Media Fandom Oral History Project Interview with Alayne Gelfand

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Interviews by Fans
Title: Media Fandom Oral History Project Interview with Alayne Gelfand
Interviewer: Franzeska Dickson
Interviewee: Alayne Gelfand
Date(s): March 2, 2014
Medium: aural
External Links: Media Fandom Oral History Project Interview with Alayne Gelfand
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In 2015, Alayne Gelfand was interviewed at Escapade as part of the Media Fandom Oral History Project.

Total time: 1:02:56. A written transcript is available.

For more information about the origins of this interview, where it is housed, contact information, suggestions regarding future interviewee candidates, and how to become volunteer interviewer, see the Media Fandom Oral History Project page.

Some Topics Discussed


[I got into fandom in] about 1982. I had thought of it on my own. I'd been writing my own stories. And in the back of a Starlog magazine, it said "The Ultimate Fantasy." And I went, "What's that?" And I looked into it, and took myself off to Houston, and the rest is kind of history. I met people there and it just rolled on.... It was a huge con that was a disaster. Everybody who had hotel reservations— the people had run off with the money, there were no hotel rooms for anybody. The con was small, so you had all these— Most of the actors there were talking to, like, fifty people, so it was kind of embarrassing too— But it was my first con experience, and I was standing against a wall looking forlorn, and this woman came over and said, "Look, you know, do you have a room, do you need help, have you been here before, are you a fan—" whatever. And she took me into the dealers' room, showed me what a fanzine was, and she showed up on my doorstep the following weekend with a huge suitcase full of fanzines. So that was the beginning. She named my first zine, too.

[Despite the fact this con was a huge disaster, I didn't run screaming from fandom.] Oh, I ran toward it, arms open. It was wonderful. It was just exactly what I needed at the right time of my life. It gave me a community, and it gave me a philosophy that was positive when my life wasn't real great. And I do often credit finding Star Trek fandom to actually saving my life, because I was going through a lot of physical problems, and life was not really worth living at that point, and this gave me a focus outside myself. And it lifted me up. And it's always been just this fantastic, glorious thing for me.
I was immediately into K/S. 'Cause I'd already been writing it. Very timidly, I'd definitely been writing it. But I read everything. I read hurt/comfort, I read gen, I read het. I'd read anything I could get my hands on, because it was only hard copy then. Y'know. And anybody who I met, we exchanged addresses and we kept up correspondence and I had— I was talking to people all over the world, within a couple of years. And it was just so good, and so easy to connect. And I think that the interpersonal, one-to-one thing is not as much a part of fandom now, and I really wish it was, because, as you saw here at Escapade, so many newbies were so glad that they're welcomed warmly and openly, and information and everything was flowing.
About '88. I was heavily into Miami Vice. I just loved the show, and I thought, "You know, I've only found one story, in a multi-fandom zine, that is Crockett/Castillo." And I went, "You know, if I want it, I'm going to have to do it myself." And that kind of led into doing Dyad, my multi-fandom zine. That was suggested by a friend of mine, when I was recovering from surgery. And my mind just kind of churned and churned, and I thought, "Okay, I'm gonna do this multi-fandom zine." And I kept getting a lot of Miami Vice. 'Cause I was asking for it. And so then I went off to do the few Miami Vice zines. When Beauty and the Beast first came on, the one on TV — not the current one, the old one, from the '80s — I fell in love. I just— Oh! So romantic. So sweet. And—
I was so fixated on Kirk/Spock. When I lived in the San Diego area, that was a huge K/S area. The west coast was. Just especially San Diego, San Francisco, San Diego. And it was so nurturing, and it was just so wonderful. I mean, I had come from being down in the dumps to being just a very happy person, and I credit my friends, and getting involved in Star Trek. And I learned to write. I was never gonna write. I was an art history major in college, and I'm a painter, and I just never thought of writing. It got me interested in writing.
I had an absolute love affair with fan art. I nurtured the artists, and if I saw somebody who was working in a fandom that I didn't do, I would try to recruit them. I did that quite often. And then digital art first came out and then people were doing photomanipulations. I was very upset by the thought — the bodies of, you know, two men entwined with Kirk and Spock's head. Y'know. I found it kind of offensive. 'Cause it wasn't a very smooth, and it was awkward-looking. And I, yeah, exactly— ... —it's impossible to think. I also was kinda like, "You know, those guys, the pictures of their faces, they didn't intend to be two bodies entwined. That wasn't their intention when they allowed themselves to be photographed." I've kinda gotten over that. And as photomanips have gotten better, I do tend to do more, publish more. In fact, I've used them for covers. But I still don't like the explicit stuff. You know, I kind of draw the line at photomanipulation explicit— ...Yeah. I don't know what the difference is, except it's a representation and not a fact. The photograph is a fact. Somebody has interpreted the face through their artistic ability and created an image. To me that's a technicality probably, but it's the way I see it. But, being an artist, I love illustration, 'cause I can't do it very well. I've done some, out of desperation — I need a cover! — or one of my friends "I need a cover!" you know — but, yeah, I'm not real good at drawing, but I love fostering it. I really, really love art. And it's gotten less and less and less in zines as time has gone on.
When I first started doing [creating zines], I had to send the physical hard copy to K/S fans who had a print shop in Houston. I was going to IDICons, and that's where I first found— saw— my zine for the first time. Issue one. But also there were some errors in it, and I don't have access to a typewriter. So I whited things out, and I wrote things in with my hand. I could have corrected that, y'know, before now. I could have— Over the years, as technology has gotten better. I very easily could have pulled those pages, fixed them, put them back in. But it feels more authentic to leave the bumps and the pitholes, and the— so people can see the growth.... I didn't have a clue how to put the word on the page, when I first started. I did meet some people who'd been publishing zines much longer than I have, Alexis Fegan Black in particular, and Natasha Solten, and they kind of guided me a little bit, but my first issue was just fumbling. I didn't know how to get the holes in the pages to put the binders in, I didn't know anything. So after the first physical creation I was more secure. I felt more able, and as time went on, I got better and better and better, and one of my favorite zine creation stories, is my second issue of As I Do Thee, I set up about seven picnic tables in my parents' formal living room. There were— I had three hundred copies made. So there were almost two hundred pages, three hundred pages high, stacked. My mother and my sister and I, and a friend of mine, would just, y'know, do the collating.
When you go into a new copy shop to have a slash zine made, you take one you've already got, and you say, "Um, could I speak to you over to the side, please?" So the church lady who's getting the flyers for the church picnic made is not gonna see this. You say, "This is what I'm printing," wh-wh-r-r-r through the pages, y'know, and you kind of open to an illustration, and you don't look the person in the eye. And they either go, "Well, you know, we'd rather not do that," or "Hey, no problem," or "Oooh, what's that?"
I like commemorative zines. When Star Trek had its twenty-fifth anniversary, Alexis Fegan Black put together a, ah, "contributing novel." It's called The 25th Year, and she wrote the linking stories, which were, you know, like two or three pages that linked each story, and she had to— It started at this place, and this is where the relationship grew, and this is where it ended up, on their twenty-fifth anniversary, they're recalling their lives. And she conned me into writing a couple of stories for that, and that was one of the more difficult things I ever did, because it had to fit in chronologically, and into a universe that was aside from the Star Trek universe. This was a created universe. So that was a blast. That was a great project. So any time there's a chance to commemorate something, it's a good thing. I like it.
When I first got into fanzines, there was one artist in particular who grabbed me immediately and that was Merle Decker. She is an illustrator. She really can capture a scene. And I was lucky enough to have her illustrate three of my stories. She did three for each, and I've kept those. They're framed, they're under glass, they're in storage right now because I don't have room, but those I'll never sell. Those are special. Alice Jones did a picture of long-haired Spock, bare-chested with a Star of David around his neck. It's called "Pride of the Clan," and the idea was that the Lost Tribe of Israel are Vulcans.... I loved that. And so I contacted her and she said, "I only have one print left." And I said, "How much do you want for it?" So I've got that up still. And my absolute all-time favorite is probably— Well, it's a tie. Okay. [ Gayle F ], who I have owned many of and she has very kindly hand water-colored them for me, per my instructions of color. She's done a lot of favors for me over the years. She gave me my first cover, which was a little more X-rated than I wanted, so I asked her if I could use a little white-out, just on Spock's thigh. And she said, "Sure, go ahead," and I did. And it's still a beautiful cover. But it's— And it's still very, very suggestive, but it's not pornographic. And the other artist would be The Southern Cross, who is a true artist. She's beyond illustration.
Well, I kind of stepped aside for about five years in the early 2000s. It just had gotten a little political, especially the K/S fandom, specifically. And it was a little like being run like a, you know, a dictatorship, and I was very unhappy with it and it was making me unhappy, and I thought, fandom should not make me unhappy, so I'm gonna step over here, and I'll continue to publish what I've already done, but I'm not gonna do anything new. I'm not gonna write, I'm just gonna fill orders if and as they come in, and I'm just gonna go over here and do something else with my life.

[much snipped about Moonridge]

So I did get a little more into The Sentinel fandom, and I slowly got back into Star Trek, and I thought, I'm just going to not let it get so personal. I'm gonna stick to what makes me happy, and all the little political things are gonna roll off my back. A lot of my friends have left Star Trek and then they've gone on to Sentinel, and then they went on to this, and went on to that, and I've lost track of them. I'll find them on line sometimes, so that's kind of cool. I'll go into, "Oh that's a new fandom, maybe I'll look into it," and there they are. So they haven't given up. I've— Some friends have died, you know. I was nineteen when I got into fandom, and most of my friends were twenty years older. Natasha and I were the babies. She's about nine months younger than me, so we were both nineteen. And, you know, we're in our fifties now. So we've lost a lot of friends. And fandom has changed drastically, and technology has done that. We used to— As a fan I would spend hours writing physical letters, and I'd get 'em in the mail and you'd go, "Oh my god, oh my god," and you'd rush to your room and read it, read it, and you'd write back, you know. It's very exciting. You even had to go to, like, old bookstores, if you were looking for pro books, pro Star Trek books. And you'd get a kink in your neck because you were standing with your upper body turned to the right so you could read the spines. Because there were little words that would say "Star Trek" at the top. And you had to go search through all the science fiction for them. And you'd find one and you go, "Oh, damn, I have that." And you'd go on. Even that was fun. It was such a rush when you found something you'd never found before. And now you walk in— Well, if you can find a bookstore to walk into, you'd find the Star Trek section. And, you know, there's a bazillion Star Trek books now. And even those books have changed, because early on they were taking unsolicited manuscripts, and then they started contracting them out to specific writers, and the flavor of them changed, 'cause there was— They were very removed from fandom, from what the fans had been pouring into Star Trek, so that changed a lot.
So I really heavily got into the Miami Vice thing, and I got— Flamingo connected with me, and I published her Beauty and the Beast/Miami Vice crossover novel— called Curse of the Black Opal. Very good. And, you know, I kinda hung around with Miami Vice for a while. I wrote two Miami Vice novels. One's a Miami Vice/Nash Bridges crossover. (laughter) And I just— I had a great time with the fandom. I absolutely adore it still. I've still got the mug on my desk with pencils in it that says, "Not tonight, I'm saving myself for Don Johnson." (laughter) So, yeah, that was fun. I really didn't find anything political in that fandom. I just found people who loved it. Now, I never went to a Miami Vice convention, so I never really met these people face to face. And that may be why it was an easier fandom, y'know, to live in. I know Blake’s 7 fandom, got very intensely involved in factions. And even one of the actors got involved in it. That caused problems. But I went to a very small convention with him and he was completely a doll. He was so completely pleasant. But that was one reason, when my friend got into doing Blake’s 7 I'm kind of like, "I don't think I want to go there." I'll write for you, but— But Miami Vice had a very special place in my heart for a long time. It still does. I still find myself writing on my Miami Vice poem, y'know. So the images are still there.
... while I do write explicit stories [in other fandoms than Kirk/Spock], I try to write a love story. That's what I'm in fandom for. Not that I won't read a good bondage story or whatever. But it's not what I choose to write. So I usually write love stories, and she just could not understand how I could see a connection between two of the characters other than Kirk and Spock. They're special! They're special! And it is different. There's a different sense to it. It's almost elevated. You know, "Kirk and Spock are beyond all that." (laughter) But I think mainly because it was the first fandom that was really slashed. That's where the term slash even came from, the slash between the K and the S.... Yeah, I had a couple of friends who thought I was crazy [for being multi-fannish], y'know? "You just wanna write more porn." Well, there is that. Because I do call myself a pornographer, but I do publish love stories. That's what I'm interested in, the emotional side. That's where I get the— I get the kick from the emotional orgasm, so to speak.
When I started out— A fan in Australia was invited on a TV, I mean a radio show that was kind of science fiction, it was like, "We have quirky fan stories" ... She was invited on to read a story, one of her favorite stories. I think she was contacted at a convention. And I learned about this about a week later, 'cause that's how long it took mail to get to California from Australia... I had about twelve letters saying, "Oh my god, this woman read your story, your K/S story, under your real name, on a national radio program."... Had that happened here, Paramount would have been on my ass in a second. I did write to her and to the show's producers, saying, "You can't read someone else's property, with— using their name, on any kind of media other than the written word, without permission." And, you know, I got all these apologies. But that was very close. And so, I no longer wrote under my real name, and my first pseudonym was born. But the first two issues of As I Do Thee are still in print and my name's still there. And I wrote for other zines. I wrote for a couple of gen zines, and I was in, you know, many K/S zines under my first my real name, for a while. Which would be a problem if I had a career. But it would find out. But I don't.
It's really cool to see young fans in another country still doing it. But there's still a lot of other kinds of zines, but they're dying out. They really are. I read on-line. I really do. I mean, AO3 is like a treasure trove. I love reading there. But I still love the process— I love the editing. I love taking authors who could barely put words on the page and having them just soar. I also did a semi-professional non-fan publication called Prisoners of the Night, which was an erotic vampire anthology of original characters. I had a couple of people come in very early on who were, y'know, shy and retiring about doing— And they're now professional publishers, I mean writers. One of them actually dedicated her book to me. Which was so sweet, and so fulfilling. You know, I'm kind of in the mother role, almost the grandmother role, now. So it's reversed, when I— I came in real young, and now I've got a couple of young friends who are just getting into stuff. And I'm allowing a friend of mine to put my early K/S on the K/S archive on-line — the early stuff that's in print, that really just does not sell any more. I see no reason not to upload it. But I did have a— I had a problem with using my first name, I mean my real name.
I completely frequent AO3. I think it's the best archive I've seen. It's very clean and clear, to my thinking about finding what I want to read. It also— I'll just kind of meander around sometimes and go, "Ooh, that sounds interesting." And I'll go and read something that I never would've otherwise. I think it's wonderful this group of people have gotten together to create this solid place, a safe place for everyone to go. I do have a friend who has a problem posting to AO3 because of the real people slash... And the real people fic. She has a problem, mostly with the slash, but both bother her, and she doesn't feel like she can post to the site, and we've had long discussions about this. 'Cause she thinks it's just— it's her condoning it —if she posts to the site. And I try to tell her that the people who run the site try not to be judgmental, they want to be all-inclusive, and they're not making— They're not setting a standard that is, that could be a double standard.... And I understand why they have the stance they do, and she just is firm in the ground, "No." But she's a wonderful writer and I cannot get her to write, which drives me crazy. So I do AO3 quite a bit. I tried fan fiction dot net, and it just drove me nuts. I don't go there very often....I've not been comfortable with LiveJournal. And I wish I had gone to the Tumblr panel 9at Escapade], because that's a mystery to me, too.
I'm kinda sad about fanzines going away, but I'm learning to live with it. I will probably continue to do them for a while yet. I do enjoy it. And it's a hobby. It used to be something that was all-consuming and took up a lot of time, and now it's just a little hobby now. It's just a little hobby, and I still love it, and I still enjoy it, and I'm going to continue doing it until — like I told a friend the other day — until people forget how to read.