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Star Trek Experts


Beam me up, Scotty!

UC Riverside scholars weigh in on science fiction and the impact of the “Star Trek” series ahead of the May 8 opening of “Star Trek XI.”

(April 16, 2009)

RIVERSIDE, Calif. - It’s been more than 40 years since Capt. James T. Kirk, Spock and the crew of the Starship Enterprise blazed their way across television screens and into the imaginations of generations of devoted fans.

The original series, a thoughtful science-fiction drama that aired for three years, spawned four more TV dramatic series and an animated series, as well as 10 movies, fan clubs, conventions and lucrative sales of related merchandise. Warp speed, phasers and communicators became part of the national lexicon. The latest movie in the series, “Star Trek XI,” will be released May 8.

Scholars at the University of California, Riverside are available to be interviewed about a variety of topics related to the “Star Trek” phenomenon, such as the popularity of science fiction in literature, how the series feeds into everyday imagery, the appeal of the series at different historical periods, the physics behind the series, and the science in science fiction.

UC Riverside is home to the J. Lloyd Eaton Collection of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror and Utopian Literature, and sponsors the annual Eaton Science Fiction Conference. The collection includes rare “Star Trek” fanzines, and most of the monographs/serials that cover the movies and TV programs.

Experts who are available for interviews include:

Rob Latham, associate professor of English
(951) 827-1966
rob.latham@ucr.edu
http://www.english.ucr.edu/people/faculty/latham/index.html

Professor Latham is available to discuss the “Star Trek XI” specifically and the Star Trek phenomenon generally, including the appeal of the series in different decades, and the appeal of the Kirk and Spock characters and their relationship. “ ‘Star Trek’ has always been the most sophisticated mass-media version of the ‘space adventure’ sub-genre in science fiction,” he says. Latham has been a senior editor of the journal Science Fiction Studies since 1997 and is a member of the editorial boards of The Journal of Science Fiction Film and Television and The Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts. He is the author of “Consuming Youth: Vampires, Cyborgs, and the Culture of Consumption” (Chicago, 2002), a study of contemporary consumer youth culture and its relationship to technological systems and discourses. He is completing a book on "New Wave" science fiction of the 1960s and ’70s, focusing on its connections to counterculture movements and debates of the period, as well as co-editing a teaching anthology on science fiction for use in college classrooms.

Sabine Thuerwaechter, lecturer in German
(951) 827-1220
sabine.thuerwaechter@ucr.edu

Professor Thuerwaechter came to UC Riverside in 2000 to write her dissertation about “Star Trek.” Her dissertation – “Sign – Image – Myth” – addressed questions such as how “Star Trek” and “Independence Day” feed into everyday imagery, how modern myths are created, and how science fiction feeds into the pre- and post-Sept. 11 media representation of real events. While researching her dissertation she interviewed Alexander Singer, one of the directors of the TV series, and other science-fiction filmmakers. She teaches a class, “Ancient Civilizations and Modern Identities,” which deals with the ways in which antiquity is represented in movies and modern culture in which she uses multiple examples from “Star Trek” and “Star Wars.”

Gary Westfahl, EDGE program coordinator
(951) 827-5229
gary.westfahl@ucr.edu

First launched as a series designed to explore possible futures, the “Star Trek” franchise has increasingly tended to focus on the past – the past of human history, and the franchise’s own past, Westfahl says. “With a new film that again looks back at the saga’s own origins, the open question is whether this will serve as an exciting new beginning for ‘Star Trek’, or another exercise in narcissistic nostalgia.” Westfahl earned the 2003 Pilgrim Award, presented by the Science Fiction Research Association to honor lifetime contributions to science fiction and fantasy scholarship. He has written or edited numerous scholarly books about science fiction.

Robert Heath, professor emeritus of plant physiology and biophysics
(951) 827-5925
robert.heath@ucr.edu
http://facultydirectory.ucr.edu/cgi-bin/pub/public_individual.pl?faculty=447

Science fiction can be thought of as the workshop in which new ways of seeing the physical and biological world are studied in terms of their impact on human beings and institutions in their historical, civil and ethical sense, Professor Heath says. The original “Star Trek” television series was a phenomenon because of the concepts it introduced and its passionate fans. The link between the TV series and the early movies was poor, disappointing fans of the franchise. As the storylines improved, so did fan response.

Jose Wudka, professor of physics
(951) 827- 4296
jose.wudka@ucr.edu
http://facultydirectory.ucr.edu/cgi-bin/pub/public_individual.pl?faculty=15

Professor Wudka researches high-energy physics and phenomenology. He explores the fundamental constituents of matter and the forces which act between them. Some of the research topics he currently is focusing on are the unification of all or some of the fundamental forces, the origin of mass, and the possible violation of fundamental conservation laws. He can offer comments on time travel, faster-than-light space travel,
space exploration, wormholes, matter/antimatter drives and teleportation. He can also help identify which of these commonly used ideas in “Star Trek” have the potential to become reality.

Gabriela Canalizo, assistant professor of astrophysics
(951) 827-5310
gabriela.canalizo@ucr.edu
http://www.physics.ucr.edu/faculty_staff/faculty_pages/canalizo.html

Professor Canalizo’s research includes the study of galaxy interactions and mergers, active galaxy nuclei, and stellar populations. Recently, along with colleagues, she helped reveal the precise locations and environments of a pair of supermassive black holes at the center of an ongoing collision between two galaxies 300 million light-years away. She can offer comments on time travel, faster-than-light space travel, space exploration, wormholes, matter/antimatter drives and teleportation. She also can help identify which of these commonly used ideas in Star Trek have the potential to become reality.

Gillian Wilson, associate professor of cosmology
(951) 827-6274
gillian.wilson@ucr.edu
http://www.physics.ucr.edu/faculty_staff/faculty_pages/wilson.html

Professor Wilson’s research covers astronomy and cosmology; dark matter and dark energy; the formation and evolution of galaxies; weak gravitational lensing; and the expansion of the universe. She came to UCR in 2007 from the Spitzer Science Center in Pasadena, and was a member of one of the first teams to announce they had measured “cosmic shear,” i.e., had detected weak gravitational lensing distortions of distant galaxies by cosmic dark matter at large scales. She can offer comments on time travel, faster-than-light space travel, space exploration, wormholes, matter/antimatter drives and teleportation. She also can help identify which of these commonly used ideas in “Star Trek” have the potential to become reality.

Derek Burrill, assistant professor, Department of Media and Cultural Studies
(951) 827-1261
derek.burrill@ucr.edu
http://mediaandculturalstudies.ucr.edu/people/faculty/index.html

Professor Burrill studies science fiction as an embodied form of historical and cultural practice that constantly morphs in relation to contemporary anxieties and desires. He is particularly interested in how the body reacts to notions of nostalgia and utopia through theory, design and representation. Star Trek, as a cultural phenomenon, is emblematic of how we see ourselves as evolving beings despite the complications that accompany “progress.” In this sense, Star Trek isn’t so much about our future as it is an attempt to re-write our past. Burrill writes about film, new media and videogames. His book, “Die Tryin’: Videogames, Masculinity, Culture,” was published in 2008.

George Slusser, professor of comparative literature emeritus, curator emeritus of the Eaton Collection
(909) 864-1772
slus@ucr.edu

“Star Trek” is the epic of our time, says Professor Slusser, who has tracked the phenomenon since its early days. He directed one of the rare Ph.D. dissertations that focused on the organic development of “Star Trek” as a cultural phenomenon. For more than 25 years Slusser helped build UC Riverside’s internationally known Eaton Collection, the world’s largest publicly accessible collection of science fiction, fantasy, horror and utopian fiction. It is the major resource for research in science fiction, fantasy, horror and utopian literature worldwide and includes works in Chinese, Czech, French, German, Hebrew, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian and Spanish. The collection consists of nearly 100,000 hardback and paperback books, nearly 300,000 fanzines, as well as pulp magazines, film and visual material, comic books, and ephemera.

Melissa Conway, head of Special Collections & Archives
(951) 827-3233
melissa.conway@ucr.edu

The Eaton Collection of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror and Utopian Literature is the largest publicly accessible collection of science fiction, fantasy, horror and utopian fiction in the world. It is the major resource for research in science fiction, fantasy, horror and utopian literature worldwide, and is visited by scholars from around the world. The collection consists of hardback and paperback books, pulp magazines, fanzines, film and visual material, comic books, and ephemera. Among its holdings are rare and unique fanzines related the “Star Trek” films and TV series.

The University of California, Riverside (www.ucr.edu) is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

A broadcast studio with fiber cable to the AT&T Hollywood hub is available for live or taped interviews. UCR also has ISDN for radio interviews. To learn more, call (951) UCR-NEWS.

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