An Essay in Defense of Fan-Written Characters

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Title: An Essay in Defense of Fan-Written Characters
Creator: Pat McCormack
Date(s): 1977
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An Essay in Defense of Fan-Written Characters is a 1977 essay by Pat McCormack.

It was printed in Warped Space #26/27.

Some Topics Discussed


It seems somehow fitting, indeed almost vital, that the issue of "normality" in fan-written Trekfic characters be dealt with in WARPED SPACE, a 'zine known for its tongue-in-cheek, mildly disrespectful, and usually humorous material. This material often presents hypothetical characters with unusual, even strange, personalities, and after heated debates in LoCs and in person, it is time to consider the subject more thoroughly, and (hopefully) realistically.

The main problem with "normality" per se is its nebulous quality; it is by definition UNDEFINED, except as a continuum, based on social comparison. What is considered normal in one culture/situation/ person may be considered abnormal in another. There are no absolutes. Furthermore, I seriously doubt that the next 200 years of progress (?) could bring us much closer to a concrete definition. In the time to come, we will most likely attempt to refine our standards of JUDGEMENT, but that is all. Indeed, it may be that the standards will attain a more "floating" quality; in other words, all factors will be considered and individual differences will be respected to the extent that they do not cause harm to oneself or to others.

The only "givens" we have for writing Trekfic are those from the actual episodes. "Writers' Guides," etc. In the establishment of SERIES' characters' personalities, occasionally one was given a glimpse of little idiosyncrasies: McCoy's fondness for tippling, Scotty's total immersion of self in work. Kirk's emphasized almost-compulsion for using women sexually. Spock's unique racial/emotional situation, etc. Obviously, one may blow these relatively harmless "quirks" out of proportion, but to do so is to blind oneself to the total personalities. Just because we see McCoy drinking in more than one or two episodes doesn't make him an alcoholic!

OK? Now ... take it one step further. Many of the characters created by fan writers may at first glance appear different ("loony" is the rather strong term used by "some); this is especially applicable to WARPED SPACE because of the higher than usual quantity of humorous material it contains. The big danger here is the tendency to generalize. Just because the series itself created, in a sense, "ideal" men and women (who when they erred, did so with grace and integrity), fan writers are bending over backwards to EVEN THINGS OUT! Enough of the emphasis on superhumans ... and ENOUGH MarySuism (the perfect little person who does all things well)! Hence, there is great striving to create the NOT-so-perfect, not-so-"normal" character. However, instead of reading the stories with this fact in mind, many are generalizing FAR too broadly. Example: it's been said that so many stories show crewmembers whooping it up, getting drunk/high/horny/whatever, "DON'T THEY EVER DO ANYTHING ELSE???" Of course they do. The purpose of such stories is to show the HUMAN side of those involved. (Granted, writers may have gone a little overboard in stressing this type of situation in their stories, but the purpose is still clear: to even the score and take the god out of Starfleet!)

There are NO givens for what's going to be tolerated 200 years from now, people, as long as the characters involved can function adequately in their world. Individual differences, when viewed as components of, and NOT the sum TOTAL of personality, may well be respected!

Of course, there will be lines drawn; but those who believe that realistic (and therefore, imperfect HUMAN) characters in Trekfic, especially in the humorous, slapstick variety, are NUTS because they appear: indecisive, insecure, moody, depressed, goofy, giddy," happy-go-lucky, anxious, stubborn, emotional, promiscuous, etc., into infinity, are SADLY mistaken, and are missing out on the real value of such characters: they show that people HAVE (and NEED) a lighter side; that imperfect qualities, when they don't impede functioning in life, can teach people about being human; they shout out, "DON'T TAKE IT ALL SO SERIOUSLY!! SOME OF IT IS MEANT TO BE CRAZY!!!"

Fan Comments

Pat McCormack, take a bow ... how ever, how do we know the filmed ST wouldn't have had a lot of stories showing crewmembers "whooping it up, getting drunk/high/horny/whatever" if they hadn't been dealing with American network television? We fen writers have been out on our own for a long time now, not a hell of a lot of guidance in this field. We must IDIC and put up with each other's odd quirks. If "author" thinks "character" can make it into Starfleet, let them. We don't have to agree, but from where do we come from to shoot them down? Let 1999 have the xenophobes. Trek fandom doesn't need them. [1]
Thank you, Pat, I'm glad to see someone else who also believes. Well said.[2]
Pat McCormack's article hits the nail right on the head as far as fan writing is concerned. The whole point of it is that we are sharing our fantasies with each other, and the fan-written characters are US, in the STAR TREK world. Each of us have our own fantasies, whet her they be Chantal, Faulwell, or Dirty Nellie, and we are delighted when other people share them. The problems seem to arise when other people's fantasies clash with ours and they get annoyed about it. Jean Lorrah put it very nicely in a letter in HALKAN COUNCIL, and I tried to put some of those same feelings into words (bad ones, as it turned out) in that same issue. When millions of people share a fantasy, a few see it in a different perspective. The Phenomenon of STAR TREK is that so many people can get so many different things out of it, ranging from the deep philosophical insights of the KRAITH and NTM and similar stories, to the simple slam-bang adventure stories that newer writers like to fool around with. [3]


  1. ^ comments from a letter of comment in Warped Space #28
  2. ^ comments from a letter of comment in Warped Space #28
  3. ^ comments from a letter of comment in Warped Space #28