Legacy Interview with Fiona James
(Redirected from A 2007 Interview with Fiona James)
|Interviews by Fans|
|Title:||Legacy Interview with Fiona James|
|Fandom(s):||Star Trek TOS, slash|
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I discovered fandom in 1974. Prior to that, it was the good old “I love it but does anyone else?” Then in one of our Sunday papers I came across a four-line paragraph mentioning that someone in Leicester (Jenny Elson) was planning a Star Trek con, and giving her place of work. I wrote to her.... A week later I’d joined STAG (Star Trek Action Group) and registered for the con. In addition, because I knew nobody, I volunteered to steward...
The next summer, I stayed with Janet for the holiday, and during that time we visited one of Jenny’s committee, whose name I don’t now remember, and she brought up the subject of K/S; she had a spirit duplicated zine with three stories in it, one of them definitely K/S; I don’t think I’ll ever forget the enthusiastic way she read parts of that story, with her husband shaking his head in stunned bemusement... My initial response was “Well, Spock might be gay, but Kirk? No way!” However, as I remember, I borrowed that zine and as I read the stories I began to think “Well, maybe....” One of the stories was by Audrey B., who had written a series of eighty or so stories, starting gen and ending up as slash—I was able to borrow all of them from her over a period of time, but she was writing very much inside her own AU; her stories that did eventually see light of zine all had to be fairly heavily edited to bring them into some sort of line with canon. (Her Spock had red blood, for example, because she didn’t think the green blood viable when he had a human mother, and because Kirk called McCoy “Bones,” she had him calling Spock “Ears.” You got used to it, but it was definitely weird at first.)
Around the same time I met Jennifer G., who gave me a copy of “Ring of Soshern,” and I think that persuaded me into K/S more than Audrey’s stories did. Many of the early stories, as I remember, used pon farr as the reason for Kirk and Spock getting together, but at that time (mid 70s) slash was still a very underground subject. Jennifer told me that “Ring of Soshern” would never be published anywhere, because “she wanted to meet Nimoy, but not in a court.” There was a...fear, I suppose, that if the actors heard about it, they’d sue.
[Regarding the three-story spirit duplicated 1975 zine]: Someone I mentioned it to later said she thought it was Diane Marchant who had put it out, but I never got that confirmed. I never saw it advertised anywhere. Spirit duplicating didn’t allow for many totally legible copies (though quite a lot of pre-1975 stuff was spirit duplicated). From 1975 on, I don’t think anything was spirit duplicated. It could have been that whoever put it out had these three stories and copied them in zine format for friends. I just don’t know. I never thought to ask the woman who had it, at the time, and she wasn’t someone I really knew; I borrowed the thing to read it, sent it back... [Note from Kathy Resch]: "I emailed Diane Marchant to ask her about the spirit-duplicated zine, and here’s what she said: “The spirit duplicated ‘zine’ was not a ‘zine.’ That was the way I shared our thoughts, ideas, dreams, etc.... For want of a better description, they seemed to develop on one branch of the tree as ‘Round-Robins . ...Spirit duplication on my part was because it was the only way then at my disposal of duplication for things to be shared.”)"
In the late 70s, Professionals fandom had a very active slash underground circuit—unlike Trek, Pros fanfic started with slash and only later produced any gen stories—and some of the Brits who wrote Pros slash then went on to write K/S as well—or had already been writing K/S. The people putting out the Grope series said they’d only print slash if it was written as humour, and as I remember didn’t print many even of those. Incidentally, in Log Entries 2 (published Feb 1976), which I think pre-dated More Grope, there’s a very short story that could almost be called K/S if you look at it with a slasher's eye, although it was written as gen. Serious K/S wasn’t printed in Britain prior to [D. DaBinett] Duet series and Rosemary W.'s zines, but they didn’t have much of a problem getting submissions, so there clearly were people around who were writing K/S. If I recall correctly, though, neither Doreen nor Rosemary put out K/S zines until after America did.
The UK Group started when Doreen D.B. had the idea of doing a zine as a round robin, and she invited several of us to participate; I’ve no idea how she selected the ones she asked, but there were six of us; five who stayed with it right through, but the sixth dropped out, was replaced, and if I recall correctly the replacement dropped out and was in turn replaced. We never had a plot to work from; Doreen began the first one, sent it to Jane, who did her bit, sent it to me, I did my bit and sent it onto K S T'Lan who sent it to the fifth one who then passed it on to the sixth and then it went back to Doreen. Each of us took the story where we wanted. One of the Group was a real wild card, who was liable to send a plot theme three or four of us had been running with spiralling in a totally different direction. We each had a couple of weeks to write our bit; there was a minimum length, but not a maximum one, we each had to do in that time. Unfortunately, RL finally got in the way, and when we were about seven-eights of the way through Starwyck, four of the six had to drop out for personal reasons, and Jane and I finished it between us. We did three stories in all. It was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed participating, but I wouldn’t do it again without at least a rough plotline agreed on.
One obscure zine was put out in the UK by “Sheila’s Chain Gang.” The “Chain Gang” met— and some still meet, after nearly thirty years—on Tuesday night. On some of those nights we proofread Stag/ScoTpress stuff, on some we collated the zines, on some we addressed envelopes or stuffed them (STAG, and later IDIC, both had over 1000 members)—hence “chain gang.” However, there were quite a few Tuesdays when we just talked; we talked Trek, Professionals (which was a secondary fandom for most of the group), stories, and zines, both gen and slash. One of the group was a regular writer for ScoTpress; one of the others had submitted one story. The others had written for the Pros slash circuit. One semi-member of the group who only joined us occasionally (Roo aka the Missing Link) was the very artistic sister of one of the regulars and, as I remember, the suggestion that they should do a zine was primarily intended to provide a sort of showcase for some of Roo’s artwork—although one of her art college friends did a couple of pieces— not of the Trek characters—as well. Basically it was a spoof, although it wasn’t parody; the stories were written “straight.” They were only marginally slash, and the emphasis was on...not humour, exactly, but being light hearted, not taking themselves too seriously. Most of the artwork is serious—there’s a great nude of Spock, for example—but some is light-hearted, and there’s also an inspired parody of one of F.’s pictures—the only actual parody in the zine. The title, Where's Captain Kirk? comes from a song by Spizz Energi. There isn’t a publication date on the zine but as I remember it came out not long after the song, which was copyrighted in 1980, was being broadcast. There were only 100 copies printed, so it’s long out of print, and I don’t think many copies made it to America.
Customs was a lottery. A lot of packets came through simply stamped that they’d been through Customs. Sometimes they were opened and resealed. Whether they were seized depended a lot on where they came in; anything coming through London was considerably delayed, and I know of one fan living in London who had several zines seized by Customs over the years. Gayle F.'s zine The Price and the Prize was a victim of Customs—two copies that I know of slipped through the net, but most were seized. Someone had contacted UK Customs and told them to watch out for packets with Gayle’s return address on them. I hadn’t at that point ordered it, but I then contacted three different people in America, sent them the money, they bought the zine and sent me it in parts, several pages at a time, as “letters.” Today, zines come in without being stamped as having gone through Customs.
We were told, some years ago, that the [South African] police raided the house of someone who’d bought zines from ScoTpress and checked her zine collection...and confiscated Variations on a Theme (a genzine) as “undesirable.” The only reason we could think of was that it had a white crew commanded by a green-skinned alien...who was a human/alien mix. “Jane Jones” and I decided we’d somehow come up with a totally new perversion. 
Until Trek, all my writing involved original characters. Then once season three of Trek was finished, I discovered I wanted more; and the only way to get more Trek was to write my own. At that point, my main inspiration was Spock—I’ve always preferred the sidekick, second in command, whatever, to the main character. Those first stories were gen. I’d always liked reading stories in which two male characters had a close relationship, but I was very sexually naïve—it had never occurred to me that two people of the same sex could (or would) do more than maybe cuddle, until I was pointed in the direction of a slash story. H/c had never been my favourite genre; at that point I realised why. In a lot of h/c stories, the comfort level totally failed (in my opinion) to compensate for the level of hurt. Adding slash to the mix provided that extra level I found a lot of h/c lacked. I was still mostly writing gen, and even today much of what I write is only marginally slash, though ninety percent of my fanfic reading is slash. But I started writing some slash into stories partly as a challenge to myself (I don’t do sex scenes well) and partly because it took the m-m relationship that I already liked that one step further. Trek was the first series I liked where I saw the potential for such a relationship, and for a long time it was the only one. Even today, there are only three series where I see the potential— Trek, Professionals and Sentinel. I finally stopped writing Trek (gen or K/S) because I felt I was written out; I was aware I was beginning to repeat myself, and wanted a new challenge.
- It is possible that the underground story series by Mary Manchester called "Continuity Theory" was one of these types of stories.
- The interviewer, Kathy Resch, interjects with "You mentioned having a zine sent to you in several different envelopes, as "letters." Anything coming from my address was banned in South Africa -- A couple of copies of T'hy'la #3 (also with a Gayle cover) had been seized by Customs in that country. One South African woman was determined to get the next issue, however. I took apart a copy of T'hy'la #4 and several people mailed it to her as "letters."