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News Media Commentary
Title: Sigh-Fi
Commentator: Ann Thompson
Date(s): during the week of August 22-28, 1986
Venue: print
Fandom: slash, focusing on K/S
External Links:
article as it was reprinted in On the Double #1
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

Sigh-Fi was a one-page article in the "L.A. Weekly" in 1986 by Ann Thompson that sought to explain this thing called slash and people's interest in it.

The late 1990s, and the rise of the internet, saw a great number of articles published on the subject of fanfiction. "Sigh-Fi" predated this wave of mundane curiosity and was probably the first article of its kind.

The original Gayle F art used in the article. It was originally the back cover of Obsc'zine #4.

Many fans reacted negatively to the article because it brought attention to slash, was predictably simplistic/inacurrate, and because the article used a piece of art by Gayle F that had appeared as the back cover of Obsc'zine #4 (November 1980) without her permission, as well as quoting an excerpt from Obsc'zine that "featured a compliant Kirk succumbing to Spock's brutal attentions."

At least one fan, the editor of Pon Farr Press, said the resulting article said her sales increased, and that the article brought more fans into the fold.

The article was reprinted in whole in at least two zines, On the Double and Naked Times #11.

See Also


A fascinating aspect of this cult phenomenon is that the writers and most of the readers of these sexual fantasies are women. "In the 14 years of KS novelizations, I've never heard of a man writing one," says Star Trek expert Richard Arnold. "It's a real minority. It's not these people alone who have made Star Trek the incredible phenomenon that it is." "It's a libidinal outlet," says one freelance S-F writer. Observers speculate that these fans, like many adolescent girls, fantasize about men they find attractive. But these women tend to be between 30 and 50, S-F conventioneers report, and seem to prefer male homosexual bondings over heterosexual couplings because they don't like to compete with other women for their hero's affection.
The lawyers at Paramount and Lucasfilm are familiar with the erotic publications and, while they don't approve of them, don't take them very seriously. "It's of no special consequence," says Paramount marketing chief Sidney Ganis, who used to head Lucasfilm's marketing operation. "At Lucasfilm, we cracked down on copyright infringements. The KS novels are just a way the fans have of creatively expressing their elation with the whole issue of sci-fi."

Reactions and Reviews


This ish [of Naked Times #11] leads off with a startling re-print of an article which appeared in an L.A. newspaper "revealing" K/S to the public eye, complete with a full-nude by Gayle F. (reprinted, I believe, from an early issue of Obsc'zine). A must-read for those K/S fans who like to stay abreast of how their "hobby" is rapidly becoming more and more "public". [1]

The article appeared in the August 22-28, 1986 issue of L.A. WEEKLY — a weekly "entertainment" magazine published in Los Angeles and read by several thousand people, maybe several hundred thousand.

It is the opinion of the NAKED TIMES editorial staff (and the editor in particular!) that K/S is not necessarily a "freedom" of the press. Essentially, K/S editors and readers make every effort to be as discreet as possible, and to avoid unnecessarily shocking the neighbors, the priest, and (ghods forbid), "The Children". Obviously, the publishers of L.A. Weekly gave little or no consideration to that discretion when they published this article with the accompanying illustration. While the article itself is as inoffensive as it can be, I am wondering if you feel as offended by its publication as I do?

The article, as you will see, attempts to "explain" the K/S phenomena while obviously trying not to offend anyone. In the end, I think it offends everyone — and I fear, we can look forward to lots of "bad press" in the future. My question is this: What can be done to insure that K/S remains in the hands of the readers — those who understand it, appreciate it and have the good sense not to flash it about in front of The Children? How long will it be before Phil Donahue or David Letterman hosts a special on us? And, if this type of thing starts appearing widely in the press, how long will it be before Paramount tries to take some type of action?

If you feel as I do, I hope you will take the time to drop a letter to
 the publisher of L.A. WEEKLY, giving them your views on the matter 
of "freedom of the press", and how far it should extend. Keep in 
mind that this publication appears in Los Angeles — where it is certainly seen by Paramount executives and STAR TREK personalities alike. 
In essence, we have been "wronged" here — for it is certainly the K/S editors, publishers and readers who will take the brunt of criti
ism while the major publications such as L.A. WEEKLY sit back and 
laugh. We are the ones who will inevitably suffer
because of the blatant indiscretion of others. I, for 
one, would like to try to do something before it's too
 late. So... if you see an unscrupulous dealer at a
 convention displaying a K/S zine openly (as we have
 seen many times at recent cons), you might try to 
nicely (or not so nicely...) bring up the matter of 
Discretion And The Children. There are apparently
 a lot of indiscreet individuals out there who find great 
pleasure in "exposing" K/S. I don't need to name 
them. And it is apparently up to us to do whatever 
we can to maintain discretion. A.F.B. [2]


It's interesting to note that a lot of newspaper & periodical articles have been appearing lately, articles which purport to "inform the public" about K/S. The "Sigh-Fi" article... is a prime example. No one asked [Gayle F] she wanted her illustration to appear in a publication which is easily available to children. This was done without Gayle's permission, in the name of "journalistic freedom". Well... in my opinion, that "journalistic freedom" could also be made to extend to printing "excerpts" from stories and naming the author — such as what happened on a radio talk show in Australia. A portion of a K/S story was read over the air, and the interviewer named the author — who, at the time, was using her real name. After that, she quickly adopted a pseudonym for obvious reasons. [3]

Being relatively new to K/S, I find the opinions expressed in '[Sigh-Fi]' (reprinted from L.A. WEEKLY in OTD#1) to be amusing at the very least, hurtful at the very most. Yes, I suppose it's true that all of the K/S stories I've read are by women. So what? In my fifteen years in fandom (or at least in buying fanzines), I have found that most fanzine editors and writers are women. Up until the last thirty years or so, most novels — erotic or otherwise — were written by men. What does that mean? Did those men who wrote their erotic fantasies down on paper have problems competing with other men? The problem here, at least with the article's point of view, is the same problem many so-called 'straight' people have. They see K/S and other related "/" universes from a strictly Freudian outlook. When one writes an erotic story, especially when that eroticism is not within the mainstream of what others consider 'normal', the author must have some deep psychosis, obsession, or some other problem one learns about in 'Abnormal Psychology 101'. Right? Or course, this must be especially true of women who write about love relationships involving two men (or at least it's what the article seems to imply).

In my humble opinion, K/S is a variety of things to a variety of people (much like the concept of IDIC).., Yes, there are still those stories out there that head straight (sorry) for the bedroom with hardly any plot line to hold them together. Even 'slave-stories' and the really gut level "S&M' stories still abound. For me, this is not what K/S is all about, but it does satisfy those who love seeing their steamier fantasies in print. And that is a normal part of being a normal human being, recognizing all aspects of that which makes us a whole person (fantasies and all). [4]
...there was one really hurtful feature of the L.A. WEEKLY article. I believe public discussion of K/S by those who are really involved in it could embarrass the actors who play the roles we love so well. If people want to let the public know that K/S exists, so be it. But by showing the picture (which is very good), it may unintentionally cause problems for Mr. Nimoy and Mr. Shatner. Other than that, and its implied criticism of women (who do not, as the free-lance SF writer seems to believe, "prefer male homosexual bondings over heterosexual bondings because they don't like to compete with other women for their heroes' affections"), the article is nothing more or less than any other article which tries and fails to explain to the masses something which is not meant for mass consumption and is better understood and respected by those who are actually involved. By the by, who wrote this? Was it male or female? [5]
The wonderful thing about freedom of the press is that anyone can use it to express their opinions on anything they choose. The unfortunate aspect of this broad application of freedom is that it does not require the expressee [6] to be responsible. Although one can usually depend upon professionals to exercise their interpretation of this quality, it does not necessarily concur with, nor even approach the spirit of the ethical obligation implied.

The so-called 'article' that appeared in L.A. WEEKLY August 22-28, 1986 is a more than classical example of irresponsible journalism in that it was obviously intended to defame, degrade, or otherwise put K/S fandom "in its place", which, if the slant of this very subjective indictment is the wave finally come to sweep away all pretenders, is not in the ranks of honest literature, but rather, confined with the sick aberrates who spawned it out of the atavistic depths of their own sick minds. To quote someone as an "expert" on any given subject, one must first ascertain that the individual is indeed an expert, the definition of the word basically being someone who is familiar with and adept at all aspects of the subject. The words: "...I've never heard of a man writing one..." leads one to believe this is a fact, rather than just an admission of ignorance. To Richard Arnold: it's bigger than you think. As for "conventioneers" and "observers" presuming to explain why it exists and the motivation of the writers who create and perpetuate it, I sincerely hope any intelligent person would doubt their conclusions based simply on their credentials.

And now, last but definitely not least, to the editors and publishers of L.A. WEEKLY, a semi-successful and supposedly professional publication, I must say this: The amateur writers, editors and publishers of K/S are considerably more responsible and professional in their handling of the material in question than your organization, considering the careless fashion in which you illustrated your "news item" in a publication that can be purchased and read by anyone, including children. The lack of facts and abundance of amateur psychoanalysis leads me, as a reasonably intelligent and moderately well informed individual to believe that the journalist (a term I use grudgingly) had no interest whatsoever in putting forth the subject in such a manner as to allow the reader to make his or her own decision, but rather to provide a source of outrage for a no doubt already disdainful quarter.

Or perhaps it was merely an item to amuse a jaded public. Whatever its motivation, the fact remains that any subject put before the public in the form of news or information should, by way of the moral and ethical responsibility of the journalistic community, be presented in an honest and objective fashion, with all facets being offered for examination. But, of course, this talent is what determines whether or not the reporter writes for Newsweek. [7]
The editor of Pon Farr Press wrote that the Sigh-Fi article had actually had a positive influence on sales and reactions:
As to how the L.A. WEEKLY article has affected PON FARR PRESS, I can only say at this point that zine sales and inquiries have increased dramatically. Since several of us here in Southern California do sci-fi conventions in the L.A. area, we have been asked, "Is this that stuff we read about in the paper?" Mostly, the reaction from the public is one of curiosity without hostility. Of course, there are the exceptions to that rule when one encounters an overly-zealous, morally self-righteous s.o.b. (for details, see the editorial, BANNED IN ANAHEIM, which appeared in NT#6;. Additionally, when we attended a convention in Denver (STAR CON) back in March of this year [1987], we were exposed to several people who had read a similar- — though less "critical" — article which appeared in a Denver newspaper. Again, the reaction was one of curiosity mingled with a little disbelief. It's interesting to note that several of these newcomers are now ordering regularly — and some of them are men (yes, that is a rarity in K/S writers and readers alike). So, as to the reaction, it's been more positive than negative. It seems that the article merely "confirmed" what a lot of people had already thought of on their own. While I don't agree with the less than discretionary manner in which the L.A. WEEKLY article was done, it's primary impact seems to be that it's led a lot of new folks into K/S fandom."[8]


I would like to make a comment about that article in the LA Weekly. It was not all bad. It got some of us started in fandom. That's when I got started in fandom. I saw [a fan's] letter [in response to the original article], I tracked back to the back issue, and then tracked everybody down. [9]


I shall be forever grateful to Gayle for doing the art that was reprinted in the L.A. Weekly that gave me the lead I needed to find slashdom. [10]


I didn't even know fandom existed, never mind slash, until I came to America. Then I thought all there was was Trek fandom, of the fake ears and Vulcan speaking sort. Until, that is, I saw Robin Hood's reply to an article printed in the L.A.Weekly. Needless to say, I was thrilled to bits that this weird thing that no-one else I knew even liked was not only liked by other people, but they were writing stories about it and doing art (dirty art! Yippee! I wanted--desperately--a full sized version of the tiny illo that appeared at the top of the letter column) on the very same subject as my odd little perversion that I had learned not to mention to other people. Of course, as soon as I saw this letter from Robin Hood, I special back-ordered a copy of the issue with article.

And was devastated that not only was there not a nice little map pointing the way to these other people who liked what I did,

but there was only one [Gayle F] illo. After that, I wrote to the local Star Trek Welcommitee, and was fortunate enough to contact someone who was quite polite and kind enough to point me in the general direction of more-or-less local fans. I wrote, ordered a zine, did a breathless newbie, was invited down to meet other people, met Nancy, started co-buying zines with her fifteen minutes after we met, we produced our first zine 9 months later, and I haven't looked back since. [11]


  1. ^ from On the Double #1
  2. ^ from K/S: Freedom of the Press?
  3. ^ from On the Double #3 (1987)
  4. ^ from On the Double #2
  5. ^ from On the Double #2
  6. ^ "expertise"?
  7. ^ from On the Double #2
  8. ^ from On the Double #3 (1987)
  9. ^ a well-known fan, M F G, commented at a panel at Escapade #3
  10. ^ comment by M. Fae Glasgow on Virgule-L, quoted with permission (June 19, 1994)
  11. ^ comments by M. Fae Glasgow at Virgule-L (December 3, 1995)