Ideally, that intersection is where you both embrace a common vision, a dream of what you can accomplish together.
I remember the first time I watched Star Trek. It was in 1966; just shy of my fifth birthday, I was at my grandparents’ house while my teenage uncle watched “The Corbomite Maneuver,” one of the show’s earliest episodes. In it, the starship Enterprise encounters a moon-sized spacecraft that is inhabited by a single alien named Balok. Now, the real Balok was played by a young, cherub-faced Clint Howard. But his first reveal isn’t of a dimple-faced child; instead, he speaks through a truly creepy, cadaverous mannequin.
And it scared the crap out of me.
For the next four years, I gave Star Trek a wide berth—helped by a timeslot that was well past my bedtime. But then reruns landed in syndication, and a slightly older and wiser me eagerly reconnected with the Enterprise crew.
That connection has endured ever since.
Being a Trekkie (as Star Trek fans are called) was a greater challenge in the 1970s than it is today. There were no toys, no videos, no Internet websites—just a smattering of comics, models and the brilliant novelizations by the late James Blish. My first uniform was a yellow sweatshirt, my first phaser a coat hook, my first communicator two pieces of cardboard taped together. But they were enough to create my own stories.
And as I grew older, I began to write them down.
Star Trek is one of two major influences that made me a writer. The other is the works of C.S. Lewis, particularly his Space Trilogy and the Narnia series. Both influences showed me a canvas where images of vision and hope, faith and failure, sacrifice and morality and pure adventure could be painted in words. Here there be not dragons, but dreams.
Star Trek, Narnia and the like are, in essence, modern myths. Keep in mind that a myth is not the same thing as a lie. A lie is specifically intended to deceive the listener. A myth is a tale that, while all or partly fiction, aims to deliver a true insight.
Lewis once wrote, “[Myth] gets under our skin, hits us at a level deeper than our thoughts or even our passions, troubles oldest certainties till all questions are reopened, and in general shocks us more fully awake than we are for most of our lives.”
As a published author, I’ve had the humbling privilege of creating myth—including, to my pleasure and astonishment, writing for the television show that started it all. This month, the award-winning online series Star Trek Phase II will film an episode written by me.
Of course, in PR and communications, creating myths is not an acceptable strategy. Public relations must rely upon true tales accurately and honestly told. But that doesn’t mean such stories cannot attain the goal of myth—to awaken the audience, to generate dialogue, to build understanding and move toward a common vision.
We are a race that finds hope in dreams, a people that thrives on story.