A Private Obsession
|Title:||A Private Obsession|
|Fandom:||Star Trek: The Original Series|
|External Links:||online here|
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.
It was first published in the print zine KSX #1 and is available online.
"The owner of a factory where Kirk and Spock work while stranded on an unknown planet becomes obsessed with Kirk and uses Spockʼs illness and Kirkʼs fear for him to make Kirk his lover."
Some Author Comments
There were three specific influences for A Private Obsession: —In the early 1980s, I remember reading a number of K/S stories where Kirk is somehow lacking a backbone. An alien male makes a pass at him, or offers him a quid pro quo sexual arrangement in exchange for something of value to Kirk, usually Spock’s safety, and Kirk folds like he’s made of jello. He spends the rest of the story angsting over his sexual identity. (None of these stories were rape stories.) I just could never buy that view of Kirk. There is no one more pro-active than Kirk; no one who can better seize the advantage in any situation. I see him as a sexually sophisticated man who, if he were in that position with another man, would treat him like he treated Sylvia in Catspaw. (Sylvia—“You are using me!!!” Kirk— “And why not? You've been using me and my crew!”) —Another influence: Paula Smith’s gen story For Sale, Must Sacrifice, which was published in Warped Space #15. Paula did a wonderful job examining just how the Enterprise crew might appear to a woman from a primitive culture. Her narrator is exposed to events she can’t possibly understand and can only interpret in the context of her own culture. (This odd creature—Spock— has been captured and is about to be used as a religious sacrifice. Kirk appears in a shower of golden light—i.e., the transporter beam—an obvious emissary from the gods, here to collect their offering.) Paula created quite a sense of mystery and wonder with this story. —Another influence was Anne Perry’s Inspector Pitt series of mysteries, set in the Victoria era, which closely examine the extreme class differences and sexual repression of that time. I originally started writing A Private Obsession in a very conventional style. Kirk and Spock’s shuttlecraft goes off course, they’re stranded on a planet and they have to fit in with the local population until the Enterprise finally tracks them down several months later. I got stuck halfway through the story, though, and dropped the idea until it occurred to me to tell the story from the POV of the villain of the piece. I originally tried to fit in a bit of this back story, but realized if I were going to be true to the narrator’s POV, he would have to remain ignorant of their background. I’m glad I made this choice, as it certainly added to the mystery of the piece.
I was inspired to write that story because a number of K/S stories published in the early 1980s depict Kirk as somehow lacking a backbone. An alien male makes a pass at him, or offers him a quid pro quo sexual arrangement in exchange for something of value to Kirk, usually Spock’s safety, and Kirk folds like he’s made of jello. He spends the rest of the story angsting over his sexual identity. (None of these stories were rape stories.)
I just could never buy that view of Kirk. There is no one more pro-active than Kirk; no one who can better seize the advantage in any situation. Thus, this story.
I wrote other stories in direct response to how someone else’s work made me think about the characters in a new way.I’ve always been very aware of my fannish inspirations, although by the time I finish tweaking my plots, I don’t think anyone could ever figure out which story was the original inspiration.
I feel I said exactly what I wanted to and didn't have that nagging feeling I'd "left something out". And, I always have something political to say regarding extreme class differences and the treatment of the poor, so the worldbuilding in this story was an opportunity for me to incorporate that theme as well.
Reactions and Reviews
One of my favorite stories in the zine was Kathleen Resch's "A Private Obsession". On some unnamed planet a factory owner and manager, Stefhan, tells of his obsession with the worker Kirk. Spock is also working at the plant and Stefhan eventually discovers that the two are having a relationship. When Spock becomes ill Stefhan is able to use this as a way to get Kirk to-take a job at his residence, which is a much healthier environment than the factory. Kirk agrees and compromises himself in the process. This story very effectively shows the power of obsession and the resulting frustration when one can have the object of his or her desires, but the object of those desires doesn't return the feeling. After all was said and done this turned out to be a tender story between Kirk and Spock, though we never see any conversation between them. My one complaint is we never know why Kirk and Spock are on the planet in the first place, or why they are there for such an extended period of time.
"A Private Obsession" by [Kathy Resch] is another of my favorites. It is set on a planet with a repressive capitalistic society. The narrator, a citizen of the world, tells of an encounter with Kirk and Spock, who have sneaked in as workers in a factory. The reason for this never comes out (probably some investigation or espionage), but it's not so important. The focus is the narrator's obsession with Kirk, and the contrast of Kirk's and Spock's indestructible love against this dark, oppressing world.
This is an excellent character study that caused me to have some degree of sympathy for someone totally unsympathetic. Any gay person living in a homophobic environment can understand the position of Stefahn, Kathy's viewpoint character in this story, very well. I don't excuse what the man was trying to do to Kirk, but I do feel for him. In effect, this story and "Like A Tear Cast in Stone" are two sides of the same coin. T'Prayd was a repressed homophobe who found it difficult to adjust to an open and tolerant environment. Stefahn, in this story, is a gay man who is being warped and crushed by a homophobic and repressive environment. Both characters reacted with jealousy and resentment toward K/S because they didn't have such a relationship and feared they would never have it. Such dilemmas of character are moving, and Kathy present them so well.
This story is an enigma as the point of view is that of the narrator - the cruel factory owner where our heroes are working. You never hear the thoughts of Kirk and Spock or are allowed into their private world. You never even know for sure if it's our Kirk and Spock or an alternate universe. And yet every time I read this story I'm drawn into it. Ms. Resch has skillfully crafted a strange tale of obsession, lust and total, pure, love. This theme has been used before in a K/S story, I've read similar storylines. But somehow this one sticks in my mind. I think my favorite part is where the narrator calls Spock into his office and tries to kill the love between K & S by telling him of his sexual relationship with Kirk. And, of course, he fails. The two of them belong together and he knows it - nothing or no one could ever come between them. A marvelous story.
This story was set in a highly-original A/U, a sort of 1984-type scenario. I look for originality of setting when I read a story; myself, I prefer stories set in various A/U's. It is told in an original fashion, from the first-person point of view of Stefhan, a factory supervisor. I found Stefhan to be a 3-dimensional person. Kirk is shown at his best in a harsh situation; he is willing to sacrifice himself for those he loves and cares for. Yet he keeps himself totally free.
One of the most unusual K/S stories I have ever read. "A Private Obsession" is aptly titled as we follow Master Stefan, wealthy industrialist and factory owner on some unnamed planet in some unnamed place, fall into an all-consuming obsession with one of his workers—Kirk.
Of course, who can blame the poor man because naturally Kirk is gorgeous and different from all the rest. I adored the wonderful mysterious ambiguity of where this was, what the factory made or why Kirk and Spock were there. Resch creates such a marvelous, almost magical universe and fills it with such fascinating characters who all seem to know what the program is. that you don't care about the who's, whats and wtiys—you just get swept up by the magnificent obsession of Master Stefan. And magnificent it is.
Kirk becomes his entire raison d'etre and this almost destroys the man's life. Also, importantly, you don't hate the guy. Oft-times, in other stories, you hate whoever it is who has sex with one of ours. Not here. Master Stefan is singularly tortured and possessed and filled with remorse and guilt by his obsession. But like I said, who can blame him? It is Kirk, after all.Having been recommended to me by a sister K/Ser (or is that a K/S sister?) I heartily pass her recommendation on to others. This is a superb story—one of the finest I've read—along with a number of other excellent stories in this really good early zine.
A PRIVATE OBSESSION by [Kathy Resch] is a (dare I say it?) masterpiece of a story that I've LOCed previously (in CT-August '96). But suffice it to say, this is one the best K/S stories of all time. Written exclusively from the POV of the mysterious factory owner on the mysterious planet somewhere, it is an absolutely brilliant piece.
This may be the best "observer" story in our genre. Told from the POV of Master Stefhan, this tale is a masterpiece. To save Spock's life, Kirk consents to sex with a factory owner in a society where to be unemployed is grounds for imprisonment. We never hear Kirk and Spock speak one word to each other, but their love shines out of everything they do, everything they are. Thank goodness this author has written more stories than this one, but even if she hadn't, her reputation as a superb writer would remain secure.
This is one of my favorite K/S stories of all time. I am astonished that I haven't LOC'd it sooner! The writing in this story is elegant, direct and evocative. The author expresses a myriad of emotions and levels of meaning with a minimum of words. The love between Kirk and Spock is drawn with a brevity and clarity. I can hardly express my admiration for the unique structure of the story. It is a first person narrative from the POV of an alien known as Master Stephan. This unfortunate is instantly under the spell of an employee (Kirk) he spots in the glare of factory lights. We never hear from the perspective of either K or S. indeed, Spock says one line of dialogue through out the entire story and Kirk says little more. Everything is revealed by Stephan as his life rises and falls on his obsession with Kirk. In two brief glimpses of K and S together and in two scenes between Kirk and Stephan and then Spock and Stephan, the author manages to unfold the depths of love between the characters. Poor Master Stephan is obsessed by something he can never have. Kirk is clearly in control of the situation between them although Stephan is allegedly 'the master". Kirk grants sex in order to help Spock survive but he keeps both his dignity and heart intact. This is a wonderfully written, beautifully conceived and deeply emotional story. Before I depart into the void, as K and S appear to do at the end of this story, I hope to write something even half this exceptional.
Whenever K/Sers get together for an extended period of time, this is one of the stories that is sure to be mentioned. I recently reread it, and though I’ve reviewed it before, there are always new readers in our fandom. I wouldn’t want anyone to miss this classic tale printed in 1987. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that it is one of the defining stories in our genre.
The story is told in the first person by “Master Stefhan,” the owner of a factory and member of the ruling council of the area. The riches of this society are very unevenly divided. There are the masters, who live well, and their workers who barely manage to survive. To be unemployed is a crime in this place, and Kirk and Spock have found work Stefhan’s factory. It is winter, the coldest in many years, and Spock has fallen ill.
Homosexuality is also forbidden in this society. Stefhan stands to lose every thing if his preferences are revealed, but he is drawn to Kirk from the first moment he sees him: “He looked like a water spirit, seductive and sinful.”
Kirk sells himself, without angst or emotion, to get them both out of a dismal, drafty worker’s shack and into Master Stefhan’s house. It is a simple trade. Spock knows of it. Neither likes it, but both are practical men. They are lovers, and this new bargain changes nothing about what they feel for each other. The question is finally asked and answered: What will Kirk do for Spock? Anything. Everything.
Stefhan does all he can to break them apart. Of course, he cannot succeed. One day they simply disappear as abruptly as they came, and Stefhan is left aching for a love such as theirs that knows no shame.
The author gives us no details as to how Kirk and Spock came to be stranded there, what place this is or what time, but they are not needed. It’s as if a high- beam searchlight is focused on only the important characters and their relationships to each other; all else is extraneous. This was one of the first K/S stories I ever read, and it hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks. It also taught me a some important lessons that I tried to remember when I started to write my own stories. Less can be more. Trust your audience. Respect their intelligence. They will fill in the blanks. Not every detail needs to be spelled out because they will make their own connections, and in doing so will connect with your story.
Another amazing aspect of this story is that there is not one word of dialog between Kirk and Spock, yet their love for each other is so basic to the characters that it shines out of everything they do.
And, oh, the quality of the writing! The author paints pictures of Kirk and Spock with such economy of words, yet the descriptions speak to the very core of who the characters are. Like this one: “I broke away from Kirk and walked unhurriedly to the exit. But burning inside me, Kirk’s eyes, and the unselfconscious smile he’d given to one of my comments. Beautiful. And that darker gaze of his friend – protective, warning, then suddenly blanked of all expression, as subservient as any other man there.”Or the simple, powerful ending that will stay with you forever: “But my flesh remembers Kirk’s touch. And at night, I dream of his hazel eyes.” The K/S Press Library has this out-of-print zine, and “Private Obsession” is a reading experience not to be missed. Let me share it with you.
This is one of the true gems of our genre and justifiably famous. If you like third person observer stories, this one is the best of them all in my opinion. We see Kirk and Spock’s relationship filtered through the eyes of a Master Stefhan, a wealthy factory owner who desires Kirk from the first moment he sees him on the factory floor: “He looked like a water spirit, seductive and sinful.” We are not told how Kirk and Spock came to be in this place or why they are working as laborers. In fact we do not hear them say one word to each other during the entire story. How they feel about each other is eloquently revealed by their actions alone. It is a bitterly cold winter, and Spock has fallen ill. Kirk sells himself to Stefhan to get them both out of the drafty workers’ hovel where they have been forced to live.
In this place and time, homosexuality is cause for deportation and exile. Stefhan knows the two men are lovers. He tries everything he knows to break them apart, to win Kirk for his own. Of course he cannot succeed. One day Kirk and Spock disappear and Stephan is left with the bitter memory of a love that is whole and accepted and perfect.We are so fortunate that Kathy has returned to writing K/S after an absence of many years.
Oh, wow. I am not sure what to think of this — it is creepy and powerful and eerie.
A Private Obsession by [Kathy Resch] follows the K/S relationship via the narrative by the owner of several factories on an undisclosed planet where Kirk and Spock are working while, I surmise, trapped there. The owner sees Kirk and becomes obsessed with him, so much so that he picks Kirk – and by default an ailing Spock – for promotion to keep Kirk closer to him. The author shows the reader a view of Kirk from outside the normal Star Trek universe in such a way that, had you not been in love with Kirk before reading this story, you certainly would be afterward.
Probably one of the best third POV of K/S that I've read. You managed to capture both the man's creepy obsession and the powerful love between Kirk and Spock...I loved the idea that while he may have had Kirk's body, he would never have Kirk's love. And while I loath anyone who comes b/t K/S...I almost reluctantly felt a bit sad for him in a very "he's pathetic, naive kind of way" since he sowed his own seeds of sorrow. Amazingly well-written! 
Wow, when I start to sympathize with such an unsympathetic character it must be a great story! Of course his actions are selfish and cruel, but you can also see them as the results of a lonely and bitter life lead in a harsh and unforgiving world, and then to suddenly become an outsider looking in on a kind of happiness he never even imagined possible... it's quite sad, really.
What a wonderful story! An absolutely chilling description of internalized homophobia and its consequences for a society, and for a man's soul. I adore this sentence: "Their presence made me feel as if I were some warped and cracked mirror, trying vainly to reflect some greater truth." Wonderful world-building, too--I might have nightmares about this Dickensian world and the twisted souls who inhabit it.
- from A 2005 Interview with Kathy Resch
- 2006 comments at CI5, Archived version
- "comment at Archive of Our Own".
- from On the Double #4
- from Treklink #10
- from The LOC Connection #2
- from The LOC Connection #10
- from The LOC Connection #4
- from Come Together #32
- from The K/S Press #8
- from The K/S Press #89
- from The K/S Press #20
- from The K/S Press #105
- from The K/S Press #126
- from Archive of Our Own
- from The K/S Press #174
- from Archive of Our Own
- from Archive of Our Own
- from Archive of Our Own