intrigueing: (Default)
intrigueing ([personal profile] intrigueing) wrote2014-12-20 12:13 am

Classic Zines: Contact #2 (Star Trek: TOS)

Here's my overview of Issue #2 (first published in 1975) of the Star Trek TOS zine "Contact." I wrote about Issue #1 back here. This issue differs from the previous one mostly in that it has a larger variety of authors and artists. There are a lot more stories, and they have more variation in plot as well. The contents are pretty similar though - stories, art, several poems, songs, and the answers and winners of the games from Issue #1, plus a parody. Unfortunately, none of the stories in this issue were transcribed in regular text on, so you'll have to open the pdf on the page for issue #2 to read them. Issue #2 can be read as pdf and cbz over here, if you're interested. Fascinating stuff!

I like them better that way, to be honest -- I love the feeling of reading those old typed pages, with the same old typeface, formatting, and little visual quirks that the actual physical copy had. The little doodles, the way the poems' layout looks, etc. See for yourself! It has a very different and far more memorable effect than reading just the text copied into a modern blog post, stripped of its context. The feel is not nearly as palpable as the Zebra Three zine, since that was an actual physical vintage copy from 1979, and this is just an online PDF. Zebra Three I could hold in my hands and smell it and feel how soft the pages had been worn, how carefully I had to turn them, how old and faded the ink was, but it's still miles more "atmospheric" or whatever than a transcription of the text.

The artwork is leagues better than Issue #1. One of the artists (and poets) is Signe Langdon, who did a number of gorgeous illustrations for Zebra Three #1 and #3 as well. Some of the other illustrations, by Leslie Fish, have a really weird, distinctive woodcut-ish style that's pretty cool.

This issue was apparently dedicated to "Dr. Leonard McCoy, for the special contribution he brings to the Kirk/Spock relationship, and to DeForest Kelly, for making "Bones" such an integral part of the triad."


Of course, in the actual zine content, there's just a couple of poems and one story (The Third Wheel) that really indicate this spirit. Most of them, like in issue #1, are focused on Kirk and Spock. However, it's really sweet to see how the editors and various authors have framed the "Kirk/Spock" relationship (btw, back here, lots of people back in this time apparently used the signage "Kirk/Spock" to just refer to the relationship, not to slash in particular) through McCoy's eyes.

All About That Bones

McCoy. Dear McCoy. My favorite TOS character, if I had to pick. Like I said in the previous post on Contact, McCoy's Eyes are the single greatest narrative device that has ever existed when it comes to analyzing a fictional relationship in fanfic. McCoy's Eyes are the integral to Kirk-Spock -- he's the perfect storm of intimate familiarity and third-party outside perspective and believable curiosity. And without McCoy's Eyes, I'm pretty sure Kirk/Spock would not have come into existence the way it did. It's insane how much of the fans' attempts to put into words the way they feel about the Kirk-Spock relationship - everything that's fascinating and appealing about them - is done via McCoy, with the fans stepping into McCoy's shoes, putting their words into McCoy's mouth, etc. It's partly a thing because it happens so much in canon -- in various episodes, it was already a built-in narrative device (it happens more than once, though the ends of Amok Time and Requiem for Methuselah are probably the biggest examples) for McCoy to bridge Spock's feelings to the viewer.

He's also fulcrum of so much fannish tension - not so much outright discord, from what I can see, but a mostly unmentioned, but very obvious, push-and-pull between various cohorts of fans. On one hand, the show is persistently oblique about making clear statements about the various relations between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. Is it more of a Kirk-Spock duo, with McCoy as the most prominent member of the supporting cast? Or is it a Kirk-Spock-McCoy trio, just with very different relationship dynamics between Kirk-McCoy, Kirk-Spock, and McCoy-Spock? It seems to change depending on the episode. Either way, very few Kirk/Spock shippers or Kirk&Spock friendship-focus fans seem to actually dislike or devalue McCoy, but at the same time are mostly interested in Kirk and Spock (good thing McCoy wasn't a woman, or she'd have been bashed and demonized to hell and back, no doubt), leading to a lot of "so, how do we address this issue?" discussions. Plenty are thoughtful and interesting but more often are unintentionally hilarious or irritating (like all fanfic - Sturgeon's Law!). Here are the most popular ones I could think of off the top of my head:

1. "Explaining" how McCoy's relationship with them is just different, making a big detailed analytical manifesto of it.
Result if written well: a fascinating character study about how people's relationships with different people are all unique.
Result if written badly: Methinks The Fan Doth Protest Too Much.

2. Including McCoy or emphasizing his contribution to the triumvirate to go "look, seriously, you guys, he's totally awesome!"
Result if written well: Way of showing that love is an inclusive rather than an exclusive emotion, and the amount of love you feel for one person does not diminish the love you are able to feel for another person.
Result if written badly: So what you're trying to say is, McCoy's worth as a character is entirely predicated on the extent to which Kirk and Spock deign to include him in their friendship?

3. Making all slash into Kirk/Spock/McCoy rather than Kirk/Spock.
Result if written well: awesome complex OT3ness
Result if written badly: Making McCoy "just" Kirk or Spock (or both's) best friend inherently devalues McCoy's importance to them! People in successful romantic relationships don't want or need friends!

It depends entirely on how the fic is written. Narrowness of scope is key, I think. If you find yourself making broad blanket statements that use the words "inherently," "impossible," or "mere," then congratulations, your fic is rude and stupid. Better luck next time! But if you're writing specific scenarios or ideas or emotions where the various facets of human relationships that the above scenarios tie into are at the core of the story, it's much more likely to work well. Which brings me to the first poem, the first art, and the first story in the zine:

The most gorgeous piece of art in the zine is a inkbrush portrait of McCoy by Trinette Kern. It's really, really just beautiful, wonderfully done with nothing clunky or uncertain about it, and catches that distinctive way his eyebrows go just perfectly.

Before even the table of contents, there is a poem (no author given, so I assume it was written by Beverly and Nancy, the editors) kind of trying to put together meta on the triad aspect. It's clunky but sweet and seems to articulate these particular fans' perspective on the whole issue very clearly. Since it's only in that PDF up there, I'm gonna go out on a limb and say it's fine to transcribe it here:

Devotion to your logic -
there are times when even I
Have failed to understand it -
no matter how I try.

Obsession, Human feelings -
times I cannot comprehend
The purpose of your actions -
even though you are my friend.

I reach for you, and sometimes -
I seek, and only find
Inadequate expression -
insufficient to my kind.

I sometimes fail to reach the goals -
emotions often see,
And Human thoughts...yes even yours -
are mysteries to me.

At times we need an outlet -
someone to stand apart,
And understand your logic -
while feeling with my heart.

A catalyst ingredient -
through which our souls can meet,
The CONTACT strengthened by this bond -
is even more complete.


It's not really what later fans have analyzed into almost-canon -- the ego/id/superego divisions, etc. Or the McCoy and Spock being framed as opposites and finding it most difficult to understand each other even though they both understand Kirk. So interesting to see these earlier, less-fandom-influenced ideas.

Leonard McCoy IS Tom Sawyer in "Nobody Loves Me, Everybody Hates Me, Guess I'll Go Eat Worms"

The first story in the zine is The Third Wheel, by Connie Faddis. It's...well, it's idfic. I don't think fans had any clear-cut concept or category of idfic at this point, even under a different name than "idfic," but it existed, and this story (or at least the first 3/4ths of the story) is it.

The best description of idfic I've ever seen comes from a comment on [community profile] fail_fandomanon saying "Id fic is the anti-pretentious fic....Badly written or no, I'm still sitting there, slurping coffee, reading with wide eyes as my brain shoots up with mega doses of serotonin to reward me for reading EXACTLY WHAT IT WANTS, OH GOD YES." And oh boy does The Third Wheel fall into this category for the beleaguered McCoy fan. If I had read this story back in my teen years, I might have dropped dead from a spontaneous dopamine overdose.

It concerns McCoy angsting desolately to himself about being, well, the third wheel, in the trio, and how Kirk and Spock ignore him, and obviously like each other more than they like him, and are just putting up with him, and he thought he was making friends with Spock but Spock only cares about Kirk, and maybe he'll run away to Jackson Island to be a pirate and then they'll be sorry he should just leave so they don't have to pretend to be friends with some old grump like him anymore. Then the plot strikes and yada yada, misunderstanding clearups ensue. It gives me vivid flashbacks to when I was a preteen fighting ferociously with my second-best friend over who got to be our mutual best friend's One True Best Friend. It's a bit hilarious, but within the parameters of a teenage-girly idfic with an unsubtle axe to grind, it actually works weirdly well, mostly because it's a) short and b) all just McCoy's private overtired doubts which he himself tries to dismiss as silly - he doesn't go about actually putting these ideas into his behavior. More fodder for my long-held theory that there are very few inherently bad stories, only bad writers.

But that's just the first 2/3rds of the fic. It also follows Connie's pattern of both De Profundis and Mojave Crossing -- starting out good, and then somehow, magically, late in the story, something inside the story fuses and melts and transforms into something incredible and breathtaking and very different. And in the last conversation between Spock and McCoy it's no longer idfic but it's a pitch-perfect moment of connection, really sincere, meaningful, and just plain lovely. Like a plot twist, except it's not the plotline that gets twisted. An emotion growth-twist? A character-relationship-arc twist? I don't know, but the ending of The Third Wheel is the most heartwarming new thing I've read in some time.

The Seinfeld Effect

There's also one ("The Logical Choice") where Spock gets a promotion offer, but he turns it down because he'd rather serve on the Enterprise. That's the whole thing! It actually sort of interested me because I'm not sure anyone nowadays would dare write this boringly "duh!" a story for Star Trek now, but fandom was possibly quite different back then. Spock turning down a command because he wants to stay with Kirk has been done about 89 times (and variations have been done a further 460 times in other fandoms), but maybe this one was the first. You never know! Similarly, there's "An Act of Love" in which Kirk goes through some classic Trek psychic ordeal that reads like an orgasm to save Spock's life. Do I even have to comment? ;)

There's "Denevan Orbit" a re-write/sequel to Operation: Annhiliate! (aka, that episode that I love but where the '60s-ness of TOS kinda shows its ass by doing the single most random Vulcan physiology asspull ever -- and being TOS, this is saying a lot -- at the end, and by making it look like Kirk doesn't give a shit that his brother died). It mixes together aspects of the canon episode and some 1970s novelization I'm unfamiliar with, and so I feel like I'm missing something, but it fleshes out Kirk's relationship with his nephew and makes the episode more complete.

There are also the two winners to the last issue's writing contest (take a passage that the editors came up with and write a story around it). One is about Kirk angsting over an offscreen dead OC love interest. For some reason I can't figure out, it's actually better than it sounds, perhaps because it's just the right length or because it ends bleakly instead of in a pat fixup. The other one has Kirk getting paralyzed and the rest of the crew except Spock getting killed, and then Spock turns Kirk into a Vulcan...sort of? get his mobility back. It's sort of terrible and unintentional crack, but it's a fresh, creative sort of terrible that actually stretches the mind into new areas.

There's also "Nightmare Ending," a somewhat roughly-written but good, affecting, and non-boring story about Kirk and Spock having a shared nightmare about being violently killed. Spock goes to Kirk's room to see if he's okay and then puts him to sleep because Kirk is afraid of dreaming again. Any Star Trek fan knows that the trope of Kirk and Spock developing some kind of psychic bond is one that has been done, repeated, fanonized, re-done, and meta-tized in fandom (especially in slash fic, but in gen as well). To be honest, it's also a trope that has actually always baffled me a bit because it doesn't have much connection to Kirk and Spock's friendship, which is based on respect, curiosity, unexpected kindred spiritedness, and acceptance of difference. Kirk and Spock are not the in-sync, inseparable, intertwined, knows-everything-about-each-other brain twins that some other epic best friends are. But apparently this psychic bond thing was something that appealed and still appeals to many Trek fans very deeply. (I would be sincerely very curious to get someone else's perspective on this).

What I'm really getting from a lot of these fics is the Seinfeld Effect. This is when people watch Seinfeld and go "so? what's so special and unique about that?" because it's loaded with rather straightforward, predictable, unsophisticated versions of things all the TV sitcoms they watch nowadays regularly do, things that are such commonplace sitcom staples that it's hard to realize that back when Seinfeld did them, the those things mere existence was fresh and new and exciting and rare. Basically, most of the fics here make me go "haven't people done this a hundred times before, better?" before realizing that actually, maybe there hadn't been that many fics like this, and even if there were, they couldn't have just been quickly googled. Then again, many of the 1970s reviews on fanlore mock and rip apart the stories too - but I'd bet those would be written by the few involved fans who were able to read lots of fic -- not people who got their hands on one or two zines in a sea of nothing.

Of course, when my faith in the quality of these fics is gearing back up again, I come to the parody, "Kert Rats," (no hints on the title). It is not funny. At all. The sheer not-funniness is actually kind of painful. Except for the line that starts "Ensign Checkoff stopped combing his hair..."

And speaking of Mary Sues....well, I was going to write up a big mocking pointless slice of lollery about the cracktastic soap opera that is Star Trek: Phase II (the fic, not the ill-fated fan series), but then I thought, y'know, mocking the fic of a dead mid-'70s Star Trek pioneering fanfic writer is bad form, and anyway I was getting into a groove with a bunch of Mary Sue-related thoughts so maybe I'll put that in my next post.

raven: Karen Gillan as Amy Pond, wearing green and red and looking up (Default)

[personal profile] raven 2014-12-20 12:24 pm (UTC)(link)
This is such an amazing post, thank you! I love this kind of fannish archaeology, and also, I think I was already thinking about Seinfeld halfway down the post and then was delighted when you actually mentioned it. Also, oh, Leonard McCoy. Still inspiring the love all these years on. :)
lunabee34: (Default)

[personal profile] lunabee34 2014-12-20 04:58 pm (UTC)(link)
I am loving these posts! So so cool.
esteefee: (kirk)

[personal profile] esteefee 2014-12-29 11:42 pm (UTC)(link)
Your xpost is giving me a DNS error for some reason, stupid LJ, but I wanted to point you to a cool ST meta by thingswithwings if you haven't already seen it.