Year of the Ram
|Title:||Year of the Ram|
|Publisher:||Pon Farr Press|
|Author(s):||Alexis Fegan Black|
|Cover Artist(s):||Chris Soto|
|Illustrator(s):||no interior art|
|Fandom:||Star Trek: TOS|
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Publisher's summary: "A K/S novel of suspense and intrigue, as well as a study of Vulcan and Eastern Terran philosophies…"
Summary from Media Monitor: "Following the 'Tholian Web,' Kirk makes a mistake which literally costs him the Enterprise, his own past, and most of all, Spock. Exiled from everything he has known he encounters Sinta and Kim Le - masters of the martial arts who retrain him in such a fashion that perhaps he will one day be able to return to the Federation. Of course, there's a mysterious Vulcan master at the temple...a master by the name of Spock."
Author's Comments: 1993
In August 1993, the author of "Year of the Ram" discussed its conception:
When I originally sat down to write my K/S novel, Year of the Ram. I fully believed I was writing a simply li'l short story. Kirk gets banished from Starfleet and all his former contacts because of a problem with the Tholians. He's covertly sent to a temple in China, where he'll study Eastern disciplines and martial arts — the theory being that he'll learn how to shield against the unwanted Tholian mental probes. Spock, in disguise, of course, shows up as one of the masters. They fall in love... etc. Now — I should have known, right? Of course I should have known! I knew I would have "secondary characters" (more later!). I knew I had political problems. And I knew the story I was telling was bigger than a breadbox. So... why on Earth did I sit down with the delightful delusion that I'd write this li'l story in one night and use it in a zine due to premier the following month?Why? Because I didn't plan ahead and, as a result, by the time I hit page 100 and the darn thing was still going, I was getting frustrated. "It's just a short story!" I wailed. To which Wendy and Alayne chuckled a great deal and reminded me yet again that I'm not, by nature, a short-story writer. By the time I finished Year of the Ram. I was relatively pleased with what I'd done, though I think the novel would have been better had I known from the beginning that it was a novel struggling to be born. 
When an espionage mission to the Tholian Empire goes drastically wrong, Kirk is taken aboard a Tholian vessel, transported into Tholian territory… and surprisingly is not harmed. When he is released to the Federation months later, however, he is to face a lifetime of exile from the life he has known, from the ENTERPRISE, and from all previous associates. The Tholian Directive strictly prohibits any contact with his past, and with his properties taken away and his assets obliterated, he must begin a new life. His success is marginal… until at a filthy spaceport on Calipri, he encounters a most peculiar little old man from China…
Spock, powerless to prevent the exile, assumes command of the ENTERPRISE… and searches for a flaw in the Tholian Directive. Not finding one, he must begin to seek another path which will eventually lead him back to Kirk… and a path with may, one day, lead Kirk back to Starfleet…The danger lies in the fact that the Tholians are quite capable of keeping an eye on Kirk through a probe-link. And any deviation from the Directive will result immediately in war – a war which the Federation stands no hopes of winning…
Reactions and Reviews
I think Year of the Ram is a typical AFB story, full of metaphysicals and eastern philosophy. On the face of it The Year seems an interesting, thrilling story, and it is. But it is also not very believable. Kirk is punished for a mission by order of the Federation in the Tholian territory. He is exiled from his former life and from his friends, controlled by a kind of mind link with the Tholians, so that they will know his every move. If this punishment is not followed to the letter by the Federation, the Tholians shall destroy the Federation. So Kirk is banished and lives on the street on some planet, grieving for what he was and what he lost. Suddenly he is hired by a Chinese man to do some business in the Neutral Zone, and desperate as he is, Kirk agrees. This Chinese turns out to be a master in eastern martial philosophies and art, and he teaches Kirk how to deal with the direction his life has turned. Soon it appears that when Kirk's training is complete, he will be able to shield against the Tholian probe and then the Tholians will know that the Federation is stronger then they think, for Tholians are not able to shield... Here is the first of the unbelievable situations: If a People is mentally as strong and so well developed as the Tholians are supposed to be in this story, they will have had a form of shielding, if only to protect their old and young ones. So Kirk does it very well in the temple and turns out to be a talented student. His masters like him very much. The love of his master for his students is so great that he sleeps with them… helps them to deal with important feelings. After a few weeks in the temple he gets a new master who turns out to be a great surprise for him. In the meantime Spock tries to help Kirk and, with the help of Nogura and McCoy, he finally finds a way to stay near Kirk without breaking the punishment. The end proves the power of Kirk's shielding to the Tholians, that is it better to make a deal with the Federation, and Kirk and Spock find each other and confess their love. The Chinese Master calls Kirk a Ram: a leader, a doer, someone to act on impulse, aggressive, with a lot of sexual power that should be balanced before he can shield sufficiently. This is the basis for a very unlikely scene: in order to balance that power the master makes love to Kirk while Kirk is asleep(!), thinking it is Spock. The Kirk of this story lets his cock do the thinking. He loves his masters very easily, sleeps with them only for his own needs, arguing that to love somebody is not to be in love with that one. The rest of the world seems of no importance to him. The 'real' Kirk would have tried to overcome that probe. He would start a new life over again, and the Federation would surely find some good use for one of their best men. Surely, Kirk would have found another way then living in the gutter as he did. Kirk realizes at last that the master cannot replace Spock. He loves one and for all Spock. When he is able to return to his has a little surprise for him. This Spock is a very believable one. He behaves rather Vulcan, and he is a master in his own fields. Just that jealousy and the way he deals with it … is unlike Spock. There is only one sex-scene between Kirk and Spock and it takes place in the temple when Kirk does not know that that Spock is his Spock. There are some sex scenes between Kirk and his Masters. Spock is able to be near Kirk without breaking the punishment. Spock is slightly altered by surgery so that Kirk will not recognize him. That I also think unlikely... Kirk knows the aura of Spock and would recognize him in a crowd of hundreds of people. The Year of the Ram is another dubious novel. As the other novels of Alexis, I did like it. Alexis is a very talented writer with a great imagination. Her details about the eastern philosophy are great and made it more then worth the read. Despite that I don't think this novel is one of her best: it could have been better. Nevertheless, please don't hesitate to read it. Everyone is entitled to their own personal meaning. I would like to hear what others think about this one. 
YEAR OF THE RAM is probably one of the best K/S novels ever to see print in this reviewer's opinion, and from talking to other fans, I'm pleased to learn that this opinion seems to be widely shared. This novel leads off with Kirk's exile from the Federation following a mission to the Tholian Empire which met with failure. Said exile was imposed on Kirk by the Tholians, who have established a 'directional link' with him in order to make certain that the terms of their agreement are not broken. In addition to being cut off from his home, family, and friends, Kirk is forbidden to have any contact with the Enterprise, her crewmembers, or anyone from his past. With the story set up in such a fashion, Kirk is essentially wandering around the galaxy as an outcast when he is approached by a very likable character, Kim Le, and taken aboard a private vessel. It is on that vessel that the story really begins -- detailing Kirk's training to become a 'mercenary.' The scenes wherein he must train in martial arts style with a Vulcan character called Sinta are touching, smoothly written, and have that underlying tension which make K/S (or any genre, for that matter), truly fun to read. Sinta also bears mention that he is not your 'typical' Vulcan from fan fiction. He takes on a genuinely 'real' personality from the first time he is introduced, and his interaction with Kirk introduces some excellent dialogue and character conflict. To avoid revealing key plot points, suffice it to say that circumstances lead Kirk in another direction entirely, bringing him to the Temple of Ho Ling in China. There, working with Sinta, Kim Le and other human and Vulcan 'Masters of the Art,' Kirk gradually begins to overcome the influence of the Tholian probe. Of course, since this is a review rather than a book report, I will avoid mentioning any key details - the details which are primarily responsible for this being a K/S novel rather than just a novel. It's easier to just say that Spock's solution to this dilemma is a fascinating one, and one which will keep the reader reading until the very last word. This zine is nicely produced, with some excellent covers by Chris Soto. The print is easy to read, and the zine is presented handsomely. Perhaps the nicest thing a reviewer can say about a story of any sort is that it was food for thought. YEAR OF THE RAM was certainly that -- both in the somewhat 'kung-fu-esque' philosophy of Kim Le and Sinta, as well as the in the character study/development of Kirk and Spock. My only possible complaint with the zine was that it ended too soon -- not in the writing so much as in what I wanted to see. I was pleased, though, to see that a sequel was being planned for Naked Times #15, wherein Ms. Black promises to delve more into 'what happens next.' On a scale of 1 to 10, I give this zine a hefty 9.75. 
YEAR OF THE RAM unfortunately gave me an idea for a Trek story (K/S) which I probably won't ever write. I'd like to throw it out as a writing contest seed if some zine ed ever runs another of those and needs an idea. Or maybe I can strong-arm A.F. Black into writing it now that she's teased me unmercifully. Or maybe it's been done somewhere and I just missed it. In YEAR OF THE RAM takes off the idea that, during Spock's divorce, when Spock was killing Kirk, mental barriers slipped and Kirk perceived that Spock WANTED him, not T'Pring. Spock had been tempted to just rape Kirk there on the sand. o Well, suppose he had? Suppose the UFP/Vulcan relationship was politically bad at the time (a Kraith idea I continually play with - relations can't be easy between a human-dominated Federation and Vulcan!), and a faction on Vulcan believed that humans have no Reverence for Life, that Starfleet is becoming a war machine. Suppose that ancient law and Vulcan physiology are such that the only option Spock has is to kill Kirk, but Kirk has the option of seducing Spock into raping him (and thus breaking the Plak Tow at least sufficiently to allow a negotiated settlement). Suppose Kirk doesn't know that he has this option - that in fact, from the modern Vulcan point of view, it's his only option because it's the only way to get out of this without a murder taking place. It's not explained to him because T'Pau, T'Pring and Stonn are all of the anti-human faction and have done their homework. They know Kirk doesn't have any reverence for life, that he'd never allow himself to be raped in public to save a life. And Kirk doesn't "let himself be raped. What happens is that Spock diverts himself into that option in a flash of lucidity when he is slicing at Kirk and instead of slicing his shirt, he slices Kirk's pants - and follows up by slicing his pants off, thus effectively seducing himself with the sight of Kirk. And then he rapes him. The last thing Kirk knows before the neural paralyzer hits is that T'Pau bends over them smiling (while Spock is ejaculating) and locks the two of them into a marriage bond... 
I've been reading this zine through in less than two days. Most of it after having troubles sleeping one night when the novel kept me company from about 2 AM to 6 AM in the morning.
My initial reaction to this was that I kept it at the bottom of my pile of "to read" zines. Why? Because it is Alternate Universe and quite frankly I have a prejudice against such stories that I have a difficulty overcoming. Most of it due to the fact that I've read some terrible master/slave stories that I didn't appreciate early in my zine reading times.
I was, however, pleasantly surprised by Year of the Ram. After the first 5-10 pages where I was still feeling reluctant, I was sucked into the action of the story. And I realized that it had no similarities with the dreaded master/slave things that I have read.
Alexis Fegan Black manages to weave a convincing tale of how Kirk is put under a mental surveillance from the Tholians, and the rules are that he may never return to the Enterprise, Starfleet or even to contact any of his friends. He is to remain in exile forever, due to the Federation trespassing into Tholian space.
After months of trying to fend for himself by stealing, Kirk is taken under the wing of Kim Le and Sinta, two who are Masters in the martial arts of both mind and body. Through mental training and learning the martial arts they teach Kirk how to shield against the Tholians and thereby give him the hope of once being able to reclaim his old life.
Kirk's most difficult struggle is the realization that he loved Spock, truly loved him and never did anything about it. He struggles with this knowledge and the anger that he's being made to pay for the Federation's mistake through no true fault of his own.
The story unfolds slowly, and masterfully. Spock, who is now the captain of the Enterprise, finally realizes that there is something he can do, and goes to the Temple where Kirk is being trained. He goes undercover, altering his physical appearance and shielding his Self from Kirk. He arrives as Master Spock.
Spock, too, has to struggle with his emotions, knowing finally that Kirk returned his feelings. But here, in the temple, Kirk has once found solace in the arms of Master Sinta, and Spock finds himself jealous. His jealousy is misplaced, according to Master Sinta, but Spock has difficulties accepting this.
It jeopardizes their entire plan of helping Kirk so that he—and the Federation—will be free of the Tholians.
Kim Le threatens to force Spock to leave, and in a desperate attempt to not fail, Spock agrees to meld with Master Sinta and finds that he has nothing to fear. Kirk belongs to Spock, always.
Despite not knowing that Spock is his Spock, Kirk soon develop a strong caring for the other, which is naturally returned. Kirk reveals his deep longing and sorrow over being severed from his Spock, from McCoy, the Enterprise and the life he led before.
There are many layers and wise words in this zine and I found myself savoring every page, every line. Unfortunately the ending did not meet up to my expectations.
I think Alexis Fegan Black has written a novel that is not only riveting because of its difference, but also because of her cunning in the field of Martial Arts.
She shows—at least to an outsider such as myself— a genuine insight into this way of life and way of thinking which I find very interesting, quite apart from the fact that ifs a wonderful K/S romance.
I have one quibble with the novel, and that is that the sexual tension between Kirk and Spock culminates once, during the story, when Kirk still believes that Spock isn't his Spock, but a Master of the Temple.
I find that after reading a 150+ pages of this novel, finally seeing Kirk and Spock back on the Enterprise, it is a mistake of Alexis Fegan Black not to give me as the reader the emotional reward I have been waiting for. The reward in my expectations being a physical, and mental union between Kirk and Spock when they are both back in their own lives and fullyaware of who the other is.
Alexis Fegan Black kept the ball running, going through hoops and all throughout the entire novel, but then dropped it, two inches from the finishing line.I was thoroughly impressed with the whole novel up until that last scene, where I was incredibly disappointed and left the novel with a sense of disappointment at hot having my expectations met and fulfilled. 
YEAR OF THE RAM is 177 pages, nonreduced, with a few very nice illos, and really is a novel. It's bound with staples, and costs $18.00, as much as a pro-pub'd hardcover. But it's a good quality.of paper; and the proofreading was above prof, standard! And yea, it's K/S. But it's "modern" K/S. There are, I think, perhaps 3 sex scenes, two between Kirk and another Vulcan, and one Kirk/Spock one at the end, where it belongs. The rest of the plot, and it is TIGHTLY and sleekly plotted with a strong, competent hand -
turns on psychological conflicts. Kirk is prevented from associating with his old friends by a mind-link with a Tholian. Yes, that sounds bizarre, but the peculiar circumstances are all too believable. Kirk must remain an "outcast" so that the Tholians (who are "known" to be stronger than the Federation) won't attack and destroy the Federation. Kirk and Spock both believe that they must remain apart or become responsible for the destruction of total war* It's not contrived. In their place. I'd believe it. High level martial arts instructors, one of them Vulcan, and another of them Spock in disguise, teach Kirk some of their art, and in their temple, he begins to learn to shield. The thing that makes this story work is that A. F. Black displays, as always, her relentless dedication to doing her homework before she writes. She knows what she's talking about in the "lessons" that Kirk learns. There was only one point at which I stopped and made a marginal note - and that had to do -with a turn of phrase that implied, I believe, something other than what Black meant.The implication was that the Mastery of the Art can be transferred by a transfer of knowledge. She tends to capitalize Knowledge when referring to wisdom/knowledge, and I believe that I know what she means by this. I wonder, though, how many readers might have missed it. Given the sort of people who gravitate toward K/S zines, though, I'm not too worried. The few who find it confusing will probably ask and discover whole new worlds of things to learn. So if you have $18 to invest, and are looking for a good, solid read that's not porn, I recommend YEAR OF THE RAM.