History of Slash Fandom
|Fandom:||slash, media fandom|
|Dates:||1970s - present|
|See also:||Timeline of Slashed Sources, Slash Controversies, Slash Tropes|
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Slash Down Through History
While homosexuality, bisexuality and transgenderism have always existed, people in former times did not think of sexual orientation, identity, or gender the same way they do today. Labeling and definition of these things began in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Rather, sex was thought of in terms of active and passive partners.
There was also less specified difference between a canon story and fanworks. In a sense, everything was fanworks. Entertainment was not really owned by anyone, but was the property of all. Stories were passed on through oral tradition, told and retold over thousands of years, with ideas being added or dropped along the way. Therefore, if you heard a story that did not say the hero/heroine had a same-sex lover, you could add that when you told the story yourself. If you did, that would be a slash fanwork.
Legendary heroes in same-sex relationships date back to humanity's earliest recorded history. Same-sex desire is depicted in ancient art and poetry from all over the world, right back to the Epic of Gilgamesh. In Greek mythology and history, heroic same-sex couples are quite normal. In the Bible, David formed a relationship early in life with Jonathan, the son of King Saul, who "loved him as his own soul". Some scholars think it is possible that Jesus Christ had a relationship with the disciple John, who was called "the beloved". In China, the beautiful story of the "cut sleeve" became a metaphor for romantic love between men. 
Slash and the 1970s
While it is possible that fans wrote and shared slash stories about Holmes and Watson, Ilya and Napoleon or James and Artemus, it was Star Trek: The Original Series that popularized the slash subgenre. Star Trek slash stories first began to circulate in the mid-1970s, slowly picking up steam through the end of the decade. According to Klangley56,
The first piece of published slash in "Star Trek" fandom was A Fragment Out of Time by Diane Marchant, in Grup #3 (September 1974, Carrie Brennan, ed.). Grup was the only adult fanzine being printed at the time (and tame by today's standards). Diane's story really was only a story fragment (a couple of pages of "he" and "him"—no names mentioned, but an illustration by Diane of Kirk and Spock was included). Because it was published in an adult zine, for a more specialized audience and likely with a small print run, fandom as a whole did not register this piece as "the first published K/S."
Other than that, K/S fiction (not yet called "K/S") was being written and circulated fan-to-fan and talked about underground.
Jennifer Guttridge, one of the earliest and most popular writers of the fan-circulated K/S stories, later allowed one of her early stories, "The Ring of Soshern" -- considered by many an early classic -- to be published in a fanzine (Alien Brothers #1, 1987, Helena Seabright, ed.). She also wrote stories which were published in gen zines, some of which some fans later reported as leading them to the idea of K/S.
In Grup #4 (September 1975) Diane Marchant printed "Pandora's Box -- Again," a brief essay on the relationship between Kirk and Spock. Still pretty indirect, but it sparked the first publicly printed discussion of the K/S premise, in the letterzine The Halkan Council (beginning with #12, November 1975, Sandy Y. and Shirley H., eds.). This led some fans to begin writing stories about Kirk and Spock, most notably Gerry Downes and Leslie Fish. Gerry made it to print first, with Alternative: Epilog To Orion (June 1976), which she wrote, illustrated, edited and published.
Alternative (unlike "Fragment Out of Time") got a lot of attention and really set the match to the fire -- although K/S fiction was not alone in the eye of the storm -- adult fan fiction in general was just coming into its own and being hotly derided by many fans. Furious debates raged in private conversations and public forums. Much of the public debate I researched and provided for publication in the fanzine K/S Legacy (five volumes, 2007, Beyond Dreams Press). When K/S was the only example of what later came to be called slash fandom, debates surrounded the issue on several levels. People disagreed because they were anti-homosexuality (religious reasons, homophobic reasons, etc.). They disagreed because they thought people had no right to do that to Gene Roddenberry's characters. They disagreed because they thought it wasn't in character for Kirk and Spock, or illogical given the premise of the show. (Similar objections cropped up in later discussions in other slash fandoms, as well.)
Warped Space, a general interest Star Trek zine edited and published by Lori C., printed every 10th issue as a "special adult issue." The contents of Warped Space #20 (October 1976) primarily were what is now called "het," but it also featured the K/S story "Shelter" by Leslie Fish and Joanne A. Warped Space decided to expand their adult issue to a new and separate title, leading to Obsc'zine #1 (March 1977), which included "Poses" by Leslie Fish (the sequel to "Shelter"). Also in March of 1977, Contact made the only exception to its gen focus to publish a short K/S piece, "The First Step" by Susan D. Sensuous Vulcan (Diane S., ed.) came out in September 1977. It, too, was a mixture of het and K/S, including Desert Heat by Gayle F., the first in her Cosmic Fuck series. Because of issues resulting from Diane’s inability to fill orders for this zine, this story was reprinted in Naked Times #2 (1979, Pon Farr Press). The next two stories in the series, "Beyond Setarcos" and "Night of the Dragons," were printed in Thrust (1978, Carol F., ed.), the first all-K/S anthology zine. The fourth story in the series, "Between Friends" (Obsc'zine #3, May 1978) was the first published menage a trois story in ST fandom, featuring an encounter between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. (In 1986 the series was reprinted in a collected edition.) Another popular Leslie Fish K/S story was "This Deadly Innocence or 'The End of the Hurt/Comfort Syndrome'" (Naked Times #3, 1979). This story was significant because it was based on a theory held by some K/S fans who felt that anti-K/S fans who were deeply enamored of Kirk and Spock hurt/comfort stories actually were in denial about K/S and that hurt/comfort was disguised K/S.
A few other notable early K/S titles (by no means an exhaustive listing): Alternative: Book 2/3 (Gerry Downes, 1979), Nightvisions (Susan J., Carol F., 1979), Mirrors of Mind and Flesh (Gayle F., 1979), Companion (three issues published between 1978 and 1980, Ellen K. and Carol H., eds.), T'hy'la (first published in 1981 and still in publication today, Kathy R. ed.), Out of Bounds (six issues published from 1981-1984, Pam R. and Lezlie S., eds.), and Cheap Thrills (four issues published in 1981-1982, Ellen K. and Carol H., eds.)In May 1977 at SekWester Con, Too (a fan-run con held in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and a precursor to the MediaWest*Cons still held each year in Michigan), discussion of K/S got even more public, with the first panel discussion on the topic: Kirk and Spock: Do They or Don't They? (I provided a transcript of this panel for publication in K/S Legacy.)
The term "slash" to designate a homosexual relationship in fan fiction came from the use of the / -- the virgule, or forward slash, punctuation mark, inserted between names. This practice probably began somewhere around 1977. Prior to this time, the virgule had also been used to designate stories that focused on non-sexual friendships between characters.
Slash and the 1980s
S&H was the next big US fandom to publish slash. S/H fandom went through some of the same do they/don't they debate that had rampaged through K/S fandom, but a lot of S&H fans also were ST fans, so they had heard it all before and fewer people expressed shock at the concept. The first S/H zine was a non-explicit single story British publication, Forever Autumn, by S. Meek and Sue S., (March 1980). The next published S/H piece was also British, a short story, "Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn," by Pamela D. (10:13 Vol. 1, 1980/81, Terri B. and Chris P., eds.).
The first US S/H zine was Code 7 #1 (1981, Karen B., ed.). Karen had been advertising this zine (and some other S/H zines) for upcoming publication within the pages of The S&H Letterzine when suddenly it was listed as cancelled with no explanation. In reality, the zine hadn't been cancelled. Word had gone through fandom of troublemakers who were planning to out these slash zines to TPTB [the actors and studio responsible for the show]. So Karen went underground with the zine, publishing it with no names listed: no authors, no artists, no editor.
In the meantime, however, other S/H was going forward, such as Graven Images by Jane Aumerle (pre-S/H, 1981). Terri and Chris published a "Statement of Intent" in the Letterzine, stating that they were not going to be intimidated into pushing any slash material in their zines underground. Annette H. and Pam R. began advertising Trace Elements (which was published in 1982). Leslie Fish jumped feet first into the fray, asserting she would publish a fanzine that couldn't be used against the fandom. This resulted in Pushin' The Odds (which didn’t see publication until 1983), a mixed gen and slash zine, with slash stories printed in blue ink on red-patterned paper to render them "copy-proof." It also made them almost unreadable without the sheet of red plastic that was included to put over the page. She also required a signed "statement of compliance," numbered the copies, and used coded hole-punches on the pages, supposedly to identify the purchaser of any copy that "fell into unauthorized hands." However, by the time that zine saw print, everybody was going ahead with their S/H zines anyway, regardless of threatened repercussions. Later issues of Code 7 (there were four total) were published openly in fandom. There was supposed to be a second issue of Leslie’s zine, but that never materialized.
Another early slash fandom in this period was H/J (Harry and Johnny from Dirty Harry) fandom. This fandom was unique in a couple of ways. First, its creation can be specifically attributed to two fans, Ruth Kurz and Teri White Second, it was the first time a fandom existed that had no gen component. H/J was created and perpetuated as slash, period. It was based on characters in the film Magnum Force as played by Clint Eastwood (Harry) and David Soul (Johnny). Both Ruth and Teri started out in Star Trek fandom. Teri also wrote some ST gen and some of the earliest K/S. At the time they created H/J fandom, they were active in S&H fandom. H/J initially was underground -- not in zines, being circulated in manuscript form (like the Pros Circuit stories). As word got out and more fans got interested, they started publishing them in zine form, starting in 1980. Teri was involved primarily in the first several zines, then Ruth took over the primary writing chores. Ruth also did most of the artwork that was included (the zines also were liberally illustrated with "cut and paste" photos -- literally cut and paste, not in computer terms). Over 40 zines were published, and it still was being published as late as 1991. H/J fandom drew contributions from many noted fan writers, poets, and artists of the day.In British fandom, The Professionals and Blake's 7 were on the air during this period and their fandoms developed overseas but didn't migrate to the US immediately. Other fans would have more information on these early fandoms, since I deliberately was avoiding acquiring more fandoms at the time and therefore got into both of these fandoms a little later.
Many of the same fans who were active in S/H and K/S fandom in the UK also enjoyed these home-grown alternatives, although there was a view in some quarters that these were 'low copies' of superior American originals. Relative TV production values and budgets fuelled this argument. Nevertheless slash fiction emerged for both at a very early stage, with the first known Bodie/Doyle slash stories, "Power Play", "Death Game" and "Deal" being written by Sue S., one of the authors of Forever Autumn. A dated copy of "Power Play" is known to exist in the hands of one of the fandom's archivists. Klangley56 adds,
Certainly B7 was being slashed in the early eighties. "The Professionals" was a fandom where gen was the exception and slash the rule. Pros fandom also featured the unusual phenomenon of a very active "story circuit," by which the bulk of the fan fiction was being distributed, fan-to-fan. Karen B. took on distribution in the States, establishing a "Circuit Library." Just like a real library, fans checked out stories and received them in the mail, to read, copy if desired, and return. As originals became more tattered and less legible, fans were recruited for re-typing duty.
Despite the underground quality, even as early as 1984, some fans must have felt enough "slash weary" for a zine ed to run this advertisement for a proposed zine called "Warriors/Lovers":
- "Are you tired of zines K/S, S/H, or H/J? Is your imagination whispering, 'What about other slash pairs in history, films, fantasy, horror, or TV?' Well, rejoice... This will not be your ordinary '/' zine." 
Another proposed zine in 1986 was called "No Frills":
- "Tired of the same old slash? Too much K/S, S/H, H/J and B/D? Need something new and completely different? If you've got a short story with an uncommon slash that needs a home, send it here. If you want to read some, then SASE. The only other condition is, no current shows (who needs the hassles?)" 
Creators' Views on Slash: Chilling Effects
- See also: TPTB's Involvement and Interference
Fandoms with little or no opportunity for slash don't produce a lot of slash. That's no surprise. But at least one 1980s fandom with a lot of slash potential, Robin of Sherwood, practiced a sort of self-censorship. It openly discouraged slash, citing the direct wishes of the actors and/or producers. These requests seem to have been enough to keep the slash element small and quiet — a surprising phenomenon to modern fans. Today, creators would be far less likely to single out slash, and the changes in fanfiction distribution, from print zines to the internet, would make fandom self-policing far more difficult.
From an editorial in Herne's Son #2: "The adult material in this magazine is being done with the knowledge and permission of Richard Carpenter. 'Herne's Son' was conceived as a magazine largely for the publication of RoS material of an adult nature, although stories from any fantasy universe (RoS included) will be accepted and need not be of an adult nature. However, since RoS fandom was made possible by the imagination and efforts of Richard Carpenter, in accordance of his wishes, we will not be accepting or publishing stories involving 'slash' (homosexual) encounters. It is, after all, his universe."
From an editorial in Forbidden Forest #2, a zine that had two slash stories involving minor characters: "Next, there's story content. The purpose of 'Forbidden Forest' is to provide an outlet for those stories which, by nature of their content, really couldn't be published in other 'zines. This doesn't limit you to stories involving explicit sexual situations. Graphic violence, extreme physical situations or horror elements are also welcome options... This brings us to our last point -- slash ("/") stories. While we have absolutely nothing against homosexuals or gay relationships (as should be evident from two slash stories in this issue), we will not accept any slash stories featuring major RoS characters. Our definition of slash is based on Kip Carpenter's wishes as expressed at Son of Herne's Con and Weekend in Sherwood: Neither Robin, Robert, Marion or any of the Merries can willingly be in a homosexual relationship. Guy of Gisburne is definitely 'straight' but the Sheriff can go either way. Any other characters (within reason) are fair game. This leaves a great many possibilities to write about gay characters without spoiling the integrity of those who aren't."
And from Cousins #8: "You may or may not be aware that Richard Carpenter has requested that fan writers not create homosexual situations using characters who are heterosexual in the TV stories. I feel that we are fortunate to have the series creator so actively involved in the fandom, and don't think it's unreasonable to honor this one request he's made. He also mentioned that homosexual relationships involving characters such as the sheriff, Philip Mark, Tom and Dickon - or your own original gay and lesbian characters - are fine by him."
Slash and the Arrival of the Internet
The illusion of privacy: "Even when we post slashfic on the internet many of us feel that we are not being public. Our sites may be known only to slash fans in our particular fandom. Our lists may be restricted or even closed to everyone except the current members. The belief that we are exposing ourselves only to other peers in the slash community makes us feel safe and secure." Early on, many fans were aware that their online participation, particularly in some forums, mailing lists and USENET was public, visible and quotable:
"LURKERS - We had a minor furore on Compuserve recently when someone made a hard copy of a rather heated discussion and showed it to some friends at a small con. At what point does one need permission from the original writers to publish more widely something that was originally made as a public comment on a network?
There are both pros and cons to this argument. A public statement is there for anyone to read, but when writing [to a mailing list like this], we always feel that we are actually addressing the people that we see regularly on the list.
I fel (sic) it is a touch like a conversation in a room with ten or fifteen other people. I don't feel as though I'm addressing 200 of you. On the other hand, I like to think that anything I'd be happy to say here, I'd be happy to say anywhere.Actually, though, its not quite true. When speaking to one group of friends, I'll say things that I wouldn't say to another. I wouldn't discuss slash with PBM friends for example."
With the increased use of the World Wide Web, by 1995 some slash fans felt exposed and worried that even the mention of slash or slash fan fiction on websites was dangerous - both to the individual fans who created the websites or who were mentioned on the website as well as for slash fandom in general. They worried about persecution and outing and felt that fandom was jumping recklessly into the use of a technology without regard to it consequences. There were calls for more discussion, for getting permission from the community before creating websites that mentioned slash or posting your own fan fiction, and the need for a fandom wide consensus before using the World Wide Web. On one mailing list newsletter, there were requests that fans not mention author or publisher names when reviewing zines, even in private one-to-one e-mail.  The fact that many of these discussions were taking place via the new medium (mailing lists) was an irony that was rarely mentioned. And like most new technologies, the practicality and advantages of the New quickly overran the debate.
Still, not all fans felt the Internet and the World Web Web posed dangers to fandom. In 1995, one fan argued:
- "My opinion is that the more open we are about slash and our interest in it, the more others will get used to the idea, and the more we openly support each other, the more people will see that we're not the Devil's Spawn, we're mostly just the Middle-Aged Women Next Door, women who will buy Girl Scout cookies from their children, not lure them into a den of iniquity. The more we hide, the more we look as if we *have* something to hide." 
In 1996, Sandy Herrold posted the results of a survey of the members of Virgule-L the largest (then) slash mailing list. In 1997, Sandy Herrold outlined some of the conflicts between online or net fans and the fans who had entered slash fandom primarily through conventions and print zines: Internet Fans Controversy Du Jour (Sandy Herrold). In the commentary she outlines the rapid shifts taking place in fannish perceptions of the Internet - and one another - between 1993 and 1997.
Many fans who first discovered slash via the internet not only didn't enter fandom in traditional ways, but remained totally unaware of the conflicts described by Herrold. The combination of the more secretive nature of invitation-only mailing lists and the complete freeforall and lack of mentoring elsewhere led to an environment where the older culture was often invisible to newbies. Early X-Files fandom had a particularly large number of such fans.
In 1998, a Pros fan wrote an article called "Slash and the Internet: Good or Bad?" and described her mixed feelings:
- "I'm just starting to discover that there's an awful lot of slash available out there in the wide blue electronic yonder; and while I'm enjoying the stories I've found, it's made me think about the possible consequences. Perhaps it's a mixed blessing - secrecy has always been a large constituent of this genre and I'm not sure that putting it onto the internet is in the best interests of slash fandom in general and the slash fan (namely myself) in particular. My own feelings are, I must admit, somewhat ambivalent. It seems too public, too exposed, and yet amid the dross of some truly awful stuff there are a few real gems that might never have seen the light of day in any other forum. My own entry into slash was somewhat bizarre, a little bit like finding and following the yellow brick road and only a great deal of luck brought me to Oz. How many other potential slash fans are there out there? Potential slash fans who never found the yellow brick road or worse, didn't even know that the yellow brick road existed? How many unlucky people would never, could never find their way into our small, comfortable, exclusive world? Perhaps that's what worries me. We are no longer so exclusive, so secret, so special. But I still want to share my sense of wonder, of belonging, of being in the know, and to meet up with people, both those I know and those new to me, who are pervs just like me and are a little, or even a lot, in love with a character on a small screen or in a lovingly produced zine." 
By November 28, 1996 slash became a defined term on Yahoo's website index with links to web pages discussing slash. Among the items linked to:
- The Generic Slash Defense Letter by Susan Beth
- Pass the Crisco, Spock - an essay about Slash.
- Satyricon au go-go - Jenn Riddler's website for her slash fan fiction
- Slash Fiction Index
- Slash: The arguments for and against by Kathryn Andersen 
- What is Slash? by Nicholas (a later version of this arcticle may be archived here)
- Index - Slash - information about slash fan fiction and television shows (later called Slash Fan Fiction on the Net)
Slash Comes Into Its Own
The first slash fandoms all had gen fandoms growing alongside them (Trek, S&H, B7), and many fans read all of the fanfic available for their shows. But at some point, fans started to describe themselves as K/S fans (instead of Trekkers/Trekkies), and later as slash fans, rather than media fans, or rather than fans of specific shows. Eventually slash fans start to put on cons that were not just slash-tolerant like MediaWestCon, or slash-friendly like ZebraCon, but full slash cons such as IDICon, Escapade, and others. On Virgule-L, to help someone figure out if she was a Highlander fan or a slash fan, a poster came up with this question: "would you rather 1) read a HL gen story, or 2) read a slash story in a fandom you know nothing about". A lot of us answered '2'.
Well, so far I have 28 lists! Who knew...
How about I make it easier, and you just write me if you belong to a list not mentioned here:
- vidder, HLWC, FicWriters
- HLX, SXF, DSX, Jadfe, XSlash-stories, TerrSit, SAABfic
- ROG-L, Dief, DueSlash, XSlash, M/K, CI5,
- Channel-L, Senad, SpaceCity, VenicePlace
- Better Living Thru TrekSmut
- Big Dicks, Tight Bums
- Alt.startrek.creative.erotica.moderated mailing list
- Paris/Kim Slash Party, Chakotay/Paris Support Group
This wasn't a complete list; it left out existing private lists like Virgule-L, and she ended the post by asking for clarification on several lists she was unsure about (which brought the number to 28), as well as the request for people to send her more names. But even so, it covered not only general slash lists and vidding, but also specific, fairly well-known lists for Highlander, Sentinel, Due South, Forever Knight, X-Files, Wiseguy, Space: Above and Beyond, The Professionals, Man From U.N.C.L.E., Blake's 7, Starsky & Hutch, Star Trek, and Star Trek: Voyager. Just two years earlier, slash was far enough in the closet that slash fans in Due South fandom had been unwilling to out themselves as slash fans on the sole DS mailing list.
A few months later, at Escapade 1998, Constance Penley described herself as "a slash fan, and a fan of slash fandom," saying that "…except for some radical sex workers, slash fandom is the only place I know where women of all ages and sizes can come together and be validated for their lust".
- See Mary Renault's novel The Persian Boy (Pantheon 1972), the story of Alexander the Great and his (historically documented) love for Bagoas, a Persian eunuch-courtesan. Bagoas entertains Alexander with legends of the Persian king Kyros, and at one point makes up a tale of Kyros' affair with a Median boy. "I had made up every word of it, and could have done better if I had had more Greek. For all I knew, Kyros never loved a boy in all his life."
- LGBT Themes in Mythology at Wikipedia.
- Same-Sex Desire at the British Museum.
- Homosexuality in China at Wikipedia.
- Klangley56: "I researched the following when Mary Ellen C. asked about the origin of the term “slash” on one of the lists several years ago, and I realized from the subsequent responses that the older fans on the list (of which I am one) were relying on perhaps imprecise recollections—and I’m all about the documentation. So I researched thousands and thousands (and thousands) of pages in fiction fanzines, letterzines, adzines, newsletters, etc., spanning multiple fandoms. This was the result. Note: In some cases I refer to a fan by his or her full name, and in others not, because, as we know, some fans have issues with their names being on a public website. In the cases where I have indicated the full name it is because I know it is a pseudonym, and/or the fan does not have a problem with it, and/or is deceased, and/or already has been referred to by full name on [Fanlore]." Personal communication to Arduinna, March 28, 2009. Material quoted on Fanlore at Klangley's request.
- from a proposal by The Theban Band/Saffo Press in Universal Translator #24 in 1984
- from Datazine #40
- Cousins Issue #6, June 1992. (Accessed 07 October 2010)
- Cousins Issue #8, October 1992. (Accessed 07 October 2010)
- The Fanfic Symposium, "The Subtext Anxiety by Shomeret
- Judith Proctor's March 25, 1994 post to Lysator a Blake's 7 mailing list that has, for the past 20 years, offered up its mailing list messages to the public without restriction.
- Letter to the editor, Black Bean Soup, Volume 2, Issue #39, Part 1, dated 27 October 1996 (1995).
- Alexfandra, posted September 12, 1995 to Virgule-L, quoted with permission
- from DIAL #7
- reference link; also posted the Blake's 7 mailing list; reference link
- Sandy compiled a similar list on Virgule-L in December 1996 and came up with a few additional private slash lists:
- Slashpoint, Big Dicks, Tight Bums, DueSlash, TerrSit, Channel L (UNCLE), Slashpoint (General), Space-City (B7), Acafen, Slash-sis, CI5, ... Veniceplace, (private chat rooms), (slash conversation on IRC), slashQL list, Space-L, the JMDG-L...Do you belong to other slash lists? Which ones? sent to Virgule-L by Sandy Herrold, dated December 11, 1996, accessed November 1, 2010.
- 'Other slash lists update' sent to Slashpoint by Sandy Herrold, dated October 11, 1997, accessed November 22, 2008. Quoted with permission.