Not Tonight, Spock! Interview with Beverly Sutherland

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Interviews by Fans
Title: Not Tonight, Spock! Interview with Beverly Sutherland
Interviewer: Sarah Leibold
Interviewee: Beverly Sutherland
Date(s): 1984
Medium: print
Fandom(s): Star Trek TOS, slash
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Contents

In 1984, Beverly Sutherland was interviewed for the zine Not Tonight, Spock! #5.

See List of Star Trek Fan Interviews.

Some Excerpts

I discovered K/S about the same time I discovered fandom--rather late in the general scheme of things. When Trek first came on the air, I watched as often as I could; but I was in grad school, had rehearsals three nights a week, & only caught some of the episodes in rerun. I was vaguely aware of the letter writing campaign to keep it on, but had no real knowledge of fandom, zines, conventions, etc. I did buy all the Blish books & the pro novels when they started appearing. Then came New Voyages. I was intrigued by the material &, like someone else who's mentioned the story in NTS, rather disturbed by the implications of "Winged Dreamers" & also by "Procrustean Petard." Just couldn't fit Kirk & Spock into the mold of the gays I knew, most of whom were not very stable or, deep down, self-accepting. This was true for both men & women... In the first New Voyages, Sondra & Myrna included an address & invited submissions. I was recovering from an illness. My best friend, who thought writing might provide an outlet I needed, said the archetypal, "You could do that." I mulled it over for months, New Voyages 2 came out, & one day in about 1978, I started writing: a " Mary Sue" novel that is still unfinished. But I was possessed! I discovered the address of the Welcommittee in Star Trek Lives. And I also found a copy of the Concordance mouldering away in a local book store. What killed the "Mary Sue" was discovering that everyone & her grandmother had been there first. I never did send anything to Sondra & Myrna, either. My friend found a notice, on a supermarket bulletin board of all places, that a nearby zine-ed was looking for submissions. On the eve of a trip to England, I took my courage in my clammy palms & called her. She was wonderful. She published my first story (under my real name), my friend & I took over publishing the zine after that first issue, & we are still the best of friends. While in England, I got in touch with Ann Looker. She invited me to her home, fed me dinner, put me up for the night &, after the subject of K/S came up because I had arrived just in time to help collate King Grope, handed me "Shelter" & "Poses" to read. Leslie Fish hooked me. I ordered Thrust as soon as I got home, borrowed Obsc-zine 1 & 2, etc.
Even the villains in Trek had redeeming qualities, or turned out not to be villains at all. The villains in STII & III disturb me because they break this hopeful pattern in the series. Can no one devise a more interesting solution than to kill them, to show only absolute right & absolute wrong rather than all the shades in between? As to K/S, I think I was attracted to it because it broke new ground, made me see the characters in a new light. The ultimate "What if?" In the best K/S, Kirk & Spock weren't gay--at least not in 20th century terms. Their relationship transcended considerations of gender. All of us writing now owe a tremendous debt to the writers, artists, & editors who began all this. They set a standard that is hard to match. And after all these high-flown considerations, I must also come back down to Earth & admit that a little eroticism don't hurt.
In a K/S story, I think it's very hard not to feminize one or the other of them so that they fit into our 20th century conditioning about roles, to show them as nurturing beings without having them go about that in a typically female way. (Maybe that's why I don't care for the majority of master/slave stories. Nor do I subscribe to the "If rape is inevitable, relax & enjoy it" school of thought.) It's easier to fall into the trap with Kirk than with Spock, because Spock is physically stronger, has all those special Vulcan abilities, & even in the series so often played a protective role. I - must say that writing Trek, K/S or not, has made me examine my 1940's & 1950's conditioning & perhaps grow beyond it. Thinking for 23rd century characters has altered my perceptions of 20th century relationships & how men & women or (not to be chauvinistic about my own.
...in the case of Broken Images, I was trying to make a point about the genre itself. My aforementioned best friend & co-editor does not care for K/S. She's not really opposed to it; she just can't see the characters in that light. Her right. It's not a source of conflict between us. I was, however, very enthusiastic about the possibilities of K/S & electrified by novels like Gerry Downes' Alternative 2 & 3 & Susan K. James & Carol Frisbie's Night Visions. I wanted her to understand, if not share, my enthusiasm. I set out to write a K/S novel that kept the characters in character, that wouldn't become K/s or k/S, with a premise that a non-K/S devotee could accept as believable. Since I really consider K/S an alternate Trek universe, just as Kraith, Sahaj, & Night of the Twin Moons are alternates, it seemed logical (there is a bit of Spock in me, after all) to set my novel in an alternate universe. I used the Halkan gateway, having duly considered its triteness, because to me the odds of Kirk & Spock encountering a second such gateway were even less credible. I designed this alternate universe with Spock as captain because I wanted to have a believable reason for Kirk to be vulnerable enough, dependent enough on Spock, that any threat of Spock's death would be catastrophic. I set out to rob poor James T. of his captaincy, his friends, all of his support systems & self-image, & finally his health--all the while trying to maintain his innate strength & masculinity, his ability to bounce back & take charge.

Broken Images started out as no more than that little kernel of an idea, the structural detail that I wanted it to begin & end in the Lika'ashi's transporter room, & Kirk's eventual return to his own universe. I finished the first major section, without the prologue, ending on the night of their bonding. I let the Mariom section "cook" for a while, then tried to write it. Someone pointed out to me that I was repeating the structures of scenes I'd done before, if not their exact content. Large block. I went off & wrote some other stuff for a year or so until I'd taught myself the writing techniques I needed to know to finish Broken Images, letting it simmer on the back burner.

I have no idea where plot elements come from. I start with a problem for the POV character to solve, then my sub-conscious takes over, devising situations that will show (not tell) how the character solves his problem, how he is changing, etc. There are always surprises. In "Resting Place", I had no intention of writing a McCoy/Kirk love scene. Their conversation over dinner just appeared on the page. McCoy & Kirk took over. I called Darien in a panic because I was afraid she'd object, & I didn't see how I could avoid what seemed to be happening. Good editors are rare & wonderful creatures. She adopted a wait & see attitude, I drew a curtain over most of the details (who did what to whom didn't matter a bit), & it came off. At least the feedback has been positive.

My big surprise in Broken Images was the realization that I was writing a monster of a novel to place Spock in the position of having to bond with Kirk to save Kirk's life--an inversion of the Spock in pon farr plot. At Vicky & Barbara's insistence (I seem to have been blessed with marvelous editors), that story became the epilogue. I wrote the prologue from Spock's POV to match it & lay ground for it. Also to present a familiar Spock to set off his alternate as a more clearly separate individual. My concept of Confederation culture had its root in Al-anon & other such groups. The Confederation Vulcans are enablers. They try to protect people from the consequences of their own actions. They also have a not very healthy need to be in control of everything, & they control by manipulation. Rather like the United States, in fact. We can't seem to ge it through our collective heads that the prime Directive works much better in the long run. Finally, I tried very hard to integrate all the love scenes so that each was necessary, had a definite purpose, & showed something important about the characters-- changes in their relationship, personal growth or lack thereof, & so forth.
I am planning a sequel [to Broken Images], but it may take awhile. It has to incubate while I meet other commitments. Several people have approached me or Vicky & Barbara about continuing the tale themselves. I am flattered by the interest, but please, no. That would make it impossible for me to do my own sequel, & I don't want to get involved in the kind of quality control Jacqueline Lichtenberg exercises over Kraith. It's just too costly in time & energy. I do know that the sequel will take place in the Confederate universe, will reintroduce of the Orion characters as well as the Vulcans, & take advantage of some plants & a few plot threads I deliberately left untied. It will also deal with spock & Jamie's changed & changing perceptions of themselves & each other! Jamie has to become a little more "real" to me before I start it. Right now he's a very new "velveteen rabbit."