“The Woman who Saved Star Trek” laid the foundation for many aspects of pop culture fandom.

Betty JoAnne “Bjo”  Trimble, is renowned as “the woman who saved Star Trek” – even to many outside of Trek’s fanbase. August 15th, marks her 90th birthday which she will be celebrating with her husband, John. Her birthday comes just a little over month after the couple celebrated their 63rd wedding anniversary on July 9th.

A “Save Star Trek” protest. “Sarnoff” referred to Thomas Sarnoff, head of NBC.

Given her 65 years of being active in the broader fandom community before and after she and John helped famously lead the successful 1967 “Save Star Trek campaign”, much has already been written about her on SciFi.radio (here  and here, for instance) and elsewhere about her.

In this day of instantaneous communication and video streaming, it’s easy to forget that much of this early work took place in an era before fax machines, much less emails and the internet. “Save Star Trek” was organized and run using mailing lists, mimeograph machines and lots and lots of postage urging fans to write or call NBC and urge that the show be kept on the air. Bumper stickers reading “I Grok Spock”, “Mr. Spock for President” and “Call NBC – Save Star Trek” were sent around the country. NBC offices received tens of thousands of letters and chain letters in response, leading to the third season. Reportedly, the number of letters received far exceeded those for any of their other programs except The Monkees.

However, while this part of her history is well known, it’s only a small part of how much of what she (with John’s full support) did in the early days of fandom which has since become integral parts of the modern fandom and pop culture experience.

Costuming Made the Connection

It was Bjo’s interest in costuming that first connected her with Trek’s creator Gene Roddenberry. While serving in the US Navy, she attended the 10th instance of Worldcon held in Chicago after seeing an advertisement in Astounding magazine. Six years later, she created the first documented Masquerade with the “Worldcon Futuristic Fashion Show” when Los Angeles hosted Worldcon 16. In 1966 as she was organizing the second ever Masquerade for the convention in Cleveland, Roddenberry approached and asked her if he could have three models show off the costumes for his “upcoming TV show” as part of the event. This helped generate interest in Star Trek before its debut later that week. And, of course, the Masquerade is an integral part of most major fan conventions with cosplay being an offshoot.

All About the Merch

A page from the Star Trek catalog. Reportedly, Gene Roddenberry introduced the IDIC medallion in the show as a marketing gimic.
Bjo holding the1976 Ballantine Books printing of the Concordance with its episode selector wheel cover.

A decade before George Lucas famously made his deal with Fox to take a smaller paycheck as a director in exchange for merchandising rights, Gene Roddenberry had already figured out there was a demand for Star Trek merchandise. He launched Star Trek Enterprises – later renamed Lincoln Enterprises. Bjo and John ran this mail order business, selling pendants, insignia patches and other collectibles.

After Star Trek was cancelled, Bjo rescued the show’s scripts from Paramount Studio’s trash, and with the help of Dorothy Jones, used them to create the definitive guide to the original series’ episodes, self-published Star Trek Concordance. The two volumes were combined in 1976 into a mass-market compendium published by Ballantine Books with the inclusion of the Animated Series episodes. The Concordance has been cited by more than one member of the production staff of later Star Trek series as “being a primary source of canon” for the shows.

The original Concordance covering the first two seasons, first published in March, 1969. The supplement covering the last season was published later.

Artistry and Fanzines

Before and after Star Trek, Bjo was well known among the fanzine community for her artistic skills. Some of her artwork is included in the Concordance. She also illustrated The Universes of E. E. Smith, a concordance of the Lensman series universe created by author Edward E. “Doc” Smith.

The cover of an issue of LASFS’ fanzine with a cat alien drawn by Bjo.

Earlier, in the late 1950s she and John assumed leadership of the venerable – and struggling – Los Angles Science Fantasy Society (LASFS). LASFS is the second oldest scifi fan club in existence, and it continues to organize Loscon but as well as hosting Worldcons and Westercons when they are held in Los Angeles. In addition to leading LASFS, she also took on the role of editing the club’s newsletter, Shangri L’Affaires.  Not only were the Trimbles able to help restore the club to stability, but she also earned Hugo nominations for Best Fanzine 1961, 1963 (with John) and was runner up for 1968’s Best Fan Artist.

During the Save Star Trek campaign, the couple also edited the three-issue fanzine Where No Fan Has Gone Before.

Art shows are another regular feature at fan conventions. This is yet another legacy from Bjo’s work as she launched the first modern convention art show at Pittcon in 1960. She furthered the cause with the fanzine International Science Fantasy Art Exhibition Bulletin in 1967-68.

As a follow-on to her work with Star Trek fans, she also led the campaign asking then-President Ford to change the name of the Space Shuttle test vehicle from “Constitution” to “Enterprise” resulting in tens of thousands of letters being sent to the White House.

Back to Costumes

Over the years, the couple have been involved in some fannish film productions including one starring author Fritz Leiber, creator of the sword and sorcery heroes Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. Another film saw her in a parody of Clark Kent’s mother in the satirical short Superbman: The Other Movie.

She has also ventured into commercial films as well. She appeared in a non-speaking role as a crew member in Star Trek: The Motion Picture alongside other fans in what was, at the time, the largest number of persons on-screen in a Star Trek movie. She also laughingly tells the story of her role as makeup artist for 1974’s Flesh Gordon, a sex comedy parody of the 1930s Flash Gordon serial. While she has screen credit for makeup, she also became the impromptu props mistress when the woman who officially had the role was befuddled about sourcing adult toys to serve as weapons for the characters.

Throughout all of this, Bjo’s love of costuming continued. She and John founded and ran Griffin Dyeworks & Fiber Arts which catered to the costume creators within the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) and beyond. While they only recently stepped back from it, it continues as a non-profit educational and art supplies corporation.

Of course, their years of dedicated service to the fandom and SCA communities has not gone unnoticed. Bjo has been honored (most often alongside John) by both communities dozens of times. In 1974, they were among the first to receive a SDCC Inkpot Award for their service to fandom from Comic-Con International. While it was to recognize both of their efforts, an error led to it being officially awarded to her. This was rectified in 2016 when they both received individual replacement awards.

John and Bjo Trimble receiving individualr eplacement Inkpot Awards at SDCC 2016

If you wish to send her (belated unless you have a TARDIS) birthday wishes, the address is:
Bjo Trimble
California Veterans Home
700 East Naples Court
Chula Vista, CA 91911
United States

Happy 90th Birthday, Bjo! Live long and prosper!

Listen to John and Bjo Trimble on the historic 100th episode of SCIFI.radio’s THE EVENT HORIZON from 2015, back when our station was called Krypton Radio.

SCIFI Radio Staff
SCIFI Radio Staff

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