The Ring of Soshern
|Title:||The Ring of Soshern|
|Date(s):||at least by 1973 (as per a privately circulated copy)|
|Fandom:||Star Trek: TOS|
|External Links:||cited here|
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The Ring of Soshern may be the first shared media slash story.
From the editor of Alien Brothers:
Written probably before 1976, this story has never before appeared in a fanzine. It is one of the first—and certainly the best — "underground" K/S tales, circulated very privately and discretely in manuscript photocopies only. RING OP SOSHERN set the pattern for many early K/S stories, and had many imitators, but none surpassed it. The British author is well known for her sensitive and accurate character portrayals, and skillful handling of plot, action, description, and unusual themes and ideas. A collection of her stories has recently been printed by ScoTPress.
It was circulated privately in Great Britain, at least by 1973 (date on one early copy).
Jenna at Beyond Dreams Press notes that "my personal information from contact with the author dates that story several years earlier, to 1968 and possibly slightly before that." Because it mentions pon farr, it could not have been written earlier than mid-September 1967. (The episode "Amok Time" was not shown on BBC until November 25, 1970, but Guttridge was a well-connected fan and would have received literature describing the episode -- perhaps even a copy of the script -- long before that. If she attended Worldcon in 1967 she could have seen the episode two weeks before it aired on NBC.)
"The Ring of Soshern," as revealed in the story:From the story:
Spock grinned. "It is a classic example of the Ring of Soshern."
"It is a condition of being first theorized by an early Vulcan philosopher of that name. He propounded that if wanting leads to having, the having inevitably produces more want. It is a continuous process and only within the circle lies contentment. It is a supremely logical theorem."
Kirk had a remote feeling that he'd been complimented, but he wasn't sure how, or why, and it didn't answer his question. "So it doesn't all end here?"
"It can if you wish it to." A frown clouded Spock's face. "The circle can be broken. Wanting can be suppressed and the yearning to have, denied."
"But only within the circle lies contentment," Kirk repeated.
"If you wish...""You know what I wish," Kirk said, and moved closer.
This Story, and "The Premise"
It became one symbol of the stress and conflict in Star Trek fandom over the idea that Kirk and Spock could have a sexual relationship. Most fans in the 1960s and early 1970s would not have accepted this premise. Many copies were purposely destroyed. "A certain K&S relationship fan in the southern U.S. bought up as many copies as she could find and burned them -- a singularly, reprehensibly unfair form of censorship!" 
The story is often cited as one of the example of an informal K/S circuit that pre-dated fanzines. (A few Star Trek fanzines, including Spockanalia and ST-Phile, actually appeared as early as January 1967).
"“Ring” contains many of the elements K/S fans have come to know and love: pon farr forces their first sexual encounter in a cave on a prehistoric planet fraught with danger. The sex is brutal and unromantic at first, and both men regret the necessity for it, yet Kirk refuses to let his friend die in pain and humiliation. Hurt/comfort abounds for both Kirk and Spock. “The Ring of Soshern” is well written, truly a trailblazer in many ways. What today may appear clichéd was definitely cutting edge in 1975." 
The story was later published in the zine Alien Brothers. This was done without the author's knowledge, and Jennifer Guttridge did not learn of the publication until decades later.  Most fannish communication in the 1980s took place via mailed letters, so the prominent ads placed in the letterzine Not Tonight Spock that announced the publication of the story might not have reached the author or even if they did, communication between author and publisher might have become garbled over time and distance.
The version published in Alien Brothers contains a few minor spelling and grammar corrections (ex: 'Kirks'" being changed to "Kirk's", "payed" to "paid") that are typical of copy-editing. Three stylistic changes were made, and they may have been due to changing fandom practices between the time the story was written and when it was published Alien Brothers in 1987.
The three changes are:
1) Jennifer used the word "half bred" and the Alien Brother's story used "halfbreed."
2) Jennifer used "Star Fleet" and the Alien Brother's story uses "Starfleet". "Starfleet" is the more modern term. Franz Joseph's "Star Fleet Technical Manual" is an example of how the term didn't have a fixed canon spelling early on.
3) Jennifer used "Pon Farr" and Alien Brothers used "pon farr" -- no capitalization.
Gallery: Early Copies
Gallery: From Alien Brothers
Reactions and Reviews
"RING" is essentially an action-adventure tale, with very good descriptive details, heavily laced with a most tender and intense, yet realistic and unsentimental K/S relationship. The sex is masculine, strongly realistic, not romanticized at all -- anal sex is like anchovies, folks; you have to develop a taste for it! -- as are the descriptions of various physical injuries, and there is no gloating, tearjerking over-sentimentality at the less-than-pretty descriptions. 
One of the earliest K/S stories. Photocopies of the manuscript circulated very privately, before it was finally published in 1987 in Alien Brothers. In the story Kirk and Spock beam down to a previously unexplored planet to investigate some mysterious sensor readings. Through a miscalculation the Enterprise gets caught in an ion storm and must leave them behind. Kirk and Spock are left deserted on the planet, not knowing when the ship will be able to return for them, for there will be much damage from the ion storm that Scotty will have to fix first. Over the next days Kirk and Spock have to deal with dangerous plants, dinosaur-like creatures, and even some shaggy humanoids. They each in turn get wounded and must be tenderly ministered to by the other. But the real crisis comes when Spock begins to go into pon farr. Although Spock is only half-Vulcan, he still goes into the heat suffered every seven years by all Vulcan males. He will go into a blood fever, become violent, and finally die if he does not mate. And he cannot mate with just anyone; it must be someone with whom he is already empathically bonded. Kirk realizes that there is a bond of love between him and Spock because of the years they have worked together. Kirk goes to Spock, who at first refuses his offer but then his blood fever takes him over and he has no choice. Not only does their sexual act save Spock's life, it makes Kirk realize that he does not just love Spock, he is in love with Spock. Spock too realizes his love for the captain and they spend all their remaining days on the planet exploring both the planet and each other's bodies. 
This was apparently the original “Pon Farr in a cave” story!!! Although to classify it so simply rather does it down, as this story is really more complicated than that. They both (K and S) seem to get injured an awful lot in this story by big fish, dinosaur creatures and ape men etc., etc. Whilst this story seemed basically well written and thought out—although I would have liked more explanation of this ‘ring of soshern’ which seemed an interesting idea—there were a few things which spoilt it for me. Firstly I never much like Pon Farr stories anyway because of the inherent violence in many, (this is a personal bug-bear of mine). Secondly there was just too much retching, vomiting and general diarrhea, now I accept that being unable to keep food down is quite probably one of the symptoms of Pon Farr, but when Spock fell in the river and “Vomited...several pints of thick foul smelling fluid...with several blackened clots of blood.” I began to be unable to shake the feeling of yuckkyness. Poor Kirk is not spared either as apparently, “Vulcan semen acts as an enema!” Unfortunately I think that these things are the mental equivalent of a cold shower, and I admired Kirk’s love as he curled up with Spock at night despite the phlegmy and hacking cough. Seriously though it was interesting to read such an early K/S story and I was pleased at the complexity of the story considering it was not written for the large zine ‘audience’ of today. If it had not contained so many bodily functions then I probably would have enjoyed it despite it being a Pon Farr story. 
My favorite story in the zine is Jennifer Guttridges's "The Rings of Soshern". This novella was written in the early '70's before the existence of K/S zines, and is published for the first time in ALIEN BROTHERS. The story could be categorized as K/S, hurt/comfort, and action/adventure, and is satisfying on all levels. It is smoothly written, interesting, and very sensitively done. It concerns Spock and Kirk being stranded on a primitive planet, whore there is danger from dinosaurs and ape-like natives. (Both suffer their share of illnesses and injuries, and Guttridge graphically depicts acts of vomiting and other symptoms of physical anguish.) Spock goes into pon farr, and Kirk, of course, must 'save' him. The sex scenes are tastefully done, with much left to the reader's imagination. My one complaint is that the ending is rather weak once the two return to the ship. 
Recent discussions on KSC centered around Jennifer Guttridge because it was learned that unknown to fandom, she passed away several years ago. It’s very sad when we lose someone who had the courage to pioneer what we all take for granted today, so I thought it appropriate to read The Ring of Soshern, written by Ms. Guttridge in the days when K/S carried a disquieting stigma. Apparently the manuscript was passed from hand to hand long before it was published in this zine.
Expecting descriptions of a Saturn-like planet surrounded by sparkling rings, perhaps possessing supernatural powers, I soon learned the Ring of Soshern was nothing of the sort. And no, it wasn’t “those” famous rings, either. They hadn’t been imagined yet. Rather the term was coined by a Vulcan philosopher to describe the circuitous pattern of love and passion. Along with that, there is a wide range of reading pleasure to be found in these pages, written in a conservative style. Adventure abounds, as do suspense, character exploration and of course, the platonic love between Kirk and Spock and how it’s affected by pon farr. While this is far from a new concept today, it was very daring at one time to propose the possibility that Kirk could serve Spock’s needs during the mating fever. This is but one facet of a well-rounded tale combining a ferocious ion storm, a hostile planet and evolving love. Kirk is well described as being a problem solver and a man who never gives up, not in the face of his friend’s pon farr and not in the face of an enemy. Spock is overcome by resignation and shame in the face of the age-old curse that he fully expects will mean his death, but we come to see a new, more confident side of him as the fever subsides. Soshern contains abundant detail, but not too much, just enough to make you “see” the planet, the surroundings that become home to Kirk and Spock, all the dangers they face and their most private moments. My only disappointment was that it isn’t quite as angst-ridden as I thought it could have been, considering how much potential existed.This must truly have rocked the world of fandom when it circulated among readers in those early days of K/S. It still elicits a gasp now and then. 
- Jenna Sinclair, A Short History of Early K/S or How the First Slash Fandom Came to Be], citing as source: "email with the author, who referred to her original dated manuscript." (Accessed 13 October 2010)
- from "The K/S Completist" column in Not Tonight, Spock! #2
- from The K/S Zine: The Time of the Beginning 1976-1985
- This was reported during outreach for the Foresmutters Project in 2002.
- from Not Tonight, Spock! #2
- Constance Penley, Feminism, Psychoanalysis, Popular Culture (PDF). (Accessed 16 January 2015)
- from The K/S Press #32
- from Treklink #12, commenting on the story as it appeared in Alien Brothers
- from The K/S Press #195