The Ambassador and the Lady

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Star Trek TOS Fanfiction
Title: The Ambassador and the Lady
Author(s): Norma Smith
Date(s): 1972, reprinted later in other zines
Genre: non-explicit het
Fandom: Star Trek: The Original Series
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The Ambassador and the Lady is a Sarek/Amanda story by Norma Smith.

It was printed in Pastaklan Vesla #4 (1972), The Despatch #17 (1973), and The Best of Amanda and Sarek (1978).

Reactions and Reviews

...anyway, razzberries to the genius who decided to reprint "The Ambassador and the Lady." The story is well-written enough so the pace doesn't bog down with all the characterization — characterization in a short story reminds me of trying to juggle live hand grenades while doing a tightrope walk on a razor blade edge up with bubbling magma on one side and hydrochloric acid on the other — and the plot, what there is of it? — isn't too convoluted to make heads or tails out of after one or two or six readings, like some Kraith stories I could name. It's not a bad story, it it sucks moose.

I mean, is it not bad enough that "Journey to Babel" started all this five years ago with giving all the aliens identifying characteristics which happen to be intrinsic to their culture? I mean, being able to appreciate another culture's differences from your own is delightful and delovely when you're talking about a culture which is patently superior to ours, such as the Vulcans' — Norma made a heroic effort to give Sarek an appreciation for humans' irrationalities and absurdities — but when you start talking about Andorians being warlike and knifehappy and Tellarites' great joy in life coming from picking fights, appreciating each other's differences is not something that can be done with good faith. It ain't like respecting a Jew's right not to eat pork. It's more along the lines of "accepting" that Blacks dance better, have better sex lives and make better athletes and even worse, applauding it as natural and good. Suppose you were to change the names and the places, and the Tellarites were French, the Andorians Russian, the Vulcans British and so on? All right, of course it's cultural. "Babel" couldn't go so far in 45 minutes to emphasize that these differences are anything more than a way to tell the aliens apart without a scorecard. Fiction can do better. On behalf of the SLPRPSP (Special League for the Protection of the Rights of Pig-snouted People) I enjoin someone to do a rebuttal treatise for the Tellarites. Their flip treatment in the story is a real burr.

The other grumble is the treatment of the Lady in the Ambassador and the Lady. Such a pea-brained nerd in a portrait done without a shred of compassion isn't a characterization, it's a caricature. Shades of Sigmund Freud! Compared to the eloquence and warmth with which Sarek is unfolded to us, Claudia Sanborn is an embarrassing joke. Of course, no selfish, immature career female could land a Vulcan husband, any more than could Areel Shaw, Ruth, Janet Wallace or Janet Lester land Kirk: he wasn't the center of their lives. Contrasted with cherubic, apparently passive and nurturant Amanda (who is placed in the eminently womanly and nonthreatening position of teaching kids) Claudia is idiotic. Of course Sarek would be repulsed. Anyone would be. This woman is not real, she is a collection of cliches. A misogynist couldn't have written with more contempt.

Enough grouching. It is more a testimony to the quality of the writing that this characterization is so grating — the rest of it is so insightful. Especially in the sensitive treatment of Sarek (who gets a little cantankerous, I think, as he gets older), Norma Smith's writing is clear, fine, crisp and to the point, not wordy or flowery.

But in these days when women are just beginning to learn to look at themselves without hating what they see, when we are just beginning to realize that the horrible caricatures, which generate so much self-contempt that we can write about ourselves with far more venom than male writers in their basic ignorance, are the accumulated half truths and stereotypes compiled by a society and culture

which we had no will in the creation of — when, in short, even dunderheads like me can pick out a stereotype as obvious as Claudia Sanborn and be embarrassed and sorry for the writer of it. [1]

"The Ambassador and the Lady" in the Journal was the best Sarek-Amanda story I've seen so far in terms of realism. No authoress identification spoilt it (unless Norma Smith is a Claudia Sanborn in her dreams) and it seemed so possible, if you know what I mean. [2]


  1. ^ from an LoC in Despatch #19
  2. ^ from an LoC in Despatch #19