The Kraith stories are a set of inter-connected works of Star Trek fan fiction. The earliest were written by Jacqueline Lichtenberg (also creator of the Sime - Gen Universe) beginning in 1969 and continuing through the first few years after the cancellation of the Star Trek: The Original Series. As such, Kraith represents some of the earliest Star Trek fan fiction. The stories are named after the "Kraith", a goblet or chalice used in the performance of certain Vulcan rituals, featuring prominently in several of the stories in the sequence.
The first few stories were published in the T Negative fanzine, under the editorship of Ruth Berman, beginning with Spock's Affirmation in T-Negative 8. As interest grew, later stories were published in a wider range of outlets, and other authors began to make contributions to the sequence of stories. Over fifty amateur and professional authors have now contributed to Kraith.
The universe portrayed in Kraith is not canon Star Trek, but its emphasis on stories with psychological and emotional plotlines had, and continues to have, a substantial impact on Star Trek fan fiction. A high proportion of early contributors to the Kraith storyline were women, and this has continued to be reflected in the high proportion of female fan writers.
The story of Kraith is ostensibly "Spock finds a wife," but this is only a trivial incident compared to the thoughts and ideas presented in the series. The central premise concerns the fact that in the original Star Trek, humans were portrayed as the dominant race throughout the galaxy. In many episodes, Kirk was shown as imposing not just human values, but his particular version of human (that is to say, white, male and 20th-century American) values, on a number of alien cultures, supposedly for their own good or to save them from being conquered by the Klingons. How would alien races respond to such treatment? How would they feel about the aggressive capitalism practiced by Earth companies, the influx of human residents on their worlds, the influence of human cultural values, and the eventual threat to their cultures as a result? Even if they were happy to have their world belong to the Federation, what would happen when their young people tried to join Starfleet, only to find that starships like the Enterprise are designed with only human comfort in mind?
Lichtenberg tackled these issues in depth and with complexity. She is on record as having believed at the time that most people were incapable of accepting the ideas she proposes, because they were far too radical or ahead of their time. Today, readers might see them as postmodern, or at least as bearing the seeds of political correctness, or perhaps in terms of accommodation.
Kraith took a different turn with the input of Sondra Marshak as Lichtenberg's chief collaborator. One of Lichtenberg's plot arcs concerned Kirk's adoption by Sarek and his education in the Vulcan way of life. This had occasionally involved a "Warder-Liege compact" between Kirk and Spock, in which Kirk accepted Spock as his mentor and obeyed his commands (or vice versa, as in the Kraith novel Federation Centennial). Marshak evidently saw further plot possibilities in the Warder-Liege, and revived and expanded on its implications. Later Kraith stories are rife with BDSM undertones, and in one unfortunate entry, Joan Winston's "The Maze" (published in Metamorphosis 2), Spock is depicted as giving Kirk a sound spanking.
Although the classic Kraith stories are not slash fiction, some commentators have seen Kraith as a precursor to some forms of slash: hurt/comfort themes, and themes of emotional and mental closeness, as well as the BDSM implications later in the series, are clearly closely related to themes found in many slash stories.
Lichtenberg is perhaps best known for her Sime-Gen series, which she began writing about the same time as Kraith. She also worked on Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover series. As of 2006, she is at work on a series of original vampire slash novels with Jean Lorrah.
- Kraith Home Read the first six volumes of Kraith Collected on line. These are the stories written by Lichtenberg and by other Kraith writers, printed in the correct order of their occurrence. The essay Understanding Kraith and the Kraith Creators' Manual are also provided.