Internet authors put TV buddies in unusual romances

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News Media Commentary
Title: Internet authors put TV buddies in unusual romances
Commentator: Cynthia Brouse
Date(s): August 8, 1998
Venue: The Globe and Mail (Toronto newspaper)
Fandom: due South, Buddy Cop Fandom
External Links: Internet Authors Put TV Buddies in Unusual Romances; archive link
Internet Authors Put TV Buddies in Unusual Romances.jpg
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Internet authors put TV buddies in unusual romances is an article by Cynthia Brouse that was published in the Toronto-based newspaper The Globe and Mail in 1998.[1]

Related Articles by the Same Journalist

Excerpts

Some TV producers claim they never read fan fiction, lest a writer should later accuse them of stealing an idea or plot. But Paul Gross, who plays Fraser on Due South and also serves as executive producer and writer, admits that he has read some slash stories involving his character. After he recovered from a boyish fit of giggles, Gross said, "It seems like a very strange pursuit, but it certainly doesn't bother me." As polite as the Mountie he plays, he added that what he read was quite well written and that as a writer he can see it would be a fun exercise.

He should know. Gross co-wrote a Due South episode in which Fraser saves his drowning partner by buddy-breathing underwater -- a scene that was shot to look remarkably like a passionate kiss. Was he tipping his hat to slash fans? "No, not at all," he said. "It's too marginal an audience to worry about." Anyway, said Gross, "no one's clever enough in television to be putting anything like that in."

And while some TV and film producers have threatened legal action against slash authors, Gross pointed out that a fan's fantasies are not an area into which his copyright extends. "I suppose that character is public ground," he said. "If you're willing to bring it into people's houses every week, the [fans] are entitled to certain liberties, wherever their imagination is carried by those characters."

Slash fiction -- named for the punctuation that pairs such male TV characters as Kirk/Spock (Star Trek) and Fraser/Ray (Due South) -- consists of fan-written stories, posted on Internet sites, that place the fictional pals in explicit homosexual fantasies. It has been around since the early 1970's, starting as an offshoot of the more traditional fan-written fiction and published in limited-circulation magazines. But while fan fiction helped keep a canceled series like Star Trek alive for a small core of die-hard, today's Web sites have made it possible for anyone to spread tales of TV character couplings around the world in an instant; a quick internet search will turn up slash stories based on shows from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Babylon 5 and The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

The quality of slash writing varies widely, as does the degree of sexual explicitness. A lot of slash is self-rated for adults only; some highly graphic stories are labeled with the acronym PWP for "Plot? What Plot?" or HSPABO for "Have spare panties available before opening." But while Mulder/Krycek stories may feature graphic (and sometimes violent) sex, the Due South Romance Association Web site (subtitled "Girls Who Like Boys Who Do Boys") is dedicated to romantic tales of RCMP Constable Benton Fraser and his partner, Chicago detective Ray Vecchio. Many Due South slash writers try to retain the strait-laced Mounties's innocence and logic, but they give him a new challenge. In one first-time story, Ray tells Fraser about his past experiences with men:

"Okay, what did we do? A little frottage, mutual masturbation, fellatio and you don't have a clue what I'm talking about do you?"

"No, Ray." Fraser circled one of his lovers nipples contemplatively. "Perhaps if you wrote it down I could look it up next time I'm in the library."

Slash fans are exasperated by the suggestion that the most radical aspect of their hobby is that women would read depictions of graphic sex between men. Slashers respond that not only are they appropriating commercial TV, they're reclaiming pornography -- both worlds that have traditionally been male-dominated. If there are few strong female characters in TV to write about, slashers can at least make the male characters do their bidding. They point out that sex between women for the pleasure of men is a staple of main-stream pornography: why shouldn't it work the other way around? Slash would seem to be the perfect porn for women; It's hot, and it features not just one beautiful male body, but two. And by definition, there are no women on the scene to be degraded (or to be jealous of), so the complaints of anti-porn feminists are neatly sidestepped. Sexually, it's a level playing field.

Wendy Pearson, a cultural studies professor at Trent University in Peterborough, Ont., says that slash writers get to reinvent men. "A lot of slash writing looks at the identity categories that the late 20th century has slotted people into -- including straight and gay -- and has decided that they're far too rigid and divisive."

Fan Comments

1998

Is this an Awful Warning of the consequences of putting our heads above the ramparts? Or, given its surprisingly level-headed and sympathetic tone - is it a hopeful portent, a sign of acceptance? I must admit, my first reaction was horror at being - um - outed quite so blatantly. But once I'd read the piece a second time, it's unsensational even judicious, approach had gone a long way towards soothing that initial throwing-up of hands. (Imagine, for instance, what a Sun reporter would make of the same material.) There's no putting the genie back in the bottle; for better or worse the Internet is here to stay. Me, I think that's a good thing (with one or two reservations) but how about the rest of you? And if the availability of slash on the Internet results in more articles like this, is that to be feared or welcomed? [2]
... the article about slash on the Internet, it reads like a very fair article, almost certainly tongue in cheek in places, and it's heartening that someone can view the existence of slash realistically as posing no threat to those who choose not to participate. Sadly, I don't think the situation is as simple as that and I really do wish this particular genie had not been allowed to escape from its bottle. The more that misguided, naive fans continue to thrust various aspects of slash in the faces of actors, writers, producers and the public in general via the Internet, the more likely there is to be a severe backlash from the homophobic, moralistic contingent amongst them. [3]
Copyright infringement is far less threatening than accusations of being involved in the creation and distribution of pornography. What these energetic, vociferous fans seem unable to accept is that other fans are employed in sensitive positions, teaching being a prime example - though there must be others - where knowledge of their involvement in slash fandom could very easily cause them to lose their jobs. It's not right, it's not fair, but it is a fact and the insistence of the first group on pursuing the 'tell all' bandwagon could actually curtail the other group's freedom to participate. I hope I'm just being neurotic and it doesn't happen, that tolerance will prevail, but at the moment all the indications from my standpoint are quite the reverse. Besides, it was quite nice to think of oneself as belonging to an exclusive little club.[4]
I get the cold grues at the thought of DIAL ever being net-accessible. I suspect the only thing to do is carry on as before but hang on to our pen-names with even grimmer determination.[5]
The newspaper article about slash nearly shocked me out of a year's growth... Admittedly, the article was sensible and almost benevolent, but I guess it's only a matter of time before rags - the likes of National Inquirer or The Sun - will get their mitts on the subject. Let's keep our fingers crossed that a number of more benevolent papers will have something to say on slash before them.[6]
I read with interest the piece regarding slash on the Internet. I am a complete novice on the Internet and have only just, with the help of your Net Connections article, found the slash sites. I am also rather uncertain about my feelings on this. I like the 'secret society' aspect of slash. It's nice to share in this interest with other fans at Nattercon and Write On, etc. knowing the security of being with like-minded, devoted people. The thought of "Disgusted Old Tunbridge Wells" finding and reading our beloved stories, and pouring scorn and loathing upon us, fills me with horror! I know that I would hate my parents and brother, for example, knowing about my hobby, as they are out and out homophobes and would only see the porn aspect and not the love underlying our fiction. The other side of the coin is, of course, the 'yellow brick road' aspect so well described. It took me ages to find slash, and there must be many others out there who don't know it exists but who would love to read it and add their own unique ideas to the wealth of fiction. In that way, the Net is a godsend. Let's hope the powers that be don't interfere and try to censor us, but leave us to share our stories via the Net.[7]
I'd been wondering why I felt so uneasy at the thought of slash being 'known' by the outside world, given that we all write under pseudonyms and can't easily be traced by outsiders. Your letter made me say, 'Yes, that's it.' The idea of what we write and read with so much affection being exposed to unthinking contempt makes me unhappy. It's not 'exposure' per se that I object to. I just don't want brickbats thrown at something I love.[8]
I'm finding it difficult to make up my mind if slash on the Net is a good or bad thing, but I suppose if pushed I'd be inclined to say it has been Our Little Secret for so long now, perhaps it is time we stopped being so paranoid about it and welcomed others to the enjoyment of it. As [name redacted] says, the genie is out of the bottle now, for good or ill, and there's not a lot we can do about it, is there? [9]
Thought the newspaper article on slash fiction was interesting, if typically American. Reclaiming pornography indeed! I don't consider what I read to be pornography, though I'm well aware that many people would. And I don't read it for the explicit sex. I've been reading slash fiction for twenty years and, apart from some of the more extreme practices, I suspect I've read just about every variation; and after a while, it's pretty boring if there's no story and, perhaps more importantly for me, no love to go with it. I can live without 'happy ever after' but I do want 'happiness of a sort ever after. I can't say I'm comfortable with slash being under everyone's nose, so to speak, but it's out there on the Internet, so that's it; but I certainly wouldn't dream of drawing it to people's attention. Attitudes in this country trail way behind laws. [10]
The quoted article seemed quite sensible about slash, and Paul Gross's remarks were fine. But - and it's a big but, as [name redacted] said - just imagine a sensationalist newspaper's response; and indeed all actors are not as understanding or uncaring as Paul Gross - Paul Darrow (Avon in Blake's 7) took the idea of slash very badly, and split B7 fandom somewhat by it; he also apparently insisted that any fans he consorted with be non-slash, and he also stopped putting his arm round Michael Keating's shoulder and (so I've heard) tried to get MK (Vila) and Gareth Thomas (Blake) to denounce slash too. So - his reaction and its results were his problem, but I think it would have been better if he'd never found out about it. However, I don't think, now it's started, that there's anything we can do to limit whatever effect the Internet will have on slash fandom. I know [name redacted] doesn't want any part of DIAL on the Net but that doesn't stop people discussing the existence of DIAL. [11]
I don't know about other fandoms but the Internet has been a very prominent topic of discussion for some time now in K/S fandom. However, the main concern there seemed to be whether the Net would make zines redundant. Perhaps K/S-ers feel they're already outed to some extent, with discussions on K/S having taken place in media and mainstream books. I know of a friend who only reads Pros stories on-screen because she won't print them and have anything slash in the house, but I couldn't do that. How much more relaxing it is to have paper in your hand to read at your leisure, and re-read. I don't think the Net will make zines redundant, and I'm benefiting from extra K/S stories that would never see print, but I preferred feeling the fandom was enclosed and secure. As we say here - it's six of one and half a dozen of the other; what you lose on the swings, you gain on the roundabouts. [12]

1999

I think one pitfall of slash on the Net that no-one has pointed out yet is the ease with which you can be separated from your money - so much slash, so little time ... And it isn't only the fault of the dealers who take plastic; there are the fans as well who advertise second-hand zines via e-mail I've bought a couple that way, absolutely delighted by how helpful and honest fans that I've never met can be.[13]
I'm so glad to hear that your experience of the Internet has been as positive as mine. I haven't been nearly so active as to form my own mailing list but I have made new friends all over the world I find it's easier and quicker to send feedback to an author via e-mail and some of the replies. I've got back have really educated me about the importance of feedback to a fan author- It's a nice feeling to find that a writer finds your response to their story valuable. I'm now much more conscientious about sending feedback and I think harder about which aspects of a story work for me (and sometimes which don't). On the vexed question of Zines versus the Internet, I really feel that there's room for both. I have two excellent Highlander slash zines which I wouldn't have known about at all if it hadn't been for the Net. They both contain stories by authors whose work I knew I'd enjoy as I'd already seen examples that had been posted on the Net. I had no hesitation in sending off my money, was told by e-mail that it had arrived and then that the zine had been posted to me. I was a happy bunny when it thudded through my letterbox. [14]
I do understand why people are worried by slash on the Net and was a bit surprised myself at how easy it was to find it. I'm afraid my first thought was 'Oh, wonderful' as I threw caution to the winds and started reading (I wouldn't dream of doing it at work though). I was actually more shocked when I picked up a copy of "Shut It!' in Smiths and discovered that it had a section for "Slash fiction moments" in the analysis of the episodes. Having slash mentioned in a book seemed to make it more public than having it posted on the Internet, for some reason. I don't know why I feel like this but I do. [15]

References

  1. ^ Brouse, Cynthia. Internet Authors Put TV Buddies in Unusual Romances. The Globe and Mail p. C.6. August 8, 1998. Accessed October 1, 2008 through ProQuest Canadian Newsstand.
  2. ^ from the editor of Discovered in a Letterbox #7 (1998)
  3. ^ a fan in Discovered in a Letterbox #8 (1998)
  4. ^ a fan in Discovered in a Letterbox #8 (1998)
  5. ^ a fan in Discovered in a Letterbox #8 (1998)
  6. ^ a fan in Discovered in a Letterbox #8 (1998)
  7. ^ a fan in Discovered in a Letterbox #8 (1998)
  8. ^ a fan in Discovered in a Letterbox #8 (1998)
  9. ^ a fan in Discovered in a Letterbox #8 (1998)
  10. ^ a fan in Discovered in a Letterbox #8 (1998)
  11. ^ a fan in Discovered in a Letterbox #8 (1998)
  12. ^ a fan in Discovered in a Letterbox #8 (1998)
  13. ^ a fan in Discovered in a Letterbox #10 (June 1999)
  14. ^ a fan in Discovered in a Letterbox #10 (June 1999)
  15. ^ a fan in Discovered in a Letterbox #10 (June 1999)