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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, an early slash fiction scholar. 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, highlighting a romantic or sexual element to the friendship between the men. 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, 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.
Origins and creators' responses
Many homosocial scenes between Kirk and Spock have been interpreted by some fans as having significant homoerotic undertones. 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.
In the novelization of Star Trek: The Motion Picture co-written by Gene Roddenberry, a footnote was added where Kirk addresses a rumor that he and Spock 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.
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." In 1985, Roddenberry recalled from publication Killing Time, a novel that suggested the existence of such a relationship between Kirk and Spock. 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. During the production of Shore Leave, writer Theodore Sturgeon suggested, when criticising a scene with McCoy and two women, that "the whimsical friction between Bones and Spock" should be addressed in a future episode with a prostate massage. Shore Leave also contained a back massage scene where Kirk believes that he is being massaged by Spock.
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.:281:18,19,24 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.
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.:23 In June 1976, the first Kirk/Spock dedicated fanzine appeared, 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.:23 By 1987, 30 K/S fanzines existed to 47 non-K/S.:77
In an interview, after revealing that he had cast Shatner as Kirk partly on the basis of his performance as Alexander, Roddenberry talked about fans seeing a possible parallel between Alexander and Hephaistion and Kirk/Spock:
Marshak and Culbreath: There's a great deal of writing in the Star Trek movement now which compares the relationship between Alexander and Hephaistion to the relationship between Kirk and Spock -- focusing on the closeness of the friendship, the feeling that they would die for one another --
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.
Susan Sackett, Gene Roddenberry's personal assistant for 17 years, sometimes commented on the slash phenomenon. In September 1978, Sackett sent a letter to a UK fan club president commenting on the acceptability of including K/S slash fiction in zines: "Gene and the executives at Paramount feel that this is harmful to the STAR TREK concept, since this was never the intention in creating the series."
Star Trek: The Original Series writer David Gerrold, has also spoken about K/S slash sometimes. In 1985, Gerrold commented:
One of the truths I've been telling lately is that Kirk and Spock are not lovers ... they're not even boyfriends. They're just good friends. This has offended a whole subculture that is convinced they are ... I was at a convention in Milwaukee a few weeks ago. This lady comes up to me with this stuff, and after a thirty minute discussion, I finally said, 'Stop! We're arguing over whether or not two fictitious characters are getting their hands in each others' pants.'
When asked about whether there was intentional homoerotic content between K/S in the show, and in particular in the episode "Amok Time", Star Trek's writer D.C. Fontana replied, "In answer to your question, NO — there were no homosexual double-entendres in the script — at least none that were deliberate. If some viewers chose to read that into the dialogue, etc., that's their point of view, but certainly not ours. Writer Theodore Sturgeon was trying to reveal Spock's inner human in a struggle with what his culture, his upbringing and his half-human/half-Vulcan heritage had instilled in him about emotion and controlling it in an out-of-control situation. It also was a peek into the Vulcan culture that no one had seen before. That's ALL we were doing. I've heard this nonsense (especially about Kirk/Spock) for years. There is no basis to it. I hope this answer is helpful to you"
Common plot devices
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. 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. However, other writers suggest that it is biologically impossible for a male to consummate pon farr with another male.:39 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.
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.:29 Another plot element is the Hurt/Comfort theme; one character is hurt and the other comforts him.
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.
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. Henry Jenkins also notes that particular scenes are singled out by vidders and used in multiple fanvids.
Camille Bacon-Smith speculates that K/S is a way for women to "openly discuss sexuality in a non-judgmental manner.":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. 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."
After the 2009 film reboot
In the 2009 feature film Star Trek, Spock and Nyota Uhura are depicted as a romantic couple. This resulted in some Kirk/Spock slash fans to dislike Uhura, including Henry Jenkins who expressed 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. Margaret A. Weitekamp and Christine Scodari expressed the opinion that the portrayal of Uhura's character in the reboot is a step forward in terms of the representation of women of color.
On August 24, 2013, at the Fan Expo Canada, actor Zachary Quinto (who plays Spock in the rebooted Star Trek) replied to a fan asking him about whether his fictional character (and him and Chris Pine, the actor who plays Jim Kirk in the reboot) are lovers:
I mean no disrespect to people who either write or read fan fiction. I have absolutely no interest in it, it doesn't interest me, I understand how it interests other people, I respect their desire to be interested in it but I think both Kirk and Spock, and definitely me and Chris, are only good friends. Any suggestion otherwise has more to say about the person making that suggestion than it does about the character's lives.
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This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (March 2009) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
- 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 https://web.archive.org/web/20020414124851/http://www.eclipse.net/~mecurtin/au/earlyKS.htm
- Jenkins, Henry. Textual Poachers Television Fans & Participatory Culture. New York: Routledge, 1992.
- Russ, J. (n.d.). Another Addict Raves About K/S. Nome, 8.