Star Trek erotica gets some hot, others bothered

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News Media Commentary
Title: Star Trek erotica gets some hot, others bothered
Commentator: Michael James
Date(s): October 12, 1992
Venue: Baltimore Sun
Fandom:
External Links: online here/WebCite
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Star Trek erotica gets some hot, others bothered has the subtitle: "Business brisk at local convention." It is a 1992 article by Michael James that was published in the Baltimore Sun.

first page of the article as it was reprinted in Strange Bedfellows #1
second page of the article as it was reprinted in Strange Bedfellows #1

Excerpts

Flipping through racks of magazines and novels that portray Kirk and Spock as homosexual lovers, a woman smartly dressed in a suit coat asked, "Don't you have anything new since last summer?"

"Well, you might try this," said the merchant at this weekend's Star Trek convention at Marriott's Hunt Valley Inn. "It just came out."

A passage in one book reads, "Spock was smiling openly, desire in the dark eyes, and Kirk melted into his embrace. He kissed the Vulcan passionately, without restraint."

The world of Star Trek erotica -- consisting of sexually explicit "fanzines" that depict the show's characters as lovers reaching for the stars -- is nothing new. Sexually oriented Star Trek books have been around for about 20 years.

"They're an alternative. They're like adult romance novels, done for the love of Star Trek," said Darlene Croon of Miami, who looked through the explicit material. "Star Trek is a fantasy, like these books are. My husband's into sports. I'm into Star Trek."

But the material, which often contains graphic descriptions of Kirk having sex with Spock and other aliens, evokes strong responses on both sides from some Trekkers.

Some -- including a few of the show's original actors -- argue that the loose-leaf novels and accompanying photographs are in bad taste and should be banned. Others say the erotic medium is a spinoff of a cult science-fiction show that they say expanded the boundaries of imagination.

"There's a real market for what we sell," said Lois Bennett, a dealer selling the books at Saturday's convention. "Most of our customers are females who are 30 and over, who are married with kids," she said...

"These kinds of materials aren't unique, and neither are criticisms of them," said Sandy Zier of Elkridge, an organizer at the Hunt Valley convention. Paramount Pictures, the producer of the Star Trek series, has threatened in the past to get cease-and-desist orders against the explicit material, Ms. Zier said.

"It's not a massive print run, usually no more than 500 copies of any book," Ms. Zier said. "It would cost them too much to fight it."...

Thousands of fans who visited could find the magazines and books at a few of the display stands. Among them are "Ice-Fire," "The Naked Times" and "The Way Home," all of which sell for $10 or $20.

"I find it highly distasteful and in bad taste. They turn Kirk and Spock into lovers. . . . It's pornography, but it's protected by free speech," said Randolph Gallagher, who was selling collectible swords and "funky alien T-shirts" at a nearby display.

He readily acknowledges, though, that "if people didn't buy it, then people wouldn't make it. That's what a product is all about, whether it's Star Trek or not."

Pat Betz, sitting at her toy display, said she didn't approve of the sexy books and magazines but that it would be wrong to ban them.

"If you ban it here, you've got to ban it in the bookstores. It's no worse than Playboy or Penthouse, and they don't ban those," Ms. Betz said.

"Anyone can walk into a bookstore and buy an adult book. The only difference with these is they have Star Trek characters." ...

"Fanzines," even sexually oriented ones, are just another way that Trekkers fulfill their desire for memorabilia, said a merchant selling such products. She declined to give her name.

"Star Trek's philosophy is based on IDIC -- or Infinite Diversity and Infinite Combinations," she said. "These books are unusual; they're weird. But that's what Star Trek fans are all about."

Fan Comments

I've enclosed an article that was printed in the local paper following the slash controversy at OktoberTrek last fall. A local TV station had sent some people out to the con to get the usual footage of "Trekkies" in costume and acting silly. While they were going through the dealers room, one of the attendees (who, by a curious coincidence, happened to be the lawyer of a fan who is suing some of the OktoberTrek committee members) started to wave a K/S zine around and loudly denounce the dealers as pornographers. The news team was delighted, and ran an "expose" on Star Trek porn. The next day, a reporter for the Sun came around to do a story on the controversy. It seems to me that he did a fairly balanced piece, but some people were still upset at the idea of any kind of publicity, especially after the article got picked up by AP.

I'm rather ambivalent about increased visibility for slash fandom. I've seen Enterprising Women in general bookstores, and my reaction changes from "Wow! They're selling books about us! We're respectable now!" to "Oh my God, now that they know we exist we're doomed!" How do the rest of you feel about this? Do you think any publicity is bad publicity, or that fandom just needs more good publicity? [1]

Conventions, in my mind, are private parties. I would never presume to crash a Moose Lodge function nor would I try to infiltrate a Hell's Angels rally. As long as a convention is run as a private meeting, the possibility of offense/litigation is more limited. Two good examples of this are MediaWest and Escapade Con. Escapade, being an intimate con of about 130 fans, has the meeting areas plainly marked. Everyone takes an active interest in keeping the confused and curious steered in the right direction. I explained, most kindly, to one old duffer, that if he was interested in touring our dealers room, all he had to do was buy a membership. As he didn't want to purchase a membership, I can only assume that he wasn't very interested in the materials for sale.

Media just rents the whole damn hotel -- we fans fill it up, along with much of the surrounding lodgings. The hotel is happy, 'cause they're making money...a good hotel doesn't care if it's the International Left-handed Leather Crop Society as long as the checks cash. I'm happy, 'cause I can openly view and buy anything from an innocuous Yoda print, right up to a full penetration Suzie Lovett nude...and walk around stinkin' happy with them, openly in my hands, ready to share them with other like minded folks.

My personal opinion is this: I feel that the people throwing the convention have an obligation to the attendees comfort and well-being. If there is even the SUSPICION that a news crew will (a) make members uncomfortable, (b) harm an attendees mental or financial well-being, well, I would think a ConCom should take this into consideration. If after consideration the Con leadership still wants the news crew, how difficult would it be to set them up in a visible central location and allow the fans who are interested to come to them? A sort of "meet the fans" panel featuring the news crew?

At OktoberTrek, some people were emotionally and financially hurt and bothered by the TV news crew...cons are supposed to be functions were we can get together as fans and have a good time-often throwing off our mundane mantles of "respectable" wage worker, wife or mother and transforming ourselves into lecherous, squealing women out to eat too much, have a few drinks, stay up all night - and drool (in the form of fanzines) over a few good looking folks of the opposite sex. In other words, typical conventioneer behavior - whether you're a Moose or a Trekker. [2]

References

  1. from Kath in Strange Bedfellows #1 (May 1993)
  2. from Veronica in Strange Bedfellows #1 (May 1993)