The Foresmutters Project: Commentary & Historical Background: Shelter by Leslie Fish

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Title: The Foresmutters Project: Commentary & Historical Background: Shelter by Leslie Fish
Creator: Mary Ellen Curtin, Ruth Lym, Kathy Langley, and Judith Gran
Date(s): 1999
Medium: online
External Links: online here
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The Foresmutters Project: Commentary & Historical Background: Shelter by Leslie Fish is a 1999 discussion amongst Mary Ellen Curtin, Ruth Lym, Kathy Langley, and Judith Gran.

It was posted to Foresmutters Project and was written to give fans historical context regarding Leslie Fish's story Shelter.


In an autobiographical letter Leslie Fish says:

I used to be a Trekker -- actually got my start in writing by doing stories and poems for Trek-zines (and of course, I made myself infamous there, too; I was the third writer to ever tackle the K/S theme -- Diane Marchant was first, with the story "A Fragment Out of Time", and Gerry Downes followed with "Alternatives", but my stories "Shelter" and "Poses" really shoved the theme into mainstream Trek-fandom, for which I got the expected flak).

Doc here again.

Diane Marchant's "A Fragment Out of Time," published in Grup 3 in September 1974, was so elliptically written that some genzine fans didn't even realize it was about Kirk & Spock (reports gen fan Joan Verba in her book Boldly Writing. Gerry Downes' "Alternative" was not ambiguous, but it did not have a very wide circulation. So, as Verba says, "This was most fans' first experience with the concept."

Ruth Lym ( recalls:

[Gayle F's] "Cosmic Fuck Series" (its informal name) was written about the same time and had been passed around quite a bit among some of the fen before it was published (The first part [Desert Heat] was published in Obsczine One, the same zine as Poses was published in). I believe that I read the whole Cosmic Fuck Series before I even read "Shelter".

Kathy Langley adds:

"Desert Heat" was *not* published in "Obsc'zine" #1. "Desert Heat" was published, originally, in Diane Steiner's zine, "Sensuous Vulcan" (a mix of adult and K/S) in September of 1977. However, Diane was terrible at actually filling orders for the zine (earned herself quite a bad reputation in fandom over it), so few people ever saw the story in this original publication. Thus, Gayle allowed Della Van Hise to reprint "Desert Heat" in "Naked Times" #2, in 1979.
In the meantime, the second and third stories in the series, "Beyond Setarcos" and "Night of the Dragon," were published in "Thrust" (the first all-K/S anthology zine) in 1978. The final story in the series, "Between Friends" (the first K/S/Mc story) was printed in "Obsc'zine" #3, in May of 1978. In 1986 Gayle reprinted the entire series under the title, "Cosmic Fuck Collected."

Doc here again:

Clearly, there was already an informal network of what you might call "future slash fen" who were getting used to the idea of K/S before the gen fans were exposed to it. Also, historians should not assume that the first story published on a given theme was the first one written, or even the first one that had reached a significant number of fen.

Kathy says:

Absolutely. Fans, of one show or another (not just ST), have been writing "those" kinds of stories for 30 years or more. They didn't know they were fans, had no clue of the existence of organized fandom and zines -- in fact, some of these fans were writing stories before organized ST existed, much less the codified concept of "slash." But they thought those thoughts, and wrote those stories, and kept them in their desk drawers or passed them around to friends.
This is definitely how K/S began, with underground writers and fans (even more underground than ST fandom itself was) circulating stories by hand. Jennifer Guttridge, a British fan, was one of the early K/Sers (she also wrote gen stories that were being printed in zines). "The Ring of Soshern," a story of hers that is considered an early classic of the genre, was eventually reprinted in the zine, "Alien Brothers" (1987).

Ruth also says:

I remember reading "Shelter" in WS20 and going crazy waiting for the sequel to come out. As usual for many stories of this type, it ended with the "mating" and there was no discussion of the "aftermath". And in this case, since Spock was "out of his mind" during the mating, it was logical that we fen were going "bug-fuck nuts!" waiting for the sequel to find out how both Kirk and Spock would feel later, on the Big E, when they were both in their "right minds".
When "Poses" finally came out and I read it, I was somewhat disappointed. I felt that one of the characters (I think it was McCoy) was REALLY out of character (the way I conceptualized him). But I WAS relieved to FINALLY read the sequel.


Judith ( says:

To appreciate what Leslie accomplished in K/S fandom, you have to hark back to the early days of K/S, when there were HUGE debates in fandom about whether K/S was possible, appropriate or "in character" for either or both of the two guys. The discussion was rarely, if ever, cast in terms of a "slash imperative": The question wasn't whether K/S was necessary, but whether it was a viable premise at all.
Leslie Fish was probably the most articulate advocate for the K/S premise of anyone in fandom at the time. She persuaded not only through her stories, but through a steady stream of well-reasoned argument in panel discussions, LoCs and articles in genzines. In every fannish forum of the day, she laid out the conceptual groundwork for K/S. Her basic argument was that bisexuality is natural, that 20th century gender roles and sexual preferences are learned and can be unlearned, and that a sexual relationship between Kirk and Spock was a natural progression of the love and affection they plainly shared.
Her logic of slash was not so much erotic as it was intellectual and scientific. It spoke powerfully to an audience of thirty-something middle-class women in the 1970s who'd grown up in a society where heterosexuality was regarded as "natural" and homosexuality was not. Leslie outlined an alternate framework for understanding sexuality. It was one that many fans shared instinctively, but Leslie articulated the reasoning behind it.

Doc here, again.

When Judith & I were discussing this post, Judith pointed out that almost all Trekfen of the period (mid-70s) came from a science fiction background, and were quite open to new ideas. I said that in a way it was curious that there was a K/S debate at all, given that these same people had dealt with the exploration of non-standard sexualities from Robert Heinlein, Ursula LeGuin, Theodore Sturgeon, Marion Zimmer Bradley, etc. etc., without major outcry.

Kathy says:

During the early years of K/S (1975-1980), there were probably as many ST fans who *weren't* SF fans as there were ST fans who were. ST fandom was, indeed, birthed by SF fans, who brought the traditions of fanzines and conventions with them. However, ST also drew in tv viewers who had never read SF and had no interest in starting to read SF, even after seeing ST. Periodically a new influx of viewing fans would discover fandom (through such publications as "The World of Star Trek" in 1973 and "Star Trek Lives!" in 1975, for example).
So, while there were a lot of SF fans in ST fandom in this period, fans who had been exposed to other worldviews and philosophies in their reading, there were probably just as many non-SF fans, who hadn't.