History of Slash Fandom

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Fandom: slash, media fandom
Dates: 1970s - present
See also: Timeline of Slashed Sources, Slash Controversies, Slash Tropes

Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

This article's focus is m/m slash.

Also see: History of Femslash Fandom.

Slash Down Through History

While homosexual, bisexual, and transgender people have always existed, people in former times did not think of sexual orientation, identity, or gender the same way they do today. Labeling and definition of these things began in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Rather, sex was thought of in terms of active and passive partners.[1][2][3]

There was also less specified difference between a canon story and fanworks. In a sense, everything was fanworks. Entertainment was not really owned by anyone, but was the property of all. Stories were passed on through oral tradition, told and retold over thousands of years, with ideas being added or dropped along the way. Therefore, if you heard a story that did not say the hero/heroine had a same-sex lover, you could add that when you told the story yourself. If you did, that would be a slash fanwork.[4]

Legendary heroes in same-sex relationships date back to humanity's earliest recorded history.[5] Same-sex desire is depicted in ancient art and poetry from all over the world, right back to the Epic of Gilgamesh.[6] In Greek mythology and history, heroic same-sex couples are quite normal. Perhaps the best known today is Alexander the Great and Hephaistion, but there are many others. In the Bible, David formed a relationship early in life with Jonathan, the son of King Saul, who "loved him as his own soul". Some scholars think it is possible that Jesus Christ had a relationship with the disciple John, who was called "the beloved". In China, the beautiful story of the "cut sleeve" became a metaphor for romantic love between men. [7] Japanese art and literature have a long tradition of male same-sex romances, including a tradition similar to Greek "erastês and erômenos" (man and boy).[8]

Slash and the 1970s

While it is possible that fans wrote and shared slash stories about Holmes and Watson[9] Bruce and Dick[10] Nayland Smith and Dr. Petrie, Ilya and Napoleon[11], James and Artemus, or Buz and Tod,[12] it was Star Trek: The Original Series that popularized the slash subgenre. The first such story may have been The Ring of Soshern, written by Jennifer Guttridge in 1967 or 1968 and circulated only privately; the first slash published in a zine was A Fragment Out of Time by Diane Marchant in 1974. Star Trek slash stories first began to circulate in the mid-1970s, slowly picking up steam through the end of the decade with entire fanzines devoted to slash, and eventually slash conventions.

In the earliest days of Star Trek fandom (1966-1972 or so), there were few if any relationship stories in the sense of characters exploring their feelings about each other. Most fan fiction was devoted to creating the equivalent of episodes or scenes of the show, including straight-ahead adventure tales, psychological dramas, or murder mysteries. Some were submitted to the Star Trek creators for consideration as fourth season episodes should another network pick up the show after cancellation. Judy Burns' "And Who Will Guide the Blind" and Jacqueline Lichtenberg's "Remote Control", were two such episodes.[13] Longer narratives included what-ifs like Alternate Universe 4, expansions on alien cultures like Kraith or Nu Ormenel, and glimpses into the Mirror Universe, like the award-winning Federation and Empire. Relationships -- romantic and otherwise -- were extremely important, but not at the expense of other story elements. Stories had to be about something; twenty pages of Kirk musing about Spock's feelings toward him would not have been well received by most early fans.[14]

Much of the very earliest fan fiction did not involve sexual relationships or romantic involvement. Fans of that era had never even heard the word "pairing". When characters did become romantically involved, it was always heterosexual, as in the Star Trek television series. Original female characters were as likely to appear as canon characters; this is before 1973 and the beginning of the Mary Sue hysteria.

Relationship stories seemed to come in with a second wave of Star Trek fans who were less interested in science fiction or space exploration than they were in the characters and their relationships. According to Joan Verba in her history of Trek fan fiction, Boldly Writing, both slash stories and "perfect" Mary Sue type characters were produced by newcomer amateur authors who had become attracted to the series. Having little or no background in science fiction, they saw Star Trek primarily as a "buddy" show about three guys exploring the galaxy together. Verba says these writers perceived a necessity to isolate the characters away from the Enterprise, the Federation, and any and all characters or storylines that would have been essential to a regular series episode but were a mere "distraction" to relationship fans.

These, not the very earliest fan writers, were the ones whose writing focused on emotions and relationships between the characters rather than on plot. In the second edition of The World of Star Trek, David Gerrold talks about how this even happened within canon as the TV series progressed and then the films were made; in the beginning, the show was about the Enterprise and space exploration, with James Kirk heading a diverse crew of specialists; but fan devotion to the characters and their actors, especially to Spock, caused the mission of the Enterprise to be diminished in favor of stories about Kirk and Spock and their teamwork and friendship.[15]

The term "slash" to designate a homosexual relationship in fan fiction came from the use of the / -- the virgule, or forward slash, punctuation mark, inserted between names. This practice probably began somewhere around 1977. Prior to this time, the virgule had also been used to designate stories that focused on non-sexual friendships between characters (today, a & is often used for friendship).

See Slash Terminology for much more on the history of / and other important terms, how they were originally used and are still used in fandom today.

K.S. Langley's history

According to Klangley56,

The first piece of published slash in "Star Trek" fandom was A Fragment Out of Time by Diane Marchant, in Grup #3 (September 1974, Carrie Brennan, ed.). Grup was the only adult fanzine being printed at the time (and tame by today's standards). Diane's story really was only a story fragment (a couple of pages of "he" and "him"—no names mentioned, but an illustration by Diane of Kirk and Spock was included). Because it was published in an adult zine, for a more specialized audience and likely with a small print run, fandom as a whole did not register this piece as "the first published K/S."

Other than that, K/S fiction (not yet called "K/S") was being written and circulated fan-to-fan and talked about underground.

Jennifer Guttridge, one of the earliest and most popular writers of the fan-circulated K/S stories, later allowed one of her early stories, "The Ring of Soshern" -- considered by many an early classic -- to be published in a fanzine (Alien Brothers #1, 1987, Helena Seabright, ed.).[16] She also wrote stories which were published in gen zines, some of which some fans later reported as leading them to the idea of K/S.

In Grup #4 (September 1975) Diane Marchant printed "Pandora's Box -- Again," a brief essay on the relationship between Kirk and Spock. Still pretty indirect, but it sparked the first publicly printed discussion of the K/S premise, in the letterzine The Halkan Council (beginning with #12, November 1975, Sandy Y. and Shirley H., eds.). This led some fans to begin writing stories about Kirk and Spock, most notably Gerry Downes and Leslie Fish. Gerry made it to print first, with Alternative: Epilog To Orion (June 1976), which she wrote, illustrated, edited and published.

Alternative (unlike "Fragment Out of Time") got a lot of attention and really set the match to the fire -- although K/S fiction was not alone in the eye of the storm -- adult fan fiction in general was just coming into its own and being hotly derided by many fans. Furious debates raged in private conversations and public forums. Much of the public debate I researched and provided for publication in the fanzine K/S Legacy (five volumes, 2007, Beyond Dreams Press). When K/S was the only example of what later came to be called slash fandom, debates surrounded the issue on several levels. People disagreed because they were anti-homosexuality (religious reasons, homophobic reasons, etc.). They disagreed because they thought people had no right to do that to Gene Roddenberry's characters. They disagreed because they thought it wasn't in character for Kirk and Spock, or illogical given the premise of the show. (Similar objections cropped up in later discussions in other slash fandoms, as well.)

Thrust (1978), the first all-K/S anthology zine. At the time, it was considered to have a shockingly explicit cover. Note: This image has been marked as sexually explicit and has been minimised.

Warped Space, a general interest Star Trek zine edited and published by Lori C., printed every 10th issue as a "special adult issue." The contents of Warped Space #20 (October 1976) primarily were what is now called "het," but it also featured the K/S story "Shelter" by Leslie Fish and Joanne A. Warped Space decided to expand their adult issue to a new and separate title, leading to Obsc'zine #1 (March 1977), which included "Poses" by Leslie Fish (the sequel to "Shelter"). Also in March of 1977, Contact made the only exception to its gen focus to publish a short K/S piece, "The First Step" by Susan D. Sensuous Vulcan (Diane S., ed.) came out in September 1977. It, too, was a mixture of het and K/S, including Desert Heat by Gayle F., the first in her Cosmic Fuck series. Because of issues resulting from Diane’s inability to fill orders for this zine, this story was reprinted in Naked Times #2 (1979, Pon Farr Press). The next two stories in the series, "Beyond Setarcos" and "Night of the Dragons," were printed in Thrust (1978, Carol F., ed.), the first all-K/S anthology zine. The fourth story in the series, "Between Friends" (Obsc'zine #3, May 1978) was the first published menage a trois story in ST fandom, featuring an encounter between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. (In 1986 the series was reprinted in a collected edition.) Another popular Leslie Fish K/S story was "This Deadly Innocence or 'The End of the Hurt/Comfort Syndrome'" (Naked Times #3, 1979). This story was significant because it was based on a theory held by some K/S fans who felt that anti-K/S fans who were deeply enamored of Kirk and Spock hurt/comfort stories actually were in denial about K/S and that hurt/comfort was disguised K/S.

A few other notable early K/S titles (by no means an exhaustive listing): Alternative: Book 2/3 (Gerry Downes, 1979), Nightvisions (Susan J., Carol F., 1979), Mirrors of Mind and Flesh (Gayle F., 1979), Companion (three issues published between 1978 and 1980, Ellen K. and Carol H., eds.), T'hy'la (first published in 1981 and still in publication today, Kathy R. ed.), Out of Bounds (six issues published from 1981-1984, Pam R. and Lezlie S., eds.), and Cheap Thrills (four issues published in 1981-1982, Ellen K. and Carol H., eds.)

In May 1977 at SekWester Con, Too (a fan-run con held in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and a precursor to the MediaWest*Cons still held each year in Michigan), discussion of K/S got even more public, with the first panel discussion on the topic: Kirk and Spock: Do They or Don't They? (I provided a transcript of this panel for publication in K/S Legacy.)[17]

Slash and the 1980s

By the 1980s, more fandoms, including Starsky and Hutch, The Professionals and Dirty Harry had arrived on the slash scene. As more m/m pairs were slashed, fans started to conceptualize slash as a genre unto itself rather than individual phenomena unique to particular characters.

In the early days of K/S fandom, there was only K/S, and only a few other same-sex couples were even on the horizon. So people thought of K/S as unique and special, and S/H (Starsky/Hutch) as only slightly less unique and special, and it was only until a pairing like H/J [referring to Harry and Johnny from the Dirty Harry films] emerged from the slash-fantasy soup and crawled up on land that fans began to generalize from the unique, special, deep-friendship-based pairings to the more abstract phenomenon of "slash." More specifically, my hypothesis is that it takes a critical mass of at least three same-sex pairings in the fan fiction produced and read by a common core of media fans to generate the concept of "slash" in the abstract. [18]

In 1982, this tentative step towards viewing slash as a genre is seen in one fan's review of the gen Starsky and Hutch zine L.A. Vespers:

What’s going on is that neither the characters nor the fandom reading and writing about them dare deal with the serious implications of love. Fear of the wrath of the Authorities, whether a fictional Los Angeles government or a very real Spelling-Goldberg legal department [19] keep the characters from any direct expression of their painfully intense feelings and keep the writers from any direct expression of the problem. The result is that the characters circle helplessly around each other, unable to approach closer, or pull away... Neither life nor art can long survive such an untenable position. Sooner or later the barrier will break, the Authorities will be routed, the lovers will finally embrace, and S/H will take its place beside K/S as just another acceptable genre and theme.[20][21]

Klangley56 says,

S&H was the next big US fandom to publish slash. S/H fandom went through some of the same do they/don't they debate that had rampaged through K/S fandom, but a lot of S&H fans also were ST fans, so they had heard it all before and fewer people expressed shock at the concept. The first S/H zine was a non-explicit single story British publication, Forever Autumn, by S. Meek and Sue S., (March 1980). The next published S/H piece was also British, a short story, "Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn," by Pamela D. (10:13 Vol. 1, 1980/81, Terri B. and Chris P., eds.).
Code 7 #1 (1981). Quote from the title page: "This is a privileged and private publication; it was sent to you because you know the value and the need for discretion. You are being trusted, if you misuse this trust, you will be harming not only the contributors but all of S/H fandom. Please keep this zine entirely to yourself! Thank you."

The first US S/H zine was Code 7 #1 (1981, Karen B., ed.). Karen had been advertising this zine (and some other S/H zines) for upcoming publication within the pages of The S&H Letterzine when suddenly it was listed as cancelled with no explanation. In reality, the zine hadn't been cancelled. Word had gone through fandom of troublemakers who were planning to out these slash zines to TPTB [the actors and studio responsible for the show]. So Karen went underground with the zine, publishing it with no names listed: no authors, no artists, no editor.

In the meantime, however, other S/H was going forward, such as Graven Images by Jane Aumerle (pre-S/H, 1981). Terri and Chris published a "Statement of Intent" in the Letterzine, stating that they were not going to be intimidated into pushing any slash material in their zines underground. [Billie Phillips] and Pam R. began advertising Trace Elements (which was published in 1982). Leslie Fish jumped feet first into the fray, asserting she would publish a fanzine that couldn't be used against the fandom. This resulted in Pushin' The Odds (which didn’t see publication until 1983), a mixed gen and slash zine, with slash stories printed in blue ink on red-patterned paper to render them "copy-proof." It also made them almost unreadable without the sheet of red plastic that was included to put over the page. She also required a signed "statement of compliance," numbered the copies, and used coded hole-punches on the pages, supposedly to identify the purchaser of any copy that "fell into unauthorized hands." However, by the time that zine saw print, everybody was going ahead with their S/H zines anyway, regardless of threatened repercussions. Later issues of Code 7 (there were four total) were published openly in fandom. There was supposed to be a second issue of Leslie’s zine, but that never materialized.

Another early slash fandom in this period was H/J. This fandom was unique in a couple of ways. First, its creation can be specifically attributed to two fans, Ruth Kurz and Teri White Second, it was the first time a fandom existed that had no gen component. H/J was created and perpetuated as slash, period. It was based on characters in the film Magnum Force as played by Clint Eastwood (Harry) and David Soul (Johnny). Both Ruth and Teri started out in Star Trek fandom. Teri also wrote some ST gen and some of the earliest K/S. At the time they created H/J fandom, they were active in S&H fandom. H/J initially was underground -- not in zines, being circulated in manuscript form (like the Pros Circuit stories). As word got out and more fans got interested, they started publishing them in zine form, starting in 1980. Teri was involved primarily in the first several zines, then Ruth took over the primary writing chores. Ruth also did most of the artwork that was included (the zines also were liberally illustrated with "cut and paste" photos -- literally cut and paste, not in computer terms). Over 40 zines were published, and it still was being published as late as 1991. H/J fandom drew contributions from many noted fan writers, poets, and artists of the day.

In British fandom, The Professionals and Blake's 7 were on the air during this period and their fandoms developed overseas but didn't migrate to the US immediately. Other fans would have more information on these early fandoms, since I deliberately was avoiding acquiring more fandoms at the time and therefore got into both of these fandoms a little later.[17]

Many of the same fans who were active in S/H and K/S fandom in the UK also enjoyed these home-grown alternatives, although there was a view in some quarters that these were 'low copies' of superior American originals. Relative TV production values and budgets fuelled this argument. Nevertheless slash fiction emerged for both at a very early stage, with the first known Bodie/Doyle slash stories, "Power Play", "Death Game" and "Deal" being written by Sue S., one of the authors of Forever Autumn. A dated copy of "Power Play" is known to exist in the hands of one of the fandom's archivists. Klangley56 adds,

Certainly B7 was being slashed in the early eighties. "The Professionals" was a fandom where gen was the exception and slash the rule. Pros fandom also featured the unusual phenomenon of a very active "story circuit," by which the bulk of the fan fiction was being distributed, fan-to-fan. Karen B. took on distribution in the States, establishing a "Circuit Library." Just like a real library, fans checked out stories and received them in the mail, to read, copy if desired, and return. As originals became more tattered and less legible, fans were recruited for re-typing duty.[17]

Despite the underground quality, even as early as 1984, some fans must have felt enough "slash weary" for a zine ed to run this advertisement for a proposed zine called "Warriors/Lovers":

"Are you tired of zines K/S, S/H, or H/J? Is your imagination whispering, 'What about other slash pairs in history, films, fantasy, horror, or TV?' Well, rejoice... This will not be your ordinary '/' zine." [22]

Another proposed zine in 1986 was called "No Frills":

"Tired of the same old slash? Too much K/S, S/H, H/J and B/D? Need something new and completely different? If you've got a short story with an uncommon slash that needs a home, send it here. If you want to read some, then SASE. The only other condition is, no current shows (who needs the hassles?)" [23]

Case Study: Creators' Views on Slash: Chilling Effects in Robin of Sherwood Fandom

See also: TPTB's Involvement with Fandom, Homoerotic Subtext and TPTB
editorial from the zine Herne's Son

Fandoms with little or no opportunity for slash don't produce a lot of slash. That's no surprise. But at least one 1980s fandom with a lot of slash potential, Robin of Sherwood, practiced a sort of self-censorship. It openly discouraged slash, citing the direct wishes of the actors and/or producers. These requests seem to have been enough to keep the slash element small and quiet — a surprising phenomenon to modern fans. Today, creators would be far less likely to single out slash, and the changes in fanfiction distribution, from print zines to the internet, would make fandom self-policing far more difficult.

From an editorial in Herne's Son #2:

The adult material in this magazine is being done with the knowledge and permission of Richard Carpenter. 'Herne's Son' was conceived as a magazine largely for the publication of RoS material of an adult nature, although stories from any fantasy universe (RoS included) will be accepted and need not be of an adult nature. However, since RoS fandom was made possible by the imagination and efforts of Richard Carpenter, in accordance of his wishes, we will not be accepting or publishing stories involving 'slash' (homosexual) encounters. It is, after all, his universe.

editorial from the zine Forbidden Forest

From an editorial in Forbidden Forest #2, a zine that had two slash stories involving minor characters:

Next, there's story content. The purpose of 'Forbidden Forest' is to provide an outlet for those stories which, by nature of their content, really couldn't be published in other 'zines. This doesn't limit you to stories involving explicit sexual situations. Graphic violence, extreme physical situations or horror elements are also welcome options... This brings us to our last point -- slash ("/") stories. While we have absolutely nothing against homosexuals or gay relationships (as should be evident from two slash stories in this issue), we will not accept any slash stories featuring major RoS characters. Our definition of slash is based on Kip Carpenter's wishes as expressed at Son of Herne's Con and Weekend in Sherwood: Neither Robin, Robert, Marion or any of the Merries can willingly be in a homosexual relationship. Guy of Gisburne is definitely 'straight' but the Sheriff can go either way. Any other characters (within reason) are fair game. This leaves a great many possibilities to write about gay characters without spoiling the integrity of those who aren't.

From the letterzine Cousins #6:

The only true no-no in our fandom is slash (this comes from Kip himself), otherwise you are free to wander wherever the muse leads you.[24]

And from Cousins #8:

You may or may not be aware that Richard Carpenter has requested that fan writers not create homosexual situations using characters who are heterosexual in the TV stories. I feel that we are fortunate to have the series creator so actively involved in the fandom, and don't think it's unreasonable to honor this one request he's made. He also mentioned that homosexual relationships involving characters such as the sheriff, Philip Mark, Tom and Dickon - or your own original gay and lesbian characters - are fine by him. [25][26]

Slash and the 1990s

In 1998, a fan, Zoe Rayne wrote:

A lot of what makes a show or pairing slashy, according to this theory, has to do with the element of danger intrinsic to the relationship. In the 1970s, K/S was a dangerous concept simply because the writers put Kirk and Spock in a homosexual relationship. However, attitudes are changing in the 1990s. To paraphrase a fellow Escapade attendee [ Shoshanna ], "If Mulder and Krycek are having sex and Mulder's biggest concern is 'Does this mean I'm gay?' then the writer needs to seriously re-evaluate their story concept." [27]

Slash and the Arrival of the Internet

The arrival of the Internet profoundly impacted slash fandom and fan fiction. But first some context:

"[My friend] Snady told me waaaaay back when she began teaching me about fandom, that fan fic was the fannish conversation. Since she was a slash fan first and foremost, that statement probably applied mostly to that hidden fandom, not as much to the biggies like ST and DrWho. The easiest, and for some the only, way fans could communicate with each other about their love of the source was by writing stories and in letterzines about those stories (i.e., Chalk and Cheese). It was slow, and you had to treasure what you could find (stories, other fans). I think that's why some fandoms lasted so long and were so prolific, and then just dropped over the horizon, never to be seen again. The internet changed the fannish conversation fundamentally."[28]

With the arrival of the Internet, more and more fans began turning to the electronic format to communicate and share fanfiction. Usenet was felt to be too public for slash fans who rarely found acceptance even among the fan communities and early online inhabitants. Members only mailing lists sprung up with FTP fanfic archives. Eventually however more and more slash fans began posting their fic and discussions on websites and public forums. But given the relatively global reach of the Internet, some slash fans were left with an illusion of privacy:

"Even when we post slashfic on the internet many of us feel that we are not being public. Our sites may be known only to slash fans in our particular fandom. Our lists may be restricted or even closed to everyone except the current members. The belief that we are exposing ourselves only to other peers in the slash community makes us feel safe and secure." [29]

Early on, many fans were aware that their online participation, particularly in some forums, mailing lists and USENET was public, visible and quotable:

LURKERS - We had a minor furore on Compuserve recently when someone made a hard copy of a rather heated discussion and showed it to some friends at a small con. At what point does one need permission from the original writers to publish more widely something that was originally made as a public comment on a network?

There are both pros and cons to this argument. A public statement is there for anyone to read, but when writing [to a mailing list like this], we always feel that we are actually addressing the people that we see regularly on the list.

I feel it is a touch like a conversation in a room with ten or fifteen other people. I don't feel as though I'm addressing 200 of you. On the other hand, I like to think that anything I'd be happy to say here, I'd be happy to say anywhere.

Actually, though, its not quite true. When speaking to one group of friends, I'll say things that I wouldn't say to another. I wouldn't discuss slash with PBM friends for example."[30]

With the increased use of the World Wide Web, by 1995 some slash fans felt exposed and worried that even the mention of slash or slash fan fiction on websites was dangerous - both to the individual fans who created the websites or who were mentioned on the website as well as for slash fandom in general. They worried about persecution and outing and felt that fandom was jumping recklessly into the use of a technology without regard to it consequences. There were calls for more discussion, for getting permission from the community before creating websites that mentioned slash or posting your own fan fiction, and the need for a fandom wide consensus before using the World Wide Web. On one mailing list newsletter, there were requests that fans not mention author or publisher names when reviewing zines, even in private one-to-one e-mail. [31] The fact that many of these discussions were taking place via the new medium (mailing lists) was an irony that was rarely mentioned. And like most new technologies, the practicality and advantages of the New quickly overran the debate.

Still, not all fans felt the Internet and the World Web Web posed dangers to fandom. In 1995, one fan argued:

"My opinion is that the more open we are about slash and our interest in it, the more others will get used to the idea, and the more we openly support each other, the more people will see that we're not the Devil's Spawn, we're mostly just the Middle-Aged Women Next Door, women who will buy Girl Scout cookies from their children, not lure them into a den of iniquity. The more we hide, the more we look as if we *have* something to hide." [32]

In 1996, Sandy Herrold posted the results of a survey of the members of Virgule-L the largest (then) slash mailing list. In 1997, Sandy Herrold outlined some of the conflicts between online or net fans and the fans who had entered slash fandom primarily through conventions and print zines: Internet Fans Controversy Du Jour (Sandy Herrold). In the commentary she outlines the rapid shifts taking place in fannish perceptions of the Internet - and one another - between 1993 and 1997.

Many fans who first discovered slash via the internet not only didn't enter fandom in traditional ways, but remained totally unaware of the conflicts described by Herrold. The combination of the more secretive nature of invitation-only mailing lists and the complete freeforall and lack of mentoring elsewhere led to an environment where the older culture was often invisible to newbies. Early X-Files fandom had a particularly large number of such fans.

In 1998, a Pros fan wrote an article called "Slash and the Internet: Good or Bad?" and described her mixed feelings:

"I'm just starting to discover that there's an awful lot of slash available out there in the wide blue electronic yonder; and while I'm enjoying the stories I've found, it's made me think about the possible consequences. Perhaps it's a mixed blessing - secrecy has always been a large constituent of this genre and I'm not sure that putting it onto the internet is in the best interests of slash fandom in general and the slash fan (namely myself) in particular. My own feelings are, I must admit, somewhat ambivalent. It seems too public, too exposed, and yet amid the dross of some truly awful stuff there are a few real gems that might never have seen the light of day in any other forum. My own entry into slash was somewhat bizarre, a little bit like finding and following the yellow brick road and only a great deal of luck brought me to Oz. How many other potential slash fans are there out there? Potential slash fans who never found the yellow brick road or worse, didn't even know that the yellow brick road existed? How many unlucky people would never, could never find their way into our small, comfortable, exclusive world? Perhaps that's what worries me. We are no longer so exclusive, so secret, so special. But I still want to share my sense of wonder, of belonging, of being in the know, and to meet up with people, both those I know and those new to me, who are pervs just like me and are a little, or even a lot, in love with a character on a small screen or in a lovingly produced zine." [33]

By November 28, 1996 slash became a defined term on Yahoo's website index with links to web pages discussing slash. Among the items linked to:

Slash Comes Into Its Own

The first slash fandoms all had gen fandoms growing alongside them (Trek, S&H, B7), and many fans read all of the fanfic available for their shows. But at some point, fans started to describe themselves as K/S fans (instead of Trekkers/Trekkies), and later as slash fans, rather than media fans, or rather than fans of specific shows. Eventually slash fans start to put on cons that were not just slash-tolerant like MediaWestCon, or slash-friendly like ZebraCon, but full slash cons such as IDICon, Escapade, and others. On Virgule-L, to help someone figure out if she was a Highlander fan or a slash fan, a poster came up with this question: "would you rather 1) read a HL gen story, or 2) read a slash story in a fandom you know nothing about". A lot of us answered '2'.

In October 1997, Sandy Herrold posted to Slashpoint a list of all the other public, active slash (or at least strongly slash-friendly) mailing lists she'd found[35]

Well, so far I have 28 lists! Who knew...

How about I make it easier, and you just write me if you belong to a list not mentioned here:

vidder, HLWC, FicWriters
HLX, SXF, DSX, Jadfe, XSlash-stories, TerrSit, SAABfic
ROG-L, Dief, DueSlash, XSlash, M/K, CI5,
Channel-L, Senad, SpaceCity, VenicePlace
Better Living Thru TrekSmut
Big Dicks, Tight Bums
Alt.startrek.creative.erotica.moderated mailing list
Paris/Kim Slash Party, Chakotay/Paris Support Group

This wasn't a complete list; it left out existing private lists like Virgule-L, and she ended the post by asking for clarification on several lists she was unsure about (which brought the number to 28), as well as the request for people to send her more names. But even so, it covered not only general slash lists and vidding, but also specific, fairly well-known lists for Highlander, Sentinel, Due South, Forever Knight, X-Files, Wiseguy, Space: Above and Beyond, The Professionals, Man From U.N.C.L.E., Blake's 7, Starsky & Hutch, Star Trek, and Star Trek: Voyager. Just two years earlier, slash was far enough in the closet that slash fans in Due South fandom had been unwilling to out themselves as slash fans on the sole DS mailing list.

A few months later, at Escapade 1998, Constance Penley described herself as "a slash fan, and a fan of slash fandom," saying that "…except for some radical sex workers, slash fandom is the only place I know where women of all ages and sizes can come together and be validated for their lust".

Meta/Further Reading


  1. ^ Homosexuality in ancient Greece on Wikipedia
  2. ^ K.J. Dover, Greek Homosexuality (Harvard University Press, 1978, 1989).
  3. ^ The Invention of the Heterosexual. An interview with Hanne Blank, author of Straight, whose partner is neither fully male, nor fully female due to a chromosomal difference.
  4. ^ See Mary Renault's novel The Persian Boy (Pantheon 1972), the story of Alexander the Great and his (historically documented) love for Bagoas, a Persian eunuch-courtesan. Bagoas entertains Alexander with legends of the Persian king Kyros, and at one point makes up a tale of Kyros' affair with a Median boy. "I had made up every word of it, and could have done better if I had had more Greek. For all I knew, Kyros never loved a boy in all his life."
  5. ^ LGBT Themes in Mythology at Wikipedia.
  6. ^ Same-Sex Desire at the British Museum.
  7. ^ Homosexuality in China at Wikipedia.
  8. ^ The Mirror of Male-Male Love, Archived version at The Comics Journal, June 10, 2010, discusses this more fully.
  9. ^ The Sherlock Holmes canon gave rise to the first true media fandom. Holmes and Watson fanfic (the word was "pastiche" back then) has existed since their first appearance in 1887; the earliest such story -- by J.M. Barrie -- appeared in 1893. Speculation on Holmes' and Watson's relationship has run rampant from the beginning, and did not just begin with more recent adaptions of their stories. Thus, plenty of drawerfic portraying the famous pair as a gay couple likely existed decades before Gene Roddenberry was even born. Holmes and Watson may behave in ways that appeal to modern slash fans, but their intelligence, culture and refinement need to be contextualized within the values of Victorian England, where they were more likely to be seen as class traits.
  10. ^ Dr. Fredric Wertham, writing about comic books' contribution to degeneracy and criminal behavior in his book Seduction of the Innocent, wrote that not only did Batman and Robin's adventures contain gay subtext but that their relationship was obviously homosexual even to child readers. He later testified about this before Congress. Cultural reviewer Will Brooker revealed in his book Batman Unmasked that gay men had told Wertham in interviews that they saw Batman as gay; he did not make it up. It's very likely that fan fiction or fan-drawn comics of this nature existed, no doubt kept extremely private, perhaps similar to Charles Crumb's work featuring child actor Bobby Driscoll.
  11. ^ Considerable evidence points to The Man From UNCLE being the first modern media fandom, embraced by the same science fiction writers and fans who would go on to enshrine Star Trek. See Francesca Coppa, "A Brief History of Media Fandom" in Fan Fiction and Fan Communities in the Age of the Internet: New Essays, ed. by Karen Hellekson and Kristina Busse (McFarland, 2006), p. 41.
  12. ^ A Senate probe into the role of television in juvenile delinquency focused on Route 66 because of its strong appeal to children and teenagers, questioning the appropriateness of sex and romance in the storylines. A memo from CBS network head James Aubrey, used as evidence in the hearings, specifically asked for more sex on Route 66, saying that neither protagonist had expressed the “normal wants of a young man... to get involved with a girl or even to kiss her”.
  13. ^ Anthropologist Burns had previously written "The Tholian Web" with absolutely no writing experience other than a screenwriting class, simply to create a Star Trek story for money to go to Africa. According to Joan Verba in Boldly Writing, Burns never actually submitted her treatment for "And Who Will Guide The Blind" but would have done, had there been a fourth season.
  14. ^ This doesn't mean there weren't any such introspective tales, but they were usually extremely short, like Jane Peyton's "Cave-In". There certainly were poems and brief stories about Spock's relationship to himself, reconciling his human and Vulcan natures, and about Christine Chapel, Leila Kalomi and Zarabeth; there were also poems about James Kirk's friends and paramours.
  15. ^ "As STAR TREK progressed, the role grew in importance until finally STAR TREK was no longer the adventures of Captain Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise, but Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock of the U.S.S. Enterprise. The relationships of the rest of the crew, and even the starship itself were downplayed in favor of the relationship between Kirk and Spock. It was only because the relationship between the two was so interesting that the change was justified... [In the third season] The relationships between the characters sometimes solidified to the point where occasionally they could not break out of a set pattern of responses. The result was that relationships began to dictate the shape of some of the stories. Conflicts would be distorted so as to create specific but tangential scenes for individual characters. One character in particular -- Spock... Although the character was almost always kept in dramatic proportion to the overall story, he began to play pivotal parts in too many episodes -- at the expense of other characters in the series... [Kirk and Spock] were a good team. But far too many of the stories used Spock when any other character might have functioned just as well. The overuse of Mr. Spock enlarged him out of all proportion to everything else on the Enterprise." David Gerrold, The World of Star Trek, Second Edition (Bluejay, 1984).
  16. ^ According to a fan writing in The K/S Press, Guttridge never intended the story to be published. And, according to other fans, it was later published in the zine Alien Brothers without the author's knowledge and she did not learn of the publication until decades later. As reported during outreach for the Foresmutters Project in 2002. Most fannish communication in the 1980s took place via mailed letters, so the prominent ads placed in the letterzine Not Tonight Spock that announced the publication of the story might not have reached the author or even if they did, communication between author and publisher might have become garbled over time and distance.
  17. ^ a b c Klangley56: "I researched the following when Mary Ellen C. asked about the origin of the term “slash” on one of the lists several years ago, and I realized from the subsequent responses that the older fans on the list (of which I am one) were relying on perhaps imprecise recollections—and I’m all about the documentation. So I researched thousands and thousands (and thousands) of pages in fiction fanzines, letterzines, adzines, newsletters, etc., spanning multiple fandoms. This was the result. Note: In some cases I refer to a fan by his or her full name, and in others not, because, as we know, some fans have issues with their names being on a public website. In the cases where I have indicated the full name it is because I know it is a pseudonym, and/or the fan does not have a problem with it, and/or is deceased, and/or already has been referred to by full name on [Fanlore]." Personal communication to Arduinna, March 28, 2009. Material quoted on Fanlore at Klangley's request.
  18. ^ from Judith Gran at Alternate Universes: Fanfiction Studies, Archived version, accessed 5.10.2011
  19. ^ To say nothing of the anti-sodomy laws of many states; slash writers and publishers could be prosecuted for distributing pornography.
  20. ^ from Datazine #21
  21. ^ For the record, no lawsuit or cease and desist action has ever been taken against any fanzine or author, let alone those writing slash, with the exception of Dreadnought Explorations (1976), where the published material looked so professional that Paramount feared it would be taken for something official.
  22. ^ from a proposal by The Theban Band/Saffo Press in Universal Translator #24 in 1984
  23. ^ from Datazine #40
  24. ^ Cousins Issue #6, Archived version, June 1992. (Accessed 07 October 2010)
  25. ^ Cousins Issue #8, Archived version, October 1992. (Accessed 07 October 2010)
  26. ^ Bertram in When Things Were Rotten is another matter entirely...
  27. ^ from Dyevka's Home Page, the quote paraphrased was from a 1998 Escapade panel
  28. ^ Nicole V. in private email correspondence with Morgan Dawn dated Dec 17, 2013 (quoted with permission).
  29. ^ The Fanfic Symposium, "The Subtext Anxiety by Shomeret
  30. ^ Judith Proctor's March 25, 1994 post to Lysator a Blake's 7 mailing list that has, for the past 20 years, offered up its mailing list messages to the public without restriction.
  31. ^ Letter to the editor, Black Bean Soup, Volume 2, Issue #39, Part 1, dated 27 October 1996 (1995).
  32. ^ Alexfandra, posted September 12, 1995 to Virgule-L, quoted with permission
  33. ^ from DIAL #7
  34. ^ reference link; also posted the Blake's 7 mailing list, Archived version
  35. ^ Sandy compiled a similar list on Virgule-L in December 1996 and came up with a few additional private slash lists:
    Slashpoint, Big Dicks, Tight Bums, DueSlash, TerrSit, Channel L (The Man From UNCLE), Slashpoint (General), Space-City (Blake's 7), Acafen, Slash-sis, CI5, ... Veniceplace, (private chat rooms), (slash conversation on IRC), slashQL list, Space-L, the JMDG-L...Do you belong to other slash lists? Which ones? sent to Virgule-L by Sandy Herrold, dated December 11, 1996, accessed November 1, 2010.
  36. ^ 'Other slash lists update' sent to Slashpoint by Sandy Herrold, dated October 11, 1997, accessed November 22, 2008. Quoted with permission.