One other thing about those early cons. I’ll let an early-1970s TV Guide reporter explain:
Large numbers of…magazines and newsletters published and written by fans serve as an underground communications network for fans, who are a tightly knit group, and as a vanity press for hopeful science-fiction writers and artists. (Wave-of-the-future note: Most of the zines we saw were produced by women.)
Those were fanzines, you guys. For some reason, when female Trekkers (and female sci-fi fans in general) love something, it spurs them to express their love through zines. And fan fiction. As Winston, Jacqueline Lichtenberg, and Sondra Marshak wrote in their landmark 1971 book Star Trek Lives!, “Men are better represented in Star Trek artwork, craftwork, science articles, humor, organizational work, and a rare poem here and there in the fanzines. But almost all of the stories are by women.” Those women—an eclectic, multicultural group that included housewives, working mothers, college students, high-schoolers, and plenty of newcomers to sci-fi—were enchanted, probably just like my mom and Dara and me (but probably tenfold, given the times), by the egalitarian world envisioned by Star Trek, which placed women and people of color in positions of power. It opened up a whole world of possibilities to its audience; it’s no wonder their imaginations ran with it. These zines were sold, exchanged, and given away via mail-order lists and, after Joan Winston invented the Star Trek con, in vendor booths at fan gatherings.
Even back then, fanfic ran the gamut from straightforward adventure sagas to romances between a character from the show and one created in the writer’s image. By far the most popular form of Trek fandom, then and now, though, were stories featuring the logical, unemotional Vulcan Spock. Spockanalia, created by Devra Langsam (who was on the planning committee for the Winston’s con), is acknowledged as the first-ever Trek zine. (Photocopies of it turn up on eBay from time to time.) And many historians trace the beginnings of slash fiction—fanfic that pairs heterosexual characters in gay romances—to old Trek zines that told love and sex stories involving Captain Kirk and Spock (known simply as “Kirk/Spock,” it’s one of the best-known subgenres in slash).
“Female Star Trek fans [are] among the most active in engaging their sci-fi hobby in creative ways, cosplaying, writing fan-fiction, and producing artwork generally more than their male counterparts,” sociologists Maria and John Jose-Tenuto wrote earlier this year, describing the findings of an international, 8,000-fan survey they conducted back in 2006 to study fandom subcultures. “The strong connection with Star Trek by female fans has its roots in the initial days of fandom when pioneers like Bjo Trimble, Eileen Becker, Elyse Pines, Shirley Maiewski, Devra and Deborah Langsam, and Jacqueline Lichtenberg helped pave the way for many of the same fan activities in existence today.”
I’m an adult now, and the good news about being an adult is that although you are closer to death, you no longer care nearly as much about what other people think, which seems like a fair trade-off. I’m no longer ashamed of my Star Trek geekdom; in fact, a few months ago I finally attended my second-ever convention. Dara–still my best friend, forever bound in Trekkie sisterhood–came, too. This one took place in the ballroom of a modest hotel just outside of Philadelphia. There was only one aisle of vendors, all of whom seemed to be selling the exact same decades-old, mothballed merchandise or newly minted, overpriced, convention-sponsored T-shirts. (Alas, no zines whatsoever, though the used-paperback section—to where many zine authors graduate–was overflowing with spinoff pulp.) The speakers weren’t particularly notable characters and didn’t seem very interested in being there, and the actors you wished would take the stage were there only to sign autographs–for a fee (side-eye at Beverly Crusher).
Maybe it was because this one was dedicated to the 20th anniversary of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the second-worst Trek series, ratings-wise; or maybe it was that, as Bjo advised when I interviewed her, the best conventions are the ones organized by fans rather than by big convention companies. Then again, it might’ve just been that I am a grown-up now, and everything seems bigger and more mysterious when you are a tween. But Dara and I agreed that, compared with the one we’d attended together a decade ago, the whole thing was kind of a bummer.
This convention was better in way way though: Now unafraid to stare a little, I noticed that the majority of the people in this hotel corridor were women. Women of all colors and ages and shapes and sizes—women like Darlena Blander, who stitches her own elaborate costumes for every convention and teaches others how to do the same at her cosplay workshop in New York; women like cousins Flo Laster and Sdhari King and their daughters, who after decades watching the shows together finally braved their first con (and had screen-printed their own Trek tote bags made to mark the occasion). There were women like Adria Moore, who’s been attending conventions with her friend Rosa since the ’70s and this year convinced her daughter to let her bring her infant grandson, Blaise, and dress him up just like Grandma: in full Vulcan attire. And there was Christine, a Klingon mother to two three-foot-tall future Starfleet Academy cadets. I can’t say for sure that there weren’t just as many women at my first convention. What I do know is that this time I saw them all. And later that night, I called my mom to tell her all about it. ♦
Devon Maloney is a journalist and nerd girl living in Brooklyn. She writes about DIY culture and she likes Twitter.