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Jen Williams

Genre Fiction and the Pinocchio Factor

In “Encounter at Farpoint,” the first episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the newly assigned first officer Commander Riker goes looking for his second officer in the holodeck. He finds Data attempting to whistle a tune, and not doing a very good job of it. When the android tells Riker that he would gladly give up all his advanced strength and skills “to be human,” Riker grins and calls him Pinocchio. This is important for a couple of reasons—firstly, it introduces a beardless Riker at peak affable smugness, which I personally enjoy, and secondly it lays out the defining aspect of Data’s character: the artificial being that wants to be human.

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The One Book That Introduced Me to Internet Fandom and Coincidentally Led to True Love

There are a couple of things you should know about me before I tell you this story. The first is that I’ve been a fan of Stephen King for as long as I can really remember. I think my first of his books might have been Needful Things, and from there I would borrow as many as I could from the library, heaving home huge stacks of those doorstops with their black covers and lurid fonts. The second thing is that I have a terrible tendency to read things in the wrong order. It’s not a deliberate quirk—more that I have a relaxed attitude to sensible chronology. I think this was also something I picked up from being a big borrower of library books; I would take whatever book happened to be on the shelf at the time, regardless of whether it was the next one I was supposed to read or not.

Now I must take you back to 1997. My mum had gotten into the habit of buying me two things at Christmas: whatever hardback Terry Pratchett book happened to be out, and whatever hardback Stephen King book happened to be out. That year, it was Wizard & Glass, which my mum merrily bought and popped under the Christmas tree, not realizing that it was the fourth volume in King’s The Dark Tower series. And let’s be fair, it didn’t worry me too much. I was, after all, the person who started reading The Sandman with The Kindly Ones. I was a maverick. A loose cannon.

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The Pinocchio Factor

In “Encounter at Farpoint,” the first episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the newly assigned first officer Commander Riker goes looking for his second officer in the holodeck. He finds Data attempting to whistle a tune, and not doing a very good job of it. When the android tells Riker that he would gladly give up all his advanced strength and skills “to be human,” Riker grins and calls him Pinocchio. This is important for a couple of reasons—firstly, it introduces a beardless Riker at peak affable smugness, which I personally enjoy, and secondly it lays out the defining aspect of Data’s character: the artificial being that wants to be human.

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