|See also:||Femslash, Yaoi, The Premise, Hatstand, Slash Cons|
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Slash is a type of fanwork in which two (or more) characters of the same sex or gender are placed in a sexual or romantic situation with each other. Slash can also be a verb; to slash is to create a slash fanwork or to interpret the chemistry between the characters in the source text as homoerotic. The adjective form is slashy.
Usage and Notation
The term 'slash' refers to the virgule (or forward slash ) that links two names in a slash pairing—for example CharacterA/CharacterB. However, virgules are also often used to label het pairings. In both cases, the virgule is typically used to denote a relationship (often, although not necessarily sexual -- see UST) but only m/m and f/f are referred to as slash. To denote friendship an ampersand is often used.
An older term used in the U.K. for slash, was "stroke." 
History of the Term
Fannish tradition holds that the word "slash" originated with Star Trek TOS fan fiction, when K/S was used as the label for a story where the relationship between Kirk and Spock was laced with sexual tension, whether it was acted on or not. This label allowed fans to differentiate those sexual relationship stories from the ones about Kirk and Spock’s friendship, which were sometimes labelled using the ampersand symbol. The use of the virgule as an indicator of a sexual relationship became entrenched as new fandoms arose—Starsky and Hutch (Starsky/Hutch), The Professionals (Bodie/Doyle), Blake's 7 (Blake/Avon, Avon/Vila)—eventually becoming the name of the genre itself sometime in the late 1970s, early 1980s. 
One of the earliest usages, perhaps the earliest, usages of the symbol "/" used to specifically describe a sexual relationship between two characters was in the STW Directory #16, published in August 1977. There, a listing for Thrust describes it as a "Ultra Adult' zine. K/S relation. SASE with age statement required."  Another early example is in Star Canticle #2 (June 1979) where the editor recommends several zines, some with this warning: "Please note: some of these 'zines contain explicit material and/or K/S material. If you object to one or the other or both, do not purchase the 'zines." These three zines were Alternative 2&3 ("K/S"), and Matter/Antimatter #2 and Mahko Root #2 (both with the notation "adult K/S"). The STW Directory in spring of 1981 had this disclaimer: "Adult = age statement required, K/S = Kirk/Spock homosexual premise." Another look at the written record of fandom's early days fills in more pieces of the puzzle. According to fandom historian Klangley56:
The virgule, or slash mark ("/"), has been in use from the earliest days of fandom, including being used to designate relationships--both friendship pairings and romantic/sexual pairings. For example, Kirk/Spock often was used as a shorthand designation for the friendship between Kirk and Spock and Spock/McCoy for that friendship. Romantic opposite-sex pairings also might be referred to this way, e.g., Spock/Christine and Kirk/Uhura. But no one referred to any of these types of pairings, either verbally or in writing, as slash stories.
When "those" stories about Kirk and Spock starting appearing in publication, fans referred to them in many different ways ("Kirk/Spock erotic love stories," "Kirk-Spock homo stories," The Premise, etc.). Gradually, as a way to distinguish them from the Kirk/Spock friendship stories, the fans adopted "K/S" and made it the term to refer to the romantic/sexual premise--although the first printed use of the term “K/S” was in gen zines edited and published by Nancy Kippax and Bev Volker (The Mirage, November 1976, and Contact #3 and #4 in 1977), and it was used to refer to the friendship premise. Some confusion continued for a few years, with K/S and Kirk/Spock being used interchangeably--by some to mean the friendship stories and by others to mean the sexual/romantic premise.
When Star Trek fandom opened up into Media fandom, other fandoms developed their own noncanonical same-sex pairings. They adopted the naming convention of K/S fandom: H/J for Harry and Johnny in Magnum Force, S/H for "Starsky and Hutch," B/D for Bodie and Doyle in The Professionals. With these and, still later, other pairings being published in fandom, fans started discussing this type of fan fiction as a whole. Needing a way to refer to all such pairings and the entire genre of writing, they referred to them and it as "/" (they typed the punctuation mark by itself--a stand-alone virgule, usually within quote marks, sometimes with none). This was in the early eighties.
When verbalizing this punctuation mark in conversation (from the early eighties on), it was, of course, said out loud as "slash." Eventually (primarily in the mid- to late-eighties) the term itself ("slash") started appearing in print. That is, fans wrote or typed "slash" and not "/". The earliest printed reference I found using the word "slash" is in a LoC to the S&H Letterzine #18, (February 1981), but that was an extremely rare reference. It didn't become common in print for several more years.
Today one can still find "/" used to refer to slash, but that's much less common. Also, nowadays a slash pairing is as likely to be designated as, for example, Jim/Blair and Jack/Daniel as it is to be called J/B and J/D. (Not to mention the much more recent mash-up naming convention that applies to both same-sex and opposite sex pairings, such as Clex for Clark/Lex and Spuffy for Spike/Buffy.)
History of the Genre
See History of Slash Fandom for the main article.
It is important to understand that in the early days of media fandom, the use of the symbol / between two character's names did not necessarily indicate a sexual relationship, but rather denoted a story that focused on a portrayal of a close frienship. There is a period of overlap, even into the mid 1980s, when the symbol was seen on both stories with sexual intimacy and stories with no sexual intimacy. It is therefore tricky to determine the first use of the "/" in past fanworks in the way fans translate the symbol today.
In the earliest days of Star Trek fandom (1966-1972 or so), there were few if any relationship stories in the sense of characters exploring their feelings about each other. As in the original series, most fan fiction was devoted to creating the fictional equivalent of episodes or scenes of the show, including straight-ahead adventure tales, psychological dramas, or murder mysteries. Longer narratives included what-ifs like Alternate Universe 4, expansions on alien cultures like Kraith or Nu Ormenel, and glimpses into the Mirror Universe, like the award-winning Federation and Empire. Stories had to be about something; twenty pages of Kirk musing about Spock's feelings toward him would not have been well received by most early fans.
There are many, MANY instances of fans referring to K/S in the late 1970s, early 1980s as being a very intense form of relationship story that in some instances crossed physical and emotional boundaries, and in others did not. It is extremely difficult to draw a line between the two.One example of how hard it is to draw a line between "slash" and "gen" is this review of the 1980 gen zine, Enter-comm #2:
It is beautifully put-together, with a certain slant towards K/S relationship stories, though not X or even R-rated, and is obviously done with a great deal of love... 'Difference That is No Difference' is the third in a series of stories by Sue Stuart which started in one of the Gropes. The premise: what would have happened to Kirk and Spock if Kirk had been forced to stay in Janice Lester's body? If one is able to suspend belief (something that is often quite necessary in K/S oriented stories), the idea works very well. 
Slash stories, the ones specifically referring to physical sexual intimacy, were first circulated and published in the mid-1970s in Star Trek fandom. Entire fanzines devoted to slash started to be published, and eventually slash conventions were organized. In the 1980s, more fandoms joined the slash scene, including Starsky & Hutch, The Professionals, and Blake's 7. The absence of slash in Robin of Sherwood 1980s fandom provides a case study of how insecure slash fandom was about itself and its legitimacy, but in the internet age, slash has become increasingly normalized.
In the early days of K/S fandom, there was only K/S, and only a few other same-sex couples were even on the horizon. So people thought of K/S as unique and special, and S/H (Starsky/Hutch) as only slightly less unique and special, and it was only until a pairing like H/J emerged from the slash-fantasy soup and crawled up on land that fans began to generalize from the unique, special, deep-friendship-based pairings to the more abstract phenomenon of "slash." More specifically, my hypothesis is that it takes a critical mass of at least three same-sex pairings in the fan fiction produced and read by a common core of media fans to generate the concept of "slash" in the abstract. 
What’s going on is that neither the characters nor the fandom reading and writing about them dare deal with the serious implications of love. Fear of the wrath of the Authorities, whether a fictional Los Angeles government or a very real Spelling-Goldberg legal department  keep the characters from any direct expression of their painfully intense feelings and keep the writers from any direct expression of the problem. The result is that the characters circle helplessly around each other, unable to approach closer, or pull away... Neither life nor art can long survive such an untenable position. Sooner or later the barrier will break, the Authorities will be routed, the lovers will finally embrace, and S/H will take its place beside K/S as just another acceptable genre and theme.
Today, Rule 34 illustrates the wide variety of slash pairings and combinations, that any conceivable fictional or real people pairing, inanimate object anthropomorphic, or crossover, has probably been written (and if not, there's always Rule 35).
Because the early slash community kept such a low profile (as above), there weren't clearly written definitions of the term that people could refer to as they got on the net and came in contact with the existing community. So a term might experience fannish drift as newcomers used the term according to the way they interpreted it, rather than how the existing community used it. Slash was a term that experienced fannish drift in this manner. It has also evolved over the years in response to canonically gay characters (and canon same-sex pairings) becoming more common in mainstream television shows and movies.
During the initial era of K/S and other early slash pairings, and issues of "slashy subtext" aside, no one suggested that K/S and other pairings were established deliberately, as a matter of canon, so noncanonical same-sex media pairings was the definition of slash. As is easy to see on countless discussion forums these days, the definition of slash has become more elastic. Many fans consider slash to mean, simply, a same-sex pairing (thus, they refer to Queer as Folk fan fiction as slash). Still others look at, say, Stargate: SG-1 fan fiction pairings of Jack/Daniel and Jack/Samantha and consider them both to be slash relationships, because they are designated with a slash mark.
Thus, at different times, fans have tried to define exactly what slash is, and what it is not.
|"It's only slash if it's about a same-sex couple."||In the X-Files, Mulder/Scully het stories would occasionally be labelled as slash; in this sense, slash was being used to mean any non-canon relationship (there were indications that certain fans wanted it to be known as het slash). The focus of the definition slipped, and the heterosexual aspect of the relationship was irrelevant to it being slash. However, in nearly every modern fandom, the definition of slash has settled down to mean same-sex pairings only.|
|"It's only slash if it's about a non-canon (or 'unconventional') relationship."||The same fannish drift that led to the definition of slash as any non-canonical relationship then led to some fans objecting to canonical same-sex relationships being called slash. Generally, in current usage, pairings of canon same-sex couples (for instance, Christian/Oliver on Verbotene Liebe, Brian/Justin on Queer as Folk US, or Willow/Tara on Buffy the Vampire Slayer) are usually called slash or femslash, accordingly.|
|"It's only slash if it's about the slow evolution of feelings between partners."||This was one of the first definitions; however, it leaves out enemy!slash, as well as a lot of fun crossover pairings.|
|"It's only slash if they were both straight before they met each other."||This was apparently a rearguard action to preserve WNGWJLEO: by this definition, if either half of the pairing was gay or bi before they met each other, it would be gay fiction, not slash.|
|"It's only slash if it's part of an established slash fandom."||This was a reaction against the proliferation of small fandoms, arguing that a necessary component of a slash story is that it is produced by a member of a slash community, as a way of having a conversation about the characters—either building on, or disagreeing with, concepts from previous stories.|
|"It's only slash if it's written by a slasher."||This argument is possibly a reaction against the increasing public awareness of slash; these days it is easy to find slightly mocking parodies of slash written by people outside of fandom . Some would argue "it's not slash if it wasn't written by fans, for fans".|
|"It's only slash if it's written about characters from an existing source text, not original characters."||As the popularity of this specific type of m/m romance as a genre has grown, some people have begun using the term 'original slash' to refer to original m/m fiction (published or amateur) that feels more like slash than traditional gay porn or what is considered typical of gay literature. However, many slash fans feel that slash can only refer to fanworks, never original fiction. |
Controversies Over Slash
See Slash Controversies for the main article.
After the publication of the first K/S fanworks (both fiction and meta) in the 1970s, there were vociferous objections by well known fans to the idea of Kirk and Spock together romantically or sexually (known at the time as "the premise") . Roberta Rogow, dedicated editor of the Trekindex, was loudly opposed to 'the premise' back in the beginning. By 1986, she was willing to admit that there were some K/S AU stories that she could approve of ; however, in 1993, she remained still very vocal in her opposition to slash. One fan recollects Bjo Trimble describing K/S slashers as a "bunch of twisted sickos".
From the outside: fears of legal prosecution:In 1982, a fan, thrilled with a new slash-only Starsky & Hutch letterzine writes of copyright, fears of legal persecution, and the hope that when the hammer comes down, it's on someone else's fandom:
It's nice to see a little cautious (emphasis on cautious!) pubbing going on. There's really a lot more at stake than the risk of financial ruin. I suspect that few of us really fear that particular bogey very much longer. I for one, though, don't feel like becoming embroiled in any unpleasantness. Nor do I feel like causing it. There are a great many more important things in this world beyond the matter of do we have the right to rip off characters for fannish use... but the fact remains that the characters do belong to someone else, and that is, in a purely technical sense, copyright violation. Ferchrissake, every time you xerox a page from a book, or reprint a cartoon or quote in the Lz, [letterzine] without permission, that's copyright violation. EVERYBODY does it. What I'm getting at... is this: I'd like to see the smash come in another fandom, and if it comes in ours, I'd like to see it happen over the straight stuff... There are no medals for conspicuous bravery in fandom. The race is to those who know the shortcuts. We do what we have to do, but if we're wise, we'll shut up about it. 
From the inside: complicating the debate is the fact that there is disagreement even among slash fans as to "what is slashy" and "what should be slashed":
For my part, I never have been able to "slash for slash's sake." I don't and can't "see slashy subtext" everywhere I look. Evidence of emotional and/or physical intimacy (same gender or opposite) demonstrates only that characters are emotionally and/or physically intimate. Emotional/physical intimacy exists between people who are friends and among family members and is, by itself, insufficient to suggest, much less prove, that there is or should be sexual relationship.
I remember one of the original "incest slash" fandoms, from the early-to-mid-80s--"Simon and Simon" fandom. My friends and I were *so* bewildered by that and, when it was explained to us by proponents that "of course they're having sex, look at how much they love each other," it was (in modern 'net vernacular) a real *headdesk* moment for us.It's the Vulcan in me--I need to see a logical extrapolation from the media source product to the suggested extra-textual relationship (slash or het). Connect all the dots for me--explain what is in canon (the characterizations, backgrounds, history, specific relationships, physical setting, time period, larger culture and worldview, etc.) that makes it possible (or even likely) and also rationally explain away whatever there is in canon that mitigates against it. 
Slash and Gay
See Slash vs. Gay for the main article.From the preface of one zine:
We're not writing gay porn. We're writing slash. Gay porn readers are, of course, welcome to partake if they like slash, but the story is meant for a slash audience.... We're writing sexual fantasy, not sexual reality. Fiction isn't about the ordinary, it's about the extraordinary. 
Slash as a Revitalizing Agent
Some fans feel that slash offered a new take on an old fandom, bringing new writers, readers and their interests to the table.In 1984, one famous zine's author said:
I hoped Thrust would make some kind of mark, both as a forum for writing and as a forum for the analysis of the K/S theme…. But it was the K/S theme itself that electrified fandom. As it added a dimension to the relationship between the two men, it added a new and lively dimension to fandom, providing a complex and invigorating idea to ponder, an emotional reference that took fandom by storm. I believe that the K/S theme has played a large part in keeping active fandom alive. 
In 1991, another fan writes:
Years ago before there were Star Trek movies, ST had become pretty 'rutty,' too. Then along came K/S. No matter now you feel about homoerotic literature, I think you have to give K/S two things: One, it blasted ST fan fiction out of the ruts [editor's comment: some would say that now, years later, it's created its own ruts!]; and two, it kept ST fandom alive and kicking --and fighting--until the ST movies came along and revitalized the whole fandom. Now I'm not suggesting that SW fandom needs slash fiction to save it; although I'll admit I've always been puzzled by the lack of good SW slash fiction. I'm just suggesting that SW fanfiction can be saved--if the people responsible for producing it are sufficiently motivated. 
A question every metafan feels compelled to answer. See: Why Slash?
- The Wave Theory of Slash, a meta essay that spawned a new way of thinking. (1993)
- Gender and Sexuality: "Normal Female Interest in Men Bonking": Selections from The Terra Nostra Underground and Strange Bedfellows edited and introduced by Shoshanna, Cynthia Jenkins and Henry Jenkins (1993?)
- Why I Don't "Buy" Slash by L. Goldman (November 1999)
- Gen and Slash, Or Why I See One and Write the Other by Morgan (January 2001)
- Some Thoughts on Femslash by Kadorienne (January 2003)
- An Open Letter to the Anti-Slash People by The Brat Queen (September 2003)
- The Cost of the Erection: Slash and Gayness by by Executrix (September 2003)
- The Erotic versus the Realistic: Sex in Slash Fiction by Morgan )0( (September 2003)
- What is Slash? by The Brat Queen (November 2003)
- Whatever: Still Running Against the Wind, some fans were still trying to figure it out in 2010, posted May 30, 2010, accessed March 7, 2012
- Wikipedia entry on slash fiction, and its talk page offers a somewhat more outside perspective on slash, with lots of discussion
- Usage of the word "slash" and the virgule "/" alone, at Alternate Universes: Fanfiction Studies, accessed 5.10.2011
- from S and H #32, "I understand that's 'slash' in American [the U.S.]... in English [the U.K.], it's usually called a 'stroke.'"
- one fan writes: "very appropriate and nicer than slash" in The LOC Connection #44
- ‘A Usenet experience of the history of slash’, retrieved October 4, 2008
- This is also the first time the term age statement was used in the STW Directory.
- from STW Directory #25
- Actually, in the very earliest days of fandom, pairings and relationships were not the focus of most fan stories. You never even heard the word "pairing". The objective was usually to create a story that could play out in the mind's eye as an episode of the show. This isn't to say there weren't stories in which love and sex figured prominently ("Time Enough" or the Federation and Empire series), but the slash mark was not used, stories were not labeled, and the only designation a fan story was likely to get was an MPAA-style rating.
- In his 1984 review of Star Trek III: The Search For Spock for Asimov's Science Fiction magazine, Harlan Ellison referred to "Kirk-shtups-Spock soft porn stories."
- 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.
- This doesn't mean there weren't any such introspective tales, but they were usually extremely short, like Jane Peyton's "Cave-In". There certainly were poems and brief stories about Spock's relationship to himself, reconciling his human and Vulcan natures, and about Christine Chapel's love for him.
- a review of Enter-comm #2 from a fan in Universal Translator #5
- [http://www.alternateuniverses.com/slashusage.html from Judith Gran at Alternate Universes: Fanfiction Studies, accessed 5.10.2011
- To say nothing of the anti-sodomy laws of many states; slash writers and publishers could be prosecuted for distributing pornography.
- from Datazine #21
- 'Must. Not. Comment.', retrieved October 4, 2008.
- Iron Man 2: The Edge Of Reason (Tony Stark/Mr. Darcy), last accessed November 10, 2008
- Dusk Peterson, What is Original Slash?, retrieved November 21, 2008
- A Short History of Early K/S, retrieved November 14, 2008
- from the editorial to Grip #23 (1986): "I’ve made some judgements in the past, and ! have revised my opinions about a number of things. And this is as good a place as any to talk about them.... There is the K/S Premise, which is that Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock are 'more than Just Good Friends'. I've been pretty vocal about this for a number of years, and I've gathered a remarkable batch of feudists en route. I refuse to believe for one minute that 'our" Captain Kirk will do anything to put his career in jeopardy, and 'our' Spock isn't going to have a sexual relationship for any reason but propagation of the species, however…I've read a few "alternate' K/S stories that make a little more sense, and are not as involved with the mechanics of the relationship as they are with the emotions. So…another qualified revision of opinion."
- At the 1993 Worldcon for instance she helped staff Bill Hupe's fanzine table. She refused to handle any money for the sale slash zines and refused to sell gen zines to fans who had expressed interest in slash zines. Source: convention reports posted to the Virgule-L mailing list, reposted anonymously with permission.
- From Hanky Panky #1 (January or February 1982).
- This writer didn't even mention the very real threat of legal prosecution under the anti-sodomy laws of many states; slash writers and publishers could be prosecuted for using the U.S. mail to distribute pornography.
- Regarding her speculations about copyright violation, Fair Use existed at this time, but was believed to apply mostly to the photocopying of parts of copyrighted works for use in schools.
- comment from klangley56 in the subject of slash, dated June 1, 2008, accessed Feb. 11, 2011; WebCite.
- from the preface to A Real Good Life
- from an interview with Carol Frisbie in Not Tonight, Spock! #3
- from a June 1991 LoC in the Star Wars letterzine Southern Enclave: Southern Enclave, June 1991.