Newsweek Interview with Shelley Butler

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Interviews by Fans
Title: Newsweek Interview with Shelley Butler
Interviewer: Newsweek
Interviewee: Shelley Butler
Date(s): July 2009
Medium: print, email subscription
Fandom(s): Kirk/Spock
External Links:
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In 2009, Shelley Butler was interviewed by Newsweek for the article Where No Man Has Gone Before.

Only a small portion of her remarks were used in the magazine. The entire transcript was printed in The K/S Press #154.

See List of Star Trek Fan Interviews.

Some Excerpts from The K/S Press

[I've been a fan] for about twenty years. But I am not even one of the really long term K/Sers! There were many who came before me. There’s way too much to tell about the beginnings of K/S—there is a history of K/S in a number of volumes that was published a few years ago—so I can only relate my personal experience.

My interest grew gradually, although some say their interest in K/S hit them like a thunderbolt. I was going to all the Star Trek conventions in the Los Angeles area—I was a huge Star Trek fan and there were at least three or four conventions a year at that time—around the late eighties.

While I attended the conventions for the dealers room and the guests, I began to see tables with “fanzines”—stories about Star Trek written by fans. Then I saw fanzines with “those” covers—artwork showing Kirk and Spock in an intimate embrace or just looking at each other. I was intrigued and started hearing about this very subversive genre called K slash S. At this time, K/S was barely tolerated even by Star Trek fans, in fact, it was looked down upon, if not hated outright. Everyone in K/S had to be very discreet.

I would circle the dealers rooms, glancing surreptitiously at “those” covers on “those” zines, too shy and too embarrassed to stop and actually open one. The best I could do was to buy the first zine I saw without opening it. It had a picture of Sarek on the cover, and I was hoping that was good enough. I rushed home and opened it up with great anticipation, and had my hopes dashed because it was just a “regular” Star Trek zine.

Finally, at one convention, I actually stopped and desperately tried to talk as casually as I could without blushing to the women behind the table. I bought an armload of zines, without even looking inside, I rushed home, and happily received that “thunderbolt”. These were the real K/S zines with the sweeping emotional stories of Kirk and Spock as they traveled the stars together, complete with artwork like I had never seen before!

Countless theories have been discussed over the years, but I believe K/S longevity is due to a combination of reasons. For one thing it’s tied to Star Trek, which has enjoyed enduring popularity through the years, and for another, lesser reason, it’s science fiction, which has its own fans. Also, K/S was the very first slash fandom, which made a huge and powerful impact at the time when literature for women consisted primarily of heterosexual romance novels. It took the women themselves to fully realize K/S for themselves. So it wouldn’t matter what happened to Star Trek fandom. K/S was born from TOS, just as William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy gave birth to Kirk and Spock. But then K/S is separate from Star Trek just as Kirk and Spock are separate from the actors who portrayed them. (This gets a little hard to understand because Kirk and Spock in K/S are our characters now).

And, yes, thousands of combinations of slash pairings came and went, and still do, but for the most part they are based on pairings that don’t have as much source material as K/S. I think it’s important to emphasize that not only do we have the television series, and the movie, but that arc of fiction covers the many life stages of the characters. We have seen Kirk and Spock as young men in season one, and we’ve seen Kirk retiring in his sixties. We’ve seen Spock on Romulus when he’s older, and even seen Kirk more or less a hundred years later in the Nexus.... We have visual source material as well as storylines that span decades, so there is a lot of opportunity to fill in the blanks through fan fiction. It also helps that this is sci-fi we’re dealing with; our imaginations can go in many more directions with K/S than if it were a series set on Earth in, say, 1990.
And speaking of friendship, one of the most important aspects of K/S is that friendship. It’s a friendship that blossoms into romance and into a sexual relationship. I’ve often heard how it’s just a small step from Kirk and Spock’s close friendship to sexual intimacy. There’s a whole other topic I could regale you with—how K/S is truly based on romance and emotions—despite the explicit sexual content of most of the writings and artwork.

When I first got into K/S, my only contacts were a group of gay women, so I thought K/S was primarily made up of lesbians. This was fine with me even though I’m a straight woman; I was so into K/S that I wouldn’t have cared if the group were green Martians.

In fact, I don’t think I have ever belonged to a more diverse group—doctors, lawyers, accountants, artists, stay-at-home-moms, single, married, divorced, widowed, young, middle-aged and elderly, and women from all over the world—straight, lesbian or bi. Although over the years I’ve seen a few gay men interested in K/S, it remains primarily for women. K/S is primarily for women because it is less about sex than it is about emotions. This aspect is the one thing that most men, straight or gay, find difficult to understand. Yes, K/S is about the sex, but more importantly it’s about the intense emotions that Kirk and Spock experience with each other. It’s about the intense passion that occurs between them—the kind of passion that transcends ordinary life. This emotional connection between two powerful and heroic males is, I believe, at the core of K/S.

I’m thrilled about the new movie! First, because I believe JJ Abrams is a terrific director who is just right to direct this film. I feel he will infuse a freshness and a more contemporary outlook on the Kirk/Spock relationship. Second, because the original cast obviously can’t continue, so going to the younger years is a perfect solution. Third, because as I said earlier, Kirk and Spock are separate entities from the actors, and even though I still see them as they looked in the original series, I love having a new cast and a new film.

And I’m not certain of the effect the movie will have on K/S. I suspect very little because our K/S is our K/S. I do think, however, that there will be a spinoff fandom from these characters. Which is fine. And maybe even more K/S fans, too.

K/S has lasted vigorously now for more than thirty-three years, so it’s doubtful that a new movie will do anything to depress interest! Quite the contrary. Also, K/S and other slash fandoms that pair men together in a romantic, sexual relationship seem to be a manifestation of a need that some women have; whether it’s psychological, emotional, or even sexual, something is going on with the slash fandoms that seems to come from something basic in some women’s psyche. It’s an ongoing examination of what women want, perhaps what women need. At last we are free to examine, celebrate, and expand our sexuality in this particular way. It’s very unlikely the new movie will do anything to depress any of that; it is likely to accelerate this ongoing exploration of new worlds, and to boldly go where no women have gone before.

Reactions and Reviews

Having read the very abbreviated version of Shelley‘s Newsweek interview, I was extremely pleased to be able to see the entire thing, which would have been an amazing tribute to K/S had it been run in its entirety. You represented us well, Shelley, in either adaptation! I love that you explained so well that it isn‘t just the sexual aspect of a relationship between Kirk and Spock that attracts us and keeps us hooked for decades. It‘s the love, the romance and strong emotional ties between them that has kept K/S alive and well for so long. It was great to read your unwavering conviction that K/S was written into the series. I hadn‘t read that quote from Gene Roddenberry where he said they never suggested physical love in the series but the affection was sufficient for that and there were love overtones. Deep love. I won‘t argue with that; I‘ve held that belief for some time. As you also told the reporter, many women came up with K/S totally on their own without having ever heard of its existence. That‘s proof enough for me. [1]
I loved your interview for Newsweek: well thought out, very clearly and concisely presented. You make a terrific spokesperson for K/S. It‘s too bad they didn‘t print the whole thing in the magazine. [2]

References

  1. from The K/S Press #155
  2. from The K/S Press #155