Sunday, WBFF TV / Fox45 showed up to do a smear piece. We were selling porn to children in the dealer’s room!
“Ethel, they’s pitchers o’ Cap’n Kirk an’ Doctor Spock in ther, and they’z nekkid as jaybirds n’ touchin’ each others’ doodads!”
Oh. The humanity.
People today wonder why I go into anaphylaxis any time a certain Local Anchorperson appears on screen. That Fox45 news story about OktoberTrek is why. For twelve years previous, our local TV stations had given us at worst a quick voice-over during the credits of Star Trek reruns, at best a news segment showing some people in costume. In any case, the message was, “There’s fun times for Trekkies at the Hunt Valley Inn this weekend.”
But, dammit, this was the Nineties, and there was something dark and insidious hiding around every corner. Journalists had a responsibility to find it! At Oktobertrek, the insidious thing was around the corner by the Maryland room coat check, and it was a table full of (gasp!) gay porn!
I’ve been a Star Trek fan since before I could read. I checked out my first Trek fanzine (An issue of “Rigel”) from the Stanley Memorial Library when I was about ten. It was, as most fanzines were in those days, produced on a typewriter, photocopied or mimeographed, bound using a folding, metal clip. (I can’t find on Google what these were called. Somebody help me here.) It contained stories, jokes and line art. It had a centerfold—”Green Orion Slave Girl (Nude).”
I was ten. Good times.
By eleven or twelve I knew that a lot of fans believed Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock were lovers, and that there were many stories and a lot of quite impressive artwork celebrating their love. I didn’t see any of this until I was much older, but I knew it existed.
So, at age 27, you could color me unimpressed that we had a few zines in the dealers room that showed Jim and his T’hy’la doin’ the nasty.
I had also been a zine publisher myself since the age of 18, and I knew damned well that none of those works were openly displayed, much less being sold to kids. Explicit images were shrouded if they were sitting out at all.
Local Anchorperson and her pushy cameramen believed otherwise. They told their viewers that this filth was being peddled at OktoberTrek, and it was a controversy, by gum!
As supporting evidence, they showed a pan over some examples of zine artwork of our boys shirtless. Then they showed footage of my mother-in-law saying she didn’t want to be on camera. Finally, they offered a “man on the street” viewpoint. A “dad” had come down to the Trekkie convention to check it out and see if his kids might enjoy it. Only he hadn’t bargained for the gay porn in the dealer’s room. So he, or someone sharing his horror, thought it was a public duty to call WBFF-TV and alert them to this threat to public mental and moral health.
Point of order? The “dad” was an attorney who was actively pursuing a lawsuit against three members of the committee. He knew full well what went on at Star Trek conventions. His clients and the people they were suing were all fanzine editors, artists or writers. So, while he may have had his opinions on the status of K/S fiction vis a vis the Trek canon, he was likely not “shocked” or “surprised” to see examples of it. And, given his relationship with the sponsors of the event, he was not an appropriate “bystander” for interview.
And why did Local Anchorperson even cover this misleading and vaguely homophobic story? Local Anchorperson told OktoberTrek committee-member Martha Sayre, “It was news.”
And that’s the way it was, Sunday, October 11, 1992.
Sunday held a shining moment for my little family, though. Sandy was determined to introduce our celebrated Classic Trek guest star to her new honorary nephew. As De was leaving his Sunday talk, Sandy dragged Renee, Ethan and me into the kitchen to pose for a picture. Ethan is one of very few fans of his generation to have had a chance to get that up close and personal with Dr. McCoy. That photo meant the world to Sandy. I have it. I do.
Sandy came home Monday to hate-filled rants on her answering machine about us corrupting the youth of Baltimore. (I’ve met the youth of Baltimore. They corrupted me.) It was pretty disheartening stuff.
Add to that the fact that OktoberTrek 91 had overextended itself financially to bring Levar Burton. We might have broken even with a sellout crowd on Sunday—but October 6, 1991 was also the Baltimore Orioles’ last game at Memorial Stadium. A few people might have gone to that event instead. Although Uhura, Riker, Geordi and Kevin Riley did not lose to the Detroit Tigers that weekend. I’m just sayin’.
Long story short? The con lost money. We had hoped OktoberTrek 92 would profit us enough to make up for the 91 shortfall. It did not. Sandy blamed the bad press, and she blamed herself. She already had one foot in the “Maybe this is my last one” boat; so, even though we had some conversations about what OktoberTrek 93 would look like—I wanted to book just George Takei and have a solid, profitable con—Sandy was done with OktoberTrek.
It was a great con. People had a blast. And Sandy wasn’t done with conventions by a long shot. Next up, although I’ve told the story of Farpoint’s birth many, many times, there’s one piece of it I really haven’t told, because Sandy wanted to keep it quiet. But she’s not here to argue with me, and I want the world to know just what she did as midwife to the committee’s next baby, (I think of it as my middle child) Farpoint.