by Sherwood Smith
No, not tallship goodness.
By shipping, I mean writing relationships as fan fiction.
I also notice in exploring it that by far the greatest percentage of new terms has arisen out of the powerfully organized fanfiction network. (I don’t say community only because there are so many communities, in fact, there are distinct communities in Harry Potter fanfiction alone.) Gone are the days when definitions of fan terms took up about two sheets of mimeo, most of them being inside jokes like “crottled greeps” and so forth, plus a smattering of Heinleinian terms.
That aside, I was part of the groundswell entering fandom in the mid-sixties. So many of us baby-boomers were Tolkien fans, making a sidestep into Dune, Heinlein, and Georgette Heyer (there was an issue of Niekas devoted to Heyer—mine is crumbling, but I still have it, and wow is it…just sixties) and Star Trek. Some liked two out of the three, some only liked one, others veered off into other directions, following TV shows like The Prisoner, Man from UNCLE and Here Come the Brides (see Barbara Hambly’s Ishmael.)
Anyway, I was around for the fanfiction explosion, which made an exponential leap when slash hit the scene.
It seemed odd to me at the time that most of the fanfiction writers were women. I knew very few men who read or wrote it. I could get het guys not buying the slash, but what about other fanfic?
When I thought clear back to junior high, and some of the girls at school writing stories about the Beatles (Mary Sueing themselves into marriage with Paul, or imagining what stars the Beatles would fall in love with) I realized there was “something” going on with this whole shipping thing. Is there a hindbrain urge here that has us playing out possible relationship scenarios through storylines? Or is it the changing mores of the times that inspired us to play around with cultural scenarios that had nothing to do with the hypocritical-seeming “Don’t do what I do, do what I say” thing so many of us were raised with? I mean, in 1969, we still had skirt checks at school—but the minute the vice principal was out of sight, we rolled our skirts right back up.
So I ask you, do guys ship? If not, why not? I want to know why it seems to be more fun for females to imagine relationships between characters, while guys . . . don’t. If any of you guys ever wrote fanfic, was it all rockets and fists, or what? Or is the guy version of shipping playing out being a tough guy with unlimited weapons and a horde of orcs/Klingons/aliens/bad guys to fight/shoot/burn down? Give me some insight here!