Slash Controversies

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Related terms: Slash, K/S, The Premise
See also: Homophobia in Fandom, History of Slash Fandom
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Slash, the practice of creating amateur art and stories in which two same-sex characters who are straight in canon have a sexual relationship, has been surrounded by controversy since its inception.

Early Objections to Kirk/Spock

After the publication of the first K/S fanworks (both fiction and meta) in the 1970s, there were vociferous objections, often by well known fans, to the idea of Kirk and Spock together romantically or sexually (known at the time as "the premise") [1]. Some saw it as out of character, or inconsistent with the military-style regulations of Starfleet. Others were against explicit sexual narratives, or believed homosexuality was immoral or mentally ill. One fan recollects Bjo Trimble describing K/S slashers as a "bunch of twisted sickos". Other well-known and highly visible fans were just as vociferously in favor of slash and explicit stories, causing extensive and vigorous debate.

The "Probe" Letter by Winston A. Howlett: 1976/1977

In 1976, Winston A. Howlett wrote a review of the zine Alternative: Epilog to Orion and published it in his zine Probe #9.

An excerpt of that review:
According to some of the latest social mores, 'Gay is Good' (Sorry, friend, not in this part of the galaxy), so I guess this type of literary exploration coming aboveground is inevitable. In fact, I hear that other zine writers are working on similar ideas. Fasten your seat belts and pass the Bromo; I think we are in for a rough literary season. The interior artwork of 'Alternative' is mostly simple line drawings, but they help greatly in removing any pretensions about where this work belongs: in a Times Square smut shop. I mean to cast no dispersions upon the author/artist. I truly wish her well... and hope she stays away from the scene where Uhura kissed Christine in 'What Are Little Girls Made of?'

The review generated much reaction, both in his own zine, and in others.

Howlett wrote a response to the the letters he had received and seen and printed it in the next issue of his zine See Open Letter by Winston A. Howlett Regarding His Review of "Alternative: Epilog to Orion" for more:
Jerry, you have stated here — and you, Leslie, in other places — that I am ignorant of the true nature of The Gay World. Well, I have not read 'Rubyfruit Jungle', but I can say that I believe I've read more on the subjects of homosexuality, transexualism, and transvestism than the two of you put together.. And I'm talking about the full strata: the psychological discourses, interviews,, fiction (mostly written by these people about themselves and each other), court rulings... I know the subcultural language and slang terms, the gay social rules of behaviour...and a few things that would surprise you...

No, Leslie, I am not terrified of being propositioned by a man. But I have an 11-year-old brother, and I have a distant fear of him one day being trapped in a room with a desperately lonely full grown male, who might take a liking to my brother...and not take "No" for an answer. (And don't try to tell me that this doesn't happen, because we both know that it does.) That is why I disliked ALTERNATIVE so much. It is not a discussion of homosexuality. It is a pearl-papered, beautifully-written, nicely-illustrated con job, giving the image of "Oh, look how interesting homosexuality is. See. it's harmless, and benign, and perfectly natural. There's nothing wrong with it."

That is a LIE!

Two of the many reactions to this open letter:

…if you are following this tempest in our teapot, Winston's reply to letters attacking his "review" of ALTERNATIVE. The review was not a review but an attack, and the reply is a fine example of what happens when you let yourself think with your convictions instead of your intellect." [2]
I have resigned from the staff of Probe as you read this. Normally, such a statement is not necessary, but since Winston Howlett lists me as a staff person, I feel compelled to announce this resignation. I find myself in editorial disagreement with Winston on several issues, but since he makes no disclaimer in his zine to the effect that the editorial opinions are solely his own and not that of his staff, one could easily get the impression that we all agree. Winston and I will continue to be friends, but I will henceforth not be associated with 'Probe' fanzine or M'Pingo Press. [3]

The SeKWester*Con Slash & Porn Debates: 1977

In May 1977, in the midst of political and social turmoil both pro- and anti-gay rights in the everyday world[4] [5] [6], the second SeKWester*Con was held in Kalamazoo, Michigan. It was the first convention to include panels specifically discussing "The Kirk/Spock Relationship" and "Porno and Sex in Star Trek Fiction". Although there were other panels at this gathering, these were the two sessions to cause controversy and highly emotional debate.

Menagerie editor and convention organizer Paula Smith revealed that it had been difficult to find fan authors opposed to slash or porn who were willing to serve on the "anti" side of these panels. Fan author Theresa H., who did sit on the "anti" side, later confessed that she had been intimidated by some of the "pro" members and attitudes, and that she knew other "anti" fans who had been afraid to be involved.

Several explicit stories were nominated for fan awards, and when Leslie Fish won one for her sprawling epic novel The Weight, which does not contain explicit sex, some fans mistakenly believed the piece that had won was Fish's notorious short story "Shelter." Numerous pieces of X-rated art were on display in the same area as non-X material. Additionally, a PA glitch resulted in the entire convention being treated to the voice of Connie Faddis reading an explicit sexual (non-slash) narrative. Some fans came away with the impression that the majority of ST fandom was now in favor of hardcore X-rated material. The now-familiar age statement and modern labeling practices ("gen", "het", etc.) were instituted as a result of this discussion.

James T. Crawford: 1980

While Crawford's zine, Universal Understanding, was a very low-circulation zine, his statement in the first issue is a sample of many comments that proclaimed the undesirability of K/S:

Commentary: There are two or three fanzines out today that deal with the Kirk/Spock relationship, but in a most unconstructive way. The zines emphasize the darker aspects of human behavior, and in general reduce the two men to the status of oversexed homesexual [sic] lovers. This, very simply, is not necessary. To concentrate stories and entire fanzines on such a non-existent relationship is bad enough, but to do that to the exclusion of all that is positive and good about Star Trek is a crime. Star Trek presents a world of optimism, of hope, of love and understanding, and of constant challenge and growth. Let us not get mired down in unnecessary excursions into human sexual abnormalities. Such fanzine writing is myopic, in that the writer seems unable to handle anything other than a dark Kirk/Spock relationship. Such writers need to examine their own motivations. [7]

David Gerrold: 1984/1985

Star Trek writer and continuity advisor David Gerrold, who is gay, has spoken out against K/S slash many times.

In 1984, a fan wrote of her anger over Gerrold's actions at the U.F.P. Convention in Manchester, England, a convention he had volunteered to attend. Gerrold was invited to conduct the auctions, and the following theatrics ensued:
The event took place on both Saturday and Sunday of the con. On Saturday, Mr. Gerrold picked up a copy of Thrust and said he found such literature 'annoying to say the least.' He then flourished the cover -- there were small children in the audience and, despite being asked to refrain, he continued to do so -- and gave 'mock readings' in a derisory tone, accompanied by jeers from one sector of the audience. Later, he apologized for having given 'offence' (his word). However, on Sunday, the same behaviour prevailed. Mr. Gerrold used words like 'filth' and 'perversion' with regard to zines, in particular K/S Relay. Readings were given from Sun and Shadow, and it was implied this was a K/S zine. The same suggestion was made of Precessional. [8] The atmosphere of the whole auction was not pleasant... Perhaps readers of UT [Universal Translator] have encountered such a phenomenon before, but I was considerably saddened by it, as it seems so contrary to the spirit of Star Trek [but came] from one who is regarded as a creator. [9]
In 1985, David Gerrold again commented on K/S, saying there were far bigger issues in the world, like AIDS, starvation in Africa and a blood donor shortage, and that he didn't consider K/S fans:
... real Star Trek fans... I think they are fat ladies with a sexual dysfunction.... I can't understand why I'm controversial. I always tell the truth... One of the truths I've been telling lately is that Kirk and Spock are not lovers... they're not even boyfriends. They're just good friends. This has offended a whole subculture that is convinced they are... I was at a convention in Milwaukee a few weeks ago. This lady comes up to me with this stuff, and after a thirty minute discussion, I finally said, 'Stop! We're arguing over whether or not two fictitious characters are getting their hands in each others' pants. [10]

See more at Gerrold and Remarks on Slash, DraftTrek Interview with David Gerrold (1985), and Open Letter to K/S Fandom by David Gerrold (1984/85).

Roberta Rogow: 1986

Rogow was a published slash writer in 1984 and 1986, having written stories in the H/J (Dirty Harry) universe: Timeline Press) and Mixed Media.

In the editorial to Grip 23 (1986), Roberta Rogow, dedicated editor of the Trekindex, described having been loudly opposed to 'the premise' back in the beginning:

"I’ve made some judgements in the past, and I have revised my opinions about a number of things. And this is as good a place as any to talk about them.... There is the K/S Premise, which is that Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock are 'more than Just Good Friends'. I've been pretty vocal about this for a number of years, and I've gathered a remarkable batch of feudists en route. I refuse to believe for one minute that 'our" Captain Kirk will do anything to put his career in jeopardy, and 'our' Spock isn't going to have a sexual relationship for any reason but propagation of the species, however…I've read a few "alternate' K/S stories that make a little more sense, and are not as involved with the mechanics of the relationship as they are with the emotions. So…another qualified revision of opinion."[11]

Rogow was the subject of a two-page article in the New Yorker for December 12, 1988 in which she described slash books as "basically harmless" and "girlish romantic fantasy" substituting James Kirk for the usual romance novel heroine. However, she also said that slash was "threatening the zine universe" because it ignored basic characterization: Spock is sexually active only once every seven years, so that "when you ignore a rule like that, it seems to me you're not writing literature any more."[12]

In 1993, she remained still vocal in her opposition to slash. At the 1993 Worldcon, for instance, she helped staff Bill Hupe's fanzine table. She refused to handle any money for the sale of slash zines and refused to sell gen zines to fans who had expressed interest in slash zines. [13]

KLangley on K/S Controversies

Klangley researched such early controversies in detail:

In her book, "FutureSpeak" (Paragon House, 1991) Rogow has entries under "K/S" (with historical errors in it), "same-sex relationship stories," and this entry:
slash fiction (fan): Not to be confused with slasher movies. When the slash is placed between the names of well-know male-bonded pairs, it indicates a degree of intimacy not usually fostered by most such buddies. Slash fiction is written mostly by women, to the intense disgust of many straight men and to the amusement of the gay community. The first objects of this peculiar form of literary affection were Star Trek's James T. Kirk and his loyal first officer, Mr. Spock. Later pairs included Starsky/Hutch and even Napoleon Solo/Ilya [sic] Kurakin, of The Man from U.N.C.L.E.. There is very little anyone can do to stop this sort of writing, short of confiscating every fanzine in which it is printed. Gene Roddenberry tried to stem the tide with a footnote in his novelization of Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1980 [sic]). George Lucas vented his irritation through his official fan club. Other actors, writers, and producers tend to shrug and laugh, realizing that the writers of this kind of fiction are a very small minority as compared with the great number of writers who concentrate on other areas of media fandom.

However, Rogow already was a published slash writer at the time of this book's publication, having written stories in the H/J (Dirty Harry) universe that were published in Timeline (1984, Ad Nauseum [sic] Press) and Mixed Media (1986, same).

Bjo Trimble, in a letter to the "Star Trek" letterzine Interstat (#21, July 1979, T. Meyer, ed.), responded to a letter in the previous issue with this: "It is too late to worry if Nimoy and Shatner have seen any of the K/S relationship writings; tacky things have a bad habit of getting to the people involved."

And in her book On the Good Ship Enterprise (1983, The Donning Company/Publishers), Trimble had this to say:

The first, and most obvious fandom which sprang up was the "Spockies" who really threw themselves into loving Mr. Spock. It was a wonderful case of unrequited love, and they loved even that! . . . Later, this unrequited "love" was to manifest itself in a peculiar underground movement of stories about Kirk-Spock relationships. Psychologists recognize this as a tendency for women to want something very much and decide that the only reason they cannot have it is (a) something is "wrong" with it or (b) it is totally unavailable. Making Spock homosexual neatly fulfills both those necessities in one fell swoop! Fanzines had to be advertised "for adults only," and reviewers often noted that an otherwise well-done story had "K/S" elements.

Trimble’s friend, science fiction author David Gerrold (best known to Star Trek fans as the writer of the popular TOS episode "The Trouble with Tribbles") is another vocally anti-K/S critic. In his revised edition of his nonfiction book The World of Star Trek (original edition printed in 1973 by Ballantine Books, revised edition in printed in 1984 by Bluejay Books), he has many negative comments to make about fans. Right after shaking his head over examples of a fan stalking the studio and another disturbed young man who tried to turn himself into Spock and then killed himself,[14] he proceeds with this:

An equally disturbing phenomenon has developed among a group of female Star Trek fans. To them, Star Trek is not about the Enterprise or its five-year mission, or the noble vision of humanity among the stars—it is specifically about the relationship between Kirk and Spock.
More specifically, these women entertain themselves by writing stories in which Kirk and Spock are homosexual lovers. [He footnotes this with "I am not making this up. Honest."]
Kirk?!! And Spock?!!
The stories are collected and circulated in mimeographed fanzines. More than one unsuspecting Star Trek fan has stumbled unwarily into these zines at some convention or other. The result is usually a started expression and the question, 'Is this what Star Trek is really about?' (It is most definitely not what Star Trek fandom is really about, but more than one young would-be fan has been prohibited from attending Trek-cons or reading Trek-zines because his/her parents have seen this material.
The network of K/S fans -- as they call themselves -- is small, but very active. Some of their stories are very explicit. And some of the artwork accompanying—well, never mind. These women use scenes from the episodes and specifically from the Star Trek movies to justify their belief that this is the secret message of Star Trek . . . .[15] While the K/S ladies have never been vocal enough to be a problem, their projection of their own sexual fantasies onto Star Trek has at times been a nuisance for those who actually have to produce the show. Eventually, Gene Roddenberry, in his novelization of Star Trek I, had to acknowledge their unwelcome invasion of the universe he had created by including a footnote . . . explaining that Kirk and Spock were "just good friends." (This did not even slow the K/S ladies down.)
One long-time Star Trek fan summed up her feelings about the K/S phenomenon this way: "I really don't mind the stories. Some of them are even quite well written. What does bother me though is the sado-masochism in them. Too many of the stories involve beating and rapes -- sometimes even between Kirk and Spock. I just find it difficult to believe that this is an accurate portrayal of the behavior of two of Starfleet's finest officers."
Even more candid are the comments of a gay male Star Trek fan: "The K/S stories I've seen are offensive. It's a woman's idea of what gay men are like, and it's way off base. Besides, I like Kirk and Spock the way they are."
What anyone wants to believe in the privacy of his or her own head, of course, is his or her own business. It's when you start messing around in other people's universes that you have to follow the rules of the local creator. If nothing else, it's good manners.

With those comments, Gerrold unleashed a storm about his head. Many fans (including me) exchanged letters with him. His response letters declared that " . . . those who write these kinds of stories will find it increasingly difficult to sell them" and "the active dissemination of the K/S interpretation of Star Trek is something that Paramount would very probably view as damaging to their property—and the studio will act to protect their property." [16]

Ironically for Gerrold, many fans later reported that his book was their introduction to the concept of K/S, causing them to seek it out.

Both Rogow and Gerrold refer to Gene Roddenberry's footnote in the novelization of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which they consider his "answer" to the K/Sers. Here is that footnote:

Editor's note: The human concept of friend is most nearly duplicated in Vulcan thought by the term t'hy'la, which can also mean brother and lover. Spock's recollection (from which this chapter is drawn) is that it was a most difficult moment for him since he did indeed consider Kirk to have become his brother. However, because t'hy'la can be used to mean lover, and since Kirk's and Spock's friendship was unusually close, this has led to some speculation over whether they had actually indeed become lovers. At our request, Admiral Kirk supplied the following comment on this subject: "I was never aware of this lovers rumor, although I have been told that Spock encountered it several times. Apparently he had always dismissed it with his characteristic lifting of his right eyebrow which usually some combination of surprise, disbelief, and/or annoyance. As for myself, although I have no moral or other objections to physical love in any of its many Earthly, alien, and mixed forms, I have always found my best gratification in that creature woman. Also, I would dislike being thought of as so foolish that I would select a love partner who came into sexual heat only once every seven years."

The reaction of fandom to the footnote varied, as it was hailed by the anti-K/S fans as the last word on the subject (from the creator himself, no less), while the K/S fans were busy mining the quote for its K/S interpretations. It actually was a very odd thing for him to include, since the general Star Trek fan who would have bought the novelization would have no knowledge of fanzines, much less of K/S—so why raise the issue? Indeed, some fans who read that footnote got into K/S as a result—they just hadn't thought about it "that way" before Roddenberry put the idea into their heads. Also, many K/S fans felt he had no need to create the term "t'hy'la" unless he intended them to use it. And, again, there were fans who later stated that they had never thought of the idea until reading Roddenberry’s mention of it, but they were "converts" afterward.

During the same year that fandom got that footnote, there also was this: In Shatner's first published biography, Where No Man . . . (written by Shatner, Sondra Marshak and Myrna Culbreath, Ace Books, 1979) the authors talked with Roddenberry about the frequency with which fans compare the relationship between Alexander and Hephaistion to that between Kirk and Spock (referring to the closeness and the feeling that one would die for the other). Gene said: "Yes. There's certainly some of that with . . . certainly with love overtones. Deep love. The only difference being, the Greek ideal . . . we never suggested in the series . . . physical love between the two. But it's the . . . we certainly had the feeling the affection was sufficient for that, if that were the particular style in the 23rd Century."[17]

Rogow made mention of Star Wars fandom and George Lucas’ reaction to slash. Star Wars slash never had a chance to get off the ground (until recently, that is), because Lucas put the kibosh on it early. (I still have a copy of the first SW slash story I ever laid eyes on. It was never published, I read it at a friend's house over 30 years ago.) [18]

Illegality of Slash

Slash as Obscenity

Because of the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment, which states that Congress can make no law abridging freedoms of speech or press, there is no federal obscenity law in the United States. In each state, obscenity is determined by applying what the "average person" for that area[19], applying "community standards" deems obscene or not, and whether or not the work contains sufficient "artistic merit". This extremely subjective standard is called the Miller test after the author Henry Miller, whose book Tropic of Cancer was ruled not obscene after considerable scrutiny in Miller vs. State of California 1973.

Zine publishers were thus bound by the laws of their states and communities as to whether or not they could accept slash. Any and all fiction depicting homosexual relations at that time was generally considered obscene by the aforesaid community standards, even if non-explicit. In many places, it could be construed as using the mails to distribute obscenity or pornography, leading to a big court case which no fan publisher had the money to defend in court.

It is difficult to convey to modern readers just how controversial this all was at the time. At the time of the Stonewall Riots of 1969 which sparked the gay liberation movement of the 1970s, being homosexual was illegal in most states. Before the sodomy laws were repealed, state by state[20], most gay people, especially young people, lived in fear of discovery. Being gay was legal grounds for imprisonment and/or commitment to insane asylums. Groups such as the Mattachine Society had to be extremely discreet and nearly everything was published anonymously. It is unknown whether slash fan fiction made any sort of impression or had any influence on public opinion in favor of normalizing homosexuality.[21][22][23][24]

From Bill Hupe, the editor of Mi-Anime in late 1988:
I have been asked if I will accept homosexual fiction if the characters involved were portrayed in such a manner, but I cannot. Homosexual fiction, as well as fiction along the lines of Creme Lemon, are illegal in many states, including Michigan. In other words, it is illegal for me to publish it here, as well as transport it into to many states. Sorry folks. [25]

Slash and Other Fanfiction as Copyright Violation

In 1982, a fan, thrilled with a new slash-only Starsky & Hutch letterzine, writes of copyright, fears of legal persecution, and the hope that when the hammer comes down, it's on someone else's fandom.

It's nice to see a little cautious (emphasis on cautious!) pubbing going on. There's really a lot more at stake than the risk of financial ruin. I suspect that few of us really fear that particular bogey very much longer. I for one, though, don't feel like becoming embroiled in any unpleasantness. Nor do I feel like causing it. There are a great many more important things in this world beyond the matter of do we have the right to rip off characters for fannish use... but the fact remains that the characters do belong to someone else, and that is, in a purely technical sense, copyright violation. Ferchrissake, every time you xerox a page from a book, or reprint a cartoon or quote in the Lz, without permission, that's copyright violation. EVERYBODY does it. What I'm getting at... is this: I'd like to see the smash come in another fandom, and if it comes in ours, I'd like to see it happen over the straight stuff... There are no medals for conspicuous bravery in fandom. The race is to those who know the shortcuts. We do what we have to do, but if we're wise, we'll shut up about it.[26][27][28][29][30]

The 1976 Fair Use doctrine was in effect by this time, but the fan may not have been aware of it. These complex issues were apparently not a general subject for fan discussion until the early 1990s.[31]

No fanzine has ever been sued or shut down over slash. The only fanzine to receive a 'cease and desist' order was Dreadnought Explorations in 1977. This happened because the quality of the published work was so high, including a photo of the Enterprise on the cover, that Paramount's lawyers believed it could be mistaken for an officially approved Star Trek fan novel. See Dreadnought Explorations and the Cease and Desist Letters.

Slash Zines at Conventions

More than one young would-be fan has been prohibited from attending Trek-cons or reading Trek-zines
because his/her parents have seen this material.
- David Gerrold in the 1984 edition of The World of Star Trek.

When fanzines were more common, slash zines were sold literally 'under the table' at some cons. Slash fans would wander around the dealer's room looking for zine sellers, and then ask them quietly if they had slash zines as well, or they would gently pull aside the convention-hotel supplied long tablecloths of dealer's tables to see if there were boxes of slash zines hidden beneath. One Usenet contributor reports having to be vouched for before being sold slash [32]. Being required by convention committees to keep slash under the table was aggravating, because zines depicting heterosexual relationships, with relatively explicit covers, were generally not hidden, even at all-age cons and actor cons. (There is a famous story of Mark Lenard, the actor who played Spock's father, wandering the Dealer's room with some handlers at a con. He came across a copy of Spock Enslaved, with its cover of a nearly naked Spock in chains, and stopped and stared long enough to worry his handlers, before sighing dramatically and mock whispering, "Oh my son, my son".) The editors of the zine Out of Bounds were asked to remove their slash zines from the dealer's room after an angry Disney publicist complained and someone later anonymously reported the convention to Tulsa law enforcement for selling pornography (see Banned from Tulsa).

However, at fan-run cons current and past, without celebrity guests (such as MediaWest*Con, ZebraCon, IDICcon, etc.), slash zines and slash art could and can be sold openly, in the Dealers Rooms and by "room dealers" (fans who sell their wares out of their hotel rooms instead of in the Dealers Room).

And, of course, slash zines were advertised, sold, reviewed, and discussed side-by-side in the same publications as the gen zines. It was not necessary to "know" anyone to be let in on the "secret," although this may be where the practice of vetting newbie fans through a kind of mentor or gatekeeper process began.[33]

Later Incidents

Harlequin Airs (1993). At Anglicon, Suzan Lovett sent a set of original color drawings for the art show that the con organizers didn't hang "because they were art for a slash zine".

Controversies didn't end in the early years; another fan states that as late as WorldCon in 1993, she was sneered at when she asked a zine ed where the slash was, directed to a box and told to give her money to the other person working the table, since she didn't want her 'dirty money'.[34]

Early Quantum Leap fandom had so-called 'slash wars' including some zine editors supposedly refusing to print general audience stories by fans who were slash writers in other fandoms, and the by-then usual threats to "send slash to the actors, if people don't quit writing it".

At Anglicon in 1993, Susan Lovett sent a set of original color drawings for the art show that the con organizers didn't hang "because they were art for a slash zine" (Harlequin Airs), even though they were not at all explicit, and they did choose to display a print of a completely naked Tasha Yar draped over a clothed Data.

Which Pairings Should be Slashed

Complicating the debate is the fact that there is disagreement even among slash fans as to "what is slashy" and "what should be slashed":

For my part, I never have been able to "slash for slash's sake." I don't and can't "see slashy subtext" everywhere I look. Evidence of emotional and/or physical intimacy (same gender or opposite) demonstrates only that characters are emotionally and/or physically intimate. Emotional/physical intimacy exists between people who are friends and among family members and is, by itself, insufficient to suggest, much less prove, that there is or should be sexual relationship.

I remember one of the original "incest slash" fandoms, from the early-to-mid-80s--"Simon and Simon" fandom. My friends and I were *so* bewildered by that and, when it was explained to us by proponents that "of course they're having sex, look at how much they love each other," it was (in modern 'net vernacular) a real *headdesk* moment for us.

It's the Vulcan in me--I need to see a logical extrapolation from the media source product to the suggested extra-textual relationship (slash or het). Connect all the dots for me--explain what is in canon (the characterizations, backgrounds, history, specific relationships, physical setting, time period, larger culture and worldview, etc.) that makes it possible (or even likely) and also rationally explain away whatever there is in canon that mitigates against it. [35]

On the Internet

Later, on the Web, some archives and email lists prohibited slash, or automatically gave it a more extreme rating than het or gen fic. In the 2010s, fans still discuss the phenomenon of slash getting rated higher, though it is unclear to what extent this problem persists in new slash fanworks, as opposed to older works that are still online.[citation needed]

The Blake's 7 mailing list Lysator hosted a debate about the pros and cons of slash so regularly that one member collated The Generic Slash Defense Letter, a collection of quotes from fans. The Slash Summary represents the opposing side of the debate. Both authors intended their texts to avoid the repetition of arguments on the list or as the author of the Slash Summary puts it: "a list of dead horses, so to speak, done in a non-inflammatory manner".

The Argument That Slash is Inherently Out-Of-Character

A lot of anti-slash proponents use an argument that it's OOC (out of character) for characters portrayed as straight in the source material to be engaging in homosexual activities and relationships.

For them to suddenly switch sexual orientations is considered by these fans to be too much of a departure from canon, as well as being a kind of farce. Others think that making a canon friendship into a sexual relationship demeans or degrades the emotions being portrayed. At worst, stories in which canon-straight characters are portrayed as having a sexual relationship run the risk of becoming standard sex stories featuring generic characters labeled with the canon characters' names.

I would think science/fiction readers/fans... would not like their heroes being used in this facetious fashion. Pairing Kirk and Spock (K/S), Starsky and Hutch (S/H), or Riker and Picard (R/P), or any other of the possible combinations of TV's S/F genre tales in — of all concepts — a homosexual relationship, strikes me as a bit of camp. [36]
Because in the vast amount of fiction, changing your character's looks, personality, likes and dislikes is known as OOC, and is despised. Shouldn't their sexuality be included in that list? Because I've met people who have left new authors in tears for forgetting that a character likes honey, and at the same time written the most OOC pairings.[37]
One of the things I love about Kirk and Spock, Holmes and Watson, Ryan and Esposito, and a host of other "buddy" characters is the rare closeness they share. For me, when slash is brought in, it somehow cheapens it, as though it was about sex the whole time. I feel let down and disappointed when a story turns out to be slash. It's one thing, if the characters were homosexual to begin with, but like you I feel they're OOC when characters originally written as straight are presented as gay in FF.[38]
My feelings on K/S take off in several directions. First, I see no basis for it in aired Trek. Deep, lasting friendship between 2 adults is a wonderful thing. We seem to live at a time when sex is easier to come by than friendship. Is K/S a reflection of that? Second, suppose we accept the existence of an alternate universe where Kirk and Spock are lovers. Where are the stories about this universe, about the best starship and Star Fleet's number 1 crew? While Gene is interested in humanity's aspirations, K/S writers are into assholes. Gene treated intelligent beings with compassion, whether human, Vulcan, Klingon, Romulan, or Horta. The trend in K/S is to use the Kirk and Spock characters in a sexual Steppin' Fetchit role to amuse us mindlessly. For all the talk in editorials about caring, love, and compassion the characters of the K/S universe seem to lose out. Where are the stories of human dignity, of the better side of human nature, of people striving to grow, and of respect for the rights of other intelligent beings in a universe in which Kirk and Spock just happen to be homosexuals? Or is compassion too much to ask when the writers are trying to be avant garde?[39]
One argument: why is one thing "out-of-character" when another thing isn't?
If anyone objects to stories that make Avon homosexual, why don't they object to stories that make Avon out to be a paranoid psychopathic killer? Hmmm? The implication is, of course, (you all knew this was coming, didn't you?) that it is somehow 'better' to be a thief, an embezzler, a traitor, a psychopath and a killer than it is to be a homosexual. [40]
I was actually a bit shocked when I came to the realization that changing Mulder's sexual orientation was one of the most trivial things one could change about him. Make him give up UFO-chasing and retire to a fishing boat off Key West; now there would be a change. He would no longer be Mulder. But have him sleep with a guy, and he remained the same obsessive, distrustful, smartass, paranoid fellow he always was. [41]
To me, there is no difference in nature between slash and any other plot or character variation in fan fic. The point I was trying to make in my initial post is this: rejecting slash on the principal that it violates the integrity of the characters is nonsensical because gen fan fic does the same. And I'm going to add the usual cult studs disclaimer: mass media images are inherently capable of carrying multiple, conflicting interpretations. [42]
As to all the folk who want to discount the slash genre as "out of character" or "beyond canon", in my humble opinion less than 1% of the [X-Files] fic on Gossamer is within canon or, for that matter, within character. Frankly, I'd hesitate to apply the word "canon" to the show, given how it wanders all over the map. [43]
Another argument: there are many things not shown on screen or discussed, and the absence of those things doesn't mean they don't exist:
How can we know whether or not a particular character is heterosexual or homosexual? The only way to be sure would be to catch him in the act and inventory his partner's genitalia -- and we'd have to do that *every time* to rule out bisexuality... Who says the characters can't be gay or bi? It is never addressed on screen, but then, we rarely see characters doing many normal daily functions on screen (using the toilet, masturbating, etc.) [44]
For people who don't worry about homosexuality per se, they might find [the portrayal of it] still unacceptable, from the context of a series, to make a particular character homosexual, because there is no evidence to support it. Mind you, with BBC shows there's no evidence to support anything except celibacy, so arguing from the show is usually fruitless, because those who want sex say "well, its the BBC, of course there wasn't any sex, but if it had been realistic, there would have been." It's not the sort of logic you can really argue with. It's like trying to prove a negative. [45]
Mulder, for instance, manages to present himself as both a monk and a depraved individual simultaneously, a stunt that only adds to his charm. And while one might protest, "But I never saw him checking out any guys on the show," let's be real. He's a character in a TV show in the late 1990s. He would never be shown checking out any guys, any more than he would be shown going to the bathroom on-screen. [46]
A photoshopped image of James Kirk and Cmdr. Spock from Star Trek: The Original Series standing before a wedding cake. Spock is noticeably shorter and wearing a pink gown. Probably created by Alison Baumgartner for an entry in her Loving the Alien blog. The original picture had Cmdr. Riker and Counselor Troi from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Additionally, some fans feel that putting characters in a slash story, in a gay relationship, means also altering their behaviour to make them less masculine and more emotional.

But for some reason, if a male character's sexuality is changed, he suddenly turns into a pile of pink goo, unable to keep himself from bawling his eyes out on every suitable occasion. Oh, my partner is talking about his son's death and crying, so let me forget that I have shown myself to be a strong leader, capable of thinking straight and not losing it even in the wake of my best friend's death, and just start crying too while proclaiming how sorry I am - oh, and that I love him, let's not forget that. Those scenes just drive me crazy with their sappiness and with how they are just recycled over and over. [47]
I will certainly allow that there is always room for interpretation since no two authors are going to see the same character in exactly the same way. However, there is a time and place where you can play around with a little “what if” and there is a time and place where canon should take precedence – not the least of which is how the character relates to other people or to events in his/her own life. All too often, though, the author chooses to ignore what is known about the character and, instead, “shoehorn” them into what they want the character to do. Why not? They already have their storyline figured out and have decided to just forget about those pesky bits of information, kindly provided to us, that have played out over forty- seven minutes for weeks on end.[48]
Sexual orientation is not manifested in physical appearance. The sterotypical image of a homosexual male is not, for the most part, what most gay men are like. They are not all effeminate, in fact, the majority of them are just like you and I. And unless you plan to creep into their bedroom, you aren't going to necessarily find any "proof" of their sexual orientation. Witness the surprise when celebrity homosexuals are outed. Twenty years ago, who would have guessed that Rock Hudson was gay?[49][50]

And even though some fans consider all slash stories to be OOC[51], others make allowances for AU [alternative universe] scenarios like being mind controlled by a sex crazed alien[52], etc.

In the vast majority of cases, I think so. If there was no evidence onscreen, then it's OOC. And I DON'T think the AU excuse works, either.[53]
Other fans feel that TPTB should have a say:
It is unfair to Kip's [ Robin of Sherwood's creator] creative abilities to force his characters into certain molds that we desire. Perhaps he based them loosely upon archetypes, but they are his own creations. Which brings me to the next point, making the characters more than what they are in the show. Sorry, but as a writer I strongly disagree here. These characters were created by Kip and should remain within the bounds he created. True, he does not have ownership of the legendary characters, but as they are represented in RoS, yes he does. Generously, he has given his permission for us to play in his universe as long as we remain true to what he created (he told us this at Son of Herne's Con). Therefore, a writer must tread very carefully when attributing to a character abilities that were never manifested in the show. [54]
A fan disagreed, but only up to the point of slash, something that illustrates how "extreme" slash could be to some:
But how do you judge who's simply rejecting overly restrictive archetypes and who's violating the basic essence of one of Kip's characters? Where do you draw the line? One of the most wonderful things about RoS is that the characters are simultaneously well-defined and appealing to the imagination... I'm still not in a position to tell you that your 'what ifs' are less valid than mine. Kip certainly doesn't seem to mind, as long as we stay away from out-of-character slash. [55]

Not all fans find this argument valid and/or applicable, making a point that "if changes to suit your needs for a story would make it an AU or OOC then everything ever written in fanfiction would fall under such an umbrella. As the story was not a part of the original canon, it is definitely AU. [56]"

Slash vs. Gay

Main article: Slash vs. Gay

Although sometimes just another meta discussion, the question of whether slash is gay or whether it objectifies and exploits male homosexuality has been a very contentious issue at times. Related topics: whether slash is homophobic and whether anti-slash arguments are homophobic.[57][58]

Meta/Further Reading

References

  1. A Short History of Early K/S, retrieved November 14, 2008
  2. from the editor of R & R #3 (spring 1977)
  3. from Scuttlebutt #6 (April/May 1978), a personal statement from Linda Deneroff announcing that she will no longer be associated with Probe
  4. See Anita Bryant's anti-gay crusade for some history of what was happening in gay rights at the time.
  5. See LGBT History in Michigan and Daniel Tsang, "Gay Ann Arbor Purges," Midwest Gay Academic Journal 1 (1977): 13-19, cited in the 'Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader' by Henry Ablove (1993)) for a look at gay rights in Michigan at the same time as the convention.
  6. The Christian Right began its takeover of the Republican Party around this time. See the articles on Moral Majority and the Christian Right for more; also, Holy Terror by Conway and Siegelman, and Republican Gomorrah by Max Blumenthal for some of the history and origins of this movement.
  7. James T. Crawford in Universal Understanding #1 (January 1980), an ironically-titled zine in context to this quote
  8. Both zines deal with devoted but non-sexual friendship between Kirk and Spock. At most, they can be viewed as "Pre-slash"
  9. from a personal statement by [R S] in Universal Translator #23
  10. from an interview transcript in Power of Speech #3, 1985, of an interview conducted by Randall Landers and Tim Farley at DraftTrek, in which the sponsors described Gerrold as "the only bright spot," illustrating that this was clearly a con to have avoided
  11. From the editorial to Grip #23 (1986).
  12. Uncredited article, "Editor," New Yorker, December 12, 1988, pages 37-38.
  13. Source: convention reports posted to the Virgule-L mailing list, reposted anonymously with permission.
  14. This story has circulated in fandom since the early 1970s and takes various forms. It may well be an urban legend. See Fan suicide on trekbbs.com.
  15. What Klangley leaves out at this point is something that is indeed very significant to K/S fans: "(Imagine what could be made out of Spock taking Kirk’s hand to tell him about . . . this simple feeling.” Remember, the one that’s beyond V’GER’s comprehension?)"
  16. "I can vouch for the fact that Paramount knew about K/S by at least the early 1980s, if not earlier. In April, 1983, I interviewed the lawyer who was in charge of Star Trek copyright matters for Gulf & Western Corporation (which owned Paramount before Viacom) about fan fiction and fair use. He initiated the topic of K/S, and it was clear that he was well aware of its existence and that Paramount had no intention of doing anything about it." Judith Gran, in her essay "Censored, 1999. As of 2014, Paramount has yet to file civil action against any writer or publisher of fan fiction, slash or otherwise.
  17. Very few who quote this statement add his conclusion, "I never thought of that before." Gerrold has never spoken about this episode, but at this point, and given his antagonism toward Marshak and Culbreath, he may just be trying to get past an issue that he sees as foolish and unbecoming.
  18. Klangley56: "I researched the following when Mary Ellen C. asked about the origin of the term “slash” on one of the lists several years ago, and I realized from the subsequent responses that the older fans on the list (of which I am one) were relying on perhaps imprecise recollections—and I’m all about the documentation. So I researched thousands and thousands (and thousands) of pages in fiction fanzines, letterzines, adzines, newsletters, etc., spanning multiple fandoms. This was the result. Note: In some cases I refer to a fan by his or her full name, and in others not, because, as we know, some fans have issues with their names being on a public website. In the cases where I have indicated the full name it is because I know it is a pseudonym, and/or the fan does not have a problem with it, and/or is deceased, and/or already has been referred to by full name on [Fanlore]." Personal communication to Arduinna, March 28, 2009. Material quoted on Fanlore at Klangley's request.
  19. read: middle-class, Christian and heterosexual, e.g. the National Legion of Decency.
  20. Lawrence vs. Texas explains more about the legal situation for gay people at that time.
  21. Has Slash Made The World Better For Gay Men? by Brent Hartinger (The Back Lot, August 11, 2010)
  22. For a summary of just how far things have come as of 2012, see Alex Ross, Love on the March.
  23. See also I Felt Like I Grew Up As A Criminal, Atlantic Monthly, June 28, 2013.
  24. The excellent film Before Stonewall is one of the best introductions to how gay people were seen in former times and how the gay community evolved.
  25. Bill would later go on to agent slash fanzines and some of his caution may have been the result of anti-gay crackdowns taking place in his home state in the late 1970s and 1980s, partly as a result of the AIDS hysteria. (See Daniel Tsang, "Gay Ann Arbor Purges," Midwest Gay Academic Journal 1 (1977): 13-19, cited in the 'Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader' by Henry Ablove (1993)).
  26. From Hanky Panky #1 (January or February 1982).
  27. This writer didn't even mention the very real threat of legal prosecution under the anti-sodomy laws of many states; slash writers and publishers could be prosecuted for using the U.S. mail to distribute pornography.
  28. Regarding her speculations about copyright violation, Fair Use existed at this time, but most people believed it to apply to the photocopying of parts of copyrighted works for use in schools.
  29. For the record, no Starsky & Hutch fanzine was ever shut down and no legal action was ever filed against any Starsky & Hutch fanzine, slash or otherwise.
  30. And for the record, fanzine and fanfic creators had nothing to fear from Paramount. The Star Trek creators had the studio convinced early on that these things were necessary and beneficial, and served as free promotion. In a quote printed in Edward Gross' and Mark Altman's The Fifty-Year Mission (St. Martin's Press 2016), Gene Roddenberry said "“The day we start sending cops in to arrest a junior-high-school student because he’s using 'Star Trek' on a mimeographed thing he circulates to fifty friends, that's the day I walk out of the studio."
  31. Signal to Noise, A Practical Guide to Fair Use Doctrine. Excellent introduction to fair use in creative works.
  32. ‘A Usenet experience of the history of slash’, retrieved October 4, 2008
  33. Described by Camille Bacon-Smith in her book Enterprising Women (Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1991): "At Shore Leave [a Maryland fan-run science fiction convention], Judy Segal led me through the fanzine rooms. In 1983 there were four parlor rooms filled with the fanzines for sale. She guided me to the more general work, and I bought fanzines from Roberta Rogow, who specializes in, among other things, fanzines from new writers; from Joanna Cantor, an ardent feminist; and from others, while eschewing some of the more controversial genres. This is typical for new members brought into the community. Mentors, particularly for complete neophytes like myself, are often more traditional members of the community and act as gatekeepers. They lead the new member to the art and literature that either requires minimal decoding for an outsider, or that will not shock the sensibilities of a reader who has not yet learned to decode the messages embedded in the community's product. Judy mentioned the hurt-comfort genre as one she found personally troubling; she dismissed the relatively new homoerotic fiction."
  34. 1993 Worldcon convention reports posted to the Virgule-L mailing list quoted anonymously with permission.
  35. comment from klangley56 in the subject of slash, dated June 1, 2008, accessed Feb. 11, 2011; WebCite.
  36. an anonymous fan letter, Oct/Nov 1992 at Strange New Worlds
  37. Why I hate slash, accessed February 24,2015
  38. Comment on an essay, accessed February 24 2015
  39. Susan M.S., letter to Interstat 10, August 1978.
  40. Ann Wortham from The Generic Slash Defense Letter (1995]]
  41. from The Advantages of Erotic Fan Fiction as an Art Form (1998)
  42. Sue C at Lysator, 1998
  43. A troubling phenomenon I've noticed, 1998
  44. Susan Beth from The Generic Slash Defense Letter (1995)
  45. from KatSpace (1997, slightly revised January 2001, revised April 2001, revised September 2005)
  46. from The Advantages of Erotic Fan Fiction as an Art Form (1998)
  47. Comment on an essay, accessed February 24 2015
  48. Why I Don't "Buy" Slash by L. Goldman, accessed February 24,2015
  49. Catherine Salmon from The Generic Slash Defense Letter (1995]]
  50. Many industry people and fellow gays -- and probably a lot of moviegoers -- knew it from the beginning of Hudson's career. It came to the attention of the general public in 1970, when a gag invitation to "the wedding of Rock Hudson and Jim Nabors", sent out by some gay men for a party they were giving, was publicized by a fan magazine. It was meant as an affectionate in-joke, as the entire gay community at the time knew that both Hudson and Nabors were gay, and the joining of Rock to "Gomer Pyle" Nabors would make him "Rock Pyle". The party throwers never expected it would come to the attention of nationwide news, and Hudson and his studio went to considerable lengths to maintain his straight facade.
  51. Forum comment, accessed February 24, 2015
  52. Forum comment, accessed February 24, 2015
  53. Forum comment, accessed February 24, 2015
  54. Cousins #3 (1992), a Robin of Sherwood letterzine
  55. Cousins #3 (1992), a Robin of Sherwood letterzine
  56. Comment on an essay, accessed February 24 2015
  57. Alison "Boom" Baumgartner, The Downside of Slash (Or When Slash Isn’t Sexy… It’s Sexist) on Loving the Alien, August 28, 2013.
  58. Kiri von Santen, On The Fetishisation Of Gay Men By Women In The Slash Community. The Mary Sue, January 27, 2015.