On the Double Interview with Bill Shawcross

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Interviews by Fans
Title: 'On the Double Interview with Bill Shawcross
Interviewer: On the Double and Linda Frankel
Interviewee: Bill Shawcross
Date(s): 1987
Medium: print
Fandom(s): Star Trek TOS, slash
External Links:
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In 1987, Bill Shawcross was interviewed for On the Double #5.

The interviewer, Linda Frankel, begins with: "I thought that the readers of OTD might like to know more about a male K/S fan, so when Bill paid me a visit, I had the perfect opportunity to ask him a few questions. Bill is a gay man, his profession is [in the sciences] and he is a collector of zines."

Excerpts

What do you like about K/S?

What makes K/S work is that you have seen Kirk and Spock so often that you can actually hear them in your mind. It’s like reading a letter from someone in your family. That’s why Starsky/Hutch and other “/” fandoms don’t work nearly as well for me.

Do you consider the K/S relationship gay?

Hardly, in the sense that most people think of gay. The stereotypical gay relationship starts from sex and may develop into friendship. I have known a few gay relationships where the partners either grew up together, or had long-term friendships, but this is rare. Most women don’t know what a gay relationship is. They write in terms of a heterosexual relationship or a lesbian relationship. Women may have lots of gay friends, but on a real level they don’t have a clue about this at all. I personally can’t imagine a lifetime commitment to the exclusion of all others. I’ve had relationships where the sexual part of it lasted no more than a year. I suspect that many of the writers think that they are portraying a gay relationship because it’s between two males, but I think the dynamics are very different.

Fans have been telling me that Kirk and Spock are really totally heterosexual, but they’ve made an exception for each other.

Horseshit! I have never read any of the heterosexual Trek fan literature, so my only exposure has been to K/S, but none of the stories I have ever read have made a point of their heterosexuality. They aren’t shown as coming from satisfying heterosexual relationships. Spock, in particular, appears to be driven by deeper needs, and has a typical gay profile. The argument is that these are two people who are at the pinnacle of power, who need companionship, and the only people who they can have a relationship with is each other. In which case, their sex is an obstacle they “overcome,” but that isn’t consistent with the way relationships work. This is a plot device that would never hold up for a long-term relationship, because in every relationship I know the partners aren’t equally matched. Yet Kirk and Spock aren’t really that equally matched, after all. They have different qualities. Still, the only way K/S can work is as a gay relationship. The only reason why fans have the belief that K/S isn’t a gay relationship is because they have a problem dealing with the situation. This may seem to contradict my last answer, but I don’t think that relationships are amenable to Aristotelian analysis. They just don’t work in logical fashion. Often they work in spite of the conventional wisdom rather than because of it.

What you’re saying is that K/S isn’t a gay relationship as you know it, but nevertheless is a kind of gay relationship—atypical though it is. What are the differences between K/S and gay literature?

They’re very different. Gay literature has several easily recognizable sub-genres. There is the more literary stuff which is mainstream and campy such as Armistead Maupin’s books. They aren’t particularly gay. There is another kind of gay fiction that the literati look down on that is of the true confession variety.... Then there is gay porn, or one-handed reading. It reveals what people might like to do, but which scares them too much. There’s all sorts of tabooed behavior. K/S is nothing like that. Then there’s the arty stuff that Christopher Street publishes which I can’t read at all. There are a few gay gothics. Most of K/S is like a romance or gothic, but not like the bulk of gay literature. I don’t think K/S is very well served by its erotic scenes. I am not particularly thrilled by Spock’s genitals looking like an inverted set of labia, for example. I don’t understand why such attention is paid to these anatomical variations. What is important is that one penetrates the other in a sexual way. What they do it with, whether it’s tongues or whatever, is not important. Melding of bodies is more like what mean. All other terminology seems to imply force—penetration, invasion. I think K/S is at its most interesting exploring how the relationship came about and the impact it has on Spock and Kirk. I’ve never been able to think of McCoy as a sexual being He appears mentally and physically fossilized. That’s just a personal prejudice. Yet I am a firm believer that in the case of males, given the right circumstances, any man can be enticed into sex. I think that in K/S, external forces, like evil Klingon commanders, are totally unnecessary for this reason, and can’t lead to a good relationship. It isn’t really something that can be imposed from the outside. That kind of story doesn’t work very well. It doesn’t have a high reality quotient, although it may interesting to read—like porn where people have sex for days on end without let-up. You have to suspend disbelief.

What do you think K/S would be like if it were written and published by men?

If gay men were to write it...well, that’s very interesting. I think the sex would be somewhat different. Males could write in a slightly more realistic frame, but that’s just clinical detail, and is not really that important to K/S. I think it would be much less romantic and much more pitched toward sex. I think it would deal more realistically with the issue of fidelity. Also, for gay males sex is a given. It is not the culmination of a process, but the initiation of a process. Sex would be the cause, rather than the result. This is an interesting topic to explore, but I don’t think I want to write and publish K/S myself.

Do you know any other male K/S fans?

I don’t. I certainly know men who’d enjoy it, but no men who actually read it. I have no idea why women are interested in K/S. I have seen it discussed many times in letterzines. Maybe it’s women placing men in the role of sexual objects. Maybe it’s displaced lesbian leanings. It’s not something I’ve given a lot of thought to, and I don’t think it makes a lot of difference. I’m just happy K/S is there. In most cases, if you know the whys and wherefores, it makes you unhappy. You bring your own interests to K/S, and if it meets them you are grateful, and if it falls short you write your own or give it up. I think the only time analyzing something to death is worthwhile, is if you’re going to do your own, but if you just want to enjoy it, it’s a detriment.

If an anthropologist of the future came upon a hidden cache of K/S preserved somehow in a time capsule, what would it tell hir?

The anthropologist of the future would consider it further evidence of the variability of human taste in literature. There is other literature that is much more extreme. If it is narrowly focused, but it isn’t very different from other literature. Seeing it as different is very parochial. If an anthropologist only knew the contents of the Daly City Public Library, then K/S would be very outré, but considering what is available.... There are certainly other literatures more outré than K/S. I don’t think there’s anything unusual about K/S. Maybe fans see it that way because Kirk and Spock are archetypes, which makes them more interesting to us than anyone else.

Reactions

Re the interview with Bill Shawcross: I got the im pression that this was an attempt for a male "stamp-of- approval". Like we're all supposed to be honored be cause a MAN is a K/S fan, and therefore it must be okay. As a FAN, his opinions are as valid and interest ing as anyone else's. I simply did not like the inter viewer's emphasis on "male" fan. (I did get a kick out of idea of an all-male-written K/S zine — I can see it now. Both words!) [1]
I also enjoyed the interview Linda Frankel did with Bill Shawcross. It's nice to hear that there are some men out there, whether gay, bi or straight! [2]

References

  1. ^ from a fan in On the Double #6
  2. ^ from a fan in On the Double #6