The Shock of Slash Fiction

In the last few years, fanfiction has become a controversial topic. It seems to be everywhere, thanks to the internet and publishing sensations such as Harry Potter, Twilight and Game of Thrones. The reaction from the original authors has been mixed, but it is fair to say that the general attitude to fanfiction is derision.

The authors are seen as slightly deranged uber fans who aren’t proper writers because they are using characters that were created by someone else, geeky loners who obsess over other people’s work. This obviously conveniently forgets that many eminent authors have adapted the stories of others, and in fact this happens in the film industry so often that there are separate award categories for adaptations. For now, though, this is neither here nor there. What I want to talk about today though is slash fiction.

Initially I confused this with serial killers and got quite excited. I’ve got a bit of a weakness for crime writing, so I was a touch disappointed to learn that this is when fanfiction goes to a (usually homo) sexual level. It’s seen as even more bizarre than PG fanfiction, and Caitlin Moran recently caused a furore when she persuaded Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman to read out a bit of slash fiction composed around the characters of Sherlock and John Watson at the BFI screening of the new series. I think it was supposed to be a joke, although it does rather smack of a ‘proper’ writer mocking someone who isn’t a ‘proper’ writer. This upsets me a bit as I’ve always loved Caitlin Moran, and got the impression that she would be an enthusiastic champion of artistic expression. However.

I have to say that I don’t really understand what all the fuss is about. Sexual fantasies about characters in books and films are normal, indeed even encouraged. Why else are sexy men and women prevalent in film and television? To me it is just an extension of those crushes, and why not? It hurts nobody, because it’s entirely based within the realms of fiction.

Of course slash fiction does stray into the world of real people, and to me that is when it becomes a problem. Let’s take the example of Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson from One Direction. I think that fantasising about the two of them together, two real people trying to live normal-ish lives among the mass of media furore that follows them, is an evasion of privacy.

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Despite the fact that Sherlock Holmes and John Watson are played by real people, the fiction is about their characters not them. I can’t imagine that being aware it exists would cause too much trouble, given that actors are used to dwelling in a world of fiction anyway. Similarly, I’ve not yet come across an instance where slash fiction has been detrimental to the author that originally created the characters.

However, in the case of the One Direction boys, these wonderings don’t just remain fictitious. Fans scour through their interviews searching for evidence to support their hypothesis. To me this is a bit of an invasion, although it must be said that privacy seems to be a human right One Direction somehow gave up when they decided to launch a career. It also seems to be an extremely bizarre way to spend your time. When I was that age, I didn’t fantasise about PJ and Duncan being together, I fantasised about them being with me! I don’t really understand what has changed in the minds of teenage girls since then.

Basically, fictitious people – who cares? Non-fictitious people – not very nice. And as a general point, I see the slur on fanfiction as nothing but snobbery, no different from the people who sneer at adults reading Harry Potter because they are children’s books. And trust me, you don’t want to get me started on that topic!

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