The Compleat Alternative
|Title:||The Compleat Alternative|
|Publisher:||JJ Downes/Jane of Australia|
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The Compleat Alternative is a 240-page compilation of three Star Trek: TOS pieces of fiction by Gerry Downes which was issued after she died.
The fiction originally appeared in:
- Alternative: The Epilog to Orion
- Nebula of Orion, a story in Stardate Unknown
- Alternative: Continuing the Epilog to Orion
From the Publisher
From an ad in The K/S Press #112 (2006): "The Compleat Alternative' is an authorized reprint of the Alternative saga, written by Gerry Downes in the 70s. Her daughter-in-law, JJ Downes (known as Jane in many fandoms), has brought the k/s classic back to vibrant life. The three parts are: the short story Orion, the "presentation" Epilog to Orion, and the novel Alternative. the Beginning —and much more."
More from the publisher:
In Orion, Jim Kirk has been abducted by an alien of incalculable power. Separated from the ship, duped, tormented, even tortured by the alien, he is physically and mentally injured. Only a mind meld with his Vulcan soul-mate will bring him back, and out of this connection comes an almost unbreakable bonding. That bond is explored in the two-fold Epilog to Orion. The first Epilog is a "presentation” in prose, art and verse, and traces the rocky path navigated by Jim and Spock, both of whom are feeling the social pressures of their disparate ethnic heritages, until they choose to try to undo what was done at the outset to salvage Kirk's life. Those developments form the body of a massive novel which has been compressed into a relatively small space through the use of reduced type…Alternative. A year has passed since the events of the first Epilog, and Jim Kirk still feels the emptiness where the closeness and warmth of bonding once dwelt. He has begun to try to rekindle that warmth, but for reasons of his own Spock is unwilling and it takes a helping hand from Mother Nature…an accident…before Spock's hand is forced. Unwilling or not, once again Spock enters into a life- saving meld with Jim, and it's a life-changing meld. The warmth is back, full-force. The closeness, the joy of love. But their troubles have just begun. On a personal level and a professional one, their relationship will be tested in an odyssey taking them to Vulcan. But the real battles are fought out in the human heart—and the Vulcan." The Compleat Alternative is in two volumes. We've lifted "Nebula of Orion" out of the original Stardate Unknown and bound it with Epilog to Orion to make an 80pp preamble to the much larger zine. Alternative itself is around 160pp of reduced text and plate artwork (loaded with 11x17" foldouts and some of the most glorious artwork ever done for this fandom, by Pat Stall). We're coil binding these re-creations, which are of necessity printed on the European A4 size paper, but otherwise we're staying as faithful as possible to the originals. 
Reactions and Reviews
The zine (or rather pair of zines) I am about to review is a facsimile edition recently published by the late Ms. Downes' son-in-law. Thanks to the very favorable exchange rate between the United States and Australia I obtained the set (known as "the Compleat Alternative") at a considerable bargain, and it shipped in about a week. In my opinion, the print is of excellent quality, although some of the art in book one looks somewhat "xeroxed." The books are nicely bound and generally well worth having. On to the content:
Alternative: Epilog to Orion, which first appeared in 1976, is generally hailed as the first K/S zine. Fortunately it was not my first K/S zine, or it would surely have been my last. To be more specific, the first book offers a tantalizing, but rather vague, glimpse at the sheer joy and wondrous possibilities offered by a telepathic and sexual relationship between Kirk and Spock, while the second, and much longer book describes a number of years in an actual, and frankly rather unpleasant, K/S relationship which develops.
The first book was of considerable interest to me, foremost for being such a seminal work in the development of the genre, but also because it holds much of interest all its own. Downes is an incredibly lyric writer, and in fact breaks into verse at critical points in the narrative. Her prose is a delight. The last section of book one is an ecstatic fantasy sequence in which Kirk and Spock merge, with somewhat cloudy reference points to actual physical sexuality (the line illustrations in the margins leaving considerably less to the imagination). It ends, rather disappointingly however, with the declaration that such a relationship could never be, no matter how beautiful. This I took, ideologically, as being akin to going up to the water, putting your toe in, admitting that it is indeed fine, and then shaking your foot off and declaring that you don't care for swimming anyway.
The second book will be much better, I told myself. How wrong I was! Perhaps I am prejudicing the reader unduly. Let me state for the record that I am a Spockie, and in fact such a Spockie that I not only empathize with Spock, I become Spock, and I have ridiculously little tolerance for Spock being made to suffer in any way. I am well aware that many of you enjoy reading about Spock suffering beautifully, so I am certain that those of you would enjoy this book as much as I despised it.
The second book also has some truly beautiful moments. There is a wonderful sequence early on when Kirk and Spock are alone together on a planet, swimming just off shore; after some teasing, as well as more serious talk, they kiss deep beneath the waves. What follows, after they surface, is even more intense: although they have decided to postpone a Vulcan bonding, Kirk improvises a more primitive, and classical, form of bonding. It would be difficult to describe in a few short words the emotional resonance of this passage (and clearly I'm not up to the task). The other scene which sticks out in my mind occurs at the end. In a very dramatic, and cinematic conclusion, Kirk and Spock meet on Vulcan after days of separation (I won't spoil the location—it was too good) and the first few lines of dialogue could have leapt right off of the silver screen.
This, however, was small consolation in the face of the story itself, which depressed me for days. You see, Spock and Kirk do not go into it equally; Spock wants the security of a bond, but is too timid to demand it, while Kirk, fearing to lose his independence, or his command (or something) strings Spock along for years, right up to, quite literally, the eleventh hour. At the nadir, Spock, who has been carrying on a sideline affair with Chapel at Kirk's insistence (as the doughty captain fears that they are becoming too close for their own good), is actually dumped—yes, dumped!—by Christine Chapel. This struck me as a low blow. Chapel, whether literally or by implication I cannot remember, even asks Spock why he puts up with such second-rate treatment from Kirk. (She is off to marry a man who can love her "exclusively." I will spare you my generational reaction to the distinctly seventies sexual morality of Alternative, part two.)
Spock endures everything stoically. He suffers and suffers. In the last section of the story Kirk abjures him, verbally abuses him, accuses him of tampering with his mind, attacks him, and generally acts like an ass, while Spock holds out, in the hope Kirk will, at the critical juncture, come around. Finally, after a walk in the desert and a talk with his own Vulcan Yoda, Kirk reaches an epiphany about their relationship, and just in time too, because Spock has gone into pon farr. But I cannot tell you if this new leaf is truly a change for the better, or just as smudged and ink stained as the old one, because they bond and the story ends, as if there were nothing left to tell.The art in the first book is nothing special, but the art in the second volume is truly extraordinary. The reproduction quality is excellent. Several full-size paintings are printed on fold out 11x14 pages. There is a depiction of the kiss described above which is particularly beautiful. The art in fact is what continues to compel me to hold onto my copy, since I can't bear to part with it.