Reminisce With Me/The Late '70s

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The following represents the 2008 fannish memories of Nancy Kippax, which she recorded on LJ in the last months of her life. Permission to archive these memories has been granted to Fanlore by April Valentine.

May. 19th, 2008

There was all of that above, yet it was also a time of prolific creativity, the challenge of tackling serious issues in both fandom and the world at large. Between 1977 and 1979, we wrote "The Rack" and its sequel, "All the King's Horses, All the King's Men", plus "Home is the Hunter." Powerful stories, y'all. We published Contact III in March 1977 and Contact IV (with "The Rack") in September 1977.
"The Rack", as is widely known by now, was conceived as a cautionary tale to anonymously respond to the growing acceptance of the original "slash" relationship between Kirk and Spock. Bev and I, along with [April Valentine] in Baltimore, were more concerned with what this runaway concept was doing to the Star Trek fandom than to making a social or political statement. Whispers of K/S had been around from the time that we arrived in fandom, and by 1977 the furtive whispers had bloomed into a bold shout of acceptance all over the country. And that shout was causing repercussions that was alienating people in groups from Maine to California. Some felt you were either for it or against it, period.
Bev and I conceived the idea for "The Rack" and quickly realized it was too large a project for us alone, so we asked Martha to join us for a unique three-way writing experience that was both fun and challenging. We decided early on to write it under a pseudonym, not to hide from the brickbats we suspected it would provoke, but simply because we were all too well known to be judged without prejudice or preconceived notion. Hence, in May 1977 while hip-deep in writing the novella, J. Emily Vance was "born". And over that winter (1977-1978), we completed the sequel, which was printed in the zine, Farthest Star, published by New York fan, Pat N.
At one time, before Slash became the dividing point of Kirk-Spock, there was another strong divider among fen. Most weighed in with one of the two characters. You were either a "Kirkie" or a "Spockie". You loved either Leonard Nimoy or William Shatner. Personally, I always hated this, because I loved, and thought every K-S fan should love, both of them equally. I was clearly the oddball, though. And while "Spockies" also liked Kirk, and "Kirkies" also liked Spock (among relationship fans, that is), it was to a lesser degree and without the undying passion. We used to get stories submitted to Contact where it was clear the writer did not understand the Spock character, because they were totally a Kirk fan, or vice-versa (they didn't understand Kirk because they were a Spock fan). I can only report on what was prevalent mainly within the Kirk-Spock relationship fandom. For the rest of Star Trek fandom, you'll have to search elsewhere.
Other fandoms were beginning to emerge, diluting the gene pool. Or would that be the "Gene" (Roddenberry) Pool? "Starsky & Hutch", with its amazing [h/c] and the first truly slashable show on TV, premiered in 1976, and by 1977 there were zines and teeshirts and fan-generated merchandising galore. I loved it so much, I quit my job so I could be home in the evenings to watch it! I'd been working the evening shift at a local bank, but after staying home to watch "the Italian Restaurant" episode, I was hooked and didn't want to miss any of it. This was a full 3 years before [April Valentine] was to get the first VCR in our crowd, and I think it was about 5 years before I got one of my own. So taping was not an option. Thus, I happily decided that I could find a day job! (Actually, there were other factors involved, but S&H tipped the scales!)
And there was a loosely organized "fan club" for "The Man from UNCLE", which had been around in the U.S. and the U.K. as long as Star Trek, but without significant fan fiction. The first stand-alone fanzine (a novel) was printed in 1975. It was, and has remained, a fairly compact group of fans with a significant output of fiction and a lot of Trek's early fen culled from the ranks of UNCLE fans.
But it was in May of 1977 that the first big, serious threat to Star Trek fandom arrived. Star Wars was released among much media hype and quickly captivated the science fiction element of fandom. Now, all those fen, who had been screaming that the fanzines didn't have enough SF to suit them, had a new playground to play in. And we who were faithful to Star Trek, to Kirk, Spock, and McCoy, resented it madly! But while it did splinter a lot of fandom, the Kirk-Spock element remained fairly untouched. It wasn't our cup of tea and while I enjoyed the films, they weren't any kind of substitute for Trek.
But enough tedium, let's focus on the fun! And in Baltimore, with our expanded Contact family, there was always some kind of merriment or devilment going on somewhere! Bev's house was the natural focal point, and as time went on it evolved into a Saturday night fixture. Looking back, I can't remember a precise point when this happened. We had fan friends visiting from all over the country at various times, and these occasions always called for a gathering. In the summer, there were cookouts and "pool" parties (Bev had a large above-ground pool in her tiny back yard), complete with what we dubbed "Aqua-Treks", where those so inclined would get in the pool and kick and move in a circle and do other silly things. On holidays, Bev would do a themed gathering for everyone.
Bev wasn't the only hostess in the crowd. Martha held her incredible "Catspaw Con" party on Halloween, complete with themed food, silly costumes and games to play. Pat Stall entertained lavishly, but more about that later. Others, too, took a turn at making joyful memories. But it was, more than anything, the open call for Saturday night visits that bonded us and made us all a part of the Contact experience.
Backing up a bit to 1976, there was a small convention up in New York City held at the Taft Hotel, I think it may have been October or November, and it was right after Leslie Fish's story "Shelter" came out, one of the very earliest K/S stories. In the story, Leslie described Spock's genitalia very specifically, likening them to anthuriums. Having no idea what anthuriums looked like, I went to the Flower Shop at the hospital where I was working to ask to see one. When the gal brought one out for me, I had all I could do to stifle my laughter! They are an obscene bloom! I decided then and there to buy one for each of us to wear at the con. The clerk was rather dubious when I ordered something like 6 anthuriums, and nothing else! So we went to the con, innocently wearing an obscene flower pinned to our chest, and garnered a ton of laughs from the other fen there who knew what they represented. That story, by the way, had a memorable line that we often quoted or referred to – Kirk to Spock: "These are testes?"
In January 1977, Leslye L., author of the Sahaj series and a good friend, threw a birthday party at her home on Long Island for Sahaj, who had been "born" just as J. Emily Vance was to be. Several of us in Baltimore decided to travel up for it, despite the wintry weather. It was a great party! Leslye had a birthday cake for her "son" and all the NY-NJ fen were there. We took along a game we had devised, which we called "The Ten Thousand Credit Obelisk". We had played it at a few local parties, and it was a take-off on "The Ten Thousand Dollar Pyramid", which had earned our adoration when they had Bill and Leonard on together, both in 1976 and again in 1977.
As far as I know, only one fan managed to record their first time on, with a newly acquired Beta machine. The guys were so cute and so funny! The second time they were even more hysterical, with Bill losing his cool and throwing a chair. They hugged and carried on, and we loved every minute!
But getting back to Leslye's party: Joanie Winston was there and she reluctantly agreed to play on the Obelisk, then managed to fudge her way through the categories. You had to really be up on your trivia to play the game. The party happened to be during the week when "Roots" was airing for the first time, and many of those attending had been following the mini-series avidly. So, a huge chunk broke off and penned themselves in Leslye's den, where the television was, in order not to miss an episode. Again, the days before VCRs were commonly used caused conflicts all over the place. We Baltimore fen stayed overnight in a nearby motel, where we laughed and giggled half the night!
A funny sidebar regarding Leslye's created character, Sahaj: At a con, I think our table was next to Leslye's, or one of us was showing a neofan around and introducing her to the various zines available. Leslye had a zine with a cover illo of Sarek, Spock, and Sahaj. The newcomer pointed to it and said, "Well, that's Sarek, and that's Spock. . .but who is the kid?" To which Leslye replied, "That's Spock's son, Sahaj." With a look of amazement, the newcomer said, "Wow! I didn't even know Spock was married!" Truly. A tale we repeated quite often!
We were always reaching out to other Trekfen in our area via various modes. We had made friends with a group of college students who were forming a Star Trek club which would eventually become the host of the Shore Leave convention in Baltimore. Starting small in 1978, they have truly "lived long and prospered". The girls we met wrote filksongs and loved performing, and became known as the "Slime Devils" and, later, "The Choir of Many Colors", performing with Rev. Trekwell. I remember us all sitting around Bev's basement discussing their plans and intentions. We agreed that if they held a convention, we would bring the fans to it, because we had the connections by then to ensure its success.
Another club that we encountered wasn't quite as amiable. Led by a woman named Lita, they hadn't seemed very eager to meet with us. We had hoped to put on a short presentation to show them some of the zines that were being produced locally and to kind of introduce them to fandom, since they seemed sort of. . .insulated. When we held the presentation, we got a whiff of what the problem was. We were asked, rather belligerently, questions about "joining" this "Star Trek Club." We tried to explain that there was nothing to join, that no one was going to tell them how to run their club, which is what they feared. Communications sunk deeper and deeper as they went on. Really a very strange encounter among the opened arms of normal Star Trek fans. But we did manage to pick up three people who were disgruntled with the club and who became members of our Contact family for quite a few years to come.
Contact III came out in March 1977, and was, I think, one of our prettiest issues. At least it seemed so at the time. It was 156 pages, bookended by our story "Then to Piece the Broken Chain" and what would come to be the last installment printed of our "Phase II" series. Looking back, I'm not sure why we abandoned it. I guess
"the fat old fool illo"
because a lot of our group either didn't like it or weren't interested, or because Bev and I had other themes we wanted to explore and story ideas that wouldn't wait, so "Phase II" kept getting pushed back until eventually we decided not to bother with it. For Contact III, however, we asked our highly skilled resident artist, Pat Stall, to illo the third installment, "The Reunion", even though we knew she hated the series. She hated it because we had taken her "darling boys" and aged them fifteen years. To get back at us for this unpardonable sin, she drew an illustration of Kirk and Spock as she figured they would look 15 years hence. Spock didn't change much, given his Vulcan heritage. But Kirk – well, in her own words, he was a "fat old fool", and the illo became known as "the fat old fool illo". Actually, viewing it today, he doesn't look that bad, double chin, pot belly and all! We printed it, with much protestation on our part, and threats by Pat to pull all her illos if we yanked it. But when we reprinted that issue, the illo had mysteriously gone missing!
I've still got a lot of material to cover before I reach the end of 1979 and the Star Trek: The Motion Picture premiere in December of that year, and I've just about reached my space limit for this time. So I will take up next time with more from 1977-1979. Keep watching for more each week, and please, comment, ask a question, or share a memory of your own. I just love hearing from everyone!