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Pairing: David Starsky/Kenneth Hutchinson
Alternative name(s): S/H
Gender category: slash
Fandom: Starsky & Hutch
Canonical?: no
Prevalence: popular
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The main emotional focus of Starsky & Hutch was the relationship of the two leads, with many of the stories centering around the love, the devotion, the caring between these two partners and best friends and possibly more.

Starsky/Hutch never got as big as K/S, but it was a major fandom with an extensive zine, then online culture. Because of the close relationship between the show's main two characters, slash developed quickly in the fandom.

The first gen fanzine, Zebra Three was published in the fall of 1977, with the first slash zine appearing a few years later.

What many fans saw as homoerotic subtext was addressed by the show's producer Merv Griffin (who was gay, although he kept this part of his life very private). Griffin had said something to David Soul (the actor that played Hutch) about Starsky & Hutch being a cop show; Soul replied, it's not a cop show, "it's a love story about two men who happen to be cops." [1]

In a blooper tape made during the show's run, the narrator suggests that some Hollywood industry types referred to the characters as "French kissing prime-time homos“. [2]

First, Really the Only Slash in the Fandom

Starsky/Hutch is pretty much the only slash portrayed in Starsky & Hutch fanworks. There is the occasional Starsky/OMC or Hutch/OMC, and a handful of fics that slash either character with Huggy Bear, but they are far and few between.

The Political Climate

Anita Bryant as on a rampage, as portrayed in Pop Stand Express #10, artist Dar F. "I came all the way across this great country of ours to speak to you about this appalling 'Blue Video' section that stands like a blemish on the wholesome face of Pop Stand. Slash is a communist plot to destroy our heroes! And I'm here to whip this section into shape... oops, pardon me, but my leather undies are creeping up again..."

The early 1980s in the United States were rife with political and social turmoil. Phyllis Schlafly, Anita Bryant, Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority, and what many fans referred to as the new McCarthyism was a reality.[note 1] LucasFilm had hopped into the fray with Open Letter to Star Wars Zine Publishers by Maureen Garrett in the summer/fall of 1981, an event that had to have had a cooling effect on sex, explicit and otherwise, in fannish works. This is the climate from which the first issue of Code 7 sprang.

One prominent zine ed comments on "sensitive material" in her editorial of a how-to zine published in March 1982:

Almost anything goes in a zine. Despite the critics and occasional free-floating paranoia, there are no censors but yourself, and no pressure unless you care to acknowledge it. Some editors publishing relatively sensitive material prefer to advertise and sell privately, even anonymously (though this does void their contributors' copyrights). But it's the editor's own discretion that's the limiting factor in filling a zine. No one has yet sued anyone for printing any sort of S&H zine.[3]

The Black Notebook

In 1985, a fan wrote about the fiction climate of the time:

If you weren't one of the pioneer fans, then probably the way you entered this fandom was to visit a friend who either shoved a pile of zines (about a cop show forgodsake) into your hands, or shoved you in front of videotapes of select episodes. Within six months you were tying up the kids or taking the day off work to make a 300-mile trip to a longer-term fan's house to watch her collection of tapes, read her library of zines, or peruse her version of The Black Notebook. Right? The Black Notebook, by the way, is the big black three-ring binder. or expandable manila folder, or large cardboard box, in which are kept the early drafts, critique galleys, or complimentary copies of a fan's own or someone else's unpublished stories. The Black Notebook is an artifact of the second period of the fan literature, late 1980 to 1982, the hush-hush period. Not til The Professionals emerged was there a fandom with as many unpublished or downright subterranean stories about. There were secret series, secret round-robins, even a secret letterzine [4] for a while in 1981. Most of this underground stuff was S/H, and the reason that it was so encrypted was the fear and occasional paranoia that Spelling-Goldberg would sue the writers. Hence "The Zine With No Name"; CODE 7 1. There are no editors, no artists, no writers credited in this 1981 publication. Other stories remained buried because their authors gafiated before they were finished. From time to time some incanabula surface, but sadly, most may molder away, in obscurity, forever.[5]

S/H Fanfiction History

Forever Autumn was the first S/H zine published. It was issued in the UK. Next, a single slash story was published in the second issue of Ten-Thirteen. It is commonly understood that the first full S/H zine published in the U.S. was Code 7 in 1981, and then Trace Elements in 1982.

This timeline is contradicted in a review of Trace Elements:

This [Trace Elements] was the first American S/H zine to come out from the catacombs, and for that reason alone the editors, [Billie Phillips] and Pam Rose, deserve a commendation. If there has been a lightening of the atmosphere surrounding the sub-fandom of S/H, it is due in large part to their taking the first public step.[6]

These contradictions regarding which was the first zine "published" may be due to the fact that the editors of Code 7 issued an announcement that the Code 7 had been canceled in S and H #22 (June 1981) while secretly publishing the zine sans identifying information and distributing it to a select group of people.

A fan in early 1982 gives a wink to fellow fen regarding "Code 7": "I haven't seen that much S/H to date -- just one excellent zine (that doesn't exist, of course)." [7]

Because Code 7 #1 was an underground publication (see Code 7 vs. Trace Elements), some fans consider Trace Elements as the first "published" US S/H zine.

Klangley56 wrote:

Code 7 #1 (1981). Quote from the title page: "This is a privileged and private publication; it was sent to you because you know the value and the need for discretion. You are being trusted, if you misuse this trust, you will be harming not only the contributors but all of S/H fandom. Please keep this zine entirely to yourself! Thank you."

S&H was the next big US fandom to publish slash. S/H fandom went through some of the same do they/don't they debate that had rampaged through K/S fandom, but a lot of S&H fans also were ST fans, so they had heard it all before and fewer people expressed shock at the concept. The first S/H zine was a non-explicit single story British publication, Forever Autumn, by S. Meek and Sue S., (March 1980). The next published S/H piece was also British, a short story, "Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn," by Pamela D. (10:13 Vol. 1, 1980/81, Terri B. and Chris P., eds.).

The first US S/H zine was Code 7 #1 (1981, Karen B, ed.).[8] Karen had been advertising this zine (and some other S/H zines) for upcoming publication within the pages of The S&H Letterzine when suddenly it was listed as cancelled with no explanation. In reality, the zine hadn't been cancelled. Word had gone through fandom of troublemakers who were planning to "out" these slash zines to TPTB. So Karen went underground with the zine, publishing it with no names listed: no authors, no artists, no editor. In the meantime, however, other S/H was going forward, such as Graven Images by Jane Aumerle (pre-S/H, 1981). Terri and Chris published a "Statement of Intent" in the Letterzine, stating that they were not going to be intimidated into pushing any slash material in their zines underground. [Billie Phillips] and Pam R. began advertising Trace Elements (which was published in 1982). Leslie Fish jumped feet first into the fray, asserting she would publish a fanzine that couldn't be used against the fandom. This resulted in Pushin' The Odds (which didn’t see publication until 1983), a mixed gen and slash zine, with slash stories printed in blue ink on red-patterned paper to render them "copy-proof." It also made them almost unreadable without the sheet of red plastic that was included to put over the page. She also required a signed "statement of compliance," numbered the copies, and used coded hole-punches on the pages, supposedly to identify the purchaser of any copy that "fell into unauthorized hands." However, by the time that zine saw print, everybody was going ahead with their S/H zines anyway, regardless of threatened repercussions. Later issues of Code 7 (there were four total) were published openly in fandom. There was supposed to be a second issue of Leslie’s zine, but that never materialized. [9]

What was even more ironic is that while several contributors to the S&H letterzine bemoaned the rising tide of slash and worried that it would overrun their fandom, for the first few years of the letterzine's existence only one slash zine, Forever Autumn, was published.

In 1982, a fan comments on the arrival of the first published S/H fiction, but also expressed her fears, as well as hopes that if trouble were coming, she hoped it would hit someone elses' fandom instead of Starsky & Hutch:

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,[10] 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.[11]

April Valentine describes the difficulties facing early Starsky & Hutch slash fans:

Those who are new to fandom may not realize what those early slashers had to go through. The theme was unconventional, daring, even illegal in some states. Friendships were broken up over whether someone "saw" characters in a slash relationship or not. Printers were throwing out masters of zines, threatening to destroy photographs of illos. In SH fandom, you could only find the slash if you knew someone who knew about it. It was like a secret society. The first S/H zine was published without names of either authors or artists. One editor published her slash pages on paper with wavy red lines making it practically impossible to read the pages, much less to Xerox them. (You needed a little pair of 3D glasses or even a piece of red acetate to hold over the page would do.) I heard a story that at ZebraCon people were secretly holding a slash party — but it turned out that most of the fans at the con ended up at the party after all.[12]

In spite of slash fandom's perseverance, the legacy of caution regarding openly discussing slash fan fiction continued in the fandom. Early mailing lists were not well advertised and a few required sponsorship in order to join along with dire warnings about publicly discussing the lists' existence. See VenicePlace and The Pits. Only with increasing online exposure of all types of slash fan fiction in the late 1990s to early 2000s were Starsky & Hutch fans emboldened to more openly make their presence known in the online world.

Today, Starsky & Hutch gen and slash fans are significantly more tolerant of each other. However, there are gen only mailing lists that exclude any discussion of slash. See: SHGFanFic and Hutchfans.

From Flamingo:

Most of the early SH fan writers came out of Star Trek fandom where they already had been producing very excellently written and edited zines with amazing artwork. There were certain kinds of fans, mostly women, who were mostly interested in the relationship aspect of Trek fandom, and in the hurt-comfort aspect of the relationships.... Trek had already produced the first slash stories and slash zines... So, it wasn't too long before some of the writers started exploring a slash relationship between S&H. [13]

In 1984, a fan wrote of the transitions and growing pains the four major slash fandoms of the time were experiencing:

The appeal of Starsky and Hutch, for me, lies in the open closeness of the characters. And, in reconciling that with the restrictive environment they live in, not only in the sense of them being cops but in terms of today's social values. I do think though, that many writers of S/H have tended to focus on the question of sexual preference. For K & S, gay is a difficult label to apply because Spock is a Vulcan from a different value system and both are men of the galaxy. With S & H, that label can allow for the production of great stories as the characters come to understand them selves, each other, their love. I tend to see Hutch as gay despite his marriage. Starsky is a heterosexual who may have bisexual tendencies which come to the fore when he accepts his love for Hutch. But I must admit that it is fun to change this scenario—to make S & H more like K & S in that both were primarily heterosexuals who find the love they share so compelling that they risk everything for it. I elaborate on this because I see in S/H stories a tendency to focus on this question and the permutations of sexual preference rather than on the much larger, potential S/H universe which includes cop plots, LA's weirdness and the like. I think this may be, in small part, why there is a writing crisis in S/H fandom. Maybe now that so many stories dealing with the issues of sexual preference and the revelation of true love have been written, writers can move on to the fascinating universe there is to play with if one writes S/H. ... I wonder if each new fandom doesn't extend what we learn. K/S was the beginning. It often did, and still does, focus on sex/sexual preference. Many stories never stretch beyond these topics (which is fine if the underlying aspirations weren't for a "real" story). S/H seems to have carried on the tradition yet, because the characters were so open with their Love, there were more stories that didn't just focus on these issues. With H/J, the issues were resolved immediately and became rather lame plot lines so other stories were written. In B/D we see the next stage, one we'd like to see K/S in. One where the issues of preference and sex are not so important. What is important is getting and keeping the characters together in sickness and health, for richer or poorer, till death do they part (with K/S there is the wonderful opportunity to realistically extend the relationship beyond "death"). Maybe we're on the verge of closing a circle. Writers who've begun in TREK, moved through S/H and into B/D may come full circle and bring that maturity as writers back to K/S. As a result, there may be more maturity in the characterizations we see in K/S if these writers can be lured back into the universe. Ultimately, I think some will gafiate back because they will see from writing other characters new challenges that Kirk and Spock's more mature versions present. In stories such as "Resting Place" and "Cycles", we see a more mature form of writing and characterizations; the characters are living the life they've chosen. The challenge is one of stressing their commitment and seeing if the love can endure. I think that eventually other writers may see this sort of challenge in K/S again.[14]

lamardeuse wrote:

To be honest, I resisted this one as long as I could, because, well, I lived the '70's, and even as a kid I knew I was living in a pretty shitty decade. I mean, my god. The hair. The clothes. The music. Did I really want to go back in my time machine to that bell-bottomed and macraméd era?

Apparently I did, because I started reading some fanfic by Flamingo and Rosemary and others, and I knew it was only a matter of time before I would have to rent the DVDs. And then I sat around and stared at my TV screen until my jaw found a home on the floor.

Because, yes, the hair and the clothes and the music. But also: the slash.

Holy mother of K/S. This is as slashy as they come, folks.

You want real, undeniable, painfully obvious man-love? This is it, kids: the groping and the fondling and the hugging and the banter and the bitching and the looks they give each other as though no other relationship they ever find will even come close to this. And they'd be right, because Starsky and Hutch are as canon as you can get without being Queer as Folk.[15]

Some Early Slash Zines

Some Early Slash Authors

Some Later Slash Authors

Links & Resources

Notes and References


  1. ^ See Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman's book Holy Terror (Delta, 1984) for a contemporary history of the Religious Right takeover and the "culture wars": Sarah Posner's Unholy (Random, 2020) documents the alliance between the Republican Party, the Trump Admin and the Religious Right.


  1. ^ Similarly, in a TV Guide interview, August 13, 1977: "'Starsky & Hutch' is listed as a 'crime drama'," says David, "but in my opinion the show is a love story between two men."
  2. ^ Word on the Street, 1999, documentary transcript
  3. ^ Paula Smith, from A to Zine
  4. ^ A reference to Hanky Panky?
  5. ^ from Paula Smith in The Paul Muni Special program book
  6. ^ from S and H #37
  7. ^ from Hanky Panky #1 (January or February 1982)
  8. ^ Because Code 7 issue #1 was as an underground publication (see Code 7 vs. Trace Elements), other fans consider Trace Elements as the first published US S/H zine.
  9. ^ also see "One index finger on the mouse scroll bar and the other on my clit": slash writers' views on pornography, censorship, feminism and risk (2001)
  10. ^ The "smash" had already come in another fandom the previous year -- see Open Letter to Star Wars Zine Publishers by Maureen Garrett
  11. ^ from Hanky Panky #1
  12. ^ from The Herstory of Sharecon, April Valentine (2000)
  13. ^ "The History of Our Fandom", dated Friday, October 7, 2005.
  14. ^ from Not Tonight Spock! #6
  15. ^ when the world is puddle-wonderful: lamardeuse's Starsky & Hutch fanfiction