Langsam's Law

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Langsam's Law consists of the words "Don't make him say that." It originated with Devra Langsam.

It was probably first seen in Masiform-D 3 (September 1973). In a transcript titled "Fan Writing Panel: Or, Don't Make Him Say THAT!", which Langsam in an essay says took place at the first large-scale Star Trek convention in New York, Devra and Debra Langsam with Sherna Burley and Joyce Yasner held a lengthy panel on elements of writing and how they applied to fan fiction. Keeping the characters and situations consistent with canon presentation, or establishing a good reason to divert from it, was one of the main focuses of discussion.

"In the early zine days, when Langsam’s Law was the rule of the day: 'Don't Make Him Say That.' As explained by Paula Smith (in an essay in Warped Space #50, January 1984), this is a 'special caveat for writing media-based fiction. Don't make an established character do or say something out of line with his established character, of if you must, give good, solid reasons why'."[1]

There is an early mention of this term in S and H #9 (April 1980).


  1. ^ K.S. Langley, "The Times They are a' Changing." Fanfic Symposium, June 19, 2003. Expanded edition of a piece written for the FCA-L mailing list, describing Star Trek fandom practices in the earliest days -- pen pal lists, the use of typewriters and mimeograph, audio recordings on reel-to-reel tape, no labeling or content warnings, no gatekeeper system to initiate new fans, etc.