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Judith Gran's Fan Fiction

An Interview with Judith Gran


Originally posted to the Society for Slash Diversity and COCO CHANNEL, September 1999.

Karmen Ghia: What are you working on these days?

Judith Gran: K/S wise, on a story in which Kirk, post-ST VI and "bonded" to Spock for many years, is talked into running for Federation President. During the campaign, Kirk turns out to have a Bill Clinton problem. (Although, as my friend Mary Ellen points out, it might make more sense to say that Bill Clinton had a James T. Kirk problem.)

I'm also trying to write a K/S Legend story which some will probably consider super-blasphemous.

KG: Okay, I'm sorry for the mundane questions but how long have you been in the Star Trek fan community?

JG: Since 1978, when I first started reading zines and went to my first fan-run convention (August Party).

KG: Have you stayed mainly in TOS or do you do other genres?

JG: I've been totally loyal to my TOS roots. (As a Taurus, I am loyal by default.)

KG: When did you get into K/S?

JG: About five seconds after I heard that people were actually writing K/S stories! This was in the summer of 1978, a few weeks after I started ordering zines.

KG: What was your earliest story?

JG: "The Body's Treason," a Gol angst-fest from Kirk's POV, written around 1979, I think, and published in the zine Matter/Anti-Matter in the early 1980s.

KG: How did you decide to start writing what was in your head? What was your motivation?

JG: I was really charged up about the K/S premise, which struck me as easily the single greatest advance in civilization since (at least) the Industrial Revolution. Then quite by chance, two friends of mine who had previously been heterosexual became lovers and told me all about it. Somehow, that made the K/S premise even more real and vivid to me, and I simply *had* to write K/S.

Also, I was close friends with another couple who were "lovers separated by a barrier"--they were committed to live and work in different parts of the world--and their experience got my mind churning about all the different angst-filled ways Kirk and Spock could be separated.

KG: When was _Terminus_ written?

JG: 1981-1982.

KG: How did _Terminus_ come about? Can you recall the decision to write it or did you just wake up one day, face down on the keyboard, and there was the first 3,000 words? (This happened to me, that's why I'm asking.)

JG: Well, first of all, I had left the cinema after seeing ST:TMP for the first time (yeah, yeah, I know, we should have known how bad it would be when they couldn't even come up with a title for it) with about a half-dozen K/S scenarios in my head for Why Spock Went to Gol. Terminus was one of them. So like your experience, it just kind of happened.

Also, this was during the early Reagan years. I was bummed about the administration, about trickle-down economics, about the Christian Right, about the fact that people in authority were trying to impose their own narrow culture on the rest of the country. Putting those issues into a K/S context kind of helped me deal with them emotionally.

KG: What writers do you feel have influenced your slash writing?

JG: Ursula LeGuin and Syn Ferguson write science fiction or/and slash the way I *wish* I could write. But I'd love to be influenced by someone, anyone, who could help me be a better writer.

KG: Who is your favorite character in slash to write about? Read about? And why?

JG: Kirk and Kirk, what is Kirk? Such a complex character, so hard to grasp, so endlessly fascinating. I'm still trying to understand him after 23 years of watching TOS. And strange as it sounds, Kirk inspires me in RL. He's my hero and role model.

The character of Kirk really drew me into Trek. I wish I could explain the effect Kirk had on me. It was much deeper than sexual appeal--I think what I connected with was the elemental joy, the life-affirming energy of the character.

I happened to discover Trek at a turning point in my life, when I was making some far-reaching and risky decisions, and Kirk somehow helped inspire me to do that. In those early days after I first found Trek, I was exhilarated with the very idea of Kirk, almost giddy with the notion that there could *be* a person like Kirk.

What blew my mind about Kirk was this: Here was this guy who had absolutely awesome responsibility, who was out there on the edge of the universe exploring the unknown, running the best ship in the fleet, making life and death decisions, dealing with terror and tragedy and trying to uncover the most profound mysteries of the galaxy, and--he was plainly enjoying every minute of it. This goes back to that elemental joy that I saw in the character.

So I thought that if Kirk could have this much fun exploring, working on the cutting edge, heaping his plate with huge responsibility every day, maybe I could too. Call it naive if you will, but I've never looked back.

KG: Do you have some special technique for writing slash? (For example: I listen to really loud techno music. What do you do?)

JG: For K/S, I listen to 17th and 18th century music, especially Henry Purcell and other composers of the English Baroque. For example, a piece called "God Spake Sometime in Visions" by John Blow (no smart remarks, now, he was Purcell's teacher and very important in English musical history) puts me in a very Kirkish mood. I also meditate and visualize the story unfolding in scenes in my head.

KG: What do you feel is the future of K/S?

JG: I think because of its archetypal quality, K/S will continue as long as people are interested in Star Trek. Hopefully it will continue to grow and evolve.

KG: Me, I'm just a webizen so I know nothing of the printzine community, except for a brush or two with certain members. What is with those people? Are they really as uptight, narrow minded, hyper critical/sensitive and condescending as they seem or am I really just too fucked up to see their good points?

JG: I have a theory about cycles of expansion and contraction in fandom. It probably applies to all fandoms, but my empirical experience with it has been mostly in K/S, so when I say "fandom" here, I mean specifically K/S fandom. It's only a working hypothesis as yet, but to me it helps explain the uptight and narrow-minded behavior of certain printfen.

When fandom is expanding and new members are entering at a rapid pace, fandom's diversity also expands. People who are new to fandom are not mired in the existing conventions of fandom and instead, they tend to bring with them new and different perspectives and creative ideas. They also bring with them a wealth of experience outside fandom.

When fandom is contracting, it tends to become more and more inbred. The folks who stick around tend to be those with the deepest emotional and material investment in fandom itself. We all know of fans who don't have a lot going on in their lives apart from fandom; I believe that during a phase of contraction in fandom, the proportion of these fans tends naturally to increase.

Many of the most active members of the current K/S printzine community became active in K/S in the early 1990s, a period when K/S was in a state of contraction

following the Great K/S Expansion of the 1980s. The average K/S zine circulation had fallen from up to 1,000 to slightly more than 100. So, the "tyical" member of the current crop of printfen began writing at a time when K/S fandom consisted of a small number of women, mostly in the US, mostly straight and married, who all knew one another and read and reacted to one another's stories.

To their credit, some of this group of fans are serious about writing and have worked hard to learn their craft. I believe that as a result, *overall* the average quality of K/S fan fic in zines has risen since the 1980s. But there is much more sameness in the zines now. They even look much more alike. The fiction tends to follow certain stylistic conventions, like reliance on the third person subjective point of view with set "rules" for shifting from one narrator to another. The current printfen aesthetic is characterized by reliance on fairly conventional romantic tropes and on narrative structures that emphasize the build up and resolution of sexual tension. It is highly attached to descriptive passages and explicit, romantic sex scenes, and not at all attached to plot, science fiction ideas or the background and values of the Star Trek universe. Of course, we can find these qualities in net fiction, too, but net fiction has much more diversity.

Obviously, the net has led to a huge expansion in K/S fandom, probably a larger and more rapid expansion than has ever happened in a comparable period in fandom. And net fans are *different.* In my totally subjective observation (which I would love to test empirically!), they tend to be younger, better educated, more accomplished professionally, more likely to be gay, lesbian or transgendered and more likely to hail from outside the US than printfen. They seem, for lack of a better word, more comfortable with their own interest in slash. They are not wedded to plain vanilla, and they are not afraid to explore the dark side of the characters or the TOS universe. And, also in my totally subjective opinion, they are just plain better writers, on the whole. Perhaps this is because the feedback and beta-reading one gets on the net helps writers grow faster and better.

So, it is understandable that the printfen should feel a bit (OK, not just "a bit") threatened by what they see as the intrusion on their "turf" by a crowd with attitudes and approaches to K/S that differ so much from their own.

*Current* K/S print fandom has become so respectable and bourgeoisified that it seems to have little edge left. K/S printfen are not the underground any more, they are the mainstream, the nice straight housewives. So the freewheeling diversity and gender-bending of the net culture is not necessarily the printfan's cup of tranya.

But I don't want to stereotype printfen or lump them all in the same basket. Actually, some of the "older generation" of printfen--those who have been in fandom since the early 1980s or so--are very open to the net. Some of the K/S zine editors who have been in fandom the *longest* have been the most accepting and embracing of net fiction. But that fits my hypothesis, I think.

I don't think we can view print fandom as a monolithic entity that stands against net fic and vice-versa. Nor can one presume that contemporary K/S printfic is the lineal descendant of early fan fic, no matter how much the current crop of printfen would like to appropriate for themselves the status of heirs to the "classics." If you will forgive the Protestant perceptive, that is a bit like the Pope of Martin Luther' s era claiming to be the heir of the martyrs of the Early Church.

KG: What's your thinking on chicks with dicks and Tupper Trek? I don't find it interesting, but my tastes are more, um, graphic. (I actually have trouble figuring what's going on [sexually] in much of K/S, it's way too subtle or something for me.)

JG: As a long-time K/S fan, I have rotted my brain with a large quantities of Tuppertrek. It is extremely liberating to have more choice of K/S reading matter thanks to the net community.

KG: You've had experience in the printzine community and the webslash community. In what ways do their inherent strengths cause them to be inherently antagonistic? Or do I think that because I'm an asshole? (Okay, it's an awkward question, rephrase at will.)

JG: Good question! The most obvious and easiest answer is that they are two different communities, two different groups of people who each became a community in a different time and place. Like any community, each has its own dynamics, norms and values.

For me, though, the two communities differ in that they represent two different paradigms of interacting and writing. I see the net community as egalitarian and communitarian. Communication on the net is immediate, highly interactive, and non-hierarchical. As a result, net fiction tends to be idea-driven, collaborative and interactive (see, e.g., the "challenges" and the multi-part stories written by different authors as an idea grabs hold). It cuts into deeper levels of emotional and sexual truth.

If the net medium is egalitarian and communitarian, the printzine medium is hierarchical and individualistic. Writing is a more a solitary pursuit, with reinforcement tending to come from editors and the small number of readers who write reviews in the K/S Press. Editors have the power to decide what gets published and what doesn't. People take the time to write long stories, novellas and novels, and long LoCs (when they write them at all). Emphasis is less on ideas, more on how the writer handles the characters' emotions. I think there's probably also a generational difference between the two media that reflects and has contributed to overall social change. As we move into the 21st century, society as a whole is becoming more interactive, less hierarchical. The focus in industry is shifting away from top-down management to self-organized teamwork and collaboration. Diversity is actively valued because we have come to see it as a strength. So the net community is a 21st century organism, I think.

KG: I was recently reading an article in diary form about filmmaker Roger Nygard latest project. This 'feels' partly true to me (even I'm sure there's more to K/S than this) but I'm wondering if you have any reaction to this quote from the article: "March 22, 1997, Pasadena: Today we interviewed two writers of underground, homoerotic Kirk/Spock stories at the Pasadena Convention Center. These stories are typically written by and for heterosexual women - women who want to read sexual stories about Kirk and Spock but don't want to imagine them with other women." (LAT Magazine 6/20/99)

JG: I think the statement has some truth, certainly, but is becoming less accurate as fandom changes. Fandom is becoming less underground, less dominated by heterosexual women. Also, we are seeing writers who write het *and* slash, *and both m/m and f/f slash.

KG: What is the motivation to write slash? One can't sell it; one can't even eat it.

JG: It brings us joy, energy, completeness and a sense that all is right with the universe. Entities do not live by bread alone!

KG: Do you have any thoughts on the future of Slash on the Web?

JG: I think its future is to Live Long and Prosper.

G: And one final question - in your opinion, who's bigger? Kirk or Spock?

JG: I like to see them as equals in all things , and once I arbitrarily decided for a story that they were both the same length--22 cm.--without getting into the issue of thickness. But I confess that in my fantasies, in which I identify with Kirk, Spock is a bit bigger. But only a bit.

KG: Thank you, Judith.

JG: You're welcome!



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