GAYDAR magazine articles


 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

Advertisements

This article recently appeared in the Summer issue of GAYDAR magazine.

 

http://www.mrbiggs.com/illustration/illustration07.html

Flame On! art by Brian Biggs

[the above link is to the art that appeared with thisFlame On! illustration by Brian Biggs
piece by the fantastic Brian Biggs]

FLAME ON!

Gay Culture, Straight Culture and Geek Culture or, Just how did so much chocolate get in my peanut butter?

The FANTASTIC FOUR! Reed Richards aka Mr. Fantastic, a man so malleable he can stretch his body into nearly any shape imaginable! Oh my! Ben Grimm, the super strong, rock hard (literally) Thing – whose favorite expression is, “It’s clobberin’ time!? Oh, do go on. Sue Storm, aka The Invisible Woman. Every gay man’s fantasy! And last, but never least, the red hot Johnny Storm, the Human Torch, a young, blonde, single – dare I say – hottie, who actually says “Flame on!? before self immolating and flying away like a Calvin Klein Jean model shot out of a cannon. Now I don’t know what you think of as gay, but…

Ok, stop. I’ve had my fun and there’s more where that came from, but I think we need step back a second.

There is no easy way to explain what this piece is without explaining in brief how it was solicited. I was sitting in my coffee shop, minding my own business, when the editor said to me, “Why don’t you write something for us?? At first I thought he was joking, but before I could follow-up with, “What do I have to say to the readers of Gaydar?,? he said, “C’mon, I know how your mind works!?

Bent. Twisted. Somewhat askew, is what I think he was implying. I said I would think about it.

Thirty minutes later I wandered back to his table and said “Ok, of the four men at this table, how many read super-hero comics when we were kids?? We all had. “How many read Fantastic Four?? We all had. Now, bonus round question, and keep in mind this was asked in early February, months before the big media push, “How many of us had seen the trailer for the Fantastic Four movie coming out? Did he say “coming out?? Yes, and he said “big push? also, now shut up. And we all had. At the time, this meant we were probably downloading the preview from the Internet. There are worse things to do with a broadband connection.

So, the question in my mind was, is this a straight thing? A gay thing? A comic geek thing? Who is borrowing what from whom? Who is inspiring what? Is there gay intent or is it all innuendo after the fact? Where does all this come from? Does anybody care? Well, oddly enough I found I did care, and the more I looked at it the more I found there was to look at.

What’s he on about? Goddamnit, get back to talking about shooting models out of a cannon! The point is, it doesn’t matter what part of the rainbow of human sexuality this magazine tries to represent, if you are reading this, you were probably raised in the same culture as I was. American Pop culture. And there the damage and mutation begins.

You see Culture doesn’t start out as “straight? culture or “gay? culture. It’s just culture, and you’re soaking in it Marge. We’re like those leather beasts, the Borg on Star Trek – we want to assimilate whatever is around and make it useful to our needs. A friend reminded me of an anthropology phrase – the low hanging fruit metaphor – whereby we take what is easiest for us to grasp and use it to suit our own needs. I said “it’s all about fruits with you, isn’t it?? Nevertheless, if you’re a kid and you were brought up in America, after television, toys and the movies, comic books and super-heroes was one of those things claiming your attention.

Before we ever had to think about sex or sexual orientation we had already been exposed to these characters. And just what sort of characters are we really talking about here? Are these the role models of future generations of Ozzy and Harriet? I think not.

Outsiders? Oh, we have a boatload. Superman, Batman and Spider-Man are all orphans, for starters. Know anybody who’s gay and from a broken home? Why the hell not identify with a “strange visitor from another planet?? Hell, yes.

Spider-Man? Sure he’s with Mary Jane Watson now, but for ten years he lived with his Aunt May and he was as likely to get shoved into a locker by local jock Flash Thompson as battle a super-villain. Any suppressed childhood memories? Sorry, but these stories work for a reason and the reason isn’t always Doctor Octopus. Never mind your fantasies about men with four extra arms.

Batman is really too easy a target. People have been cracking wise about Robin, the Boy Wonder since the 1940’s and there is no end, ahem, in sight. Just a few months back when the knee-jerk homophobes went after Sponge Bob Square Pants and Patrick as being a same sex couple – and time out right there – if you’re worried about same sex, consider for a moment that they’re different species and phylum with some fairly alien methods of reproduction, and then the gender problems kind of fall by the wayside. Nevertheless, The New Yorker had a cartoon for Valentine’s Day with Sponge Bob holding up a envelope and saying, “it’s from Batman and Robin, they always send such nice cards.? Apparently even folks at that aging madame of periodicals knew when to wink and get into the act. Batman’s always been a target for this kind of humor. Living alone with his butler, he brings it on himself. Hell, his other inspiration, besides the bat, was Zorro. Good old Don Diego. He has a secret hideout in a cave, acts out as a fop by day, and masked avenger by night. Could we possibly be more closeted?

And speaking of closeted, I have a friend, Rodrigo, who has a theory about the Uncanny X-Men. He thinks the X-Men and Professor Xavier’s college for mutants learning to “control? their powers are the closeted mutants, and Magneto’s Brotherhood of Evil Mutants trying to run the world represent all the “outed? militant homosexuals. Understand, I don’t think that’s what Stan Lee and Jack Kirby had in mind when they came up with these characters in the early 1960’s, but who am I to ruin his fun. He also thinks all the female villains in Marvel comics after 1980 or so look like drag queens who aren’t trying hard enough, but that’s somebody else’s treatise.

Then you have Wonder Woman, who was kicked off her own island by her fellow Amazonians and is given ropes and bracelets to cope with the outside world. Show me forty years of Wonder Woman comics and I’ll show you four decades of Amazonians tied to chairs and strapped to tables. They might as well have sold ball gags and handcuffs on the same page as the Sea Monkeys while they were at it.

Bruce Banner, aka The Incredible Hulk, is a total dweeb. Puny Banner! This guy was wailed on by his father and now has world-class anger management issues. Does this remind us of anybody we know?

The Punisher. Puh-lease. Big guns, leather and Kevlar, and he wears a big skull on his chest. I mean if The Village People had a Pete Best, this guy would be it. Compensate much?

These are just the comics. When I mentioned the Sponge Bob fiasco to a friend he came back with, “what about Jonny Quest and Hadji?? This admittedly gave me pause as I had not thought about these two jet-setting Hardy Boys in this way and I finally fired back with “As for Jonny and Hadji, well, Dr. Quest’s son might have let Hadji help him rub one out behind the hydro-foil in exchange for saving him from nazis, frogmen and Komodo Dragons, but I think the Quest’s were more about preventing manumission in the case of Hadji than encouraging homo-erotic miscegenation and nocturnal emissions. That’s my theory anyway.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it’s all spin and I’m delusional. But I don’t believe it. A busload of Americans went to see Spider-Man 2 last year. And some mysterious percentage of that demographic saw Spider-Man standing in an elevator, being given a full head-to-toe “What’s-he-got-in-those-leotards?? by some guy. Then we said, “Hey! That’s Hal Sparks, who plays Michael the comic shop owner from Queer As Folk!? There are no accidents, my friends.

So this summer, we’ll all go see Christian Bale in the new Batman franchise and we’ll see Julian MacMahon, that Australian beefcake from Nip/Tuck, as Doctor Doom in Fantastic Four. Maybe we’ll identify with Ben Grimm, The Thing, the outcast who is afraid he is unfit to be loved, or even be seen out of doors, for that matter. Or maybe we’ll just wish we could get it on with someone wearing spandex with a team logo made out of unstable molecules. I couldn’t make that little detail up. Still, we’ll all be hoping, in between all the CGI “gosh-wow? special effects, to be shown someone with whom we can identify. Two hours of flaws, costumes, mutation and masks, for sure. But beyond all that, we’ll be looking for a little bit of ourselves.

– Barney Dannelke [March 01, 2005]