Gen and Slash, or Why I See One and Write the Other
Labels -- Misleading, aren't they? I hate labels, but in this case you had a pretty good idea what I meant by them and that's why they get used. A shortcut rather than a long explanation that general boils down to everything else (gen), and everything else with homosexual relationships dropped on top of it (slash).
When I go back and watch the source material for a fandom that I've been reading for a while I'm always amazed at what isn't there. Sure, you get this moment or that one and that's what your dedicated relationship folks point to (of *both* types) to support their arguments. A single comment becomes the entire pivot point for a story, or a fact of fandom (oooh, another label - fanon). It's quite a slim razor on which to extrapolate the huge amounts of material that generated from it.
I read and write slash stories. Lots of them. Mostly in Phantom Menace at the moment and you want to talk about a thin basis for fiction? That's a very good case for it. The movie itself isn't much more than 100 minutes, and the on-screen time for the primary pairing that is written about has less than twenty minutes of that. Paper-thin. It was postulated right after the movie came out that most of the fandom was based on a three second touch between a dying character and one who has just defeated the visible (and hittable) villian of the piece. Fandoms have been based on less.
Let's take The Sentinel. I had seen a few episodes, found the fiction and *then* went back and watched the rest of the episodes before I read any more of the stories. I'm a fanatic about doing my homework when it comes to reading. I try to always read/view the source material before I read what comes after. Then I went and read through the Interrim archive for months on end. I watched new TS eps as they came out, but only as fodder for the stories I was writing at the time. I took things out of context to feed my slash habit. Then, I drifted out of reading TS for a while, simply because I had caught up on the archives and my voracious reading habits demanded something else. So off I went into various and sundries and I came back. I felt I should see the episodes again (that homework thing) before I started writing what was concieved as a close to canon story.
It was a shocking experience.
It came down to teeny tiny moments. One line of dialogue. A toss off. This is what I was going to base a reasonable relationship, one that could support an intricate plot?
One rule of writing is that while life isn't logical a story has to be or people won't buy it. Your dog may meow like a cat in heat and I might find it amusing if I saw it, but if I was going to read about it and you wanted me to believe it, prove it to me. It makes good fan fiction based heavily on canon, on what you *see* on the screen, so amazing. You weave together tiny moments, turn those razors into a balance beam that supports your fragile construct.
I see most media fandoms as gen or more specifically, not slash. I simply don't see the relationships as truly existing until a good author waves the potential in my face. Take that one shining (ahem) moment and turn it into a pairing for me. Convince me it's real or at least real enough that if I squint, I can see it from here.
Why do I write it? Simply because I suck at writing gen stories. For me the relationship is the hook that catches my interest and holds me there long enough to build plots and characters and emotions around it. Relationships are the center and for me that has to be a romantic one. It doesn't have to be mushy, gooey love, but they have to do more than give a damn.
Do good solid gen relationship stories exist? Yes. Definitely and I savor every one I can find. More often though, you find them on the slash side. It doesn't become a lower priority over whatever it is that gen writers find ever so fascinating. Maybe someone else can write that column.
So I read and write slash, and see gen. I think most of us do, most of the time. We just like to squint a lot.