Intro to Fan Fiction and Slash

By Oak, Alan; Ashley, Jenny | Extrapolation, Spring 2011 | Go to article overview

Intro to Fan Fiction and Slash


Oak, Alan, Ashley, Jenny, Extrapolation


Intro to Fan Fiction and Slash. Karen Hellekson and Kristina Busse, eds. Fan Fiction and Fan Communities in the Age of the Internet. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2006. 296 pp. ISBN 9780786426409. $35 pbk.

* Hellekson and Busse have put together a welcome and insightful update and introduction to the scholarship of fan fiction. We say it's an "update" and an "introduction" because this collection of essays functions as both. For fan fiction scholars and fan community members (sometimes the same demographic), the collection serves as an overview of fan fiction communities and scholarship because some of the important foundational texts were published in the 1990s (i.e., works by Henry Jenkins, Camille Bacon-Smith, and Constance Penley), before the Internet changed the way fans organize and write. For scholars new to the field, Fan Fiction gives a solid overview of the nature of fan fiction, its history, and the state of current scholarship. In this regard, it is suitable both for new researchers and for students in classes on fan fiction specifically and in pop culture intertextualities generally. Many of the essays are well written and interesting enough for the book to also serve as bedside reading.

The title Fan Fiction and Fan Communities in the Age of the Internet neatly sums up the aims, contents, and achievements of the editors. What the title does not reveal is the overwhelming representation of queer and feminist critical approaches to fan fiction texts. Hellekson and Busse explain:

   Within the field of fan fiction, the three main genres are gen, het
   and slash. Gen [italics mine] denotes a general story that posits
   no imposed romantic relationships among the characters. Het stories
   revolve around a heterosexual relationship, either one invented by
   the author or one presented in the primary source text. Slash
   stories posit a same-sex relationship, usually one imposed by the
   author and based on a perceived homoerotic subtext. (10)

With three major genres of fan writing, we would expect essays in this collection to deal evenly, to some degree, with all three. But the majority focused on the latter: slash. Fully one half of the essays exhibit queer and feminist analyses of slash, and most of the remainder gives a lion's share of their attention to the form. Hellekson and Busse reveal in their introduction and inBusse's essay, "My Life as a WIP on My LJ: Slashing the Slasher and the Reality of Celebrity and Internet Performances," that they both write slash and that many of the scholars who contributed to the collection are colleagues and friends whom they know through their fan communities. It makes sense that people who both write about and study slash would gravitate towards creating a slash-heavy collection.

Or maybe it's more a question of what tantalizes scholars. According to the contributors, most fan fiction is written by women (and girls), and slash in particular is typically written by women for women. Thousands of women are writing gay male erotica to be read by other women. How could any scholar avoid studying that? It's like bright flowers to bees! Maybe a majority of scholars researching fan fiction really are writing about slash. They could hardly help it. In "One True Pairing: The Romance of Pornography and the Pornography of Romance," contributor Catherine Driscoll writes: "Certainly some fan fiction focuses on neither romance nor sex--although it is very rare for a story to exclude them entirely--and this is properly called gen" (83). The "some fan fiction" that is non-erotic sounds like a minority here. That is not our experience. There are plenty of stories that deal with postcolonial themes, Marxist issues, even plain old action and adventure. We would have liked to read more about the het and gen genres, and studies of male fan fiction writers. Only the final essay in Fan Fiction focuses on men, Robert Jones's "From Shooting Monsters to Shooting Movies: Machinima and the Transformative Play of Video Game Fan Culture. …

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