Slashing versus 'Shipping, or Why it's Easier to be a Slasher

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Title: Slashing vs Shipping, or Why It's Easier to Be a Slasher
Creator: T'Mar
Date(s): March 2, 2004
Medium: online
Topic: Fanfiction
External Links: Slashing vs Shipping, or Why It's Easier to Be a Slasher, Archived version
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Slashing vs Shipping, or Why It's Easier to Be a Slasher is an essay by T'Mar.

It is part of the Fanfic Symposium series.

The first two sentences: "For those who aren't sure of the labels, I offer my own quick definition: Slashing: Slashing is the romantic pairing of two characters from a medium (usually television) who are the same gender. 'Shipping is short for "relationshipping", and it's also the romantic pairing of two characters, except they're of different genders."

The essay argues that fans who don't expect their pairing to become canon (slashers) have less stress and more fun in fandoms than fans who do have some reason to hope (shippers). Although her comments about the negative effects of fannish emotional investment in canon are timeless, many of the particulars are no longer so true: no one now could legitimately limit the definition of shipping to het pairings, and with the increase in LGBT representation on television, slash fans in the 2010s are more likely to hope (although still in vain in many cases) that their ship could become canon. In fact, as one commenter pointed out in the livejournal announcement post, the stark lines drawn in the essay had already begun to blur, as canon same-sex couples had appeared on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Queer as Folk.[1]


Okay, so why is it easier to be a slash fan, in ten words or less? Easy: it's a lot less nerve-wracking. I was inspired to write this essay by comments made in a review of a Star Trek Voyager episode. Basically, the reviewer wrote that fans of Janeway/Chakotay would be upset by his remarks, and that fans of Paris/Torres would be squealing with happiness at the events in the episode being reviewed. And this got me to thinking: shippers are bound to spend their entire fannish lives on a constant see-saw of ecstasy and disappointment. Ecstasy when "their" pairing gets screen time, disappointment when it doesn't... and, actually, some of them get downright nasty, depressed, or even vow never to watch the show again when a member of "their" chosen pairing has a fling with somebody else.

So why is it less nerve-wracking to be a slash fan? Well, for one thing, we don't live in the hope that TPTB will ever do something with our pairing of choice. We don't see the subtext in the same way that shippers do. Shippers take subtext and expect or even demand that TPTB turn it into text. It doesn't matter how many times Janeway says that she won't have a relationship with a member of her crew, the shippers still point out every instance of supposed "J/C moments" and demand that TPTB give them satisfaction. Slash fans don't do this.[2] For one thing, if we did, we'd be ignored, and for another, we don't like to point out these slashy moments to TPTB for fear they might cut down on them. We just sit behind the scenes thinking up slashy fanfic ideas, using the show as a jumping-off point.