SocioTrek

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Zine
Title: SocioTrek
Publisher: Cold Knee Mountain Press
Editor(s): Tess Kolney
Type: letterzine
Date(s): 1987
Frequency:
Medium: print
Fandom: Star Trek: TOS
External Links:
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SocioTrek is a letterzine that examines the social aspects of Star Trek. It has five issues, all published in 1987.

About

From Boldly Writing: "Tess Kolney explained the purpose of Sociotrek as a 'forum for examining the social and sociological aspects of Star Trek.' Letters were interesting, and Tess included a lot of editorial comments as well. She hoped for Sociotrek to run indefinitely; unfortunately, only five issues came out."

In an ad in Datazine #45, the editor described the zine: "Ever work out the theories of life after death on Vulcan? Wonder atfout the position of women in Romulan society? Been sure you've figured out the impact of the Universal Translator on the uniqueness of minority cultures? Derived your own theories on how Star Fleet would be 100 years after the original series? Speculated upon the possibility of contradictions between IDIC and arranged marriages on Vulcan? Wondered about any possible relationship between the 1960's TV series Star Trek and the rise of Republican Conservatism among American youth in the early 1960's or the American anti-war movement of the mid 1960's. Then SocioTrek is your newsletter. It is exactly this type of thoughtful examination and debate that we hope to engender. We want to use Star Trek as a tool for the examination of our own lives and society and history and, conversely, to bring our own experiences to an examination of the Star Trek universe which has so moved and captivated us."

The Editor States Her Letter Policy

As printed in issue #4:

"The editor reserves the right to:

  • Edit all letters
  • Refuse to publish letters which are slanderous, racist, sexist, homophobic, classist, boring, or in other ways insulting to the intelligence and ideals of Star Trek fans
  • Publish any and all letters of interest to mature and thinking individuals, even if they don't represent my own viewpoint or those of the majority of my readers
  • Publish all letters received unless they are clearly marked NOT FOR PRINT
  • Publish the address on LoCs unless you request that I do not
  • Publish any remarks that might be construed as negative about anyone or anyone in ST fandom only under your legal name"

Issue 1

SocioTrek 1 was printed on a dot-matrix printer, was published in January 1987 and contains 8 pages.

cover of issue #1, Shari Schnuelle
  • a fan writes of her observations on the movie, Star Trek IV, namely status and role of women, as well as a large number of other subjects
  • a fan ("I'm a dyke who writes K/S -- a very diverse combination") comments: "Whether anyone likes to admit it or not, we K/S fans compose a pretty impressive percentage of ST fandom... But come one, Paramount, were are the queers in ST? Where's the visual evidence of the concept of IDIC? STIV [the fourth ST movie] gives us an impressive diversity of species, but what about RELATIONSHIPS? I suggest that conservative ST script writers have stooped to the soap opera technique of "telegraphing... Subtle cues that are "evidence" of upcoming events, or different meanings. STIV telegraphs the K/S relationship by putting lavender briefs on Spock (pardon me, Leonard Nimoy's stunt double) when he's in the whale tank mind-melding with Gracie. We all know lavender is our color—at least it was before it became a "fashion color" several falls ago. Lavender still holds a powerful queer identification; besides, it would be too inconvenient to put a green carnation in Spock's buttonhole, then pan to a calendar that read THURSDAY. (For all of you not up on gay and lesbian history, that's how we identified one another long ago and far away.) So I'd like to thank the STIV wardrobe managers for encoding those cues and once again keeping our K/S imaginations going where no heterosexual has gone before."
  • a fan wants to know if Romulans go through pon farr
  • fans comment on arranged marriages, nuclear energy, the rise of the Republicans, the role of women, Vulcan afterlife...
  • a fan writes that without fan fiction "with strong and interesting female characters, I would have stopped being a Star Trek fan long ago."
  • there are some mentions of the zine The Women's List and future issues that were never printed

Issue 2

SocioTrek 2 was published in February 1987 and contains 10 pages.

cover of issue #2, Shari Schnuelle
  • there is much discussion about the recent movie and points made by fans in the previous issue of the letterzine: arranged marriages might be logical only if one assumes everyone is heterosexual, how does one recognize a gay Vulcan, how come there are no open lesbians in Starfleet, that IDIC was set up not to ignore differences but to celebrate them, tragic flaw, the use of the Universal Translator, comment about how it was a good thing to have to have Chekov rescued in the movie rather than Uhura...
  • even though she says she is no longer in fandom, a BNF from long ago, [Karen F], writes in and says that fans today expect too much from their shows: "I'm afraid your letter writers expect a great deal more from ST than it has ever or is ever likely to deliver. By and large, ST is fast food for the mind -- very good fast food, mind you, but still only fast food. But so is just about everything else about Hollywood."
  • a fan has a lot to say about the machine of fandom and publicity and TPTB: "I know that, as disappointed as I was in STIII, I probably wouldn't have agreed to review STIV for anyone if I had not been mislead by the advance publicity. I expected Uhura, Chapel, and Rand to each have at least one scene in which they were key. Paramount had also, by leaking that Catherine Hicks would play a lead in the film, and by leaking that we would see our first female ship captain in this film, suggested that the female captain would have a major role in the film... What is, perhaps, most disturbing about all this is the way that Paramount has used both the fans and the supporting actors. Paramount relies on the fans to keep up gossip and conversation about and interest in the film and spread this interest throughout the SF community, etc. between the films. They count on our conventions, 20-year parties, opening night parties, etc. to generate free publicity for them. (All those pointy-eared kids and hortas look great for filler in papers and on TV.) They leak rumors and counter-rumors to keep us buzzing and talking between films—and of course, generating that publicity. They count on us to see the film 38 times—a small but steady piece of their target market. Our value to them as unpaid publicists far outstrips our value as a ticket market. Our value as purchasers of subsidiary products—novels, novelizations, games, posters, etc.—is probably also greater. Equally pernicious is their use of the supporting actors. Aside from Nimoy and Shatner, the regular actors on ST pretty much had their careers axed by the show. If you don't believe this is true, look at the resume of any of these supporting actors from about 1972 on. Or ask them what they've done since ST. (don't be surprised if the answer isn't friendly.) Between the ST films, they supplement their income by doing ST cons. (If anyone doubts this is an income supplement, consider that the "bottom dollar" anyone gets for a ST con is around $2500 plus hotel, meals, and airfare.) At these ST cons, they pass on the false rumors and the occassional true one—whatever it is that Paramount has told them to say. And believe me, with the films and cons making up the percentage of their income that it does, most of them say exactly what Pararaount wants them to... Here are a group of people whose careers have been ruined by ST — and yet they are dependent on it, specifically through Paramount but to a lesser extent through the fans, for the living they can make longer make from their careers. Vicious cycle, and one Paramount exploits to great advantage."
  • there is a submission request for a zine called A Natural Propensity: it is "seeking material which, using the ST universe as a starting place, explores human intimacy, sexuality, and friendship."
  • fans debate the difference between a "spunky woman" and "a woman who has spunk"; they decide both are stupid and prove it by asking each other to "Name your 10 favorite spunky men."
  • fans debate the role of Gillian in the movie
  • the lone male fan writes: "I detect a lot of resentment directed at men in general, and childbirth in particular." He comments on a fan's previous comment that "women could band together and fend off the men."
  • the male writer also asks the editor "I don't think K/S is plausible or believable. Are you going to censor me for being homophobic?... If someone sends in a racist, sexist, or otherwise stupid LoC, why not let them hang by their own words?" The editor replies and refers to her previously published editorial policy: "I'm glad you asked that. I am not going to publish those LoC's because (1) they spread violence--based ideas that don't need to be spread anymore (They are prevalent enough, thank you.), (2) I am not going to waste my time typing them, (3) I am not going to waste my money or yours printing and distributing such ideas, and most importantly (4) I said so. This is my fanzine, my hobby, and not a court of law-- no one has an inalienable right to be heard here. As long as my sweat and my money go to produce this, I reserve the right (as many businesses say) to refuse service to anyone. I want this to be a place for an open-minded exchange of ideas--not a dumping ground for people's prejudices and bigotry. Would I refuse to publish a letter saying you thought K/S is improbable? No. I think It's improbable, too. But if you wrote a letter saying that K and S couldn't possibly be homosexuals because all queers are bad and our heroes are good—then I wouldn't print it. That Is homophobic. (And if you came up with that kind of formulation, I would probably think you were simple-minded.) Similarly, if you wrote letters month after month reiterating the fact that K/S was improbable, I would get bored with reading (and typing) them and eventually stop publishing them. However, if you had some new observations to make or interesting points to bring up (pro or con), I would publish the letters. See what I mean?"
  • a fan comments about Gene Roddenberry's liberalism and ideals: "Roddenberry made many decisions as a producer which, intentionally or not, encouraged this bias. His parallel development of cultures theory, for example. He postulated that cultures (actually, he phrased it "worlds" but he was referring to the cultures) would tend to develop along certain discernible, predictable, and parallel patterns. By using this gimmick, he opened to his scriptwriters the ability to take their "alien societies" wholecloth from existing cultures or even cultural stereotypes on our own planet. This allowed them to focus on writing the action-adventure storyline without spending much time inventing new worlds or cultures or even giving much thought to the backdrop of the story. (Given that most of his writers were not sf writers but were action-script oriented, this probably wasn't a bad idea.) Similarly, Roddenberry advanced his own desire to talk about the world the way It really was and sneak this by the network censors and sponsors by "painting the people green." But he was clear that what he actually wanted to talk about was America -- or the way he perceived America to be. So, not surprisingly, we get "the future" and "alien" cultures who are just like what a middle-aged, white, ex-military, middle-class American male experienced the world to be. He believed, correctly I think, that people would pay more attention to the symbols than to the reality: thus, he painted blacks and women green — and for awhile fooled some of the people some of the time about what he was really saying. This had its advantages and disadvantages. On the positive side, he snuck that "green" equality right by the sponsors and allowed a marvelous idea to exist: there could be an end to racism, to sexism. On the other hand, this trick fails when you consider that he was supposedly giving us a reflection of our world that has been merely 'painted green."
  • a fan comments: "If I had to pick an area of human interaction in which I think ST did (however unintentionally) forge ahead a little and in which ST did do some worthwhile examination, it would be the area of male friendships... While there was and has always been some glamorization of male friendships in literature and in the media (going back to the Bible and probably even further back), the most acceptable expressions of this between American men at that time were the drinking buddies/golfing partner model and the "friendly competitors" model. Neither of these left much room for expression of feelings, admission of vulnerability or doubts or even passion, and generally no solid basis for trust. I suspect this is the subliminal text which K/S fans pick up on and translate into the only medium in which our culture finds it acceptable to talk about intimacy needs: sexuality. By doing ao though, I think the point is missed: ST was brave in the fact that it acknowledged men's needs for friendship outside buddy-buddylsm, and for Intimacy outside sexuality."
  • there is an ad for a zine called Politically Incorrect-- the first issue was a Star Trek issue, and the editor explained the plans for future issues: "We are seeking articles/artwork/other materials for our next few issues on the following subjects: Star Trek and K/S fandom, Lesbians in the Star Trek Universe, Homophobia and the Federation, Darkover, the Order of Oath-Bound Reunciates (Free Amazons to you vulgar types out there), sexual ethics on Darkover, convention reports, favorite (and least favorite) Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual characters in SF... etc.etc.etc..."
  • printed in its entirety is the second newsletter issued by Star Trek Fans for Peace, see that page

Issue 3

SocioTrek 3 was published around March, April, or May 1987 and contains 8 pages.

cover of issue #3, Liz O'Lexa, a.k.a. ELMO
  • fans discuss whether the Klingons were more or less sexist than the Federation: they use the character of Mara as an example of both
  • a fan comments on a letter in the previous issue: "You stated that K/S "misses the point." I don't believe this is true. The major motivation behind men being so insensitive and cut off from each other is homophobia. They are afraid that if they show sensitivity and deep feelings toward other men they will be thought homosexual. They think of homosexuality as something ugly and shameful. We are showing, that it's beautiful. K/S has disarmed the homophobia of some women. I have read their accounts of how K/S has opened their minds, and changed their lives. Now if only the message could reach more men. If more men realized that there is nothing to be afraid of in gayness, then it would no longer matter if people thought they were gay. Then they too could open up and be free of their burden of homophobia."
  • another fan responds to the same issue: "As a hard-core K/Ser, I found your comments about male intimacy vs. sexuality in SOCIOTREK 2 very interesting. I think most of us would agree-that sex can be the ultimate expression of love. I want Kirk and Spock to have that ultimate expression. ("Heavy friendship" fans seem to rely on hurt/comfort situations as the means for K and S to express their feelings for each other. I do still enjoy some h/c stories, but once I accepted K/S I found most h/c situations to be incredibly masochistic. In essence, h/c stories say, "You are unlovable unless you're in pain." K/S is much healthier; they don't need excuses to love each other.) But I do think there is something to your point about sexuality being the only medium for "which our culture finds it acceptable to talk about intimacy needs." While I basically agree with you, I don't know what other "mediums" can be as ultimately fulfilling as sex as a way to express intimacy or to simply be intimate. I'd be interested in your (or anyone else's) elaboration on the point."
  • a fan, [Linda S], is compiling a directory of all Klingon fans
  • this issue has a long transcript of an interview with James Doohan, conducted by Todd Moe in February 1987 when the actor was in St. Paul for a car show
  • a fan comments on an article by Joanna Russ in Nome #8 ["Another Addict Raves About K/S"] : "It bothered me that she felt you couldn't write a story about a woman without involving the gender issue, but you could about a man. It also bothered me that she couldn't imagine a woman going out and having adventures 7 days a week...I found myself a little suspicious that being unable/unwilling to identify with a female character should be called feminist. (Though I was interested in the article "Spock Among Women" and thought it was quite possible that the form of K/S and the women's "breaking silence" about their interest in their own type of sexuality was feminist.)"
  • a fan writes about the comments she'd received from an earlier letter: "Your letter seems to assume that K/S is about male homosexuality. I have been told by many K/S fans that this is not true. The aforementioned Russ article argues that Spock is really a woman, and Kirk a man, and what women are really writing about is what they want in intimate male-female relationships. (This, of course, led me to the irreverent speculation that, if Spock is really a woman and Kirk/Spock stories are about what women want in male-female love, then Chapel/Spock stories must really be about...) Additionally, the K/S survey I am conducting for THE WOMEN'S LIST generally shows tolerance toward gays — but it also shows ignorance, and there are some explicitly anti-gay respondents. One gay male friend of mine (see his article in POLITICALLY INCORRECT 2 felt he was unsuccessful in writing K/S in part because K/S wasn't like gay male life and he couldnt' imagine his readers being interested in seeing K and S portrayed in the light of a gay man's fantasies. I do think it is possible that K/S may be disarming the homophobia of some people but, unfortunately, that doesn't necessarily follow."
  • this issue prints, in its entirety, the third newsletter for Star Trek Fans for Peace

Issue 4

SocioTrek 4 was published around June 1987 contains 8 pages.

cover of issue #4, Carol Mace (art), Joan Verba (calligraphy)
  • a fan pretty much self-identifies as a Bitter Old Fandom Queen and tries to figure out why: "I remember when I first jumped into fandom. Maybe some of the rest of you were somewhat more restrained and mature, but I certainly did have fun while MY crazy leap lasted. I think that the blissful insanity of total self-transplant into another (dare I say it?) imaginary culture only lasts as long as it is developmentally useful. When we get whatever it is that we get out of such learning experiences, we resurface. At this point, one is apt to see us standing around with a nostalgic (and, let's face it, slightly smug) smile, watching the neo-fans with their brand new doubleknit tunics and fresh-from-the-catalogue insignia. We feel...older, somehow. (In my experience, this usually coincides with getting a Real Job.) As we get older, we tire more quickly. Our resistance to certain fannish plagues goes down. We succumb to cynicism, disillusionment, gafiation. So my question is, after all of this "you must understand the economic realities of the market" talk, and PR promises unfulfilled that we seem to get every time, WHY do we go back? Why are we still faithful? Is it just that the crew of the Enterprise was our first love? Do we, as Woody Allen would say, need the eggs? Are we somehow participants in a mythos that transcends Paramount and the other guilty realities of the entertainment business? Or is everybody else having a good time, and I'm just a grumpy old bitch?"
  • there is much discussion about whether the time travel in the fourth movie changed history and did the plot and script play loose and fast with the rules regarding this issue
  • a fan writes that this letterzine is "great fun. You seem to get better subjects than poor Teri gets for Interstat."
  • a fan writes: "I have no quibble with your high motives for K/S, but what I have never understood is why such motives could not be served at least as well, if not better, by inventing two credible homosexual characters of one's own, instead of rewriting two established characters? I, for one, would be quite interested in a realistic treatment of homosexuality in the Federation."
  • a fan comments "about the intimacy question -- I doubt very much that encouraging men of whatever sexual persuasion to be more intimate in public will help them turn into feminists... I am not as concerned with teaching men to be friendlier to each other as in teaching them to be friendlier to women."

Issue 5

SocioTrek 5 was published in 1987 and contains 6 pages. The editor says she is slowly getting back on her monthly publishing schedule, but this was the last issue.

cover of issue #5, Carol Mace
  • fans start discussing Gene Roddenberry's plans for a new Trek series on television, and they are pretty much pessimistic about it; a fan sums it up: "I am rooting for the show, but I've also got my car keys ready for a quick getaway."
  • one fan writes: " I think you're right on about Russ's article in NOME 8 on K/S. What she's maintaining is that K/S isn't feminist. This is of a piece with Russ's essay on woman heroes in Susan Kornillon's anthology THE IMAGE OF WOMEN IN LITERATURE. Russ said there that no one writes about woman heroes because no one can believe that a woman can be a hero. Her essays on K/S are a continuation of that arguement. She is saying that K/S is a result of the patriarchal conditioning that even feminists do have. I agree that it is difficult to overcome patriarchal attitudes and I certainly don't claim to have done so completely, but I disagree with her when she says that this explains K/S. It doesn't explain why I write K/S. I don't believe that only men can be heroes. I've written about Mara on Penthesilia in the NTM universe. I've written a K/S story in which Uhura and a group of woman officers rescue Kirk and Spock. I've written a K/S story that hasn't appeared yet in which Amanda leads a revolution on Vulcan. I am making feminist statements about sex roles through K/S. I'm annoyed that Russ's explanation has been held up as the official one by so many people. t don't think she ever meant it to be the gospel about K/S, but only a beginning of feminist thinking about it. In response to me about gayness in K/S, what K/S is about is a matter of argument. I have read some very gay-identified K/S, though it mostly has appeared in England. K/S can be anything the editors and writers want to make of it. It is not inherently disguised heterosexuality. I certainly don't write K/S that way. Besides, Russ didn't say that Spock was really a woman. She said that he had many traits conventionally ascribed to women, but that in K/S Kirk and Spock have traits conventionally ascribed to both genders making them androgynous. I endorse the word androgyny, by the way. It is the only word we have that mean possessing traits conventionally ascribed to both genders, and therefore it is a word that feminists sorely need. So I'm reclaiming it for feminists -- just as feminists have reclaimed bitch, hag and witch. I understand that many K/S fans are less than enlightened about gays. So enlightening them is one of my jobs. I don't expect everyone to agree with me. I just want there to be more of a space for feminist K/S and gay-identified K/S."
  • a fan speculates about genre and about the future: "K/S is actually young and an evolving genre. In ten years I have seen it grow and change remarkably. There is no telling where it might go in the future. Perhaps ten years from now there will be K/S zines by and for gay men, along side the K/S zines by and for women. There is no reason why there should only one audience or one purpose for K/S -- anymore than there is one type of gen Trek."
  • a fan comments in a long, long letter about how our society is sadly afraid of sex and that "I think that this is one of the most important messages that K/S can have for us. Don't place sex in the gutter. Place it among the stars."