Relationship Story

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Related tropes/genresCharacter Study, Curtainfic
See alsoCase Story, Action/Adventure, Smarm
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A relationship story is fanfiction that focuses on the relationship between or among characters rather than their jobs or experiences.

This relationship may, or may not, include physical intimacy.


In Boldly Writing, Joan Marie Verba writes that the tradition of the relationship story started with Star Trek:

Because the vast majority of editors of Star Trek fanzines in 1975 were science fiction fans, I was unaware of the ever-increasing number of Star Trek fans who had no experience with science fiction, and no interest in science fiction whatsoever. Many of these fans did not view Star Trek as a science fiction program. They saw it as a 'buddy' show, or as a heroic/romantic saga, in which Kirk and Spock were the focus. When these Star Trek fans wrote stories, they wrote about what they thought was most important about Star Trek: Kirk's and Spock's friendship... As a further sign that such fans found science fiction irrelevant, many K&S writers did their best to get Kirk and Spock off the Enterprise and by themselves in order to concentrate exclusively on those two characters (one K&S fan told me that was to avoid the 'distraction' of the ship and the Federation; in contrast, to science fiction fans, the inclusion of the starship Enterprise and the futuristic setting were essential to any Star Trek story.) Within five years, this 'relationship' type of story was to dominate non-K/S Star Trek fanzines.[1]

There was a reason for so many women adopting this view of the show. According to Robert Justman in Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, Captain Kirk had been intended from the beginning as the central, focal character in the series, and William Shatner was paid accordingly; but fan response to Mr. Spock was much greater. In order to turn audience attention back toward the Captain, creator Gene Roddenberry asked for ideas. In a letter reprinted in Inside Star Trek,[2] Isaac Asimov suggested that the scripts and actors should show the two men becoming close friends, including incidents where they save each other's lives. Viewers would associate Spock with Kirk, and think highly of Kirk because Spock did. Roddenberry and Gene Coon worked this out, and wrote to Asimov: "Shatner will come off ahead by showing he is fond of the teenage idol; Spock will do well by displaying great loyalty to his Captain. In a way it will give us one lead, the team."[3]

As the third season shows were being planned, Star Trek already had a substantial female following. But according to third-season producer Fred Freiberger, one of the heads of "network research" advised him to increase female viewership in order to boost ratings. The researcher allegedly told him that the great majority of women could not identify with science fiction, in fact were "terrified" by the thought of outer space exploration. Freiberger said, "They needed stability, they needed surroundings; they’d rather be in valleys than on tops of mountains." They needed stories about love, friendship and children; drama, rather than action-adventure. More female writers were hired to produce said stories. When the show went into syndication, even more female viewers would see these episodes and be inclined to interpret it as a dramatic series.[4]

The show became almost soap opera-like in its depictions of love and romance, even in some of its music.

Relationship stories differ from introspection narratives in that they show one character focusing on another, rather than on him- or herself. Some of the early pieces about Spock found in zines like Tricorder Readings were not stories but brief introspective prose poems, with Spock meditating or reflecting on his dual heritage or his place in the universe. Dr. McCoy also had a number of these prose poems, some focused on himself, some on his view of Spock.

Examples of Relationship Stories

In the very earliest fan writings published, all romantic relationships were heterosexual, as they had been on the show. Star Trek fandom of this period was infused with hope that the original series would be revived, perhaps continuing on a different network. Thus, many fans wrote stories or scripts that could presumably be adapted into viable Star Trek episodes. (Several episodes had in fact been created from unsolicited treatments or scripts written by fans.) Homosexual or slash stories existed as drawerfic (e.g. The Ring of Soshern by Jennifer Guttridge), but did not appear in fanzines until the mid-1970s, when gay people began affirming their legal and social rights. Homosexuality in fiction was considered pornographic in many states and could not be sent through the mail.

  • "Time Enough" by Lelamarie Kreidler (Spockanalia 3) was the first fanfic relationship story. When Spock goes into pon farr again he seeks out Lian Jaimeson, the head of Alien Research on the ship, who is part Vulcan.
  • "The Alternate" by Laura Harris (also in Spockanalia 3) is a mood piece narrated by an unnamed woman who is having a relationship with the mirror universe Spock or someone very much like him. It takes place during some sex described in an explicit-romance-novel style, perhaps PG-13 or mild R.
  • Spock's family relationships and friendships are very important in Kraith.
  • There are many stories about Sarek and Amanda's relationship to one another and to their son, among them Ruth Berman's "It Seemed The Logical Thing" (T-Negative 9, 1971, Norma Smith's "The Ambassador and the Lady" (Pastaklan Vesla, issue 4) and Jean Lorrah's The Night of the Twin Moons, published in 1976.


  1. ^ Boldly Writing
  2. ^ and which you can see at Letters of Note: Getting Star Trek on the Air
  3. ^ Marc Cushman, These are the Voyages: Season Two.Jacobs Brown 2014.
  4. ^ Freiberger's account is quoted in Marc Cushman, These Are The Voyages: TOS - Season Three, Jacobs Brown, 2015; and in Edward Gross and Mark Altman's The Fifty-Year Mission: The Complete Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History Of Star Trek: The First 25 Years (St. Martin's Press, 2016). Cushman says Freiberger went so far as to add in the "Spock/Droxine flirting" scenes in "The Cloud Minders" because as written, it had no romantic subplot. Josh Marsfelder, in his blog Vaka Rangi, attributes Freiberger's idea that Star Trek didn't appeal to women to "a cavernous disconnect between the show, the people making the show, the people overseeing the show and the people watching the show, and this trips up a lot of people who try to talk about this season" ("'I'm spunky!': Elaan of Troyius", Vaka Rangi, October 3, 2013.) The network researcher Freiberger cited has never been identified.