New Kickstarter for a slash fiction film unsettles the fandom community

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News Media Commentary
Title: New Kickstarter for a slash fiction film unsettles the fandom community
Commentator: Aja Romano
Date(s): August 28, 2015
Venue: online
External Links: New Kickstarter for a slash fiction film unsettles the fandom community, Archived version
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New Kickstarter for a slash fiction film unsettles the fandom community is a 2015 article by Aja Romano for The Daily Dot.

The subject is Slash, a 2016 independent film directed and produced by Clay Liford.

It includes a lengthy interview with the director.


The story of queer slash fanfiction is the story of women building a community of their own. But what happens when that story gets retold by a straight man? The Kickstarter for the new film Slash is raising concerns within the very community it's trying to celebrate. Slash is based on a 2012 short film of the same name. It focuses on a teen boy who discovers he identifies with the slash fanfiction community—writers who imagine that their favorite male characters are actually queer and in love. It's a tale that intends to be a loving, fun look at the often-marginalized plethora of slash fans on the Internet. A few days into the Kickstarter campaign, the project, which features popular Teen Wolf actors Michael Johnston and Michael Ian Black, has raised $7,000 of its $45,000 goal to finish production on the film. Creator and director Clay Liford hopes to tell the story of Neil, whose friend Julia "leads him down a rabbit hole into the strange world of erotic fan fiction."
"Erotic fan fiction is not just a funny concept," writes Liford on Kickstarter. "SLASH is a comedy that embraces the world of fan fiction and its writers. This is a film that will connect with anyone who has ever felt like an outsider, or struggled to figure out where they fit in." The film intends to take a very open view of sexuality, and a best-friendship between two fans who bond over slash as a way of exploring their own identities.

But not everyone is celebrating.

"I can barely express how incredibly angry the short film... made me," wrote Tumblr user naked-bee last month when word of the film first made the rounds. "The world of slash that he portrayed was one antithetical to everything I’ve experienced in slash fandom."
Liford, the writer and director of Slash, is a noted director on the queer film circuit and a contributor to the anthology film ABCs of Death 2. He's also a self-professed "token straight man" who has said before that he initially engaged with the pastime of slash "100% for the sake of mockery and comedy." Yet while learning more about the slash community, he came to respect and admire its denizens. He is adamant that Slash is a film for everyone, and that it embraces and portrays fanfic writers accurately. "It's a bit of a tightrope walk here," he told the Daily Dot in an email, "with the core fans being very insular and us being relative outsiders, but hopefully we can show our intentions are sincere and that we've done our homework... Every attempt has been made to be both respectful and accurate to the community."
...slash has a rich history in parts of fandom carved out by and for women as they were largely marginalized from fan communities like the male-dominated science fiction world. So Slash, a movie about a teen boy who identifies with popular slash fandom characters and decides to explore his own sexuality within a fanfic community that seems to be mostly male-dominated, has read to some fans as an inexplicable rewriting of history.

"[Y]our pitch looks like one more male indie auteur trying to make his name off of the backs of women," wrote slasher and filmmaker Franzeska Dickson in response to the Kickstarter campaign.

"You had to go for [ Kirk/Spock ] and classic slash fandom, a female subculture by women and for women that is about women's stories of self-discovery, even if those stories are performed through male media figures."
Though fans may still have misgivings about the film, Liford's project highlights one truth that may be uncomfortable for female fanfiction writers who think of slash fandom as "their" space. Though it has long been cultivated and carefully guarded by women, queer men have always been a less-visible part of the slash community, clinging to slash's depiction of gay male characters to help them explore vital parts of their own identities. If Slash does position the point of view of female slash fans in the role of secondary characters, perhaps it does so in service of representing the voices of queer men in slash fandom—a group very rarely heard from. All in all, Slash might not be the standard overwriting of female-centric fandom that fans have justifiably come to expect. Instead, it might be something different: an important opportunity to think about fandom's complexity and diversity in new ways—at a time when our voices are growing louder than ever.