Out of Eden

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Star Trek Fanfiction
Title: Out of Eden
Author(s): Frances Rowes
Date(s): 1988
Length:
Genre: slash
Fandom: Star Trek: The Original Series
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Out of Eden is a Spock/McCoy story by Frances Rowes.

It was published in the print zine KSX #2.

title page
art by Gayle F

Summary

"Spock is unable to return Kirkʼs desire and even though it is almost unbearable, Kirk agrees to go with him on a planet survey of “Eden”."

Reactions and Reviews

This strange, beautiful, disturbing story is one of the most extraordinary I've read in fan fiction, perhaps in any fiction. Its premise is that romance and eras occupy only part of the spectrum of love. While the author's other work on this topic, "A Deltan Decameron," dealt with all six of the varieties of love identified by the ancient Greeks-storge, mania, pragma, ludus, eras and agape--this story focuses intensely on only one of them-mania.

"Mania," which the author also refers to as "limerence"-probably after Dorothy Tennov, Love and Limerence (1979)--is an obsessive, possessive and inordinate craving for the beloved. Unlike other forms of love whose focus is the well-being of the beloved, mania is focused on the lover's own need for consummation. Like hunger and thirst, mania appears as a need that cannot be controlled by human volition. In this story, mania as the craving for the beloved is linked with vampirism and cannibalistic images of actually consuming one's lover. It is also identified with the domination of pon farr and with a concept of the Vulcan bonding as consuming and annihilating the bonded partners' individuality. Spock describes it as "a continuing rape, the theft and constant draining-out of another's life."

As the story begins, Kirk is hopelessly in love with Spock. In a poignant and original twist on the standard I-love-him-but-I'm-sure-he-can't-possibly-return-it scenario, Spock also loves Kirk, deeply-but platonically. He simply does not feel sexual desire-for Kirk, or anyone else. Spock's compassion leads him to offer, even entreat Kirk to make love with him. But Kirk says he will do so only if Spock feels "so absolutely, passionately, ardently in love with me that your one overmastering desire is to somehow cram your body physically into mine or you may very well die here and now." And Spock responds, "I do not feel that way." But Kirk does.

In the first part of the story, a well-plotted turn of events sends Kirk and Spock to survey a newly-discovered planet that is "a true Eden in every respect." This part slowly, achingly explores every nuance of Kirk's unrequited passion for Spock and the reasons why he refuses to consummate it. The impasse between the two men is no "misunderstanding," but painfully and profoundly real.

In this part of the story, the author conveys what is at stake for the two men through pointed, trenchant conversation; a quarrel that shows how much the two men care for each other as well as how far apart they are in sexual and romantic need; and in a wonderfully acute therapeutic conversation between Kirk and McCoy. Other relationships illuminate by way of contrast Kirk's feelings for Spock; Kirk's memories of being seduced as a cadet by an older man into an episode of bondage and sadism, and a vampirish alien whose "wife" feeds on her as a child on its mother.

In the second part of the story, Kirk and Spock explore Eden together. A transforming event brings the two men together as lovers, another bonds them involuntarily. The story ends ambiguously, with Kirk unable to control his mental connection to Spock, and Spock obsessively craving Kirk but mourning his lost innocence. The specter of pon fair looms as an image of dread and horror. The two men are locked into a relationship of mutual compulsion and bondage, losing their individuality, with each consuming and draining the other while being himself consumed. Kirk wonders if what he feels for Spock-including the desire to enslave and humiliate his lover-can be called "love," and McCoy assures him it can, that he experiences with Spock: "the kind of love that covers the entire spectrum of that emotion."

If "Out of Eden" were no more than this, it would be a unique story. But it is much, much more. I cannot to do justice to the depth and skill with which the author explores the themes of lost innocence and the irony of sexual prejudice. Through symbol and metaphor, she shows the connection in human emotion and experience between the primitive and the spiritual, the base and the sublime. I can't begin to describe the dialectical quality of the symbols in this story, which so often unite opposite qualities. An example is the character Eccat, the alien Lamia whom Kirk meets on the transport ship on the way to Eden, who represents a kind of love that is both predatory and pure. From one perspective, her relationship with her vacant, mindless wife looks like unalloyed sexual exploitation; from another, it is the unselfish, self-sacrificing love of a mother for her child. At first, Kirk reacts with disgust to Eccat's need to feed on him so that she may feed her wife, but he comes to understand and trust her, and the experience explodes some of his (and our) sexual prejudices. Eccat's relationship with her wife is an ironic contrast to Kirk's feeling toward Spock, suggesting that Kirk's feelings about Spock can be both predatory and altruistic.

Through a breathtaking use of symbolic language and literary allusion, the author links Spock's sexual initiation to the Fall, the loss of innocence in the Garden of Eden and his carnal "knowledge" of Kirk to the knowledge of good and evil that led to Adam and Eve's expulsion from Paradise. The symbolism is at times rather too obvious and repetitious, but it is certainly complex and multilayered. The imagery of "the fall" ranges from Kirk's regret at the beginning of Part Two that it is "fall," not green spring or summer, in their part of Eden, to Lucifer's fall from heaven in Paradise Lost.

This remarkable passage is only a sample of how the author uses symbolism and metaphor throughout the story:

"As he came, Kirk felt the manic flutter of the heart beneath his hand and his whole self drained down into the parched body like rain into a parched rock. Surrendering his last vestige of innocence, Spock felt the knowledge rush into him, searing and sealing his break with Tradition, his criminal breach of honor, and his embracing of Human, fallen knowledge. He cried out, a small sound, the soft despair of a snared bird. For that moment he knew again what it was to be happy. The pure incandescence of joy poured into him ... Desires and wishes burst from the grave where his intellect had tombed them up, inextricably part of his physical possession."

Images like this—of love as evisceration of the self and of personal identity, as fallen knowledge, as possession and bondage, and as rebirth-are woven deeply into the narrative. This story contains some of the most beautiful and lyrical prose I've ever seen in fan fiction.

The cannibalistic imagery of mania as love that consumes the beloved and drains his life-blood-near the end of the story Kirk calls himself "Homo Vulcanophagus"-is particularly evocative. I couldn't help wondering whether the author has absorbed the literature on the primitive, pagan origins of Christian myth and ritual, or whether she simply understands that connection instinctively. I'm thinking of the roots of the Eucharist-in which the believer consumes the body and blood of Christ and is urged to "feed on Him in thy heart by faith—in primitive rituals in which human or animal representatives of the vegetation god are killed and eaten sacramentally.

On the connection between mania and (figurative) cannibalism, I was intrigued to find that Sir James George Frazer, in The Golden Bough (a book cited in T.S. Eliot's footnotes to The Wasteland and practically required reading for anyone seeking to understand that poem-which, by the way, Ms. Rowes quotes liberally), identifies Mania as "The Mother or Grandmother of Ghosts." In his chapter on "Eating the God," Frazer writes that effigies of real men and women were dedicated to Mania and used as substitutes for a former custom of sacrificing human beings. Mania was also the name of a kind of sacramental bread made in the image of a pagan god, the King of the Woods, who was killed and eaten annually by his worshippers. You don't have to know any of this to appreciate the story-I'm sure there are hundreds of references in it that I'm not familiar with-but it suggests some of the depths a reader could mine if she wanted to explore all the symbolic and mythic associations in this story with the consuming love identified here as mania.

If I had a criticism of this story, it is that it was sometimes difficult in the love scenes to sort out which "he" was acting and whose point of view was in play. On at least one reading, I've wondered if the events that triggered first Spock's sexual awakening and then the involuntary bonding, did not serve as a kind of deus ex machina. I feel that these scenes were saved from that by a mythic quality achieved largely through symbolism. For example, in the scenes leading up to Kirk's and Spock's first love-making, when they are separated and searching for each other, Kirk takes a bite out of an apple and drops it on the ground; soon after, Spock finds the same apple and takes a bite from it too. We are left wondering whether Spock becomes capable of experiencing desire because of sui generis Vulcan physiological changes, because of Kirk's kiss, or whether it was the bite of the apple. The scene in which Kirk hallucinates and nearly drowns is powerfully symbolic-in the grip of the poisonous fruit of the tree, he experiences an overwhelming urge to swim after the moon, i.e. after a love that partakes of barrenness, madness and death.

I recognize that this story, like some of Frances Rowes' other work, is not for everyone in fandom. But because I'm one of the readers to whom her work speaks powerfully, I write here to pay what small homage I can to some of the most brilliant writing in fan fiction. [1]
I disliked the Christian themes and metaphors in this story. They have anti-sexual implications. I aiso thought the idea that Kirk's cup of tea was the Holy Grail was misplaced. Spock's reverence was for Kirk, not the cup of tea. The Holy Grail should itself be the object of reverence because of its transformative power. But the tea and the cup were ordinary and had no special power. So the metaphor collapses. [2]
Unique, moody and same type of style as "Deltan Decameron" by the same author, but slightly more accessible.

The theme concerns Kirk's sexual desire for Spock and Spock's inability to return the same desire. Their feelings are out in the open—and for some reason, we don't discover why at first. Spock is in love with Kirk, but doesn't want sex. Also involved is Kirk's guilt with his own human nature.

The story begins as Kirk is experiencing jealousy and feelings for Spock who Is looking at a video of Irina Galulin—the one from the Eden episode. Kirk is fighting with himself over his growing desires Kirk's feelings are portrayed through his actions. instead of the reader being told what he feels.

[much snipped for length]

Spock wants Kirk to come with him for a scientific survey of a planet that could be Eden, but Kirk resists, wonderfully, because he wants Spock to convince him. With just the sparest of dialogue, we get all the undercurrents of feelings flowing between them.

Every seemingly small moment is worked out so beautifully and with such realistic detail. As an example. Kirk finds a very good reason to join Spock on the planetary survey. Kirk had been requested to address a group of prospective starship captains which is something he really doesn't want to do. The scientific survey is part of a requirement for Starfleet officers, but it is a service that no one is really expected to fulfill But Kirk agrees to fulfill this assignment, called Sciser, which will give him an opportunity and an excuse to be alone with Spock. Such detail is also in the small scene when Admiral Komack communicates with Kirk concerning the planetary survey. The captain gnnned foolishly at the ghost of himself on the dark screen. He was thinking of a month and a half alone with Spock." End of scene. So nothing in this story is taken for granted or glossed over. There's an in-depth reason why Kirk gets to be away from the Enterprise and at the same time gives us a glimpse into the inner world of Starfleet and combined with all the rich emotional life of both Kirk and Spock.

This author is a master at combining action with inner thoughts and feelings. Instead of lengthy, dry passages of what the characters are thinking, these type of scenes are constructed so that the character is involved in some action while he thinks. This technique makes the feelings just come alive Kirk doesn't just exist nowhere while he thinks about Spock. He goes to the sauna and we are there with him. (Can't you wish!) "After the enervating long session in the sauna, where his thoughts still plagued him like pavement whores.... What a perfect image.

The story has tons of detail.

[much snipped for length]

So many interesting scenes such as this sport that the people play, sort of like a cross between handball and volleyball. Kirk plays a game and then has a strange encounter with one of the alien women. Essentially Kirk is waiting for Spock to come to him. and there's this wonderful scene where Kirk says; 'But whatever I feel, you're not ready so we wait until you are.'" And Spock says:" 'If I never am, what will you do?'" Kirk answers:" 'Nothing.'" Oh, heart be still! Don't you just love it?

[much snipped due to length]

I could just go on and on quoting and describing this entire wonderful story. Because I loved it so much, I must mention that a fellow K/Ser told me she hates this and other Frances Rowes' stories because she feels they are depressing in the extreme with a terrible darkness behind the light. I do understand that a story or even an author's entire body of work can be so negative without any redeeming values or reasons that it can be offensive and upsetting. Knowing that we all have our own tastes, opinions and perceptions, I bring this up because I didn't feel any unreasonable negativity in it. I felt it was moody and atmospheric.

Certainly, Frances Rowes is, or was (whatever happened to...?) one of the most unique of K/S writers. [3]
I really like this story. Mainly because it explores an area that most writers, including myself, tend to avoid. We all know that Spock is an alien. But usually that alienness is played down. When his Vulcan biology is mentioned, it's usually to focus on his obvious physical differences, not his physiological ones. But Spock is alien, and in the context of a relationship between him and Kirk, what would that mean?

As the story begins, Kirk is struggling with his jealousy and the hopelessness of his situation. In a moment of danger, he confessed his love to Spock, not wanting to die without ever letting Spock know how he feels. He is overjoyed to discover that his feelings are reciprocated. But Spock does not desire a sexual relationship. Does not feel desire, period. And time has only reinforced Kirk's realization that the Vulcan is not just being shy. Spock's obvious relief, when he offers to enter into a sexual relationship because of Kirk's distress and Kirk refuses him, is proof of that. This is the situation when Spock receives a transmission from Irina Galulin. Chekov's ex-sweetheart has remembered her promise to continue her search for Eden. She has found it and forwards the pertinent information. Spock takes it as an opportunity to fulfill his scientific service duty required by all Starfleet personal, and volunteers to join the covert survey being carried out on the planet. He asks Kirk to join him, and at first Kirk declines. As much as he'd like to spend six weeks alone with Spock, he doesn't feel they should both be away from the ship for so long a time. But then Uhura finds out that Kirk is being "volunteered" for several seminars at an upcoming course for future starship captains. Kirk decides that since he wouldn't be on the ship anyway, he's free to go with Spock. With his hopes renewed, Kirk goes to McCoy for a talk. And for the first time, the disquieting notion that what Spock wants, what any Vulcan might need, is not the same as what Kirk wants or needs, is broached. The doctor emphasizes that Kirk has no idea what he's getting into, and that it might be a good idea to find out before things go any further. McCoy's words are a warning. One Kirk doesn't heed. On their way to the planet, Kirk is given a second warning when he becomes entangled in the lives of an alien and the alien's "wife." What Kirk ultimately does, he does out of innocence and compassion. He uses and is used, to hide from his own problems and to save the lives of the aliens. Yet he ignores the warning implied by their differentness, too. The rest of the story revolves around their stay on Eden. Spock realizes his possessive "desire" to monopolize Kirk's time, but still does not want sex. He remembers the words he spoke to T'Pring about wanting and having, and realizes how appropriate they are for his and Kirk's situation. Before it's all over, Kirk will understand this, too. Eventually, we discover that Spock is only now becoming sexually mature. He and Kirk finally become lovers, but it doesn't solve all their problems. Their needs and wants are still very different. But when circumstances force a meld, they inadvertently bond. Spock has what he needs, and Kirk has what he wants. And they both wish things were the way they used to be.

There are a few problems with the story. For one thing, why Sarek and Amanda don't have a problem is never addressed. Another is what was Spock's plak tow about if not sexual maturity? But the writing is almost lyrical, and more than makes up for the inconsistencies. [4]

References

  1. from The K/S Press #10
  2. from The LOC Connection #45
  3. from Come Together #26
  4. from The K/S Press #74