Slash fiction is a thread that’s been with us for quite some time already, and it’s been with Star Trek arguably since as early as “Where No Man Has Gone Before”. Although certain hardcore fans might not like to admit it, it is unquestionably one of the franchise’s most defining and signature motifs: Although slash has existed for pretty much as long as people have been telling stories, the current manifestation of it, the interaction it has with late-20th and early-21st century fan culture, and thus the way it is commonly conceptualized today, can be directly traced back to Star Trek.
There are any number of possible opportunities to discuss slash over the course of the franchise’s history, but the one that seems to most appropriate is here, with the first documented piece of Star Trek-inspired slash fiction, Diane Marchant’s “A Fragment Out of Time” (Page 1, Page 2), dating to 1974. Marchant submitted it to one of the first (and at the time only) Star Trek zines targeted expressly towards adults, a publication somewhat wonderfully titled Grup. Given the zine’s comparatively small audience and interviews she’s given after the fact, Marchant never expected it to be the bombshell it ended up becoming.
However I think she really needn’t be ashamed, because the piece itself is, perhaps contrary to what one might expect, really quite tame and laudably well-written, describing a night of passionate lovemaking between two parties of whom great care is taken to speak in vagaries (though an accompanying illustration, not to mention the fact it was published in a Star Trek zine, sort of makes it obvious who the two paramours are supposed to be). And “lovemaking” really is the proper term: Marchant is very clearly interested in the intimacy and tenderness shared by her protagonists, and the gentle, poetic tone that permeates the entire piece reflects this. Honestly, as far as slash fiction goes, or really erotica in general, you could do considerably worse for yourself than this.
Like so much fanfiction of its era, Marchant wrote “A Fragment Our of Time” largely as an experiment. However, she also always maintained that she didn’t come up with the idea of shipping Kirk and Spock herself, she was merely responding to what she felt was blatant subtext in the original Star Trek and that everyone who watched the show recognised and acknowledged to one degree or another, regardless of whether or not they actually admitted it. Marchant was adamant that the only thing she contributed to the history of Star Trek and the broader fan culture was the first work that was bold enough to put it into words, and I’m more than reasonably convinced she was right.
There was, of course, (and still is, to some extent) some manner of controversy over this opinion. The popular consensus for what happened next (I mean as much as there can be consensus about something as understudied and undervalued as fanfiction) is that “A Fragment Out of Time” caused a great schism amongst Star Trek fans and a firestorm of a debate about how proper the fic itself was and whether Marchant’s argument was convincing or not.…