Interview with Della Van Hise (Slash Alexis Fagen Black)
|Interviews by Fans|
|Title:||Interview with Della Van Hise (Slash Alexis Fagen Black)|
|Interviewee:||Della Van Hise|
|External Links:||Three Letter Words:OMG, Archived version|
|Click here for related articles on Fanlore.|
Interview with Della Van Hise (Slash Alexis Fagen Black) is a 2011 interview with Della Van Hise for an online zine called "Three Little Words" which "takes an irreverent and criticallook at publishing and distribution outside the main-streams of media and champions the unconventional,experimental and dispossessed."
The subject's name is spelled incorrectly twice on the interview itself ("Hisa" and "Fagin") but correctly in the table of contents.
Della van Hise is a seminal figure in the genre of Kirk/Spock (or slash) fiction - both as an author of short stories based on the premise that Star Trek’s Captian [sic] James T Kirk and Spock are lovers, and as publisher of Naked Times , a journal devoted to the sub-genre. Beginning in the 70s and circulatedinformally through science fiction conventions and by postal networks, K/S and other forms of fan fiction have become increasingly visible creating myriad alternative worlds for their heroes.
Some Topics Discussed
- Killing Time, the controversial pro novel
- Naked Times, the zine series
- the punk and DIY zine scene
- tensions between K/S and K&S fans
- fans policing others
- the pro book NASA/Trek
- fandom and fanworks becoming mainstream and mundane
- the changes in fandom over the years
PABD: The first issues of NAKED TIMES coincide with the appearance of Punk and share its DIY ethos. Was the punk scene and attitude something you were interested in at the time?
Della Van Hise: I suppose I’ve always been ‘anti-establishment’ by nature. Perhaps a byproduct of being a child of the 60s, or maybe just my nature as an individual. I was never directly aware of, nor involved in the punk scene,or any other actual ‘scene’, so the first issue of Naked Times is actually more a reflection of an intense love affair I was having with what I might call cosmic consciousness, or quantum awareness - which has become my focus over the years, and eventually led to the creation of my website, Quantum Shaman. Also, the first issue of Naked Times represented a lot of different authors from many walks of life. One of them was a librarian, another a nurse. It was an eclectic bunch of writers, to be sure. As for me personally, I have always had a fascination withwhat has evolved into the ‘gothic’ philosophy - though I think Naked Times came before that movement got officially started.
I’d imagine that issues of homosexuality, and some of the racier content, provoked some objections...
Back in the day (she said with a doddering, toothless grin), the main form of communication was through print newsletters that were sporadic at best. K/S (Kirk/Spock) was something new, and yes it definitely came up against its share of naysayers, hatemongers, and the like. There were often long-running arguments in the newsletters that eventually led to the drawing up of ‘sides’ - K/S vs anti-K/S - with both sides arguing vehemently for their point of view. In the big picture, I found that to be very healthy, because it gave people a chance to discover what they were passionate about. Love it or hate it... it got people motivated to write in, share their opinion, and mix it up. Sure, it led to some hard feelings here and there, but is there anything that doesn’t? People get upset if you don’t like their favourite colour or their favourite flavour of jello. I always liked to think of it as good, healthy debate - though all too often, it did become more emotionally charged.
I also discovered that the reason my professional Star Trek novel was pulled after being on the shelves for a few weeks was because one of those adamant anti-K/Sers took it upon herself to bring it to the attention of TBTB at Paramount that... ‘Della Van Hise is a K/S writer! *gasp* And there is another version of Killing Time that is outright homoerotica!’ Well, nothing could have been further from the truth. Yes, I was a K/S writer (never tried to hide it), but there never was or will be an ‘alternate version’ of my pro book. If people chose to see overtones of K/S in it, maybe it’s because there were overtones of K/S throughout Star Trek itself.So, when a few of us started publishing K/S fanzines such as Naked Times, it wasn’t something that was being pulled out of thin air just for titillation. It was an extrapolation of what clearly existed in the original series itself. Maybe it was just Shatner and Nimoy having some fun, but there were the lingering looks, the affirmations of friendship that went above and beyond the call of duty, and so on. K/S was not any big stretch of the imagination. It was just an extension of what was right there in front of us.
Was publishing a means to an end for distributing your writing?At the time, the first issue was largely a way of sharing something close to my heart with others who shared the same feelings. I also think K/S was a way of exploring my own feelings about a lot of things - as any writer does, no matter what s/he writes. The publishing angle was a challenge because we didn’t have high-speed copy machines back in those days. The first issue of Naked Times was done on a humongous web-press, with actual half-tone artwork, and stuff that would be considered ‘dinosaur doings’ today, but was state of the art at the time. Also, keep in mind this was LONG before the days of internet - so the only way fans could connect was through the written word: newsletters, fanzines, snail mail... that, and the occasional Star Trek convention.
I’m really struck by how NAKED TIMES appears to be a conversation between its authors and artists as if collectively writing (or re-writing) a mythology. Was a collective spirit tangible for you at time? Do you feel the same looking back?
Yes, there was definitely a sense of community - a common bond. It was a phenomenon in a very unique way, I think - as if several people came up with the same idea at the same time. It reminds me in hindsight of the hundredth monkey syndrome (in a very good way). One monkey washes his berry before eating it. Another monkey sees him and does the same. And so on. After the hundredth monkey washes his berry... ALL the monkeys on the planet start doing it, even though they haven’t witnessed it directly. It goes into the mass subconscious, as Jung might have said. It’s been there all along, but one day someone actually DOES it... and pretty soon it takes off.
I still feel there was something unique and special about K/S and the Star Trek phenomenon that is very different than the way fandom manifests today. Maybe that’s just me being nostalgic - I’m completely willing to admit that. But it seems that the things I read today are much more geared toward the physical aspects of a relationship, rather than really focusing on the mental/spiritual/emotional. Also, there’s a lot of fan fiction on the net that seems to gravitate toward any two male characters who are on the same television show. To me, that’s never what K/S was about. These two characters clearly had a bond between them that went beyond serving on the same ship.Yes, I’m a dinosaur. Heh. I like my fan fiction to be well-plotted, and to have some relevance beyond ‘just the sex, ma’am.’ And that’s what I demanded of my authors back when I was editing Naked Times, and all the other fanzines I produced over the years. While I will readily admit that I wrote my fair share of hot-to-trot alternate universe K/S novels & stories (http://www.fanzinesplus.com) under the pseudonym of Alexis Fegan Black, I always tried to include some element of plot - an actual milieu in which the characters lived and breathed. And I think that’s what readers wanted - and still do! Don’t just tell me about the character’s nicely rounded ass. Tell me about what he’s feeling, what he’s thinking, where he’s standing, what he looks like, and why-oh-why is he so terribly in love with ‘the other guy’?
In her book Nasa/Trek, Constance Penley makes the claim that slash fiction has a specific feminist agenda. Would you consider your work as ‘feminist’? Or are there other more important (perhaps more personal) motivations in defining this fiction?
Personally, I don’t consider my work to be feminist at all. To be honest, it was an expression of love and sexuality and sensuality... and there were no political agendas whatsoever. If there are undercurrents of feminism, so be it. I certainly have no problem with it if that’s the case - but it wasn’t my intent, and never evencrossed my mind. What I wrote in the field of K/S was written out of love, passion, and a deep desire to explore love through the written word. Someone once described K/S as ‘gay romance written by women FOR women.’ I would certainly agree with that.
You’ve more recently had your writing ‘crossover’ to official Star Trek publications. Alternate ‘histories’ now seem to have become a staple of SF in all its media and genres. Naturally this is great for your work, and for readers. However, I wonder if the acceptance of alternatives into the mass market might have its downsides – turning genres such as fan-fiction into commodities rather than social products?
Sure, I think that’s definitely happened! I admit I haven’t kept up with the media in recent years, having gone more toward the spiritual/metaphysical/mystical writing in my own work, so I can’t comment on any current publications or trends. I also have questioned if having so much Fan-Fic on the net makes it somehow less ‘special’. Back in the good old days, it was like this big hush-hush secret, like trying to find whiskey in the days of prohibition. ‘Go to the back of the club, tell the guy at the door Donnie sent you, give him the password, and he’ll let you in to the secret library through the back door under the stairs.’ It wasn’t easy. That doesn’t make it better, of course. Just different. Now, with the anything-goes paradigm in full force, I think it can become passé.
I know some people who go absolutely rabid about a particular fandom for maybe 2 weeks, or a month at most, then they’re off onto the next thing... Nothing wrong with that, but K/S was one of those long-term commitments, like a relationship unto itself. I was ‘into’ it for over 20 years, as was my significant other. We not only wrote the stuff, we lived it. And still do.Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that ‘the good old days’ were better. It’s just interesting to look at the evolution of Fan-Fic writing - not just WHAT is written, but HOW it is distributed. I suppose if I have any ‘objections’ to any aspect of it, it’s when fans start to feel they are entitled to do anything and everything with another author’s characters. Back in ‘the day’ of early K/S (early to mid 70s), there was no such thing as the internet, no PhotoShop, and no ‘head-swap’ wherein a zealous fan places the head of her two favourite actors onto thebodies of two male porn stars going at it with whips, chains and a sheep. Things that perhaps SHOULD be matters of ‘common sense’ really aren’t - I guess common sense is no longer common. Most actors have said they don’t care what writers do with the written word, but ask only that their privacy is respected. One actor even went so far as to say - ‘Hey, guys, I don’t care what you write about my character, but my young children go online all the time and I wouldn’t want them coming across a picture of ‘me’ in a compromising position with a leather daddy.
I’m interested in your alter egos of Della and Alexis (and perhaps there are more I don’t know about). This is not unusual for authors, of course, but often it marks divisions between writing in certain genres, or between ‘intellectual’ and ‘popular’ writing, for instance. What do these two personas represent for you?When I first started writing K/S, it was all under my own name. I have never been ashamed of what I wrote, and in fact an original printing of Naked Times #1 will have my name as editor and writer on at least a couple of the stories. Alexis Fegan Black was born after the fiasco with Killing Time being recalled - because it was my agent’s advice that it would be prudent to separate my professional life from my personal indulgences. LOL. In current time, I write strictly under my own name or anonymously My primary website is Quantum Shaman which is primarily focused on spiritual evolution. That’s where my interestlies these days - though I still have fond memories of writing K/S, producing the fanzines, going to conventions, and connecting with others of like mind
You mentioned in a previous email you’d had a ‘Helluva lot of fun’ in your writing, and I’m sure itsbeen an adventure. Anything in particular stand out as a highlights stand out?In my K/S writing, I would say that my personal favorite is Dreams of the Sleepers - a plot-driven novel that has Kirk and Spock captured by the US government in the 60s, and placed into cryonic suspension, where they then ‘dream’ their way to love and ecstasy despite the very dark circumstances surrounding them. It turned into a trilogy, and in some ways contributed to the foundation of some of my more mystical pursuits later on. How much of what we think about reality is real, and how much may be only a dream within a dream? Sure...age-old questions, nothing new there, but when we really start looking at what we write, we learn more aboutwhat we believe, and in learning what we believe, we begin to get a more accurate view of the person in the mirror. That’s what writing is all about - not just about getting two characters in bed, or solving a mystery or launching a rocket... it’s really about examining the writer herself... through the process of writing