Marshak & Culbreath - Psychological H/C?

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Title: Marshak & Culbreath - Psychological H/C?
Creator: Neil J. Barrett
Date(s): 1993
Medium: print
Fandom: Star Trek: TOS
Topic: the fiction of Sondra Marshak and Myrna Culbreath
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Marshak & Culbreath - Psychological H/C? is an essay by Neil J. Barrett discussing the fiction of Sondra Marshak and Myrna Culbreath.

It was printed in IDIC #30.

Barrett wrote: "...the biggest problem with their fiction is the repetitive themes and heavy-handed introspection; I seldom find anything original in their work."


Why do I describe M and C as 'psychological hurt/comfort'? In most of their work they seem determined to put down the character of Kirk by pitting him against an adversary which is overwhelmingly superior and/or providing enough humiliation to give anyone a major identity problem. They explore the innermost depths of his psyche, play down his obvious masculinity and generally put him through the wringer. Why? It doesn't appear that they intend to show him triumphant after struggle. In 'Star Trek Lives!' and 'Shatner: Where No Man...' they emphasise the masculinity of Kirk as a key trait of the character, a distinctly male man who is not afraid to show emotion; yet in their fiction they seem bent on testing this very trait to the limit.
In The Procrustean Petard' (New Voyages 2) the entire crew is subjected to a sex change with the exception of the 'alpha male'. Kirk has been through this before in Turnabout Intruder' but he now has to contend with the added insult that the alien device chose Spock as the most masculine of the bunch. Add in a Klingon crew with the same problem and we get the classic M and C dilemma.

In The Price of the Phoenix and The Fate of the Phoenix Kirk is pitted against Omne, an amnesiac, megalomaniac immortal. He is forced to kowtow In order to prevent the destruction of the Galaxy but repeatedly and stubbornly fights back. Spock, in comparison, manages to hold his own with some measure of serenity.

In The Prometheus Design, Kirk is used as an experimental animal by superior Aliens, loses his command to Spock in full Vulcan mode and is repeatedly put down by Admiral Savaj. It is only the stubbornness and individuality of the Human species, personified by Kirk, which saves the day. In Triangle the superior adversaries are gestalt minds where the individual is submerged in a totalitarian mass which threatens to steamroller all those in its path, including Kirk. Spock is naturally superior when faced with a mental or psionic threat and a heavily contrived love interest becomes laughable. Again, it is the peculiar oneness of Humans that breaks free.

In all of these psychological batterings. Kirk comes through with great reliance on the Kirk-Spock rapport - hence the comfort half of my classification. In fact there is so much emphasis on this that none of the other characters get much of a look in, McCoy is held back from his normal fire and the rest are merely filling the uniforms. The new characters that M and C bring in tend to be extremely one-dimensional and often they seem to have been created to fill a gap in the plot rather than the other way around.
These repeated themes and the deep soul-searching mean that I have become more and more disillusioned with M and C. I first read them in 'Star Trek Lives!' which I enjoyed immensely but the more they produce the more I become ted up with them. The last two novels have a lot of similarities and the weaknesses are becoming more obvious. Triangle' has a number of artificial characters and the points where the authors thought they were creating tension are glaringly obvious.
Occasionally M and C have some interesting ideas and some new angles on how the characters and their interrelationships work but the way they present it just spoils it as far as I'm concerned.