Star Trek Welcommittee

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Name: Star Trek Welcommittee
Date(s): 1972-1997
Moderator: First: Jeanne Haueisen, Second: Helen Young, Third: Shirley Maiewski
Founder: Jacqueline Lichtenberg
Type:
Fandom: Star Trek: TOS
URL:
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Contents

cover of April 1975 issue

Founded in 1972, the Star Trek Welcommittee was Star Trek fandom's main information center for connecting with each other and assisting newcomers in finding fellow fans, local fan clubs, fanzines, and conventions.

While fan-run and non-profit, the organization straddled a fine line in its relationship to The Powers That Be. It was dependent on maintaining a good relationship with Gene Roddenberry and Paramount. In return for promoting the show with fans, it was rewarded with information, much of which was passed along in its newsletter, A Piece of the Action.

Origins

Jacqueline Lichtenberg writes: "Well, then when I had a contract for Star Trek Lives -- I knew what kind of mail it would generate and I was already over my head in mail. So I asked GR about founding the Welcommittee to answer the STL mail and he said sure, go ahead so I did. At the next ST con, I dragged a couple friends together, and one of them introduced me to Shirley Maiewski. She constructed the Welcommittee as you knew it -- under my direction but mostly it's her work." [1]

Boldly Writing explains how the organization began: "The Star Trek Welcommittee started out as an idea of Jacqueline Lichtenberg's. Jacqueline, a long-time sf fan, had become acquainted with science fiction fandom through the National Fantasy Fan Federation (N3F) Welcommittee. The N3F Welcommittee helped new science fiction fans ("neos") find their way around, and answered their questions. After the first International Star Trek Convention in 1972, Jacqueline concluded that a lot of Star Trek fans would benefit from a group similar to the N3F Welcommittee. She began asking around for volunteers. Jeanne Haueisen, the Star Trek Welcommittee's first chairman, agreed to run STW." [2] Subsequent chairpersons were: Helen Young and Shirley Maiewski.

Some Historical Context

"Fans didn't have the Internet back in the 1970s. If you wanted to know where to find fanzines, conventions, or even just a list of Star Trek books, you could have a hard time finding it. So the Star Trek Welcommittee came into existence. James Blish provided their address in some of his Star Trek books; you could also find their address in some SF magazines. Volunteers took on the job of gathering information, answering questions, and producing their directory."[1]

Some Descriptions of Duties in 1974

The chairperson, Helen Young, wrote a long and detailed explanation of STW duties and functions in A Piece of the Action #11.

The Star Trek Lives! Error

"There is a new book on the market, Star Trek Lives!... This book contains several errors which may have grave consequences for STW. It lists the STW Directory of Star Trek Organizations at fifty cents and gives the address as [omitted here]. THIS IS INCORRECT. The correct charge is seventy-five cents and the correct address [omitted here]. The book also requests a self-addressed envelope. No mention of a STAMP! These errors are costing STW a thirty-five cent loss per fan letter plus the extra costs of re-routing the directory orders to the proper address for filling, and then again sending the letters on to the Central Mail Room to have any questions answered. At the rate questions are now coming in because of Bantam's incorrect information, STW is losing approximately $25 per DAY! Losses such as this cannot be absorbed and could conceivably cause Star Trek fandom's finest organization to fold. PLEASE tell all of your Star Trek friends about the correct information and give them the correct information and charges. And DO remind them about the stamp! And pleas write, and get your friends to write to Bantam Books and get them to change the information or to enclose a STW flyer in each book." [This error in the book was soon corrected]. [3]

Neutrality and the STW

At times, STW's neutrality policy came under scrutiny. "... It is very difficult for anyone connected with STW to disassociate themselves from the organization while trying to express a personal opinion. No one knows how difficult this can be more than I. I find it almost impossible to express and opinion in public without someone saying, 'Oh, so THAT is the STW's stand on this subject.' This has happened more times than I'd like to remember. It has also happened to others actively involved with the STW work. NOT SO! Members of STW ARE entitled to their own opinions! Others should not feel that an STW opinion is being expressed when I or someone else tries to express one in a Fannish debate. We do ask our members not to use STW stationary when writing personal opinion letters , but sometimes they forget. They are human, after all!" [4]

In 1983, 1984, and 1985, Some Reflections

In 1984, a fan, Randall Landers, proposed a zine called "Dead or Alive? -- A Report on the Star Trek Welcommittee." He described it as a "publication which will try to analyze the current status of the STW. The question is: is STW still alive, or is it really dead?" [5]

the STW "Bronx Post Office" Flyer, printed in APOTA #83 in 1980, click to read
I have to disagree that STW is alive and well, and I say this from the point of view of someone who was a crewmember from '76 through '82. With few exceptions, my letters to fans had to be prefaced with an apology for the long delay in responding to them. I've met fans who have told of the letters they had written to STW and never received an answer; they eventually gave up, disillusioned. Zine editors have asked if STW were dead. These are not isolated incidents. The grumblings, from me personally and those I heard, were passed along. The reason for the creation of STW was a worthy one. There are individual STW workers who have continued to work very hard over the years, and they are to be commended. However, the organization itself just hasn't worked. There are now numerous services throughout fandom that do a very efficient job, Ruth B in Interstat #72 (1983) </ref>
I must take issue with a dear friend—[Ruth B] just can't agree that the Star Trek Welcommittee isn't needed anymore... Ruth you're a fantastic person—bright and conscientious and hard-working, as well as a warm and delightful friend. And I can well understand how someone who does work hard with a high investment in getting a job done right would be frustrated by the delays inherent in the STW organization, not to mention the fact that we have had some volunteers who didn't come through, and/or people who gafiated the wrong way. Having worked in a variety of hard-work-low-ego-boost-volunteer-dependent organizations, however, I have the impression that overall, the STW doesn't measure up too badly. In fact, a lot of paying organizations would consider themselves lucky to get the kind of work the STW manages for love. Yes, there are numerous services now available throughout fandom—thank good ness. The STW will be happy to refer you to them, asking only a SASE. I guess that sounds corny. So be it. [6]
I remember how it felt to be a new fan, and how important it was to me to get a quick answer. I also get a lot of pleasure out of answering letters, and I do not regret one moment of the countless hours I've put in for STW. I am sure that there are other STW members who would say the same. In any organization, one is going to run into well-intentioned procrastinators. Unfortunately, STW has had its share of those. I grieve for the fans who have never received a reply from us, and whenever I go to a convention, and fans see my STW name badge and mention they've never received an answer from us, I ask for their address (or give them mine), and write immediately upon arriving home. I do not, however, accept this as evidence that STW "doesn't work." It is against my experience that potential active fans will discover fandom by running into someone. In a poll taken in the late 70's, it was found that only a small number of fans got into fandom as I did, by running into someone who knew about it. A large proportion got into fandom by finding STW's address in STAR TREK LIVES! or one of the Blish books, and writing STW. These fans received answers, and, despite the unanswered letters, hundreds of fans STILL receive replies from STW members each year. Further, I do not see what can replace STW. True, there are fanzines which are better sources for fanzine information than the STW directory, but I have yet to see as comprehensive a source for clubs, books, and merchandise. I know of nowhere else in fandom where one can write to receive a list of fans in one's area, for instance. While fanzine editors and clubs may be able to take the time to introduce someone to fandom, clubs and fanzines sometimes get caught up in their own activities fall behind in their own mail, or disband. Though STW does not always work to perfection, I still think (meaning no insult to clubs and fanzines) that we do it better than anyone else could, because our first priority is to gut the mail answered. [7]
I am a new fan and if it wasn't for the STW, I would never have read INTERSTAT ... apart from commercial cons and the STW, there is not really much interaction between the fan world and the outside world, and most people do not live in areas with either commercial or fan cons. So the STW with its various types of info and its address in many out-of-print books in public libraries is the conduit for the new fan who doesn't know somebody in fandom. I could tell there were other fans out there but I really didn't know how to get in touch with them and I never met fans who knew about fanzines at the commercial cons. So don't knock the Welcommittee. It did take them a while to answer my letter but that was to give themselves time to give me a bunch of goodies. It was well worth the wait! And it was faster than the zine editors I've written to have responded. This is, after all, a hobby! It's not fair to expect better than business world standards from the STW. [8]
[Fran H] and [Joan V] (I#73): [Daniel W] "could have" gotten the info he needed from STW. But he didn't. The
 fact that people find the need to make such inquiries in these pages says to me that STW isn't working. Sure, the mail gets answered—but as you pointed out, many letters go to long out-of-date addresses. (Mow many of these letters end up "Returned to Sender," I wonder.) STW is a good contact point, but frankly it is one that is hard to find. We need to give neo-fans easy access to up-to-date addresses. How? My suggestion: have a representative at a table at each and every ST convention, SF/media convention, and events where ST personalities (such as G.R.) are scheduled to appear. Cons by their nature as public events draw in the very people who need STW. Not to mention the opportunity for fund raising. STW is more than welcome to a table, free of charge at our club (ASTRA) mini-con next year. Another suggestion: start APOTA back up. Many fans misinterpreted the demise of APOTA as the death of STW. [9]
I have recently joined the STW as a crewmember who answers fan letters and I find it very satisfying to me as well as to them. I have spent many years reading and learning and I want to spread the the word for ST. And to take away the only central place to ask questions is almost unthinkable! [10]
Unfortunately, I must agree with those who consider STW a white elephant. Though the STW Directory was once a reliable reference source, the fact that it was allowed to slip by for 5 years without being updated is indicative of the ponderous creature STW has become. With the exception of the Directory, all the other "functions" of the organization I found to be non-existent or unsatisfactory — I remember my reaction of frustration 8 years ago, desperately attempting to make contacts, and writing off the STW as a "doesn't respond" category. Too bad, as I'm sure their intentions were good — but I stopped recommending them long ago as an active group. [11]
Let me add some fuel to the fire over the STW debate. I am not a new fan, but I am new to active fandom, having spent
 the last seventeen years on the periphery of what was happening in the world of fan involvement. Having my interests in ST renewed and invigorated by ST:TW0K, I wanted to know what, if anything was available for fans. There is no way to describe the isolation a new fan feels or the need for contact with other fans that is so necessary . I ask you just to think back on that time when you and others were just beginning to discover Trek and remember how you felt. These feelings are multiplied when there is an absence of local organized groups or clubs or when there is seemingly an absence of local fans altogether. Like so many, I stumbled across the address to the STW in an old book and I wasted no time in dashing off a letter with a score of questions I was frenzied to have answered. A few weeks later, a newer book, a more recent address, another letter — the STW remained up until this point my only hope of contacting fandom at all. [12]
It is with great reluctance that I write to take part in the STW Debate. It saddens me to think that there IS such a debate - after eleven years of working with STW and over six years as Chairman it is difficult to think that all that effort is for nought. As Chairman, I take full responsibility for all that STWand its many members do. It appears that all those years of dedication have been wasted? Is that what is being said? Speaking as one member of STW I think of the hours I spend every week dealing with STW affairs, the weekends I spend entirely at my typer, the personal money I spend for postage, stationary, typewriters that wear out and must be replaced, typer ribbons (priced them lately?), bus and plane fares to conventions (where we do have tables as often as possible, Tim) and on and on. As Chairman, I don't expect the other members of STW to do as much as I do, but I know that many of them do! [13]
Part of the reason why INTERSTAT has not been overwhelmed with letters in support of STW may bo because the critics have been so vague. We are told, for instance, that STW is "useless" and in the process of "ongoing disintegration," but we are not told what this means. Useless in what way? Useless to whom? (Yes, STW is useless to experienced fans. To people who don't know a thing about fanzines, clubs, cons, and other ST activities, STW can be very helpful.) As for "disintegration," I fail to see how this applies. [Mary Lou D], our mailroom director, has not disintegrated. Nor have I, nor have my crewmembers. Nor have the several STW members who have contributed letters to INTERSTAT. As to the general charge of unanswered letters, neither I nor any of STW's critics can say for sure what percentage of letters are unanswered. No statistics exist. That some are answered is clear because I, for one, can document every STW letter I've answered in the past six months (this is as long as I retain letters). I can also note the fact that from Dec. '82 throughout Oct. '83, the STW mailroom received 777 letters. Let us presume that the STW critics can produce 50 fans who wrote us in the above time period who didn't receive an answer. That's less than 10% of the total. Granted, STW's goals are, and should be, to get each and every letter answered. Still, a failure rate of less than 10% is hardly a reason to shut us down. If the 50 fans the critics produce wrote us within a two-year period, that percentage decreases even further; within 10 years, further still. To sum up, I think it is up to the critics of STW to provide specific information and detailed examples to support their criticism if they are to convince fandom at large that STW has no reason to exist. In the meantime, because fans continue to write STW in large numbers, and because someone ought to answer those letters, I think the responsible thing to do is to keep STW going. [14]
All those who are really ticked at the Welcommittee: Well, you have two positive options (as well as the negative option of continuing to complain but doing nothing else). You can put your brains to work offering advice, suggestions, help. Or, if you think the STW is utterly beyond redemption, you could start your own operation to welcome new fans. You, of course, would never make the Welcommittee's mistakes. You would maintain your operation in a perfectly professional manner and would easily surmount the trifling problems of lack of money, inability to disseminate information nationally to those who really need it, the vagaries of volunteers who are sometimes overworked or lazy, etc., etc. I am not now nor have I ever been a member of the STW, and, look, folks, I know it's not perfect. Idon't expect it to be. I do think it's a good idea; it has helped a lot of people who thought they were alone. Do you really want a welcoming service for new fans to die? Do you want ST fandom to become an exclusive closed club? Think about it. [15]
I finally found something I'm brave enough to write about—the current discussion concerning the ST Welcommittee. A lot of you
 feel that it's rather a white elephant, has outlived its purpose.
 I believe the opposite. I answer letters for the Welcommittee. Two years ago I became a full-fledged ST addict. I asked my nephew if he had any books besides the Blish or Foster novels and he kindly dug out "Star Trek
Lives," "The World of Star Trek," and "The Making of Star Trek," plus a few early pro
novels. The love affair started. Here I sat in a podunk small town with NOBODY to
share this interest with. (I've been a fan since 1969, but knew nothing of fandom.)
I've always been a sci-fi, fantasy lover, and don't even know any people that share
that interest. I wrote the old Welcommittee address and finally received a gracious
answer from [Mary Lou D] with lots of info as well as her asking me if I'd like to
answer letters for the Welcommittee. I was ecstatic. With the material and info she
sent me, my interest absolutely snow-balled. Previously, I had not known about the
various pro novels, I had no idea what fanzines were, had no idea what merchandise
existed, and definitely had no knowledge of how many people were active in fandom, or
that clubs existed. Now I average spending $40.00 to $50.00 monthly on fanzines, I
 share regular correspondences with several wonderful people, I found a ST club I love, 
I discovered INTERSTAT, etc.—a pretty active involvement to get into at the ripe old
 age of 34. You folks who have been heavily involved in fandom for a long tune take a lot of these things for granted—you can't believe that anyone could be unaware of all these wonderful things. Well, I was, and so are many of the people I get letters from. The Welcommittee is often the first step into a wonderful world that a lot of us never knew existed. And all the other people in the Welcommittee I've dealt with have always been superbly helpful and friendly. I try to be the same way when I answer letters—I load them up with goodies and info to show people what a variety of material exists out there. And yes, there are some screw-ups in the Welcommittee. (I haven't found an organization in my life that didn't have some nuts & bolts out of place), but we try. And I personally love sharing information to help excited people take their first steps into the active world of fandom. I'm proud to be a member of such a group—it means a lot to me. [16]
When I first decided to become actively involved in fandom, I was frustrated beyond words because, living in a small town, I had nowhere to begin looking except in used bookstores. As a result, I came up with Helen Young's Houston address, so I wrote to her, pouring out all my frustrations about being the only Trek fan within several hundred miles, asking for information, and volunteering my services. A few weeks later, I received a delightful letter from Mary Lou Dodge. She sympathized with my frustrations, sent me a bundle of helpful information, and WELCOMED me aboard. She also said that, yes, they were short of volunteers at the time and could use my services, so I have been actively involved ever since. Through STW, I was introduced to DATAZINE, INTERSTAT, The Leonard Nimoy Fan Club, and many, many lovely new friends. STW led me to New Eye Studios, in whose catalog I first saw an ad for SPACE TREK II—my first con. Yes, yes, I probably would have discovered all these things on my own—eventually—but how much nicer it is to have that one wonderful source…. If you don't believe STW is performing a service, I can show you all the thank you letters I have received from people whose inquiries I have answered. That, to me, makes it all worthwhile. I am deeply grateful to STW, not only for being a treasure house of information, but for all the precious new friends it has brought my way. I think it would be a terribly tragedy if STW were to fold, and I pray that will never happen. I shudder to think of where I'd be now if it hadn't been for Shirley, Mary Lou, and the rest of the STW crew who so kindly and generously donate all those countless hours to helping others. May you all live long and prosper! [17]
[from Susan Sackett]: You know my policy has been to remain neutral and to let your writers work out their various viewpoints amongst them selves. However, I find that I must submit my comments on the recent attacks on the STAR TREK Welcommittee. For the past ten years (this August will mark my tenth anniversary with GR and fan involvement) Gene and I have had numerous occasions to call upon the services of the Welcommittee. We cannot thank them enough for the tireless support they have given our office. We have referred hundreds of letters to their staff members, and each one has been handled efficiently and expeditiously by Mary Lou Dodge of the STW Mailroom. Shirley Maiewski has done a commendable and very difficult job of coordinating what is, after all, a non-profit, service organization and not a fan club. We found the STW Direction of Fan Organizations (published very aptly by Kay Johnson) indispensible. In short, we cannot praise STW highly enough for their selfless work. Perhaps they haven't been all things to all people. We only know that they have been 100% helpful to us and for that they have our deepest gratitude. [18]
By the mid-1980s, fandom had become big enough, and had changed enough, that the STW wasn't the only place fans got their information, something that the chairperson of the committee recognized. In the fall of 1985, Shirley Maiewski wrote:
We in STW realize that most people involved in Fandom, many no longer depend as much on STW as do the new fans -- neo just finding out that 'There is someone else out there who likes Star Trek, too!' These are the people STW is really meant to help the most, and we do. We have received many thank you letters from them, saying they would not have known where to get started without STW's help. [19]

Winding Down and Then Disbanding

An issue of A Piece of the Action announced that STW, due to a drop-off in mail, would reduce the size of its organization by not replacing volunteer workers who left. [20]

The Welcommittee was disbanded in December 1997 following the passing of the mailroom director, Mary Louise Dodge. Information had became more easily available on the Internet, and fans no longer depended on the STW the way they used to.

Helen Young, a former Chairman of the Star Trek Welcommittee, died in 2000, as did Shirley Maiewski in 2004.

Online Listing For The Welcommittee

print flyer for the Welcommittee (1976)
"STAR TREK WELCOMMITTEE DIRECTORY NOW AVAILABLE
"The Spring 1995 issue of the Star Trek Welcommittee's Directory of Star Trek Organizations is now available. This directory lists over 600 Star Trek clubs worldwide, over 300 Star Trek fanzines, and just about every Star Trek book ever published. To order, send $4 (USA), $5 (Canada), or $6 (elsewhere) to: Judy Segal.... (Make checks in U.S. funds payable to "Star Trek Welcommittee.") If you wish your club or fanzine listed in the Fall 1995 directory, send information to ....Listings are free of charge.)"
"The Star Trek Welcommittee (founded 1972) is a service organization and central information center (not a club to join) with over 50 volunteers worldwide, which answers questions about Star Trek (original, TNG, DS9, VOY). STW offers booklets on how to start a club, how to run a small convention, and how to obtain publicity, as well as a guide to Star Trek fandom. For information, send an SASE..."[2]

Publications

Starting in 1973, the Welcommittee also produced its own newsletter: A Piece of the Action (APOTA). It also published the long-running Directory of Star Trek Organizations.

The STW also published a number of booklets.

References

  1. StarTrekFans.Net from a chat with Jacqueline Lichtenberg, 8 March 2003, accessed 9 May 2012
  2. (Boldly Writing, pg. 11)
  3. from The Halkan Council #9 (August 1975)
  4. from the chairperson of STW in Datazine #37
  5. from Universal Translator #22
  6. from Fran H in Interstat #73 (1983)
  7. Joan V, STW area captain and fanzine acquisition consultant, from Interstat #73 (1983)
  8. from Rennie D in Interstat #74 (1983)
  9. from Tim F in Interstat #74 (1983)
  10. from Carol E. A in Interstat #74 (1983)
  11. from Vel Jaeger in Interstat #74 (1983)
  12. from Sue W in Interstat #74 (1983)
  13. from a long, long letter by Shirley Maiewski in Interstat #75 (1984)
  14. from Joan V in Interstat #76 (1984)
  15. from Linda S in Interstat #76 (1984)
  16. from Donnis E. P in Interstat #77 (1984)
  17. from Mary T in Interstat #77
  18. from Susan Sackett in Interstat #77
  19. from Shirley Maiewski in Datazine #37
  20. from APOTA (January 1979)
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