Science Fiction Studies

#72 = Volume 24, Part 2 = July 1997

Anne Cranny-Francis

Different Identities, Different Voices: Possibilities and Pleasures in Some of Jean Lorrah's Star Trek Novels

Recent work by critics such as Henry Jenkins and Constance Penley on the texts produced by fans of TV series such as Star Trek and Beauty and the Beast has contributed greatly to an understanding of the pleasures and uses made by viewers, and especially by fans, of the original texts.1 This article deals with a number of Trek novels by fan writer, Jean Lorrah, published by Pocket Books, the publisher of Star Trek novelizations and of original fictions based on the television series and films.2 As an academic and a fan, I read these books with a mixture of delight and scholarly interest which together located some of the ways in which Lorrah's work extrapolates the possibilties and pleasures offered by the television series, Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation.

It is worth noting here some details about the way in which the Star Trek literature has developed. The writers of novels based on the original series, Star Trek, or any of its successors—Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and Star Trek: Voyager—take as the basis of their fictional worlds the Trek world of the television series. Subsequent writers build on their enhancement of this world, so that a complex picture of the Trek world is constantly evolving; cross-references between texts add coherence to that world.

Henry Jenkins and Constance Penley have both written about "slash" writing, the Trek world writings and graphics which begin with the premise of same-sex relationships between characters from the Trek universe (the original slash material—"K/S fiction"—features an explicitly erotic relationship between Kirk and Spock [K/S] of the original Star Trek series). In discussing this work Jenkins and Penley raise a number of important issues about the ways in which texts are used by viewers, particularly the way in which fans' own textual production demonstrates that fan readings and (re)writings of the original texts move beyond their mainstream readings. Slash writing offers critics the opportunity to move beyond mere speculation about the tactical uses fans and other viewers might make of their viewing; slash fiction is a concrete example of this transgressive reading practice. Yet slash is simply one (striking) version of a textual (reading and writing) practice which moves beyond the possibilities realized in the original text(s). Lorrah's writing is more conventional than slash, but it too focuses on the interpersonal relationships between characters—and in the process, like slash, it interrogates the nature of contemporary social relationships.

This paper traces Lorrah's (re)visions of heterosexual relationships and of masculine and feminine identities, exploring their transgressive aspects while, at the same time, noting the conservative elements in both the relationships and the gendered identities which Lorrah describes. It also explores the mixture of cultural references which constitute the Vulcan society of Lorrah's novels, and which articulate within these texts a seldom-heard non-bourgeois voice. Frequently I return to two strategic textual elements—telepathy and the alien— used by Lorrah throughout these novels. Both are familiar sf conventions which, it might be posited, were formulated in order to articulate specific needs and desires impossible to formulate in realist modes of writing. Science fiction is characterized by a number of conventions which can be used to produce a critique of contemporary society. The use of the alien, the outsider, to interrogate the nature of society (its values, beliefs, attitudes, practices) is as old as Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, often considered the first sf novel. Shelley uses her creation—like Data, a man-made being or android—to comment on the superficiality and cruelty of her own society.3 Telepathy, the ability to enter the mind of another, may be seen as a response to the individualist drive of bourgeois ideology and its (romantic) focus on the essential isolation of all humans. Lorrah uses these sf conventions in her novels to elaborate and to enrich the relationships and characterizations established in the original Star Trek texts; in the process, her novels pose some confrontational questions about the gendering of contemporary society, and articulate a cultural voice not often heard in mainstream writing.

1. Heterosexual Intimacy: a Re-Visioning. In her first published novel, The Vulcan Academy Murders (1984), Lorrah explores the relationship between the parents of Mr Spock, the Vulcan first officer of the original television series. Spock has a Human mother, Amanda Grayson, and a Vulcan father, Sarek, characters introduced in the original television series in an episode entitled "Journey to Babel." The relationship between Sarek and Amanda is, in fact, crucial to the plot of The Vulcan Academy Murders since it is the reason for the murders; one of Sarek's female students, Eleyna Miller, is trying to kill Amanda so that she can marry Sarek herself. In the novel Lorrah describes several other heterosexual relationships: one between two Vulcans (the healer, Sorel, and his wife T'Zan), another between a Vulcan woman and a Human man (Sorel's daughter, T'mir, and her partner, Daniel Corrigan), and a brief encounter between Kirk and Eleyna Miller. In each case the major point of interest is the nature of the bonding between the two people involved.

Vulcans are telepathic and their bonding is linked to their telepathic ability. In several of the TV episodes Spock is seen using his telepathic ability to enter the minds of other beings, to "mind-meld," something Humans are described as finding very disturbing and intrusive. Lorrah uses the mind-meld as the basis of Vulcan bonding, so that when two people decide to bond they enter into an intimacy which is far closer than can be achieved in a Human relationship. As they touch in the bonding ritual, they see and feel each other's thoughts and feelings and that intimacy stays with them always. Whenever they experience fear or insecurity, the other is always there to offer support and caring. They also see through the eyes of the other, so that this caring is supported by understanding.

Descriptions of Vulcan bonding recur periodically throughout the text, as if they, not the murder mystery, were the major concern of the narrative. In this light it is interesting to consider the generically mixed nature of this text as a hybrid of detective fiction and science fiction. Working with the Bakhtinian hypothesis that genres work to enact sets of discourses associated with specific social interactions,4 it follows that generically mixed texts are attempting to deal with discourses and social practices which are difficult to specify or codify. In most cases this occurs because the social practice or discourse being described and explored differs from the social norm—the generic case, if you like. So these generically mixed texts express or enact a negotiation of discourses, characteristically placing a non-mainstream practice or discourse in the context of the mainstream or conservative practice/discourse.

In The Vulcan Academy Murders Jean Lorrah negotiates both patriarchal and non-patriarchal discourses to construct a vision of a profound interpersonal intimacy which patriarchy, with its gendered division of interpersonal labor, works against. This intimacy is also rarely discernible in the original television series on which her text is based. In other words, Lorrah's text is a radical reworking, an appropriation, of that text and its seldom realized radical potential, in order to construct a revitalized vision of a non-patriarchal heterosexual intimacy, something which, as Naomi Wolf suggests in The Beauty Myth, has the potential to seriously disrupt bourgeois capitalist society.5

In other ways, however, Lorrah's novel is very conservative: Amanda still leaves her Vulcan husband frozen dinners in the freezer when she knows she will be away for a while. The text is a complex and contradictory negotiation of discourses, not a polemic of any kind, and the generic mixing in the text is part of this negotiation. Through its sf component the text is able to set up an interrogation of what it means to be Human, typically acted out through the construction of the alien, the other, to comment upon the Human. This is placed in tension with a conservative retelling of the detective plot in which, again typically, a woman (Sarek's student, Eleyna Miller) is the source of evil. Nevertheless, along the way Miller manipulates the patriarchal James Kirk through his sexist responses to her, a fact he eventually recognizes and explicitly discusses. So the stereotypical misogyny of the hard boiled detective novel6 also works as part of a deconstruction of patriarchal masculinity. And Miller's ruthlessness in her pursuit of Sarek is a pathetic metaphor for the obsessive love which is a common romantic type in western patriarchal culture, but which cannot possibly be a feature of relationships in which intimacy and caring are profound and mutually-sustaining. In other words, Lorrah's use of the science fiction/detective fiction hybrid exposes particular realizations of patriarchy—the sexually predatory man and the obsessed and obsessive woman —and also configures an intimate relationship which is fundamentally deconstructive of patriarchal relations.

This complex and contradictory mixture of gender discourses is typical of all Lorrah's novels. The sequel to The Vulcan Academy Murders, The IDIC Epidemic (1988), is marked by a similar mixture of stereotypical feminine and masculine behaviors alongside detailed descriptions of intimate heterosexual unions whose alienness (to patriarchy) is emphasized by the alien backgrounds of the characters involved. The only Humans who experience these bonds do so in liaison with Vulcan partners. In The IDIC Epidemic one of the most intimate relationships is between an Orion woman and a Klingon man; neither culture is positively portrayed in the original Star Trek series, yet Lorrah's characters construct a kind of loyalty and caring which is rare in fiction. Again this union functions as an implicit critique of (patriarchal) Human relationships, with the alien relationships interrogating the Human failure to achieve an analogous state of sensitivity and trust.

2. Intimacy and identity: Data's story. In her two Next Generation novels, Survivors (1989) and Metamorphosis (1990), Lorrah again investigates the nature of intimacy, in both cases through the experiences of the android Second Officer, Lieutenant Data. Survivors builds on an episode of the television series in which the female security chief, Lieutenant Natasha Yar, affected by a virus which destroys inhibitions, seduces Data. Data, we learn, is programmed to respond in an appropriate way to such demands. As in the series itself, however, this seduction is crucial to Data's understanding of himself as a sentient being. In Survivors he has to contend with Yar's refusal to acknowledge the event and he is instrumental in bringing her together with her former lover, in the process discovering how much Yar means to him—and what this then tells him about the nature of his own subjectivity. Perhaps the chief clue to Lorrah's conception of Data's struggle to formulate his subjectivity is in his reassessment of Will Riker's opening greeting, which refers to him as Pinocchio: "He had had to search the ship's data banks for the reference, but when he found and accessed it seconds later, even though Riker passed it off as a joke, he was stunned at being compared to the subject of a story about the magical power of love" (Survivors [NY: Pocket Books, 1989] 129).

Throughout Survivors the tension between Data's mechanical nature and his organic nature is an essential element of each narrative—the adventure in which Yar and Data are involved as Star Fleet officers, the narrative of Yar's life, Data's investigation of what it means to be Human—which is translated into his ability to love his colleagues and friends at one level and his intimate friends such as Yar at another.

In Metamorphosis Data is granted his wish to become Human, and he then finds himself enmeshed in the complexities of interpersonal relationships. Predictably, this novel is a kind of morality tale of self-discovery and self-acceptance: Data has to learn that he is happiest being the android he is, not the Human he thinks he might want to be—yet it is significant that Data's self-discovery is prompted by love, by his involvement in a "love triangle." In fact, his attempt to deal with interpersonal and sexual relations as a Human being who still thinks like an android (that is, interrogatively) is the focus of the book. Several story strands surround this central problematic, which must be resolved for those stories to proceed. Again Lorrah uses the potential of science fiction to explore interpersonal relations in an innovative way—one which is particularly expressive of concerns about the alienating, anti-intimacy consequences of patriarchy. So even as Data explores the sexuality which is made available to him by his Human metamorphosis, he is troubled by feelings that he is "being unfair" to the woman he is sleeping with—which is not, however, a concern she shares. In this construction of Data as a man, Lorrah articulates the desire for different kinds of masculinity that Penley and others have located in fan writing. In the fan materials this is often recognized in more overtly transgressive texts such as slash writing, but here the expression seems equally strong, though framed within a more traditional genre. Data the man and Data the android share features which the male partners of Lorrah's positive heterosexual unions all share: they are totally honorable, selflessly caring, and honest, qualities which are antithetical to the patriarchal masculine, particularly in relationships with women. Again it might be suggested that Lorrah is articulating (the desire for) a new kind of masculinity, one freed from the restraints of patriarchy and so able to be caring and honest and non-patronizing.

3. Gendered Identity: a New Masculinity. Interestingly, there is a change in Lorrah's own focus between her first and her most recent novel. Where The Vulcan Academy Murders concentrated on exploring the nature of intimacy in relationships, Metamorphosis focuses instead on the kind of masculinity required for such intimacy. And it is surely significant here that the male character involved is an android. Perhaps this, too, is part of the text's negotiation with patriarchy: the character who embodies the features which constitute a new masculinity is also embodied literally in ways which are both typical of, and interrogative of, patriarchy. Data is extremely strong, highly intelligent, and lacking in emotion (he does not have the emotion chip which is installed in his evil twin, Lore); as such, he is a kind of patriarchal stereotype. He is also a piece of technology and, at least since the beginnings of the industrial revolution, technology in western societies has been a masculine domain, most recently a province for the dreaming of bourgeois, masculine dreams of power and control. However, Data is also a deconstruction of that patriarchal stereotype precisely because he is a machine; that is, his emotional and interpersonal inadequacies demonstrate the way in which patriarchy constitutes the masculine as emotionally incompetent, cold, "mechanical." His desire to be Human might then be read as the desire for liberation from that restrictive and repressive stereotype; to be fully Human it is not possible to be fully patriarchal. So it is no accident that Data's emotional growth is bumbling and marked by set-backs; in a sense, this might be seen as a reflection of the position of many men battling the patriarchal identities socially imposed on them.

Several writers have also commented that Data is often positioned in a stereotypically feminine role, primarily via the "otherness" which places him outside the masculine mainstream represented by characters such as (the macho) Will Riker and (the coolly paternal) Jean-Luc Picard. This reading might include references to Data's gentleness and nurturing, perhaps also to his emotional tentativeness, all of which are commonly identified as feminine characteristics. In reading Data differently I am arguing for and from a perspective in which these characteristics are not specified as either feminine or masculine, but as available to both. When they are embodied in a specifically masculine being, they can be read not as the feminine side of that man (which maintains those features as stereotypically feminine and tends to reproduce a conservative description of the feminine and the masculine), but as a new kind of masculinity, one that is characterized by both strength and nurturing, intellect and emotion.

4. Gendered identity: a new femininity. Lorrah's novels also explore a new kind of femininity through her narrative of the female survivor. This is the story of a courageous woman who overcomes appalling deprivation and cruelty, often physical and/or sexual, on the way to achieving autonomy; in a sense, Lorrah is working within the framework of a kind of anti-victim narrative. Her novels, The IDIC Epidemic and Survivors, both contain this narrative, as does another Trek novel, The Pandora Principle (1990) by Carolyn Clowes. It also motivates a number of Anne McCaffrey's works, notably her recent novel, Sassinak (1990), co-authored with Elizabeth Moon.

Lorrah's The IDIC Epidemic focuses on the story of a young Vulcan woman, T'Pina, who has to come to terms with the discovery that she is not who she thought she was; she is, in fact, biologically a Romulan, a member of a breakaway Vulcan tribe whose culture is antithetical to Vulcan culture. Because of the clan-like nature of Vulcan society with its focus on family relationships, this is an extremely traumatic discovery. In a sense, T'Pina loses her sense of herself—not simply because she is biologically "other" than Vulcan (an essentialist reading which verges on racism) but because she has lost her place—her position—in the network of relationships which defines who she is. A great deal of the novel is devoted to her reconstruction of her own subjectivity in dialogue with those around her, her adoptive Vulcan mother, her healer, and her friends. This narrative explores the social and cultural construction of subjectivity through situating it in opposition to biology. Lorrah's work is interesting in that her focus is the interpersonal relationships in which T'Pina is enmeshed, rather than in an action-adventure story typical of science fiction. Ultimately T'Pina survives her ordeal, with her sense of self strengthened by her negotiation of the intersections between biology and culture.

In Survivors, Lorrah again deals with the construction of a feminine subjectivity which survives both emotional and physical deprivation. In this novel she constructs a background for the Next Generation character, Lieutenant Natassha Yar. Yar is described as growing up in a post-apocalyptic environment, abandoned by her mother at the age of five, sheltered through childhood by an older woman, and then having to fend for herself against rape and slave gangs. Yar is resourceful and cunning and she survives this terrible life, although she is not untouched by it. Not surprisingly her major problem in adulthood is that she is wary of any form of intimacy. The story of Yar's life is threaded through the adventure story which is the focus of Survivors, with Lorrah at times alternating chapters of Yar's life with chapters of the adventure. The narrative of Survivors is the product of the interaction between these two stories—and it concerns both Yar and Data.

Lorrah situates this story shortly after Yar's seduction of Data, an event he is still attempting to understand. Through the interplay of stories Yar is shown coming to terms with her embarrassment over that situation, realizing that her upset is caused by her own fear of betrayal, not by Data's non-Human nature. That betrayal is inscribed in the person of the former lover with whom she once again makes contact in the adventure story which is also part of Survivors. Yet she also recognizes the similarities between him and Data and this recognition enables her to overcome her fears. In Yar's story Lorrah dramatizes the concerns of many women in a society in which the violence used to suppress women is often emotional, with actual or potential physical violence a constant threat. In surviving the inhumanity of her upbringing Yar is a hero, not a victim, one who can even assist the men (and androids) with whom she comes into contact to perceive a different kind of masculinity than the one which produced her fear.

Carolyn Clowes gives an interestingly similar history to the Vulcan/Romulan hybrid Lieutenant Saavik, who first appeared in the second Star Trek movie, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982). Saavik survives a desert world by wit, cunning, and physical endurance and is eventually rescued by Spock who raises her as a daughter. Saavik too has devils in her past to subdue, as does Sassinak, the hero of the Planet Pirates trilogy by Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Moon. Captured by pirates as a child and forced to witness the deaths of her family, Sassinak survives ill-treatment and constant threat to become an autonomous and successful woman.

All of these women are strong and courageous. They may have help in dealing with their traumas, often from paternal male figures, but they remain active characters making choices about their lives and their relationships. They never settle down with those male characters, but instead leave them to pursue separate lives. All of these writers are constructing a new kind of female character, often in a discursive tension with the old, but nevertheless there to offer a revision of the narrative possibilities for women.

Lorrah has written these narratives especially for the women of her Star Trek world, rather than simply enhancing already existing narratives. In a sense these are the women whom we early Star Trek viewers knew were there, even though the series itself rarely made them available to us. In spite of that, it somehow helped produce the conditions for their existence, which is why it was so important even to those of us who grew up in a different culture, in a different place. Joanna Russ cites the same interest in her novel, The Female Man, when she describes female (and feminist) icon, Marlene Dietrich, as "a Vulcan; look at the eyebrows" (4.v:60). The early Star Trek series created the vision of an egalitarian and peaceful society (even as it went into space encased in heavy weaponry). For women it opened up the dreaming space Pamela Sargent refers to in the introduction to her anthology, Women of Wonder (1975):

Only sf and fantasy literature can show us women in entirely new or strange surroundings. It can explore what we might become if and when the present restrictions on our lives vanish, or show us new problems and restrictions that might arise. It can show us the remarkable woman as normal where past literature shows her as the exception. (lx)

Even though the women we actually saw on Star Trek spent their lives in uncomfortable micro-skirts and screamed a great deal, even though many were evil in ways which harked back—sometimes literally—to Medusa, it was fairly clear to the teleliterate and intelligent female viewer that these trappings were not typical of the women of the 23rd century, but were simply the way these women had to be presented for a relatively unsophisticated 20th-century audience. Furthermore, they showed that it was possible not only to wear those awful clothes and be patronized by smirking men, but also to look for new worlds and new civilizations. In other words, Star Trek enacted the complex and conflictual positioning of women in the 1960s. And Jean Lorrah has seized on the possibilities opened up by this positioning to create a new kind of female character and a new and empowering feminine narrative.

5. Class Identity: a Different (Textual) Voice. Although issues of gendered identity and interpersonal relationships seem to be the main focus of Lorrah's novels, another aspect of her Trek world which deserves some attention is her description of Vulcan society. A number of Star Trek novels have now been written about Vulcans, including one, Diane Duane's Spock's World (1988), which gives a history of Vulcan civilization. Lorrah's own descriptions of Vulcan society are orthodox in Trek terms: Vulcan society is organized into clans, often governed by a matriarchal figure such as T'Pau, a character from the TV series whom Lorrah uses in The Vulcan Academy Murders. Within the clan the strongest unit is the family. On Vulcan, families traditionally arrange marriages for their children (the basis of the first Vulcan story of the television series, "Amok Time"), although this is a tradition which is shown to be changing. In The Vulcan Academy Murders Lorrah adds another facet to Vulcan social organization, the Kahs-wan ritual, a test of maturity and endurance which Vulcan children must undertake to achieve the status of young adults. This ceremony seems to be based on accounts of Native American rituals.

Vulcan society was briefly sketched in three episodes of the original series. The episode, "Amok Time" (1966), constructed an ancient, clan-ruled warrior culture which had learned to curb its violence in order to prevent the culture's self-destruction. Violence was either suppressed, through the practice of mental disciplines, or ritualized, as in the marriage challenge in which Spock engages in that episode. The fundamentally war-like nature of Vulcan society is reinforced by its likeness to Romulan culture, which is revealed as a radical off-shoot of the earlier warrior culture in the episode, "Balance of Terror" (1967). In "Amok Time", also, the clan-based nature of Vulcan culture is shown, as Spock participates in a ceremony presided over by matriarchal clan leader, T'Pau.

In another episode to which I have already referred, "Journey to Babel" (1967), the nature of Vulcan interpersonal relations is illustrated by the relationship between Spock and his parents, Sarek and Amanda. Sarek and Amanda's relationship in this episode is very conventional, with Amanda deferring totally to Sarek in public, while in private teasing him about her feelings for him. From this basis writers like Lorrah have constructed a very different relationship, with elements of that (patriarchal) conventionality in tension with a radically reworked notion of intimacy. Between Spock and his parents there is a kind of impasse, and we later learn that this is because Spock has chosen Starfleet over a career at the Vulcan Academy of Science, Sarek's workplace; Spock thereby breaks with a Vulcan tradition in which sons follow their fathers into particular professions or careers. The notion that Spock's career decision constitutes such disloyalty is an interestingly non-bourgeois concept, and accords with configurations of the culture as clan-based and/or aristocratic. This family disunity is the foil against which the story of the Babel ambassadors is played out, and the episode only ends happily when Sarek and Spock are reconciled.

Probably the only other thing we learn about Spock's family in the original series is that it is very "well connected." In "Amok Time," Kirk is astonished to find that Spock's clan leader is T'Pau, the only Vulcan to have refused a place on the council of the Federation of Planets. This is translated by the Trek novelists as a kind of aristocracy; Sarek, in particular, is portrayed as an aristocratic figure, whose "hawk-like" features inscribe that status (although it's worth noting that "hawk-like" is also a common Anglo description of Native American features).

All of these features of Vulcan life seem to situate it as a very particular kind of society, not the individualist bourgeois society of most television series, but a social formation closest to that described by sociologist Basil Bernstein as "positional" (176-79). In positional families—which include working class as well as old (upper) middle-class and aristocratic families—roles are clearly marked; decision-making is a function of status; there are close interactions between parents and grandparents; boundary areas become sites of disputes which are characteristically settled along status lines, rather than opportunities for individual debate; children tend to communicate openly with age-mates who are a major source of learning and relevance. These characteristics typify the relationships depicted among Spock, his parents, and other members of Vulcan society in Lorrah's books, in the television series, and in most other novelistic representations. The critical dispute between Spock and his father, Sarek, over choice of career can be understood in these terms as a betrayal by Spock of the fundamental principles of (positional) Vulcan society.

In constructing Vulcans as "other," then, writers draw on a range of non-Anglo and/or non-bourgeois cultures, including Native American (or a particular version thereof), aristocratic, and working-class. What these different cultural constructions share (and what the multiple determinations indicate) is a non-individualist notion of the subject; these are cultures in which the individual is always conceptualized as part of a network of relationships from which she/he draws solidarity, status, strength, responsibility. Which leads me back to Vulcan telepathy. It may be that, for writers and readers living in an individuated bourgeois society, telepathy is one way of conceptualizing the kind of negotiated consciousness typical of non-bourgeois culture and non-bourgeois individual subjectivity. It is a metaphor for the negotiation of consciousness which is quite difficult to conceptualize if you are working within an individualist notion of personality or identity which is fundamentally asocial.

6. Conclusion. Telepathy might, therefore, be seen as serving two purposes in Lorrah's writing (and, I suspect, in a great deal of other sf writing). Firstly, in intimate relationships, it enables the writer to describe an intimacy based on the mutual negotiation of subjectivities, a concept which requires a more flexible and fluid notion of subjectivity than is implicit in most familiar versions of subjective identity. Using telepathy as a narrative element, the writer is able to configure a merging of subjectivities which an individualist model of subjectivity would project as loss of personal integrity. In Lorrah's writing this merging or sharing is the basis for a vision of heterosexual intimacy which is fundamentally non-patriarchal. Lorrah extrapolates the possibilities and pleasures offered by her readings of the original texts and the sf conventions which constitute them to articulate a desire for a non-patriarchal heterosexual intimacy and for gendered identities (masculine and feminine) not constrained by patriarchal stereotypes.

Secondly, in her vision of Vulcan society, melded together by not only telepathic sharing but also an intricate web of interpersonal relationships which constitute the individual positioning of its members, Lorrah produces a strikingly unconventional cultural construct. Her introduction of Native American ritual (through the Kahs-wan) reinforces her attempt to position this society outside the bourgeois norm of contemporary western society. In doing so, Lorrah gives voice to a discourse which is not common in mainstream fiction—a non-bourgeois discourse which is realized (or expressed) textually in the interpersonal relations it structures.

As I noted at the beginning of this paper, Lorrah's novels are in some ways very conventional: they reproduce an orthodox Trek world; most are generically uncomplicated; and discursively they enact some very conservative positionings (patriarchal feminine and masculine). However, the novels also do more and other than this. They also enact some unorthodox desires—for non-patriarchal relationships and identities—and give voice to both non-patriarchal and non-bourgeois voices. While not as confrontational as slash fiction, it may be that Jean Lorrah's gentle novels about intimacy and identity are equally transgressive.


1. See particularly Henry Jenkins, "Star Trek Rerun, Reread, Rewritten: Fan Writing as Textual Poaching," Close Encounters: Film, Feminism, and Science Fiction, ed. Constance Penley, Elisabeth Lyon, Lynn Spigel, & Janet Bergstrom (Minneapolis: U Minnesota P, 1991), 171-202; Henry Jenkins, Textual Poachers: Television Fans & Participatory Culture (1992); Constance Penley, "Brownian Motion: Women, Tactics and Technology," Technoculture, ed. Constance Penley & Andrew Ross (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1991), 135-61; Constance Penley, "Feminism, Psychoanalysis, and the Study of Popular Culture," Cultural Studies, ed. Lawrence Grossberg, Cary Nelson & Paula A. Treichler (NY: Routledge, 1992), 479-500. See also Anne Cranny-Francis, Engendered Fiction: Analysing Gender in the Production and Reception of Texts (1992) and Popular Culture (1994); John Tulloch & Henry Jenkins, Science Fiction Audiences: Watching Doctor Who and Star Trek (1995); Henry Jenkins "`If I Could Speak with Your Sound': Textual Proximity, Liminal Identication, and the Music of the Science Fiction Community." Camera Obscura 23:149-76, May 1991.

2. In the "Foreword" to her novels Lorrah states: "I learned to write fiction through fanzine writing, and made many wonderful friends through Trekfandom." Jean Lorrah has written many other self-published novels and stories which circulate within fan culture (examples include Full Moon Rising, NTM Collected [Volumes I and II], and Trust, Like the Soul.

3. See my Feminist Fiction: Feminist Uses of Generic Fiction (NY: St Martin's; Cambridge: Polity, 1990), especially chapter 2, for a discussion of the interrogative potential and uses of sf.

4. See my "Introduction" to Feminist Fiction (see previous note), 16-22, for a discussion of the critical use of the concept of "genre," based in the work of Mikhail Bakhtin, as in The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays (1981).

5. As Naomi Wolf argues: "that is (somewhat reductively), if men and women were able to come together on the grounds of mutual respect and self-respect, then the system which functions by positioning individuals as lacking (sex, love) and so on as consumers (of products which can give access to sex, love) will cease to function"—The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty are Used Against Women (NY: Vintage, 1990), 146.

6. On which see John Cawelti, Adventure, Mystery and Romance: Formula Stories as Art and Popular Culture (1976), particularly chapter 6, "The Hard-Boiled Detective Story."


Bernstein, Basil B. Class, Codes and Control. Volume 1. Theoretical Studies towards a Sociology of Language. St. Albans, Herts.: Paladin, 1973.

Russ, Joanna. The Female Man. 1975. London: The Women's Press, 1985.

Sargent, Pamela. "Introduction: Women in Science Fiction." Women of Wonder: Science Fiction Stories by Women about Women. Ed. Sargent. NY: Vintage, 1975. xiii-lxiv.

ABSTRACT. Fan writer Jean Lorrah has published a number of novels based on the series, Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation. This article explores several of Lorrah's novels, tracing within them both conservative and non-mainstream voices and discourses. Alongside patriarchal representations of gender relationships, Lorrah offers an exploration of interpersonal intimacy which is fundamentally subversive of patriarchal strategies. Her female characters are both feminine and autonomous, victimized but not victims. And in her representation of Vulcan society Lorrah articulates values which are alien indeed to bourgeois society: solidarity, cohesion, loyalty, kinship. These novels do not have the shock value of the sexually-explicit "slash" writings, and yet they voice values and attitudes which may be equally challenging to mainstream opinion. (ACF)

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