Another troll popped up on an LOTR community the other day to announce in all caps that she HATED SLASH and that all writers of it were PATHETIC and were not TRUE TOLKIEN FANS. This is nothing new; there's a deep anti-slash feeling in lots of fans, and it invariably sparks a big debate when someone decides to yell about it. (Not that the LOTR community in question was discussing slash, mind you, until this troll appeared. Like good Tolkien fans we had been discussing the plot, the movies, the characters, the tie-in merchandising, etc.)
I don't count myself a slash writer, but I've read enough of it, and I've written enough about slash, that I wanted to take this space to say something in its defense. I know I sort of made fun of LOTR slash just a few months ago on this very journal, but I've softened on it since then. It's the sort of thing you can get used to, even if you do make fun of it. And that's just it: it's FUN. Slash is for fun. Even the angsty slash is fun, as far as I can tell.
Here's the basic argument: people love these books and these characters, but unfortunately Tolkien is dead and cannot write any further of the Fellowship's adventures. We'd all like to see more adventures anyway. And, ideally, these adventures should be interesting and should bring us pleasure. This is the point at which the slashers and the anti-slashers part ways: the slashers think that pleasure can include sex; the anti-slashers think sex should be off limits.
I think there's enough sadness and pain in the books already. We all had to dab away tears when reading "The Choices of Master Samwise," and though most of the characters live to see the end of the trilogy, there's still a great deal of poignancy, in Frodo departing for the Grey Havens, the Fellowship getting scattered all over the map, Elves still dwindling in population and some of them (like Arwen) giving up their immortality... So if I can laugh when reading these further adventures that the fanfic writers come up with, I'd be much obliged. And like it or not, sex is inherently pleasurable, and thus is rich material for comedy. Or at least fluff. Is it so wrong to grant our dearest characters a few paragraphs of lighthearted bodice-ripping? (Breeches-ripping, I guess, in this case.)
Now, if you don't want to think about the characters that way, fine, don't read it. I don't read the Gandalf slash stories or the Gimli/Legolas ones or the incest ones (Faramir/Boromir, anyone?) because those ideas don't appeal to me. But I'd never claim that these writers weren't "true Tolkien fans."
Let's pick apart the claims of the anti-slashers:
Claim #1: "This isn't what Tolkien intended! The characters aren't gay!"
True. But: a) the slash writers know that (they usually put disclaimers on top saying that very thing, often with an apology), and b) how many times can I say this? It doesn't matter what the author intended. Even as a novelist myself I believe this. But it's a long topic, and one for another day, perhaps. Just know: once your work is out there, how it grows in the minds of your fans is none of your business. If they stalk you, that's another question. If the slashers are sending their stories to Tolkien's descendants and insisting that they "admit" that this is really how the characters behaved, then yes, that's demented. But 99.9% of slash writers, I bet, are not doing that.
Claim #2: "All you people think about is sex, sex, sex!"
Actually, a surprising number of slash stories are rated G or PG, and never get beyond hand-holding and flirty words. Seems more to be about love--though I realize that's a cheesy thing to say. Granted, there's a category they call "Porn Without Plot," so once in a while this claim is true. Is that a crime? Similarly, is it a crime to admit that some of the actors in the movie are, in fact, hot, and to employ their good looks in a story? Does that detract from Tolkien's genius in some way? Hardly.
Claim #3: "You're not true Tolkien fans if you write or read this!"
Please. I'm so sick of the fan snobbery in EVERY pop culture arena. Like we don't get this kind of thing enough from indie-record-store clerks. If you think you're a fan, you're a fan. Quit worrying about whether your neighbor's a fan and get a life.
Claim #4: "It's pathetic to use someone else's characters. Make up your own!"
This is actually the main reason I'd feel silly to write fanfic. It IS harder (and thus more respectable) to make up your own characters. But how do we know the slashers don't have fabulous novels among their computer files? How do we know they DON'T write their own stuff? Thing about slash is, people want to read about these pre-established characters, so the writers are answering this call. From what I've heard, the feedback is tremendous and probably very flattering. It's very difficult to get someone's attention when your work is entirely original. With an LOTR-based fan fiction, you have a ready-made audience. Fanfic writers are not getting paid for this, remember--they legally cannot get paid for this, in fact. Meanwhile, every day, hundreds of mediocre TV scriptwriters are getting paid, quite a lot of money, to take pre-established characters and feed them lines. And as someone pointed out in the LJ debate, Peter Jackson himself had to adapt Tolkien's material and work with pre-established characters. Does that make him pathetic? Aren't we all rather glad he took the trouble?
They have other claims, but those are the most commonly cited ones. In the future, I suggest we ignore trolls of any type, though especially on this topic. 'Tis getting quite old.
Now, move along and continue undressing Legolas. It's your constitutional right.