Friday, September 26, 2008

Filking with Leslie Fish

Andorians' antennae

Over breakfast this morning, an unexpected but very welcome email arrived from "first fandom" identity, fan artist and filk singer/composer extraordinaire, Leslie Fish.

Way back in the 70s, Leslie was the author of numerous Star Trek fanzine stories, often featuring the Andorian character Thelin, briefly seen as Spock's replacement in an alternate history in "Yesteryear", an episode of Filmation's animated Star Trek (TAS).

In 1997, I sought Leslie's permission to upload an online version of her fascinating speculative article "A Summary of the Physiological Roots of Andorian Culture" by F. Sigmund Mead, Journal of Xenoanthropology, June 2341 - originally published in Sehlat's Roar #2, a 1976 Star Trek zine published by Randy Ash. Leslie's extrapolation of Andorian culture was way ahead of the licensed tie-in fiction, which didn't succeed in describing Andorian genetics or social aspects until the post-Deep Space Nine TV series novels, which commenced in 2001.

Leslie recalls that she drew the original artwork that accompanies the article in simple pen-and-ink, and Randy traced over them onto mimeograph stencils! Leslie says she's amazed that they came out readable at all. Furthermore, the added texture you see in the illustrations I uploaded came from the original (amazingly grainy) recycled paper. For republishing them online, I simply cleaned up good photocopies with Liquid Paper and ran the pictures through the photocopier a second time, only on coloured paper, then scanned them. (The grain of that old textured paper played havoc with my first attempts at text scanning the article, too.)

I love the old cover art for Randy's issue #1, too: each cover was hand printed from a linoleum block master! Check out that cover art on Randy's blog.

Leslie's Andorian essay still gets plenty of comment from online readers, especially from people seeking a comparison with the four-partnered Andorian paradigm (suggested by Data in TNG - "Data's Day"), as extrapolated by the recent licensed tie-in novels, and what Leslie had proposed in 1976 with her three-sexed stages of Andorian development.

I was telling Leslie, who's been out of touch with Trek fandom for a while, about recent Thelin appearances in the licensed Pocket Books fiction: in the "Crucible" trilogy (extending the scenes from "Yesteryear") by David R George III; and in a "Myriad Universes" omnibus story, "The Chimes at Midnight" (an alternate history from "Yesteryear" thru to ST VI) by Geoff Trowbridge.

Thanks to her fellow folk singer, Joe Bethancourt, Leslie now has her own website, at While investigating the site tonight, I noticed the Youtube song clip on the front page: Star Trek novelist, Julia Ecklar, singing a Leslie Fish song, "Hope Eyrie", about the Apollo 11 moon landing. Check it out! It's great!

Leslie Fish is probably best remembered for the Star Trek filk song lyrics she wrote in a desperate hurry to fill a hole on an album of songs. "Banned from Argo" is still sung at Star Trek conventions the world over (to the tune of the traditional song, "Boston Burglar"). The song isn't her favourite, but it's certainly gained her many fans over the decades.

Sing it with me:

"And we're banned from Argo, everyone.
Banned from Argo, just for having a little fun.
We spent a jolly shore leave there for just three days or four,
But Argo doesn't want us any more..."

Leslie Fish logo

By the way, for those of you wondering, "filk songs" are science fiction media folk songs - often, but not necessarily, parodies. The term "filk" came about as the result of an infamous typographical error. A fan named Lee Jacobs meant to type the word "folk" in a program schedule and typed in "filk" instead. It struck his colleagues as being hilarious at the time, so it stuck.

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