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This scene from Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) has been pointed to as supporting a homoerotic interpretation of Kirk and Spock's relationship.[1]

Kirk/Spock, commonly abbreviated as K/S and referring to James T. Kirk and Spock from Star Trek, is a pairing popular in slash fiction, possibly the first slash pairing, according to Henry Jenkins.[2] Early in the history of Star Trek fan fiction, a few fan writers started writing about a romantic and sexual relationship between Kirk and Spock,[1] adding a romantic or sexual elements to the friendship between the men.[3] As of 1998, most academic studies on slash fiction focused on Kirk/Spock, as Star Trek was by that point one of the longest-lived and most popular subjects of slash fiction, while its mainstream popularity made it one of the most accessible titles for academics and their audience,[4] As the first slash pairing, K/S was created and developed largely independently from the influence of other slash fiction, with most of the conventions of the slash genre seeing their debut first in K/S slash.[1]

Origins and creators' responses[edit]

Many homosocial scenes between Kirk and Spock have been interpreted by some fans as having significant homoerotic undertones.[1] For example, in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Spock realizes that emotions "play an important part in the richness of life". In a particular scene from the film, Spock, lying down in sickbay, clasps Kirk's hand and says that he understands "this simple feeling". Woledge points out that both the gesture and the words are "ambiguous", and can be interpreted as homoerotic. Eye contact and gestures throughout the series have also been cited as being part of a homoerotic subtext in their relationship.[1] In the novelization of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, a footnote was added where Kirk addresses a rumor that they were lovers:

I was never aware of this 'lovers' rumor, although I have been told that Spock encountered it several times. Apparently, he had always dismissed it with his characteristic lifting of his right eyebrow, which usually connoted some combination of surprise, disbelief, and/or annoyance. As for myself... I have always found my best gratification in that creature called woman. Also, I would not like to be thought of as being so foolish that I would select a love partner who came into sexual heat only once every seven years.[5]

Another key scene which can be interpreted as homoerotic is in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, when Spock dies, and tells Kirk "I have been and always shall be your friend."[6] In 1985, Roddenberry recalled Killing Time from publication, a novel that suggested the existence of such a relationship between Kirk and Spock.[7] It has also been noted that although Kirk has had many female companions throughout the series, he always leaves them behind, citing his duties to the Enterprise, but he frequently risks the Enterprise and defies his stated duties in order to keep Spock safe.[2] Roddenberry commented on the possibility of a romantic love between Kirk and Spock that:

Roddenberry: "Yes, there's certainly some of that, certainly with love overtones. Deep love. The only difference being, the Greek ideal... we never suggested in the series... physical love between the two. But it's the... we certainly had the feeling that the affection was sufficient for that, if that were the particular style of the 23rd century." (He looks thoughtful.) "That's very interesting. I never thought of that before."[8]

The first known Kirk/Spock fan fiction story was "A Fragment Out Of Time" by Diane Marchant, published in the fanzine Grup #3 (September 1974). It consisted of a sex scene but was written to not identify its participants nor make both of their sexes clear; Marchant stated in the next issue, however, that they were Kirk and Spock.[9]:281[10][11][12]:18,19,24 Although many early Star Trek fans were fans of science fiction in general, as the show's popularity increased, it acquired fans who were not general science fiction fans but rather found the show appealed to them as a "buddy" show, or as a heroic/romantic saga, in which Kirk and Spock were the focus. This led to a quantity of fan fiction about the show focusing on the relationships between characters on the show, with less of an emphasis on science-fictional elements. Many of these fans found that Kirk and Spock's deep friendship was the most interesting topic for writing about Star Trek fan fiction.[12]

Such "relationship" stories (K&S) were distinct from homoerotic ones (K/S), but both often removed Kirk and Spock from the Enterprise to avoid science fiction "distractions" like the starship and the Federation.[12]:23 In June 1976, the first Kirk/Spock dedicated fanzine appeared,[10] but as the number of non-science fiction fans grew, within several years "relationship" stories became the dominant form of Star Trek fan fiction outside the K/S genre.[12]:23 By 1987, 30 K/S fanzines existed to 47 non-K/S.[12]:77

When the 2009 film was released, Nyota Uhura became a romantic interest for Spock. This caused some Kirk/Spock slash fans to dislike Uhura, including Henry Jenkins. Jenkins, an early slash fiction scholar,[13] expresses the opinion that in the 2009 film, Uhura's character is largely there to be the "love object" in "some kind of still to be explored romantic triangle" between Kirk and Spock, and to explicitly "discourage" slashers.[14] Christine Scodari has countered that the Uhura and Spock relationship was probably inserted to attract female audiences.[13]

Common plot devices[edit]

Placing Kirk/Spock in the Star Trek setting can be beneficial and limiting for K/S authors. Setting the characters there provides familiarity for the audience and means that the author does not need to set up the world so much. However, a difficulty can be that it is necessary to provide an explanation for why the mission is not focused on in the story, in order to focus on the relationship between the two men. Shore leave is a common theme.[15] Pon farr, a physiological response introduced in "Amok Time" that impelled Vulcans to "have sex or die", is a device used in some stories such as "The Ring of Soshern", a pre-1976 fan fiction where Kirk and Spock are marooned on an uncharted planet.[16] However, other writers suggest that it is biologically impossible for a male to consummate pon farr with another male [12],:39 and mating with the nearest organism of any species or gender is not sufficient. Allowing another person to perform a biological function upon oneself clearly is not the definition of a homosexual relationship.[clarification needed] Furthermore, in the Original Series, it is clearly stated that Vulcans are legally bound with their mate as children. They may neglect the relationship in future years but pon farr compels them to consummate the marriage at the appropriate time. Vulcans must mate or die trying. However, in Amok Time, Spock finds that a substitute to giving in to pon farr is to kill another, and thus Spock's pon farr imperative ends after he kills.[17]

Other common plot element include the plak tow "blood fever"; the fact that Kirk, because of his empathic bond with Spock, can sense when Spock is about to go into pon farr, which even causes him to suffer some of its symptoms himself; and "lingering death", the fate of a Vulcan male in pon farr who is unable to claim a mate.[16][18][12]:29

Another key element in 'first time' stories and in established relationship stories is the mind meld - either as a way to break the barriers between the men, or as a plot device.[15]

Although there is no consensus on how homosexuality is depicted in Star Trek, Woledge suggests that as K/S stories draw on many particular events from the canon of Star Trek, the text itself is homoerotic.[1] Henry Jenkins also notes that particular scenes are singled out by vidders and used in multiple fanvids.[2] However, when taken out of context virtually any interpretation can be presented given enough footage.

Camille Bacon-Smith speculates that K/S is a way for women to "openly discuss sexuality in a non-judgmental manner."[19]:323 Kirk and Spock's depiction in K/S zines has been described as "two equal individuals who complement each other", and a key theme has been that they can continue working and still be a couple, their relationship enhancing their ability to perform competently in their jobs.[20] A fan has said of the pairing: "K/S has it all: friendship, relationship drama that gets resolved, enormous expressions of devotion through sacrifice, trust and commitment over a period of decades. It's really hard to find another fictional couple that did all that, and did it as well."[3]

After the 2009 film, a common trope in Kirk/Spock fiction was that Uhura was killed and that Kirk comforted Spock.[13]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Woledge, Elizabeth (August 2005) "Decoding Desire: From Kirk and Spock to K/S1" Social Semiotics, Volume 15, Issue 2 August 2005 , pages 235 - 250 doi:10.1080/10350330500154857
  2. ^ a b c "How to Watch a Fan-Vid". 2006-09-18. Retrieved 2013-06-20. 
  3. ^ a b "Star Trek: Spock, Kirk and Slash Fiction - Newsweek and The Daily Beast". 2009-05-04. Retrieved 2013-06-20. 
  4. ^ Henry Jenkins, with Cynthia Jenkins and Shoshanna Green,"'The Normal Female Interest in Men Bonking': Selections from Terra Nostra Underground and Strange Bedfellows,"in Cheryl Harris and Alison Alexander (eds.) Theorizing Fandom: Fans, Subculture, and Identity (Hampton Press, 1998).
  5. ^ Roddenberry, Gene; Livingston, Harold; Foster, Alan Dean (1979). Star trek-the motion picture : a novel. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 22. ISBN 9780671253240. 
  6. ^ "Kirk and Spock: Tip of the bromance iceberg". Colorado Daily. Retrieved 2013-06-20. 
  7. ^ Ayers, Jeff (2006). Star Trek: Voyages of Imagination: The Star Trek Fiction Companion. New York: Simon and Schuster. p. 59. ISBN 9781416525486. 
  8. ^ Shatner, William, et al. Where No Man... The Authorized Biography of William Shatner (ISBN 0-441-88975-1), Ace Books, 1979, pp. 147-8
  9. ^ Reid, Robin Anne (2009). Women in Science Fiction and Fantasy, vol. 1. ABC-CLIO. pp. 91,280–281. ISBN 0-313-33591-5. 
  10. ^ a b Boyd, Kelly (2001) "One index finger on the mouse scroll bar and the other on my clit": slash writers' views on pornography, censorship, feminism and risk
  11. ^ Jenna Sinclair, Short History of Kirk/Spock Slash, retrieved 2008-06-30; Wayback Machine link, retrieved October 20, 2012.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g Verba, Joan Marie. Boldly Writing: A Trekker Fan & Zine History, 1967-1987 (PDF) (2 ed.). FTL Publications. ISBN 978-0-9653575-4-8. 
  13. ^ a b c Scodari, Christine (September 2012). ""Nyota Uhura is Not a White Girl": Gender, intersectionality, and Star Trek 2009's alternate romantic universes". Feminist Media Studies. 12 (3): 335–351. doi:10.1080/14680777.2011.615605. 
  14. ^ "Five Ways to Start a Conversation About the New Star Trek Film". 2009-05-12. Retrieved 2013-06-20. 
  15. ^ a b Falzone, P.J. (2005). "The Final Frontier Is Queer: Aberrancy, Archetype and Audience Generated Folklore in K/S Slashfiction". Western Folklore. 64 (3/4): 243–261. Retrieved 10 December 2015. 
  16. ^ a b Norman Bryson; Michael Ann Holly; Keith P. F. Moxey (1994). "Feminism, Psychoanalysis, and Popular Culture". Visual Culture: Images and Interpretations. Wesleyan University Press. pp. 311–312. ISBN 0-8195-6267-X. 
  17. ^ Amok Time
  18. ^ Constance Penley (1997). NASA/Trek: Popular Science and Sex in America. Verso. p. 130. ISBN 0-86091-617-0. 
  19. ^ Bacon-Smith, Camille (1992). Enterprising Women. University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 0-8122-1379-3. 
  20. ^ Suzuki, Kazuko. 1999. "Pornography or Therapy? Japanese Girls Creating the Yaoi Phenomenon". In Sherrie Inness, ed., Millennium Girls: Today's Girls Around the World. London: Rowman & Littlefield, pp.261-263 ISBN 0-8476-9136-5, ISBN 0-8476-9137-3.


  • Alexander, A., & Harris, C. (Eds.). (1998). Theorizing Fandom: Fans, Subculture and Identity. Hampton: Hampton Press.
  • Bacon-Smith, C. (1992). Enterprising Women: Television Fandom and the Creation of Popular Myth. Pittsburg: University of Pennsylvania Press.
  • Byrd, Patricia. "Star Trek Lives: Trekker Slang." American Speech, Vol. 53, No. 1 (Spring, 1978), pp. 52–58.
  • Cherny, L., & Weise, E. R. (Eds.). (1996). Wired women : gender and new realities in cyberspace. Seattle: Seal press.
  • Curtin, Mary Ellen. A Bibliography of Early K/S. Foresmutters Project. Copyright 2000. Bp
  • Falzone, P.J. (2005) The Final Frontier Is Queer: Aberrancy, Archetype and Audience Generated Folklore in K/S Slashfiction Western Folklore 64 3/4 pp. 243–261.
  • Jenkins, Henry. Textual Poachers Television Fans & Participatory Culture. New York: Routledge, 1992.
  • Russ, J. (n.d.). Another Addict Raves About K/S. Nome, 8.

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