Strange Bedfellows (APA)
|Date(s):||May 1993-to at least 1995|
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Strange Bedfellows was an multi-fandom slash APA that was published in the mid-1990s. Among its members were academics like Henry Jenkins. At its peak, it had 37 members who came from a number of countries, including the US, Canada, the UK, Scotland, France and Japan.
The excerpts below are from "Normal Female Interest in Men Bonking": Selections from The Terra Nostra Underground and Strange Bedfellows and are online here.
[Shoshanna] founded Strange Bedfellows (SBF) as a successor to the TNU (Terra Nostra Underground), and its current membership is thirty-seven, including Cynthia Jenkins and Henry Jenkins. Members are mostly female, but three men regularly participate at present and others have in the past. The group includes bisexual, gay, and straight people. About half of the members have written fan fiction and/or published fanzines, and that proportion is not, we think, too far above that in media fandom as a whole; the fan community tends to assume that everyone can write and that some people simply haven't done so (yet). There is no sharp distinction between readers and writers in most of the discussion that follows. Both are considered creative. Apa members come from various educational and class backgrounds, although most are middle class and tend to have at least a college degree; most are American, but there are eight European members (including one living in the United States) and one Western woman living in Japan. As far as we know, all the members are white, but since the apa is conducted through the mail rather than in person, we are not certain. 
- Q Who? by Jane Carnall, originally written as a loc for His Beloved Pet by Ruth Gifford and Atara Stein: adapted as an apazine article for "Strange Bedfellows"
- "The Tragedy of Romeo and Tybalt" by Jane Carnall (Romeo and Juliet)
Strange Bedfellows 1 was published in May 1993.
- does slash's focus on male protagonists facilitate identification more easily than stories focusing on female characters?: Your comments to Barbara about female slash, about familiarity (with the equipment, the activities, etc.) making it more difficult to 'go with the flow,' reminded me of the discussion of 'PC slash' on the email list, when a few folks complained about the tendency of some slash to be too 'realistic' or concerned with accuracy to the real world as we know it, which they felt interfered with the fantasy. I've been trying to figure out ever since discovering slash just why it might be that two guys getting it on would be exciting to women, and especially to lesbians, and I think this may have something to do with it. Writing (and reading) about things we can't experience directly, we can fantasize that these relations can be far beyond the best sex WE may have ever had, not limited by or interpreted through our own direct experience. I'm reminded of a passage from Henry Miller (in one of the Tropics, I think -- it's been a while) comparing the size of his childhood universe (a few blocks in reality, but limitless in imagination) with that of his adult world (far more extensive in reality, having traveled widely and seen many parts of the world, but as a consequence proportionately limited in imagination, because once he knew what some place was really like, he could no longer imagine it any way he wanted) -- so that, in a curious way, the more he experienced in his life, the smaller were the possibilities of his imagination. 
- slash addresses some of the social forces which block intimacy between men: When I try to explain slash to non-fans, I often reference that moment in Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan where Spock is dying and Kirk stands there, a wall of glass separating the two longtime buddies. Both of them are reaching out towards each other, their hands pressed hard against the glass, trying to establish physical contact. They both have so much they want to say and so little time to say it. Spock calls Kirk his friend, the fullest expression of their feelings anywhere in the series. Almost everyone who watches that scene feels the passion the two men share, the hunger for something more than what they are allowed. And, I tell my nonfan listeners, slash is what happens when you take away the glass. The glass, for me, is often more social than physical; the glass represents those aspects of traditional masculinity which prevent emotional expressiveness or physical intimacy between men, which block the possibility of true male friendship. Slash is what happens when you take away those barriers and imagine what a new kind of male friendship might look like. One of the most exciting things about slash is that it teaches us how to recognize the signs of emotional caring beneath all the masks by which traditional male culture seeks to repress or hide those feelings. 
- Is slash's frequent exclusion of female characters misogynist?: I'm still bloody insulted by people in general insisting that I need 'strong female role models.' Some of us already have one. It's called a mirror. 
- slash as creation: What I love about fandom is the freedom we have allowed ourselves to create and recreate our characters over and over again. Fanfic rarely sits still. It's like a living, evolving thing, taking on its own life, one story building on another, each writer's reality bouncing off another's and maybe even melding together to form a whole new creation. A lot of people would argue that we're not creative because we build on someone else's universe rather than coming up with our own. However, I find that fandom can be extremely creative because we have the ability to keep changing our characters and giving them new life over and over. We can kill and resurrect them as often as we like. We can change their personalities and how they react to situations. We can take a character and make him charming and sweet or coldblooded and cruel. We can give them an infinite, always-changing life rather than the single life of their original creation. We have given ourselves license to do whatever we want and it's very liberating. 
Strange Bedfellows 2 was published in August 1993.
- slash as creation: I think part of what makes slash so alluring is not so much that it's taboo, although that does give it an extra edge, but that we create it, our community, unhindered by all the rules of creative writing professors, of publishers and of marketers. We create the fiction we want to read and, more importantly, we allow ourselves to react to it. If a story moves or amuses us, we share it; if it bothers us, we write a sequel; if it disturbs us, we may even re-write it! We also continually recreate the characters to fit our images of them or to explore a new idea. We have the power and that's a very strong siren. If we want to explore an issue or see a particular scenario, all we have to do is sit down and write it. It gets read and instantly reacted upon in a continuing dialogue among fans. You can't do that very often in the 'real' world. For me, that's one of the strongest callings of slash in particular and fandom in general. 
- slash as creation: The multiple perspectives of fandom on the same set of characters allow us to do one thing better than virtually any other form of contemporary literature; they allow us to know one set of characters with tremendous depth. People are not as simple as even the most complex literary character in a single presentation. Any breathing human being is really many people, many of whom are contradictory. Reading overlapping versions of Ray Doyle, for example, leads to an understanding that is in many ways more real for its breadth and depth, detail and yes, even its contradictions. I do not think it is coincidental that so many fans have been or are drawn to mainstream literary universes consisting of multiple retellings of the same sets of stories by different authors -- Arthurian myths and the Robin Hood legends spring immediately to mind as two other 'evolving' universes. How is what we do different? 
- slash fandom as a place to feel free: I still find it incredible writing to people and being able to talk about 'slash' and use all those words that polite Catholic girls are not supposed to know (you know the ones -- penis, cock, fucking) -- as a Catholic, I knew Sodom existed as a town, but didn't dare ask what Sodomy was. [...] I think the reason I like slash fiction has more to do with the emotion in the story than the act itself. Our house was emotionally very cold. Any emotion had to be hidden -- I grew up feeling embarrassed if I looked happy in public let alone if I cried in public. I like the emotional romances that just don't seem to exist outside of slash fiction. Mind you, I like the pure sex ones as well.  [...] People like Leslie Fish and M. Fae have taught me so much about the human body and also about the human mind. The ideas bound up in some of these stories about what constitutes male/female good/bad acceptable/unacceptable sex have opened my eyes to the way society forces its ideas on us. 
- slash as a place to be free: The multiple perspectives of fandom on the same set of characters allow us to do one thing better than virtually any other form of contemporary literature; they allow us to know one set of characters with tremendous depth. People are not as simple as even the most complex literary character in a single presentation. Any breathing human being is really many people, many of whom are contradictory. Reading overlapping versions of Ray Doyle, for example, leads to an understanding that is in many ways more real for its breadth and depth, detail and yes, even its contradictions. I do not think it is coincidental that so many fans have been or are drawn to mainstream literary universes consisting of multiple retellings of the same sets of stories by different authors -- Arthurian myths and the Robin Hood legends spring immediately to mind as two other 'evolving' universes. How is what we do different? 
- more on slash as a place to be free: I think part of what makes slash so alluring is not so much that it's taboo, although that does give it an extra edge, but that we create it, our community, unhindered by all the rules of creative writing professors, of publishers and of marketers. We create the fiction we want to read and, more importantly, we allow ourselves to react to it. If a story moves or amuses us, we share it; if it bothers us, we write a sequel; if it disturbs us, we may even re-write it! We also continually recreate the characters to fit our images of them or to explore a new idea. We have the power and that's a very strong siren. If we want to explore an issue or see a particular scenario, all we have to do is sit down and write it. It gets read and instantly reacted upon in a continuing dialogue among fans. You can't do that very often in the 'real' world. For me, that's one of the strongest callings of slash in particular and fandom in general. 
Strange Bedfellows 3 was published in November 1993.
- summing up slash: Slash makes you think. It presents you with scenarios and situations that confront and transgress our nicely constructed ideas of the 'norm.' It flat refuses to swallow the party line about who has what emotions in what circumstances. It is produced, mainly by women, in an effort to search through questions and answers about ourselves and our constructed sexuality/identity. In slash, we do what is unthinkable, we put the 'wrong' people in bed, in the 'wrong' situations. In a world that creates the individual's identity in terms of sexuality, we respond by challenging, rearranging, that sexuality, that identity. 
- slash, erotica, porn...: In many ways slash can be seen as the ideal "feminine erotica." It is relationship oriented as hell, oh so caring and tender, and all about love. The hiccup comes in with some of the harder edged slash that has started to surface more recently. There is a temptation to see romantic slash as good porn, which is to say as reflecting a feminine sensibility, as erotica v. harder edged slash as bad porn, which is to say reflecting a more masculine sensibility, to see it as pornography in the negative-value-laden sense of the word. [...] When slash develops s&m or b&d it usually does so in the context of the same relationship that structures more vanilla stories about sex and love. The relationship is consensual and the sex is the expression of a very mutual, caring and usually permanent bond. Part of what is curious is that the anti-porn argument suggesting that inherent power inequalities make it impossible for women to give real consent to participate in sexual games involving power (like s&m scenes) falls to pieces if both characters are acknowledged as masculine. [...] But slash stories assume that games can be just that: games. Or they assume that roleplaying can serve some therapeutic purpose. But they virtually always see the people as controlling the games, not the other way around. They actively construct an argument against anti-porn fears that power differential is fixed, that it is invariably harmful, and that pain- or power-centered imagination and bedroom practice will corrupt the way we interact outside the bedroom. The point of the stories is to situate these practices in the context of a relationship and examine how they function as a part of that relationship. [...] Rape stories, though they may start out with male porn cliches about desire overwhelming control, or some such, usually go on to deal with the ramifications of the act. The point of the story isn't the rape; it's how the characters deal with the rape. Can they salvage anything from the wreckage created by the violence? Do they want to? Alternatively, if the rape is rewritten (either within the course of the narrative, or within sequels) so that it isn't really a rape (he really liked it) the narratives still focus on the dynamics of the relationship. [...] Hurt/comfort stories often contain enough gore to send shivers down the back of activists concerned with the conflation of sex and violence. [...] How can anyone get off on seeing a character suffer from gunshot wounds or auto accidents? Why does this so often lead to sex, and so often to highly improbable sex, at that, while the wounded partner is still suffering to a degree that renders erotic response improbable? It is as if the vulnerability of the physical body is being used symbolically to illustrate the vulnerability of the emotional makeup of men. The breakdown of the physical body leads to a breakdown of personal barriers, of emotional defenses. And this (in slash) leads to a breakdown of physical barriers and to sex. Yes, there is lots of pain and suffering, sometimes very precise descriptions of which bones are broken or which internal organs are bruised, or how bloody the wound is, or how labored the breathing patterns are. But once again, unlike the material I suspect h/c is implicitly being analogized to, the hurt is not so much directly erotic as it is the means by which a sufficient degree of vulnerability and openness is achieved that an intimate relationship can develop. So the sub-genres of slash that all too often provoke wondering looks, or less polite queries as to how the fan could like that, strike me as curious hybrids of romantic feminine-style sex and elements of masculine porn that are central to debates concerning the availability and impact of sexually explicit material. Those elements of the pornographic imagination that are least accessible to many women are co-opted and explored within the context of the familiar romantic relationship. True, romantic stories are seen as acceptably feminine, but I would argue that slash stories about beating your partner until his backside glows in the dark are also "feminine" by the same criteria. 
Strange Bedfellows 5 was published in May 1994.
- regarding the subject "slash vs gay": Homosexuality has as much to do with Slash as Civil War history did with Gone With The Wind. Burning Atlanta gave Scarlet something to deal with and homosexuality has given Bodie and Doyle something to deal with -- sodomy. But GWTW wasn't about the causes of the Civil War, the plantation economy, battle strategy and slavery, just as slash isn't about gay rights, creating positive gay identities for Bodie and Doyle, or exploring the gay male sex scene. Two heterosexual males becoming involved in a sexual relationship is my standard definition of slash. Why specifically 'heterosexual' males? Because I view slash as a product of female sexuality, and I'll be frank here [...] slash is an intricate part of MY sexuality and a sexual outlet. Bodie and Doyle are both men, so homosexual is technically accurate, but hardcore porn is technically heterosexual but I don't see my sexuality in that, either. What I want as a woman, how I view sex and intimacy is not reflected in male homosexuality. My attraction to a fandom starts with the televised character. If I am attracted physically to at least one guy and the character lends itself to being slash (this isn't a given with me), then I'm hooked. I am not physically attracted to homosexual men. Portraying Bodie and Doyle in a 'realistic' gay milieu is taking them from the realm of my sexuality. Two heterosexual males becoming involved in a sexual relationship.[...] To me slash is the process of getting these characters into bed.[...] This process can be Pon Farr, a knock on the head, the gradual dawning of whatever lust/love, the point is that beginning with the aired characterizations gives us a common starting point. And like the Math test where the teacher wants to 'see the work' seeing the author's process X let's us recognize the guys who end up snuggling in bed together. Two heterosexual males becoming involved in a sexual relationship. To say that there is no relationship between homosexuality and slash is absurd. To say that slash is just another name for homosexuality is equally absurd. We have appropriated men's bodies and sexual activities for our own gratification. Sounds a lot like complaints about male porn made by women, doesn't it? I'm waiting for a demonstration by gay men where they carry placards complaining that we are using them as 'relationship objects.' [...] Three years ago I wouldn't have made a distinction between sexual and homosexual. Since the beginning, slash writers have appropriated what we want from the physical side, adapted it to fit female hot buttons, and pretty much kept the relationship female oriented in terms of 'true love,' virginity, h/c, monogamy, etc. Now the situation has changed. Somewhere along the line, our appropriation of the physical act of homosexual sodomy [...] has been coupled with the obligation to portray these acts realistically and to also give the characters the emotional make-up of homosexual men. The failure to do this is taken as evidence of the writers 1)naivete; 2)homophobia; 3)social irresponsibility; 4) all of the above. Why is it our duty to accurately reflect the gay male experience? Is it the duty of gay male writers to accurately portray the lives of spinster librarians? How they interpret my life will be done through the filter of their own sexuality? What is the difference between the slash and gay characters? 'Slash' characters excite by being extensions of female sexuality while the 'gay' characters excite by being a window into an alien sexuality, that of homosexual men. It is internal vs. external in a way. The writers who prefer their characters gay can find more conformity because they are reworking a culture that actually exists -- that of homosexual men. There is no island of slash men with sociological texts detailing their behavior. To find where slash comes from we must look inside ourselves.[...] My 'sick' stories (the one I'll never write) are the dark places in my sexuality. The issues I will write about, power and trust, concern me as a woman, not Bodie and Doyle as gay men. I am fulfilling my kink, not accurately portraying the kink of gay men. That said, if YOUR kink is gay men, then state it as a kink, not as the realistic way to write slash or the morally responsible way or the two letter designation that also abbreviates Personal Computers. 
Strange Bedfellows 7 was published in 1994.
Strange Bedfellows 9 was published in May 1995 and contains 105 pages with a cover by Isoline. Among the topics discussed were misogyny in slash, real person fiction, why fans write slash, Quantum Leap, Blake's 7, Figure Skating and X-Files fandoms and the recent Revelcon convention. There were 35 members sharing 23 subscriptions; however, the APA members voted to bring in all five people on the waiting list, bringing the total number of subscriptions (plus the editor) to 30.
Strange Bedfellows 10 was published in 1995.
Strange Bedfellows 11 was published in 1995.
- from "Normal Female Interest in Men Bonking": Selections from The Terra Nostra Underground and Strange Bedfellows
- from Agnes T, "Notes From Tomorrow"
- from Henry Jenkins, "Confessions of a Male Slash Fan"
- from M. Fae Glasgow, "Two Heads are Better than One"
- from Kim B, "Untitled"
- from Kim B, "Desert Blooms"
- from Cynthia Jenkins, "Menage a Deux"
- from Teresa H, "To Be Announced"
- from Cynthia Jenkins, "Menage a Deux"
- from Kim B, "Desert Blooms"
- by Morgan, "A Different Eye"
- from Cynthia Jenkins, "Menage a Deux"
- from Lezlie Shell, "W.H.I.P.S., Women of Houston in Pornography