How Star Trek Got Me into Writing Fantasy

It looks like I might not have a writer’s conference to attend next year, or coordinate, for that matter.  The organization appears to have folded — web site is gone, and no one is answering emails.  I was coordinating the conference itself, but it doesn’t appear good.  Since I still want to get out and network, hopefully with agents, I’m thinking of trying a science fiction convention.  I used to go to them a lot but stopped going when I didn’t want to collect photos any more.  Now I have a different reason.  That’s got me thinking about how Star Trek got me into Science Fiction and then Fantasy in the first place.

In 1976, it was a big time of transition for women.  The first women went to West Point that year, and it was exciting.  As a big reader of fiction, I wanted to see books that were for me — about girls having adventures.  These women got into the military, and were doing something more than getting married or becoming a stewardess, teacher, or nurse.  But there really wasn’t anything in fiction, and it would be quite some time before there was.

Along comes Star Trek.  This was right about the time the fandom started to snowball.  Star Trek went into syndication on local channels, including KTLA.  Somehow, I ran across, and one thing really drew my attention.  No, it wasn’t Mr. Spock.  It was Lieutenant Uhura (played by Nichelle Nichols).  She was a woman officer in the military in a major leadership role.  She even got a bit of action now and then.  That was a whole lot more than I was finding in any book.

So I started reading science fiction.  The adult books were not really for me — they were more cerebral than about action-adventure, and most didn’t even have women.  I tried the books for kids.  Those were about action-adventure, but the same problem still existed.  Nothing for girls.  It was purely a men’s domain.

In comes the 1980s and an anthology called Sword and Sorceress, by Marion Zimmer Bradley.  MZB created it for the very reasons I was frustrated about —  no women protagonists.  Suddenly I had a book for me, and it had women + action-adventure.  Mystery would appear with a women protagonist about the same — Sue Grafton‘s Kinsey Milhone.  But mystery didn’t have a lot of action like what I was looking for.  Heck, I would have settled for a male protagonist and a female sidekick if she got action-adventure.

Urban fantasy was introduced in the 1990s, and has continued the evolution of the role of women in action-adventure roles in books.