From Fan Fiction to Future

Apollo 11 Saturn V on launch pad 39A, 1 July 1969. NASA Photo.

Was Neil Armstrong a Trekkie? Did ‘Wagon Train’ fan fiction help inspire us to go to the Moon? And might Luke Skywalker create a better future for humanity than Jesus?

Thirty years ago, I was privileged to interview someone who had just been selected for astronaut training by NASA. He spoke to me of how Star Trek and other sci fi from his childhood had inspired him to pursue a career in the stars.

A dozen years later, another astronaut – Neil Armstrong, no less – attended a Star Trek convention and spoke in praise of its inspirational impact:

“So, I’m hoping for my next command, to be given a Federation starship…

“…I am an engineer. And if I get that command, I want a chief engineering officer like Montgomery Scott. Because I know Scotty will get the job done and do it right. Even if I often hear him say, ‘But Captain, I dinna have enough time!’

“So from one old engineer to another, thanks, Scotty.”

21st July (Australia time) marks the anniversary of Armstrong (and Aldrin)’s landing on the Moon aboard the Apollo 11 lunar module, the Eagle – one of the most significant historical events in living memory. The 1969 flight of Apollo 11 (and the overall space program) was the culmination of dreams that began the first time we looked up into the skies. Perhaps Lucy – our distant ancestor who left her footprints in an African gully in prehistoric times – stumbled and fell to her death as she gazed distractedly upward at the Moon, where Armstrong would leave his own footprints some uncountable millennia later. Or so we can ponder – as perhaps Lucy pondered. Such is the stuff of which dreams and imaginings are made.

Such dreams fuel our passions – or reflect them. The aforementioned Star Trek TV series was marketed as a rebooted Wagon Train TV series set in space – pioneers and explorers travelling to the stars. And as Wagon Train fan fiction was being written over subsequent years, men were landing and walking on the Moon. Did such aspirational dreams fuel reality – or did they reflect it? In this vein, it is interesting to be mindful of the similarities (and differences) between the lunar travellers in the classic sci fi novel by Jules Verne, From the Earth to the Moon and the actual Apollo Moon program a century later.

“Ever since I saw the moon landing as a young teenager, I was determined I would go into space one day.” – Richard Branson

Artemis 1 Prelaunch, Sunday, Nov. 6, 2022, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo Credit: (NASA/Joel Kowsky)

As humanity prepares to return to the Moon – a generation after Apollo – aboard the Artemis program, we can speculate about the cultural shift from naming a moonshot program after a mythical male God (Apollo) in the 1960s, to his mythical female counterpart (Artemis) in the 2020s. Like the space program itself, our astronaut selection and cultural norms have become more inclusive of diversity and much more. Artemis was not only a Moon goddess, but also deity connected to nature and the environment – suggesting that we are more open to understanding our place in the cosmos within a perspective of respecting our planet and its biosphere. As a species, we are changing, evolving… perhaps the communication technology spawned by Apollo has brought us closer together as a human family and as a participant in an active biosphere of organic, sentient life.

But the tendency to link the space program to mythology is itself changing in our culture. Our literature that most closely resembles and portrays space – science fiction – is a modern, interesting, and exciting form of secular story-telling. Its birth as a modern-day art form coincided with the height of the Apollo program, with the film, 2001: A Space Odyssey; and subsequent hard-science speculations (Contact, Interstellar, Gravity), which help us to glimpse the numinous in our cosmos.

Herein lies a warning and a challenge: we must be careful to remain creators of our dreams and not just consumers. Luke Skywalker and Doctor Who must not be only our imaginary heroes: they must be our role models in real life. We must follow their example to confront hardship and make the world a better place.

“For change to happen it does not only need to change opinions, there needs to be a way for the changed opinion to be turned into action.”
– Timothy Underwood, When Can Fiction Change the World?

Does sci fi inspire science, or does science inspire sci fi? We all need arts, music, writings and culture to inspire us and to fully optimise our human experience and potential. I would suggest that sci fi is a form of fan fiction, interacting with science and scientists to offer contributions (culturally and scientifically) to upcoming scientific, cultural and technological revolutions.

Meanwhile, ponder the Internet and IT or mobile phone technology that allows you to read this blog. You can thank Neil Armstrong and the army of Apollo engineers and scientists who led the scientific revolution that shaped your world today. Now, imagine how Artemis and its technology will change our culture, our technology, our dreams, and the next generation.

©2023 Geoff Allshorn

Trekking on the Edge of the Yarra

The local Star Trek club, Austrek, will soon approach its fiftieth birthday. One of its pioneer members, Paul Murphy, recalls glimpses of its early days when people subscribed to the Star Trek adage that the human adventure is just beginning.

Launch of Apollo 11, 16 July 1969 (NASA Photo)

(Interviewed by email)

You became interested in the space program at an early age. Why do you think that was?

Who, alive in 1969, wasn’t caught up in the first manned moon landing?? I’m pretty sure John F. Kennedy didn’t know what he started when he set the USA a national goal of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth before the end of that decade. For one thing, out of the space program came our modern computer/technology age.

When were you introduced to science fiction?

I recall reading a book at primary school called Peter Graves (not the actor from Mission Impossible and Flying High etc). The story involved a scientist developing a substance that allowed one to defy gravity. This must have been my first Sci Fi-ish book. I think other early influences were books by Arthur C. Clarke (from 2001) then the usual greats: Heinlein, Asimov, and others.

When did you become involved in Star Trek and why do you think it had such a strong attraction to so many people?

Star Trek? It was on black & white television. I must have enjoyed because I watched it. I also watched Lost in Space, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and other shows from that era. One memory I have is my siblings and I agreeing that we liked Trek better when they weren’t “horsing around the ship”.

In hindsight now, I’m glad they did the original cast movies. I like them because they show diversity: Sulu got a command, and Uhura did more than answer the telephone. On the local front, as an example of diversity, you guys let me join in and have some fun!

When did you become involved in Austrek?

I was walking past The Ritz Cinema (the Lithuanian Club) in North Melbourne during the late 1970s, when I noticed toward an A3-sized poster for a ‘Dusk ‘til Dawn Star Trek Marathon’. I think at first I dismissed it, but I was feeling restless and adventurous at age 17, so I decided that because I liked the show, I’d like to attend the Marathon. There, I discovered Austrek through the flyers that were displayed on the theatre counter during intermission. I applied for membership because there was the newsletter, magazine meetings if I wanted to attend, and I corresponded with Geoff by post.

What are your most memorable memories of some of the early Austrek people and/or events?

The first meeting I attended was in a church hall in Fairfield, Melbourne. It was my first train adventure on the Hurstbridge line. I was greeted at the Fairfield station exit by one member wearing an Austrek T Shirt, and realized that it wasn’t just me getting off the train for this. At these meetings and at the local Star Trek Marathons, I ended up meeting amazing people, like Diane Marchant, who was corresponding with Gene Roddenberry [Star Trek creator] before I even knew his name.

I just met so many different people across all kinds of kinds of “divides” – whether ethnicity, social class, sexuality, age or whatever. I even met my first trans friend in Austrek, and it just felt right for him. The thing we all had in common was one television show that showed promise for the future.

Hand drawn Xmas card from Paul Murphy, c. 1978. From Geoff Allshorn’s personal collection.

Your cartoons (Jim Kirk Show, etc) were creative and memorable. Do you remember any responses from readers?

I recall that artist Mike McGann from Sydney told me he liked my work, and encouraged me to make a little money selling artwork. I politely declined, amazed that anyone liked my stuff at all.

Another memory, and this is deep: some bloke at a meeting asked me, “Where did you learn to do this?” I did the brush off (“just a bit of fun” etc) but that night I sat in the dark and asked myself exactly where did I learn to do it? They don’t teach you at school. I remembered drawing with my brother, copying at first then changing style. Maybe I absorbed one too many Mad magazines in the 1970’s; thanks to Mort Drucker, I was off on my artistic journey!!!

Spock #5, August 1977. Cover Art by Sue Keck

Diane Marchant once told me that Gene Roddenberry praised your cartoons, and suggested that he could find you work if you ever came to Hollywood…

Yes I do remember Diane sent of a copy of Spock to “The Great Bird of the Galaxy”. I think it was the issue with the red cover. I remember someone telling me this and I hope he got a laugh after all the enjoyment he’s given me with the TV show he created. I had also hoped it would give Diane some cred for Gene to know that his show was having an impact half a planet away in Australia. But offering me work in Hollywood?? I never heard that. I very much doubt I’d have jumped on a plane to Burbank… but stranger things have happened.

Starrag fanzine – content and artwork by Paul Murphy

Why did you create the Starrag fanzine? What can you tell me about it and any responses etc?

Ok, the truth. I suggested it at a Trekcon 2 committee meeting. The idea was if we get it out to a wider audience, we might make money for helping to run the con. The fanzine was a mix of old and new material.

I showed a copy to Merv Binns at Space Age Bookshop, and he agreed to put a couple on display. It wasn’t exactly a shelf clearer. I worked down the road and would sometimes wander up to Space Age Books to check its progress. The fanzine wasn’t moving. I felt disappointed. Oh well, I tried!

A screen grab from the 1975/6 fan film ‘Apollo 19’, courtesy of Paul Murphy.

What preparation did you have for the fan film, City on the Edge of the Yarra ?

I made a Super 8 film called ‘Apollo 19’, which I started in 1975 (‘Sack Kerr’ was written in graffiti on the side of the rocket) and finished in 1976 (which is why the Enterprise makes an appearance). It included every film trick I knew: rear projection, animation, miniatures, even pyrotechnics. I was lucky I didn’t blow myself up! So when Stephen came up with City, I was really good to go – especially using someone else’s money (I think Russell [club treasurer] let Stephen have a budget of around $100, which we spent mostly on purchasing film stock.)

Photo courtesy of Paul Murphy

What do you recall of the making of City?

Stephen asked me to play Spock in his proposed movie. I said yes. I’d already been asked to play McCoy in someone else’s film, but I said yes straight away to Steve. I recall playing Spock when I insisted on having a moustache. This required spirit gum, latex, toilet paper, and heaps of makeup. Taking it off afterwards? OUCH! I shaved. We filmed in the city, and received comments like: “Whatch s’possed to be, Dr Spock?” I remember driving out to Nunawading (Steve didn’t have a car) to get the film hot off the AGFA presses so we could see the “rushes”. I suggested a couple of cheap joke cutaways, and Steve kept them in. Re-doing the tiles by myself in Canberra coz all this new video editing software and I still had the end credit cards. Apart from that, I don’t remember a lot now. Just fun.

City was probably one of the earliest Star Trek fan films ever made. What do you think is its legacy?

Super 8 film movie cameras and young chaps are a dangerous mix. Stephen is a talented fellow and I’m glad I got to collaborate.

Paul recalls some ‘City on the Edge of the Yarra’ tech details:

Shot using AGFA Super 8 film.

100 ASA (an American standard that indicated the film sensitivity to light).

18 Frames Per Second (fps) which is standard for silent film.

Super 8 millimeter film came in cartridges that ran from start to finish.

I read that something plastic could be broken by a screwdriver or similar to allow the film to be rewound a short bit to enable double exposures. I never tried this but Stephen did and succeeded.

Cartridges held 50 feet of film (25 meters) which at 18 fps lasted just under 3 minutes. If you looked around they could be bought for about $5.00.

Stephen had the finished film (approx 400 ft) soundstriped. This means a strip of magnetic tape was glued to each side of the film. Between the sprocket holes one side and the edge on the other. It is on this track that music,sound and dialogue was recorded after editing.

Stephen allowed me custody of the only copy of the completed film reel (I’m amazed he did) to give to an audio/visual lab to have it copied onto video tape – which was a new thing on the home market in 1980.

I assume that because of the sound stripes on the film, the lab assumed it was sound film, so ran it at 24 fps. This is why Stephen sounds like a cross between Maxwell Smart and a chipmunk.

I also assume their equipment used automatic exposure, which took a while to catch up to the picture. Hence dark bits with sound and the bridge scene where Stephen and I appear to be combusting.

This was put on a Fuji L500 Betamax video cassette, and was later captured to computer.

I still had the title cards from 1979 so I scanned these to JPG files and with the original soundtrack replaced the start and end credits.

The emulsion (light sensitive coating on the plastic strip) was visible as grain on the image if overly projected. This is comparable to seeing individual pixels today.

I really can’t get over what’s available today. If we had access to those resources back then, we could have had so much more fun.

Austrek will soon celebrate its fiftieth birthday. What are your thoughts about that?

I feel so old!!! I’m glad it’s ongoing. Austrek is a place for people with a common interest to meet, communicate, interact. Even if it’s just TV and movies guess what guys? You grow up and learn other people’s story too. Not what you signed up for but I see it as a bonus. I’d just like to thank Geoff, Joan and Russell [foundation members] for making this even possible. Austrek was an offshoot of the Melbourne Amateur Science Club (M.A.S.C.) that took off on a life of its own! Who would have guessed?

(Updated on 16 April 2023 to add paragraph about his preparation for the making of the film, and on 20 April 2023 to add Paul’s recollection of ‘City’ technical details.)

©2023 Geoff Allshorn

It’s Life, Jim

It’s Life, Jim: Star Trek, Fan Culture, Slash Fiction
and the Queering of Starfleet Command

Originally published in Bent Street 4.1, 24th July 2020.

Image by p2722754 from Pixabay

‘Beam Me Up, Scotty!’

Many will immediately recognise this catchphrase as a testimony to nerd culture and cult television. Yet in its day, it was a somewhat covert signal between adherents in much the same way as talking about being ‘a friend of Dorothy’ indicated membership of another fringe group.

When considering how technology has transformed social norms regarding sexuality and intimacy, we might think most readily of Grindr, social media, and even more rudimentary tech such as mobile phones and the Internet. My story begins before any of this technology existed, back in the days of what may now be considered dinosaur tech, such as free-to-air television, the typewriter, the fordigraph machine, and the film camera. This now-outdated tech helped plug me into a Matrix of alternate reality that introduced me to my first ‘out’ gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans and queer friends, in an era when male homosexuality was still illegal and LGBT people were shunned by polite society. This dinosaur tech also introduced me to a counter-culture of bohemian people whose lifestyles and views were open expressions of inclusion, diversity and difference.


There was a time when the apex of popular communication technology in Australia was recently-colourised free-to-air television, comprising a stand-alone box with an antenna. There were no videotapes or DVDs, no satellite or cable TV, no streaming or iTunes, so viewers relied totally upon the whims of local TV station programmers for whatever content they might get to view. Those seeking other visual entertainment could go to the local movie cinema.

Amidst the cultural fare of programs like The Beverley Hillbillies, Are You Being Served? and The Paul Hogan Show, my young teenage self sought somewhat higher inspiration and aspiration. I found the world of Star Trek. It was a wondrous place, filled with spaceships and aliens, diverse peoples and galactic technological marvels. Although it offered no explicitly queer themes or characters, its variety of aliens implicitly endorsed the principles of diversity and inclusion. The addition of the half-human, half-Vulcan character, Spock, was also extremely popular with audiences, with many people admiring different aspects of his complex character. Stephen Fry asserts the Spock character to be a Nietzschean counterbalance to his two closest human associates as a symbolic representation of different aspects of the human psyche (Knight, 2010). Barbara Jacobs has even suggested that Spock serves as a possible role model for those with Asperger’s Syndrome (Jacobs, 2003, 38); while SF author Joanna Russ explores the idea that ‘Spock is a woman’ in that he displays attributes or characteristics that were common to gender expectations for women in earlier times – cyclical and uncontrollable sexuality, a submissive and subservient nature, etc (Russ, 1985, 29). This gender subversion would arguably become important within a cultural phenomenon that I will discuss shortly.

Many fans upheld Spock as an archetype in that he embodied optimism amidst the universal human condition of loneliness: ‘This is an optimism that says it is possible to find somebody who understands your innermost silent and lonely battles’ (Lichtenberg et al, 1975,101). Such sensitivities within the character appear to have come directly from the background of Star Trek creator, Gene Roddenberry, who spoke of his childhood as a time when he felt different and isolated (Roddenberry, 1976). The universal nature of Spock’s inner conflicts: balancing logic with emotion, and alien with human, led one Star Trek analyst to declare that, ‘We Are All Spock’ (Blair, 1977,160). He became popular among many adolescents such as myself, who were seeking a role model as a metaphoric other exploring the strange new world of adult life. Added layers of nuance within his character were undoubtedly familiar to young LGBT kids in my day: being someone who was ‘emotionally guarded’ and living a life that testifies: ‘it’s no big jump from alien to alienated…’ (Russ, 1985, 29). In a 2015 fan eulogy for the actor Leonard Nimoy, I wrote of his character’s significance in my own life some decades earlier, when I had faced stigma, prejudice and discrimination:

Spock was a kindred spirit, someone who had found strength, pride and nobility in being different … Spock’s resilience and quiet dignity in the face of intolerance, or bullying, or alien dangers; served as an example to ennoble and enable the lives of many fans who might otherwise have felt isolation or despair. (Allshorn, 2015, 13)

Star Trek was a utopian fantasy that explored galaxies of diverse ideas. While Australia was grappling with the idea of multiculturalism in the 1970s, I was absorbing the Star Trek philosophy of Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations (IDIC). The Star Trek fan base has always been welcoming of those whom normal society might consider to be aliens in our midst. Star Trek actor and LGBT activist George Takei elaborates on this conjoining of diversity with inclusion: ‘The show always appealed to people that were different — the geeks and the nerds, and the people who felt they were not quite a part of society, sometimes because they may have been gay or lesbian’ (Lang, 2015). Even after Star Trek’s popularity had peaked, it was reported that Star Trek Voyager was equal third most popular TV show (alongside The Simpsons) in San Francisco (PlanetOut staff, 2000). LGBT viewers have always been attracted to this TV program – even though its implied diversity has not explicitly included queer characters or themes – and they have been prepared to translate its sense of inclusion into real life.

As part of this inclusive mindset, enthusiastic fans sent letters to the Star Trek offices offering constructive suggestions for future Star Trek adventures. Among their suggestions back in the early days of gay liberation was a request that gay characters be included in order to demonstrate and promote tolerance (Sackett, 1977, 166). This call was ignored by Star Trek creators, so the fans created their own reality. They took ideas from television and translated them into real life.

Image by Valeria Moschet from Pixabay

Typewriters and Fordigraph Machines

Star Trek fandom attracted a large influx of female authors and participants, indicating that something specific within Star Trek must have attracted the interest and passion of such women. Part of the attraction, it seems, was an interest in what became known as the Kirk/Spock relationship. This was possibly first glimpsed in a 1967 episode of Star Trek called Amok Time, which featured exotic Vulcan (hetero)sexuality with just a hint of homo-suggestive entanglement. (Sinclair, J. and D’Anne, eds, 2016).

Eager for more Star Trek adventures, fans wrote their own. Female Star Trek fans grabbed their typewriters and fordigraph (or similar hand-operated spirit duplicator) machines to assertively self-publish fan fiction (‘fanfic’ or ‘fic’) stories within amateur fan magazines (‘fanzines’ or ‘zines’). Actor Leonard Nimoy acknowledged the popularity of heterosexual fanfic written by these women, whose zines ranged from generic Star Trek stories to others that were outright erotic – some of which transgressed beyond heterosexuality into the homoerotic:

The cover of one of these ‘fan-zines’ in particular shows `a very well done drawing of Mr Spock stripped to the waist, his lower portion covered for the most part with a draped toga exposing one bare leg, his hands manacled and a belt from the manacles chaining him to a post. The title boldly reads ‘Spock Enslaved!’ The obvious suggestion is that Spock in this case is a love slave, much in the same way that women have been used for years in erotic or semi-erotic literature. I suppose in this case, turn about is fair play. (Nimoy, 1975, 55)

Expanding upon this idea, heterosexual Australian fan Diane Marchant wrote a story entitled A Fragment Out of Time, which was published in a 1974 issue of an adult US Star Trek fanzine called Grup (Roberts, 2015). Her story is widely recognised as being the first zine-published slash story (so-named after the coded slash symbol in ‘K/S’ being shorthand for ‘Kirk/Spock’), although there are other claimants to the actual origins of slash (fanlore, 2020b). The slash symbol refers to stories containing what became popularly known as ‘the premise’, that is the practice of taking established or potential character relationships and extending them into deeper same-sex attraction (fanlore, 2020 b & d). Diane was a friend and mentor of mine, and I know that her reticence to identify Kirk and Spock within her story – and her reluctance to ever talk about it – reflected a lifelong sensitivity regarding material which may create contention, friction or scandal, evocative of the era when ‘… gay relationships of any variety, even fictional, were considered deviant, overtly sexual and perverted’ (Smith, 2018). Nonetheless, the precedent she set, and the aspects of Star Trek fandom that arose in response, gave women an avenue for expression of ideas which were, for their time, quite unconventional:

As the first depiction of a love scene between Kirk and Spock, it wasn’t just hot; it was a way of making visible the thread of attraction that runs through the complex bond between the two characters. It elevated subtext to text. In doing so it gave rise to an entire writhing, sweating universe of romantic and sexual pairings. But slash isn’t just about making porn out of things that weren’t already porn. It’s also about prosecuting fanfiction’s larger project of breaking rules and boundaries and taboos of all kinds. (Grossman, 2013).

In the historical context, the burgeoning female fan movement helped to provide women with liberated and liberating expressions of recognition, sexuality and empowerment, and many chose this freedom to lend support to other marginalised forms of sexual or gender identity. They also expanded their scope to other science fiction and TV/literary identities: Blake’s Seven, Starsky and Hutch, Babylon 5, and many others. However, slash as a genre is not without its potential problems: ‘Slash is important in creating queer representation; it’s fun and pleasurable for many people and that’s important too; but slash can sometimes be regressive, sexist, or fetishizing.’ (Flourish, 2017).

As a young gay man, I personally never found slash fiction to be particularly appealing or authentic to my life. I concluded that slash was not exploring the gay experience so much as it was presenting women’s fantasies of idealised romantic/sexual love liberated from oppressive patriarchal and homophobic traditions. In my day, slash was believed to be the purview of predominantly heterosexual women, but later fan media discourse began to recognise the presence of LGBT authors and readers (NB, 1992) and then go beyond the gay/straight binary into fuller recognition of a spectrum of ‘queer’ identities (Lackner et al, 2006, 193 – 4). By the early 2000s, women had greater freedoms to ‘come out’ than they had in earlier decades and this has led to the increased visibility of LGBT people: ‘Anecdotal evidence and informal polls suggest that the number of not-straight women is proportionately higher in fandom than in the population at large’ (Busse, 2006, 208).

Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

This female fan cohort may have actually resuscitated and saved the Star Trek franchise (McNally, 2016) and forever changed the gender ratio within the science fiction community. Many of these women became prominent in Star Trek and science fiction clubs, convention committees and fanzines, reshaping the role of women in such community activism. The number of Star Trek clubs and fanzine titles worldwide peaked at approximately 450 each in 1977 (Verba 2003, 35). These fanzines – predominantly written, illustrated, edited and read by women – were often comprised of multiple issues of adult or slash content. This helped to not only promote female self-empowerment, but their gender subversion included voluntary exploration of non-heterosexist, liberated, erotic, subversive, female-directed, queer-normative literature:

Many fans took it upon themselves to read more into the Kirk/Spock relationship than had ever been hinted at on screen. In the early days of fanzines, some were dedicated to amateur fan stories that explored various facets of this non-canonical relationship. This was never recognised on screen, and in general Star Trek has been heavily criticised for its relative failure – at a time when the television landscape was becoming even more diverse – to depict lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) characters or to craft stories dealing with the issues of LGBT rights … (Robb, 2012, 184).

Now long superseded by digital publishing, paper fanzines have gone the way of other dinosaur tech and been replaced by online fanfic repositories such as Archive of Our Own. Slash also proliferates on the Internet via apps such as Pinterest and Instagram. Meanwhile, fanfic continues to grow (Joyce, 2016). The Star Trek franchise has never officially acknowledged the role of these fans, nor the immense marketing potential of slash or other fanfic.

New Tech, New Trek

Star Trek fans have always been at the forefront of using or adapting technology. For their originally rudimentary forms of costumed roleplay (cosplay), they created costumes out of velour and glitter and papier-mâché and tinfoil, and cobbled together props out of whatever was at hand; they took photos off the TV screen, and they recorded episodes on audio cassettes. For social networking and Star Trek news, they might join a local club and await its fordigraphed monthly newsletter. Those wanting international networking generally relied on the snail-mail postal service (and maybe an occasional operator-assisted overseas phone call from their home phone). International pen-pal (and free holiday visit) networks sprang up around the world. This tendency to innovate and reinvent led many fan authors, artists, scientists, computer wizards, astronauts, medical specialists and others to change the world with new ideas and tech ranging from medical scanners to mobile phones (Evangelista, 2004; Handel & Jones, 2005).

In the early 1970s, after the original Star Trek had been cancelled, the explosive growth of paper fanzines helped to revive the franchise, until their eventual demise in the 1990s. More recently, during the early years of the 21st century, fans once again began to reclaim the temporarily-stalled franchise through their increasing use of more modern technology: fan films. Such films have been around since at least 1974 (Wikipedia, 2020) and Melbourne’s own local Star Trek club, Austrek, produced its own fan films in 1979 and 1993 (Maxwell, 2017?), but the arrival of digital technology led to an explosion of fan films on the Internet from the early 2000s onwards.

One fan film series, Star Trek: Hidden Frontier, included gay characters and queer outer space romances that were treated with the same acceptance that the original Star Trek extended towards heterosexuality. One episode even featured Star Trek’s first openly, out-and-proud gay on-screen kiss (Hidden Frontier, 2004) – not a relationship layered in metaphor (Wong, 2018).

Another fan film series, Star Trek: New Voyages, featured a two-part story that gave Star Trek writer, David Gerrold, the chance to revisit his Blood and Fire episode which had been rejected by Star Trek back in the 1980s. The story featured a gay couple and allegorised the AIDS epidemic which was at its height when the script was originally written. One commentator spoke with hope about the optimism inherent in such fan films and within Star Trek in general:

… its central theme of a future where mankind actually gets along no matter what our race, gender, age, hairline, or even species is a very positive one that I think appeals to a gay audience. (Cross, 2007).

Once again, fan fiction would precede the franchise in promoting LGBT rights.

I have been, and always shall be, your friend

The Star Trek franchise has a long history of homophobia and LGBT erasure (Author Unknown, 2003). Although modern-day audiences today often interpret older episodes or characters to be queer-supportive or queer-friendly (Hennessy, 2019), an analysis of these same characters and allegories within their contemporaneous settings reveals heteronormativity and covert homophobic insinuation (Ex Astris Scientia, 2020; McNally, 2020). Conversely, Star Trek has been appropriated by its legions of LGBT and other followers – if not in a strictly legal copyright sense, then certainly as a source of intellectual and philosophical inspiration. Although the franchise has avoided LGBT characters and stories – prompting one Australian LGBT commentator to lament: ‘… there are no poofs and no dykes in the future’ (McKee, 1996, 13) – the LGBT community and slash supporters continue to be fascinated by the implied diversity in its fantasies. It is interesting to see how Star Trek as a Hollywood franchise has evolved – or not – in response to this social evolution.

In 1979, the novelisation of the first official Star Trek movie contained a cautiously coded reference to slash fiction by acknowledging the Kirk/Spock relationship as being t’hy’la – somehow more than brothers but less than lovers – and firmly rebutting any suggestion of sexual interaction (Roddenberry, 1979, 18 & 19). Subsequent Star Trek movies toyed with coded gay comic references (‘Please, Jim, not in front of the Klingons’) and in 2016, the most recent Star Trek film contained an acknowledgement of the character Sulu being gay in a scene that actor George Takei described as, ‘If you blinked, you missed it’ (Kooser, 2016). The most recent Star Trek shows, Discovery and Picard have somewhat reluctantly begun including LGBT characters but still cannot not resist deferring to problematic old Star Trek tropes such as killing off their queer characters (Duffy, 2018; Diaz, 2019; Opie, 2020). The Star Trek franchise – one that proclaims itself to ‘boldly go where no one has gone before’ – is still struggling to be out and proud, falling behind any number of other television and film franchises, over fifty years after its tech-savvy LGBT-friendly fan base built an inclusive community of queer-friendly bohemians and others who not only proclaimed diversity, but actually lived it. These pioneers are heroes in the history of LGBT civil rights; may their memory live long and prosper.

The author wishes to thank Dr Mirna Cicioni for her assistance with this article.


Allshorn, G. (2015). ‘‘I have been, and always shall be, your friend’: A Tribute to Leonard Nimoy 1931 – 2015’, Captain’s Log, Austrek, May, 12 – 13.

Author Unknown. (2003). Gay, Lesbian & Bisexual Characters on Star Trek.

Blair, K. (1977). Meaning in Star Trek, New York: Warner Books.

Busse, K. (2006). ‘My Life Is a WIP on My LJ’, in Karen Hellekson and Kristina Busse (eds.), Fan Fiction and the Fan Communities in the Age of the Internet, London: Mcfarland, 207-224.

Cross, D. (2007). Quoted in Stewart Who?,, ‘Star Trek Goes Gay’, Advocate, 17 to 19 March,

Diaz, E. (2019). ‘STAR TREK: DISCOVERY Just Fixed Its Biggest Mistake’, Nerdist, 15 February,

Duffy, N. (2018). ‘There was a major twist on Star Trek: Discovery and gay fans are pissed off’, Pink News, 8 January.

Evangelista, B. (2004) ‘TREK TECH / 40 years since the Enterprise’s inception, some of its science fiction gadgets are part of everyday life’, San Francisco Chronicle, 15 March,

Ex Astris Scientia. (2020). ‘Homosexuality in Star Trek’, Ex Astris Scientia,

Fanlore. (2019). Main page, edit dated 20 January.

Fanlore. (2020a). ‘Another Addict Raves About K/S’, edit dated 1 March.

= = = = (2020b). ‘Kirk/Spock (TOS)’, edit dated 20 May

= = = = (2020c). ‘Nome (Star Trek: TOS zine published in the US)’, edit dated 25 February.

= = = = (2020d). ‘Slash’, edit dated 30 January.

Flourish, E. (2017). Interviewed in Henry Jenkins (editor) & William Proctor (Associate Editor), ‘The Multiplicity and Diversity of Fandom: An Interview with Fansplaining’s Flourish Klink and Elizabeth Minkel (Part Three)‘, Henry Jenkins: Confessions of an ACA-Fan, 12 December.

Gonzalez, C. (2010). ‘Stephen Fry and Jennifer Byrne Q&A’, in Stephen Fry Live at the Sydney Opera House, ABC DVD, Australian Broadcasting Corporation and Sydney Opera House.

Grossman, L. (2013). ‘Foreword’, in Anne Jamison, Fic: Why Fanfiction Is Taking Over the World, (Kindle edition), Texas: BenBella Books.

Handel, A. & Jones, J. (2005). How William Shatner Changed the World, Handel Productions (ST) Inc.
Harvey, E. (2018). ‘The A. Bertram Chandler Award: What Goes Around Comes Around’, in Bruce Gillespie (ed. & pub.), Science Fiction Commentary #97, August, 9 – 15.

Hennessy, C. (2019). ‘8 Reasons to Watch DS9 During Pride Month’,, 18 June.

Hidden Frontier. (2004). ‘CROSSROADS: Star Trek: Hidden Frontier – Episode 4.05’.

Jacobs, B. (2003). Loving Mr Spock: The Story of A Difference Kind of Love, London: Michael Joseph/Penguin.

Joyce, H. (2016). ‘To Boldly Go…’, The Economist, August/September.

Kooser, A. (2016). ‘George Takei calls ‘Star Trek Beyond’ gay Sulu scene ‘a whisper’’, CNET, 5 August,

Lane, J. (2019). ‘The very FIRST Star Trek fan film ever to be SHUT DOWN by the studio lawyers was in…1968???’, Axanar, 8 September.

Lackner, E; Lucas, BE; Reid, RA. (2006), ‘Cunning Linguists. The Bisexual Erotics of Words/Silence/Flesh’, in Karen Hellekson and Kristina Busse (eds.), Fan Fiction and the Fan Communities in the Age of the Internet, London: Mcfarland, 189-206.

Lang, B. (2015) ‘George Takei on Same-Sex Marriage, Why ‘Star Trek’ Fans Are Gay Friendly, Variety, 26 June.

Lichtenberg, J; Marshak, S; Winston, J. (1975). Star Trek Lives!, New York: Bantam.
Maxwell, D. (2017?). ‘The History of Austrek – How It All Began’, Austrek.

McKee, A. (1996). ‘Star Trek Voyeur’, Brother Sister Issue #105, 2 May.

McNally, V. (2016). ‘Women who love ‘Star Trek’ are the reason that modern fandom exists’, Revelist, 8 September.

McNally, V. (2020). ‘Your Guide to Queer Identity and Metaphor in Star Trek’, StarTrek.Com, 1 July.

Miller, S. M. (2017). ‘‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Cast and Crew: If You Don’t Understand Diversity, You Don’t Understand ‘Star Trek’’, Indie Wire, 22 July.

NB. (1992). Quoted in ‘Camille Bacon-Smith and Henry Jenkins at Gaylaxicon 1992 (Part Two)’, in Henry Jenkins (editor) & William Proctor (Associate Editor), Henry Jenkins: Confessions of an ACA-Fan, 24 February 2010.

Nimoy, L. (1975). I Am Not Spock, Millbrae: Celestial Arts.

Opie, D. (2020). ‘Star Trek: Picard missed an opportunity to correct Discovery’s big mistake’, Digital Spy, 28 January,

PlanetOut staff. (2000). ‘Gay TV Viewing Habits’, PlanetOut, 24 November.
Robb, BJ. (2012) Star Trek: The Essential History of the Classic TV Series and the Movies, Constable & Robinson/Running Press.

Roberts, TR. (2015). ‘Diane Marchant & Kirk/Spock [SF Women of the 20th Century]’,, 26 August,

Roddenberry, G. (1976). ‘The Star Trek Dream’, Inside Star Trek, Columbia Records, July; reissued in the 1999 two-CD set, Star Trek: The Motion Picture – 20th Anniversary Collector’s Edition. See also

= = = = = = = = (1979). Star Trek – The Motion Picture, London: Futura Publications.

Russ, J. (1985). ‘Another Addict Raves about K/S’, in Victoria Clark and Barbara L. Storey (eds.), NOME #8, May, 27 – 37. Note that Russ credits Dr Patricia Frazer Lamb with the idea that, ‘Spock is a woman’. Note that the editors of this publication were identified in fanlore and those related web pages (fanlore, 2020 a & c) are also listed in this reference section.

Sackett, S. (1977). Letters to Star Trek, New York: Ballantine Books.

Sinclair, J. and D’Anne (eds.). (2016). Short History of Kirk/Spock Slash, 15 October,

Smith, A. (2018). ‘A 50-year Trekkie bestows Star Trek history upon the next generation: How fandom and fanfiction sparked the galaxy’s most controversial romance’, 8 August, Colorado Springs Indy.

Takei, G. (2004). To the Stars: The Autobiography of George Takei, New York: Pocket Books.

Verba, JM. (2003). Boldly Writing: A Trekker Fan and Zine History 1967 – 1987, 2nd edition, Minneapolis: FTL Publications.

Wikipedia. (2020). ‘Star Trek fan productions’, Wikipedia, edit dated 19 June.

Wong, CM. (2018), ‘How ‘Star Trek’ Made History 22 Years Ago With A Same-Sex Kiss’, Huffpost, 4 March.

©2023 Geoff Allshorn

Beyond the Edge of the World

Poem by Betsi Ashton republished here in loving memory

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

She had dared to dream
Of a world where hate
And nationalism were barred.
Where the countries of Earth
Were linked as states,
And minds were no longer scarred.

She had searched through
The cloudless skies, at night
Beyond the edge of the world,
And her mind leaped out
In a boundless flight,
To mingle where stars are hurled.

Through most of her days
Of toil and work,
But half of her mind was engaged;
The other half flew with a Spock or a Kirk,
And her thoughts could not be caged.

She carried an IDIC within her heart,​
And tried to live by its rules;
Caring not when her friends​
tried to tear the chart -​
(Blind, with the blindness of fools.)

The life she led in her dreams
was the sane,
The ‘every day’ was the sham:
Rolling-up time in her hands
in a skein;
knowing ‘I shall’ for ‘I am’.

On the edge of the world
They sought her out,
Transporting her to Their year;
Because she kept the faith
in a world of doubt,
and knew that tomorrow was near.

Published in October 1979 by Betsi Ashton
in The Stargazer (a poetry anthology)
Publisher: Enigma Enterprises.

This republished tribute ©2022 Geoff Allshorn