Monday, June 02, 2008

Democratic Genre: Slash or lack thereof in Austenland

Ch 5 was interesting in that I knew nothing about slash before I read it—now I have a clinical understanding. I had assumed, naively, that slash meant knife violence…silly me. It actually denotes a sexual relationship between male characters in a fandom. The evolution of the term is also interesting. In the Star Trek fandom, the code for a story about Kirk and Uhura was K-H if the relationship was non-sexual, and K/(i.e, slash)U if it was sexual. So a K/S story would be one in which Kirk and Spock had a sexual relationship, and this quickly evolved to slash being used to refer only to male/male stories. Just to complete the lesson, female/female stories are typically referred to as fem slash, and non same-sex sexual relationship stories are generally referred to as het. Everything else, I think, is gen (for general).

With regards to Austen fandom, in 2005 when Pugh’s book was published she reports that she found virtually no slash. And she wasn’t surprised by this. Apart from Darcy and Wickham being friends when they were young and loathing each other as adults, there aren’t obvious slash situations to explore. I suppose a Willoughby/Brandon story might be one, Darcy/Bingley, Knightley/Churchill, Wentworth/Musgrove….nah, more likely Wentworth/Harville/Benwick. Regardless, it hasn’t been explored in fanfic, and it’s not because most of the readers and writers are women.

The vast majority of fanfic writers are women, and the vast majority of fanfic readers and writers of slash (regardless of the fandom) are women. And, it’s not the historical timeframe—as Pugh points out, “…that something was illegal and carried heavy penalties has never actually stopped people doing it, and in fact from a slash writer’s viewpoint the legal and social situation just adds to the potential angst quotient.” Pugh goes on to reason that the “problem with Austen [with regards to slash] is one of voice, or rather the fact that most Austen fanfic writers feel obliged to approximate her voice, which to a great extent is also that of her characters. The mimetic difficulty of keeping up an Austen voice is enough in gen fanfic; considering how to phrase slash material in the said voice is daunting.” To say the least!

I think part of the reason for minimal Austen slash is that it would seem out of character, and regardless of the story or situation, canon characters must stay in character…if they don’t readers won’t read.


  1. I still haven't been able to pick up a copy of this book, but my plans to read it remain unchanged.

    Since this topic piqued my interest in different viewpoints on fan fiction, I did a search and found this site:

    I have no idea if this got off the ground, but the idea of it was fascinating. As a novice writer myself, having just completed my first foray into fanficiton, I really wanted to read more.

  2. The website makes it look like it didn't get off the ground as there are no archives. What a shame--I would have enjoyed reading it.

  3. I found this site when I first started writing FF and was shocked that anyone spent so much time and energy thinking about it. But why not? I was!

    As for slash involving the Naval gentlemen of Persuasion, no. They of all the Austen men would not as that is a hanging offence in the service. (Well, I suppose Wickham and Brandon would have second thoughts as well.)