Shirley Maiewski: A Tribute

Continuing a tribute for Shirley Maiewski, long time head of STAR TREK WELCOMMITTEE who passed away in April, 2004.  The entry page to Shirley Maiewski: A Tribute

Part of A Companion in Zeor
Remembrances, for inclusion, can be e-mailed to Karen MacLEOD

A Tribute to Shirley Maiewski
by Joan Marie Verba
Author of Boldly Writing: A Trekker Fan & Zine History, 1967-1987

This tribute was also submitted to the "Far Beyond the Stars" newsletter

Shirley Maiewski circa 1978, provided by Joan Verba

An optimistic view of humanity: a phrase which describes both Star Trek and Shirley Maiewski, which made them a natural combination. Shirley kept out of fan feuds, and conveyed the impression that she felt all could be resolved if people just sat down and talked to each other. But, for the most part, Shirley was "Grandma Trek," the kind of grandma your grandma would be if she were a Star Trek fan.

This affection for Star Trek and its fans was largely expressed in Shirley's role in the Star Trek Welcommittee (STW), an organization which helped fans get in touch with other Star Trek fans. In an era of instant widespread communication, it may be difficult for some to imagine a time in which a lot of Star Trek fans felt lonely and isolated, unaware that they were actually part of a community of millions. This is where the Welcommittee filled the void, putting fans in touch with each other through the mail, and circulating news about Star Trek when such news was difficult to impossible to find otherwise.

Shirley became one of the earliest members of the Star Trek Welcommittee. She ran the mailroom for a few years, and then became and worked as the Welcommittee's chairman ("ChairMAN," she insisted, not "chair" or "chairperson!") for many many more years.

(I discovered recently that Shirley had practice in being a fan before Star Trek ever came along. It seems that in her younger days, she was an opera fan, and told me that she even put out an opera fanzine, of sorts.)

Once Shirley joined Star Trek fandom, she became a full participant. She went to many conventions, sitting at the "STW table" and giving out information. The STW table had a special tablecloth, a most prized possession, which displayed autographs from many Star Trek and science fiction notables. Over the years, it not only gathered autographs from Star Trek actors, but also celebrities such as Dr. Isaac Asimov.

Shirley also wrote Star Trek fiction. Her "Mindsifter" was professionally published in Star Trek: The New Voyages, though she noted that the published version was significantly different from her original, which had first appeared in a fanzine. In addition, she co-wrote one of the most notable fan stories in Star Trek history, "Alternate Universe 4," with Virginia Tilley, Daphne Hamilton, and Anna Mary Hall (to the best of my knowledge, Anna Mary is now the only surviving member of the team). Shirley loved to tell how the four authors developed the story in a room in her house that had a cuckoo clock. Whenever they came to a disagreement about the direction of the story, eventually the clock would go "cuckoo, cuckoo," and, Shirley said, bring them back to the realization that their differences were not all that significant.

Eventually, the Welcommittee folded, but Shirley kept up with her fan interests and activities. In addition, she joined a handbell choir and found a great deal of pleasure participating in that. However, as a heart condition became more complicated, she had to give that up and pursue more sedentary tasks. Shirley never took a great interest in e-mail or the Internet (stories of flames and flame wars greatly concerned her), but continued to write letters to friends and stay involved with her family. Shirley died the evening of April 12/13, but I received a letter from her on April 15, postmarked April 12, in which she closed by expressing concern for her grandson, who recently joined the Navy and would soon be assigned to an aircraft carrier. That's what a grandma is for, she told me.

It is indeed. Star Trek lost a grandma when it lost Shirley.

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