|Alias(es):||PaulA Smith (the capital "A" to differentiate her from Paula Block), Posmithi, April Fool (when writing with Pat Massie), Chen , Erin O. Mercy, Cool Han Luke, Roy Smith (the latter, a pseud with co-writer Eileen Roy), as well as many, many, many names|
|Type:||writer, editor, zine editor, convention runner, more|
|Fandoms:||Star Trek: TOS, Starsky & Hutch, Harry and Johnny, Man from UNCLE, Professionals|
|URL:||an extensive interview with Paula Smith is here|
|Click here for related articles on Fanlore.|
Paula Smith was an active member of several fandoms during the late 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.
Well-Known in Fandom
- In 1973, Paula Smith first coined the term Mary Sue by writing a piece in "A Trekkie's Tale" in Menagerie #2. The piece was satirical in nature, lampooning the original Star Trek female characters who became love interests for the central characters in the story.
- In 1977, Sharon Ferraro and Paula Smith created the Fan Quality Awards (FanQ) awards in conjunction with SeKwester*Con Too. The original categories were simply for Star Trek Best Writer and Best Artist.
- In 1978, Smith hosted Afro-American Con.
- In 1984 in Warped Space #50, Paula Smith contributed an essay to ongoing dialogue about characterization issues in fan fiction. She discussed something known to fanzine readers and writers called Langsam’s Law. She was quoted by Langley as saying there is a "special caveat for writing media-based fiction. Don't make an established character do or say something out of line with his established character, of if you must, give good, solid reasons why." 
- She was a convention organizer of ReKWest*Con, SeKWester*Con, SeKwester*Con Too.
- She was published in many, many, MANY fanzines; two of her more well-known, and controversial, stories are The Logical Conclusion and Surrender.
- She wrote plays at Zebracon and Connexions.
- She was a prolific zine reviewer and essayist.
- She was a member of W.H.I.P.S..
- She ran boojums Press with Sharon Ferraro.
- She is not Harlan Ellison.
In Her Words (1981)
"Paula Smith has been around fandom since 1973 and has written stories, poems and plays for Trek, sf, SW, MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E, S&H, ROCKY HORROR, and DRACULA, and has been published in INTERPHASE, MASIFORM D, GALACTIC DISCOURSE, RIGEL, WARPED SPACE, OBSC'ZINE, PEGASUS, SYNDIZINE, ZEBRA THREE, and of course, MENAGERIE, and has had a story published professionally in ISAAC ASIMOV'S FICTION MAGAZINE. This is the first time (she says) that she has ever made the final ballot for a writing award. Goshow! [She was] Nominated for Favorite Poem."
In Her Words (2010)
While at Media*West #30, Paula was interviewed for an issue of Transformative Works and Cultures. In it, she talks extensively about Mary Sue, letterzines, fanzines, the meld and discord between media and SF fandom, conventions, the birth of Media*West, and when she helped serve Harlan Ellison a home-cooked chicken dinner.
At DTFF, I found zines. Trek was off the air by then and this was just after Devra Langsam, who published Spockanalia, the first Star Trek zine, organized the first Star Trek convention, which was held in New York in 1972. [Carol Lynn], who became my friend and copublisher, was there. The next year, 1973, I went to the Toronto Worldcon and met a lot more people, a lot more fans... Around early 1973, I'd met Sharon Ferraro. I was at Kalamazoo College and she was at Western Michigan University. We got together and formed a science fiction society between the two colleges and called it KWest*—"kwestar." Sharon and I organized a con in 1974 in Kalamazoo called KWest*Con and we got Harlan Ellison as our pro GOH [professional guest of honor] speaker. We had to pay for his flight and room and board, but we didn't have to pay an honorarium... A couple of hundred people attended the con. We made our nut. We brought Harlan to Sharon's house and fed him a chicken dinner. Sharon was a big Ellison fan. She had said, "We can get him," and we did! And we had a great time.
People were writing a lot of Trek stories, and printing them. There were two routes into Star Trek fandom. There were these rather older women in science fiction fandom already who said to themselves: we can do cons, we can do zines, about Star Trek. The original SF zines sometimes contained stories. The big difference was that science fiction had a professional outlet back then. Once you published at the fan level, you could go on to the major leagues if you were good. If you weren't a good writer, you'd get tired of being told, 'This is crap,' and you'd stop writing after a while. But in Star Trek, there was nowhere else to go. So if you developed your craft, your Trek zines soon had better and better stories. It seemed like there were two age groups in early Trek fandom: 18 and 35. The other route was for the baby boomers who had the feeling, 'Gotta write!' They just wanted to do something. As soon as they went to the cons and saw the zines, they'd think, 'That's what I can do!' And it crystallized all over the country and there were zines as far as the eye could see. And they kept coming and coming. We used to joke about Warped Space, which started publishing around 1975, 'Oh, here comes the Tuesday afternoon Warped Space. Here's the 3 PM edition.' The editor was Lori Chapek [later Chapek-Carleton]. There was the MSUSTC—the Michigan State University Star Trek Club. Again, a university club; colleges and universities were where many boomers found out about fandom.
We were part of that early network which took the science fiction fandom template and ran with it. We were the string in this supersaturated sugar solution that allowed the rock candy that became media fandom to crystallize. To quote a famous science fiction writer (R. A. Heinlein), 'When railroading time comes, you can railroad.
Paula Smith is NOT...
- Paula Smith is PROBABLY NOT Harlan Ellison. See accompanying image, the question on quiz from Pegasus #2
- Paula Smith is NOT Harlan Ellison. See accompanying image.
- Paula Smith is NOT H.O. Petard -- Despite both of their propensity for sharp, sometimes cruel, criticisms and reviews of fanworks, the theory that Paula Smith and H.O. Petard were the same person was denied by Petard in Implosion #5": "Last week, a local fan informed me in all seriousness that HOP is really Paula Smith. That's not true -- a fact for which both Ms. Smith and I are duly grateful."
- Paula Smith is NOT Paula Block. For one thing, they lived in two different cities. Poblocki does not equal "Posmithi." See accompanying image from Scuttlebutt #2.
- Paula Smith is NOT Ima Fool. That is Pat Massie. When Paula wrote with Pat, Paula used the pseud of "April Fool" (Ima's "niece").
notice from Scuttlebutt #2, click to read
From one of the questions on the hypothetical quiz in Pegasus, printed in a supplement for issue #3: "Is Paula Smith really Harlan Ellision?" 1. None of the below. 2. No. Harlan Ellison could never live in Kalamazoo. 3. Yes. The real question is, Which of them Turned About and Intruded the Other? 4. No. But Paula Smith is proof positive that Harlan Ellison exists.
Paula and Controversy
If there was a hot topic brewing, Paula was there, right in the middle. She could be as adept at stirring it up as she was of trying to calm it down.
In 1975, Paula Block wrote:
Hooray for the return of the infamous P. Smith. As I was explaining to her in a letter I am in the midst of composing along with this one, I kind of think of her as the Harlan Ellison of the fanzine world. She (like he) exudes some strange essence (no, nothing to do with the olfactory senses) that of awes me. I respect her words and her writing. When it comes to getting Into nitty gritty and gory details, she can match him one for one. They both terrify me. Her approval of BWII ranks up there in my ego boos alongside of Harlan's calling me "Pumpkin Sweety." 
Tackling Difficult Fiction Subjects
Her Fanwork Reviews
Her zine and fanfic reviews were entertaining, and often spot-on, but also had the reputation of being unnecessarily harsh. A fan in 1981 wrote: "I don't know if I'm looking forward to Paula Smith's 'zine review columns ... she seems to hate everything." 
In 2010, Paula said:
If you were going to spend so much time typing up a LoC to send to a zine, and then make them type it up to put in their zine, you might as well make it interesting. I received a lot of criticism for not being so nice and encouraging in my critiques, then I would go to a con and be my usual effusive self and someone would say, 'You're so much different from your writing; you're so much nicer!' Somebody told me I have a soft chocolate center. 
Censorship and Sex
When the issue of explicit art and other material being displayed at cons arose for the first time, Paula took on the subject of censorship and sex:
I agree that ST pornography is a lousy thing -- it is so badly written. In search for titillating themes, good or even credible characterization is ignored, and plots degenerate to the simplest push-push gimmickry. A lousy Get-Together story is worse than a lousy Mary-Sue story, because the reader doesn't expect a Mary-Sue necessarily to be any good. If it is uneven, juvenile, or just plain silly, that is typical, and the reader is not disappointed. But when a reader takes up a story on an adult theme, she expects an adult treatment, or ought to. A simpering, or brutal treatment of sex is evil in a most fundamental sense, because such trivializes and degrades our greatest humanity -- love. But sex, and sexuality, per se are not dirty and disgusting.
Some folks are hobbits: they need to be aware there are wider vistas than that of Bag End. Some are wizards: they must take care not to strike and blast as forcibly as they feel like, because there is always some fuzz-footed clown out there just itching to swipe yer Ring. The most useful thing anyone can learn is when to shut up. Like now.
Her Desire to See Treklit "Legitimized" and Be of Higher Quality
Paula felt very strongly that fans should aim higher, that without better aspirations regarding quality, their writing would forever remain in the fan-written media ghetto.
- No Trekkies allowed, gang, and this means you!
- I (and Sharon) have been backed into a corner defending a single position over quality controls. Frankly, I rather resent this.
An Editor Reviews Her Own Zine
In her final editorial to Menagerie, Paula writes:
I've been looking over the last sixteen issues of 'Menagerie,' and lo to my wondering eyes what appears but my very own curmudgeonry. A bit startling, you may imagine. But there it is, the grousing and the griping and the Old Virtues. 'Men' was not an innovative zine --even way back in '74. We weren't the first to go offset. We were never the most useful or informative zine, nor the most beautiful, nor the most general, nor the most consistent. We were never in the front ranks of Kraith, no K/Sism pro or anti, nor S.T.A.R., nor the current rearguard action against SWars. And nobody called us punctual. What probably best describes 'Menagerie' is 'reactionary.' Early on when sloppy ditto was the best reproductive method of choice, we wanted a cleaner look and went to offset. When every second story in fandom involved the unlikely adventures of a sixteen-year-old lieutenant on the Enterprise, we did A Trekkie's Tale. When Kraith dominated the earth's surface, we wrote and printed 'An Abortive Attempt.' When everybody else was writing about the Big Three on the Big E, we tried to explore the rest of the universe. Later, when get'ems were the vogue, we did The Logical Conclusion, billed as 'the get'em to end all get'ems.' Overkill, we 'got' Spock five times. We started the first review column (first 'Notes from Cap'n Dunsel,' later 'Bored of Review') because we wanted to publish our reactions to the zines we'd read. Our only positive crusade, good writing, we carried out in part by refusing what we considered poor stories, and critiquing in depth the ones we too on. In our lettercol and con report began none other than the K/S controversy. And satire, our usual mode of yuks, is the most reactionary idiom of all. Well, F [equals] ma, folks: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. We were occasionally the conscience of fandom; sometimes we even made it think. We were a major force in making ST fanlit aware of itself, and only through self-awareness is there the possibility of self-improvement. We did produce a change in fandom, I truly believe. We made it a little less complacent, a bit more self-critical. Maybe we went overboard. If so, now that we're retiring (in this incarnation anyway), somebody else can be the reactionary and bring fandom back to center. 
- A Trekkie's Tale, fiction (1973) 
- The Tollian Affair, review of this fic (1974)
- The Logical Conclusion, fiction (1975)
- No Trekkies allowed, gang, and this means you!, essay (1975)
- The Trekzine Alphabet (or 26 Steps to a Shittier Attitude), essay (1977)
- Surrender, fiction (1982)
- Why Review, essay (1992)
- The Worst Zine in the World, essay (1985)
- Satisfied?, essay (1992)
- many, many, many, many more
11 & 2 | A to Zine | Babel | Best Little Valentine Zine in Texas | Blood Agent | Celebration | Chalk and Cheese | Code 7 | The Compleat Faulwell/Landing Party 6 | Eel-Bird Banders' Bulletin | Escape from New York | The Fan's Little Golden Guide to Throwing Your Own Con | Fruit Cocktail | Future Wings | Galactic Discourse | Guardian | The Hole in the Deck Gang Newsletter | Interphase | Klingon Empire Appointment Calendar | Kraith Collected | Masiform D | Menagerie | Mixed Media | Obsc'zine | Pegasus | Play by Playbook: Collected ZebraCon Plays | Rerun | Romulan Wine | S and H | Shadowplay | The Sleeping Beauty Affair | The St. Crispin's Day Society | Star Trek Primer: A Child's Garden of Space | Strange Justice | Strokes | T-Negative | Ten-Thirteen | The Thousandth Man | The U.N.C.L.E. Chronicles | Warped Space
- "I think it fitting and proper at this time to answer a question that has been asked at least a couple of dozen times: to wit, i.e., & who "chen" is. I am doing this as a public service, in the interest of science and posterity and primarily because I can't keep track of what's been signed with that psuedonym. anymore. "Chen" as some mental marvels have deduced is me, PaulA Smith. I realize that his has been the best kept secret since Guinevere and Lancelot, but anyway, "chen" is a nickname derived from the German diminutive of my name and is pronounced with a "sh" and not a "ch" or even the aspirated " 'ch" sound peculiar to German with which it should be pronounced, because I stayed in the Rheinland. Klar?" -- from Smith's editorial in Menagerie #4
- The Times, They are a'Changing by K.S. Langley on the Fanfic Symposium, dated June 19, 2003. Accessed May 30, 2009.
- Isaac Asimov describes meeting him in 1953: "At that same convention I met another personage, not a professional author yet, but destined to become one, and a more colorful one, perhaps, than anyone else in science fiction, even myself.... He was a little fellow. He insists he is five feet, five inches tall, but that is, I think, by a specially designed ruler. He is five feet, two inches tall by the internationally accepted yardstick. Either way he had sharp features and the livest eyes I ever saw, filled with an explosive concentration of intelligence - Asimov, Isaac. In Memory Yet Green: the Autobiography of Isaac Asimov, 1920-1954. New York: Doubleday, 1979. Avon Books, 1980. p. 690.
- Harlan Ellison stated that he is "(1) he is 5'5" and not 5'4"" -- How Much is that Harlequin in the Window?
- comments in Warped Space #13
- from an LoC in Warped Space #45
- from A Conversation with Paula Smith, a 2010 interview for Transformative Works and Cultures
- from the editorial in the final issue, by Paula Smith
- [http://web.archive.org/web/20100111141712/http://www.fortunecity.com/rivendell/dark/1000/marysue.htm A Trekkie’s Tale (archived link)