Star Trek Con (1969 convention)

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Convention
Name: Star Trek Con
Dates: March 1, 1969
Frequency: once
Location: Newark, New Jersey Public Library
Type:
Focus: Star Trek: TOS
Organization:
Founder: Sherna C. Burley and Devra Langsam
Founding Date:
URL:
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Contents

cover of early con program from 1969 University of Iowa Digital Library
"Spock Shock," first page of the con skit performed at this convention, printed two years earlier in Spockanalia #1

Though it's commonly thought that the first Star Trek convention was held in 1972 at the Statler Hilton Hotel in Manhattan, New York, another convention predated it by three years. It was simply called "The Star Trek Con" and took place in the afternoon on March 1, 1969 at the Newark Public Library. The free event, organized by librarian Sherna Comerford Burley (at the time, Sherna Comerford) and Devra Langsam (co-editors of Spockanalia), was low-key and celebrity-free and attracted roughly 300 attendees. [1]

Prior to this, Star Trek had only appeared in programming of general science fiction conventions such as FunCon in 1968.

Its Organizer's Memories

From Fan Writing Panel or Don't Make Him Say That!, a panel/interview in 1973:
DEBBIE: I don't know how many of you are aware of it, but this is not the first STAR TREK convention. This is the second STAR TREK convention. What year was your convention, Sherna?
SHERNA: '68.
DEBBIE: 1968 there was a very small STAR TREK convention in New ark, New Jersey. Hal Clement -
J OYCE: The audience was small.
SHERNA: Yeah, about 60 or 69, and it was only one afternoon....
JOYCE: In Spock's linen closet, that's where they had it.
DEBBIE: Hal Clement spoke - he'll be speaking here tomorrow, at 11 am - about STAR TREK and science. And he pointed out "that there was absolutely no validity in the way that STAR TREK had made their speeds. He had no quarrel with the idea of above-light speeds, but he showed by measurements that planets were too" far away for the Enterprise to be zipping back and forth at the speeds that they said they were going at. If they wanted to zip back and forth, either they should have said, "Well, we're going at warp 20," and just let the audience, assume that the space ship could go that fast, or they should have limited themselves to a single sector. Now this was a science fault in STAR TREK, and these are the same kinds of science faults that aren't particularly good in a STAR TREK story. If a man's temperature is 98.6, then it's 98.6. You can't say, "He's normal; his temperature is 96.5." You have to be accurate with the scientific facts that we have, unless you have a good explanation for the change.

Activities

From the cover of the program: "Special Edition, Published For and Dedicated To, The Friends Who Pitched In To Help Put On The Star Trek Conference. Pax Vulcanis --Sherna."

  • a fan panel on "The Star Trek Phenomenon" with Brian Burley, Debbie Langsam, and Sue Lewis tried to explain why the show was able to inspire such a massive show of support in the way of letter writing campaigns, fanzines, and even a one-day convention in Newark, where other shows had not
  • Elyse Pines and Lee Smoire gave a slide show of the Enterprise Hollywood set and some of the aliens that had appeared in the show
  • Chuck Rein, Ron Bounds, and Nara Sangster led a round of filk singing, of songs inspired by STAR TREK
  • Hal Clement gave a talk about "Star Trek and Science"
  • the convention ended with a short skit by Sherna called "Spock Shock" [2] [also in the zine Spockanalia #1]


Convention Report

A convention report was published in the clubzine Anti-Matter #3 in March 1969:
"It began with a slide tour of the Enterprise, as a stage set, guided by Devra Langsam and Lee Smoire, followed by shots of some of the Star Trek aliens, bad guys and creatures which inhabit the show. Next came an audience participation discussion of "The Spock Phenomenon" exploring why Spock has attracted such a following, conducted no less, by Spock himself, alias Chuck Rein in Spock disguise, make-up and ears. Conclusions: 1. Spock is a sex symbol. 2. Spock is an adequate lover (?)! 3. Spock is a super-human figure. 4. Every girl KNOWS she could successfully seduce Spock if given the chance. (Yeah!)

A panel discussion of "The Star Trek Phenomenon" and why the show has caught on was then moderated by Brian Burley, with Allan Asherman, Lee Burwasser, Debbie Langsam and Sue Lewis. During the rest break, we had a chance to view a Star Trek art display containing some of the original artwork submitted to "Spockanalia" for publication. Among the many artists whose works were on display, was legionnaire Kathy Bushman, who designed the cover for this ish [issue] of Anti-Matter. You'll find more of Kathy's Spocktacular illustrations later on in this ish. There were also plenty of Star Trek photo albums to delve into, not to mention a display case containing two adult tribbles, one baby tribble and and half eaten apple. (What?! No quadro tritacale?)

Two of the cutest baby Sehlats were also present, complete with pointed ears, arched eyebrows, fangs and Star Fleet uniforms, imported straight from Vulcan (with a slight detour at Japan), "Trends in Science Fiction Movies "and Their Reflection on Star Trek" were discussed by Allan Asherman (who bares a slight resemblance to Mr. Sulu). He was followed by science fiction writer and astronomer Hal Clement who examined the scientific aspects of Star Trek. Clement concluded that the most incredible Star Trek device is the transporter. Why? Because, according to Clement, in order to safely teleport an object from one place to another, one would need a machine powerful enough to dissassemble and distinguish every single atom of that object. However, he stated that a machine that powerful would probably blast the electrons off the atoms, thus changing their structure completely.

The final event of the afternoon was a comical dramatisation of a satire entitled "Spock Shock" which first appeared in "Spockanalia #1." Once again. Chuck Rein's portrayal of Mr. Spock (or Mr. Swock as he is called in the skit) came off beautifully, from Spock's manner of speech right down to his walk and gestures. But how Chuck ever learned to raise ONE eyebrow still remains a fascinating mystery.

Best part of the entire conference, however, was that it was FREE!!""

References

  1. "The first-ever Star Trek fan event, organized by Sherna Burley, actually took place in March, 1969, at the Newark Public Library, as TOS was ending. It wasn't a convention, just a small (if still kind of formal) gathering, with no actors from the series, just a slide show" from Star Trek Conventions in the Seventies by BoG dated April 15, 2010; WebCite
  2. Assorted Fan Histories, Where No Man Has Gone Before, Chapter 6 by Richard Lynch accessed 8.25.2012; WebCite.
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