2005-07-14 / Front Page
Star Trek fans celebrate group’s 20th anniversary
BY JOHN DUNPHY
They might enjoy Star Trek, but they’re just like anyone else.The USS Avenger, a local Star Trek and science fiction fan organization, celebrated two decades of existence recently with a special reception at the Victorian Manor in Edison.
Despite the media’s often humorously negative perception of fans of the long-running series, club president Judy Waidlich said it’s not quite like that.
“We’re pretty much like anybody else,” she said. “Most of the time, we don’t run around in Star Trek uniforms.”
The organization, which meets monthly at the Borders bookstore at the Mid-State Mall in East Brunswick, was created when several members of The USS Constitution, another fan club, decided to branch out on their own.
“It had reached a point in the chapter where the fun environment just wasn’t there anymore,” said Alex Rosenzweig, who has been with the USS Avenger since its inception. “It was decided the best solution was to have our own group. So, we went off and did that.”
Twenty years later, the organization still has an active membership of about two dozen loyal attendees.
“The Constitution disappeared, and we’re still here,” Rosenzweig, of North Brunswick, added. “We kind of like to think we did it right.”
What the USS Avenger provides is a sense of fellowship and camaraderie, said Waidlich, who’s also known as the club’s commanding officer.
Outside of the USS Avenger, she runs the general chemistry laboratory at Rutgers University.
“We’re an outlet for people to come together to show an interest in science fiction and Star Trek in particular,” she said. “We provide an opportunity for people to go and see both science fiction-related and historical exhibits at museums and conventions.”
Activities besides Star Trek conventions have included trips to a Star Wars exhibit in Brooklyn, N.Y., and the Battleship New Jersey.
Waidlich said she joined the fan club almost six years ago based on an advertisement in the newspaper.
“I decided to check them out because I was interested in Star Trek,” she said. “They were basically a social group — you go out to museums and stuff.”
As the organization’s science officer, Rosenzweig puts together all of the programs that focus on what he called “real-life science and educational aspects within the group.”
He said members hail from all over central New Jersey, including several from Edison, New Brunswick, Warren and Woodbridge, with ages ranging from teenagers to senior citizens. A lot of past members, Rosenzweig added, have branched off to create their own fan clubs.
“About half of the chapters within a 100-mile radius have lineage to the USS Avenger,” he said.
Rosenzweig describes himself as an “old school” Star Trek fan, favoring the original series that aired in the late 1960s that starred William Shatner as Capt. James T. Kirk and Leonard Nimoy as Spock, the logical Vulcan. Though several other series have aired since then, he said nothing beats the original.
“The writing was the best,” he said. “It managed in its three years to do more with its characters than the other shows did in seven years.”
Ultimately, though, he said the story arcs found in Star Trek novels have proved to be the most engrossing in recent history.
“I think what’s been in the novels has been better for the last 20 years,” he added.
Besides Rosenzweig, one other member, Brenda Bell, has been with the fan organization since the beginning.
Rosenzweig said he’s stuck with the USS Avenger because it never stopped being fun.
“I continue to enjoy it,” he said. “I just think it’s worth it.”
Rosenzweig said the organization has survived, and will continue to survive because of the respect it shows its members.
“We show them a good time,” he said. “We’ve been inviting and welcoming to people, and a lot of that appreciation has translated into some really dedicated people.”
Just don’t tell them to “beam me up.”
“We’re kind of normal,” Waidlich said. “All of our members are different. Some are computer geeks, some are not. At least, when we have a computer problem, we know who to run to.”
For more information on the USS Avenger Fan Organization, visit their Web site at www.ussavenger.org.