Portraits (Star Trek: TOS zine)
|Publisher:||Merry Men Press|
|Cover Artist(s):||Chris Soto|
|Fandom:||Star Trek: TOS|
|External Links:||Online at the K/S Archive; Portraits fanzine on the MMP site|
|Click here for related articles on Fanlore.|
- Friends First
inside art by Jacqueline Zoost
From the Author
PORTRAITS – my sole K/S novel. I am rather appalled at all the typos that were in the final copy; I think it was a rush job on the editor’s part, in order to have the zine ready for the next con.
I remember this being satisfying to write and touch upon various things – some concerning the relationship, some not – that were important to me (though I’ve forgotten what most of those things were. I do remember it was gratifying to give the “bad guys” reasons to be bad, so that once those reasons were resolved, they weren’t bad anymore. The true spirit of Star Trek.)
It really turned me off, in TV and movies, when someone is about to get killed and somebody else shouts “Wait!” – and the bad guys wait!!! I mean, when you’re evil and are going to kill somebody, would you really stop because somebody says, “Wait!” ??
So, I had Spock on the verge of getting killed, Kirk frantically crying, “Wait! Wait!”… and Spock gets killed anyway. But all turns out well.There are certainly other novels more famous in K/S, especially considering all the years since PORTRAITS’ publication. But I was quite satisfied with the amount of attention it received. Even now, it sometimes still gets mentioned in a positive way. 
Reactions and Reviews
This was a nice easy-to-read story, not overly plotted but with a lot of feeling between K & S. It was interesting that, at first, Kirk knew he loved Spock but didn't think he was 'in love' with him. I enjoyed Spock's little 'bite on the neck' after sex — it was a nice touch to the story. I wonder if this is part of the Vulcan's feline ancestry? 
As the editorial said, tenderness and pure love! It did charm me and it did leave me with a glow. I enjoyed the fact that everything was logical, Spock's survival for instance, after being shot in the head at point blank range, and the different twist to the pon farr was welcome. If it was painful too, as well as mind robbing, it would make the Vulcan's dread of it more understandable. This is the kind of story I read K/S for. As for the art work, Dew, especially the picture of the two of them on page 6 was in fine form. There was no signature on page 108, but the love and tenderness on Spock's part and Spock's contentment just exuded from that picture. If Kay Wells is responsible for it, she made a real contribution to this loving zine. The covers! I need new words. I could look at Chris Soto's work until my eyes gave out. A zine with not one word, just pictures by Chris, would have me fracturing a finger writing the check. These covers did Spock and Kirk at their best and handsomest, as I always love to think of them! The men and the covers are beautiful! Thank you, Chris! 
It is a pleasure to read a novel that emphasizes the love between K/S, instead of a S/M story playing on the sexual tension. While there is little plot, the story describes the progression of Kirk's love for Spock from Pon Parr to inevitable conclusion. This is one of the few stories that describes Pon Farr the way I think it would really happen between them: no instant revelations, pain because of the 'impersonalness' of the act, but no beating, abusing, or rape fantasies. The strength of the friendship sees them through. The author has managed to keep the characters consistent throughout and her story is believable and well written. 
First and foremost, I want to say that on the whole I enjoyed reading this gentle and mature story. I especially liked the portrayal of Spock. Although he displayed his desire to please Kirk he retained a certain sense of self-worth and confidence that so many authors, myself included, often fail to show. I also liked the way the focus shifted back and forth between Kirk and Spock, giving us alternate views of how each of them moved toward a more mature outlook and acceptance of their feelings. I did, however, feel that the idea on its own might have done better as a novella rather than a novel. To sustain the length of a novel I felt it needed more subplots, perhaps showing in more detail and more specifically how their changing relationship affected their professional one. The only character slip, "for me" was when Kirk, after being warned that the link may well cause him mental disturbances, still pushed for it. My view of his character makes me feel that he would be more cautious of something that might interfere with his command. 
Charlotte Frost and I have a running disagreement on this: she keeps writing stories in which sex and love lead gradually to the bond, and I keep writing ones where the bond comes either immediately after sex or even before it. I don't see Kirk as so afraid of commitment as he's often depicted. There are a lot of men who need to be married, and I think he's one, and knows it, at least semi-consciously. As far as realism goes, neither way is right or wrong. People have always done both. My biggest problem with the story came in this section. (Perhaps I only noticed it because I'm trying to learn to see it in ay own writing.) What to me was a very important scene was missed -- the formation of the link between Kirk and Spock. For me, the telepathic contact is a big part of what makes the K/S relationship, and to have it covered in a phrase, "Two days later," isn't enough for me. We've seen them wander around each other's bodies; let's see them wander around each other's minds. I really liked the scene where McCoy takes a picture, but would have preferred some other purpose to it, perhaps to send to Kirk's and Spock's parents (but K and S would have to put their shirts on). I couldn't quite believe Kirk and Spock would display a picture of themselves in their quarters. After all, they can look at each other if they want to know what they look like. Photos are for grandparents. The Charlotte Frost style is always good reading and easy to get into. Here and there (especially in Spock's speeches) there are extra adverbs or adjectives, but far less often than most K/S writers. I paid $20 for this book, and was glad I had. That's saying a lot. 
Neither the 15-year history of K/S lit nor the thousands of "first-time stories" that literature has produced has in any way reduced the challenge of adequately putting into words the progression of our Captain and First Officer's relationship from friendship to sexual love. PORTRAITS surely ranks as one of the most successful efforts ever to capture that progression; certainly, it is one of the most honest and realistic... Yet PORTRAITS is no typical pon farr story. The madness serves neither as a catalyst for long-buried sexual feelings nor as the vehicle of an involuntary bonding. Rather, the two men must decide independently whether to add a sexual dimension to their relationship. There are no gimmicks, no short cuts, and no quick tricks in this novel, only a searching and steadfast honesty as the two men work through the maze of their contradictory feelings. Both Kirk and Spock approach their relationship with a sexuality that is "alienated" in the sense in which that term is used in the writings of Hegel, Marx, and other dialectical thinkers. That is, each man -- in different ways and for different reasons -- experiences his sexuality as something "over against" himself rather than as an integral component of his essential personhood. Presented believably, as it is here, this "dissociation of the sensibilities" makes an interesting contrast to the very different sexual sensibilities of the partners in, for example, Gayle F's DESERT HEAT series, which tells a somewhat similar story.... In any case, once they do decide to become lovers, Kirk and Spock learn slowly, not all at once, to find pleasure in sex with each other. Fortunately, the learning process is as delightful for the reader as it is for our heroes. PORTRAITS is a wonderfully sexy work: The sex scenes are as lifelike, as believable, and as exquisitely explicit as anything in fan fiction. (And that's saying something!) It's a tribute to the author's integrity and patience with her characters that when they finally reach the heights of sexual ecstasy with each other, it is a pleasure fully earned....Such minor flaws aside, PORTRAITS is good, honest, realistic K/S and one of the few zines I've bought in the last several years that I would recommend without hesitation. 
PORTRAITS was fantastically good! I finished it in one sitting and was totally enthralled. Actually, it was only one sitting if you don't count jumping up and pacing the room and taking a few deep breaths every thirty seconds or so. It was that kind of zine.
The relationship between Kirk and Spock ls so delicately and meticulously developed that it is just a joy to watch, And I do mean watch. PORTRAITS doesn't tell the reader what they're doing and feeling, it shows the reader. At times I felt almost as if I was in the room with them.
Aside from its descriptive power, the writing was also outstanding in terms of its maturity. This is a story of Kirk and Spock very gently and rather happily coming to terms with their attraction to each other, it's told with tremendous understanding, and without one twist or turn of feeling omitted. It was also very refreshing in that it's not a story in which either character violently resists their feelings. There's no denial, no hysterics, no running off into the wilderness to die: just a story about two people realizing they're in love. One comment I have heard about PORTRAITS is that it lacks a strong plot. However, I felt it was so sensitively written, that the lack of any major plot besides the pure love story didn't diminish it in the least, and in fact, probably enhanced the power of the love story.
The characterization had tremendous depth. The treatment of Spock is one of the best I've seen; Spock's combination of openness and innocence is wonderfully captured. I particularly liked the description of the pon farr in which Spock, sitting on the bed afterwards, "wrapped his robe more securely around himself, as thought protecting some remaining virtue against the threat of Kirk." When I read this, I thought, "yes, that's exactly how he'd be, thinking that he's the victim!" And then Kirk thought the same thing. The characterization of Kirk was also rich and complex. He was so likeable! Hy own expectations of Kirk would have been better satisfied had his acceptance of a relationship in which Spock is not the only one to receive penetration been a bit less enthusiastic. He seemed to [accept it] too suddenly and too easily overcame his reticence, but I consider this a relatively minor point when weighed against how completely 'real' Kirk otherwise felt.
The dialogue was great, McCoy sounds like McCoy. Kirk sounds like Kirk. Spock sounds like Spock, The sex scenes were particularly well-written. There was little if any resort to such K/S cliches as having Kirk and Spock "soar toward ecstasy' or experience "novas of fulfillment and eruptions of light." Lately, when I encounter this sort of elevated, abstract, cliche-bound language in K/S I just mutter "etc.,etc," and skip the rest of the sex scene. Not so in PORTRAITS. These sex scenes were real. And watching real sex between our guys is a turn-on!One of the few wrong notes was a scene in which Kirk and Spock have McCoy take a holo of them with a holocamera while they are naked from the waist up and embracing. I just couldn't see them doing that. Other than that though, I found almost no cause for dissatisfaction with this book. It was just about everything I could want in a zine. 
Have you heard about the K/S novel that’s been called a primer for same-sex love-making? It’s hard to write scenes with Kirk and Spock when you’re a heterosexual female, it’s years before the internet takes off, and you’re too embarrassed to go to the library and look up “anal intercourse.” But somehow K/S writers started writing sex scenes back in 1976, and doing a very fine job of it, too. But in the novel Portraits by Charlotte Frost, published by Merry Men Press, the author goes through the intimate sex scenes between Kirk and Spock so meticulously that there’s no question of who has put what where. The story starts out with a strong sequence as Spock goes into pon farr on board the Enterprise, and very rationally, very logically, he and Kirk decide that Kirk should be his partner. The experience is a traumatic one—not sexy, not fulfilling—that nevertheless strengthens the friendship the two men share. The next part of the story finds Kirk and Spock both being kidnapped by aliens who are intent on fighting a war with the Klingons, and.... But I don’t want to tell you anything more. You should read this novel yourself. If you can get a second-hand copy with the original covers by Chris S., that would be great, because they are worth looking at. 
This is a much talked about novel, written by a terrific author who was in K/S fandom for a long time (she has now (gasp!) become a pod person). However, this work is thoughtful, insightful and a damn good read....
[snipped due to length]
It begins as Spock is going into pon farr and his only option for survival is to have Kirk help him through it. Very nice set-up as Kirk weighs the pros and cons and comes to the conclusion that no matter what, Spock’s survival is most important and he has to be there for him. Spock is resistant at first and tries to explain to Kirk what helping him with pon farr entails. It’s not a pretty picture...
[much snipped due to length, most of it plot points]
Now for a few more thoughts on this novel. As I mentioned before, there were some things established but never explained or resolved. One was Kirk’s lack of physical desire for Spock, another was a couple of scenes that included Spock’s obviously bloodshot eyes and some mysterious scratches that wouldn’t heal properly. They were just forgotten. I kept wondering when we’d find out what those things were. I realize that the reading of a novel is quite different than the reading of a short story. With a short story, things happen and are explained immediately; in a novel you have to wait for things to evolve. But things still should be resolved if they’re brought up in the first place, especially if presented as something mysterious.
But two major aspects lessened my full enjoyment of this novel. The first is the sex.
The sex scenes, for the most part, were not the hot, lustful, passionate kind. Instead, they had a clinical flavor, sort of removed emotionally and rather objective. I admit to preferring my sex scenes all hot and bothered and over-the-top, but I certainly don’t mind a less-flowery scene as long as it touches that nice erotic chord in me! These were like reading about, I don’t know, your parents or something. Not exciting, slightly dull and good for them, but not so much for me.
The second is Spock’s characterization. Believe me, I don’t mind a Spock in turmoil about himself or a Spock who feels lost and sad. And contrary to public opinion, I don’t need to see a dominating, aggressive super- Spock! But this Spock had probably the lowest self- esteem of any Spock I have read in recent memory.
I mean not only does he feel astonishingly unattractive, but I wonder how in the world he is able to function in the world. It’s one thing to have problems and difficulties as a Vulcan/human. But it’s another to be almost a complete basket case. I found myself feeling so sorry for him that it made me feel very uncomfortable. Such extreme pathetic weakness is not too appealing.
I realize this could be argued that he changes because of his relationship with Kirk. To be honest, I didn’t see that much change.And one tiny bothersome thing is the title. I don’t understand what it means to this story. So, all that said, I still really enjoyed this! I thought it was very well-written and a terrific story. Definitely should be on every K/Sers reading list.
The novel opens with Spock's pon farr, about to begin while the Enterprise is on routine patrol. (The story is set in the time of the episodes.) Kirk more or less forces Spock into admitting that it is logical for Kirk to serve as the Vulcan's partner. There is a great deal of affection between the two men at this point, and a strong friendship, but you don't necessarily draw the conclusion that the emotion is love. Maybe trembling on the brink of it.
Anyway, Kirk suggests that they start sexual activity before pon farr is in full swing. He thinks it might help if the two of them are familiar with each other, with sex between men, before the real thing. Well, here Frost goes in a direction different from most K/S stories, because this first sexual encounter between them is awkward. Very awkward! And Kirk discovers that he hates it, he really dislikes being penetrated. And poor Spock, Kirk learns, doesn't really get any pleasure from sexual intercourse during (or right before) pon farr. It's more a lessening of pain and pressure. Kirk thinks this is a real shame, especially since Spock doesn’t have prior sexual experience outside of pon farr when there was pleasure. When pon farr hits shortly thereafter, the fellows are isolated in the guest quarters reserved for diplomats on the ship. Spock is persistent but not violent at all, and apparently in a great deal of discomfort, even pain. Kirk feels incredibly compassionate for him, and does everything he can to help Spock through the ordeal, even though he still really dislikes the entire sexual act that they are forced to share. He's only doing it to save Spock's life, that is for sure, and he doesn't get any sexual kicks out of it at all. There's a lovely moment where Spock loses emotional control and he doesn't want Kirk to see him. But Kirk insists on providing comfort anyway. I always thought this scene was a little like looking into your partner's eyes during the moment of orgasm, really being willing to trust and share completely. Spock can't do that yet, but Kirk still gives.... After the pon farr is over, the two men work to rebuild their friendship, in part by allowing distance between each other for a while. Although this part of the novel is only a few paragraphs long, I always thought it was very realistic. Makes sense to me that after the intense closeness of Spock's Time, after being shut up with one another exclusively for many days, they'd need a break even from their friendship. But eventually they want to spend time with one another again, and Kirk invites Spock to a planet the ship is visiting, to spend some quiet, shore-leave-type time with him. And while together, the two are kidnapped by strange, unknown aliens who are involved in a war with the Klingons. Quite suddenly, poor Kirk and Spock are being transported on an unknown ship to an unknown planet. Once there, they are paraded out before the leader of these unknown people. A short conversation ensues. Spock is examined, and he is ordered to be shot and killed . And here's the second blockbuster scene, for me. Because right in front of Kirk's eyes, in front of the reader's horrified gaze, in a matter of short moments, an alien stands behind Spock, aims its sort of ray gun directly at his head, shoots and kills him. He falls to the ground and then is dragged off by two of them, with his tongue hanging out of his mouth. I first read Portraits fairly early on in my K/S reading career. I wonder now if that scene would have had the same effect on me if I'd read it after 300 other zines! But at the time, I was so incredibly shocked! And horribly anxious that Spock wouldn't be in the rest of the novel. I will confess. I flipped forward several pages and checked....
[MUCH snipped due to length]
What follows is what I call the K/S Male to Male Sex Primer, because in the following scenes Kirk and Spock learn all about sex together! I remember thinking that it was the most explicit, detailed exposition of sex that I had read yet in K/S, and I will confess that way back when, when I first read Portraits, I was really fascinated. Kirk seems willing to engage in just about anything with Spock except that he doesn't want to be penetrated, and on that he seems quite adamant. But, of course, the author uses that as one small conflict to propel her plot, and eventually, after many days and lots of experimentation during great nights of sex and growing affection, Kirk decides that he wants that from Spock, too. In the climactic sex scene, Spock does penetrate Kirk with the captain on his side, and when the Vulcan looks down at their joined bodies, he can't help but surge into a quick and powerful orgasm. A little too quick for the determined captain, so Kirk suggests they stay coupled, and then they maneuver so that Kirk is on his hands and knees with Spock behind him. (Whew, is it getting a little hot in here?) Now, this isn't exactly my preferred sex scenario, but I think it's one of the hottest sex scenes ever written. It certainly pushes a lot of my buttons! And so Kirk realizes that he is in love with his best friend, and he is willing to give Spock everything. He desperately wants to be Spock's partner during his next pon farr, but the only way to ensure that is through a bonding. Which they decide must be their future together. And so it ends with a cute scene with McCoy where they tell him about their relationship. I've left out a lot of details about the aliens and how the general who had ordered Spock's murder actually shows up on the Enterprise during the fellows' time of sexual exploration, but that's just background as far as I'm concerned.I've heard a lot of people say that Portraits is one of their favorite K/S zines, and I understand why. A great read for a rainy summer afternoon. 
Have you read this? If not, you probably should. In my case, I have read it before but this is one of those times a poor memory is a blessing. I’ve read so much excellent K/S over the past twenty or so years, it has all blended together. Doesn’t that sound better than “I can’t remember anything”? So, when I pull a zine – in this case s novel by one of my favorite K/S authors – off the shelf, it is often as new to me as something that has just arrived in my mailbox.
If one brief sentence were required to describe PORTRAITS, I would say it is a tender, slowly evolving love story. Goodness! How on earth did I dismiss from memory the vividly detailed onset of Spock’s second Pon Farr and Kirk’s unselfish but realistically reluctant answer. It may be a much-utilized springboard, but it does not seem contrived in this instance. I am also very relieved to report it does not result in tedious misunderstandings or bouts of self-recrimination. What it does is showcase the inner strength of these two men and the very real respect and trust they have for each other. Both need a little space after it’s over – and by the way it did turn out to be just as distasteful for both as Spock predicted. No sweetness and light there (well, maybe just a small sprinkling). Gradually, they drift closer and closer to what they had before: genuine unconditional friendship. And then the unthinkable happens. On their first shore leave together, which both see as a chance to reclaim their easy camaraderie, they are captured for use as pawns in a conflict between the Nindans and Klingons. With very little preamble, in what is a most shocking scene, the Nindan leader declares Spock is not needed and orders him killed. Those orders are promptly and efficiently carried out right before Kirk’s horrified eyes. Kirk is abandoned on the unpopulated planet, chained and more alone than he has ever been in his life. His only companions are visions of the enemy dragging Spock’s lifeless body away to be dumped into a pit with other corpses. Days later, dehydrated, hungry and devoid of hope, Kirk suffers the tortures of the damned. All he can think of is Spock: the beautiful, caring and sensitive being that he was, and the cruel and totally senseless way that he died. For a hurt- comfort junkie like myself, this is nirvana. Especially when a figure darkens the door of the hut where Kirk hangs helplessly from his chains, then recognizes him and gathers him into his arms. Spock! Alive!A period of healing follows, during which the love between Kirk and Spock can no longer be forced into dormancy. It takes on a life of its own, growing as slowly as the most anticipated first rose of summer, but inevitably, it blossoms and expands until it fills every aspect of their lives. I love seeing them fall in love this way! Kirk is perhaps a bit more hesitant than I would like, but he cares so much for Spock he is determined not to make a mistake that will hurt him emotionally. As I said, this is an incredibly tender love story, right to the romantic and sentimental end. 
When Spock goes into Pon Farr unexpectedly, Kirk manages to convince his friend to let him help him through it. The shared experience, painful for both, nevertheless brings the two men even closer and after a very close call on a remote planet, the deep love each feels for the other comes to the surface. Wonderful first time story, showing a love so deep that it comes to encompass the physical, with a slow, tentative exploration of male/male sexuality together that becomes more passionate every time. 
Portraits is a novel by Charlotte Frost which starts with a very common premise and goes in some surprising and very well written directions before the end.
It starts with Kirk noticing that there is something wrong with Spock -- he is distracted and irritable and walks right into a face full of spiderwebs on a landing party, which is something he's never seen happen before. Soon afterwards McCoy calls him down to Sickbay, and he's got bad news. Spock is in pon farr, and he has no-one waiting on Vulcan this time. He is expecting to die. Jim's not having any of that. Long story short, he talks Spock into allowing Jim to serve. It is awkward and painful and embarrassing as hell for both of them, Jim never does get any pleasure out of it and until the very end, neither does Spock, but both survive, and after some rather uncomfortable encounters in the aftermath, both relax and go back to being friends. A few months go by, and the Enterprise gets some free time. Jim approaches Spock and persuades him to come down planetside and enjoy the day. They are in line to buy ice cream at a park when the two of them are kidnapped by a species of alien neither has ever seen before; they are forced into their rented shuttle at gunpoint and it is flown to another ship. Eventually they are landed on an uninhabited planet and marched outside at gunpoint. Jim is trying to talk to their captors, negotiate, find out what's happening, when the alien leader orders that Spock be killed. And right in front of Jim, he is brought to his knees, and, while Jim is still struggling to escape, Spock is shot in the head with some kind of energy and drops instantly. Two soldiers grab his arms and drag him away, his face dragging in the dirt. Kirk comes unglued, but the aliens are unimpressed. They kidnapped him for reasons of their own and anything he does or says is beside the point. Soon he is handcuffed to the wall in a hut and all the aliens leave. Kirk is alone without food or water, he is exhausted and overwrought and in pain, and all he can do is think about Spock -- about how they grew to be friends again, after the pon farr was past. He remembers how horrible that was for both of them, and grieves that Spock died without ever knowing how love could feel. He berates himself for not saving Spock's life, for being so useless and helpless. He doesn't even know if StarFleet will find him or not... ...and then he hears footsteps outside; he still can't pull his hands free but braces as best he could— --and finds himself looking at Spock -- face scratched, eyes swollen and bloodshot, bruised and covered in dust -- but Spock is alive. Spock comforts him with a mind touch and sends him off to sleep, then works his hands free, picks Jim up and carries him out into the forest, away from the aliens' campsite. When Jim wakes up they are in their own camp, out in the forest, and Spock has food and water ready for him. They comfort one another, exchanging stories. Spock is still alive, as far as they can tell, because the alien weapon was not tuned toward killing Vulcans, but he is profoundly disturbed by how quickly and easily he was "killed", how seemingly worthless his life was to their captors. Jim tells him how sad he was that Spock should die without ever experiencing love; Spock replies that he had wished, after the pon farr, that he could have shown Jim how gentle he could be when in his right mind. The two end up first hugging, then kissing, finally sharing pleasure (well, frottage, actually -- but the scene is so tender, 'tis a thing of beauty indeed). Afterwards they fall asleep curled up together, and on the following day they are rescued by their shipmates and returned to the Enterprise. The rest of the story follows their adjustments to what's happened and to their new understandings; there is a sequence of them courting that is probably the best I've read anywhere, as far as sounding true to life and just feeling right while you read it. They do eventually get a chance to confront their captors, who are surprised to find Spock alive, and shocked that their reason for killing him turned out to be completely unnecessary. Kirk and Spock both get a chance to resolve their lingering issues and at the end they decide to bond, and to let Bones know also since he's their closest friend.Yah there's a lot of spoilers here. But it's a zine that's been out for quite some time, and frankly it's well worth reading even if you know all the plot -- this is one of those stories where the whole emotional tone feels right from beginning to end. 'Tis a rare quality and one I prize highly. 
- from The LOC Connection #20
- from Charlotte Frost at Stories I Have Known, posted in perhaps 2005, accessed January 3, 2012; WebCite
- from The LOC Connection #20 (1990)
- from The LOC Connection #20 (1990)
- from The LOC Connection #21 (1990)
- from The LOC Connection #26 (1991)
- from The LOC Connection #31 (1991)
- from a much, much, much longer LoC in The LOC Connection #33 (1991)
- from The LOC Connection #34 (1991)
- from The Legacy of K/S in Zines, 1990: Years Since "Alternative" and Still Going Strong
- from The K/S Press #16 (1997)
- from The K/S Press #69 (2002)
- from The K/S Press #115 (2006)
- 4 September 2009 Master List of K/S Favorites *Updated Nov 19, 2013*, Mary Monroe
- from The K/S Press #166 (2010)