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Slash fiction is a genre of fan fiction which focuses on relationships, ranging from relatively tame stories in which characters hold hands and kiss to extremely explicit fiction which leaves little to the imagination. Like other forms of fan fiction, it uses characters and concepts from books, films, and television shows, although it may be wildly divergent from the original source material. Many fan fiction sites have separate areas for slash, which is typically rated so that readers can know what kind of material to expect.
Because slash fiction uses characters created by someone else, it is subject to the same legal issues that fan fiction struggles with. Some authors are very supportive of fan fiction, since they greatly enjoy seeing what other people do with their characters. Others, however, are opposed to fan fiction and especially slash fiction, because they believe that it corrupts their original intent or work. This is particularly the case with explicit fiction, which may include controversial topics such as non-consensual sexuality, BDSM, or underage sexuality.
The origins of this fiction stretch back to at least the 1970s, when Star Trek fans first began writing erotic fiction about the characters in the television series. Much of this fiction was homoerotic in nature, and it often featured the pairing of Captain Kirk and Spock, usually abbreviated as Kirk/Spock. For quite some time, people thought of slash as specifically homosexual, although heterosexual, lesbian, intersex, and polyamorous relationships also appear. Lesbian slash fiction is sometimes called “femmeslash.”
The “slash” in slash fiction refers to the forward slash used to identify a relationship between two characters, such as Ron/Hermione, in a popular so-called canon pairing which often appears in Harry Potter fan fiction. “Canon” refers to fiction that closely follows the facts established in the original series, while non-canon fiction introduces unlikely concepts, characters, or situations. Some authors try to stick with canon, while others prefer to be more adventurous.
Many people think of slash fiction as a harmless diversion, although it may put beloved or familiar characters in shocking situations. Others are uncomfortable with some of the darker aspects of slash, especially fiction that glorifies acts of questionable legality, such as underage sex. Some people call fiction with underage sex “chanslash,” in a reference to “chan,” a Japanese diminutive. Some authors who are supportive of fan fiction do draw the line at chanslash, because it conflicts with their personal morals.
Just a quick note; here slash is described as any romantic pairing, however this is untrue. The proper term for a romantic pairing is actually 'shipping', e.g. you ship Doctor/Rose on Doctor Who. As a person who is a member of many fandoms, I can safely say that 'slash fiction' refers almost exclusively to homosexual relationships (like John/Sherlock).
So while shipping is the general term for when someone is a fan of a relationship, slash fiction is merely a subdivision of the shipping which refers to homosexual pairings.
Also, another concept which has come into popularity as of late is the assignment of names which represent a particular pairing. These names are usually abbreviations or combined versions of the names of the characters in question. For example, fans of the television show Supernatural who ship Dean/Castiel have taken to calling the relationship 'Destiel', which combines the two names.
Slash fan fiction has been disapproved of by more than just the original creator of the characters being paired together; due to the rampant popularity of celebrities, slash fiction of actual people has become a hobby for some fans. An internet search can bring up Nsync slash fiction, for example, which pairs the actual members of the boy band in homosexual relationships in the same way that one would pair fictional characters. Due to the often explicit nature of the stories, some celebrities have specifically requested that fan fiction and slash fiction not be written about them.
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