Demanding Fantasy

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See also: Alien Romance, Tailored Effect, The Spock Charisma Effect
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Demanding Fantasy is a genre which was created and actively promoted by Jacqueline Lichtenberg beginning in the mid-1970s. It first appeared in the book Star Trek Lives!, published in 1975.

Lichtenberg's "Demanding Fantasy" idea is described as "the trait that seems to unite Star Trek fans", although having it doesn't necessarily mean you are one. It is defined as:

a combination of the need for a demanding pleasure with the need to work out answers to certain fundamental human questions. Those questions -- "Whither man?" and "Why?" and "What's it all about?" and "What is the proper relationship of man to himself, to his group, to the universe?" are so complex that almost the only way to think about them is by building a model, a simplified model such as a physicist uses to try to figure out a physical problem. The model for human questions is the fictional character in the fictional situation.

The mechanism for constructing such a model is the human mind's fantasy mechanism, and it can be operated on the level of simple wish-fulfillment or rise to the level of Demanding Fantasy. Certain kinds of fiction evoke Demanding Fantasy, prompting people to construct more scenes, further elaborations, even opposing and contrasting models to try to work out unanswered questions.

Star Trek did. It seemed likely that Kraith was doing something of that.

If Demanding Fantasy deals with absolutely vital human questions, it is no wonder if people take it seriously and feel threatened if they run into a strongly stated world-view that clashes with their own. Small wonder if the criticism of Kraith has a life-or-death urgency.

It is both close to the world-view of Star Trek, which so many found so captivating, and yet different from it. The difference comes from premises which Jacqueline selected, some consciously, some unconsciously, some in total unawareness of how they clashed with her readers' conscious or unconscious premises.

The untangling of that clash was hazardous and "fascinating" -- and led to further questions. Can Demanding Fantasy be evoked in a reader or viewer deliberately? If so, how? Could the technique be learned, taught?

Can Demanding Fantasy not only be evoked but kept from raging out of control, as in the explosive response to Kraith? Is there a technique for that?[1]

Fandom Use

Despite robust attempts by Lichtenberg in interviews, LoCs, and zine reviews to make the term into a widely-accepted one in fandom, only Lichtenberg, Marshak and Culbreath appeared to use it, and it probably never appeared anywhere but in the pages of Star Trek Lives! and perhaps a few fanzines. Perhaps one reason it didn't gain a more robust following is that the author never clarified the distinction between Demanding Fantasy and science fiction, which traditionally serves the same purpose.

Also see Alien Romance, Tailored Effect, and The Spock Charisma Effect, other little-used terms coined by Lichtenberg.

Another fan-created genre that was heavily promoted by its creator, one which did take on wings of its own, is Paula Smith's term Mary Sue.


  1. Jacqueline Lichtenberg, Sondra Marshak and Myrna Culbreath, Star Trek Lives! (Bantam, 1975), p. 269.