History of K/S Fandom

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Fandom: Kirk/Spock
Dates: 1970s - present
See also: Star Trek: The Original Series

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Contents

See Timeline of K/S Fandom for a chronological list of fannish events.

The beginnings of K/S (Kirk/Spock)

The premise that Kirk and Spock could become intimate actually came from ideas offered to Gene Roddenberry by acclaimed science fiction author Isaac Asimov, a fan of the show. Captain Kirk was supposed to be the star of the series and the main focus of viewer attention, but viewer response to Mr. Spock was much greater. Roddenberry asked for ideas on how to confirm Kirk as the central character. Asimov wrote a letter [1] suggesting that Kirk and Spock be portrayed as becoming close friends and confidantes, saving each other's lives, and in other ways functioning as a two-part team. This would lead viewers to associate the two, and to think well of Kirk because Spock did. This idea was implemented, and can be seen in many episodes.[2] What was meant to be a devoted friendship may have been picked up on by fans as leading to sexual intimacy.

There is no record of the first K/S story to be written and passed around to friends [3]. There was a small, but thriving circuit of stories being written in both the US and the UK in the late 1960s and early 1970s. These "Story Trees" were basically private letters between fans talking about Star Trek where Fan A would mention that Fan B was offering stories - a few of them K/S - which could be obtained by sending Fan B a few dollars. The copies had to be hand typed (as this pre-dated photcopy machines) and then reproduced via blurry mimeographs or faint carbon copies. There were no editors, just a few fans acting as a conduit by collecting, copying and mailing stories. The Ring of Soshern may have been one of these circuit stories.
"...[The Ring of Soshern] and Audrey B.'s stories were the first circulated K/S. You had to know someone on the circuit to have access to the stories, and we were pretty careful about making sure they didn't fall into unsuitable hands. The same system developed in the Professionals circuit."[4]

The first K/S story to appear in a zine was "A Fragment Out of Time" by Diane Marchant, published in Grup 3 (the first 'adult' Star Trek zine) in 1974.[5] It was written so obliquely that it wasn't clear to many readers that the two people having sex were both men, much less Kirk and Spock. (Though in an essay called "Pandora's Box…Again," in the next issue, the author 'outed' the story and defended the idea of K/S.)[6] The piece usually given credit as the first K/S story was published a year later, Alternative: The Epilog to Orion, published by Gerry Downes. An anonymous review said,

Alternative: The Epilog to Orion isn't really fully-realized K/S. It's a tiny thing, less than 100 pages long. Although there are some sketchy line drawings in the last part of the zine depicting homosexual acts, the zine itself is about half gen, and the "slash" part is actually a fuzzy fantasy, mostly told in verse, that occurs during a mind meld. And, at the end of the zine, Kirk and Spock reject a sexual relationship between them.

A Highly Debatable Issue

In the November 1975 issue of Warped Space, there was a story that got people talking. A fan writes to the letterzine The Halkan Council #20/21:
Regarding the oblique debate that has been floating around among some of us since Warped Space printed "To Need a Friend" -- let's get the silly thing out in the open. I sincerely doubt if there is or could be a sexual realtionship between any of the Kirk/Spock/McCoy trilogy. Considering McCoy's old-fashioned gentlemen's morals, Kirk's compulsive pursuit of women, AND Spock's disinclination for physical relationships, it seem rather unlikely to me. The only of the three I could possibly imagine in that sort of relationship would be Kirk -- and only if his vigorous interest in the opposite sex was a cover-up (even to himself) of interest in other men. But in either case, I doubt if it would be Spock.

In October 1976, "Shelter" by Leslie Fish came out in Warped Space 20. Shelter was the first true first time slash story in fandom. (It was also the first cave story -- a genre that has receded in importance now, but was once very popular: if nothing else works, strand them on a planet with a nearby cozy cave, and everything will work out fine.) Fish also wrote a sequel, "Poses", originally published in the first issue of the Obsc'zines. Both stories circulated widely and were the source of intense discussion in the debate over slash in fandom and whether or not explicit gay (or straight, for that matter) stories were acceptable in ST fandom.

These debates boiled over at 1977's SeKWester*Con 'Too', which included a couple of high-powered panels on "The Kirk/Spock Relationship" and "Porno and Sex in Star Trek Fiction", with highly emotional debate. It had been difficult to find fan authors opposed to slash or porn who were willing to serve on the "anti" side of these panels, and numerous pieces of X-rated art were displayed in the same area with non-X material. Additionally, a PA glitch resulted in the entire convention being treated to the voice of Connie Faddis reading an explicit sexual (non-slash) narrative. Some fans came away with the impression that the majority of ST fandom was now in favor of X-rated material. The now-familiar age statement and modern labeling practices ("gen", "het", etc.) were instituted as a result of this discussion.

Early Slash and TPTB

Mixed messages from TPTB abounded. In a February 1978 letter to the president of STAG, the main fan club in the UK, illustrates the tensions:
Some members have stated positively that they do not want to read any story in which either Kirk or Spock is stated to have homosexual leanings; or indeed any of the main characters, and on this subject Susan Sackett, assistant to Gene Roddenberry, stated in a letter to Janet dated February 27th - 'Gene and the executives at Paramount feel that this is harmful to the STAR TREK concept, since this was never the intention in creating the series.' [7]
Another comment from Susan Sackett; this one further blurs the line between "official" and "personal" and gives more mixed messages:
It is my understanding that there exist, somewhere in fandom, fanzines with subtly and even openly portray a homosexual relationship between Kirk and Spock. No one who has written one has ever had the courage to send one to Gene Roddenberry's office. What surprises me is that no one has ever mentioned why these two apparently straight-appearing characters should be the only ones on board in this kind of relationship. Why, who knows who we might have fraternizing aboard the Enterprise. How about Sulu and Chekov? They sit together and see a lot of each other, you know. Or how about Uhura and Chapel? WIth Spock in heat for anyone (hopefully Chapel) every seven years, and and with no black dudes in sight for Uhura, what's to stop them from digging each other? Bones and Scotty? That leaves Yeoman Rand. YeoMAN. Get it? Even she's not too sure of her straightness. At last we know why there's such good birth control on the Enterprise. We already had the Gay 90's. This decade will probably go down in history as the Gay 70's -- and it has done considerable good in helping to at last recognize gays and to work for their liberation. They just weren't created as gay characters. Why try to change them?... Good Star Trek Fan literature should be accurately be BASED ON STAR TREK. It's only logical. [8]
In a 1984 interview, the author of Thrust talks of the actors' knowledge of slash:
I soldThrust in plain brown envelopes — Gayle F.'s gorgeous and explicit cover made that necessary—and with stringent warnings and age requisites. Despite all my caution, a member of the anti-K/S faction sent a copy to Shatner’s office. Shatner had the grace to smile and keep his silence, but his business manager (now son-in-law) was unhappy about it and we had a small go-round. He thought it all over, and later called me to apologize. All in all, Roddenberry, Shatner, and Nimoy took the theme with more equanimity that some uninvolved fans I know…. [9]

The K/S Golden Age

Many fans feel that the Golden Age of K/S fandom was between 1979 and 1995. [other opinion?]

K/S in Autumn

Common Ground (2009), back cover by Lorraine Brevig
Common Ground (2009), front cover by Lorraine Brevig

Long term K/S fans didn't think of themselves as media fans, or Star Trek fans, or slash fans; they were K/S fans. When other fandoms (first Starsky & Hutch and Blake's 7 and Star Wars, then The Professionals and others) started to grow and recruit K/S fans, there was animosity towards those who left.

Still-active K/S fans -- as many old K/S fans moved onto newer fandoms, or left fandom all together -- tended to be K/S-only, or at least Trek-only, and thus, fell of out of mainstream of the increasingly Multimedia slash community. K/S (and gen Star Trek) held onto zines longer than most other fandoms; they still have snailmail-only letterzines when pretty much everyone else has gone to email or web-based newsletters.

On the other hand, Trek fans took to Usenet like few other fandoms, and for years, K/S was posted openly to alt.trek.creative. Befitting the fandom that had the first 'slash is evil" battles (see K/S wars), K/S was the first slash fandom to put up an all-ages slash archive [10]. There is more Trek and K/S history on the web than any of the other old fandoms, thanks to sources like Joan Verba's Boldly Writing and others. The strength and tenacity of Trek should never be doubted. For the 30th Anniversary of K/S, Jenna Sinclair brought out the five-volume Legacy project, over a thousand pages of stories, articles, reprints of long-out-of-print lzs and art.[11]

From The K/S Press #48 in 2000:
K/S is alive and well in cyberspace as well as in zines! Welcome to the all-Net K/S zine [the Amazing Grace Special Edition Best of the 'Net K/S Sampler]. All of the stories in this zine were previously published on the Internet. The authors have given me permission to publish them for the first time in a zine.

K/S Online

  • In 1982 net.startrek [12] was created as one of the first 20 or so newsgroups. As part of the Great Usenet Renaming, it became rec.arts.startrek in 1986.
  • In 1990, alt.startrek.creative appeared. Soon after, alt.tv.star-trek.tos started, and almost from the start, the k/s-ers and gen fans pushed back and forth. One prominent k/s fan got tired of the same arguments being used against k/s over and over, and created the K/S Retort sometime after 1990.[13]
  • In 1996: Killa (as Killashandra) posted "Turning Point", the first attributed K/S story on the internet, to alt.startrek.creative.
  • In 1998, the Rude Person meme began on Alt.startrek.creative.erotica.moderated, which resulted in a group of K/S parody stories written in various styles and dialects.

K/S: Its Next Incarnation

See Kirk/Spock (AOS).

As a reboot of the original series, with a young Kirk and Spock, the 2009 film Star Trek brought in a new generation of K/S shippers.

References

  1. which you can see at Letters of Note: Getting Star Trek on the Air
  2. Herbert F. Solow and Robert Justman, Inside Star Trek: The Real Story. Diane, 1999, p. 226. Asimov's other idea -- to make Kirk an intriguing solver of mysteries, going in disguise, etc., seems to have been passed on to Jean-Luc Picard.
  3. The earliest K/S stories, including The Ring of Soshern and Green Plague, were published years after they were written.
  4. Interview with Valerie Piacentini published in Legacy Vol #5. Also, Morgan Dawn's personal notes from discussions with K/S fans in the 1990s.
  5. Boldly Writing: A Trekker Fan and Zine History, 1967 - 1987
  6. A SHORT HISTORY OF EARLY K/S
  7. from STAG #30
  8. from an issue of Interstat #12 (October 1978) [This letter is followed by the statement, "These comments reflect my personal opinion, not necessarily that of Gene Roddenberry or the studio."]
  9. from an interview with Carol Frisbie from Not Tonight, Spock! #3
  10. All-Ages Kirk/Spock Archive
  11. LEGACY: Celebrating the 30th anniversary of Kirk/Spock fiction
  12. net.startrek
  13. K/S Retort
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