Hovering

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K/S Fanfiction
Title: Hovering
Author(s): Patricia Laurie Stephens
Date(s): 1991
Length:
Genre: slash
Fandom: Star Trek: The Original Series
External Links:

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Hovering is a Kirk/Spock story by Patricia Laurie Stephens.

It was published in the print zine The 25th Year.

Series

Excerpt

"Kirk thought about dying, and although the hovering part told him he was enjoying the thought a little, he considered how everyone would then know and say how much he had loved Spock. He became sad at the thought of his own death, but it was an indulgent sadness that included imagining how sad the others would be; and although he was aware of it, this new kind of sadness overcame his sorrow for Spock. His eyes filled a little, but even the hovering part did not allow him to cry; so instead of washing away this new sorrow for himself and, with it, some of the sorrow for Spock, he nurtured them both. He planned how they would end together, and the planning was comforting…"

Reactions and Reviews: The Art

Of particular note for me is the Marilyn Cole illustration for 'Hovering'; it captures Kirk‘s state of mind beautifully. [1]

Reactions and Reviews: The Story

The editor writes in the foreword that this story made her cry. When I read that, my first thought was, "well, it won't get me." After all, the last story that made me cry was the play Cyrano de Bergerac — and that was at least 15 years ago. So I wasn't prepared for the powerful emotional impact of "Hovering." And like the editor, I succumbed. Now, I know some K/S readers don't care for "death" stories. They'd be advised to take an exception for this one. This is a brilliant piece of writing. Clearly, this story was written by someone who understands grief. She evokes the emotion profoundly and in beautiful language. It's a post Wrath of Khan story, so obviously, Spock is the one who's dead. Even though we know he'll be back, we can't escape the freshness of Kirk's grief, like a new wound; the half-shock he stumbles around in for a few days; the way he doesn't understand McCoy's and Uhura's well-meaning advice and offers of help. And the way Spock—in memory, in thought, in spirit--is always hovering near, as the newly dead seen to do to the bereaved, whether literally or figuratively. (And no, that's not the "hovering" of the title; the author uses that to illustrate Kirk's psychological state.)... Everything in the story contributes; nothing is out of place. The images and details are exact and poignant: the eternity flowers, the tasteless food, the rainstorm, the starfish, the dead gull. Kirk's dreams, so expressive of his inner state. And, most of all, the memories of Spock-- snorkeling with Kirk, throwing stranded starfishes back into the ocean, laughing naked in the rain—most of them beautifully framed in water images, There are no missteps here. And nothing, nothing breaks the mood. [2]
This story is moving, beautifully written, and a guaranteed tear-jerker. It's also one of the best examples of sheer technical mastery that I've seen in fan fiction.

The story takes place in the space of a few days following Spock's death in STII, The Enterprise crew is back in San Francisco. Kirk is in deep shock, almost paralyzed by the blow of Spock's death. The author captures vividly the sense of numbness and dissociation that occur in the aftermath of a profound loss. Part of Kirk is running on automatic, tending to trivial details, forgetting what has happened. Part of him is "hovering," replaying Spock's death, watching himself and McCoy and the other friends who try to comfort him as though from a distance. Almost instinctively, Kirk begins to toy with the idea of suicide as a way to avoid the pain he has barely begun to feel. The "hovering" part of him approves and stands by while, numbly, he plots his own death.

The author's success in conveying Kirk's dissociated, almost unearthly state of mind is achieved through impeccable control of what John Gardiner calls "psychic distance"--the distance between reader and character While psychic distance typically varies within a single story from removed to up-close, in this story the author maintains a constant distance throughout. On a scale of 1 to 5, I'd classify it as about a 3. As Gardiner noted, writing an entire story in a constant, relatively distant voice produces a rather eerie effect, and that is exactly the result in this story. It's an excellent way to convey Kirk's own sense of strangeness and unreality and his difficulty accepting that Spock is gone.

Maintaining a level, constant psychic distance also produces a kind of flat, even tone that suggests a lack of affect. We dont need to be told that Kirk is in such deep shock that he cannot yet feel grief; we hear, feel his numbness, deep within the story's "voice."

Another technique the author uses to convey a sense of deadened feeling is the repetition of small details of daily living. Kirk wakes, sleeps, bathes, dresses, eats in a kind of paralyzed fog, with tremendous effort, as though he were slogging through a forest underwater He's functioning on autonomic reflexes so much that he forgets what has happened. Here's an example:"When he came out of the bathroom, he felt weary and again his head hurl. The coffee maker had done its job and the kitchen smelled of the strong brew-pleasantly-and again Kirk forgot what he had remembered. He went to the cupboard and took out two mugs and put them on the counter. Then, when he looked at the mugs, he thought he might cry and almost did; but the hovering part held him back, and told him to be strong, and that he would look foolish crying, and he did not cry. He turned away."

As this example illustrates, the prose conveys the deadness and lifelessness of Kirks emotional state while being anything but dead and lifeless. A story that might have been dull and unemotional in the hands of a lesser author is, in feet, deeply moving.

In fan fiction, emotional impact is most often accomplished by shortening the psychic distance between character and reader, by bringing the reader up-close into a character's mind and emotions. Cut off from that avenue (because Kirk himself is in such shock he cannot even feel his own emotions), this story achieves equally powerful emotional effects by other means. It does this partly through the sheer vividness and concreteness of the prose, which shimmers with lifelike detail and realized images, and partly through the use of metaphor and association. A glass chiming against a plate in a dinner that McCoy practically forces Kirk to eat opens up "[a] clear circle of memory," in which Kirk sees Spock as they dined together at a restaurant by candlelight; a starfish lying on a beach makes Kirk imagine Spock, throwing starfish into the water; a dead gull, its body half-eaten away, becomes an emblem of Spock's death. The metaphors effectively open up the story and show us the joy Kirk and Spock knew together and the depth of Kirk's loss. I'm not suggesting that these techniques were the result of intellectual deliberation or even that the author consciously employed them. Creative genius is often instinctive. All I'm saying is that when I analyze this story, I can understand intellectually what I felt emotionally on my first reading of it, and begin to grasp that it succeeds because it is such a perfect marriage of theme and technique. [3]
The editor writes in the foreword that this story, made her cry. When I read that, my first thought was, "Well, it won't get me." After all, the last story that made me cry was the play Cyrano de Bergerac—and that was at least 20 years ago. So I wasnt prepared for the powerful emotional impact of "Hovering." And like the editor, I succumbed.

Now, I know some K/S readers don't care for "death" stories. They'd be advised to make an exception for this one. This is a brilliant piece of writing. Clearly, this story was written by someone who understands grief. She evokes the emotion profoundly and in beautiful language. It's a post Wrath of Khan story, so obviously, Spock is the one who's dead. Even though we know he'll be back, we cant escape the freshness of Kirk's grief, like a new wound; the half- shock he stumbles around in for a few days; the way he doesn't understand McCoy's and Uhura's well- meaning advice and offers of help. Spock—in memory, in thought, in spirit—is always hovering near, as the newly dead seem to do to the bereaved, whether literallyor figuratively. But that is not the "hovering" of the title; the author uses the term to illustrate Kirk's psychological state.

This is more than a story; ifs a prose poem; the long, Hemingway-esque sentences (the clauses connected by "ands") create an unbroken rhythm that echoes the ever-present ocean outside Kirk's apartment. Ifs the perfect rhythm to convey his grief and the burden of the need to keep living. Kirk's actions and thoughts—in fact, all the story's events—take place inside this rhythm, this undercurrent of grief. Both that undercurrent and the precise depiction of Kirk's state of mind make the fact that he almost kills himself believable in this context. This is something I would not have thought impossible. I can believe a lot of things about Kirk, if an author justifies them well enough, but I can't believe a Kirk who would kill himself. This is the man who never says "die," the guy who doesnt believe in the no-win scenario. But in this story, the author made me believe that he flirted with the idea and almost did it.

Everything in the story contributes; nothing is out of place. The images and details are exact and poignant: the eternity flowers, the tasteless food, the rainstorm, the starfish, the dead gull. Kirk's dreams, so expressive of his inner state. And, most of all, the memories of Spock—snorkeling with Kirk, throwing stranded starfishes back into the ocean, laughing naked in the rain—most of them beautifully framed in water images. There are no missteps here. And nothing, nothing breaks the mood. [4]
I expected that there would be more indication of Spock's katra being inside McCoy in this post-TWOK story. If the story had shown us a McCoy with Spock's thoughts and a memories who was speaking and reacting like Spock at times, it might have made it more interesting -- supplying us with a more complex psychological dynamic. It also would have provided Kirk, who was suicidal, with a clearer motivation to continue living. Another thing that I didn't understand was why Kirk eliminated death by phaser as a suicide method on the grounds that it's messy. At the proper setting, a phaser can reduce a person to his component atoms without leaving any trace. I realize that Kirk was upset and not thinking logically, so it's understandable that he wouldn't remember that drowning could leave a mess on the shore. Yet that doesn't explain why Kirk would think of a phaser as if it only had the capabilities of one of our contemporary guns. Is Patricia telling us that Kirk has the delusion that he's living in the 20th century? [5]

References

  1. by Dovya Blacque in The K/S Press #160
  2. from The LOC Connection #53
  3. from The K/S Press #9
  4. from The K/S Press #48
  5. from The LOC Connection #35