“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.
This collection includes fan fiction zines from many different fictional universes, including slash, het, and gen stories. Most contain stories from only one fictional universe within the covers of a single volume. Those with stories from multiple universes are called “multimedia zines” (series 13 of this finding aid.) In this context, multimedia does not refer to the use of music or images, only to the multiple media properties which have inspired the fiction in a single publication.