Roberta Rogow

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Fan
Name: Roberta Rogow
Alias(es):
Type: Fan Writer, Fanzine Editor, Filk Writer
Fandoms: Star Trek, Blake's 7, Darkover, multimedia
Communities:
Other:
URL: Rogow's Filks WayBack Link, Roberta Rogow's Bibliography on Fantastic Fiction, Roberta Rogow Wiki Bio
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Alive and Filking (2006)

Roberta Rogow is a fan writer, filker, poet, and fanzine editor in several different fandoms. She became involved in science fiction and media fandom in 1973, and was active for many years.

Her stories were published in a number of fanzines, including Academy Chronicles, Laff Trek II: The Wrath of Dijon, Beyond Orion, Happy Tails, The Compleat Dirtie Nellie and many others. She edited the multimedia fanzine Grip and did some indexing of early Star Trek fanzines.

Her filk lyrics were published in zines such as Rec-Room Rhymes and Sing a Song of Trekkin'. As a filker, she was often partnered with Gregory Baker; for instance, she sang his filk, Zaphod Beeblebrox and Me (mp3 of Rogow singing.) She also published the Filkindex, a filk resource zine.

She is also a children's librarian, and a professionally published writer with several mystery novels, short stories, and a non-fiction book Futurespeak: A Fan's Guide to the Language of Science Fiction.

Rogow briefly explained zines, fanfic, and slash in a 1988 article in "The New Yorker." She is quoted as saying that slash "is threatening the whole zine universe" and was a "girlish romantic fantasy." [1]

Her Beginning in Fandom

I got involved in this madness in 1973,I had watched STAR TREK since its first season, but I hadn't known about Fandom, or Conventions, or fanzines until I ran into a fellow-librarian at a Library Conference, who was also involved in one of the first convention committees. She told me about conventions. I went, I saw, and I was hooked on fanzines... and when I saw a flyer from someone soliciting stories, I sat down and wrote one. Here, at last, was an outlet for something that I had been doing all my life (ever since I picked up a crayon at age 5 and scrawled my name). I found a whole new world of friends Out There; they read my stories and wrote to me telling me what they liked and what they didn't, and how to make things better. The next step, of course, was to edit my own fanzine. Even as far back as 1978, there seemed to be a higher and higher standard for writers of fanzines to shoot for. Where could a beginner begin? Grip was my answer to that question, and it still is, seven years and twenty issues later. [2]

The 1988 "New Yorker" Article

Roberta Rogow was the subject of a two-page article in the December 12, 1988 edition of "The New Yorker."

Some excerpts:

"Grip" is a zine -- a collection of photocopied stories and pictures, staple-bound is a colored-paper cover. Since many of the stories in zines regularly include characters named Spock, Kirk, Scotty, and Dr. McCoy, people who mostly read what zine editors call "general-media zines" might get the idea that the zine phenomenon is simply the literary expression of Trekkiedom. But this is as wrong as wrong can be. For the zine writer, "Star Trek" just gives you a framework, a way of beginning," Ms. Rogow says. "A good zine writer might begin with "Trek" characters the way a Greek bard might have begun with the same old crowd of gods and heroes. But then you go beyond. Working with someone else's characters is a way of finding parameters for storytelling. It teaches you what you can never learn in a creative-writing class. It's only through the 'Trek' characters that you can find your own voice. When young writers want to begin with original universes, I tell them, 'First, write a "Trek" story. Before you let your imagination run wild, write about what you know."
She goes regularly to the cons, which have a heavy concentration of Trekkies, but does so with mixed feelings. She regards herself not as a Trekkie but as a Trekker, and often has to explain to twelve-year-olds the difference between her enthusiasm for "Star Trek" and their enthusiasm for "Star Trek." Most zine writers and editors are women, Ms. Rogow said as she sat behind her table. "Women could get involved in 'Star Trek.' They played a much larger role there than in any other series. After all, with Lieutenant Uhura, there was a woman on the bridge. Nowadays, young women say to me, 'O.K., but all she ever got to say was "Captain, I've lost contact with Star Fleet" or "Captain, contact with Star Fleet has been restored!" But in 1966 just to have a woman in contact with Star Fleet at all was a breakthrough. When 'Star Trek' was cancelled, in '69, all of us were lost. There were so many plot lines that were never resolved. So we began story trees, working our way up from premises and situations that had been left hanging in the show, and the zines eventually had a universe of their own. In 1977 came the second revolution—a whole new universe to play with. The story goes that the minute the first clips of 'Star Wars' were shown at the cons, fans started writing stories. Then came Indiana Jones, and that opened up other new worlds for writers. Anyway, it was around then, what with all those universes to play with, that I took up the cross-universe story, which is my forte and what I'm famous for. Cross-universe involves taking characters from one universe and mixing them with the characters from another. The crew of the Enterprise has an encounter with Han Solo in hyperspace. Or Darth Vader travels in time and meets Karen Allen. [3] But you have to do it consistently. For instance, Indiana Jones is presumably a historical figure, alive at a particular time. So it's best to cross him with figures from the same time period. A friend and I wrote a story -- it's a classic, if I say so myself -- where he was careering [4] across North Africa with Noel Coward.
[An eleven-year old boy] reached out for a zine at the back of the table. On its cover were a drawing (an "illo" in zine jargon) of Mr. Spock stripped to the waist and the legend "Spock Enslaved".

Ms. Rogow snatched it out of the boys had. "Get out of here! Go away!" she ordered. "That is not for the young."

She sighed, and said "Spock Enslaved" is an erotic zine. It's not really a slash book, but it's part of the same movement, which is threatening the zine universe. You see, in 1976 a story called "Shelter" was published in a zine called Warped Space. It was written by Leslie Fish. It's about Kirk and Spock. They on an uninhabited planet, they're trapped, they're in a cave, and well, there you go. There were others, and the thing took off. Spock and the Captain, Spock and the Doctor, The Doctor and Scotty. [5] But they're mostly about Spock seducing Captain Kirk -- that's whey they're called "K/S," or slash, zines. The slash books are basically harmless. People think that they are gay pornography, but they're not. They are written by women, for women. They're really Harlequin romances within the conventions of "Star Trek." Instead of having a name like Angelique, and a heaving bosom, the heroine just happens to be an admiral for Star Fleet. It's still the same girlish romantic fantasy. What the girls forget, though -- and this drives me into ferocious arguments -- is that Spock is sexually active only once every seven years. I've been arguing this one out for the last decade. That is clear -- that is unmistakable. He may be a gay Vulcan. He may be a straight Vulcan. I'm open-minded on that. But the one certain thing we know about all Vulcans' sex life is that they are sexually active once every seven years. When you ignore a rule like that, it seems to me you're not writing literature any more.
I've just published a cross-universe story in which one of the lawyers in "L.A. Law" goes to a con and picks up some slash fiction. Now, that's zine writing -- not some sexual encounter on an asteroid. People haven't even begun to touch on the possibilities of cross-universe writing. I'd like to cross "Beauty and the Beast" with this new series "Tattinger's", or have the cast of "Cheers" open up a bar on the Enterprise. Keep crossing long enough, and eventually you could write about anything. Eventually, you could capture the whole world in a single zine.

Filk Tapes/CDs

Filks (as writer)

Lyrics of one of her early filk songs from SWIL Filkbook issue #1: [1]

An Exile's Lament
Fandom: Darkover
Music: "Hard, Ain't It Hard?"
Words: Roberta Rogow

They asked me when I joined the Spaceforce,
The planet where I'd like to be sent;
I said "Any planet but Cottman Four,"
I'll give you three guesses where I went.

CHORUS: Oh it's hard, ain't it hard, yes it's hard
To be where you never want to be;
And it's hard, yes it's hard, for a Spaceforce Guard
To be where you can never get free.

The winter winds on this planet
Blow snow six feet against the door;
One day a year the snow melts off,
And that's when it's spring on Cottman Four.

The people that live on this planet
Are mean and superstitious as they come.
They don't read or write, they just want to fight --
It's not that they're ignorant, they're dumb!

The Darkover men love to argue,
Each carries a wicked-looking knife;
You'd better watch your mouth and you'd better watch your face,
A word or a look can cost your life.

Now you take a Darkover woman -- please!
She's either a virgin or a hen,
Unless she's a bloomin' Free Amazon,
And they're more ferocious than the men!

One day my tour will be over,
I'll see the Bloody Sun never more;
I'll find me a nice warm spot in Hell,
And say "Kiss off!" to Cottman Four!

References

  1. "Editor," New Yorker, December 12, 1988, pages 37-38
  2. from the editorial to Enterprise Reprise, published in 1985
  3. "Darth Vader travels in time and meets Karen Allen" would be RPF. Either that, or she confused the actress with the character.
  4. She may have meant "careening."
  5. This Fanlore volunteer can't think of any fanwork examples of this pairing.