Shipping

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Synonyms: Relationshipping
See also: Pairing, OTP, OT3, OT4, Skinship, Multishipping
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Shipping in fandom is the act of supporting or wishing for a particular romantic relationship — that is, a het (different-sex), slash (male/male), femslash (female/female), or poly (three or more partners) ship — by discussing it, writing meta about it, or creating other types of fanworks exploring it. Fans who have and promote favorite ships are called shippers. They might assert that the relationship does exist or will exist in canon, that they would like it to exist, or simply that they enjoy imagining it. Shippers who support multiple ships within a single canon are often referred to as multishippers, especially if they support those ships equally.

The relationships that fans promote or wish for are not all happy-fluffy-bunny ones; fans also enjoy enemyslash and wrongshipping.

Some shippers support relationships that are portrayed or acknowledged as established in canon, some shippers like relationships that exist only as subtext (whether intentional or accidental -- itself a topic of debate), and some prefer relationships where the characters have no subtext discernible to non-shippers. Some fans ship characters who never even appear in canon together! It is important to note that some percentage of fans actively do not want their ship to become canon, especially wrongshippers and fans who don't trust the show's writers and producers to "do it right". Shippers have been known to regret it when their wish came true.

Shippy is the adjectival form of ship. Shippy can be used to describe canon interactions between characters, as well as fanworks that are not gen. Like slashy, shippy can be applied to subtext, as well as to acknowledged romance.

"My life since I joined fandoms" [1]

Etymology

The X-Files Origin

The term was first used in 1993:

For the record, Kelli Rocherolle (google it) coined “shipper” on Prodigy during S1 back when “CancerMan” was still CSM. We had a huge group on the scifi Prodigy BB and she was famous during the early years for her fanfic. [2]

The term gained popularity in the X-Files fandom at alt.tv.x-files.creative where viewers who wanted to see a romantic relationship between Fox Mulder and Dana Scully were dubbed "relationshippers," or "shippers." The antithisis of a "shipper" was a Noromo.

Also see: intellishippers.

A comment by a fan in March 1996: "Don't get me wrong: I am a die-hard relationshipper, but I had to write this story." [3]

In April 1996 a fan describes her story as something "I think that everyone, both R'shipper's and Non R'shipper's alike, can enjoy this story. :D." [4]

An early use of a variation used as a verb is from May 1996: "To explain it is to diminish the mystery. Which is why I'm not a fan of straight-forward relationshipping: it is to denegrate [sic] the purity of Mulder and Scully's partnership to reduce it to simple giggly handholding." [5]

Another X-Files fan in May 1996 posted:
It comes to my attention that there is a great deal of misunderstanding as to what exactly it is that we "relationshippers" want in the show. To say that we want Mulder and Scully to simply fall into bed together like would happen on any other show on TV is unfair, and patently untrue...One of the reasons we 'shippers have kept to ourselves for so long is because every time we dare to bring our opinions forth, we get words that we never spoke shoved into our mouths and then we get flamed for them... [6]
By December 16, 1997, the phrase was being used on private fan run mailing lists:
[The X-Files episode is] called The Field Where I Died. It will re-air on FX tonight. For the record, I liked it. But then I'm not a shipper, don't care all that much about odd details that don't quite add up and like torch, think "he [Mulder] suffers so beautifully.[7]
A few weeks later, on December 31, 1997 Sandy Hereld posted to the Virgule-L mailing list:
(And if I may digress slightly--I have also read 3 'shipper stories recently (by RivkaT) that were so good I've been pushing them on people who swear they *never* read het or gen. They're just wonderful; dark, intense (and [K.]-- no s/m!) gripping and amazing.)[8]

Lois and Clark

It was also used on discussion groups for Lois and Clark (1993), where "shippers" were those who were pushing for stories in which the pair would get together romantically onscreen. [need cite]

Uses of the Word

The Noun

"Relationshippers" became "Shippers" or "R'shippers," which then evolved into the shortened term "ship," which was used to refer to a potential romantic pairing a fan supported or wished to see become canon.

From May 1996: "To explain it is to diminish the mystery. Which is why I'm not a fan of straight-forward relationshipping: it is to denegrate [sic] the purity of Mulder and Scully's partnership to reduce it to simple giggly handholding." [9] [10]

The Verb

"Ship" was subsequently used as a verb: "(to) ship a certain pairing."

A 2000 comment: "And as to Ron/Harry shippers -- let'em ship. I know that JKR would never screw up a perfectly lovely series like HP because she wanted to make the main characters boyfriends. That would instantly make me set down the book and run screaming." [11]

Another early use of "to ship" was 2001 and in regards to a m/f pairing is from a message on a Harry Potter mailing list regarding a chapter of Cassandra Claire's story Draco Veritas: "...if Hermione isn't with Harry in this story, I at least want her with Draco. It's not like I'm not a Hermione/Ron shipper. I ship Hermione with almost anyone. It's just that I don't think for this story that it makes sense." [12]

One use of "ship" as a verb for a m/m relationship was in 2004: "Why I Ship Them" from The Shipper's Manifesto: Jim/Blair of The Sentinel [13]

Ship and Het and Slash

In the past, "shippers" was sometimes used to refer exclusively to fans of heterosexual pairings, as opposed to "slashers" who wanted two male characters to get together. For example, see Slashing versus 'Shipping, or Why it's Easier to be a Slasher, a 2004 meta essay by T'Mar. Today, it now also means fans of slash pairings.

From a 2014 discussion at Fail-Fandomanon:
[Gen] originally stood for "general". You had slash zines and general zines. General, at that point, also included het, though the het porn was usually categorized as "Adult" - but it was still filed with the General stuff. [14]

Sometime in the early/mid 90s, General and Relationshipper split off from each other. At that point 'shipper exclusively meant het. Slashers were not 'shippers. So you had General, Shipper, and Slash. (I think the split came in X-Files fandom, which invented the entire term 'relationshipper', which is where we get ship from, and had the Mulder/Scully vs No Romance wars, but don't quote me on that.)[15]

Then, in the early 00s, 'shipper lost it's apostrophe, lost it's -per, and just became "ship". It stopped meaning exclusively m/f, and started meaning all romantic relationships in fic, which is when we start calling things "het".

Gen, which had long since lost it's -eral, therefore became exclusively about non-romance sometime in the mid 90s, because the romance camps had so firmly split themselves into separate categories by that point. [16]

Ship War

A clash between rival groups of pairing supporters is called a "ship war" or "shipping war".

Jack/Daniel icon with text "I will go down with this ship."

Because of their homophones, the terms are often accompanied or embellished by nautical or maritime imagery (for example, if canon makes a particular pairing unlikely or difficult to write, shippers may say it has "sunk their ship.") When the song "White Flag" by Dido came out, one of its lyrics, "I will go down with this ship," became a motto for passionate shipping, appearing on many, many Livejournal icons, banner graphics and other website and blog decorations. A factor in the rapid adoption of this quote by fandom may have been the use of David Boreanaz (Angel) as Dido's stalker / love interest in the music video,[17] at a time when the Spuffy v Bangel ship war was still arousing passions in Buffy fandom.

Shipper and Ship Nicknames

Shippers of a particular pairing may make up names to describe themselves, such as the Rocketshippers of Pokémon fandom. Sometimes shipper names denote a specific subgroup of fans of that pairing, such as the Harmonians in Harry Potter or Larries in One Direction.

Nicknames for the ships themselves are ubiquitous and usually follow specific naming conventions. In the 2010s, portmanteaus or smooshnames (e.g. "Johnlock" or "Destiel") are particularly common. A single relationship may have multiple names. See Pairing Name for more detail.

Some 1990s Practical Advice for the X-Files Fan

Could be practical for many fandoms!

See "Dealing with Discrimination".

Some excerpts:

You're cornered and different from everyone else. The only 'shipper in a room full of Naxis. You have nowhere to turn, nowhere to hide, and soon you find yourself at the end of a long line of flame-throwers. What do you do? Seek immediate help! Perhaps you'll find some here. . .

After any form of discrimination, you need to reassure yourself of your faith and belief in Mulder and Scully's relationship. For some, this reassurance may come instantly from within themselves, but others who find themselves growing highly emotional and feel their beliefs may have been shaken by the attack, there are steps to take to bring yourself back to 'shipperdom.

What to do after an e-mail attack: Depending on the degree of the attack, from mild to heartshaking, one should always counter-respond, but not defensively.

For the short-written, one-email attacker, a short simple note is good. For example, a response could be "Thanks for writing. I watch X-Files the way I do because that's how I like it. I'll leave you alone if you do the same for me. Sound fair?" Always sign your note, as many attackers tend not to. Signing shows class and the need to let people know who you are.
What to do after an online attack: Online, chat room attacks are more difficult to handle because of their instant quality. You may find yourself cornered by a group of anti-shippers, unable to escape. Your safest bet is to get the hell out of there and seek out a 'shipper-friendly room. But if you're feeling brave, imagine all the anti-shippers as Marita Covarrubias--I'm sure you'll figure out what to do then ;)

Further Reading/Meta

Notes

  1. johnlockinthetardiswiththeimpala
  2. Kate Knibb's comment in How Horny X-Files Lovers Created a New Type of Online Fandom, Archived version, 2015
  3. from the introduction to A Woman's Touch by Leyla Harrison
  4. NEW: TITLE 17 [1/1], post by Amy Schatz, alt.tv.x-files.creative, April 20, 1996.
  5. Gossamer Interview with an Author: Alec Nevala-Lee (LoneGunGuy)
  6. Clarification (was Re: My problem with 'anti-relationshippers'....), Eric Johns, alt.tv.x-files.creative, May 17, 1996
  7. post to the Virgule-L mailing list dated Dec 16, 1997, quoted anonymously with permission.
  8. Quoted with permission.
  9. It is unclear if "relationshipping" is used here as a verb or a noun.
  10. Gossamer Interview with an Author: Alec Nevala-Lee (LoneGunGuy)
  11. This is a quote used by Heidi Tandy in a chapter of Fic: Why Fanfiction Is Taking Over the World (2013), though the exact provenance of the quote is not included. See Fic: Why Fanfiction is Taking Over the World - How Harry Potter Fanfiction Changed the World - Heidi Tandy (Heidi8) - Page 5 - Wattpad,
  12. comment by Lia at [https://beta.groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/ParadigmOfUncertainty/conversations/messages/12241 12241Re: DV2], October 5, 2001
  13. posted September 1, 2004
  14. This changed the original meaning of "gen", which was a fanwork that took place in the canon universe, but with none of the original characters. Nu Ormenel was gen in this sense.
  15. It was, in fact, fans of The X-Files along with fans of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.
  16. March 23, 2014, at Fail-Fandomanon; WebCite
  17. White Flag video on YouTube (retrieved July 4th 2015)