History of K/S Fandom

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Fandom: Kirk/Spock
Dates: 1970s - present
See also: Star Trek: The Original Series

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See Timeline of K/S Fandom for a chronological list of fannish events.

The Beginnings of K/S (Kirk/Spock)

The premise that Kirk and Spock could become intimate actually came from ideas offered to Gene Roddenberry by acclaimed science fiction author Isaac Asimov, a fan of the show. Captain Kirk was supposed to be the star of the series and the main focus of viewer attention, but viewer response to Mr. Spock was much greater. Roddenberry asked for ideas on how to confirm Kirk as the central character. Asimov wrote a letter [1] suggesting that Kirk and Spock be portrayed as becoming close friends and confidantes, saving each other's lives, and in other ways functioning as a two-part team. This would lead viewers to associate the two, and to think well of Kirk because Spock did. This idea was implemented, and can be seen in many episodes.[note 1] What was meant to be a devoted friendship may have been picked up on by fans as leading to sexual intimacy.

Gene Roddenberry explained it this way. When he created the bridge crew, he created the Kirk-Spock-McCoy triumvirate from fragments of his own mind. He could identify with each character, they were components of his own creative view of the world. So when Trekkers studied the TV series, they saw Kirk and Spock as a unit. As one entity, as needing to “get together,” as two poles of a magnet, because GR created them to be two halves of a whole.... Human nature being what it is, sexuality is the expression of that "get together" and "irresistible attraction." The soul mate hypothesis runs deep in romance literature. Many of the women drawn to Star Trek fandom, who wrote fanfic, were not science-fiction readers or fans nearly as much as they were romance readers and fans. The other factions of Star Trek's female fandom were scientists, often working in science labs. Many others were librarians and teachers whose education and professions include sociology as a science. Given that Kirk and Spock belong together -- well, then..." maybe... uh, no, but..." -- one fan wrote a story where that hypothesis was brought to the fore, played with, and suggested. That story circulated on carbon copies, then got printed -- today we’d say it "went viral" -- and all of a sudden people everywhere were arguing the hypothesis by writing stories. Simultaneously, the gay community was in the process of coming out of the closet, so while many Trek stories were fem-lib based, others were gay-lib based. My thesis is that popular fiction follows and reflects social trends but does not cause them. Popular fiction can and does help people who are not part of a particular social trend to understand the people who are part of that social trend. - Jacqueline Lichtenberg, quoted in Edward Gross & Mark Altman's The Fifty-Year Mission Volume 1 (St. Martin's Press 2017).

Fannish tradition holds that the word "slash" originated with Star Trek fan-written stories where the relationship between Kirk and Spock seemed to have sexual implications (see also Slash goggles), whether or not they were depicted as acting on it. While it is possible that fans wrote and shared homosexual stories about Holmes and Watson[2], Ilya and Napoleon[3], James and Artemus, or Buz and Tod, it was Star Trek: The Original Series that popularized the slash subgenre.

The Kirk/Spock relationship was one of intense interest to fans and certainly a topic of discussion in their conversations in letters, phone calls, and in person. These discussions would have certainly turned to just what this relationship entailed.

The conversations, in turn, became stories.

These small, but thriving circuit of stories were being written in both the US and the UK in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The "Story Trees" were basically private letters between fans talking about Star Trek where Fan A would mention that Fan B was offering stories - a few of them K/S - which could be obtained by sending Fan B a few dollars. [4] One example of these stories were by the writers' group Spock Underground which circulated round robin stories in the late sixties. The group itself was a chapter of the LNNAF and therefore had visibility. Like the use of "underground" in its name, there were several levels of stories; some were mainstream and for public consumption, and others remained VERY underground. One fan wrote: "We would circulate (via snail mail!) hard-copy K/S stories (& other Vulcan fantasies…) to each other for private reading and critiques because at that time none of the Trek fanzines would touch sexual stories." [5]

These story copies had to be hand typed (as this pre-dated photocopy machines) and then reproduced via blurry mimeographs or faint carbon copies. There were no editors, just a few fans acting as a conduit by collecting, copying and mailing stories. The Ring of Soshern may have been one of these circuit stories.

"...[The Ring of Soshern] and Audrey B.'s stories were the first circulated K/S. You had to know someone on the circuit to have access to the stories, and we were pretty careful about making sure they didn't fall into unsuitable hands. The same system developed in the Professionals circuit."[6]

Some examples of these stories were The Ring of Soshern, written by Jennifer Guttridge in 1967 or 1968, and Green Plague. Both were published to wider distribution years after they were written.

One of the fan conversations was Continuity Theory by Mary Manchester, which circulated in 1974. It may have been what propelled the earliest K/S fiction to appear in zines.

The first K/S story to appear in a zine (and therefore to somewhat wider distribution) was "A Fragment Out of Time" by Diane Marchant, published in Grup 3 (the first 'adult' Star Trek zine) in 1974. It was written so obliquely that it wasn't clear to many readers that the two people having sex were both men, much less Kirk and Spock. (Though in an essay called "Pandora's Box…Again," in the next issue, the author 'outed' the story and defended the idea of K/S.)[7]

A year later, in 1975, Gerry Downes published Alternative: The Epilog to Orion. An anonymous review said:

Alternative: The Epilog to Orion isn't really fully-realized K/S. It's a tiny thing, less than 100 pages long. Although there are some sketchy line drawings in the last part of the zine depicting homosexual acts, the zine itself is about half gen, and the "slash" part is actually a fuzzy fantasy, mostly told in verse, that occurs during a mind meld. And, at the end of the zine, Kirk and Spock reject a sexual relationship between them.

A Highly Debatable Issue

See also: Slash Controversies

In the November 1975 issue of Warped Space, there was a story that got people talking. A fan writes to the letterzine The Halkan Council #20/21:

Regarding the oblique debate that has been floating around among some of us since Warped Space printed "To Need a Friend" -- let's get the silly thing out in the open. I sincerely doubt if there is or could be a sexual realtionship between any of the Kirk/Spock/McCoy trilogy. Considering McCoy's old-fashioned gentlemen's morals, Kirk's compulsive pursuit of women, AND Spock's disinclination for physical relationships, it seem rather unlikely to me. The only of the three I could possibly imagine in that sort of relationship would be Kirk -- and only if his vigorous interest in the opposite sex was a cover-up (even to himself) of interest in other men. But in either case, I doubt if it would be Spock.

In October 1976, "Shelter" by Leslie Fish came out in Warped Space 20. Shelter was the first true first time slash story in fandom. (It was also the first cave story -- a genre that has receded in importance now, but was once very popular: if nothing else works, strand them on a planet with a nearby cozy cave, and everything will work out fine.) Fish also wrote a sequel, "Poses", originally published in the first issue of the Obsc'zines. Both stories circulated widely and were the source of intense discussion in the debate over slash in fandom and whether or not explicit gay (or straight, for that matter) stories were acceptable in ST fandom.

These debates boiled over at 1977's SeKWester*Con 'Too', which included a couple of high-powered panels on "The Kirk/Spock Relationship" and "Porno and Sex in Star Trek Fiction", with highly emotional debate. It had been difficult to find fan authors opposed to slash or porn who were willing to serve on the "anti" side of these panels, and numerous pieces of X-rated art were displayed in the same area with non-X material. Additionally, a PA glitch resulted in the entire convention being treated to the voice of Connie Faddis reading an explicit sexual (non-slash) narrative. Some fans came away with the impression that the majority of ST fandom was now in favor of X-rated material. The now-familiar age statement and modern labeling practices ("gen", "het", etc.) were instituted as a result of this discussion.

Early Slash and TPTB

Mixed messages from TPTB abounded. In a February 1978 letter to the president of STAG, the main fan club in the UK, illustrates the tensions:

Some members have stated positively that they do not want to read any story in which either Kirk or Spock is stated to have homosexual leanings; or indeed any of the main characters, and on this subject Susan Sackett, assistant to Gene Roddenberry, stated in a letter to Janet dated February 27th - 'Gene and the executives at Paramount feel that this is harmful to the STAR TREK concept, since this was never the intention in creating the series.' [8]

Another comment from Susan Sackett; this one further blurs the line between "official" and "personal" and gives more mixed messages:

It is my understanding that there exist, somewhere in fandom, fanzines with subtly and even openly portray a homosexual relationship between Kirk and Spock. No one who has written one has ever had the courage to send one to Gene Roddenberry's office. What surprises me is that no one has ever mentioned why these two apparently straight-appearing characters should be the only ones on board in this kind of relationship. Why, who knows who we might have fraternizing aboard the Enterprise. How about Sulu and Chekov? They sit together and see a lot of each other, you know. Or how about Uhura and Chapel? WIth Spock in heat for anyone (hopefully Chapel) every seven years, and and with no black dudes in sight for Uhura, what's to stop them from digging each other? Bones and Scotty? That leaves Yeoman Rand. YeoMAN. Get it? Even she's not too sure of her straightness. At last we know why there's such good birth control on the Enterprise. We already had the Gay 90's. This decade will probably go down in history as the Gay 70's -- and it has done considerable good in helping to at last recognize gays and to work for their liberation. They just weren't created as gay characters. Why try to change them?... Good Star Trek Fan literature should be accurately be BASED ON STAR TREK. It's only logical. [9]

In a 1984 interview, the author of Thrust talks of the actors' knowledge of slash:

I soldThrust in plain brown envelopes — Gayle F.'s gorgeous and explicit cover made that necessary—and with stringent warnings and age requisites. Despite all my caution, a member of the anti-K/S faction sent a copy to Shatner’s office. Shatner had the grace to smile and keep his silence, but his business manager (now son-in-law) was unhappy about it and we had a small go-round. He thought it all over, and later called me to apologize. All in all, Roddenberry, Shatner, and Nimoy took the theme with more equanimity that some uninvolved fans I know…. [10]

David Gerrold, who is gay, has fought many rounds with K/S fans over a premise he finds insulting towards gays and way out of character for Capt. James Kirk and Cmdr. Spock. He has had several encounters with fans who aggressively pushed a K/S agenda. He does not consider them true fans, and urges those who love the show to spend their valuable energy on things like charities and volunteer work.

K/S in Autumn

Common Ground (2009), back cover by Lorraine Brevig
Common Ground (2009), front cover by Lorraine Brevig

Long term K/S fans didn't think of themselves as media fans, or Star Trek fans, or slash fans; they were K/S fans. When other fandoms (first Starsky & Hutch and Blake's 7 and Star Wars, then The Professionals and others) started to grow and recruit K/S fans, there was animosity towards those who left.

Still-active K/S fans -- as many old K/S fans moved onto newer fandoms, or left fandom all together -- tended to be K/S-only, or at least Trek-only, and thus, fell of out of mainstream of the increasingly Multimedia slash community. K/S (and gen Star Trek) held onto zines longer than most other fandoms; they still have snailmail-only letterzines when pretty much everyone else has gone to email, web-based newsletters or discussions on Livejournal, Tumblr or Dreamwidth.

On the other hand, Trek fans took to Usenet like few other fandoms, and for years, K/S was posted openly to alt.trek.creative. Befitting the fandom that had the first 'slash is evil" battles (see Slash Controversies), K/S was the first slash fandom to put up an all-ages slash archive [11]. There is more Trek and K/S history on the web than any of the other old fandoms, thanks to sources like Joan Verba's Boldly Writing and others. The strength and tenacity of Star Trek, and slash fans, should never be doubted. For the 30th Anniversary of K/S, Jenna Sinclair brought out the five-volume Legacy project, over a thousand pages of stories, articles, reprints of long-out-of-print lzs and art.[12]

From The K/S Press #48 in 2000:

K/S is alive and well in cyberspace as well as in zines! Welcome to the all-Net K/S zine [the Amazing Grace Special Edition Best of the 'Net K/S Sampler]. All of the stories in this zine were previously published on the Internet. The authors have given me permission to publish them for the first time in a zine.

K/S Online

  • In 1982 net.startrek [13] was created as one of the first 20 or so newsgroups. As part of the Great Usenet Renaming, it became rec.arts.startrek in 1986.
  • In 1990, alt.startrek.creative appeared. Soon after, alt.tv.star-trek.tos started, and almost from the start, the k/s-ers and gen fans pushed back and forth. One prominent k/s fan got tired of the same arguments being used against k/s over and over, and created the K/S Retort sometime after 1990.[14]
  • In 1996: Killa (as Killashandra) posted "Turning Point", the first attributed K/S story on the internet, to alt.startrek.creative.
  • In 1998, the Rude Person meme began on Alt.startrek.creative.erotica.moderated, which resulted in a group of K/S parody stories written in various styles and dialects.

K/S: Its Next Incarnation

See Kirk/Spock (AOS).

As a reboot of the original series, with a young Kirk and Spock, the 2009 film Star Trek brought in a new generation of K/S shippers.

Meta/Further Reading


  1. ^ Herbert F. Solow and Robert Justman, Inside Star Trek: The Real Story. Diane, 1999, p. 226. Asimov's other idea -- to make Kirk an intriguing solver of mysteries, going in disguise, etc., seems to have been passed on to Jean-Luc Picard.


  1. ^ which you can see at Letters of Note: Getting Star Trek on the Air
  2. ^ Rumors of fan-written Holmes/Watson stories existed decades before K/S.
  3. ^ Considerable evidence exists to support the claim that The Man From UNCLE pre-dated Star Trek as the first media fandom.
  4. ^ This is different from the "story tree" concept discussed by Joan Verba in her book Boldly Writing and by Camille Bacon-Smith in Enterprising Women. That involved many fans writing in a shared universe such as Kraith.
  5. ^ by Ana Library Elf at Fanfiction.com; archive link
  6. ^ Interview with Valerie Piacentini published in Legacy Vol #5. Also, Morgan Dawn's personal notes from discussions with K/S fans in the 1990s.
  7. ^ A Short History of Early K/S or How the First Slash Fandom Came to Be: "Short History of Kirk/Spock Slash CyberDreams". 2014-01-16. Archived from the original on 2022-03-31.
  8. ^ from STAG #30
  9. ^ from an issue of Interstat #12 (October 1978) [This letter is followed by the statement, "These comments reflect my personal opinion, not necessarily that of Gene Roddenberry or the studio."]
  10. ^ from an interview with Carol Frisbie from Not Tonight, Spock! #3
  11. ^ All-Ages Kirk/Spock Archive
  12. ^ LEGACY: Celebrating the 30th anniversary of Kirk/Spock fiction
  13. ^ net.startrek
  14. ^ K/S Retort