Star Trek, a science fiction television series, aired on NBC from September 1966 to June 1969. After cancellation, it was broadcast in syndication and the fan base formed during the original airing continued to grow. Six feature films were produced between 1979 and 1991. The original Star Trek inspired four spin-off series, featuring new characters and settings within the same fictional universe: • Star Trek: The Next Generation (seven television seasons, 1987-1994; four feature films, 1994-2002) • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (seven television seasons, 1993-1999) • Star Trek: Voyager (seven television seasons, 1995-2001) • Star Trek: Enterprise (four television seasons, 2001-2005) A “reboot” series of feature films with releases in 2009, 2013, and 2016 brought the original series characters back to the screen, played by contemporary actors. The first reboot film introduced a time-traveling adversary whose actions caused history to be changed, thus providing a clean slate for a new set of adventures.
“Fan fiction” is a genre of writing in which fans of a television show, film, or other media property write their own stories featuring the characters of the fictional universe. Fan fiction is viewed by some as a violation of copyright, and by others as a transformative work which does not infringe on the original. Fan fiction has its roots in storytelling practices going back to antiquity, such as the tellings and re-tellings of the King Arthur legend. Fan fiction as a contemporary phenomenon emerged in the 1970s, as a small minority of fans – virtually all women – began to write and exchange their own Star Trek stories. An unusual element for that time was that many of the stories featured a same-sex couple: James T. Kirk, captain of the starship Enterprise, and his executive officer, Commander Spock. Many of the stories were sexually explicit. (The characters were depicted as heterosexual and unattached in the television episodes.) Stories about Kirk and Spock as romantic partners, whether sexually explicit or not, were labeled “K/S” and the forward slash separating their initials gave rise to the term “slash” as a name for fanfiction about two male characters in a romantic relationship. Relationships between two male characters became the premise underlying fiction in many other fandoms as well, continuing up to the present day. The (far less numerous) stories about relationships between two female characters are usually called “femslash.” Stories about heterosexual relationships are sometimes referred to as “het,” while stories with no romantic or sexual content are often called “gen,” short for general or general audience. In many fan circles there is an expectation that gen stories should be appropriate for younger readers, so that excessive violence is either avoided or noted in reader warnings. Much has been written, both in scholarly circles and in fans’ discussion forums, about the significance of slash fiction. In the first several decades of slash writing, the male characters in a relationship were almost never depicted as actually being homosexual – a trope sometimes known as “We’re not gay, we just love each other.” As gay liberation has progressed in North America, it has become common for characters in a ‘slash’ relationship to be depicted as openly gay or bisexual. A related trope is “I’m only gay for you,” about situations where a straight male character falls in love with a gay character, despite his orientation, thanks to their strong sexual or romantic chemistry. Despite its emphasis on intimacy between men, slash is generally perceived to be quite distinct from gay fiction – that is, stories written for a gay male audience. The writers and readers of slash fiction are almost entirely female, while the writers and readers of mainstream gay male fiction are predominantly male. Slash is frequently concerned with the emotional aspects of a relationship. Since female characters in film and television are often subordinate in some way to the male characters, some readers have expressed appreciation for slash, with its intimacy between two strong male characters, as a depiction of love between equals. It has also been argued that, despite the focus on male characters, slash is a form of erotica written by women for women, and can therefore be considered feminist in nature.