarious look at his early career via the lens of a fan stalking event that involves, among other things, a pig penis.
The book opens with the truth—Brent’s big move to New York, his catastrophic first few months, and his eventual landing of the role of Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation. The reader is immediately drawn into the author’s voice, and it is not difficult to imagine Brent Spiner as a hopeful, gangly young man trying for his first big break (and being really awkward about it).
“And then Star Trek: The Next Generation happened. I auditioned for the role of the android Data six times. Apparently they weren’t sure I was the guy for the part, and frankly, I wasn’t sure I wanted to be tied down to a series. I was doing pretty well at this point and enjoying playing a variety of characters. But finally they offered me the role, and I figured what the hell, it couldn’t last more than a season and I could make some decent money.”
We then flash forward to a regular filming day on the set. Brent is given a foul-smelling package which he opens alongside LeVar Burton—who is apparently very into New Age crystals and smudging. Neither of them can stand to get near it. Security is enlisted, the package is opened, and a pig penis revealed. The next day a letter is found as well:
Why have you forsaken me? I thought you loved me. I am so alone here. Is this heaven? Or is it hell?
Won’t you join me? I think I can make that happen.
I’m so tired of waiting for you.
Soon, Daddy, very soon.
Your loving daughter,
Thus begins a very weird roller coaster ride as the FBI investigates, Brent becomes increasingly paranoid, and Lal gets more violent. As events unfold the reader is treated to snippets of Brent’s past (perhaps fictional, perhaps not), particularly in relation to his abusive stepfather, Sol:
“The only problem was that Sol was a sociopath. He demanded order in the house at all times, and nothing was ever neat enough to please him. I’m talking about military neat. Flip a coin on the bed neat. Because of minor infractions involving anything from food in the sink to leaving our shoes under the bed, Ronnie and I were grounded for four out of the six years Sol lived with us. We were prisoners in our own house, trapped with a sadistic maniac who got some bizarre, twisted kind of pleasure from controlling every aspect of our lives. We rarely if ever felt safe. Whenever Sol was in the house, danger was lurking around each corner, always ready to pounce.”
Brent’s anxiety is frequently filtered through the lens of his childhood trauma, which makes his overreactions to events much easier to understand.
The shiniest bits of the narrative however come not from the strange stalkers (yes, more than one) but in the little tidbits of details the reader is fed about the other cast members, and their interactions with Brent. Patrick Stewart, LeVar Burton, Jonathan Franks—all have brief cameos that serve to really enrich the story.
In contrast, the roughest places to parse were those where it was deeply unclear if the authors were trying to play off fan fiction stereotypes or were merely tone deaf. The love triangle between Brent, the FBI agent, and her identical twin sister fell somewhere between awkward and exploitative, and while it showcased an understandable flaw in the character Brent’s personality, it was also very difficult to read and took away from what was otherwise a fun, engaging look at life as a serial TV celebrity.
The brief discussion of autism was also, while presumably based on a real-life conversation, not handled with as much modern understanding of neurodiversity as it should have been:
“You see, Mr. Spiner—the inner world of a person with autism or Asperger’s syndrome is very much like the feeling of being an emotionless android in a society of emotional humans. Like Data, they were born with a disability—they don’t have an intuitive understanding of human feelings.”
Despite a few potholes, Fan Fiction is a generally enjoyable, light read. As a bonus, what is real and what is pretend is left entirely to the reader to decide.