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Slash fiction

Slash fiction is fan fiction, describing homosexual pairings between media characters, often in explicit detail, and very frequently outside the canon of the source. The name arises from the use of the "/" character in phrases such as "Kirk/Spock" to describe the stories. ("Kirk/Spock" is widely thought to be the first type of slash fiction, first appearing in the 1970s in feminist fanzines.)

Although such descriptions (eg "Kirk/Uhura") are also used to describe heterosexual relationship fiction, the term "slash" is exclusively reserved for homosexual pairings (het or gen being commonly used for similar heterosexual speculations). Indeed, the exact definition of the term has often been hotly debated within the various slash fandoms. The strictest definition holds that only stories about relationships between two male partners ("M/M") are "slash"; this has led to the evolution of the term "femslash" to describe lesbian ("F/F") fiction. The recent appearance of openly gay characters on screen, notably Willow and Tara in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the characters in the Queer as Folk[?] series, has muddied the waters further. Some hold that the term "slash" only applies when the relationship being written about is not part of the source's canon, and that fan fiction about canonical homosexual relationships is hence not slash. However, abiding by this definition leaves such stories without a convenient label, so this distinction has not been widely adopted.

Many fan fiction aficionados find slash unpleasant for one reason or another (the chief ones being that they do not wish to read about homosexuality, or simply that they consider the stories to be too far out of character), and so it is considered highly impolite to publish slash fiction without giving readers fair warning of the explicit homosexual content within (sometimes including detailed warnings of the exact sort of sexual activity undertaken by the characters, if it is a long way out of the ordinary); the general attitude, however, is that once the warning has been given, anything goes, and readers who complain that they found a story with clear warnings offensive are generally derided. However, some forms of slash have proved particularly controversial; in particular, slash involving underage characters (such as Harry Potter) or real people (often the members of boy bands) are considered distasteful by many who otherwise find nothing to object to in slash. Again, though, the general attitude is that those who do not wish to read a certain story, do not have to. It should be noted that in the case of stories involving real people the legal issues involved are rather more complex than usual in fan fiction.

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