Golden Idol

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Title: Golden Idol
Author(s): Henry Jenkins
Date(s): 1998
Genre: slash
Fandom: A Christmas Carol
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Golden Idol is a slash story by Henry Jenkins.

It was published in the print zine Not What You Expect in 1998.


Henry Jenkins posted many excerpts from this story at My Secret Life as a Slasher.

An example: ‘Another Idol has displaced me,’ the fair young girl in the mourning dress exclaimed, her eyes misted with tears. ‘If it can cheer and comfort you in time to come, as I would have tried to do, I have no just cause to grief.’

He gasped, stung by her sudden revelation. She knew! Nancy had found out the secret that he hadn’t uttered aloud even in private, and if she knew, who else might know? Did he? He trembled at the thought and then tried to mask his discomfort with a half-felt denial.

‘What idol has displaced you?’

He wanted to probe, hungered for an answer, and yet feared to find out how much she knew. He was certain in any case that she would not be able to put what she knew into words. His secret, as he had always known, was unspeakable and so her language was circumspect. She hinted at things without saying them directly.

But how could she know? He had always acted the part of the perfect gentleman with her, since that day long ago when they first spoke of marriage and began to imagine a future together. He had taken her to dances and let her show off her new beau to her blushing friends. He had brought her flowers and had dinner at her house. As time passed, they had moved from speculations of marriage to treating it as something that would happen someday, then soon, then in a matter of months, whenever he got his affairs in order, whenever he was sure he would be able to support them. He was eager to believe that things could work out between them, that they were in love, even if he often had trouble finding those feelings inside himself, even if his emotions towards her lacked the intensity with which romantic love was described in books or songs.

He danced the dance — did it matter so much that he didn’t really quite hear the music? He held her hand, on occasions when it was deemed appropriate, and stroked it softly, admiring her slender digits, running his fingers ever so gently along her wrist. He kissed her playfully on the ear when that was appropriate, uncertain if this was too much of an advance for someone in their position or not enough of one. He always played the part, always aware of an audience that included her but also many others. He tried to convince her (not to mention himself) that all of this came naturally, spontaneously, grew from honest emotions (which he was increasingly doubtful that anyone in his position really felt.)

From the Author: Slashcast Insider Interview with Dr. Henry Jenkins (November 4 and December 2, 2006)

It was inspired by Patrick Stewart's performance of A Christmas Carol, where he sort of- the ways in which he talked about Scrooge and Marley in that seemed to bring out to me this interesting set of questions about these two. You know, why does Marley return from the dead in order to transform Scrooge? Why did Scrooge make the move into Marley's apartment after Marley's death? Why did Scrooge never take Marley's name off the- off the mast head of his office? Could this be tied to the reason Scrooge is so frustrated and angry about Christmas? Why, of all the scenes of Scrooges life, does Marley never show anything of their life together?

Those are sort of questions that started to intrigue me and there's a dialogue in the story, uh, where Scrooge and his fiancé- he's sort of, she's says 'there's another that's come between us' and she talks about money as if it was a sexual rival. 'A golden idol,' she says at one point. And I got very interested in what would happen if Marley was in fact that "golden idol" that - this is young Scrooge and Marley, not the guy who's jaw drops, but the young man he must have been - what was their relationship like? And I ended up constructing a story where Scrooge really never could accept what Marley was offering him, closed himself off from that experience because he was so worried about what the world was- would think of him, which is very inconsistent with Scrooge and what we learn of his boyhood and his young adulthood, and that their partnership became all that was left of this sort of erotic relationship. So it ended up being a slash story about a couple that never came together, a slash story about sex that never quite happened. But it was always poignantly there as a presence until all that was left was the money that moved from one hand to the other, and that was what remained of their relationship. And then Marley, by coming back from the dead, is forcing Scrooge to confront what he couldn't accept then, about himself and about his place in the world, and by showing everything in his life except Marley, he sort of shows him this big empty hole that could have been and never was.

So that was the slash story I actually published. It was sort of my attempt to play around with the margins of the genre. I was sort of nervous to write a story right smack in some mainstream fandom, as someone who'd written about fandom as much as I had, but I wanted to sort of share some other ways of thinking about the emotional dynamics between men. That's part of what slash is all about.

From My Secret Life as a Slasher (November 14, 2006)

From My Secret Life as a Slasher:

So, my dirty little secret is finally out in the open. A few weeks ago, I did a podcast interview for Emma Grant at Slashcast about slash fan fiction and spoke openly about the fact that I have one published story out there in a relatively obscure little zine called Not What You Think. As a gift to all of my readers out there in LJ-Land, I figured, now that the cat is out of the bag, that I would share some excerpts from the story itself and for the rest of you, I figured I might use this to offer some reflections on the nature of slash as a form of critical commentary, an issue which I raised here in the blog a few weeks ago. The story is called “Golden Idol.” It was published, if you can call it that, in 1998 and promptly disappeared into obscurity. Here’s how the story starts:
Part of the pleasure of publishing the story for the first time in the context of a multimedia zine was to let people slowly discover for themselves who this story was about. I got the idea for writing a Scrooge/Marley slash story while listening to a tape of Patrick Stewart’s one man show version of the Christmas Carol. Suddenly, for the first time, the scene when Scrooge breaks up with his finance Nancy had popped out at me. It was one of the few times in the entire novel that we hear from someone who can see inside Scrooge and really understands what he is thinking. Normally what characters say about Scrooge is projected onto him from a more distanced perspective. I was intrigued by this phrase, “a Golden Idol,” and the way that she presents this “idol” as if it were a flesh and blood rival for his affections. She most likely is referring to his workaholic tendencies and to his greed, those traits we most associate with Scrooge, yet what if she wasn’t? What if there really were a secret rival who stood between Scrooge and his intended bride?

Every line in this scene comes directly from the novel. What I was doing here was recontextualizing Dicken’s original language to offer up an alternative interpretation of what the characters might have been thinking — this integration of original dialogue and internal monologue is a common literary device in fan fiction. I was rewriting it for the purpose of critical commentary and in the process, I was trying to include as many elements from the original novel as possible while offering explanations for the character issues which have long concerned literary critics writing about the book. Even the idea that the partnership between Scrooge and Marley might have a homosocial/homoerotic undertone would not seem radical in the era of queer literary criticism. (For more on this point, see the slash chapter in Textual Poachers). But from an academic perspective, the fact that I used a fictional form rather than an analytic essay to construct this argument might have seen nonconventional.

The Victorians had been very interested in using economic vocabularies to talk about the expenditure of bodily fluids that took place through sexual encounters and so I played with this to describe the relations between the two men.
My story contains very little sex in the end — this is unusual for slash but not unheard of. What interested me was the emotional life of the characters and that is certainly the driving force behind most slash. I have them make love one time in a burst of enthusiasm on Christmas eve and then have Scrooge, alone in the dark, feel shame and crawl away, never to speak of the experience again. The closeness they feel is shattered by their efforts to consummate their relationship sexually (the reverse of what happens in most slash). And this prepares us for the last phases of their life together.