Please Captain, Not in Front of the Klingons

From Fanlore
Jump to: navigation, search
News Media Commentary
Title: Please Captain, Not in Front of the Klingons
Commentator: Gareth Branwyn
Date(s): September 20, 1996
Venue: StiM Magazine
Fandom:
External Links: Please Captain, Not in Front of the Klingons; archive link
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

In a special Star Trek issue in 1996, StiM magazine offered an article about K/S and slash. The article tackled slash fiction as a reaction by the fan community to the lack of gay and lesbian characters in the Star Trek franchise. It ended with puzzlement over the slash community's secretiveness.

It was likely related to another series of snarky, irreverent articles in a series (not dated, but sometime after the end of November 1996): see stim's Trek Tribute.

Some Mentions and Contact Info

In a sidebar called Access to Slash, the article also published the contact info for:

The Writer Contacted Slash Fans

The article's author sent emails to several slash fans. For some fans, this was the first they'd heard of Shipp's "slash page."

The email Branwyn sent:
Date: Thu, 11 Jul 1996 16:18:11 -0400
Subject: Slash Fiction

Hello.

I am doing an article on slash fanfic for a new online magazine called STIM (www.stim.com). I got your e-mail address from Jennifer Shipps' excellent Slash page. Would it be possible to interview you (anonymously if you prefer) for my piece? Also, I'd love to purchase copies of some of your zines. Do you have a price list? Looking forward to hearing from you,

Gareth Branwyn
Contributing Editor, ST!M
http://www.stim.com/
"Arrogant Net Swill Since 1986"

Excerpts from the Article

As any hardcore fan will tell you, the Trek universe doesn't end at the borders of the Paramount lot or with the many merchandising franchises. Long ago, when female crew members were still in go-go boots, fans began exploring the Star Trek universe on their own. Through conventions, live role-playing, fan fiction, and zines, Trekkers have veered off in many creative, obsessive, and delightfully bizarre directions. One of the most fascinating of these fan niches is called "slash."
Can you imagine a love affair between the swashbuckling Captain Kirk and that green-blooded nerd Mr. Spock? In the mid-Seventies, hardcore stories about such a relationship began circulating among some Trek fans who wanted to see the two men boldly go where no (heterosexual) man had gone before. Their stories, and the zines that published them, were called "Kirk/Spock" or "K/S" fandom, later shortened to "slash" (as in slash fiction, slash zines, and slash cons.) The slash zine scene has continued to thrive, over the years producing zines with names like "The Final Frontier," "Fever," "Cheap Thrills," and "Ten-Forward." The original medium of print slash has been joined by slash videos (Trek scenes creatively re-edited to bring out homoerotic messages), slash websites, newsgroups, and mailing lists.
The Vulcans have a saying: "Infinite diversity in infinite combination." Slash lives by that maxim. Since the birth of the original K/S stories, many bold new homoerotic pairings have been charted. Star Trek: The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager have all been slashed: imagine Geordi and Data (is he fully functional?), Riker and Picard, and Paris and Kim. Right now, one popular slash relationship is between DS9's dewy-eyed Dr. Julian Bashir and Garak, the Cardasian tailor (fill in your own in-seam measuring jokes here).
Most people aren't shocked to discover that homoerotic fanfic exists, but many are surprised to discover that hetero women are the predominant producers of it. This was the case in the 1970s when slash emerged, and it's still the case today. Why heterosexual women would devote themselves to the hobby of writing and endlessly discussing homoerotic fiction is a subject of much debate among feminist academics and the slash producers themselves. In Technoculture (University of Minnesota Press, 1991) Constance Penley, an English and Film professor at the University of Rochester, argues that slash provides its creators with a way to both examine women's relationship with science, technology, and the body and to imagine a "re-tooling" of masculinity. Others claim slashers are simply filling a void left by unenlightened 20th century TV writers. As you'd expect, several of the slashers we talked to said they just do it for the fun and challenge of imagining "alien" sex situations. (What does Spock's organ look like? What would sex be like between a male Cardasian [sic] and a human?) And, when you think about it, why shouldn't hetero women fantasize about boy/boy relationships—after all, girl/girl fantasies are extremely common among men.
Slash writers often portray their characters as heterosexual men who, through a series of unusual circumstances, end up as lovers. To that end, many writers are fond of exploiting certain plot elements to construct such stories. The Trek episode "Mirror, Mirror" from the original series, with its parallel universe and a second Enterprise crew, proved to be fertile ground for a number of slash stories (e.g,. an evil Spock capturing and sexually torturing the good Captain Kirk). The friendship between Bashir and Garak on DS9 seems to have homoerotic overtones to many fans and has led to a proliferation of B/G stories. One writer/zine editor told us, "I have to feel there's real chemistry there, that something could happen between them. So my slash fandom began with B/G and has remained there."
One would think that the Internet would be a perfect place to take slash. It's a relatively inexpensive publishing medium that can reach an international audience. But the slash community is reluctant to embrace the Net. As one slasher told us via e-mail: "The Web is huge, and somewhat anonymous, and print-media-raised slash fans are something of an insular community. They like the feel of their community, and you can't maintain or have any control of that on the Web." But Star Trek is not the only show in town when it comes to slashing—homoerotic tales are spun about "Babylon 5," "Space: Above and Beyond," "The Professionals," "The Man from U.N.C.L.E.," and "X-Files"; many aren't wary of the Net like the old ST slash scenesters. There are ST slash mailing lists and "locked" web sites, but they are carefully kept outside the view of the general Net public. It seems unfortunate that if slash is a fictive way of working through issues surrounding technoculture, the future, science, the body, and gender (as some slash critics argue) that the slashers would still feel the need to do so behind closed doors and under a blanket of paranoia. It's not hard to understand that slash writers are secretive because they fear ridicule, but it's a shame that their fascinating take on popular TV and the do-it-yourself universe they've built around it is held just out of the reach of most of us. I want my SlashTV!

Several of the writer/editors we talked to for this piece did not want their web sites linked or their names mentioned. They were surprised we were able to find them at all (all we did was a simple web search on "slash fiction"). Although we made every effort to assure the slashers we weren't out to write a sensational piece about their brand of fanfic, at some point in the process, they all seemed to disappear into the woodwork. A really nice slash site, the largest and best we found, was taken down after we discovered it. One company that sells slash zines even refused to send us a copy of their catalog—they didn't want to "participate" in our article.

Here are a few sources of slash. Through them, you should be able to access other slash materials and eventually work your way deeper into slashdom...

Fan Reactions

1996

Did anyone else recently receive, in private email, a message like the following? Who is Jennifer Shipps, and why is she putting my name, address, and zine info on a Web page *without my permission*?!???? Anyone know who this Gareth person is? To say I'm a tad disturbed is to put things rather mildly. [1]

1997

Fan willingness to be "exposed" varies. For example, last year one fan created a web page last and filled it with a whole host of fannish information: zine ads and con progress reports. Unfortunately, she didn't check with everyone listed on each zine ad and con report to make certain it was okay to have their e-mail address and in some case home addresses and phone numbers so widely accessible. Because she only handed out the web page address to a few friends, she didn't think it would be picked up by the search engines. Anyway, an online reporter who wanted to do an article about slash on the internet found her web pages and began contacting the zine authors/publishers/con organizers -- by phone and by e-mail. After word got out, and some fans refused to talk to him, he began pretending to be a fan who just wanted to buy zines. Some fen were completely cool with this and gave interviews. Others were a bit peeved to find a non-fan calling them at home. The upshot is that the fan decided to shut down that portion of her web page. [2]

Some of you may remember a few months back when this author started contacting members of the slash community to write an article about slash on the net. The article was published in "Stim", an online magazine, this past September.

In general, the author slips into the typical "mixed message" stereotypes about slash: we're either the vangaurd of a sexual liberation and/or we're paranoid. I think the people he refers to in Part 2 are Jennifer Shipp (whose web page originally contained con reports and zines ads with phone numbers and addresses befpre she shut it down) and Plastic Cow Press (who received a phone call from him asking for a slash catalogue).

Anyway - this article is in 2 parts. [3]

References

  1. comment by Alexfandra, comments on Virgule-L, quoted with permission (July 11, 1996)
  2. In 1997, Morgan Dawn posted about the origins of the article and fans' reactions to the article to the CI5 Mailing List. It is reposted here on Fanlore with permission
  3. Morgan Dawn at Virgule-L, quoted with permission (February 1997)