Elizabeth Scripturient (the delinquent, ecumenical (hermionesviolin) wrote,
Elizabeth Scripturient (the delinquent, ecumenical
hermionesviolin

Lots of thoughts on fanfiction. (with additions made later that night)

I’ve read a bunch of stuff about slashfic (slashphilosophy and metablog), theorizing about feminism and lots of stuff. I think the basic appeal of slash, like all porn, is pretty people + sex. What about non-explicit slash? That’s about the appeal of fanfic in general, making the characters more like how you want them, making/seeing happen what you wish had happened in canon. I was thinking about the meme about YOUR [insert character here] and how i want to queer everyone, and i wonder how much of this (ficcing, slashing, all of it) is making people be like you (or maybe this is just me, but really, isn’t fic about making the characters into ones you like -- or at least ones you love to hate -- and i’ve absolutely already come to the conclusion that i like people better when they’re queer).

Someone else has a fairly simple and straightforward reason why she slashes: “I fall in love with certain characters and want more of them.”




Attempts at definition.

flambeau attempts to define “slash”:
I think for a whole lot of people, self mostly included, slash is about the homoeroticism--that that is the core element. Before you say "duh," let me expand. There are a zillion definitions of slash floating around, and they include several different elements. Sexual or romantic tension, resolved or non-, between same-sex characters? Well. Some people insist on the sex (and then we get into the whole pre-slash thing). Some people emphasize the non-canonical element (and then the QaF fans don't get to play). Some people say it's fictional characters only (and then RPS isn't slash. Yeah, been there, thought about that). Some people say it's only guys (and those who like the girls get cranky). Some people used to talk about UST vibes and point to Mulder and Scully, back when.

But most of the time, the same-sex element tends to stay in the definition, so I do think it's the core element, though it leads to such bizarre results as people calling Joseph Hansen mysteries slashy. Continuing where I left off on fca-l years ago: when slash is a state of mind, it seems to me that at some point it ceases to be slash and becomes a general awareness of homoerotic potential. And a homoerotic element is not enough to make something slash. 50's beefcake magazines aren't slash, fantasy novels with gay heroes aren't slash, paintings of St Sebastian in suggestive poses aren't slash. At least, not in my world. I've been working on making my definitions more inclusive than exclusive, particularly after broadening my reading habits and expanding my horizons (girls, boybands, established couples, bring 'em on), but I don't think slash necessarily has to include Everything Mary Q. Fangirl Likes Best. I mean, it's got to be possible to like things and not call them slash.


An interesting thought:
I think the significance of BtVS fandom is exactly that: it removed the *pairing* as the central defining element of slash fandom. BtVS slashers don't tend to identify themselves with any one pairing in the way that slashers do in other fandoms; they identify themselves dually as fans of the source material and queer interpreters of that material. (SDB fandom has a similar dynamic; very few people, even the hard-core fans of a particular pairing, *solely* identify themselves as, say, Timbertrick fans. Most of them relate to SDB as a whole, with their pairing preferences as pairing preferences within it.)

Hmm. The Bitch Magazine piece has problems, but it encapsulates nicely: “Slash enables its writers to subvert TV’s tired male/female relationships while interacting with and showing mastery over the original raw material of a show.”

bayleaf reminds me not to letting fic fall into the ‘any two guys [or girls]’ trap and talks a lot about transgression, which resonates with me.
I devoured romance novels in my youth. In addition to the familiar story-lines, I read them for the sex. Sex – and sexual tension – is certainly another draw of slash. The primary difference between slash and romance novels is that slash stories (at least the ones that don't cause me to reflexively hit the 'delete' button again and again) have better characterization and inherent transgression.

Fanfiction of any flavor is transgressive. It involves turning a solitary spectator sport – watching prepackaged television shows that were designed as advertising vectors – into participatory activities. Fans subvert the text, fix the flaws, take ownership of the shows/source materials. The powers that be are selling us a product. We’re buying, and then we’re deciding for ourselves how to make use of our purchase. We’re taking control. That appeals to my inner child that still occasionally grumbles, “you’re not the boss of me!”

Slash fanfiction transgresses by revolving around a queer couple. This appeals to me because it better reflects my life than does het fiction. However, considering the queer couple in question is generally male/male, slash also has the benefit of *not* being a reflection of my life. There is no character to whom I have to compare myself, nor one with whom I would hypothetically be competing. (As a tangent, I think I'd have more of a tendency to mary-sue my characters were any of them female. Except instead of all-knowing yentas, my mary-sues would be armed. They'd be Strong! and Capable! and Kickass! and Articulate! and Beautiful! and Compassionate! and Brilliant! and Funny! but mostly Kickass! and not in anyway realistic.) The stories aren’t about me and aren’t supposed to be about me, which I find freeing. In some ways, I think that allows me to explore issues I might otherwise steer clear from – complexities of life and imperfections of character that aren’t all lovely and happy and easy to handle, but make the character and/or the story ring true. It allows me to contemplate imperfection as the norm - and the ideal - rather than the opposite. This is as much true for what I’m reading as for what (little) I’m writing.


I wasn't going to get into the discussion about fanfiction vs. professional fiction, but i changed my mind.

In that same post bayleaf sums up for me one of the most useful things about writing fanfiction:
Slash has also given me a forum in which to practice writing – something I hadn’t done for over a decade prior to discovering fanfiction. Within this context, I don’t have to do the work of constructing an entire universe and peopling it with my own characters. Instead, I can focus on the craft of the thing. I can learn what makes decent dialogue, characterization and narration. I can practice within a safe space, with community support and feedback.
eliade talks about how fanfiction takes off a lot of the burden of research, because you already know a lot about this world and its people. Though this works well as a comparison for writing historical fiction (though some fanfic is set "back-in-the-day" be it stories of stories of other Slayers [and there's a whole series of legitimate novels about that, which brings up interesting questions about the legality of fanfic and who has the right to make up stories with those characters] or stories of the vamps before they came to Sunnydale) i think it's a flawed argument because there's still a lot you can't know from your own personal experience.

She also has this interesting thought:
I'm not big on religion, but to make an analogy, it's like Buffy and gang are gods and goddesses, their canon is the Bible, their metaphysics is a belief system, their adventures are our myths, and the ritual of weekly watching is our communal celebration--if you have all this, why would you go off and create your own fringe religion, with some made-up god to worship?

In keeping with the theme of cultural myths and stuff, Professor Henry Jenkins, director of media studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in this article says, "if you go back, the key stories we told ourselves were stories that were important to everyone and belonged to everyone. Fan fiction is a way of the culture repairing the damage done in a system where contemporary myths are owned by corporations instead of owned by the folk."

And for reference, Neil Gaiman post which spawned a kerfuffle can be found here.



In a comment thread on real-person-slash, people point out that fiction gets written about real people all the time. Is the fact that these people are still alive more squicky than the sex? And people in various threads have mentioned that people like boybands are already selling their bodies and images, so how much more of a step is it to write fic about them? This makes sense to me on a gut level, but when i start actually thinking about this, all it really says is that any public figure should expect to be made the object of fantasy and that’s horribly squicky. (This does not mean that i do not slash real people all the bloody time. Mostly i just, as previously established, put everyone in sexual situations in my head. On rare occasions it actually gets written down. Rare moments of insanity prompt fantasies of showing said work to involved persons, but obviously that would be horribly squicky and wrong. I would be SO grossed out if someone showed me porn they had written about me. Though i suppose i can see what at least one person said about it being somewhat flattering.) Other people point out, what if the person were family or your significant other?

lexluvsclark argues that “RPS is original fiction, except for the names.” She explains:
There are no "characters" in RPS, except for the blank slate of Any Two Cute Bodies We Call By Their Public Domain name and can refer to by pictures or snips of interviews, etc. They're living blow up dolls, with the writer taking only a few public facts and interweaving fictional events between the infintisimal bit that's known about their real everyday lives.
(There’s more explanation in the post, but that’s the gist of it.)

raincitygirl says that “Private fantasies don't hurt anybody.” But if it’s wrong it’s wrong, right? I mean, are we saying the slashing is wrong or the publicness of it? These seem very separate issues to me. (Incidentally, there are potential legal issues, talked about here and here.)

One person points out:
Yes, I think RPS is an invasion of privacy for the people being slashed. But to what extent? The internet has opened wide what used to be a fairly difficult-to-access subculture. One used to have to discover that media conventions existed, then attend one and find out that slash existed, then submit one's writing to a zine editor in order to get it published. With the net, one can post a story about a character today, and have the actor who plays him log on and read it tomorrow, so what used to be a semi-private act becomes at least potentially public. On the other hand, slashers usually post very clear warnings on their sites, so I think it's difficult to simply stumble across slash fiction. You have to go looking for it, you have to choose to read it, and you usually have to get by a disclaimer in which the author states that the work is fictional and that the characters don't belong to her. Given these protective barriers, I think that a case could be made for RPS being less actively invasive of an actor's privacy than, say, a magazine photographing him during his down time, or even a fan asking him for an autograph while he's trying to have dinner.
This same person has an interesting analogy:
Fictionalizing an aspect of a real person is a bit like sampling an existing song: if it's done badly, it's an insult to the original; if it's done in a pedestrian fashion, one says, "what's the point?"; but if it's done inventively and well, the result can be an enjoyable new concoction that deepens your appreciation for the original work.




One last tangent is this post lamenting the fact that all fic is relationship fic and what happened to other types of stories? This is interesting to me particularly because the only fanfic i read is porn (for the most part) whereas i’m a big nonfiction reader and i tend to be not a fan of romantic plotlines in the novels i read (partly ‘cause requisite heterosexual live interest blahdy blah vom).

And to sum (okay not really, more just to end), i think it’s intensely problematic whenever people (myself included) talk about “fandom” because really we are only talking about our own fandom(s) and our specific experiences in our particular parts of those fandoms.


(Also, this is an interesting analogy.)



Oh, and because people think i’m insane for being so obsessed?

One analogy:
Whereas knowing every tiny statistic about every game your favorite baseball team has played in the last forty years is eccentric but cool and somehow Americana-y and even noble, knowing the name of the episode where Blair dates the daughter of the Central American arms dealer is neurotic and strange and turns you into some kind of mutant social pariah. We're fine to make fun of, because we're irrelevant.
and another:
I had a male friend who finally grokked the concept when I said, "You know how you get together with your friends and you try to figure out how it would work if Wolverine and Batman met and got into a fight? Well, I get together with my friends and try to figure out how it would work if Logan and Bruce met and got it on." 'S all about knowing how to communicate with your audience, yeah? *g*
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