“Charisma” (#1), a 1987 K/S Fanzine, edited by Natasha Solten

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.

***

COUNT:

  • 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

20 pages

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.

[I was talking to my flatmate Robin about Requireshate’s troubling and salient accusation that slash has a TON of shitty consent politics (now impossible to find, I’m afraid, due to the Great Kerfuffle). She’s not wrong. A lot of slash fic past and present is ‘dubcon’, and variations thereof–coercive situations, etc. We’ve started, in a lot of fic cultures, aggressively labeling sensitive content, but what does it mean that this content exists, in abundance? What does it mean to write and read it? Obviously having a rape fantasy has only a limited relationship to wanting to read a dubcon story, and neither would mean you’re interested in IRL rape in any sense. But beyond that, which I hope we all know, what is this content *doing?*

In her essay “Another Addict Raves About K/S”, Joanna Russ argued that:

“K/S provides the female reader with a love affair in which both parties are fully worthy human beings who feel, think, and do sex in ways intelligible to women — this leaves room for reading K/S as “Lesbian” as well as “heterosexual.” …. The one thing K/S is *not* about is male homosexuality.”

There’s so much to unpack there, about reading and embodiment and queerness and gender. But let’s break off just a tiny chunk–the idea that slash is about the situation of female sexuality.

Flatmate Robin maintains that ABO is always about gender–played out with men. Always about the *situation* of femininity. So too BDSM WORLD!!fics. She bases this claim on a very good SGA fic that made this implicit content explicit for her. The work of excavating our gender expectations and making them explicit and an object of fetishization in BDSM world fic, which is not my jam at all, I still have to recognize *as labor*, even if sometimes unconsciously done.

Consent has evolved dramatically as a public conversation over the past decades, and I sort of wonder if even the dubcon in of a lot of fic isn’t–a praxis. Women thinking about sex and gender and rape culture, reclaiming it or working through it in messy, necessary ways. New people are always coming into fandoms, and fandoms age, and fandom as a GESTALT moves like a turtle piled on turtles through the void, slowly traveling towards something. Though fandom has actually come to have many very good conversations about consent, we’re not all at our best place. To ask everyone to always write the BEST consent practices in the *particular* situation of fandom would be in some ways–asking them to say everything is all right, when it isn’t. Telling them not to be angry, or not to still be working through things.

I don’t really love ‘fandom as therapy’ models, but I’m reluctant to just treat a fic’s Bad Consent Politics like rape in a grimdark genre novel, written by and for men and commercially published. In some terrible SFF I have read for work, rape is background. The way of the world. Unremarkable. In contrast, fic can’t get AWAY from thinking about consent. Dubcon isn’t a an accident or just an embarrassment, it’s a systemic preoccupation of this body of women’s writing. Is dubcon… a dubconversation (*wince*) about that which is unspeakable, because gendered violence is *so* normalized that we hesitate to talk about DV as sexist hatecrime?

How CAN we interact with received narratives of romance without engaging in discourses of violence? I don’t know that the answer is simply–writing, for example, a historical romance novel where your protagonists don’t *visibly* benefit from the slave trade or rape anyone. Every regency romance is fundamentally predicated on empire and slavery (which is Edward Said’s point about slavery in “Mansfield Park”). Every het romance is the patriarchy, from Gor to “Gaudy Night” (a horrifying crossover). This is sort of what Dworkin’s oft-misunderstood contention that “violation is a synonym for intercourse” (from “Intercourse”) aims to convey. The most seemly stories with the most loving, affirmative, consensual relationships still use the grammar available to us, are still built on these foundations. I don’t know that a seemly story gnaws at the roots of the shitty rape-culture world-tree harder than a story like this does–I don’t think we’re yet in a place where only seemly stories resonate for us, and speak to our understanding of sexuality and its problems and opportunities.

We write and read dubcon because it’s what rape-culture enables us to imagine and to want. Maybe we reinforce rape-culture in writing and reading it. But maybe we also interrogate it more meaningfully from this position of engagement? Does leaving the field win the battle?

Sometimes slash is a kind of obvious flight from the implications of what it would mean for a man to enact a romance story or a fic’s coercive plot on a woman–which is not to dismiss or trivialize same-sex rape, so much as to point out the way some writers use slash to ask questions about how power works in relationships *other than* as a manifestation of gender.

It’s Complicated.]

Then Kirk says he’s not really a By the Book person, because he prefers to write his own, more interesting scripts. Reckless!Kirk is an invention of the films, which don’t remember show!canon very well,. Reckless!Kirk has since been retconned and amplified by popular memory and reified by the reboot. For TOS, however, this is OOC as fuck.

This is not at all accidental, by the way. There’s a very particular project this misremembering serves. I’m not doing my essay on Kirk-drift here, though.

Lastly, the language of this fic consistently slightly bothers me. About once a paragraph there’ll be a sentence that makes me squint and go–is that *quite* possible to say? I get what she means, but is that how these parts of speech work, does this *technically* function? Nothing awful, but stuff I’d rephrase in a comment as a beta, or for student work.

 

Cloud Walker

poem

Jane Fury

Nah.

For those unfamiliar with zines: fan poetry used to be a THING. Now it’s hella rare. Tbh I’m not sorry, because I think a lot of the fan poetry was, by critical standards, naff. Poetry by people who don’t read a lot of poetry. A lot of free-verse. Short. Not lyric, in a way that surprises me when the same communities produced filk intended to be sung? Though I think there could be interesting work done on the development of filk, non-SFF zine poetry, SFF poetry, and fanzine poetry. What’s the history there, what are the personnel, aesthetic and distribution overlaps?

 

Your Eyes/Your Eyes, Too

poems

Sharon Pearson

The first one has a couple nice lines and I think OH SHIT RED ALERT IT’S A DECENT FAN PO–and then the second is not awful, but not good poetry.

Artwork (Dragon) I don’t like–fine, odd faces.

Artwork (C.A. Pierce) I don’t like less–one good face, one odd one. (But let me clarify–I am a shit and am weird about fanart and don’t appreciate it like people who appreciate fanart for real-real do.)

 

Partitions

Callie St. John

31 pages

In “Partitions”, Spock picked up an ancient flu virus in “All Our Yesterdays” and is out of sorts. Kirk is jealous of Spock possibly chatting up a childhood friend. McCoy is worried that making it with Zarabeth in “All Our Yesterdays” awaked Spock’s lurve and now he’s a lurve machine and they’ll have to deal with that or something.

This story is rather… meandering. People make a lot of low-level bad decisions, and it goes on for some time, but finally resolves with Kirk figuring out wtf he wants and telling Spock and Spock being like great, that’s what I also want, lovely (no sex). Again, this is not an offensively bad story, but I don’t think it’s good either, and it doesn’t appeal to me much.

// Thoughts are written like so. // Why, the past, why?

Many different fonts and font sizes in this zine. Is that usual? Does no one put out a memo like ‘we’re Serif people ok’ at least? [A/N Katy later told me what was up with this.]

“interrupted his self reverie” what other kind–nm.

 

Memory

poem

Cheryl Resnick

Another thing fanpoetry does a lot–recount stuff we all saw/super-basic meta but like, in a poem. Why have that poem?

Strange use of ‘sanction’.

 

Fragile Barriers

by Andrea Arat

15 pages

Basically, Spock has to get married for pon farr after he and Kirk have been together for a year. Though this isn’t supposed to change their relationship, Kirk is surprised at how pissed he is with Spock, and with himself for *being* so pissed. Because of Protagonist Privilege, Kirk essentially thought this wouldn’t happen to *them*. He and Spock deal with the lead up to and fall out from this–believably, and also badly. After some sulking and processing, they get it together and move on as a couple.

This is a pon farr-related fic with no consent issues, for those triggered or squicked by that. It has ‘pon farr must be het because BIOLOGY’, and while I don’t believe that any species would work like that, god knows I’ve said dubious shit to make a fic work, and how these Vulcans live with that biological imperative appears to be more fluid. Pass. (Though I don’t know if a modern fic WOULDN’T insist on love-conquers-all protagonist privilege?)

Really interesting, potent descriptions of feeling deeply hurt and sad and questioning your whole relationship. Though actually that can be fairly uncomfortable to read, *because* the fic’s good at invoking that state (I can’t remember that many good literary depictions of this situation). I like that we have people having a grown-up, real problem, because they DID talk about something but not *enough*. And maybe you can’t talk through this one and escape with NO damage. No one’s really at fault here, but they’re making it worse as well, and can’t help themselves. And Healing Cock this isn’t–a very believable ‘let’s sex it better’ attempt is about as sexy as a dead fish and just ends in everyone feeling hurt and rejected.

Note the use of lube and the prep. Also, Spock’s wife isn’t described as a heinous shrew for being a woman our slash-pairing-half character has sex with (though I sort of hope she has her own romantic life rather than just having to hear about Spock’s, endure his sex frenzy and maybe breed him some babies–though actually, the way Spock talks about her, she could be an ace person who wants kids, and that’d be chill). There’s a brief nod to other cultures having different sexual norms, respecting personal freedoms–the groundwork I need to engage with this fic seriously. Note also that sex isn’t de facto SO MUCH BETTER!! with your magical true love here–it’s not good sex in this situation *because* they love each other, and feeling invested and hurt can curtail feeling oh-so-sexual.

Not to make fic confessional writing and thus diminish its status as artwork by evoking discourses of anthropology or psychology, but this feels like a rigorous exploration of a (real?) fight, perhaps about infidelity–and while feeling very IC, Kirk’s role and emotional experience of the fight also feel distinctly feminine to me. I think if you stripped the names and pronouns and just put in gender neutral names and gave this argument scene to someone, they’d assume this was a heterosexual story about trying to make up after a male partner cheats.

Kirk’s very–emotionally closed here, he’s portrayed as someone who can ‘bleed internally’ (metaphorically). Honestly I feel this is fairer to the character than Kirk Drift/oppositional writing which represents him as a Manic Pixie Dream Human in relation to Spock’s Monolithic Vulcanness. I could buy this character being hurt in a way he didn’t want to emotionally process, and so having something like a subdued psychosomatic reaction instead of feelings.

I could see someone finding this corny or going ‘ew, a man cries, omg’, but actually I think that the character’s sadness is well-handled here. And when we’re uncomfortable with male sadness, how much of that IS worry about a character being IC, versus… sexism? There’s definite ‘and then he was a woobie and cried constantly as his beloved beat him for days and tortured turtles in front of him’ fic I have no time for, featuring characters who wouldn’t put up with a single turtle being inconvenienced, but there’s also, when people look in at transformative fandom, a conviction that X would never shed of the face water, not even privately a little bit when stressed in a way influenced by who X is as a person. …do we buy that? Is that part of the butching project of Kirk Drift? (Fuck I need to actually write that piece, I keep referring to something that doesn’t exist like it’s a PhD progression up in here.)

The meld-orgasm is weird, and I don’t really get that part. Even I, a veteran of the Psychic Wars/person who’s read a LOT of psychic sex for various canons, find that a touch odd and hard to follow. The ending is a bit pat–though I believe its resolution. Still, where this story is good, it’s quite good.

‘Kroykah!’ does come into play, and it is the most over-used-by-fanon shit since Blakes 7’s ‘well now’. It’s not QUITE as bad as ‘well now’, which makes me irrationally annoyed at this point. (HE DOESN’T EVEN SAY IT THAT OFTEN!!)

 

Two ‘heads of Kirk’ by Jacquelyn Zoost. Nice, good expression, very like.

 

Leaving

poem

Natasha Solten

This poem is short, but bad in a way that is funny.

 

Standing in the Shadows

by Faris Vincent

25 pages

A post Motion Picture get together. This story isn’t bad, but doesn’t work very well for me. Somewhat OOC, with slightly off character voices. I need to understand where the characters are emotionally a bit better, and I need that to matter more within the context of the fic (stakes!!). I wonder why the story needs to be quite so long? The last sentence is difficult to parse. The motif of shadows keeps showing up, but nothing really comes of it.

Charisma comes up–like that’s the theme of the zine or something… which is interesting because Kirk’s not that charismatic here.

Our first Kirk-on-top penetration of the zine (prep but no lube, and again, fetishization of anal penetration–some frottage (god I hate this word), but then, literally, the “ultimate touch”–and special mention of chest hair). Katy was baffled when I told her Kirk didn’t almost always top, as she’d assumed. Laughed long and hard (like a slender jade rod, etc.) about that.

Someday I should write something for fanlore about HUGE Kirk-hate in some areas of fanculture–it’s like Rapist Blake in B7, that shit gets everywhere/takes many forms/comes from some flimsy canon justification/if you hate him why is he half your otp just come out and ship Spock/You/Avon and respect yourself in the morning. I’d also like to write about Species (Monoculture) As Characterization in K/S and the weird stuff that does.

Knowing the editor of this will go on to write B7 zinesfic makes me think of the extent to which B7 is Who and ST’s angsty rebellious boychild who won’t follow your rules, daaaaads!1 *waits until he hears footsteps fading away* *sticks a hand outside the door and pulls the proffered plate of chicken dippers into his black-walled room*

 

Shadow

poem

Natasha Solten

A *mysterious* poem. That I’m not into.

 

The Mortal Fire

by Natasha Solten

20 pages

Ah, our erstwhile poet.

This is a strong idea. We branch off from TOS’s “What Are Little Girls Made Of?”. Spock and Kirk have to come back to the planet after responding to another emergency (which took a couple weeks) to finish investigating the site and to prepare the equipment there for collection by a salvage team. But the threat posed by machinery that can make perfect, programmable android duplicates of people is such that only security-cleared command personnel are authorized to undertake this survey–thus the restricted team. This is the sort of post-episode clean-up work Star Fleet almost must do, and which episodes rarely show–it’s a good interaction with the way this world works.

Kirk thinks a bit about the degree to which the robots we see in the episode are sentient, and is uncomfortable with dismissing their personhood. Then they discover that Kirk IS a perfect life-transfer robot duplicate, and his actual body has been rotting in ice caves for a couple weeks, and isn’t recoverable. They freak out a bit over whether Kirk IS Kirk in a meaningful way, and decide he is.

A hard SFF story might have more thoroughly problematized the degree to which you can just *say* that Kirk is himself and everything’s fine, even with telepathy involved. But then there’s a sort of cul de sac to those questions too? So identity isn’t stable and transferable, and shreds and changes. Ok? …? That’s–something we’ve explored extensively in literature, and like, an element of a story, not a story in and of itself. Idk, I always think excessive anxiety about one cogent and eternal personhood is a TS Elliotish dudeissue that bothers people who aren’t in any way marginalized. Women, for example, always already know they are divided, situational, contingent. They have never had the luxury of deceiving themselves on that point. So a great deal of ‘or did I just blow your MIND?!’ on the ‘am I REALLY ME?!’ question is a bit *eyeroll*. At least this story, unlike some SFF equivalents, isn’t exorbitantly proud of itself for this plot device. Though also–why raise the existential questions!flag if you’re not going to really fly it?

(Also, related note–fic people are often really hard on themselves about plot. Very dismissive–‘oh there’s no plot in this thing I wrote or like’. Emotional plot IS plot? Often fic can have a structure that, in SFF short fiction terms, looks something like John Chu’s “The Water That Falls On You From Nowhere”, which: is a plot, even if you don’t LIKE the plot in question? Even a PWP really often–does have a plot. And there’s a lot of work shaped like a romance novel, or shaped like a mystery because it’s case fic, mission fic, etc. Now, that’s not to say that ‘lacks plot’ isn’t a valid thing to say about fic–it’s my issue with a lot of the introspective ‘moment in a platonic relationship’ gen vignettes that got Calufrax recs back in the day. But this story for example, is Plotful.)

Kirk and Spock talk about how Kirk will for sure get his command taken off him if they tell Star Fleet about this, and how dangerous it would be for anyone to have access to this technology, the Federation included. The last ends up feeling like a justification for destroying the whole base in order to keep Kirk from getting fired for reasons that aren’t wholly invalid–they DON’T know he won’t in some way endanger people because his body has now radically changed (and it may NOT just be his body–how can they know?). I’d have liked a little more discussion here, especially if the disinterested motivation was *supposed* to be their real reason for doing it, or an equally necessary cause for action. But the decision is an interesting one, pitting their loyalty to the organization against their loyalty to their interpretation of its underlying goals. And immortality–it’s like if “Insurrection” didn’t blow.

The author also does some stuff with Kirk’s actually-new body and the way sex can make the body feel new. The fresh romantic relationship gets a bit subsumed by the other stuff Kirk’s worrying about, even as those worries are what pushed the relationship in a romantic direction (the sex is definitely in part done for reassurance). I’m okay with this–a big pairing with a wide variety of stories can definitely afford to host narratives in which the pairing is a component, not necessarily *the focus*. However it’s worth pointing out that while I believe the relationship, and while there are several nice lines, romantically/erotically this story doesn’t do much for me (for stats: Kirk tops, no lube or prep, lots of chest-hair mentioned).

Katy suggests that the way the zine is composed (multiple fonts) indicates that people just sent in their fic and it was photocopied, rather than also edited, by the compiler (as was standard later). Also, Solten was herself the compiler [as I later discovered]. This is a bit of a shame, as I feel this story could have been very good indeed if a beta had pushed Solten to do more with some of its components, such as that moral dilemma. (Though I don’t really know what their beta-culture was like–whether, for them, an edit was proof-reading, copy-editing, or something more substantive.) The fic seems divided on what it wants to be and do–there are several strains it touches on (some effective body horror, the moral question, the sex), which don’t productively coalesce as well as they might.

 

Fade to Night

poem

Natasha Solten

Is it unusual to have so much poetry in one zine by the same person? Was she a popular poet? How much a draw was the poetry, ever? [There were whole fan poetry zines, turns out!]

Some nice dusk imagery.

 

The Masquerade

poem

Linda Frankel

Oh snap it’s a narrative poem. Good change.

“When you place

The glass of guava nectar

In my hands–”

This is the most hipster poem I have ever read and as a child I was stupid and read a lot of Beat poetry. Also that is not how you capitalize in a poem like this, really.

‘Caracole’ [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caracole] is an unusual word. Idk that it quite works here. Slightly nudge-wink TH White reference.

There’s no real reason that prose should be our ‘default’ mode, rather than poetry, and that we should have to justify why a piece is a poem and not a story. But I’d say this IS essentially a short ‘Spock muses about Kirk and disguise while at a masked ball’ fic, disguised itself (!!) by some relatively arbitrary line-breaks. Is this because most zine fic (for saleability reasons?) tends to be heftier than this? Did this person feel weird about their 1000 word short fic and just–chop it up? [Katy suggests that stretching it with line breaks may have been enough to push the piece over a given page limit, which would have earned the writer a contributor copy.] The poem/fic is fine, just a little nothingy.

 

Artwork by Dragon

In this, Jim looks like a squashy JFK.

 

The Waiting

poem

Cheryl Resnick

*shrug*

 

Desert’s Song

poem

Anne K. Monnig

the crystal ice of your tears

 

Anticipation

by Gillian

6 pages

So this is an excessively reasonable ‘maybe we should get together’ conversation–remarkably sane, kudos for that. The characters are really decent to each other and believably professional throughout.

The way the Spock Logic works in this fic feels a bit–off, potentially. ‘How hard it was to think in these vague emotive terms!’ about whether a situation is advantageous–surely this is the type of calculation Spock regularly makes as CO?  If anything, if we’re going down this route, I’d expect him to parse the situation in non-emotive terms. And it’s very–‘a physiological reaction!! BUT WHY?’ when the character damn well knows why.

It’s difficult to write an extreme lack of emotional intelligence well–to have a character seem generally smart/not like a damn child, but very underdeveloped in this area. I’m not sure, actually, that it’s necessary to write Spock (and it might depend on where your Spock is in his life) as ’emotionally unintelligent, unused to analysis’. Stoic isn’t the same as ignorant–in fact Spock seems to think about his emotions a LOT in canon, and meditation seems to be a practice of contemplation and analysis. He’s ‘in control of his emotions’ and his body, not unaware of them.

I like the idea of how the fic cuts through ‘earlier that day’/’right now’ better than I like the idea’s realization, which can feel a bit ‘as you know, Prince Bob, your father, the King–‘.

Some Spock-dialogue choices I don’t love. ‘”….Jim, I have decided that our relationship will be improved by the addition of a physical relationship between us,” Spock informed his captain.’ Spock’s dialogue is formal and precise, but there’s no reason it should also be stilted. This is naturalistic speech, for him, and should feel like it.

The ending is that ‘is this–happiness?!’ stuff that always makes me eye-roll. It’s odd, in a way, to suppose that Spock must reject certain forms of emotional display–because he doesn’t understand emotions, or hasn’t experienced them. Is it REALLY difficult to believe that someone could understand or have experienced emotion–and still reject ‘human’ (here, American) forms of expression? Sometimes people understand your argument well, and still don’t agree with it.

The fic is fine, though I’m not sure what if does as a piece or why the writer wanted to tell this story, this way.

 

A Very Personal Power

poem

Sue Cameron

Some ok meta thoughts–idk maybe I need a new rhetoric for what fanpoetry is setting out to DO.

 

Charisma

by Natasha Solten

22 pages

That poet again! Shit was she REALLY POPULAR or friends with the compiler or something? This seems a disproportionate contribution. Maybe people didn’t mind.

UPDATE: she was the editor. So–wanky/fair dues? Or maybe the poor woman was struggling to fill this first issue and meet her commitments and had to pitch in herself a lot to make the thing work.

In “Charisma” (a reprint from an older, then out-of-print zine), Kirk’s personal logs leak, someone publishes them, and they’re a smash. Kirk knows that suing the company would prove these were indeed his memoirs, and does he want to get involved in a big debacle, etc. He’s not happy. Spock reads the logs and… maybe realizes how into him Kirk is? But he also already knew that? Idk.

I dislike the intro section, but the log sections are a nice formal route to go down. The way they work in and with various episode plots requires the writer and reader to know these stories very well. I like Kirk’s assistant.

This story never really makes it clear to me–why Kirk and Spock didn’t get together before the publication of these diaries, if indeed they both knew how they themselves felt and Spock suspected he knew how Kirk felt. Also not enough really *happens* in this fic. Some sex–maybe hand jobs? Very quick and vague. The ending is a bit cheesy.

This story’s not *bad*, but it also doesn’t do much for me.

 

Artwork, by Sherry Veltkamp

Two awful–one creepy hands, the other large bobble heads on naked hairy bodies. One quite good. So confused. I rarely find fanart erotical but um, #2. No.

FINAL THOUGHTS

As a whole, this zine doesn’t have much of a sense of humor. The character voices aren’t great. Unusually for a K/S zine, like NO xenophilia/loving and creative descriptions of Spock’s Alien Cock! I don’t really miss these, I just wonder how THEY missed this zine? I would have said you couldn’t throw a rock in K/S without it actually being Spock’s Detachable Left Nut!

There’s good zine fic I’d recommend to people curious about zines, interested in the pairing, or just interested in good writing, but I don’t think Charisma 1’s content is what I’d show someone new, as an exemplar. It’s pretty much for people familiar with zines and K/S, and interested in a quite specific flavor of K/S zinefic.

(Beta’d by Molly Katz)

Advertisements

3 thoughts on ““Charisma” (#1), a 1987 K/S Fanzine, edited by Natasha Solten

  1. the website is so smoothly designed that it took me a while to locate the reply box. it should be BIG AND OBVIOUS like in LJ land.

    good review – but would have a) not deleted the dub con stuff, but moved to different essay b) gone back over it later and removed references to problems you were later going to solve. the weirdest is the natasha solten stuff, where you seem to forget everything you know about her by the time you get to her fourth poem or whatever it is. i know it’s because of the order you wrote this in – but does the casual reader?

    it’s entertaining though. i laughed a lot as we reached the end.

    i hear your disdain, but i actually really like the ‘AM I REALLY ME???’ quandary – or rather, it freaks me effectively out. i like the idea of copying people – and not getting it right. for me, one of lawrence miles’s greatest ideas (and he had many great ideas) was the two different lots of terrible stuff that happens to fitz in ‘intereference’. it really gets to me as a terrible horrible thing. this sounds like a very interesting idea as well – even though you say it doesn’t entirely work… it sounds really interesting. and i’m really keen on the idea of fanfic having (as you point out) a plot that isn’t just to do with the sex, even though they ALSO do have sex. it’s difficult to balance that obviously as we all know basically what we’re here for, but i do like fics to have both to some extent.

    interestingly i just read a very good b7 fic about robot duplicates. it’s here if anyone is reading the comments on this review and fancies broadening their horizons. gen, not slash (or rather, smarm not slash) as it depicts the relatioship between blake and avon very warmly (but not inaccurately) https://archiveofourown.org/works/668235

    natasha solten’s other fic sounds interesting too – and a fun plot device in general. though i always assumed the captain’s logs were public because other characters make them too when kirk’s not around.

    i lolled at your scotty voice stuff, and mccoy drinking. because that’s just funny. and true.

    eeeerr…. what else?

    oh – re rapist!blake (everyone’s favourite trope!), you ask – why write this OTP if you hate him? but actually you answer this yourself earlier in the essay about dubcon. people like dubcon/noncon – they’re attracted to avon being overpowered. that’s what it is. and i guess they could go off and write avon/vila in series 4 but then avon has to play the other role – and he is usually a lot more aggressive in the rape scenarios than vila is. so, it’s not the same. BUARA is a massive genre – i mean, it has it’s own name. even when it’s NOT blake doing the raping. part of why people like that i think is because of the idea of his ‘beautiful suffering’ – partly it’s a sort of h/c instigator obviously, which people like. partly i think it is the grimdark thing, particularly in B7 which has much claim to being grimdark even though i think it’s massively outweighed by its campiness.

    i’m talking about stuff that doesn’t appeal to me at the moment though, and there’s lots of dubcon stuff that DOES appeal adn that i could search my feelings about. what do i like about it? conflict obviously. i’m also quite keen on physical fights in narratives – the idea of victory, but in these cases (for me) they both win/lose in some way. physical fights are sort of erotic in their staging obviously (heavy breathing, close contact, total focus on one person) and obviously this is heightened when it’s sexual too. i don’t feel that i am consciously looking at this as a restaging of anything, but obviously i wouldn’t.

    back to rapist!blake quickly – people do genuinely think this is the real characterisation of that character as well, just as rapist!simm!master is the real characterisation, and a version who says the L word (lesbians) is gag-worthy. so for them – that’s the version that they’d write about. and there’s the idea that a nicer blake or master is simpler and less interesting.

    i probably have more to say about rapist!blake – but perhaps this in’t the right forum anyway, and i am quite tired.

    thanks for reading this zine and writing about it 🙂 i did appreciate it.

  2. @Katy:

    Well, as ever, I don’t love this site design but can’t figure out how to properly fix it.

    Ah, but the meditations on dubcon were what everyone who liked it liked—and yes maybe should have been more linear about Solten, but that sounds hard, after the fact.

    Having read much more Solten now, I look back on myself here as a sweet summer child who didn’t grasp the nuances of how unsatisfying I find the bulk of her work/the ways this is a lot like what she does over in t’other fandom. And that is not my fav Willa—I’m not sure why you like it so much! There is more satisfying Willa!

    I see your point about the rapist!blake dynamic, and it makes me think that in particular with this pairing the idea of being ‘in the pairing’ is a broad church that doesn’t SAY much. Bc like Beloved Adversary is smarm not slash, but it has WAY more to say to something by Willa than a full on rapist Blake fic, *even though* Willa is clearly conversant with those erotic norms (I’m thinking particular of Blood Ties, but then we go a schmoop place after that set up—the typical Dickensian-Willa move of bolting wildly different ideas together and letting fly/having too much to give). Basically: at LEAST in this pairing, but probably a lot of places, it means sweet, sweet fuck all in terms of kinship to say that’s what you write bc a lot of early people aren’t v OTP writers and/or are basically Avon/Sopron (aka anything) or like… are Oblique rather than Floods of Tears and never the twain.

    Yeah, and it’s harder but perhaps more valuable/less judgy to think about what works for you rather than—Oh Those Other People. Interestingly I don’t feel I am terribly keen on non-sexual physical fights unless it’s super prissy and dressed up fencing-ballet-dancing-bullshit.

    “is simpler and less interesting.” Hey remember when you were a tiny child and you thought ‘the mind of evil is more interesting than the mind of good’ or some shit? I know I was also an embarrassing child once. But the way you were silly at 18 is v special to me.

    And yes, of course I could buy a complex and ambivalent characterization there, but it’s not that or even an interesting evil Blake it’s just flat and Avon cries a lot eh nah.

    Thank YOU for the… gift of this zine.

    I have read a few more now. Against my will, my reason and even against my character…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s