Media Fandom Oral History Project Interview with Sheila Clark
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|Title:||Media Fandom Oral History Project Interview with Sheila Clark|
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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.
Some Topics Discussed
- the zine series Variations on a Theme
- Star Trek
- The Sentinel
- underground fic
- differences in British and American zines, and writing
Do you still write fic? If yes, why. If no, why?
Yes. I seem to have a compulsion to write, to explore 'what-if's. With fanfic it's to explore possibilities, situations, that we didn't get in the show. I do like writing AUs - a sort of halfway point between fanfic and original fiction, using established characters in my own 'world'.Sometimes I think I need to find a new fandom because I become aware of repeating a theme, but I haven't found another one - even one I enjoy watching - where I want to explore the 'further adventures' of the characters.
I didn't know Katy Young, or even her name. I can't remember how I got in contact with Audrey Baker, but we corresponded for several years. Her writing was totally AU - the odd story that found its way into a zine was edited to removed the points that were purely her own - for example, she explained to me once that she didn't think iron-based and copper-based blood types could produce viable offspring, so she gave Spock red blood. Her ideas were interesting, but very much her own.
I did actually meet Jennifer Guttridge several times, and over a number of years she contributed gen stories to ScoTpress. Most of her K/S writing was underground - she told me once that while she would like to meet Leonard Nimoy, she didn't want to meet him in a court of law - at one time he was known to sue people quite readily, and she wasn't sure how he would react to slash.It was like... at cons, if someone asked an actor guest what he thought of slash, you could see a lot of the attendees mentally sliding under their seats, embarrassed that the question was asked. It was usually asked by someone who was anti-slash wanting to get a strong, horrified denunciation of slash by the actor. I remember at one con William Shatner being asked that by an attendee who had been trying to get everyone to wear lapel buttons saying 'Fans against K/S'. His reply? "I never saw the relationship that way, but if you did, that's okay." (We realised he'd found a neat way of sidelining the question, and I think a lot of actors did much the same.)
Do you know what this relating to: [the 1979 citation for the form "K/Sex" from a fanzine called "Variations on a Theme" by Valerie Piacentini and Sheila Clark” cited at http://www.jessesword.com/sf/ view/392].
One of the stories in the series involved a Commodore Spock whose Kirk had died, who had found a way to access parallel universes and searched them trying to find a Kirk who had lost his Spock. He found the Kraith universe, misunderstood what he saw there and decided to rescue Kirk from what he thought was an abusive relationship. (It wasn't.) Before he returned home, however, that Kirk suggested that the Commodore keep on searching, because somewhere there might be a Kirk who did need to be rescued.
This sparked the idea for the Variations on a Theme universe -
In the first of this 8-volume series, Spock found a universe where there was a Kirk who did indeed need to be rescued from a Spock (a Captain) who never adjusted to his Human blood, and reacted by mistreating Kirk (his First Officer) with sadistic, sexual cruelty. The Commodore went into that universe, the sadistic Captain was killed, and the Commodore remained there taking the Captain's place.I have a vague memory of using the term K/Sex when the first volume was put out as referring to the unbalanced nature of the 'relationship' in the first few pages of the story.
In the age of the internet, fans have almost instant contact with each other regarding beta-reading and pre-publication critique. How did fans in the 1970s and 1980s find someone on the opposite side of the pond to deAmericanize their Pros fic and deBritize their Trek fic?We didn't bother. If we submitted to an American zine we accepted that the editor would edit and probably change (aka correct) spelling, etc, but as often as not they didn't. It took increased internet contact to do that... and I think it was something that Americans always took more seriously than Brits. For example, if we knew the writer of a Pros story was American, we accepted that the spelling would be American - we didn't expect the writer to have looked for a UK beta.
How did fandom change when Star Trek: TNG arrived? In terms of fic and zines, of cons, of expectations regarding contact with TPTB, regarding watching a show in “real time” rather than a show that had closed its canon?I don't think it changed much with TNG, although more men came into the fandom, at least in the UK. With them, Klingons were the in thing. We got a lot more Klingons (in costume) at cons. It changed more with DS9 - there was more interest in being entertained (aka watching episodes) than participating, writing, discussing things...
Of the zines, or zine series, that you wrote or co-wrote, what are the ones that are your favorite and why?
In Trek, probably Variations on a Theme. I've always had a fondness for AUs that let us explore situations that weren't - or in some cases couldn't be - explored in the show itself. With Variations we had Spock as Captain and a less confident Kirk as First Officer. We explored some canon situations with the change of protagonist, looking at how events might differ because of that, as well as some original situations. (I'll never forget checking out a tourist site in Scotland for a scene in one of the zines and calling over to my co-writer "Yes, you could hide a body in here," before realising that there were several other people on the site. We've always wondered what those people made of it...)In The Sentinel, my other main fandom, A Safe Harbor. It too is an AU, set in the future in an America where sentinels are feared and forced to live away from other people... and the sentinel hero finds someone who accepts him for what he is.
Do you have a bullet-proof trope that you can read over and over again and never be tired of?reset button and everything returns to the status quo, but with H/C stories I inevitably reach the point where I start thinking that anyone who has suffered that much injury will be a permanent invalid. Some characters have lost enough spleens and/or gall bladders to provide transplants for all the inhabitants of a fairly large city. I can take plenty of emotional H/C, but not physical. On the rare occasions when one of my characters is injured, it's rarely worse than a broken arm or leg.
How did the production/presentation styles differ in UK and US zines?UK zines were always very... well, basic. Not much artwork, the emphasis was on the stories, fitting as much as possible into the space available. US zines tended to have more artwork, more of what we sometimes called 'wasted space' because the editors, especially if they were artists, were looking for a fancier layout.