Wednesday, March 30, 2011


In /Trek, once Penley begins to get in to the actual details of the production of slash fiction fanzines, the description at first seems to be a revelatory peek into a seemingly unspoiled world. The do-it-yourself attitude and production values are described not as amateurism, but a sort of deliberate subversion of a cultural item that has fixated these people. From behind the rosy picture she paints of these fans’ efforts, one statement began to trouble me: “The fandom has achieved a certain vertical integration-control over every aspect of production, distribution and consumption- that the trust-busted film industry could only dream about.” (105) It troubled me not only in its use of vertical integration to describe the process, a phenomena which can lead to stagnation in a creative industry, but also the connection to the film industry. It seems like the entire benefit of these organizations is their direct opposition to the film industry. It is an industry that, over the last decade especially, has proven to the public time and time again how little it values any actual viewer, in favor of valuing the money they feed in to the industry. Oddly enough, sci fi has been both a beneficiary and a casualty of this attitude, as evidenced by the rise in popularity followed by the subsequent overexposure/beating of a dead horse of the super hero blockbuster. As a popular genre, Sci-fi is particularly susceptible to the abuse and exploitation we saw with the super hero film. Of course, the fact that the industry is the consumers in this case mitigates that. Penley also mentions that some deliberately lessened production values and distribution methods move towards, if not explicitly trying to distance oneself from the industry, then at least trying to keep to their roots. And the fact that it is not only pornographic, but pornographic for a very specific audience, seems to also mitigate avenues for exploitation. But is this enough?

Penley focuses for a long time on the role of technology in preserving the seemingly unspoilt nature of slash fiction. The writers themselves seem to think that keeping production values low will both cut down costs, but also save themselves from an erosion of their community at the hands of technology. To me, it seems like the erosion comes not from the technology, but from the organization itself. In describing the methods of the Professionals Constance mentioned the difficulties of dealing with zine editors “who only publish their friends or who censor certain types of stories.” (109) As even this relatively small production industry begins to gain popularity, as evinced by the attention of authors and other interested outsiders such as Penley, microcosms of the problems that pervade Hollywood still crop up. The slash fiction writers seem to be doomed by the growing popularity and ambition that made them so special in the first place.


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