Legacy Interview with Nancy Kippax
|Interviews by Fans|
|Title:||Legacy Interview with Nancy Kippax|
|Fandom(s):||Star Trek TOS, slash|
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I went, escorted by my husband, to the Shuster con in February 1974 (the second Feb con). Mobs and mobs of people! I must add that prior to that, my sister, Bev Volker, had been watching Trek in reruns and had coerced me into watching, too... Anyway, at that con in 74, I did manage to pick up some stuff in the dealer's room, but I stayed away from the fanzines that were there because they looked kind of icky. Many were produced on mimeograph machines and were faded and artless. Then, at some point after that con, we found David Gerrold's books, The Making of Star Trek and The World of Star Trek. And then (drumroll) we found Star Trek Lives! We set about trying to find some of the fanzine stories listed in that book. I remember ordering Kraith Collected and Spock Enslaved specifically. During this period of discovery, Bev and I decided to start writing stories on our own. Both of us were drawn to the Kirk-Spock relationship. It went without question, since both of us had been fans of what later was termed “Male/Male Relationship” (we never had a name for it) since we were children. When we would see a hurt/comfort scene on TV or in the movies, we called it “cute” and said that it gave us “the feeling,” or “flip- flops.” Like, Bev would go see a movie and she’d come home and say, “It was really good—it gave me flip-flops.” Like most isolated relationship fen, we had our own code words and rarely mentioned this odd obsession with outsiders. The only difference was that, being sisters, we had each other, whereas many fen were solitary individuals. But we had no idea that there were other people out there who shared this obsession, and Star Trek Lives! was kind of an eye-opener for us.
We had subscribed to the Welcommittee newsletter and learned that there were to be two cons that year— Al Shuster’s “pro” con, and the Committee holding a separate convention. Confused, we wrote to the Welcommittee and asked them which one we should attend. The person who answered us wrote that if we were interested in seeing the celebrities, we would be best served by attending Al’s con. But if we wanted to meet other fans and get involved in fandom, the Committee’s con would be best. Well, Bev and I looked at each other and said, “Fans? We don’t need no stinkin’ fans!” We wanted to see the actors! I laugh now when I remember that moment. So we went to the Shuster con, which was nice, and we sat in the ballroom all day, saving each other’s seats while one of us went into the dealer’s room or went to the potty. At night, we sat in a freezing room with hotel tablecloths wrapped around us and watched the episodes on a giant screen, bright and clear and humongous! What a treat! And this time, we did buy fanzines, whatever we could scoop up. We didn’t talk to anyone, though, didn’t make any overtures. Again, we had each other, so it wasn’t like being on your own.
You know, you basically only had the U.S. mail and, for those with money to spare, the telephone. Some fans literally bankrupted themselves making long-distance calls that sometimes lasted for hours. Remember, children, in those days there was no phone service that gave you unlimited long distance calling—you paid by the minute for every “toll call” outside your area code. So, a two or three hour phone call from, say, New Jersey to California might cost somewhere over a hundred dollars or so. Multiply this by 5 or six calls and you can see what an enormous bill you’re racking up. Mail was, therefore, the method of communication for the majority. Trek fen gave a whole new meaning to the term “pen pals.” Sometimes letters were eight or nine pages long, defining characterization, discussing story premises, debating every aspect of the relationship we all loved. I corresponded with fans in England, Scotland, and Australia, as well as those in the states... another form of correspondence was taping. Employed by Laurie as well as others, they made audio tapes instead of writing letters. Long discourses were more easily made by talking rather than writing by some, so this became another early method of communication.
Visiting was also employed as a method of closer communication. My sister Bev seemed to be a magnet for this. Every time you turned around she was putting up one fan or another from all over the U.S.... Locally, the Contact crowd was expanding and growing as time passed. And again, Bev’s house was the gathering place. Nearly every Saturday night for a long number of years, there was an open, unstated invitation to any and all fans in the area. If out of town guests were in residence, all the better. Not all fans had this advantage, but there were other “cells” in places like New York, New Jersey, and various other populous states. But it goes without saying that if you were a Kirk-Spock fan, Baltimore was the place to go!
My earliest recollection of the concept, and I’m talking about 1975 or so, would be Carol F.’s question, which she posed very early on in their discussion of the characters, to every Kirk-Spock relationship fan whom she encountered. The question: What if (and remember how many discussions started with those two words!), what if...Spock went into pon farr and no one was around except Kirk? The unasked sequel to that question, “Would Kirk let his first officer die, or would he do whatever was necessary to save his life?” was essentially a trap, ready to snare the unsuspecting fan who considered any alternative except the one that any respectable Kirk-Spock fan would give without fail. After all, wouldn’t Kirk risk anything, including his own life, to save Spock? What’s a little sex, after all? Many, many fen were indoctrinated into the premise with that query in those early days! Bev and I used it ourselves in many discussions, simply as a way to gauge the depth or sincerity of a prospective Kirk-Spock fan. The question, asked half with amusement and half with intense interest, usually sparked a lively discussion and debate. I remember Carol postulating it to Bev and I, not long after we met her. It was a novel concept, something we had never considered before, but something we could easily and strongly answer. But a life-threatening situation was hardly the same as a conscious commitment, was it?
At first, stories were passed around covertly, shared only with those whom it was suspected would be interested and not offended. Just as homosexuality, in those days, was known as “the love that dare not speak its name,” such was the underground “slash” distributed. I remember an early story by Diane Marchant, a fan from Australia, which I’m not sure was ever published anywhere. Gerry Downes' Alternative was another, passed around with interested fen long before she published it for the fandom. We had a friend in Texas, a physician whose name I don’t feel comfortable sharing, who was working on a story. I don’t think she ever finished it or published it. Within our Contact crowd, Sue D. began writing her story, “The First Step,” which was ultimately published in our zine, mainly because it only went so far as to postulate, without definite content. The slash premise caught on swiftly and was embraced eagerly by many fans of the Kirk-Spock relationship. It was titillating, and by the time it was actually being published, many fans felt they had done as much as they wanted with the “gen” side of the relationship. The slash concept was icing on the cake, a new playground to explore.
While Contact remained firmly “gen,” even I was tempted into writing something slash. It was little more than a vignette, and it was published in Lori Chapek-Carlton's zine—it was either Warped Space X or XX, or else it was for Obs'zine, I don’t remember any more. It was published under a pseudonym, not because I was trying to hide or was ashamed, but because my own name was associated with Contact, which had taken a stand as not using slash. Using my maiden name, Ott, I pig-Latined my name (which would have been “Ancy-Nott”) to Anne C. Knott. I had no compunction about telling anyone and everyone that this was really me—I just didn’t want it published with my name. Silly, now that I think about it!
I agree that the two genres can co-exist—although that’s stated with hindsight, I suppose. We now know they can, because they have. There was a time, though, when K/S appeared to be squashing the K-S, the h/c side of the relationship. There was a strong division, albeit a friendly one, between the genres. Early on, Bev and I determined to keep Contact firmly away from slash, not necessarily because we disapproved, but because we never believed it was necessary to the relationship. For us, the friendship, the bond, the concept of soulmates, was quite enough, and we were disinclined to take it beyond that. We had friends who actively disagreed with us, but none ever managed to sway us. My concept of the Kirk-Spock relationship hasn’t changed over the years, and it never changed during the time I was involved in Star Trek fandom. I still do not see them as lovers, in either the romantic or physical sense. I don’t see that as a necessary “next step” in their relationship at all. I see them as loving friends, bonded in a metaphysical way, willing to sacrifice anything and everything for the other, while still maintaining their separate identities. My view is based strongly on what was seen and shown on the TV show and the movies. Those who took the relationship into uncharted waters (slash) were merely speculating but it wasn’t ever canon. Personally, I never could accept it, except as an alternate universe kind of thing.
One fact to bear in mind is that “gen” as a genre is more than h/c. It also encompasses the psychological stories, the fiction which can explore all facets of their relationship, tear it apart and put it back together. Sure, most of these stories use some kind of “hurt” to propel them into the desired territory, but I wouldn’t call them strictly a h/c story. Consider, just for one, our novel “Home is the Hunter.” Sure, Kirk was “hurt,” but it’s much more than strictly a h/c story, in my opinion. Not all gen was h/c, is what I’m saying. And even among slash stories, often a “hurt” of some kind is used to launch the plot or incorporated into the story somewhere. I think sometimes slash fans, especially those who came into K/S late in the game or from other slash fandoms, tend to marginalize the gen stories as simply being h/c, and that’s not the case at all, not any more than slash stories are simply one long sex scene.
As I said above, there was a degree of division between the two camps, but I never perceived it as nasty. In the beginning, I think, relationship fans in general were more tolerant. There was more and stronger intolerance from mainstream Trek fen, those who had tolerated or even embraced the Kirk-Spock relationship now perceived slash as perverted, or rather as perverting the ST ideology. As a result, even gen K-S fans felt the backlash of that—fandom in general was rallying against the entire genre. I recall going to cons and seeing fans wearing that said “NO /” and many editors of anthology zines were reluctant to take any Kirk Spock story whether gen or slash. This didn’t matter so much because there were tons of zines, both gen and slash, devoted solely to Kirk-Spock stories. I may be biased (because I am essentially a K-S fan rather than a K/S fan,) but I feel like the resultant hostility came more from the K/S fans than the K-S fans in the beginning. They wanted a stronger voice, they were crying out to be heard, and were more abrasive then the original, more placid K-S fen.