First Star Trek Convention, New Jersey 1969, and First TV Fanzine
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
Site Of the First All-Star Trek Convention
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
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.
Questions & Answers
© 2016 Patty Inglish MS