Some Attitudes Towards Marriage in Star Trek Fan Fiction

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Title: Some Attitudes Towards Marriage in Star Trek Fan Fiction
Creator: Deloris Booker
Date(s): 1981
Medium: print
Fandom: Star Trek: TOS
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Some Attitudes Towards Marriage in Star Trek Fan Fiction is a 1981 essay by Deloris Booker.

It was printed in the feminist multimedia zine Storms #1.

Some Topics Discussed

  • what is marriage?
  • changing views and needs for marriage in the future
  • the four kinds (almost all negative and unappealing) of marriage as presented in Trek fiction
  • "More exotic (to us) variations such as polygamous, line or group marriages would probably characterize small, homogeneous cultures or splinter groups on frontier worlds where the added economic protection of a larger group would be of advantage."
  • "Ships operating within solar systems or making frequent planetary stops would however find themselves operating on an increasing time differential from the rest of their society and thus increasingly isolated from. it. This may be one of the major reasons for the developing separation of Star Fleet from the rest of society which Admiral Kirk comments upon in his memoirs. It would certainly take a great deal of independence, maturity and understanding on the part of both husband and wife if a viable long-term marriage is to survive the apparent premature aging of one of the partners."
  • "The only example of a non-monogamous marriage that I could find in a moderately large zine collection was Paula Smith's "Speak Roughly to Your Little Boy" in RIGEL 4, 5, 6, edited by Carol Ann Lee and Vicki James."

The Fiction Discussed or Mentioned


lf we accept for the sake of argument the idea that the purpose of marriage is, or ought to be, " . . . conserving capital and insuring the welfare of children -- the two basic social functions for marriage everywhere," an examination of the attitudes to be found in both aired and fan-written STAR TREK yields some interesting patterns. Note that this description says nothing about personal fulfillment, emotional identity, etc. The concept of marriage as a purely personal, as opposed to a communal, activity is a relatively recent invention, created in the main by the Industrial Revolution. This Revolution saw first the separation of the home and the workplace for the majority of people and then the creation of a large and prosperous class for whom marriage no longer functioned as it had for the aristocracy, in forming new power alliances, or as it had for subsistence-level peasant farmers, for whom it provided partial economic security for children. For the new middle class, marriage . became a means of playing social games, especially that of conspicuous consumption. The Victorian myth of the helpless, gentle, witless woman who needed guidance from birth to death provided justification for the possessive and manipulative characteristics of most marriages.

Further changes in economic patterns will undoubtedly bring about equally drastic alterations in the social fabric of future centuries. The new patterns will be an amalgam of current practice and new variations that fit new circumstances. The traditional monogamous "till death do us part" form will be only one of many available. It will probably continue to be the officially approved style among Christian and Euro-American traditionalists, for example. Serial monogamy with simple and non-punitive dissolution procedures would be a common alternative development in many situations. This type of marriage would probably be of an "open-ended," rather than limited time contract in the case of the majority of people who would expect to spend all their lives on Terra or whatever world they happened to be born on.

Within the terms of the original definition of marriage, relationships not intended for the raising of children or the conser vation of property cannot properly be considered marriage. Rather they must be termed intensive friendships, age-mate bonds or some similar term. Thus we can side-step controversial topics such as the K/S relationship.

Marriage, within the traditional definition of the term, is very much a part of the social background of Star Fleet and the UFP. There are instances of serving officers who are married and nave shore-based families, interspecies marriages, alien marriages, state or political marriages, and marriages between serving officers. There are even examples of marriage as an economic escape hatch, or safe-guard against terminal loneliness. All of these examples are monogamous relationships and reflect typical assumptions of 1960's TV-male dominance, sexual exclusiveness, possessiveness, etc. While regrettable, this is understandable in light of the conditions under which the series was produced. Concepts such as interspecies relationships in a society that still had difficulty in accepting interracial marriages, or women as line officers on a space ship in a society that still argued that "professional woman soldier" was somehow a contradiction in terms, were major achievements in themselves.

Marriage is also an extremely frequent topic in ST fan fiction. Fan writers have generally followed the lead of the TV series in focussing almost entirely on traditional monogamous pairing. The tone of the stories varies widely, ranging from automatic acceptance to polemical opposition and seems to correspond reliably to the political attitudes of the authors, at least so far as these can be determined from the context of the stories. Thus writers like Roy and Glazer appear to be liberal and feminist in their views, while others such as Emily and Dodge speak from a much more traditional point of view.

Probably the most negative view of marriage in all of fan fiction is to be found in "The Perfect Object" by Mindy Glazer. The novel takes place against the background of a society in which marriage is nothing but a legalized and particularly nasty form of slavery. Women in this society survive only by being prettier, more alluring, more passive or submissive than their competition. Dareet, the leader of the eventually-successful revolution that frees the women from this tyranny, meets Kirk and they fall in love. Eventually they are forced to part by their conflicting obligations and goals but, as a product of a society different in degree but not in kind from that which produced Dareet, Kirk finds it almost impossible to really accept the idea that she could put anything ahead of his desires.

An equally negative and even more bluntly damning view of marriage is to be found in Eileen Roy's "The Explorer." A secondary character, Eli Cormack, has found in Star Fleet, a career and position that are vastly superior to anything available to her as a civilian. During the five-year mission she marries a fellow crewman and is fairly happy with her life. At the conclusion of the ENTERPRISE'S mission, a transfer that would keep them together is no problem, but her husband decides that he wants "a son to carry on his name," which Eli would leave Star Fleet to raise while her husband pursued his career. She is torn between her desire to conform to her husband's demands and thus preserve the marriage, and her own desire for a career and the economic security this would im.ply. When she asks for help to cope with the physical effects of her tension and con fusion, Chapel is sympathetic but Dr. McCoy dismisses her problem as being an example of "female foolishness."

A related sub-group of stories is made up of almost all stories concerning McCoy's marriage. In these, it is the doctor who is invariably the-victim of a scheming, possessive, immature, and/or greedy woman. The worst that is ever said of McCoy is that he is too dedicated to his work to supply his wife's needs. Granted that the story outline of the series stated that McCoy had entered Star Fleet in the aftermath of an unsuccessful marriage, there must still be more to the situation than a black and white apportionment of blame. [1]

Another large group of stories presents what might be termed an unconsciously negative description of marriage. In these stories the author presents what is apparently intended to be a positive picture of marriage but it is one that contains elements that can only be seen as negative by the skeptical reader. Frequently these stories operate on the underlying assumption that marriage is the normal and desirable condition of mature individuals. They also assume that physical attraction, rather than intellectual or psycho logical compatibility, is the surest foundation for a lasting relationship.

Two examples of this type of story are Echoes of the Past by Rebecca Ross and Castaways by Mary Louise Dodge. Ross' main character is a time-displaced twentieth century woman who becomes attached to Spock and his family in this "old-fashioned love story." The final denouement hinges on the definitely old-fashioned idea that a woman will respond better to a man who uses physical violence as a means of expressing his opinions or wishes.

"Castaways" by Mary Louise Dodge presents an even less enticing view of marriage. The protagonists are Spock and a famous diva, Fiamma Corretti, with whom he falls in love while they are awaiting rescue after the crash of a shuttlecraft. Corretti is married already to a man who had manipulated and debased the relationship, apparently with her agreement and cooperation. She refuses to divorce her husband and marry Spock, however, on the grounds that she "won't do anything to hurt Alberto or bring him to ridicule" though she has already admitted that "ours is not a marriage fidelity has a place in . . . I provide a shield against any permanent commitment." When she and Spock finally part after much soul-searching and breast-beating on the part of all involved, the reader is told that though she refuses to participate in an active relationship, Fiamma will be able to maintain a constant awareness of all of Spock's emotional activities in the future-- a kind of mental "Watch and Ward Society."

In both of these stories the authors believe that their women characters have made reasonable and logical adjustments to the reality of their lives. Neither Ross nor Dodge, however, seems to be in the least concerned about the sexist and coercive attitudes of the societies they have created. The only reasonable explanation I can think of is that neither woman recognizes the essential nature of her creation, but instead believes that such situations are not only inevitable but right.

Sharon Emily's "Showcase" stories have none of these particularly negative implications. What makes her stories and those of her co- writers interesting to this discussion is her determination to marry off everyone for whom she can possibly find a suitable match. She is particularly fond of marrying Klingon men to Terran women, a situation that apparently reforms the savage tendencies of the Klingons and renders them peaceful, pious and generally civilized exiles to the Federation. The stories are often amusing and well- written but the notion of marriage as a kind of cultural reform school is a little disconcerting.

A fourth major type of marriage story might be labeled the "Making the Best of a Bad Situation" theme. The protagonist of this genre is frequently a time-displaced female from the twentieth century for whom marriage provides a viable alternative to starving in the streets (or corridors). "Echoes of the Past," which has already been mentioned, is an excellent example of the type. Though the heroine, Aidan, is supposedly an intelligent, capable, and creative individual in her own right, all her attempts to make a life for herself once she is marooned in the future are centered upon getting Spock to pop the question. Harlequin romance with space ships!

Barbara Wenk's excellent and witty "One Way Mirror" confronts this theme most bluntly. Jenny Marlowe is not time-displaced; rather she is a dedicated Trek fan who is kidnapped by slavers while attending a STAR TREK con, and eventually finds herself being rescued by a UFP (sort of) cruiser that parallels the ENTERPRISE in some minor but tricky details. The only job available to her is that of Officer's Lady, which means exactly what it sounds like. Eventually she and her owner/employer reach an accommodation, but Jenny can never forget that she lives on the sufferance of a man's needs and generosity. She comes to love Slair and he to love her, but along the way she makes a great many adjustments, having wisely if bitterly come to the conclusion that she has no alternatives. "I'd rather be dead" sounds noble but is essentially self-defeating.

"The Displaced" by Lois Welling is yet another tale of a time-displaced woman who finds herself married to Spock. Susan is very different from Jenny or Aidan, however, in that she is a mature woman who has a career, a happy marriage and a family behind her before she is carried off by slavers. When she is forced by circumstances to cohabit with Spock and to share his attentions with two other women (one Romulan, one Andorian) and to produce children for the local economic system, her response is totally pragmatic -- if mating and motherhood will keep her and her fellow female prisoners alive, then mating and motherhood it will be, but on her terms as much as possible. Thus she and the Romulan choose Spock as being the male most likely to be useful in their endeavours to escape. Her final decision to encourage Spock to return to his position in Star Fleet after their successful escape is based on her recognition that for him a "proper" family life would be at best an onerous duty. She is one of the few females in fan fiction who seems capable of distinguishing between love and self-interest. In terms of the practical problems of her existence. Welling does give her protagonist some advantages, including intelligence, emotional maturity, and, perhaps unfairly, a slew of Terran/Vulcan, Romulan, or Andorian crossbred children for Amanda to dote upon.

Sulu and a woman of Green Animal-woman ancestry are the protag onists in Janice K. Hrubes' "Murasaki" and "Swords and Sulu." Sulu falls for Shana Raynes and more or less bullies her into marriage. His affection for her is real but his attitude towards her is all too obvious in his nickname for her -- "Baby." The relationship does not remain fixed in a "happily ever after" mode at the end of "Swords and Sulu," but undergoes a series of seven shocks in the second book that leads to eventual recognition on Sulu's part that he must not only permit Shana her own existence but also must do some fast maturing himself if the marriage is to survive. This story has in common with "The Displaced" the very uncommon recognition that extreme possessiveness of one's mate is not a particularly desirable quality.

There are actually very few fan written stories that present anything that approaches a non-coercive type of marriage. Curiously enough, the best examples of these focus on Spock and seem to be based on the same basic philosophy. The common thematic elements seem to be: a) a stable physical relationship is absolutely critical to a Vulcan's survival, and b) because of the first circumstance, Vulcans have developed social patterns that make this necessity as pleasant and productive as possible. In Jean Lorrah's "Epilogue" series, Spock marries a human telepath, a starship captain in her own right, and after a devastating war against the Klingons, both return to Vulcan to establish civilian careers and a family.

Similarly, Marguerite Krause's stories [in In a Different Reality] assume that marriage for Spock would entail retirement from Star Fleet. The attitude here is not that he is making some immense sacrifice or that he is escaping from a career that has begun to sour, but rather that this is the next logical step in his maturation. Krause gives him a half-Vulcan, half-Terran wife who is a scientist in her own right. Having left the ENTERPRISE after their marriage because of T'Marse's pregnancy, they do not settle down to planet-bound domesticity but instead organize a scientific exploration team of Vulcans, Terrans, and Andorians, acquire a suitable space ship and effectively continue the most satisfactory elements of their careers while raising a family. Not all of the members of their team are married and not all of those who are parents are married, either. Not does Krause suggest that a situation that makes Spock happy would work for Kirk or McCoy.

Kirk is almost never the focus of marriage in fan fiction. He pursues endless numbers of women, and frequently loses them to fate, duty, or whatever, but the general attitude seem to be that Kirk and marriage do not make compatible plot elements. Perhaps this may be because most fan writers visualize themselves in the lead female role in these fantasies, and no woman in her right mind would want to be married to James T. Courted by him, perhaps, but nothing more permanent. Also, as the dominant hero figure, he should, by tradition, suffer a certain amount of tragedy in his life, and failed romances are a prime source of sentimental heartthrobs.

If fan fiction is of any value as a predictor, marriage will continue to be the characteristic form of established relationships between adults well into the future. Whether it will be as similar to present patterns as some writers suggest is unlikely. It is also, in my opinion, unlikely that marriage will be as much an automatic event in the lives of the kind of people who would choose a career in Star Fleet as current fan fiction seems to suggest. It would seem more likely that they would either postpone marriage until ready to retire, or to assume a permanent shore posting, or not marry at all. The latter alternative would probably be particularly popular among those for whom Star Fleet provides an escape from difficult economic or social conditions on their home worlds. The notion that marriage is the only desirable or logical form of social organizations for human beings will undoubtedly be discarded, along with such notions as that everyone is qualified to be a parent or that women are incapable of handling authority.

Reactions and Reviews


'Some Attitudes Towards Marriage in Fan Fiction': very good, wide scope, an examination of how fan writers (both individually and generally) have handled the concept of marriage. It could even serve as a useful guide for readers in search of romantic viewpoints that match their own. [2]


I enjoyed Booker's article on marriage in fan fiction, but why didn't she at least mention Vonda McIntyre's concept as displayed in The Entropy Effect? It was fan fiction, I know, but it was obvious in reading the novel that Vonda had been reading fanfic and drawing upon it. A group marriage is one obvious alternative to the traditional stuff. I hope that some of the fan writing may pick up on the concept. ((Deloris' article was written, edited, and set up before the book reached her end of the spectrum. -- Editor))[3]

Deloris Booker's article on marriage in Trek fanfic was very interesting to the non-reader of the genre. Questions for those who do read and write Trek: are attitudes changing? And if so, in what direction? Booker seems to have done her sociological homework. I hope she'll be doing more along this line, maybe branching out to SWars....[4]

The article on marriage was quite comprehensive. Nothing more to say on it but gratitude that the author pointed out that no one in her right mind would marry James Kirk.[5]

Deloris Booker's article, "Some Attitudes Towards Marriage in Star Trek Fan Fiction," was rather frustrating, as it is very difficult to cover such a large topic succinctly in a limited space. The discussion of probably arrangements of the future (as opposed to the ones actually explored in aired Trek or fan fiction) provided a useful perspective, but it wasn't tied together much with the discussion of Trekfiction. Lack of space no doubt precluded a comprehensive analysis. Why have some fans ignored some fairly obvious extrapolations of contemporary marriage arrangements, and concentrated instead on the traditional, nuclear, monogamous kind? Because aired Trek itself did, no doubt -- it's one reason, at least. But why bring it up at all, then? -- is it to criticize fan fiction, or aired Trek itself? Ms. Booker's analysis was at it best on the subject of "conservative" fan writers -- Hoffman, Dodge, et al. But her approach was less satisfying on the "liberal" writers. Perhaps that is because she has a tendency to focus on portrayals of marriage -- that is specific examples of marriage In works of Trek fiction -- and her own evaluation of those marriages, rather than the attitudes of the writers themselves. As she shows so well in the case of the conservative writers, those attitudes are often unconscious,-- at least, who would admit overtly to admiring a man who uses violence with his woman. But the "attitudes towards marriage" in some of the writers Ms. Booker identifies as adherents of the liberal school of Trek writing are often contradictory. No doubt this contradictory attitude mirror some very real contradictions in the situation of contemporary American women. For instance, what is the "attitude towards marriage" in a work like The Perfect Object by Mindy Glazer -- is it the overt portray of marriage in the heroine's society, or it is not also Kirk's sentimental mooning over how nice it would be to have a wife and kids to come home to? Much space was given to those fantasies of Kirk's, and it was my impression that they were portrayed quite sympathetically. The portrayal of the heroine and her social experience and attitudes was extremely sparse in comparison. Such contradictions abound in the treatment of marriage in fanfic. Perhaps the type of writing which Deloris labels "making the best of a bad job" is the most honest, and the most searching of all in fanfic-- for it wrestles with the contradiction between our socially conditioned romanticism about marriage, and our own experience of the limitations, even the outright oppression, that many women find in that Institution. It does more than merely inveigh against marriage with one hand, and fantasize about it with the other. In a story

like Welling's THE DISPLACED, fantasy and reality are made to confront each other: the fantasy in this case is the classic pon farr fantasy, the fantasy of rape and being the passive receptacle for the man s will, bearing his children, etc -- and the reality, a real-life woman finding out. "My God, what would it actually be like to be in that situation?"[6]

'Some Attitudes Towards Marriage in Fan Fiction': very good, wide scope, an examination of how fan writers (both individually and generally) have handled the concept of marriage. It could even serve as a useful guide for readers in search of romantic viewpoints that match their own. [7]

Deloris Booker has an article entitled "Some Attitudes Towards Marriage in ST Fan Fiction", an aptly nebulous appellation, which seems to include capriciously chosen representative stories and couples, with little thought as to how these reflect the genre as a whole, while any sign of a mature relationship (such as yours, mine and Jean Lorrah's favorite, Sarek and Amanda) have been totally ignored. The synopses of zine marriages are preceded and followed by some general claptrap about marriages, past and future, with no real cultural, social or historical point of view, and equally little direction. [8]


  1. ^ Examples are Michele Arvizu's "The Gathering" in BERENGARIA 10, Jenny Elson's "The Angry Sunset," and Pamela Rose's "Spanish Moss" in NOME 4.
  2. ^ review by Tigiffin from Datazine #15
  3. ^ from a letter of comment in Storms #2
  4. ^ from a letter of comment in Storms #2
  5. ^ from a letter of comment in Storms #2
  6. ^ from a letter of comment in Storms #2
  7. ^ from Datazine #15, review by Tigriffin
  8. ^ T'Yenta controversially reviews this zine in Universal Translator #13