Letter from the Editor: Starship Therapise

Posted by – May 04, 2021
Categories: General New Release Psychology & Personal Growth

A few years ago, I started playing Dungeons and Dragons with friends. I remember that I initially raised an eyebrow at the idea, but I thought it would be fun to enter a fantasy world and make up stories about goblins and gnomes. I spent hours writing my character’s backstory before my first session, only to realize on that first game that hardly any of it mattered if I wasn’t ready to fully embody that character. I couldn’t just draw from this fake history; I had to put myself into the game too. 

For a while, this was a fun way to escape the woes of the week and dive into a reality in which I was a punk-rock spice trader or a grizzled ex-ranger with wings. But the more I worked out my characters’ problems, the more I worked out my own. Grindstone has a problem with authority that can get in the way of teamwork? Ohhh. Malaria Moths puts on rigid armor and wonders why others don’t want to get close? Hmmm. 

We already know that story is a vehicle for understanding the world around us: this is why humanity has created a treasure trove of novels, poetry, art, film, and other narrative forms. Some critics, however, and some Western-style mental health practitioners, argue that stories are first and foremost used as a means of escapism; that they’re nice as distractions, but spend too much time with your head in a book or stuck in a video game, and you’ll displace what’s real and disconnect from what’s really important. 

The authors of Starship Therapise disagree. They’d say that if you don’t stick your head in a good story or play a game often enough, you’re missing out on an important part of being human: “[H]uman beings long for whimsy and look for ways to continue to play. Whether through video-gaming, crafting, or moving the body in a joyful way, all such activities stem from the universal human desire to engage creatively with the world.” 

They’d say that if ComicCon or AO3 are among your happy places, then those are the lenses through which you can connect—with others who share your creative ideals, and with your inner self. It worked out for these two authors, who met through a shared love of Lord of the Rings. Taking on their alter egos Spock and Kirk for both the book and the podcast, their parasocial relationships with the members of the Fellowship and Star Trek not only strengthened their internal lives but expanded their external lives, leading to new relationships and ways to relate to new friends and colleagues (I was affectionately dubbed the Gandalf of the editing process). 

Starship Therapise affirms people in all sorts of fandom relationships by showing us the ways we can interact with stories, let ourselves become the stories, and create new stories. It tells us it’s OK to feel camaraderie with your favorite characters (sometimes I ask myself, what would Chidi Anagonye say?) or imagine how a scene would happen differently (I’m looking at you, Season 15 of Supernatural)–that in fact, this is a healthy part of living, learning, and growing. And it gives us the tools to learn the difference between using stories to hide from the world and using stories to expand it.

—Shayna Keyles, senior acquisitions editor

Tags: Larisa A. Garski Justine Mastin

About the Author

North Atlantic Books (NAB) is an independent, nonprofit publisher committed to a bold exploration of the relationships between mind, body, spirit, and nature. Founded in Vermont, in 1974, NAB aims to nurture a holistic view of the arts, sciences, humanities, and healing. Over the decades, it has been at the forefront of publishing a diverse range of original books in alternative medicine, ecology, and spirituality, with a pioneering publishing program that encompasses somatics, trauma, raw foods, craniosacral therapy, shamanism, and literature.