First Star Trek Convention, New Jersey 1969, and First TV Fanzine

Updated on October 30, 2018
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Ms. Inglish has 30 years of successful experience in medicine, psychology, STEM courses, and aerospace education (CAP).

Mr. Spock mural in an urban area.
Mr. Spock mural in an urban area. | Source

America's First TV Fanzine Starts Trekkie Or Trekker Conventions

The nation's first television fanzine, founded by writers who worked in and visited the Newark NJ Public Library, spurred Star Trek:TOS fans to hold their own convention.

These individuals loved the TV series with its concepts of peace, exploration, and diversity from 1966 - 1969. If they could not save the show from cancellation a second time with a diligent letter writing campaign to the network, then they would hold a conference to celebrate their favorite show and characters and write their own stories. They would even act out their stories and compose songs that would later become known as today's filk genre.

All this is discussed in William Shartner's books, Star Trek Memories, Star Trek Movie Memories, and Leonard.

The one-time Newark event led to a worldwide science fiction convention phenomenon that produces billions of dollars of revenues for event planning companies annually.

In 1969, it was just "The Star Trek Con", with fans and a well known keynote speaker, but no sci-fi celebrities from the series that starred William Shatner (1931 - ) and featured Leonard Nimoy (1931 - 2015) as the second lead.

Downtown Newark Library

Main Branch of the Newark library, Designed by Rankin and Kellogg of Philadelphia. It is a registered state and national Historic Site.
Main Branch of the Newark library, Designed by Rankin and Kellogg of Philadelphia. It is a registered state and national Historic Site. | Source

Site Of the First All-Star Trek Convention

A
5 Washington Street P.O. Box 630 Newark, NJ 07101-0630:
Newark Public Library, 5 Washington St, Newark, NJ 07102, USA

get directions

It was Leonard’s (Nimoy) spectacular performance that occupied all the attention. Spock fan clubs were formed.

— Dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3445111

Why Did Fans Hold Their Own Convention? - For The Love Of Spock

Leonard Nimoy's portrayal of Mr. Spock in the late 1960s was the stimulus for a fan based TV fanzine and fan initiated Star Trek convention in 1969.

Early on, the character Spock began receiving the most fan mail from viewers of the series - bags and bags of it. William Shatner admits to being surprised and jealous of the fact.

Much of the first convention dealt with Mr. Spock.

While we were working together, I don’t think Leonard even liked me — and I can’t blame him.

— Wm Shatner in dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3445111

"The Star Trek Con" 1969, Free Admission

This first All-Star Trek® convention was held at the public library in Newark, New Jersey for one day, with free admission. A wholly fan based function, no celebrities appeared to speak, but the approximately 70 attendees had a grand time.

Today's conventions usually include only a segment dedicated to Star Trek, and in Ohio, cost at least $50 - 60 or more for three days.

The Las Vegas Creation Entertainment Star Trek event costs $100 for a single day, to $250 for the weekend, and up to $879 for a VIP weekend admission. Nearly all levels of tickets for the August convention sell out during the winter. Prices have obviously changed - from free to extremely expensive.

When Prices Were Lower

I've been fortunate to briefly meet several science fiction and fantasy Big Names over the years at inexpensive conventions: Nichelle Nichols, BJo Trimble and her husband, Frederick Pohl, and others.

Newark Library ST:TOS Convention

The conference was held in a remarkable place - a library. Libraries are important to the communities in which they sit, for educational and entertainment purposes, and as gathering places.

The downtown main branch of the Newark Public Library is now a recognized and registered historic site for the State of New Jersey and the United States.

The convention included a slide show, a skit about Mr. Spock that first appeared in the fanzine associated with the convention, a Spock impersonation, and a discussion of the draw of viewers to the character and the series overall.

How Many Attended The First Conference?

Reports of the first Star Trek-only conference or convention have been made by attendees who seem to be suffering from time compression, a brain related phenomenon that interferes with eye witness testimony. The phenomenon also famously calls into question many eye-witness accounts surrounding the Roswell UFO Incident of 1948 -- Some of these will never be sorted.

In the case of the Trek-only event, various reports recall a segment of TriCon Cleveland (Ohio) in 1966, and WorldCon and FunCon in 1968 that featured Star Trek fanzines, especially Spockanalia, the first issue of which I possess.

The fanzine was written and self published in 1967, the first television fanzine in America, continuing for four additional issues to 1970. Reprints - mimeographs and xeroxes - continued for a few years, with Issues #1 and #3 last produced in 1989, copyright having recently expired.

Events of 1968, 1969, and 1972 compressed into a single event in the memories of some people reporting about the first conference. Some fanboys and fangirls remember 300 attendees, while others recall only about 70 people on the historic Saturday afternoon. It is likely that the larger 1972 "first" official convention in Manhattan (see mystartrekscrapbook.blogspot.com) that planned for 300 attendees and enjoyed - or suffered - a few thousand fans is what most witnesses are reporting.

That is a report seen in science fiction circles frequently. It is also reported by attendees at a 1973 panel discussion about the opinion that writers should refrain from causing Star Trek characters to say and do things that are out of canon character. Thus, 1968 - 1972 were likely compressed in time when considering the first conference recall.

America's First TV Fanzine

Author's scan of purchased mimeographed copy.
Author's scan of purchased mimeographed copy.
Source

If You Write It, They will Come

Spockanalia was a hand-written, hand-drawn, and hand-typed science fiction fanzine published by mimeograph and xerox machine. After creating one of the five landmark issues in this series, the publishers mimeographed them for Star Trek fans. Issues #1 and #2 were a giant hit at Star Trek Con in 1969.

Other small fanzines of the era likely exist that no one has heard about. In the 1960s, it was popular for middle school and high school teachers to assign students to write short episodes of their favorite TV shows. Some students enjoyed taking this a bit further. Today, you see skits on YouTube.

Historic, Powerful Fanzine

The historic fanzine that launched a global phenomenon was a five-issue organ named Spockanalia, written by Librarian Sherna Comerford, who married fellow fan Brian Burley and Ms. Devra Langsam. The first convention was held on Saturday, the first of March in 1969, during the birthday month of both Shatner and Nimoy.

The television series' last episodes would run though about the end of May, 1969, with budgets finally cut so low that the actors nearly could not complete their scenes. Star Trek in its last year used mostly old sets from previous seasons and cut back on the few special effects used.

The sets began to resemble the syndicated Space Patrol, where a single bare room with a metal ladder leaning a back wall served as the center of the space ship and the set most used in each episode. Characters would run on and off screen right and left. They would climb up the ladder and off screen to visit a planet's surface, which we never saw.

This tragedy is described with great pain by William Shatner in his 2016 book Leonard: My Fifty-Year Friendship With A Remarkable Man; but the power of a hand typed and illustrated Spockanalia to create a global phenomenon for Star Trek of decades in length is jaw dropping.

Keynote Speaker Presented Real Science

The keynote speaker was a professional astronomer and science writer who had begun writing remarkably accurate and believable science fiction. As such, he became a hero of advancing technologies of the 21st century. He explained to the 1969 convention that Star Trek's Enterprise needed to have proceeded at warp 20 to cover the distances it traveled, rather than warps under 10.

He was one of the first to make science fiction a step toward science fact and his name was Harry C. Stubbs. His pen name was Hall Clement and he was famous in the sci-fi pulps and for his own futurist novels, evidenced by the number of awards that they garnered.

The first collection of three of this author's provocative works written in 1949 - 1958 is subtitled Trio for Slide Rule & Typewriter. The author wrote about sentient viruses and petroleum made from biological materials.

Still, Mr. Spock was the stimulus for the whole convention, thanks to Leonard Nimoy.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Mr. SpockSpock, Capt. Kirk, and Dr. McCoyLt. Uhura. I was very pleased to meet her!
Mr. Spock
Mr. Spock | Source
Spock, Capt. Kirk, and Dr. McCoy
Spock, Capt. Kirk, and Dr. McCoy | Source
Lt. Uhura. I was very pleased to meet her!
Lt. Uhura. I was very pleased to meet her! | Source

Questions & Answers

    © 2016 Patty Inglish MS

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      • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

        Patty Inglish MS 

        2 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

        Lawrence - It is so nice to have you comment on this Hub! I missed the third entire season of ST:TOS first time around and think I have never seen a couple of them yet.

        The Borg could certainly repair Voyager 1 and thanks for suggesting that. That would make a grand story itself.

        Mr. Spock was/is a distinct personality and Nimoy is missed by millions, including you and me.

      • lawrence01 profile image

        Lawrence Hebb 

        2 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

        Patty

        I finally figured out the other day, the 'intelligent life form' Voyager 1 encountered that repaired it and sent it back was the Borg of Star Trek TNG and Star Trek Voyager fame! (Don't know if that was in any script "but logic dictates"). I wasn't allowed to watch the series as a kid but more than made up for it since!

        Mr Spock is someone we can all identify with in many ways.

        Lawrence

      • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

        Patty Inglish MS 

        2 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

        @someonewhoknows - How about those concepts!? I also loved movie #4 - The Voyage Home, about bringing the whales into the future. Lots of humor. Scottie talking to a computer mouse was exquisite!

        @mckbirdnks - It certainly is a big deal in culture, isn't it? But Comic-Con! -- That's a bigger deal for many people. Hey, maybe you can show up at a convention!

      • mckbirdbks profile image

        mckbirdbks 

        2 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

        Hello Patty - You and I have joked that I should have run around signing all the Star Trek books that crossed my path. Funny. Nice job here featuring the beginnings of a cultural trend that has lasted for decades. It is interesting to me how these franchises come into existence and defy the odds of longevity.

        My youngest has attended something called Comic-Con for years now.

        "Live Long and prosper"

      • someonewhoknows profile image

        someonewhoknows 

        2 years ago from south and west of canada,north of ohio

        Loved "Star trek " - THE MOVIE

        The scene where the crew of the ship discover that Voyager 6 is the intelligent life form - an intelligent computer. Also,the idea that an alien computer with the same type of program join together in order to find the Creator which turns out to be Humans.

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