Zarabeth and Loneliness

The original Star Trek series was on TV when I was in college, and my girlfriend and I, and my roommates and their girlfriends regularly watched it (yes it was difficult for all six of us to see the 19” black and white TV set we had at the time.) We invariably commented on how laughably crude the sets were and how inept much of the acting was, but we would always be there the following week to watch the next episode.

The reason was that, beneath the TV simplicity, some interesting literary themes were being explored.

A memorable episode aired March 14, 1969, titled “All Our Yesterdays.” It’s best feature was a subplot concerning love, loss, and loneliness between characters played by Leonard Nimoy and Mariette Hartley (that’s her in the picture.) To save a life, Zarabeth (played by Hartley) must give up the man she loves and condemn herself to a life of loneliness.

The script, originally titled “A Handful of Dust’ was written by a reference librarian at UCLA named Jean Lisette Aroeste. She had two Star Trek scripts produced, edited an academic reference manual, then disappeared from the literary world. I have often wondered what she was like and why she stopped writing; her treatment of loneliness in this Star Trek script was actually rather profound.

Reminiscing about that ancient Star Trek show started me writing a story about an American girl named Evie Summers, who experiences a completely different, but equally crushing, kind of loneliness. Don’t ask me what the connection is between an old Star Trek episode and a story about an American girl in Japan — I don’t know. My subconscious works in strange ways.

In my story “Between Two Worlds” Evie has grown up a solitary, but self-sufficient child on a small apple farm in 1930s Washington State. She marries a Japanese man just before Pearl Harbor and returns to Japan with him. And then of course, she is trapped in Japan throughout WWII. After the war ends, she finds she really doesn’t want to go back to an America she no longer knows. She is no longer American, but she’s not quite Japanese either. The story is titled “Between Two Worlds” and is scheduled to be in print this spring.

Finding the inner resources to cope with loneliness is also an important theme in the life and writings of Anne Brontë, the youngest and least well-known of the three Brontë sisters. I will be presenting a discussion of the novels and poetry of Anne Brontë at the University of Missouri OSHER Lifelong Learning Center. I recently re-read both Anne Brontë novels, her poetry, and her Gondol stories, and in all of them I find a sense of the author as a lonely, quiet, but self-sufficient person.

I’ll be discussing Anne Brontë more in my next blog post.

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