Strange Bedfellows (APA)/Issue 001
Strange Bedfellows 1 was published in May 1993 and contains about 164 pages.
Each section of the apa was written by a different fan/fans and had its own title.
Note: The trib "But T-shirt Slogans ARE Intellectual Discourse" by Sandy Herrold and [N] was submitted too late to be in this issue, and were inserted at the end of issue #2. This means that when fans comment on Sandy and [N]'s trib in issue #1, they are referring to the last trib of the same name in Terra Nostra Underground.
- 1 Some Topics Discussed in "Notes from Tomorrow"
- 2 Some Topics Discussed in "Confessions of a Male Slash Fan"
- 3 Some Topics Discussed in "Untitled" by [C J]
- 4 Some Topics Discussed in "Vice Files"
- 5 Some Topics Discussed in "Strange Tongues"
- 6 Some Topics Discussed in Secret Kiss
- 7 Some Topics Discussed in "Ghost Speaker"
- 8 Some Topics Discussed in "Sukebei"
- 9 Some Topics Discussed in "Untitled" by [K B]
- 10 Some Topics Discussed in "Yamibutoh"
- 11 Some Topics Discussed in "Mardi Gras Favors"
- 12 Some Topics Discussed in "Paradoxical Ramblings"
- 13 Some Topics Discussed in "For the World is Hollow..."
- 14 Some Topics Discussed in "WHIPS of Houston"
- 15 Some Topics Discussed in "Untitled" by [M G]
- 16 Some Topics Discussed in "Two Heads Are Better Than One"
- 17 Some Topics Discussed in "Untitled" by [T H]
- 18 Some Topics Discussed in "Lavender Lilies"
- 19 Some Topics Discussed in "Weirdness on a Swan's Wing"
- 20 References
Some Topics Discussed in "Notes from Tomorrow"
- introduction to fandom
- Blake's 7
- physical violence in fanfic and a desire for more realistic hurt/comfort
- slash's focus on male protagonists
- the place of sex in a story
- actor slash
- fanworks and profit
Excerpts from "Notes From Tomorrow"A fan wrote about her introduction to fandom:
A desire for more realism in hurt/comfort and stories with physical violence:
I've been told I came into fandom backwards. I had avoided television fairly successfully until about five years ago, when circumstances conspired to put me in a position where I couldn't really refuse to allow a TV into my home, just at the time our local PBS station showed Blake's 7. Do I need to say I was quickly and easily hooked? I'd heard of "fandom" and "conventions" (I'd been reading SF since my teens, of course), but had never seriously considered seeking such out until I was overheard at an Opera Guild party (yes, that's right, I was inducted into fandom via the opera guild!) talking about B7, and was told that Paul Darrow would be in Seattle at a convention that spring. Avon being the most interesting character I'd run into in quite some time, of course I decided to check it out — while I'm sure there must have been zines at that Anglicon, I didn't see them - guess I just didn't know what they were - but I did pick up a flyer for "The Bizarro Zine", which I eventually sent away for. When it arrived accompanied by reams of other flyers, I ran into warnings about something called "slash' - containing explicit same-sex erotica — and was immediately intrigued. I ordered one of each (gen and slash), and the rest is history! (I was told that the usual progression was from general fandom into media via Trek, then perhaps into some more esoteric media fandom, then perhaps slash — or vice versa — not, as I did, directly into B7 slash from mundania...
[snipped]Lately I've also been spending much more time than I should playing in the email (it's all Sandy's fault! I was just a naive innocent, and she started talking about email, and now I'm hooked...)- I'm in three groups, the Slashfen list, the B7 list, and an Opera list (which is very interesting, [B]!) which among them generate enough mail to occupy more time than I have to spare.. And then there's the newsgroups, which I'm just beginning to learn my way around — there's one for Red Dwarf, definitely one of my favorite current shows, and more than one for erotica of various qualities and persuasions (Sturgeon's Law may be optimistic), and something called alt.fan.lemurs which is kind of like an open-ended Monty Python sketch...It's a lot of fun, but definitely a time drain!)
A comment on the subject of slash's focus on male protagonists, and does it facilitate identification more easily than stories focusing on female characters?:It's also only fair to warn those who don't already know me that I do tend to climb on the old soap box from time to time — current rants include various political issues, and the overuse of unrealistic violence in TV and in fan fiction — my profession as a rehabilitation nurse (spinal cord injuries, brain injuries, strokes, etc.) makes me especially sensitive to the real-life consequences of trauma, and I feel there might be less of a tendency towards random acts of violence on the street if their results were dealt with a bit more realistically on TV - and I really have a hard time accepting a lot of hurt/comfort, when the characters are boffing their brains out in circumstances where I KNOW they'd actually be writhing in pain, or passed out, or at least in no mood for sex! — and pullease, no more stories where someone is raped and then finds comfort in sex — NO NO NO, it just doesn't happen like that! (I've heard the argument that it's a fantasy, so anything goes, but I find it necessary that I be able to at least take the premise seriously in order to accept a story.)
A discussion about actor slash, a carry-over from one that had begun in The Terra Nostra Underground:Your comments to [B] 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.
Regarding reading slash out of context:About "actor slash", or as it should really be called, "person slash" (which I think cuts to the heart of what I find objectionable about it), it constitutes fictionalizing a real person's life, perhaps not really pretending it's "real" but still making use of an actual person as a fictional character. I feel that changing the name is a significant modification — this acknowledges that it is a fictional character, and is consequently fair game. It's certainly legit to cast one's stories in any way one chooses, and if this involves casting the partner from one role in a corresponding part for another role, that's legit too. Using characters as archetypes is acceptable, and easily within the brief of fan fiction, so if a story can be furthered by using a character easily recognizable as Bodie or Doyle, but with a different name, and thus automatically calling up a constellation of characteristics without the need of spelling them out, I say why not? I don't see this as in any way comparable to writing that Martin Shaw and Lewis Collins had a mad passionate affair, complete with details of plumbing, which I definitely feel would be an invasion of their private lives. I've not seen much Tris/Alex yet (hint, hint, [J]...), but it seems that this would also fall into the category of fictionalization — once the names are changed, they are characters in the provenance of the author. I would not consider it legit to imply that these characters are anything but fictional characters, even though they may bear a striking resemblance to real people. I do think the subject starts to get a bit hazy when it comes to 'Hollywood bios', which I usually consider to be fictional, but which purport to be real. Then there's the Irving Stone pseudo-biography, fictionalizing the lives of people too long dead to argue about it. (Not to be confused with the biographical fiction of someone like, say, Romaine Holland, whose Jean Christophe is a great novel and probably takes bits and pieces of the lives of Beethoven and other Romantic composers but does not claim to be telling the story of an actual person — sort of a proto-Tris/Alex?) I don't think I entirely approve of that, either — but that rather begs the question of where to draw the line in recounting history — even as far back as Thucydides it was recognized that history is written by the winners, and thus can't be expected to be entirely objective.
On the place of sex in a story:My initial response to your ct. to [B] about your friend reading slash out of context was, "But it wouldn't make any sense without the context!", thinking of my own experiences trying to read fiction based in shows I've not seen — then I thought again, of the "character development" in commercial porn, and realized that even out-of-context slash probably showed more characterization than most hard core pornography!!
Intrigued by "computer nets":... you say, "Having them fuck each other is just that added cherry on top..." I prefer the stuff in which having them fuck each other is integral to the story — where, if you left out the sex, the story would make no sense. [M. F] is, of course, the master (mistress?) of this — in many cases, the plot unfolds in the characters' developing sexual relationship, and the sex Is not just an added bonus, but the actual meat (pardon the choice of wording) of the story. I've read stories where the actual story is completely worked out, and THEN they have sex too — and I don't find them nearly as interesting.
Kerr Avon not attractive? wrote:Think of it — if you were on the net, we could chat all the time, and not just every three months in the APA (I've found it's much easier, for me, to type in a quick email note, than to sit down and write a REAL letter...)!!
Regarding fanfic, fanart, and selling it for profit:I'm curious that you find Avon leaves you indifferent. He strikes me as having what I consider an androgynous beauty, which you say you like — clearly we perceive this differently! But he certainly is not in the standard mold of 'masculine' - that's more Blake, I'd say — somehow the brooding sensitivity, the chiseled features, the ready pout — neither masculine nor feminine, but something other which I admit I still find intriguing. As you say, "a feminized Avon doesn't work" - he's too strong for that - but as Avon himself came to learn, neither did it work when he tried to fit himself to the 'masculine' leadership role — his strength was as the power behind the power, the gadfly/support, the devil's advocate. In a way, it's a pity (as he said) that he and Servalan could not have been on the same side, because they complement each other so well in this regard — her androgyny is in many ways a yin/yang reflection of his. Anyhow, that's how I see it — what do you think?
As a non-artist, non-writer, I have no personal investment in either side of the debate, but as an (unbiased?) observer, it seems that most writers get as little or less financial return for their loving work — my understanding of the original point of the 'stick figure auction piece' was that at least the artist has the OPTION of selling her product, whereas the writer, unless she is self-publishing, gets a copy of the zine and that's IT. The artist has a greater investment in equipment and materials, which certainly deserves compensation, but as far as time goes, I'm sure writing requires as much time and effort as does visual art. So, in the sense that the visual artist has invested financially in the paper, paint, ink, etc. it is fair that the product can be offered for sale in a way that a story cannot, but it doesn't seem fair to condemn writers if a particular piece of art fails to bring a price which the artist finds acceptable. What with the vagaries of the economy, personal taste, and what-not, the fact that a particular piece of art sells at a high price or doesn't hardly reflects the quality of the art — and while it must be frustrating to have put so much time and love into a work, and then see it fail to be appreciated financially, there are doubtless many people like me who love to see the art but can't really afford to buy much...Please don't feel your work is being denigrated because it's not drawing high prices! And don't accept a price you don't feel is adequate — I believe the 'minimum bid' should be just that, the minimum price the artist feels is acceptable considering the time, effort, materials, etc. invested in the work — and if no-one at a particular show is able to meet that price, you still have the work and there will be other shows... I don't really know about the costs of publishing — I always assumed that the cost of a zine included 'front money' to enable the publisher to pay in advance for the next publication, etc., and that usually a print run would not sell completely all at once, hence the investment does not 'turn over' right away and stacks of zines must be safely stored—so that the publisher is at least somewhat justified in charging more that 'at cost' for her product. Perhaps I've been naive — I didn't think anyone was making a living publishing zines — seems like most people I've heard about have to work at mundane jobs to SUPPORT their publishing activities, not the other way around. Am I missing a significant point? I admit I am only an egg when it comes to zine production — as a consumer, I'm only glad so many people are doing such a good job of it! (And wishing I could afford more...)
Some Topics Discussed in "Confessions of a Male Slash Fan"
- dissatisfaction with the current men's movement, societal expectations and permissions regarding male intimacy and emotion, the role of slash in those topics
- Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan and Spock's death scene as a metaphor for slash and male intimacy
- writing Textual Poachers
- the possible appeal of slash to men, and their understanding of it
Excerpts from "Confessions of a Male Slash Fan"This fan expresses much dissatisfaction with the current "men's movement," writing that it only reinforces traditional masculinity, and therefore is shortsighted. Slash, on the other hand, addresses some of the social forces which block intimacy between men:
More on slash: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. (A similar metaphor might be found in looking at those moments in Quantum Leap when Sam tries to hug Al and the two are unable to touch.) 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.
Regarding being a slash fan and writing Textual Poachers:
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. Watching fan videos, I am constantly moved both by the signs that betray underlying emotions and by the struggle of the men to constantly pull back from acknowledging those forbidden feelings to themselves or anyone else. There is a tremendous pathos in those images, which is, only partially, a matter of fannish interpretation.
When I read slash, I find there the kinds of images of idealized male friendships that I hungered for back in those days and that were impossible to find in the mass media. I remember what it meant to me when I saw Superman crying on the screen, mourning the apparent death of Lois Lane. Here was the "man of steel," the original Iron John, unafraid to display his emotional responses to that loss. I was deeply moved by the image of Luke Skywalker being comforted by Princess Leia after Obi-Wan's death. Some of my friends accused me of being preoccupied with the ritual of male tears, though I argued that the image of men crying, rare though it is, now as then, was simply the surface reflection of a more profound rethinking of what it meant to be a man in our society. I am not sure how I would have responded if I had encountered slash at that time. That's not true. I knew of it's existence, heard whispers of it in the background.
The assumptions you find in early slash stories by writers like Leslie Fish or [ Gayle F ], the assumptions they make about male identity and sexuality are more radical than the men's movements of the mid-1970s.
When I encountered slash, directly, in the mid-1980s, much of what I found still made me more than a little uncomfortable, butfor a different reason. I think my response must have been a lot like many women feel when they encounter commercial pornography for the first time ~ an alienation from their own bodies, a sense that someone else was mapping their sexual fantasies onto your gender, a sense that what I was finding there was totally unfamiliar. A lot of what made me uncomfortable were the inaccuracies in portraying how the male body operates, about what it feels like to do certain things with your penis and testicles. I spent a lot of time wincing and grabbing my crotch reading those first few stories. Some of what made me uncomfortable were elements of hurt-comfort or S&M which I wasn't quite ready to confront. (Slash has helped to change how I think about those issues, but that's probably for another posting.) But, from the very beginning, around the edges, I found something in slash that spoke to me, that answered some deep feelings and fantasies I had.
I became a male slash fan, long before I ever thought about writing Textual Poachers. I have a button, which says, "No, my wife didn't teach me everything I know about slash," a curt response to an oft-asked question. (My wife had it made for me as a surprise gift.) But, that response is too simple. [C] was always there, discussing the stories we were reading, suggesting stories I might like better, putting up with my ill tempered response to disliked writers, and nudging me to pick up a story that I abandoned half-read. I am a slash fan in my own right, now, and have been for some time. I found things in slash that are important to me and I hope that writing for Strange Bedfellows will help me to more fully explore what those things are. And my analysis of slash in the book comes out of the process of trying to explain slash to my non-fan friends and searching for academic tools to account for its meanings, to me and to the community. Yet, [C] was there as well, reading and commenting on every page. So, my wife didn't teach me everything I know about slash but she did teach me a lot of what I know about slash.
The appeal of slash to men, and their understanding of it:
I have a few story ideas but I do so much writing at work that I tend not to think about doing it in my recreational time. Maybe one of these days [I will write a slash story] . Still, I thought you might find it interesting to know how at least one man responds to the slash he reads. I am always surprised with the assumption most slash fans make that their stories can be meaningful to women, regardless of their sexual orientation, but that men will never get what the stories are about, even though the stories are all about men, their lives, and their sexualities. I suspect many more men would like slash if they gave it half a chance. I have taught slash stories in my classes and have found nonfan male students who really liked what they found there. I suspect converting men to slash fans isn't high on anyone's agenda, but the side of me that was once obsessed with Goldberg and Farrell still wants a way to create a fuller dialogue with other men and between men and women about gender, sexuality, and our daily lives.
Some Topics Discussed in "Untitled" by [C J]
- discussion of the book "Sexual Science and the Law" by Richard Green
- the show Picket Fences
- sexuality in fanfic
Excerpt from "Untitled" by [C J]
Tired of settling for too little with mainstream television:
...I seem to be avoiding addressing slash very directly. How does all of the above tie into this genre of literature? Perhaps it suggests why I find more that rings true to me in a fairy tale penned by fans than I do most other places I look. Unlike an appalling amount of academic work, fans generally have some sort of theoretical consistency underpinning their assumptions about relationships and sexuality. Unlike the Green book, many fans possess a sense of historical and cultural context — even if that context is acknowledged to be a fantasy.Sexuality in fan stories is not static. Unlike surveys, fan stories suggest that people engage in a broad range of sexual activities. Characters can be marvelously wicked and love every bleeding moment of it. ([M. F], I love you! If a strange female ever throws herself prostrate on the ground in front of you and kisses your feet, assume I am introducing myself.) Unlike network TV, the networks don't matter a damn. I get so sick of being grateful because one show is a little less awful than the others I could scream. Or even turn off the set. (Even if it's a lot less awful, I still Hate having to compromise.) Slash involves a hell of a lot less compromise.
Some Topics Discussed in "Vice Files"
- actor slash
- the early circuit Man from U.N.C.L.E. hardcore s/m slashfic
- George Lucas and his attempts to control fandom via Open Letters to Star Wars Zine Publishers (1981)
- some comments on a Wiseguy fic by [M. F G]
- reclaiming words: "Queer" vs "Bisexual"
- some thoughts on yaoi regarding visual representation and domination
- some thoughts on Fan Q's & honorable mentions, wanting more representation
Excerpts from "Vice Files"A comment about photomanips:
About actor slash:Re the computer gen picture you ran, that's pretty well-done -- how, if the general public could see how easy it is to scan someone's head onto someone else's body, they'd see how the National Enquirer & other trash rags get their photos...Sure beats airbrush retouching!
More on actor slash:Re the continuing discussion on actor slash, I'm not about to try to decipher everyone's motives, but I added an 'original' Robert Vaughn character to my Sapphire & Steel universe & do not personally consider it actor slash. I don't know Vaughn personally, so I'm certainly not writing this character based on knowledge of him, but he's not 100% Napoleon Solo either. The main reason I came up with him was that the premise of S&S fascinates me (I love time paradox & super natural beings), I love David McCallum as Steel, and wanted to do a slash story. I thought it would be amusing (rather like naming the sire of my Kerr Avon model horse 'I Will Command') for his partner to be a Napoleon Solo look-alike. Don't think there's a 'deeper' reason - I'll leave that up to the psychologists in the readership to figure out.
Comments on fanwork legalities:I am not about to tell anyone not to write it (and if I did previously, I didn't mean to ~ sorry!); but because not everyone has a good sense of humour, perhaps those who do write it should learly state on it something like "This is only a work of fiction & is not meant to be a true account"? Just so that the writers don't get sued for libel if they run into someone who doesn't realize, or doesn't care that it "carries textual markers of fiction". After all, [A] & I make all kinds of comments (verbally) about certain ice skaters, BUT if we ever put anything down in writing we'd either change the names, or make sure there was a "this is fiction" disclaimer.
Please, may I have some of that?:Reyrct to [T] on HOW Lucas put the 'major cease & desist on fandom,' [N], [V], [D], [A] & I got into a very lively discussion on copyrights last weekend, and the how of it, whether or not he REALLY had a legal leg to stand- on, was basically intimidation: Lucas has lots of bucks and can afford lawyers. Fans, in general, do not. IF fans could afford lawyers & all the court time & inconvenience, they could conceivably take him to court & win their right to produce fanfic legally; but, since they don't, he can intimidate everyone with threats of litigation. Money is all the power he needed.
A comment on a [M.F. G's] Wiseguy fic:
Some terminology preference, reclaiming words:[M.F. G's] Sonny/Vinnie, sexual harassment in the workplace I'll give you, but I still don't see it as rape. One of the quirks my Roger has is that he likes it pretty rough - he gets off on the adrenaline rush of the potential danger - BUT he likes to manipulate the situation so he can give up control & therefore say 'it wasn't my fault' or 'I had no choice' men who are raised in our society generally have trouble admitting they enjoy being dominated (if they do, of course), so it is easier on someone of that mindset to "let them selves be forced. This is the viewpoint I'm reading this story from, whether it was intended that way or not.
Illya's portrayal:"Queer" vs "Bisexual", I kind of like "Queer" better, except it carries so much more negative connotation. I'm familiar with the idea of 'reclaiming' words used against people (like Wiccans using "Witch" in an attempt to dispel the notion of hags riding brooms...), and so using "Queer" in this case would be an attempt to reclaim the word. "Bisexual" is just so damned stiff/clinical.
Some thoughts on yaoi:Illya often being characterized as gay, I think this is because in the series he is often shown as actively resisting involvement with women; often shown as having a great sense of distaste, if not outright disgust, in regards to Napoleon's liaisons; and generally keeping himself somewhat aloof & isolated from just about everyone. There are a few women he was shown having an interest in, but according to a book about the series, they got so much mail from jealous female fans telling them I to 'lose the girlfriend' that they did!
On Fan Q's & honorable mentions:
We were discussing with [N] the fact that in Anime slash it always seemed like one character had to dominate the other - there is rarely the equality you see in) western' slash. I think the concept of Yin/Yang is part of the reason for that - it's culturally ingrained that the ideal pairing is Yin/Yang, in order to create a whole unit, that one partner must be reaction, the other action; that one must be passive, the other one dominant. Any takers?Y'know, I love the way the artists in Japanese zines are so liberal on the resemblance to the 'real' design of the character. For those who haven't seen many Japanese zines, there isn't the pressure or expectation you get over here that 'you have to draw them to look exactly the way they/the actors look' - individual styles of drawing are not discouraged. Sometimes, though, this leads to confusion - the MFU illo on [J's] pg. 5 looks more like Seiji & Touma from Samurai Troopers than Illya & Napoleon...One's got blond hair, one's got dark hair & a slightly prominent chin — the resemblance ends there...
I think it's the ones where only one is nominated - their idea is that it only gets HM because it has no competition. So, if something wins in a walkover, did it really win? That's my problem with things that have to be nominated in the first place — obscure fandoms are going to suffer because there may only BE one zine for some thing... [My solution to this would probably cause them too much work for it to be an acceptable idea, but if the Fan Q folks had a list of ALL the zines that were eligible in each fandom for that specific year, & just made up the ballot from that, instead of them needing to be nominated, it would help even it out a little. But, as I said, that would be an AWFULLY big job — I know there are TONS of zines each year...]
Some Topics Discussed in "Strange Tongues"
- the nature and appeal of slash
- slash's relationship with canon, things canon cannot or won't supply
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and representation
- actor slash
- early K/S writing, Pon Farr, sexuality, non-consensual sex, expectations and permissions regarding sexual enjoyment
- copyright, fair use, public domain, some fan's use of it to censor other fans regarding topics they don't like
- song tapes and their form of storytelling
- George Lucas and his 1981 Open Letters to squelch fanworks
- lesbians reading m/m slash
- Tris/Alex fic
- fandom and profit and fanart
- a comment on the quality of fic in the zine series Dyad
- safe sex, realism in fic
Excerpts from "Strange Tongues"From a long, long essay discussing slash:
More on slash:
I want to advance a tentative theory that fanwriting, slash included, has practically nothing to do with what we see on TV and everything to do with what we feel like writing. Some fans also watch and enjoy the TV shows for themselves, yes, but the motive for fanwriting as a re-creation of the Little Screen shows is minimal. What we do get from the TV show is a take-off point from which to write stuff that interests us, which in the case of amateur underemployed women of the American or British middle class, is relationships between people more than anything else. The seasoning of spaceships, malfunctioning teleports, fast cars, or police bureaucracy is purely what happened to be around at the time. The use of screen characters is a bit more integral — what Doyle, or McCoy, or Vinnie, or Vila, does in the show and whether or how well it's represented in a fan story is important when the point of the story (or of writing the story) is how Vila interacts with Avon or McCoy with Kirk. The reason the story is written, however, is most often to have the fun of making up, controlling, such a relationship. This can be expressed as re-telling something from the show, or expanding something that's in the show, and sometimes can be analyzed as that; but the TV shows are built on far more than personality interactions.
From this general theory about fanwriting, it proceeds that slash is written because fans want or need stories with specifically sexual tension, as well as, often, strong emphasis on personalities — whether from a TV show or any other source — or (not always in the same stories) on erotic detail. It's a bit clearer in slash that the original show is less a determiner of, than a setting for, the events of the story, and perhaps I am behind everyone else in seeing this clearly (or perhaps not): Any slash story is written because the fan desires erotic tension — perhaps desires it in a fantasy with Vila or Starsky — but not merely because the fan thinks B7 or S&H is a fascinating show. The preoccupation with personality interaction remains in slash fiction (overall, not in every example) for, probably, the same reasons it holds in general fanfic; but here the overlap with non-fan gay and homoerotic fiction takes place. Unlike crime drama and SF, gay fiction and erotica that intends to go beyond the lowest common denominator does acknowledge that human psychology and personal interaction are important elements.
[snipped]Even aside from heavily sexual slash, however, fanfic (including much slash) is surely written about the writer's interests, not about TV shows as abstract extrapolation or anything else abstract. TV and other entertainment shows are a reflection of reality (this is simplistic as a statement but basically true), and I think fanwriting is equally a reflection of its writers' reality, more than it is a reflection of the reflection in TV. That re-reflection is the means of telling fans' stories, not the substance. If she's lucky or careful, a fanwriter will pick a show, or characters, that suit the story she wants to tell so that the story works as derived from the show and is enriched by the implied background from it, as well as presenting events and characters in the story itself. Some fan stories work against their sources — for instance, a B/D story full of Valentine cards and roses says a great deal about the writer's notion of expressing love, and contradicts the way Bodie and Doyle express themselves on screen. A Catherine/ Vincent story on the same lines, however, would work better with the resonances it inherits from its parent show.
Opinions on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:Seeing as any idea I've had about slash either comes from the way you think or what you think (or you immediately improve on it), consider the essay above a homage. This may shed some light on the notion that slash is too attractive, too individual, to be a substitute for any other kind of story. It's been invented to do exactly what it does, by writers who could have played up male/female pairings if they'd wanted, or nonsexual stories, or whatever else suited them. Sometimes the fit's a little awkward; but one interesting thing about slash is that so often, it isn't a bad extrapolation of the show or characters.
I saw DS9 for the first time, and am disimpressed for the most part, although the special effects are terrific. Movies didn't look that good for a long time! At the same time, I have to give the show all the points anyone can ask for, for putting a black single father in the lead with an effective, ass-kicking female second and no trace of romantic interest. Does still thinking the show is trite and stupidly scripted (which I do) play into the "major rant" of yours about complaints when various activists are doing their honest best to improve society for various minorities? I have no compunction about complaining that DS9 would do better to introduce some less cliched dialogue, and that its depiction of aliens has them progressively more grotesque as they are morally suspect, so that human beauty (TV-style, meaning skinny, but okay, it's not always white on DS9) is still a sign of goodness. Yet the show seems to be making a serious and honest effort to show (human) characters of all ethnicities. Does serious, honest effort make up for boring me, in a product which is sold for entertainment? (Compare with Red Dwarf.) I do not really want to denigrate what DS9 is doing, only to point out that it's a small percentage of what needs to be done.
Early K/S fic, Pon Farr, consent, content:
Regarding actor slash:
Thanks for the survey of how explicit slash was as it progressed from initial experiments to the 80's and 90's. Possibly you have a point that early K/S (especially) was so sweet, romantic and happily-ever-after to prove that it was something more than that icky sex stuff, even though it implied or described some sex. ([K R], any comments?) Do you think that the reluctance to write strong hetero romances, and the onus heaped on invented female characters (which always seems especially virulent if they're strong, more offhand and well-what-can-you-expect-she's-just-naive if the character is fluffy overdone wish-fulfillment), stems from the same feeling that nice girls, i.e. the fanwriters, are tainted if they enjoy illicit sex, even by female proxy? The male characters, especially in a committed, bonded, monogamous, permanent, ideally-loving relationship, can do so. Of course, the non-slash elements of fandom instantly assumed that K/S and later slash fandoms were monstrous, sex-obsessed, and invalid as literature anyway; at least current slash can enjoy being monstrous, sex-obsessed, and as valid as it ought to be instead of worrying what the fannish neighbors think. I have run into at least once instance of definite anti- (not neutral) slash attitude in the past couple of years, and I'm sure there are still some others who think that way. But it's less monolithic.I see the Pon Farr stories you talk about, where a rape or semi-rape results from Spock being already in love with/bonded to Kirk, as a myth (which does not mean it can't express a measure of truth) which reassures the female reader and writer that men, even rapists, share the framework of relationship-is-all upon which they depend. If Spock forces sex on Kirk not because he's angry or threatened, but because he and Kirk have some kind of relationship already, this is a comprehensible reason by relationship-oriented standards. There are also numerous stories where Spock determines heroically to die rather than rape Kirk, and Kirk convinces him otherwise, which make pretty much the same point and, depending on the quality of Kirk's involvement, may be the same stories. Yes, I think a lot of slash that's written from inside a male character's POV is a metaphor for the writer's and readers' sexuality, meaning female sexuality as well as human sexuality — I'm not sure the differences are too great.
More on actor fic:I'd tend to give writers the benefit of the doubt and assume that the name they call the character by is the basic identity they intend for the character. Actor slash proper is whatever is written featuring a "Martin Shaw" instead of a "Ray Doyle." Incidentally, all of this paragraph is my own hair splitting on a subject where everybody seems to have an opinion of slightly different shade, so don't think I'm telling you what's truth; I'm just adding my own soupcon to the confusion. I'd also say that most fanwriting which puts an obvious derivative of a show's lead couple into a new setting — Master of the Revels, for instance — is meant to play off the slash, not the actors. I admit to being confused and possibly seeing a form of actor slash when stories feature numerous additions from the actor's (not the character's) persona to a show character, or conflates characters played by the same actor in different shows for purposes other than re-creating a slash partnership or satirizing one of the shows, though a lot depends on the way the writer handles it. Avon liking old Elvis Presley songs is reaching for an in-joke; Doyle liking Elvis Presley songs would be a cleverer one; but either could be done awkwardly enough to show that the writer had no clear notion of who Doyle or Avon was, but a very clear interest in Shaw or Darrow. And no doubt readers vary as much: some may enjoy seeing Collins or Nimoy or whoever in the fanfic they read, even when it comes as completely as possible from Professionals or Star Trek or wherever short of being a studio script. (Maybe even then?)
Fair use, copyright, public domain:To expand on my comparison of public figures and TV characters, let's see. (I admit this is one of the things that seems terribly obvious to me that everybody I tell it to goes, "Huh?") First, I assume the British Royals are obviously public figures and that I don't need to explain further on that count. Then, consider that a public figure's actions in public (at least in publicized situations, most Royal appearances being excellent cases in point) are calculated as much for the audience as for the person's own needs, or more so. The public persona created by and around a public figure is a systematic performance, not identical with that person's private personality. (Come now, do you think Madonna poses like that while she's eating breakfast alone?) Even if a public figure were acting absolutely naturally in living his/her life, that person still functions, to the audience, as a performer in a role, made larger-than-life by the spotlights and cameras. S/he is someone observed, not someone interacted with, in the sense that we communicate interactively with friends, co-workers, housemates. In some of the same ways, we observe screen characters performing created roles and, thinking as fanwriters, we extrapolate what their lives must be like from what we see of them. Is this a different process from observing Bill and Hillary Clinton through the media and extrapolating domestic scenes at the White House? The belief that public figures do have private personas instead of being created whole by scriptwriters may make the experience of observing them different in some situations, but in both cases one observes the enactment of a calculated role and imagines a personality from the clues on record. (It occurs to me that actor slash may have some of its attraction in that it's a double-layered character — the actor behind the screen character, the private person behind the actor. This doesn't account for it all, obviously, but some?)
Regarding song tapes:The term "public domain" is undoubtedly confusing, but it does NOT mean that the work in question is available to the general public for purchase/etc. although copyrighted. It means that copyright is not in force, usually because it's elapsed or (as with Classic classics) was never applied. There's a legal area, "fair use" for some usages of copyrighted works; whether not-for-profit derivative fiction falls into it is arguable but not, as far as I know, definitely settled. I'm not sure at what point a fan story becomes prosecutable, under whatever copyright applies to its source show — presumably some time between its being written down and its being distributed through commercial channels for profit. I've seen fans deliberately scream a lot of overstated generalizations about copyright law in order to frighten other fans away from writing certain types of stories (guess what types...), and I despise such scare tactics; that doesn't mean that fanwriting or fan publishing doesn't fall into a shady legal area.
... many [song tapes] aren't intended to tell a story, but to give character insights or just evoke a mood related either to the show or the song. If the words of a song imply a story, that's comprehensible. The musical elements of a song are non-verbal; the images on a screen are non-verbal; in a curious way there's a dimension of poetry that's non-verbal in that the sound of the words and their imagistic implications convey meanings beyond the statements formed by the words themselves — if they didn't, much poetry would be awfully bald and simplistic, and centuries of Western literary interest make it clear that whatever poetry is, it's not simple. My point about song-tapes, I think, was that many don't have a linear, plotted "story," but they nevertheless convey (as do many songs alone) a coherent nugget of emotional information analogous to the satisfaction of reading and understanding a story, but without the story structure to point to as where the information came from. I assume it "comes from" right-brain processes, but those are exactly what I can't express verbally.
How much sex is enough in a fic?Producers can try to stop slash by threatening to sue fanzine editors, which the editors wish to avoid — win or lose, the legal process is very expensive in time, money and effort. Fandom is organized so that non-fans have a difficult time to find the zines, but Lucas, or rather LucasFilms Ltd., had developed fan liaisons and so had contact with a number of fanzine publishers. The company's legal department senta form letter to all the fan editors it had addresses for, threatening unspecified "legal action" against zines that published explicit sexual or violent material. At least half the fan editors honestly hadn't planned on any such thing, and others went along with the guidelines because they didn't want to risk LFL's clout. Some rejected the guidelines, publicly or privately, and a number of fans did write hideously explicit stories which were circulated privately. No legal action beyond the threatening letters was taken. Several zines with explicitly gay characters (sexual details left about PG-rated) did go to press and sell their print runs. Despite this, SW remains a largely suitable-for-children fandom ten years later.
Zines with reliable mailing but not reliable content:As a lesbian who writes and reads slash, all I can say is that I enjoy some styles of explicit writing regardless of the gender of the characters, and that slash often (but not always) has it. Lesbian erotica hits on that quality much less often, hetero erotica occasionally does. As far as I can tell, it's the nonsexual parts of a story that make the sex scenes erotic to me, so that optimum sexy writing must balance enough storyline text to make the sex work, with enough sex scenes to make the story significantly sexual in impact. You can see that commercial-style pornography is 'way overbalanced, but even well-balanced stories- with-sex (from whatever source) don't always have the right tone to excite me. That's assuming I'm reading for the sexual thrill; it's possible to read slash and other fanfic for less visceral reasons as well, and sometimes I do.
Regarding Tris/Alex fic:I'm sorry that so many U.S. fan publishers have rotten overseas mailing habits. The press that puts out Dyad has a very mixed bag of zines, some of them, in my opinion, not very good — but they are running a business and thus have a stake in filling orders reliably. At this point, it's the mailing that's reliable, not the quality of writing in the zines, and I'm sorry that your impression of U.S. fandom has to be headed by work which is often mediocre.
On fandom and profit and fanart:
Well, I liked the Tris/Alex stories when I first read them, starting more or less with the one [J] ran in her last zine, although I had next to no background in rock music with which to round out the characters. The stories were originally written, as may be obvious, by rabid Led Zepplin fans for other equally rabid fans, who would be able to pick up on the characters as keyed to known musicians (music being as much a "medium" as TV) with the clues given. Still, that doesn't applyto the whole of the present media-fan audience; perhaps my evaluation depends less on a story's relation to its source than I sometimes argue, or perhaps the unforced depiction of consensual sex in a developing friendship, free of agendas, carries its own impact.
Regarding realism, safe sex, and fic:One more go-round on fandom and art, since I have nobly held my typewriter (at the ready) in previous disties. If you consider fan activities as profit-generating enterprises, art is poorly paid on the average, even though a few works and a few artists manage to clean up at the occasional auction. Zine-publishing, while more reliable, is also extremely poorly paid by the hour of effort; traditionally the publisher tried to cover money expenses and considered the time and creative energy part of her hobby, what she put into fandom just as she got inspiration, companionship, and entertainment back out of it. Writing, as such, is not paid in money at all. Do you think typewriters and paper and reference books and computer disks are any more free than art supplies? Do you think a writer spends less time on a story than you do on its illustrations? If I were doing anything in fandom for profit, I'd have quit fourteen years ago. If you're doing fannish art for profit, why haven't you long since quit? The point of fannish activities is not that it makes a money profit, and most instances in which fans do make significant profits result in the money side of the fannish business taking precedence over the quality of the product. The motive for most writers' remarks about art making a profit in fandom may be the/mistaken notion that artists all make a lot of money, but it is also based on the rock-solid knowledge that writers make no money. (There's a free copy of one zine, which a contributing artist also gets.) From a writer's perspective, zero vs. some hard cash is a very wide and unfair gap, however slim the artist's monetary payback may be in practicality. Assuming, of course, that either or both of them are in fandom for the money. All right, you hope to break even on your hobby, and are irritated that some fans think it's a lot easier than it is. Still, don't you get more satisfaction than income from fandom, and isn't the satisfaction, not the income, the main reason you participate? And in the end, is there a better reason to do anything?
On fiction and condoms in current-day settings. Erk. Well, uh, it depends on how real you like your realism, I guess. A story that's at pains to evoke the here-and-now of the late 80's or early 90's with great clarity and sexual detail, with non-brain-dead semi-gay men, has little excuse to omit at least a consideration of condoms, AIDS, and other consequences of putting one's dick into untested holes. On the other hand, if the story or the show it's based on sidesteps the newspaper- headline world, or romanticizes it a bit, or is even seeable in a pre-1985 context, the condoms/AIDS question becomes much less crucial. A fictional story should be a self-consistent whole, so that something that tries for a comprehensive present-day setting can't quite omit AIDS (unless that's an explicit story point — SF anyone?) in the same way that placing today's emphasis on safe sex would be jarring in any other fictional context. Insisting on condom-safe sex in the mid-70's of Starsky and Hutch would look strained in the extreme. It's worth mentioning, maybe, that other eras have had their own perceived sexual risks, everything from possible pregnancy (where applicable) to whatever venereal diseases were going, loss of "vitality" in overindulgence, loss of reputation if caught by the civil or religious authorities... Which might be appropriate (or gloss- over-able) in different atmospheres of past-era stories.
Some Topics Discussed in Secret Kiss
- actor slash
- diversified theory of slash
- fan casting
Excerpts from "Secret Kiss"Actor slash, celebrity slash, and original characters:
An interesting tidbit from an unknown earlier discussion:I see nothing appealing in actor slash. I can see that I'm a bit guilty of celebrity slash (we make all kinds of comments at our TV about various skaters), but I don't commit it to paper. The problem is that you could possibly get sued and I just don't have to $$ to drag out my butt to a court. As to your question about clone characters o he paired with certain other characters, I ask how many people here have written in original characters into any series [for whatever reason]? Everyone, of course. In some instances (and I'm guilty of it), I know some people "cast""the original parts they add. (After all, those of us with TVs in our heads, find it easier to write the part if you have a clear vision of what the person looks like.) Also, since you're pairing 2 "characters" where does the actor come in? The actor isn't the character.
I agree with the "diversified theory of slash". I don't think slash invites itself to be narrowly defined. The thing I wonder is how [B] came up with any straight stories that could fall under slash headings.
Some Topics Discussed in "Ghost Speaker"
- Blake's 7, Star Trek, The Professionals
- "mediawriting" vs "realwriting"
- Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane and Whimsey/Vane
- the zine E-man-uelle
Excerpts from "Ghost Speaker"Please, anything but that!
A self-description:I can't stand any slash story in which someone's eyes go dark blue and they murmur, "I remember Angola."
Loving crossovers:I'm a vegetarian feminist ex-Quaker atheist lesbian against the Bomb. I've been writing since I was fourteen, and so far have earned seventy-five pounds plus a lot of free zines.
Appealing pairs:I wish I wasn't addicted to crossovers... But the way in which two universes can explain each other by each providing a contrasting background for the other is irresistible.
Some memories, some comments on "mediawriting" vs "realwriting":
I write slash about Blake's 7 (mainly Avon/Vila), Star Trek (mainly Spock/McCoy), The Professionals (mainly Bodie/Cowley), Romeo and Juliet (mainly Romeo/Mercutio), and I've written one Quantum Leap slash story.... Actually, I was lying about Romeo and Mercutio. I would love to write a slash story about them but I can't do blank verse. I like Doctor Who and Cagney & Lacey but I've never been able to write slash about either of them, for different reasons, of course. M.U.N.C.L.E. is nice and camp, but the same problem with Napoleon/Illya as with Kirk/Spock; why would Illya want Napoleon?
[snipped]... [It's] chemistry. Or biology. Or possibly arithmetic. You know, the moment when you look at two men on a fuzzy TV screen and you just know they're perfect for each other. Avon and Vila. Bodie and Cowley. Even, whenever I can stand myself to watch Star Trek, Spock and McCoy. It never happened with anyone else. It's just one of those things.
Listen; I remember when I bought my first slash zine. E-man-uelle 1. I was 16 and I was so ignorant I didn't even know what K/S was. It was advertised in Vilaworld as a "same-sex" zine, and since I knew most Blake's 7 fans were women, I supposed they would all be writing about women. Soolin and Dayna, I thought. Or maybe Dayna and Cally. (I'd never seen Jenna.) Maybe, I thought hopefully, just one Avon/Vila story. It arrived one cold snowy December day; I spent five minutes going on ten years fighting with the knot that was holding my hood on before I could sit down, open the envelope, and read the first story. Which was trash. But I got the authentic thump, somewhere in my guts, and I wanted more. I hadn't felt like this since I first read about Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane. (Wimsey/Vane is the chemical-biological-arithmetical-they're-perfect-for-each-other slash relationship in that series. Oh, I can believe about Wimsey and Bunter - poor Mervyn - but I never had the gut-feeling as good as when Wimsey and Vane were tearing each other's hearts out.) So I started writing slash and now I have far more finished mediawriting stories than I have of realwriting.I was talking about this to several friends; [S] said it was because I didn't take mediawriting as seriously as realwriting, so I could finish the stories without worrying about What People Were Going To Think. [K] said that mediawriting is realwriting, what else is it, fakewriting? [M] asked why I was wasting my time writing stuff that could never be published and hands off Illya, he's straight and he's mine. Well. I think I finish more because mediawriting is easier. Because once finished, I know where I can get them published. (With the exception of Star Trek stories,...) I write to please myself; it's fortunate and encouraging that with mediawriting what pleases me pleases other people as well. (Sometimes even more than it does me. I have never written a sex scene in any slash story that turned me on, nevertheless, apparently they turn other people on.) With realwriting what I write pleases me but not a hell of a lot of other people.
Some Topics Discussed in "Sukebei"
- "our zine title is the Japanese word for lechery"
- fandom and visibility, the mainstream press presence at at the most recent OktoberTrek
- cons as private parties
- Enterprising Women and attention from acafans and others
Excerpts from "Sukebei"
Keep the church ladies away:
Keep the non-fans away:I was at the convention, here in Baltimore, when Trek porn was pounced by the TV press...my response to mundanes knowing about our little "hobby" is mixed. As long as the powers that be leave me alone so that I may continue to buy, read and produce lovingly created sexual situations for the characters that I've come to care about - no worries. The minute some stereotypical "church-lady" attempts to cramp my style-well, that's where I could get grumpy.
Keep the press away:
Conventions, in my mind, are private parties. I would never presume to crash a Moose Lodge function nor would I try to infiltrate a Hell's Angels rally. As long as a convention is run as a private meeting, the possibility of offense/litigation is more limited. Two good examples of this are MediaWest and Escapade Con. Escapade, being an intimate con of about 130 fans, has the meeting areas plainly marked. Everyone takes an active interest in keeping the confused and curious steered in the right direction. I explained, most kindly, to one old duffer, that if he was interested in touring our dealers room, all he had to do was buy a membership. As he didn't want to purchase a membership, I can only assume that he wasn't very interested in the materials for sale.
Media just rents the whole damn hotel -- we fans fill it up, along with much of the surrounding lodgings. The hotel is happy, 'cause they're making money... a good hotel doesn't care if it's the International Left-handed Leather Crop Society as long as the checks cash. I'm happy, 'cause I can openly view and buy anything from an innocuous Yoda print, right up to a full penetration Suzie Lovett nude...and walk around stinkin' happy with them, openly in my hands, ready to share them with other like minded folks.
My personal opinion is this: I feel that the people throwing the convention have an obligation to the attendees comfort and well-being. If there is even the SUSPICION that a news crew will (a) make members uncomfortable, (b) harm an attendees mental or financial well-being, well, I would think a ConCom should take this into consideration. If after consideration the Con leadership still wants the news crew, how difficult would it be to set them up in a visible central location and allow the fans who are interested to come to them? A sort of "meet the fans" panel featuring the news crew?At OktoberTrek, some people were emotionally and financially hurt and bothered by the TV news crew...cons are supposed to be functions were we can get together as fans and have a good time-often throwing off our mundane mantles of "respectable" wage worker, wife or mother and transforming ourselves into lecherous, squealing women out to eat too much, have a few drinks, stay up all night - and drool (in the form of fanzines) over a few good looking folks of the opposite sex. In other words, typical conventioneer behavior - whether you're a Moose or a Trekker.
I've enclosed an article that was printed in the local paper following the slash controversy at OktoberTrek last fall. A local TV station had sent some people out to the con to get the usual footage of "Trekkies" in costume and acting silly. While they were going through the dealers room, one of the attendees (who, by a curious coincidence, happened to be the lawyer of a fan who is suing some of the OktoberTrek committee members) started to wave a K/S zine around and loudly denounce the dealers as pornographers. The news team was delighted, and ran an "expose" on Star Trek porn. The next day, a reporter for the Sun came around to do a story on the controversy. It seems to me that he did a fairly balanced piece, but some people were still upset at the idea of any kind of publicity, especially after the article got picked up by AP.I'm rather ambivalent about increased visibility for slash fandom. I've seen Enterprising Women in general bookstores, and my reaction changes from "Wow! They're selling books about us! We're respectable now!" to "Oh my God, now that they know we exist we're doomed!" How do the rest of you feel about this? Do you think any publicity is bad publicity, or that fandom just needs more good publicity?
Some Topics Discussed in "Untitled" by [K B]
- note: this trib becomes "Desert Blooms" in later issues
- appeal of fandom and fanfic, slash as creation, as liberation
- fandom and visibility
Excerpts from "Untitled" by [K B]
Feelings on visibility:
I had planned on a long and interesting discussion on slash and the media (a topic that was discussed at Escapade last February) and whether we should come out of the closet or not. I was interested in soliciting everyone's views and seeing if I was the only one who got nervous seeing articles about slash in the Advocate (as if they were going to point fingers and name names)  and wondering if we are on the verge of losing our anonymity and privacy. While slash fandom has always had a strong sense of self-preservation, I wonder about the risks of bringing it out into the open.
The appeal of fandom and fanfic, 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.
Some Topics Discussed in "Yamibutoh"
- Yamibutoh "is the name of a song by my favorite singer and lust object, Sawada Kenji."
- a reference to previous conflicts in The Terra Nostra Underground, this apa's predecessor
- dislike of making a male in a slash pair a "softened," "female" character
- willing and unwilling to overlook a genre
Excerpts from "Yamibutoh"
It was sad to see the old APA go, but there is a point (VERY VERY SHORT RANT ALERT) where discussion turns to argument and then to fighting and reading an issue becomes more unpleasant than pleasant. This is why I won't be referring to any comments anyone made to me in the last issue. I'm very sorry, but I just can't pick the thing up again. Let us try to avoid this here. Thank you for the opportunity to try again.
My first favorites were Ken/Joe from Gatchaman, Shapiro/Ryo from Dancougar, Marg/Mars from God Mars, Char/Kamiyu from Z Gundam and Yellow/Stick from Mospeada, all animation characters. I was, in fact, rather surprised to find there was an active slash fandom that was not in a foreign language. i had vaguely heard of K/S fandom, but, not being much of a con goer, had never run into any. Japanese slash stuff is much more visible. I bought my first slash a a Comicate in '86 where there were tables of it and my second lot by mail from the States. The slash zines were advertized in the regular animation zine I subscribed to.
I started getting into western slash when I visited a friend's friend and read my way through her B7 collection. Then I went to Media West about 5 years ago. Now I have favorites in western slash as well I especially like B7, s/s, Wiseguy, MV, C/C, and Lovejoy (though I haven't read much). I am not much of a Pros fan. I've seen a few eps and the show is just too 70's for me. I have never liked cop shows much and although I admit that some of the best buddy stuff comes in cop shows, I still have trouble being a fan as I do not like the genre. I don't like many spy shows either, but UNCLE is an exception because it is so lighthearted and because I grew up on UNCLE and was a big fan the first time around. I like adventure shows, however and there are even cop show exceptions. (Does anyone out there know of any Tango/Cash slash?There are some types of slash I do not like to read. I suppose my pet dislike is when one of a slash pair is softened, made into the "woman." One of the things I enjoy most about slash is the equality that many pairs have. I think, in fact, that is one of the reasons I like slash. I like the idea of lovers who are real partners. They don't have to be co-workers, but emotionally, one of the things that draws me to slash is that there are no programmed gender programs that the characters have to fall into... When it comes to favorite kinds of slash, I guess my absolute favorites tend to be very dark and tragic with lots of desperate sex (I like graphic).
Some Topics Discussed in "Mardi Gras Favors"
- privacy, computers, the internet
- imagining "professionally" written "slash" in mainstream bookstores
Excerpts from "Mardi Gras Favors"Privacy and computers:
Slash and profit?:I've been reading PRIVACY FOR SALE: HOW COMPUTERIZATION HAS MADE EYERYONE'S PRIVATE LIFE AN OPEN SECRET by Jeffrey Rothfeder. I hadn't realized how pervasive computer databases filled with personal information, employment info, credit infer and medical info etc were. Nor how aggressively those companies sell and actively seek to acquire more information, with very little done to correct all the errors databases contain. Employers are using medical or credit information which is in no way job related on a job applicant as a basis for rejection. Micro marketing companies hunting increasing consumer info to close in on exactly those people who are most interested in what they're selling. "In Europe it's illegal for phone companies to disclose who's calling whom. Churchill insisted on this after discovering that the Nazis obtained details about phone usage from telephone companies targeted for harassment people calling places the Nazis frowned upon." PRIVACY FOR SALE has some unsettling facts about E-Mail. I wonder if the people who use e-mail systems at work are aware that their companies regularly monitor their employee's e-mail?
If slash were available in any bookshop then mainstream publishers would see it as an unexpected area for profit. Imagine - Norman Mailer writing Slash!
Some Topics Discussed in "Paradoxical Ramblings"
- Tris/Alex, appeal, and a fandom primer
- slash as being pleasurably underground, fandom and visibility
Excerpts from "Paradoxical Ramblings"This fan is big Tris/Alex fan:
Slash, and fandom, being a pleasurable underground:Tris and Alex are variations on two real-life rock musicians named Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. From 1969-1980 they were well known as the lead guitarist and the singer of Led Zeppelin. Those of you who (like me a year ago) have never heard of Zeppelin, only need to know that they were a British rock band, hugely popular in the US, without much support from the press, and that you probably know their songs even if you don't remember he band's name. The most well known song is Stairway to Heaven; also big are Whole Lotta Love, and Black Dog (starts Hey hey momma, say the way you move, gonna make you sweat, gonna make you grove). Anyway, that's who the guys really are. In the fan writings, hey turn into Tristram Lindsay and Alexander Logan. The history of Paradox (the name of the band in the fan stories) follows the history of Zeppelin fairly closely, except that Tris and Alex are lovers from the very beginning. Basically, Alex plays the ingenue, Tris is the manipulator, their relationship is stormy at times, and lasts through 9 years depicted in a bunch of short stories and a very long novel called "For All The Gods Departed." Looks: Alex is 6'3", has long, blond curly hair, blue eyes (green in the novel, in a lame attempt to disguise his likeness to RP), and is often described as looking like a Viking. Tris is around 6', very thin, with long dark brown (almost black) hair, which is curly in the stories and straight in the novel. His skin is very pale and he has a very fine bone structure. The fandom is written almost exclusively by Nancy Arena and Pamela Rose. (There are a few alternate stories by other authors.) Nancy and Pam are searching for a publisher for the novel, which they hope to sell professionally. Basically, the stories tell the history of the band, from the time they meet, up until they have a serious crisis in 1975 or so. The stories vary from the whimsical, through sex vignettes to hurt comfort, angst, and heartbreak. The novel picks up in 1976, as the band tries to recover their music and their relationships, throws in an occult subplot, outside romantic interests, and more. These guys are much nicer than any fandom I've read except Starsky and Hutch and I really love them. In fact, they're probably nicer and cleaner than any real rock stars could ever be, but somehow, that doesn't bother me. In some ways, they get to maintain their youth, because they pay people to handle their mundane details for them (managers, roadies, etc.).
On publishing slash professionally: during Revelcon I was talking about the issues of academics, the changes in fandom, etc. And one person put out that at least part of the attraction of fandom is the taboo, exclusive element. If it were okay, available in stores, and a matter for public discussion, it would be less fun, less attractive. I hadn't really thought of it that way, but when I look back on the fun I had being secretly into Pros (while still in SH, horror of horrors!) I can see the point.
Some Topics Discussed in "For the World is Hollow..."
- titled "For the World is Hollow and I Fell Off the Edge" in this issue
- slash, gender, male writers, voyeurism
- slash as "the first truly female writing"?
- the writing of Joanna Russ
- George Lucas and is attempts to control fanwork content
- Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's actions against a fan in 1992: A Matter Of Willful Copyright Infringement
- envisioning some characters as sexually "submissive"
- Robin of Sherwood and the fandom's self-imposed ban on slash
- does a zine ed's decline in printing a story they don't like censorship?
Excerpts from "For the World is Hollow..."Regarding slash and male writers:
Sex and slash:Your comments about reading slash by [B] and [A], and having your mind briefly and uncomfortably wander to whether they had done what they were writing about, I once or twice found myself also uncomfortable when reading their work, but for a different reason. The fact that it was written by men (and this would have been true of work written by any man or men, not just them, although I think it was exacerbated by the fact that I knew them) made me feel in a strange way that they could watch me getting off on it; I felt bizarrely naked and open to voyeuristic viewing. We look at the work and through it, in an out-of-focus and vague way, to its author; I felt as though the work were a two-way window and the author(s) could look back at me. This was very weird, and I didn't enjoy it. Perhaps this is related to the reasons some women feel uncomfortable with men in slash fandom...? Actually, I have also once or twice felt such discomfort when reading work by women I knew, although much less. I did manage to mostly talk myself out of this discomfort, having been very surprised to find it in myself to begin with.
Slash as the first women's writing?You say that the characters in slash "don't just happen to have sex; their sexuality is a natural product of their mutual feelings of closeness." Yes, but we still have to account for the darker stuff, don't we? Sometimes the sex is a symbol or product not of their actual (achieved) closeness, but of their frustrated desire for it. The negative of something can still serve for that thing, but it is different.
Slash is "the first truly female writing"? I don't know that I agree. What do you mean by "female"? Obviously it's not the first substantial body of writing by women. I don't believe that it's the first substantial body of work produced by women for women, either; although much of that work hasn't been written down and much that has has been shunted out of the canons of "greats" that are the channels through which most of us hear about works of art, there are such bodies of work as the writings of religious women for other women of their faith; women's tales and stories in non- or semi-literate cultures (or cultures in which women's subculture is non-literate, while men's subculture is literate); and others. Joanna Russ, in her How to suppress women's writing, has detailed close connections between nineteenth-century women novelists, who clearly were intimately familiar with each other's work and in some cases wrote for each other or dedicated their works to each other; this sort of work is a bit different because it has to survive in the commercial world as well (or at least convince male publishers that it has a chance to), but we may never know to what extent this literature constituted a female writing community. (I've just been rereading Russ' book; can you tell?) There are also networks of female friendship via letters in the 18th-19th centuries that are quite extensive and prolific; I don't know much about this, but I've heard of them. I'm not even convinced that slash is the first by-women-for-women erotica. None of this is meant to diminish the cultural importance of slash, but just to put it in perspective.
How George Lucas "put a major cease and desist on fandom," he did it by sending letters from his lawyers with severe threats. Although fandom is a subculture, it's easy enough to find out if a zine you don't like is available (unless it's very underground); all it takes is a copy of Datazine, Media Monitor, or other adzine, a false name, and a P. O. box.Similarly, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro just last year succeeded in nailing a fan publisher and a writer to the floor for using a character of hers without her consent. All she needed was a copy of the zine in question; then she sicced her lawyers on them, demanded a complete financial accounting for the zine, confiscated all unsold issues, and had them publish groveling letters of apology in Publisher's Weekly (four weeks running) and Locus. She also required them to send the letter to all subscribers to and distributors of the zine, to her publisher, to her agent, and to the Horror Writers of America, but I don't know for a fact that these latter were done; I assume they were.
There is a predominance of Illya fans in MUNCLE. Why? Well, for me it's that he's better looking, more closed-off and therefore more interesting to dig into, and less of a cocksman/asshole/jerk. I have simply never been able to take the Napoleon who appears on the screen seriously. (This doesn't mean that I can't take the Napoleon who appears in, say, Elizabeth Urich's fanfic seriously.)
Bodie as "submissive":
Regarding a fan's earlier comments about Textual Poachers:Bodie bottoming for Kate Ross or another powerful woman: I dunno, this scenario just leaves me cold. Chalk it up to ingrained internalized sexism if you want to (more likely, if [N] wants to), but I don't find it interesting. Or...hmm...as I'm sitting here typing I'm beginning to see how I could imagine it, but I'm not sure I've ever seen a fanwriter who I believed could create a woman that I could believe could carry this off. Jane Carnal maybe, but I've never really seen Jane create female characters. It's definitely much harder for me to swallow the notion of Bodie bottoming for a woman rather than for a man as plausible, and I think that has at least as much to do with my conception of the character's sexism as with any of my own. — Later note: actually, it's just struck me that I very glancingly referred to something like this in Never Let Me Down, and for reasons directly related to this discussion. In that story, while making out with Doyle for very nearly the first time, Bodie is made very uncomfortable by the fact that Doyle is on top of him. Sometimes he has let women do that, and enjoyed lying back and letting them have fun; but he's always thought of it as something he is letting them do. The prospect of not being in full control, even if only implicitly, unnerves him (and unmans him, heh heh). That's really how I see the character; I expect not all of it comes through in the scene, but that idea was behind it.
It's a really sad statement about our routine expectations of academia that what you find important to say about Textual Poachers is that it was "a very articulate book without any inferred, or outright, statements of dislike."
Revisiting a previous discussion: when a fan advises an editor not to print a particular story, is this "censorship or suppression"?:Re Richard Carpenter not wanting RoS slash to exist, you say that "the Robin Hood legend and its components [...] belong to the public domain." Yes, but their particular incarnations in Robin of Sherwood are certainly copyrighted. The idea of Robin Hood is public property, but the brown-haired Robin of Loxley who was adopted by a miller and then chosen by Heme the Hunter as his son is the legal property of someone or some corporation, as is the character of Nasir lock stock and barrel, and all of the show's dialogue, and so on. Not that I think this gives that owner the moral right to forbid slash RoS, as most of the apa already knows; I'm just pointing out that your alegal argument doesn't hold.
Oh, give it a rest. This is not censorship, because there is no coercive power enforcing the advice, and it is perfectly warranted. I think I have told [J] and [C] on occasion that they shouldn't publish a given story; my particular reason for this was not because it was "controversial," to quote you again, but because it sucked. [J] and [C], like any human beings smart enough to keep breathing and to publish a zine, know that this is "in my humble opinion" (what else could it be, the Word of God?) and that they are free to make whatever decision about the story they want to. I have seriously considered writing to a zine editor who was not a personal friend of mine to tel her that the work of certain authors was, in my opinion, a waste of paper and that I'd appreciate her not publishing those authors any more without substantial improvement; this is the mirror image of, and in the abstract quite as justified as, writing to ask her to try to publish more work by certain authors because they're so good. (Please note that the polite formula "I would appreciate your not..." has the same semantic content as "I don't think you should...".) I have refrained from actually writing such a letter because of the possibility that my opinion would get passed back to the authors in question; while unsolicited praise of one's work is pleasant, unsolicited contempt isn't, and I don't want to risk gratuitously hurting an author's feelings, even if I think she can't write her way out of a paper bag — or, for that matter, the editor's feelings by criticizing her taste. In general, I usually either write complimentary LOCs or none. In personal communication between friends, however, there isn't this risk. If the editor follows such advice, and you don't think the advice was good, then your grievance is with the editor, not with the advisor. You need to realize who has actual power over what goes in a zine. It isn't the commentators, [N], and frankly I'm surprised that you as an editor don't know this. You have already said that your own response to such advice would be to tell the advisors "to go jump in the Chesapeake Bay"; do you really think that other editors are so much more weak-willed and susceptible to evil counsel than you? (By the way, what I wound up doing in the case of the editor mentioned above was simply to stop buying her zine, with no explanation. I feel slightly guilty about this, since if fendom is a communal effort for the benefit of all, I feel as though I ought to tell her why I've stopped, give her that potentially useful feedback. But I gave more weight to not wanting to hurt anybody's feelings or offend anybody.)
Some Topics Discussed in "WHIPS of Houston"
Excerpts from "WHIPS of Houston"
Most people spend their time in graduate school doing the academic thing. I did fandom. [P], [C] and I, in a moment of madness decided to do a zine. [P] had wrangled an invite for me to come with her to K/S Con, a private K/S party held by [C F] at the estate where [G La C] was the caretaker. [C] and her Baltimore crowd spent the weekend bitching about S/H fandom (ST writers were in the first gaffiation) and how "out of character" the new K/S was. [P] and I left muttering about "who do they think they are"... etc. etc. So we planned to do Out of Bounds as an answer. We had the first issue ready by summer. About a third of my student loan went to pay the phone bill. We ended up doing 5 issues and [P] pubbed Pete Fisher's "Black Star".
I stayed true to Trek while those around me (I was in Houston by then) flirted with S/H and other fandoms. It wasn't until I saw a REALLY horrible copy of a copy of a copy of a camera copy of Hunter/Hunted that my interest strayed from Trek. The Illinois crowd hooked us. At first it was just a show to enjoy with the pressure of trying to write it, because, after all, we couldn't write a Brit show. Look at how silly some of the Brit ST looked, "fancy a cuppa, Spock?". That attitude lasted until the 4th tape had arrived from Ft. Worth (thanks god for [C] and her 2000 tapes...). I was hooked as were my roommates, [P R] and [L O'B] That was in... umm.... 1983???
I was a real fan of the circuit. These really wonderful stories and novels would arrive in bulging envelopes, you'd take an order, go to the copy shop (or more usually rip off copying at work) and everybody would have copies. When zines appeared on the scene, I boycotted them for awhile, but when I saw that they were here to stay, I gave up and submitted stories although my first was a circuit story. By the time the three of us decided it was time to get places of our own, we had 9 big notebooks of circuit stories. Making two additional copies of all that put considerable strains on Houston Public Library and Houston Lighting and Power, our employers.
I am a Pros and ST fan who enjoys slash stories involving those characters. Bodie and Doyle. Kirk and Spock. I am not out to slash the unslashable. I am resistant, so far, to slash fandom's creeping heterophobia ~ I do believe that it is possible and acceptable to have relationships other than slash between two male characters. A1 and Sam spring immediately to mind. I do read other types of slash, but I find my enjoyment level isn't as high and tbe emotional kick just isn't there unless the writer is very very good which is rare.
My favorite writer is Sebastian.
My post adolescent mid-fanlife crisis springs from the feeling that I am getting further and further out of step with "slash" fandom. Maybe I'm not marching as fast or the newer fen are taking a different fork in the road. Do I want to quicken my pace or do I want to wave goodbye?Yes, melodrama is a symptom of the post adolescent mid-fanlife crisis. Hopefully, this too shall pass.
What the heck's going on with fanworks and money:
Here are some things that have been on my mind recently. I believe the relationship between zine consumers and publishers has taken some disturbing turns. When the cost of producing a zine in both time and price has fallen so drastically why have the prices gone so high? Why is fandom rolling over and playing dead by allowing supposed fan publishers to make their living out of fandom's pockets?
Some Topics Discussed in "Untitled" by [M G]
Excerpts from "Untitled" by [M G]On the rise of acafandom and other slash visibility:
From the start, I've been interested in analysing and discussing slash, both stories and the larger 'why slash?' questions. I'm also interested in the academic response to slash, and to media fandom and women in fandom (not quite the same thing) as well. (As opposed to academic interest in the shows we're fans of, which can also be interesting.) I've compiled a bibliography of the academic articles I've found on slash — if anyone that wants a copy hasn't got one I'll be happy to send you one, and copy articles as well.
I'm interested in what is happening in academic publications now that fandom is being studied by insiders — academics with fan credentials. You don't have quite as many of the charming experiences of a few years back such as analytical articles on Trek that called the first officer Dr. Spock, alerting the fan reader to the level of the author's expertise. Academic interest in slash has been picked up by the popular press, mostly in the usual vein of 'oh, look at the weirdos' — meaning both the fans being studied and the academics doing the studying. So, while slash was first outed into academic circles by Joanna Russ in 1985 and Patricia Frazer Lamb and Diana Veith in 1986, now the academic interest in slash (and slash along with it) are being outed into the popular press. What sort of reactions and feelings do people have about that? It can't be reversed, so the attitude of 'they've spoiled my private fandom' isn't helpful, even if perfectly understandable. But we willcertainly see more people interested in studying slash, and they may not all be as careful as Henry Jenkins, Constance Penley and Camilla Bacon Smith to observe our privacy. Should we be paranoid? Should we be glad? Should we find even more shocking areas to move into? (Is this substantive enough?) Has slash been changed by the people that have come into it through hearing about it in academia or the press?
Some Topics Discussed in "Two Heads Are Better Than One"
- this trib has two tribbers, denoted
- slash zines' superior quality as compared to other 'fanzines'
- rape as a fanwork subject
- Holmes/Watson fic, the story Akin to Love
- why slash?
- fantasy and more graphic fic styles and topics
- homosexuality and the AMA, slash
- females in slash stories
- strong female characters
- what is slash, does a slash fic need to include love?
Experts from "Two Heads Are Better Than One" by [M F G]On increased visibility and slash fanworks:
Regarding rape as a fanwork subject:Having seen a few television and newspaper features on 'fanzines' and having seen quite a few examples in various bookshops, may I take this opportunity to compliment fandom on the high quality of its output? The content may not always match the form (The Colonial Affair leaps rather forcibly to mind), but god, slashdom's zines look bloody professional compared to a lot of what's out there!
Regarding historical tone, some emphasis on Akin to Love by Melody C:The first thing I think we have to do is verbalise (or type!) that these stories are about two different things, although both aspects are often combined: there is rape, and there is simply sex without responsibility for being sexual. Not all rape stories actually deal with the reality of rape, especially when it's partner rape, nor are most of them presented as being frightening. The experience might be a bit unnerving, but it is very rarely even close to as frightening as a real rape situation, nor is the level of pain anything approaching realistic and is used, in feet, more as a traditional h/c element than rape. Secondly, these 'rapes' usually take place between equals, so there is oftentimes the underlying awareness that the 'victim' could fight the 'rapist' off—if he really wanted to. Thirdly, a lot of these so-called rape stories (especially the ones that I particularly hate, where the victim falls immediately in love with his rapist) are closer to rough sex than real rape, and the main element is that the victim is pushed, not to endure some thing he hates and which violates him, but something that forces him to recognise a hitherto buried emotion.
Why so much fantasy-like fic?:
Reyrct about the tone and ambience of a piece adding to/distracting from a story or limiting either the story itself or an entire fandom (eg, the terrific job [Melody C] did of Holmes/Watson, the paucity [in every sense!] of Twin Peaks stories). Speaking from personal experience... I don't actually find it difficult to write in what I feel isthe appropriate tone for a particular universe: plagiarising Conan Doyle's writing style whilst also plagiarising his character is really quite easy for lazy bitches like me. In fact, particularly when something is based on a literary source (whether it be Jeeves/Wooster or Sgt. Wield), 1 find that the tone of the writing is almost a character in and of itself, in that, without that particular aspect, then the slash story feels as if something as vital as a main character is missing, rather like picking up A/B and finding there's no Avon... As for being limited by the style of the original — you betcha! I find that 1 write these quite nauseatingly syrupy Holmes/Watsons because dear old Sir Arthur, in keeping with the times and the publishing outlet, used so many euphemisms and ignored so many gritty realities, that I haven't quite found my way out of his maze of nice words and cosy Victorianisms. Of course, that might change if I ever get round to doing that story about just how Holmes gathers his knowledge about the seamy underbelly of London life — and especially if any of you lot out there happen to suggest a really good and authentic source of naughty Victorianisms. One of the other major limitations I see in slashdom is the tone of the Universe: we're all aware of the huge disparity between your average ST:TNG and a B7 story. Of course, that just might also be because ST:TNGers are two dimensional cardboard cutouts...
We also have an enormous inventory of hurt/comfort stories, and I doubt that the most fervent devotee of h/c would actually want anything like this to affect someone they knew — or themselves, for that matter. Yet a large percentage of people (both within and outside slash) make the blithe assumption that the so-called atypical stories, the 'unfeminine' ones (rape, extreme and graphic h/c, s/m, multiple partners, anonymous sex etc) are purely fantasies, yet some of these same people take it that our writing/reading the I-only-have-eyes-for-you-diddums stories to be an avowed goal/reality/desire on the part of slash readers. There are also assumptions made that our stories are either sublimations of what we really want but are too scared/inhibited etc to go out and get, or that they are a way for us to 'be' male in that we identify so much with the male characters or that these stories are us reaching, longingly, for what we so desperately desire but are too wounded/weak/unworthy to have — witness some of Camille Bacon-Smith's [in Enterprising Women] comments. But is it not possible that part of the reason we have so many romance and first time stories (apart from the fact that such dramas make for better stories) is nothing more complicated than these being yet another form of fantasy? I'm not proposing that this is the only reason: not only is slash very complex in our motivations, but there are so many different people involved, there can't possibly be a single reason to fit every one.
Homosexuality and the AMA, slash:I've been thinking about the 'why slash in the first place' question a bit more, and I have finally reached a definitive, unequivocal absolute (for the moment!) opinion that the more interesting question is not why we do slash, but why we (and especially, non-slashers) feel that we have to ask the question. The more I think about it, I honestly feel that women (in general) finding men-with-men sexually arousing is part of our hardwiring, just as much as men (in general) finding women-with-women erotic is part of their hardwiring. That would certainly help explain why some gay men find f/f sex attractive, and why some lesbians find m/m sex arousing. My first reaction to slash (and I use that at its absolutely widest term to mean erotica [emotional and/or sexual] about men with men) was a simple 'of course', because it was utterly and perfectly natural to me, an intrinsic part of my sexual...I want to use the term 'sexual orientation', but that's usually taken a different way, I suppose. Yet I've always lusted after two or more men together, and it's always been a mainstay of my libidinous imaginings (and even before: one of the first 'grown up' stories I remember making up was a K/S where they got married. Oh, give me a break! I was only 10 at the time... Oh, and it was a Mary-Sue of sorts: I was in the story, but not to 'get' Kirk or Spock: I was the officiator at their marriage ceremony.). There are a lot of slash fans out there who've been inclined towards slash all their lives, and either came up with the idea on their own or shrieked eureka when they finally came across it—or both! Skipping listing more substantiation of my current pet theory, my argument is that a predilection for male/male is a perfectly normal sexual turn-on for women, on par with the mirror reaction of men with women/women, so therefore we should not be discussing the deep, dark why of liking slash, but rather taking that as an innate given and instead, discuss what it is we like about slash, what we get from it, which particular aspects appeal to us most...
Came across a very illuminating comment in one of the Not Tonight Spocks that I stole from [B] the other day there: someone commented that it was only 'two years ago' that the AMA declared that homosexuality was not a mental illness: living in something akin to an ivory tower of my own opinions, I tend to forget that people (e.g. the old 'professional' stance of the AMA and the currently infuriating stance of certain self-styled spokespeople for certain branches of religion) used to be that stupid, and that so much of the earliest slash was written in an era when certain high muckety-mucks held such incredibly foolish opinions. It still doesn't excuse the anti-slashers arguments, but it illuminates them slightly. Of course, some of the slashers opinions were just as hard to stomach: when asked if Kirk and Spock were gay, one woman's response was that they couldn't possibly be, because K&S were REAL men. Unlike Alexander the Great, of course...
Women in slash stories:
I've been thinking about this again recently, mainly due to a panel at Escapade. I really don't think it matters at all that we don't put women in our slash stories, and I don't think it's misogynistic or anti-feminist to completely ignore women. If we pick up a story and expect it to be Avon/Blake and discover that it focuses on Tarrant, we're going to be seriously pissed off, right, because the focus is supposed to be Avon or Blake. So I don't think it's any different to not want women in the stories than it is to complain when a B/D turns out to be about Lucas and McCabe. Of course, there are exceptions (writers who seem to delight in killing off any woman who gets in the way, something I was reminded of recently by rereading some O. Yardley, but she only treats girlfriends that way: many of her other female characters are favourably written), but I think that, on the whole, most writers don't put women in simply because the focus of the story are two particular men. When was the last time you read a B/D story that fullydeveloped Murphy (or Cowley), presented him sympathetically and made him an important part of the story and not merely a convenient hook to hang a bit of plot on? And I'm still bloody insulted by people in general insisting that I need 'strong female role models.' Some of us already have. It's called a mirror.
Experts from "Two Heads Are Better Than One" by [N B]
Perhaps not why slash, but why define it?
"I Know It When I Read It":...the question is not why we like slash, but more why we feel feel compelled to talk about it, to try to define it, to become so involved in it. I mean, I love mysteries, but I haven't the least interest in analyzing he whys and wherefores of them. And science fiction may be deeply interesting to discuss (enough so that I attend mainstream sf conventions) but it does not lure me the way slash does. And I'm very particular about my fandom readings: if it's not slash, I don't bother. We live in an age of 'too much'. There is too much information coming out on a daily basis that needs to be consumed and digested. I'm one of those people who has to read a newspaper every day and two or three news magazines weekly. Add to that the 'billion' other magazines and professional journals that my husband and I have coming into the house and you begin to understand why I choose my fiction carefully. And yet I do choose. I choose slash. I read it, I write it (once in a blue, blue moon), I talk about it, and I help produce it in zine form (the most creatively satisfying endeavor imaginable).
I have heard the opinion expressed that in order for something to be slash, it must involve characters from media (generally television or movies, but perhaps also literature). My own personal definition does not limit slash to these sources — I think a case can be made for entirely original characters in a slash story. That being true, how do you know if something is slash? And when does it become gay fiction? Or is one person's gay fiction merely the extreme end of a slash continuum? Is it possible to get past he old 'I can't define it, but I know it when I read it' saw? For example, if I mention O Yardley's Bear Necessities would anyone dispute that it represents mainstream slash? Our two heroes (Bodie and Doyle) find that they've fallen in love with each other and then proceed to have page after page of sex off in the countryside. So I ask you, is love a necessary component of a slash story? Sebastian wrote an Avon/Blake piece called Virtual Reality that includes desire, obsession, and sexual perversion, but nothing approaching normal love. And M. Fae followed this story up with a vignette (E-Male) that provides the missing 'perverted' video (holo?) sex scene. Change the names and the piece could easily be included in any serious collection of gay porn you care to name. But is it slash? Or what about another M. Fae story, A Public Display? One of the characters is completely original and the other is so unknown to all but a select few (those who have read more than one of the Pascoe/Dalziel mysteries) that he can be regarded as an original. There is no sex scene in the story (M. Fae wrote one but I deleted it as unneeded and rather blocking the flow and development of the piece). Instead, boy meets boy, boy and boy begin to develop a relationship, boy and boy are able to acknowledge their relationship 'publicly' before friends, end of story. Gay fiction or slash?
Some Topics Discussed in "Untitled" by [T H]
- this fan's fan beginnings
- slash cons and accessibility (both in terms of physical, and in terms of gender)
- learning a lot of words that "polite Catholic girls" weren't supposed to know
- lack of emotion and porn
Excerpts from "Untitled" by [T H]
This fan's slash beginnings:
At that first con I accidentally bought 'Deep Grope', an adult Star Trek zine containing a K/S story. I was hooked. I will always be grateful to the lady who sold it to me. She thought I understood what I was buying. We had had a long conversation both of us unfortunately (or fortunately from my point of view) talking about different things. She was having a very subtle conversation about K/S, I just thought we were talking about sex in general. A bit stupid maybe, but I'm not sorry. In fact the only thing stopping me buying every zine I desperately want is ...roll the drums THE BANK MANAGER. Well, anyway I spent about 10 years reading K/S - I only ever found one letterzine and I never had the nerve to join in - although I heard rumours of B/D and S/H I never managed to see any of the fiction until a couple of years ago when I met another girl hooked on slash. It was brilliant just having someone to talk to let alone read her collection. She introduced me to 'Late For Breakfast' - a slash letterzine - and I haven't looked back since. I'm doing my best to catch up on 10 years of fiction - unfortunately I don't have a fortune to draw on so catching up is going to take some time. 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.
Slash cons and accessibility (both in terms of physical, and in terms of gender):
How open are your slash cons to men? I ask because I had decided to go to a slash con and [a man, D, who was a part of this [apa] said that he would like to go. I wrote to the organiser to find out about disabled access. The organiser wrote back to say that disabled access was difficult to the con room (it is on the first floor of the hotel) but also that many of the women attending the con would not be happy with a man there - she said she did not have a women only rule but in effect she did - she said that [D]could go if he stayed in the bar so any of the ladies from the con who wanted to speak to a man could find him there. It never occurred to me when I attended this con last time that I was officially in 'womens only' space - see my comment to [S] last time. It is not only the con though. Several people who have visited us have clammed up and won't talk about slash if [D] is around - I guess either I'm spoiled by having a man around who will happily talk about sex, slash and any aspect of both, or the people in slash here are not as open minded as they like to think. I can understand the various arguments put forward by both sides but I find it sad that these people are shutting themselves away from another group of people who could give them different (or even the same) viewpoints on something they profess shows how broad- minded they are.
Lack of emotion and porn:
For me it is the lack of emotion/character which makes most porn movies so bad. The porn movies I've seen so far (not many) have left me cold - they just seem to go from one sex scene to another. I want to know someone is having sex with this person- be it love, lust, money or boredom. I want to know what they feel - love, hate, boredom (are they counting cracks in the ceiling etc.,) I love slash, I love the sex in slash but even the 'plot, what plots' have got real characters that I can get involved with. Yes, as I mentioned to [M. F-G] its the intent that's the difference but this seems to be a huge problem with a lot of people.
Some Topics Discussed in "Lavender Lilies"
- too much latent S/M in some hurt/comfort
- portrayals of masculinity in fanworks
- male rape and misogyny
- fic labels
- a unified theory of slash
- what some lesbians see in male/male slash
- on actor-slash, holiday cards
- do you like Bodie and Doyle sleeping with women after they get together with each other?
- women re-writing men
Excerpts from "Lavender Lilies"Regarding too much cross-pollination between hurt/comfort and S & M in fanworks:
Regarding Turkey Reads:When I see what appears to be S/M getting mixed in with "hurt/comfort" stories, it gives me the creeps, however. I do like well-done hurt/comfort stories and they do have a function. A character getting hurt can be a sort of obstacle for a relationship. I don't usually find the hurting as a believable cause for the relationship starting. In my story [I just finished], one of the scenes of consensual S/M came out almost like some of the scenes I've read in some "hurt/comfort" stories; a nasty guy is hurting one of the heroes, usually a character seen as "feminine" such as Doyle or Illya. When I read the type of hurt scenes which come out almost like S/M scenes, I tend to grind my teeth and say, "Why don't you just write an S/M scene and have a good time with it?" But whatever flips a writer's switch...
Regarding male rape:I've rarely engaged in an actual Turkey Read, as that gives too much attention for me to a story I find truly awful. But a friend and 1 might begin "retelling" the story, putting in extra details that might make the story more, let us say, interesting. Then we break into laughter... Of course, we must all remember that what is one fan's fodder for a Turkey Read is another fan's idea of a masterpiece. Different strokes and all that.
Regarding definitions:Any rape survivor may very well feel "wiped off the face of the earth." But a male survivor may very well have the added feeling of having been "made into a woman" — and in our sexist, gender-role defined society, for a man to become "feminine" i.e. be equated with becoming a woman, is one of the biggest taboos around. What's the worst thing to happen to a man? To become a woman, according to this misogynist way of thinking. I'm going to throw out a hot potato to the APA membership: do any of you think that "feminizing" a male character in a slash story means making him into a woman — and does equating a man with a woman make some of you uncomfortable?
I'm going to raise this sticky subject again: can a heterosexual story story which contains emotional responsibility, centers on a real or presumably equal relationship ever be included in the category of "slash'— or is homoeroticism a necessary and crucial element? I'm not taking sides on this hot-potato question as I am undecided about this. I used to lean on the homoerotic-is-necessary side until 1 began doing ON THE EDGE and read stories which might as well have been slash, except they featured a man and a woman rather than two people of the same physical gender. Tell me, people: is a Fergus/Dil (CRYING GAME) story a male/male story or a male/female story? Depends on one's definition of "male" and "female."
On women re-writing men:
I don't think that there's a universal motive here. I've read other women's theories that some female slash writers have a misogynist motive in wanting to exclude women and carve out a male separatist space; within the male—only space she has created, the writer leaves her female—ness behind, becomes male and thus joins the "boys' club." Then there are some women who have more pro-woman motives of wanting to transform men and make them "more like women," at least as far as such things as commitment, emotional responsibility, etc. But in these views, the men don't acquire traits thought undesirable in women, such as passivity, emotional weakness, clinging, etc. As you have said, many women writers experience power and freedom vicariously by writing from a male POV. But there still is something bothersome to me that, in order to experience power and freedom, a female writer might feel that she can only write about men. Now I'm not saying here that the "politically correct" thing is that women must write only about women. I like variety. Some of my stories (professional and fannish) mix the genders, some are only about women and some are only about men. I'm more interested in the characters than I am in whether they are male or female. I do note a dearth, almost a void, in the area of heroic female characters, particularly Queer female characters; soI'm drawn to reading and writing that helps fill this gap.
On what some lesbians see in male/male slash:
See my comments to [J] in TNU #12 on this subject. I can't speak for all lesbian slash fans, but for me, it's a matter of gender—fuck and speculations as to whether the grass is really greener on the other side. I know some gay men who enjoy woman/woman works. It's also a matter of my being interested in particular characters who happen to be biologically male — in my case, it's mostly Bodie and Doyle, though I'm interested in Blake, Vila, Illya, both of the marvelous characters Adam Boudreaux and Grady Jameson in the TV show, STREET JUSTICE, and some other male characters. I also like to see any sorts of Queer works and characters, whether about men or women — speculate about supposedly-hetero characters in popular media actually being Gay. Which is one of the reasons I start groaning and growling whenever slash writers have their characters gleefully declare, "we're not gay, we don't love other men, only each other."
On seeing Bodie and Doyle sleeping with women after they get together with each other:
On actor-slash:Call me somewhat of a traditionalist in some areas, but I do tend to like B & D to be monogamous after they get into a relationship, rather than continuing to have sex with women. My main problem with most of the "birds are O.K. but no other men" stories is the attitude that the women are convenient bodies, not "real people," whereas sleeping with another man would be having sex with a "real" person. I also have picked up the theme (though perhaps it's not intended) that having them sleep with women after beginning their relationship with each other is a writer's assertion of B & D's heterosexuality; it prevents them from becoming too "gay." I don't have any problem with promiscuity, with Bodie and/or Doyle having sex either with men and/or women before they've started their relationship, or else if they've broken up, or else are at the exploration stage. One factor to consider is that, no matter how "heterosexual" they consider themselves, and even if they are Kinsey 2's who just happen to have met each other — the society at large will view them as two gay men once they begin a serious, monogamous relationship. Especially if/when they move in together and share their lives.
Regarding a "unified theory of slash":I think I got the same Christmas card (a photo of Starsky and Hutch, or else Glaser and Soul, holding each other). I tend to think that this sort of thing is in the eye of the beholder. When I got the card and also when I see the famous picture of Collins and Shaw taking a break from their Bodie and Doyle roles, I personally see and fantasize about the characters rather than the actors. So even if the actors were out of their roles during the photographing, I don't see fans ogling these pictures as necessarily constituting actor-slash.
I do tend to think that I live on Uranus and you live on Jupiter, that I live on Vainwal and you live on Vulcan when it comes to our reasons for reading and writing slash. I've said quite a few TNU issues ago that, in your universe, the basic assumption is that 2+2=3 and in mine, the assumption is that 2 + 2 = 5." What is your trash is my treasure and vice versa. We don't seem to be able to engage in a meaningful discussion about what we read and enjoy — we just don't speak in the same language. This divergence is one of the prime reasons against any "unified theory of slash."And I don't see anything wrong at all with our living in different slash universes, I'm sure that this is true of plenty of fans. Perhaps we can explore a few of these differences, because I find such divergences to be fascinating. This is one of the reasons I've been carrying on against sweeping generalizations such as "All slash fans read slash for reasons," or "we women want to blank—blank—blank." I want to study variations, the myriad ways in which we differ individually, rather than try to pigeon-hole people into conforming groups i.e. "slash" vs "straight" or "true slash fans" (Alyx's designation) vs "not true slash fans" or whatever.
Labeling and divisions regarding genre:
This is one of my difficulties with rigid divisions and labeling of zine types. At MediaWest, the Fan Q awards have been divided into "gen" and "slash" categories, with "adult heterosexual" being placed in the "gen" category. Where does that leave zines such as SOUTHERN COMFORT. ON THE EDGE, or many of the Frisky Business zines?Another problem which arises is when the establishment of group "trends" can lead to the establishment of a sort of erotic "correctness." I certainly don't get the idea that this is your intention in formulating group theories. But you've seen the demands for labeling and "warnings" for whatever are considered "unusual" i.e. erotically "incorrect" stories. I don't think that group theorizing in itself is what causes conformity. But I do like to see individual points of view along with the group trends.
Some Topics Discussed in "Weirdness on a Swan's Wing"
- this fan's fannish journey
- the essay "The Problem with Pronouns: (and other grammatical traps and dilemmas) -- about epithets
Excerpts from "Weirdness on a Swan's Wing"
Okay, so what have we here? A pair of lovers, or a narcissistic contortionist? Difficult isn't it? Yes, yes, 1 know there are various devices you can use (no, not that sort of device!) to make this less of a problem. Your character's names, for example. It would help if I wrote about characters with lots of names or nicknames, but what of a character like Spock? Or Bodie? We know they have other names... but no one uses them! In the case of Bodie (I write Professionals '/') he does have lots of nicknames, but none of them are likely to be used by his lover (that's right, it ain't Doyle... not in my universe,) and certainly not at the height of passion. So what's a girl to do? Physical characteristics are useful - the older man; the younger man; the blond man; the dark man and so on but it does somewhat detract from what is happening. I used to think I'd never be able to write a sex scene between two men, 1 thought my imagination would fail me. Well it hasn't yet, but my vocabulary does. 1 run out of nouns and pronouns fairly early on in the scene, after that it becomes repetitious or ridiculous. The thesaurus doesn't help, it isn't graphic enough.
- This fan wrote Golden Idol five years later.
- Two then-recently published articles this fan was probably referencing are Out of the closet and into the UNIVERSE and Japanese Gender Bender: Boy-love comics are the rage in the Orient -- for women.