Freedom is Standing in the Light

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Star Trek Fanfiction
Title: Freedom is Standing in the Light
Author(s): Syn Ferguson
Date(s): 1980
Length:
Genre: gen
Fandom: Star Trek: The Original Series
External Links: Freedom Is Standing in the Light (online at the author's website)
as it was first posted online as part of Foresmutters Project, May 10,1999

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Freedom is Standing in the Light is a 1980 gen Star Trek: TOS story written by Syn Ferguson and illustrated by Gayle F.

It was reprinted in the zine Sun & Shadow (1980), Straight Trek (1982), and KiScon (2015).

The story was also published, with permission, in 1999 on Usenet and later was posted online as part of the Foresmutters Project.

This story is recognized by many fans as "the best piece of fan fiction ever published."[1] A review in Universal Translator (1981) called it "gut-wrenching ...heartbreaking ... [and] unforgettable ....The lyric quality meshes with the legend-like aura of the tale."

Summary

"An interdicted planet, primitive and savage, and Spock's search for a missing Kirk."

Gallery

Fan Reaction to the Header and the Foresmutters Project: 1999

"Freedom is Standing in the Light" was the first story posted online by Foresmutters Project.

After this story was posted, fans discussed many subjects, including warnings, BNFs, the value and "burden" of history, how to preserve stories, fannish organization, antagonism towards print zines [2], and the value and use of feedback. The comments include an early use of the term squick.

Some of those comments, included below, were made during a six day time period in May 1999 to alt.startrek.creative. [3] You can read them here.

"Freedom is Standing in the Light" was posted included the "header," which was apparently something that a number of fans felt very strongly about:
Title: Freedom Is Standing in the Light
Author: name withheld by author's request
Series: TOS
Part: 1/3
Rating: PG
Codes: NR (not revealed); character death; hankie alert
Summary: The mysterious city-dweller on a remote world has devoted his life and wealth to hearing travellers' tales. He rescues a young outlaw from the hills, and his quest comes to an end.

Introduction:

"Freedom is Standing in the Light" was first published in 1980 in SUN AND SHADOW, a zine dedicated to the "hurt/comfort" theme in the Kirk/Spock relationship, a theme that was very popular among "relationship" fans in the pre-slash era. Reaction to the story was overwhelmingly positive. Many many fans claimed that it was the best piece of fan fiction ever published. A review in UNIVERSAL TRANSLATOR 9 (1981) called it "gut-wrenching ...heartbreaking ... [and] unforgettable .... The lyric quality meshes with the legend-like aura of the tale."

"Freedom" is appearing online with the explicit approval of the author, who wishes to remain anonymous. Ze has stated: "I don't want e-mail. Fans have praised me generously in the past; I hope they will give their feedback to new writers who really want and need it." Comments about the story should be posted to the newsgroup. The poster asks long-time fans who recognize the story not to mention the author's name in public fora, to protect hir privacy as much as possible. </ref>

Reactions and Reviews: The Story Itself

1981

A little different is 'Freedom is Standing in the Light.' Ferguson is not a linear writer; her prose is more suggestive than expository, and thus closer to poetry and dreams. This style fits very well the legend-like tone of 'Freedom.' Nowhere is it said that the clanless young man is Kirk's son, and only at the end that the city watch is Spock, but the wealth of symbolic pointers -- the dark and light trees, the abstract solar system design on the knife -- make for that inevitability.... Gayle F's illos are integral to the story, more so that any other illos in this zine are to their stories. [4]
[This story] is heart-breaking, and is especially enhanced by the author's unique blending of stylistic and plot. The lyric quality meshes with the legend-like aura of the tale (this is a gift which her editor allows her, without succumbing to the temptation to change phraseology and make it more compatible with the "norm"). [5]

1997

There are two Syn Ferguson stories in this zine, and I found the other one (Valley of the Shadows) much more to my liking. This story is gorgeously written, of course. Vivid and atmospheric detail of people and place, integrated beautifully in the slow, moody unfolding of the tale. It's undoubtedly rich in metaphor and has an elegant thematic structure and all that, too. Anyway, the mysterious man with the pointed ears, alone in his garden in a back alley in a village...he collects tales from the hillmen, is known to pay well for these tales. He is looking to hear about a certain man, a fair-haired outlaw, he has been searching for 30 years. (This is not A/U; this is Kirk and Spock stranded all these years on this planet across the galaxy.) Enter a fair-haired youth.... Oh, I don't know if I should tell, but I have to. Like I just cannot love a story where we see Spock searching from the depths of his aching heart for 30 years, only to find out the one he has been searching for is dead...and the end of the story intimating that he might kill himself now. I guess so. And guess what the fair-haired outlaw's son's name is. I was totally choked up. I do understand why people like not-happy-ending K/S, but my happy-ending brain-circuits couldn't stop thinking of how this story could have been different. Not that I question Syn's writing exactly this story, but just for fun let's say instead that Kirk is still living, and his son can take Spock to him. It would still be tragic, those 30 years separated, but not with this finality.... Or, how about Spock with Kirk's son.... [6]
I think everyone who has read “Freedom is Standing in the Light” will agree that it qualifies as K/S of the “unhappy ending” variety: K & S do not end up together despite thirty years of searching for one another after they are have been stranded and separated on a world with fairly primitive technology and no modern means of conducting the search. The tragedy here is obvious, and the story can certainly be read as a hopeless and depressing account of the blind cruelty of a random and uncaring universe. Granted, there is a sort of delicious sadness in that interpretation for those who enjoy that sort of thing. But I think this story can also be read as a triumph of hope and love and life. Let’s start with the fact that they did keep looking. Even for a Vulcan, thirty years is a significant fraction of a lifetime, and both Kirk and Spock had to know, all along, that there was a chance the search would not be successful: it is that very possibility which makes their efforts so heroic. Now, it is true that Kirk’s death seems to cut the search tragically short. But does it really? Imagine Kirk breathing his final breath. Sure, he was probably thinking “I will never see Spock again.” But he was probably also thinking “...but at least my son is alive, and he is carrying the talisman I made for him, and if Spock ever sees that, he will know that I never gave up on him.” After all, because of the Prime Directive, Kirk has kept from his son the full meaning of the strange design carved on the talisman. But for Spock, a diagram of Terra’s solar system carved into a bit of bone might as well be a picture of Jim Kirk. As Kirk dies, he is not bereft of hope—he knows that there is, still, a chance that his search will bear fruit.

And what is Spock’s reward for thirty years of love and loyalty? Well, just as there were no guarantees that Kirk and Spock would ever meet again, so there were no guarantees that Spock would ever see the talisman or meet Kirk’s son. But he does. It’s also important to note that, despite the time and effort spent on the search, neither Kirk nor Spock appears to have wasted his life. Kirk evidently had some sort of lasting relationship with his son and his son’s mother and continued to take part in the sort of adventures which were his lifeblood. It’s true that in some ways Spock’s life has not been as full, but he seems to have carved out a niche for himself and we are told that many hillsmen would have suffered if it had not been for the free water offered by Spock. I also got the impression from the description of Spock’s expertise in dressing the boy’s wound with primitive medical supplies that it was probably not the first time he had performed such a service for another.

But I think the most hopeful, the “happiest” note of all, is to be found in Kirk’s son. The boy is the biological son of Kirk and a native woman. But symbolically—even spiritually—he is also Spock’s son. Why? Well, for one thing, Kirk has given the boy Spock’s name; with that single action, he has proclaimed that he never forgot Spock and he has also given Spock some measure of immortality. Furthermore, one might suppose that in raising his son, Jim Kirk would pass on not only his own ideals, but some of Spock’s as well. And then there is Spock’s personal contribution to the making of young Spock. By sheltering the boy and dressing his wound, Spock probably saved the boy’s life: from that point on, the boy owes his physical existence not just to his biological parents, but to Spock as well. But most importantly, Spock teaches the boy the true meaning of friendship, and, in the process, allows the boy to see and appreciate his biological father in a new light. When Kirk died without ever having found his lost friend, the boy decided that his father was either a liar or a fool and that the only reason to help someone else is because you expect help from them in return at some future date. But Spock changes that, transforming the boy’s cynical outlook and healing not only the boy’s leg, but also his mental scars. The boy is not really a whole person—he is not “standing in the light”—until after he has interacted with Spock, his second father. After this transformation has occurred, Spock resists any temptation to keep the boy with him; in that respect, his actions mirror those of a wise parent acknowledging that a child is ready to leave the nest. It is almost as if Kirk says to Spock “Here is my son; take care of him for me,” and Spock comes through. As [Kathy S] mentioned in her review (January, 1997 issue of The K/S Press), at the end of the story there are intimations that Spock might kill himself, now that he knows he will never see Kirk again. But it seems to me that if the author had wanted us to be certain that Spock committed suicide, she could have shown it happening. As I see it, there is still cause to hope that he will rethink his plan. But, no matter what happens to Spock, young Spock is alive and whole in body and spirit, and he is striking out on his own, fully equipped with all of the gifts which Kirk and Spock have given him.

So, while this story can be appreciated as engaging tragedy, it as also an account of two people who never stopped loving one another, never stopped trying to reach one another, and who found a way to transcend the limits of time and space, communicating across the gulf between life and death, and uniting the best aspects of their personalities in the person of young Spock. [7]

1999

I feel a bit strange doing this, giving feedback when it really isn't wanted.

This is a wonderful story. It began slow, or maybe I was just slow on the uptake. But it is flowingly written, with a deeper meaning hidden just under the surface of the words. The kind of story you read by the light of a single lamp, sitting on a table next to your chair that has been placed near the window. There's background music of rustling leaves in the soft breeze which glides in through the screen. I heard and felt all these things as I read the story. A story of stories, and a man who collected them.

It's worth the read if you get the chance. Not a typical K/S by any means, it speaks more of their friendship than anything. Angst, yes, but I didn't break into tears. A feeling of nostalgia, of things long since past, but worth remembering. [8]
Yes, it reminded me very much of some of the Legends stories. As you say, it has a feeling of distance or nostalgia.

I particularly liked that it's PG -- it's too easy to forget that some of the best, most emotional fanfic is unovert.

"Freedom" was originally published in a hurt/comfort zine -- which I can't really read straight through or my brain will turn to jelly. Some h/c was (and is) rather silly: "let's see how we can hurt one guy so the other one has to show he cares". But some of it can be extremely . . . emotionally authentic, perhaps.

One thing I wonder about this story is how necessary the Trek is to its impact. I suspect that unless the characters are people

who have an existence outside the story, it will not have all that much oomph. And the author couldn't have been so effectively elliptical. For me, if I have to fill in some of the blanks in a story it often becomes more vivid than if the writer spells everything out -- because I'm putting in pieces that come from inside me, not just taking what ze writes. [9]

2006

This story is an all-time classic. It was originally published in the print fanzine "Sun and Shadow" in 1980. This story has the power and elegance of a long-told legend. An unnamed Watcher - a wealthy, eccentric, clanless man - has spent many fruitless years asking strangers to tell their tales; always searching but never finding what he seeks. One night, he rescues a fugitive, and as the price of his aid, asks the young man to tell him his story. And as details of the man's past emerges, the reader begins to understand.... [10]

2010

What deep, deep yearning and yawning emptiness, a thin thread of hope and final sadness, with only that one brief ray of joy. [11]
I have always loved this story, from the first time I ever read it and I still love it today. So spare and lean, not an excess word to be found. But every little bit is just exquisitely perfect -- the watcher, the wild boy from the hills, the shadow of the tree against the wall -- and the last, heartbreaking paragraph. Wow.

"it was one of his clan-words, sir. My name is Spock."

Fuck me sideways and put me away for dead. I wish I'd written this, OMFG do I ever wish I'd written this. Fucking amazing. [12]
A gem of a story, brilliant and powerful, and one of my all-time favourites not just in K/S, but in fandom altogether. Thank you so much for sharing your work on the archive! [13]
how very well-written! I liked how you you kept the identities of the main characters in the dark, and your imagery was very well done. I was really able to let myself get absorbed into this story, and though sad, i thourouly enjoyed reading it. [14]
Sad but beautiful. My tear brim on my eyes. [15]
I'm so glad to see this story again! It is so beautiful--beautifully written and poignant as hell. And it still makes me cry. [16]

2011

Amazing. Devastating. There are no words. [17]
This never gets any less beautiful. I'm so glad it's archived, so new readers can find it! [18]
I love this story. I think that of all the things I've read, in all the various fandoms I've enjoyed, that this is the best of them all. Such spare, elegant, powerful work. Thank you so much for letting it be archived here. [19]
I've been looking over the stories on this site for a few days, deciding whether or not to register when I saw the title of this story as the featured story. I had to register then so I could send this review. I own a paper copy of this story that I bought over 20 years ago in a thick staple bound k/s fanzine. I no longer remember the title of the zine, but I remembered the title of your story. I've got very mixed feelings about this story. On the one hand it is so well written and illustrates such beautiful feelings of friendship and loyalty, that the details of the story have been recalled to my mind many times over the years, but I've never liked sad stories and this one made me feel such terrible feelings of longing, hopelessness, and despair over wasted years and lives, which just goes to show how well it was written. Regardless, it is a beautiful story and more than 20 years later, I'm glad to be able to say finally say so. Thank you for writing and publishing this piece that has haunted me almost my whole adult life. [20]

2012

Took me a minute to figure out the Spock bit at the end - it was unexpected, but I loved it. Anyways, heart-wrenchingly beautiful piece. [21]

2013

O dear, this so sad! Masterly written, poetic, enchanting, simply beautiful, but heart wrenching. [22]
Can't tell you how many times I've read this story over the years, and it's still beautiful. Essence of tragedy. I've been reading Trek fiction since the 60's, and this is one of the best. [23]
I didn't understand the story in those first months devouring K/S but returning to it older and wiser I marvel at the way it is constructed. There are stories you read for fun and then there are Fics such as this about the real craft of writing. [24]

References

  1. The story as posted as part of the Foresmutters Project. Introduction to Freedom Is Standing in the Light (accessed 17 Jan 2010)
  2. Relagating print zines to "history" and of no interest was a fairly new opinion; it had only been a few years since print zines hadn't been the main source of fanworks. It illustrates how quickly fannish opinion can change, as well as the divide between many fans over technology and what it could provide.
  3. alt.startrek.creative; WebCite
  4. from Warped Space #46 (1981)
  5. from Universal Translator #9 (1981)
  6. from The K/S Press #5 (1997)
  7. from Mary S in The K/S Press #8 (1997)
  8. alt.startrek.creative.erotica.moderated, 1999
  9. Mary Ellen Curtin alt.startrek.creative.erotica.moderated, 1999
  10. from The K/S Press #119 (2006)
  11. oyboh at Kirk/Spock Fanfiction Archive (2010)
  12. Greywolf the Wanderer at Kirk/Spock Fanfiction Archive (2010)
  13. Mary Crawford at Kirk/Spock Fanfiction Archive (2010)
  14. Barn Bunny at Kirk/Spock Fanfiction Archive (2010)
  15. wanderer at Kirk/Spock Fanfiction Archive (2010)
  16. Ivy at Kirk/Spock Fanfiction Archive (2010)
  17. Scarlettnoon7 at Kirk/Spock Fanfiction Archive (2011)
  18. jat sapphire at Kirk/Spock Fanfiction Archive (2011)
  19. amitywho at Kirk/Spock Fanfiction Archive (2011)
  20. Jade Dazy at Kirk/Spock Fanfiction Archive (2011)
  21. sierra scarlet at Kirk/Spock Fanfiction Archive (2012)
  22. angelocustode at Kirk/Spock Fanfiction Archive (2013)
  23. old timer at Kirk/Spock Fanfiction Archive (2013)
  24. SORAL179 at Kirk/Spock Fanfiction Archive (2013)