Mindscanner #57

From Admiral K'Shin

by Sue Frank <[email protected]>

Gennie Summers-K'Zhen-where to start?

She lives in her own little house in Cassville, MO. She's older than me and Kerla, younger than�God.

For some years now, she has been Admiral K'Zhen, guiding spirit of the Klingon Strike Force (started by Kris, carried on by Keel, saved by K'Zhen from foundering when Keel retired from leadership.).

Gennie is an expert gamer-by-mail who keeps the KSF's round-robins lively with invention. Going much further back, to the early seventies, though, she has been a mainstay of Star Trek fandom in general, ever ready to contribute her art to the dozens of amateur publications that sprang up in tribute to the show. (She is one of the rare fannish artists who will draw you a whole page full of figures complete with hands and feet (!), capable of expressing most any action or emotion you need to complement a story. She is a zine-editor's dream come to life.)

My first through-the-mail encounter with Gennie came in 1989, after I visited Linda Slusher in Ohio. Linda showed me several of her own Klingon stories illustrated by Gennie in zines like the Rondeaus' Clipper Trade Ship and Roberta Rogow's GRIP, and gave me her address when I admitted that I was eager to get involved with Klingon zining myself.

Starting with the first issue of Agonizer, Gennie decorated every one of my Klingon projects with fierce warriors, and imaginatively garbed (and some exquisitely "un-garbed") females. She crafted portraits of fannish Klingons on request. She collaborated with both writers and other artists when invited, always there to support another's fannish fun.

Gennie's sense of humor, energy, kindness, creativity (and the fact that she was a self-described hermit who was not likely to come to any of our out-of-Missouri conventions) made it a long-term goal of mine to travel to meet her face-to-face. I finally did manage it in 1998, almost ten years after our first communications. Dave Kraklow (Kadak) was living in Springfield, near Cassville. He had befriended Gennie and was trying to fit her out with e-mail, so had been visiting her on a monthly basis trying to get things going on her limited budget. He warned me that she was shy of visitors. She has lived alone since her aged parents died and was worried that a visitor would find her house too messy. I wrote to her ahead of time, hoping that if I described the house I grew up in which featured cats falling through the attic drop-ceiling onto my head ("drop" is right:-) as I sat on the potty would reassure her. To my delight, she chuckled and said I could come along.

So days before we were to head off to the Klingon Year Games in the summer of '98, Kadak and I drove the hour to Cassville and had a day with Gennie that fulfilled all my hopes and brought surprises too. Gennie is short, zoftig, with curly gray hair and the smile you'd expect. She showed me her collections of drawings, a lifetime's fannish industry. She let me browse through her zine collection of close to a dozen cartons full of the amateur books, most of them the paper cover, 11X 8 � " format which fans make to celebrate their loves. Gennie's were all "comps", the free copies fannish publishers send to their contributors by way of thanks. They ranged in date from the seventies to the present. Most were Star Trek-related, but there were plenty of Star Wars and "multi-media" projects as well. I settled in to survey the collection while Kadak and the Admiral went to fiddle with the computer.

The zines by themselves were a treasure trove, a monument to Gennie's not-for-money-but-for love productiveness. But I soon got distracted by the collection of artifacts arranged on shelves in the little zine closet. There was a box full of metal insignia, a military looking cap, a pile of the colored images of handsome space captains, intimidating alien opponents and an assortment of rocketships, and planets, all conceived and hand-crafted by Gennie. I was intrigued by a couple of scrap pages crammed with notes about what sounded like the components of a rocket command console-to be built of transistors, bulbs, bells, and wires. A "little red handbook", mimeoed in purple, with rules for conduct within the SPACEFLEET Club looked to date from the 'fifties, long before Star Trek ever appeared.

When I asked Gennie about these things, she explained that she had indeed started SPACEFLEET almost 40 years ago when she lived with parents in Omaha. She must always have been pretty and friendly, but she says she never wanted to marry. She was happy to stay with her parents, her Dad, who ran a gas station, and her Mom who kept house. She loved the space operas on radio and TV. When she had time away from her mundane jobs--she'd worked as a secretary and dog groomer--she turned her energy to converting a small outbuilding on her family's property into a wrap-around spaceship console. She developed the idea of SPACEFLEET and invited the neighborhood kids to get involved.

At one time, she had close to two dozen young cadets enrolled (They look six to fifteen-ish in the photos with the deckled edges. All were welcome.). She found her Dad's old Merchant Marine training manual and adapted the rifle drill for her junior recruits. She has pictures of herself, a female cousin and a cadre of children in full dress SPACEFLEET garb, all her own handiwork, practicing with wooden guns; photos also of the winking, blinking buzzing console which covered the walls of the shack's interior-a wonderland effect she and her cohorts never stopped tweaking, a mosaic built of magpie glitter, buttons, hub caps, handles, even the gleaming fender of an old Ford. It includes a viewscreen into which her portraits, landscapes and prop drawings (the very ones I had found in the zine closet) could be slid, made to coordinate with the unfolding of adventure scripts she prepared for special meetings of the club.

The club was a neighborhood glory for over a decade. One set of parents came to visit to make sure Gennie wasn't some kind of pedophile weirdo. She's not a pedophile (I needed to say that, didn't I?????). Weird, she admits to, but she's wise and knows that kids are definitely the best company for the kind of play she has always enjoyed most--fantasy role playing. Another time, a building inspector from town came to satisfy himself that "headquarters" wouldn't fall in around their heads. He officiously instructed Gennie to keep people from climbing around on the roof. When his own kid became a loyal member of SPACEFLEET (and he himself was impressed with the strong Christian values which Gennie judiciously expressed as an epilogue in the handbook), he became a supporter too. (Gennie's Jewish cadet didn't mind the Jesus-y window dressing.)

When Gennie's folks became ill, she moved with them to the small house in Cassville, Missouri, now well known as KSF Headquarters. The SPACEFLEET console was dismantled to make the move with her. Twenty years later, one of her grown cadets came to visit her. Gennie was tickled when he took most of the components home to recreate the fun for his own kids. My prize souvenir of my visit to her is one of the diamond-shaped tin pins she made for her recruits. It's done up in yellow paint, edged in red, with a cigar-shaped rocket of blue and red soaring starwards.

Dave did get Gennie to VisionCon in Springfield a couple of times. She greeted friends like Kragtowl (Bill Reed) and K'Lay (Margie McDonnell, a KSF stalwart), and at least some of the more local fans had a chance to meet her. Short of a miracle, you aren't likely to see her in the flesh unless you make the pilgrimage to Cassville. But you will be welcomed into her worlds of the imagination if you write to her. Snail mail is fine-

Gennie Summers, 104 N. Spring Street, Cassville, MO 65625.

Better yet, join the KSF if you enjoy rpg-by mail. Club members produce a darn near quarterly newsletter called "Battle Lines" and look for one another's personal and fannish and roleplay news with the enthusiasm you find in any A-1 Klingon organization. (You can hookup with KSF by writing to K'Zhen.)

Haven't seen it yet myself, but have heard that the Klingon Language Institute's edition of Hamlet restored in the original Klingon is in bookstores now, with Gennie's portrait of that great Klingon playwright Shakespeare on the cover. One of my favorite pieces of K'Zheniana is the nicely produced KLI booklet for which she made 37 dynamic drawings depicting the changes rung on the Klingon verb "HoH" (kill) when you add any one of a number of suffixes. (Available from KLI, P.O. Box 634, Flourtown, PA 19031-0634. Inquire for costs).

Gennie was with Star Trek from the start, and, in a sense, anticipated it in her own life. Here's the cool part--she's still here, playing hard.

Artwork in article by K'Zhen (Gennie Summers)

K'Shin header picture by Zuhl (Mark Feeley)