Interview

A conversation with Paula Smith

Cynthia W. Walker

St. Peter's College, Jersey City, New Jersey, United States

[0.1] Keywords—Fandom; Fanzines; Fan cons; Mary Sue; FanQ

Walker, Cynthia W. 2011. "A Conversation with Paula Smith." Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 6. doi:10.3983/twc.2011.0243.

1. Introduction

[1.1] It isn't every fan who rates a Wikipedia entry (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_sue) and a mention on Salon.com (http://www.salon.com/books/laura_miller/2010/04/21/mary_sue) for a term she invented, but Paula Smith will be forever known as the person who coined the phrase "Mary Sue." The now-ubiquitous Mary Sue first appeared in 1973 as a character in Paula's satire, "A Trekkie's Tale," which appeared in Menagerie 2, a Trek fanzine she edited with Sharon Ferraro. Paula and Sharon also established the FanQ Awards, which are still presented at MediaWest*Con, the fan-run media and science fiction convention held each year on Memorial Day weekend in Lansing, Michigan.

Paula Smith

Figure 1. Paula Smith.

[1.2] Paula's history in media fandom goes back as far as media fandom itself. She came in on the proverbial ground floor and has contributed to the fannish community—indeed, helped shape it—as an organizer, writer, editor, playwright, publisher, critic, satirist, commentator, and all-around fannish godmother. Although her current position as a lecturer on the mathematics faculty at the University of Waterloo in Waterloo, Ontario, has reduced the time she can spend on fannish activity, one can still find her every year at MediaWest*Con, selling zines and memorabilia in the dealer's room, engaging in avid discussions with new and veteran fan fiction writers, and serving as an auctioneer at the Sunday night art auction.

[1.3] This interview was conducted on May 29, 2010, at MediaWest*Con 30, Lansing, Michigan.

2. Forty years of Mary Sue

[2.1] Q: So where did Mary Sue come from?

[2.2] PS: It all goes back to the early 1970s, when Star Trek fandom was just breaking away from mainstream science fiction fandom. I went to a lot of conventions around that time and I bought every zine I could lay my hands on. It was just an explosion of mimeograph and hectograph and ditto; very few zines were even photocopied back then. I read everything. Some of it was pretty good. Some of it was extremely good. But an awful lot of it was just plain awful.

[2.3] As Theodore Sturgeon said, 90 percent of everything is crap. The amazing thing was, the crap had so much of a pattern. I'm very much a pattern seeker, and you could see that every Trek zine at the time had a main story about this adolescent girl who is the youngest yeoman or lieutenant or captain ever in Starfleet. She makes her way onto the Enterprise and the entire crew falls in love with her. They then have adventures, but the remarkable thing was that all the adventures circled around this character. Everybody else in the universe bowed down in front of her. Also, she usually had some unique physical identifier—odd-colored eyes or hair—or else she was half-Vulcan. The stories read like they were written about half an hour before the zine was printed; they were generally not very good.

[2.4] Then came along this one story. I don't even remember the title of the zine, but I remember vividly that its cover was illustrated with hand-colored yellow ducks. Well, that didn't seem to have a whole lot to do with Star Trek, but I guess it meant something to the author. This particular one not only had the young teenaged girl who was a lieutenant come on the bridge, where Kirk and Spock immediately fell in love with her—I think Scotty and McCoy did as well—but they all backed off and were very respectful because she only had eyes for Chekov.

[2.5] So during the adventure, everybody beams down to the planet and everybody gets captured by the aliens, and this character manages to spring them because—literally—she has a hairpin. When they get back to the ship, she's sick. She had caught something down there and she dies.

[2.6] And then she resurrected herself… [Interviewer smiles.] I can see by the expression on your face that you're trying to resist making a comment, but I didn't resist. I made my comment in Menagerie 2, the December 1973 issue, which Sharon and I edited. I was absolutely fried from studying in grad school at the time, and tossed off "'Gee, golly gosh, gloriosky,' thought Mary Sue as she stepped on the bridge of the Enterprise." Lieutenant Mary Sue—that's what I called her just to give her a name. And the piece was—what? Probably two hundred words. It was half of one of our reduced columns. It wasn't very much. I really just retold the story of that quintessential Mary Sue. It was a parody. At the time, I was getting very heavily into writing parodies. In fact, for issues of Menagerie, what I did a lot was the so-called Trek primers and parodies of the episodes.

[2.7] Q: That was the beginning?

[2.8] PS: Yes, and it might have died right there, but I began doing LoCs—letters of comment—and reviews of zines in other zines. Anyway, because this was still the early 1970s, there were still a ton of these stories coming out. So, when we wanted a shorthand to refer to them, Sharon and I began to call them "Lieutenant Mary Sue" stories. We explained why the first couple of times we used it, but the term caught on because she's very identifiable: Here it is, that same character, and isn't it a shame because she's just so tiresome.

[2.9] And then in the letter columns, we started seeing the writers react: "What's so wrong with my story? I'm just telling a story that I think is great." And we would fire back: "Yeah, but the problem is, the presence of the Mary Sue warped all the other characters in the story away from their known characterization." Because in fan fiction, you aren't writing stories about an unknown universe, and readers expect certain characterizations.

[2.10] On the other hand, when you think about it, what's so wrong about affecting the other characters? A really great original character in a story might just do that, but she doesn't have to be a Mary Sue.

[2.11] For example, by 1976, we were seeing Paula Block's Sadie Faulwell in the "Landing Party" series in the Warped Space zine. It was a very loose roman à clef about Paula Block and her friends. They were really self-portrait characters, but for whatever reason, they had more of a sense of proportion about them. She had McCoy fall in love with Sadie, but it did not necessarily change McCoy's characterization, and it didn't change anyone's characterization, and the stories were intriguing on their own. Was this a Mary Sue or not a Mary Sue?

[2.12] Q: It helped that Paula Block was a good writer.

[2.13] PS: Yes. As a writer, she gave a lot more than she demanded from the reader. She gave us a character that we could recognize to a certain degree, but did not demand that we fall in love with the character. We could like Sadie or not on our own terms. You and I discussed once how the Mary Sue takes up too much room.

[2.14] Q: There's only so much room inside a character, and hopefully, you leave enough for the reader to climb in, too.

[2.15] PS: A story demands headspace, and the Mary Sue wants to come and occupy your whole head, so the writer gets the enjoyment and not the reader. It's a little too much like being used. I suspect that's why an awful lot of people agreed with our assessment.

[2.16] Q: So people began to pick up the term?

[2.17] PS: Sharon and I were driving it, of course, by saying this is a Mary Sue story, this is not a Mary Sue story. We did panels at some of the first media conventions, and there would be lively discussion: what does this mean? The concept spread and was taken up by other people. It wasn't always used as a derogatory term. The Mary Sue seemed to almost be a necessary stage for a writer.

[2.18] Q: I tend to agree that it's a step in writing. When I teach screenwriting, I notice I get two kinds of scripts from new writers: a story based on a favorite show or film, or a self-insertion story. Or something that's both.

[2.19] PS: Someone once said to me that the presence of a Mary Sue in a story is like a black hole, a neutron star, because it warps everything else out of their normal orbits.

[2.20] Q: And now you're cited all over the place, in Wikipedia and the recent article on Salon.com. How does that feel?

[2.21] PS: Oh, good God! When a couple of people alerted me to the Salon.com article, my mind boggled. I do get the point; I simply named a bug, I found a new fern. I identified a piece of humanity and put a name to it, but that's all I did. Everything I know about Mary Sue I was told by somebody else.

[2.22] Around 1999, Pat Pflieger sent me a copy of an article she had written about identifying the Mary Sue in 19th-century fiction, "Too Good to Be True: 150 Years of Mary Sue" (http://www.merrycoz.org/papers/MARYSUE.HTM). It was still very much the young, very special girl who died: think Eva in Uncle Tom's Cabin.

[2.23] In all the intervening years, I've thought about what the Mary Sue might mean psychologically. The conclusion I have come to is that she represents the teenage girl suddenly finding power. It is the power of her sexual attraction. There were a lot of Mary Sues written in the 1970s, and these were from writers who were born in the 1940s and '50s, not quite the time of Women's Lib. And suddenly, when a girl becomes mature, people pay attention to her. So, psychologically, it's a stage of development in young girls. Now when it comes to young guys—

[2.24] Q: The Marty Stu?

[2.25] PS: More like the Wesley Sue. People never notice the male version so much. I was really struck when the Doc Savage: Man of Bronze movie came out. I thought: that's a Mary Sue, too!

[2.26] Q: As is James Bond. Superman was created by two teenage boys.

[2.27] PS: Sure. Any of these wish-fulfillment characters whose presence in any universe warps it way the heck out of reality. But we don't notice that when it involves men.

[2.28] Q: And yet, if there is no piece of the author in the characters…

[2.29] PS: It's dead, the story is dead—exactly. The author's personality is a leavening we need. We want it to rise, but we don't want to have to eat yeast.

[2.30] Q: Why, then, do Superman and James Bond succeed, while we tend to pull back from the female version?

[2.31] PS: Because the world we live in is not just a patriarchy; it's a puerarchy—what gets focused on in the culture is defined by boys and young men. Psychologically, there's a turning point in men's lives. There's a point where they need to break away from women in their youth, and then later they come back to women as grown men, but many men never make it, never quite come back to a world that includes women as human beings.

[2.32] Q: What do you think of how people use "Mary Sue" as a criticism of any woman character?

[2.33] PS: We did that back in the 1970s too, and I was guilty of that sometimes. I did try to make a distinction. I knew—I knew—there was a difference: that when you had created a wish-fulfillment character, you still needed to give the reader room to breathe. But yeah, there was a lot of "You can't do that; that's a Mary Sue character."

[2.34] Q: It's become very complicated.

[2.35] PS: There are now two definitions, and the positive one is: Yes, she's a Mary Sue, but the writer's actually doing it right. Paula Block's Sadie Faulwell was a good example. Connie Faddis created a good one, too. So did Barbara Wenk.

[2.36] Q: How would you characterize "doing it right"?

[2.37] PS: Two things. First, you have to give the reader somewhere to fit into in the character, and second, it can't warp any of the other characters. You can't change the characterization of known characters and make them unrecognizable. This is the wonderful balancing act of any writer. For any writing, you have to have plot, characterization, setting, theme, motif, all of that stuff—and you have to give it life. You have to create a character who is interesting, who is human with recognizable foibles, but who is intelligent enough and "heartful" enough to be a bit self-aware. It has to be a true hero or heroine that we, the reader, want to be with.

[2.38] Q: Do you think writers who write unsatisfying Mary Sues are just not self-aware?

[2.39] PS: I think that's the great part of it. They're so un-self-aware that they think this keen story that means so much to them must mean exactly the same to everybody else. I've thought up Mary Sues—we all do—I just never wrote them down. I lived out my little adventures in my head, wandering around. Now, with the Internet, everyone can publish their stories…and they do.

[2.40] Q: So things haven't changed all that much with the Internet.

[2.41] PS: I think the Internet recapitulates the original Trekdom. To paraphrase: "There came a generation that knew not mimeo." The old letterzines are turning into so much compost today, but the same arguments are still being fought out.

3. Present at the creation

[3.1] Q: Perhaps you should explain what a letterzine is.

[3.2] PS: A letterzine was a publication that came out, often monthly. People would write in letters to a particular editor who would collect them and publish them and simply send the printed zine back to the people who sent the letters.

[3.3] Q: Is that how fans mostly communicated before the arrival of the Internet?

[3.4] PS: As group communication it was common, and, of course, there were cons, conventions. My first con was the Detroit Triple Fan Fair in 1972. It was a science fiction con, held in Cobo Hall in downtown Detroit. I remember that we walked around Detroit at 3 AM—it was certainly a different time. Gene Roddenberry and Majel Barrett were there and that's where I first met them. David Gerrold was there, too. But mainly I got to meet a lot of the Detroit fans, most of them Trek fans.

[3.5] Q: And how did you hear about it?

[3.6] PS: I'd seen a flyer. I was 21, in my last year at Kalamazoo College. I'd been in the college's Science Fiction, Chowder, Marching, and Little Green Men Society. It was mostly a science fiction book club by then. It was my dad who had introduced me to science fiction.

[3.7] Q: I've heard that from U.N.C.L.E. fans. My own father introduced me to the show. I now have this theory that all fandom is traced back to fathers.

[3.8] PS: Especially for women! Because your father tells you it's okay to pursue something you like. I was 8 years old and I remember an issue of Amazing Stories or some other science fiction magazine—with a very lurid cover and a Harlan Ellison story inside. My father had a lot of paperbacks and he belonged to the Science Fiction Book Club. He worked as a mechanical engineer for a living and had a degree in electrical engineering from Michigan State University. My mother had a BA, too, but in home economics. The stuff was in the house and I read it.

[3.9] At DTFF, I found zines. Trek was off the air by then and this was just after Devra Langsam, who published Spockanalia, the first Star Trek zine, organized the first Star Trek convention, which was held in New York in 1972. Carol Lynn, who became my friend and copublisher, was there. The next year, 1973, I went to the Toronto Worldcon and met a lot more people, a lot more fans.

[3.10] There were so many SF conventions during the 1970s and '80s! Almost any little local college group would throw a convention at any little local Ramada Inn, and they would have 30 to 100 people there, depending upon how big the city was. We used to go to Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, for Chambana Con; Columbus, Ohio, for MarCon; Chicago for WindyCon. Those were worth going to because they attracted a lot of fans from the upper Midwest. My stomping grounds stretched from Iowa to New York in one direction, and Ontario down to about Kentucky in the other. I never managed to go to the southern or western conventions.

[3.11] Q: How did you know when and where the cons would be held?

[3.12] PS: People would write into the SF magazines and post where the cons would be held so you could keep track. You could also find out from mailing lists. We mailed everything—fans went broke on postage—and we had a lot of contact that way. There were also the APAs—amateur press alliances. Fans would get together and, on a monthly basis, make up a small zine of their own. It could be 1 page or 4 or 5 or 20. They'd send 30 copies, or whatever number of people in the alliance, to the OE, the organizing editor. He would staple it all together and mail it out. The postage was paid by members sending in their dues.

[3.13] Q: That sounds really time-consuming.

[3.14] PS: It was, but on the other hand, we didn't have the Internet. In addition to the APAs and the letterzines, in the 1970s, we realized we could hold cons and we did.

[3.15] Around early 1973, I'd met Sharon Ferraro. I was at Kalamazoo College and she was at Western Michigan University. We got together and formed a science fiction society between the two colleges and called it KWest*—"kwestar." Sharon and I organized a con in 1974 in Kalamazoo called KWest*Con and we got Harlan Ellison as our pro GOH [professional guest of honor] speaker. We had to pay for his flight and room and board, but we didn't have to pay an honorarium. And we got Joan Hunter Holly as the fan GOH. Joan, of course, was the author of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Ace #10, The Assassination Affair. Although this was an SF con, a lot of those who came liked U.N.C.L.E. and Star Trek too. Joan came from Lansing and she knew Terry Carr, who was an editor for Ace. She was older than most of us—all of 40.

[3.16] A couple of hundred people attended the con. We made our nut. We brought Harlan to Sharon's house and fed him a chicken dinner. Sharon was a big Ellison fan. She had said, "We can get him," and we did! And we had a great time.

[3.17] The next year, we did a follow-up SF con called ReKWest*Con. Then we went to the New York Trek con in 1975 and met the New York Star Trek fans.

[3.18] Q: And there were a lot of zines around, too.

[3.19] PS: Yes. People were writing a lot of Trek stories, and printing them. There were two routes into Star Trek fandom. There were these rather older women in science fiction fandom already who said to themselves: we can do cons, we can do zines, about Star Trek. The original SF zines sometimes contained stories. The big difference was that science fiction had a professional outlet back then. Once you published at the fan level, you could go on to the major leagues if you were good. If you weren't a good writer, you'd get tired of being told, "This is crap," and you'd stop writing after a while. But in Star Trek, there was nowhere else to go. So if you developed your craft, your Trek zines soon had better and better stories.

[3.20] It seemed like there were two age groups in early Trek fandom: 18 and 35. The other route was for the baby boomers who had the feeling, "Gotta write!" They just wanted to do something. As soon as they went to the cons and saw the zines, they'd think, "That's what I can do!" And it crystallized all over the country and there were zines as far as the eye could see. And they kept coming and coming. We used to joke about Warped Space, which started publishing around 1975, "Oh, here comes the Tuesday afternoon Warped Space. Here's the 3 PM edition." The editor was Lori Chapek [later Chapek-Carleton]. There was the MSUSTC—the Michigan State University Star Trek Club. Again, a university club; colleges and universities were where many boomers found out about fandom.

[3.21] But at least half of the 18-year-old cohort didn't go to college; they read Joan Winston's book, Star Trek Lives!, and wrote in to the addresses at the back of the book in order to connect. They were working in offices and could get their hands on Selectric typewriters and duplicating equipment.

[3.22] Back then, we'd been taught to write in high school, and we'd also been taught to read books and appreciate a story. I was one of the college boomers but also an SF fan. I thought, "Heck, we can do this too." And Sharon and I published Menagerie. It was an itty bitty skinny zine, but we had written some stories, so we published them. We charged $1 a zine and it covered the cost. We did the cost analysis—we knew how many hundreds we needed to print at a reasonable price—and we sold them at conventions and through the mail. We also advertised in everybody else's other zines.

[3.23] If you look through copies of the old zines, you will see letters to the editor, you will see ads for upcoming conventions, you will see announcements for new zines coming out. People would send in flyers and they were stapled into the zine.

[3.24] As for cons, Sharon organized the Hole-in-the-Deck gang, to provide gofer service at cons. It was a way of getting into the cons for free. The guys did security; the women did the gofering. We would get a band of people together, the con would give us two rooms, and we'd check badges at doors, ferry things for the guests, help with registration. We did everything. We were the con organizers' hands and feet, and we learned how to run cons ourselves.

[3.25] Q: You mentioned before that Trek fandom broke away from science fiction fandom.

[3.26] PS: The SF guys didn't want to talk about things that women were interested in. Buck Coulson, an SF (and U.N.C.L.E.) writer, used to say, "There is no subtle discrimination against Trek fans in science fiction—it's blatant." And the women said, "The heck with this," and started making their own zines and organizing their own conventions. In addition to Devra Langsam, there were people like Margaret Basta and her twin sister, Laura. They did S.T.A.R., a newszine out of Detroit that went out to literally thousands of people. There was also Dee Beetem in Colorado, and Ruth Berman, who published T-Negative out of Minneapolis.

[3.27] Q: What percentage of Trek fandom were guys and what percentage were women?

[3.28] PS: Trek fandom was the mirror image of science fiction fandom. I would say 90 percent of science fiction fandom at the time was men and 10 percent was women, and there was a reverse 10-to-90 men-to-women split in Trek fandom. The two groups quickly diverged; after a while, only about 5 to 10 percent would shuttle back and forth between the two fandoms.

[3.29] Q: It sounds like that era was a hard-copy version of what it's like now.

[3.30] PS: That's right. Lots of links. A hard-copy, steampunk version. But the structures were essentially the same.

[3.31] Q: Sounds like the beginning of what they're calling "social networking" on the Web today.

[3.32] PS: But it was in slow motion and there was more face-to-face contact.

[3.33] Q: People wanted to meet each other.

[3.34] PS: Yes, and traveling was cheaper then, or at least, it seemed to be. It was cheaper in time spent if nothing else. And oh my God, the telephone bills! I would have $400 and $600 telephone bills! You really had to pay a lot for long distance. You'd call after 11 PM to get the price break. When MCI came in—boom!—we signed up.

4. Let's hold a con!

[4.1] Q: Fans were already creating a kind of Web.

[4.2] PS: Yes, in multimedia, because we had the paper, we had the telephone, we had the go-to meetings, we had the county and statewide and regional meetings. We also had a kind of yearly meeting: Back in the early 1970s, Devra's New York con was the one to go to. Before Devra shut down in 1975, there were a couple of big professional conventions with all the stars from the show. But those were expensive—$20 to attend! Sharon and I looked at each other and said we should do a Star Trek con the way we did our science fiction cons. Since we're hiding it away from the big guys, let's call it "SeKWester*Con." No stars at all—that would be the big difference. So we held it in 1976 in Kalamazoo because the Midwest was where the active fans we knew were. And we thought, let's do a "fan quality" award. We'll call it a "FanQ" to thank all the people who were writing good stuff. One for art and one for writing. It was just for Trek. There wasn't anything else.

[4.3] Q: How successful was it?

[4.4] PS: One hundred people came, which was pretty good for what we wanted. We had a bunch of panels, we had an art show, and we had a dealer's room. We took the same template from the small science fiction cons. We held it at a little motor lodge and posted notices in the zines. We also sent letters to people we knew would be interested. A lot of people came from all over the country. In 1977, for the second one, 200 people—even from as far away as Australia! It was called SeKWester*Con Too.

[4.5] Lori Chapek had gone to SeKWester*Con One and she thought, "That was fun. I can do that too." So she organized a little con at Michigan State in 1978 while she was still a student there. She asked to do the third one and called it T'Con. Gordon [who would be Lori's husband] was writing around then and he had these characters, the T'Khutians. It was an alien race that was related to the Vulcans, but because he was a humorist, they were all crazy clowns.

[4.6] Lori and Gordon did T'Con and the next year, 1979, they did 2'Con. The mascot was a toucan bird doing a Vulcan salute. And then Devra said she'd like to hold the next one in New York and organized Mos' Easley in 1980 because Star Wars was out then. The Star Wars fans started to come at T'con, and so it began to morph into a multiple-fandom [con], though at that point, it was still just Trek and Star Wars. In 1981, Lori and Gordon took what was now the big yearly con back to the Midwest, and called it MidWest*Con.

[4.7] The second MidWest*Con was in 1982 and throughout the 1980s, we began seeing fans from Starsky and Hutch, Doctor Who, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.—fans of all kinds of movies and TV shows. Lori and Gordon decided to change the name to MediaWest*Con because it was for media fandom, to distinguish it from science fiction fandom, which concentrated more on science fiction in books. And of course, MediaWest is still running. The 30th one was this year, in 2010.

[4.8] Q: So this is the way media fandom diverged, with a lot of daughters who'd been close to their fathers—

[4.9] PS: —fathers who were engineers and scientists, technical types. I doubt that too many were preachers, or politicians.

5. The more things change, the more they stay the same

[5.1] Q: From your long perspective, how do you think fandom has changed?

[5.2] PS: Well, certainly we've gotten older. We, being the founding mothers, are still socializing here at MediaWest.

[5.3] Q: How many founding mothers were there?

[5.4] PS: At a wild guess, maybe 200. Depends upon the fandom, of course.

[5.5] Q: New fans are still coming in.

[5.6] PS: But this con is still largely baby boomers. Just like SF fans, who kept going to cons until they couldn't do it any more. And it was a big part of their lives. I have often thought religion and dog shows and fandoms have something in common. An awful lot of the early history of any given religion sounds like a fandom catching fire.

[5.7] Q: A lot of activities and practices of fandom—terms like "Mary Sue"—have become mainstream. But the technology is certainly different.

[5.8] PS: My first computer had transistors, back in 1969. The first monitor I saw was in 1975 and, to show you how dumb I was, someone said to me, look at this screen, and I said, "What the heck do we want a monitor for? We have punch cards!"

[5.9] Q: Do you think the process of writing has changed?

[5.10] PS: In writing, there is a crucial step of rewrite which is not regularly being seen these days. This is one difference we noticed in the late 1990s with fans coming in from the Internet. In the old days, I would write the first draft of a story in longhand, type it up, read it again, fuss with it, type it up again. And then the editor would read it, recommend changes, and you would have to type the whole bloody thing up yet again. The stories went through the typewriter more than once, and a lot was changed slowly but crucially. I've noticed the difference in my own writing. Now, you write something, put it aside, write something, put it aside, and then jam it all together.

[5.11] Q: Access to the audience was different too. You had to get into the zine's queue and it took forever to get published.

[5.12] PS: Months, at least! And if you couldn't get into the queue, you started your own zine. Another difference is the level of literacy of people coming to it—and the level of entitlement about their level of literacy: "Well, I don't care if this is misspelled because that's how I want it to be." I may sound a bit snotty, but heck, I've seen typos completely wreck the point of a story.

[5.13] Q: But were the early stories really any better?

[5.14] PS: Well, not the 90 percent that was crap. But Star Trek fans did some really good stuff. A lot of fan writers later filed off the serial numbers and went pro. Today, the leap is harder because print is dying. If you don't write a blockbuster it's hard to attract any attention, although e-books and print-on-demand may level the field again.

[5.15] The hierarchy of old science fiction kept things on a ladder. You could be in a zine, and if you were good enough, you could go into a pulp magazine, and if you were better, you could get a book published. When women took over, Trek fandom became more democratized but also more feminized. At its worst we called it "estrogen poisoning": you mustn't say anything negative because you might hurt someone's feelings.

[5.16] Q: You didn't let that stop you from doing criticism.

[5.17] PS: Some of us it didn't stop. I got flamed for it, but that was fine; everybody is entitled to her opinion. I think I was reasonably fair because even when I slammed something, I always said what it was about the story I did or didn't like. For example, I gave the U.N.C.L.E. zine Perestroika five stars, but I said I didn't like certain things about it for personal reasons. I said what was good about it and what I didn't care for and I tried to keep the two separate.

[5.18] Q: Was there more critique in those days?

[5.19] PS: I think there was, or at least a different kind of critique. If you were going to spend so much time typing up a LoC to send to a zine, and then make them type it up to put in their zine, you might as well make it interesting. I received a lot of criticism for not being so nice and encouraging in my critiques, then I would go to a con and be my usual effusive self and someone would say, "You're so much different from your writing; you're so much nicer!" Somebody told me I have a soft chocolate center.

[5.20] But in my criticism I was very cerebral. My Meyers-Briggs personality type is INTJ. I did ease back a lot when I went to grad school.

[5.21] Q: So what happened to the mommas of fandom? Are you the last?

[5.22] PS: I'm hardly the last. Part of the problem is, we're at that age where we're cutting down on contacts because we're busy (and tired) and it's hard to keep track. I don't know if, after I retire, things will free up again, as they did for Shirley Maiewski, the godmother of Trek fandom.

[5.23] But we did make a kind of network. In the beginning it was Bjo Trimble in Los Angeles, and Margaret and Laura Basta in Detroit, and Devra Langsam and Joyce Yasner in New York. The August Party bunch who ran the Farpoint cons were in Baltimore. And Shore Leave was down south, Houston. And Sharon and myself were in Kalamazoo.

[5.24] We were part of that early network which took the science fiction fandom template and ran with it. We were the string in this supersaturated sugar solution that allowed the rock candy that became media fandom to crystallize. To quote a famous science fiction writer (R. A. Heinlein), "When railroading time comes, you can railroad."

6. "A Trekkie's Tale"

[6.1] Published anonymously by Paula Smith in Menagerie 2 (1973).

[6.2] "Gee, golly gosh, gloriosky," thought Mary Sue as she stepped on the bridge of the Enterprise. "Here I am, the youngest lieutenant in the Fleet—only 15-1/2 years old."

[6.3] Captain Kirk came up to her. "Oh, Lieutenant, I love you madly. Will you come to bed with me?"

[6.4] "Captain! I am not that kind of girl!"

[6.5] "You're right. And I respect you for it. Here, take over the ship while I go for some coffee for us."

[6.6] Mr. Spock came onto the bridge. "What are you doing in the Command Seat, Lieutenant?"

[6.7] "The Captain told me to."

[6.8] "Flawlessly logical. I admire your mind."

[6.9] Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, Dr. McCoy and Mr. Scott beamed down with Lt. Mary Sue to Rigel XXXVII. They were attacked by green androids and thrown into prison. In a moment of weakness Lt. Mary Sue revealed to Mr. Spock that she, too, was half Vulcan. Recovering quickly, she sprung the lock with her hairpin and they all got away safely back to the ship.

[6.10] But back on board, Dr. McCoy and Lt. Mary Sue found out that the men who had beamed down were seriously stricken by the jumping cold robbies, Mary Sue less so. While the four officers languished in Sick Bay, Lt. Mary Sue ran the ship, and ran it so well she received the Nobel Peace Prize, the Vulcan Order of Gallantry and the Tralfamadorian Order of Good Guyhood.

[6.11] However, the disease finally got to her and she fell fatally ill. In the Sick Bay, as she breathed her last, she was surrounded by Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, Dr. McCoy and Mr. Scott all weeping unashamedly at the loss of her beautiful youth and youthful beauty, intelligence, capability and all around niceness. Even to this day her birthday is a national holiday on the Enterprise.

[6.12] The End



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