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Prospectus

“Trekkie

noun (pl. Trekkies) informal. A fan of the US science fiction television program Star Trek.”

–      From the Oxford English Dictionary.

     Stars, tiny pinpoints of light, gradually approach out of an inky black background, providing a sense of movement within the vast darkness. Suddenly an elegantly streamlined white form zooms out of the darkness.[1] The craft, with its saucer-disc main body connected to a lower engine and two wing-like engines, is unmistakable. A disembodied voice proclaims:

“Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”

     This is Star Trek. Ever since the show’s debut in 1966, Star Trek has become a ubiquitous part of popular culture. The NBC television show challenged the social norms of the Sixties while giving the world a glimpse of the utopian future humanist and Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry envisioned. Equally as interesting as Star Trek itself are the fans of the series-turned-franchise: the Trekkies.[2] Today the love, dedication, and adoration of all things Star Trek makes the fans as much of a cultural phenomenon as the franchise itself. Fans of Star Trek witnessed Gene Roddenberry’s ideals and hopeful vision of the future and responded accordingly- with a fervor and vivacity unimaginable, and in infinitely diverse ways. Trekkies, it seemed, were uniquely motivated to action, based on what they saw in Star Trek. Star Trek fans put their passion into action and created a new fandom, one with a size, depth, and devotion never before achieved by other fandoms prior.

     It is one thing to be a fan of something, to enjoy something on an individual level; it is another entirely to engage with others and participate in a community based around the fan-focus. The key aspects of fandom are that it is participatory and engenders a sense of community. While the concept of fandom predates Star Trek (The World Science Fiction Society had been active and hosting World Science Fiction Conventions to celebrate literary science fiction since the 1930s), Star Trek fandom established the hallmarks of modern participatory fan traditions: fan fictions, fan conventions, and fan influence.[3]

     In the early days of the Star Trek fandom there was no Internet, so fans created various means of long distance fandom participation and communication, the most prolific of which were fanzines[4]. Fanzines were the result of the love and toil of fans who wrote for them, drew for them, edited them, and published them all by hand, all small-scale, and never for profit.[5]

     The Star Trek zine-scene began in September 1967, the same month the second season premiered. This first Trek-only fanzine was a one-shot fanzine titled Spockanalia, but its popularity encouraged the publishers to create future issues. The 90-page mimeographed fanzine began with a letter from actor Leonard Nimoy, who played the popular Science officer, Mr. Spock, wishing them luck in their endeavors.[6]

     Within a year, more fanzines joined the ranks of Spockanalia, heralding the beginning of a massive fanzine community. Fanzines were a means of open communication between fans worldwide when there were few other forms of long-distance interaction available. This enabled fans to participate in fandom even if there were no other local Trekkies. Fanzines were the first global fandom forum. The number of fanzines peaked in 1977, with 431 active fanzines listed by the Star Trek Welcommittee.[7]

     Given how integral fanzines were to Star Trek fandom, it is unsurprising fanzines were the medium through which fans engaged in discourse, sharing their writing and theories with other fans across the globe. The “Trekker vs. Trekkie” debate began within fanzines; a topic occasionally debated today.

      Fanzines were also the epicenter of debates about homoerotic fan fiction that focused on Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock’s relationship[8]. Kirk/Spock or K/S is a subset of romantically-themed fan fiction created by some authors for various reasons. Kirk/Spock fan fiction first appeared in a zine in 1974 and was so vague initially no one could tell exactly what sort sexual liaison it involved.[9]  Once it was apparent that there were fans who supported this homosexual relationship, debates ensued and continued well into the late 1980s, with each side meticulously arguing the merits of their viewpoints. Eventually Kirk/Spock-focused zines entered publication, which allowed the supporters of the relationship to exercise their creativity without fear of criticism.

     Along with aiding in the popularity of slash fan fiction (the term referred to the “/” mark between two characters, a shorthand way of referring to the homosexual romance genre in fan fiction), Star Trek fanzines were also responsible for another fan fiction genre that is now present in all geek fandoms: the Mary Sue. The term Mary Sue refers to an original female character a fan fiction author can create to act as wish fulfillment and insert a proxy of themselves into their stories. These Mary Sue-type characters are often young, beautiful, ridiculously intelligent, and tend to save the day on many occasions while having one or more of the male cast fall in love with them. The actual term “Mary Sue” first appeared in the 1973 fanzine publication Menagerie 2, which deliberately parodied this increasingly popular character archetype. In Enterprising Women, Camille Bacon-Smith describes these wish fulfillment fan fictions as a coming of age story for young women leaving adolescence.[10]

     Both Slash fan fiction and the Mary Sue archetype are by no means integral parts of the craft of fan fiction or even fandom, but they are two highly visible examples of how authors experimented through fanzines, and how this experimentation lead to fanzine-based discourse within the fandom. Slash fan fiction and the Mary Sue trope are still widely utilized today, and are present across all geek and entertainment fandoms. Such fandom traditions are evidence of the encouraging nature of fandom to allow fans to find their own means of participation. Communication between fans in person and through fanzines established a complex network of connections, tying the Trekkies into a single global fandom.

     Star Trek celebrated its 50th anniversary in September 2016, providing the opportune time, availability of materials, and interest for an examination of how the Star Trek fandom, and modern fandom by extension, developed between 1966 and 1980 through the lens of fan-creations. In fact, I would argue the increasing necessity of such an examination of this crucial era in Star Trek and fandom history. Research into fandom history poses two primary problems. First is arguing the topic’s historicity. Unlike a historical event, fandom is a fairly niche interest, and only with the rise in cultural historical studies can the case for the necessity of research be made among the majority of non-geek historians. There are large gaps in the knowledge of fandom history simply due to the lack of historians who view it as a proper topic of study, or are willing to research it. Second, is the problem of practicality, or more specifically, the increasing scarcity of resources, which will likely on worsen with time. As Star Trek continues to age so too, do its fans and their fan creations. Adult fans of Star Trek: The Original Series when it first aired are beginning to pass, and with them their experiences. Similarly, Trek fans or their descendants possibly no longer value fan art, fan fiction, and fanzines from the early years of Star Trek[11]. A once-beloved drawing or fanzine could easily end up in a musty box in an attic, where time will eventually degrade it, or worse, these artifacts could be viewed as garbage and thrown out or destroyed. As such, an investigation of early Star Trek fandom, utilizing both individuals and fan creations as primary sources would be invaluable now and in the future.

     There are researchers who see the value in fandom history and in preserving its artifacts, which will doubtless prove invaluable in the research. Camille Bacon-Smith in her work Enterprising Women: Television Fandom and the Creation of Popular Myth and Henry Jenkins in his ethnography Textual Poachers: Television Fans & Participatory Fandom both critically examine fan fiction, those who write it, and why they do so. Anne Kustritz’s article “Slashing the Romance Narrative” is an in-depth study of the creation and popularity of slash fan fiction, specifically in the Star Trek fanzine era. Joan Marie Verba provides an excellent contribution to the knowledge base, especially in fanzine history, with her Star Trek Fanzine historiography, Boldy Writing: A Trek Fan and Fan fiction History, 1967-1987.

     In regards to artifact preservation, there exist multiple individuals and organizations which endeavor to protect and preserve the part of the Star Trek fandom. One of the most notable is Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who is also an avid Star Trek fan and collector. Brooks Peck, a curator at the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle, utilized much of Paul Allen’s collection to create a massive exhibit showcasing original props and costumes from all Star Trek series and movies, the likes of which had never been seen. The original set model of the Starship Enterprise resides in the National Air and Space Museum, protected and preserved for perpetuity. The acquisition and preservation of fandom creations, is also present, though on a smaller, and less illustrious, scale. There exist multiple archives across the United States which house various fan letter, fan art, and fanzine collections, the largest of which is the Eaton Collection in the University of California, Riverside.

     Despite the efforts of these researchers and preservationists, and the importance of Star Trek fandom in the development of many modern fandom traditions, there are still areas of the fandom which have remained largely unexamined. I wish to conduct a thesis project studying fanzines and their role in the origins of modern participatory fandom. While the fanzine historiography Boldly Writing compiled the publication history of Star Trek fanzines, and others have researched fanzines for their fan fiction components, to date there have been no serious research endeavors into fanzine analysis as a whole; both the fan art and discourse elements of fanzines have been neglected as research components. With this research, it will be possible to see how individuals participated in fandom through fanzines and how fanzines helped influence discussion and development within Star Trek’s participatory fandom. Fanzines were periodical publications, and were sites of new art, stories, and topics of discussion among fans. As they were made by fans and for fans, they were also mutually influential, both being advanced by and advancing the fandom. In terms of historical research, fanzines are artifacts capable of providing a snapshot of popular fan art, fan fictions, discourse, and also outside cultural, societal, and historical influences on the Star Trek fandom. As an entirely fandom-based media, fanzines are the perfect tool with which to examine early Trek fandom.

     For this thesis project, I plan to utilize my dual backgrounds as an historian and an artist to analyze individual fanzines for both their historical and artistic contributions to the development of modern fandom through Star Trek. I will be using a mix of fanzines which are available online or via reproduction, as well as physical fanzines located in archives and from my own collection. To begin, I will be examining the complete collection of Spockanalia and T-Negative. With this research, I plan to create an online digital exhibit so the general public can see these often hard-to-find fanzines, and understand their contributions to the development of modern participatory fandom, especially in how they served as the first fandom forum and helped unify and energize a diverse, international fandom in the era before the Internet. This digital exhibit will also include plans for a future physical exhibit, compiled in the form of an exhibit brief.

     Fanzines once formed the nexus of fandom. With the arrival of the Internet fanzines lost their main purpose: long-distance fandom unification. Internet forums, blogs, and fansites replaced fanzines as tools of communication and fan creation. Fanzines as they were before the Internet simply don't exist in the same form today. These are invaluable artifacts for understanding how early fandom functioned and developed and are worthy of critical historical examination, lest their contributions be forgotten.

Timeline of Project

 

September-November 2017 --- Research       

            During this time I’ll work to gather and analyze fanzines for analysis. These will come from my own collection, and also from contacts and resources I have with various archives. 

 

December 2017 --- Website

            Around this point I would like to begin compiling the website, if not sooner. I could use a JMU-based website, or non-JMU websites such as Weebly, Wix, or Reclaim Hosting.

 

January- March 2018 --- Refining

             During this time, I would like to work on getting the online exhibit website into working condition, and refine my research/analysis. I also hope to use this time to begin work on the physical exhibit brief.

 

March 9-11 2018  --- Madicon Presentation

            During the second weekend of Spring Break is Madicon 27, a local sci-fi/fantasy convention of which I am the Conchair. Sometime in the duration of Madicon I wish to present my research as a panel, likely with the accompaniment of some of my personal fanzine collection.

 

Mid-March-April --- Editing

            No new research will be conducted during this time, and will instead be spent reviewing and editing my research and the website itself.

 

Bibliography

Primary Sources: 

Berman, Ruth ed. T-Negative 1. June 1969. 

Berman, Ruth ed. T-Negative 2, reprint. April 1976.

Berman, Ruth ed. T-Negative 3, reprint. October 1975.

Berman, Ruth ed. T-Negative 4, reprint. June 1976.

Berman, Ruth ed. T-Negative 5, reprint.  February 1970.

Berman, Ruth ed. T-Negative 6, reprint. September 1975.

Berman, Ruth ed. T-Negative 7, reprint. October 1975.

Berman, Ruth ed. T-Negative 8, reprint. December 1975.

Berman, Ruth ed. T-Negative 9. January 1971.

Berman, Ruth ed. T-Negative 10, reprint. February 1976.

Berman, Ruth ed. T-Negative 11, reprint. May 1976.

Berman, Ruth ed. T-Negative 12, reprint. June 1975.

Berman, Ruth ed. T-Negative 13. December 1971. 

Berman, Ruth ed. T-Negative 14, reprint. 1976.

Berman, Ruth ed. T-Negative 15, reprint. July 1976.

Berman, Ruth ed. T-Negative 16, reprint. December 1976.

Berman, Ruth ed. T-Negative 17, reprint. January 1977.

Berman, Ruth ed. T-Negative 18. October 1972.

Berman, Ruth ed. T-Negative 19, reprint. August 1977.

Berman, Ruth ed. T-Negative 20, reprint. November 1977.

Berman, Ruth ed. T-Negative 21, reprint. July 1978.

Berman, Ruth ed. T-Negative 22, reprint. December 1975

Berman, Ruth ed. T-Negative 23, reprint. March 1976.

Berman, Ruth ed. T-Negative 24. September 1974.

Berman, Ruth ed. T-Negative 25. December 1974.

Berman, Ruth ed. T-Negative 26. March 1975.

Berman, Ruth ed. T-Negative 27. April 1975.

Berman, Ruth ed. T-Negative 28. September 1975.

Berman, Ruth ed. T-Negative 29. October 1975. 

Berman, Ruth ed. T-Negative 30/31. March 1976.

Berman, Ruth ed. T-Negative 32/33. March 1977.

Berman, Ruth ed. T-Negative 34/35. March 1979.

How William Shatner Changed the World. Produced by Allumination. 86 min. The Discovery Channel, 2005, DVD.

Langsam, Devra and Sherna Comerford, eds. Spockanalia 1, 6th ed. July 1976.

Langsam, Devra and Sherna Comerford, eds. Spockanalia 2, 4th ed. March 1976.

Langsam, Devra and Sherna Burley, eds. Spockanalia 3, 5th ed. August 1978.

Langsam, Devra and Sherna Burley, eds. Spockanalia 4, 4th ed. October 1978.

Langsam, Deborah Devra Langsam, and Sherna Burley, eds. Spockanalia 5, 5th ed. January 1983.

Lichtenberg, Jacqueline, Sondra Marshak, and Joan Winston. Star Trek Lives! New York: Bantam Books, 1975.

Nichols, Nichelle. “Star Trek's Uhura Reflects On MLK Encounter.” Interview by Michel Martin (National Public Radio 17 January 2011). http://www.npr.org/2011/01/17/132942461/Star-Treks-Uhura-Reflects-On-MLK-Encounter (Accessed 16 March 2017).

Sacket, Susan. Letters to Star Trek. New York: Ballantine Books, 1977. 

Trekkies. Produced by W.K. Border. 86 min. Paramount, 1997, DVD.

Trekkies 2. Produced by W.K. Border. 93 min. Paramount, 2004, DVD.

Trimble, Bjo. “Bjo Trimble: The Woman Who Saved Star Trek: Part 1 & 2.” Interview by StarTrek.com staff. (StarTrek.com, 30 August & 1 September 2011). http://www.startrek.com/article/bjo-trimble-the-woman-who-saved-star-trek-part-1

http://www.startrek.com/article/bjo-trimble-the-woman-who-saved-star-trek-part-2

(Accessed 28 November, 2016)

Trimble, Bjo. “Episode 42, Women in Fandom: Bjo Trimble.” Interview by Crew. (Women At Warp Podcast, 25 September 2016) http://www.womenatwarp.com/episode-42-bjo-trimble/ (Accessed 28 November 2016) 

Trimble, Bjo. On the Good Ship Enterprise: My 15 Years with Star Trek. Virginia Beach: Donning Company, 1983.

Trimble, Bjo and Dorothy Jones Heydt, Star Trek Concordance. New York: Ballantine Books, 1976. 

Winston, Joan The Making of the Trek Conventions: Or, How to Throw a Party for 12,000 of Your Most Intimate Friends. New York: Doubleday, 1977.

 

Secondary Sources:

Adams-Price, Carolyn and Sophia Chandler. “The Star Fleet Ladies Auxiliary: Evolution of an OnLine Women’s Mailing List.” Cyberpsychology & Behavior 3, no.5 (2000): 811- 816.

Alexander, David. Star Trek Creator: The Authorized Biography of Gene Roddenberry. New York: Roc Books, 1994.

Bacon-Smith, Camille. Enterprising Women: Television Fandom and the Creation of Popular Myth. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1992.

Bjorklund, Edi. “Women and Star Trek Fandom: From SF to Sisterhood.” Minerva 4, no.1 (Winter 1984): 16-65.

Blair, Karin. “Sex and Star Trek.” Science-Fiction Studies 10 (1983): 292- 297.

Frazetti, Daryl G. “Star Trek and the Culture of Fandom” 26 April 2011. http://www.startrek.com/article/star-trek-and-the-culture-of-fandom (Accessed 28 November 2016).

Greenwald, Jeff. Future Perfect: How Star Trek Conquered Planet Earth. New York: Viking Books, 1998.

Gross, Edward, and Mark A. Altman. The Fifty-Year Mission: The First 25 Years. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2016.

Gross, Edward, and Mark A. Altman. The Fifty-Year Mission: The Next 25 Years. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2016.

Jenkins, Henry. Textual Poachers: Television Fans & Participatory Culture. New York: Routledge, 1992

Kustritz, Anne. “Slashing the Romance Narrative.” The Journal of American Culture 26, no.3 (September 2003): 371-384.

McArdle, Molly. “This is How Star Trek Invented Fandom” 21 September 2016. http://www.gq.com/story/this-is-how-star-trek-invented-fandom (Accessed 28 November 2016) 

McNally, Victoria. “Women who love ‘Star Trek’ are the reason that modern fandom exists” 8 September 2016. http://www.revelist.com/tv/star-trek-fandom-50th/4643 (Accessed 28 November 2016)

Oler, Tammy. “Keep on Trekkin’: Star Trek and the Legacy of Female Fandom. ” Bitch, Summer 2008, issue 40, 64-69.

Pearson, Roberta. “Bachies, Trekkies, and Sherlockians.” In Fandom: Identities and Communities in a Mediated World, ed. Jonathan Gray, Cornel Sandvoss, and C. Lee Harrington. New York: New York University Press, 2007.

Peck, Brooks. “It’s Everywhere.” Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds Exhibit. Museum of Pop Culture, Seattle, Washington (Visited 4 February 2017). 

Peck, Brooks. “What Else Was On the Tube?” Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds Exhibit. Museum of Pop Culture, Seattle, Washington (Visited 4 February 2017). 

Tenuto, John. “The Myth of The Star Trek Fan” Trekmovie.com. 24 September 2006. http://trekmovie.com/2006/09/24/the-myth-of-the-star-trek-fan/ (Accessed 28 November 2016).

Verba, Joan Marie. Boldly Writing: A Trek Fan and Fan fiction History 1967-1987, 2nd ed. Minnetonka: FTL Publications, 1996.

 


[1] Some portions of this paper have appeared in other works by the other, “Trekkies: Boldly Going where No Fan Has Gone Before” and “To Have Boldly Gone: Star Trek, its Context, and its Fans,” both for HIST 673.

[2] There is still avid debate about whether the proper term for a Star Trek fan is “Trekkie” or “Trekker.” Some feel the term “Trekkie” is derogatory towards fans.

[3] Tammy Oler, “Keep on Trekkin’: Star Trek and the Legacy of Female Fandom, ” Bitch, Summer 2008, issue 40, 66.

[4] Fanzines are fan-made amateur magazines devoted to a particular performer, group, or entertainment media.

[5] Verba, Boldly Writing, viii.

[6] Verba, Boldly Writing, 1.

[7] Verba, Boldly Writing, 35. Established in 1972, the Star Trek Welcomittee served as the Star Trek fandom’s main information center for connecting fans, orienting newcomers, and keeping track of the various fanzines, fanclubs, and fan conventions. The Welcommittee disbanded in 1997, when the internet made fan connection and communication far easier than in the past.

[8] Fan fiction is nonprofit, unofficial stories written by fans using established characters and settings from official popular media.

[9] Verba, Boldly Writing, 19.

[10] Bacon-Smith, Enterprising Women, 100.

[11] Fan art is unofficial art made by fans of popular media or popular individuals.