There are some stories that deserve to be told and The Con of Wrath is a film about one of them. Based on an ill fated Star Trek convention held in Houston in 1982, Larry Nemecek is the man bringing that story to the present day. Having written for Star Trek Voyager and having been involved in multiple Star Trek projects both official and unofficial, Larry Nemecek knows Star Trek and now brings that knowledge and passion to The Con Of Wrath. At this years SF Ball I caught up with Larry to talk about The Con Of Wrath, Sci-Fi conventions and Fandom.
CPT: Con Of Wrath, why do people need to get involved, why do people need to watch it, why is it a compelling story?
LN: Okay, aside from the fact I was there, it was my first road trip con as a kid, big event to go to in college. I think it’s great because as well as everything else it’s a story that needs to be preserved before it fades from time because it was from June 1982. This story is about what I like to think of as Star Trek’s most glorious failure or rather Star Trek fandom’s most glorious failure. It’s a riches to rags to riches story, a phoenix out of the ashes story, these guys from Houston, back when conventions were even more wild and woolly than they are today and full of colourful characters. Conventions had been around but they were Sci-Fi conventions and, thanks to Star Trek initially, actor and media cons started happening and they became more of an event and they weren’t staying with the old school Sci-Fi lit just full of authors only. Now there’s the comic cons with Marvel and DC superheroes that everyone takes for granted. One other thing that Star Trek really set the template for was the original Trek cons and Star Wars was right after that then everything was off and running. Ten years into that these guys in Houston had the idea to do the biggest Star Trek thing ever, not just a convention with Q&A and autograph signings but they wanted an arena show, they wanted a rock show for Star Trek basically. So it was in my memory and I had pictures from it and years ago I was at an after party following a convention and got talking about Houston and the Con of Wrath which was the snarky name the fans gave the weekend because of the way it went on. It was a huge event planned privately but everyone from Paramount was involved and the entire cast of Wrath of Khan was involved, it was going to be a thing that was so big because it was a sell out eighteen thousand times three arena show that was attatched to the regular annual big convention in Houston, so it was the best of all worlds and it did not quite go the way it was planned.
CPT: So folks need to watch the film when it’s released to find out what happened.
LN: This amazing moment in history, because there was no bloody A, B, C or D of Star Trek much less anything else, it was a Golden time, it was all the Original Cast involved, the only person who wasn’t there was Leonard Nimoy and there’s a story behind him not being there. On one hand it’s a great contrast as aside from the events which were just wacky and crazy, it’s like the train wreck you can’t stop watching and yet many people came away just fine. It’s also about that time in history, in pop-culture and pop-culture versus mainstream and the nerds versus the mundanes. It’s also for fans now, as part of my sub-text is how much has changed now with the internet and cell phones, it’s like watching an old movie as if they had cell phones none of this movie would ever have happened, it’s one of those kind of things. But at the same time, how much hasn’t changed as fans are still fans and snarky and it’s interesting how we’re still the same but things are so different.
CPT: We’re at the SF Ball, a sci-fi convention. What do you think these events bring to the fandom, the Sci-Fi community, all these groups, what do you think their place and value is?
LN: There was a time at the turn of the century, which sounds scary to say, around two thousand where computers and message boards were starting to get more fluent, as conventions were a place where you’d see your authors or at the media cons you’d see the actors and if you were lucky you’d get to see the tech people and designers and writers but at least the actors. It was about seeing them, seeing them live, getting autographs and hearing the news and the gossip and maybe even seeing some cool pirated or wacky merchandise which you couldn’t get at your local store. Now it would be on Etsy or whatever but there would be the Zines and all kinds of stuff you couldn’t buy in the store. The internet came in and replaced an awful lot of that because you could get your news and gossip from the internet now and you can buy almost anything online and there was a time when we were asking, is that the reason we have conventions? Is that going to dry up? And there was a time, for five or six years when convention attendance was dropping or at least it seemed to be but then Social Media, oddly enough, almost brought it back because now it’s become the conventions are as much about being Family reunions. You meet people online and then you finally meet them live and go and hang in the bar all weekend and go see all the events. It’s almost what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and it’s like there’s a whole, not a new niche for cons but people have figured out they’re vibrant and alive and you get to do stuff live you couldn’t do online and they do have a purpose. The human factor and the human adventure is just beginning as far as fandom and conventions go and they’ve kind of refound their role that way I think.
CPT: You’ve mentioned the fandom and those creations people can share with one another. You’ve done a bit of acting in Star Trek Continues, what do you think the place is in the Star Trek Universe is for those fan creations and the other stuff that’s maybe outside the official bubble?
LN: Well the first reactions to Star Trek were mainly from Women, Star Trek fandom in the beginning was mainly Women really. People’s reaction to Star Trek was “oh my god I want more but you’re not giving me more so I’ll make it myself.” So all the fan fiction started led by Spock and the Vulcans and all the early Zine editors and writers and Zine fandom and that’s where conventions and clubs grew out of for Star Trek originally and that was eighty to ninety percent women. Which is why the whole geek girl revolution lately is kind of a joke to me and that’s actually something we get into in the con of wrath, how there has always been women fans. But the fan films today, to me, are todays Fanzines, fan fiction is still around but back then you were pushing the envelope to have a mimeograph and write and have an illustrator and today you can do a Movie on a laptop and every kid in the fourth grade can do that. So to me that’s the response to that and there’s good, bad, ugly, theres Fred and Martha out in the Garage and theirs Continues, I think Continues is the high bar but I think that’s a subjective thing but Phase Two, the Johnson Brother’s Exeter and Renegades and all of those that are trying for a higher bar, that’s everybody’s expression of today’s Fanzines and in twenty years or sooner we’ll have holographic characters and people will be creating them on their phones. Whatever it is at the time fans will embrace that because that’s what Star Trek inspires, call it an addiction but people just want more especially if they’re in their first flush of finding Star Trek.
If you want to find out more about The Con of Wrath and donate to help get the project finished, head over to Larry’s site.