Mama Deb (mamadeb) wrote,
Mama Deb

The Tipping Point

Wonderful, wonderful book, The Tipping Point. Full of a fascinating and somewhat out of the box way of looking at *small* turning points that sometimes have big effects. I think jorit would especially enjoy the long chapter on "Stickiness" that features a discussion about Sesame Street and Blue's Clues. Basically, how do you make educational television "stick". Answer - engage the child's attention, provide means of interaction, give the child a chance to actually *think*, and then *repeat* *repeat* *repeat*. And this is why Blue's Clues is so successful. It bores adults, but who cares about adults? :) (And honestly, I will watch an episode here and there, although not five the same for a week.)

But, this book got me to thinking. Seriously. About The Tipping Point in Slash Fic. Because I think there was one. I think that one day, fanfic in general, and slash fic in particular, was something most people had barely heard about, if at all, and fanfic writers were a relatively small group of women and men, with slash a smaller and even more skewed female, group within that.

And the next day, there were overflowing archives and insanely active mailing lists all over the web, and any series, any book, any movie - any*thing* - had its writers, and slash grew from a tiny cult within a cult to a major and *accepted* faction.

And I believe that the Tipping Point was The Phantom Menace. This is not the *origin* point, nor is it necessarily the most *important* point, but it is when it became epidemic. And it was a matter of timing, context and *people*.

During the decade prior to the release of TPM, things changed in the fanfic world. The advent of first the Net and then the Web made it possible to distribute fanfic and connect with other fanfic readers and writers in a way previously unknown - until then, fen communicated by paper mail, and face to face at infrequent conventions. Now there was near-instantaneous communication available without needing to travel. This certainly produced an increase in the numbers of both fen and in their output, but not enough to take them out of the backwater.

At the same time, new sources appeared. By this, I mean television series that by their nature were conducive to fanfic, either because of the strength of the main characters or because of the setting.

Perhaps the best such source was The X-Files. Mulder and Scully are complex and layered characters with one of the most intense relationships I personally have seen, in a rather tantalizing universe that seems wide open for a million different plots and conspiracies. It was *made* for fanfic. And it even provided alternates to the main m/f pairing to make the slash writers happy. And the writers responded. And yet, despite Gossamer and the other archives, it was still quiet.

XF may have been the largest, but it was not the only one. I personally came in through Voyager, while fanfic led me to XF and The Sentinel. And I watched the peculiar tipping point of Highlander - prior to the two part Horseman episode, slash in Highlander was rare. I think there were five, maybe six stories. After Horseman, it became hard to find anything but slash.

The fanfic/slash communities had taken advantage of the resources given by the Web - websites, free and otherwise for both personal and archival use, web-based listservs for mailing lists and internet relay chats - to build themselves beyond the simple exchange of stories. Not surprisingly, some writers developed followings - fans of their own - who follow them from fandom to fandom. Lists were proliferating, articles were being written in web and print based magazines - it was starting to come to outside attention.

And then, at that moment, came TPM. People both in and out of fandom had been anticipating this movie for decades. It wasn't a great movie, but there was *something* between the two highly attractive male leads (Liam....)and one moment that was so sexually charged between them that people who had *never* seen homosexual subtext before suddenly saw it.

I was not part of this - TPM never inpsired me to write, I'd seen subtext as a teenager and I was already heavily involved in the fanfic/slash community. But I watched it happen. I saw a huge influx of new slash fans. I saw big name writers leave their primary fandoms - usually TS or XF - en masse and take their followings with them, and create more. It happened fast and it happened big.

And the new slash fans discovered that subtext was *everywhere* because once you see it, you *see* it. And they started looking everywhere. And they didn't know slash was a secret. They didn't know it was something special for a select group of people. They thought it was *cool*.

TPM ran its course, leaving all these new fanfic and slash fans looking for other things. Some found their ways to TS and DS and other established fandoms. Others decided to use this new coolness on movies and books and even boybands and reality series, helped by messageboard sites like It's become easier to post fic, especially works in progress - and nothing gets feedback, the currency of fanfic, like works in progress.

Fanfic in general, and slash in particular, has gotten out. We can't put it back in.

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