The Valjiir Universe

From Fanlore
(Redirected from Valjiir)
Jump to: navigation, search


Name: The Valjiir Universe
Members: Cheryl Petterson and Susan Sizemore (original authors), Mylochka (recently)
Date(s): 1976-present
Focus:
Fandoms: Star Trek: TOS
External Links: current website; wayback link; WebCite
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

"Valjiir" is a fan-fic universe based on Star Trek: TOS.

front page, from the online continuation universe. Art by Mylochka

It was created by Cheryl Petterson and Susan Sizemore.

The title of the shared universe, "Valjiir," is a combination of the two main female characters' names -- Ruth Maxwell Valley ani Ramy and Jilla Majiir.

Many of the stories online were first published in the fanzines In a Different Reality, Alternaties, and The Valjiir Continuum. One proposed zine was The Valjiir Directory, a universe resource, but it was never published.

After Susan stepped down as the editor of the print zine In a Different Reality, where most of the stories were first published, the universe was maintained by Cher and Dave, and as of 2012, Mylochka.[1]

The series is still active with the most recent contributions in the form of CGI artwork by Mylochka which can be seen here. A series of videos using Mylochka's CGI art was created and can be found on Youtube here.

The End of the Line... In Print

The series ran in print until issue 28 of In a Different Reality where the editor announced:
As much as I have been dreading this moment, it is time to officially announce that 'In a Different Reality' will no longer be printing stories from the Valjiir Universe, long written for these pages by Cheryl Petterson and Susan Sizemore. I felt very privileged to have stories from that universe appear in IADR during issues 8 thru 25, and I know many of you readers got as involved in the plots and characters as I was! Some of you have sent letters asking was was happening with the series and/or its authors, and mentioning that you'd heard rumors that the writing team had broken up, or other words to that effect. All I can say is that Cheryl and Susan are, indeed, no longer writing together. All other details are, in my frank opinion, only relevant to these women and their personal friends, so there's nothing more I feel I can say...

The Mary Sue Element

While the series was positively received by some readers, others expressed bemusement at the Mary Sue aspects of the universe.

A fan in 2019 wrote:

I see the “Shadow Captain” arc [in In a Different Reality #20] as the high-water mark of the original series. It was a very ambitious project. Over the course of the ten stories that make up this collection, momentous events occur in the lives of these characters that have profound repercussions for the rest of the series.

I think this might be a good opportunity to talk about how Valjiir fits into the genre of so-called “Mary Sue” fanfic. It’s almost impossible to talk about these stories without bringing up that perennially dreaded term of all fiction featuring women in leading roles. Having two female romantic leads just creates double jeopardy here. If you go down any list of “Mary Sue” characteristics, if Ruth doesn’t check off a box, there’s a good chance Jilla will. Ruth is a hybrid. Jilla is one of those quiet women everyone loves. Recently, Clare Mosely and Kevin Bolk got a lot of attention for a comic they created called “Ensign Sue Must Die” that hilariously parodies the worst excesses of the genre. Their “Sue” could have been a caricature of Ruth Valley with her signature long blonde hair and purple eyes. Both Jilla and Ruth, because of their alien heritage, literally have superhuman empathic and/or telepathic powers. The series expends lots of ink chronicling the ladies’ sexual and romantic entanglements with several series’ regulars as well as some original characters of the authors’ creation. Therefore Valjiir would seem to fall squarely into the danger zone of the two big objections that most critics have with “Mary Sue” style stories – wish fulfilment on the part of the authors and facile resolution of plot difficulties by means of the creation of artificially over-powered characters.

Let’s leave aside entirely for another day the argument of “what the hell is wrong with women creating wish fulfilment fantasy stories? Even classic freaking literature itself is freaking full of freaking men doing in all the freaking time” and look at what goes on with these characters in “Shadow Captain” as an example of how dismissing this series as “just another typical Mary Sue” short-changes the work. Although Jilla and Ruth are powerful and popular, none of their specialness gives them any kind of short-cut out of the problems they face in these stories. Their heightened psychic sensitivity, if anything, makes things worse for them. They suffer – not just to wallow in dramatic angst – but to learn and grow from their unpleasant experiences. The “Shadow Captain” arc is most definitely about romantic relationships, but is not a fantasy of unending domestic bliss. These narratives are about women -- and men -- coping with loss of trust in their mate, their friends, and themselves. It’s about trying to control uncontrollable desire. It’s the struggle to balance career, ambition, and the relationships that sustain you.

In other words, “Shadow Captain,” like other well-written, though unfairly maligned stories of this fanfic romance genre, is about the stuff of life that women – and men – care about most deeply. [2]

The Valjiir Universe: Its Place in Trek History, Writing Style, and Sexuality

In addition to being one of the many artists who have illustrated for the series over the nearly forty-some years it has run, I’m a fan of the Valjiir stories. They are dramatic and romantic but also at times very funny and irreverent. Unlike a lot of TOS series of this sort, they don’t just tightly focus on “The Big Three” and the author’s OC’s. Spock is definitely one of the romantic leads in the series, but a lot of attention is given to supporting cast members – which I find very refreshing.

In some areas, the authors are surprisingly prescient about the direction that future Trek franchises would take. Although the first Valjiir story was published seven years before the first episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation aired, timelines for projected storylines promised readers stories about the launch of inter-generational “Nest” ships that would be crewed by our heroes and their young offspring. Before the first Ferengi ever appeared on the small screen, Valjiir was populated by the commerce-obsessed Haven who were as attractive and debonair as Quark and his kin were trollish and gauche. Before Deanna Troi and her Betazoid brethren ever intuited an emotion, in the Valjiir world, the empathic natives of Epsilon Indii had already been hard at work in those same feeling-sensing fields for almost a decade.

Although some of the authors’ attempts at inclusivity can read as a little clunky by today’s more stringent standards, Petterson and Sizemore definitely took pains to create an extended cast that adamantly was not white, Christian, nor straight. Sulu, who was also one of the series’ primary romantic leads, was one of several characters who was openly – but without a lot of undue fuss – presented as being bisexual.

This might be good point to talk about some of the difference between the fanzine Valjiir and Valjiir as it exists on the website today – In the fanzine version, characters’ bisexuality was usually drawn in very subtle, kind of ambiguous ways. A reader could look at a scene and go, “Now, does this mean those guys had sex?” The website is much more explicit. “Yep,” the reader says. “They are most definitely having them some sex right now..” The website was written almost twenty years after the last ‘zine was published. Times had changed. I don’t know how true this was for “In a Different Reality,” but most ‘zine editors worried endlessly of being accused of publishing pornography and getting thrown in jail.

The website version of Valjiir is Valjiir Uncensored. There’s cursing and explicit sex and some of what the young people call “grimdark” scenes that could have never made it into the kind of gen-zine that IDR was. And yet at its heart, it’s still goofy, sexy, angsty, funny old Valjiir. Old enough to have kids in college now, but I’ll love it forever… [3]

Art Gallery

Reactions and Reviews

1993

It's profoundly Mary Sue. Matter of fact, it's the dreaded, multi-part, marriage and eventual offspring with major characters double-Mary Sue. Yes-hold onto your lunch — I do mean two Mary Sues for the price of one. Yes, two incredibly brilliant, incredibly sexy empathics save the Enterprise every few weeks, everybody on the ship loves them no matter how bratty they act, half-alien, extremely well-connected with the upper echelons of the Federation, and multi-talented women are the heroines of this series. Valjiir is very strongly-rooted in the time from which it sprang - the 1970's, a decade that will surely always be remembered for its taste and refinement. The titles of individual stories are often taken from the titles of songs that you can now hear on "golden oldies" channels. The characters occasionally sing Stevie Nicks or Eagles tunes to each other. There are also many allusions to genre TV and movies dear to the fannish heart from that period. The plots are strangely predictable. No matter what the setup, Jilla and/or Ruth (occasionally accompanied by one of the other four hundred twenty-eight crewpeople who never seem to do anything but sit around talking about Jilla and/or Ruth) will typically end up as sacrificial bait in a trap set by one or several of the male characters. They either heroically rescue themselves or are rescued. There is much strum und drang [sic] as the male character realizes the error of his ways, then a passionate reconciliation. The authors seem to be developing a theme about martyrdom, but I have yet to fully fathom it.

Now that my taste and judgment are completely in question, let me explain what I do see in this series. The first characteristic that keeps me from consigning it to the circular file is its sense of humor. Some stories, like "The Percentage," (a trip back to the planet Iotia from "A Piece of the Action"), are played strictly for laughs. In general, Valjiir is not stiff, or sanctimonious-two characteristics I cannot abide in this genre. Despite its use of the hoary conventions of Mary Sue, its characters are multi-sided. None of them are goody two-shoes and despite the fact that Ruth and Jilla are the darlings of the ship, no one (except Spock, who is usually very tactful) is slow to tell Ruth when she's being a bitch. There are even quite a few characters who don't always feel sorry for Jilla of-the-eternal-angst Majiir. Speaking of angst, no one, not even Chris Claremont of his halcyon Byrne/Claremont X-Men days, does suffering and self-doubt like Valjiir's authors. Thank goodness one of the supporting characters is the ship's psychiatrist. Then again, she's got problems too...

And then there's the sex. As one of the minor characters writes home in a letter, "Yes, the rumor is true-all we ever do on the Enterprise is screw." All the characters are paired off with at least one boyfriend or girlfriend, or one of each in some cases. Maybe it's all those Harlequin romances I didn't read, but I seem to find VaJjiir's many passionately steamy, PG to R-rated love scenes compelling. I like the way the writers give you a fuller sense of the Federation outside Starfleet man the original series allowed. I also like the glimpses of Starflect's internal politics. Another strength of the series is the extensive cast of supporting players. Although they too often share the same opinions, they do give a sense of a Starship populated by more than just a bridge crew. Finally, although I complained about it, I like the flavor of the 1970's the series invokes for me. Admittedly, America in the 'seventies was not Paris in the 'twenties or Vienna at the turn of the century, but it was a time and place that was a part of my life. In the Valjiir universe, the sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll still flow freely in a way that for better or for worse we'll never again see in our lifetimes. [4]

1994

I have read quite a few good gen trek zines.....There is also the "Valjiir" series which was being published in the zine "In a Different Reality". It was a wonderful series...One of [authors] is continuing to write although she hasn't updated it in a while... [5]

1999

I don't know how many of you read the "Valjiir" series, which appeared in the zine "In A Different Reality". It was great.

Heterosex with 2 brand new, wonderfully developed women characters -- Ruth Maxwell Valley ani Ramy and Jilla Majiir -- Valjiir taken from their names. The series starts out when they are both young girls on very different planets and really develops their characters and their history, and then, after several stories, they both end up on the enterprise, Ruth in the science department, with Spock as a boss and Jilla in the engineering department. There is humor and sadness and lots of little details -- like nicknames that people call each other -- that make for the richness of the story. They were written by Cheryl Petterson and Susan Sizemore (Susan has gone on to write several professional romance novels, some of which have science fiction themes. [6]

2009

It achieved some popularity and notoriety as a long series of stories in a fanzine, "In a Different Reality", back in the 70's and 80's. It's back, with dozens of new stories, re-writes of all the old stories, and an enormous amount of really impressive CGI artwork. [7]
Nearly all of the Valjiir stories from IADR are [now up online], though they have been extensively re-written (and greatly improved, IMO). There are also a TON of new stories - more new ones than there were in the original batch. And there's absolutely scads of incredibly good CGI artwork. [8]
Yes, the story was written by a female. Yes, I am aware of the "Mary Sue" concept. However, don't judge this on my brief description of just ONE story in the series. The relationship between Spock and Ruth had been building for at least half a dozen issues -- that's about 10 to 15 stories. And Ruth Valley is a Human/Antari hybrid, telepathic, an empathic healer, and a competent "jack of all trades" scientist. She's a musician, and her Jewish faith is very important to her. However, this is not a "Mary Sue" situation; the Valjiir stories were written by a collaborative effort of three people -- one of them a man. [9]

2011

One of my favorite fanfic lines (from a Valjiir story) is one character asking about Rand: "Why is she wearing a basket on her head?" [10]

References

  1. Valjiir
  2. from a personal email by Teegar to MPH, quoted with permission (February 2019)
  3. from a personal email from Teegar to MPH, quoted with permission (February 2019)
  4. from Psst... Hey Kid, Wanna Buy a Fanzine? #4, a zine that prided itself on honest and entertaining reviews -- this review was written in 1993 and may not reflect the fan's current opinion
  5. Review posted to the Virgule-L mailing list dated June 16, 1994 (name withheld on request).
  6. comments from Virgule-L, quoted anonymously (March 1, 1999)
  7. September 9, 2009 post in Trek BBS FanFic Recommendations discussing the online version of the series.
  8. Aug 9, 2009 post in Trek BBS FanFic Recommendations .
  9. January 11, 2009 post in Trek BBS 'Legality Issues in Amok Time', disagreeing with the concept that the series is based on Mary Sue characters.
  10. June 11, 2011 post in Trek BBS FanFic Recommendations .