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The Story I Didn’t Know I Needed

Fan Fiction: A Mem-Noir by Brent Spiner is a very curious book. It’s one part memoir, one part crime thriller, one part love story, and one part feel-good book about family. On paper, it doesn’t seem like this story should work, but it does. Not only does this story work, but it truly is the story that I didn’t know I needed. If you have even the slightest interest in Star Trek, or Brent Spiner as Data, then I would suggest not reading any further and getting the book. Going in with no idea what the book was about, as I did, is perhaps the best way to read it. But if you want to know more before making a purchase, then read on.

When I started reading Fan Fiction, I had lots of questions. What was it about (beyond being about Spiner)? Would I find it interesting? Would I enjoy reading it, knowing that I was going to be writing a review? Fortunately, when I got part way through the prologue, I was all in. And when I got into the actual meat of the story, I was even more in. Needless to say that all of those worries were gone.

Fan Fiction, beautifully written by Spiner himself, is a story about a fictionalized Spiner during the fourth season of Star Trek: The Next Generation and his experience with a stalker. While the subject matter is dark, it is an undeniably and unabashedly funny tale, or at least as it’s written. The story itself is a very thrilling whodunit or rather, in this case, a who-do-in-it. Through the experience of being stalked by someone claiming to be Data’s daughter Lal from Season Three’s “The Offspring”, we are treated to the inner workings of Spiner.

Data (aka Brent Spiner) with his daughter, Lal (CBS-Paramount)

This might sound strange, but it was very fulfilling to get an idea of how Brent Spiner thinks. I, as do many Trekkies, know a lot about Spiner, but this insight into his mind really allows you to get the essence of who he is. In a lot of ways, it’s almost like having a very deep one-on-one conversation with the actor. Through his observations and account of these fictious events, I got a sense of the things that Spiner likes, such as his love of classic Hollywood films; I had no idea that Spiner is such a film buff. I even got an understanding of how he views romance and what he desires in a romantic partner.

Speaking of romance, there’s a lot, and I think the tale is better for it. Without giving too much away, Spiner gets entangled in a sort of love triangle with an FBI agent and her twin sister, who happens to be his bodyguard. Admittedly, I’m a huge sucker for romance, so this aspect of the story might not be as appealing to everyone as it is to me.

Aside from his romantic relationships, Spiner writes about his relationship with his castmates. As the situation gets more dire for Spiner, his castmates become more concerned, and more supportive of their friend. These interactions, while always sweet, are also, as with the rest of the book, hilarious. There was a fantastic moment where LeVar (aka Geordi) and Spiner team up to take on a pungent odor. Another moment that cracked me up was Spiner messing with Dorn (aka Worf) in their makeup chairs before shooting. In all these interactions, it’s clear they all have tremendous love for each other. This is not entirely shocking, given what we see of the cast at various conventions, but this gave me a whole new understanding of what they mean to each other. Even though the story is one of fiction, it is clear the relationship between them is real.

The closely knit TNG cast (Jeffery Newbury)

As with all great works, however, this story isn’t perfect, and I do have some minor gripes. One issue that I had was that there wasn’t as much behind the scenes as I would have liked. I would have loved to have heard more of Spiner’s thoughts while filming scenes, and perhaps more of an understanding of how this experience influenced his performance. Granted, this is not something that really happened to Spiner, but I still would have liked it.

Similarly, I would have loved more interaction between Spiner and the rest of the crew. How are they feeling about everything? How is Spiner’s situation impacting them on set? These are all questions I had while reading this story and would have loved some answers to. I also just wanted more of the great banter that we are treated to.

The final gripe I have with Fan Fiction, and perhaps the most frustrating, was the lack of explanation as to how real this is. Spiner, in the prologue, clearly states that the story is fictional, which I accept because, well, Spiner said it. However, I can’t help but get the feeling that some of the elements are real. I assume his interactions with the cast are real, but what else? Did Spiner really have a stalker? Did he really get into a love triangle, as described? I don’t know, but I’d be intrigued to find out, which I guess is an indication of how effective the book truly is.

Indeed, though frustrating, none of these gripes took away from the pure joy that I had while reading it. As I said above, if you have an interest in Trek and/or Data, then I urge you to check out Fan Fiction: A Mem-Noir. I’m almost certain that, while reading it, you will have the same big, goofy grin as I had.

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