Slash Fiction: A Fantasy World in Which Male TV Characters Find Romance — With Each Other

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News Media Commentary
Title: Slash Fiction: A Fantasy World in Which Male TV Characters Find Romance — With Each Other
Commentator: Zachary Pincus-Roth
Date(s): October 31, 2013
Venue: L.A .Weekly
Fandom: slash
External Links: here;reference link
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Slash Fiction: A Fantasy World in Which Male TV Characters Find Romance — With Each Other is an article by Zachary Pincus-Roth. It was published in the L.A. Weekly.

Thankfully, it does not dwell on Fifty Shades of Grey. It also, astonishingly, does not mention Wincest.

Topics and Subjects Discussed

Some Excerpts

Male-male pairings also can be appealingly transgressive to the writers. "They tried to write heterosexual stuff, but it turned into really bad romance novels, where the woman character was just needy or didn't know how to express her sexual feelings," Penley says. "It was just too boring."

Critics have spotted queer undertones in a wide variety of American fiction, going back to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Penley says. Slash takes these undertones and makes them more explicit.

Some slash is "sheer porn," which is what Emma Grant calls her story "A Cure for Boredom," the most popular male-male story on Archive of Our Own. Set in the BBC series Sherlock, it has almost 300,000 views, and more than 4,700 "kudos," which are similar to likes on Facebook.

It begins with Watson schooling a stressed-out Holmes in the art of masturbation. They eventually watch gay porn together, which brings out Watson's secret crush: "[H]e knew theoretically that Sherlock had a functional penis, but he was seized by a sudden urge to yank that fabric away and see for himself."

Holmes later takes Watson to a sex club and watches him in a threesome, studying his partner the way he normally studies a crime scene. The tension between them builds for 80,000 words. We won't give away the ending.
Many slash writers are very protective of their privacy and, as a result, L.A. Weekly was not allowed into the panels at Escapade. Instead, fans could voluntarily come to a separate meeting room to be interviewed. Many did not use their real names, preferring only the pseudonyms they use in fannish circles.

One fan who dropped by, Nadine, loves a Canadian show about father-son private investigators called Republic of Doyle. But she doesn't write about it. "That show is just not slashy," she says.

What makes a show slashy? Attractive men, and typically young ones, as in Supernatural and Teen Wolf.

Skyfall begat a lot of slash that paired Bond and Q. In this particular Bond film, one Escapade attendee says, "Q is the 26-year-old geek who, you know, wears paisley and vests, and wears glasses and stuff like that. It's like catnip."

Mulder, of The X-Files, has a lot of slashy qualities. "Soulfulness. Vulnerability. A bit of self-doubt," Nadine says. Qualities that make you want to help him.

Antagonism is slashy. When Inception came out, its slash explosion didn't involve the Leonardo DiCaprio role. Instead, it focused on two minor characters, played by Tom Hardy and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. They exchange only a few lines, but they're argumentative — with, theoretically, a flirtatious subtext.

Within Real Person Fic, hockey players are particular slashy. L.A. Kings players Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, good friends and former Philadelphia Flyers teammates, are a particularly popular pair. "Even in the dim room, Mike can see the angry red line of [Jeff's] cut, bisected by black stitches," goes one story at Archive of our Own, called "Stitched Together." "Mike runs his tongue curiously along it and imagines he can taste iodine."

(An L.A. Kings press rep declined comment on behalf of the players, saying, "We have no interest.")
In some cases, slash writers use sex as a way to get at character. Calysta Rose once paired Queer as Folk's Brian Kinney with Alex Krycek, Mulder's antagonist on The X-Files. "That was nice — a little bit of lighthearted fun for Krycek, who doesn't ever have much fun," Rose says. "I think I had him top Brian, so that was kind of a nice way of putting Brian in his place, because he was a toppy bastard."

But titillation isn't the only reason for slash. Especially since many slash writers are lesbians.

"Slash isn't always about the sex," one Escapade attendee says. "It's about [the characters] finding someone who you can let down your guard with, or who you know will see you when you're not saving the day and still love you." That's why many write "curtain fic," where characters have a house together, or "kid fic," where they raise a child.

One fan, FishieMishie, 27, says she enjoys "hurt/comfort," a trope in which one character gets injured and another heals, often leading to romance. "It involves an expression of pain, it involves a show of trust and vulnerability, it shows that there is a deeper connection," she says.

FishieMishie found her first slash at age 12, when she started reading a Lord of the Rings story involving Legolas and ]Gimli. One is an elf and one is a dwarf, and they're supposed to hate each other. Yet in the story, they started to get closer. The question became: How will they get past their differences? And what does a dwarf find attractive?

"I got kind of sucked into it," FishieMishie says. "I was like, 'I want to see what other people say about these two.' And off I went."
One milestone came in 2012, when Entertainment Weekly held a poll on the "Couple You're 'Shipping' Like Crazy." The magazine intended the cheeky fan-fiction term to refer to regular old Ross-and-Rachel sorts of pairs — as-yet-unconsummated TV show flirtations. They were overwhelmed by votes for Derek and Stiles of MTV's Teen Wolf — even though they are in no way a couple, or even gay.

"Teen Wolf 'Sterek' fans, we've read your (hundreds and hundreds of) comments and admire your passion," EW.com responded. "The reason Sterek didn't make the category is because it's not an acknowledged will-they-or-won't-they storyline."

This controversy led the gay entertainment news site AfterElton.com to start an annual "slash madness" tournament. Sterek won the first. The second — which got more than 9 million online votes and 25,000 comments — was won by "Destiel," featuring Dean and Castiel of Supernatural.

Reactions/Reviews

"I read the article and it honestly wasn't as bad as I feared, except for this:

And, as some attendees will tell you directly, they tend to be bigger women. The official convention schedule includes a walk to Aphrodite's, a nearby lingerie shop that "specializes in bras that fit large women."

Because that was really important, wasn't it? Sheesh.[1]
"A lot of women at an American con are bigger? You don't say. How very different and notable compared to average, non-con-going American women. I mean, there's definitely commentary you can make there about the sexual disenfranchisement of larger women by society, but the author is not making it with that line."[2]
"For such a clueless guy, he managed to boil all of those interviews down into something accurate and readable. LBR: journalists like sensational topics that sell papers, and this article isn't aimed at the right audience and doesn't have enough length to actually go into any detail about the nuances of different parts of fandom. He did manage to include: how large and balkanized fandom is, femslash, HP/yaoi/stuff other than K/S and the history of Media Fandom, vids, queer women who write slash, multiple reasons women like slash that include both "it's hot" and "it's not all about the porn", quotes from more than just one or two people, positive reactions from pros, and zero bizarrely misused pieces of fandom terminology. That last one alone puts him one up on most articles about fandom. The final article is a pleasant surprise."[3]
"This was very well done. Not once did I want to scream or throw my laptop. Thank you for covering this topic with an open mind and an even hand. The only thing I'm annoyed about is that all this acceptance and the possibility of million dollar book deals is coming along long after I was out of the gate. I only got to be in a Trek documentary. And I never hid from cameras or gave a fake name. And I'd let you into my panels. I'll be doing a few next week if you're interested. Thanks again."[4]

References

  1. comment in Escapade journo's article in fail-fandomanon dated October 31, 2013; reference link.
  2. comment in Escapade journo's article in fail-fandomanon dated October 31, 2013; reference link.
  3. comment in Escapade journo's article in fail-fandomanon dated October 31, 2013; reference link.
  4. comment in the LA Weekly Article.