SlashLit: When Geeks Get Sexy

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News Media Commentary
Title: SlashLit: When Geeks Get Sexy
Commentator: Kate Mercier for "Fabula"
Date(s): August 1, 2000 (at alternet.org), August 8, 2000 (at Orlando Weekly)
Venue: online
Fandom: multi
External Links: When Geeks Get Sexy; another link: SlashLit: When Geeks Get Sexy (alternet.org)
Slash and burn: When geeks get sexy
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

SlashLit: When Geeks Get Sexy is a 2000 article by Kate Mercier.

Two Publishing Locales

It was published in two places a week apart: alternet.org and Orlando Weekly.

The Orlando Weekly posting differs from the alternet. org one in that it had the slightly different title: "Slash and burn: When geeks get sexy."

The Orlando Weekly posting also had an uncredited photomanip of Kirk and Spock.
from "The Orlando Weekly" posting

It also had links to various online sources, including the fanfic source (Life from the Ashes, Book Four -- Yours, Mine, and Ours) as well as this coda: "If you are interested in reading more Slash, research various search engines for Slash archives, throwing in the titles to your favorite shows. Obviously you are supposed to be over the age of consent to visit these (free) sites. If you are interested in writing Slash for fun (not profit), a great site is Minotaur's Sex Tips for Slash Writers. And these sites were invaluable (entertaining) while researching this story: Complete Kingdom of Slash, Ultimate Slash Links, Slash City, and Fan Fiction on the Net."

See:

Some Topics Discussed

In the Article

By Fans

From the Article

I had the fortune/misfortune in high school to be half-geek/half-popular. Where I'm from, it's the popular kids who are sexy (read: "sexual," but I didn't know that then) and the geeks who are, well, gamers. That is, while the cool kids were out drinking and fighting and having sex, the geeks were taking part in role-playing games and reading Anne Rice/Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy/graphic novels. Which is not to say that these "geeks" weren't also drinking and fighting and having sex, they were just doing all that stuff while engaging in a rich fantasy life, and when time permitted, academic studies. These are the people who created and populated the world of "Slash," or "/": a subculture of fan fiction, or "Fan Fic" – stories written by fans.
For those of you who have extensively browsed the Internet but somehow missed this genre, it's a subculture of its own. You might even have seen it and not known what you were looking at. It's both geeky and sexy, and sometimes very smart, and more than occasionally X-rated. "Slash" was derived from the slash mark used in referring to a story involving two characters – like "Kirk/Spock" – and is usually subdivided into sections according to the characters that are involved. Slash is written with characters from well-known network televison shows or movies that already have a cult following – ranging from the notoriously fanatical and geeky tribes of Star Trek (all offshoots, all eras) to the conspiracy-touting "X-philes" (as they often refer to themselves) to culty, dykey Xena, to the shiny, wholesome Buffy the Vampire Slayer – and everything in between. I've seen slash for the Cure, Smokey and the Bandit, The Lone Ranger, Laverne and Shirley, the Backstreet Boys, The Odd Couple, and the long-canceled Saturday-morning cartoon, The Real Ghostbusters.
Slash stories are, by definition, gay, which is to say they all feature a romantic or sexual relationship between two characters of the same sex. Although I'm sure there are exceptions I'm unaware of, these couples are rarely, if ever, coupled romantically, or even favorably on the actual show or movies themselves, so their interactions are wholly invented by the writer. If the stories are about a het couple, they fall into the Fan Fic category. For example, Mulder/Scully Romance (referred to as MSR – these fans like to abbreviate everything!). There are hundreds of stories about Mulder and Scully getting it on in their own terse, dramatic way, sometimes with Scully as dominatrix. But not in Slash. In Slash fiction, you might read about Scully and Xena the Warrior Princess devouring each other hungrily, in a story-type known as "crossover" slash (which spans shows, networks, and decades). A hugely popular archive of stories involves the psychologically dependent Mulder/Krycek Romance, which, like some Slash, incorporates one of the characters getting hurt (emotionally, physically, sexually) while the other offers comfort. Another common theme is sex as a method of revenge, or as gratification with ulterior motives. Did I mention that Slash is written almost exclusively by women?

This genre takes itself VERY seriously. An offshoot of Fan Fic, it's kind of the Trashy/Queer Romance Novel Quadrant of the Geek Fiction Galaxy. There are hundreds and hundreds of Web sites with full-to-bursting archives of stories that are often illustrated, rated, and categorized for your reading pleasure. There are well-known authors, published fanzines, conventions, newsgroups, and chat rooms. There is a story for every kink, a fable for every double entendre uttered on the real show, and several endings for every cliff hanger.

Some Slash goes completely over the top, like this Mulder/Skinner/Krycek polyamorous novel by Jo B. Here is a love scene from Book 4 of a series that seems to have culminated in Mulder's pregnancy:

[excerpt snipped]
"Walter stood silently watching him. Admiring the well-toned body from the perfect round buttocks to the long legs capped by well-proportioned feet. The dusky-rose nipples looked darker today and stood out more pronounced against the tan flesh of Fox's chest. Delicious. Walter was longing to take them into his mouth and bring his lover to orgasm just by the sensation of his lips and teeth sucking and teasing those perfect nubs. Fox had no obvious tan lines, Walter smiled at that, watching Fox turn once more in the bright sunlight with his eyes closed and his face tilted up toward the sun. Fox and Alex both preferred sunbathing in the nude. Neither man had any shame over displaying their bodies openly on the private portion of beach they shared with their friends. He only hoped that Fox wouldn't start becoming self-conscious about his appearance, as his body started to show his pregnancy more and more. Even the slight swell of Fox's belly didn't diminish his overall beauty; it only made him more erotic looking in Walter's eyes. Walter finally rested his eyes on Fox's erect cock, standing proud against the tanned flesh of his belly.
[excerpt snipped]

Why are the overwhelming majority of Slash writers women? And why are they writing stories about gay men? Certainly not because sci-fi and fantasy geeks are only female. Unless all of these apparently women writers are gay men, using feminine noms de plume, I think the answer lies in the complexity of the relationship between the characters. Porn may exist for the beautiful, singular purpose of getting people off, but clearly every brain needs a different buildup in order to get off. Maybe it's a chance for these fans/writers to step completely out of the bounds of their "normal" heterosexual lives and into one that subverts the formula of aggressive male/passive female, recognizable in most television writing. Or perhaps it's just a way for fans to "play" with their favorite characters in roles that haven't had the life sucked out of them by mass media.

Plus, although the best lines in most television/motion pictures are given to men, in my opinion, those same characters are often stilted in their emotional/sexual expression. Not in Slash. These writers have imagined a passionate, complex world where men relate to each other in a much deeper way than just juggling around who has control of the "Bridge."

Fan Comments

From a fan discussion at Slash in the news again (August 3-5, 2000).

Wow, am I in geek circles? I never knew. -- jat sapphire

Uhhh, high school kids created K/S??? Now I'm pissed. It's one thing for people to make fun of us old middle-aged ladies in pink collar jobs who satisfied our frustrated libidos by writing about hot hunka-hunka's, but to claim it was started by HIGH SCHOOL CHILDREN???? I'm gonna have to go smack somebody with my steno pad.

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Liz (smoke rising)

I didn't see anything saying that in the article. Fabula only mentions high school in the first line, and it was in reference to herself being part geek. -- LL&P }:) T'Rhys
Liz--LOL--but I think the author just left out one word. I think she meant to say, in the last sentence of the first paragraph: "These are the people who LATER created and populated the world of Slash..." I sure hope so. Otherwise, I'll hold her while you smack her with your steno pad. <g> -- J S Cavalcante
I wondered about that, but it didn't seem to fit in with her apparent age, which I'm assuming is still fairly young. It sounds as though she is equating herself to some extent with the nerds and geeks who allegedly 'created' slash, and she would have be to a whole lot older than she sounds to be in that age group. Not to mention, of course, that we were neither nerds nor geeks, for the most part. I wrote to her directly--it will be interesting to see how she responds. Or if she responds. -- Liz
To my great surprise, Kate Mercier, the author of the article in Fabula, responded to my email almost immediately. She is twenty-five, about what I had suspected. She reiterated that she thought 'nerds and geeks' had created slash, but then said she hadn't meant to imply that they 'established' it. Not sure what kind of distinction she is making there. Anyway, I sent another message right back to her and said, among other things, that I thought most of us would be surprised to hear that we were 'geeks.' I'm not sure how she defines that, but I did think the rest of her article was perceptive, especially the points about the male characters being stilted in their emotional and sexual responses, and slash authors giving them more rounded and complex personalities, or something like that. I don't have her article in front of me any more. Interesting article, at any rate. Wonder what kind of reaction it will stir up. -- Liz
Oh, I see what Liz meant. I read the article's "These are the people" sentence as a reference to adult geeks, not teeny boppers. Because of the self-reference in the first line again - no such thing as slash in Fabula's high school days (assuming she isn't currently only about 19 or 20, of course <g>), so I sort of figured she wasn't referring to her geek contemporaries back then. -- LL&P }:) T'Rhys
Who's callin' whom a geek? I'm an artist. I write the stuff. She *studies* it and writes *about* it. I ask you. -- J S Cavalcante
It would have described me as well, at the time K/S was first being read, but not, I think, many of the others. The suggestion that all K/S fen were middle-aged women in pink collar jobs was ridiculous, but the women I knew at that time would have been ROFL at the idea of being called geeks or nerds. Perhaps the word is used in a different context today. -- Liz
In her letter back to me, she made a definite distinction between fanfic and slash, as though they were completely separate categories. Just goes to show how little she really knew about what she was writing. I don't think she ever heard the 'pink-collar' premise, but I'm grinning at your retro definition of geek. -- Liz

Anyway, I sent another message right back to her and said, among other things, that I thought most of us would be surprised to hear that we were 'geeks.' I'm not sure how she defines that, but I did think the rest of her article was perceptive, especially the points about the male characters being stilted in their emotional and sexual responses, and slash authors giving them more rounded and complex personalities

Well, thanks for the heads-up to the article writer.

I have to disagree about the emotional content of slash being some kind of antidote to the lack of emotional expression in the characters, as if we are giving them something they don't already have. I'm not going to say a word about other popular slash heroes, but (for example) James T. Kirk is a very emotional guy, and TOS Trek folks in general were very open about their feelings, even Spock, who was supposed to be otherwise. *They* don't need fans to write stories which give them well-rounded personalities. Kirk not only has had a very lively emotional life on display all along, but (in general) he has more personality than most real people do!

What I ~add~ with my trekfic is the behind-the-scenes stuff, and I like to do sexual fantasies and parodies. Using popular characters for these stories is a kind of shortcut for getting to the meat of the point one wishes to make. Since the characters and their worlds are already very well known to the people who are likely to be reading, you can cut right to the story in progress.

Since lots of women like to think of (popular and famous) guys together, and since the porn industry completely failed to supply us, we been writing our own. Big mystery! It's entertainment! We are entertaining ourselves. What's so complicated about that?

BTW, It's very wrong for women to speak of men as if they are unemotional, and in need of our help to find expression. Men are in fact the flamboyant sex, and have littered museums, libraries, and art galleries world-wide with evidence of their emotional richness. Two words: Taj Mahal.

Slash writers are the ones with a need to express ourselves. Slash is about *us*, not about the characters we love. It's a form of self-expression that lots of people are passionate about. The relative artistic merit of the work is not the real justification for it. The reasons for slash fanfic will be found in the same place where you keep your own emotional needs. It's not about any fictional person, it's about you. -- Laura Goodwin

The definition of "geek" that I work with is: someone who persues something cerebral for its own sake. That is, if no money were to be made from computer programming, techie geeks would still be coding, just for the fun of it. Studying Old English poetry is my geek credential. Slash seems to fit in there somewhere too.

A strange article. It seems addressed to the geeky and fannish...but then, if you are geeky and fannish, you are probably aware of slash already. I keep seeing these slash discovery articles -- apparently awhole lot of ppl have never heard of this before, and need to tell the world when they find it. Too bad she had her history wrong. -- B

I would consider myself to be fairly geeky too, always have done. But many of the non-net fans I know don't, and of the ones I knew during the early K/S years, few would have. They were ordinary mothers with families and jobs and the same kinds of daily concerns that most other women had . . . but we all had this weird little thing we liked to read, that we didn't dare tell anyone else about, that we hid from our husbands and our other friends and our pastor's wife and . . . In fact, I was considered lucky by most of my friends because my husband knew about my fascination with K/S and hadn't kicked me out or hauled me off to church for counseling. Times have sure changed. -- Liz
ROFL! So true. Our response used to be to *not* tell the world. I wonder what has changed? -- J S Cavalcante
Yes to the discovery part. I have wondered if part of the motivation for such articles is finding slash *on the net*. I think many have heard of 'zines; perhaps not so many know there is a parallel community that's wired. If you start with the assumption that fanfic writers (or did she specify slash writers? I forget) are pink-collar women, you might extend the stereotype to presume that the pink-collar folk are working merrily on their IBM Selectrics, changing typewriter ribbons as needed. Crikey. -- raku

References

  1. ^ X-Patrol, current link