Media Fandom Oral History Project Interview with Devra Langsam
|Interviews by Fans|
|Title:||Media Fandom Oral History Project Interview with Devra Langsam|
|Date(s):||July 25, 2017|
|Medium:||audio recording, written transcript.|
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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.
- learning about Star Trek: TOS
- the creation of Spockanalia
- social tensions between science fiction fans who also liked Star Trek (primarily male) and the new influx of fans (mostly female) who liked Spock: "It was a number of years later that Elyse Pines Rosenstein and I thought about doing a convention that was just Star Trek, because of the slightly negative feeling that there were at some of the regular science fiction convention."
- her reputation as a "mean" editor: "Yes, I’ve occasionally said unkind things that I later regretted, but it’s a long time ago, so maybe they’ve been forgotten."
- regarding Visit to a Weird Planet: "It seemed like an obvious kind of idea. I had no idea that it was one of the first switch kind of stories. I never even thought of that, but it made such good sense that somebody should try it, and both of those stories are very well written. Both Jean Lorrah and Ruth Berman have gone on to become professionally-published authors, and they were good."
- regarding fan fic: "it’s easy to write fan stories because all the hard work of characterization has been done for you, which I think is one of the things that attracted people. They had these wonderful ideas, and they didn’t have to explain the relationships between the characters or describe them or describe their emotional reactions, because it had all been done. It’s a lazy way of writing, but a lot people start that way."
- turning down a submission from James Tiptree: "We got a submission from James Tiptree under one of her other names, and I didn’t want to publish it because it was so similar to a story that we had just published.So, I said, “Thank you, no,” politely. I didn’t realize it was real published author, and somebody else published it."
- Darkover fandom
- interaction with Trek PTB
- much about mimeograph machines
- advice for new fans
- "One time I was at a World Science Fiction Convention in Boston, and Andre Norton was the guest of honor, and I actually knelt at her feet. The poor woman was horrified. (laughs). I had been reading Andre Norton since I was about 12, and she was just such a good author, and I really admired her work. She was one of the early women in science fiction, and she wrote books that were very approachable. They were not all mechanical. So that was pretty wonderful."
I was friendly with Sherna Comerford in high school and in college. I went away to grad school, and she wrote to me and said, “I just saw this wonderful television show. It has an alien with no emotions,” and I said, “That sounds really stupid.” (laughs) I didn’t actually start watching Star Trek until I came home and began work as a librarian, and Sherna and I both were enthralled with Star Trek, and she was currently a grad student at Rutgers in Newark, and she went to an open SFA. SFA was the Newark Science Fiction Society, and the open was their local convention,and she sat next to Brian Burley, and somehow they got into conversation, and he showed her a photo of Spock that he had gotten from the network.
Then he gave her the name and address of Juanita Coulson, who is a fan who lived out in Indiana and had been doing general science fiction fanzines for a very long time, and published a magazine with her husband, which was called Yandro, and it had some articles in it about Star Trek. And we started a correspondence with Juanita, and she said to us, “I think it would be wonderful if someone did a fanzine, just Star Trek, and you two young women might be able to do it. I’ll help you with the publication,” because she had her own mimeograph, and she knew how to publish a magazine.
Then she put us in touch with Ruth Berman and Eleanor Arnason, both of whom had material to contribute, and Juanita helped us with the layout and the artwork, and Sherna got the Publications Department at the University she was going to, to print the magazine for us. Then we collated it at the NyCon 3, the World Science Fiction Convention in 1967, which was held in Manhattan, and we got friends to help us collate, put it together, and staple it. It was a very long magazine for that time. It had 45 doubled-sided pages, and we did not own a heavy-duty stapler. We didn’t know there was such a thing. So, we were at the convention, in my bedroom we were doing this. We had a wall stapler, and we stapled it through the magazine, pried it off with a screwdriver, and somebody closed each prong of the wall staple with pliers, which is why if you have an original, first-printing copy, the staple will have started to cut through the paper because it has sharp edges, unlike a regular staple designed to staple paper together.We walked around the convention with piles of the magazines in our arms, selling it to anybody we could find for 50 cents. That’s how we got started. [We sold] maybe 50 or 75. There were about 2000 people in attendance at the convention.
For a long time, Sherna and I continued to publish our fanzine, and many other people started doing fanzines. In order to publish a fanzine, what you really needed was a friend in your school or your church who had access to a mimeograph, because it was a very cheap way of producing a magazine. Xerox, at that time, was extremely expensive, like, 25 cents a page, and nobody thought that that was feasible to do a magazine, but if your church or your school had mimeograph, you could do it for a couple of pennies a page, and then you got your friends together, and they assembled it in an assembly line. Take one page, take two page, take three page, put it together, staple it, and then you feed them and give them a free copy. It was a lot-of-hands labor, let me tell you.
We were very proud that we had produced [Spockanalia] and from the very beginning, we said we were not going to have articles about “I went to the set and I saw Mr. Spock’s dressing room.” We will only publish things that pretend that Star Trek is the real world. So, you can write an article about ancient Vulcan archeology as long as it doesn’t violate anything that has been established in the show, or you can write a story, but you cannot send us an article about meeting Mr. Spock at an autograph session. We did five issues, and then by that time, Star Trek was off the air, and a lot of people were starting to get interested in Star Wars and other things, so Sherna and I parted company.
Somewhere around, there are probably, between the five volumes, probably somewhere around 20,000 copies [of Spockanalia] floating around. But it was over a 20 or 25-year period, so... I believe somebody has webbed it. I don’t know. I didn’t want to look. Originally, we put in copyright papers, saying that the original material was returned to the authors and that, of course, only the original stuff belonged to them, not any of the stuff from television. But of course, probably Paramount would have said that it all belonged to them. There has been a lot of confusion and argument about that. At one time, Paula Smith published a fanzine, and she put in the copyright notice, “this stuff doesn’t intend to violate anybody’s copyright. Of course it does, but we don’t intend to,” so, as I say, people — Paramount mostly — didn’t care because we weren’t making any money. If we had made substantial amounts of money, they might have gotten annoyed. We did send copies of the magazine to the actors, and I have a newspaper clipping showing Roddenberry holding a copy of one of the magazines. You can quite easily read the name of the magazine, and he never said anything about how he didn’t want me to keep on doing it, so...
I don't know if he actually read it. Well, at least he was holding it. (laughs)
We didn’t really have much from them. We had a nice, polite letter from Leonard Nimoy, from when we had sent him the first issue, and we had a letter from D.C. Fontana, in which she revealed Mr. Spock’s last name, which I can’t possibly spell for you at this point. We had been in contact because we had sent letters to Paramount, and Paramount had forwarded the material to the cast. So, at one point, Sherna and I went out, hoping to visit the set, but we had very foolishly decided to wait until after the science fiction convention that we were also attending, by which time they were on hiatus. So, we saw the prop room, which was annoying, but we did not have that close a relationship with the cast or the creators. D.C. Fontana and I still exchange Christmas cards, but that’s about the limit of [our contact. It was mainly] “Here is our magazine about your wonderful show; we hope you like it” kind of letters.
[snipped]We didn’t have anything that [TPTB] could object to. I mean, it was not like the people writing slash, where the actors might feel uncomfortable about reading a story in which their character was paired with a same-sex — we didn’t do that. There were lots of fanzines that did that. There was a whole, large section of fandom that was devoted to doing that, but we didn’t do that, and we didn’t say things like “Oh my God, Kirk is so stupid!” or “Why doesn’t Spock ever learn?” We may have thought that, but we didn’t actually publish things that said that.
People didn’t always agree with the way the stories were done, but we really, really tried extremely hard to stick to canon. We were very strict about “if it’s not in the episodes as aired, then it’s not real,” so even if you had an original script, and you said, “Look! It says this!” – if it was cut and did not appear on the television, then it wasn’t real. So even when they started publishing the books, we simply said “No, you can’t use that,” so it made it a little different. Other people wrote stories. They just made it all up, but we really tried very hard to stick to what we had been given. That was a challenge because the first two or three issues were published while they were still producing new episodes, and we were really nervous that somebody was going to come out with an episode that made us look stupid because it contradicted what we had printed, but it didn’t happen. Not that they were worried about it, but we were a little twitchy about it. I don’t think we were ever controversial. Possibly we were just too cautious for that. It wasn’t like Night of the Twin Moons, which Jean Lorrah published about Sarek and Amanda. It had some warm scenes in it, very well-written, but it was — some people were a little distressed by it because it wasn’t their image of Sarek and Amanda.[We didn't published that kind of stuff.] I’m a prude. What can I tell you? I didn’t want to publish that. I don’t think that we ever really got that much sent to us, but you could look at the stuff we published, and you could see that it did not have a lot of graphic material in it. In one of my stories, there is one line where the woman, who is married to a Vulcan, remembers the feeling of “hot skin on her thighs,” and somebody wrote to me and said, “Is this the kind of thing you’re publishing?” (laughs) That was, I think, the hottest thing we ever did print.
[Mimeo machines] were in every office and every school and every church for years and years. It’s not the purple stuff. That’s ditto. Some places still have ditto for school notices, but it’s a very, very good, efficient printing system, and it wasn’t cheap. You might pay five or six hundred dollars for a good machine, but you could run it with electricity, and you could run even if there was no power, and it was yours. You could publish. You had real freedom of the press!
If [artists] hadn’t gotten your reference material before the show went off the air, there was none. They didn’t think there was going to be any interest in those old people from that show that went off the air last year, so they didn’t publish any pictures. So, an artist who wanted a good picture of the actor’s face — it was difficult, but we wrote to the studio, and they sent us some nice photos, and then during the Save Star Trek campaign, Roddenberry and Bjo Trimble started giving out film clips. From the original filming. They just had vast quantities of them, enormous numbers of pictures of Kirk sitting in the command chair or of Spock standing there looking saturnine. And they started distributing them to people as a sort of incentive to write letters to Paramount, and then people would take the film clip and go to their local photo shop and say, “Print me a picture of this. Do it backwards. The emotion is on the wrong side” because it is on TV, and you could tell that the photo shop had done it wrong because the badge would be on the wrong side of the shoulder.
From the very beginning, we had been sending copies over to Roddenberry and the actors, so — and they didn’t write back and say “Stop this at once you horrible people!” so we assumed that they didn’t mind, and we never got any cease-and-desist letters from Paramount because we were not doing anything that was really controversial, and if I made five cents a copy on a magazine, it was probably lying. Not that much because I had to buy the materials and of course feed the people who came to help me, and then everybody who contributed got a copy. You had story. You had a poem. You had art work. You got a free copy. So, there wasn’t what I would call a lot of profit involved, certainly not enough that Paramount would feel that they were being cheated.We were sort of sailing under the radar [regarding copyright]. It was basically they couldn’t believe that anybody was really interested in that show that they’d canceled, and so they didn’t look at it. They didn’t look for it. They weren’t tapped into it, and there wasn’t — even though the internet may have started up some time in there, there really — it wasn’t, it wasn’t a lot of noise. If you weren’t in the circuit, you didn’t hear about it. It was like some of the really hot magazines that had stories that I would consider a trifle vulgar. Sometimes you had to know the editor or one of the authors or else you couldn’t get it because they wouldn’t sell it to you. You wouldn’t know where to write. Anyway, everything is long out of copyright now. The first issue was published 50 years ago? That’s way out of copyright, and I didn’t renew it, so poof! The original material all belonged to the authors, and the other material belonged to Paramount, so here we are.
I wrote one or two stories about humans and Vulcans. One of them was called “A Little More Than Kin but Less Than Kind,” about a Vulcan girl who was brought up by humans, and I had a disagreement with Jacqueline Lichtenberg about it. She thought that the focus of the story was a compromise between the Vulcans and this Vulcan girl who thinks sort of like a human, and they think that she should be trained to be Vulcan. They want her to go to Vulcan. She wants to go to the Academy and have an engineering scholarship. They end up with her having a special tutor living at the university so she can take the engineering courses and also be trained in “the Vulcan way.” I was kind of proud of that. Anyway, Jacqueline Lichtenberg, who wrote the Kraith stories, didn’t really agree with it, so she wrote a story in which the girl goes slightly crazy, and has to go back to Vulcan and psychoanalyzed and made properly Vulcan. She made a mistake. She asked me if I minded if she published it, and I said, “Don’t publish it,”because it basically negated the whole point of my story which was compromise. I don’t know what she did with it. It is probably in a box under the stairs or something, but I said, “No, I don’t want you to publish it,” and she didn’t. You understand that what we published was stuff that probably the authors of the original episodes would have said, “No, I don’t want you to publish that!” but we didn’t ask them.
[I wasn't really interested in the Kraith universe]. It didn’t feel comfortable to me. It was some very fine writing, and there were a lot of extremely good stories. The best Kraith story I ever read was “Basic” by Eileen Roy. It was an anti-Kraith, pointing out a number of the problems inherent in the whole system, but it was really professional-quality writing, but unfortunately, if you hadn’t read the original Kraith stories, it would have made absolutely no sense toyou, and there wasn’t a market for it anyway.
Elyse Pines and I were in one of our homes, looking through out slide collection, because I was going to do a slide presentation at the library to amuse the kids, and I wanted good shots of this and that. I had a poem that we were illustrating so we wanted to get good pictures that matched the poem, and we were going through hundreds and hundreds and thousands of slides in little cardboard folders, and one of us says to the other, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we had a convention like LunaCon that was only about Star Trek so we invite all of our friends, and we can talk about Star Trek, and nobody would look at us funny and say, “That’s not real science fiction,” or “Why aren’t you talking about Asimov?” And I said, “Well, yeah, that would be nice.” That was on the weekend, and on the following Thursday, Elyse called me and said, “We’ve got a printer and a hotel and everything,” and it just sort of grew from there.
We got Joan Winston who was working for one of the networks in a secretarial position. We got Allan Asherman who was an artist, who was supposed to do the art show. We got Hal Clement to come and give a science talk. Hal liked Star Trek a lot. He was a professional author, a well-known and respected professional author. He was also an artist, and he was a science teacher. The man was a real triple threat person, and we got Isaac Asimov to come down and do a talk, and Joan contacted NASA and got us a real space ship, a real spacesuit, and a big exhibit with panels, showing different things about it, and we got Roddenberry. I don’t remember whether he brought the films that we showed, or whether they just came from Paramount, but we got actual film copies of the episodes, including the blooper reels, which I think that was the first place it was ever shown. And we got Phil Seuling who was a comic book seller to run the dealers room. He contacted people who had Star Trek stuff to sell. I think they must have been comics, hand-made phasers, and that kind of stuff.
So we modeled it basically after the other conventions we knew, which were the science fiction conventions, so we had an art show, a dealers room, and a costume ball, and Linda Deneroff did a trivia contest, full of unspeakable questions I couldn’t answer because they were so tiny and specific, and had Al Schuster, and he was a professional printer, and he did the pocket program. And, as I said, at that time, it was very hard to get good pictures of the show, so we went through our slides, and he printed up a book that was entirely pictures from slides. There were the actors and some of the good shots from episodes. That was, of course, part of your loot when you became a convention member. You got the trivia questionnaire. You got the copy of the schedule. You got this beautiful book with a full-color cover, and you got a bumper sticker that said “Star Trek Lives.” I think we must have gotten those from Roddenberry.
And, so we did it. We rented the top floor of the Statler Hilton, which is currently the Hotel Pennsylvania, opposite Penn Station. It was rated for 1800 people. I think we had 32-3,400 people in there. We don’t know because on the last day, we stopped taking money at about 1:00 in the afternoon. We just said, “Write your name down and your address and put it in this box,” and somebody stole the box, so we don’t really know, but we had told all of our friends [inaudible] Lewis. “So you want to come to our convention.” “Yes!” Well, it so much in advance, and we had 800 advance registrations. I don’t remember who did the registration at the moment, but anyway, we thought probably the attendance would double because that’s what LunaCon usually did, so that we prepared for 2000, and we got somewhere between 32-3400 people. Just lucky that the Fire Marshall didn’t come because he would have closed us down in a heartbeat.And, afterward, we said, “Oh, this was wonderful! Let’s do it again!” Very stupid, but we did. We did it four more times.
A the end of the fourth convention, we had a big fight with Al Schuster, and we decided to split up, so he did his own convention the last year, and also a person named Sandra Boynton [ed: Lisa Boynton], no relationship to the artist, did a convention, so there were three Star Trek conventions in New York City within three months. We still had 6000 people, and the second year we hired convention ladies to handle registration. That was a mercy. Wow.
The first year, the actors came for nothing. After that, their agents said to them, “This is your job. You must get paid for it.” So, gradually, we started paying them, and what they wanted became bigger and bigger, and eventually, we were priced out of the market. We couldn’t handle it. We learned to print over what we thought we would get. We learned to have security guards so the actors were not overwhelmed by fans. Umm, we had enormous, long committee meetings where we screamed at each other, and then we all went and did the work anyway. We had parties where people came and stuck labels onto forthcoming convention booklets that we mailed out, and you had to sort them by zip code. This was—you could get it printed by the computer, but the computer wouldn’t sort it by zip code. You had to do that by hand. Arg. To be on the floor of Elyse’s house, surrounded by piles of stuff, sorting them into all the same zip code, the same first three, bundle it, put a label on it. That was a lot of work.And in the end, I think people had a pretty good time, but in the end, it was getting to the point where it was more work for us and less fun, and people were getting interested in other things, and it was too much work to be a hobby and too little money to be a job. There were 15 of us, and the amount of money we made, if you count all the hours I spent going through the mail and typing things into the computer, and all the hours that Joyce spent writing out registrations and stamping them with invisible ink and all the hours we spent stuffing the freebies, it was like five cents an hour. (laugh) Really not much money, and as I say, it wasn’t fun anymore. We had a good run, though. We did it
[The actors] came to our first convention, and I think we may have given them hotel rooms. After that, we started paying them a speaker’s fee and hotel room, and eventually, someone like Mr. Shatner would get his hotel room, a per diem, first-class airplane ticket, a limo to pick him up at the airport, and really, it just became uneconomical. There is kind of a catch-22 in this. If you want to have a big-name guest, you have to have a lot of money. You have to have a lot of attendees. If you have a lot of attendees, you need a large hotel room, a large hotel space, which is expensive, so you have to have a lot of attendees to pay for the hotel, to pay for the guests, and if you don’t, then you’re going to be in a bad way. So, you see what I mean? It just goes around and around and around, and you’re stuck. It comes down to that, yeah. We were a corporation, but we were supporting the corporation in some ways. At one point, I put up money for the hotel deposit because we just didn’t have it, because every year the money was just fed back into the next convention, and we just didn’t have it.At least [the actors must not have] hated it terribly because they kept on doing it, but um, I don’t know whether they enjoyed it. I really don’t. The first year, I think they were just overwhelmed that people were still interested in this show that they had done, that had been off the air for several years. It never was that popular in the Nielsen ratings, and they just couldn’t believe that there was so much interest, and that people had memorized all the dialogue, and I think that they were very pleased by it, but after a while, I think, after they done several conventions and other conventions in different parts of the country, it got to be sort of, “Well, this is just another gig.”
One year we had a song contest. We had a production of “H.M.S. Trek-A-Star,” which was done by a Dover High School group, and they were very good. We got them hotel rooms, and we paid for their costumes, and they came up and did the show. Before the show came on, we had a song contest, which had lots of entries. I don’t remember who played the piano and sang them, but some of them were very funny.... we didn’t have a lot of filk. At that point, filk, I think, was in straight science fiction. People were probably writing it, but we were not, it wasn’t part of the convention except for that one song contest. I think we printed the words of the winning songs and put them into the goodie bag, but I don’t remember entirely.
There was a costume ball. People came and presented their stuff, and there were some really, really good costumes. Amazing. Some people were just great copies of things that had been on the show, and some people — one person, I think it was Fern Marder — came as one of those spore plants from the episode where Spock falls in love. She came in, in this plant outfit. She stood on stage and she spat out a mouthful of confetti kind of stuff to imitate the plant throwing its spores at people. There was a boy, a young boy in a wheelchair, and his parents made him up as Captain Pike after he had been injured. That was tremendously effective. Then there were a million Mr. Spocks, and some of them were really, really not very well done, but that was—And we had a number of the actors as judges of the costumes, and I think that some of them were very fair, and some of them just were not, but...
[snipped]There was a lady named Monica Miller who specialized in Vulcans, and she made ear tips that fastened on like an earring. She slid them over her ear and would squeeze them on at the bottom, and then she did the outfit, and she did ancient Vulcan priestesses. She was a very slender woman so she got away with somewhat revealing garments. They were really excellent designs. She was also an artist.
After the fourth year, we split. Renee Bodner went with Al Schuster, and all the rest of us stayed together and put on the one last convention. We knew at that point, we knew that it was going to be the last one because with two other competing conventions, we knew we couldn’t keep on. Aside from the fact that people had developed other interests and were not willing to devote the enormous amount of time that it required.
[snipped]It was a financial discussion. There was a lot uncomfortable feeling about it, but at the time, we were all very angry, but we worked it out. We managed. We did the one last convention, and then we stopped. Airing dirty linen from 45 years ago never works.
I chaired a couple of Lunacons. I published my fanzines. I started selling historic cookbooks. For a while, Linda Deneroff and I were acting as agents for other people to sell their fanzines. We had a table, and we would put out lots of different fanzines so that people who lived in different areas could sell on the East Coast. We did that for quite a while. And then I started selling historical cookbooks, and the fanzines kind of petered out. In the dim, dark days beyond recall, when Richard II was the King of England, he had a chef, and his chef wrote a cookbook just like your grandmother writing down your favorite recipe for you, and this cookbook was in the Museum of London or the British Library or one or the other, and somebody got permission and transcribed the recipes and then looked at them and said, “Oh! That’s an actually a chicken boiled with oranges. I can make that into a real recipe with measurements!” Then they published it as a book with a regular publishing house, and I sold it, and there were people who were in the SCA, the Society for Creative Anachronism, medieval recreation people? Who were thrilled at the idea of cooking something that was the same as what King Richard II had eaten, and they bought the cookbook. So I started scouring around, and there were more cookbooks that people had transcribed.
I liked the [Darkover] stuff, and Marion Zimmer Bradley would come to science fiction conventions and I had talked to her, and at one point, she had a dictionary of people and places in Darkover, and she let me publish it in Masiform D. And I think she named a very, very, very minor character after me. But, umm, at one point, I made a costume that was a Dry Town woman out of one of her books, but that’s about it.
There was a lot of emphasis [in Darkover] on the, the, umm, feminists, and after a while there got to be a certain amount of emphasis on lesbianism, and I wasn’t really truly interested in that, so I sort of slid out of it. At one point I was very interested in the Free Amazons, and I published their newsletter for a short while, just a very short while. They had an article in their cookbook about the feasibility of different foods because Darkover was supposed to be an extremely cold place.We’re just publishing The Free Amazon Newsletter. I don’t even know if I have any copies around anymore. There was a lot of argument about whether people should let their partners and roommates read it, and little discussion about the books. We did talk about the clothing that would be appropriate, and I think we talked a bit about the food, but that was all a very long time ago. I haven’t even thought of it for years.
We didn’t think they did such a great job [with Star Trek: The Motion Picture]. They missed, I think they mistook what the fans were interested in, but anyway, it was not a really effective motion picture. There was an awful lot of that blue stuff, and they had several new characters who could have added stuff and did a new interest in people, and they killed them both, so that was not terribly affective.I liked the even-numbered movies. I thought they were much better than the odd-numbered movies. Don’t ask me why. I thought they were not bad. I never cared for any of the other series except for Deep Space Nine. Then when they killed Kira’s love interest, they practically pureed the poor man. I just said, “These people cannot cope with an adult human relationship. They have to have unrelieved sexual tension. They can’t have two adults who love each other.” So I just stopped watching it. I watched Enterprise for a little while, and then there was the episode where they had some aliens on the ship, and they took them around and showed them where all the weapons were, and I said, “This is TDTL, too dumb to live,” and I stopped watching. (laughs) That was only one episode, but it was so stupid.
Well, Star Wars was like a nova. Like an enormous burst of light. The special effects were spectacular. The characters were, umm — I won’t say stereotypes, but they fit into the mold of the traditional, classic hero and heroine and the wise-cracking sidekick and the wise older advisor and the evil villain. They just fit perfectly, and it just really burst onto everybody. People went wild for it. I think we went and saw the show, like, three weekends out of every month for almost a year. And then, of course, when Star Trek: The Motion Picture came out, and the special effects just could not compare with what had been seen in Star Wars. It was very disappointing, but a lot of Trek fans who had gotten sort of — you know how when you have a piece of fresh coconut in your mouth, and you chew it, and after a while, all the juice is out and you just sort of have dry fibers left? That was the way a lot of people felt about Star Trek. They hadn’t had any fresh infusions of stuff, and so when Star Wars came, they said, “Oh wow!” and there was sort of a mass migration. Some of the old Trek fans really resented Star Wars because they felt that these people who could be writing brilliant Trek stories had gone off and wasted their brilliance on Star Wars. So there was a certain amount of tension, and then the costume balls were all, the costume events were all Star Wars characters. Some of them were very good, and some of them were really pathetic. Suddenly, there were dozens and dozens of Star Wars fanzines.
[Today] people publish stuff online. They just type it and slam it online. They don’t have anybody look at it or suggest improvements, and I think that the quality of the stuff that’s written and published has dropped because I don’t think there’s anybody in the whole world who doesn’t need an editor. That includes lots of professional writers. You write something, and you think, wow that’s great, and you don’t notice the little nibbly detail that—you could have fixed that with one sentence, and it would not have caused people to come to a screeching halt, saying, “What?” So, I’m sorry about that because there was some really find writing done, and I don’t think that it is quite as good, but you know, it’s hard to judge, both if you looked at the older stuff and then looked at the newer stuff, you could say, “Well, maybe she’s right, or maybe she’s just being picky.”
A lot of the old science fiction conventions have just faded out, but there are these new, gigantic, blockbuster, 150,000-attendee conventions. I don’t know whether you get the same feeling of community. Part of that was always, “Well, we’re together because everybody dislikes us, and they don’t understand how brilliant we are.” Now that everybody understands how brilliant these ideas are, we aren’t as special. It’s like, we used to be nerds, but we didn’t care, and now nerdishness is fashionable, and everybody does it, so what have we got?[?Part of that also is just getting older, I think, and never thinking what the new people are doing is as good. What can I say?
I did some good stuff. I did some stupid stuff. I think we gave a bunch of people a lot of pleasure, and that’s about what we should be proud of. [I regret] losing track of people because we were sharing the same passions, and you look back, and you say, “Well, I really should have kept up with so-and-so,” but it gets swept away. That’s about the size of it. I mean, having fights and stuff like that, that’s stupid. You look back and you say, “What the hell were we fighting about that was so important?”
My advice for a new fan today. Have fun. Love what you do. Reach out to other people. If you have a story you want to tell, for heaven’s sake, write it, and then maybe you should put it up online, or maybe you should let your friend look at it and submit it as a real story, but if you want to do costumes, do them! Follow the stuff that makes you happy, and don’t worry about looking silly, although maybe, if you’re a little overweight, I wouldn’t wear skintight outfits, but that’s all right if that’s what you want to do. Go for it. Have fun.