Not Tonight, Spock! Interview with Carol Frisbie
|Interviews by Fans|
|Title:||Not Tonight, Spock! Interview with Carol Frisbie|
|Fandom(s):||Star Trek TOS, slash|
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I tuned in the premier episode of Star Trek in 1966 to see what William Shatner was up to--his was a familiar and much-liked face since 1958 or so, but SF was new territory for me. Shatner's face, among other things, never looked so good, and the heroic character of Kirk was the realization of a dream, as was the burgeoning relationship between Kirk and Spock. Since earliest memory I had fantasized heroic real tionship and hurt/comfort stories (heroes in pairs -- "Are you hurt, kemosabe?"), and in ST I found a rich luxury of both. I found fandom in 1972. Old story -- my life changed.
Their friendship--a love relationship, by any name—was clear from the start even to this old cynic. Such chemistry is rare— real and fictional—and something to be highly valued. I had never considered any kind of overt sexual component in my "relationship" fantasies prior to ST, so I was about to cover new ground. Actually, the idea began as a joke: the man I was seeing at the time was fully aware of the Kirk/Spock friendship (he was very moved by "The Empath"), and loved to tease me with gay jokes ("Spock darling, remember the first time we kissed?"). I laughed, but the seed was planted, and took viable root, and even Sean understood the theme if he didn't enjoy it. From then on it was just a matter of feeling out my new fandom friends, and discovering together all the facets of the K/S friendship, little and big, that make the bonding relationship a possibility.
The core of the K/S concept to me is the highly complex friendship between Kirk and Spock. Without the undergirdings of psychological visibility, companionship, mutual trust and need, the sexual theme would crumble into the ridiculous. Pardon my quoting from the preface to THRUST: "The theme, as some might argue, is not homosexuality—it is love between two people who have made their own progressions from sharing life, time, mind, thought and soul to sharing bodies—love between two people who happen to be both male." Most of us in this life will never know a relationship as beautiful as the friendship between Kirk and Spock--we recognize it, value, and carry it to the outreaches of possibility, adding the different and deeper dimension of physical intimacy. As the series gave us viable and complex characterizations, characterization is vital to the written K/S theme--we need to believe in their relationship, not just get turned on by it. I have a basic problem with the proliferation of "slash fandoms." It seems that we have lost our critical judgment somewhere along the way—K/S opened the door, and now nearly every media pair around is being thrust through indiscriminately. We analyzed the components of the Kirk/Spock relationship for years in fantasy and writing because it was important to be able to believe in it; now, without benefit of this analysis, it seems everybody and his local grocer are tumbling between the sheets. Porn can be fun, but how much better is fantasizing sex between characters you really know and care about? Do we really care how ?/? do it? Of if they would/could do it? Has the first Tarzan/D'Arnot story been written yet? How about Price/Pride?
THRUST represents for me the craziest and most hectic time of my life. It was the first K/S anthology, my first zine, and the most demanding—the amount of work I put into it would have earned me a small fortune from a paying job, but no job could have been so much fun. I was heavily into fandom, and K/S, and my phone bills were record-breakers at the phone company, my postage costs rivaling IBM. Diane Steiner and I would talk all night, arguing our different points of view, and I would be hoarse with fatigue the next day at work. I was also editing for about 30 zines, working with Marshak/Culbreath on NEW VOYAGES, and on the beginnings of NIGHTVISIONS with my friend Susan K. James.
I was familiar with a number of underground stories, and a large number of writers who had good ideas but nowhere to share them. THRUST seemed an answer—if I had the balls to do it. In 1977-78, there was a lot of vehement opposition to K/S, and I felt that a sensitive and intelligent treatment o£ the theme could only help to show that K/S represents more than the prurient fantasies of frustrated females--that it can be beautiful and moving as well as erotic, and that some of the best writing in fandom is K/S. At best, THRUST would inspire some good analysis, as well as hornify. Such a sensitive and controversial theme would have to be handled very carefully, but frankly, without pulling punches. I was a difficult editor because I'm a fanatic on the subject of characterization; I wanted THRUST to carry a variety of first-time stories that would make people think, and that would promote my firm belief that, extrapolating on their given personalities, Kirk and Spock would gradually come to their bonding relationship through love, not because of innate homosexuality. Too casual a treatment would do the characters an injustice.No need to worry—the writers and artists made THRUST a zine I'll always be proud to have produced.
You had to be thick-skinned, because there was a lot of intensely emotional opposition coming your way; and level-headed, because you had a sensitive and delicate theme to protect and yourself along with it. THRUST was received with open arms, and I will always be grateful for all the support and enthusiasm most of fandom gave me. I've always believed that we who write and publish K/S should be very careful that it stays underground in fandom--it could do ST a lot of damage should it fall into "public domain." The general public has not progressedto an understanding of the theme as we have. I sold THRUST in plain brown envelopes-- [Gayle F's] gorgeous and explicit cover made that necessary--and with stringent warnings and age requisites. Despite all my caution, a member of the anti-K/S faction sent a copy to Shatner's office. Shatner had the grace to smile and keep his silence, but his business manager (now son-in-law) was unhappy about it and we had a small go-round. He thought it all over, and later called me to apologize. All in all, Roddenberry, Shatner, and Nimoy took the theme with more equanamity than some uninvolved fans I knew. I believed in THRUST and would've taken on the world to defend it--fortunately I didn't have to very often. I hoped that THRUST would make some kind of mark, both as a forum for writing, and as a forum for the analysis of the K/S theme. I still think THRUST is a good zine containing good writing—I'm very proud of it. But it was the K/S theme itself that electrified fandom. As it added a dimension to the relationship between the two men, it added a new and lively dimension to fandom, providing a complex and invigorating idea to ponder, an emotional reference that took fandom by stotm. I believe that the K/S theme has played a large part In keeping active fandom alive.
I met Susan in February of 1976--she was a happy neofen and I was a bleary-eyed oLdtimer. When I threw out some calculated K/S hints, she fielded them with undisguised distaste--but she was right on about hurt/comfort, and that visited me where I lived. Actually, she made the "progression" to K/S on her own during the writing of PASSAGES, eventually becoming even more vehement about it than I. Susan is vivacious, lazy, and smart as hell; I'm more serious, driven and always cynlcal--we hit it off from the start. She didn't know she could write--had never tried; I nagged her for a "paragraph" and it grew into a novel. Thank Whoever, I think that Susan is one of fandom's finest writers, and I'm not prejudiced at all. NIGHTJOURNEY/VISIONS marked the real beginning of our "collaboration," though we'd done a couple of small pieces together prior to the novel. We discovered that we work very well together (oddly, we are poles apart on virtually everything but ST, fantasies and wild humor), and that together is more fun and more productive than separate. I don't know what "taking the leadership role" means in regard to Susan and I. We function as equals, both of us opinionated as hell and hashing everything out continuously until the paragraph/scene/chapter/novel works. If we disagree about anything, we do battle (very friendly battle) until the problem is resolved. I imagine that's how most good partnerships work, isn't it? Funny--I used pseudonyms for years prior to working with Susan (I have four or so, and it's too late to reveal them now), but I've never wanted to since. I would guess that I'm too proud to have Susan as a partner to use a pseudonym now, though I did more often receive the true, honest, no-shit feedback I wanted in my other-name days!
Editing and writing are certainly very different roles--and then there's publishing, a role often having little to do with either. I've worn all three hats, and prefer writing my own material overall, as most fans would. Of course, each role has its own very different rewards.
Editing is very hard work, and very time consuming. An editor doesn't always receive thanks, or recognition, sometimes takes a bruising in return for a bad report, and very rarely gets a gratis copy of the zine she's spent hours working for, but there is true pleasure to be had from helping a writer improve his/her work into something you both are proud of. I've edited for 50-80 individual writers, and again that many zines over the years, not counting my own. Certainly I've done more editing than writing, though not by choice—I'm just a very SLOW writer with tortuous and misguided delusions of perfectionism.I find publishing (which includes all the production work, then the selling and continual mailing) absolutely exhausting, and the most laborious of the three roles to perform. But when you hold the final printed product in your hand, and you remember all the work and care that went into making It beautiful...well, nothing can match that feeling, either. I've always felt that my zines represent me in a more complete way than almost anything other than my writing. I'm possessive and proud of them because they reflect my taste and my ability, such as they are. I assume every fan who does a zine feels that way.
If I were new to K/S fandom, I'd be blissfully happy with the vigor, openness and wealth of K/S. Hundreds of zines now exist, artwork ranging from the subtly provocative to the gorgeously obscene is readily available, and no one need be embarrassed to openly admit they are into K/S. We've come a long way, baby--out of the closet and into a kind of grudging respectability for starts--but the road has a few potholes, and not every branch-off leads you to a good place. I enjoy K/S fandom very much, but I do miss elements of the early days. Nothing was taken for granted then; nothing was old, or had been "done to death."
I miss the delicacy and sense of wonder of the first K/S stories, because K/S was new--to Kirk and Spock and to us--we invested more care and thought in our stories, and they were the better for it. We were desperately anxious to do well by our characters, to make the sexual relationship both sexy and believable. Change, of course, is inevitable, even desirable -- it has been a lot of years, after all. But I think sometimes that we are groping blindly to find new territories to explore within the K/S theme, and are veering off occasionally into some strange directions. S&M, B&D, alternate universes where violent rape is a matter of course... All this has to do with some pretty interesting stuff, but does it have much to do with Kirk and Spock?? I like my K/S stories heavy on the sex but not at the expense of characterization.Still, we're a happy and sassy fandom. It frequently strikes me as phenomenal how we all got together and have stayed together, and how much truly fine work we've done in the name of pleasure. Hopefully, we'll continue--we may get older, but Kirk and Spock have not even been born yet. I think we will.