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Fan History and Rebuttal Fic

While browsing through the TrekTales.com archive today, I ran across a couple of stories which took me right back to my earliest days in fandom.

One of the things that fascinated and intrigued me when I got into fandom (in 1975) was the way fans built upon the work of other fans by adopting certain concepts as fanon, by writing sequels to works written by others, and the way the fannish conversation was often carried out via fiction. Specifically, if an author disagreed with the premise of someone else's story, she might debate the point by writing "rebuttal" fic.

Here's an example of an original, controversial story and a rebuttal fic it inspired.

Both are gen Trek. In both stories, Spock has suffered brain damage and no hope is held out for his recovery. In both stories, Christine Chapel is the only one who believes there's something of Spock's mind left inside what seems to be an empty shell.

In this first story she makes a dark choice:

The Price of a Handful of Snowflakes by M L Steve Barnes

http://www.trektales.com/snowflke.html

This story was first publised in 1971 in Impulse # 5. Due to the high amount of interest created when this story was discussed in the fanfic chapter of the 1975 pro paperback "Star Trek Lives!" it was reprinted in 1979 in "...A Handful of Snowflakes" and Other Trek Tales.

A Touch Of Love by Jacqueline Bielowicz, published in 1976 in Tal-Shaya # 3 was written explicitly as a rebuttal to M.L.'s story. Christine makes a different choice in this story:

http://www.trektales.com/touch.html

Joan Verba's "Boldy Writing" has this to say regarding "The Price of a Handful of Snowflakes":

"Impulse 5 ran 33 pages, but the editors claimed it contained as much material as the previous mimeographed issue, which had 110 pages. Notable authors in this issue included Jacqueline Lichtenberg, Anna Mary Hall (who was becoming a frequent fanzine contributor), and Barbie Marczak. The last story of this issue was "The Price of a Handful of Snowflakes" by M. L. Barnes. This story, featuring Christine Chapel and Spock, became legendary in the annals of fan fiction, chiefly due to its being mentioned in Star Trek Lives! (published 1975). . . . . Star Trek Lives! had recommended a number of fanzine stories, which were in great demand as a result. One of the stories mentioned was M. L. "Steve" Barnes's story, "The Price of a Handful of Snowflakes," which first appeared in Impulse 5. After Impulse went out of print, Steve published this story, along with three others she had written, in "...A Handful of Snowflakes" and Other Trek
Tales.

Here's the Fanlore reference (includes a scan of the cover and the Gayle F. Frontispiece for this zine):

http://67.23.2.53/wiki/A_Handful_of_Snowflakes

Comments

Interesting! I have never been one of a Chapel fan so I probably stayed clear of this. But the concept is intriguing.

Are there any examples of this in the slash fanfiction - the rebuttal of a specific story?
I know of at least one example in Pros, though I can't recall the story titles offhand, on the subject of BDSM.

Rebuttal of a Specific Story - Velvet Underground?

Are you thinking of Velvet Underground by Sebastian and Artemis' response, Dance with the Devil, or perhaps reactions to some of Kitty Fisher's stories?

Re: Rebuttal of a Specific Story - Velvet Underground?

I'm pretty sure I was thinking of "Dance with the Devil" as the original story, and a story by M.Fae Glasgow (don't recall the title, and I'm at work) as the response.
I can understand the BDSM being a factor in the rebuttal.

Rebuttal of a Specific Story

Moving outside ST-TOS because for some reason I'm drawing an absolute blank, Pros has any number of rebuttal stories or what is also sometimes called debate by story/fiction. Indeed, every fandom I've ever read in has examples.

In Pros, what leaps to mind is an early and influential Circuit story, Consequences by Tarot and A.N. Other (online pseuds - names on orig circuit story and offline archives are different). Consequences is a partner rape story and spawned over a dozen sequel/alternative/rebuttal stories and one zine novel by other authors. Responses ranged from serious to satire to parody.

Velvet Underground by Sebastian is a BDSM story that upset another Pros author, Artemis, enough that Artemis wrote Dance with the Devil. Artemis' author notes are explicit about her intent to counter the original story.

The POISON APPLES sequence is a trio of debate/rebuttal stories.

1) Poison Apples by Pamela Rose (IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST, Jun 1985, Sunshine Press now AMC Press, oop)
2) Apples for the Lady by T. D. Murphy (IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST III, 1991, Sunshine Press now AMC Press, oop)
3) Antidote to Apples by Kris Brown (COMPOUNDED INTEREST 1, 1992, AMC Press, oop)

This sequence is actually one of the more interesting debate by story sequences that I've found in fan fiction showing the slash/het divide that crops up periodically in most fandoms. Poison Apples by Pam Rose is slash, then T.D. Murphy wrote a het story (Apples for the Lady) to counter Pam's slash version. In response, Kris Brown then wrote a slash rebuttal to T.D. Murphy's. All very explicit counters - nothing coded or coy about it.

It's also interesting that the titles clearly signify the intent of the story (Apples for the Lady=het story and Antidote to Apples=rebuttal of het story) and that all three stories were published by the same press.

Pros fandom is rife with AUs, and that often produces rebuttal stories, sometimes to a specific story, sometimes to a sub-genre such as elf stories. Jane of Australia (The Hunting series), Anne Carr, and Lily Fulford - amongst others - wrote numerous Pros elf stories. Some of the rebuttal stories include It's Hard To Be a Bard by Cassie Ingaben (specific to The Hunting universe) and Arduinna Finn's An Elf by Any Other Name and Lighter-Footed than the Fox (more a reaction to the elf sub-genre).

The Shadow of a Ghost and The Ghost of a Shadow, both by by Nancy Arena, produced a satiric response by O Yardley called Ghostly Shadowy Ghost-Shadow.

Kitty Fisher wrote The Pillory, a death story with Evil Cowley that many found wildly OOC. In response, UKJess wrote the satiric story The Pillory: Seven Suggestions for What Happened Next. UKJess also wrote The Sad History of Beautiful Billy Bodie, a satiric response to Beautiful Bodie: Nightmares of the Past by Anne Higgins.

Switching fandoms, there was a hue and cry in SGA when Helen wrote Take Clothes Off As Directed in response to two BDSM 24/7 lifestyle AU stories by Xanthe (The General and Dr. Sheppard, and Coming Home). Some Xanthe supporters insisted that the controversy wasn't over the issue of whether or not rebuttal stories were appropriate but rather over Helen's use of the phrase "an unauthorized homage" to describe her story which is a refutation of Xanthe's work. But it was pretty clear that for many of Xanthe's supporters the idea of a rebuttal story itself was anathema - a concept totally alien to my experience and understanding of fandoms over the past thirty plus years.

Re: Rebuttal of a Specific Story

Interesting. Thank you. I will do some research and check out the Poison apple series. It sounds interesting - though my Pros exposure is limited.

If anyone can come up with a K/S example I would be grateful.

Re: Rebuttal of a Specific Story

The one K/S example that immediately springs to mind is a poem by Paula Smith which was, I believe, published in either on Obsc'zine or perhaps Warped Space XX. In this poem, Spock can only have sex during pon far. The bond completely overwrites Kirk’s sexuality, leaving him impotent except when Spock is in heat. The poem ends with Kirk “hating” Spock for what he has done to him. I remember reading a story which was specifically a rebuttal to that piece – though for the life of me I can’t recall the title or where it appeared. (I began writing a rebuttal story myself; unfortunately I never finished it.)

I know there are other examples of K/S rebuttal stories – I just wish my memory was better. I remember participating in several fan conversations at the time in which someone said, “Did you see what “Author” wrote in this story??? I totally disagree and I’m going to write a reply”. In due course the rebuttal story would appear.

And there are rebuttal stories to entire tropes. I wrote “A Private Obsession” after I read one story too many where Kirk freaks out when some other man propositions him as a quid pro quo. My thought was, Kirk would use another man’s sexual interest in him exactly the way he used Sylvia’s interest in him in “Catspaw”. I cannot remember the name of the story which tipped me over the edge; I just remember after reading it I had to start writing my own ideas on the subject.

Re: Rebuttal of a Specific Story

Interesting. I'll have to see if I can track down the poem.

I think on a certain level some of the episode based stories are indeed rebuttals. We read one person's take on an episode and it is a springboard for our ideas. I know that is what happened to me.

You wouldn't consider an extension or sequel of a story as a rebuttal, would you? For instance, Price and Prize to Courts of Honor. To me Price and Prize was a complete story...a frustrating ending...but an ending. Courts of Honor brought the relationship to a conclusion most of us were happy with. Would you consider this a rebuttal?

Edited at 2010-08-04 04:37 pm (UTC)

Re: Rebuttal of a Specific Story

I definitely agree about episode-based stories often counting as rebuttal stories. I love episode-based stories; I love the variety of viewpoints that can spring from one episode.

Rebuttal fic does, IMO, need to involve two separate authors.

Since Syn wrote both The Price and Courts of Honor, I don't think COH could be classified as rebuttal fic. Just about a minute after The Price and the Prize hit people's mailboxes and people had a chance to read it, Syn was inundated with mail from people begging for a sequel to The Price. (I'm one of those people. She wrote back to me and said she was already working on the sequel... Which did take quite a number of years before she finished it.)

A sequel or extension fic written by someone other than the original author can definitely count as rebuttal fic, depending on the intent of the second author.

As an example, “The Rack” by J. Emily Vance (which in itself was a response to the concept of K/S)* inspired both an official sequel, and because of its unhappy ending, several rebuttal sequels. Two of the rebuttal sequels are mentioned on the following webpage; it’s my understanding that there was a third one, published in a Canadian zine.

http://fanlore.org/wiki/The_Rack

Here’s a quote from one of the authors, Nancy Kippax:

"The Rack", as is widely known by now, was conceived as a cautionary tale to anonymously respond to the growing acceptance of the original "slash" relationship between Kirk and Spock. Bev and I, along with [April Valentine] in Baltimore, were more concerned with what this runaway concept was doing to the Star Trek fandom than to making a social or political statement.

Re: Rebuttal of a Specific Story

That Canadian story was "A la Recherche de l'avenir" by G. Lapierre, published in STARBASE M.T.L. (1976, J. Spires. ed.) The writers of "The Rack" published a statement in response to that story. They indicated that there had been other sequels written--not all of which they agreed with--but those had been done with their knowledge and permission. This story was a complete unknown to them until the editor showed it to them a con. Not only did they not like that, but they did not like the writer taking an original character from their story and developing him and the story in a direction they would not have gone and did not approve of.

Re: Rebuttal of a Specific Story

Coming late to the debate - I had always assumed that Beside the Wells, by UKJess is expressed somewhere by the author as a rebuttal to the Jim as sex-slave stories.

Re: Rebuttal of a Specific Story

It's a rebuttal to the slave story trope, but, AFAIK, not to a specific story. (I wrote a couple of stories myself, such as "A Private Obsession" that were rebuttal to common tropes.)

Re: Rebuttal of a Specific Story

I think I read each and every one of the rebuttals/sequels to Consequences. Here's an URL which lists all of them:

http://fanlore.org/wiki/Consequences

A pity about the people responding to the rebuttal to Xanthe's story. I think a lot of fannish traditions were lost when a lot of fandom migrated to LJ.

Satiric responses: There were definitely a lot of those in early Trek fandom. Paula Smith’s invention of the term “Mary Sue” was a direct response to the huge amount of Mary Sue stories being written at the time.

There were short satires of entire zines, including one which spoofed the use of ultra-reduced print in zines at the time with just the first and last paragraphs being readable, and the body of the “story” in something like 1 point type. (The first paragraph sets up a basic Trek adventure; the final paragraph concludes with "...and with heavy heart he lifted the body of his friend and walked off into the sunset" (or something similar.)

There was a very long, never finished Kirk/Mary Sue saga called “Diamonds and Rust” which featured a statuesque, gorgeous Mary Sue named Chantal Caberfae. I remember that Kirk was absolutely besotted with her. It was accompanied with some highly romantic illustrations. Someone wrote a wickedly funny satire called “Rhinestones and Mush”, published in Warped Space # 25, which was complete with cartoons by Gordon Carleton satirizing the art by showing Chantal as practically sparkling/glowing with Kirk being depicted as basically her lapdog.

(Information from Boldly Writing: The Diamonds and Rust series finally saw print as a collection in 1978, although the copyright notice said 1977. Jeff Johnston of Kzinti Press gathered and mimeographed the set of stories that Mary L. (Mandi) Schultz and Cheryl Rice had written. The volume ran 247 pages. The set of stories was highly controversial—among some fans, because of its Mary Sue aspects; among others, because of the adult treatment of various (heterosexual) topics.)

Then there was Kraith, the multi-author shared universe story coordinated by Jacqueline Lichtenberg which branched off into all directions, spawned its own AUs and was unfortunately never completed.

The 8 volume “Variations on a Theme” series of novellas were a sequel to a portion of the Kraith storyline.

http://67.23.2.53/wiki/Variations_on_a_Theme_(Star_Trek_TOS_zine)

From introduction by the authors:

http://scotpress.co.uk/story_archive/sv/introduction.htm

“At the time, expecting this to be a one-off short story, published in the UK and with very little exposure anywhere else in the world, it didn't occur to us to contact Jacqueline to ask if she minded our using the character of the alternate universe Spock, especially since creative responses were, if not common, far from unknown back in the 1970s - and more especially since all we took from it was the situation in which the character found himself. As it happened, when she did discover about our series some years later, Jacqueline was very gracious about it... This, we feel, is the ultimate in alternate universe stories, being set in an alternate universe of an alternate universe of an alternate universe....”

Re: Rebuttal of a Specific Story

it was pretty clear that for many of Xanthe's supporters the idea of a rebuttal story itself was anathema

Interesting and amusing, because Xanthe's universe made me write my only relatively open rebuttal - Reboot Trek, "The People we are, The Choices we make", in which people can switch sides - I was annoyed over the idea of D/s sides being completely hard-wired (that's how Xanthe's series reads to me).

A pity about the people responding to the rebuttal to Xanthe's story. I think a lot of fannish traditions were lost when a lot of fandom migrated to LJ.

I think the tendency not to write rebuttal also existed in ASCEM before LJ time. It would be interesting to see when the fandom(s) opinion(s) changed on that, and what might be the reason... maybe an Internet thing, because passing things you don't like is easier AND recommended, and you get so much more to read that one single story rarely steers the passion enough to push anyone in writing an explicit rebuttal?

Re: Rebuttal of a Specific Story

Well, parodies, sequels and AUs can, of course be "rebuttal fic," but I would never have considered "Rhinestones and Mush" to be refuting "Diamonds and Rust," nor was "Variations on a Theme" written to repudiate "Kraith."

You mentioned:
"There were short satires of entire zines, including one which spoofed the use of ultra-reduced print in zines at the time with just the first and last paragraphs being readable, and the body of the “story” in something like 1 point type. (The first paragraph sets up a basic Trek adventure; the final paragraph concludes with "...and with heavy heart he lifted the body of his friend and walked off into the sunset" (or something similar.)"

You are referring to the parody Paula Smith wrote of the zine "T-Negative." T-Neg, in its offset printings, certainly went in for wildly varying type and at times extremely reduced type--it was typical to find multiple font sizes used in the same issue.

So Paula wrote "T-Minus" (printed originally in T-Neg #30/31 and reprinted in Paula's own zine, "Menagerie" #13).

T-Neg had printed a number of "Kraith" stories, so one of the contributions to the parody was "Spock's Whatsis." It begins thusly:

--------------------
"Well, we're finally on our way, Spock," said Captain Kirk, relaxing back in his command chair. "Nothing can happen to Vulcan's precious relic now."

"Indeed, Captain, nothing *must* happen to it," Spock replied, staring distantly at the receding planet on the viewscreen. "The fate of the galaxy rests on that."

Suddenly, behind them, the elevator door crumpled and onto the bridge stalked
--------------------

At this point you turn the page of the zine and find an entire page filled with, yes, just about the smallest text you can imagine.

On the next page, the story concludes with this:

--------------------
and as the alien sun sank beneath the horizon, he shouldered his dead friend and walked sadly toward the fading light.
--------------------

Not only was that funnier than all get-out, but it *still* sucked you in, wringing your eye-balls dry trying to read that teensy text to find out what you had missed (which, it turns out, is just a few paragraphs of gibberish, repeated).

Oh that Paula--what a joker. :-)


I've been TRYING to explain this one - and in this world of instant fan fiction EVERY SINGLE NIGHT - it just falls short.

So lucky these days. Such a different world.

(And what a nice memory on a Monday. Thanks!)
A different world indeed...! It's hard to convey how it felt to wait by the mailbox for those precious zines when now so much fic is available in just a few clicks.
Interestingly, I think a rebuttal of a story in story form would be seen as impolite today.

*ponders*

At least that's my feeling about it and that what I got from discussions with other current authors about stories we disliked/would have liked to rewrite. The usual opinion seems to be that it would be an affront. Today, if you don't like a story, it's expected you skip it - and if you write something as rebuttal, not to mention what you rebut.

EDIT: That relates to specific stories - rebuttals of tropes are common.

Edited at 2010-08-06 09:10 pm (UTC)
Hi Syredronning,
I'm answering belatedly - I got too busy in August to get to answer email/posts.

I expect a lot of stories have been written as rebuttal fic over the years without the author specifically stating the purpose of the story. But thanks for confirming for me that I didn't think this was a current fannish tradition.
My first fic was written as a rebuttal to a specific piece of idiocy fic that enraged me... only I never explicitly said so. I think it would have been seen as gauche at best, an attempt to Destroy Fandom at worst. Pity.