Confronting ''Enterprise'' Slash Fan Fiction

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Academic Commentary
Title: Confronting Enterprise Slash Fan Fiction
Date(s): October 3, 2002
Fandom: Star Trek: Enterprise
External Links: online here, Archived version
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Confronting Enterprise Slash Fan Fiction is a 2002 article (~6900 words) by Kylie Lee.

It was originally published in print in "Extrapolation v.44 n.1." and is now online.

Kylie Lee identifies as a fan.

Some Topics Discussed


When the Entslash list went down, the victim of hurt feelings and infighting, I spent two days furiously helping create the new list, EntSTSlash. In just a few months, the slash community had become tremendously important to me, and I hadn't quite been aware of it until that community was threatened. I'm defining the Enterprise slash community as expressed through the discussion lists with which I happen to be familiar, but there are of course many other articulations of slash fandom: many people go to conventions, with several conventions existing just for slash; some stories aren't posted to the list or on the net but go to old-fashioned print fanzines instead.

But the Internet has revolutionized fandom, as others, such as Andrea MacDonald, have described. Although MacDonald describes a USENET group and e-mail list of Quantum Leap fans and quotes USENET posts from 1990-1991 and e-mail messages from 1993 and 1994, she describes a relatively small group of fans, about 24, that posted a mean of 17.91 messages a day, although the fans deliberately shifted name and venue to maintain their exclusivity. Thanks to list server technology and services such as Yahoo! groups, the world of fandom—and the slash world—is now a much larger one, when the groups so choose. As of this writing, the following slash Yahoo! groups, to which I happen to subscribe, have the following membership numbers: EntSTSlash, 260; Allslash, 816; Complete Kingdom of Slash, 422; Archer's_Enterprise, 465; and StarTrek_EnterpriseSlash, 38 (the latter is a relatively new group).

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. To give you an idea of how much posting goes on, here are the numbers for EntSTSlash, which was founded on July 15,2002: In July, there were 1329 posts; in August, 1895, and in September, 1443. This particular list is overwhelmingly active. A big part of the list's activity is related to providing a forum for reading and commenting on fanfic and for providing feedback, so the community acts much like a supportive writers group. The Internet has been particularly helpful in this regard: Arctapus writes, "It makes feedback immediate. It gives you a base that is there, you don't have to depend on snail mail and you get to share quicker and in more depth."

Pseudonyms are also important because the clandestine nature of slash and fanfic in general: nobody wants to hear from Paramount with a cease-and-desist order, so nobody can make money off her work. Everyone scrupulously includes a disclaimer on their zines, on their fanfic, and on their Websites. Although some fans are associated with their pseudonyms and their identities are open secrets, others, such as WPAdmirer, one of my questionnaire respondents, are under deep cover. When WPAdmirer went to a convention, for instance, she felt she couldn't reveal herself as a fanfic writer to the other fans, and she felt cut off as a result: she notes, "I wished I could be more open about my involvement. The lack of being able to do that made it less pleasurable." She felt, in short, cut off from a supportive community. I myself use a pseudonym to protect my privacy for the sake of my family, and I've published under my real name and I want to keep my slash separate, so that Internet hits on my name for my literary criticism or medical publications won't hit on slash sites. I also have (ridiculous, I've been told) fears of anybody in the Star Trek world, such as the writers or producers, becoming aware of my existence, although those employed by the Star Trek franchise do not read fanfic for creative-control reasons (all ideas must be theirs, and they don't want to be influenced by fans or fanfic). It strikes me as amusing that I do not know the real names of the women I regularly correspond with and whom I consider friends.

This notion of clandestineness implies that we members of the slash community are doing something weird, perverted, or wrong, and that our product, the fanfics, are things that should be hidden. Critic and science fiction writer Joanna Russ, for instance, notes that her response to K/S slash zines was to get "embarrassed (because, I think, the stuff was so female and my response to it so intense)" and she hid it away -- in the closet of all places!".

E-mails to me from readers of my work have often spoken of how they had to hide the texts from their children, coworkers, or significant others as they compulsively finished reading a fic. If I'm writing slash and my husband comes in, I flip the computer screen to something else and won't return to it until he leaves, even though it drives him crazy and he says he won't look at it. It's gotten so that when I'm writing slash and I hear his footsteps walking up and down the steps right outside my door, I have to shut the door, for fear that he will stick his head in. I simply can't relax and write when he's lurking. This notion of secrecy, of slash having to remain hidden, was something I had to overcome before I could write.

When I sat down and wrote my very first sex scene, thus moving once and for all into the slashfic camp, I literally paused for a minute before I set my fingers on the keyboard and started typing. It was like I had to take a deep breath, consider it, and then give in. There was a very real moment of decision there. I've loosened up a lot since then. Now I write sex scenes without setting them up, just because I think of a position or a situation I think would be pretty hot, or just because I'm thinking about the boys as I'm doing something else and I just have to stop a minute (well, an hour) and write a 2000-word graphically sexual depiction of what I'd like to see these guys doing to each other. I file these random sex scenes and embed them in a fic later, editing them to another pairing if needed. Now, there is no hesitation. But slash writers are very aware that what we write is objection able, that many people are freaked out by it and just don't get it. Slashers who post work online often get flamed (that is, they receive hostile, mean e-mails); rare is the slasher who has never experienced this. In fact, A. Kite says, 'There's only 2 kinds [of slash writers] you know? Them that's been flamed and them that are going to be."

When I tell people I write fanfic, I say, smiling, "I write in a genre called slash," in complete confidence that they have no idea what I'm talking about. Usually, I'm asked if it's violent, and I just

say, "No, not really." I haven't shared my pseudonym with many friends, just a few who are particularly close who know my writing in other contexts. Among my family, only my husband knows. Like many slashers, I have real life, and I have slash, and the two don't really meet.

... for me, writing slash isn't like reading it. When I read it, I devour it, I don't notice technical errors, and I don't pay attention to narrative structure or other formal elements of the story, unless there is something unusual about it For instance, fanfic is rarely written in the first person, and such stories jump out at me. I read it for the transcendent experience, for the emotional context the writer articulates, for the sex.

But when I write slash, the opposite is true. Unlike many other slash writers, who just sit down and let it flow (some slash writers speak of the story writing itself, or the characters hijacking the story and taking over), I approach writing slash formally. When I write, I think about structure, literary devices,

symbolism, and the like. I try to fit in canon. I try to involve Enterprise characters other than the ones I am slashing in their regular roles. And I try to make all the sex scenes exist for a reason - I don't write it gratuitously unless I'm writing a PWP. Sex has to advance the plot or reveal something about the characters.

Because of slash, engaging with the canon source has become a true joy. When I watched "Minefield," an early Season 2 episode, I rewound and rewatched the incredibly awkward breakfast scene between Lieutenant Malcolm Reed and Captain Jonathan Archer three times. This scene alone will spawn dozens of slash stories. This kind of active watching is tremendously satisfying. It's a lot of fun to study facial expressions, gestures, the actors' use of props, physical proximity. It's even more fun to read into them: in this example, I like Archer's pouring Reed some orange juice, and I like Reed's hands as he carefully sets his pad ddown as Archer attempts to force him to engage in chitchat about sports. Reed's discomfort plainly evident. And yes, I feel motivated to rewrite this text, to explore the relationships between the men, to fill in the gaping gaps in the characters' private lives — Enterprise is, after all, about a bunch of people who work together, and I'm interested in what they do off duty. The canon source is rich; there's a lot to play with here.

But the pleasure is more than my delight in watching the canon source and spotting slashy subtext. There's the pleasure of watching a television program with a cast of incredibly attractive, buff men. There's the real pleasure of creating the slash text itself. There's the literal physical pleasure of arousal as one writes or reads. Then there's the giddy pleasure of getting e-mails from people saying they really liked your work—e-mails that make me laugh out loud in delight.

So why do I write slash? I write it because I feel compelled to. In the fan community, this is known as getting bitten by a plot bunny. I write it because it's hot and sexy and fun. I enjoy the steamy sex—quite a bit, in fact. I write it because I want to read the kind of stuff I write, but few people write it: stories that are as true as possible to the characters as they are presented on the screen— but with that slashy twist (and hot sex). I do not violate canon when I write. Ever. And I prefer to set the stories within or on the peripheries of canon episodes, rather than making up my own action-adventure stories. It's my niche as a writer. No doubt it's my literary criticism background: I am critiquing texts, only slash is far more fun than deconstruction, even if they're basically doing the same thing.' And it's a good fit for me as a writer: I like having the boundaries of the situations and the characters set for me.

But the primary reason I write slash? That one's easy. It just makes me so damn happy.