The Appeal of the Slave Story in Fandom

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Title: The Appeal of the Slave Story in Fandom
Creator: Jane Jones
Date(s): January 1983
Medium: print
Fandom: Star Trek: TOS
External Links:
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The Appeal of the Slave Story in Fandom is a 1983 essay by Jane Jones.

It was printed in Communicator #9.

"Recent developments in fan writing have seen the appearance of the Slave Culture story, both in 'straight' and 'K/S' forms. Why this subject and what is their appeal?"

Some Topics Discussed

  • the differences between this trope in "straight" (het or gen) stories as opposed to K/S stories
  • How different can Kirk and Spock be and still remain recognisable?
  • usually Spock is the owner (assisted by Mirror Mirror AU possibilities as well as his superior physical strength), and if Kirk is the owner, there has to be some additional "hold" over Spock
  • sometimes women just want to read about sex and not think about things like canon details
  • zines have good descriptions of what is in them, and no one is being forced to buy something they don't want to read
  • "lt is to Doreen Dabinett's credit that she almost seems to discourage waverers from buying her zines, so emphatic are her warnings."
  • practice IDIC and stop arguing about what should or shouldn't be written or read

From the Essay

In 'straight' stories, the subject is usually introduced as the culture on a planet the Enterprise crew is visiting and really need not concern us too much, since it is a pose, everyone knows that it is a pose, and at the end of the story the characters return to the status quo. It is nothing more or less than another culture to explore, or a method of showing the characters interacting in a completely different setting.
It is in the K/S field, however, that the really bizarre slave stories appear, and I tend to think that their appeal can be answered on two levels, - writers are curious creatures (in both senses of the word) and are very keen to explore new angles. As in the 'straight' stories, the subject allows the exploration of a different culture, particularly the ever-fascinating one of pre-reform Vulcan. Morally wrong it may be but history teaches us that the slave culture works and survives, although, like any other it carries the seeds of its own destruction. Why does it work and how? What are its strengths and weaknesses? What makes a man brought up in a slave culture, either, as master or slave, accept the situation and what makes him change?

It is usually the case in the slave story that the whole object of the exercise is to show how the slave achieves his freedom and how the master is brought to see that his one-time possession, is in fact his equal. It is a challenge to the writer to upset such a well-established situation in a fashion that will work and to produce an entertaining story while doing so.

There is also another appeal to the slave story and based on a far less intellectual and noble level. To be brutally frank, it is the appeal of the sex angle. Slave stories are usually fairly heavy on sex with the slave, initially at least, in a submissive position that would not be acceptable in a normal universe situation.

Now, we can debate from here to doomsday whether women should, or do, enjoy reading explicit sex. To those who argue that, they don't, I merely point to the number and sales of K/S zines. They vary in quality but they sell. Totally divorced from reality as they are, these stories are fun. The writer or reader can let her imagination run riot and quite simply enjoy an explicit, sensual story without worrying, for once, whether uniforms have pockets, or if this particular point of the story contradicts something in an episode.

This particular aspect carries its own dangers, however. If you can accept the slave story at all, it is the duty of the writer to produce just that, a story. I've certainly always tried to do so and not simply to offer one bedroom scene after another, with no plot and no characterisation. I may have failed but I've tried.

I have tried here to explain the appeal of the slave story; I do not defend it because I see no need. Zine advertising usually clear enough so that no one can be misled into buying a slave or K/S zine without having a good idea what they will be getting. I've never seen anyone with a shotgun to their heads being forced to buy a zine they don't find appealing. There is a place for the slave story, as there is a place for K/S, action/adventure, hurt/comfort, or whatever appeals to you. I believe fandom would be far bettor off if we all acknowledged that fact, stuck to our own interests, and allowed everyone else to get on with theirs. I don't like 'Kirk-gets-married' stories, and will rarely buy one, but I wouldn't presume to say that no-one should. You enjoy your fantasy, and I'll enjoy mine!

IDIC rules, okay?