- Captain Janeway sets her course for the Renaissance this weekend.
Melissa Barth and her daughter Emily sit in their suburban Medina home, watching the latest fan-produced Star Trek video dropped off by the mail carrier. A collage made up of the female crew members of Star Trek Voyager flickers across the screen, as Aretha Franklin and Annie Lennox belt out "Sisters Are Doin' It for Themselves." "Isn't it nice?" says Melissa. "They've included all the stars that will be at our convention."
Emily and Melissa are the minds and sole employees behind Make It So Productions, planners of upscale, themed conventions like this weekend's Women of Star Trek Voyager Convention. The theme, intended to celebrate sci-fi feminism, was inspired in part by the Barths' own female-run company. The two have also found that themed conventions play better than general geekfests.
"I'd go to our competitors' conventions, and there'd be some guy from the original Star Trek, a person from Babylon 5, someone from Xena," notes Emily. "There wasn't any rhyme or reason. Each one of our shows is a theme and a one-time thing."
Make It So's origins can be traced to when Emily earned her degree in religion and moved to L.A., then realized it was too expensive and came home to pursue a career in a religion that truly called to her: Star Trek. The pair used Mom's savings to start Make It So in July 1999 and tested the waters with a V convention, which was not a financial success, but did help the two solidify their take on the biz.
"I wanted to do something other than what was already out there," Emily explains. "I wanted to do a more upscale convention, instead of the crappy expo center with the linoleum floor and a snack bar with nachos."
And despite the obvious appeal for male Star Trek fans, the Women of Star Trek Voyager Convention also promises to shake up the mostly male fan demographic, thanks in large part to the appearance of Clevelander Kate Mulgrew, who plays Captain Janeway and has become a lightning rod for equal-rights-era women who enjoy science fiction.
"We put up on websites that Kate was going to be one of our guests, and tickets just started going like crazy," says Emily. "All these women from around the world had been on the chat groups, because they're specifically Captain Janeway fans. I was always a big fan of women superheroes, but I didn't anticipate it being this successful."
Melissa gladly takes the blame for her daughter's addiction. "I've been a Star Trek fan since Kirk," she says. "My children were never allowed to eat and watch TV at the same time, except Saturday nights, when we'd watch Star Trek and eat dinner."
"The people in Star Trek are almost like a family," Emily agrees. "I've known them all my life. There've been times when I felt sort of sad or lonely or whatever, and there's Star Trek, my old friend."