Explaining why something like the various entries and season-encompassing zines, A Field Guide to the Aliens of STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION is worth reading, and so good, is almost impossible, but I want to try because these are hidden gems were discovering and reading.
Firstly, the collection is written in the first person by a fictional 12 year old named Joshua Champman. The first season’s entry is handwritten in cursive as a class assignment.
You might have known someone exactly like Joshua in your life, in your class, or you might have even been Joshua at some point during your high school career. He loves Star Trek: TNG and it is his favorite show. Through his field guide and reviews and very, very funny musings on certain episodes, we get to catch glimpses into his life. He has a cat that he loves and he has a mother that is bipolar, depressed, emotionally abusive and, as the seasons of Star Trek goes along, her behavior and his reactions to it become worse and worse.
Secondly, as we follow Joshua’s narrative, with each season he reviews representing a year in his life, we see him become more personal in his alien field guide entries, bringing more and more of his other likes into the mix. Season 1 is when he’s 12, in the 7th grade. Season 2, he’s 13 and in the 8th grade. By the time he hits his senior year in high school, he decides to do the 6th and 7th seasons together in one issue because he’s not sure what life is going to be like after he graduates. Sometimes entire entries about an alien or a plot of a TNG episode is linking it to the lyrics of a cool Nine Inch Nails song he heard or, how Nine Inch Nails is still his favorite band, he heard this new band called TOOL that’s also really cool.
When Joshua is talking about the music he loves, it’s genuinely heart-warming. Every one of us knows what it’s like to be a kid who first discovers something that’s legitimately life-changing. We’ve all had that moment where we’ve found a piece of pop culture, digested it, and new from that moment that nothing would be the same again.
Even when Joshua is talking about something as sad as letting his cat lick his hair to make himself feel better about everything that sucks in his life, and it’s actually really difficult and depressing stuff to read, it feels real. When I think back on what it was like to be a teenager, it’s rough. Being a kid fucking sucks. It’s terrible. My life never sucked as bad as poor Joshua’s, but his experiences and how open he is with them (because they’re fictional and it’s easy to open up when you’ve got nothing to lose) should be relatable to just about anyone who’s ever been a kid before.
Lastly, Joshua knows what he’s talking about when it comes to Star Trek: The Next Generation. His Field Guides are wonderful, casual reading into the world of Trek, sufficing completely on their own as humorous insights into the sometimes ridiculous plots, or badly made-up aliens. He loves Data the most because Data is obviously the best character in the show, but also because Data represents his ideal in life: Emotionless, calculated, smart but always likable. And Data loves his cat just like Joshua loves his cat. Joshua thinks even he didn’t have emotions he would feel so guilty and sick all the time about his mom.
Counselor Troi is his most hated character, because she reminds him of his mother. Mainly, they’re both stupid, he feels.
Each one of these issues is only like $2.50. You can find them online or in just about any comic store store in their zine section. Each one is a breeze to read, are funny and sad in equal measure and, somehow, a perfect companion guide to the episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Also… TNG is on Netflix, so you can read as you watch.