Let me introduce Leslye Lilker.
She is one of the Greats of Star Trek's original fan fiction writers. Her series of stories about Sahaj, an original character she created, has the same stature as Kraith, Night of the Twin Moons, and half a dozen others that are still famous.
After I sold my first science fiction story, I became a Star Trek fanfic writer, and now I have been quoted in academic books on fanfic, and on Star Trek fanfic. My fanfic is more famous than Sime~Gen. I have done articles for many academic publications on Star Trek fanfic as well as being mentioned in other academic books about Star Trek.
In August, 2015, I got a call from France -- yes, the country! A producer doing a TV documentary on Star Trek fandom in the USA called me because she had read my article in Anne Jamison's book, FIC. She called to make an appointment to interview me at my house for her documentary. Fan Fiction is alive, well, and still having a growing impact on the whole world, and what is old is new again. Hence, Science Fiction Romance writers can benefit from studying the fanfic origins of the peculiar blend of science and fiction that is now evolving into a new field.
The most quoted Trek item I've done is Kraith, such as this one in New York Magazine recently:
Kraith is an alternate universe aired ST:ToS series that was printed on paper. The various stories appeared in a multitude of fanzines, and were then collected in Kraith Collected -- a 5 volume series now on the web for free reading.
In her comments here below, Leslye mentions the Kraith -- a large ceramic cup, handmade and no two-alike, a Vulcan artform. Kraith Collected covers each have an image originated by contributing artists, so here are the images that were used.
During the years the 50 or so Kraith Creators who contributed ideas, stories, poems, artwork, etc were working, other fanzines like Night of the Twin Moons by Jean Lorrah, and the Sahaj Universe series of stories by Leslye Lilker, (now Leah Charifson) were also being published. I read them all, of course.
As you know, Jean Lorrah and I partnered on Sime~Gen, so we never lost touch the way so many of the people involved in the Star Trek fanzine scene did. Recently, many of these disconnected souls have turned up on Facebook and reconnected.
Leslye Lilker found so many of us interested in more Sahaj stories that she broken out her outlines from the 1970-80s and has begun to write those stories. She has already produced several new ones about Sahaj's teen years, and one that has him at age twenty-seven.
In the intervening years, she has been teaching students to dissect and understand novels in the basic terms of conflict, resolution, main character, theme -- the functional components that have always made stories compelling.
The original Sahaj stories exhibited professional grade writing craftsmanship, and the new ones shine with "best seller" vibrations. As I have maintained all these years, just because it's not a Mass Market paperback doesn't mean it's not perfectly crafted.
Sahaj is, in Leslye's alternate universe Trek, Spock's son by a vindictive Vulcan woman, "now" off the scene. You really have to read the stories of how all that happened. Then you need to read all the stories about how poor Spock, already in conflict with his human side, attempts to parent his oh-so-emotional son. In 1983 we left twelve-year-old Sahaj in a fairly stable environment as he’s settled into growing up in Sarek's household, with Spock coming to visit as much as he can.
Sahaj is learning the “whys and wherefores” of Vulcan culture, but is acutely aware that he doesn't quite belong and he may choose another path, but he has a plan which will eventually bring him his lifelong goal: to live with his father full time, which would be on the Enterprise or some other Starfleet home. This is a much better life than he was headed for when he was born, so for all the awkwardness of his position, he's comfortable in it, hatching ambitions as any pre-teen would.
So this is the ongoing saga of a child we meet early in his life, and now watch grow into adulthood. It is a compelling story that hooks readers, whether they are Star Trek fans or not.
So far, it's not "Romance" -- but it is a grand science fiction story setting up something very romantic indeed.
Reconnecting with old friends, Leslye found others still shared her interest in classic Trek, and when one of the Sime~Gen folks on her Facebook Group posted the URL for Kraith, she reread "Spock's Affirmation" -- and sent me the following commentary, which she has edited once.
Keep in mind that she was talking to me, and we both know that Kraith was written as writing exercises for a class on writing, and as commentary on aired-Trek's dodging away from what I knew was "real" science fiction.
I added an alien dimension to Spock -- truly a non-human -- and to Vulcan culture. And I added so much Worldbuilding that reviews of Kraith by academics peg the Hero of the series not as Spock or Kirk, but as Vulcan Culture.
I can't argue with that.
Note: "Spock's Affirmation" was written many years before they invented and added kolinahr to the official Star Trek Universe. Copies of Kraith Collected had been seen around Gene Roddenberry's office at Paramount.
Here in her own words is how this Kraith story struck Leslye Lilker on re-reading.
Upon rereading "Spock's Affirmation" some 40 years later, I found myself unable to analyze it the way I teach my students to analyze literature. Yes, the main plot is Kirk must get the Kraith, Spock, and the dancers to their destination by a certain time. There are hints of subplots but they are mere skeletons, waiting for the tendons, muscle, and flesh that come later in the series. It adds intrigue but the reader’s mood (the feeling the reader has at the end) is less than satisfied. For example, the subplot of 'what happened to Sarek?’ is not addressed in this story. Everyone assumes he’s dead except for Spock, but we don’t get that answer at the end of “AFFIRMATION”. That’s okay, though, because we know how sagas are.
Characterization: the most interesting character to me was the one Jacqueline invented: Ssarsun. He/she/it/?? is, multileveled, flawed, totally believable (if you can believe a telepathic lizard raised on Vulcan - and I can). Ssarsun has a sense of humor, can drink Scott under the table, and is determined to save Spock’s life. What more could a reader want? Spock, usually my favorite character in anything I read, has morphed, without motivation or reason, from the Spock we saw on TOS, to an alien, a Vulcan who maybe has already achieved kolinahr, a complete purging of emotion. Since this was why Jacqueline wrote “Affirmation” I would have to say she achieved her goal. If I pretended that this was a new character, I could accept him as I could accept Michael Valentine or other alien SF personas. So the role Spock played worked. I just didn’t like him much as Spock. His dialogue was more informal than I was used to. There didn’t seem to be a real connection from him to Kirk or McCoy. I think the worst part for me was when he came back from the Affirmation with the news that not only his newly taken wife but his still in utero son were dead. The son would have been the next “kaydid” (which is what my eyes saw instead of the Vulcan word Jacqueline created) and Spock’s only reaction was to say he was tired and needed a day to recuperate. But that is imposing my own needs on this character. As Professor Thomas Foster states in How To Read Literature Like A Professor, don’t read with your own eyes. Read from the author’s eyes.
The point of view was difficult to describe, as the story was written the way John Steinbeck wrote OF MICE AND MEN, as a screenplay. With the exception of McCoy and Ssarsun, the reader can only judge by what the characters do or say (character traits.)
I get that Spock is the last of his line to be a katydid, which is how I think of your word for the Vulcan in his line who can conjoin many in a mindmeld. I am uncertain of why this would be important, but then, I was quite tired and slightly overwhelmed by personal matters when I read it. Yet I got it.
The tone of “Affirmation” (the writer’s attitude toward the subject) comes across loud and clear: critical of the way aliens were being portrayed on the screen.
Since “Affirmation” is the beginning of a saga and because it was written for a TV show, theme is difficult to express. We teach that theme comes out of conflict. The conflicts in “Affirmation” were many but the resolutions were few, so I cannot define a theme at this point.
I’m going to have to say that Kirk is the protagonist because he’s the one who has the goal to achieve. I’m not quite sure who the antagonist is. I suspect it is the portion of Vulcan society who wants Sarek’s line dead.
Now, all of this you spoke of in your introduction but I didn't read your introduction until after I read the story. What you did so well, was hook your reader into the big story. There’s a huge alien Universe hulking just behind the curtain. Will I go back for more? Of course. I mean, I already have, in my previous life. This is just rereading, with a somewhat more professional eye.
I do have to laugh though. When I described the bottle of Tembrua in my rewrite of "The Bronze Cord" it sort of looked like the picture of the Kraith cup. It wasn't intended, but we are all touched by what we read, what we see, the politics going on around us, the technology we have at our fingertips, and all of that may come out in your own writing, even if it is from a subconscious level.
I liked what I read well enough to want to read more. That's a very good thing.! And it is also a very good thing that this story can hold up after all these years. It’s a definite hook, which captures the attention of your readers and leaves them wanting more.
Here is further commentary by Leslye Lilker on the Sime~Gen Novel, House of Zeor, which was written concurrently with Kraith.
I dragged myself home after another ‘first day of school’ today wanting nothing more than a nap, but in my inbox was a little reminder that I had promised to compare House of Zeor to “Affirmation.” So I took my kindle to bed with me and flew through Chapter One and started Chapter Two but I had to force myself to stop and rest. And that, dear friends, in my opinion, is the best thing one can say to a writer: “I couldn’t put it down.”
That same Professor Foster mentioned above also has a book out called (you got it!) How To Read Novels Like A Professor. He states that a decently written piece of fiction will foreshadow the entire story in the first few pages. And Zeor does. As a matter of fact, I think I’ve pieced together enough evidence to put it in the archetype of a quest story.
Let’s start with the quest. Your quester is Hugh Valleroy. His stated reason for the quest: to rescue Aisha Rauf. The stated place to go: Sime Territory. Obstacles along the way: first and foremost, Klyd, the channel, didn’t want him as a partner. It would be a dangerous journey, and the danger started with Klyd drawing selyn at an intensity enough to burn and nearly kill him. The real reason for going: self knowledge.
The point of view is third person limited, my personal favorite, although it does bring in the possibility of bias and unreliability. Unlike “Affirmation” the reader immediately sinks into Hugh’s head, feels what he feels, understands his thoughts. This makes for a dynamic character who is affected by what is happening around him.
The conflict is already clear: Sime v Gen: both human mutants who must learn that they need one another (okay, so I read the book a long time ago and it stuck with me.) So out of this man v. man conflict comes a theme of infinite diversity in infinite combinations combines to create a greater truth and beauty.
I think that the reason Zeor is a better crafted book is because the author was telling a story that she wanted to read. She created the characters (and I don’t deny I see Trek footsteps in this -- and that’s okay) but the novel is not contrived just to prove a point, the way “Affirmation” seemed to be. After reading just the first chapter, I can tell you I can see these people. They are real. I like them. I want more. I want to know what happens next.
I just have one question: is his name pronounced KLIDE (long I) or KLID (like lid)? I never did know.
Klyd Farris is with a long “I” – here is the page with sound files of the Nivet Territory accent for a number of words and characters in the Sime~Gen Novels.
BIOGRAPHY: Leslye Lilker
My mother hooked me into Trek when it first aired. I watched a few of the first season and liked the show, but I was 15 and dating. In fact, I was headed out on a date the night the second season started, and she stopped me at the door. “You have to watch this show. You’ll like the guy with the ears.”
Mothers know best. I never did go out on the date that night, but made him stay home and watch “Amok Time” with me.
Another eight years or so would pass before I renewed my interest in the reruns. I distinctly remember watching “This Side of Paradise” and wondering why our heroes were running around the galaxy with all the girls and no one was procreating. Then I thought of writing a “what if Kirk” had a kid and decided immediately that he probably had dozens and who cared? But Spock? My Spock? My Spock who suffered so with his half human side? What better way to help him resolve his own issues by having him help his own child resolve his? And why should it be easy? Why not have the kid be old enough to express himself clearly? Why not have him brought up with all emotions engaged, even though he was 3/4 Vulcan? Why not have his first words to Spock when, at ten years of age, he meets his biological father for the first time be: “Take your logic and shove it widthwise!”
(Sahaj Collected turns up on Amazon for as much as $200 as a collector's item. JL)
Of course, it took years and years to flesh things out, to learn how to create scenes that popped for readers. I have published the very first scene I wrote about Sahaj in IDIC #1 in 1975. Then I put it beside the rewrite I did in 1977. Then I added the rewrite I started in 1995 and finished in 2015. Anyone who wants to demonstrate the development of a writer is free to use those three versions. But understand: I am not holding myself up as the model. I am still learning every day.
I’ve had many careers over my life, but when I was 55 I decided to become a certified English teacher, and have been spending the last ten years teaching HS sophomores at all levels how to communicate through their writing. This is a good example, I think, of learn one, teach one, because it is in the teaching that the lessons are really learned.
I’ve just released a new Sahaj story -- one of humor, which I will use this year in teaching my kids the benefits of puns. It is currently available though Smashwords, and once they approve it for their catalogue, it will go to Amazon, Apple, and wherever else they market their stuff. Oh, Barnes and Nobel, too. As time allows, I will offer the original zines, rewrites of my stories in the original zines, and more new Sahaj stories. If you want to keep updated, friend Sahaj Xtmprsqntwlfb on FB and he’ll let you know when there’s something new.
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If you want my advice, go read as much Sahaj as you can lay hands/Kindle on.