The release of ST:TMP triggered a firestorm in the show's fandom. But while it gave the creative element of fandom a whole new set of rules by which to play, it also negated other long-held beliefs and suppositions. There were fans who loved the film. There were fans who scorned and criticized it. But did the film, in and of itself, cause a division among its devotees? I don't think so.
In 1980, the times they were a'changing. There were other elements which had their impact on fandom as well, other pathways on which fans were choosing to travel. "Starsky & Hutch" was now a prominent presence, with many of the original "relationship fans" moving easily into that arena. There were the "Star Wars" fans, active now for several years. Imported from the other side of the pond, both"Blake's 7" and "Doctor Who" professed a solid following. Suddenly, it seemed, there were all kinds of fandoms developing. And while some fans adroitly managed to balance two, three, or more passions, others clung stubbornly and exclusively to "Star Trek," refusing to diversify.
And still, within Trek fandom itself, there was the "slash" concept, now a recognized genre and a separating agent that lived and breathed and grew. Certain elements of the film, and more emphatically of the novelization of that film by Gene Roddenberry, certainly leant support to the "Kirk/Spock as lovers" argument. The whole concept of "T'hy'la" was music to the ears of the slash community. Although Gene, working within his original "open texture", never made any kind of definite statement, he gave everyone something to chew on and argue about.
I must confess that while I definitely did love The Motion Picture, warts and flyovers and all, it did kill something creative within me. Speaking from a purely personal observation, I found it very difficult to write Trek after ST:TMP. Bev and I produced only one major story set in the aftermath of the movie, and that was for a zine to which we had committed a contribution. Bev wrote song lyrics and poetry, and we worked both independently and jointly on several additional stories that were set within the series' framework. But our prolific fan fiction writing days were over. It could have been simple burn out, unconnected to the movie altogether. Or the film itself may have had something to do with it.
It wasn't that I saw anything wrong or "off" about what the film postulated. It was all viable canon – the end of the five year mission, Spock going to Gol for mysterious reasons, Kirk accepting a desk job. We read all the creative extrapolations and explanations, and seldom found them wanting. Reflecting back upon it all now, I think it was the idea that this world was no longer my personal playground. Someone else, someone in creative control, had stamped it with their authority. It negated any alternate suppositions I might make and forced me into the narrow confines it had deemed true. It was a clear case of "having is not always so pleasing a thing as wanting". I had begged for a film or series, for new and fresh material – but now that it was a reality, I was sorry I had asked!
I suppose, from a personal perspective, I spent the rest of the next decade or so waiting for the next new movie to show me what happened next. I was no longer creatively connected to that universe; I was merely an observer.
ST:TMP also brought in a starship full of new fans. The film rejuvenated fandom just as we had all hoped it would. Many people who had been asleep since the show went off the air in 1969 suddenly woke up and saw this bright, shiny new thing in their local movie house. For the first time, it wasn't considered crazy to be a fan, to be that weird "Trekkie" who lived down the street or who had an Enterprise model on their desk at work. The movie conveyed a degree of respectability to fandom.
And the merchandizing! Oh, my! We had heretofore had to make do with homemade phasers and communicators. We had the Mego dolls and a few items from Lincoln Enterprises. Now, there were posters and movie cards, bubble gum cards, There were soft-bodied Kirk and Spock dolls in the new uniforms, and I remember driving up (or was it down?) the New Jersey turnpike, and stopping at every rest stop to see if they had the dolls, as we struggled to purchase as many as we could for ourselves and for friends. We bought entire boxes of the bubble gum cards in order to complete the entire set of photo cards. Like starving refugees, we gobbled up everything that was released, often in duplicate and triplicate, "just in case".
In Baltimore, our little group was expanding exponentially. I specifically remember two fans who joined us that summer of 1980 at the Shore Leave convention in July. Both joined us at the Dead Dog party on Sunday afternoon when the convention was over. Bev and I were hosting the party at Bev's house, with many of the tired, hot committee making use of the pool in the back yard. One of those new fans (or "neofans", as we called them) was actually a neighbor of Bev's – she had lived up the street from the Volker Hilton (we called Bev's house that as a joke) for some time and had, indeed, written Bev's address and phone number on her refrigerator pad over a year before she met us. She said that she had always pictured Bev as wearing a three piece suit and carrying an attaché case! She found the reality of a normal suburban housewife somewhat disconcerting! Introduced to Martha (April Valentine) at the con, she was immediately put to work, sitting cross-legged on the floor, sorting music pages for OC III.
The second fan I remember from that Shore Leave Dead Dog was our beloved Marion McChesney, who would soon put her unique mark on the group and uplift us all with her simple humor and honest personality. At that time, she owned and operated an ice cream truck, and she brought her truck to the party and offered free ice cream or anything else on the truck to everyone there! My young sons thought she was Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy all rolled into one!
It was also in the fall of 1980 that we held the very first K/S Con, a very different animal from the conventions of that name held today. Both are pronounced the same, but theirs is KiSCon, and ours was K/S Con, and it wasn't exclusively a slash convention. It was begun as a weekend long slumber party for all the relationship fans we could fit into the house.
One of the DC area fans lived on the upper floor of the guest house of a deserted and neglected old mansion situated on a horse farm in the rolling Maryland countryside. She checked with the owners, who gave their permission for her to hold a "writer's retreat" on the property. We assured him that we would not only clean up after ourselves, but we would scrub and sweep and clean before we used the house.
The house, designed in the style of a Tudor English Manor House, had stood empty for many years. It was a huge white elephant of a place which no one wanted to buy and refurbish. There were three floors above ground level, a basement and a sub-basement below. The upper floors contained about seven bedrooms and perhaps five bathrooms, all unfurnished, of course. The entire house was empty. Only about half the bathroom fixtures worked – this toilet broken, that bathtub unusable. The place was a real mess. The huge fireplace in the sunken living room could not be used for fear the entire roof would go up in flames! There was a working kitchen, but only half the burners on the stove worked and the oven was tricky to start. Leaves and dirt had blown into the first floor and a layer of dust covered everything.
Nevertheless, it had an elegant charm and endless possibilities for entertaining. The last interior decorating had apparently been done in the 1930s or '40s, with a flair for art deco in wall papers, borders, and tiled floorings. There were unique touches like a tiny indoor telephone booth off the living room, and a miniscule room on the third floor, accessible only by the back stairs, which we were informed was the "maid's room." It was so tiny that probably only a single bed and a small dresser would have fit. Enchanting!
Attached to the main house by a covered walkway (or you could short-cut through the former herb garden) was the guest house, which was furnished. Ginna lived in a moderately modernized second floor apartment. Downstairs were two rooms furnished with cast off old beds and couches.
Three members of the DC Contingent, along with the house's occupant, Ginna, formed the organizing "committee" responsible for the event. Martha, Bev and I joined them from the Baltimore Bunch as partners in this fine madness. We decided how many could be invited, based on the maximum number of bodies allowed sleeping room, and invitations were sent out. A modest fee was charged so that we could provide meals, sodas, munchies, and cleaning supplies. Each participant would get dinner on Friday, three meals on Saturday and two on Sunday. Guests would arrive on Friday after work and depart Sunday after lunch.
K/S Con was a lot of work, but one of the most enjoyable things I ever did in fandom. There was a special magic in the event, which we repeated for either five or six years in a row. It was a relaxing and invigorating weekend, totally stress-free and the camaraderie was unique and special. Even though we had proponents of both slash and dash relationships, Nimoy fans and Shatner fans, it was as if there were no differences between our viewpoints. We were all just "relationship" fans, focused on our love for Kirk and Spock.
But before there could be an event, much planning and labor was involved. On the weekend before the con, the organizing committee and anyone we could drag, pull or rope in (mostly family members) went over to clean out the house and set things up. From our own homes and storage areas we brought lawn chairs and chaise lounges, small tables, card tables, a huge display table Bev had from her days of selling Tupperware, which became our buffet dining table. We brought lamps, both the tabletop kind and standing lamps. The electricity was on in the house, but there were no lamps. We brought several small televisions and VCRs for entertainment, plus a projector and screen for 8 mm films. We brought clean bed linens for the rooms in the guest house, where we would be staying. And, of course, we brought mops, buckets, brooms, rags, sponges, all of the cleaning supplies to do a thorough shining. We also carted over all of the non-perishable food supplies we had purchased.
Now, bear in mind that we were shopping for about 30 people for 3 days, and this was before there were Sam's Club and Costco or even BJ's. We had to go to a regular grocery store, and the expressions on the faces of the clerks was priceless. I think they were looking around for hidden cameras, thinking this was a stunt dreamed up by Alan Funt! Bev had a knack for feeding a crowd – how much of what would be needed – and she made up the menus and wrote out the shopping list. She also did most of the food prep and cooking over the weekend, simply because she enjoyed it. One of my responsibilities was to come up with games and other evening entertainments, and that was different from year to year, just as were the menus. I can give you some examples of each, but I can no longer specify by year.
Sample menu: On Friday night, a huge pot of spaghetti with meat sauce or pans of lasagne, garlic bread, and a tossed salad. Breakfast on both days was a do-it-yourself affair, with Bev or someone else available to cook scrambled eggs or whatever was desired. We provided bagels and cream cheese, bacon, sausage links, pancake mix, cold cereals, fruit and milk, juice and coffee. Some people ate no breakfast, some ate light, some heavy. That's why we left it up to the individual. Lunch on Saturday was a somewhat hearty feast. Our most popular idea, repeated several times, was what we called our "City Lunch". It consisted, aptly enough, of bologna on a hard roll and assorted vegetables, taken from "The City on the Edge of Forever", when Kirk goes out for those items for his and Spock's lunch. One year the "assorted vegetables" was in the form of vegetable soup. One year it was a tray of cut up veggies and dips. Bologna was an assortment of luncheon meats and cheese for sandwiches. Dinner on Saturday might be a roast turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, corn, and biscuits or rolls. Lunch on Sunday, the last meal of the con, was usually various leftovers that we needed to use up.
Sample entertainments: A Treasure Hunt, where teams were formed and each team given a list of items to find, most with a Star Trek theme of some sort. Mad Libs: the game I had perfected at local parties. A segment of a fan fiction story would be lifted and the appropriate parts of speech substituted for the real word. Players would be asked to give a noun, a verb, an adverb, a body part, etc., and when all the new words were listed, the segment would be read back, often with hilarious results! ". . .Kirk leaped to the floor, both nipples meeting the ground simultaneously. . ." Or ". . .I am Kirk, Keeper of the Sacred Dumpster . . ." The "dumpster" jokes, like the "dumpling" jokes before them, persisted in conversations for several years after the games. We'd also play a game or two of our ever-popular "Twenty Thousand Credit Obelisk".
All guests were encouraged to bring along anything they were working on. Stories could be shared with the group or kept to a solitary critique, but the emphasis was on sharing. Artists were asked to bring artwork, which we'd put on display around the house.
There's a lot more I could say about the annual K/S cons, but I'll leave it for another installment as we go farther into the 1980s. I hope you've enjoyed reading this little trip down memory lane as much as I have enjoyed telling it. Those wonderful days when the movie was new and fandom was bursting with pride and glory are among my favorite recollections. Hard to believe it's been 28 years – almost thirty! – since that time. It seems like only yesterday!
A special thank you this week to April Valentine, who provided a long-term memory boost to my overworked brain. Her timely assistance is much appreciated!