We are all familiar with fan fiction. Fan fiction is what allows us to continue living in the created worlds of our favorite writers, even if they haven’t agreed to write the eighth book of a series. But what if a more progressive, darker and sexually charged version of fan fiction existed?
Meet slash fiction, which fits the description above and has actually been around for several decades. But its growing popularity calls for an in-depth look at slash fiction and what it has to offer for the average “fan.” Any aspiring writer out there should check out this acclaimed young-adult fiction writing workshop for turning your ideas into a published novel.
Slash Fiction: What Is It?
Slash fiction shares at least one thing in common with fan fiction: it is based on characters we (the fan base) know and love. Slash fiction is not built upon the writer’s original characters and story lines. These are all borrowed from previously written books and series, TV shows, movies, etc. Inspiration can come from anywhere and there are really no rules aside from playing off the source material.
Slash fiction becomes divergent when it focuses strictly on relationships. These relationships can be fairly mild, of the young-adult variety with more kissing and verbal romance than anything else. But they can also be too intense and explicit for some people, although fortunately there are rating systems that help to ensure you don’t accidentally stumble upon something unforgettable.
Where Did It Come From?
Let me first clarify something about slash fiction. It is historically homoerotic, although naturally it also exists in heterosexual, lesbian (femmeslash), transgender, bi-sexual, etc. Slash has come to be associated as an LGBT genre. As I mentioned, its origins began back in the 1970s when women who were fans of Star Trek began writing Spock/Kirk slash fiction. This is believed to be the very first instance of the genre. Even today the vast majority of slash fiction is written by women, but this trend is beginning to become more diluted.
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Same Constraints As Fan Fiction
Whether you think it’s fortunate or unfortunate, slash fiction is no more liberated than fan fiction. In fact, it is arguably less so, but this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Slash fiction, like fan fiction, derives all of its power from the stories and characters that it “borrows” from other writers. Take away this aspect of it, and it’s merely erotic fiction.
Naturally, people are divided on how they feel about slash fiction. Young Harry Potter fans who accidentally stumble upon some intense slash fiction may not know what to think. Not only do such things as sex, rape, violence and everything else imaginable come into play, but certain characters who were previously perfect, beloved and pristine in someone’s mind can suddenly be changed forever. But some writers of slash fiction are probably more considerate than you think . . .
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Much slash fiction does not follow the original story whatsoever. This is called non-cannon slash. Writers basically take the characters they want and throw them into a semi-random sexual fantasy setting. They might use some original details to preserve the realism of their stories, but on the whole they feel free to alter, cut and add story-changing features. But there is also Canon slash for those who prefer to stick to the stories they love, which tries to incorporate original story lines and details into various relationships and scenarios.
The legal issues are, of course, a constant bummer for slash writers. Using someone else’s characters and ideas can be illegal under copyright and trademark laws, depending on the circumstances. There are a lot of writers out there who are OK with slash writers poaching their ideas; it keeps things fun, light-hearted, supportive, etc. Plus it can be interesting, and just plain hilarious, to watch other writers manipulate famous characters. On the other hand, more serious writers can take great offense to the unceremonious handling of their prized ideas. Personally, I don’t blame them. It’s almost always difficult to watch someone else fiddle around with your more serious ideas. It can also seem “blasphemous” to die-hard fans and to the writer who wrote something of tremendous personal, spiritual or emotional importance.
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Saved By The Internet
Original slash fiction was difficult to find. Honestly, the fact that it existed at all before the internet is kind of amazing. But the first writers were dedicated and willing to print pamphlets and small magazines from which they only made back what they invested. These were some die-hard fans we’re talking about. But finally the internet came along and solved everyone’s but the original writer’s problems.
Now the possibilities were endless. Stories could be continued by multiple writers. Story lines could go in a million well-documented directions. Audio could be added. Collaboration was a click away. So yes, the internet revolutionized slash fiction just like it did everything else. Websites popped up. Reviewers gained notoriety. Slash writers even became somewhat famous amongst themselves, and slash fiction caught the attention of the academic community and was given a respectable amount of attention.
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A Few Noteworthy Terms
Here are a few of the most common terms that are specific to slash fiction:
- A/U: Alternate universe. This is another term for non-canon slash. It implies that a story takes great liberties when it comes to vital details and story lines.
- H/C: Hurt and comforted. This is pretty straight-forward: someone is hurt (physically, emotionally, sexually, etc.) and someone else comforts them.
- UST: Unresolved sexual tension. This is for the people who really want to torture themselves. The tension will be high, but it will not be resolved by the end. Maybe the encounter fails to happen. Maybe one character is oblivious to the other’s feelings. In either case, the story will end abruptly or with a to-be-continued.
Where Does The “Slash” Come From?
There are two theories going around, but only one of them is correct. Some people believe that slash fiction got its name from the fact that it literally “slashes” a storyline or character in half and creates a new entity altogether. This is certainly more violent and imposing than the truth, but it’s incorrect and I’m not sure how the story propagates. The truth is that “slash” refers to the backslash (/) that separates two characters’ names. The original slash fiction was based on Spock/Kirk. So the slash refers to the two-character, relationship-based origin of slash fiction. You could have Harry/Ron, Frodo/Sam, etc. etc. etc.
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