Explanation of waves theory in slash

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Title: Explanation of waves theory in slash
Creator: unovis
Date(s): July 15, 2008
Medium: online
Fandom: Highlander
External Links: Explanation of waves theory in slash, Archived version
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Explanation of waves theory in slash is a 2008 post by unovis written for hl_chronicles.

Some Topics Discussed in the Essay and Comments

Excerpts from the Essay

Woohoo! Neat summarizations by princessofg here -- and this makes much, much more sense in terms of the history of HL slash. Highlander has missed some trends in formal experimentation and some trends in topics and tropes; but in terms of the "four waves" theory, it's easier to compare what's going on here with what's going on in other fandoms, both old and new.

It still doesn't address the current state of fiction writing and reading (and feedback!) overall within HL -- but it would be interesting to try to talk about that in terms of the waves. Fifth wave? Or has the fandom become so small that one swallow a summer makes?

Also a discussion about whether or not comparable progressions exist in het here.

ETA: The main wave theory text above was written in 1996 (!) [1]. A different version of waves of writing/participation in fandom from a decade later is here (by elspethdixon).

Excerpts from the Comments

pat t: I do think it's a good working concept although I also think it's a bit more complex than this. In fact, I think I agree with the other poster's theory (which is also a wave theory I believe) about zine authors, list and LJ fanfiction. Both theories are valid and they have a working relationship and inter-relate. This would actually make an amazing graduate dissertation.


I'm kind of trying to wrap my head around this wave thing, because it looks like in the examples that writers can go in waves, get stuck in a wave, and be out of sync with the wave-cycle of a fandom as a whole.

Of course, it got me to thinking--as I read a whole bunch of fic before I started writing, is it likely that writers can really skip waves? They may read themselves through wave 1 and 2 and end up writing wave 3 -- which sort of feels like what we've got now. Lots of writers who have already progressed through wave 1 and 2 (maybe in other fandoms?) and now we've got a lot of wave 3 and 4 productions.

But do we enjoy reading wave 3 and 4 as much as wave 1 and 2?

Especially since the later waves seem most influenced by cultural mores where gay and bi are becoming more accepted in general. So, would a brand new fandom now still go through those first waves? Or maybe go through them in a jiffy?

And what would be wave 5?


I don't think that writers themselves or even newer fandoms progressed through each wave -- these are rather steps in the overall evolution or history of writing slash. I certainly never wrote stories that were first and second wave, though I read plenty of them. I don't think I ever "showed my work" either, which was one of the things that made my writing unpopular at first, and maybe still, with readers who prefer earlier styles of writing.

I think the earlier waves of slash in HL's history are a little bit different because we had a bit more plausibility built in. Yes, Duncan had quite a history with women and Methos was shown with three. But the characters also lived for hundreds to thousands of years, making the looser ideas about sexual identity easier to apply and sell.


But the way "first wave" was defined in 1996 seems like it took place after a long experience with a show, not right at the beginning-- that love for the show and its universe came first, and finally the loved characters are brought together in this airless, unique relationship.

Skipping from fandom to fandom, with an awareness of slash seems much more third and fourth wave to me, regardless of the "high" derived from writing first-time stories over and over again. I really don't see contemporary writers on LJ (ff.net is a different country) writing the how-to sex manual and lengthy explanation type first-time stories that were being written in the mid-90s, even for very new fandoms.


  1. ^ Actually, it was 1993.