Fandom's Final Frontier: Homoerotic Literature

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News Media Commentary
Title: Fandom's Final Frontier: Homoerotic Literature
Commentator: Mary McNamara
Date(s): 03 April 2001
Venue: Los Angeles Times
Fandom: slash
External Links: Fandom's Final Frontier: Homoerotic Literature (latimes.com); WebCite
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Contents

Fandom's Final Frontier: Homoerotic Literature is a 2001 article about slash fanfiction.

It introduces the genre to a lay audience and names several of the big slash fandoms of its time. Fanfic writers were interviewed for the article and are quoted on topics such as Why Slash and the difference between zine and net fandom.

The article also refers to a panel at a 2001 slash convention in Santa Barbara, addresses the prevalence of m/m, and mentions "a small but growing genre of lesbian slash--focused around such shows as "Xena: Warrior Princess," and "ER".

It was also cited in Jae's essay Young, Female, Single…? A Study of Demographics and Writing-/Reading-Habits of Fanfiction Writers and Readers.

This article was reprinted in DIAL #18, a Pros letterzine.

Excerpts

From Star Trek, slash spread to buddy-cop shows - Starsky and Hutch and Emergency! were among early favorites - and other sci-fi offerings. As copying became cheaper, fanzines, including those devoted to slash fiction, proliferated; Kinko's remains the patron saint of fandom. But then along came the Internet and slash was never the same again. Hundreds of slash sites litter the Internet, some with art, graphic and otherwise, most of them with archives full of stories. Hundreds of stories. Thousands of stories. Stories that describe cooings and couplings of the most extraordinary nature. Nothing is sacred, everything is slashed. Wonder what it would be like if Hawkeye and Trapper ever got together? Luke and Han Solo? Mulder and Skinner? The cast of Homicide: Life on the Street? Easy to find out, in novellas that range from the sweedy romantic to the eye-poppingly hard-core...
There is a small but growing genre of lesbian slash - focused around such shows as Xena: Warrior Princess, and ER, but the vast majority of slash remains devoted to men. Many of the story lines are reminiscent of romance novels - forbidden love, with obstacles both external and internal - with a striking difference. The main characters are truly equal. And the fact that women must turn to gay male relationships to find this equality says much about the way women are portrayed onTV and in the movies.

Not everyone struggles to find a deep inner meaning; for some it is simply proof that if men "like to watch," women do too. With the explosion of Internet sites, the number of people who just watch, rather than write or otherwise participate, has grown exponentially. For some this is a disquieting change in the subculture. "When I came in [to the slash community] everyone gave back," says one writer. "If you couldn't write, you collated. And the social network was stronger--you couldn't find slash if you didn't know someone. Now, you just go to [the search engine] Google and you can find hundreds of sites in two minutes."

There was, she says, a huge resistance to the Internet fans at first--many slash conferences in the early '90s dealt with the differences between the zine and Net communities. Privacy, for instance, was a big issue among early slash fans--to "out" someone was the ultimate crime. And plagiarism of one slash writer by another was also a mortal sin. Both rules still stand, but ostracizing transgressors is almost impossible when identification, and communication, is all done electronically..
Of course 90% of anything is crap," says one longtime writer. "But at least with zines there was some editing. Now people just type away and send; they don't even spell check, much less get creative feedback. I know that some people are writing for the quick emotional thrill, and that's fine. But we do try to do outreach. We tell them, if you take your time, work on your craft, you'll get an even better thrill.

For many slash writers, believability is the goal. The best scenarios capture the flavor and cadence of the show's original writing. The obsession of fandom, many say, is the desire to inhabit the characters, to know more about them than the original creator. People outside of the subculture might argue that, by definition, slash is the ultimate act of disrespect, not to mention copyright infringement. Although slash writers argue that since they make no money for their work, no law is being broken, their desire for anonymity does rise, in part, from fear of prosecution by networks or studios.

"I am so afraid that as we get more attention, they'll try to shut us down," says one writer.

Thus far, slash zines and sites have been ignored by the original writers. Roddenberry, says Penley, knew all about it from the start and, she claims, there was a coy aside to slash fans in the final "Star Trek" movie--when Kirk and Spock are reunited toward the end of the film, Kirk makes a move to embrace his Vulcan friend, who, with a twitch of an eyebrow, says, "Please, Captain, not in front of the Klingons."

"It's a tribute," says one woman, "that we love these characters so much."