RSS Feed
Dec 20

Views on homo- and heterosexuality in fandoms

Posted on Thursday, December 20, 2007 in Writing

The fact that I’ve still paired up Jack and Karen from Will & Grace, in a series of humorous stories, has it’s funny and complicated explanation in the fics. I’m not saying Jack isn’t gay. Obviously he is. That’s why he’s not involved with Karen in the traditional sense. It’s all a long and complicated story.

Will, on the other hand, I perceive as a gay man who has some straight tendencies. He’s clearly still partial to Grace and just like many straight guys, he’s fascinated with any hints of lesbian connections between women. You get the impression Will wouldn’t mind living in a culture where it’s totally acceptable to be married to a woman, and still have gay relations on the side. I imagine there are many men like that in real life too.

Actually, it’s quite odd that though it’s a very common and completely accepted practice, in fan fiction, to make a straight character gay, the opposite – making a gay character straight – is completely off limits and taboo. When I pair up Will and Grace – not because I’m in any way can be considered a ‘shipper’ (someone who is for a particular ‘ship’ i e relationship, in practice a pairing) – I immediately get enraged comments. ‘That could never happen!”.

Before I wrote those stories I asked my gay/bi/sex addicted friend for advice. I also checked what Minotaur had to say. Minotaur, if you didn’t know that already, is what is extremely rare – a gay man who writes fan fiction. He has a big site with advice for the slash writer. According to Minotaur, it’s common for gay men to have sex with women, when they’re drunk. Why they do that, is beyond me, but if that’s how it is, why shouldn’t Will have sex with Grace? He’ll still be attracted to men, but he might also find out that sex with a particular woman might be pretty good too.

There was a comment added to the reply – about gay men having sex with women. You have to watch out so you don’t write something homophobic. If that’s the reason you want to ‘convert’ a gay character. What no one seems to consider is that there might actually be heterophobic tendencies floating around in the fan fiction world.

I’m not homophobic and the fact that I don’t read femslash/femmeslash – stories about sex and/or love between women doesn’t mean that I’m opposed to it on principle. It’s simply not my thing. It doesn’t interest me. Deathfics don’t and not songfics either. I don’t read fics with the ‘wrong’ pairing from my point of view or fanfics based on fandoms I’m not into. I’m the ‘customer’. Don’t I have the right to choose what to read?

I’m not a beta reader (someone who edits and comments other people’s stories), but if I had been, I would naturally have read and commented on a femslash story too. Of course, I don’t know how much my opinion would be worth, since I don’t read femslash, but in any case I could check on spelling, grammar, plot, character descriptions etc.

In real life, I wish everyone all the best, if they can find a partner to be happy with. I hope they’ll be very happy. Naturally this only goes for pairings made up of two consenting adults of normal intelligence or two adult people with learning disabilities. No one should be allowed to abuse children, animals, retarded people, the mentally ill, senile or dead people. If someone falls for a pair of shoes, fine. That won’t hurt anyone.

I don’t know if this is true or not, but I have heard that several men have expressed a wish to marry their motorcycles or the big new tv. Yes, that’s what I heard. I don’t know if it’s right to marry a gadget, but if the gadgets turn them on, well, at least no one gets hurt.

Dec 15

Slash and relations between the sexes in original stories

Posted on Saturday, December 15, 2007 in Writing

I also know there’s a small, but growing number of original authors, who use the equivalent of slash, that is homosexual relations in their stories. This includes published authors, like the writers of Swordspoint and the sequel A Fall of Kings – Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman, and others, like myself.

Another author, who might not write slash, but at least a more equal love story, is Anne Bishop. Her book the The Invisible Ring, is about a male former pleasure slave. Another character is still a pleasure slave, also a male. In most fantasy novels that type of character would be female. In a touching scene at the end of the story, the two pleasure slaves say farewell, and the younger, now free guy, embraces and kisses the other guy on the mouth, and tries to express his affection and love for him. Despite this physical display of affection, they’re both heterosexual.

I won’t say that all modern fantasy writers use traditional gender roles in their fiction. Many of my favorite authors write stories that are equal enough for me to enjoy them. That goes for Charles De Lint, Garth Nix, Kristen Britain, Diana Wynne Jones and others. Even a writer like Ursula Le Guin, who chooses to write about societies where women are oppressed, does it in a way I can understand.

It isn’t just in fantasy you can follow the evolution from traditional male chauvinist stories, to more appealing, modern stories.

Since I hardly read modern science fiction, it would be hard for me to think of any examples of modern writers, but on the other hand I have clearly seen how the old writers from the 1950’s depicted the relations between genders. The best one, in my opinion, are the ones that don’t really have any relationships between a man and a woman. Besides, funnily enough, you can easily find homosexual undertones in the relations between the heroes.

This goes for mysteries and thrillers too. My experience is that books, in this case mysteries, from the Mediterranean, South America and so on, are too sexist for me to endure them. The same applies to German books, strangely enough. French books are a sort of borderline case. There is hardly any nationality that doesn’t produce this kind of stale stories about women, but the French books I’ve read are usually acceptable.

I was quite surprised and amused when I read a thriller, which I believe was written in the late 1950’s or early 1960’s. The way women are described isn’t quite as dreadful as in Mary Stewart’s books, which I kind of like anyway, possibly because of her settings – often exotic and fascinating places. Still, at least one woman in this thriller by Helen McInnes – I can’t recall the title right now – is one of those Jane Austen-ish nineteenth century wives.

This annoys me enormously, but fortunately, there were also two typical slash relationships. Not fully evolved, naturally, only some kind of subconscious attraction between the hero and first an old friend of his, who dies in the story, and a new acquaintance. In both case it’s clear that the hero is a typical submissive, when he’s relating to these two men.

Years ago, he was happily married, but his wife died. One might wonder how this submissive male could stand to be married to a young woman who will have expected him to dominate her. In any case, this latent slash relationship more than compensated for the tiresome depiction of a marriage.

The various mystery writers differ widely. For instance, Ngaio Marsh. In her mysteries I’ve found one of the worst depictions of a marriage, where the relations between the couple are just as screwed up as in Mary Stewart’s books. The husband is some kind of brutal macho man, but in other ways more refined. His name is Alleyn and he’s vaguely aristocratic. The wife can be independent and tough enough, on her own, but when she’s attacked by a killer, she relishes seeing the killer being attacked in his turn, by her husband. Afterwards, she throws herself into her husband’s arms, like a little girl, to be comforted. Ugh. To Ngaio Marsh’s defence might be said that she’s quite old, as far as mystery writers go. She was born in 1895, -97 or -99. Her date of birth isn’t known for a fact, because her father only had it registered in 1900. She also never married and might have found the role models for her literary relationships in old texts, or modeled them on her parents’ marriage.

On the other hand, Dorothy Sayers belongs to the same generation, but her depictions of the relations between the genders are quite different. Her Lord Peter Wimsey is totally equal, at least in the actual love affair. For instance, he tells Harriet Vane, his future wife, when she’s admitted to having had lovers. “So what? So have I.” Or something along those lines. In his case, females.

MIchael Innes who is a little younger than Marsh – born in 1906 – is quite acceptable in his depictions of marriage, but in no way before his time, when it comes to equality. Unlike in stories by the Marsh and Stewart, there’s nothing in the relationship between Appleby and his wife Judith, that makes you sick.

Finally, I’d like to mention the greatest queen of mystery ever – Agatha Christie. The relationships in her stories vary greatly.

The Man In the Brown Suit is about a young girl who goes out looking for adventures and ends up in Africa. She wants to find a real Neanderthal man, who will hit her over the head and drag her into a cave. In the end she finds him.

In Taken at the flood or – as it’s also known – There is a tide – there’s a woman who at first spurns a suitor because he wasn’t in the war. He was a farmer so he wasn’t drafted. The woman finds this weak and unmanly. But when she finds out that he once killed a man someone unsympathetic in some way, possibly a blackmailer – she changes her mind. She finds his proclivity for violence attractive.

In Towards Zero there are two kids, who are poor. The woman marries a rich man and the young man is some kind of gigolo. They love each other and would rather marry each other, but can’t afford to. The books ends with the woman getting her husband’s money after he’s revealed to be a ruthless killer. She ends up with her true love. Christie describes the young man sympathetically, though that seemed unlikely, considering what she’d written earlier and simply because of the times.

The Tommy and Tuppence series is quite equal too. Tuppence is a modern emancipated woman. She’s been a bus driver or something like that during the first world war and after that she can’t return to being the obedient vicar’s daughter. In one of the books about the fun couple, she skillfully manipulates a young reporter, so she can pump him for information. She pretends to be a weak, helpless woman to make the young man tell her all she wants to know.

Funnily enough – though that’s really off-topic – in one of these books you’ll find examples of how words change meaning. ‘Make out’ must mean something else in that book from maybe the 1920’s. Back then it has to mean something like flirt. If not, Tommy is an extremely tolerant husband and Tuppence a unblushing exhibitionist, who will make out on the tennis court with another man. I won’t even get into the words queer or gay, though they’re not typical of this book anyway.

Finally, in Appointment With Death, you’ll meet a self assured young woman, who is a medical student. You get the impression she’ll be qualified soon, and I’m guessing she’s in her late twenties. She meets a young man in distress – a guy who is a few years younger than she is. He is being oppressed by his horrible stepmother. The stepmother is murdered, the stepson is a suspect, and the doctor-to-be decides to save him. Of course they end up together. The book makes it clear that the young med student is dominant and the young man a submissive. She was recently engaged to an older, dominant colleague, imagining herself partial to a man like that, but she soon found that she hated it.

The way I see it, earlier books, in this case mysteries, fall into three main categories. The first type are the traditional stories, where women are objects, submissive to men. In some cases the author really enjoys exploiting the women and there’s a clear sexual motive. In the second type, there are hardly any women at all. They are presumably still submissive, but invisible and there are clear, but latent homosexual ties between the men. Finally, there are a few where the relations between men and women are depicted in a tolerably equal way. Not like today, naturally, but enough so a modern reader might enjoy the stories.

Dec 14

Slash and Yaoi

Posted on Friday, December 14, 2007 in Writing

Slash and yaoi are getting more and more popular. Both deal with romantic love and sex between men or youths. None of that is completely new, but what is quite unique, I imagine, is that both writers and readers are women, at least the great majority. What surprises me personally, is that sometimes those women are lesbians. In any case, it’s women, who are interested in reading about men involved in sexual relations.

I’ve read many explanations for this. Among others, the fact that these types of fandom (stories written by fans – that is ordinary readers, tv viewers and movie goers) lack positive female characters/role models. That is probably true, but I suspect that slash – the western variety – would be popular anyway.

Another explanation is that the young women who read, watch tv or movies like to identify with their favorite character, who is male, naturally. Most heterosexual young women are fascinated with attractive men. If they identify with a male characters they can hardly – if they’re heterosexual – feel particularly enthusiastic over a female partner for that man. So they pick the male character they like second best and make him the first guy’s lover.

Besides, many men aren’t ashamed of admitting they are turned on by watching two women in a sexual situation, something that doesn’t have anything to do with increased openness and tolerance for homosexuality. Why shouldn’t women be allowed to get turned on by watching two (good looking) men together? These phenomena are probably caused by the same thing.

I think it’s interesting to note that rise of this interest coincides with a time of increased equality in the western world, maybe in Asia too. On the other hand, I find it hard to believe, though naturally I don’t know for sure, that there are a great number of slash fans in the Middle East.

Either way, I think slash and yaoi is connected with increased equality.

One reason that is often mentioned as an explanation why women like to read about men who are lovers, is that we’re not happy about our role in society. Women are stilll, despite the increased equality, subordinate to men in many contexts. For instance, we usually get paid less for our work. Besides, men are still over represented among violent criminals. That might lead to a sense of dejection, that after so many thousand years, we women still risk being beaten, raped and killed by men. How many men are raped and killed by women?

Naturally, there’s also a reaction to this increased equality. Either because of low self esteem or maybe a wish to rebel against what they feel is the feminism of an older generation of women, some young women choose to submit to male dominance. They pose nude, give private sex shows in front of their webcams and they also claim to be eager to be treated as slaves by dominant macho men.

I won’t go into that, because it doesn’t interest me and I don’t really know much about it. It’s completely alien to me.

Looking at the average slash or yaoi story, you’ll find that the lovers are two men, even if in yaoi one of them is a feminised boyish or even girlish youth. No submissive woman. Possibly a submissive male, but usually two relatively equal males.

Naturally you’ll get that in a lesbian relationship too. Two equal people in a relationship. Straight authors naturally lack the interest in this type of thing, but why don’t the lesbians enjoy reading about it? I’m afraid I don’t have the answer to that question.

In any case, the point is that we – heterosexual women who read and write fan fiction and especially slash – don’t like to identify with a submissive woman in a relationship. The ‘pure’ relationship between two men appeal more to us.

You mustn’t think fanfiction fans are very numerous. Unfortunately. There are still many, particularly older women, and possibly teenagers, who enjoy reading the old type of romantic fiction, with couples consisting of a dominant, older, well-to-do man and a younger, beautiful, but submissive female.

There’s no accounting for taste. Personally, as a fan fiction author, who also writes slash, I can only say I’m glad that there are some people who like my type of story.

Dec 13

What is Slash Fan Fiction?

Posted on Thursday, December 13, 2007 in Writing

To put it simply, slash means a m/m pairing. Some people say it goes back to K/S which means Kirk/Spock, from Star Trek, The Original Series. Others say it goes all the way back to Sherlock Holmes and Watson. What do I know? It might even go back to Homer’s stories about Achilles and Patroclus. The stories can be about affectionate glances exchanged between young boys or hardcore porn between two consenting adult males. And also rape and other non-consensual sex and S/M.

Guys, before you throw up, there’s also femslash or femmeslash, which of course means a f/f pairing. There’s no historic background really, because frankly, it’s a less popular type of fan fiction.

Oddly enough, slash, meaning m/m sex, is very popular with lesbian writers/readers. Huh? Yes, it’s true. Don’t ask me why. I mean, as a straight woman, I can’t find much interest for femslash, and I would have thought it would be the same thing, only the other way around, for lesbians. But obviously not.

Of course, you also have straight males devouring femslash and naturally, straight females who love slash. But that’s hardly the same thing, is it? It would kind of be like gay men loving femslash, and believe me, that’s probably never been heard of in fan ficion.

I’ve read all kinds of explanations of why women write and read slash. A popular one is that there simply aren’t that many good female characters in any fandom. Why that is, I really don’t know. Others say that female readers tend to identify with their favorite male characters, and obviously it would be hard for them to feel very worked up about a female love interest. There are also some who simply enjoy reading stories about two hot males together. I mean, if one hot male is cool, then two must be even better.

I’m not exactly sure why I love it so much myself. All I know is that I’ve been getting ideas about slash fan fiction or original fiction for ages. Ever since I was a teenager. It’s probably a combination of the three above explanations. On the other hand, I also love writing about a pairing that includes one hot male and a female who is at least a little like me. I’m only human. 😉 This, of course, falls under the heading het adult, or even gen, if it’s totally lacking in sex.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: