Songs of the Dirhja

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Zine
Title: Songs of the Dirhja
Publisher: Beyond Dreams Press
Editor:
Author(s): Greywolf the Wanderer
Cover Artist(s): IM Mueller
Illustrator(s): IM Mueller and Greywolf the Wanderer
Date(s): July 2000
Medium: print zine
Size:
Genre:
Fandom: Star Trek: TOS, K/S
Language: English
External Links: archived link to publisher's page, online at the K/S archive
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.
cover by IM Mueller

Songs of the Dirhja is 203-page K/S slash novel by Greywolf the Wanderer.

The color cover is by IM Mueller. It has six pieces of interior art by IM Mueller and Greywolf the Wanderer.

The first two stories were posted first to alt.startrek.creative in 1997.

The first two stories in the series won an ASC Award.

As a print zine, it was the winner of two Philon Awards and one STIFfie Award.

Summary

It is an alternate universe slavefic. Kirk and Spock have been captured by Orion slavers and think the other is dead. There is much trauma and h/c.

The Contents

  • DEEP ELEM BLUES by Greywolf the Wanderer ("Spock has lived the life of a helpless, imprisoned slave for so long he knows no other, until the the day a voice and face comes to him as if in a dream. Another summary: After twelve years as a prisoner of the mysterious "Masters," Spockʼs long dormant memories begin to resurface when he makes contact with someone from his previous life. Sequel: New Minglewood Blues)
  • NEW MINGLEWOOD BLUES by Greywolf the Wanderer ("Reunited at last, Kirk and Spock try to make a new life as Free Traders. They know that they are changed by their long years of servitude they can never serve in Starfleet again. But they cannot stand by and see others enslaved when they might help. And there is always the the chance that Kirk's former Master !M'sh!w'he, is looking for him." Anotner summary)
  • MORNING DEW by Greywolf the Wanderer (" "Here is the novel that takes the hurt/comfort 'Blues' series into K/S. Spock learns that the race that serves the Masters is seeking admittance into the Federation. He and Kirk do not want to abandon their freedom on board their ship, the Dirhja, to expose themselves to publicity, skepticism, and worse - pity - but they must. They return to Earth to confront Starfleet, Admiral Komack, and to find the answer to the question: Why were they enslaved?" Another summary: Kirk and Spock are forced back to Earth after they discover that the slavers who captured them and held them for twelve years are attempting to gain admittance in to the Federation. Prequel: New Minglewood Blues)

Gallery of Art

Reactions and Reviews: The Fiction

[Morning Dew]: I just finished reading Morning Dew and personally I thought it was very good. I had read the previous two parts a while back and certainly enjoyed Morning Dew every bit as much as the other two. The suspense worked well right to the end I had no idea the woman plotting against them was Droxine until the story gave it away—though I had been trying to guess all along as the hints were there. I like the universe that Greywolf has created with these stories, the h/c element is well balanced and the 'comfort' is appropriate and nice to read about. At first I was a bit disappointed that Greywolf used Pon Far to get them together sexually but it was well done and not unpleasantly violent—as Pon Far can be for my tastes. In the end I think this worked quite well and added to the dramatic tension.

I found that personally I did not agree with a point in a previous LOC that Spock was too injured for the reader to understand their physical attraction to one another. I personally found Spock as he was written to be quite attractive myself as well as psychologically real. He was not suffering so much or so continuously that he had no time for anything else, and his activities with Jim were dearly not going to damage him further. I have read some classic h/c K/S stories where I think there is a problem with the boys being to seriously injured to be believable interested in sex but to me this was not one of them.

Aside from that issue the story was gripping and tightly plotted—must have taken a long time to work it all out. The story is so, so much more than Kirk and Spock getting together, I recommend it to anyone else who likes h/c and K/S and a good action/adventure/intrigue plot. [6]
[Deep Elem, and New Minglewood Blues]: Also, although I personally find slash distasteful, I have read Greywolf's "Deep Ellum Blues" and "New Minglewood Blues." Again, because they received raves. And again I was surprised and delighted. I *did* skip over the slashy bits, and found his versions of Kirk and Spock nearly unrecognizable, but the writing itself was so powerful, vivid, masterful, and compelling that I *had* to read them once I started. And I'm glad I did, too. [7]
[New Minglewood Blues]: One of the first TOS-Stories I read. I really liked the way K and S are depicted here. I usually don't like K/S, but this story was great. It shows again, that sometime "less is more". The changes to the charakters were believable. If they really had to go through what happened to them, I can imagine them becoming like this. [8]
[New Minglewood Blues]: It's doubtful that I'm the only one who thinks that Greywolf's portrayals of

Kirk and Spock are right on the money, so I won't get into that area in this post. I have something better to discuss. :) Most fanfic writers create original characters; but what do we do with them? We make them into love interests, or portray them as one-dimensional villians, or barely portray them at all - the Ensign Expendable syndrome. Greywolf has however in this story created a new character by name of Sek'hel. He's a young Vulcan boy who plans to become a musician but whom was kidnapped by slave traders. Perhaps the story was meant to show hurt/comfort between Spock and Kirk; but I found myself more and more worried about and interested in Sek'hel

and his fate. He's insecure, unsure of himself, yet he has an essential goodness that almost forces you to care about him. Kirk and Spock have been slaves before; they're old; they've had lives. But the boy? It's too bad that Sek'hel has to go back to his family; I thought him such a compelling character that I'd like to see him come back in Greywolf's next instalment. [9]
[New Minglewood Blues]: Someone's already said it all, I'm sure, but New Minglewood strikes one with its reality and its surreality at once. The universe seems unreal after the Star Trek we are used to (unless we were just watching DS9's "Hard Time") -- and yet, the characters ring so true that the whole thing becomes believable. Sek'hel (sp?) especially is a VERY strong original character. He manages to be complex and yet clear to the reader without dominating the story; he's well woven in. I, too, am disappointed to lose him -- he set off some of Kirk's and Spock's qualities nicely... The use of bonding and mind-meld is well handled here, as is the relationship (or non-Relationship -- it IS a relationship, just not a smutty one) between Kirk and Spock -- there's several ways to interpret them, and this is one of the best angles I've seen on a non-sexual or relatively non-sexual love relationship I've seen... recently, at all :) [10]
[zine]: I just finished reading this novel. It was a well and tightly written series. A writer that has great potential. It had a very interesting plot and a strong beginning for the first half of the series, but it fizzled out during the novel. I'm a big Kirk and h/c fan and this story started out with a kinda equal h/c for both guys in the beginning. It had a rich background and fully developed characters. It could have been a wonderful novel right up there with some of the best, but it's not. It starts to lead likea soap opera by the time the novel starts.

In the first half, Kirk and Spock had been captured by the Orion and sold as slaves while on a secret mission for the Federation. Kirk thought Spock had died and 12 years later found out that he wasn't. He rescues Spock and takes care of him. They decided not to go back to Starfleet and for about a year they became smuggler and free traders. Kirk was implanted with a wire in his head, which is consider illegal within the Federation, so that his master could control his body and his emotions as a pleasure slave while Spock was sold as a mine laborer. Spock is a scarred, brain damaged, stuttering, amnesiac, mind-blind, seizure- ridden, semi-frozen, getting the shakes, pain-filled, limping, decrepit invalid. You can tell the author is a big Spock fan. I enjoy h/c like the next person, but by the time the novel rolls around, I kept thinking, okay he's gonna go see a doc and get himself fixed up. He doesn't—not even when they finally meet up with McCoy—no medical treatment. I cant believe that 23rd century medicine couldn't help Spock in some way. Nothing Nada.

With this set up, they are going toe to toe with the Federation for selling them out. Talk about the lamb meeting the lion.

This novel just gets draggy. Boy, did it get draggy. Reading Spock's broken dialogue took a lot of patience as each one or two word were follow by ... throughout the entire series. He is constantly fainting, being pain ridden, having seizures, having memory lapses, and having headaches, feeling frozen through the entire three part series. On top of that the author constantly reiterates that Spock got this weird-as-all-get-out long black hair with wide swaths of white due to stress of the imprisonment plus his broken nose. So finding out that their slavers had petitioned the Federation for admission, Spock and Kirk go back and try to prevent it.

There were some wonderful and buoyant moments in the novel that really made this story a page turner. There are some interesting characters like Samuel Cogley, Sarek and Amanda, Sivek, and Sekhel, but when it came down to Kirk and Spock's relationship, it just seems kinda lame. To me, the novel just became one scene after another where Kirk is constantly running back to the house to see what is wrong with Spock. The writer shows many interesting aspects of the bond and of their relationship, but it doesn't help when all you can think about is that this poor Spock is so decrepit that they should just put him in a home somewhere where he can be taken care of for the time he has remaining instead of dragging him all over God's green earth doing things beyond what his wrecked body and damaged mind can do. The way Spock was written is what dragged this novel from excellent to eh. [11]
[zine]: This is a novel in three parts, with a complex plot that includes enough mystery to make it a page-turner in many sections. Add a believable K/S scenario and a very healthy dose of hurt/comfort, and I found this an enjoyable read.

Much of the writing is very good, with few technical problems to distract the reader from the drama at hand. There is also quite a lot of attention to detail. I especially appreciated the author's inclusion of some truly alien characters, many of whom are central to the plot. Both Federation and non-Federation species are represented, and their presence helps give the story a nicely futuristic feel. I also thought the mystery elements were handled well, with the identity of some of the "bad guys" revealed only near the end. In the case of one of these characters, I must admit to being rather taken aback when I first realized who it was. The more I think about it, however, the more believable it seems, and this is a good example of the inventiveness and imagination that infuse much of this work. As for the K/S elements of the story, they struck me as both believable and satisfying. For one thing, the— relationship develops over time and as a result of shared experience. A pon farr is involved, but I thought it was handled unusually well—a believable catalyst for physical intimacy and not merely an excuse for Kirk and Spock to get together. It fits so naturally with the rest of the story, too; I like the idea that Spock's reproductive cycle could be halted as a result of long-term physical trauma, and might resume only after a considerable period of recuperation. Another nice touch is the fact that Kirk and Spock are separated when Kirk figures out that Spock is entering pon farr. This adds quite a lot to the tension of their situation.

Despite the many things I found to admire about this novel, there were some elements that left me feeling quite frustrated. I'm going to get specific about some of these, so if you haven't read the novel and don't want to know any details, you might want to stop reading here!

Most of the problems I saw involve characterization and the way it can affect the plot. First of all, I thoroughly disliked the portrayal of Dr. McCoy. He comes across as a sort of caricature of a backcountry hick: cussing in almost every sentence, boozing, and speaking with appallingly bad grammar. Now, I can appreciate the origins of the approach in McCoy's "old country doctor" routine from TOS. In the series, however, it was generally handled with quite a light touch, and my impression was that the good doctor always knew exactly what he was doing when he lapsed into a bit of Southern drawl and gentlemanly manners. In this novel, however, it was way over the top for my taste, and not at all believable. Fortunately, McCoy's part in the story is not so important that his characterization gets in the way of the plot, but for me it did spoil what might otherwise have been some nice scenes.

I had a more serious problem with the characterizations of Kirk and Spock, which is very much tied up with the plot. Specifically, I was not at all convinced by the way they made the decision to become free traders instead of returning to Federation society following their escape from slavery, ft seemed that the author tried very hard to pile up multiple reasons for this decision in order to make it seem believable, but most of them simply didn't work for me. The idea that they would stay away in order to avoid becoming objects of pity struck me as just plain silly, as did the excuse that they wanted to maintain their privacy. If they decided to retire to some out-of-the-way hideaway after returning home and taking care of business (which I'll get to in a minute)...well, that I could understand. Then there's the notion that they don't want to "bother" their families or upset them with the knowledge of what Kirk and Spock had suffered during the many years they were missing. Excuse me? What about their ability to put an end to their families' terrible ordeal of not knowing whether their loved ones are dead or alive? I just thought this was way off the mark emotionally.

I also think that Kirk and Spock would feel obligated to return in order to share their knowledge of planets engaging in the slave trade. Don't get me wrong—there is wonderful drama in having them decide to return because they team that the planet whose operatives enslaved them has applied for Federation membership. The trouble is, I felt that Kirk's and Spock's characters were compromised by the way they arrived at their initial decision.

Which brings me to the real crux of the matter the "wire" in Kirk's head and Spock's appalling physical condition. You see, I actually could be convinced that Kirk and Spock might choose to avoid Federation society under the circumstances, but I think it should have been shown to be a painful decision based mainly on those two problems. Again, there is wonderful drama in the notion that wireheading is illegal throughout the Federation, and that Kirk believes he is both unwilling and unable to have the alien technology removed. He is in a somewhat precarious emotional state himself, and might very well fear what could happen were his condition to become known. At the same time, he is faced with caring for Spock, the catalogue of whose injuries is staggering. I simply didn't believe that Kirk would be equipped to provide much medical care beyond basic first aid, let alone be able to diagnose and treat serious head injuries using just a medkit. Given the genuine affection between them, I thought that Kirk should have been simply desperate to get Spock home for professional medical care. The resulting conflict between his fear for himself and his fear for Spock could have been very powerful indeed.

There are many more fine elements to the story—too many to discuss them all here. I certainly did find this novel engrossing and satisfying in many ways, which is why I was also sorry that it did not quite live up to its considerable potential. [12]
[zine]: I had a mixed reaction to this collection, which includes two short stories ("Deep Elem Blues" and "New Minglewood Blues") and a novel ("Morning Dew). All three pieces deal with Kirk and Spock's imprisonment by and escape from some particularly nasty aliens.

Make no mistake—Songs of the Dirhja has a lot going for it. My usual practice is to savor a K/S novel, purposely reading only a few chapters at a time. But I couldn't put Songs of the Dirhja down: the plot was strong enough to make me forget the outside world for a while and keep turning the pages to see what would happen next. Greywolf's style is smooth, very readable and sometimes very moving. I was particularly impressed with the first few pages of "Deep Elem Blues," which paint quite a disturbing picture of the imprisoned Spock's sad situation.

There are many little gems of originality sprinkled throughout this zine, adding depth and interest to the story. I liked the fact that the enemy aliens have voices pitched much higher than human voices: too often Star Trek "aliens" are not really very alien. I also liked the idea that Spock had become so used to communicating in sign language that even "...when he slept and dreamed, his hands moaned and wept and cried out, in lieu of the voice that he never used any more." But for me, the best part of the novel was Greywolfs interpretation of Vulcan culture. He does not give us a long, detailed explanation of that culture, but allows us many small, tantalizing glimpses of the Vulcan heart, which, as Sarek privately observes at one point, holds "...not ice, but fire." Greywolf obviously possesses a rich and well-thought- out picture of Spock's world: in fad, his vision is so convincing that I am tempted to beg him to come clean and tell us when the next shuttle is leaving so we can ALL visit Vulcan with him.

Unfortunately, Songs of the Dirhja has some flaws that are serious enough to tum what might have been some truly excellent K/S into merely very good K/S. I must agree with [name redacted], who noted in her September, 2000 LOC that in many instances, the characterization is off. As M.E. noted, McCoy sounds too much like a caricature of a southern hick: this is definitely a case in which less would have been more. Further, we are supposed to believe that Amanda, who has not seen her missing-and-presumed-dead son for thirteen years, might dedde to delay the reunion because "...the semester was almost over and she wouldn't want to leave her advanced students so close to the end of the current term." (Obviously, she's spent just a little too much time on Vulcan.) Worst of all, we are asked to believe that Kirk would not do everything in his power to aid a very physically damaged Spock, and that both Kirk and Spock would opt to preserve their personal dignity and freedom rather than returning to inform the rest of the Federation of the danger presented by the mysterious aliens. I had the feeling that the latter problem arose out of a desire to make sure that Kirk and Spock had sufficient time alone together for their friendship to blossom into love. I liked that slow development, but I would have appreciated it more if the setup for it had been more believable.

I also feel that Greywolf missed a golden opportunity to explore deeper issues of identity. The treatment that Kirk and Spock have received at the hands of the aliens has, in some sense, turned them into different people than they once were. It is not just that they have endured some awful experiences. It is not just that their physical appearances have changed. There is a real question here of what it means to be Spock and what it means to be James T. Kirk. Spock's head injuries mean he has forgotten much of what he once knew. This would be devastating for anyone, but for Spock it has to be just about the worst thing that could happen. And Kirk's brain has been "wired," so that his captors can control his every move. Again, just about the worst thing that could happen to this particular, very independent human. These are obviously major, major changes engendering many questions, such as what it means to love someone even after that someone has changed drastically. Such issues are addressed in Songs of the Dirhja, but it seemed to me that they were handled too superficially They should have been the core of the novel; instead it felt to me as if they were briefly addressed (sometimes in a "told" rather than "shown" manner) and then pushed aside so that the plot involving the enemy aliens could continue to unfold and Kirk and Spock could find true love for one another.

Despite these problems, I want to emphasize that I really, really enjoyed the zine. Greywolf is a very talented writer and I'm looking forward to reading more of his work. I would be especially interested in seeing what he might do with a nice long story (or novel) set entirely on Vulcan, with Spock, Sarek, and lots of other Vulcan characters. Maybe such a story already exists online or elsewhere: if so, I hope someone will point me to it. If not, I hope that Greywolf will one day write it. [13]
[zine]: I’ve had this zine for years, occasionally took it out of the box, looked at it and for some reason went on to read something else. Probably I incorrectly deduced that it was an AU in which Kirk and Spock were slave and master to each other, something I seldom care for. I could feel bad about having missed out for so long, but on the bright side, it was great to read a “new” novel that held my interest completely from start to finish. Make no mistake, this novel, created in three parts, is very involved, extremely suspenseful and has both an intricate and well-articulated plot that maintains its momentum throughout. There is also a mystery woman – the villain behind a conspiracy that reaches from deep in mines staffed by slave labor to the upper echelons of Starfleet itself.

Part One, “Deep Elem Blues”, vividly depicts Spock’s suffering at the hands of slavers, pain and confusion his only true companions for the past 12 years. He questions why he still lives, and has virtually no memory of his past life because of the horrid head injury that facilitated his capture. One thing is clear. He knows he will die in this wretched place. Here is an example of the skillful writing you may expect: Eyes opened, to darkness and pain. It was nothing new; he was in the world of pain now, and had been for a long time. He still dreamed, sometimes, of bright-lit rooms where it was always warm, and there was always enough to eat. He'd had a name, then, and duties. He'd still had pride, then, and strength to spare for other things besides simple existence. That world was his home; he remembered that sometimes -- but when he opened his eyes, it was always this one that he saw. How could you not read further? And where was Kirk? Dead? What has happened to Kirk in those long years is every bit as horrifying, and involves one of the most innovative and despicable pieces of alien technology imaginable. I thought only Stephen King was capable of something so unnerving. In a way I was correct to assume this was not the Kirk and Spock we know from TOS. They have been inalterably changed by their incarceration, torture and debasement. But they remain very much the men you know, respect and love, even after more than a decade of imprisonment, each believing the other dead. Through pure chance, Kirk’s master inadvertently brings her pet human near enough to Spock for the human to realize through a tenuous link that his friend still lives. The former starship captain’s legendary ingenuity forges a way for them to be together, to acquire a ship they christen “Dirhja” and a semblance of the freedom neither ever expected to regain. “New Minglewood Blues” gives us little respite from the harrowing ride commenced in part one. While both men battle their own demons and debilities, some of their old indomitable spirit is rekindled and we quickly learn just how much it will be needed. They agree an attempt to return to their old life is implausible for many reasons. While they engage in new pursuits the reader is treated to insights about both visible and invisible consequences of the past twelve years and how they learn to deal with them. This is hurt-comfort at its most fulfilling, but it is never maudlin. Ever-present is the fierce loyalty toward each other that nothing has been able to diminish. Love is there, expressed in many subtle and touching ways. There is seldom a page in which that special feeling fails to shine through. I especially enjoyed the manner in which Greywolf handled their ability to mind-touch. So often this is symbolically and abstractly written to the extreme and can be distractive to me, but in this novel it is used as the means of communication easiest for Spock to manage in his damaged state. They simply talk through the link, and it’s immensely satisfying for all concerned. This section shows us that while they are content to live a life away from their former responsibilities, they are not immune to the suffering of others and they do not stand idly by when they stumble upon a group of men and women who have been captured and are on their way to the same life of slavery that Kirk and Spock endured. Once again we are given a glimpse into what made these men the best in Starfleet. But something goes terribly wrong. It is just such an ever-changing variety of situations and diverse original characters (but not too many) that keeps you turning pages.

In the final installment, Morning Dew, more than one crisis awaits, altering all their plans and threatening their future in an entirely different way and shaking the very foundation of all they believed in during their former life. Had this novel remained unread on my shelf, I would have missed an adventure to rival the best of the episodes and hours of learning what makes my favorite characters the honorable, independent and courageous men they are. [14]

Reactions and Reviews: The Art

Cover art for this zine, and five internal pieces were by the talented [IM Mueller], who seems to be able to capture scenes from the novel with amazing accuracy. I commenced reading this on the archive without benefit of illustrations, and formed an idea in my mind of what things looked like. When I switched to the zine to see the art, I was surprised to observe how closely the art resembled the pictures in my mind.

"Enslaved Beyond Endurance" depicts Spock held in a cage, treated for his injuries in a crude veterinary hospital as an animal. Ms. Mueller captures the dismal, cramped quarters and especially the despair and the unfocused look of hopelessness on Spock’s face. Without ever having read the words, you immediately feel his misery and the biting cold. "Tenderness" is my favorite! Beautifully executed, Ms. Mueller captures an abundance of feeling. Kirk and Spock are drawn with exquisite care to remain true to the narrative explaining their appearance. Spock’s hair is long and tinged with white; Kirk’s hairline is receding and is hair longer. Spock bears obvious scars from his brutal beatings. The love shines through as they touch fingers in the traditional Vulcan way, their features soft and tender as they look into each other’s eyes. Beautiful. "The Master and the Slave" focuses on the role Kirk was forced to play while he was held captive on a different world by a female slaver with of a formerly unknown race. What an imagination it takes to create such a race, and what skill and artistry is necessary to bring it to life in black and white. I believe this is pencil, and we know it was drawn by [IM Mueller] strictly from the author’s description, which is something quite incomprehensible to me. "The Heat of Love" is exactly what it implies, and is another successful attempt to illustrate Kirk and Spock’s somewhat altered physical presence. They look enough like what we remember, but clearly reflect all they’ve endured during the past twelve years. Ms. Mueller has again done a remarkable job. "Heroes Forever" makes me want to reconsider which image is my favorite, partly because this was a definite high point of the novel. Also because once again the artist has proven how clearly she sees the scenes and how masterfully she is able to give them another dimension. Another winner by Mueller. "The Heat of Love" is exactly what it implies, and is another successful attempt to illustrate Kirk and Spock’s somewhat altered physical presence. They look enough like what we remember, but clearly reflect all they’ve endured during the past twelve years. Ms. Mueller has again done a remarkable job. [IM Mueller] shared a preliminary sketch for “The Heat of Love.”

"Spock" is the deceptively simple title given the piece of art attributed to Greywolf. I admit I was taken by surprise as I did not know that in addition to being a gifted story teller, Greywolf is also an artist. Spock looks very sad and wan in this finely drawn portrait. His eyes truly are the windows to his soul. They vividly tell the story of his losses, as does the thin but handsome face. [15]

References

  1. from The K/S Press #198
  2. from The K/S Press #198
  3. from The K/S Press #198
  4. from The K/S Press #198
  5. from The K/S Press #198
  6. from The K/S Press #54
  7. from a male fan at alt.startrek.creative, November 9, 1998
  8. alt.startrek.creative, February 1998
  9. alt.startrek.creative, February 1998
  10. alt.startrek.creative, February 1998
  11. from The K/S Press #48
  12. from The K/S Press #49
  13. from The K/S Press #54
  14. from The K/S Press #198
  15. from The K/S Press #198, which includes reprints of the art discussed