Slash and burn: When geeks get sexy

I had the fortune/misfortune in high school to be half-geek/half-popular. Where I'm from, it's the popular kids who are sexy (read: "sexual," but I didn't know that then) and the geeks who are, well, gamers. That is, while the cool kids were out drinking and fighting and having sex, the geeks were taking part in role-playing games and reading Anne Rice/"Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy"/graphic novels. Which is not to say that these "geeks" weren't also drinking and fighting and having sex, they were just doing all that stuff while engaging in a rich fantasy life and, when time permitted, academic studies. These are the people who created and populated the world of "Slash," or "/" : a subculture of fan fiction, or "Fan Fic" -- stories written by fans.

For those of you who have extensively browsed the Internet but somehow missed this genre, it's a subculture of its own. It's both geeky and sexy, and sometimes very smart, and more than occasionally X-rated. "Slash" was derived from the slash mark used in referring to a story involving two characters -- like "Kirk/Spock" -- and is usually subdivided into sections according to the characters involved. Slash is written with characters from well-known television shows or movies that have a cult following, ranging from the notoriously fanatical and geeky tribes of "Star Trek" (all offshoots, all eras) to the conspiracy-touting "X-philes" (as they often refer to themselves) to culty, dykey Xena, to the shiny, wholesome "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." I've seen slash for the Cure, "Smokey and the Bandit," Laverne and Shirley, the Backstreet Boys, "The Odd Couple" and the long-canceled Saturday-morning cartoon "The Real Ghostbusters."

Slash stories are, by definition, gay. Although I'm sure there are exceptions I'm unaware of, the characters are rarely, if ever, coupled romantically or even favorably on the actual show or movie. If the stories are about a het couple, they fall into the Fan Fic category. For example, in the Mulder/Scully Romance category (referred to as MSR -- these fans abbreviate everything!), there are hundreds of stories about the two getting it on in their own terse, dramatic way. But not in Slash. There, you might read about Scully and Xena the Warrior Princess devouring each other hungrily, in a story-type known as "crossover" Slash (which spans shows, networks and decades). A hugely popular archive involves the psychologically dependent Mulder/Krycek Romance, which, like some Slash, incorporates one of the characters getting hurt (emotionally, physically, sexually) while the other offers comfort. Another common theme is sex as a method of revenge, or as gratification with ulterior motives. Did I mention that Slash is written almost exclusively by women?

This genre takes itself VERY seriously. It's kind of the trashy/queer-romance-novel quadrant of the geek-fiction galaxy, and there are hundreds of websites. There is a story for every kink, a fable for every double entendre uttered on the real show, and several endings for every cliff hanger.

Some Slash goes over the top, like one Mulder/Skinner/Krycek novel. Here is an excerpt from a love scene that seems to have culminated in Mulder's pregnancy:

"Walter stood silently watching `Fox`. Admiring the well-toned body from the perfect round buttocks to the long legs capped by well-proportioned feet. The dusky-rose nipples looked darker today and stood out more pronounced against the tan flesh of Fox's chest. Delicious. Walter was longing to take them into his mouth. ... Fox and Alex both preferred sunbathing in the nude. Neither man had any shame over displaying their bodies openly on the private portion of beach they shared with their friends. He only hoped that Fox wouldn't start becoming self-conscious about his appearance, as his body started to show his pregnancy more and more. 'Are you just going to stand there staring all day?' Mulder's voice teased" (by JO B., at

Why are the overwhelming majority of Slash writers women (or masquerading as women)? And why are they writing stories about gay men? I think the answer lies in the complexity of the characters' relationships. Maybe it's a chance for these fans/writers to step out of the bounds of their "normal" heterosexual lives and into one that subverts the formula of aggressive male/passive female, recognizable in most television writing. Or perhaps it's just a way for fans to "play" with their favorite characters in roles that haven't had the life sucked out of them by mass media.

Plus, although in my opinion the best lines in most TV and movies are given to men, those characters are often stilted in their emotional/sexual expression. But Slash writers have imagined a more passionate world.

If you are interested in reading more Slash, research various search engines for Slash archives, throwing in the titles to your favorite shows. Obviously you are supposed to be over the age of consent to visit these (free) sites. If you are interested in writing Slash for fun (not profit), a great site is Minotaur's Sex Tips for Slash Writers. And these sites were invaluable (entertaining) while researching this story:,,, and