K/S Press Interview with Shelley Butler
|Interviews by Fans|
|Title:||K/S Press Interview with Shelley Butler|
|Medium:||print, email subscription|
|Fandom(s):||Star Trek, K/S, slash|
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...around the mid to late eighties (gasp!) I was going to the many conventions that were frequently held in the Los Angeles area. Those were the halcyon days of Star Trek and I went to all the conventions by myself. The main attractions for me kept changing—first it was the guests, then it was the dealers' room as I became a big collector. At a convention around the time The important thing to realize is this was all pre-internet. And I mean pre-pre-internet. Internet was something you fished with. Discovering K/S meant perhaps reading a mention of it in an interview with David Gerrold, or seeing Star Trek zines listed in a magazine, or being at a Star Trek convention. These were also the days when K/S editors and publishers could pretty much openly display their wares at the mainstream Star Trek conventions—albeit at tables towards the back of the rooms. I wasn’t sure what I thought of those zines—I remember telling my husband about it—I only knew that there was this thing that people wrote about—Kirk and Spock in a homosexual relationship—to which my dear husband alternated between humor and curiosity. But I was interested enough to go and get one of those zines. I was way too shy and intimidated to actually stand there and look at the zines, so I just grabbed the first one I saw—it had Sarek’s picture on the cover and I was able to buy it because it was just a picture of Sarek and no one would suspect what I was really after. I rushed home and opened the zine and searched all though it futilely finding no Kirk and Spock together at all. I was very disappointed. But I was going to try again, that was for sure. I don’t think it was too long after that convention that I found my first actual K/S zine. I circled the dealer's room, passing as casually as I could past the tables with the zines displayed with those covers. If I remember anything, it’s those covers. They made such an impact on me, I think they were my first exposure to K/S. A cover showing a winged Spock in mountains and a waterfall astonished me. Another where Spock is astride a horse and is looking down at Kirk who has a collar around his neck with a leash and there’s a sehlat asleep in a tent made me blush. I must have summoned some sort of courage and approached the women standing behind the table and tried to appear nonchalant and totally savvy to this K/S thing like I was so knowledgeable about it, I asked, “What zine do you think is the best one?” Like I cared? I bought a lot of zines. In fact, every time I went to a convention after that, I’d buy lots and lots of zines. They were expensive—but like I cared? The women behind that one table that I had the courage to stop at were Della and Wendy and Alayne. Therein lies a tale and my first blush of K/S.
I secretly wanted to write a K/S story but I really hadn’t written anything before and didn’t fully understand how to write it let alone get it published. A girlfriend of mine told me to not to write Kirk and Spock together but rather some “sexy” Star Trek featuring Kirk with a woman. So I took her advice and spent many hours immersed in writing a story about Kirk and the Elaan of Troyus. I wrote it on my state-of-the-art word processor which was essentially a glorified typewriter. But I loved every minute of the writing experience. So here’s this story of Kirk with this woman, but hidden in the action were secret little K/S references that I felt were so illicit and so naughty, but I just had to test the K/S waters.
My K/S is Kirk and Spock in the episode years and sometimes in their Academy years. It was love at first sight for them both—but especially for Spock. I see Kirk as a whole person unto himself, but I see Spock as needing Kirk to complete him. I see Kirk clearly, but almost always through Spock’s eyes. I consider myself a “Kirk person.” I was imprinted early on like a duckling to its mother by the concept that Spock was Mr. Big Powerful Vulcan—Lord Spock with a large “V” on his chest, and Kirk was this fair blond, handsome dude who was often the “love-slave” of the Big V. Okay, okay, I’m past all that now. Sort of.
... in my writing I love the romance—the more sweeping the better. And yes, I also love the rough, but it is not ravage-ment, it’s ravish-ment—and there’s a big difference. I enjoy exploring the idea of being “ravished”—swept away, if you will. I suppose like in Romance novels, but when translated to K/S, I see it taking on a whole new meaning because Kirk and Spock are both males, and Lord Spock notwithstanding, they are equally strong and powerful men who can’t really physically hurt each other like a man could to a woman. So getting to explore the dominance and submission issues is very liberating because it doesn’t have all the emotional connotations attached to it like male/female relationships. There’s too much to go into here about masculine and feminine aspects and all that, but the equality of these two men, in the bedroom and out, is just one of the reasons I find K/S so fascinating.... I laugh in memory of when I began K/S art and how I drew big, buff, manly-men Kirk and Spock bodies! I guess it’s similar in tone to my early stories featuring Lord Spock. I’ve toned down the beef, but I still love the juxtaposition of the masculine with the romantic—two strong masculine men kissing makes me just thrash on the carpet.
Art is such personal taste—and K/S art is no different. I am never offended if someone doesn’t like something I’ve done, but one thing has never failed—the unpredictable nature of taste and opinions. And my own opinions of my own artworks are no exceptions. So many times, I will draw a piece that I think everyone will go nuts over and it turns out getting a lukewarm response. Then there’ll be the piece that I think is mighty poor, and everyone will go nuts over it. But to the question of how do I do it? I guess it’s because I love K/S so much that that love comes through my artwork. An example comes to mind. A long while ago, I was asked to draw some characters in another fandom. I was not at all familiar with the characters and basically had no feelings for them. The drawings turned out okay— part of the problem was the lack of source material—but one of the drawings was returned to me because no one wanted to buy it. I was surprised at first because I had thought it was pretty good. The only source material I had for it was a publicity shot of the actor himself, not the character. And the fans could see clearly see the difference. I had drawn the actor instead of the character, and it wasn’t obvious to me, but it sure was to them.
Boy! Has [source material] changed over the years! When I first started drawing K/S there were only videotapes, but no way to capture any of the still images unless you took a picture from the TV screen! For bodies, I haunted the gay bookstores for photo cards and photography books that were usually too expensive to buy. When I did buy them, I had to sometimes take a photo of the photo page because I didn’t want to rip up the very expensive book! Then there’s the matter of finding the right Kirk or Spock face to go with the right Kirk or Spock-type body. This is still difficult even with all the technology available like scanners and digital everything. It is an ongoing difficulty that can never be made easier unless the drawing could draw itself! Because what might be fine for a CGA is often not at all fine to draw. When I do my K/S art, I have to actually draw the face and draw the body. There are times when I can visualize exactly what I want in my mind, but then I have to draw it. And computer images are only so good for me because most of the time, what you see on the computer screen might look beautiful, but when you print it, the image resolution that looked so great on the screen, looks like a bunch of little squares. Or the trading card with Kirk’s face on it that looks so good on the card until I go to draw it and discover the face image is subtly distorted. Or the gay porn websites that I gird my loins and search through despite my fear of being traced or something and finding huge 3-D penises instead of romantic photos.
There’s plenty I see in other artists’ work that I strive to emulate or wish I could! Caren Parnes—if I could clone just a portion of that woman’s talent with color pencil into my artwork, I’d be so happy! I adore her Kirk faces—they’re luminous. Suzan Lovett's work is divine. Talk about an inspiration! She hasn’t done much K/S artwork, but her other fandoms are absolutely gorgeous in detail and technique. Southern Cross with her great hunky bodies and my favorite from years ago—the one with Kirk and Spock kissing in the waves . Gayle F —I love her style. It’s totally different than mine, but I have taken much inspiration from her work—the eroticism, the detail, the colors and that wonderful style of hers that is so distinctive and so unique. Marianne Mueller—her absolutely amazing talent with putting Kirk and Spock in any position in any place. I so admire that ability and she’s incredibly prolific. Liz Woledge is another prolific artist. She can also do what Marianne does that I find so difficult—drawing Kirk and Spock in unusual ways. And truthfully, I get something from every K/S artist— I really mean that. I admire artists who can work with pen and ink or watercolor. And I can see things in some artist’s works that are wonderful even if the whole piece isn’t wonderful.
Gone are the days when I could subsidize my trip to Shore Leave by selling my art. So now it’s humans and their pets and one of my more recent passions—baseball players! Also, over the years I have always sold my originals first and then prints if there are any made from the original. This has evolved over time because in the not too distant past (pre-scanners for some that may seem like ancient!) the only method available for reproducing my artwork was a complicated process that only a specialty printing shop could do. The shop had to have very large photo reproducing equipment to make a PMT—I forget what that stands for—something like photomechanical transfer, but don’t quote me. The one thing about those PMTs was that they were beautiful reproductions, if complicated to get done— especially forming a relationship with the printer when they’d see the subject matter. It never ceased to embarrass me—I would blush furiously and then try to enlist friends to bring in the work for me! My husband kept telling me not to be embarrassed—that the art was beautiful and was nothing to be ashamed of. I certainly wasn’t ashamed of it, I just knew that most people wouldn’t understand, and then I’d be forced to explain. One day I brought in the first rather suggestive piece to this printer I had found. Prior to that, I had only brought in pieces that showed Kirk or Spock separately. I’ll never forget the moment when he looked at the piece, paused, looked up and exclaimed, “So that’s what Kirk and Spock are doing in outer space!”
... for the amount of time and effort it takes me to draw some K/S art, I’d have to charge at least a thousand dollars! I’m still not complaining (sort of), but many times the effort is not at all commensurate with the income. For a number of years I’ve been able to finance my trip to Shore Leave by selling my art, but that has become more difficult. And the depiction of licensed characters (as portrayed in K/S specifically) has been fine except for two times—one a long time ago at a World Con , and more recently with my interview in Trekkies 2 which was taken out by orders of TPTB. I’m certain if I had depicted Kirk and Spock separately and in uniform (ha!), there wouldn’t have been a problem. Isn’t that sad?
A lot has to do with the advent of on-line K/S and computer-generated K/S art. Like I explained, I still use my pencils and my paper. And I still only read zines. But I really do like what the internet has done for K/S—and I never would have believed it a number of years ago when I and others thought that online meant the end of K/S zines and of K/S artwork. Instead, the internet has opened up the world of K/S to countless people and really expanded our fandom.