Slash Fandom on the Internet, Or, Is the Carnival Over? – Rachel Shave

Rachel Shave applies the work of Mikhail Bakhtin to suggest that slash fandom on the Internet constitutes “a new, imagined, carnival space”. Using Harry Potter slash as her example, Shave argues that slash provides a transitory, resistant site where norms are playfully inverted.

After living in a magic mirror for over a dozen years, where he fights an increasingly desperate war against the evil Voldemort, a 28 year old Harry Potter returns to his former life and 15 year old body just as the school holidays are commencing. During the holidays, Harry turns 16, arranges his disappearance, and establishes a new identity as War Mage Ash, the new Hogwarts’ Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher. Harry then tries to use knowledge gained in the alternate reality to prevent Voldemort’ s war; preparing the students for possible conflict; and establish a relationship with the Potions Master, Severus Snape, hoping that they will become lovers as they were in the Mirror world.

This is not Harry Potter as written by J.K. Rowling. “The Mirror of Maybe” is a Harry Potter slash story written by Midnight Blue that is housed on the Internet. It is a Work in Progress (WIP) with approximately 18 chapters: the latest chapter is not yet complete, while a portion of a future chapter is already posted. The story (or fic in fannish terminology) is available at various sites on the Net and there are two Yahoo Groups devoted to it, one with nearly 4000 members. One list merely notifies updates, while the other is for members to discuss the story, motivations and characters and speculate on forthcoming chapters and events. Occasionally inconsistencies are noticed, which the author has often chosen to incorporate into the story by rewriting earlier chapters. ” Cookie Challenges” are issued, whereby fans post short scenarios based on a specific theme, and the favourite decided by fan vote. Sometimes yet another fan will pick up the scenario and develop it. The website houses fan artwork based on ” Mirror of Maybe” and translations, including French and Spanish. In short, this slash fic embodies carnival: it is multiple, unfinished and participatory; playful and subversive.

In this paper, I utilise Mikhail Bakhtin’ s work to establish whether slash fandom on the Internet constitutes a contemporary site of carnival. I am situated as slash fan (since the early 1980s) and feminist academic whose interests include Cultural Studies and English Literature. My intent is to broaden the theoretical paradigms for analysing slash [1] by exploring the potential of this concept to probe the subversive pleasures of slash fandom. While my focus is on slash, I believe that the concept of carnival could usefully be employed to explore other resistant Internet communities, including other fan fiction sites. Commencing with outlines of slash and carnival, I then explore some of carnival’ s specific features in relation to slash fandom, that is the festive crowd and masquerade, the two-world condition, its transitory nature and carnival laughter. For Bakhtin, the potency of carnival declined with the rise of bourgeois, private society. In our post-industrial environment, the expanded middle class has increased access to knowledge and technology, including that of the Internet.[2] I believe that the convergence of slash and the Internet has created a new, imagined, carnival space.

Emerging in the mid-70s, [1] ‘ slash’ is amateur fan fiction that portrays two (or more) same-sex media characters in a sexualised relationship. The classic example is Captain Kirk and his first officer, Mr Spock, from the original Star Trek series. However, not only numerous television series but also movies and books have inspired slash fiction. Examples include The Professionals; Buffy the Vampire Slayer; Star Wars; and Harry Potter. I draw my examples from Harry Potter fandom, based on the five books by J.K. Rowling, because it flourishes on the Internet. There was an upsurge in the fandom with the release of the two movies. Alan Rickman’ s portrayal of Severus Snape brought in new fans, and dramatically increased the slash fiction based on this character. As with most slash fandoms, the vast majority of Harry Potter slash fiction is male/male (m/m) although there is also limited female/female slash [3] and threesomes. There is no overwhelming concentration on a single pairing in this fandom. Instead, most characters have been paired with at least one other person.[4]This slash fandom evolved on the Internet and the fandom is so entrenched on the net that the first fanzine containing Harry Potter slash was only published in January 2003 (Starkiller [pseud.], 2003).[5] Harry Potter slash on the Internet includes literally hundreds of m/m slash sites; a few f/f slash sites; mailing lists; live journals; sites dedicated to artwork, and webrings. The overwhelming majority of fans are women, but there are also a few males involved. In these respects, Harry Potter slash fandom is representative of most media slash fandoms.

Slash fiction is overwhelmingly produced and consumed by women, although larger numbers of males are entering the fandom. Slash often contains explicit descriptions of sex, leading to it being described as both erotica and pornography.[6] The fiction exhibits many elements of the carnivalesque, which is how carnival enters the realm of literature. These include humour, coarse language and grotesque realism.[7] However, in this paper I am not focusing on the fiction, but on slash fandom as a community that has developed a niche on the Internet. This community is not a singular, cohesive mass. Some fans are interested in particular shows while others are fans of slash itself, participating in a vast range of slash fandoms. Several archives do not accept Real Person Slash fiction, while this is the primary area of interest for some fans [8]. Numbers are difficult to assess due to the nature of the fandom, but a recent Google search for ” Harry Potter slash” provided just under 70,000 results while one Harry Potter slash list has over 7000 members. I believe that the concept of carnival helps provide a more complex understanding of the subversive pleasures created by the intersections between this fandom and the Internet.

Before examining slash and the Internet in the context of carnival, there are some theoretical issues that should first be addressed. One of the difficulties of using Bakhtin’ s work is that it has been appropriated for a variety of conflicting purposes. Indeed, Bakhtin has been described as structuralist and post-structuralist; and, variously, Marxist, post-Marxist and anti-Marxist. One of Bakhtin’ s basic tenets is that knowledge need not be a system in order to be genuine and valuable, nor does it have to describe its object as a system.[9] It may well be Bakhtin’ s willingness to embrace fluidity and multiplicity that has enabled his work to be appropriated for such wide-ranging usage. However, situating Bakhtin within a singular system trivialises his ideas and his work.Robert Stam notes that Bakhtin often uses simple dichotomies; that he oscillates between idealist and materialist categories, utilises a simplistic theory of power relations, and ignores the ” co-optability” of popular discourses (Stam, 1989: 16). Like Stam, I believe that the richness of the imagination, and potential applicability, of Bakhtin’ s work outweighs these negative aspects. Further, as Stam notes, Bakhtin’ s work displays ” an intrinsic identification with difference and alterity, a built-in affinity for the oppressed and the marginal” , which makes it useful for analysing oppositional and marginal practices (Stam, 1989: 21).

I approach Bakhtin’ s work from a feminist perspective, while being aware
that this is not unproblematic. Dale Bauer criticises Bakhtin for his lack of interest in gender theory or sexual difference and notes his lack of an adequate theory of power. Despite this, Bauer convincingly argues that Bakhtin’ s work can be used as an ” empowering” model in the combat against patriarchy (Bauer, 1988: xiii) because Bakhtin finds difference and multiplicity exhilarating rather than threatening. It is with these considerations in mind that I employ Bakhtin’ s concept of carnival to explore the space inhabited by slash fandom.

Bakhtin developed his concept through analysing the work of Rabelais and medieval carnival. Carnival is both the name of a specific kind of historically instanced thing (or event) and an immaterial force in which these instances are embodied (Holquist, 1990: 89). According to Bakhtin,

carnival celebrated temporary liberation from the prevailing truth and from the established order; it marked the suspension of all hierarchical rank, privileges, norms and prohibitions. Carnival was the true feast of time, the feast of becoming, change, and renewal. It was hostile to all that was immortalized and complete (Bakhtin, 1984: 10).

Through mocking societal norms, carnival makes visible the social nature of hierarchical structures. The medieval carnival resisted the ” prevailing truth” and ” established order” of the church and the feudal state. In slash, the resistance is against the norms and strictures of patriarchal society, destabilising and marginalising heterosexuality. Bakhtin believed that carnival has been gradually deprived of its power since the seventeenth century, and particularly with the rise of bourgeois, private society. However, I believe that carnival has become reinvigorated: the convergence of slash and the Internet has created a new, imagined carnival space.

For Bakhtin, one of the primary requirements for carnival is that the ” festive organization of the crowd must be first of all concrete and sensual… The individual feels that he [sic] is an indissoluble part of the collectivity, a member of the people’ s mass body” (Bakhtin, 1984: 255). That is, one of the primary conditions necessary for carnival is physical proximity, which helps to create a sense of unity among the participants. In the early days of slash fandom, this physical togetherness took place in lounge rooms where a small group of fans would read and watch the television shows on which the slash was based. With the advent of the Internet, slash fandom rapidly found itself a niche and this has become the present day, ‘ virtual’ meeting place. In the early days of fandom, discovering slash entailed having to know someone who was a slash fan, and having it come up in conversation, or stumbling across it at media fan conventions or when ordering fanzines. This created a tight-knit community. The Internet enabled much easier access to slash, with a ‘ Google’ search on a television show often showing links to slash fiction that is based on it. This has significantly increased both circulation and membership. Bakhtin argues that from the seventeenth century, there has been a gradual narrowing down of carnival, due to both the encroachment of the state onto festive life and a retreat into the home (Bakhtin, 1984: 33). The private has replaced the social. We no longer congregate in the market square. The paradox of the Internet enables the spatial coexistence of both the private and social. A slash fan might be in her own home, physically separated from other fans. However, when sitting at her computer and taking part in a discussion list, she is able not only to communicate with those fans but, in doing so, constitutes a new community: fandom.

The Internet chat rooms and lists are the contemporary ‘ market places’ inhabited by people with similar interests rather than those in the same locale. On the Internet, the slash fans post and read fan fiction, and discuss the fiction, the books, the characters, and the movies. These slash fans project individual diversity onto a collective narrative, creating a ” consciousness of belonging” within this imagined community that is Internet slash fandom.[10] In the carnival space, according to Bakhtin, the individual body is no longer distinct. It is possible to ” exchange bodies, to be renewed” through a change of costume and mask (Bakhtin, 1984: 255). The mechanism that allows this play and movement on the Internet is the use of pseudonyms, which effectively act as masks for the participants. The pseudonyms, in conjunction with ‘ meeting places’ such as the mailing lists, ensure the carnival nature of the Internet.[11]

Medieval carnival included ritual spectacles, that is feasts, pageants, and marketplace festivals. A number of festivals, or ” fests” , exist on the Internet, combining elements of ritual, spectacle, and humour. On these sites, often described as ” Fuh-Q Fests” , slash fans are encouraged to participate and either choose, or are given, a scenario and/or pairing on which to base a story. Generally the partner is male, but the options also include inanimate objects [12], plants [13] or animals/beasts, such as Buckbeak the Hippogriff [14] in The Severus Snape Fuh-Q Fest. The very title is carnivalesque in nature, with its gleeful vulgarity and degradation. The rituals include the distribution of story scenarios, adherence to deadlines, and how the stories are displayed. The spectacle is created through storing the stories in archives – sometimes becoming available only on a specific date. Bakhtin notes that the feast is not only ” always essentially related to time” (Bakhtin, 1984:8), whether biological or historic, it is also of a temporary duration. The word, ‘ carnival’ derives from the Latin, carnem levare, to put away meat (OED, 1989: 906). It was celebrated on Shrove Tuesday, the day before the fast for Lent commenced as part of the lead up to Easter. It is therefore not surprising that deadlines are an element of these slash festivals.

Bakhtin posits a two-world condition, where a second world – that of the carnival – exists outside of officialdom (Bakhtin, 1984: 6). Carnival has its own time and space where this second life, the people’ s life, is organised on the basis of laughter (Bakhtin, 1984: 8). It is a space where there is no completion and the normal hierarchy is inverted. For Bakhtin, carnival is so divorced from everyday life that it constitutes a separate life. The carnivalesque crowd is so involved in participating in this carnival life, subject only to the ” laws of its own freedom” , that for the duration of the carnival ” there is no other life outside it” (Bakhtin, 1984: 7). Similarly, slash fans talk about ” having to get back to the real world” or having ” RL” (Real Life) intrude on their slash activities [15]. There is this sense that, when slash fans are engaged in the fannish activities within this imagined community, they are entering an idealised space. Fans can manipulate and play with the characters, creating a space that does not concede to the laws of patriarchal hegemony. This counters Bakhtin’ s fears of a gradual narrowing of carnival’ s regenerative power. Bakhtin suggests that this reduction is directly linked to carnival’ s separation from ” folk culture” and its ensuing domestication as ” part of the family’ s private life” (Bernstein, 1986: 113). Slash fans have created a carnival space on the Internet that is distinct from their everyday lives that are performed within patriarchal society thereby reinvigorating the regenerative power of the carnival.

By its very nature, carnival time is temporary: the carnival itself is transitory. It is a window of opportunity. For Bakhtin, carnival was ” the true feast of tim
e, the feast of becoming, change, and renewal. It was hostile to all that was immortalized and completed” (Bakhtin, 1973: 10). Slash fans enter into this imagined community as a means of subversive resistance, but they must always leave this carnivalesque space and re-engage with society. This is why slash is (re)written again and again.

One of the essential elements of carnival is that it is ” a pageant without footlights and without a division into performers and spectators” (Bakhtin, 1973: 122). Likewise, slash fandom has a large overlap between producers and consumers, its writers and readers (Jenkins, 1992: 159; Penley, 1991: 140). As slash fandom numbers increase, there is a growing number of fans who read slash but do not write it. Even when fans are not writing slash, they do participate in the discussion lists and by sending feedback to the writers.

Matt Hills has noted that fans have a complex, often contradictory, relationship with capitalism. While he is referring to fans in general, this also encompasses slash fandom (Hills, 2002: 27-45). Fans often purchase professional DVDs or videos of a series or film, and fan artwork is also sold for profit. They simultaneously object to the making of profit from the fiction. This is partially a pragmatic issue. Slash fiction is based on the work of others who hold copyright. There is a strongly held belief in fandom that, as fans are not making any money from their writing, it will significantly decrease the likelihood of being sued. There is also an idealisation that is at work here – that the fiction is apart from, if not above, the worldliness of capitalism. Carnival declined alongside the rise of capitalism. As capitalism is based upon the separation between consumer and producer, a separation that is greatly reduced in this fandom, it is hardly surprising that carnival and the carnivalesque are resurgent in slash fandom and its fiction.

For Bakhtin, the carnivalesque crowd in the marketplace is ” outside of and contrary to all existing forms of the coercive socioeconomic and political organization, which is suspended for the time of the festivity” (Bakhtin, 1984: 255). This exemplifies slash – both fiction and fandom. Slash fans have sufficient cultural capital, financial means and leisure time, to access the Internet to read and write slash. The carnival crowd of slash fans on the Internet, play with patriarchal social structures. Using laughter as a tool, slash denies the impenetrable masculine hero and the dominant paradigm of heterosexuality.

For Bakhtin, carnival laughter has a positive, regenerating force. He stresses that this laughter is not to be understood as trivial ribaldry, but that it has an ideological imperative, which is diametrically opposed to the ” one-sided tone of seriousness [that] is characteristic of official medieval culture” (Bakhtin, 1984: 73). This healing and regenerating laughter is directed toward changing of authorities and world orders (Bakhtin, 1973: 104). Laughter is an integral element of slash fandom. It critiques the performed heroic, stereotypical masculinity. It not only occurs in humorous and parodic pieces of fiction but it is also an intrinsic part of the discussion groups and the story disclaimers. These disclaimers acknowledge that copyright of the characters and universe belong elsewhere.[16] The fans usually admit to ‘ playing’ with the characters and deny making any profit from the stories. As Minx writes in her disclaimer for ” In the Shower” :

J. K. Rowling owns these delectable lads. And Quidditch. And the locker rooms… So why isn’ t she having more fun with them? (Minx [pseud.], 2003)

Sushi explicitly addresses the issue of being sued, using two reasons that are widely used by fans. These are that she neither has made any profit from her work, nor owns sufficient money to make suing her worthwhile:

Harry Potter and related characters, locations, objects, spells, and whatnot are the brilliant brainchildren of J.K. Rowling. She owns them. I only play with them. I receive no monetary compensation for my works. No harm meant. Please don’ t sue me, I haven’ t anything to give you anyway. (Sushi [pseud.], 2002)

Both these disclaimers reveal the nonofficial carnival laughter and sense of play. The first invokes the ancient ritual of mocking at the deity that survived in festive laughter (Bakhtin, 1984: 12). Here, J. K. Rowling the ‘ creator’ of the Harry Potter universe, is humorously rebuked for not having more fun with making her characters have sex in the Quidditch change rooms at Hogwarts. The second disclaimer incorporates the notion that writing slash is just harmless playing. This justification is frequently cited by fans, but others often regard slash as being socially dangerous.

This was highlighted on 13 January 2003, when ” Restricted Section” , a Harry Potter archive containing stories with high levels of violent and/or erotic content (both slash and heterosexual), received a ” Cease & Desist” letter from lawyers representing J.K. Rowling’ s Literary Agency and Warner Bros. This letter requested that the ” sexually explicit content of the fan fiction … which is plainly based on characters and other elements of the fictional world created by Ms Rowling in the Harry Potter books” be removed and cease to be made available on the Internet or by any other means. The primary reason was that ” impressionable children” could be directed to the site via Search Engines, and the warnings that those under eighteen years should not read the material, ” may well serve simply to entice teenagers” .[17] The site still exists on the Internet, but is no longer able to be tracked by Search Engines and the more graphic stories are password protected. Here, slash is an explicit site of hegemonic negotiation and struggle over meanings and where carnival can reclaim some of its vigour. This counters Peter Stallybrass and Allon White’ s argument that literary carnival lacks the social force that actual carnival may once have had, because it has been displaced from the public sphere into the private, bourgeois home (Willis, citing Stallybrass and White, 1989: 130).

Resistance in slash is not always unequivocal. Harry Potter slash is unusual in slash fandom in that it is based on books where the main protagonists are minors – Harry will have aged from eleven to seventeen years of age over the planned series, and will be turning fifteen in the upcoming book. Slash fandom does not impose societal restrictions in this issue – each fan makes a personal decision as to the age at which the protagonists engage in sexual activity. Some fans ensure that their story contains sufficient information that it is evident that the character, whether Harry, Ron or Draco, is at least 16 years old (the age of homosexual consent in Britain, where these books are set). Other fans do portray younger characters being sexually active. As underage sex is a volatile issue in our society, it is not surprising that this aspect is emphasised by journalists writing on Harry Potter slash.[18]

Discussing the relationship between slash fandom and authority raises an important distinction between slash and medieval carnival. The medieval carnival was condoned by the medieval church, which incorporated it into its religious calendar.[19] Slash is instigated by the fans, and was originally very much ” underground” in its nature. Slash became much more visible after Textual Poachers‘ release in 1992. This visibility increased dramatically when slash moved onto the Internet, bringing it to the attention of mainstream journalists and to readers who became slash fans solely through accessing the fiction via th
is medium. The majority of creative executives either ignore the fiction, or attempt to restrict it (albeit with limited success).

Even though carnival was incorporated into the medieval Church’ s calendar, which then dominated its activities while slash is instigated, subversively, by the fans, the outcome is similar. David Carroll critiques Bakhtin’ s theory of the carnivalesque on political grounds,

not only for being a naïve, utopic, aesthetic ideal, an idealistic model for social relations that is unrealizable outside of momentary, exceptional, predetermined conditions – that is, when the authorities allow it – but also for acquiescing to the power of the authorities and accepting the socio-political status quo and the few moments of freedom it parcels out. (Carroll, 1983:80-81)

The carnivalesque is idealistic in nature, but so too is slash fandom, with its textual poaching and its re-writing of masculinity. Like Bakhtin’ s carnival, slash exposes the arbitrariness of the social relations of power. Even though slash is unlike carnival in that it is not sanctioned by institutional authority, it still helps to preserve patriarchal hegemony by providing these fans an outlet, which thereby prevents insurrection at a societal level.

This is my primary concern regarding the nature of slash fandom and its fiction: while it provides pleasures and empowerment on a personal level, it does little in the way of greater societal change. I take heart from David Caroll’ s suggestion that this concern can be countered by recognising that carnival questions societal hierarchies and thereby exposes them as being both momentary and arbitrary (Carroll, 1983:80-81). Social institutions are naturalised historical formations. Both slash and carnival render these formations visible. Resistance need not be large-scale or highly public as identities and values are constantly subject to change. The carnivalesque nature of slash is enabling females to undertake a resistance against dominant norms. The tactics include reading, writing and discussing sexually explicit material that disrupts the normativity of heterosexuality and the impenetrable masculine hero. Further, these activities entail females using the Internet for their own purposes, using technology to create a space for themselves and for their pleasure.

Peter Stallybrass and Allon White question the transgressive potential of carnivalesque literature, suggesting that literary carnival does not possess the same social force that the actual carnival may have had (Stallybrass and White, 1986). They argue that, through being displaced from the public sphere to the home, carnival ceases to be a site of struggle. These theorists further suggest that ” only a challenge to the hierarchy of sites of discourse, which usually comes from groups and classes ‘ situated’ by the dominant in low or marginal positions, carries the promise of politically transformative power” (Stallybrass and White, 1986: 201). Power structures are always moving thereby ensuring that all politics are temporary. Margaret Wylie states categorically that ” the Internet is male territory” (1995: 3) while Dale Spender argues that ” men… are the dominating presence in cyberspace” (Spender, 1995: 166). Her supporting evidence includes a 1993 study of the newsgroup, alt.feminism, which revealed that men contributed 74% of the postings (Spender, 1995: 196). This is hardly surprising as the Internet-based communities perpetuate their origins.[20] However, slash enables the possibility of politically transformative power through its subversive presence in this masculine space.

Bakhtin mourns the passing of carnival and the carnivalesque, yet slash fandom on the Internet is a reinvigorated site of carnival. It is a subversive, imagined space that inverts the patriarchal hierarchy. Like Bakhtin’ s medieval carnival, this second life is transitory in nature, but it enables a personal sense of empowerment for the fans. This is reinforced by the carnivalesque nature of the fiction – the use of regenerative laughter, and relishing of coarse language in the destabilising and marginalising of heterosexuality, and its rewriting of masculinity. The increased number of fans occupying a manifest space greatly increases the political potential of slash as it enables a more visible and widespread identification.

The carnivalesque is a theoretical framework that captures the resistant nature of slash, enabling a new perspective of slash in the trajectory of an historical tradition. Slash fandom continues this carnival tradition through establishing a niche on the Internet. Both Internet slash fandom and carnival are participatory cultures that are subversive and transitory; both incorporate a sense of play and disguise. Bakhtin has shown us how to value this liberating energy of carnival. I have focused on a specific site, but believe that this paper paves the way for gaining a more complex understanding of other resistant sites on the Internet.

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Notes

1.Academic slash theorists have primarily analysed slash in terms of fan subcultures. See Patricia Lamb and Diana Veith (1986) ; Constance Penley (1991, 1992, 1997); Camille Bacon-Smith (1992); Henry Jenkins (1992).

2. Societal structures are in constant negotiation and movement, and there are increasing members of our society who lack the financial means and literacies of the middle class. Slash fans do possess the cultural capital of the middle class, with the result that class issues are not common tropes in the fiction. For a discussion of slash fandom accessing technology, see Constance Penley (1991), and Nat Muller (1998).

3. Female/female (f/f) slash is known by a variety of terms: femslash, femmeslash, alternative fiction, or alt.fic (primarily used in Xena: Warrior Princess slash fandom), and Shoujo-ai, shoujai, and yuri (terms primarily used in anime and manga fandoms to describe f/f romance fiction). For greater detail of these, and other fan terminology, see Laura M. Hale, Writer’ s University – Dictionary, <http://www.writersu.net/?link=dict&page=2> (18 May 2004). Harry Potter fan fiction archives dedicated solely to f/f slash, include Into Raspberry Swiiirl, <http://www27.brinkster.com/swiiirl/> (18 May 2004) and Girl’ s Dormitory <http://girlsdormitory.slashcity.net/> (18 May 2004). Madam Hooch’ s Broom Closet provides links to Harry Potter femslash stories posted on the Internet <http://www.constellography.org/mhbc/> (18 May 2004). Fan terminology is not static. Saffic, a term that has recently developed out of Girls’ -Own fandom, is fan fiction based upon strong female bonds. This fiction incorporates femslash and erotica but also includes non-sexualised stories (gen) based on relationships such as friendship, mother-daughter and sisters. See Saffic CommunityLiveJournal http://www.livejournal.com/userinfo.bml?user=saffic (18 May 2004). Slash theory has not yet analysed the differences between m/m and f/f slash, which is another avenue of slash that requires exploration.

4. For example, the character of Harry Potter has been paired with his peers (including Neville Longbottom and Draco Malfoy); several members of his parents’ generation (Remus Lupin, Sirius Black, Severus Snape, and Lucius Malfoy); all five of the male children of the Weasley family (in different stories), and even his enemy, Lord Voldemort.

5.Fanzines, often shortened to zines, are paper-based amateur magazines that are produced by fans. They may include fiction, artwork, and essays based on one, or more
, fandoms.

6. Constance Penley describes slash as a ” hybridized genre that ingeniously blends romance, pornography, and utopian science fiction” , while the title of Joanna Russ’ essay on the topic is ” Pornography by Women For Women, With Love” . Another slash theoretician, Henry Jenkins, describes slash as ” fan erotica” . See Penley (1991: 137); Russ (1985: 79), and Jenkins (1992: 186). Fan discussion on whether slash constitutes pornography or erotica is included in Green (1998: 382) and K.S. Boyd’ s Slash Research Project (Boyd, 2002: 62) Accessed 9 April 2002. Hard copy held.

7.An excellent example of the carnivalesque in Harry Potter slash is the work of Brenda Antrim, who wrote in this fandom under the pseudonym of Seeker. Her work can be found at Brenda Antrim’ s Fan Fiction Archive, available at http://www.bantrim.net/ Scroll down the page and click the ” Potterverse” link. See especially ” Personal Private Perfect” , ” Whoopee Cushion” and ” Little Wonder” .

8.Real Person Slash is fiction that places real people (such as the actors who play characters in a television show or movie) in same-sex sexualised roles in fictional events.

9. See Gary Saul Morson and Caryl Emerson (1990: 117).

10. See Tara Brabazon (2001) and Benedict Anderson (1983).

11.This is not the only reason for the pseudonyms. Slash writers can be concerned about family and work colleagues finding out about their activities, as many work in ‘ sensitive’ areas, such as teaching.

12. See ” Whoopee Cushion” by Seeker [pseud.]. The Severus Snape Fuh-Q Fest. Entry page is found at http://snapeff.e bonyx.org/ Follow the links via Title Index.

13.See ” Garden of Delight” by Demeter [pseud.]. The Severus Snape Fuh-Q Fest. http://snap eff.e bonyx.org/ Follow the links via Title Index.

14.See ” Fear of Flying” by Damiana [pseud.]. The Severus Snape Fuh-Q Fest. Entry page is found at http://snap eff.ebonyx. org/ Follow the links via Title Index.

15.This disjunction between ‘ fan’ space and ‘ mundane’ (non-fannish) everyday life has existed since pre-Internet days and been carried across onto Net fandom.

16. In relation to Harry Potter slash, the copyright owners are J.K. Rowling and Warner Bros.

17.A copy of this letter, with personal identification details disguised, is available at http://www.restrictedsect ion.o rg/gfx/TheLetter.jpg, accessed 15 January 2003.

[18] See Jon Casimir’ s ” For the Love of…” on smh.com.au, 1 November 2002, available at http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2002/11/01/1036027033529.html, accessed 28 May 2004. Also, Annabel House’s ” Web of Fantasy Turns the Boy Wizard Blue” , in Scotland on Sunday, 5 January 2003, available at http:// news.scotsman.com/ index.cfm?id=13492003, accessed 28 May 2004.

19. ” All these forms of carnival were also linked externally to the feasts of the church” (Bakhtin 1984: 8).

20. See Tara Brabazon (2001) for a cogent discussion on the false binary between real and virtual communities.

 

An earlier version of this paper was delivered at “Alchemies: Community exChanges”, the 7th Annual Humanities Graduate Research Conference held at Curtin University of Technology on 6 & & November, 2003. The author would like to thank the attendees of that panel, Assoc Professor Tara Brabazon, and the blind referees for their input and suggestions that have helped improve this paper.

Author Biography

Rachel Shave is a doctoral candidate in the School of Media, Communication and Culture at Murdoch University in Perth, WA. She currently undertakes the position of both Conferences, Seminars & Talks Facilitator and Body Hub Convenor for the Popular Culture Collective. Rachel presently has articles accepted for two forthcoming books: “A Seychelles Rhythm” in Liverpool of the South, edited by Tara Brabazon and due for release in November 2004, and “Crotch Shot! Rewind!!” in The Slash Reader, edited by Chris Bichler and Mary Ellen Curtin. Rachel may be contacted at either r.shave@murdoch.edu.au or rachel.shave@ popularculture collective.com