by Brent Spiner, with Jeanne Darst

St. Martin’s Press
2021, 250 pages, $27.99

IBSN 978-1-250-27436-6

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FAN FICTION refers to works of literature written by fans of popular movies or TV shows, or by fans of professional storytelling in general. The novel, FAN FICTION, is an attempt by an actor to create a sort of pseudo-semiautobiography, a work of fiction based upon real-life individuals. But this fiction seems at times all too believable, so how can we tell that it’s not real?

Every fan of the “Star Trek: The Next Generation” TV series should, or does, know who actor Brent Spiner is. He’s none other than the “android” Lieutenant Commander Data (I call him repeatedly a robot, to his robotic chagrin, in my own ST:TNG novel, WE’LL GATHER AT RUAPEHU.) Data is a very human-like mechanism that has real self-awareness, a true AI with a conscience. But the perils imposed in portraying a “Star Trek” robot-android — the caustic green makeup, the grueling and long episodic filming — is only trumped with even more pain as a result of the fans, some of them best described as “rabid.”

In this novel, one fan in particular is obsessive about an episode of the series called “The Offspring” from Season 3, Episode 16, directed by none other than Commander William Riker (portrayed by Jonathan Frakes). In this episode, Data “creates” his own child, Lal. However, the “Star Trek” fan is apparently intent on meeting Spiner, her “father,” in a series of letters the fan sends. Apparently somehow the fan IS Lal, and wants to reunite with her “father.” (Sadly, the character Lal dies in that episode from a positronic brain malfunction.)

So off Spiner goes, calling for help from the FBI about a potentially dangerous fan. Spiner hires an FBI agent’s twin bodyguard and attempts to connect the true identity of the Lal impersonator/letter writer.

This story has a lot of camp, with Spiner’s countless recollections of his struggles as an actor, his life early on in New York City and, eventually, through his own dogged persistence, his ultimate success in Hollywood. All of this despite some of the craziest behavior from his mundane-acting-world co-stars.

Brent also discovers a fan who calls herself “Mrs. Spiner,” who dies in an accident. He attends her funeral. Here’s where you find out exactly why Spiner was such a big “Laurel and Hardy” fan.