Leonard Nimoy died today.
I see the words on my screen, but I can’t comprehend them. They seem like a fiction, and a terrible one at that. I feel like a two-bit hack for writing such unbelievable dreck.
But it’s not fiction. It’s fact. Leonard Nimoy died today.
When he was rushed to the hospital last week with chest pains, I had a feeling this day was coming. When he stayed active on Twitter, though, my hopes were bolstered. I thought maybe he was making a recovery.
I had no idea he was taking the opportunity to impart his final words to us all.
And by God, do we all have memories of him.
I’ve written before about how I got into Star Trek at an early age, due largely to my mom’s influence. I’ve long held that part of her interest in the show was due in no small part to a fangirlish crush on Leonard Nimoy. And it was the thought of seeing someone flip Spock the bird in Star Trek IV that finally convinced me to sit down and watch a Trek flick from start to finish. From there I devoured the previous movies and all of the original and animated series, and started religiously watching The Next Generation.
Then I got into the novels. I wasn’t much of a reader before then, unless you count the occasional Garfield or Peanuts book or, of course, comic books. The thought of tackling so many words on a page without a picture break was daunting — I was, after all, in the fourth grade. I started with Jean Lorrah’s The IDIC Epidemic and never looked back. I compiled a complete Trek library shortly after, and looked forward to each new novel release. Novels, technical manuals, comic books, fan club magazines… if it was Trek, I read it. I even tried my hand at my own Trek stories; besides my Ghostbusters script in second grade, Trek fanfic was the earliest stuff I wrote.
I also wrote letters. Lots and lots of letters. I started a regular correspondence with Richard Arnold, Gene Roddenberry’s assistant at Paramount’s Star Trek office. Every other month I’d send a letter with a bunch of questions about the franchise, about upcoming projects, costume suggestions, what have you, and Richard would write back each time, without fail. (Lots of things have been said about Arnold, but I’ll give him this — he always, ALWAYS took the time to write back multi-page letters to me.)
I also wrote to the cast members. I started off with DeForest Kelley — my idol at the time — and squealed with delight when he sent me his autograph not long after. Then I wrote to Nimoy. I couldn’t even begin to remember the contents of the letter, but I do know that I asked him to please send an autographed picture saying “live long and prosper.” Imagine my delight a few months later when I got a large envelope in the mail, opened it, and found this:
Over time, I had the opportunity to meet Kelley, Jimmy Doohan, George Takei and Walter Koenig (I just missed Nichelle Nichols at one con, and haven’t yet had the chance to meet William Shatner, though I have talked to his agent a few times). Though I never shook hands with Leonard Nimoy, I did have the opportunity to attend one of his “Spock vs. Q” stage shows with John DeLancie, at a convention at the Ft. Washington Expo Center in 1998. (Full disclosure: I couldn’t stay for the whole thing, because my girlfriend at the time — also a Trekkie — was a little freaked out by the fact that Gary Lockwood, a.k.a. Gary Mitchell from “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” spent the better part of the day coming on to her. I thought it was awesome, but she didn’t appreciate his advances.)
Though I never personally interacted with him, the impact that Leonard Nimoy has had on my life is unmistakable, particularly regarding my love of the written word. As I got older, my tastes naturally, eventually, expanded beyond Star Trek. Stephen King, Mario Puzo, Neil Gaiman, Tim O’Brien, Whitman, Shakespeare, Stoker, Shelley and countless others. That led to my English degree, which ultimately led to my forthcoming master’s degree. My love for Star Trek comics is directly responsible for my first published book, which has not only led to a full publishing slate for the foreseeable future but has also helped me foster professional and personal relationships with many of the comic book writers and Star Trek novelists whose works I’ve cherished since childhood. All because of a journey began with Star Trek novels. And had it not been for my mom, I wouldn’t have gotten into the show. And had it not been for Leonard Nimoy, neither would she.
I wrote before that I write because of Harold Ramis, but I read because of Leonard Nimoy.
And now he’s gone.
Leonard Nimoy died today. Like I said, I see the words, but I don’t comprehend them. And I don’t think I’ll fully comprehend their import for a long time. My story is just one of hundreds of thousands of people who were impacted and influenced by man we never personally knew, but his work somehow touched us all. We are who we are because of Star Trek, and because of Leonard Nimoy. More so than William Shatner, more so than even Gene Roddenberry, Nimoy was the heart and soul from its earliest pilot in 1964 to its most recent screen iteration in 2013.
(A brief note about that last one: when I first saw him show up in Into Darkness, I thought it was pointless pandering; that he had no business being in that film. Strangely, when rumors started that both he and Shatner were to make cameos in the forthcoming 2016 film, I was all for it and wanted to be pandered to shamelessly. Because, really, I didn’t care if it was just three minutes of Spock eating a salad; I just wanted to see Nimoy as Spock one MORE last time.)
I would have loved to see Nimoy live to see the official 50th anniversary celebration next year. I would have loved for him to reprise Spock Prime again. I would have loved for him to keep tweeting his Spockian wisdom. I would have loved for him to keep on keepin’ on.
But he is keepin’ on, in a way. Through his acting, through his autobiographies, through his music (his album Mr. Spock’s Music from Outer Space is a must-have) through his poetry and his photography. Through me, and my love of reading, and my devotion to the franchise. Through you, reading this. Through all of us who feel his loss. Through all of us whose lives were affected by his presence. Through all of us who are who we are because of Star Trek and because of him.
Leonard Nimoy died today, but his legacy continues. He’s really not dead, as long as we remember him.
Live long and prosper.