Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Space Junk

There are things in the Big Black scarier than Reavers.

Three words. Real. Person. Slash.

One day, not so long ago, I’m floating through the space junk of the big ol’ fanfic ‘verse, looking, as always, for the elusive grail – a decent Mal/Simon where I’ll still believe its them even once the pants come off and I find this…

“Finally he half-heartedly asks Nathan to please stop, we're at work, dammit, but Nathan just smirks and pushes Sean against a wall.”

“Hmmm…” I think, “…new characters in the Whedonverse…?” So I read on. More fool I. By the time I’ve got to the end of the scenario I need to go and have a shower. Not because I’m all hot under the collar but because I want to scrub with a wirebrush in the hope that the last five minutes might wash away down the drain.

It’s true. I could have just flicked off the page as soon as I realised what was really going on, but these things are like watching a train wreck or picking a scab. It hurts, you want to turn away, but no, too late she cried.

This is a FUBAR little subculture. Not satisfied with having the Captain hump whatever’s standing/lying/kneeling still long enough on board ship; they’ve got the nice bloke that plays him at it too.

Sure, an actor’s public identity is as fictional as the characters they play – and the shipping that’s going on here is with these fictional personas – the Nathan or Sean or Alan as entity in someone’s head. So why am I so disturbed?

Because it does feel like I’m in someone’s head. Slashers, shippers and fanficers generally, listen up – I have my own grubby little fantasies – I got no business sharing yours.

Slash, the conventional kind, is about a shared universe and a shared canon. It’s the big what if? It’s the resolution of sexual tension, real or imagined or just slightly hinted at. It’s taking our heroes where no man has gone before.

Slash pushes the boundaries of character and let’s writers and readers identify with, control, contort these characters. And it’s all about voice. It has to sound like Mal, or Simon or Avon or Blake or Harry for that matter and gorramit if real person slash just can’t do that. Doesn’t want to do that. Is doing something altogether different.

Now there ain’t nothing wrong with folks having their fun…even if that fun is gay sex scenarios between the imagined avatars of real people…but why in the name of all that’s good and clean and right would anyone else want to read it?

Terentius once said “I am human. Nothing human is alien to me.” I know this because I now have it printed on a t-shirt. Even Reavers were human once…but none of this makes it any more right.

Out here in space, I often feel like no one can hear me scream, but I’ve found my place to stand. Real Person Slash is my line in the sand and damned if I’ll step over it.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Hack and Slash

It takes a couple of things to make good slash: people you might want to see naked; sex scenes that don't sound like mediocre porn; a pre-existing relationship generally of a non-sexual nature and realism. I want realism in my slash. I want to believe that these two characters could actually have been harbouring secret desires to investigate the insides of one another’s pants and I want to believe in them while I'm reading the resulting fun.

But it can only happen if there's a hint, just the tiniest hint of it there in the cannon.

And that's why I'm not buying all the Firefly slash I've had a mind to read. And I'm all kinds of raw about it.

Now like any normal person, I want to get Captain Mal's suspenders off him. I just don't believe that Simon, or Jayne or (god-forbid!!) Wash, does. I don't believe the great big mercenary with a penchant for seedy whores is actually hiding a secret desire for some tight little Captain ass. I don't believe that Simon is actually a simpering queen who clearly couldn't get it together with Kaylee only because he was actually warming Mal's bunk most nights. And I don't believe, not anywhere in the gorram 'verse, that Wash would rather be banging the Captain than Zoe.

And this is a very great pity, because I certainly don't want to be reading any of that Hetfic that pretends to be slash either.

The delight of slash is the fact that it’s inside the cannon and outside it at the same time. So why wasn’t Joss Whedon, one of the few people out there making TV who actually acknowledges the slashiness of some of his scenarios, able to inject that into Firefly?

It should work; there's even a bit of set-up - Mal looks distinctly uncomfortable when in Heart of Gold, Nandi asks him if he's "sly" and would maybe prefer one of her boy-whores - I'm happy to read this as coming-out angst - but not when its immediately followed by prolonged heterosexual activity of a very unslashy (and frankly out of character) nature. Joss, I love the Captain, but what were you thinking?

Maybe I’m being unfair blaming Joss for this problem. He’s made a good job of the set-up. Mal only “leans towards womenfolk.” Simon, with his girl-pretty face and long-lashes is a classic bottom and let’s face it brawny and bad-facial hair Jayne could have walked straight out of nasty 70’s porn.

So why can’t any of the many slashers I’ve been trying get it right? The characters often sound right and while they still have their clothes on, they respond right or at least up till the point when their eyes mist with passion and they start fumbling with one another’s gun belts. Leave the belt on Mal, leave the gorram gun on.

To illustrate, “Shuddering with desire, certain he must be dreaming without knowing it, Simon whispers, "Yesss." The word is barely out of his mouth when Mal lunges in for a vicious kiss. As he plunders Simon's pliant lips, he slides a leg between Simon's and grinds it against…” …you get the idea…

And it’s not just the adjectives I’ve got a problem with here…I just don’t believe it. And I don’t believe it because over and over again it’s the same scenario with only the tiniest of character set-up to justify a couple of pages of gay humping where the banging bodies could be anyone’s.

To all the Firefly slash writers out there guilty of these crimes against character – bloody stop it now! Dong ma?

I want a scenario I can believe. I want Mal heart sore and truthsome finding some comfort in a buddies arms, or just a little too drunk on U-Day to make it back to his own bunk. And I’m sorry, but Joss, you didn’t give us that buddy and so far my researches have found no re-working of Jayne or Simon or Wash by any well-meaning Firefly slasher that’s been able to make that happen.

And slash generally only works if our lovers are buddies or well-matched rivals. So in other fandoms – Blake/Avon, or Harry/Malfoy or for something a little more vanilla, Kirk/Spock.

I’m petulant. I’m upset. I want my slash and I want it now.