Hope for the Future: Kirk/Spock Fan Fiction
By Garret Dixon (2023)
Star Trek fanzines were an immensely popular and long-lasting phenomenon, of which, those featuring the romance between Captain James T. Kirk and his subordinate, Commander Spock (shortened to K/S), garnered their own sub-community. I propose that K/S fanzines were the ultimate Star Trek medium, surpassing its books, movies, and even the show itself. More specifically, the K/S zine industry realized Star Trek’s utopian vision in their production, distribution, and the portrayal of Kirk and Spock’s romance.
The characters of Kirk and Spock were introduced in the first Star Trek series, posthumously dubbed Star Trek: The Original Series (often shortened to TOS). Captain Kirk and his crew aboard the USS Enterprise travel the galaxy, discovering new planets and meeting new civilizations. Star Trek’s portrayal of humanity and human civilization is a utopian one; the Earth has been unified under one Federation, and mankind no longer wages war (Memory Alpha, 2004). Along with world peace, according to the Star Trek: Voyager episode “Dark Frontier”, both money and capitalism went “the way of the dinosaur ” in the 22nd century. As the creator of the show Gene Roddenberry puts it, “We must have an optimistic projection of man and his society if we are to approve of and identify with Captain Kirk, the crew of the Enterprise, and their mission” (Roddenberry, 1967). Although the Enterprise is technically a military vessel and uses military terminology for its crew, Roddenberry rather classifies it as a “semi-military”, devoted primarily to exploration (Roddenberry, 1967). In a guide to those wanting to write an episode for Star Trek, Roddenberry discloses that he primarily uses military terminology to give the audience something more familiar to contextualize the Enterprise and its crew. The crew is multi-racial (and multi-species), a third are women (wow!), and there is no class differentiation between enlisted and officers.
The phenomenon of Star Trek fanzines started with Spockanalia, created in 1967 and died out in the late 90s as fan fiction moved to digital platforms (Verba, 2003). The first K/S entry was a two page story called Grup by well-known (in the fanzine community) author Diane Merchant about two unnamed men having sex. Diane later revealed, through other writing, that these two men were Kirk and Spock. In the following years, K/S grew in popularity, leading to a massive split in the zine community between those that saw Kirk and Spock as good friends, and those that saw their relationship as something more (Verba, 2003). These K/S stories featuring two gay men were almost exclusively written by women. In the seven fanzines I use for my primary sources, with over 100 authors, over 80% of them are women. In Veldman-Genz’s Selling Gay Sex to Women, they cite the emergence of e-books and online media as a major factor in erotica’s, especially gay erotica’s, rise in popularity. Zines thrived long before the internet, due to a massive demand and many passionate groups producing zines with no other motive than the love of Star Trek.
The K/S zine publishing industry lived up to Star Trek’s post-capitalist ideal by having no large companies, no marketing teams, no advances, no royalties, and no profits. Although devoid of the profit motive, the teams that create these zines produce issue after issue, losing sleep, and still inspiring others to do the same (Zier, 1984). There is little information on how exactly this industry operated, so I looked to seven different primary sources, all zines, to glean how they were produced and distributed. The production of a zine relies on two different groups of people: those who write the pieces featured, and those who edit, put together, and print the zine itself. My seven selected zines range from about 50 pages to 250, and feature between two and 24 different authors. With smaller zines, it’s hard to tell how closely the writing and editing team work together, but with larger zine series such as Contact, people send in their stories by mail, and the editors choose which to put in the final product. The reach of fanzines is large, according to Contact 2’s Editor Page, they say they’ve received mail from every part of the US, England, and from Australia. The editing team themselves nominally work for a publishing company. In these seven fanzines there are four different series, four different publishers, and four different addresses. These publishing companies are nothing more than a front however, where every address points to a house in a subdivision, presumably the editor’s. In one case, two different publishing companies for the zines Acceptance and IDIC Log are run by one woman out of a cottage in Dundee, Scotland. There are most commonly three roles for the editing team: the editors themselves, the typing, and the printing/reproduction. The number of people on this team varies, often multiple roles are fulfilled by the same person, but never is someone alone putting together a zine. The production of a zine seems to always be a group effort, and this goes a long way to explain how people start producing zines in the first place. Those that produce new zines either have experience producing a zine before, or personally know people who produce them. In their first edition of Mind Meld, the editors thank the editing team of Contact for their help, and according to google maps, their houses , both in Baltimore, are a half hour drive apart. What I have found is a technically interesting phenomenon of a massive decentralized publishing industry, but also a remarkably intimate, organically growing community devoted to the publishing of K/S fiction.
Once the zine is edited, typed, and printed (by local no-name companies), the next step is to spread and distribute them to hungry readers (Contact 4, 1977). There are no marketing teams, instead the zines initially hand-to-hand, or word of mouth. The crucial information a reader needs to know is what the home address of the editor is. Although past the profit motive, the use of money has not gone extinct. Readers sent an SASE(self addressed stamped envelope) to the editor with money in it, adjusted for inflation about $15 for a 120 page zine up to $34 for 250 pages (Contact 8, 1982). The editor then sends the zine back in the return envelope. Many zines announce their new upcoming issue with a release date, meaning that you can simply send the money to the same address to get the next issue. To get the address for a new zine, either you get it from a friend or see an ad for it in another zine. Zine ad sections are a part of the last few pages of a zine, a kind of ‘miscellaneous’ section, usually containing trivia and advertisements for new zines and fan-made music with blurbs and addresses to send money to (Contact 4, Mind-meld I). Curiously, both Acceptance and IDIC Log do not have price tags on them at all. They are both edited by that same woman out of Scotland, and it is possible that she was distributing them for free. That, or the payment section is implied or was not digitized.
This post-capitalist industry was ironically created from corporate greed. From its very outset, copyright laws doom the industry to failure and to obscurity, yet they have become a phenomenon wide and long-lasting. Paramount owns the rights to Star Trek, but zine publishers avoid copyright violations by calling on the “Fair Use” section of copyright law (U.S Fair Use Copyright Index). Fair use says that it’s ok to use copyrighted materials without permission, as long as it’s not for profit and doesn’t cut into the owner’s profits too much. What this means, in practice, is that there will never be a monetary incentive to produce zines, and zines can never be too popular, lest they steal market share. Zines were popular, however, and the zine industry flourished unchecked by Paramount’s power. Paramount does not hesitate to enforce its claims on fan-made material, even when non-profit, like it did against the fan-funded film Axanar (Gardner, 2017). In this case, the courts decided that fair use did not apply because Axanar challenged Star Trek’s IP too directly, a logic that could easily apply to zines threatening the popularity of the many Star Trek books. The zines’ defense against this was that there were so many different publishers, to the point that trying to stamp them out would not be worth the time or money. This decentralized structure happened in fact due to the copyright law requiring that they be non-profit.
The romance between Kirk and Spock also signifies a kind of ideal relationship. In the seven fanzines I’ve cited here, there are wide variations on how this relationship is portrayed. The biggest differences are between fanzine series, with the Contact series being more physical and featuring stronger declarations of love than Mind-meld and Acceptance. It appears that the zine editors choose submissions that roughly fit the zine’s theme, primarily along the lines of how explicit Kirk and Spock’s relationship is and if there are stories from other characters featured in the zine. Contact is about exclusively Kirk and Spock, whereas IDIC Log has stories from several different viewpoints. There are noticeable differences within fanzines as well, as each piece has a unique author. Within Contact 8 itself the stories range from platonic adventures of Kirk and Spock to stories where dangerous situations lead to physical contact and declarations of love.
All these stories, regardless of variation, represent a utopian ideal of a relationship. K/S is not free from conflict, in fact, they fight with each other quite often. However, they always end up together at the end closer than they were before. Along with this happily-ever-after ending, Kirk and Spock are shown to be able to perfectly communicate with each other. Stories in Contact 8 make use of telepathy to allow Kirk and Spock to perfectly understand each other. Spock is from an alien species called the Vulcan, and all Vulcan have the ability to mind meld with other sentient beings, allowing pure thoughts and emotions to be transmitted between them. One caress of the cheek or touching of foreheads, and Kirk and Spock are able to directly communicate. This is rarely shown as perfect, it’s quite taxing on Kirk’s human brain, but Kirk and Spock are seen working on it and working to communicate better through it. This, too, represents an ideal scenario between two people, where physical, emotional, and mental barriers break down completely and two become one.
Fanzines are a present day manifestation of the utopian ideal of the future ingrained in the stories of Star Trek. Although Star Trek: The Original Series provided the source material for fanzines, the show itself did not live up to its own ideals. Star Trek is an incredibly profitable IP for Paramount, and therefore is forced to place profitability above all else. Star Trek was canceled after only three seasons and less than three years on air because its ratings on NBC were too low (Asher, 1993). Fanzines, however, have no such bounds. Those who produce them do it without the quest for profit and without the need for ratings. Arguably, the fanzine industry is more successful than the show itself, as TOS zines were produced in great numbers for over thirty years, rather than the three of TOS itself. Not worrying about ratings or making money may have opened the door to explore gay romance itself. Not dependent on social norms or wide acceptance, zines were able to express and fantasize about areas that the show dared not go.
The K/S fanzine industry is a pure manifestation of love and of the ideals of Star Trek. The mammoth zine industry operates as a non-profit, as the production of fanzines is a combination of crowd-sourced art pieces put together by an editing team in someone’s house and printed by a local lithographer. Readers acquire these fanzines by mailing said editor’s house an envelope with money and get the zine back, and they hear about the address from friends or from another zine. This diffuse, intimate industry is entirely shaped by the threat of copyright litigation by Paramount, yet adapts and succeeds because of it. The content of K/S zines, the romance between Kirk and Spock, also represents an ideal of a relationship with no emotional, mental, or physical barriers between two people. Star Trek depicts a post-scarcity society that no longer uses money as incentive, yet people still work together and reach for the stars, and in that way, I think zines are its most faithful medium.
Roddenberry, Gene. Star Trek Writers/Directors Guide. Paramount TV Production, 1967.
Harmony Press, ed. Contact 1, 1975. https://archive.org/details/StarTrek-Contact-1
Harmony Press, ed. Contact 2, 1976. https://archive.org/details/StarTrek-Contact-2
Harmony Press, ed. Contact 4, 1977. https://archive.org/details/StarTrek-Contact-4
Harmony Press, ed. Contact 8, 1982. https://archive.org/details/star-trek-contact-8
ScotPress, ed. Acceptance, 1982. https://archive.org/details/StarTrek_Acceptance
Zier, Sandy, ed. Mind Meld 1, 1984. https://archive.org/details/StarTrek-MindMeld-1-JQ-OCR
IDIC, ed. IDIC Log 13, 1993. https://archive.org/details/IDIC_Log_13/mode/2up
Verba, Joan Marie. Boldly Writing: A Trekker Fan and Zine History 1967 –. 2nd ed. FTL Publications, 2003.
Veldman-Genz, Carol. “Selling Gay Sex to Women.” Essay. In Women and Erotic Fiction: Critical Essays on Genres, Markets and Readers, edited by Kristen Phillips, 133–49. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2015.
Gardner, Eriq. “CBS, Paramount Settle Lawsuit over ‘Star Trek’ Fan Film.” The Hollywood Reporter. The Hollywood Reporter, January 22, 2017. https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/business/business-news/cbs-paramount-settle-lawsuit-star-trek-fan-film-966433/.
“ U.S. Copyright Office Fair Use Index.” copyright.gov. Accessed April 14, 2023. https://www.copyright.gov/fair-use/.
“United Federation of Planets.” Memory Alpha. Fandom. Accessed May 5, 2023. https://memory-alpha.fandom.com/wiki/United_Federation_of_Planets#Economy.
Asherman, Allan. The Star Trek Compendium. New York: Pocket Books, 1993.