TW: some discussion of dubious consent below.
So “Charisma” is a 1987 K/S zine Katy bought thinking I could get into (transformative fandom) zines. Nah.
I can’t countenance spending the money (even if she does largely sell hers on and thus recoup her outlay). If I want K/S, there’s like MORE THAN I COULD EVER READ online, from uploaded zine fic in archives to 2009 Reboot fic on lj and Ao3. Sadly, I’m more a K/S opportunist than a fandom participant. I’ll read it if I see anything good (or anything mediocre, if I’m in the mood). I check back occasionally to see if anything interesting/new is being written. I’ve loved the canon since early childhood, and I’ve read the fic on and off for well over a decade. I’m a Pairing True Believer, and I’ve considered writing fic. But I’m not IN THE FANDOM, as I have been for some other canons/pairings. I don’t have that level of knowledge and involvement. I won’t read EVERYTHING, even the *very* bad fic, for the pairing in sheer desperation (people who’ve never been in small-to-medium fandoms might never know quite this pain).
And while I appreciate that the aesthetic modes of fanfiction change with the times and that fanfiction is differently good in different eras, I don’t always get on well with zine fic. My tastes there are really idiosyncratic, and I can under-rate pieces that someone whose tastes are more in-line with zine slash’s aesthetics might appreciate more.
Zine-reviewing has a history of negative criticism that digital fandom largely lacks, perhaps because zines could be a substantial financial investment for buyers (not to mention zine producers!). When my girlfriend Katy reviews zines as part of her big Fanlore cataloging project, she keeps to this tradition and, while not Cult of Mean, her tone is also not–gift economy!Cult of Nice. It’s been decades, after all, and you’re not using comments to say the thing directly TO the person, who may no longer be in fandom/isn’t THAT likely to google themselves. I have some qualms/there’s not CLEAR fannish etiquette on this. I’m going to be critical herein, but not–*to be bitchy*, just to try and use this somewhat rare opportunity to talk publicly and honestly about what’s *not* working for me in fanwork in the same space where I talk about what is working for me. To review fanwork like I’d review a book.
- front cover illustration
- 8 pages of interior artwork, all untitled (why?)
- 7 fics
- 11 poems
- 5 boarders, all by Caro Hedge
We start with a really awful cover (Marilyn Cole). One of the ‘logic never happened!!’ Vulcans of Gor AU things, with a bare-chest nipple-pastie armor deal. If I were an archeologist, I’d conclude that in the past, people never experienced embarrassment. Spock’s expression indicates he’s been smacked in the face with something heavy moments before. The art is not great, but in and of itself not *terrible*–I’m more annoyed by the immense popularity of Vulcans of Gor. Also–this so isn’t that type of K/S zine? Nothing in this zine really harmonizes with this art choice.
Idk, I like good cheesecake art, but this really hits my embarrassment squick–and I’ve noticed, when interacting with fans significantly older than me online, that we have (not always, but often–and in certain fandoms, not others) different norms about how raunchy fannish conversation should be. I wonder if there are generational/platform cultural-norms differences in terms of embarrassment squick, and in terms of the degree to which we code fandom as a sort of kink scene.
Interior cover page features a Rumi quote: “Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere./They’re in each other all along.” Which is sweet, but also suggests, given the content of the zine, having bummed since birth/predickstination.
To Protect and Serve
Alexis Fegan Black
This story and this author are well-regarded, but tbh TP&S really annoys me for several reasons. How this plot works is crystal-clear from the beginning–though maybe it was surprising in its time, and what I find predictable is actually the result of my having been exposed to those ideas, adapted from this and other contemporary stuff. I like Black’s interest in cataloging emotional states. This aspect of the story is often unusual and insightful. Though for all the build-up, the actual SEX in this one isn’t very physically rendered? That’s sort of–delicately handled. This doesn’t feel much like erotica when it comes to the sex. And of course prep and lube are absent. Of course they are.
As a side-note, slash, written by and for a female (and often queer) demographic, often elevates anal penetration to the status of a PIV-substitute/’real’ sex act, affording lesser romantic importance to other forms of gratification. Here there’s no question that anal intercourse is the Real Business.
We’re not told this is an AU (though Spock is Captain, no sign of Kirk as yet). Spock is wandering around what is apparently a Federation planet. It’s four days’ flight from the Neutral Zone, and a place where a crew transfer can be effected. It’s seemingly populated by humans. The population is substantial, with a few major cities at least. It has slavery. Spock is not hugely wtf about this, and (admittedly in a somewhat-crazed Pon Farr state) is willing/able to believe some of his crew went and bought/rented him a human slave to fuck it out of his system with. This is NOT a mirror-universe AU? Nothing else leads me to believe it might be? Yet slavery. And Spock slave-shopping. …?
There’s also a poison that can make you need the D or die in this fic–and given that that exists, not sure why Spock didn’t roll up to the slave dealers he’s apparently down with and be like, MEDICAL EMERGENCY, we need a suitable slave or competent sex worker for someone on my ship who’s been poisoned thus and might be aggressive, call all your contacts and make it happen. There’s some random–this slave must be trussed up for some businessman escaping his fat ugly wife for the weekend. …what, Spock’s monolog? What a random, OOC and sexist assumption to make about this hypothetical person’s hypothetical relationship.
So pre Slave Search, Chapel hits on Spock a la “Amok Time” and he’s all IT’S SO HARD NOT TO STRANGLE HER!! Er. I sort of assume it’s hard–not to brutally have sex with her. But. Then, with *just a look*, Uhura manages to convey that she totally gets his needs and is dtf out of compassion. Now, Uhura’s eye-game is strong, but that is an INVOLVED convo to have via eye-game. I think I could eye-game tell someone I wanted to get busy, but not that I was willing to do so out of disinterested friendship and respect and that I understood the cultural/biological issue affecting them. This is that bs thing about Perfect Romantic Communication being wordless, which we alllllllll need to gtf over. Communication is emotional labor. Learn it.
But anyway, apparently EVERYONE knows about Pon Farr (somehow), and if Uhura’s eye game is strong, then the whole ship’s is, bc Spock knows the whole crew is dtf for duty. Really, no one would find that an issue? McCoy and Scotty are both there having that hall conversation from the final episode like ‘Aye, if the Capp’n needs me arse, doctor, I’ll nae deny the poor lad when the time comes’ and McCoy is just drinking and drinking.
But yeah, for inadequately explored reasons, none of this dtf crew are fit for the purpose, and neither are any of these slaves (for slightly better-explained but still kind of difficult to believe reasons), and so Spock decides to kill himself with “special tea”. Idk, earlier he said he just came down here with no prep, but later he has a toiletries kit and special tea, so. Oh and the hotel has blue satin sheets, and if he didn’t bring those then what sounds like a Holiday Inn just… has those? Normally?
Some teen girls (presumably think Spock is hot and) wonder about Spock’s marital status in the Holiday Inn lobby. I know I wonder about a fittie’s marital status all the time, and the future is also like that, probs.
I expect a certain shade of purple from sex descriptions in zine fic, and this story’s dancing nipples are, alas, no great surprise (though the gems encrusting them and the base of Kirk’s cock sure were–though what REALLY surprised me there was that those didn’t fall off and get lodged in Spock’s butt and cause McCoy’s Worst Day or something–who EVER thought vajazzling/a man-equivalent sounded like a *good* idea?). Even so, the sword of his existence and the flaming blade of his passion and genitals as the only reason for living (?!) do make me wince. “He allowed himself to believe that he was some holy trinity itself — his mind, his god; his desire, his son’ his throbbing maleness, his savior.” What do we say to cod-Freud? NOT TODAY. (Id-fic is my fucking–I can’t talk about how much I hate the phrase, I need a drink first).
Also there’s discussion of lightspeed travel and uneven aging, which is interesting hardcore SFF stuff (transformative zine fandom may have been close enough to SFF zine fandom to be a bit more SFFnal in their general reading and interests?), but not how it seems to work in re McCoy’s old girlfriend in the salt-monster ep, Star Fleet orders, etc.
Thus I wonder if, like many early B7 zine fic writers, Black is working without reliable access to good copies of the episodes? Though also, if we’re talking about lightspeed and aging, then aren’t we relying on the same physics that say warp is impossible? If you CAN warp, then whatever warp travel does might not affect aging in that way, because you wouldn’t be doing ftl travel per se, but something else with warp conduits? Idk, maybe this is something they dealt with more in TNG, and I’m unfairly back-porting it into TOS, and applying to work by a writer who couldn’t have known how TNG was going to expand the ST canon’s discussion of what warp was.
What this fic DOES deal a lot with is consent–admittedly in ways I don’t always love.
Below, in the brackets (because I have apparently failed to make the fake lj cut work), I’m going to have a long, confused conversation about the role dubcon plays in fic. Feel free to skip that. It is also RAW AS A JUST-LAID EGG.I am very hesitant to think about it in a public space, because I *know* this isn’t–finished thought, not at all. And I’m probably wrong about gender and sexuality stuff in major ways. Yet the discussion below circles aspects of fic I’ve not seen us talk about much, and I’d like to push that conversation along? Because messy as this is, I think we NEED to talk about it, and that *not* talking about room-elephants or just waving the issue away with YKINMK (like sexuality has no moral valence in the world, and thus *doesn’t come from things that matter, and itself matter*), would be shirking.
Continue reading ““Charisma” (#1), a 1987 K/S Fanzine, edited by Natasha Solten”