Souvenirs of a Madman

I don’t know where this came from, exactly, as I swore off writing Star Trek reboot slash long, long ago. Damn it. This is hurt/comfort pre-slash, though, so I haven’t broken my vow. Honest.

There are certain advantages to being dead.

One is, you don’t have to deal with tribunals. Hard to interrogate a corpse. As far as you know, anyway; there’s probably some weird Vulcan shit that could yank stuff out of a dead guy, and hell, you wonder if you’d even remember if anybody’d tried it, if Spock had, while you were, um, temporarily deceased.

Huh. Or if you’d want to.

What being dead also gets you is plausible deniability: you can pretend that gods, you doesn’t remember a damn thing that happened, what with the radiation torching your brain. There were no tears, no last-minute attempts at admission, no moment when you thought anything other than friend.

Nope. Radiation brain, you tell yourself. That’s why it all looked green there, at the end.

Best of all, being dead makes it impossible for anyone to ask, to pepper you with questions about your dying breath or what it felt like to stare your own fucking mortality in the face.

Because that would just be rude.

“You do realize a zombie tribble saved your life,” McCoy wheezes, pushing back from the console. “I mean, if you wanna get technical about it.”

Of course, not everyone defines rude quite the same.

Continue reading “Souvenirs of a Madman”

Never A Good Sign

Hey, it’s a Kirk/Spock story! I’ve missed writing for these two.

And for Bones. Because, man. He’s so damn much fun.

In this story, McCoy can’t keep a secret. Especially when he’s been drinking.

Continue reading “Never A Good Sign”

Know Your Squick

In which a post that started off quick and funny ends up long and angsty. 

One of the great things about slash fic is that it forces you to get to know your squick, those points at which the fic does something [to someone] that goes a step beyond what your personal fanon is willing to tolerate.

Sometimes, squick points are specific sex acts. Or they can be certain character pairings that to you, the reader, border on the unholy. In a bad way. Other times, it’s a particular trope that makes you nervous, like wing!fic, or curtain!fic or bottom!sammy in SPN slash.

What I appreciate about the squick factor is that it is, in my experience, a constant site of negotiation. When I started reading Wincest, for example, I was horrified by the notion of Castiel/Dean. Then it kind of slid from horrified to indifferent. Then from indifferent to oh, okay, maybe I could see it. And so on.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t some squick rubicons that I still will not cross. Any slash fic featuring John Winchester, for example? Forget it. No freaking way.

But I guess I see the whole notion of squick in slash as generative, as a way of delimiting one’s imaginative [sexual] boundaries and then shifting those borders as needed. It’s like Henry Jenkins says in Textual Poachers:

“Not all of slash is politically conscious; not all of slash is progressive; not all of slash is feminist; yet one cannot totally ignore the progressive potential of this exchange and the degree to which slash may be one of the few places in popular culture where questions of sexual identity can be explored outside of the polarization that increasingly surrounds this debate.” (Jenkins 221)

So, for me, wrestling with the squick is one way that I as a reader [and a writer] do this kind of work, monkey around with “questions of sexual identity” for myself and for my own readers via slash fic.

Notice how I’ve gotten this far without saying what my SPN squick points are? As I’ve said before: repression–it’s a talent.

Now these are mine and mine alone: I sure as hell make no judgements about other readers and writers who go places I don’t want, or who avoid locations that I hang out in all the time. [I’m thinking of one of my readers who is lovely about my Wincest fic but vaguely disgusted by my Cas/Dean stuff. Heh.]

  1. Anything with John Winchester. Period. Dude creeps me out in the main narrative and I sure as hell don’t want him hovering over my slash fic.
  2. Non-con, in general. There are times when I’m ok with dubious con–because it usually works out for the best, in a not-terribly-feminist sort of way–but non-con? No thanks.
  3. Extreme violence. Yes, “extreme” is a wiggle word, but it’s like Justice Stewart said: I know it when I see it.
  4. Fic set before the boys are in high school. Just–ack.

But my biggest squick point as a fan has nothing to do with the fic. It has to do with the real world.

See, as a fan, I’ve never really been into the “real world” side of whatever it was I was fanning over. Take Star Trek, the foundation of my life as a fan. I’ve never been to a convention, or stood in line to hear the actors speak, or gone to Gene Roddenberry’s grave, because, fundamentally, what I love about ST is the fiction, are the characters and the stories. I don’t ‘ship Nimoy and Shatner, I don’t follow the actors around on Twitter, I’ve never watched the show’s blooper reels because, it’s just like, I know that it’s all pretend. All made up and crafted out of styrofoam and velour and monsters of the week: I know that.

But there’s part of me that’s cognitively dissonant enough to hang on to the fiction, to be invested in Dr. McCoy rather than DeForest Kelley, in Khan rather than Montelban, in Chapel rather than Majel Barrett. And I want to keep it so, to keep pretending at least in that tiny region of my brain that the Enterprise exists, that these people are truly tangling with all the weird shit that Kirk’s ego gets them into.

And in ST fandom, this is actually pretty easy to do, for me. Because the actors are old enough–hell, the show was old enough, when I stumbled across it–that I can fashion that dissonant space without too much trouble. Can maintain it without installing a watcher at the gate.

But in SPN fandom? Those borders are much, much more difficult to enforce, given the primary narrative’s obsession with pointing back at its real world fans and the real-time nature of the show’s production [relatively] and my consumption of the product.

And yes, talk about dissonance, right? Given that my research on this stupid show had centered on fandom, on the show’s portrayal of its female fans. But I don’t care about who’s producing, at some level. At who’s doing the writing, what the network is saying about next season, what the actors [god forbid] think about the current story arc. [This may explain why I broke up with SPN for like two weeks over “The French Mistake.” Grrr.]

So I actively avoid learning anything about the real world side of SPN. Like Ned Seagoon used to say on the Goon Show: I don’t wish to know that!

Now granted, this IS going to cause problems for my scholarship, this desire to hold the borders fast between the world of the show and the real life logistics that make the show happen, the real people who engage with the fans [whether we want them to or not]. I know this. It’s problematic. I’m not an “informed fan,” as a  fellow scholar put it once at an SPN panel.

Maybe it’s just temporary. Maybe it’ll be like my once avowed opposition to J2 [Real Person Slash for SPN], a taboo that flew by the wayside thanks to my research on meta slash fic. [Hey, I had to read those stories! It was part of my research. I swear.]

But. We shall see.

Canon fodder (updated)

One of my favorite ongoing debates within slash is whether K/S is “canon” or not. There seems to be a real desire among some slashers (neatly summed up in the image above) for Kirk and Spock’s romantic relationship to be read as part of Star Trek canon: an immutable, irrefutable “fact” about the ST universe, like dilithium crystals or McCoy’s Southern accent.

Dude!–this argument goes–it’s clearly evident in the text (of canon) that Kirk and Spock totally love each other and/or totally had a complicated and acrobatic sexual relationship. On the one hand, then, K/S is already canon in these slashers’ minds; on the other, only Paramount (who still owns ST, right?) can make K/S “official” (and thus legitimate? Easier to talk about with friends and family? Facilitating slashers’ ability to come out of the textual/sexual closet, as it were? I don’t know).

This desire is complicated, I think, by the presence of Star Trek (2009), which reboots Kirk and Spock and makes an overt case for Spock’s heterosexuality (or penchant for humans, depending upon your perspective). However, the movie also recognizes the most important material object of the original Star Trek–Spock’s body–and carefully retains and protects that object and transports it safely to the new 23rd century. (I went on about Spock’s body-as-object in an earlier post here.)

[The question of K/S in the 2009 new-verse is an interesting one that I need to work with further–as a researcher. As a reader, I don’t buy 2009 K/S, but that’s a long story that has as much to do with where I went to college as my opinions on the film.] Continue reading “Canon fodder (updated)”

Friends, Romans, Slashers, lend me your (pointed) ears


As you know, fair visitors, I spend a great deal of time on this blog thinking and writing about slash. As a well-trained humanities student, I have learned that one of the best ways to understand a discourse community is to write within it, to test out its genres, kick the tires of its cliches firsthand in one’s own text. (Notice how skillfully I’m able to hold this topic at arms’ length…)

[insert raised eyebrow here]

So, I’ll be posting my pre-slash and slash stories here on the blog. You can also visit me over at the K/S Archive, where you can also read the work of 449 other writers.

Standing at attention

I’ve come back to slash again, and so, of course, I need to write about it. Perhaps this is just a cheap attempt to stay away from my @#$@#$ thesis–most certainly–but, as a reader, I’ve found that I get something from writing about some of the stories that I’ve read.

As usual, a warning: the links below will lead you to K/S writings. What is seen cannot be unseen; although, as Spock would say, there are always possibilities, that doesn’t mean that you have to look at all of them.

Here are two of the best:

Tired” by JackHawksmoor

Here’s why I love this story: I didn’t understand it the first time I read it. It’s sleek and fast moving and demands that you read every damn word, and I got lazy. A lot of the story’s action occurs offstage–there are pretty strong inferences in the text, but the story requires a close reading to follow it through.

As the action begins, Kirk, Spock, and McCoy are involved in tricky negotiations with many unpleasant people, and no one is happy about it. Kirk, in particular, begins to act strangely. When Spock inconveniently picks up on his captain’s apparent distress, Kirk has to resort to semi-desperate measures to keep the trains running on time.

To me, this story proved once and for all that good slash = good writing. It’s easy to write an impersonal sex scene; it’s much harder to build a complex and interesting story in which the sex is a key part of the plot. “Tired” is proof that fan fiction in general and slash in particular is a legitimate genre.

Full Circle” by Killa

I love this story. It’s the polar opposite of “Tired”–it’s lush, it takes its damn time, and it’s worth every minute. “Full Circle” picks up where the story “Turning Point” (*sniff*) left off. [Check out my review of “Turning Point” here.] K/S must live with the consequences of their choices (and their dumb-assery) in the previous story: Spock goes off to Gol to kill part of himself, and Kirk gets married, like you do when you’ve just had your heart broken.

One night, his panic attacks–which have been haunting him since he and Spock parted–take on a different turn, and he dreams of Spock in a way that he can’t hide (damn human plumbing!) and that his wife, Lori, can’t ignore. Soon, V’gr gets the band back together, and Kirk and Spock must figure out how to reconnect. To be honest, a big part of this story’s appeal for me is that it helps salve the wounds inflicted in “Turning Point.” It’s nice to see our boys get a happy ending–at least for now.

My favorite scene in this story has nothing to do with sex–instead, it’s an extended conversation between McCoy and Kirk in which James tries to articulate what’s happened between he and Spock. After V’gr is–defeated? sent to another plane of existence? whatever.–Kirk hides in the observation lounge and broods over the “this simple feeling” moment in Sickbay. Leonard (gods bless him) tracks him down and finally gets James to tell him what the hell is going on between Kirk and Spock.

It’s a great scene because Killa nails the Bones/James relationship, one that’s central to ST but one that we don’t see often enough. In this moment, it’s easy to understand why Kirk needs McCoy (The “I need you, Bones! Badly!” line from STMP not withstanding. Hee!), and what Bones gets from his friendship with both Jim and Spock. Looking back on it, it’s a hint of what Killa’s able to do in her angsty, emotional, but not-really-slashy novella Bitter Glass.

Both of these stories pay off, not only in terms of sex (though that’s there, too), but in terms of plot, structure, and character. It’s been hard for me to find stories that strike this balance just right, which makes these stories all the more laudable and impressive.

There’s no room for “logic” in “physiological” responses to PWP

…and how could I write about texts that inspire a physiological response without mentioning K/S? Damn it.

I’m not sure how I missed that connection earlier. Perhaps the thesis part of my brain is sheltering itself rather desperately from the part of my brain that’s interested in slash.

To that end, I’d recommend these very short K/S stories whose sole purpose, it seems, is to engender a very particular kind of physiological/emotional response in the reader. Each of these is an exemplar of  the “PWP”sub-genre of slash,”PWP” being  either “Porn Without Plot” or “Plot? What Plot?,” depending on your fancy.

Strong Medicine by Killa
Kirk’s been ill, but he’s feeling better. So much better, in fact, that he goes to the bridge to see how far he can push Spock to physiologically respond in public. As always, Killa gets the interplay between James and Spock just right. And there’s just enough plot here to make the reader feel as though you’ve done enough to earn the very hot (if all too brief) sex. A fine example of a “sex in a turbolift” story.

Master and Commander by Aconitum-Nappellus
This story has an utterly ridiculous premise: there’s very little hot water left on the Enterprise, so Kirk and Spock have to share a shower! Oh noes! But there’s enough steamy sex within and without said shower to make you forget about the silly way that the men come together. There’s a lot of focus on Kirk’s body in this one, which is a bit unusual; in most of the stories that I’ve read, the reverence is saved for Spock’s…body.

Feast or Famine by pepperlandgirl
Hee! I can’t think about this story without giggling. When the Enterprise is on a boring mission, having sex with Spock is the only way that James can expel all of his nervous energy. And the mission that they’re on is •really* boring. It’s understandable, though–who’d want to stare at a starfield when you could be staring (among other verbs) at Spock?

The Berriesby Jesmihr
This story is longer than the others that I’ve listed here, as it actually includes a plot. I’ve chosen to include it, however, because said plot centers on Kirk seducing Spock during a camping trip (don’t ask). But Spock screws things up by getting drunk on the titular berries–and Spock’s a fun drunk. There’s a lot of lovely hot sex and an emotionally satisfying and believable conclusion (if you care about such things). Plus, we get the great image of Spock as a wild, woodland god. Yes.

Having and Wanting by Varoneeka
A pair of stories whose titles come from one of my favorite quotes from TOS, a line of Spock’s from “Amok Time”: “You may find that having is not so satisfying a thing as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often so.” Basically, Kirk is so hot that he’s screwed up Spock’s seven-year pon farr cycle. Spock becomes consumed with having Kirk, Kirk figures it out, and, as Eddie Izzard would say, sex is on, yeah? The only annoying thing to me in these stories is that we waste time dicking around with the “James and Spock are bonded” crap, which, for my money, is something that doesn’t belong in a PWP. But that’s me.

A post in which reason gives way to rant

In quite a few of the K/S stories that I’ve read, the day after always begins with disorientation. James or Spock awakens in the other’s bed, and there’s a moment of dizzying uncertainty–they aren’t sure if the night of wild sex they remember really happened, or if it was just a beautiful, vivid dream. Usually, it takes only a touch or a kiss from the other to bring Spock or Jim crashing back to earth, to the happy reality of what they’ve done.

I wonder if I’ll have a similar sense of disorientation tomorrow. My thoughts here seem reasonable now–but I wonder what I’ll wake up with in the morning. This began as a semi-reasoned attempt to further explore the feminism/slash parallels that I’ve been working with–and ended as an angry rant worthy of a royally pissed Leonard McCoy.

At least I can’t type in a southern accent. Continue reading “A post in which reason gives way to rant”

Ceding the Narrative

As I noted in my previous post, I very much admire slashers’ refusal to accept absences–even those “canonized” by Paramount and Roddenberry. Their spirit–their desire to radically write AND, more importantly, their willingness to do so with utter gusto, lie in stark contrast, I think, to the attitude of the modern feminist movement.

In that vein, the essay below is a piece of writing of mine that led me in a zig-zag sort of way to read slash fiction. As part of a course in rhetoric, I became interested in what words do and and in the converse question: what does the absence of words do? Certainly, the stakes in K/S and in feminist principles are not equal; if Spock does not love Kirk, no woman will earn less than equal pay for equal work. However, it’s really the contrast in attitude that I’m interested in here–the gleeful, knowing transgressiveness of the slashers and the dour yet smug attitude of the “modern” feminist movement.

I wrote this essay to be read aloud, so I’ve edited out some of the more overtly “spoken” elements. I’ve linked to some of the works that I reference; Google can point you towards the others.

Ceding the Narrative

I find myself returning to questions about the responsibility of the rhetor. Deviating from my usual critical “style of engagement,” as John Muckelbauer calls it, I want to examine discourse through the role of the rhetor. That is, I want to explore the role of absence, of silence, in Richard Vatz’s assertion that, “if we view the communication of an event as a choice, interpretation, and translation,” then “the rhetor’s responsibility is of supreme concerns” (158). That is, I’m interested in examining how the responsibility of the rhetor is affected by her decision not to participate in a rhetorical situation, particularly one in which that other, competing rhetors and an audience are invested. In not speaking, is a rhetor still engaging in what Vatz calls “a creation of reality”? (158).  How might an active decision to create such an absence become consequential? Continue reading “Ceding the Narrative”