Somebody asked me again what I thought about K/S fans

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Title: Somebody asked me again what I thought about K/S fans
Creator: David Gerrold
Date(s): August 27, 2013
Medium: Facebook post
Fandom: Star Trek: TOS, Kirk/Spock
External Links: "Somebody asked me again what I thought about K/S fans", Archived version; reference link (accessed August 30, 2013).
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

Somebody asked me again what I thought about K/S fans is a 2013 essay by David Gerrold.

It has a 124 comments.

Also see Gerrold and Remarks on Slash.

Some Topics Discussed and Portrayed

  • authorial intent
  • bromance
  • Gene Roddenberry
  • Kirk/Spock fanfic
  • only gays should write gay characters...
  • depiction of gay characters on the screen
  • Sturgeon's Law
  • Gerrold's bitterness that K/S is mostly created and consumed by women
  • lots of straw men examples of "weird" pairings: examples Manimal, The Patty Duke Show
  • people, mainly men, commenting on things they don't know much about
  • Gerrold: "The way our culture is structured, most men are lousy at emotional connections. (Women, this is why you're having trouble in your marriage -- you're demanding something that your husband doesn't know how to create.)"
  • Gerrold: "Star Trek is about reaching for the stars, not your vibrator."
  • Gerrold: "There's a book by a woman who lived as a man for a year and concluded that it's harder to be a man in our society than a woman because of the emotional restrictions we place on boys almost from birth."
  • Gerrold: "Speaking for myself, I think that K/S is a kind of soft-core porn."

The Essay

I probably shouldn't stir the shit, but what the hell.

Somebody asked me again what I thought about K/S fans -- the idea that Kirk and Spock are gay lovers. (Most K/S fans are women.)

I said, "Star Trek is about reaching for the stars, not your vibrator."

That's the short version.

No, I do not hate K/S fans. Honest. The way it was explained to me by Roddenberry, Shatner, and Nimoy, there is a deep and profound relationship between Kirk and Spock. It isn't sexual.

And that's the real issue here -- the misunderstanding of the nature of "bromance."

Guys like to have buddies. Having a buddy (or in England or Australia or Ireland, a "mate") isn't about sexual tension. It's about emotional connection.

The way our culture is structured, most men are lousy at emotional connections. (Women, this is why you're having trouble in your marriage -- you're demanding something that your husband doesn't know how to create.) In fact, most of the personal effectiveness trainings are based on the idea that most human beings have no idea how to create a healthy wholesome creative joyous relatonship [sic] with anyone.

There's a book by a woman who lived as a man for a year and concluded that it's harder to be a man in our society than a woman because of the emotional restrictions we place on boys almost from birth. "Big boys don't cry." "Don't be a sissy." "Man up." And the emphasis on macho-heroes in movies and sports. (Gay men have one small advantage in that when they step outside the boundaries, they have the opportunity to step outside the emotional boundaries too. But the disadvantage there is that too many of them have to go through a teenage-girl phase for a while.)

Anyway, the point is that with all the rules about how to be a "man" -- a lot of unconscious training goes on. And (yes, I'm generalizing) it's easier for a man to feel that another man understands him than a woman. It's not that he doesn't love his wife, it's that there are levels of communication between men the same way there are levels of communication between women.

The relatonship [sic] between Kirk and Spock is even more tricky. Spock is an alien/half-human/hybrid who is torn between two cultures and belongs fully in neither. He has to be curious about who Kirk is and why he thinks that way. Vice versa, Kirk has to be intrigued by the nature of Spock's detachment from emotions -- because Kirk is very much an emotional creature. Right there, there's enough relationship stuff going on that you can base a very strong bromance on it. Beyond that, there's a loyalty to the ship, to the mission, to the very heart of discovery itself -- but also to the ideal of "seeking out new life and new civilizations" and making friends with them.

Speaking for myself, I think that K/S is a kind of soft-core porn. It's the female equivalent of heterosexual male interest in lesbian porn. And a lot of the customers for male-male erotica are women. There's a whole genre of male-male erotica written by women and self-published on Amazon. The emphasis in those stories is usually the emotional relationship between the two men.

And ultimately, I think this is my discomfort with K/S. It's the same discomfort a lesbian would feel about a male author writing a lesbian fantasy. The male author is not writing from personal experience. He's projecting what he thinks it's like. (If he's really really really good, he might have done a lot of research and might maybe possibly could evoke an honest relationship -- but he's still not a woman.) Conversely, some of the gay men I know who have dipped into K/S stories (almost all of which have been written by women) have come away puzzled because the relationship as it's portrayed is distinctly un-male. It's female emotions projected onto male characters.

In fact, there's a tale of a young gay trek-fan who wrote a K/S story and had it rejected by the two most aggressive women behind the phenomenon. They said he didn't understand male homosexuality. (Despite being a male homosexual.) I admit to being put off by that kind of patronizing arrogance, that claim of ownership over someone else's sexual identity.

I met those two women once. One of them began her conversation with, "What you Star Trek writers don't understand--" Oh, really? I was trained by Gene L. Coon and D.C. Fontana. "-- is that Kirk secretly wants to be raped by Spock." I gnawed off a leg and escaped. So that might be part of my skepticism. The sentence, "What you Star Trek writers don't understand--" coming from a self-appointed expert who'd never been closer than 3000 miles to the actual creation of the show.

The K/S phenomenon has apparently ebbed from its gory glory days of the 70s and 80s. A new generation of fans are mostly finding their interests elsewhere. (I'm not seeing much K/S activity at Trek-conventions, so it's either faded or gone underground or exists in some corner of the internet that I haven't seen.) But now that people can self-publish their soft-core erotica on Amazon and actually earn some bucks for it, there's an incentive for authors to create their own characters and their own worlds. And in fact, that's been one of the things I've always encouraged fan authors to do. Invent your own universe, invent your own characters, create your own worlds, and be an author in your own write, not in someone else's.

I've read a few of the self-published gay stories on Amazon. Several have been very good. Several have been ... not so good. But to come back to my original topic, it is possible for two men to have a very intense and profound relationship without sexual tension being a part of it. And while it might be fun for fans to imagine this coupling or that one -- in the actual "canonical" domain of the show, such an event would mortally change the dynamic of the entire series, pulling it so off-purpose that it would never again be the same universe.


Comments at the Post Itself

The comments are mostly by men and are the usual mixture of "ewwww, gay sex," "why can't they just be super close buddies," "why do people have to ruin what I like," "the characters weren't written that way," "well, K/S is mostly written by women so it's stupid and irreverent," and "keep your emotions and feels out of my blueprints and technical expositions on black holes," "well, I like science fiction but romantic and intimate relationships between men is just too weird," and some comments (not enough) addressing a "live and let live" and attitude of either neutrality or support. There is also the assumption of a zero-sum game that if a writer writes a K/S fic then they are forcing it on other people, and that it somehow invalidates all of the non-K/S fic and canon.

The comments include the usual straw men slash examples of wierd and/or obscure slash pairings fans have heard of in order to demonstrate the ridiculousness of slash: pairings from Manimal, The Patty Duke Show, Flipper the Dolphin/Darwin the Dolphin, John Adams/Thomas Jefferson (historical figure slash), Bugs Bunny/Energizer Bunny, Frankenstein/Dracula, Moses/Ramses (Biblefic)...

I keep telling people that I'm not scared by the Kirk/Spock slashfic. What scares me is the "Absolutely Fabulous"/"Farscape" slashfic out there, featuring the erotic exploits of Edie Monsoon and Pilot. (Made you Google it, didn't I?)
A local radio station was talking about the "bromance" topic this morning. It was interesting to hear the female host claim that men can't be close friends without being gay, that there HAS to be something sexual about it. That really bothered me.
Exactly. I don't mind the idea of fantasies regarding any characters, just so long as people remember that this isn't canonical, no matter what subtext people may read into it. There were actually more than a few Harry Potter fans who had become so detached from reality that they were hugely disappointed that Harry and Draco didn't end up together at the end of the series.
I am now re-imagining Amok Time completely differently. That said, I'm all for people slashing or re-purposing material in their own heads. It is when they get possessive and want to try to force everyone else to ride their crazy train that I get offended.
"The way it was explained to me by Roddenberry, Shatner, and Nimoy..." TRUMP! End of discussion, of the canon, at least. Not that people can't use their imaginations - more power to 'em - but they shouldn't claim to have authority they simply don't possess. It just makes them look dumb.
tl:dr version: I don't actually understand fandom at all but let me write some words.
There used to be similar slashfiction about another great SF duo: Blake and Avon (heroes of "Blake's 7")... Some people would always look for the "secret gay" conspiracies everywhere they can...
I never found K/S fiction plausible. Amusing, sometimes, yes (I recall one where Kirk and Spock were marooned on a deserted planet and close to starving, and had to ... donate protein ... to each other to survive, which still makes me howl 20 years after reading it). Then again, I find the premise in the re-imagined ST movies, that Spock and Uhura are getting it on, equally implausible and really annoying. If there had been even one MOLECULE of suggestion of that going on in the original series, I could have given the writers licence, but come ON. Call me a slave to canon. OTOH, on the slightly more plausible side of slash, one can check out the fanfic based on Sherlock (the BBC series with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman). At first I said, "ewww", but rewatched the series and have to admit they've really heaped on the UST ... some of it is mildly persuasive, anyway, though I still lean on the side of platonic bromance.
In the old days, a man could have a "particular friend". Such was the case with Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin, the Kirk and Spock of the age of sail. I'm sure someone has written slashfic about them.
I think the idea of a "bromance" was done beautifully in the Evelyn Waugh book Brideshead Revisited and the 1982 mini-seires, that starred Jeremy Irons and Anthony Andrews. - it answered all my questions I had about it - and gave me an insight into it.
I have no problem with a lesbian or gay writer writing about heterosexual sex, why should a gay or lesbian person object to a heterosexual writing about gay or lesbian sex? Some say that virgins write the best sex scenes. Don't know if that's true, or if there's any good way to measure that.
I'm as appreciative of a good, hot fantasy romp as the next person, but what annoys the hell out of me are the number of people whinging on about this online who have not the vaguest compass hit of a point toward the idea of dramatic structure. I read fanfic on occasion. Some of it is pretty phenomenal storytelling. Most of it is claw-own-eyes-out-make-it-stop drivel. If you've taken anything like a strafe past Tumblr (I know, brace for shudders), it becomes clear in a hurry that the unrealistic demands are mostly coming from unproductive fans not the writers themselves (there are exceptions). The average age on Tumblr is apparently about 16, and oh my stars and little yellow fishes does it ever show. 'Dramatic structure' is a term that most of these larvae have never even heard. Instant gratification is the rule of the day, and few of them seem to clock that getting what they want would also derail the show/movie over which they're all a-lather. None of them are old enough to remember 'Moonlighting' and what happens when a story's dramatic engine runs out of gas because all the fuel (tension) has been burned.
On a related note about being close there must be something sexual between them, what about in a musician context? Look at the creative partnerships between Sir Paul McCartney and Lennon, Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, Jagger/Richards, etc. Many band guys even claim its the closest 4 guys can be without having sex!
Time Magazine did name Kirk and Spock the most influential couple that never lived. I haven't read or intend to read any K/S fiction. I don't have a problem with anybody who wants to create or read it, to me, Star Trek is about that sense of wonder while exploring.
Back in 1979, I attended a Starsky & Hutch convention in Michigan. I accidently [sic] walked in on a panel discussion on S & H as gay lovers, done in an "in the round" fashion. One of the women asked me when I realized S & H were gay lovers and I said, "Oh, it was always there" and walked on out.

I read some of the early K/S stuff. Most of it was absolute drivel, but there were one or two that were creatively written. But they weren't Trek and they were written by women. I've read fanfic of various sorts since then, and the level of quality has gone way down, while the general themes remain the same. I guess some women are just bound and determined to see male characters who love each other as friends, as male characters who love each other in every way possible.

Must admit there was some Superman/Batman stuff out there years ago that was damn good as erotica. And some of the Harry Potter slash fanfic has been pretty funny. But all in all, I would still not go out of my way to find it.
When the LOTR movies came out, I saw a number of posts (from folks who'd never read the books) insisting that Merry, Pippin, Sam, and Frodo were clearly gay because they were such close friends - especially Sam and Frodo. I had to explain to some that all of them but Sam were cousins of one type or another, and that yes, it is possible for male characters to have this sort of close friendship/brotherhood without it being sexual and that I was quite certain Tolkien did not intend their relationships to be sexual.
It's also worth noting that fan fiction is no more immune to Sturgeon's Law than anything else. Why is 90% of slash fic crud? Because 90% of _everything_ is crud.
I read the Marshak/Culbreath "Phoenix" novels when they came out, and never saw them as slash. Re-reading these days, they're awfully melodramatic, and I can see where there's a slash subtext if you want it, but you can also just read them as fairly purple, super-emotional friendship stories.
This sort of writing isn't limited to just Trek. Hell, I've seen this sort of gay porno fantasy based on everything from "Andromeda" to "Manimal" to "V". What really puzzles me is: why has no one ever written this sort of thing based on The Bible? Is it less popular than Trek? Personally, I think some Moses/Ramses stories would be pretty darn hot!
I proposed to one of the gay producers of DS9 back when I was working on it as a grip the premise of one of the other twelve starships that were sent out of five year missions being captained by a homosexual version of Pike or Kirk. I still think that should happen.
Google "Gay Star Trek" sometime. You'll find a timeline on how the issue of gay rights and equality has been handed it's hat and shown the door for decades... instead of Trek being the leader of having gay characters, it was left up to Doctor Who and Torchwood to carry that... er.. torch.
I find it offensive that "fans" would feel the need to inject their own desires into somebody else's creation.
There is a whole sub genre of slash in fanfic. Steve Austin/Oscar Goldman, Frankenstein/Dracula, etc. and you have not lived until you you read Patty and Cathy Lane (Patty Duke Show) slash.
I don't know about other girls who write slash fiction but my interest in it is mostly because of a lack of serious gay characters and a lack of real female characters. But hey, generalitsaion is fun. Plus it's funny to see men whine about sexualisation of characters
Many, many years ago, Octavia Butler and I were at a convention and found a selection of these oddball fan magazines. We had a great time going, 'EEEWWwwwww!' and laughing our heads off. I bought one. It's safely behind plain brown wrappers, but now whenever I see it tucked away on the bookshelf, I think fondly of Octavia. I'm not sure she'd have liked the memory connection...
I find myself agreeing with what most everyone here is saying....even though I write Gay characters , I don't like K/S, slash...or whatever it's of the silliest I ever encountered in Trek fandom, was to suggest that Janeway & Seven were lovers! (Eye roll!) The Slash fanfiction writers should write their own characters and universe.
Since I discovered Trek when I was around 4 years old, it has been an ongoing platform for exploration and understanding. This essay is one more example. ST just keeps on giving...

Comments: Elsewhere

From "ONTD"

The post was reposted at: ONTD where it has 84 comments. See David Gerrold takes a cue from Zach Quinto and shares his thoughts on Kirk/Spock, Archived version posted August 27, 2013

Some of the comments touch upon Zachary Quinto's recent comments on Star Trek: AOS's Spock/Kirk relationship.


I said, "Star Trek is about reaching for the stars, not your vibrator."

The way our culture is structured, most men are lousy at emotional connections. (Women, this is why you're having trouble in your marriage -- you're demanding something that your husband doesn't know how to create.)

"The Trouble with Tribbles" is one of my favorite episodes, but he's just being dickish here. He so could've expressed his opinion without being misogynistic and sexist.
[la petite singe]:

because the relationship as it's portrayed is distinctly un-male. It's female emotions projected onto male characters.

I...yeah, I don't know. I don't really think there's such a thing as "female emotions" (though I do agree that a lot of fic and especially slash makes the characters more emotionally expressive and, like, Byronic than they really are in the source material). But whether you ship it or not, or regardless of your personal definition* of 'ship,' just the fact that this particular pairing is still being discussed and analyzed so much is exactly why ZQ shouldn't have been so condescendingly dismissive--like, it's a thing, it's been a thing for a long time and it's relevant to the culture. I want to like him, but... :(
[therearewords]: Fully support you on the shipping thing. A ship is a cool/funny/weird/hot couple. Sometimes all at once, sometimes just the one thing.
[lizrocks]: That's a whole lot of tl;dr mansplaining
[gabzillaz]: where to start with this mess

"Star Trek is about reaching for the stars, not your vibrator."

I have two hands, I can do both.

honestly, who cares? it's just a different kind of porn.

if people enjoy writing it, good for them. if people enjoy reading it, good for them.

if you don't like it? no one is forcing you to read it or even acknowledge its existence.

I enjoyed some embarrassingly bad Boy Meets World slash back when I was like 13 and didn't have access to real porn (when a single jpeg took 5 minutes to load and streaming videos was unheard of)
[alessandra lee]: I couldn't even get through half of this, but I think I got the point. And the point is look at this asshole.

Slash is not exclusively porn. Porn does not represent the fandom (or individual) views of the ship. People that write articles like these need to stop parking themselves in the NC17 tag and actually read some other stories and research other parts of fandom before writing.

Also, watering Kirk and Spock down to a bromance cheapens the bond and the relationship between the two.
[bulastar]: surprise surprise, a male sci-fi author spewing offensive and out of touch bullshit.
[sillycucumber]: I'm someone who doesn't like slash because of reasons (I typed them, but I thought they might offend some people), but this article is probably one of the most offensively stupid pieces of dribble I've ever had the displeasure of reading.

From Fail Fandomanon

There are many comments at Fail Fandomanon: David Gerrold shares his thoughts on K/S. This will end well?, Archived version;reference link, posted August 27, 2013.

If he isn't seeing stars when using his vibrator, he's doing it wrong.
He's really reminding me of some douchey statements in the same vein that've been made by Steven Fry and Dan Savage to an extent.

I'd also add Ryan Murphy to that list. He's basically awful when it comes to female characters, or non-white characters, and I don't think he's even consciously aware of it.

In my personal experience, some of the most misogynistic, racist, transphobic, biphobic, lesbophobic, and classist people I've ever met were middle-aged white gay men. (Again, not all of them, not even most of them, but enough to make an impression.)

LOL @ the comments.

In the old days, a man could have a "particular friend". Such was the case with Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin, the Kirk and Spock of the age of sail. I'm sure someone has written slashfic about them.

And you would be right, fella.

His essay falls apart, because of course men can be friends. There are slash stories in which the characters are also friends, and they have other close male and female friends.

Fan writers don't think everyone is fucking!

Just most people. And it's awesome.

Invent your own universe, invent your own characters, create your own worlds, and be an author in your own write, not in someone else's. wrote for a fucking TV show, dude. You didn't come up with those characters either. You just did it for a paycheck instead of for fun. And last I checked, making art for it's own sake was considered purer and more artistic than doing it for money. (I also somewhat disagree with that, at least in the black and white form, but)

You know, I remember a time when this is basically how fandom would expect people, particularly gay people, outside of fandom, to respond. Of course they aren't going to value fannish consensus, or parrot back fannish SJ notions on what's acceptable and what's -ist.

Of course Gerrold isn't going to support the unalienable right to kink and trope and fanon the hell out of things. That's all foreign as hell to him. Yeah, he's going to see it through the lens of his own experiences both as a writer of Star Trek canon, and as a gay man, because those are the areas that he's very familiar with.

So will it end well in fandom? Probably not, but these days nothing ends well in fandom. Fandom needs to get off it's high horse a bit.
Yeah, but ... dude has been involved with Star Trek since TOS was airing. Getting bent out of shape because ZOMG, people are slashing Kirk and Spock -- in fucking 2013 -- is ludicrous. Fans have been doing that in Trek fandom forever. It is part of why the fandom in its current form exists. And, yeah, I expect guys like Gerrold to have gotten over it by now, and not act like it is 1974, and where did these stories with Kirk and Spock fucking come from?

Fans have been doing it forever -- but we've been doing it pretty quietly with the idea of not shoving it into the faces of the TPTB. Now we have fans that are not only shoving this stuff into the faces of actors and writers, but are then getting offended when the response is less than complete acceptance and embrasure.

This is new. Even two years ago would that bit between Quinto and the fan be looked at by fandom as anything less as a monstrously huge fannish embarrassment. Now Quinto is being called all kinds of names because he hurt a fans feelings by calling her hobby a "waste of time".

Fandom has been coming out of the closet more and more these last 10 years, but I think it's really a huge leap to expect that because people know we exist that they know everything about us and completely support what we are doing.

Yeah, but this is Star Trek. Of all the fandoms out there, this is the one where the actors and TPTB know about fandom, and about slash fandom. This is the fandom where Gene Roddenberry felt the need to address Kirk/Spock in the novelization of the first Star Trek movie. It's not like we've been under the radar to Star Trek producers and actors. Believe me, they know about us.

In Gerrold's case, he has had literally forty years to figure out why people write slash and get over his problems with it. And, no, I'm not okay with him going out of his way to bash it. I mean, he can hate slash and look down on slash writers as silly girls who are doing fandom wrong if he wants. But it makes me dislike him, and I think that's reasonable.

I really don't think it's fandom which is coming off badly on this one. I'd probably change my minds if I read the comments, but even that wouldn't make Gerrold come off well. The fact that obnoxious SJW exist doesn't mean that a lot of what he's saying isn't stupid and offensive, and neither writing some good television nor being gay gives anyone a pass for saying stupid and offensive things.

I can think of a lot of things that would have been very much expected responses few decades ago on a variety of subjects that would cause a shitstorm now. I'm vastly thankful that many of them are no longer acceptable, and if fandom has played a part in making them no longer acceptable, then fandom has my thanks.

Now back to my vibrator.
I've no objection to creators being asked about [slash] and saying they don't want to comment. I've every objection to them being asked about/sharing their thoughts about slash and spewing misogyny in response.

Except I'm not sure why people ask creators about slash, except that some fans seem to or kudos or IDK, recognition in some way? Why the fuck even ask someone like this guy or Quinto about K/S?

Fanfic is not for these people. I could give a fuck if they like or hate what fans do with the characters, whether the actor or creator is gay or straight. I recognize that interviewers like Graham Norton ask because they want to get a reaction and read some passages for humor value, but there's no reason for fans to do this shit, IMO.

Gerrold is an asshole, news at eleven. He's been an asshole for decades, there's no reason he'd stop now.

For amusement purposes, there's a character in one of Diane Duane's early Trek tie-ins who I strongly suspect is a DG insert. (It's the character in the recreation department who's supposed to be the hypercompetitive super-genius. He saves the day at a critical moment, manipulated into doing so by McCoy's saying something in his hearing like, "Lay off, Jim, the boy can't do it.") Duane clearly loves DG, or did when she wrote the book, but even as a Gary Stu-ified friend-insert, he's still an asshole. It's a special kind of assholedom when not even the Gary Stu treatment makes a dent in it.

Wait, wait, I'm so confused.

I thought men didn't have emotions because they've been trained out of them from babyhood, and that's why heterosexual marriages are doomed?

So Kirk and Spock must be fucking. Why else would they hang out together? It can't be for emotional intimacy because men don't need that girly shit, right?

I got it! The known universe is defined by cock. All knowable emotions are held by those that possess or desire cocks. Those with cocks therefore experience lust and anger. Gay men get the awesome convenience of completely emotionally compatible sexual partners. Straight men and straight women still at least fit together, with straight women experiencing all those other knowable emotions as straight women are the negative space of cock! But, uh, lesbians. They must be floating in some outer void of incomprehensibility, as negative spaces that are not completed by cocks in the vast vaginal reaches of the Outer Dark. Maybe a non-lesbian could sketch a few mysterious shadows cast by these aliens that live beyond the empire of dicks.

I guess there aren't really any trans people beyond those who fit neatly into a rigid binary, operative paradigm? And clearly the nature of the universe makes it impossible for anyone to be bisexual, as they would have to exist in two places at once or something.
And my first thought was that if he gets men to entirely stop making lesbian porn, we'll stop slashing dudes. That's fair.
As a non-Trek fan, I had only previously heard of David Gerrold from his novel "The Man Who Folded Himself", a book which features not only gay sex, not only self-cest, but more than one orgy between multiple time-travel-copies of the same person. It read very much like many tropey fanfics I've read.