Caren Parnes

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Name: Caren Parnes
Type: fanartist, vidder
Fandoms: Star Trek & Due South

Caren vidding with Mary Van Deusen (1980s)
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Caren Parnes is primarily a fan artist (who did some vidding and writing as well) who was active from 1983 to about 1997. Her style was photo-realistic and her primary early fan influence was Alice Jones. She worked in pencil, pen and ink and color pencil. She credits Jean Kluge with providing her with the tips that she used to create her color pencil style (a "painterly" style of layered pencil on board). Her artwork has appeared in numerous fanzines.

Her first and favorite fandom was Star Trek (TOS), but she branched out to many other fandoms through the years as shown in the artwork shown here. She was one of the major K/S zine illustrators during the 80s and early 90s.

Caren won many awards for her art, including a 1985 K/Star Award.

Parnes was one of The Gang of Six. See The Gang of Six and "Courts of Honor".


From a 2007 Interview: A Thank You

From Scribbling Women: Artists Talk Back:

Fandom gave me the opportunity to express my passion and really improve my style and technique.” So any aspiring artists out there, don’t bother with art school come and draw K/S! Caren continues “We are such a diverse group of women (excuse me—people, for the small minority of men who may be reading this), and this deep and abiding passion for the dream that this show created brought us together and created a true community— and in many cases family—which has endured through time. I am very grateful to have been able to participate in building and sustaining that community, and somewhat awed that work I did twenty years ago is still remembered. Blessings and Thanks to you all.

From a 2007 Interview: About Her Art:

Some of Caren's responses from excerpts in a 2007 article about the history for K/S art. From Scribbling Women: Artists Talk Back:

Were you conscious of the difficulties of reproduction which choosing a medium?: ... “for zines that were doing high quality screening for pencil or offset printing for color, I would use pencil or color pencil when I could (I enjoyed those more than pen and ink). However if I knew that the zine editor did not have a particularly good track record with reproducing art (and I was very picky about this!), I would choose pen and ink so it would reproduce well.”

What inspires you to draw K/S?: Caren Parnes, who says “I had drawn all my life,” was not happy enough with her writing to express K/S in fiction, and so for her drawing became an important way of engaging with K/S. She says, “I needed to express my love for the characters somehow, and that’s how it came out. I really wanted to write about them...but I was very critical of the writing I did when I first got into fandom. But since I became totally obsessed with Kirk and Spock and I needed to express it somehow, I started drawing. I had been drawing since I was a child (often on my walls, much to my mother’s chagrin!) and in my teenage years I played with portrait drawing a bit, but just dabbling. Fandom gave me the opportunity to express my passion and really improve my style and technique.” ...Like Leslie Fish, Caren was helped on her way by positive comments: she says, “I think I really became a good artist only when I got lots of positive feedback from the fan community to keep working at it. My first Shore Leave (1984) was an awesome experience—I still remember that Terry S. bought a Spock pen and ink I drew for $100 at auction and I nearly fainted! These editors, writers, and artists whom I had been admiring in zines for over a year came to me and fawned over my artwork at that convention, and whether it was ego-stroking or the sense of inclusion it gave me (most probably both), that experience cemented my involvement in fandom for the next twenty plus years.”

What kind of things do you try to express in your art? Beauty? Sexiness? A good likeness? Caren Parnes gets philosophical: she says, “I try for ‘Truth.’ I know, hackneyed, isn’t it? But actually, my primary goal and desire in drawing was to capture and project a little bit of the soul of whatever/whomever I am drawing—usually Kirk and Spock. Beauty is always nice, but not necessarily the object of the exercise. And yes, I DO want them to be a good likeness—I always think I have failed if they don’t look like they could walk off the page.”

Do you draw from your mind’s eye or do you use some kind of source material?: “I always envied those who could ‘illustrate’ without having a model to go from. I always needed something to draw from. My layout ideas and concepts were more or less original, but I needed to find models to execute them accurately.”

From a 2013 Interview: Becoming a Fan

From Media Fandom Oral History Project Interview with Gayle F and Caren P (2013):

... my family was always big on science fiction. We watched the original Outer Limits and Twilight Zone and all of those things, and Star Trek was being shown every Friday night — I believe it was Friday nights — on our TV from the year it started. So I would have been six, at the time that I was introduced to Star Trek. So it was my — probably one of the most seminal sort of touchstones for me, growing up and loving movies and TV. Being kind of a mediaphile, that has always been a foundation for me. When I was coming back from my sen— let me see, my year in England, in my junior year which would have been 1980. I came back that summer, and I was looking all over. What got me going there? I ran into a Blish book, I think in a used book store. And I had run into one of the ones I later found out was written by his wife, which started highlighting the relationship between Kirk and Spock more, sort of, than showing kind of the overall storylines. And I at that point really wasn't sure what it was that was kind of making me really focus on this, but I got back in a big way to wanting to watch Star Trek again. And reading about it. So I bought all the Blish books I ran into. Yeah, I think I read the Blish books and the New Voyages first. So I was introduced to the idea that there was fan fiction out there, and then I also bought Star Trek Lives, and I think somewhere along the line, now we're the summer after my graduation, so I was about 21, and it would have been 1982, and I went to a convention. I was living in San Francisco at the time. That was a comic convention, because I found out that there were no Star Trek conventions being run any more, at least not on the West Coast. And, it was one of those interesting things, where I was looking at some comic books that were Star Trek related, and this really wasn't what I wanted because I'm not a comic fan. And someone taps me on the shoulder, with a back pack on, and said — and I must have just had a little sign over my head — "Are you interested in, ah, K/S fanwriting? Fanfic?" She said that. So I'm looking at, you know, comics, and I said, "Yeah?" (laughter)... No [I didn't know what K/S was]. I— Well, I said— I think she said "Kirk—" She said, "K/S," and I said, "Star Trek?" but she did say, "Star Trek," and I said, "Well, what's K/S?" And she said, "Well, you know, there's Kirk Spock, relationship stuff, or the sexual relationship." (laughter) What?... I was about, yeah, 22, I think. So this is— She is fairly well known in fandom, Kathy Garbrook, in a variety of fandoms, and a funny little woman. And she pulled out — and I'm sitting next to the person who did the cover of this zine [1] — a zine called The Price and the Prize. Which has an interesting cover, and (laugh) she said, "Well, that's K/S." And I went (laugh) "How about that relationship stuff?" (laugh) So anyway I actually took away several Nomes and a couple of other zines from her, and was calling her a week later for more— and found a T'hy'la somewhere in the group — called Kathy Resch, who at that point was living in San Jose. And because of some issues she had had with people like, trolling her house, she didn't allow me to come by to pick them up, but she said, "There's actually a party at a person named Noel Silva's house, in another couple of weeks. Why don't you come and I'll bring some zines." And I was introduced to pretty much the entire fan group of Northern California at the time. And I was going to Shore Leave four months later with my first artwork, and it kind of went on from there.

From a 2013 Interview: Technique and Preference

For the record, I've only had one story and three poems published. A lot was in my drawer, that never saw the light of day. But I was an English major and I worshiped great writing, which is probably why I never wrote. I was 'way too intimidated by the really good writers in fandom. And I had always drawn, from the time that I was a child, and I had always drawn sort of— It was always— generally portrait work or animals. And, it was just very hit and miss, something would catch my eye, or I'd be interested in one piece. I might do a piece every five years, or something, and my skills were not very good, because I wasn't doing it regularly. And, it's— There's a fair amount of, I would say, between the Apple Macintosh computer coming on line— on the scene, and desktop publishing in general, and finding fandom, it's probably given me my career, because I'm a graphic designer now. And I never really would have had the nerve to try to pursue a fine arts career, I don't think. But honing skills in drawing for fandom, where there was actually a demand for the work that I did, made me much more— actually, take the attitude of it being sort of a vocation. And so I worked really hard to improve.

I had started with pencil drawings, basically just portrait drawings of the two of them. And let there be no question about my being interested in het at all. It was just Kirk and Spock for me from the very beginning. Or any other — god forbid — male being thrust between them! It had to be— I've always been an OTP girl. So, any fandom that I got into after that was always going to be one couple that I particularly liked, and nobody else. Unless it was to offset how much they loved each other, and— I also have to say that I kinda jumped into, when I got into fandom, my interest came back in Star Trek, obviously, when the films came out, and I was— I probably saw that same ship going round the nebula, about going around. I think I watched that movie nine times in the theater. It was like, go out for popcorn, do something during that fifteen-minute spread. But anyway, that got me very excited about being involved in something active, because the fandom had kind of been languishing before that. By the time that I got into it, it was already two films in, I think.

So the interest in that first— I think I had done — I do remember this — I had done a black and white, or a pen and ink, Spock. It was just a portrait of him in the Gol outfit. That was up at auction in Shore Leave the first year that I went to Shore Leave. And it got into a bidding war, and it went for a lot more money than I ever would have expected... it was a hundred dollars even. But that was more money than I had ever made for anything. I mean, I'd never made any money for anything that I'd created...

From a 2013 Interview: More About Her Art

See, I was never a great— Someone like Suzy Lovett was always much more adept at doing illustrations of actual scenes from stories. That was never my strength. I was very good at developing character for a portrait. So I hesitated to do a lot of story illustrations, because I just— It took me a great deal of time, they usually wanted two or three per story, and I just, I didn't have the time or the inclination to do that kind of art work. So, I ended up doing a few to begin with, just portrait pieces to put in as, you know, loose leaf, not to illustrate something. And then, fairly quickly, within a year or two, people were just asking me for covers. And as soon as color came in— I had been working on color, and had been working in a particularly— kind of in a style nobody was working in— (cough) or a few people. Linda Wood was one of the few who was in Star Wars fandom at the time that I came in, had a particular style of working with colored pencil, barrel Prismacolor on cardboard. In a layering style that wasn't the usual sort of sketchy look that pencil tended to have, for most people working on it in paper. So, it was a very distinctive style, that I started emulating, and worked with a lot of different substrates, and a variety of different pencil weights, and developed a particular style that I think people really liked. So as soon as color came out, and they were willing to do color covers for zines, I was doing a lot of covers, because my— I think my style was probably better in color than a lot of other folks who were doing color at that time. There were a lot of very good artists doing black and white pencil and pen and ink, but not that many had worked in color. So, and that was about mid-80s, I guess, when people started— it got cost-effective to do color.

Some Early Inspirations

Caren explains:

...“the first major influence and the style I most wanted to emulate was Alice J.’s. She was the ultimate “realist” artist and that was my natural inclination anyway. I recently ran into a copy of IDIC 6 (1978) that has a slew of her artwork in it and saw a piece I had forgotten; one that had a huge impact on fandom at the time, a piece called “The Pride of the Clan”—a young, bare- chested Spock with long hair and a Star of David on his chest. I remember several conversations about that piece of art when I got into fandom (and that was seven years after it was published!) [2]

Caren continues:

“I also loved Pat S., Signe L., Connie F. and Michael V. when I first got into fandom. I loved Merle D.’s art, not so much because her stuff was realistic, but because she was synonymous in my mind with early hurt/comfort zines since she illustrated so many of them—I still get nostalgic when I see her artwork! Of course Gayle F. was already a legend when I got into fandom and I adored much of her color work (especially if you got to see the originals framed—she was as much an artist in the way she framed her art as in the art itself), but her artwork was too stylized for me to consider her an actual ‘influence.’ For color pencil, I totally stole my style from Linda W. [not the same as Linda W. who is interviewed in this article and who is one of the Associate Editors of Legacy] who was never even a Trek artist—she did a lot of early Star Wars and other multi-media artwork. She was doing prismacolor color pencils on cardboard (the cardboard was very important to get that ‘painterly’ quality since you can’t layer the same way on paper), and I studied her work to figure out how to do that myself. Suzan Lovett and I were roughly contemporary, and our styles were very different, but she had an influence on me (as she did on so many artists), with her intricate Celtic bordering and elaborate framing compositions—bringing decorative art and illustration together.” [3]

Notable Vids

Due South

Star Trek

  • The Rose
  • Kiss Today Goodbye
  • Total Eclipse of the Heart


A few of these early vids can be seen here or here (under GUEST), Archived version

Sample Art

Vertically Displayed Art

Horizontally Displayed Art


  1. ^ Caren P is talking about how, in this interview, she is sitting next to Gayle F, the artist who did the front of The Price and The Prize.
  2. ^ see "Pride of the Clan" at IDIC #6
  3. ^ from Scribbling Women: Artists Talk Back