Textual Extenders: An Exploratory Survey into a Slash Community

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Academic Commentary
Title: Textual Extenders: An Exploratory Survey into a Slash Community
Commentator: Sasha Book (a pun on "Slasha Book")
Date(s): 2003
External Links: The Journal of Slash Research
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

Extenders: An Exploratory Survey into a Slash Community is a thesis developed but not finished by by Sasha Book, Ph.D. (pseudonym) and last updated circa 2003.

It is hosted at Library of Moria but it does not focus exclusively on Tolkien fans.


NOTE: Dear JSR readers. Time has gone by and I am seldom here now. I have added a few more parts of the study, but those yet to be completed unfortunately will remain so. Life has moved on.

For those using this work for the purpose of academic study, the name Sasha Book is a pseudonym (place an L after the first S and you'll get the joke). The PhD is real, and this study was done in an academic manner. At the time of conducting this study I was not free to place it under my own name. This study was not part of a formal academic program; it was my own exploration in the world I had newly discovered on the net and within myself. I hope it brings enlightenment to you as it has for me.

Write on!


Parts of the Study

Table of Contents


1.1 Fan Fiction
1.2 Slash Fan Fiction
1.3 Intentions of this Study
1.4 Limitations of this Study
1.5 Ethics
1.6 Method

The Participants: Demographics and Discussion

2.1 Sex
2.2 Sexual Orientation
2.3 Location and Language
2.4 Age
2.5 Occupation

Slash Reading

3.1 History of Reading
3.1.1 Analysis method
3.1.2 Results
3.2 Reading Time - Hours per Week
3.2.1 Analysis method
3.2.2 Results
3.2.3 Influences on reading time
3.2.4 Heavy readers
3.3 Preferred Ratings
3.3.1 Analysis method
3.3.2 Results
3.3.3 Variations in Preferred Ratings
3.3.4 Strong preferences
3.3.5 Slight preferences
3.3.6 Influences on preferred ratings
3.4 Conclusion

Slash Writing

4.1 History of Writing
4.1.1 Analysis method
4.1.2 Results
4.2 Writing Time - Hours per Week
4.2.1 Analysis method
4.2.2 Results
4.3 Preferred Ratings
4.3.1 Analysis method
4.3.2 Results
4.4 Variations in Preferred Ratings
4.5 Posting Work
4.5.1 Results
4.5.2 Reasons to Post
4.5.3 Reasons not to Post
4.6 Conclusion

The Attraction of Slash

5.1 Analysis of Results
5.2 Commonly Reported Reasons
5.2.1 Sex
5.2.2 Emotion / love
5.2.3 Character / relationship
5.2.4 Freedom – sexual, social, gender
5.2.5 Good writing
5.2.6 Extension of text / self
5.2.7 Do not know
5.3 Less Commonly Reported Reasons
5.3.1 Seeing men
5.3.2 Slash is no different from het
5.3.3 The slash community
5.3.4 Education / curiosity
5.3.5 Empowerment / validation
5.3.6 No Mary Sue's
5.3.7 No self in it
5.3.8 Self in it
5.3.9 Submissive feminine men
5.3.10 No women, no jealousy
5.3.11 Reducing homophobia
5.3.12 Tolkien world
5.4 Slash communities and the Internet

Discovering Slash

6.1 Place of Discovery
6.2 Intention to Discover
6.3 Initial Reactions to Slash
6.3.1 Strong negative
6.3.2 Mild negative
6.3.3 Neutral
6.3.4 Mild positive
6.3.5 Strong positive
6.3.6 Mixed reactions
6.3.7 Initial reactions and underage readers
6.4 Influences on Becoming a Slash Reader or Writer (no info)
6.5 Conclusion (no info)

7. Slash and Real Life (no info)

8. Future Research (no info)


Appendix A - Invitation to Participate

Appendix B - The Questionnaire


Textual Poachers vs Textual Extenders

‘Textual poachers’ is a term that has been applied to fan writers and is the title of the book by Henry Jenkins on media fans. This implies that something is stolen, that it is taken away and claimed as one’s own. However, slash writers and general fan fiction writers are careful to credit the original characters and setting to the appropriate authors. Jenkins (1992) also comments that the nature of fan fiction writing is not the mere reproduction of the original work. He states:

...fan writers do not so much reproduce the primary text, as they rework and rewrite it, repairing or dismissing unsatisfying aspects, developing interests not sufficiently explored. (162)

Perhaps a more positive description of fan fiction writers would be ‘textual extenders.’ In some cases, much of the created story is not from the original work. In this sense the original work is being extended and something new is being created rather than poached.

1.2 Slash Fan Fiction

One of the ways in which fan fiction writers explore new dimensions of the original works is by focusing on the sexual directions in which the story line could go. Therefore, romances and / or sexual behavior between characters can happen when they were not present in the original work, or they can be more developed when such pairings were only hinted at within the original. Within this dimension of exploration, some writers focus on the relationships between same sex characters. This genre of fan fiction writing is known as slash. Jenkins (1992) describes the history of slash writing as a genre of writing that developed within fan fiction writing back in the 1970’s. The central characteristic of this genre is the focus on the homoerotic bonds between same sex characters. He points out that the term ‘slash’ refers to the way of symbolizing a same sex relationship, for example, Kirk/Spock (abbreviated to K/S).

Jenkins (1992) described the method of story circulation among fans in the early 1990’s. Fans could have work published through fan magazines called Zines or pass their stories around between themselves via the post or at conferences. These non-profit magazines accepted both accomplished work and work from more inexperienced writers, as importance was placed on encouraging all writers.

The development of the Internet has added a further forum for readers and writers to access and contribute material. Several sites that include slash stories or are devoted to exclusively to it have appeared in recent years. The description of openness that Jenkins used to describe the Zine publishing industry can also be applied to the work accepted for posting on many Internet sites. There are some sites, however, that require that a standard must be reached before work will be accepted.

The development of Internet based slash sites has resulted in the creation of a number of virtual communities of slash readers, writers, and drawers. In addition, this provides an opportunity to contact many of the members in order to investigate more about the people who contribute to these communities. This study reports the results of an Internet based survey of slash readers and writers.