Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Star Trek Superfan Joan Winston Passes On

Chances are you have never heard of Joan Winston. That is, unless you are a Star Trek fan. Joan Winston played a leading role in organising the first Star Trek convention in 1972. She was perhaps the most famous Star Trek fan known primarily as a fan (as opposed to an actor, writer, or other sort of celebrity) besides Bjo Trimble, who organised the letter writing campaign to save Star Trek from cancellation in the series' third season. She passed from complications from Alzheimer’s Disease on September 11. She was 77.

Joan Winston was born June 19, 1931. She was born in Washington, but grew up in Brooklyn. Out of high school she went to work at Bonwit Teller as a merchandiser. She would later work for the contracts departments at CBS and then ABC in New York. A science fiction fan since childhood, she became one of the first generations of Star Trek when it first aired in 1966. When the series was in danger of cancellation in its second season, she picketed NBC. In 1968 she was able to attend the shooting of the final Star Trek episode.

Eventually one of Winston's friends, Elyse Pines, brought up the idea of a convention for Star Trek fans. Winston used her contacts in the entertainment industry to get fifteen Star Trek episodes, the blooper reel, and Gene Roddenberry, creator of the series, for the first convention. She was able to get memorabilia from the lunar missions from NASA for the convention (two tons' worth, as it turned out). She and her fellow organisers would organise four more conventions before she retired from organising them in 1976.

With Sondra Marshak and Jacqueline Lichtenberg she co-wrote Star Trek Lives, a chronicle of anecdotes of their experiences in Star Trek fandom, as well as an examination of Star Trek fandom itself. She wrote The Making of the Star Trek Conventions, chronicling the history of the early cons. She edited Startoons, an anthology of science fiction oriented cartoons.

Joan Winston was pivotal in the development of Star Trek fandom and its subculture. She was also described as one of the nicest people one could meet. William Shatner described her as "...bright, bubbly, and energetic beyond every law of human physiology and comprehension." George Takei said of her, "She was an energetic and vivacious advocate for Star Trek and we loved her very much." Jacqueline Lichtenberg stated, "Joan Winston was one of the most giving people I have ever met. She literally would give you clothing out of her closet." Dennis Rayburn, a fellow fan who works on, noted her humility, "She didn’t let the status she had among the Trek fans go to her head. She was just one of us." If Joan Winston is a legend among Star Trek fans, it is for than having helped organise the first convention. She was a truly great lady.

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