Star Trek Lives! (book)

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Commentary
Title: Star Trek Lives!
Commentator: Jacqueline Lichtenberg, Sondra Marshak, Joan Winston
Date(s): 1975
Medium: print
Fandom: Star Trek
External Links:
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Contents

Star Trek Lives! (subtitled "Personal Notes and Anecdotes") is a 276-page book by Jacqueline Lichtenberg, Sondra Marshak and Joan Winston, documenting Star Trek's popularity and the rise of Star Trek fandom--the letter writing campaign, the early conventions, fan activities like cosplay, filk, zines and fanfiction--up until 1975.

For a similar book, see The World of Star Trek.

The Book's Origins

The original inspiration and information for this book came from a number of sources: one was a newspaper article (mentioned below), a chain letter (mentioned below), and the Strekfan Roster Questionnaire.

From a 2003 interview with Jacqueline Lichtenberg:

Star Trek Lives! was originally conceived as a newspaper article. When I found myself (already a professional sf author) writing and gleefully letting fanzines publish for free my ST fanfic, I knew I had a news story here. Before Trek, sf fanzines on paper did not publish fiction. Only articles and letters but never real fiction.[1] Star Trek fans changed not only the world, but fandom too. And the existence of fanfic was news. I knew that because I grew up in a news family. So I decided I'd write a little newspaper article for our local paper. So I needed to know the basics -- who what when where and how many -- that's the formula for a news article. So I started a chain letter asking people who published fanzines to tell me all the fanzines they were reading and how many subscribers they had. It got bigger and bigger... So eventually, I put out a questionnaire to all the names and addresses of readers, writers, editors, and publishers of fanzines -- trying to find out why they like Star Trek. In the midst of this the first ST con happened in nyc. So I took my idea to Gene Roddenberry and he said sure make it a book, and when you sell it call me and I'll do an intro. That took a few years, and how we sold that book to Bantam (it ended up with a 2 publisher auction) is a long story -- but once sold, I called him and he did the introduction. [2]
another cover

Some Author Comments

Jacqueline Lichtenberg responds to a negative review of "Star Trek Lives" in 1975:
In general, I agree rather wholeheartedly with Carol [the fan]. Star Trek Lives! is NOT the book I started out to write. Furthermore, by the time the project had been written and rewritten and redrafted and retyped and re-everythinged, seven times... we could no longer find a title to encompass what we were saying. So, the title, 'Star Trek Lives', was chosen by Bantam, as was the subtitle... How can I explain why the book I started out to write didn't get into print? I can't. I can only tell you that we have four years or more worth of rejections [most ending with 'It just ain't commercial.'] As we corrected and re-corrected our aim to what the publishers though was commercial, we quickly realized they were not entirely correct about what would be commercial, but that we had to do it their way or not at all, at least until we could prove our contentions about what the fans want most to read... [Someday] we will able to have the book I think Carol wants. So I hope everyone who agrees with Carol will write me exactly what they think should be in such a book, and what the 'tone' of the book should be... so the next book WILL be the 'fandom book'. [3]
From 1976, in an interview: Jacqueline Lichtenberg comments:
Q. (Randy) How well has Star Trek Lives! done in terms of sales and critical response (referring in part to Sharon Ferraro's sharp criticisms)?

A. On STL!, I believe I answered Sharon's attitude toward the book when I answered Carol Lynn's review in Halkan Council. Basically, it is that STL! suffers from a bias of my own (and Sondra's, I believe too). Carol Lynn mentioned having seen a first chapter draft for the book in which I discussed FANDOM IS A WAY OF LIFE as opposed to FANDOM IS JUST A GODDAMNED HOBBY - the two major attitudes in s-f fandom which also appear the major dichotomy in ST fandom. There was a reason for that discussion, and it was to point out to the reader that I am a FIAWOL person.

Sharon and Carol and many other fans who have been every thing from shocked to disgusted from STL! are basically Hobby people. (Not all Hobby people react this way, not all WOL people react the other way.; My feeling is that David Gerrold spoke up very well and very eloquently for the Hobby people and it was time for the Way Of Life people to have their say in print. STL! is only half as long as David's two books, so that hardly seems unfair. STL! does not set out to criticize ST, to tell what's wrong with it. We say quite plainly that we recognize that ST has many faults, shortcomings, etc., but that we feel it would be a loss of proportion to emphasize the faults that ST shares in common with all other tv shows and ignore the virtues it has which no other tv show has. So we focused on ST's virtues to the exclusion of almost all else, trying to pin down and define that element which makes ST unique. My personal opinion is that it would be impossible to write a book of criticism of ST. Every single thing you pick on to call 'rotten' will be called ST's only redeeming feature' by some substantial segment of the viewership. This was the major discovery from my questionnaires and gave rise to the concept of the Tailored Effect. Everybody sees their very own ST and every one else's ST is totally invisible to them. That is why some people not many really, but enough to be worth counting — seem to feel that STL! doesn't say anything true about ST. However, by my best estimate, I believe we have spoken truly for about 80 to 85% of all ST viewers, at least in some part. Everything we have said is true for SOMEBODY.

The book has garnered some very, very favorable reviews in newspapers around the country, and we have many, many heartwarming letters of ecstatic praise for the book from those who had these things in their heart but were unable to verbalize them. Some even say that they feel STL! is as or more important to them that the show itself, which is just an example of what I mean by ecstatic praise. [4]
From 2006: Jacqueline Lichtenberg comments:
Star Trek Lives exposed the content of Star Trek fanfiction which explained exactly why people really loved that show so much they wouldn't let it die. That exposure ignited a fire by bringing together many more creative people -- people in what Spockanalia dubbed 'Spock Shock' -- and what we today call Alien Romance -- that stunning realization of the pure sexiness of a non-human. Today, TV Guide has admitted it in print, various books of criticism have admitted it in print, at least one TV Producer who worked on Star Trek, Ronald D. Moore, has admitted it, -- it's the RELATIONSHIPS driving the plot that make the action interesting. At the time we wrote Star Trek Lives that was a patently absurd notion when applied to science fiction. Today it's accepted. [5][6]

Contents

The book attempts to explain Star Trek's appeal by naming and explaining a number of 'Effects":

  • The Discovery Effect: Discovering the show's existence, and the existence of others who enjoy it as you do.
  • The Tailored Effect: Many aspects of the show's characters, environments and situations were supposedly "tailored" to appeal to different audiences, in contrast to most television shows which simply seek not to offend.
  • The Spock Charisma Effect: Spock is said to have a number of sub-effects on viewers. He is a sexy ("The Sex Effect"), ethical ("The Admiration Effect"), appealing ("The Psychological Visibility Effect") character. He shows us that the future, while daunting, is not as intimidating as it might be and that we'll find ways to cope ("The Future Shock Effect"). And while he is different ("The Half-Breed Effect"), he is not as lonely and isolated as he might appear, because of his friendship ("The Friend Effect") with Kirk.
  • The Optimism Effect: A kind of anti-nihilism. The idea that the future will not involve mindless 1984 lockstep or nuclear disaster, but that we will "find the wisdom not to destroy ourselves". There's a good deal of Ayn Rand in this chapter.
  • The Goal Effect: Reinforcing the validity of ideals and goals that we set for ourselves rather than accepting the voices of cynical adults who put a damper on altruistic dreams. There's a good deal of Ayn Rand in this chapter as well.

Its most famous chapter is Chapter 9: "Do-It-Yourself Star Trek--The Fan Fiction", which in celebrating fan fiction had the possibly unintentional effect of introducing fanfic to the mass market audience of the paperback. Many people have said that this was their first introduction to the idea of Star Trek fan fiction. The blurb for this chapter on the table of contents asks questions and explores ideas still discussed in fandom today, to wit:

  • Why fan fiction?...Why so many female writers of Star Trek fiction?...Pervasive themes of Star Trek fiction--with extensive quotes...Star Trek as school for writers.
  • The Connection to Star Trek Lives! by Jacqueline Lichtenberg.
  • The Trek Connection by Jacqueline Lichtenberg.

The Fiction Discussed in the Book

Discussions of Sex

Slash is not mentioned in Star Trek Lives. In 1974 what we now think of as slash had just begun to be published in fanzines, with Diane Marchant's extremely vague "A Fragment Out of Time" appearing in Grup #1. The authors discuss Grup, including another story out of that same issue, so they must have seen Marchant's story and decided to ignore it, perhaps thinking of it as an anomaly. They do say that most fanzine editors would not print the material that appears in Grup.

When Joan visits the Star Trek set during the filming of "Turnabout Intruder" there are many moments of burlesque humor around Shatner's portrayal of a female character. He showed up for a medical exam with falsies on, and Kelley played along, finally saying "Captain, you're pregnant!" At one point Shatner is supposed to say "Spock. Spock, give it up! Return to the Enterprise family. All charges will be dropped and the madness that temporarily overcame all of us on Camus Two will fade and be forgotten." Instead, Shatner said "Spock, it's always been you, you know it's always been you. Say you love me too." These things are not usually cited as canon rationales for slash, but the set crew's name for this episode was "Captain Kirk, Space Queen."

The book includes plenty of discussion of heterosexual stories and themes. However, no explicit scenes are quoted. If the book were mistaken for pornography or "Sexual Revolution" literature, it might not have been accepted by some newsstands, bookstores and libraries, or placed in the adults-only section, depriving children and teens of an opportunity to read it.

There is, however, a very strong focus on sex in the fanfiction chapter, with M.L. "Steve" Barnes providing salty comments, talking about her "Dirty Old Broad" attitude and writing Star Trek porn. Her article "The Vulcan Love Myth" (Eridani Triad 3) is quoted at length. This article explicitly defines the experience of pon farr as rape, dismissing the idea that the telepathic matrimonial bond could make a difference, and failing to distinguish between rape and ravishment of a willing partner. Barnes concludes that women who are fascinated by pon farr feel a "secret and deeply buried thrill" at the notion of rape.

Its Debut Caused a Problem with the STW

The Star Trek Welcommittee, always strapped for cash anyway, found itself in a financial bind when the book printed an old address and neglected to include the fannish imperative, the self-addressed, stamped envelope:

Star Trek Lives lists an 8-month-old price and address for our STW Directory, and neglects to say that we need a "self-addressed-STAMPED-envelope" in order to reply to questions. Our Houston address had been absolutely bombed with over 600 letters in just the first week of the book's sale, and that is 600 directory orders, and letters with questions that Houston is not equipped to handle. Filling directory orders coming in and, paying less than it costs us to print the directory, not to mention forwarding all those orders to the DDC in New Rochelle, NY, to be filled... is costing us a bundle in Postage -- a bundle that we do not have and cannot afford. PLEASE! EVERYONE! Visit every bookstore you know of that is carryingStar Trek Lives! with an armful of STW flyers, and beg them to let you stuff flyers in the books, put a pile of flyers on the counter near them, or post them prominently near the books. Please help us! Flyers can be obtained from any STW person, or the publisher of APOTA. [7]

Reactions and Reviews

“. . . these women have their libidinal thermostats turned up pretty high... [Fans’] stories . . . are sexually charged up. . . .the return of the runaway boys on the biggest damn raft you can imagine. . . . ‘Star Trek’ also hooks the women by the sexual tension beneath that buddy-buddiness...Spock becomes a parody of the unreachable woman. He’s practically an extraterrestrial Garbo. [8]
Some time in the late 1970s, I went with my family to the airport to wait for my aunt to arrive. It was going to be a long wait and I went for a browse in the airport shop. There, I saw a book called Star Trek Lives! which had been written by some women who’d been heavily involved in Star Trek fandom, right back when it first started in the 1960s. I’d sort of known other people liked the series and had a vague memory of a campaign to keep it on the air, but that was all. After reading the book, I went off to find fellow fans and the local club and fanzines. . . Hey, I’d never dreamed that people wrote fan fiction to keep themselves going when there was no Star Trek to watch, or to answer questions for themselves and others – like, what happened in the Mirror Universe after Kirk and his friends went home? What kind of people are Vulcans in a universe where everyone is violent and nasty? What kind of society do the Klingons have? Star Trek Lives let me know that this sort of thing was going on, and what kind of activities fans got up to. For many years, I wrote fan fiction, went to conventions and hung out with fellow Trek fans, some of whom are still my friends. [9]
Who would ever think buying a paperback book would be a life-altering experience? But that's exactly what happened in 1975 when I found the book "Star Trek Lives". This book, by Jacqueline Lichtenberg, Sondra Marshak, and Joan Winston, was an examination of "Star Trek" fandom. When I read the chapters about Trek conventions, I sighed in envy, convinced that I'd never be able to go to one of those wonderful events. Never say never!

This book included a chapter on fan fiction — what a revelation! You mean there were people other than me who fantasized Star Trek stories? And actually wrote them down? I had to read these stories - now! The authors helpfully provided the address for the Star Trek Welcommittee, an organization dedicated to introducing new fans to Star Trek fandom.

I sent them a SASE (self addressed stamped envelope—does anyone still use these???) and pretty soon I received a 12 page newsletter listing various fanzines, fan clubs, and newsletters. I immediately ordered several fanzines, and within two weeks of my first order, a zine arrived, along with a lovely personal note from its editor welcoming me to fandom. [10]
... Today [June 26th], I finally managed to track down a copy of STLives. According to the woman at the bookstore, they are unable to keep it in stock. I bought the only copy they had left. I haven't read it all yet, but I did finish the chapter on Trekfic called, 'Do-It-Yourself Star Trek.' I'm sure that as long as there is that much GOOD material being written -- literally for love -- that it will continue to grow. [11]
Have you read ST Lives! yet? I think it's on a level that's going to be too much for most Trekfen. Too much philosophy. Also, J. Lichtenberg & co. made too much reference to Ayn Rand's philosophy. Problem here is that ST presents, or tried to present, a liberal viewpoint, while A. Rand is a dyed in the woods [sic] conservative. At many points, the book is overly wordy. The best chapters were the ones J. Winston did on the '72 N.Y. Con and her week on the ST set. Most of chapter 9, on fan fiction was pretty good, but the Goal Effect, the Tailor Effect, and so on was a lot of bull... [12]
Overall, I thought ST Lives! was tremendous. However... the authors spent a great deal of time talking about the Kirk/Spock [the "/" does not refer to slash at this point in time] relationship. They were usually 100% right. But, once they said that the bond between Kirk and Spock was stronger than the one between Spock and McCoy. No Way! In 'Miri,' "The Empath,' and 'For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky' there is (and perhaps this IS projection) and something very special in the way the way Spock touches McCoy... And don't forget the Kirk/McCoy [again, the "/" does not mean slash] bit, too. [13]
The first time I realized that there were Star Trek fans who were unaware of fanzine history was during a conversation in an autograph line at a 1982 Star Trek convention in St. Louis. While waiting, I casually mentioned Star Trek Lives! to the fans nearby. 'What's Star Trek Lives?' asked one of the fans. What's Star Trek Lives? The first mass-marketed paperback book (published 1975) to describe Star Trek fanzines.[14] For thousands upon thousands of fans, this was when they became aware that such activity existed, and that they could join in. Almost overnight, Star Trek fanzine readers grew from a small intimate group of individuals who knew each other by reputation, at least, into a large, diversified network of enthusiasts. [15]
Oh golly, Star Trek. Hey, neat, terrific Leonard Nimoy!! Hey oh wow Gene Roddenberry!!! Golly gee whiz gosh oh! Now that I've discussed the general tone of the book, I can get down to specifics. Rarely have I run across a collection of drivel expounded with such pretentious enthusiasm and at such length... I think 9/10s of it could have been cut without losing sight of the purported theme, that is, to quote the title, 'personal notes and anecdotes.'... I'm also not at all sure that the discussion of Star Trek's literary merit and the long, involved explanations of such jargon as 'The Optimism Effect,' etc... But what happened to the book on fandom? If the book had been titled 'Star Trek: A Critical Analysis of a Phenomenon' I could have accepted all the involved analysis, all the quotes... and the officious tone that the authors adopted with many fewer qualms. But a in a book that had been touted in ST circles for well over two years as a 'Star Trek fandom book,' I can't consider such discourses as valid... My interests lean toward the anthropological and I would much rather have seen an analysis of the fans of Star Trek rather than of the show itself. The show is available in reruns to anyone who wants to watch it, but an insider's view of fandom is rare and invaluable. I feel cheated by Star Trek Lives. I want the FAN book that was promised to me in Jacqueline's living room back in July 1972 when I read the first draft of the first chapter. [16]
The subject of Star Trek Lives! is the response of the fans to the series. The discussion of this response includes much which is of interest only to the hard-core Star Tre fan (the process of organizing a convention, amateur fiction about the show's characters, etc.); but what is of greater importance is the analysis of the various "Tailored Effects" which contribute to the program's unique appeal. Each of these effects, according to the authors, excites a strong degree of interest within a particular group of viewers, providing in combination an enthusiastic audience large enough to support a television show. The "Tailored Effect" technique is the opposite of the usual approach to television programming, which seeks not to generate enthusiasm but merely to avoid hostility. The result is that while Star Trek did not have an overwhelmingly large audience, it had an audience whose enthusiasm has outlived the show. [17]
[It] is an incredible mixture of overblown philosophy, pretentiousness, hero-worship, and just plain 'whoopee-gosh-wow.'... For 202 pages (I'm excluding Joan Winston's delightful chapter on the first New York Con and the last chapter), the authors babble on and on and on unendingly about the joys and wonders and depths and complexities of Star Trek. I know that we all feel this same fascination or we wouldn't even be in fandom. But to display this obsession in such blind adoration, in such painfully explored detail in a professional publication is offensive. [18] I have no objection to sex, to participating in it or writing about it. But when three people sit down to write about fandom... and end up giving thousands and thousands of readers a warped view of what we are and where our interests lie, that I can and do object to. [19]
Thanks heaven for Bjo's sane reaction to STAR TREK LIVES! I wondered if was the only person who didn't enjoy a lot of it. Certainly some of the book was informative. But I think the authors gave a foolish impression of Star Trek fans by announcing a whole book on the Spock Mystique and at least books of ST fan fiction. Most readers are going to think all the stories will be by teenage girls who imagine themselves in bed with Spock. [20]
If "The Making of STAR TREK" is the Old Testament ("On the third day, Roddenberry created Spock."), and The World of STAR TREK" is the New Testament ("The Gospel According to David Gerrold"), then "STAR TREK Lives!" aptly serves as the first professional hymn book of Fandom.

Its three very talented writers -- Jacqueline Lichtenberg, Sondra Marshak, and Joan Winston (all of whom no avid fanzine reader should need any introductions to) — have taken on the task of delving deeply into the nature of ST Fandom, and the results are well worth the effort.

This is not some treatise on "Look how great Fandom is!", but a serious, intellectual examination of what has made and continues to make STAR TREK so appealing to its fans, and what it is that makes the fans who they are and what they are.

The style of the book is conversational, open, and 'friendly', with the trio talking to the reader, instead of at him. Also, "STAR TREK Lives!" is written for everybody, providing food for thought for all trufans, and presenting a good, solid case to antagonistic outsiders who stare at Fandom with a skeptical eye, but who are open-minded enough to read this book as they ask, "What's Fandom all about?".

This reviewer's favorite chapters are the ones that belong solely to Joan Winston. "I Never Should Have Answered The Telephone" serves as an excellent 'memory book' of those almost-innocent days of the very first STAR TREK Con[21], both behind the curtains and in front of them. In another chapter, she gives a fan's-eye-view of the last days on the Paramount sets, as "Turnabout Intruder" was being filmed. Joan tells it all a lot better than your fellow Trekker who pops up with "Hey, I heard a story about the time...". We get it all: the personal impressions, the personality sketches of the cast and crew members as people, the bloopers that never made The Reel, the ironic sadness and mirth of the last party…

The only two negative things I have to say about this book both deal with the quantity of each individual chapter: there's too much of it. Each one was about five to seven pages longer than my patience could stand. The examinations into STAR TREK's appeal, fanzines, the great friendships that have come out of Fandom, etc. are not just covered, they're smothered in canvas bags and beaten to death. And I'm not saying that Joan goes overboard in expressing her 'love' for William Shatner, but I suspect that on the night of each full moon, she locks herself in her apartment, lights incense candles, dons green priestess robes, and sacrifices one Trekkie and a plate of chopped liver[22] to a graven image of Captain Kirk (or at least a poster of him)!

But do not let any of this deter you from picking up and reading this very well-written and very entertaining book. It definitely belongs on the bookshelf of every Trekker and Trekkie, for it makes up a large, healthy chunk of the STAR TREK saga, telling where we've been, where we are now, and where we hope to be going. [23]

References

  1. True. They were devoted primarily to criticism and discussion. SF writers didn't give their work away; they were out to earn money selling their work to prozines like Amazing Stories, Astounding Science Fiction, etc. See Science fiction fanzines on Wikipedia.
  2. StarTrekFans.Net from a chat with Jacqueline Lichtenberg, 8 March 2003, accessed 9 May 2012
  3. The comments she responds to are in The Halkan Council #9, Lichtenberg's response is in The Halkan Council' #10.
  4. from Sehlat's Roar Interview with Jacqueline Lichtenberg
  5. Star Trek, WorldCon, & Alien Romance, dated August 15, 2006
  6. Not quite true. Relationships between characters had been used as a fundamental force for driving an SF plot for decades, notably by C.L. Moore and Henry Kuttner, Judith Merrill, L. Sprague deCamp, Zenna Henderson and Ray Bradbury.
  7. from A Piece of the Action #29
  8. from “Big Brother is Trekking You" by James Wolcott (Village Voice, 2/2/76, online here) Makes a pretty strong case for Star Trek as a fantasy of male power, attracting women fans who strive to connect with or tap into it.
  9. Sue Bursztynski Blogspot, posted 1.9.2010, accessed 9.19.2011
  10. by Kathy Resch from The Celebration Zine
  11. from The Halkan Council #9 (August 1975)
  12. from The Halkan Council #9 (August 1975)
  13. from The Halkan Council #9 (August 1975)
  14. As a matter of fact, it wasn't. David Gerrold's The World of Star Trek (Ballantine, 1973), with its detailed descriptions of fan fiction and the typical fan writer, including the names of a couple of dozen zines (and the words "No, I do not know where you can get any of these"), preceded it by almost two years.
  15. Joan Verba says this book is what made her write Boldly Writing: from from the Boldly Writing introduction
  16. from The Halkan Council #9 (August 1975)
  17. Reviw of Star Trek Lives! by Gary McGrath in Erg (an Objectivist-Libertarian weekly published at MIT) in 1975, 1975
  18. The writer is also horrified by the chapter on fan fiction, complaining that all the stories emphasized sex. Not all of them did, but the analysis led off with The Daneswoman, next up was Spock Enslaved!, followed by a detailed analysis of the then-controversial idea that women enjoyed sex and might even pursue it, in a "devious" sort of way... not to mention Ms. Barnes' antediluvian comment about women secretly being "thrilled" by the idea of rape.
  19. from The Halkan Council #12 (November 1975)
  20. Written by a fan in response to a letter by Bjo Trimble in Stardate #7
  21. Again, actually it wasn't; the very first was the 1969 New Jersey Star Trek Con, with 300 attendees, organized by Devra Langsam and Sherna Burley of Spockanalia.
  22. Winston talks in the book at some length about how she earned the good graces of both Shatner and Nimoy by offering them homemade chopped chicken liver.
  23. by Winston Howlett in Probe #5
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