Newsgroup governance and other myths :-)

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Title: Newsgroup governance and other myths :-)
Creator: Sentinel fans at alt.tv.sentinel
Date(s): December 1999
Medium: Usenet
Fandom: The Sentinel
Topic:
External Links: Newsgroup governance and other myths :-)
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Newsgroup governance and other myths :-) was a massive 1999 discussion on alt.tv.sentinel regarding warnings on fic with slash, het, explicit, and AU contents.

The discussion about labels and fic content was a reaction to the wording the mailing list's FAQ.

Some Topics Discussed

  • The Sentinel
  • why does slash fanfic need warnings when other content does not
  • is slash AU since Jim and Blair were never shown having sex on the show?
  • homophobia and mailing lists
  • the uses and abuses of labels and headers
  • double-standards and exclusion
  • "When I have children, they're never going into chatrooms and they're not surfing the 'Web or reading Usenet without me IN THE ROOM until they're at least-- oh, sixteen, I think is good."

Excerpts

[cmshaw]:

>About that homophobia thing, was anyone here (of the Old Guard at least since the newbies obviously weren't here) who was homophobic? I've been here a while and, unless I'm a total defective and missed it, I've never seen any indications of homophobia.

nope. this is a nice, inclusive community we have here. this is only the second time i can recall that we've had this sort of trouble -- and it is trouble. we have a number of fine prolific authors who post here (besterette, carolroi, xmagicalx, to name a few names) and as long as they were all gen/het, things were lovely. adding a fine prolific slash author to the mix should *not* change the standards for "too much" fic or "properly labeled" fic. now that we all seem to have settled down enough to agree that we *don't* have a double standard -- and we don't, is the consensus i'm hearing from our nice, inclusive community -- i'm hoping the trouble is past.

--cmshaw, letting this go

[Laura Jacquez Valentine]:

> And I'm still waiting for someone to explain why a het story with non-explicit sexual references is perfectly acceptable, but there's different rules for slash? 'Cause hey, I didn't hear *anyone* saying "ratings! labels! we must protect the *children*!" when Besterette posted her wonderful stories that, in case you missed it, did include a non-explicit sexual relationship between Jim and Beau. (And yes, I know, Besterette *did* label her stories. Well, so did Laura, and people are still objecting.) I just think the "Must protect the children!" argument is so much bullshit. When I have children, they're never going into chatrooms and they're not surfing the 'Web or reading Usenet without me IN THE ROOM until they're at least-- oh, sixteen, I think is good. Anybody think I'm overreacting? I call that responsible parenting. Other people may have different rules, but really, it's not up to *us* to be surrogate parents to other people's children. We're not here to do that-- we're here to talk about The Sentinel.

I'm reasonably sure that no one brought up the "protect the kids" argument w. regard to my slashfic. I mentioned that I'd refrained from posting the NC-17 stuff, because this community is likely to include at least a few people under the age of 17--and, unlike some other newgroups, isn't specifically for fiction, so I can't expect anyone under 17 to recognize the markers that tell them to skedaddle. I think that's the extent of any "protect the kids" discussion I've seen.

Certainly no one has told me to stop posting slash for such a reason, nor has anyone objected (to my knowledge) to my posting slash on that basis.
[Bageerha]:

> Not liking is slash is not homophobia.

I didn't say it was. Using the pairing headers as described in the charter allows everyone, slash, het or gen readers, to find the stories they like and avoid the ones they don't. What I was commenting on was the notion of some gen fans that even standard story headers and descriptions aren't enough; they have to be kept safe by the inclusion of big all-caps header tags so that they aren't exposed to slash even for the few seconds it takes to glance at the archive info when a new story shows up in their window. It's the notion, even worse, that all slash _discussion_, no matter how non-explicit, has to be labeled. (I don't know if that suggestion has come up here, but it has elsewhere.) That all slash, regardless of whether it's an explicit PWP, or a drama that features no more than a hug in between crime scenes, is automatically for adults only. That having a lot of slash posted, even labeled, is somehow bad for the group. That the innocents and the sensitive have to be protected from the very idea that some of us fall in love with people of the same gender. There is, obviously, a very large difference between being required by military force to wear a pink/black triangle on your person, and being required by community standard to label a fictional story. But you know what? It feel the same. As much as I can possibly say that without having lived through the former, it sure feels the same. At least when I wear my triangles in person, people can _see_ whether I meet their preconceptions or not and the people who act too much like assholes only succeed in making fools of themselves in front of the people who may not approve but at least are civil. Online, I have no way of facing the people who truly are homophobic, and the community standard supports them in their status quo.

I spent a few weeks on one of the gen lists before I couldn't take it anymore, and during that time it was made very clear to me that the majority consensus (at least the majority of the vocal posters) was that even the notion of slash or homosexuality was not welcome on that list, hence I was not welcome. In the first half year of a.t.s, I saw several names and the seeds of the environment pop up here that I had seen in the homophobic portion of the gen community. I knew perfectly well that there were plenty of other slasher and even a few other lesbigay lurkers and that the gen majority only arose because we weren't posting, but I just wasn't in an emotional space where I could deal with being the flag-bearer for tolerance, much less on the front lines in the unpleasant event that some of the truly homophobic folks were to make an appearance. So I withdrew. That was my action and my responsibility, and if, in my absence, the newsgroup community has evolved standards that I don't like, well, that's life. I can't do anything about it and I've got no business trying until and unless I fully rejoin the group. But that doesn't mean I have to like it.

I think I'm just rambling at the moment, trying to find rational, logical explanations for what I was trying to express in my first posting. I would not complain about slash headers if het stories were also consistently required to be labeled. But the fact is het stories aren't consistently labeled (net-wide), and there is no rational expression for something that comes from my gut. And my gut says the people who demand that slash stories wear a badge so they can be avoided from a distance are the same people who wouldn't want me in their home once they knew I date other women. And you know, that's their choice. But it's my choice how I label my posts in a public forum, and I'm not gonna discriminate against myself for no other reason than to make it easy for them. And my gut says, that issues of proportion aside, there is no difference between requiring me to wear a triangle badge and requiring a story to wear an extra label. I can't find logical support for the comparison; maybe there is none. But it feels the same. It feels the same.
[cmshaw]:

>In the first half year of a.t.s, I saw several names and the seeds of the environment pop up here that I had seen in the homophobic portion of the gen community.

for what it's worth, those weren't the seeds that sprouted. this is only the second time in nearly two years that this issue has reared its head (and i'm sorry for having dragged you back into the midst of it). furthermore, the *last* time we had this go-round it *was* a "save the children" argument -- and that boogeyman has *not* been brought out this time. in other words, we've learned. it gives me hope that once we lay the fic-labeling standards to rest, that issue will also be done and over with.

i have been here, not always as vocal as i might be but certainly not shy or retiring, posting openly as a slasher and a lesbian. i've felt not merely "tolerated" but quite welcomed *for* who i was (not despite it). i and others have discussed sentinel topics from slash-oriented perspectives and been considered voices no more or less interesting than the gen-oriented posters; in the vast majority of discussion threads, slashers and genners seem to talk without any need for censorship, self- or otherwise, and quite enjoy each others' points of view. if you want to rejoin us, i like to think you'd find the same reception.
[Bagheera]:

> Actually to someone just coming in - J/B or J/S means absolutely nothing. They might not even know what SLASH means, which is why some people put the warnings of what slash is at the beginning of the story.

Perhaps. There will always be newbies who haven't yet been exposed to even the basics. That's what the intro section of stories is for. But the pairing headers have a long tradition of use online, and it's a tradition that spans far more than a few fandoms; people used to reading fiction in other newsgroups will, for the most part, recognize J/S as a pairing header even if they don't know enough about Sentinel to recognize it as Jim/Simon. There are plenty of people who were used to reading and deciphering pairing headers online long before the term "slash" started being widely used online. In fact, even offline, the use of the pairing headers preceded the use of "slash" as a category. To be honest, I really can't imagine someone coming in here to read fiction, who would understand what SLASH means but wouldn't understand J/B, unless they knew nothing about Sentinel. And of course, the pairing headers convey far more information in a shorter space than the generic SLASH tag, as well as being applicable to het stories as well.
[LHGraphics]:

>And my gut says, that issues of proportion aside, there is no difference between requiring me to wear a triangle badge and requiring a story to wear an extra label. I can't find logical support for the comparison; maybe there is none. But it feels the same. It feels the same.

That would apply if the only stories requiring labels were slash stories. But we require labels on death stories and rape stories too.

So far there has been a good mix on this list. Some slash chat has been posted and no one has screamed foul.

Perhaps the original poster should have said that they would like to see more gen stories posted as well as all the new slash material. Seeing one type of story suddenly seem to take over a list can cause a mild panic.

Those of us who have been on the list from the beginning know to simply wait out the cycle.
[Bagherra]:

> That would apply if the only stories requiring labels were slash stories. But we require labels on death stories and rape stories too.

Precisely. That's one of the reasons it bugs me. Such a nice little set: death, rape, and love. Apples, bananas, and construction equipment, anyone??

I'm not saying slash stories shouldn't be labeled. I'm a big fan of as detailed labeling as possible -- which is why I'm pushing the pairing headers. A generic [SLASH] tag isn't detailed, and it lumps your dashed-off-in-an-hour NC-17 PWP together with the labored-over-for-months heavy-on-plot-and-characterization PG-13 drama, when in actuality both stories are likely to have more in common with the gen or het stories whose writers put a comparable amount of effort into storytelling.

It really isn't a question of requiring warnings for things like death and rape stories. It's the fact that the labels are required for one kind of love but not the other. Like I said, if het stories were consistently required to be labeled, I wouldn't object in the least to slash stories being similarly labeled. It's the double standard that bugs me.

Except that, technically speaking, het stories _are_ required to be labeled, at least on alt.tv.sentinel. It's in the charter. The newsgroup was approved by the news admin community with the understanding that all romantic/sexual fiction to be posted, slash or het, would be labeled with the newsgroup-standard pairing headers. It's right there. In the charter. If you guys haven't been enforcing the charter, that's up to you. But nobody has any business complaining about things (like a generic [SLASH] tag) that _aren't_ required by the charter.
[Trilly]: Death and rape are considered "bad things". Putting slash in the "bad things" category of requiring extra warnings(other than a mention of the character pairing in the subject line) seems to set a bad tone. I can respect the person who said they just don't like any kind of romance between people who are represented as friends on the tv screen, because that's consistent. But requiring different warning labels for slash(as though it's generally as traumatic as reading a death, rape, or some other *violent* story) isn't consistent or fair, IMO. So unless het stories have to say [warning, danger, HETSMUT] also(and no that's not a recommendation), why put extra [SLASH] warning alarms? It just encourages the idea that slash is bad.
[KEB]:

Okay, I don't know how many of you noticed this, but way before Laura showed up, I asked for slash writers' advice about posting a story to the 852 Prospect archive; nc17 'het' in the series, since the majority of the archive was ~slash~ and I didn't want to offend anyone. Since my webhostess is working on getting my stuff archived, it'll be announced sooner or later--what I decided was that I personally was uncomfortable with posting that piece, The Erogenous Zone (couldn't resist the pun) on the NG, but it would be on my fanfic page, not linked to any archive, but mentioned here. All warnings posted, that way anyone who wanted to read it could decide if they wanted to. Just my own decision, because I'm shy, but working on it. And because in a lot of respects my family background makes William Ellison look like Naomi Sandburg, the fact that I write fanfic at all is considered like an elderly aunt who still collects teddy bears, a childish and eccentric hobby. What I'm saying is everybody draws the line in a different place.

I've said before, I'm not into slash. Just not wired that way, but I've read some slash pieces with damn good writing--just skimmed over the 'dirty parts'. And I've gone back and read them again. And frankly, I haven't seen anything in a slash NC17 story you wouldn't see in a romance novel.

So in my humble opinion, ok. There are stories in which Jim and Blair are straight. There are stories in which Jim and Blair are gay. There are stories in which one or the other dies, is a vampire, the antichrist, a guardian angel, in which Jim didn't make it out of Peru when he did and misses meeting Blair, in which Jim owns Blair (plug for my new AU fave -- Susan Foster's GPD universe found at Guideposts) Case stories, smarm, H/C, angst, supernatural, and MarySues, stories in which Blair becomes a cop, stories in which TSbyBS never happened, stories which deal with Blair's shamanism....

In the multiverse of a collective imagination, there's enough room for all.

'Kay, I'm done processing this point of contention. My last word on the subject.
[Bagheera]:

> And I really don't see why it's a problem. It's just a simple courtesy. Yeah, people will get 'educated' real fast if they don't know what J/B means and only vaguely heard of slash, but they might be a bit ticked when a simple warning at the beginning of the story...

I don't think anyone's complained about including detailed information at the beginning of a story. I know I'm all for it; I think most people are. The only thing I see really in question is the [SLASH] tag in the Subject line.

> Why not put SLASH labels?

Simply put. Simply answered.

a) It's a double standard, unless you also insist on het stories being similarly labeled.

b) It's unnecessary. It's redundant. The pre-existing standard of using pairing headers gives the reader the same information, plus additional information, and does so in fewer characters.

The only advantage I can see in using a generic slash tag is what you mentioned below: > Furthermore, for people who do set filters, it makes it a lot easier to filter out SLASH in the subject then to try and figure out all the possible pairings J/B or B/J or J/S or S/J or B/S or S/B or T/S or S/T > or you get my drift?

Well, this is Sentinel we're talking about, not Blakes Seven or TNG, where there are dozens of potential combinations. I mean, you've pretty much listed all the possibilities there, except the standard */f or */m. It would take what, five minutes, to add those to a filter list? Yes, using the generic tag makes it easier, but only by a little. And why should all of us put up with a discriminatory double standard just to make things a little bit more convenient for a few? If someone wants to avoid something, the burden should be on them to avoid it, not on all of us to keep it out of their way.

> male-male sex) would have been sufficient. It seems we live in a world where people expect other people to be tolerate and, hopefully, accomodate (at least in the 'system') their own beliefs and practices, but are reluctant to tolerate or accomodate others' opposing views.

Really, that's not what I see happening at all. I mean, no one has suggested that we shouldn't label stories at all; we couldn't force people to read slash on the net if we tried. What I do see is what I've seen happen over and over again when members of a majority group (any majority group) find themselves in a forum that truly is inclusive or where they are no longer in the majority. The default, in the world at large, is to make the minority (any minority) bend over backwards to accomodate the majority. And because it is the default, and what people have grown up with, people in the majority just don't realize that's what's happening, and for the most part, they have no concept of the kind of energy and constant vigilance it takes for the minority to accommodate them. The paths through the forest for the majority member are always clear, have always been clear since sie was a child, so sie expects them to always stay that way, and never realizes they're clear because the lesbigays or the blacks or the pagans or the green-tentacled aliens or the whatevers spend hours every day either clearing them for hir or fighting to defend themselves when they refuse to. And then, suddenly the individual who's used to being accommodated finds hirself in a truly tolerant, inclusive environment, one where everyone is expected to clear their own way -- and sie's not used to it, and it seems like a terrible hardship, and sie just can't understand why the path doesn't clear itself or why everyone else can't be expected to continue to clear it for hir. That's not homophobia, it's not bigotry, it's just human nature. We all grumble when conveniences we take for granted are taken away. And then we learn, and we get used to it, and we deal.
[LHGraphics]:

>It really isn't a question of requiring warnings for things like death and rape stories. It's the fact that the labels are required for one kind of love but not the other. Like I said, if het stories were consistently required to be labeled, I wouldn't object in the least to slash stories being similarly labeled. It's the double standard that bugs me.

On SXF the het stories are required to be labeled too. But in that case I think most people want them labeled so they can be avoided. <G>

I'm not sure what the standards are cross fandoms. On the Highlander list slash and NC-17 and above het stories are all under the Adult header.
[Trilly]: Then do you also want HET labels? (again, not a suggestion, just there for comparison) Otherwise it is just not fair and again suggests that slash needs more censoring than stories about hetsmut. I can look at the subject line, see "J/f" or "B/f" and say, 'y'know, I'm not in the mood for hetsmut today' and move on. I don't get upset, go on a rant, or ask why those 'sickos' would dare write the guys in such a situation. (and NOT saying that you do, Dawn, 'cause you haven't that I know of, but that's a pretty common response from severe slash-haters) I know people have their kneejerk reactions, but *my* kneejerk reaction is to not want to pander overly much to the homophobically cursed. Is my feeling less important than theirs? Should they have more say over the newsgroup/header rules than those of us who do like slash? If so, Why?
[DawnC]:

>Otherwise it is just not fair and again suggests that slash needs more censoring than stories about hetsmut.

Well, that depends. If it's explicit sex, yes. If it's just implied HET sex. No. If it's implied slash, yes. Why? Very simple reason...

On the show Jim and Blair are portrayed as two heterosexual males. Slash changes the canon characterization. Slash is, then, a very particular type of A/U. A/U's are labeled. And slash usually (though not always) contains explicit sex - so it's got a double there :-)

I don't read A/U's either. I just don't care to see Jim and Blair as cowboys in the wild west, etc. etc. Now, I can read some A/U's if they're more canon-based (Like, TSbyBS never happened).

But hetero sex - if it's not explicit - is perfectly canon and had been shown on the show several times. I don't like reading explicit stuff b/c it takes too much time away from the dang story. And if it *is* the story, then it's just boring (doing it might be fun, reading about it isn't all that) LOL! Thank you, but I know how it's done and it's been done since the dawn of humanity. Can we move on please? <grin> Just my opinion - which, again, is why I don't like romances.

So that's why I think slash should be labeled along with A/Us.
[Laura Jacquez Valentine]:

OK, so if someone wrote a Will & Grace crossover in which Will cornered Blair and kissed him, that's technically slash, but wouldn't have to be labelled if slash is only labelled because it's AU--because Will is canonically gay.

Right?
[DawnC]:

That'd be labelled a xo <G> but I would not consider that slash, (unless Blair kissed back - then it's slash!). If there's a show about two gay men, and the fiction portrays them like the show, that's not slash. That's regular canon. It might be slash if the fiction portrays them as hetero, then. <G>

So to me, slash isn't just about homosexual/bisexual relationships. I said there can be a homosexual male in a GEN story. That's fine. To me slash is making Jim or Blair sleep together (Or Blair and Rafe, or Jim and Simon, etc. etc.).

One gal on the SA list wrote Rafe as gay. That was not slash, in my opinion, b/c Rafe wasn't sleeping with Jim or Blair or Simon (folks we know are hetero). We don't really have much canon evidence of Rafe's sexual preferences, and the story was done as more of a 'coming out' (Jim finds out). That wasn't slash in my opinion. And, yes, Rafe had a boyfriend.
[cmshaw]:

>Slash is, then, a very particular type of A/U.

hmm. okay, i see your point, but (you knew this was coming, right?)--

jim and blair are not necessarily portrayed as heterosexual. on-screen, we see them in sexual relationships with women. this isn't quite the same thing. there are, in fact, several canonical incidents which could imply that jim was bisexual -- and we can argue that until the cows come home, but *i* see it, and therefore i *don't* consider bisexual-jim to be a/u. you don't see it, therefore you *do* consider bisexual-jim to be a/u. here we have a labeling quandary. <g> this is more a trouble defining "a/u", especially as it relates to characterization. for instance, would jim ever kick blair out of the loft? until "s2", saying yes might have been considered an a/u characterization of jim by many. would jim ever sleep with blair? well, we haven't *seen* it; it's left as a matter of personal interpretation.
[DawnC]:

And it's also left to the creator's intent - DB and PDM have stated it's not there (they also said some things about UPN) <G> And interpretation can be argued about til the cows come home, but what's there out front on the surface is there. The rest is all conjecture and is not canon. We've never seen Jim or Blair talk about being sexually with another guy. We've seen the pats on the back, etc. etc. That's it. You can interpret that how you want. DB and PDM say otherwise :-)

Now the bloopers.... that's a different story. LOL!
[Trilly]:

> But hetero sex - if it's not explicit - is perfectly canon and had been shown on the show several times. I don't like reading explicit stuff b/c it takes too much time away from the dang story.

You mean them only showing het sex on the show because of the moral majority's bias against anything else should be continued here in ats? I don't think so.
[KEB]:

Let's not confuse Hollywood politics with the ~imaginary~ universe Jim and Blair exist in.

From my admittedly superficial reading of slash stories...most of them seem to have the J/B relationship as the plot. Either entirely sex-scene PWP's...or one of the guys realizing he's attracted to the other, and dealing with it, or both guys discovering they're 'in the closet' and attracted to each other. Okay, there are also a lot of slash stories with 'case' plots, or 'sensory' plots(Blair trying something drastic to pull Jim out of a deep zone seems to be popular) but the majority of the ones I've read have been mainly about the romance between the guys. So to me, labelling those stories as Slash makes some sense.

This goes to the vote on the new posting format: I like the way I've been doing it. FIC: Title: part x/y. It's a way of filtering. Some people are here for the discussion, not the fic. Some people would rather read a story in one sitting, so they'll read a one-parter on the NG, but wait for a multiple to be archived.

So, pass that first filter, and more information in the header. Is it a series, rating, spoilers, warnings: death, slash, angst, h/c, bad puns etc.

Then you can decide to read the story or tank it.

I really see both sides of this issue, and I know it's a hot one, the type to inflame passions....I'm just seeing a future where we have headings longer than the stories.

[snipped]

I know we're not talking about censoring stories here...but I am hearing a lot of "label this story so I won't accidently read something I don't like." And ~that~ worries me.

I *like* this NG. You lot brighten some of my darker days. And I really don't want to see us self-destruct over this issue. So let's all take deep breaths. Let it go...<g>

[Marmoset]: There is an assumption here that the writers of slash all see canon Jim and Blair as you do and think of themselves as writing AU's. This is not the case.

It may be true that some or even many writers of J/B slash see a portrayal of strictly heterosexual characters and go ahead and write the slash for titillation purposes, anyway.

However, there are some people who look at canon episodes and *see* varying degrees of homoerotic subtext. They respond to the writing, the choices the characters seem to make with regard to one another, the acting and directing choices -- and *infer* a great deal of ... love between those two men.

Some people interpret that love as brotherly, some as a manifestation of some sort of supernatural Sentinel/Guide bond, some see it as Jim and Blair's being 'soulmates' in a nonsexual sense.

Some people I've talked to have said they see Jim as a repressed gay [or bisexual] man. Some people have seen these men as having fallen in love regardless of their previous sexual behavior. Some people think they fell in love right away.

Some have said that Blair fell in love with Jim at about the time of the episode "Flight." And recently, someone said she perceived Jim's having fallen in love with Blair in TSbyBS.

I'm not asking anyone to agree with these interpretations. What I'm saying is that all of the views I've listed above have been expressed by many slash reader/writers -- and they have time and again pointed to the *episodes themselves* as containing evidence for their inferences.

We all make inferences of what we see based on our upbringings, knowledge, and experiences of the world. Some of our 'filters' will be influenced by gender or culture.

I'm also not saying there is no set of characteristics that we can agree are 'canon.' I'm just saying that we have allow for the possibility that certain images, dialogue, and situations can serve as 'clues' for a [finite] *range* of inferences.

That Jim and Blair are not in love or would never fall in love with one another is one inference, but not the only one based on canon events.

So to argue that the category 'slash' should automatically be labelled -- for the reason of non-canonicity (whether it has explicit sex or not) -- doesn't really fly with me.

To argue that the category should be automatically labelled because the stories 'usually' have explicit sex in them also seems suspect, not quite logical. Why not label all gen romances, as well (since eventually you'll run into some hetsex, anyway)?

I also believe that it's a misconception that slash *usually* has explicit sex in it.

When I peruse the adult archive, SXF, [1] I see stories rated all the way from *G* to NC-17. There are stories in all parts of that range and some of the higher ratings get part of their rating for things like language and/or violence.

I've done searches of "First Time" stories or "Romances" or "Dramas" and asked the search engine to present them to me in order by rating and am presented with the G's, then PG's, .. .. I can go through a lot of PGs before I ever get to an R.

I myself have posted about 6 stories to SXF and have archived them on my own website [2] -- and although my mindset when I wrote all of them was a 'slash' mindset, 4 of those stories are rated PG, one was rated R but really is more like PG13, and one (co-authored with Alyjude) was rated R and deserved the R rating.

The only story to have explicit sex in it was the one I wrote with Alyjude. Two of my stories have no physical stuff at all. One has kissing. And one implies that sex occurred off screen, but there is no description of the event. (And if you weren't paying attention, you could have missed it entirely.)

I don't mind the idea that writers are being asked to label their stories -- SXF has one of the most elaborate labelling procedures in fanfic, I've been told. I just think that we should stop to think about what we imply by the labels we choose -- the reasons we choose to label.

Some people look to the labels as advertising -- and that's a helpful aspect of it. Some people know that on some days they just can't handle reading about the death of a beloved character, or about partner betrayal [one of the categories on SXF]. Some people can't stand romances and would rather look for something else, like maybe angst. Labelling facilitates that.

But I see no reason why we can't do just as I once saw on the Gossamer X-Files archive [they may have changed, I don't know]: Label the story a romance (or whatever) and name the pairing. So over there, you could get a story categorized as a romance with Mulder/Scully or Mulder/Skinner or Scully/Other f/m ... or whatever. This treats all romance equally.

A rating or a warning could take care of other concerns, for example, R for sex or whatever.

The FAQ could define the abbreviations for those new to the system.

[Bagheera]: Well, other people have already replied to the "heterosexual relationships are canon; heterosexual identity isn't" point, so I'm going to leave off on that and ramble for a while instead in what will probably be a somewhat incoherent fashion, as I have several related but nonlinear thoughts floating around. Feel free to ignore if you think this is a volatile subject, but the issue(s?) fascinates me as a construct and I've been tossing it around in my head for a year or two. In fact, it turns out I've rambled on for so long I'm going to have to break it into two parts; those of you completely bored with the headers discussion may want to skip directly to (2/2).

What is the definition of slash? What is the definition of AU?

We've got several different types of stories that we're looking at here, and yes, the subject header isn't nearly long enough to deal with all the tags that would be ideal for the reader. Each individual pairing in a story is going to be defined by four different variables that I think are relevant here: het/slash, canon/noncanon, explicit/nonexplicit, and primary/incidental to the story.

Now, if something features explicit sex, of any sort, I want it labeled -- and truth to tell, if it's NC-17, I'll usually avoid it, unless I'm familiar with the author or unless I'm absolutely desperate for new fic. And when I am desperate enough to seek out the NC-17 stuff, I look for drama and angst first, preferably but not essentially within the context of J/B. When the drama and angst are exhausted, I look for non-J/B slash . . . because a different pairing automatically has _something_ original going for it, which can't be said for a lot of J/B pieces (this is why I like the idea of pairing headers). I won't choose to read explicit het stories with Jim or Blair, unless it's a prelude to slash or a threesome, or I've been given a heads-up that there's something really special and worthwhile about the story. Serious het stuff just doesn't fit into my view of Jim and Blair; I'm happy with it in other fandoms, but it negates, for me, what I see as the primary draw of The Sentinel, which is the relationship between Jim and Blair.

Now, if it's non-explicit, and the relationship or the flirting or whatever is only incidental to the story, than I don't care if it's labeled, slash or het. If it's het, it will probably mildly annoy me, but yeah, it's canon; the sideburns are canon and they annoy the hell out of me too. :-) Like I said, as long as it's only incidental and doesn't interfere with my preconceived notions that Jim and Blair are ultimately destined for one another, I won't complain. If it's slash, well, I personally think there aren't nearly enough stories out there that have a J/B background while being about something else.

If it's non-explicit and the relationship _is_ central to the story, I want it identified as such, but the method of identification and how important the label is will vary according to whether or not the relationship is canon.

If it's J/B, cmshaw and marmoset have already explained why I don't consider that to be an alternate universe; to me, J/B _is_ canon (the attraction, at least, if not the execution). But I still want to know right off the bat when a given story is primarily a romance. I have to be in the right mood to appreciate romance; give me the same story, and I'm much more likely to enjoy it if I've gone seeking out a romance than if I just stumbled onto it. If I give in and "read" it when I just ran across it, I'm liable to end up just skimming it to see if there's anything really original or spellbinding; most of the time there won't be and I'll mentally classify as mediocre a story or an author that I might have really enjoyed if I'd been in the right mood when I opened it. That applies to be both het and slash.

So there's J/B -- which I consider canon -- and there's the BOTWs and a few other women, which, well, most of us consider canon. I still maintain that Inside Man was a collective nightmare. :-) If the story revolves around a relationship with a canon fem, the intro will have spoiler warnings anyway, so the generic het warning isn't really necessary. It would be convenient if the spoiler warning showed up in the subject line, but I recognize that's not practical. If it revolves around J/B, I want the romance-ahead warning. Again, it's not practical to identify the genre of every story in the subject line, so I'd be content to find it in the story intro.

In either of these canon cases (what I consider canon, remember), I'd rather NOT have a generic het/slash warning, but it's a weak rather, not worth complaining about. I don't want the generic het warning, because I'm liable to assume it's an OFC story and avoid it, when it's really an episode-exploration story that I might have enjoyed. But I won't object to the het warning, because even if I do skip it on a wrong assumption, I probably would have skipped it as soon as I found out it was about a BOTW anyway. If it's J/B, I'd rather not have the generic slash warning, because even knowing the facts are otherwise, my subconscious has finally succumbed to the common belief that slash and porn are synonymous, and again, I'm liable to skip stories based on false assumptions. I may fall prey to that false assumption for only a second, but when I'm busy and downloading headers, a second is all it takes. But -- I know that other people don't consider J/B canon, so again, it's not worth complaining about. My brain _doesn't_ assume "porn" when it sees a pairing header the way it does on seeing a generic SLASH tag, so I'd prefer to see them used instead, but I'm happy to miss stories (which I can always find at an archive later) if that's the price of a consensus-driven system that can be applied across the board.

But when it's NOT canon (by anyone's standards), and the relationship is central to the story, then I definitely want a slash/het label in the subject line, even if it's nonexplicit.

If it's slash with Jim or Blair and some other guy, then yeah, except when the other guy eventually leaves the picture and Our Guys get together, that does strike me as an AU, and again, for me it negates the primary draw of The Sentinel. And the same applies for het relationships. Even if the guys are portrayed in canon as having heterosexual relationships, any given noncanon het relationship is, well, noncanon. :-) And if it's a serious enough relationship to be the central focus of a story, then it feels to me like an AU, and I want a label on it. Actually, I'd be almost happy if noncanon slash stories and noncanon het stories were given the same warning label --- Other Relationship or some such. For me, personally, the only advantage in using separate slash/het labels instead of a generic Other label is that I know I'm more likely to enjoy a Other slash story than an Other het story. And that has nothing to do with a preference for slash over het; it's because an Other slash story is probably going to involve Simon or Rafe or Methos or Alex or some other character I like, whereas an Other het story may possibly involve Megan (who I only sort of like) but is more likely to involve a Mary Sue.

So, what all of this leads me to is the conclusion that the fanfiction community really needs a brand new term, a new benchmark on the continuum between canon and AU. There's aired canon, there's fanon, there's stories that don't contradict canon, and there's AUs. But it seems misleading to me to lump, as both DawnC and I have above (in part 1), stories that take the characters in a definitively-not-canon-direction (such as Other Relationship stories) together with stories that are truly _alternate universes_, Ms. McCool's stories, for example. An other relationship story . . . it may not be my preferred take on Sentinel, but I can accept it as someone else's take on Sentinel. It's still _The Sentinel_. If I'm reading Cheyenne, it's great, it's based on The Sentinel, but after the first story or two, it _ain't_ Sentinel. It's clearly an alternate universe, and I have no trouble attaching that label to it. But if it's an Other Relationship story, or an episode rewrite, or some crossovers . . . I called them AUs above because I haven't got a better term for them yet, but it does seem to me that a new term is called for. No, I'm not suggesting adding another label to the headers. :-) But it seems to me that there's a whole section of continuum between "stories that don't contradict canon" and true alternate universes. Now, what set me off on this was DawnC's assertion that slash was a particular type of AU. Obviously, I disagree, but I think it's a less a philosophical disagreement than an ambiguity in the current usage of the term "AU" . . . and perhaps also an ambiguity in the term "slash". Now, above, I've been using "slash" in the basic sense of "same-sex pairings", but the meaning of "slash" has changed over the years. From this point on, I'm considering it as an undefined term with no set meaning.

I was introduced to the concept of slash by TOS fandom, but I never actually read any K/S. The very idea struck me as vaguely revolting, not because of the homosexual element but because it seemed antithetical to the men's characters. I mean, we may talk about Babes "of the Week", but really . . . we don't see Jim or Blair involved with women all _that_ often, and they are operating in a world which we know is more or less homophobic, so it's not too much of a stretch to believe that they really might be bi and we just haven't seen it. Kirk and Spock, on the other hand, are in a milieu where the IDIC concept and tolerance have supposedly transformed the Federation into a paradise, _and_ Kirk was getting it on with someone nearly every single episode. Assuming that Kirk is bi and we just haven't seen it requires way too much suspension of disbelief for me. I have no trouble thinking of K/S as a true AU.

I didn't "get into" slash until I discovered Blakes Seven, and at that point I was hooked immediately. The aired series did include a few guest characters who can more or less safely be assumed to be gay, there were no BOTWs and almost no canon het relationships, and it took place in a society with very different social mores than our own, so it's very easy to assume the characters are bi. Blakes Seven slash doesn't seem like an alternate universe to me at all.

And then Star Trek: Voyager and Sentinel]] and X-Files came along, and the web came along, and lots of new fen came along, and the meaning of slash started changing. I became aware that some people were calling Mulder/Scully slash. And my first reaction was "no way, those people are crazy, they're just gonna confuse everyone by trying to redefine the term." But . . . I was really into Voyager for a while, and all the C/P stuff was obviously slash, but I didn't care for it anyway. What I did like was Janeway/Chakotay, which wasn't slash, and Tom/Harry/Belanna. And I realized that Tom/Harry/Belanna didn't _feel_ like slash to me. There was an _edge_ that wasn't there. And I thought at first it was probably just because we were back in the wonderfully tolerant Trek universe and there was no reason to believe Tom and Harry couldn't be together if they wanted. And the first night Sentinel aired I was exclaiming over its slash potential, but by now, I _do_ consider J/B to be practically canon, and I find that I call J/B slash now only because it's common usage; I wouldn't argue with someone who claimed J/B _wasn't_ slash. And . . . I used to be an MSR shipper, but the day I decided Mulder was pathetic and Scully had far too much sense to fall for a loser like him was the same day I realized I no longer objected to calling MSR slash. And things like, say, Scully/Krycek . . . that pairing just screams "slash" to me, even if it is het.

And eventually, rather recently, I realized that what feels like "slash" to me has very little to do with the gender of the participants and much more to do with a) the noncanonical nature of the relationship and b) the dynamics of the pairing. That edge that was missing in Paris/Kim wasn't the homophobia of the milieu: it was the conflict in the character's natures. That conflict was there with Jim and Blair in the beginning, but it faded away as they adapted to each other over time. It's there in almost all the potential B7 pairings, which may be why B7 seems to have a more diversified slash menu than most other fan universes. And although both have an influence, it seems, in my mind at least, that the dynamics are more important than the canon in determining whether something is slash. For instance, the (het) Avon/Cally pairing had one aired kiss, in a situation where Cally's body was taken over by an alien and Avon was trying to distract the alien to defeat it. Only by a stretch can you say Avon/Cally is canonical. The (equally het) Avon/Servalan, however, is undeniably canon -- but so is the fact that Avon and Servalan are enemies. That conflict -- that edge -- is always there, every time they meet. And although I love both A/C and A/S stories, Avon/Cally doesn't seem remotely slashy to me, while Avon/Servalan does feel like slash.

So is there a point to all this rambling? I'm not sure. Are we, five years from now, going to find that "slash" has been completely redefined? Is it possible to have het slash? And what about historical slash? Persian Boy is one of my all-time favorite books, but it's not fanfiction and the relationship was historical fact. On the surface I'd say it's not slash, but I find myself recommending it to fanfiction readers all the time; the emotional resonance and the focus on character rather than plot remind me very much of the best slash. Is it slash or not? What about the Vampire Chronicles -- not the spec fic, but the originals? Are they slash?

I'm not sure. I just know I'm very surprised to find my position on the definition of slash has completely reversed itself in the last two years. :-)

[Ruby]: I am one of those who hasn't been around lately. I'm not currently a slasher although for a short period of time I did read it. I just don't see the characters in that way at all and it has nothing to do with liking or not liking homosexuality. I like canon and the characters in canon are not gay. So I see slash as AU and I don't read AU either slash or gen. I was at one point curious and now that I've satisfied it, I'm done with it. I do love the big brother/little brother angle so I'm a sucker for those types of stories. And like many, warn me if it's a DEATH story. It may ruin the "emotional impact" of your story but I don't like having my day ruined by a downer of a story. And you don't want that kind of LoC.

I do resent the implication not just from Bagheera but from others not on this list that if you don't like slash you're homophobic. I've heard this insult batted around for years. Since no one knows my sexual orientation at all they cannot make that judgement. For all you know I could be gay and still not like slash. (My brother is gay and thinks that a bunch of mostly heterosexual chicks writing gay male fic is strange - there you go, he's gay. By that standard he should love it but he doesn't - go figure.) There are many reasons for not liking slash so let's not get that firestorm started.

And by the way, while we're on the topic I hate the whole morphed photo thing which I think is highly disrespectful to the actors and to their families. Actors do own their images. You do not. As an artist I don't use my abilities in that fashion. I think it's unethical. And in my business it's illegal.

Dawn's point is one many should think on. Let's not make generalities. I like keeping the discussions to the show itself. On this point I agree with Bagheera's original thought - fic should be in the archives where it's easier to read anyways. But if it's going to be posted to the newsgroup then give me a warning in the heading that it's slash. That way I can skip it and not waste my time. If the list decides not to label them at all, then no biggie. There are other groups, some slashfree and some have left to join them already. We are fortunate in that respect that we have many groups to serve many different tastes. So no one needs to feel uncomfortable or unwelcome. We're all welcome somewhere.

In saying that, I haven't decided whether to keep on with this newsgroup. I have a small amount of time to be on line during the day and if I have to choose I'd rather have a pure discussion group that I can keep up with. Fanfiction I go to CL or Guideposts for.

Ruby (formerly bifictional - currently generally gen)

[Bagheera]:

I never said that not liking slash was homophobic. What I said in my original post was "even if it is only the sort of quiet homophobia that requests that I clearly label my presence so people don't run into evidence of my existence without warning. " This was in reaction to the opinions expressed elsewhere in the newsgroup that the presence of too many slash stories was scaring people away and that ats would be better off if there were another newsgroup just for slash so the rest of you weren't exposed to it, and the opinion expressed in other Sentinel online communities that even slash discussion needs a label. I'm not sure if you have any idea of just how hard it is for me, as a bisexual woman, to hear -- repeatedly -- that the very notion of the characters being bisexual is so horrendous that people need to be protected from it, even for the few seconds it would take them to glance at a story's archive info. No, not everyone who dislikes slash is homophobic. But some are, and many many others have absorbed homophobic standards without realizing it, and those are the people to whom I was responding. Obviously, my attempt to respond diplomatically failed badly, and people thought I was talking about all people who want slash stories labeled, when I was actually talking about the people who have fits when they run into slash.

Not liking slash and having fits about labels are really two separate issues. I have no objection to labels being used to help readers filter out the stories they want to read from the ones they don't. But I seriously object to requiring a slash label when het labels aren't required, and yes, I maintain that that _is_ homophobic, the sort of passive, "quiet" homophobia that people never realize they've absorbed and are sending out until someone points it out to them. Fortunately, now that it's been pointed out, most of the newsgroup seems to have agreed that yes, the double standard is wrong, and if one sort of label is required, the other should be as well. I'm happy with that.

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