Open Letter from Jacqueline Lichtenberg to Ted White

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Open Letter
Title: Open Letter from Jacqueline Lichtenberg to Ted White
From: Jacqueline Lichtenberg
Addressed To: Ted White
Date(s): late 1970
Medium: print
Fandom: Star Trek TOS
Topic:
External Links:
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In late 1970, Jacqueline Lichtenberg wrote an open letter to Ted White, "for his Fantasy Fandom Department in FANTASTIC."

The letter was written roughly a year after the third and final season of Star Trek: TOS. The letter was part of Lichtenberg's campaign to promote the show to TPTB in hopes of getting more canon material perhaps in the form of more episodes, a movie, or pro books. The letter was also part of Lichtenberg's desire to see Star Trek recognized as a "legitimate" form of science fiction, as well as promoting fan works.

Some other important context: at the time Lichtenberg was actively campaigning for more interest in Star Trek, she was also compiling A Strekzine Roster and Strekfan Roster Questionnaire, both of which were then used as the basis of her best-selling book Star Trek Lives!.

It is unknown if the letter was utilized in any way by Ted White in "Fantastic." Lichtenberg send a copy of it (which she called both a letter and an essay) to the zine Maybe #13 in Summer 1971, and wrote: "I am also enclosing a copy of an essay I sent to Ted White for his Fantasy Fandom Department in FANTASTIC (but he probably won't use it.)"

In the letter, Lichtenberg, with relentless self-promotion, proclaims not to be a spokesperson for all of Trek fandom, but disingenuously takes on that mantle. The letter itself rambles and repeats its main points. The tone is pedantic, and at times, pointedly snubs the very audience it was written to appeal to; "old school" science fiction fans likely would have rolled a collective eye at some of Lichtenberg's statements, some of which reenforced rather than refuted some of her arguments regarding "wide-eyed Trekkies."

Lichtenberg also stresses that Strekdom is largely made up of "unmarried girls" and that "females are particularly susceptible to Spockshock and notorious for their catlike curiosity."

Some Excerpts from the Letter

Dear Mr. White:

After reading your Fantasy Fandom department, I feel compelled to provide a few words on the newest sub-genre, Star Trek Fandom.... or Strekdom.

You might well ask, "Hasn't the ST hysteria pretty well collapsed and faded away by now?" Well, in a way, it has. We are no longer, a group of wide-eyed, Spockshocked Trekkies. We have meta-morphosed [sic] into a serious, dedicated group of fans analogous to the Tolkien Society or the Baker Street Irregulars but with our own singular hallmarks.

Strekdom received a devastating body-blow from NBC when, despite the million or more letters that deluged their program department, they cancelled Star Trek. And Strekdom shattered into a million fragments. Most of the wide-eyed Trekkies had not been connected with sf fandom and didn't know how to maintain contact with other fans. Nor did these Trekkies believe that Strekdom could survive the cancellation of the show. But it has.

And a remarkable metamorphosis is taking place. The outer layer of Trekkies is sloughing off and the central core of Strekfen is being freed to arise anew from the ashes.

At the present moment, Strekdom is so dreadfully fragmented that no single person can claim to speak comprehensively on "the current activities of Strekfen." However, I shall try to give, a brief overview of this startlingly unique international phenomenon. And it is international since the show is being run on foreign stations and groups in various countries are ecalescing.

I have been circulating questionnaires, collecting data, and corresponding with many active Strekfen in a concerted attempt to find out what is going on now in Strekdom. During 1970, I contributed more than 80,000 words to Star Trek fanzines and I have another 79,000 words ready to go into final draft and be released in early 1971.

I am not an officer of any ST club, but I am a member of the Leonard Nimoy Star Trek Fan Club of Concemed Fans (LNSTFCCF for short). And I have been a member of N3F for 12 years. It was through the N3F that I discovered Strekdom. I became an active Strekfan only after cancellation-- and this is not atypical.

[snipped: explaining how difficult it is for fans to find each other, promotion of her projects meant to "unify Strekdom"]

Our presence is still felt at cons. At Philcon, Nov 1970, two local Strekzine publishers, Michelle Malkin and Kathy Surgenor, sold ST items to raise money (very successfully) for the American Cancer Society. Subsequently, they received special citations from the Society and were invited to appear, on a local talk show.

There are about 24 currently active Strekzines. However, publishing isn't the only ST activity. For example, there are a number of serious attmepts to invent the Vulcan languages. One most notable pioneer in Vulcan linguistics is Dorothy Jones, author of the STAR TREK CONCORDANCE OF PEOPLE, PLACES AND THINGS and co-author of a series of stories that appeared in T-NEGATIVE, the Strekzine published by Ruth Berman, the former editor of the official ST newsletter, INSIDE STAR TREK. Dorothy is also the originator of a "Vulcan" art form called the Ni Var which has set amateur poets afire wherever it has been seen.

Another newer, attempt at inventing the Vulcan languages has just been launched in and around Tucson, Arizona where students hooked one unsuspecting linguistics professor into the think-tank and infected him with the mania. I was in on that one and fully intend, to pursue it to publication.

As a whole, sf fandom is the most heterogeneous group of atypical individuals you will find. As a sub-genre, ST has attracted a similar multitude. Thus, not all ST fans are touched by Spockshock. There is a zine just, starting in 1971 which is devoted to Doctor McCoy [1]. There are those who find the Romulans and Klingons Most Fascinating. There are, of course, Kirk fans, Scotty fans, even Chekov fans, but there are also those who find the sense of reality achieved by the whole production more enchanting than any single personality. And there are fans who enjoy creating satire around ST themes. They have contributed richly to Graffitti pages in various zines and even have a parody-zine of their own that just started in late 1970.

Among Strekfen, there are amateur film makers, film-clip collectors, data organizers (one working on an index of THE MAKING OF STAR TREK), Vulcan sociologists, and hosts of beginning, writers, artists, poets, and literary critics. Insofar as it possible to make any general statements about this group and their creations, the towering central figure of the show, in their eyes, seems to be Spock, the charismatic half-Vulcan.

This is not surprising when on considers that fully half of Stekdom is female. (perhaps more than half. We will know when the roster is compiled.) Females are particularly susceptible to Spockshock and notorious for their catlike curiosity. [2]

The fanzines that Strekfen have created are as heterogeneous as their creators. To attempt to characterize them in a few paragraphs is sheerest folly, but I shall try.

The contents of the typical Strekzine fall into two categories, "fiction" and "fact." With the notable exception of a number of extremely informative articles by Ruth Berman, "fact" articles are generally written in a mock-erudite style and intended to be taken as a product of a "real" ST universe. Ruth Berman has the double advantage of having access to a wide range of "inside" information (such as several versions of a script) and having the talent and intellect to digest and present this information entertainingly. The result is a unique contribution of our literature which defies classification.

Subjects of the usual "fact" articles range from documents captured from Klingon or Romulan sources to the physiology of the Vulcan Heart [3].

The psychology of the Vulcan can heart is also at the top of the list. There have been genuine efforts to delineate the place of music, and art in a logical, unsmiling culture. One might almost call it a desperate groping for an understanding of how any humanoid culture could be based on so grimly repulsive a concept as pure logic. In my own work, I attempt to interpret the joys of the logical life into terms humans can comprehend.

[snipped: much about Spock, pon farr, and the appeal and mystery of these things, canon resolution cut short by the ending of the series]

Comparing the overall quality of the fan-written material published in general sf-dom with that appearing in Strekdom, one notes a slight but definitely higher skill in both the editing and the writing of Strekzines. This may be due In part to the vigorous efforts of the pioneers of the field, the publishers of SPOCKANALIA, whose policy was to make severe rewrite demands of their contributors. This policy is being continued by the publishers of GALILEO II.

But it is not just the old contributors who have learned to write. Many gifted semi-pro talents have been irresistibly drawn into Strekdom and they have produced some truly memorable works.

The typical Strekzine runs about 150 copies, . Sometimes as many as 200... though SPOCKANALIA did top 400 at one time, as did several of the early zines. Very seldom does a zine fail to sell out within a year of publication.

[snipped: vague promotional details about some current fan-created zines]

The reason for the Strekzine publishers seeking quality with greater vigour [4] than is usual in sf-dom is perhaps the limitations inherent in the material. The same themes and situations culled over again and again for story material tend to lose their gloss. . unless the ideas are presented in slicker packaging.

[snipped: much vague promotional details about professional Trek publications]

Ths law of supply-and-demand seems to govern Strekdom and, since the market is so voracious, where one zine folds, three spring up to take its place. Here and there across the country, fans are still trying to convince the powers-that-be that the time has come to start work on a STAR TREK movie or TV Special, but the tremendous inertia inherent in the Hollywood System seems to preclude the realization of that joyous event at least until Strekdom can speak with one unified voice.

The only alternative to a revival of ST on the screen is a revival in print, but Bantam does not intend to do more than one ST book a year. . . and they have an exclusive right to the ST name.

In my personal view, the only thing that could Strekdom farther than it is now would be the advent of a successor to ST . . .a real sf tv show of equal stature. . .very hard to imagine in the immediate future.

I have reports from several sources that club memberships and zine subscriptions are increasing as lest Strekfen are driven by their insatiable ST hunger to seek fannish sources for nourishment.

This year, the membership of LNSTFCCF has grown by about 50%. Nimoyan Scribes and Spock's Scribes are also growing vitally. New zines in the field are hampered mainly by lack of cross-club-line contacts. In the near future, this should change and new publications should take root and grow more rapidly.

The next question that will have to be faced by Strekdom is, "Can Strekdom survive the demise of ST reruns?" I fervently hope I shall not be called upon to answer this question soon, but I am certain that we can and will survive even such a tragic last blow since the number of possible alternate universes that can be split off from the aired version of the show is close to infinite and there will always be new ST stories to be told.

May You Live Long and Prosper,

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

References

  1. Likely McCoy's Sickbay.
  2. The editor of the zine Maybe interjects: "My estimate is Strekdom is 705 unmarried girls and regular active sf fandom is 60% male, with 60% of the women married. N3F Member Activities Bureau & Surveys."
  3. References to two articles in Spockanalia: "A Proposed Model of the Vulcan Heart" by Sandy Deckinger and "The Vulcan Heart: An Alternative Proposal" by Dorothy Jones and Sherna C. Burley
  4. Ironic typo.