Star Trek Fandom in Australia
Star Trek was first shown in Australia in July 1967. It always rated well in Sydney, although not so well elsewhere. In 1968 GTV-( (Melbourne) and NWS-9 (Adelaide) cancelled it due to poor ratings. However, they were forced to reinstate it after an avalanche of protest letters, spearheaded by a member of the Australian Star Trek Fan Club, based in Melbourne.
The Australian Star Trek Fan Club was founded in 1968 by John Stepkowski of Melbourne as a result of publicity given to his efforts to save Star Trek after NBC in America cancelled it after its second season. As a result of such fan activity in America, the series was renewed. The ASTFC began with a membership of 98 and grew to 300 members by 1970. However, by then it had become rather inactive and ceased soon after.
Star Trek was finally cancelled after its third season in 1969 and Fans in America and Australia combined together to protest the cancellation. July 28, 1969 was designated Deluge Monday when everyone worldwide would phone NBC or write letters timed to arrive on that day. One of the organisers was Susan Smith (later Clarke), then a schoolgirl in Sydney's Blacktown. Plans were made to combine local fans under Shayne McCormack, a stenographer from Auburn.
Shayne was interviewed about her activities in TV Times in March of that year. As a result she received over 75 letters from people wanting to help. This led to her forming D.U.S.K. (Down Under Space Kooks). The petition she helped organise measured 8 feet and contained over 2,200 signatures. D.U.S.K. published a fanzine, Terran Times, and organised irregular meetings and social outings before folding around 1970. Copies of Terran Times are held by the National Library.
In 1972 Jenny Stevenson (now Kentwell) and Susan Clarke (nee Smith) published the first issue of what was to become Australia's longest running Star Trek fanzine, Beyond Antares (also held by the National Library).
In 1973 STAC (Star Trek Action Committee), a new Star Trek club comprising a number of old D.U.S.K. members as well as newer fans, was founded by Susan Clarke. Later that year, it was combined with a club run in Sydney by Julie Townsend and Edwina Harvey and the name changed to Astrex. The new name was derived from the asterix-like device on the command insignia worn in the television series. The first formal meeting was held in April 1976 and the first issue of the club's newsletter, Data, was published in August 2976. For a while, until Susan resigned as president in the early 80s, Beyond Antares was the club's fanzine.
Astrex, though based in Sydney, had a national and international membership and was one of the largest clubs in the country, as well as being the oldest. It finally ceased around 1995 with the arrival of the Official Star Trek Club of Australian which began in 1993.
The next oldest club is Austrek, founded by Geoff Allshorn in July 1975 in Melbourne and it is still going strong. Like Astrex it has a national and international membership. It published a newsletter, Captain's Log and also a fanzine Spock. However, Spock ceased in the mid-90s. Both these publications are held by the National Library.
A big impetus to Star Trek fandom was provided by Aussiecon, the 1975 World Science Fiction Convention, held in Melbourne. Diane Marchant of Melbourne, a co-founder of the U.S.-based international Star Trek Welcommittee (designed to aid new fans find fan clubs, fanzines and other information) organised an impromptu Star Trek programme at which some episodes and the blooper reel (a compilation of humorous out-takes) were shown. This allowed fans to get together and make contacts.
Thereafter each state boasted at least one Star Trek club : Sastrek (South Australia) founded in 12977 as S.A.S.T.F.C. (publishes a newsletter, Tau Ceti and a fanzine Warp Factor); Quest (Queensland) also founded in the mid-70s as S.T.A.F.F. (publications include Computer Printout, Final Frontier and Log of the USS Quest); STAT (also Queensland), now ceased, which published a newsletter Matrix ; Westrek (Western Australia) founded in 1979 and still going, publishes Constellation; Aussietrek a short-lived (1979-1980) Sydney based social club chiefly known for two conventions of the same name which published a newsletter Captain's Briefs and Decoy, a fan club for actor DeForrest Kelley founded in Sydney in 1980 then moved to Adelaide in 1984 where it closed in 1995. Its publications included the fanzine, Medical Log and newsletter, McCoy Tapes.
Most club activity at this time consisted of meetings where the original series was discussed, often humorously, writing letters to local TV stations to persuade them to repeat Star Trek and organising events to raise money for various charities.
Another result of the events organised by Diane Marchant at Aussiecon were the Star Trek marathons. These began in 1976 at a cinema in North Melbourne and later moved to Sydney's Anzac House. They were put on by a film collector, Bob Johnson, who owned a number of episodes in 35mm. They provided a venue for fans to meet, read fanzines and other memorabilia as well as to see episodes at a time when the series was not shown on television.
In July 1978, Trekcon 1, the first Star Trek convention in Australia, was held in Melbourne, organised by Adrienne Losin. Such conventions had been a feature of American fandom since 1972, however, in Australia Star Trek had hitherto been featured as part of the programming of larger science fiction conventions, usually in the form of some episodes. Trekcon was quite small and boasted no overseas guests. The same could not be said of Aussietrek, held in March 1979 at the Menzies Hotel in Sydney, organised by Karen Lewis. The first major Star Trek convention in this country, it featured George Takei as guest of honour and attracted attendees from all over the country and New Zealand.
The release of the film, Star Trek : the Motion Picture in December 1979 and the subsequent films in the series brought an influx of new fans and a proliferation of clubs and conventions. Trekcon 2 was held in April 1980 and featured science fiction author, Joe Haldeman, who had also written two Star Trek novels. Aussiecon 2, a one day convention, was held in Sydney and Adelaide in July 1980, and features Susan Sackett who had worked with Gene Roddenberry on the original series.
1982 saw the start of two conventions, Conquest (in Brisbane) and Medtrek (in the Blue Mountains), which are still being run today. Conquest, originally run by Quest, has featured a number of Star Trek actors such as Grace Lee Whitney, James Doohan and George Takei.
Some other clubs began running Star Trek convention regularly. Sastrek began with Convention of the Great Klingnon Empire in October 1981 and continued with others on different themes almost annually. Both Astrex and Austrek had small convention-type gatherings, sometimes combining them by meeting midway between Sydney and Melbourne in the mid to late 80s.
An independent group put on Con Amore in Brisbane in June 1985 with David Gerrold and Judson Scott. Time-Warped in Sydney in October 1986 featured Walter Koenig.
Around this time, South Australian fan, Teresa Morris, organised Truffles, a fan fund to bring Gene Roddenberry and his wife, Majel Barrett, to Australia. She published two issues of Truffles letterzine from November 1985 to January 1986, then the project appeared to fold and nothing further was heard.
New clubs from this period include Austar, a correspondence club based in Queensland, USS N'dele based in Adelaide and USS Southern Cross, both chapters of large American fan organisations.
With the arrival of Star Trek : the Next Generation in Australia in 1991, clubs and conventions further proliferated. A feature of this era, however, was the 'corporatisation' of fandom. Among the new clubs was Next Gen, founded in Canberra in 1991 and still going (publishes Locutus, a newsletter, early issues held by the National Library). Canberra hosted two Star Trek conventions, Starfleet Academy in December 1992 and InterA.C.T. in April 1994, the latter with Richard Arnold as guest of honour.
A number of new clubs were splinter groups, the result of fannish politics, such as Enterprise (based in Victoria and still going, publishing The Communicator). By 1995, there were 20 active clubs in Australia, including Romulan Appreciation Society of Queensland, Q Trek (also based in Queensland), Time Trekkers (Victoria), Trek Australis (based in Sydney), United Federation of Planets (a role-playing club based in Sydney) and some more local chapter of overseas organisation, USS Bounty, USS Salayna and USS Churchill.
The mid-90s saw Paramount in Australia clamping down on what it called unauthorised use of the Star Trek name and characters of Star Trek, now referred to as 'the franchise", which meant big business. Paramount offered to license one club only as the official club on payment of a fee. Some long running clubs either closed or changed to general science fiction. Next Gen became a general television science fiction club, Austrek's Spock was a casualty and ceased as did Astrex.
Meantime in 1993, the Official Star Trek Club of Australia was established, licensed by Paramount. Based in NSW, it publishes a quarterly magazine and holds regular conventions, such as Holodiction, begun in 1992 in Sydney. It had 6,500 members in 1995.
The 1990s also saw professionals enter the sphere of convention with Star Fest, for example, running a series of conventions featuring Majel Barrett around the country in 1994. Fan-run conventions do however continue to operate although most conventions cover more than just Star Trek and include guests from Babylon 5 or X Files.