Legacy Interview with Leslie Fish

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Interviews by Fans
Title: Legacy Interview with Leslie Fish
Interviewer: Legacy
Interviewee: Leslie Fish
Date(s): 2007
Medium: print, CD
Fandom(s): Star Trek TOS, slash
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In 2007, Leslie Fish was interviewed for the zine Legacy.

See Enterprise Incidents Interview with Leslie Fish.

See List of Star Trek Fan Interviews.

Some Excerpts

The beginning of the concept [of K/S] came out of the book “Star Trek Lives,” where there was a lengthy discussion about the genuine love visible between Kirk and Spock. Now a lot— maybe the majority—of Trek fans were women, and we all knew that where there’s love there’s very often sex. That got us to thinking. Remember, this was when Women’s Lib was just gathering steam, and one of the big worries among us Libbers (hey, do you think I’d stay out of a controversy like that?) was that the opposition would try to brand us as lesbians to discredit us. My reaction was to confront the charge head-on by saying: “Yeah, some women are lesbians—because men make them that way!” Others tried for the subtler approach; support Gay Lib, because male homosexuality was the greater taboo (after all, to put it the worst way, one woman making it with another is simply one Sexual Nigger making a “pathetic” attempt to elevate herself by imitating the “superior” sex—at worst, doing no more than taking two nookies out of circulation— but one man with another is “degrading” the “superior” sex by reducing a man to the status of a woman: i.e., that which gets f*cked). The idea was that if Gay Lib became powerful, Women’s Lib would look like less of a threat by comparison—and it worked. I suspect they were inspired to this by all the gains that the moderate Civil Rights movement (as typified by ML King) made after the more radical Black Muslims and Black Panthers made them look harmless by comparison. No doubt this tactic contributed to the development of K/S, as women saw that popularizing the idea of sexual tolerance and equality in the future might help improve their own status right then. And of course there’s the fact that women are as turned on by images of male-male sex as men are by female-female— though, I think, for different reasons.... ”Another Fan Raves About K/S” goes into this in great detail.

I thought that was the kind of love that women really want: respect growing into love growing into desire—a relationship between equals, which is something hard to find in contemporary culture (even now, all these years later). What K/S fans really wanted was to be one of the characters and have the other. That’s why I made the stories so very subjective and internal, happening mostly inside the minds of the participants. “Shelter,” written with a little help from my then roommate (I was going to school at the time), happens almost entirely from McCoy’s viewpoint and reveals his feelings toward both his friends as they go through an emotional revelation that turns into a physical encounter. Note that, though it’s obvious what’s going on, there’s nothing explicit in the whole scene; it’s all about feelings—emotions, which Spock kept trying (and failing) to bottle up throughout the whole series. Lori Chapek dared to publish “Shelter” in issue #20 (“XX”—in number, therefore in rating) of Warped Space, which made it the third K/S story ever published. Diane Marchant (“A Fragment Out Of Time”) and Gerry Downes (Alternative) had already taken much of the flak aimed at pioneers, and—seeing that K/S was now an established trend—a lot of people were willing to write LOCs saying how much they liked the story. There were also a lot of LOCs breathlessly asking: “What happened when they woke up?” So of course I felt obliged to write the sequel. Note that, again, 90% of “Poses” is about emotional jockeying about, and only the next-to-last scene gets down to anything like explicit sex. Even there, I concentrated on the feelings of the participants more than the action. In fact, one bit of advice I’d give to aspiring writers of any sort of erotica is: first plan the scene in complete detail—every touch and wheeze and thrust and gasp—and then don’t write it; instead, write what the actions make the participants think and feel. This is precisely why I jumped back and forth between deep immersion in Kirk’s viewpoint and Spock’s throughout the story. Again, critical response was overwhelmingly favorable.

This Deadly Innocence” was originally subtitled “The End of the Hurt-Comfort Syndrome” because, as many fans had been considering for years, the H-CS was indeed a euphemism for sex; a way for the characters to physically express powerful love for each other without venturing into “dangerous” sexual territory. I got to thinking about just how dangerous the H-CS could become, and decided to expose it—to the characters, and to the reading audience.

I wanted to remind people that Vulcans are aliens— humanoid, yes, but not human. Ted Sturgeon had already broken ground for that in “Amok Time,” with his fascinating concept of Vulcan sexuality, and I decided to go further with details of Vulcan physiology. Why, after all, should an alien—even a humanoid alien—have sexual equipment exactly like a human’s? Goddess knows, terrestrial animals differ widely enough that an alien should differ further. All we knew about Vulcan sexuality, at that point, was that: a) it’s cyclical, it’s the males rather than the females who cycle, and the male must have some manner of physical discharge or else “the tensions will simply kill him”; and b) it’s possible for a Vulcan male to mate successfully with a human female. Okay, now all that’s necessary for (b) is some sort of projective organ capable of getting into a human vagina and depositing genetic material there—and everything else can vary tremendously.

I was on the panels at two midwestern ST cons, in succeeding years, which got into lively—and raunchy— discussions of K/S. The panel the first year didn’t seem to resolve the question, so a follow-up was planned for the next year. We thoroughly established that Yes It’s Possible, and then moved on to discussing details of how it could happen, what the repercussions would be, how to write K/S well, etc.

I recall that a lot of people who were neutral or even favorable toward the concept were concerned that K/S writers should stay “true to the characters,” by which they meant not to turn K/S into anonymous- character porn. It was, and still is, vitally important—not just in K/S but in all the subsequent fandom “slash” writings—that characterization and psychology be primary and the actual “insert Tab A into Slot B” should be secondary. After all, if all we wanted was just male-gay porn, we could go to a porn-shcop for it. The appeal of K/S was that it wasn’t just about sex but about these characters having sex, and the feelings that brought them to it. This is why ‘70s and ‘80s K/S was always character-heavy, even to the point of resembling soap opera at times—which also came under heavy criticism for making what were essentially a couple of Navy men into dithering soap-opera hysterics. I recall too that a few fans showed K/S stories to real gay men and got interesting reactions. One-third of the readers claimed that yes, this is exactly what gay love is like, and how on earth could women know what it was like? Another third claimed that this was idealized gay love, what gay men seek for but rarely find. The last third insisted that no, no, this was nothing at all like real gay sex, and that real gay men weren’t interested in love at all. This, I thought, revealed more about the readers than the material.

Another big factor was the fear that one’s parents/spouses/employers might find out that one read—not to mention wrote—“that stuff”, which is why so many original K/S writers used pseudonyms (I, being self-employed, having no spouse, and being certain that my parents would never read “that stuff,” used my own name.) An equally big fear was that the actors, or Gene Roddenberry, or—worst of all—Paramount might Find Out, and come howling after us with lawsuits. This fear was exacerbated by an actual case of FBI agents raiding the dealers’ room at a SciFi con and grabbing all the STAR WARS fanzines, but that was later straightened out by Lucas himself (fortunately, this was early enough in STAR WARS fandom that there were no X-rated stories at all in any of those zines, let alone anything slashy). As I recall, some K/S zines were stolen or mutilated by various Post Office officials, but such harassments were sporadic and soon died out. A large factor in settling this problem was the research done by fans who were also lawyers [1], and who came back with the legal advice that any zine with a circulation of less than 1000 was considered an “amateur publication”, and was therefore exempt from a lot of copyright laws. Probably an even bigger factor was Gene Roddenberry’s recognition— which he passed around Hollywood (even as he included an anti-K/S disclaimer in one of the ST novels)—that fanzines were free advertising, and the studios should leave them alone.