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Our interview with Kyle Sullivan

Sci-Fi Lovers of the world, UNITE

In today’s day and age, YouTube sensations arise from hard work and dedication to their dreams, and one of Pioneer Con’s featured guests has found his calling in his Webseries, Trekspertise. Kyle Sullivan hit the ground running with his series, collecting over 1.7 million views in the past two years, with a staggering 38,000+ subscribers. “Trekspertise discusses the form, function and intricacies of science fiction” with a detailed focus on the Star Trek franchise. Topics range from analyzing an episode of Star Trek to discussing the behind-the-scenes work of the entire series. While Star Trek is the primary focus of Trekspertise, Kyle tries not to limit the episodes just to Star Trek but to expand to science fiction as a whole. Trekspertise has won many awards from the Miami International Science Fiction Film Festival. I was lucky enough to get an Interview with Kyle as he breaks down the meaning of Trekspertise, the behind the scenes work and what you can do as fans to reach out!

Q: What made you create the web series?

A: A number of desires and influences led me to create Trekspertise. Primarily, I longed to see a space online that discussed sci-fi in a serious, interesting way. I've never seen that before and it really perplexed me that nothing like Trekspertise existed yet. I consider science fiction to be one of the more important styles of fiction in our day and age - it is helping us deal with all sorts of uncomfortable realities connected to our moment in time. To see sci-fi casually dismissed, both in written fiction and in film and television, is concerning and bizarre. In my own little way, I hoped to start something that could help begin the conversation about what sci-fi means to all of us.

Q: What is the meaning of 'Trekspertise'?

A: The title Trekspertise is a portmanteau of sorts, a blend of 'Trek' from Star Trek and the word 'expertise'. We combined these two ideas in this way to indicate to potential audience members the kind of topics Trekspertise will cover. We hope we are living up to that idea.

Q: Who all is involved behind the scenes of the series?

A: The series is primarily written, edited and produced by me, Kyle Sullivan. Katie Boyer provides invaluable insight and support at the writing stage, sometimes writing whole passages or coming up with topics and ideas. Other support, writing, graphics work and many other things are provided by 2threefive, a local film production company which includes Ryan Kindahl, Steve Ashlee, Dan King and Randy 'Mongo' Halpern. Their support, like Katie's, has been invaluable.

Q: How often do you upload?

A: New videos go up every couple of months, which is far too infrequent for me. I'd like to release videos twice a month. However, we work on donations through Patreon. With the generous support of our donors, we've been able to increase the quality of each Trekspertise episode substantially. I hope to continue that trend, and to get to a point where we can keep a regular schedule of releases.

Q: Who would you consider your targeted audience to be?

A: My target audience is anyone who wants to understand Star Trek and the larger sci-fi world. When I consider episode topics, I think first of people who don't understand what Star Trek is about, of anyone confused by funny make-up and spaceships. There is a reason this stuff exists and if you don't understand that reason, then I want you to watch Trekspertise.

Q: How do you come up with ideas for your next webisodes?

A: Basically, I move from topic to topic out of pure interest. If there isn't something I can learn from an idea, then I don't do it. For example, I consider the character of Gul Dukat, the malevolent Cardassian dictator from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, to be a pretty good villain. However, I didn't understand why he was a good villain. So, I chose to do an episode on Dukat partly because I wanted to understand for myself why this character worked so well. That's basically how I work in regards to creating any video.

Q. Are you open to suggestions from viewers about what your next episode should be about?

A: I am absolutely open to suggestions. And people have made suggestions that I've ended up using. I've also borrowed and incorporated fan theories about particular things. However, the caveat is that I have to find the suggestion interesting. That's it. Just be interesting. Find a way for a topic suggestion to open a door into territory that others haven't ventured into yet. For example, the culture of the United States is very focused on race. But, have you noticed how binary that conversation is? Black and white, all the time. It is important, but it ignores all the other ethnic and racial subgroupings in North America. So, with Trekspertise, when I decided to look at race, I came from a different area and examined how Native America is represented throughout Star Trek. I found this to be an unusual, and thus enlightening, vantage point through which to understand sci-fi. In fact, we've done two episodes on Native America, both of which were very surprising. So, yea...just pitch an idea, but be inventive. Sci-fi is about exploration. And Trekspertise is, by virtue of connection to sci-fi, in the game exploration, too. I can be reached through Twitter at the handle @neoteotihuacan.

Q. How do you get your information for each episode?

A: I begin my research by reading what others have written concerning the topic at hand. I look for as much as possible. Sometimes there is a lot and sometimes there is very little. Articles, magazines, blog posts, interviews, fan theories, etc... I reference the Star Trek Encyclopedias written by Michael and Denise Okuda. I spend a lot of time on the Star Trek Wikipedia site, Memory Alpha. I haunt the Daystrom Institute subreddit over at Occasionally, I'll post questions and test theories with small groups online. Once all the research is done, I begin to weave a narrative around the topic. Writing is the slowest portion of the entire process, but the research is the most important.

Q. Do you have any interesting stories from interviewing guests?

A: I don't so much have an interesting story as I have an interesting impression. When I went out to Oklahoma to interview Russell Bates, a Kiowa writer who helped win Star Trek its first Emmy with the animated series in the 1970s, I was struck by how hidden-in-plain-sight the town of Anadarko, Oklahoma was to the world. The town, formerly a Native American reservation populated by a number of different nations, is 41% native. That's an astonishing number considering the percentage of Native Americans living in the US as a whole. Here was this whole world, this whole collection of various cultural perspectives, outside the purview of mainstream, white America. The narrative of what it means to be an American to many somehow doesn't include places like this. But the history of this country is exactly this sort of thing, of ethnic groups clashing and surviving, sometimes in the unseen corners of the larger culture. There are many hidden, unseen corners in American society and I keep this in mind whenever I produce anything. I hope to learn from this perspective, but I also hope that mainstream America will eventually see, celebrate and incorporate this perspective into its larger story.

If you have any questions, Kyle can be reached at his twitter handle @neoteotihuacan and he will also be a guest speaker at the Pioneer Con hosted by Jefferson State’s Sigma Kappa Delta held Friday, October 14th at the Shelby-Hoover campus.

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