Alternative: The Epilog to Orion
|Title:||Alternative: The Epilog to Orion|
|Date(s):||1976 (around August)|
|Medium:||print zine, fanfic|
|Fandom:||Star Trek: TOS|
|Click here for related articles on Fanlore.|
Alternative: The Epilog to Orion is a Kirk/Spock slash 50-page novel by Gerry Downes. Cover and inside art (very simple line drawings) are also by Gerry Downes. It was the first entirely K/S zine published.
Very few copies of ALTERNATIVE: THE EPILOG TO ORION were ever printed. The originals were offset printed on pearl-gray paper, both covers and interior. Most of the copies in circulation are photocopies which Gerry Downes encouraged fans to make.
Alternative: The Epilog to Orion began in a gen novella "NEBULA OF ORION", which appeared in Stardate Unknown #1. It has a sequel, Alternative: Continuing the Epilog to Orion. All three parts of this story are reprinted in The Compleat Alternative.
Gerry Downes also wrote a short (16 page) "Insert For Orion" which was never published but which still exists in copy form. It was meant as an insert to the first zine, and explores the consequences of Christine watching Kirk and Spock make love at the ship swimming pool.
From an ad in The Halkan Council #20/21: "A new mature-theme zine from Gerry Downes. A different kind of love story for Starship Captain James T. Kirk and his first officer, Mr. Spock. You must state you are over 18 on your order." The price was $5, including postage.
Its Place in History
Different Versions?It appears there are some early issues of this zine that include art that is much more explicit than what was sent to most fans. In Scribbling Women: Artists Talk Back, Leslie Fish said:
I know that the illos for ‘A Fragment Out Of Time’ and Alternative were really pretty innocuous, not definitively K/S, probably to avoid problems with the Post Office.” Now this is an interesting issue, because my copy of Alternative is, as Leslie says, “innocuous,” but Linda, my lovely assistant, has a copy with some rather less than innocuous images. I tried to discover whether there were maybe two versions, a US and an overseas one perhaps, but my investigations drew a blank, so it remains an unsolved mystery. Anyone out there know the answer?
Its Relationship to "Nebula of Orion"
Gerry was the publisher of the gen zine Stardate: Unknown, and for issue 1 (1976), she wrote a short story titled Nebula of Orion.” Here is a synopsis of the plot: While on a mission to explore the nebula, Kirk’s mind is being subtly influenced by a mysterious force. This force, called the Entity, is seeking to control him. It rightly sees Spock as its greatest threat, and it attempts to make Kirk perceive the first officer as his enemy. Because this is so contrary to the way Kirk really feels, he becomes aware of the Entity’s presence for the first time. Kirk uses physical pain to focus his mind. The Entity fights back by forcing terrible nightmares on the captain, taking him to an imaginary desert world of the mind where Spock tortures and taunts him. Fighting the urge to kill Spock causes Kirk to withdraw from reality, descend into unconsciousness, and lapse into a coma.
Spock and McCoy discover the truth when they join with Kirk in a three-way meld. Spock formulates a plan: Kirk is to let the Entity take over his mind completely so they can learn more about it and its purposes. It even forces Kirk to “kill” Spock and persuades McCoy to cover it up. With the Entity firmly in control, Kirk takes the Enterprise into the nebula on a course designed to destroy her. Spock, now free to work undercover, finds out the Entity wants the ship demolished so it can have Kirk to itself. Spock discovers the Entity is the nebula, a sentient being, which fears its own approaching death and wants the captain as a companion.
Kirk, overcome by his own grief at the thought he has killed his friend, resists the Entity with all his formidable will and forces it away, only to fall into a coma from the strain and his own remorse. By the time Spock has taken the Enterprise to safety and returned to sickbay, Kirk is dying. In another three-way meld, Spock and McCoy must enter the captain’s mind, express their love for each other and for him, and rescue him from his feelings of guilt and despair.
Although it is not necessary to read this story to understand the events of Alternative: The Epilog to Orion, it certainly helps to know that the entire first part of the zine—thirteen poems and the first of two short stories—consists of Kirk’s visions as he recuperates in his cabin after the Orion incident. He fantasizes a future relationship with Spock, how their sexual relationship would work, what McCoy would think. The first story is Kirk’s daydream of how Spock would come to him, how they would confess their innermost feelings for each other, how they would bond and make love.In the second story, Spock does come to the captain’s quarters. He admits that he also feels desire for Kirk and that a partial bond has been formed because of the very deep melds they have experienced. They must complete the bond or break it entirely. Both men want the bond. Both men argue against it. Spock reminds Kirk about their careers, McCoy’s probable disapproval, etc., while secretly really being concerned about the captain’s individuality being lost and his freedom being compromised. Kirk agrees, but only because he would not push himself on Spock when it’s obvious to him that his friend doesn’t want him. Then Spock reveals the devastating news that they must never meld again because the bond would reform. In a meld they visualize a barrier that forms between them, and they break the bond. Afterward Kirk kisses Spock and feels nothing. The story continues in Alternative: Continuing the Epilog to Orion (1979). 
Some 1978 Comments by the Author
One flaw in some of the stories that have been printed since ALTERNATIVE, and in some of the objections as well, is that these are 'homosexual' love stories. They are not, in the generally known sense of the term. Specific acts of intercourse may be labeled 'homosexual,' there being an infinite number of ways humanoid bodies can interact, but homosexuality, per se, involves a same gender sexual fixation -- in male homosexuality it's a male to male fixation -- and that is not in operation here. Kirk is profoundly heterosexual in his orientation, and Spock functions quite effectively with women whenever he chooses to do so. While they may eventually come to appreciate maleness as an erotic stimulus, the relationship does not begin that way. The emotional attachment and committment come first, and anything else that may occur can happen only because of that attachment.
When ALTERNATIVE was printed, there were predictable cries of outrage from people who simply could not transcend the gender question, and protests from those to whom any work with an erotic focus is pornographic. Still, the initial reactions to ALTERNATIVE were generally about what I had hoped for. They showed that the majority of readers were willing to look beyond the surface levels of relationships. I was, admittedly, a little afraid to publish it -- by its very nature and theme, it is vulnerable to criticism. Even when finished, it was still open in structure -- perhaps too open; some readers to this day insist it is not really one story, but three separate endings -- and the poems themselves have a lyric simplicity, an idealism, even romanticism that leaves them utterly defenseless to anyone wanting to reject the theme -- they do not explain themselves; they simply are. There was also a furor over the price, though anyone who disliked the book could have a full refund . And in a way, perhaps it was just as well that it was expensive to produce; it kept ALTERNATIVE from being purchased from casual curiosity. Some readers thought it intensely masculine, some thought it far too feminine . The reaction here may very well depend on what the reader himself has brought to the work; it is difficult to remain outside this particular story, and if you are not comfortable being inside . . . Often the responses were touchingly candid; people were thinking, examining not only the story's characters and motivations, but their own feelings as well. "I know I shouldn't like this, but I do." was a common reaction. There was also the sentiment, "I still don't agree with the idea, but I like the way it was presented" and what is actually quite a tribute, "I don't like this idea, and I don't believe this could ever happen -- but while I was reading ALTERNATIVE ... I did." The most common response, and the one I still get most often as people borrow copies and pass around xeroxes is that, "I've lost count of how many times I've read this." To which I can only answer, "So have I."
There are other, more explicitly erotic K/S stories being printed these days, and I often hear from people who say that they can now read and appreciate the layers of meaning in these stories -- for them, ALTERNATIVE opened mental doors. The topic is receiving more serious analysis than was possible before, and I have made contact with a great number of thoughtful, caring people, who on an intellectual basis at least, have become friends.
The 2001 ReprintAccording to the Nut Hatch Press which republished the fanzines in 2001:
Love is clearly stated in that gen story, but is it deeper than friendship, brotherhood? At the end of the gen story the 'sub-plot,' or 'sub-text,' as we would call it today, has been broadly hinted at but not yet stated outright. That statement is made in the EPILOG TO ORION, which was published separately as a thin, and slash could be said to have begun!... In the interests if coherence, and especially for those readers who desure [sic] to collect only the slash part of this collection, we made the decision to combine NEBULA and EPILOG into one still-slender volume, and present the two together as a kind of prolog to ALTERNATIVE. It's just 80pp at A4, beautifully illustrated, a collection of prose, poetry and art, combined with Gerry's magic touch... The foundations for ALTERNATIVE are laid right here, and even if slash was not to your taste, the treatment given the relationship between ship's captain and alien commander is so delicate, no reader could fail to be touched. 
Gerry writes extensively of a sequel to this zine in Stardate: Unknown #5's editorial, but the sequel was never finished at least in public zine form.
ALTERNATIVE II -- I'm working on it, honest. The book will consist of two stories (I'm writing the last half of the second one now) and four pieces of poetry. Gayle F has done one pen and ink illustration forit; Pat Stall had done two gorgeous paintings and has two more nearly finished. I have one pencil foldout done... Ruth Kurz, who is a new artist (to fandom, that is) does beautifully delicate charcoal work and she is planning one illustration for it, also. I have six or seven more illos planned myself, but they are still to be drawn. Present plans call for the outsize work to be reproduced as near to origianl size as possible -- they will almost be posters, folded and bound into the book. That will be all the art in the zine, and it should run 100 pages, the column text reduced format. And yes, they get back together, and no, nobody dies at the end. I hope to have this zine done around the end of May. It just depends on how much time I can get to finish the writing and drawing -- and the typing will be monumental. So for the next several months, do not expect to hear anything from me -- just figure I'm working, and be patient. I do not plan a large print run, so be sure you have a SASE on file if you're interested. This is kind of a private venture for K/S fen only, and once A2 is gone there will be no pass around xeroxes or reprints. One time is IT. And be warned, it will cost-- but I plan to make it a book you'll want to treasure for always.
The third issue of Mahko Root was to include a story called "The Third Stair," a sidebar to Alternative: The Epilog to Orion. The author wasn't identified, and this zine never made it off the ground.
Reactions and Reviews
It really should have been called 'Alternatives,' plural. It is not a story, but a series of vignettes, some prose, some verse, on the theme of bonding between Kirk and Spock and its possible effects. The bonding is the result of the mind link which occurred in 'Nebula of Orion' in Stardate: Unknown. At first glance, Alternative: The Epilog to Orion seems formless, but actually it follows a typical pattern of sexual fantasy. The first alternative is the obvious one, the one so many people are working on: Spock goes into pon farr while bonded to Kirk. But the creative fantasist is not content with a single possibility; Downes drops that and moves on to her main theme: a celebration of love between two strong men. Many of the vignettes give varying answers to the question, 'What is love?' Finnaly, as in all of those fantasies which we play variations upon for some time, the final alternative approaches reality. I say approaches, for of course these delicate fantasies cannot hold together at all in the harsh light of reality. Downes doesn't attempt to make them do so; she deliberately creates a separate mental world where all this takes place. Perhaps the best way to approach Alternative: The Epilog to Orion is to see it as a series of Kirk's fantasies while recovering from the Orion incident. In reality, he would never share such thoughts with anyone -- certainly not Spock -- and the final fantasy is his means of readying himself to return to duty. This is a fanzine by a woman, for women. If you are open-minded enough to accept the right of a writer to pursue this particular theme, you find nothing here to offend. Several of the drawings are more suggestive than the text, but there is NOTHING explicit beyond some kissing. No genitalia are either mentioned or shown; in the artwork they are simply not drawn, or covered by the pose. The most suggestive illustrations work by implication. In other words, the delicate balance of fantasy is held throughout; no harsh reality impinges upon this gentle world. If... sex experts are correct about the physical activities of homosexual males, then the harsh light of reality again reveals that Alternative: The Epilog to Orion is untrue. The emphasis is on holding, kissing, caring -- the activities WOMEN place most importance on. Alternative: The Epilog to Orion must be accepted as a woman's fantasy about a man's fantasy, if it is to be accepted at all. If you can accept the theme, and can appreciate Downes' delicate touch, you will appreciate Alternative: The Epilog to Orion. If you are at either extreme, however -- 'homosexuality is disgusting' or 'gimme those juicy graphic descriptions, drool, drool' -- this zine is not for you. 
This is a type of story that has been tried before in fandom... unsuccessfully, I might add. It is a tale of a true, sexual relationship between Kirk and Spock. On this try, Gerry proves that it will still be a while before the art of writing homosexual love stories is at last perfected. Nevertheless, this tiny scenario, which would scarcely even call a short story, despite the 50-page bulk, does have a few excellent features. Perhaps the best feature of the zine is the way in which it is written. The tone and flow of the zine is fanciful and artistic using a scattering of different techniques to convey the total message: a whole series of poems in verse librre, a scattering of illos, many of them full paged and perhaps only a dozen full pates of straight dialog/narration. The poems are quite a feat in themselves. An individual free verse poem may not be much, but a whole series of them designed to fit into the story and work together is quite a job, and Gerry has done it well. As for the believability -- the story falls flat on its face. One of the few science fiction pieces I have ever read to deal with the subject of love other than heterosexual love in a credible manner is 'The Left Hand of Darkness.' by Ursula K. Le Guin. While I don't suggest that Gerry Downes' work should show the same quality as a professional writer, I DO suggest that it takes far more space than 12 pages of dialog to make homosexual love plausible to an audience living in a society where homosexuality is rejected by most. There isn't enough rationale, background, cultural framework, or enough of the characters' thoughts about the whole thing to give it the plausibility it needs. Although it may be written in a beautiful cycle... it's just not believable... but then it appears as thought the story was not developed for the purpose of being believable. Take it or leave it, I guess. Perhaps the greatest drawback of this zine is the fact that it isn't a whole story, only the ending to a previous one... and the price. I might understand the price a little steep to discourage younger readers, but remember that for $5 you can get several complete zines from other sources. The price for this is hardly worth it for only part of a story. 
There are a couple of 'adult' Trekzines making the rounds these days that the producers are putting in covers that intentionally resemble plain, brown wrappers. From what I have heard of the contents, this kind of treatment would seem very appropriate. However, this one should have been wrapped in a Hefty Garbage Bag. Not to malign the appearance of this zine. Its pearl-gray pages, pleasant typeface, and interesting layout make it a nice-looking little one-shot. The artwork -- such as it is -- is competent and helps get the story's point across very adequately. And not to malign the structure of the writing. This literary effort has a plethora of love poetry which -- if it were written from a man to a woman, or vice versa -- would be some of the best writing in fanfic today. But the stuff is written from Kirk to Spock, and from Spock to Kirk, leaving us with the subject matter that I must take to task: homosexuality. 'Orion' is a story in Ms. Downe's zine 'Stardate: Unknown.' I have not read it yet, but some of my colleagues refer to it as an 'almost get-Kirk tale,' leaving our dear Captain in a psychological state that Mr. Spock sees as an opportunity to take his best friend in to a 'new and deeper relationship.' The result? 'Alternative' or 'Kirk and Spock Go Gay.' According to some of the latest social mores, 'Gay is Good' (Sorry, friend, not in this part of the galaxy), so I guess this type of literary exploration coming aboveground is inevitable. In fact, I hear that other zine writers are working on similar ideas. Fasten your seat belts and pass the Bromo; I think we are in for a rough literary season. The interior artwork of 'Alternative' is mostly simple line drawings, but they help greatly in removing any pretensions about where this work belongs: in a Times Square smut shop. I mean to cast no dispersions upon the author/artist. I truly wish her well... and hope she stays away from the scene where Uhura kissed Christine in 'What Are Little Girls Made of?'   
This is Gerry's answer to her own story in Stardate: Unknown. And as much as S:U was a wonderful surprise, this is a disappointment. It is well-written, clearly printed, and curious. Gerry combines narrative (with good dialogue) with poetry and very simple line drawings, chronicling Kirk and Spock's 'discovery' that they love each other, expressing the love physically. I applaud Gerry for her excellent resolution of the 'affair.' For you Rod McKuen/Leonard Nimoy free verse lovers who think that Kirk-Spock love stories are all the rage, I recommend it. I personally find this type of story invariably disappointing on two points. It is sad to see good writers fooling around with even more minute dissection of Kirk-Spock and navel [sic?] diving instead of space exploring. And even if they grasp the sexual side and the explicit scenes are well done, it falls flat on characters and plot. Gerry's is non-explicit, dealing with sexuality thru metaphor, albeit interesting metaphor. 
I really feel that Gerry deserves credit no matter how you feel about ALT, whether you liked it or didn't, or felt the price was too steep, or the writing poor, or the subject matter terrible (I'm surprised not to have more from THAT angle of it -- most of the protests have been over price/quality, not contents), the credit that she deserves that 1) she actually had the guts to bring it print subjectwise... 2) she is, as far as I know, the first fan to guarantee that she would refund money to anyone who did not like the zine and sent the zine back to her... And she has had very few returned. 
I have elected to scrap the last part of the ALT controversy. I am sitting here facing to long 'commentaries' -- one from Leslie, one from HOP. Frankly, I don't like them. I am, without reservation, utterly sick of this entire topic. I figure these two pieces would take something like six pages to include... I resent vehemently giving ALT that much free space in this zine. To me, everything that has been said about it has been tantamount to advertising, and considering how I feel about it, that is utterly ridiculous... Good or bad, it has secured its place as an Important Thing in Fandom. I don't think it deserves that place, and I am not going to contribute to its glorification any more. I don't like it. I don't care if it's supposed to be a serious extrapolation or a fantasy, I don't care how courageous it might signify that Gerry is. I'm sick of the whole thing. 
Years and years ago, I bought the original set from the author. Like you, I was less than thrilled, for all the reasons you said you were. And I was depressed for weeks after reading it. At the time, I thought there must be something wrong with me, because everyone else I knew was giving it glowing reports. Like you, I couldn't stand Spock suffering or Kirk either for that matter. I also can't stand Kirk depicted in that way, unfeelingly subjecting Spock to so much emotional turmoil. Also, the Christine Chapel part of the story gagged me!... So, thanks for expressing the same thoughts I didn't have the guts to express publicly and kept buried for all these years. 
ALTERNATIVE'S art, 2/3 especially, is wonderful. ALTERNATIVE is an experience one appreciates because it was the FIRST MAJOR K/S. If one is looking for a weil written traditional type novel, it's going to be a "downer", because it's not really even a novel. The Kirk and SpocK I think of is not her Kirk and Spock at all. However, Downes helped pave the way for later K/S. I love ALTERNATIVE on one level: on another ievel I was not satisfied because I had expected more. 
Alternative: Epilog to Orion, which first appeared in 1976, is generally hailed as the first K/S zine. Fortunately it was not my first K/S zine, or it would surely have been my last. To be more specific, the first book offers a tantalizing, but rather vague, glimpse at the sheer joy and wondrous possibilities offered by a telepathic and sexual relationship between Kirk and Spock, while the second, and much longer book describes a number of years in an actual, and frankly rather unpleasant, K/S relationship which develops. The first book was of considerable interest to me, foremost for being such a seminal work in the development of the genre, but also because it holds much of interest all its own. Downes is an incredibly lyric writer, and in fact breaks into verse at critical points in the narrative. Her prose is a delight. The last section of book one is an ecstatic fantasy sequence in which Kirk and Spock merge, with somewhat cloudy reference points to actual physical sexuality (the line illustrations in the margins leaving considerably less to the imagination). It ends, rather disappointingly however, with the declaration that such a relationship could never be, no matter how beautiful. This I took, ideologically, as being akin to going up to the water, putting your toe in, admitting that it is indeed fine, and then shaking your foot off and declaring that you don't care for swimming anyway. 
Leslie Fish was a part of fandom so early on that there was no established artistic canon for her to draw on. She writes “I thought mine were the first distinctly K/S illos to be published, but I’m probably wrong on that. I know that the illos for ‘A Fragment Out of Time’ and Alternative were really pretty innocuous, not definitively K/S, probably to avoid problems with the Post Office.” Now this is an interesting issue, because my copy of Alternative is, as Leslie says, “innocuous,” but Linda, my lovely assistant, has a copy with some rather less than innocuous images. I tried to discover whether there were maybe two versions, a US and an overseas one perhaps, but my investigations drew a blank, so it remains an unsolved mystery. Anyone out there know the answer? 
This zine is totally awesome. I had a yen for some K/S h/c so I skedaddled to the annual Star Trek Creation Convention in San Francisco in its ever diminishing capacity. The west coast zine dealer Jim Rondeau was there, and I was able to get my hands on an original Nightvisions for $25.00 and Alternative for $10.00. It was the best investment I ever made. Alternative is a page turning novel. It is an even mix of Star Trek adventurous gen with a K/S relationship. It is tightly written and well fleshed out. (Did that sound right?) There is something in there for everyone. You have a developing K/S relationship, action and adventure, diverse characters, hurt/comfort, angst, Vulcans, all set in the canon universe. This is one of the best K/S novels I have ever read. It is right up there with my all-time favorites Broken Images, Bloodstone, and Lifeboat. This novel is a mega must read. A thousand raves around the world. 
[LoC for Nebula and Alternative: The Epilog to Orion]: I have head about these zines and stories for years, but never read them. According to Jenna (who has assisted me in the facts about this zine), Epilog to Orion is considered the first K/S standalone zine. Quite the accomplishment back then in 1976!
So they are really meant to be read with this genesis in mind–this was the very first time K/S had actually been published in a zine. Well, maybe the very first time, but certainly nearly so. The story of “Nebula Of Orion” is basically a gen story and concerns an entity mentally and emotionally attacking Kirk. I was never really certain what this entity exactly was—and that’s a major flaw—but that still didn’t stop my enjoyment of the story. It was quite well written especially for having been written in the dawn of K/S, and it involved lots of Star Trek- type of stuff with the ship, the captain, Spock and McCoy. Actually, McCoy features prominently as he helps Spock rescue Kirk, but there’s more than just a glimmer of K/S here. As an example, when Spock and McCoy go into Kirk’s mental landscape to save him from dying, Spock expresses his love and need for Kirk. McCoy questions him about it afterwards, but Spock doesn’t say much and the story ends. “Alternative”, which I guess was written not long after, explores K/S much more directly through a series of poems and vignette-type stories that tell a little about what happened after the Orion incident. These need to be read with the first K/S in mind—a time and place that was the first blush of K/S. Reading these brought back many memories of my just reading the words: “they kissed” and falling into paroxysms of pleasure. Jay hopefully won’t mind my paraphrasing her when she said that those days were like being newlyweds and now we are in established relationships (Jenna will like that!). It’s not that we’ve lost any love for K/S, we’ve just grown into a more meaningful and fully-developed relationship.At any rate, the Orion zines are definitely worth reading and having for your collection. Take the opportunity now that they’re being reprinted to enjoy some wonderful early K/S—for its historical value if nothing else! 
}}One of my favorite zines was Stardate: Unknown, published by an Alaskan editor named Gerry Downes. In 1976, Gerry sent out a flyer for something new to the zine world...a fanzine called Alternative, which would explore the possibility of a sexual relationship between Kirk and Spock. The flyer was very timid, including lots of warnings, and reassurances that if you bought the zine and hated it or were offended by it, you could return it for a full refund. I read the flyer and thought, “Ooooh—interesting!” I immediately wrote a check.... Alternative set off a brouhaha! Gerry was lucky she lived in Alaska; there were so many infuriated, outraged people out for her blood. She was trashed in the letter columns of newsletters and fan club publications and denounced at conventions. I know she got plenty of hate mail. The zine itself, however, was a bit of a disappointment. As I recall, Kirk and Spock don’t stay together at the end—and I wanted that happy ending for them! I was left wanting more.
- from The K/S Zine: The Time of the Beginning 1976-1985
- website where it was sold in 2001; reference link, accessed 2.17.2011
- from The Halkan Council #22 (September 1976)
- from Spectrum #29
- from Probe #9
- When readers wrote to complain to Howlett, the author of the above review, he responded with a multi-page letter in Probe #10, calling homosexuality a disgusting sin against nature and God, that homosexuals were no better than perverts and were all child molesters.
- The editor of R & R later comments on this review and the letter in her zine: "Winston's reply to letters attacking his review of 'Alternative': the review was not a review but an attack, and the reply is a fine example of what happens when you let yourself think with your convictions instead of your intellect." from R & R #3
- from a review in Menagerie #9
- from Implosion #5: (1977)
- from Implosion #6 (1977)
- from The K/S Press #80 (May 2003) responds to a less-than-positive review in a previous issue of the letterzine
- from The LOC Connection #40
- from The K/S Press #77, as part of a review of The Compleat Alternative
- from Dribbling Scribbling Women: The History of Our Art (2007)
- from The K/S Press #37
- from The K/S Press #67 (2002)
- from A 2007 Interview with Kathleen Resch