The Wave Theory of Slash Revisited

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Title: The Wave Theory of Slash Revisited
Creator: Gayle F
Date(s): September 1993
Medium: online
External Links:
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The Wave Theory of Slash Revisited is a 1993 essay by Gayle F that was posted to Virgule-L, a private slash mailing list, in September 1993 by Lynn C. with Gayle's permission as Gayle did not have easy internet access. The essay is used here on Fanlore with Gayle's blanket permission.

In Response To

Gayle's essay was written in response to reading The Wave Theory of Slash, a meta essay by Lezlie Shell that had been posted earlier that year to both Virgule-L and the apa Strange Bedfellows.

Some Topics Discussed

The Preface by Lynn C.

Since Sandy brought up the Wave Theory again, I figure now is a good time to post something I got from [Gayle F] before Zcon about the wave theory. I sent Gayle the original post, and NONE of the subsequent discussion we had about it


Gayle's reaction was therefore based solely on her reading of Lezlie's rather terse original post, which I include before Gayle's message. I later tried to present to Gayle some of the interpretations of the Wave Theory that I think we have all settled on, which were never summarised as such on the list (to my recollection), and she calmed down after that. But her post is very interesting anyway and I am more than happy to forward responses to her, whether posted or private. [1]

The Essay by Gayle F.

When Lynn first mentioned the "Wave Theory" to me, I thought it was fun and sounded pretty accurate. Now that I've received the posting, I still think it is fun, but accuracy is another thing.

For one thing, it is natural for a slash fan who becomes interested in a series to develop her story out of the series models. This fits right in with the First Wave theory as presented. However, after a First Waver has explored the relationship in those terms for a while, she may want to try a different tack to find new insight, or to keep the writing fresh. Alternate Universe stories, either from series episodes, or from other inspiration, were very common with First Wave writers in K/S fandom. The Mirror Universe fascinated everyone, and K/S worked especially well for love slave stories.

Blake's 7 on the other hand, because the tragic end creates a closed universe, works very badly for anything but AU derived from the series. And the love slave stuff set within the series is usually silly. Because there is so much conflict between Blake and Avon, the slash pretty much demands that you work with the universe as is. Anyway--the point was that AU is not a province of the later waves, it is also a natural progression of First Wavers. To a First or Second Waver, a good AU story would be used to investigate the characters as presented in the show. If this were changed in the Series Universe, how would it affect our characters. For Third and Fourth Wavers, its purpose is as you suggest. The K/S Love Slave erotica is probably debatable, but even there most writers were trying to keep the characters in character, as well as indulge the fantasy. There are also innumerable First Wave stories, and novels, that fit the Third Wave parameters, where the relationship is central but the story itself also important.

It also strikes me that the point at which a slash fan entered fandom is extremely important. To a certain extent, now that Slash fandom exists, there will be fewer pure First Wavers. Although there will always be some lonesome soul hiding her slash manuscript in her drawer, many fans move from one fandom to another, and take their knowledge with them. But the central point of First Wave seems to be that it focuses on the show as aired, rather than simply referring to fans who got into Slash fandom way back when. I was First Wave K/S, and I'd call myself First Wave Blake|A/B, although the fandom was established when I entered it, it was the series that hooked me, and the series characters I wanted to work with. In B7, I had both characters bi-sexual. They were so antagonistic that having the conflict and tension of one or both of them fretting about being gay was totally irrelevant. But I don't doubt that having been involved in fandom had freed me to make that choice. While I consider that fiction I wrote as Sylvia Knight First Wave, there was more Second Wave influence than on the K/S stories (I can remember, early on going Avon and VILA?, AVON and vila?--I can see Blake and Vila easier than that--a story choice influenced by fanfic, but characterizations developed from the show). If I had ever written the one Starsky and Hutch fantasy I had, it would have been Second Wave, as I was as influenced by Connie Faddis and Penny Warren as by the show.

A reference is made to the amused tolerance of Fourth Wavers toward the "specialness" earlier groups feel toward their characters. This may be true, but First Wavers, while they may feel their characters are special have also developed a more relaxed attitude over time. When I entered Star Trek fandom, K/S was the only slash and it consisted of a single, one page published story and an underground manuscript that I didn't see for a couple of years. Fortunately, while I had the delicious idea of Kirk and Spock as lovers all on my own, there were many other fans who had been brooding on it as well, and there were a couple of editors in love with the idea ready to publish zines with slash or all slash. And, while I am very much a First Waver as a K/S fan, it was Connie Faddis' fiction that taught me to love McCoy, so I am also a Second Waver. The notion that Fourth Wave is more sophisticated that First is insulting -- there are well-informed, sophisticated writers at all the levels. A bisexual fan who discovers Slash fandom and wants to write for a favorite universe is probably going to bring a little more knowledge than a straight one, but ride any wave. A First Wave writer who has years of experience in one fandom and becomes a First Waver in another will again be bringing what she has learned into the fandom. A medicocre fan writer with years of experience can be topped by a neophyte with pizazz.

While its natural that the early Slash fen feel more of a specialness about their characters when they had to defend the whole concept in a much more hostile environment, I find it hard to imagine a good slash story written about two characters who have a penis. There are shows in which I really care for two male characters, and simply cannot manage to get them into bed. I've always wanted to do a Harry O and Lt. Trench, and the best I could ever imagine was an embarrassed one night stand they both pretty much wanted to forget. I'd love to read a Neil and Willie from the Sandbaggers, but I can't imagine believing it. I feel a certain amount of perplexity about Fourth Wavers in general. If you aren't intrigued by a special set of characters, you can probably find better gay erotica in the local book store. But of course, fandom itself can be fun, and there is lots and lots of slash stuff to be pawed through. And it seems to me that whatever the level of sophistication in the realism of physical detail, the best-loved Slash stories are emotionally as well as carnally erotic, and are primarily written by women for women.

From the M. Fae Glasgow stories I've read, I would not put her as a Fourth Waver. Although like Vivian Gates' provocative K/S she does deliberately go for the unusual, it seems obvious to me in reading her stories (her Sherlock/Watson and her Data/Picard) that they are based on the series characters. Her language goes for the tone of the shows. And if her Sherlock is colder and kinkier than the one I see, I'd bet he comes from the series, not from some other fan's Sherlock. I don't know her so I could well be wrong, but it strikes me that its her personal, outrageous, challenging sensibility and work in several fandoms at once that is getting her classified as Fourth Wave, not her way of approaching the characters. I do think in the case of Vivian Gates and M. Fae Glasgow that being part of fandom liberated them to try out their more hard-edged interpretations of the characters. But they are interpretations, not inventions that have little or no relevance to their sources. From what I know of The Pros Slash fandom, the very first people involved would have to have been First Wavers, but Second Wave was skipped over in favor of Third and Fourth, because while fanfic was available, the series was not. There are more new First Wave stories about now, than there were five years ago.


  1. ^ comment by Lynn C. (September 28, 1993), posted as a preface to Gayle F's essay