Hi, My Name Is Ranty McRantypants

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Title: Hi, My Name is Ranty McRantypants
Creator: jat sapphire
Date(s): October 10, 2006
Medium: Livejournal post
Fandom: Starsky & Hutch and Kirk/Spock-centric
Topic:
External Links: Hi, My Name is Ranty McRantypants; archive link
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Hi, My Name is Ranty McRantypants is a post by jat sapphire.

For additional context, see Timeline of Slash Meta and Slash Meta.

Some Topics Discussed in the Post, and in the Comments

The Post

I should shut up, since I’m not a member of the list this discussion happened on, but…well, the Internet is for porn and the LJ is for rant. Much wanky tl;dr ahead, so be prepared.

Back in days of not-very-yore when I joined Starsky and Hutch fandom, I was surprised at the how many straight-guys-getting-their-boogie-on stories there were in the archives and posted to the lists. It was…quaint, you know? I’d been doing K/S, for chrissake, so it’s not as if I had never heard of the subgenre before. I’ve read Leslie Fish. But the Trek lists I was on had moved on to the next shiny slash subgenre, and there was a minimum of “Oh no I have feelings for a MAN whatever shall I do my virility is compromised and he won’t wanna be my bestest friend any more I must keep this a deep, dark secret until he’s hurt!!!!” Occasionally they cropped up, as in the Mistletoe challenge, which while designed for any old pairing, evoked nearly all Kirk and Spock first-times. Straight guy first times. Angsty straight-guy first times. Well, I suppose surprise-kiss fics would logically work with this kind of idea, but I think it was that set of stories that really got me started analyzing what this slash fanfic stuff was all about. I had some discussions around that time, but nobody could tell me anything about the mysterious power of angsty straight-guy first-time slash fics except that they, as individuals, liked them.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that explanation.

And when they were well written, I liked them too. Still do.

But they have this cumulative effect. I tried to ignore it and just read the stories, but, honestly, it’s like reading all those Harlequin Romances (yeah, I did) in which the woman is always younger and poorer and spunky but unworldly, so she keeps stamping her tiny delicate foot and flouncing off to get into trouble so that the big strong older richer guy can rescue her and tell her that she’s funny when she’s mad. Sooner or later the chant of “ssssexxxxiissssst” in the back of my head Would. Not. Go. Away.

The overload happened in straight-boy slash when I was an SH newbie. I began to engage straight-boy-slashers to find out whether the voice in the back of my head had any merit. Sometimes, I’m sure I was wanky, but I remember a lengthy email discussion with Helen, someone I knew as a K/Ser before finding she was on The Pits too, and I tried hard to be respectful of her views. I just wanted to know what the hell they were, because people saying “Well, I just think it’s romantic” was not helping. Slash = love stories = romantic, as far as I can tell. (I mean, basically. Obviously there are subgenres for hatesex and all kinds of other stuff, but the causal relationship between the characters’ orientation and the concept of romance was just flying past me somehow.)

While trying to think the best of most of my fellow fen, I was dumbfounded by some of the things they said, like the “slashers” at KiSCon who (I was told) said that Spock and Kirk couldn’t possibly be gay because they were heros.

A bunch of stuff happened at the Pits Yahoo group, but one of the things was the Return of Charlotte Frost, with much hoopla. I was excited, and not just because I liked her stuff on first reading. (As it happens, I don’t reread it now.) She posted a bit, and almost right away got into a discussion about why we like slash that was actually largely about why some of us like slash for reasons that completely escape others of us. She said vehemently and many times that it was essential, absolutely foundational, that Starsky and Hutch be straight and then fall in love with each other. She also, eventually, said something else very poignant and suggestive: that in her youth, she had loved Starsky and Hutch because their love for each other was so pure and intense, that the show had given her hope in her dark times, and that this was why she had at first resisted the whole idea of slash fic. But she became reconciled as long as they were not portrayed as gay. Because if they were, then their relationship would be all about the sex, and be completely drained of all the pure brotherly love that she adored about them in canon.

If you haven’t read any of CF’s S/H, the basic pattern is hurt-comfort, in which one of the guys (call him G1 for clarity) decides that the other one (G2) needs TLC and possibly sexual release, so without any initial desire to do anything but comfort, G1 approaches G2 sexually, they start to make out, and within a few pages are fucking like bunnies on crack. Later, G2 frequently says he didn’t in fact want sex with G1 but now that they’ve found out how utterly fantastic it is, they should move in together and forsake all others. There are, of course, other plot elements, but that’s the slash first-time part.

(OK, snarky summary, but can any CF fan honestly tell me this is not a pretty fair outline of most of her slash stories?)

Helen told me also about the high romance that would be destroyed if the guys were having sex because they liked to have sex with other men (and loved each other) instead of loving each other so very much that sexual desire became irrelevant. She also told me that the relationship seemed more stable to her if the guys were straight than if they were gay, because if they were gay, then they might be attracted to someone else sometime and cheat. I hope that’s a fair summary, because it lives in my memory for the parts that were all kinds of WTF to me, and I may be summarizing poorly.

And now I’m hearing, third-hand or so, that Jeylan says Real Slash is Straight Men. I won’t quote because I’m not on the list any more, and it’s invitation-only and all. But from what I hear, the arguments are the same, if not just that little bit more extreme. “Gayfic” is the kind of slash, well, the kind I write and predominantly read, in which the guys love each other as in canon and are sexually attracted, not as some weird anomaly in their lives, but in the same way that any other two people in the universe might fall in love with someone they already felt was important enough to risk their lives for. Jeylan does not like gayfic because it does not show the true transcendence of the human spirit as expressed through love.

Frankly, this kind of talk makes me so, so glad I am not straight myself.

I hope the number of straight women who feel that to be really in love one must deny one’s actual attractions, fall into the arms of somebody you feel platonically about, and hope that the ensuing sex isn’t distasteful is really SMALL. Like, confined to the three I personally know of. I hope they all three had good luck in their own journey to romantic transcendence, I really do. It gives me shivers to think otherwise.

Because looked at dispassionately, I must say I think this line of thought is so whacked that I cannot any longer even call it an argument. Love is only pure if it’s nonsexual, so the reader will enjoy watching it turn sexual because that’s so romantic? Really? It’s nonsexual, so it’ll be more stable when it’s sexual than if it were, you know, sexual. I see.

Only not.

News flash: Gay people actually can fall in love. In fact, I know you may be shocked to hear this if you’re one of the lurkers who support Jeylan in email (yes! I’m told she really did! Say that!) but even bisexual people can fall in love. The feeling is not different from the way straight people feel when they’re in love, from descriptions I’ve gotten from straight people, and if you can believe that a straight relationship can actually last and be committed despite the fact that neither partner is giving up a whole lifetime’s sexual orientation, and you are not homophobic, I do believe logic obliges you to admit that gay and bi people can have a stable, Real Love relationship.

Now the kind of life-altering, overwhelming, transcendent love that is a spiritual experience as well as a physical one is admittedly rare for everybody. I concede that this kind of love is more romantic, and also more Romantic (since my colleague Jeylan brings up the literary/social movement), but I’m not at all prepared to concede that the only way to reach it is to fall for someone whom you would normally never find attractive. I’m such a Romantic myself that I think the most intense experience is the one that engages the person on all levels. I don’t think the only metamorphosis that is meaningful is in sexual preference. I have written slash epiphanies myself, thanks, and I never needed “OMGbutI’mstraightWTF?” to do it, either.

I do think love can change us, renew us, transform us. Usually it doesn’t, in this sublunary world. But I think it can, and I do not think who you usually like to fuck is important enough to be the Big Transfigured Thing in the reborn character’s life.

So I do not write it that way. That’s not the only reason I write my slash couples as bi in most of my stories (I don’t get to read much about bi people, so I give myself that treat; also, it simplifies the relationship between fanfic and canon), but it is a big one. I don’t WANT the revelation that G1 wouldn’t totally mind fucking G2 to be the big point of my story. If that’s what someone wants to read, it’s out there, and there’s no conspiracy to stop it, but I do not do that, and it’s a mercy I’m not on a list with someone who thinks that I should shut up about what I like to write so that she can avoid having to think about the fact that I’m not even the only one who likes it.

*deep breath* There, that’s my wankiness allowance for the year, POOF! Gone. I’ll have to be good now.

Excerpts from Comments to the Post

[Charlotte Frost]: Since my name was brought up, and I'm extremely self-centered, I wanted to respond to a couple of things where my name was invoked.

A bunch of stuff happened at the Pits Yahoo group, but one of the things was the Return of Charlotte Frost,

I have not been signed into The Pits for years, I think. I certainly know I haven't discussed this subject there for many years. Do you still have those old posts? I just wondered why your topic sentence makes it sound like I posted recently about this. (No, my opinion on *this* particular subject hasn't changed, but there's a lot of feelings I have about fannish things that I have greatly changed my mind about, and I would just think anybody reading about an old post should know that it's nothing recent, lest they want to try to find it and respond directly on the list.)

was the Return of Charlotte Frost, with much hoopla.

Hoopla?? Are you kidding? Do have any proof of this "hoopla"? If there had been hoopla, I'm sure I would have remembered it. Maybe all the "hoopla" took place between you and others off list?

Geez, if I caused "hoopla", I'd like to know about it! It's such a bummer when nearly everything you hear about yourself is third-hand, and you very rarely hear from anybody directly. (There's a reason why hearsay isn't allowed in courtrooms. It's unreliable.)

And what do you mean by "Return"? I didn't post much on lists, but I did occasionally if I was inspired. Does that qualify as a "Return"? It's not like I started writing SH again.

[jat sapphire]: I have not been signed into The Pits for years, I think.

OK, I haven't been a member for years. Nope, did not save the emails--my experience with ASCEML convinced me not to EVER go email with a Yahoo list that could explode at any time. I was a website reader/poster and Proud of It, missy.

As for the hoopla, I meant that people were very happy to see you begin to post (I think you had just joined, or hadn't posted for a very long while), responded to your discussion posts, asked you about your reprint zines, etc. I remember you posted also about not getting as much feedback as would square with the number of zines sold, but in comparison to the reception to most people not posting sections of fic to that list at the time, it counted as hoopla. You're a BNF.

No, it's not that their realtionship would be all about sex,

OK, I misunderstood. I may also be confusing what you said with what people who posted in the thread said, and if so I am sorry.

As for your last paragraph, I don't ... well, I guess I do not get it. I don't see how a unique relationship, which they all are, is less special for being with a person of the same gender as other persons who might also have been love objects had circumstances been different. Maybe this is where my being bisexual myself just stops me from making sense out of something that makes perfect sense to heterosexuals, and maybe gays too. I don't think I love anyone first and foremost because he is a man or she is a woman, and I entirely fail to see how honor becomes involved at the gender level.

[Charlotte Frost]: You're a BNF.

Which means people hate my guts, right? And if they met me on the street (or at a con), they'd just as soon spit in my face as say hello?

Actually, I think I'm a Big Name Writer in SH fandom, not a BNF. To me, BNF referred to someone who was a mover and a shaker in the fandom. I never contributed anything to SH fandom, outside of the stories (and that only matters to the people who liked them.) A BNF indicates someone who is *active* in fandom and makes their presence known, so that everyone knows who they are. I never did anything in SH fandom; I was too busy writing and being flustered about how comatose it was, compared to all the enthusiasm I'd be around in K/S fandom.

Also, I only became a Big Name Writer after I'd left SH fandom. Sure, some readers had liked my stuff all along, but it wasn't the kind of thing people talked about out loud. Fans just assumed writers had ESP, and if they told their friend, "I really love Fannie Fran's stories", they seemed to assumed that Fannie Fran knew that. And then, when Fannie Fran would complain about how no one seemed interested in her stories, the readers would be oh-so-shocked and puzzled as to why Fannie Fran didn't *know* that people liked her stuff -- even though they'd never directly told her such.

By the way, it wasn't until I'd been in S&H fandom for five years that any of my stories were ever even in the running for any awards. Once, for the Huggys, my zines weren't even listed on the sheet of eligible zines (even though SH was a very small fandom at the time). As far as public SH fandom was concerned, no such author as Charlotte Frost existed, even though people were buying my zines via mail order. It was a puzzling time. Anyway, as popular as you may think the CF name is in SH fandom, those stories never won any awards. But that's okay... for some strange reason, fans don't remember award winners, but they remember "classics". I'd rather have some stories in the latter category.

(I just think a lot of people in SH fandom would be surprised that CF never won an award, and the vast majority of CF stories -- including favorites like "Compassionate's Heart" -- were never even nominated for anything.)

And if it makes you feel better, I was in The Sentinel fandom for five years and never found my footing. I had to be the most intensely hated person in the slash side of fandom, as my existence irritated a lot of people. I've been "one against the world" on lists a few times where not one single person merely tolerated, let alone agreed with, my point of view. And I have been the subject of I-hate-CF-stories threads on two separate public lists, one with dozens of posters and not one person having a contrasting opinion. I know what it's like to be ganged up on, hatred all around.

So, maybe you'll feel better about the BNF thing if you know that I've had some pretty miserable times in my last fandom where there was, in public, virtually zilch support and a lot of animosity. (Though fans were always wonderful one-on-one. One of my most flattering LoCs came from someone who, a year later, went on a list to rant about how much she hated my writing. A bit schizophrenic, that fandom was.)

The BNF label isn't anything good. It's an extremely lonely place. Be careful of envying it.

[kassidy62]: My idea of the specialness of it is 1) that G1 would and could love G2 so much that there is no boundary to it - the transcendence of the love over physicality - they can love each other and/or fuck each other, regardless, because of that love. And 2) it isn't meant, I think, to be realistic. But if the story compels you to believe it for the duration, well, then, you're believing in the power of love over everything else.

Which is verra verra romantic, if you get the reader to buy into it.

I love this type of story. I also love your stories - I think your premise of S&H as bisexual just clicks, it works, and it's both more realistic and earthy, sexual and accessible.

I very simply love all kinds of S&H stories that I qualify as good. And my good isn't necessarily what others might call good.

[jat sapphire]: You know what is ironic: I went through sh_roundup's list to read Jeylan's "Smell of Sex" hosted on your site, and barring a few paragraphs in the middle and at the end, enjoyed it very much. The thing is, I suppose those are the paragraphs that carry the theme for her, just as my own Obligatory Reference to Bisexual Desire is important for me, but can be skipped by straight-guy-slash fans (I mean, some have told me they skip those parts).

I actually don't want One True Slash Fanfic Way. At all. Even if it's mine.

[Charlotte Frost]: I fell in love with slash because it took presented-as-heterosexual characters and had them love each other, despite the body parts in involved. That tied into my teenage fantasties, and desperate wish, that there be no such thing as men and women, but only people. I wanted that so, so much, because I wanted so, so much to believe there as such a thing as love without being focused on body parts. To be worth something. To deserve to live. But it was just plain a fact that the world had farted when I was born, and I wasn't supposed to be here. So, at fifteen, I had to get rid of The Mistake.

You can poke all kinds of holes -- quite successfully -- in my logic. But that's just it: I'm not speaking as a logical computer. I'm speaking as a human being with emotions that I've since lost interest in trying to analyze. They are what they are.

I'm also not 15 anymore. In my very stories -- including, I'm pretty sure, some SH stories -- I do touch on bisexuality and I think even sometimes gayness. This is more for convenience, so I don't have to go into the trite "I don't love other guys, only you" thing all the time. I don't recall critizing a story because one or both guys were presented as gay; just like I wouldn't critisize a story for being AU, though I used to rationalize to myself why an AU can't ever be in character. I could still enjoy those stories and buy into the author's viewpoint.

I've said it years ago and I'll say it again: I want to believe that two people in love would love each other just as much without having sex. Once I have the security that the inner feelings are that "pure", then I want them to have the sex. Because sex can be a wonderful expression of love.

But saying the above doens't mean I think others are "supposed" to feel that way, or some such. (Though, granted, in my younger years, I was puzzled when I found out that not everyone felt the way I did. Just as, as an intense horse racing fan, I was rather aghast when I -- finally! -- had an opporutnity to be around other racing fans and found out -- GASP! -- that they had different opinions than me. When you've live most of your life in isolation, as I had, it's easy to forget that other people, including people you like very much, can have completely different opinions.)

For what it's worth, I've always felt I've understood the frustration some people have felt about slash being about straight characters loving only their buddy. That goes way back to my K/S days in the 70's [1], when two vocal lesbian[s] in fandom kept telling the rest of us that we were writing our stories "wrong", because they weren't accurate depictions of gay life. I understood what they were saying, but it's not like someone else could tell me what I was "supposed" to want to write about. (!)

But, to explain it to myself, I took the horse racing analogy again. If I read a story where a 160-lb character was the jockey for a horse in a flat (not steeplechase) race, I'd be going, "Hey, this story is wrong, wrong, wrong! There's no such thing as 160-lb jockeys in American flat racing!" And if the writer came back and said, "I don't care, I wanted that 160-lb character riding that horse is that race"... well, I'd be pretty miffed at their ignorance and stubborness.. and their trampling of a subject that was precious to me.

I've never claimed my point-of-view on the slash-characters-as-straight thing is realistic. I just know that it's the whole reason I was attracted to slash. Otherwise, one is just reading about two gay charcters, which is the same as reading about two straight characters. Big whoop. I think just about any "realistic" pairing is, ultimately, headed for a lot of unhappiness. But then (obviously), I don't think much of the together-forever aspect of "realistic" realtionships.

I'm much happier living with dogs. :-)

Slash is appealing to me because it's a fantasy. I don't pretend it's a road map to how to live one's life.

[jat sapphire]: I don't recall critizing a story because one or both guys were presented as gay;

No, if I recall you were explaining your own writing choices and what you understood slash to essentially be rather than critiquing any specific fic. I don't believe I've seen you respond in public to any other person's story. But then, it was a long time ago, and I was already becoming dissaffected from the list itself, so I often didn't read it; I might have missed feedback you posted.

I referred to your discussion posts on Pits as part of my own history with this topic, leading up to why I reacted so strongly to events on a list I am not even a member of now.

I've said it years ago and I'll say it again: I want to believe that two people in love would love each other just as much without having sex. Once I have the security that the inner feelings are that "pure", then I want them to have the sex. Because sex can be a wonderful expression of love.

Well, I can certainly agree with that.

No, I don't think you ever did, in the slightest degree, imply that slash was some kind of goal everyone should strive for. By the time I was talking about the transformative power of love in this rant, it was Jeylan's ideas, in as far as I know them, that I was responding to, as well as the backwash I remember wading through over and over and over on all the SH lists when I was active on them.

[Charlotte Frost]: I don't believe I've seen you respond in public to any other person's story.

To me, feedback is something that should be private. So, no, I didn't go around posting feedback on lists. But then, my last few years in SH fandom, I wasn't reading much at all, as I was pretty jaded. (My very best friend is a SH-only fan and I've only ever read a couple of her stories.)

What I *did* to, probably in the mid-late 90's on Venice Place list, was spearhead story discussions. I was disappointed in lists, overall (which were rather new then), that stories weren't ever discussed. So, I thought that, rather than complain about it, I'd *do* something about it.

So, each week (I think it was), I chose two stories and (with the authors' permission), posted critiques, with the hope that others would join in. Most of the time, one or two people did. A few times, 6-8 people participated. A few times, nobody did. I felt like I was doing almost all the talking and it got tiring, constantly trying to motivate others to participate. So, I gave it up after a couple of months or so.

SH fandom never struck me as a place where mention of specific stories or writers was welcome. It was like a Naughty topic that everyone shied away from.

But then, that was years ago.

References

  1. ^ correction in an additional post: "I meant 80's, when I was first in fandom."