Heading into the 1980s, though, the image of a "Trekkie" got a series of public boosts, including a William Shatner sketch on Saturday Night Live. As often happens, this mass-media portrayal became more powerful than the thing on which it was based.

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The key qualities of the Trekkie image were rabid obsession with a touch of repressed rage. Costumes were probably involved. They didn't have much else going on in their lives. People have displayed these qualities for thousands of years in all sorts of pursuits, but the Trekkie image was tailor-made for the growing world of pop culture. It seeped into the public consciousness through movies, documentaries and parodies. People who'd never been to a sci-fi convention picked up cues. Marketers picked them up faster. The internet hurled them around at warp speed. And, if you ask me, way too many people started living the dream.

The Angry Fandom template says: If you run as fast as you can after a mirage, eventually you'll end up in a spaceship.

It's Not About Liking Stuff

Pop culture isn't a ghetto, and most people who enjoy its products aren't part of an exotic tribe. In Star Trek's case, the reality of modern fans is that they include a small number of hardcore maniacs, a bunch of "Trekkers" who range from casual to semi-crazy and, well, people who just like Star Trek. It's pretty much the same pattern as Star Wars or Battlestar Galactica or World of Warcraft: lots of people like this stuff. Nineteen of the top-20 grossing films ever are sci-fi, fantasy or superhero related.

But the Trekkie-based Angry Fandom template isn't about liking stuff. Quite the opposite. Do the people who go batshit at convention panels or on web forums just "like stuff"?

I was obsessed with a girl at school when I was 14. She was a really nice girl, or seemed to be. I didn't know her that well. But I'd read a bunch of books and seen a bunch of movies, and I knew how this worked: If I coveted her enough and proved that to her, she'd eventually let me into her world and everything'd be good. This girl was the solution to the problems of being 14.

You know how that ended up. Let's just say brutal acne was less traumatic by comparison. My feelings had little to do with Miss Fourteen herself; the object of desire becomes irrelevant when you're in the full throes of it. The real obsession is the obsession itself. And when that's fed by the right circumstances or the wrong people, it can be a dark rabbit-hole to fall down. It can bite you in the ass, hard.

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