Media Fandom Oral History Project Interview with CatalenaMara

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Interviews by Fans
Title: Media Fandom Oral History Project Interview with CatalenaMara
Interviewer: Franzeska Dickson
Interviewee: CatalenaMara
Date(s): February 25, 2012
Medium:
Fandom(s): Star Trek, other fandoms
External Links: Media Fandom Oral History Project Interview with CatalenaMara
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

In 2012, CatalenaMara was interviewed at Escapade as part of the Media Fandom Oral History Project.

This interview was transcribed in 2013.

Total time: 1:02:44

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

  • her fannish roots
  • print shop adventures
  • a loyalty oath and violation of the fourth wall
  • banned in South Africa
  • discussion about some very early slash zines
  • how media fandom went from Star Trek to many fandoms
  • some ins and outs of zine production
  • the uniqueness of Beauty and the Beast fandom
  • tensions between print fans and online fans
  • KiScon and MediaWest
  • her ineptness making vids
  • some of her art firsts as a zine editor
  • her involvement in scanning and preserving old print zines
  • third-season anger in the Beauty and the Beast fandom
  • how lack of access to anatomical and psychological information made a lot of early slash writing read like heterosexual fantasy
  • the Alexander/Hephaistion trope

Excerpts

[introduction to slash]:
Now, slash was something that was underground at the time, and I was not aware of it. But it didn't take very long for it to become public. And I hit fandom at exactly the right time. I began writing some short stories and poetry. And there was a fanzine editor named Gerry Downes, and she has since passed away, and her name is fairly public record, in Alaska. Gerry published the first Kirk/Spock slash fanzine in 1976. By that point, in time I'd already contributed to her fanzine Stardate Unknown, and we were engaged in a long correspondence through the mail that she, the internet is very fast and instantaneous, but we were pretty close between the telephone trees and the postal service. We kept in pretty good contact. So Gerry and I were in this long-term correspondence, so when she was planning to publish her K/S zine called Alternative, the Epilogue to Orion, I was one of the people who of course got the flyer, which was also sent out to various fan publications, advertisements and so forth. It was very —- I want to say timid. It was, "this is a very controversial topic, we understand a lot of people are not going to care for this, you do not buy this if you don't approve of the concept. If you get it and then you find you do not approve of the concept after you've received it you can send it back for a full refund," et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. So I immediately sent off for this fanzine, because I was very intrigued by the concept, and I'd already read —- but by the time it came out there'd also been a short British story published as well. But when this zine came back — it was only a 50-page zine — it was short, it was fairly non-explicit, it had, you know, bittersweet ending, it really— really I wanted more!... I have since discovered that there were a lot of underground stories being passed around at that time that dated back several years prior. In England, and in the United States, in Australia, and, this was a very connected group of fans between these three— I'm gonna not say countries, because all of the U.K., but a very connected group of fans who were discussing and developing this concept. And, writing stories. But Gerry's novel, novella, inspired a number of people. And, before you know it, there was more stories being written. It came a few at first, just a very few, and there were pal discussions at conventions. It was extremely controversial. It created, you know, an incredible flame war, it was like, oh, Gerry Downes got a huge quantity of hate mail which I think made her grateful she lived in Alaska....There was one fan in particular, she was so appalled. It was like -— how can I face the world knowing this exists? Well, of course, the rest of us went right on doing it anyway, because that was her problem. You know, no one is forcing her to read, or send money through the mail, to purchase something she does not want to see! It's like -— if you're going to go out of your way to be offended, please, just stay in your own corner of fandom. So, by the time the next year came around, '77, just a few more stories had been published, but they were absolutely seminal to the fandom. [Gayle F] did Desert Heat, Leslie Fish did her Shelter and Poses. These stories, you know, created what became different types of fanon that still carry on through the fandom all these years later. And then, a woman named Carol brought out a zine called Thrust, that was in 1977, and it had full frontal Gayle cover art, very explicit, and very sophisticated well-written stories, quite a variety. Like someone commented in a review on this in later years, it was like the fandom appeared full-blown. But this was kind of the culmination of all this underground material that finally saw publication.
[slash and other fandoms]:
And part of [the reason slash was relatively open in Star Trek fandom] was Gene Roddenberry's knowledge and essentially approval. Y'know, a lot of people talk about his quote in the novelization of Star Trek The Motion Picture. Not so much discussed is his quote in a biography called Shatner: Where No Man, that came out in I believe in 1977 or '78, somewhere in the late '70s, where he was being interviewed about the Shatner biography, but he was also asked about K/S. And, you know, his response was, well, if that's the style in the 23rd century that's fine because I believe they love each other enough to be lovers. He referred specifically to Alexander and Hephaistion as role models, which was a very popular trope in the 1970s K/S fandom. So, other fandoms in the '80s, yes. There was a lot of, again, like with Trek, a lot of anti-slashers who really wanted to cause trouble by sending zines off to the powers that be. Some did, which was the reason why Starsky and Hutch fandom went way underground for a while. One of the earliest Starsky and Hutch slash zines came out with no identifying information whatsoever, no author names, no artist names, no editor names, no address, no nothing. You really had to be in the know to get this, because this had been turned in as a it was in production to Aaron Spelling by some anti-slash fans. And they went very underground, and it created kind of a culture of secrecy, and maybe a little bit of paranoia. And some people in the '80s because, you know, Gene Roddenberry was the exception to the rule. You're not going to be able to count on the powers that be wanting fanzines of any kind, much less sexually explicit ones. And there was George Lucas, [[Star Wars Open Letter|attempting to keep control of Star Wars fandom]], too. I don't know if other people have discussed that, but that was also a factor....He didn't want anything over R-rated. He didn't really, he really did not want R-rated. He wanted, he felt that Star Wars was big -— needed to be accessible to children, he didn't want anything out there, anywhere, available anywhere, that had any adult material in it....By the time Phantom Menace came out, he obviously had given up. Because there was something like three hundred Phantom Obi-wan/Qui-gon stories in the archive within three weeks and it just carried on from there. But after Star Wars came out in the '80s, he was very controlling about the fandom to the point where they had actually— The zine library that had been run by Ming Wathne was actually originally the Star Wars zines that had been turned over to Lucasfilm Productions for approval or at least, ah, vetting, essentially. And so people did need -— Star Wars editors quite often had to turn in, or needed to turn in or chose to turn in fanzines, a copy to Lucasfilms, just to show they were not having any nasty adult material.
[the multiplicity of fandoms when there had been only Star Trek]:
...in the early days you had to have a critical mass of people willing to read a particular zine to make it financially feasible to publish. The nature of printing at the time was called photo-offset printing. You had to have a minimum order of a hundred copies, and the more copies you printed, the cheaper they got, just because the set-up cost of offset printing — once that was done, additional copies were less. Star Trek at the beginning was the only fandom that had the sheer numbers to really support that sort of publication. There were a couple of exceptions, but that was by far the largest. And then Star Wars came along, and that was also huge, enormous. And a lot of people -— you had your first kind of fannish split by then. Some people stayed with Trek, some were off with Star Wars, we had fannish, "my fandom is better than your fandom" thing. That was carried all kinds of things, including a filk song, that was pretty funny. But they had enough fans to support fanzines. There were some very beautiful Star Wars fanzines done. Ah, in the '80s, you had the photocopy revolution, companies, independent copy shops, chains like Kinko's, so forth, that could and did print smaller print runs. This allowed other fandoms, which had maybe fewer fans, to have still enough fans to support smaller print runs. Ah, UNCLE began coming into its own. Man From UNCLE began coming into its own then. There had been a few UNCLE things published prior to that. Starsky and Hutch was also from the 70s, and that was the first new slash fandom after Star Trek. But once the photocopy machine, particularly by the late '80s, you could support a lot of different fandoms, and that's when you began to see fanzines for all kinds of fandoms, not just ones with massive followings. So, it was a combination of technology and numbers.
[regarding printing shop adventures, and a fan tattle-tale]:
[The printing shop near Berkeley was] set up to do small press runs of books. Y'know, a lot of local-interest books, a lot of things that are done specifically for the University. They had the printing technology and the binding technology to do this. And what's more they were perfectly fine with the material. No problem! They were a bunch of ex-flower children, they had a Great Dane mascot who wandered around the shop, just very, very low-key, and very, very interested in what I had to do. So, I would bring these in, at that time it would take about two weeks to have a fanzine printed. So I dropped off the very first issue of my zine, and came back two weeks later when they told me it was done, and I came and one of the printers starts laughing, and says, "Well, we had someone in here who wanting to do, y'know, one of those zines. And I said, 'Oh! We're doing one right now!' 'Oh?'" And he brought out — not the front cover of the first issue, was just a double portrait — the back cover, which was a kiss. Y'know, all clothes on, nothing explicit, it was a kiss. This woman freaked out. And, shortly before I went to pick it up, I began hearing from friends around the country, saying, "There's a — you know that slash zine you're publishing? They already know about it. The ones who don't like it, they already know about it.” Well, it was because this woman had come in to get a quote, and she had been involved in one of the fan clubs for one of the actors, and she spread the word. And they spread the word, it's like, "Watch out! There's another one of these on the horizon!" And they literally, from what I understand, from one of the people who'd actually drawn the front cover for me, they were literally asking people to sign a loyalty oath that they would never read slash or participate in slash if they wanted to be part of the fan club. So, they all got new pseudonyms and, y'know, continued.
[banned in South Africa]:
I felt so sorry for this poor [fan], she loved Kirk/Spock, loved K/S, absolutely loved it, and she'd been on visits to the United States, and she'd gotten zines, and she ordered one of my zines, and I mailed it to her. And Customs caught it. And, they checked her mail, they questioned her, and they tapped her phone for over a year. It's like she was — basically you know, I could not mail into the country ever again after that point. And, she could not, I mean, she was on a list. She was on, next thing to criminal list. And, it was just really kind of a scary thing. And I was like, "Oh my god!" And she wanted so much to participate in the fandom, she's isolated. And a couple years later she gets in touch again. She says, "I really want the next issue." So, about thirty of us, we took the next issue, I rubber-pasted blank paper over the art work, re-photo-copied the pages. We took five pages at a time, and around thirty of us, not myself, mailed her the zine five pages at a time. Now, she can just hop on-line, but then, it was pretty damn difficult.
[Beauty and the Beast fandom]:
I was in Beauty and the Beast fandom for a while, and I never could quite understand in recent years why they've become so separate from fandom, because they used to be — I mean, when the show was on the air there was a tremendous number of zines being published, and they were at Media West, they were at New York conventions, at Shore Leave, at any conventions where there were zines, the Beauty and the Beast zines there, and then, but after the show went off, particularly after the controversy, they just kind of started heading in a different direction, and almost, like, cut ties. And I didn't stay with the fandom so I never quite understood the dynamic.... [they became separate fairly recently]... They didn't develop in a vacuum, but they went off in that direction. Because, a lot of the early Beauty and the Beast fanzine editors had come from other fandoms. And, there were a lot of brand new people in that fandom as well. This was their first fandom, this was the first time doing a zine, but they were still building on what had been established by other zine editors. I think some of the earliest Beauty and the Beast zines were from people from other fandoms. New people came in, took that as their model, and went with it.
[print fans vs online fans, the rise of the internet]:
It was really kind of interesting, 'cause we went through this whole, everybody is like -— really kind of a weird disconnect, because a lot of the net people at one point in time they were discussing various bits of K/S fanon and saying, "Well, who originated that?" and they'd name this internet author or that internet author, when it was fanon from twenty-plus years prior. It was from the '70s, some of the stuff they were talking about. So there was a certain amount of people who were very early pioneers onto the net. I wasn't one of them, I think I got on-line in 1995. AOL one-point-zero for DOS. All those, almost was back in the day...... What I found disturbing when I first got on-line, was just the level of misunderstanding between both groups. A lot of the fanzine people were afraid public posting of fanfiction would bring the attention of the powers that be and shut everything down. A lot of the people on-line were going, "What's a fanzine and why should we pay for it?" And, just this incredible lack of communication or understanding between the two for K/S fandom.
[some art firsts as a zine editor]:
I was the first person, umm, to my knowledge, I was one of the very first people to publish color. I was one of the first – I think I am the first editor to publish CGA. And I think I'm one of the first, in the United States, to publish anime, ah, type art. Manga-style art. Ah, I've always been interested in the technology of reproducing art to make it look as good as possible with the resources at my disposal at the time. Again, in the early days of Trek you still had the numbers — But in color art that time. I did a zine in about 1984 which had a color cover. Color at the time, you had to have a minimum of five hundred, and most places wanted a minimum of two thousand, which was beyond the capability of fandom. But I found a place that would do full-color separation artwork, very complicated process. I've seen the actual machines that do this, they were enormous machines. And, I found a place that'd do five hundred. So I was able to get a color cover done, and I did several more after that, quite on the old process, and then the photocopy ability became such that it was possible to use that and get really good results. And now, quite often, I'll just print the art myself for my zines, on an inkjet, because you can get, with good, solid, heavy paper, high white, you can get very good results with that. Y'know, pencil art in fact, early days was rarely used, 'cause that was also an expensive process. So, I know a fan commented on that, looking through old zines versus new zines, "Well, why was everyone doing pen-and-ink back then?" Because it could be reproduced. And pencil could not. And color could not. And then, as the technology improved, every leap in technology fans took immediate advantage of to see how much we could do, how beautiful we could make things look. And I've been very focused on publishing art in my zines, in recent issues I've had as many as eight to ten color pieces per issue. Ah, basically, whatever I can fit into the budget. If I can't ruin the budget, I'll had another color piece.
[third-season Beauty and the Beast anger]:
Up until that point things had been fine, but, when that third season came out, it became instant warfare. Instant warfare. If you dared say that you liked Diana — For example, I published an issue of a Beauty and the Beast zine after that came out, and I had a, like, three-page story which was just a Diana story? I had people send me back my flyer, which talked about this, torn to pieces. And, this didn't happen to me, but it happened to Dovya, who also published a Beauty and the Beast zine at the time. She had the same situation happen, but someone — more than one person — tore the story out of the zine, ripped it up in pieces and sent it back to her. It's like, overreaction much?
[fandom in-fighting in Blake's 7]:
Well, it was just, to me it sort of became — a mountain out of a molehill type thing? And again it had to do more with the actual powers that be. And the actors and the producer were getting kind of overly involved with fans. And that's, y'know, when you get into a situation where the actors are involved, that creates a whole different dynamic, 'cause people are jockeying for position, people are seeing this as a form of power: “I know this person, I can give you all this inside information." It's not an aspect of fandom I care for at all. There was a lot of that going on. There was, apparently a lot of people thought this was a huge slash controversy, and that some of the actors were highly opposed to it, one in particular, but, you know again, since I knew people who knew these people — At one point we went out to a fannish dinner with one of the actors, who was so supposedly anti-slash that he just wanted everything destroyed, and he brought up the subject and asked what we thought about it. And several of us were into it, and we said, well, you know, we enjoy it. And he seemed fine with it, and we never heard anything afterwards that he was going on any kind of crusade. I think the whole thing was really blown up. Granted, I wasn't in the middle, I wasn't on either side, I was standing back a bit, but I was publishing a slash zine, so I was highly interested in the outcome. I didn't ever see this as being — as huge as it was, but I think what happened was, again, actor involvement gets a lot of jockeying, and you get a lot of fights over that. I've seen that happen in other fandoms, too. And, it's just not a good thing. There was the producer, I think he had wanted fans — and I'm very hazy on this stuff — he'd wanted fans to support certain projects that he wanted to work on. But you would need to find someone more in the know about that.
[varied content in old print zines as a necessity]:
that was also, y'know, a part of technology. The early adult zines were all everything. Y'know, just everything. Warped Space X, ten, Warped Space XX, twenty, and, there subsequently was a zine which was called the Obsc'zine, were all mixed. Het, slash, and almost every issue had the orgy on the Enterprise... They'd have threesomes, they'd have a little bit of BDSM, they'd have femslash, they'd have everything. Because again, printing technology. There wasn't enough at that time to support individual zines for each pairings. The print technology came on, you started seeing a lot more separated, "This is just a slash zine, this is just a het zine," and so forth. But not so much in the early days, and then it kind of paralleled what I saw in some of the internet, say for example, all Star Trek erotica. Basically it started off, as I understand it — I wasn't there — and still is, all Treks, all pairings, all ratings. No distinctions. You can publish your adult Trek story there no matter which series it's from, which pairing it is. The early zines were like that too, obviously just for Classic Trek 'cause that was all there was, then. I think the tendency is to move from everything here to specifics, but the internet can send it back in the other direction, too. It all depends on the fandom.