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Academic Commentary
Title: NASA/Trek: Popular Science and sex in America
Commentator: Constance Penley
Date(s): 1997
Medium: book
Fandom: slash
External Links: link on Googlebooks
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Cover of NASA/Trek (1997)


The book has been described as a "dual portrait of the NASA space program and Star Trek fandom from a feminist perspective" showing how each has co-opted each others themes and symbols--in fact, the book's own title slashes NASA and Trek. The second half of the book, "Trek" is predominantly about slash and slash fandom, and features the chapters "/", "Appropriate Technology," "Slash Tactics: Technologies of Writing," "Future Men," and "Unperceived Utopias."

Fan Reaction

  • "For about the first two-thirds of the book. Penley explores NASA's place in popular culture. In the last third of the book, she focuses on the world of K/S, in which an "underground group of pseudonymous amateur writers have ingeniously subverted and rewritten Star Trek to make it answerable to their own sexual and social desires." There are even a few reprints of K/S artwork! Some of Penley's information on the K/S world seems rather dated, considering that the book was published in 1997, and, in my opinion, she sometimes gets more than a little carried away with her analysis. But she does make some valid and interesting points. A word of warning: this book isn't for the faint of heart (if there is such a thing among K/Sers). Imagine having a sociologist walk into your house one day and announce she's going to follow you around for a couple of weeks with a tape recorder and a notebook and you'll get the general idea. In other words, if you'd like to enjoy K/S without worrying a lot about why you're enjoying it (or having someone else tell you why she thinks you're enjoying it), then this book (or at least the K/S part of this book) isn't for you. If you can shrug off or laugh your way through the parts you don't agree with, then the book makes interesting reading." [1]
  • "I have just finished reading Constance Penley’s book NASA/TREK, the second half of which is devoted to the writings we so indulge in. She refers to it so often as “pornography” that I was beginning to feel uncomfortable. Her study does not reveal anything new about the genre, just puts it more into the mainstream. One thing that made me react in Penley’s book was her statement, and admission, that some fans get a kick out of simply receiving a plain wrapped package that has passed unknowingly through so many public hands. At first I laughed and scoffed, then I realised that this was in fact the case for me on some occasions, the feeling that I was doing something “naughty” and getting away with it." [2]
  • "If you have an, um, :complete: university library, look for a book called "NASA/Trek." You'll probably only find it in a college library because it's a doctoral dissertation. If you can't get it at your school, ask for it through inter-library-loan (ILL). You might even get my alma mater's copy :-) Anyway, NASA/Trek not only has a very serious and interesting first half about the whole administration/media manipulation surrounding Christie MacAuliffe's tragic stint as a teacher in space, and what happened after her death, but it has a kind of silly (and almost unrelated) second half which is all about fanfic, K/S in particular. There are some pretty blue illustrations repro'd in there (although nothing as good as in my school's ukiyo-e books, "visions of the floating world" -- look for Japanese prints, you won't be disappointed). It totally confirmed (when I read it) my stereotype of K/S as a genre strictly for middle-aged, white, heterosexual women. Turned out that was dead wrong, but anyway, you might find the book...interesting." [3]



  1. ^ from The K/S Press #22
  2. ^ from The K/S Press #38
  3. ^ alt.startrek.creative.erotica.moderated, 2002