I started to read slash this week, intending only (expecting only?) to duck my head beneath the waves and bob up better informed.
My mouth is full of saltwater, my eyes are stinging from the sand, and, oh, please keep that life preserver to yourself.
I suppose what’s bothering me here is that I did not expect to like slash–to find it intellectually interesting, yes; as a fascinating embodiment of de Certeau’s notion of “making do” (per Henry Jenkins), yes. But to enjoy it as writing? Not possible.
Those stories that I’ve enjoyed are woven from writing that manages to nail the TOS characters (in more ways than one)–despite the fact that, as a reader, you know what the climax of many of these stories will be, those that are successful manage to position themselves contextually within the existing TOS universe. Hell, these authors get *Bones* right–the sign of a truly successful ST transference (see: the lovely Karl Urban in ST 2009).
Despite the overtly sexual nature of most of Kirk and Spock’s behavior in these stories, the essence of the characters of themselves is right–K/S sound like themselves and think and act in ways that are not incongruous with their behavior in canon. Several of the stories that I’ve read invest heavily in the emotional and psychological vulnerability of both men, the implication in overt hurt/comfort stories being: both of these men are broken and depend on each other to heal.
Notice how I’ve managed to write an entire paragraph about slash without overtly referencing sex? Yes, repression is a skill. Look, I don’t think that it’s easy to write a truly erotic sex scene between two people, be they male, female, Andorian, Horta, whatever– certainly the “romance” novels that I’ve “read” seem always to me to be grasping for a ready formula for such heterosexual success. The slash authors whose work I enjoy possess this skill–deeply admirable, perhaps, because these (often extended) sex sequences can easily slip into the unintentionally hilarious or the spatially challenging (“his moves suggest two-dimensional thinking,” indeed).
I find myself wandering away from a story when I spend more time trying to figure out the logistics of one of these scenes than I do appreciating its eroticism. I think the keys for me is for the story to: a) get the characters “right” (at least, to make them fit within my own personal fanon-verse); b) set up a rhetorical-sexual situation in which the joining of K/S makes some degree of sense; and c) write good sex sequences, damn it!
All of these criteria are, of course, entirely, painfully subjective–which is was makes slash such a kissing cousin of fanon. It’s difficult to give one’s self over to eroticism when one’s conscious mind keeps intruding to say, “This is not *my* Spock. This is not *my* Kirk.” No matter how seemingly outlandish a story’s events, or how athletically diverse a story’s sex scenes, each of us, dear reader, has to decide whether the story fits into our own personal fanon.