Swan

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K/S Fanfiction
Title: Swan
Author(s): Charlotte Frost
Date(s): 1989
Length:
Genre: slash
Fandom: Star Trek: The Original Series
External Links:

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Swan is a K/S story by Charlotte Frost.

It was published in the print zine First Time #21.

art by Dragon for "Swan"
first page of "Swan"

Summary

From the publisher: "Just as Spock and Kirk begin a relationship, Spockʼs cousin commits suicide."

Excerpt

"Outwardly, the slim form standing before him looked as calm and efficient as always. But Kirk had known his first officer for three years, and there was a tension in the tall frame that automatically put the captain in a contrasting, casual mode. He looked up from his paperwork and smiled. "What can I do for you, Spock?" The other's voice was hesitant, yet determined. "I wish to speak with you about a . . . personal matter."

From the Author

SWAN – Suicide is the theme of my existence, and this was my first attempt at tackling a theme that (before I knew about such a thing as fandom) I thought would be the dominant subject of all my writing.

So, when I hit upon an idea for a suicide story, I wrote it lightning fast. And I was hurrying to get to the good parts. So, after I sent it off to my favorite editor, she wrote back and said, “This is a great outline. Where’s the rest?” *sigh* So, I had more work to do. Thank goodness. The story was all the better for the fleshing out. I particularly thought the ending was brilliant, heart-warming, and all those wonderful things (I’m not usually good with endings.)

But the post-publication was highly disappointing. Yes, I got the usual feedback, but to me, this was a special story, and the feedback didn’t give any indication of that awareness. I remember someone – perhaps the editor – saying, “I bet there’s going to be a lot of illos of Swans showing up at the cons.” That had crossed my mind too, for the swan aspect was a wonderful part of the story, especially the heart-warming ending. But no such artwork appeared.

There’s numerous times where movie actors will talk about how there was a particular movie they thought was their best performance; yet, the movie was given little notice by the public. That’s how I feel about “Swan”.

Yet, the last time I tried to read it – years ago – I found myself impatient with the opening scene and the stilted dialogue (I always saw Spock as having difficulty expressing himself concerning personal matters.) I started skimming. So, maybe it wasn’t all that interesting.

Still, within the past couple of years, I was having a rare telephone conversation with a longtime beta. She happened to mention how special “Swan” was to her, because suicide had been a prominent theme in her life too.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Sometimes, it’s years before you know what readers thought of a story. [1]

Reactions and Reviews

This story is about suicide. That's a really intense theme, so it's a good idea to distance us a little from it. After all, neither the writer nor the readers want to emerge from a story emotionally shell-shocked. Unfortunately, Charlotte Frost used three distancing devices in "Swan". 1) The character who committed suicide is a created character about whom we know very little. 2) She dies before the story begins so we will never have an opportunity to know her. 3) The story is told from the point of view of Kirk, who never met her at all. Any one of these distancing devices would have been sufficient. The use of all three tends to dissipate the inherent intensity of the theme. Nevertheless, , the story does pick up intensity and focus starting with the scene in which Kirk finds Spock brooding on the edge of a cliff, and Spock relives his childhood feelings of having been an "ugly duckling". That scene is the turning point in the narrative. A psychologically illuminating confrontation between Kirk and Amanda follows it. It was very clear to me that Charlotte Frost's Sarek and Amanda were, between them, placing Spock in a classic double bind where he could never please both of them. Of course, I understand that they had the best of intentions, and had no idea of the affect they were having on Spock. It is important to realize, however, that this kind of double bind often causes schizophrenia. So McCoy was right when he observed in the story that it was a wonder that Spock was sane given such an upbringing. I imagine that only Vulcan discipline protected Spock from total emotional collapse. I find this scenario quite convincing. There are indications of Spock's desperately unhappy childhood in "Journey to Babel", and I feel that this story is very much derived from that episode. Some of the attitudes expressed during this story raised questions for me. I wonder why Kirk preferred masturbating Spock for their first time, and thought fellatio was "too personal". Is a mouth really more intimate than a hand? If so, why? I also wondered why Kirk was so careful to catch all of Spock's cum in a towel. Is cum really so disgusting that not a drop of it should be allowed to be in contact with flesh? That struck me as more than a bit prudish. I don't think that Kirk would have such an attitude. Charlotte Frost endows Kirk and Spock with another problematic attitude when Spock calls Kirk an addictive drug, and Kirk considers that metaphor romantic. I wonder how a fan recovering from substance abuse would react to the exchange. Yet these are relatively minor points. I feel that it's much more important to point out that more than half the story exists only for the purpose of setting up the situation. The pace is far too slow and stately. It seems to me that "Swan" could have been not only shorter, but would have been more effectively focused if Spock had been the point of view character. That way his inner conflicts could have been introduced into the narrative sooner, and we could have seen them more directly.[2]
Kirk and Spock are just getting started on a relationship when one of Spock’s human cousins commits suicide on Earth, and he goes to the funeral. Then he goes to Vulcan, where Kirk joins him, and there are some really interesting scenes with Amanda. We usually read the same old characterization of Spock’s mother, but in this story she isn’t just vanilla, she has a lot of faults, and the relationship she has with Spock isn’t the best, either. And it was interesting reading about suicide as a theme in K/S. I don’t remember reading anything like that story before. [3]
Little things mar the totality of this story, such as Kirk forgetting to turn command over to one of his bridge crew upon leaving the bridge, something which I think is so ingrained that hell even do it while sleepwalking; such as allowing himself to be distracted by personal considerations while sitting in the center seat; such as providing a background which would allow Kirk to go to Vulcan without it interfering with the Enterprise s current assignment If I gave the impression that I didn't enjoy reading this story, it would be incorrect, I admire her skill in presenting us with a Kirk and Spock who are entirely hers. It has a distinct flavour A warm and dreamlike state. Sunshine; not the sunshine of the desert but that of an English landscape, gentle rolling hills, shady meadows. A pastel world, the sorrow and distress without sharp edges but nevertheless entrancing. [4]
Reading this story was a very moving, deeply emotional experience. The author made her characters so alive, so real, that I had trouble remembering they are merely fictional. Why, I wondered, was the turmoil of these two men so affecting? Possibly, I thought, because all of us have deep-seated "ugly-duckling" feelings about ourselves, and it is very poignant and, ultimately, very heart-warming, to see someone, in this case Spock, work through them to such a satisfactory conclusion. It was very perceptive of Ms. Frost to see beneath the exterior of what are probably very common problems and present them so realistically, and also to recognize that, while those formative years are so difficult for humans, how much more so they would have been for a unique half-human. The writing, of course, is very good, and the dialogue and situations very in-character. I think "Swan" will be remembered as outstanding — even above Ms. Frost's usual degree of excellence. [5]
This story contains what is surely one of the finest moments in K/S and yet, at the same time, is a story that I found to be deeply and disappointingly flawed. It occurred to me after I had reread "Swan" for the third time that it's only nominally a first time story; it seems to me to be more accurate to describe "Swan" as two thematically related stories loosely strung together. The first of these is a first time story and the second is an established relationship story. I don't point this out as a criticism; I simply note it as being an interesting and innovative facet of the story's structure. The first time story with which "Swan" opens is written with delicacy and grace. However, it quickly eases into an established relationship story in which the suicide of Spock's human cousin triggers revelations concerning Spock's relationship with his mother. It is at this point that we are at the heart of the story; everything before has been only prologue. It is at this point also that "Swan" becomes rivetingly powerful. And all of that power is concentrated in one scene. To my mind, what makes "Swan" truly an exceptional piece of writing is that scene. In it, Spock, speaking to Kirk, releases his rage at his mother, rage occasioned because Amanda "cannot" understand why the cousin, who was "different" and "unaccepted," committed suicide. The revelation that the real cause of Spock's anger is that his mother also never understood the loneliness and rejection that he went through as a child is so filled with raw feeling as to be stunning. The insight the author displays into Spock's relationship with his mother in the scene is brilliant, and delivered with white hot intensity. The dialogue between Kirk and Spock is just superb. This is writing that doesn't play it safe for a minute; it cuts right to the quick. I don't know when I've seen better dialogue. And yet. this story struck me as disastrously flawed, and here is why: The climatic moment of "Swan" occurs when Spock confronts his anger at his mother. That scene is cathartic in the extreme. Once that scene was over, the rest of the story needed to come to an end as quickly as possible so that the tremendous emotional impact of that scene wouldn't be dissipated. Unfortunately, the lengthy scenes that follow, and especially the tacked on gratuitous sex scene, sex, it's gratuitous writing, which is far worse! I should also add that, even if I had no criticism whatsoever of "Swan" rambling on past its dramatic climax, I would still be dissatisfied with this sex scene. Given how sexually uncertain Spock is earlier in the story, he seems far too sexually assured in this scene. A writer cannot depict a character as being one way and then abruptly present him as being just the opposite. I found this scene and Spock's sexual aggressiveness once Kirk arrived on Vulcan to be jarringly inconsistent with his character as portrayed by the author earlier. I agree that following Spock's purging of his anger at his mother, he might indeed be ready to try out the aggressive role, but I think that, based on his earlier portrayal, he would do so much more tentatively than he does here. I wish I could say that I "enjoyed" "Swan," but my feelings about it aren't that simple. I can say that I was moved by it, disturbed by it, and frustrated by it, in that order; and as someone who is trying to write K/S, I'm envious of the author's ability to discover fascinating, intimate things about the characters that challenge readers to think more deeply about them. This is some of the best writing I have seen in K/S. But I do feel that, as good as it was, "Swan" had to potential to be a still better story, and I miss the story that it could have been. [6]
What an opening! Spock has come to Kirk's cabin to present his "conclusions" about their friendship. Such wonderful characterization, such a fine understanding of what each would say to the other under such circumstances. Spock's fear is very subliminal, his curiosity peaked, as he says "I believe, as you humans say, that I am in love with you." Talk about a way to capture your attention!

Kirk's reaction is tempered joy, I think. Spock asks, "...you are not displeased?" And when Kirk voices his love as well, this fantastic author simply states: The Adam's apple bobbed."

Without fail, I am drawn to a Spock who has experienced a childhood filled with insecurity and self-doubt. There are marvelous, tender scenes of love that are enough on their own. But, a plot arises! Spock's cousin, a human female, commits suicide shortly after Kirk and Spock become lovers. Spock must go to be with his family on Earth and the separation is deliriously painful to both men. After a few days, Kirk receives a subspace message from a tired and strained Vulcan, who requests additional leave. Your heart leaps to your throat, expecting a change of heart. But just the opposite occurs: Spock asks that Kirk join him, "...I wish very much to be with you." Who among us could decline? As Kirk prepares to join Spock, he reveals their love to McCoy with some imaginative dialogue.

"Bones, something happened between me and Spock a few weeks ago."

"Between? You're going to have to be more specific, Jim. Otherwise, you're leading me to draw some pretty wild conclusions."

"One of those wild conclusions just may be correct."

This McCoy is a loving, understanding friend in the truest sense of the word and ifs shown masterfully.

Away from that, the story of family grief as they try to come to terms with their loved one taking her own life is very well handled, so much so it becomes very real to the reader. The portrayal of life inside Sarek's house is drawn with such clarity and of course the fact that Spock firmly stated they would share a room was the high point. However, Spock becomes more and more withdrawn and hurt, until one day he wanders into the desert. Kirk follows and finds him high on some boulders...and so very, very near the edge. There he reveals to Jim Kirk how he stood on the rocks as a child. And how, when life seemed more than he could bear, he often thought of jumping. Spock relates his memory of the Terran story of the ugly duckling, and how he stood on this rocky ledge and wished he could be a swan. These are such poignant, loving moments, stark in their painful revelations, but so full of love and understanding.

These are only a few of the scenes so memorably depicted in this story. Ifs an older zine, but still available, so I won't give away everything, just urge anyone who hasn't read SWAN in a few years, or who has never read it at all, to do so as soon as possible. The impact will remain. I will never look at a swan again without thinking of Spock and the human who is the other half of his soul. [7]
I just stumbled across this story and it is so very well told. Stories with feeling are extra special to me, and while there is good sex in it, that is not the focus. The focus is Spock and the adoration that James Kirk holds for him.

The subject of suicide is explored very sensitively and thoroughly through the loss of Spock’s young cousin. Obviously the author has either had experience or has amazing insight to be able to look at it so objectively and yet with such deep understanding. What really rips out my heart is when Kirk accompanies Spock to Vulcan after the funeral and one afternoon finds Spock alone in the desert. He is atop a high outcrop looking down at the valley floor so far below. He has been most uncommunicative up until this time, grieving in a very private and internal way. Even though Kirk is his lover, he cannot reach through the pain. As he stares into the distance, Spock reveals his journeys to this place in his youth, and how close he came to ending his own life by jumping. The shame and isolation he felt as a small child is chilling. Kirk is perfect. He is supportive but not unrealistic. He listens – truly listens. And projects his love in every way he knows.

If you ever feel downtrodden, as if the world is ganging up on you, this is the perfect K/S reading material. I cannot imagine how it would feel to have grown up in such misery and yet to find a love as all- encompassing as that which exists between Kirk and Spock. I can tell you that it feels marvelous and comforting and warms you from head to toe when you read it. [8]

References

  1. from Charlotte Frost at Stories I Have Known, posted in perhaps 2005, accessed January 3, 2012; WebCite
  2. from The LOC Connection #35
  3. from The Legacy of K/S in Zines, 1989: I'm Always in the Mood
  4. from The K/S Press #4
  5. from The LOC Connection #6
  6. from The LOC Connection #38
  7. from The K/S Press #48
  8. from The K/S Press #115