|Publisher:||J.H. Publications & Pon Farr Press|
|Author(s):||supposedly: The Undiscovered Country (first half) and then finished by Cassandra Smythe (second half)|
|Fandom:||Star Trek: TOS|
|Click here for related articles on Fanlore.|
Four characters in the zine appear to be fan casted Bodie and Ray Doyle from The Professionals and Del Tarrant and Kerr Avon from Blake's 7, oddly something not a single fan comments on in the numerous reviews.
"Kirk, Spock, McCoy and Chekov are held as slaves when their shuttle crashes on an uncharted planet, but when Kirk is granted his freedom his forced decision to take Spock as his pleasure slave creates an untenable situation." 
"Explicit K/S novel from Cassandra Smythe in memory of 'The Undiscovered Country'. Art by The Southern Cross. A different kind of slave story set in this universe with Kirk, McCoy, Spock, and Chekov... Empyrean Publications." 
"A different kind of slave story, one without sadism, rape, or brutality. This is not a mirror or even an AU story, but is set in the TV universe and focuses on Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. All SASEs filled with Empyrean Publications have been transferred to J.H. Publications." 
About the Creation
In 1984, two years before the novel was published, the editor explained:
'The Undiscovered Country', a very close friend of mine for the past twelve years, was murdered. He had completed sections of the novel, 'Mutual Benefit', but much work still remains. The novel is temporarily on hold. I will keep you advised of its status via your SASEs. As TUC was also writing 'Command Decision,' that novel has also been delayed until winter. Much of CD is finished and Cassandra Smythe intends to complete the novel... I have several hundred letters to answer as rapidly as I can. Thanks for your patience and the many kind letters I have received lately.
In 2008, a fan described the zine:
Controversial novel during which Kirk, Spock, McCoy and Chekov are marooned on a planet with a hierarchical society. Kirk is sublty 'conditioned' to take his place with the leaders in part by debasing and abusing Spock. Every K/S fan should read this novel, if only to engage in the debates about it! It was written by two people. The first half was written by a man who was killed in a car accident before he could complete his vision; the novel was finished by a close friend.
From the Zine: A Memorial to Jason Hughs
In life, there are certain people who touch the core of those around them. If we are lucky, we meet a few of these special individuals over the course of our lives. Jason was one of the rarest of individuals and he brought a richness to my life that I would not have missed despite the pain of his death.
Jason was new to fandom and new to writing, but his experiences were so rich in material that he could have written stories for years to cone without ever draining the source. He was an individual of rare insight and compassion, a truly humane man, who died a most undeserved, violent death. I will miss him as a co-author, but more importantly, I will miss him as a friend. Together we survived the deaths of friends and family, of adults and children; survived and recovered, as well as one can ever hope to recover. We were each for the other, one of the few remaining survivors of a circle of friends and family who had predeceased us. In the weeks before his death, we lost the few who were left. It was in trying to reach him during his trip abroad to tell him of our latest loss, that I learned of his disappearance, and later, of his death. I never missed him more than at the funeral of a mutual friend, when I did not have his comforting presence. His untimely death has cheated all who knew him...and all who lost that opportunity.
Working on this novel without him proved to be a difficult task; each page served as a reminder of his loss. To all of you who so patiently waited for this novel, I apologize for the delay. Please understand that it was not my intention to promise something I would find myself unable to deliver for so long. I know that many of you are awaiting Mutual Benefit and I will resume work on It shortly.To each of you who took the time to write during those difficult days, I sincerely thank you. Your words of encouragement made it possible for me to continue. I hope that these pages you now hold in your hands will serve as a worthy tribute to Jason's memory and bring you some pleasure for your patience. To Jason, With Love
The editing of COMMAND DECISION has been a true labor of love. But my job, as alt good things must, has come to an end. I face this reality with a mixture of emotions. Taking CD to the printer is, I believe, much like sending your child to school for the first time. As exciting as it is to finally see our three years of work going to print, it also saddens me to let go. CD has become our child, one we must now allow to leave the nest.
This child of ours is still in need of some parental support, some notes of explanation. Playing in the background at the inception and birth of this novel was the music of "Scheherazade", by Rimsky-Korsakov. Its strength and flowing melodies both encouraged and calmed us when we needed it. If you enjoy classical music, especially while reading, try listening to "Scheherazade" for background.
An explanation for the change of artists is also called for. We apologize for the fact that the flyers listed The Southern Cross as the artist. Not until a few weeks before our scheduled print date were our worst fears realized when her promised art work never arrived. But disaster was averted when TACS was able to fit us into her schedule. In her own wonderfully kind manner, TACS agreed to provide all of the beautiful illos you will see (except for the back cover, which OAS so generously did for us when the original artwork failed to arrive.) It is because of TACS* eleventh hour efforts that we made our print schedule, with illos. A thousand thanks are not enough to express our gratitude to her for balling us out.
Before I end this editorial and sever the last tie that binds me to this "child," I have a few thanks I would like to add. First, I must say THANKS AGAIN, TACS — my first and second born child are both yours, if you like.
Thanks also must go to Meg Fine, whose poetry not only provides insight into the characters, but also helps to give the story that added bit of depth and completeness.
I also have to thank OAS for doing the cover. A beautiful job from a non-fan.
I have to tell a certain roommate of mine that I will soon be home and then you'll know who I am, even without my nametag.
And last, but far from least, I want to tell Cassandra how much I loved editing her novel. You must be commended for your patience. Not every author would have listened to my constant suggestions or answered most of my never-ending questions (How did he cut his hand?). You did and I appreciate It. I also appreciate every single "shower warning" contained in CD, especially the final one. A job well-done can never be over done!But now, it is out of our hands, and in the hands of you, our readers. If you enjoy reading COMMAND DECISION half as much as I enjoyed editing it, it will have been time well spent.
Sample Interior Art
Reactions and Reviews
COMMAND DECISION, the recently printed K/S novel by Cassandra Smythe, is a richly complex story. It is so well written, both in style and content, I found myself enjoying reading it more than any other fanzine I have read recently. I originally ordered CD on the strength of the flyer I had received in the mail. I was tantalized by the sensual shower scene depicted on the one side and intrigued by the mysteries presented on the back. I had heard rumors that CD was a slave story, and, because I have a personal dislike for them, I almost did not order it. But then the flyer came, with all of its promise. How could I not read the novel? I began reading, expecting to have my worst fears confirmed. Oh, they crash on a planet and one of them is enslaved. But the story is much more than this. It is, in fact, so far from the traditional "slave story", it should be in a category of its own. It doesn't content itself with simply describing what it is to be either the enslaved or the master; instead, the carefully crafted plot explores the pressures that society brings to bear on those forced to live in it. Even in our own day-to-day lives, society exerts a far greater force on us than we realize. To witness Kirk and Spock adrift in an unfamiliar society, with strange mores and customs, is to witness how even the strongest-willed must eventually submit to survive. And submit they must if they wish to survive. We are witness to their struggle to retain what they can of their former selves. But as they realize that this society can permit no quarter, their former selves slip further and further out of their grasps. Nowhere is this transformation more clearly delineated than in the scenes depicting the lovemaking between Kirk and Spock. As the one becomes more and more the master that that society demands, the one enslaved yields more and more of himself in an effort to appease the one person left who can protect him from complete debasement. But as the roles they are forced to play become the reality in which they both must live, there is no one left to protect either of them from themselves. Many of the elements of the sort of slave story I most dislike are happily missing from CD. There is no abject violence and absolutely no brutality to be found. And Cassandra has managed the almost impossible: she has written plenty of sexually explicit scenes which actually further the plot of the novel. Not once did I feel that she had included one of her sexual interludes to merely entertain. I'm honest enough to admit that I read K/S for the sex which is included. But to find a story which has such well-written as well as meaningful sex is very rare.
COMMAND DECISION is a, massive novel, a richly intricate tapestry of an alien culture. Well-written and plotted, with excellent and appropriate artwork which follows the story well. However (there always seems to be a 'however', doesn't there?), I had some trouble accepting several of the basis premises, and felt constrained to remind myself of the principles of IDIC frequently The story opens with four of the command crew captured on an alien planet, prisoners of a slave-holding society. Kirk fortuitously saves his "master" from assassination and is elevated to free status, leaving Spock, McCoy and Chekov imprisoned as slaves to that same master, who informs Kirk that he may have one of them as his own slave. This, I believe is the "Command Decision" of the title- and the first stumbling block I tripped over. Kirk spends five of six pages agonizing over the blatantly obvious optimum solution to this transparent quandary. After choosing Spock (but we knew he wouldn't didn't we?) a change begins to manifest in Kirk's attitude - and the second questionable premise surfaces: that a man of Kirk s strength, integrity and innate compassion could possibly accept, much less enjoy, degrading any sentient being. Meanwhile, Spock had been the recipient of sophisticated behavior modification procedures: and that brings us to the next untenable premise that Spock could be convinced — by any method --that he is a worthless being, useful only as a slave, reduced to a totally passive, mindless~dependency. The underlying main theme of the novel seems to be that anyone given life-or-death power over another being will eventually become cruel and callus, unfeeling -- that these traits are inherent in everyone, lacking only the opportunity to surface. Had the primary characters been anyone but Kirk and Spock I would have probably enjoyed this story as an interesting flight of fancy, even though my disagreement of its basic theme -- IDIC, remember? The author's effort to delve deep into the psyches of our favorite guys was sincere, I'm sure -- but what surfaced belonged to someone else entirely. A compelling novel could have been written from an opposite premise -- that there are individuals who will remain what they inherently are, regardless of the customs of the society in which they find themselves. But we K/S people know that, don't we? 
The story told within the pages of COMMAND DECISION is basically a familiar one to Trek fans. The crew of the Enterprise encountered slave-based societies once or twice in the aired episodes: "Gamesters of Triskelion", "Bread and Circuses". And D.T. Steiner's early novel, Spock Enslaved brought the subject to fan-fiction. Countless times since, Kirk and Spock have been captives of some slave-owning society, and in more recent years, they have been placed in alternate universes where one of the pair is master and the other his slave, and the situation is usually resolved to the point their their love surpasses the initial slave-master relationship and the characters achieve equality of roles. The effects of these barbaric societies would seem to have been thoroughly explored in Trek fan-fiction. Despite the fact that the theme has been somewhat overworked, the author of CD has plunged ahead anyway. Within her slave society, the idea that Kirk, the intrepid Starship Captain, would eventually succumb, by brainwashing and drugs and constant stress, to the ways of the world he's been forced to survive in, has been incorporated. That, too, is a question that's been asked in story after story, especially in the well-known "get-em" sub-genre in which the writer seeks to take "the measure of the man" by subjecting the hero to an overdose of abuse. But in the vast majority of Trek-fic, Kirk and company have been able to hold out against pain and mental torment, to remain the embodiment of the human ideals of freedom and self-respect. Yet COMMAND DECISION, stated simply, goes too far and stands out, or more precisely, sinks lower than any fanzine ever published. It is not that Spock is tortured and debased continually throughout the nearly 300 pages of the story, but that his torment is described in such a way that the author's enjoyment of the sadism seems to be the primary reason for it.
The poor long-suffering Vulcan simply puts up with his ill-treatment, stoically holding out until his autonomy is finally, totally stripped away. Why doesn't he fight back? An enraged Vulcan could certainly take out a few of his evil captors before being killed in retaliation. The novel certainly does not hint that he actually enjoys playing the masochist. Surely the Spock who so prides his dignity would prefer to die than to submit himself to further depravity. His meekness under the horror is particularly disturbing. The Spock with whom most readers are acquainted would have committed suicide by chapter two of CD. And if Spock is out of character, Kirk is unrecognizable. This reviewer does not for a minute believe that Kirk would succumb to the lure of being Spock's master, not because he's been conditioned or drugged or any other reason the author uses in an attempt to justify the pleasure he takes in seeing Spock hurt and humiliated. His enjoyment of Spock's debasement is as prurient as the author's. And it begins immediately — before the rulers of the planet have had a chance to work their wiles on the Captain. When the Vulcan is brought to the auction block, Kirk is turned on by the sight of his friend's entirely depilated body — then thinks how wrong he is to feel that way; after all that's Spock this is happening to. Yet he does not stop feeling the arousal every time Spock is displayed. And Kirk stands by while Spock's humiliation continues, for page upon page. Before the novel has run its course, Kirk enters into the game, humiliating the man he professes to love, hurting him continually, and eventually raping him at a public banquet.
There is no guise that can make this sort of story acceptable. Whether or not the created characters are fully fleshed out, or that there may be a force attempting to overturn the evil ruling class does not mitigate the repugnancy of the story. It is not enough that Spock "understands" and forgives Kirk for his abuses. After suffering through the events of CD, no man or Vulcan could possibly fly off into the sunset and continue emotionally unscathed. Even such 23rd century heroes as Kirk and Spock would need lengthy psychiatric counseling at the very least to put this terrible experience behind them. It is not enough to tell the reader they survived physically and emotionally — CD fails to prove that they would. The question remains, why do this to them? Most Trek fans participate because they love the characters. Would you really want someone you love to go through this? What if your best friend or brother was repeatedly raped and brutalized and sexually tortured? Does anyone really fantasize all of this happening to those they profess to love? If the intent of the story is to horrify and create sympathy, why are the torture passages written with such relish? Why are the characters so submissive? Was this novel written merely to top every other get-em slave story heretofore published?The editorial makes much of the fact that CD is a "labor of love". That is not apparent in the publication, and if it is a sincere statement, the creators are fooling themselves completely. At a price of $20 without color covers and even more with them, it would seem that the love most served by this venture was of the dollar. Love for the Trek characters or the fans is nonexistent here. The artist, TACS, has done an admirable job of not drawing illustrations which graphically depict the goings-on in the story. But certainly having the illos printed as unbacked half-tones on heavy, slick paper added to the overall cost of printing. Perhaps this was the result of some naivete on the part of the editor, but the appearance of the art would not have suffered if it had been printed on paper the same weight, and cost, of the text. The typing and printing are neat and readable. The layout is rather gaudy, with an unfortunate tendency to mix styles of borders and section spaces. The poetry by Meg Fine seems stilted, and reads like prose chopped into short lines. Since it does nothing more than reiterate what happens in each chapter, its inclusion seems rather superfluous, unless it is intended as an aid for the reader who wishes to skim the zine. There is a market for everything in fandom. What some enjoy, others find less to their liking. To each her own and IDIC and all that. But Star Trek valued respect and dignity and no matter how far a particular zine deviates from Trek philosophy, those factors should be in evidence. The characters should respect each other and be able to maintain their essential self-respect and dignity. When that is taken from them, it is not Star Trek. It is not speculative fiction if the pain is perpetrated for its own sake. We know these men can resist pain, but destroying them emotionally eliminates their ability to live on as the heroes we were attracted to in the first place. Putting them in a situation where one of them violently abuses the other would make it impossible for the characters ever to relate in the same way again. If an author truly wishes to sell a story such as this, she could restrict it to xerox copies shared with interested friends rather than publishing it for sale to all of fandom; and if it is profit she seeks, then the names of the characters could be changed and the story submitted to a professional publisher who specializes in material like it. In essence, COMMAND DECISION is a zine which exploits both the characters and the fans. It is not love which exudes from its pages, but anger and disappointment.
In COMMAND DECISION, the cruelty Kirk shows Spock and taking advantage of him in such a debasing manner (taking advantage of him period) disturbed me no end. Not for once do I ever see Kirk acting that way. To treat Spock in such a callous manner is reprehensible, not just improbable.
In defense of COMMAND DECISION, I would like to say that through its characterization of Kirk it attempts to deal with an important issue that any honest portrayal of a slave society can't ignore. How is it that otherwise good people can support the institution of slavery? OATH OF BONDAGE also attempts to deal with this question in the portrayal of Getham. Within the context of a slaveholding culture Getham is a good man, but Getham was born into that society. The idea that a society might exist without slavery is totally alien to him. Can someone who rejects slavery be brainwashed into accommodating to it? COMMAND DECISION is about the transformation of Kirk into a slaveowner by operant conditioning, drugs and the temptation of absolute power over another human being. It is usual in the slave genre for slaves to be the object of conditioning. COMMAND DECISION shows us that slaveowners can also be created by conditioning. Reading about such a process is appalling but I think it's psychologically valid. It caused me to think about how immune I or anyone else might be to that kind of conditioning. I was reminded of Stanley Milgram's experiments described in his study OBEDIENCE TO AUTHORITY, in which otherwise good people obeyed lab personnel even though they thought they were torturing other human beings with electric shocks.
... I have heard that the author is a man. I do know that as many readers as not who I've asked have had a strong aversion to this novel. This seems to me to be one of those stories whose value is in "getting it out of our systems.' Having experienced it, now we don't have to do that again. I don't necessarily mean it derogatoriy; I just think that delving into the most dark and base is not what most of us prefer to do. Myself, I couldn't put it down once I started reading, so I guess I wanted a dose of the dark and base. All the better to see the profound white light against.
An intense master/slave tale, in large part brutal and graphic. Kirk, Spock, McCoy and Chekhov are captured. The main story is about the metamorphoses of Kirk (master) and Spock (slave) into their roles. Terrible and erotic, as Kirk yearns for Spock, as his has since before this capture, and with Spock in such humiliating slavery (such as a device to keep him aroused all the time), not having known of Kirk's feelings and now sensing them, but feeling that what Kirk is aroused by is his subjugation.
If Kirk had not been drugged, I wouldn't have bought his succumbing to the lure of power as he did. But it's a good theme, the essential aspects of his personality (as shown us in episodes and highlighted in this story) which might have the capacity to switch over from making him a sterling example of humanity, into his having a lust for power and even expressing it in unbridled depravity (in this case, that's the milieu of the role he has fallen into).
Very painful, that Spock's suffering and humiliation is at Kirk's hands.
I know there's another whole plot going on, the opposing overlords or something, but too many "foreign" names of people, and their being referred to by their titles interchangeably with their names, made me not able to ever get who is who or if who is a what or a where. And with them always speaking in riddles, as this mystery unfolded, I never knew what they were planning. It just seemed all these people on the planet, on both sides, knew of Kirk and crew and wanted something of him for their uses, but I kept not knowing what or why, until the end when these heretofore meaningless words became people/places that had a direct connection with our characters. It would have helped if the names of the people were a distinctly different kind of word than the words for their titles, and than the names of places.A must-read, if you're so inclined.
Being as I am a slave/master story aficionado. I would like to make a few comments about this scenario. In such a story, either Kirk or Spock willingly submitting to slavery is a loaded dilemma. If, indeed, Kirk or Spock do decide to go along with the program, there had better be a good reason. "Willingly" is a tricky description. It does not necessarily mean that Kirk or Spock find being a slave fine and dandy. (Although.. that is a valid scenario, and before you start throwing Saurian brandy bottles at me, I shall attempt to explain it later.) ...Being forced do something that is completely against ones' values or ones' nature would be a dire situation for anyone. Kirk and Spock have been in lots of dire situations and the drama comes from their means of coping with that situation. But if the only alternative is death. I believe they would chose life.
Using Command Decision as an example. Kirk and Spock are faced with the dilemma or either submitting to slavery or being put to death. Not much choice in between. They had to adapt to the circumstances of their surroundings or die. It was as simple as that. Now if that's not motivation enough to submit to slavery, then what is? In this particular situation, there was no way to escape and they didn't know how long they would have to be there. So they adapted and thrived in order to gain an advantage. In the course of that adaptation, they discovered aspects of master/slave that were appealing. That is not to say that they thought slavery was run. It's just that this scenario brought out parts of their respective personalities that, (dare I say it?) found it pleasurable. This, of course, gets back to the premise that dominance and submission on a certain level, can be fun. There. I said it. I did not say that slavery is a good thing or that Kirk and Spock found it a good thing. The fascinating aspect to their dilemma was their own personal battle with being forced into a situation, having to survive and adapt, finding some deep pleasure in it and hating it at the same time. But that's what good drama is all about. I feel very strongly that not only was Kirk and Spock's adaptation to the society that held them prisoner completely justified and fully explored, but it was totally within character. These guys choose life. They also choose each other. What a perfect combination to bring out those secret feelings that find dominance and submission on a sexual level, pleasurable.I'm going to stick my neck out (as if I haven't already) and say, (get out those ahn-woons, girls) that master/slave, dominance/submission is pleasurable for lots of people. And for such strong people as Kirk and Spock, particularly pleasurable. But only in part. Obviously, I'm not talking about extreme torture or being walked on with football cleats. I am talking about the acting out of roles that are normally hidden within the personality and the need to act that way justified by the threat of death.
You bring up a really interesting question of what characteristics are important in heroes. For me survival is not an important part of being heroic. My heroes tend to give up things, especially their lives, for other people or for their principles. When I'm trying to come up with story ideas, I have trouble keeping Spock alive. He's always starting a fast or walking out into the desert over some Vulcan principle or other. So if I had been writing Command Decision, he would have starved to death in the first couple chapters because he has no clear duty to perform, no particular hope of escape and Kirk is betraying him into doing things no Vulcan would ever consider. The fact that the author doesn't even have him consider this, makes him not Spock for me. But if he was Spock enough for you, great.
Once again, I finally get to one of those "classic" K/S novels that almost everyone has read and is familiar with, but me. Well, this was worth waiting for. Not only worth waiting for, but now I wish I hadn't read it just so I could read it again for the first time. It's one of those.
I have heard differences of opinions on "Command Decision" and it seems to be one of those works that elicit wide ranges of responses, all of them extreme. You either love it or hate it. I certainly fall into the former category. I simply couldn't put it down.
This has everything, exciting plot (and subplot), good solid characterizations of Kirk and Spock, fascinating premise of power corrupting the soul, interesting side characters, damn fine writing and hot sex.
Overall, Command Decision reminded me of Shoaun. It has a similar epic feel to it along with intrigue of a political and a personal nature. The flavor of the story was very much like Shogun, as well. For what made that story of a marooned stranger in a strange land who has to learn to adapt or die so compelling, also makes CD come alive off of the pages.
Slowly and quite subtlety, we are introduced to an alien society which is led by an emperor, identified as a "Ciapha" whose name is Alitar and ruled by a number of "overlords". The society and culture is a fascinating mix of medieval feudalism with contemporary ideas and a little modern technology thrown in. But the most important aspect of the sociological structure is the Master/Slave scenario of which Kirk and Spock become immersed in.
This is the heart of the story. It is the exploration of the deep struggle and terrible conflicts that both must go through in order to survive. This is one of the classic forms of literature and mythology- the hero (or heroes, in this case) must embark on a journey, enduring many obstacles, discover what needs to be learned until he is able to prevail. In prevailing, he faces himself and emerges into the light, successful from the knowledge he has gained.
Both Kirk and Spock go on this inner journey, each in his own way, until they understand the nature of their love and the forces that are at work to either drive them apart or bring them together.
I don't mean to imply, however, that this was some sort of definitive study of dominance and submission. What it is, is a powerful story of Kirk and Spock, themselves, faced with the dilemma of their positions in the society.
The pervasive sexuality is portrayed beautifully. The slaves are required to wear a contraption (one that I spent a lot of time trying in vain to visualize, but it was fun trying) that keeps them in a constant state of arousal. Well, it sure worked for me.
It was also about the sexual excitement coupled with Spock's innate Vulcan repugnance of all things overtly sexual. Add to that the growing feelings between him and Kirk, the encroachment of pon farr and the terrible realization of what is happening to the man he loves and this is a powerful story, indeed.
Here is an excerpt from a point in the story where Spock has reached the pinnacle of his degradation and watches helplessly as he believes Kirk is lost to him. "Spock searched the tempest comprising Kirk's being; he searched for a thread of the captain that Kirk used to be; he searched for a shred of humanity, compassion, a single spark of their friendship. A tiny flicker of light temporarily lit the shadows of Kirk's mind, then vanished. With an aching grasp, Spock reached for the light; he drew nearer; it glimmered. His final surge of energy plunged him deep within the human's thoughts, as he struggled to touch the human's soul." Even though this is just a small part of a lengthy and detailed story, it is by no means overwritten. It was never repetitive or boring. It is a real page-turner without sacrificing depth.
There's also plenty of beautifully written passages, such as: "Somewhere inside, Spock understood that the flesh could not be possessed without the spirit; like the rose, it could not survive for long plucked from its stem. If he refused to share his own soul, their union would be as transient as the image he'd created; a vaporous apparition dissipated by a single, unthinking touch."
And this: "Spock threaded the path of his arousal and found its origination where he feared it the most, deep within his own mind. The last grains of sand had sifted, unnoticed, to the bottom of the hourglass; he was out of time."
There is one aspect of this novel that I have mixed feelings about. At least three-quarters of it was written by a man, then after his untimely death, by a woman. The straightforward approach of sexuality was on one hand refreshing, but on the other it was slightly under-emotional. I got the feeling that as a male, the author just couldn't completely get in touch with the full emotional range and depth that we look for in K/S. At first I thought I was projecting; perhaps seeing this lack in view of what I knew of the author's gender. But then, in the last part of the novel, there is a distinct difference. Everything takes on a softer, more intimate tone. The sex becomes more emotional and, interestingly, there are many more descriptions of their eyes and how they look at each other. But, this really did not distract one bit from the whole work. The style of writing remained the same, albeit softer.
Besides, the main aspect of the "male" writing that I enjoyed was the complete lack of angst about homosexual sex. I don't believe even one mention was made about it. Even better was the sex itself, which was totally generic, allowing the sex to be a mirror for the reader's imagination.I believe the "policy" for copying zines that are out of print and no longer available from the publisher is that it's fair game. But, if you haven't yet read Command Decision and you can find it, get it. It is truly a superior work and one that I would love to discuss.
This is a really good slave story with an interesting plot and good characters, set in a fascinating society. However, I think that potential readers need to be warned that the man with the green skin and pointed ears is not Spock of Vulcan. While this character is very well drawn and has interesting problems to deal with, his intermittent weeping, gasping, and moaning without much provocation make it obvious that we are not dealing with a Vulcan here. His lack of any inner resources to deal with trying and difficult circumstances makes him, at least in my opinion, not Spock. Of course, this is the problem with K/S stave stories for me. In order for them to work, the slave has to at some point willingly submit. Since I see them both as characters who would die rather than let themselves be enslaved, whoever is the slave usually seems out of character to me. If the author works really hard at justifying the change, I can usually go with it, but here the justification is late and sporadic, an after thought. But if you just decide this guy named Spock is someone else, this story really works on a lot of levels.
It takes guts to get through the first and even the second reading of Command Decision, which is largely a novel about Spock's enslavement on a hostile planet So effective is this author's writing ability and so intense the material that there are chapters of this zine that are absolutely chilling. The author starts with this premise: Jim Kirk has a dark side to his command image like the episode we saw in which he was split in two. Given the right set of circumstances, this baser part of his personality will surface and become dominant. It other words, hell become one mean bastard which is exactly what happens.... I am not going Into the chapters where SpocK is transformed from a free man and a Starfleet officer to Kirk's sex slave. They are horrific! The type of story where Spock is debased and made submissive has been done before. What distinguishes Command Decision is that Kirk all too quickly becomes part of the problem and becomes tormentor rather than savior. I have never read a K/S novel where I reached the point where I wished for only bad things to happen to Jim Kirk. But it happened here. Kirk is portrayed effectively as we have rarely seen him. He is mean, weak, self-centered, gullible and so easily manipulated. The hero role falls to McCoy, who for the most part is left alone to practice medicine as there are so few doctors on Korivar It is he who holds Spock's fragile psyche together, is loving and supportive, and does what he can to try and steer an obstinate and often times drugged Jim Kirk back to a moral path. The author does a good job of addressing most of the issues that the reader has to accept to make this story credible. But there are some that are either completely overlooked or glossed over. For instance. Kirk assumes the role of "Master James* almost overnight. It's as if he never had an hour of command training of what to do in a hostile hostage situation. Not once, not even early on before Alitar starts using mind altering drugs on him does Jim plan any avenue of escape. He the great tactical genius. Then he and Spock start sharing a house and a bed where they have lots of privacy. Not once does the subject of escape or their options, however limited, enter the conversation. Along these same lines, Spock acts strangely too. While he resists as long as he can, when things get really bad between him and Kirk, never does he appeal to Jim's reason. 1 kept waiting for him to confront Jim with something like "you say you love me and you treat me like this?" Or "Vulcan will put a price on your miserable head once we get out of here.* He never even gives him a good neck pinch. On Korivar where slaves labor in the fields cutting wheat and people get around on horseback, it's hard to believe that Starfleet's finest couldn't come up with a teeny plan to make an escape and outwit the enemy. But back to the story. There is page after page of the most awful things being done to Spock. I wondered what this woman write did in real life to come up with such horrors. And you know as you're going along that all this is leading up to one BIG awful thing being done to Spock. Kirk becomes totally immersed in the role of master and just when you think the situation couldn't deteriorate any more there is the most brutal rape scene ... ever! This is a rape (of Spock by Kirk) at a banquet and it is so explicit and so detailed that it left me unsettled and uncomfortable for the rest of the night. But this rape is finally Kirk's wake up call and finally spurs him into action and acting human again. The last third of this zine has more crammed into it than an afternoon of CBS soaps. There's almost too much going on. Escape, when it comes, is so easy you wonder why it wasn't done months ago. Even McCoy literally just rides away. The relationship between the two men in the aftermath is confusing and changes from page to page, scene to scene. Kirk vows to never touch Spock sexually again, but does. Spock alternately loves Jim and hates him, A partial bond is formed, and the old stand-by, Spock goes into pon farr. Kirk, who obsesses about Spock sexually and can't control himself at almost every turn, now outright rejects Spock, Oh my, there's even more than this. Suffice it to say, there is a happy ending. All parties return to the Enterprise and Kirk and Spock finally reach a peace within themselves and with each other. Ail in all this is not too bad a zine, but the read does have to be prepared for the brutality.
Command Decision was quite well written, and a pleasure to read. I like both Kirk and Spock in this story, and McCoy of course. I can't say the same thing to Chekov, but he really doesn't have much to do with the whole plot, so that doesn't matter. For Spock, I always like him no matter what situation he is in or rather what kind of story he is in. But for Kirk, I surprised even myself that I liked him in this story. I don't quite buy the drug explanation however, for as McCoy explained to Spock, the drug can't force anyone to do things he absolutely don't want to do. But I think I understand him, he is, in fact, a born commander, and I can accept his desire to dominate, especially adding the drug's effect and Spock's aloofness back on Enterprise. Therefore I was really surprised that he woke up from the drugged state so suddenly. I'd rather believe a difficult recovery with other's help, say McCoy's or Spock's. I think Kirk's desire to enslave (or more properly, dominate/own/love) Spock is real, no matter on this planet or in federation, with drug or without. He might regret his behavior as Master James, but given the same circumstances again, I don't think he can do things differently, actually hardly anyone can, so that doesn't make me not like him. If there is something I don't like in this story, it's gotta be Spock's easy acceptance of his status as a slave and his later easy forgiveness toward Kirk's rape of him. I can hardly believe sexual stimulation and humiliation alone is able to break him so thoroughly. I'd rather believe he’d submit because it's the only logical thing to do at that time, not because he was broken. I don't like the naive and futile resistance he showed to Alitar, he really should have known better as intelligent as he is. On the other hand, if he was broken like that, how could he trust Kirk again so quickly? It’s beyond my understanding. Oh, as gently and noble as Spock is, I am willing to accept that he forgave Kirk easily, but how can he trust him sexually (and even professionally) while he does know that Kirk is able to hurt him so thoroughly given the chance? I am not saying that Kirk doesn't love him or he doesn't love Kirk, but I think trust is something even harder to cultivate and easier to destroy than love, particularly when one involved is as unsure and vulnerable in his feelings as Spock is.
This zine is by Cassandra Smythe, but I've often heard that she had a co-author who was killed before the zine was finished. If so, finishing it at all must have been a real bummer.
The biggest complaint many folks have about this one is that both boys are out of character. They are, to a degree, but the author gives at least possible explanations for both men -- for me they work well enough, for others, not so well. Your mileage may vary, nu?...
[much, much plot description snipped]
.... I don't want to tell the whole zine here, just enough to show what I'm on about. Suffice it to say that Jim is eventually drugged/manipulated into some truly swinish behaviour toward Spock, behaviour he comes to regret more than he's ever regretted anything in his life. He no longer touches Spock's body, nor will he accept any physical overtures from the man he has wronged so much. He and McCoy come up with a way to get them out of Alitar's clutches, and Spock has begun building a subspace transmitter which is kept in McCoy's clinic. Once they realize Jim truly regrets and means to make things right, they let him in on it and he helps score components to finish it. They go through quite a bit more after that -- they all flee to the rebel-held area where Kirk makes a deal with that ruler (Alitar's brother, an interesting touch) -- we set up our radio here and call for help, once help arrives we leave you the radio and a trade agreement that doesn't depend on Alitar's good will. That guy goes for it and they set up in the rebel provinces. But Spock is getting more scared not less, as his time approaches and neither he nor Jim can look one another in the eye, much less speak openly of what they need to. I'll tell ye this -- they do get rescued in the end, and there's a couple of truly awesome sex scenes where Jim insists Spock be on top now, and it ends happily enough, though both will be troubled for some time to come, and understand/accept it. Jim does make things right with Spock, and is truly repentant and regretful, but again, this will be the bits that either work for you or don't. I re-read it about once a year, flaws and all, because it truly kicks angsty arse. But there ya have it, warnings for them as want 'em...If you get off on dom/sub or other kinky things, or just love a really good angst-feast, give this one a read. If it makes yer blood boil just to think about, well, go read something fluffy and be happy, it's all good to me.
- Gilda F
- Datazine #32
- Universal Translator #26
- a personal statement in Universal Translator #23
- a 2008 flyer selling used zines
- Universal Translator #32 (1986)
- On the Double #1 (1986)
- Communications Console #3 (1987)
- The LOC Connection #46 (1992)
- The LOC Connection #47 (1992)
- Come Together #10 (1994)
- Come Together #18 (1995)
- Come Together #19 (1995)
- Come Together #15 (1995)
- Come Together #17 (1995)
- The K/S Press #22 (1998)
- The K/S Press #28 (1998)
- The K/S Press #164 (2010)