The Elements of Slash: Inside the Wacky, Weird World of "Lord of the Rings" Slash Fiction

From Fanlore
Jump to: navigation, search
Title: The Elements of Slash: Inside the Wacky, Weird World of "Lord of the Rings" Slash Fiction
Creator: Morgan Richter/Stuart of Gondor
Date(s): 2003?
Medium: online
Fandom: Lord of the Rings
External Links: The Elements of Slash: Inside the Wacky, Weird World of "Lord of the Rings" Slash Fiction; archive link
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

The Elements of Slash: Inside the Wacky, Weird World of "Lord of the Rings" Slash Fiction is an essay by Morgan Richter (writing as "Stuart of Gondor").


Some Topics Discussed


Here's my prediction: Within the next few years, everyone who regularly surfs the web is going to be familiar with the strange and silly yet fascinating world of slash fiction. Really. This whole field grows by the day; it's also so bizarre that sooner or later the pop culture media is going to notice that something very odd is happening here. Watch and see. I'm thinking a Time magazine cover story is not out of reach.

Slash, for the uninformed, is fan-written fiction based upon existing media or public figures (books, movies, television shows, animated shows, comic books, rock bands, actors). Slash, which is largely but not entirely written by teen or college-aged girls, is differentiated from run-of-the-mill vanilla fanfiction in that it deals with fictionalized sexual exploits between the (usually all-male) characters. Yep. Young girls writing hot gay sex tales. See what I mean about "silly yet fascinating"?

This is not a small, isolated subculture, either. It's freaking huge. It's getting increasingly difficult to research any pop culture subject on the web without running across pockets of slash.

My feelings about this might be charitably described as mixed. On the plus side, I think it's fantastic that girls are writing fiction on their own in a supportive, nurturing environment. It's also great to have some aspect of the wide world of porn that isn't controlled by men. On the other hand, why does most slash have to be so crappy? The Lord of the Rings category of the massive online archive Fanfiction.Net currently has over 17,000 stories (and counting) of slash and vanilla fanfiction; only a teensy, miniscule percentage of those stories are readable. Take a look, if you think I exaggerate. It's grim. Hence, I'm writing this piece to outline the barest minimum of standards for slash. The bar is currently set pretty low, ladies; let's see if we can drive it up a little.

To get into the spirit of slash, I'm writing this under a pseudonym. Pseudonyms seem to be very, very important in the slash world. The more preposterous your alias, the better. For LOTR slash, Elvish names are in fashion; for anime slash (a.k.a. yaoi), Japanese words are the order of the day, while the Buffy slash crowd goes Goth. So why did I choose "Stuart of Gondor"? Because I once came across a perfectly vile little story which managed to neatly encapsulate almost everything I find distasteful in the world of slash, in which Legolas gets gang-banged by the entire Fellowship (yep, Gandalf too), who are all under a spell cast by an evil wizard. Oh, except for Boromir, who's just drunk and doesn't want to miss out on the action. Anyway, despite a fair amount of plot ingenuity (how many of you giggled just from reading that synopsis?), the story was feebly written, the author inserted annoying little personal notes about her inner darkness at the start of each chapter, the members of the Fellowship were portrayed variously as drips, dolts, or psychotic felons, and it was replete with spelling and grammatical errors. For example, the author referred to Boromir as the son of the "Stuart of Gondor." Uh... perhaps you meant "Steward"? Hence, Stuart of Gondor was born. It was a toss-up between that or Mistress Darkfyre Rayvenwyng.

While we're on the subject of spitfire elf maiden heroines, avoid self-insertion (commonly known in the slash world as Mary Sues) into your stories. Try to avoid having characters transparently based on yourself (the quintessential Mary Sue) tromping around Middle-Earth with the rest of the Fellowship. Mary Sues are despised because they don't interest your readers; we don't know you, and thus we don't want to read about you having sex with Legolas, even if you are a fabulous person with many good qualities who'd be a perfect match for a certain tree-dwelling Mirkwood archer. We do know Boromir, and we'd much rather read about him having sex with Legolas. That's why we're reading slash instead of original fiction. The same principle applies to the use of any original characters in your fanfiction - you can use them, but use them very carefully. You've chosen to post your slash because you want the built-in audience that comes with whatever you're slashing. Don't mess with that audience.

I'm not going to say much about songfics. Just bear in mind that, whatever your personal emotional reaction to, say, "Genie in a Bottle," your readers are not necessarily going to have the same reaction, and will thus be bored as snot by reading endless stanzas of song lyrics inserted into your work.

Okay, technically Tolkien never explicitly said boy-Elves can't get pregnant. But I'm guessing the massive popularity of male-pregnancy (known as MPREG) fanfics would flabbergast him. It flabbergasts me, especially seeing how many variations on this particular weird-ass plot are out there. I can see how someone, somewhere, once thought a pregnant Legolas would be really, really sexy. There's currently, what, six billion people in the world? I'll allow that one in six billion would have this particular fetish. Why it's so popular probably requires an experienced psychiatrist to explain. My best guess would be that the fan base for Legolas skews very young; young girls find Legolas somewhat feminine and non-threatening. Nothing emasculates him further than getting a bun in his oven. For those of us just looking for a good smutty story, nothing drives us away faster than a knocked-up boy elf. The weirdest part is, you can be reading what looks for all the world like a ripping good slash story, and then you'll run across some random reference to the two kids Legolas has had with Aragorn. It's impossible to read past that point. However, judging by how many of these there are out there, clearly there's an audience for them, so perhaps it's just my own personal dislike.

More understandable than MPREG, yet still objectionable, is Real-Person Slash (a.k.a. RPS). At some point, someone somewhere is going to sue over this, in much the same way actresses sue over doctored nude photos of themselves on the web. You do not have a legal right to publish - and if you post your writing on a web site, you are publishing - stories about the fictionalized sex lives of real people. This falls neatly under the category of libel. No matter how flattering and well-written your story may be, no matter how open-minded the subject of your story is in real-life, feelings are going to get bruised and sooner or later someone will sue. There may be some great RPS out there; I don't know, because I don't read it.

If you've ever written a story in which Legolas gets his ears cut off, his skin peeled away, his bones broken, or gets killed, and especially if you've preceded your story with an author's note along the lines of "I'm being so mean to poor Leggy! Tee hee!", consider yourself electronically bitch-slapped from me. It's not always Legolas at the receiving end of such treatment, but he's popular enough to have a term coined to describe this foul little subgenre: Legotorture. These are reeeeeally hard to pull off without coming across like a twisted little rodent. If you don't have a point to writing a story like this, other than that you get warm and tingly at the thought of mutilating Legolas, it might be a good time to examine your life.

Incest is another subject that crops up in LOTR slash with creepy frequency. The most popular slash subjects are Elrond's twin sons, Elrohir and Elladan, who barely register as characters in the books, and are barely, if at all, onscreen in the movies (there's a fleeting glimpse of some random elves hanging around the Council of Elrond. Might be the twins, might be a couple of grips who wandered into the shot). The fact that there have been about eight billion stories thus far featuring the wacky incestuous escapades of Elladan and Elrohir is probably more a result of slash authors cannibalizing each others' stories for material than the result of a great need to further the adventures of these particular characters. Brothers Boromir and Faramir do their fair amount of fooling around in stories, but they're outnumbered by the tales about Legolas and his father Thranduil, King of the Mirkwood Elves. Thranduil is not featured in the books or the films; he appears only in The Hobbit, and while he's a bit of a jerk to the Dwarves, there's no reason to assume he's diddling his son. I would suspect that much of slash is about forming your own sexual identity and experimenting around, pushing the limits of societal boundaries in order to find your own boundaries. If you're school-aged, you'll grow out of this, and will probably be very, very embarrassed about your early proclivity for writing incest slash later in life.

Fan Reaction

The [Fanwork] That Made Me Understand That Fandom Is a Conversation: The Elements of Slash: Inside the Wacky, Weird World of "Lord of the Rings" Slash Fiction, by Morgan Richter.

I started in fandom as an entirely passive consumer of fan fiction. I thought things about it - a lot of things, including that Legolas should never, ever be called "Leggy" - but I didn't articulate those things (excepted in hand-wavy dinner conversations), and I sure never considered that other people might be thinking about them, too.

Then, in September of 2003, I found this essay while randomly googling. (And, oh, until I saw some of the other links I'd bookmarked around that time, I'd almost forgotten how sad the random google phase of a fan's life is. Thank god for discoveries like this.) It was a revelation. There was another person out there! And she was interested in slash, and yet she could spell and punctuate and totally understood that in a reasonable universe, no one would ever have to read the phrase "his milky alabaster skin."

I was amazed. And pleased. And once I knew that this fans-discussing-fandom-and-fan-fiction stuff existed, I started looking for it. In short order, I found The Fanfic Symposium, and from there I branched out all over. [1]


  1. My Fannish Evolution, Part One, October 8, 2006