Mr. Data and the Mystery of the Pig’s Penis
Fan fiction is usually unauthorized fictional writing by amateur fans, based on existing fictional worlds and characters. The debut novel by Brent Spiner, better known as Mr. Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation, flips the genre on its head. In fact, he’s even titled the book ‘Fan Fiction’. But instead of a fan writing fiction about new adventures in a fictional world, the novel is fiction that Spiner wrote about a fan during the production of a fictional world.
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Spiner sets this “Mem-Noir” during the filming of The Next Generation’s third season in 1989. The novel relates a set of invented incidents within the realistic context of that production season. It is written from the point of view of the actor Brent Spiner and the incidents concern a fan who begins the action by sending Spiner a bloody pig’s penis in disguised “fan mail.”
This menacing fan with a creepy line in pseudonymous Electra complex letters stalks Spiner. Calling themselves Lal, after Data’s fictional “daughter” in TNG, the fan threatens, guilts and seduces. Through this lens we learn about Spiner’s step-father issues growing up Jewish in Houston (he spent his Bar Mitzvah money on a prostitute to lose his virginity) as well as his insecurities as a straight, young, single actor.
The tone is surprisingly brisk and even witty, which might be testament to the involvement of writer Jeanne Darst but is certainly a credit to Spiner. The novel deals with three quite different deaths deftly and with appropriate emotion without derailing the plot’s momentum. There’s certainly scope for the novel to be self-indulgent. But, though somewhat autobiographical, it’s surprisingly, and winningly, self-deprecatory. Famous for his portrayal of an emotionless android, Spiner the author portrays Spiner the protagonist as warm, human and a touch neurotic.
As you’d expect with fan fiction, major Trek personalities make an appearance. In this flipped genre, though, the characters of the novel are the actors behind the Star Trek characters, rather than the 24th century characters. Spiner, the protagonist, interacts with fictional versions of Jonathan Frakes (Commander Riker), Michael Dorn (Worf), LeVar Burton (Geordi La Forge), Marina Sirtis (Deanna Troi), Patrick Stewart (Jean-Luc Picard) and Gene Roddenberry (inventor of Star Trek) himself.
Don’t expect too much insider information, though. Spiner portrays them all lovingly, as you might expect from fan fiction. Dorn is a fellow prisoner in the makeup room, Burton lights candles and is spiritually welcoming, Frakes is a welcoming port in a storm and Stewart is the inspiring and erudite Shakespearian, with a Dickensian cameo as a ghost of Christmas!
Along with the characters of the Star Trek cast there’s a cast of other, bizarre characters: Mandy the ex; Miguel the mail boy who leverages his access to celebrity fans; Ortiz the “Head of Obsessives” at the police department who’s a better masseur than cop; and the sexy, uncannily similar Jones twins — Cindy the FBI agent and Candy the personal bodyguard.
It’s a fairly satisfying detective novel and also fun fan fiction. It’s worth reading for fans of either genre–though Star Trek fans might enjoy the Star Trek convention scenes more.
In the first season of TNG, Picard mentions Sherlock Holmes to Mr. Data and the android adopts the persona on several occasions thereafter to great effect. Thirty years on, Brent Spiner has taken on a Raymond Chandler mantle. Just as you’d never confuse Mr. Data’s Holmes with a human Holmes, you’d not confuse this with a genuine Chandler—but it will charm you nonetheless.