The following article appears in the current issue of GAYDAR Magazine. It is not meant to school anyone who already has connections to the fanfic or slash community. It’s simply meant as a primer for those people who have not already encountered this fanzine and internet phenomena. I’m sorry I don’t have a link for the art my friend Stevie Bon-Bon did for this article at the moment as it is truly twisted. In fact, when my friend Mark Nevins saw the art he told me we had ruined Classic Trek and the phrase “Captain’s Log” for him forever. I say it’s his fault for taking this stuff too seriously but that’s because I’m ALL about reassigning blame. Unlike some of my stuff which I think of as dandelion chaffe or a benign virus, this one is copyright. It’ll be off newstands in a couple of weeks. If someone wants to pick this up after February 2006 they can have it for free as long as they’ll forward the link to me for approval or send me two copies of any fanzine that it might appear in. I know you Kinkos freaks are still out there. Have fun. – Barney
Slash / Fiction or;
A whole lotta love that dare not speak its name.
As I type these words Valentine’s Day is almost upon us. A time when a not so young man’s fancy turns to thoughts of inappropriate pairings and bizarre and outrageous sexual fantasies involving characters that don’t exist, but still retain teams of lawyers who will sue your ass off if you try and speak openly about any of this. Really? My ass? What sort of inappropriate sexual couplings are we talking about? How about Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy? Consider the Mission Teams on Stargate or the boys from Starsky and Hutch. Or, those septuagenarians of Sci-Fi – Kirk & Spock. How many times have you said to yourself, “If only these beloved characters could be a little more gay!” Well, as my Valentines Day present to you, consider this problem solved.
Today, what we are on about is a literary phenomenon called Slash Fiction. Don’t worry; this doesn’t have anything to do with knives or things that go bump in the night. Well, actually, there is quite a lot of bumping in the night, so you had better let me explain.
Back in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, long before the internet and newsgroups and instant messaging and blogging, the way people got together and gabbed about their various obsessions was with fanzines. Now fanzines themselves were nothing new. Science fiction fanzines got their start back in the 1930’s, but an odd confluence of interests took place in 1967 when the first Star Trek fanzines got off the ground. Very quickly these types of ‘zines, as they’re called began to be filled with fan fiction, which is any story about fictional characters not authorized by the actual copyright holder. People had a field day. Didn’t like last week’s episode? Too bad. Go ahead, buy a mimeograph machine and publish your own. I say this as though it were easy, but doing offset printing in your own living room is about as much fun as facing lights-up after last call without the benefit of beer goggles. You try it.
From 1967 to 1973 people are playing in the Star Trek fan fiction bean fields and telling their various Federation stories and playing nice. Then things get kinky. In 1974 in GRUP #3, a 76 page Star Trek fanzine, Diane Marchant, an Australian fan published a story called A FRAGMENT OUT OF TIME. While this was a very circumspect story, referring to Kirk and Spock only as “he” and “him” and is only two pages long, the results have been so far reaching as to hardly be comprehensible. Essentially it’s just two guys making love on an alien planet surface. One is human. He ends up taking one for the team. Pon Far, the Vulcan mating impulse may have been a factor. That’s it. But the big gay Genie was now out of the bottle and fandom was off and running – or, typing. At first there were arguments within fandom about how appropriate any of this was. Kirk and Spock, gay? Never! But let’s write some heterosexual or “het” fiction about Kirk and Spock. Then you have ‘zines publishing mixed slash and het fan fiction. But very quickly there were ‘zines devoted to just Kirk/Spock gay fan fiction. This is where the term slash comes from. After awhile people needed to differentiate between the “regular” stories and the much more controversial Vulcan on Man / Man on Vulcan type stuff. Plus, they needed to fly under the radar of the studios who owned these properties. So, K/S was born.
Then people started asking themselves, “If we can write Kirk/Spock gay erotic fiction, why not Starsky and Hutch? Why not C.H.I.P.’s or, Miami Vice?” These combinations of characters from other franchises, and yes, characters crossing over from different franchises required a more generic catch all term, and [/], or slash was born..
So, right from the very beginning, we have the makings of an underground literature. Like Oscar Wilde dropping off a bundle of butcher paper wrapped manuscripts composed by “many and diverse hands of a Socratic nature” at the Librairie Parisienne, these new “notes passed from hand to hand” gave birth to an enormous underground movement of gay erotic literature.
And who exactly is writing all of this gay porn? Apparently, until very recently most of this material, 95% or more, was written by women. There is some controversy over what percentage of these women identify as straight, bi or lesbian, but whatever the demographic is on sexual orientation, they sure do like writing reams and reams of sweaty man-love type fiction. Why this has been the case is also a hotly debated topic. First, gay romantic and erotic fiction is, at heart, romance fiction, and Romance fiction is responsible for approximately half of all of the books sold in this country. With that many women reading and writing romance, and same sex relationships being more accepted while still retaining the element of the exotic, it’s probably an inevitable outcome.
Some people think these women feel more comfortable writing about their heroes and fantasy icons in same sex situations because these women are somehow less offended or threatened by a same sex pairing then a heterosexual pairing. I’m not so sure about that, but the boys at RE:Search and the fellows doing the Apocalypse Culture anthologies think it’s possible so who am I to argue. My lips get tired just reading that much post-modern textual theory.
We do know that many of them seem to prefer stories where the proposed couple, be it Mulder and Skinner from the X-FILES or Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon from STAR WARS are getting it on for the very first time. Entire anthology fanzines and entire web sites and servers on the internet have been given over just to “1st time pairings”. That magic first time – over and over and over again. You wish.
First time encounters are one popular style, but it’s hardly the only one. Another big hit is something called MARY SUE slash. This is any story where the author inserts – I said it – inserts, herself, or, more rarely, himself, into the story. Suddenly a person who has never been seen in an episode of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER is being dragged into a three way with Giles and Spike. Oh my. Mary Sue slash actually caused a fairly major preferential schism within slash fandom. There are those who love to read and write only these types of stories and others who feel the entire practice of adding yourself in is opportunistic and either childish or rude. Go figure.
I’m sorry. Was that Spike/Giles or “S/G” 3-way image rather abrupt? Well, then PWP slash, or “plot, what plot?” slash fiction is probably not your one-fisted way to a good time. There are tons of ‘zines and hundreds of gigs of server space given over to fiction where scarcely is the characters name blurted out – say, Commander Sisko for instance, before shape changing alien Security Officer Odo is doing something biologically improbable to him, or with him.
This then lead to slash fiction rating systems. And most slash fandoms have their own stylized rating system. Warnings to readers who only want certain kinds of chocolate mixed in with certain kinds of peanut butter and only using certain sexual utensils. Wouldn’t want to offend, eh?
Did I mention system servers up there? Oh, yes. The rise of the internet and the rise of slash fiction go hand in hand, or unlicensed franchise body part in body part, if you will. As soon as there were Usenet news groups, there were lists devoted to almost every TV show and movie with a cult following imaginable. From there it was only nanoseconds before flying fingers were describing the sweaty intimate details of what a pairing between the male cast members of BABYLON 5 and the UK based Sci-Fi hit RED DWARF might be like. Or, the women from XENA somehow getting it on with the gals over at ALLY McBEAL. Because the XENA women, by themselves is almost too close to that show as it was aired, and the Buffy-verse is so late 1990’s. But speaking of the ladies, and XENA, this gave birth to the most significant sub-genre of slash, namely femslash, or femme-slash which, as you may have guessed is mostly written by women, apparently mostly straight women, yet features mostly lesbian pairings. Works for me.
Another strange aspect to all of this, and even less talked about, are slash oriented websites featuring photo manipulations. For the most part, these are sort of what you would expect. Take Patrick Stewart or Commander Picard’s head, add Photoshop, graft to a preferred porn star body, click, enter. Ho-hum. But then you find something like The THEBAN PAGES ARCHIVE, which has a MASTER AND COMMANDER page menu. Click on these and you will find still shots from the film of Captain Jack Aubrey and Doctor Maturin that were never in the film. People just standing closer together and oriented suggestively, but that’s about it. Considering how much “real” porn is currently out there on the net it makes you wonder what it is exactly that makes someone spend hours manipulating photos, or days writing a story about two or more fictional characters having sex, when so much instant gratification may be had at the push of a button.
Speaking of pushing buttons, in case none of this surprises or offends you, rest assured, it does get under the skin of a lot of people. While the folks who do BUFFY and XENA tend to turn a blind eye to all of this, when not actively encouraging it with same sex role models, Lucas Arts and Disney and Paramount are ever vigilant for exactly these kinds of abuses. Disney? But what would Disney have to… Oh my God. Yes, Virginia – Tooneslash.
I kid you not. All those years watching Chip ‘n’ Dale and RESCUE RANGERS and you never suspected? Hate to break it to you. Power Rangers and the Scooby-Doo Gang? It’s all just a Google search away.
Then there is chanslash. This is slash featuring characters that, while fictional, are, nevertheless, age inappropriate. Most notably, and by far the largest archives of slash fiction on the net right now, are slash fiction databases set in the Harry Potter universe. How many stories? Try 45,000 as of two years ago. You do the math. Should you or I care about the consenting age of a “fictional” character? Well, for some reason I do, and I’m not even a lawyer trying to sue someone back into the Stone Age.
This takes us to the stickiest sub-genre of them all – real person slash. And who should we blame this one on? The same people I like to blame lots of cultural problems on. The BACKSTREET BOYS and N*SYNC. The nearly infinite combinations possible with this inter-musical franchise clusterfuck has brought a new wave of slash fiction to the forefront, involving other boybands such as the GOO-GOO DOLLS and GOOD CHARLOTTE and leading to the x-rated pairings of just about everybody under the sun from THE BEATLES and THE ROLLING STONES to Donald Rumsfeld and Jon Stewart from THE DAILY SHOW.
Finally hit a wall with that last one? I hope so. So, what does this all mean? I don’t know but it proves that ever since the Normans decided to insert LANCELOT into Arthurian legend people have been screwing around with stories without permission and you can’t stop them with a cease and desist order or by taking away their server space.
So, to all of you pining away for that perfect pairing between characters from THE WEST WING or castaways on LOST, I say to you, keep looking for unauthorized same-sex fictional love in all those weird spaces, and have a Happy Valentines Day.
– Barney Dannelke [11/30/05] copyright 2005