Slash A short introduction to the vast universe of slash fiction
by Ramona Flume
Illustrations of Vanguard by
Scan the QR codes (or click them if you are viewing this â€˜zine online) to be taken to appropriate places. Fair Warning: some content may be NSFW and/or highly sexual in visual or written ways. ENJOY!
It’s there for all of us to see, if you’re looking for it, but even if you’re not.
From a discussion at KiSCon2015 celebrating 40 years of Kirk/Spock ‘zines
Slash is a captivating character within the pantheon of fan fiction. Known for its sexual and romantic Male/Male pairings, the erotic fanfic genre has emerged from its secret origins in recent years and gone viral numerous times, reaching far beyond the insular online forums where most stories are circulated. Even New York Times articles have explored the long-whispered romance between Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, whose steamy sexual subtext has inspired a massive slash following and hordes of NSFW Sherlock/ Watson (aka â€œJohnlockâ€?) bodice-rippers. The premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens shattered international box office records this December, and fanfic sites filled up
virtually overnight with torrid Finn/Poe slash sagas, kink meme Tumblrs, and X-rated fan art. These are just two recent episodes of mass slash arousal in the mainstream media, and the literary subculture shows no signs of slowing down.
The term “slash” dates back to the 1960s, when female Star Trek fans started shipping (short for ‘relationshipping’) the characters Kirk and Spock in their own erotic storylines. The onscreen chemistry and emotional bond between the Enterprise shipmates inspired a community of women to write and secretly share visions of Kirk and Spock’s true destiny – to boldly go where no leading men had gone before… to suck and fuck and love
each other in every universe, time period, and context imaginable. These pioneering women writers and readers distinguished their work with the “K/S” tag, an inconspicuous short hand for the illicit pairings found within. And so the genre was named after the flexible punctuation mark, /. It would be years before homosexual characters appeared within the rigid constructs of mainstream media – even as minor background players or caricatured stereotypes – and early K/S writers refused to wait for the narratives they desired. The need to insert their own romantic and sexual fantasies into canon storylines resonated with similarly pining fans and more and more women united through private listserves. Invite-only ‘zine circulations swelled with wild erotica, saccharine love poems, serial novellas, and hard-core smut. The underground collective grew, but members remained anonymous for the
most part, protecting their identities behind pseudonyms to ward off perceived shaming and even cease-and-desist lawsuits. The slow burn for man-on-man erotica spread behind closed doors (and underneath fanfic convention tables) for decades until the internet propelled slash into a full-fledged subculture with a global online presence. Today it only takes seconds to start sifting through the thousands of slash works found in major online catalogs, like Archiveofourown.org and FanFiction.net. The tropes and imagined couplings are stunning in their diversity. Itâ€™s an orgy of possibilities; from porn without plot, to playful and platonic, to surreal and darkly taboo. The genre is still overwhelmingly written and read by women. And while the majority of slash revolves around white male characters, the genreâ€™s diversity is slowly expanding to relflect shifting societal and cultural norms.
Many slash writers can trace their attraction to fictional M/M romances to the near-absence of relatable female characters in mainstream TV and film. This double male relationship offers a wealth of possibilites to its fans. For some teenage girls, reading slash is a way to examine their budding sexual desires or taboo fantasies without the fear of shame or physical harm. While some slashers write M/M erotica to subvert patriarchal society or challenge gender norms. Others write to overcome past sexual or psychological traumas. Regardless of the specific motivating factors, Slash has evolved into a powerful platform for creative and sexual expression. Todayâ€™s labyrinthine network of fictional M/M pairings and storylines are a far cry from the first Kirk/Spock mailserves of past decades. And yet the increasingly diverse spectrum of same-sex explorations still champions a core philosophy of fan fiction: â€œInfinite
diversity in infinite combinations.” Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry once spoke of the Vulcan belief that “beauty, growth, progress all result from the union of the unlike.” To slash fans, it’s simply shorthand for the genre’s underlying bedrock: “To each their own.”
/ This ‘zine is part of the transmedia for Slash, a new movie revolving around the relationship between a timid teenage boy and his new friend, Julia, a bold and enigmatic teen who pushes him to publish his own homoerotic fanfic about his favorite sci-fi superhero, Vanguard. It’s a story about an inquisitive teen exploring his identity and sexuality through slash, while coping with the expectations of his family, teachers, and classmates in a typical high school. The film, written and directed by Clay Li-
ford, is a work of fiction. In fact, it is fiction about fiction about fiction. If it were based in reality, the movie’s lead role would be a female writer. But, in this reality, the film was written and directed by a man who was inspired by slash fiction and, like most slash writers, was compelled to tell his own story. This ‘zine is by no means a full account of slash fiction – just a glimpse into the thriving female-driven literary genre. Our intention was to highlight some of the real voices and historical perspectives within slash in the form of interview excerpts from notable writers, a story recommendation list, and a glossary of terms to help any curious new readers navigate the troves of online slash fic archives. Slash was founded on a belief that an ideal universe requires infinite diversity and respect and curiosity. It is my hope that this ‘zine can be one small moon in that vast celestial dance. -Ramona Flume
Emma Grant is a well-known slash writer who
has been active within the Harry Potter, Star Trek, and Sherlock fandoms for years. She penned popular Potter slash works like Left My Heart, a titillating post-Hogwarts love story, and its sequel Surrender the Grey, and still considers Harry/Draco her OTP (one true pairing). Her most recent shipping obsessions, however, focus on the lightning rod romance of Sherlock/Watson. A Cure for Boredom, Grantâ€™s novel-length Johnlock slashfic, has racked up over 50,000 hits and nearly 10,000 kudos on Archive of Our Own.
There’s an idea I find really appealing – I think it comes from Sarah Frantz [a literature teacher and doctoral candidate at the University of Texas at Austin] who studies romance. She said that because women have to deal with men in everyday life—whether they are attracted to men or not, whether women are married or single or in a relationship with a woman or whatever—but because women have to deal with men constantly, women have to work hard to understand them. It’s the same reason why people of color have to understand white culture to get by. You can’t just ignore it because it’s so prevalent in your universe and your life that you have to be aware of it at all times. But there’s white privilege on the other side of the coin, where Whites don’t have to be aware of it. It’s the same concept with slash fiction. We’re so steeped in this culture that we have to understand men.
So when we write male characters as emotionally more female, we’re rewriting men, we’re redefining masculinity in a way that makes sense to us. And men don’t have to do that. They don’t have to understand female characters. They don’t have to think about them. They can just put them aside and make them look pretty. That’s kind of an oversimplification, but really, it’s not. Now there’s this pushback of women saying, ‘Let’s take these male characters and make them into something we can work with.’ That’s empowering.
Starshadow, a 65-year-old Kirk/Spock slash writer says she showed up late to the world of K/S fandom, sometime in the 1990s. She has no qualms about publicly sharing her explicit slash stories, which have won numerous Golden Orgasm fanfic awards over the years, but she knows a large number of old guard K/S writers who still remain closeted, hiding their real identities behind nyms and tight-knit online fan groups. I spoke with Starshadow (her legal name since the â€˜90s) just before this yearâ€™s KISCon, where K/S fans celebrated the 50th anniversary of Star Trek and more than 40 years of K/S slash and fan zines.
I connect with slash on multiple levels. I’m queer – that’s one thing. I wanted to write sex and love between guys right. Most slash writers write one or another of the guys as if they were women—nothing too terribly wrong in some ways. Slash is women’s fiction, for the main part, and a kind of fantasy, feminist fantasy love/romance/porn/ lovemaking fantasy — but as a pedant, it bothered me a bit. So I wrote stuff that my gay son said “”How do you know it’s like that!?”” and that made me feel good. I’ve also always identified with Spock — I have Asperger’s and I believe Spock is an Aspie. Highly intelligent, socially awkward, that’s classic Asperger’s. Being on the autism spectrum made me identify with the guy, though I am a cisgendered femme-y female. It was that sense of being alien among humans.
Killa aka Killa Beez aka Killashandra is the pseudonym of a prolific Kirk/Spock slash writer, illustrator, and vidder. The Seattle-based graphic designer has penned influential slash series like Turning Point, the first attributed K/S slash story posted on the internet back in 1995, and she is responsible for cataloging the thousands of K/S titles found in the online Kirk/Spock Fanfiction Archive. Killa also served as the webmaster of the 2015 KISCon convention.
I didnâ€™t start reading slash or seeking it out until I was 24. But I did start writing slashy fanfiction (what we used to call smarm) without the sexual content around
the time I began to self-identify as bisexual at age 18. This was drawerfic—no one ever saw it. I scribbled it in notebooks, that sort of thing. Now I get a lot of vicarious joy out of writing for other fans. Sharing the toys. And it has led to a few romantic relationships with other fans, because reading and writing sex together fosters intimacy, I suppose. But I think for the most part, it’s a particular way that I interact with fictional characters. They take on a life of their own in my mind and heart, and since drama (particularly on television) is about trauma and unresolved situations (so that we tune in for next week’s episode), I feel it’s often up to fans to give the characters happiness, resolution, closure, comfort, etc. Since slash is almost always a queer reading of a text, I suppose it also gives me vicarious joy to see and experience how others are sharing my queer perspective.
Kate Sloan is a twenty-something blogger, freelance journalist, and slash writer from Toronto. Her blog, GirlyJuice.net, was recently ranked on Kinkly.comâ€™s annual list of their top 100 sex blogging superheroes. When sheâ€™s not writing about vibrators and lipstick, she likes to play the ukulele, nerd out about psychology, and (of course) read fan fiction.
The fact that fanfic has almost entirely subsisted without any type of expected currency still intrigues me, even after several unsuccessful attempts to monetize it by mainstream and profit-driven templates. I think the “currency” of fanfic is the attention, the interaction, the feedback, and the joy of it – the sense of participating in something fun and bigger than yourself. BUT, I also think there is an element of systemic sexism there, because you know that if fanfic were a primarily male endeavor, there would be far more of a debate about payment – or perhaps it would already be a completely for-profit pursuit. Women are chronic under-askers… I think women in particular are often criticized for wanting to be paid for something that we are “supposed to” enjoy enough to do for free – taking care of other people in a childcare capac-
ity, for example, or cooking and cleaning etc. It’s true that men are shortchanged when they’re not encouraged to be empathetic, community-focused and mutually supportive – and women are still shortchanged when we’re not encouraged to look out for ourselves, assert our needs, and go after what we want. Everyone would benefit from learning all those “gendered” skills and putting them into practice in all areas of their lives.” I think so much of fanfic is about exploring desires you’re not “allowed to” or “supposed to” act out. It doesn’t surprise me that so much fanfic involves women being sexual aggressors – either female characters being the aggressors or just female writers being aggressors by creating and driving the sex that happens in their stories. We’re told not to do that, and we want to do it, dammit.
Jon Martin first discovered slash at age 13 on a fanfic site called Topless Robot (now known as The Robot’s Voice). The crackfic writer was at the height of his adolescence and explored his emerging sexual desires and identity as a gay male through slash’s homosexual storylines and diverse M/M pairings. But living in an era of hyper-accessible online porn, he says he wasn’t drawn to the genre from an expressly erotic standpoint. Now 18, he continues to read and write slash, including his crackfic works, like A New Shade of Green, a wild Ghostbusters/ Transformers crossover parody featuring a freakishly well-endowed Slimer.
I think fan fiction, while mostly read and written by females, is something gay men can appreciate. As a homosexual growing up, I was very confused by the lack of homosexuals pretty much everywhere in the media. The erotica is pretty much exclusively consumed and created by heterosexual women – and women seem to tend to prefer written word fantasy, and men tend to prefer visual fantasy (pornographic videos and photos). And that’s perfectly fine, of course, men enjoy woman on woman pornography all the time, there’s not really a reason why women can’t enjoy sexual fantasies about two men. However, if we look at slash fiction that’s not erotic, we can see not only more homosexual characters, but also storylines about homosexuals. I’m sad to see it be the
case that we can only seem to do so using existing characters most of the time. But I’m seeing more and more homosexual representation elsewhere. Coming Out on Top, a homosexual dating game, made by a bisexual man and his wife, was just released, and The Young Protectors, a comic about gay superheroes that’s not pornographic in any way is gaining a lot of traction. Marvel just released a comic in which Iceman was revealed to be homosexual, I believe. I’m happy to see a lot of homosexual media coming out right now, and it seems like fanfiction, for one reason or another, was at the forefront.
Recommended Articles and Books about Slash and Fan Fiction
“A Guide to Fanfiction for People who Can’t Stop Getting it Wrong” Gavia Baker-Whitelaw and Aja Romano
“Enterprising Women: Television Fandom and the Creation of Popular Myth” by Camille Bacon-Smith
“Fanfiction Made Me a Better Feminist” by Anna Andersen
“A Brief History of Slash” by Morgan Leigh Davies
“Fic: Why Fanfiction is Taking Over the World” by Anne Jamison
“Why is There so Much Slash Fic?: Some Analysis of the AO3 Census” by Luce (porluciernagas)
FANFIC GLOSSARY A List of Fan Fiction Terminology A/N – author’s note AU – alternate universe avatar – a fanfic character that represents the author’s real (or imagined) self within a story, plotline, or online community. bandfic - a subgenre of “real person fic” in which the characters are musicians or members of bands like One Direction. beta reader – or betareader; an “editor” of fan fiction; someone who reads fanfic with a critical eye before it is posted publicly, looking to correct grammar, spelling, plot holes, style, etc.
BNF – “big name fan”; a well-known member of a fandom who is noted or recognized for their own fanfiction writings, fanzine or blog contributions, or other involvement within fanfic communities brOTP – platonic “one true pairing” between two male characters cisgendered – someone whose gender corresponds to their biological, societally recognized sex; opposite of transgendered concrit – constructive criticism crackfic – a fan fiction coupling considered exceptionally bizarre; usually crossovers between extremely different fandoms (ie: Shrek/Sonic the Hedgehog, Sons of Anarchy/Cookie Monster)
deathfic – fanfic plot lines with deaths of main character(s); can also refer to plotlines with funerals, suicides, overcoming the loss of a loved one, etc. demisexual – half- or partially-sexual; usually referenced in inferior characters/plotlines drabble – a short work of fiction exactly 100 words in length dubcon – stories describing sexual situations of dubious consent; the blurred space between consensual and nonconsensual/rape fanon – ideas about a canonical story or characters (sexuality, relationships, etc.) that are widely accepted and discussed within fan fiction and fandom but not directly expressed in canon
fanzine – a collection of fanfic printed or distributed online femslash – an imagined same-sex pairing between two females fen – plural of “fans”; also refers to specific subgroups of fans; ie: Slytherfen headcanon – personal ideas or beliefs about a character’s personality or identity that does not correspond with the original canonical storyline H/C – “hurt/comfort”; fanfic genre where vulnerability is showcased, friendship is tested, and a deep emotional bond is solidified IC – “in character”; referring to the behavior of characters that’s consistent with established canon
id vortex – the agreement in fandom to suspend shame when reading fanfic even if it falls outside of a reader’s personal kink lemon and lime – explicitly sexual fanfic stories; “lemon” is derived from a Japanese slang term for “sexy” dating back to an anime series called “Cream Lemon” and “lime” denotes stories with sexual themes that might not be explicit in nature; the term “citrusy” can refer to stories with varying or mixed degrees of lemon and lime plot elements Mary Sue – an original female character who is overly perfect, unusually favored by the author, or can do no wrong in a fanfic plot; commonly represents the author’s own avatar or wish-fulfillment fantasy; male character version is
Marty-Sam meatspace – the physical world, as opposed to cyberspace, virtual realities, and fictional alternate universes mpreg – pregnant male character MST – aka MSTings, MiSTings; commentaries on fan fiction stories written in the style of Mystery Science Theater 3000 non-con – non-consensual oneshot – a “one-off” type of fanfic with only one chapter OC – “original character”
OOC – “out of character” OTP – “one true pairing;” a shipper’s all-time favorite or idealized couple within a fandom (ie: Buffy/Angel) OT3 – one true threesome panromantic – attracted to all sexes in a romantic way, but not necessarily in a sexual way pre-slash - not strictly adult or homoerotic but introduces the potential or circumstances for one to occur purple prose – overly elaborate or descriptive writing style commonly seen in fan fiction
PWP – porn without plot round robin – a fan fiction story written by several authors who each write a segment at a time; popular in pre-internet era of early fanfic zines and mailing lists RPF – “real person fan fiction” semisexual – someone who experiences sexual impulses but has no libido or desire to act upon their urges shipping – derived from the word ‘relationship’; the desire to see established canon characters in fantasized relationships (romantic or platonic) within fan fiction
SI – “self insertion” slash – genre of fan fiction focusing on relationships (platonic, romantic, or erotic) between canon characters of the same sex squee – a term conveying extreme happiness commonly seen in fanfic comment sections, forums, and tumblr responses squick – a plot point, kink, or story device that turns the reader off or pulls them out of the alternate universe’ t’hy’la – Vulcan word for “friend” that also means “brother” and “lover”
UST – “unresolved sexual tension” WAFF – “warm and fluffy feeling” or “warm and fuzzy fic”; refers to full-length fluff or “schmoop” fanfic stories or singular chapters/ passages WIP – work in progress woobie – a character that elicits sympathy from readers because of excessive abuse or misfortune whump/whumpage – fanfic plot that focuses on lead character(s) who endure suffering, physical or emotional violence, etc.; differs from Hurt/Comfort in that the “comfort” side of the dynamic is rarely present
SLASH FICTION REC LIST
Courts of Honor (Kirk/Spock)
Excerpt: Kirk felt a rush of pure friendship, uncomplicated for the moment by other issues, and he stepped toward the Vulcan to offer what comfort he could; but Spock, still blind, reached out and dialed the shower down to lukewarm, his arm a barrier between them. The cooler water splashed over Kirk's feet, and he blushed and moved quickly away. He hit the soap button again, and the instinct to comfort gave way to the persistent heat lightning
in his loins. Whatever he knew or thought he knew about the Vulcan's lack of response, his body demanded satisfaction, and with every tender impulse blocked by Spock's reserve, he was tired of telling it no. If lust was all that was left, what did it matter anyway? Whatever he did, he was going to lose Spock tomorrow.
Boston Marriage (Rory/Paris)
Excerpt: Rory closed her book. "What?" she said. "A Boston marriage," Paris said. "A passionate friendship between equals. A mutual relationship of love and support. A primary emotional attachment and outlet between two
women. Forsaking all others. You and me. Till death, blah blah blah --" "I know what a Boston marriage is," Rory said. "I just hadn't heard of anyone having once since, oh, Queen Victoria died." "Nevertheless," Paris said. "It's the perfect solution."
A Cure For Boredom (Sherlock/Watson)
Excerpt: "I'd like it to happen again. In fact, I'd be disappointed if it didn't." John couldn't help but smirk at the look of utter confusion on Sherlock's face. "I get that this is an experiment. I'm fine with that. You want to understand how sex works, how people respond to sexual stimuli." "Not people, John. You.â€?
Late Nights (Finn/Poe)
Excerpt: "I've still got nightmares. I've never been..." He grew silent, as if looking for the right word. "...tortured like that before. Kylo Ren, he- he was inside my head." The pain that flashed across Poe's face made a twinge of pain strike through Finn's chest. He placed his hand on Poe's cheek, wanting to comfort. That seemed to pull the other man out of the painful memory, a smile ghosting across his lips. "Thank you." Finn furrowed his brow. "For what?" "For letting me do this." And then, Poe scooted the last few inches needed for their lips to meet. According to Finn, it was just as perfect as always, the way the pilot's
lips felt against his, the way his tongue coiled against his. His hand went to behind the older man's neck, lightly grabbing the curls that collected there. He felt a hand slide down his side and stay at his hips, holding on.
Iâ€™ve Got a Sure Thing (Derek/Stiles)
Excerpt: Derek is starting breakfast when he gets back downstairs, clad only in the worn jeans he'd been wearing the night before. He's standing at the stove with a packet of bacon, egg carton open, he waves the spatula at Stiles as he snaps Prin into her seat. Stiles's fingers itch to trace the curve of his tattoo and he moves to lean a hip on the
counter next to him. The bacon smells delicious. It cracks and pops and Stiles doesn't understand how Derek isn't getting scalded all down his naked front until he realizes Derek has his mom's old apron on, hanging around his neck but not tied around his waist, like he was in too much of a hurry to start the food. It's freaking endearing.
And Then A Bit (Harry/Louis)
Excerpt: “I’ve missed you.” Harry says quietly, his earnest eyes boring into Louis’. “I know that we’ve been spending time together, I know, but I’ve missed you so much all the same. I’ve missed being able to touch you without it being
a national disaster in interviews, I’ve missed not having to constantly be aware of where you are so I could avoid you in public, I’ve missed being able to act exactly how I want to with you on stage, without having to worry about what management is going to say.” And a few more...
Turning Point (Kirk/Spock)
Yell Like You Care About Something (Missy/Torrance)
Slash The MOvie
Written and Directed by