This site was created and is maintained by delicate, etiquette-oriented young women who are looking for academic discussions about how slashing characters built in a capitalistic system reclaims our power.
Did you buy that? Poor, innocent sod.
Honestly, we like fic, we like boys and we like chains (although RavenD's not at all opposed to leather).
Boys in Chains slash fiction archive, circa 2000.
It is difficult to generalize about the genre of gay male fiction called M/M. Some M/M stories are so sentimental and effeminate that they could be published as Harlequin romances. Other M/M stories are gritty and masculine. The only safe statement which can be made is that M/M fiction is mainly written by and for women.
Although some men (both gay and straight) read and write M/M, it is women (both straight and gay) who have played the central role in developing this genre. M/M has become so popular at certain presses that some readers of heterosexual fiction may feel that they are being neglected.
M/M (short for "male/male") has two origins, professional and amateur. Arguably the first professional M/M work was Mary Renault's 1939 novel Purposes of Love (U.S. title: Promise of Love), in which a man becomes attracted to a woman because she resembles her brother. In 1956, Pantheon Books published Mary Renault's novel of ancient homoerotic love, The Last of the Wine, just five years after Marguerite Yourcenar's Memoirs of Hadrian explored a similar topic. From that point on, erotic love between men became a subject that quite a few female authors wanted to explore.
In the meantime, amateur writers were also raising their voices. In the 1960s and 1970s, certain female authors of Star Trek fan fiction tired of writing about Captain Kirk's love affairs with unmemorable women (some of those "characters built in a capitalistic system," as the Boys in Chains archive later put it). Instead, they began penning stories which romantically paired Kirk with Spock, creating a new form of homoerotic fiction called slash.
Ultimately, these two streams of M/M fiction would overlap. Today, the
majority of professional M/M writers report that their origins lie in the
slash community. At the same time, slash stories continue to be distributed
through zines and the Internet. Some stories by slash authors called
"original slash" feature original characters and settings.
BDSM in M/M
The cover of one of these "fan-zines" . . . shows a well done drawing of Mr. Spock stripped to the waist, his lower portion covered for the most part with a draped toga exposing one bare leg, his hands manacled and a belt from the manacles chaining him to a post. The title boldly reads "Spock Enslaved!"
Leonard Nimoy, 1977.
Slavery and imprisonment were favorite M/M topics from the start. In professionally published works, M/M has often appeared in genres, such as historical fiction, where such subjects are natural. Original slash often features "hurt/comfort," in which a character is put through the wringer solely in order that he may be comforted by his lover at a later point. Today, a goodly number of M/M stories are on BDSM or other power differences. Here are three examples.
Maculategiraffe: The Slave Breakers
In June 2007, at the fiction forum slavefics, an amateur writer diffidently posted a story that began, "Bran lay on the floor, naked, bound and gagged, listening with dull despair to the conversation going on over his head."
Two years later, Maculategiraffe's tale of what happened to Bran and his fellow sex slaves has spawned a revival of slave fiction in the original slash community, as well as a forum devoted solely to other people's fan works about the Slave Breakers series. Maculategiraffe continues to write stories in the series, often in response to detailed reader requests.
This sort of give and take between M/M readers and writers occurs frequently.
M/M writers have been notable for their energetic social networking. In
April 2009, when Amazon removed GLBT works from its search engine, M/M
writers were at the forefront of a loud protest that hit the headlines
at Google News. Overall, the M/M community is one of the most active
literary communities in the blogosphere.
Manna Francis: The Administration
The Administration explores what happens when a psychopathic torturer becomes the top in an SM relationship with an opponent to torture. This science fiction series originally appeared in slash zines, won slash awards, made its way online (where it remains), and is now being published in print by Casperian Books.
What immediately strikes any reader from the erotica community is that The Administration is not erotica. In fact, it is being marketed as mainstream gay fiction by Casperian. Individual stories within the series may be erotica . . . or they may be G-rated.
This state of affairs, which would be unusual in most parts of the BDSM literary world, is par for the course in M/M literature. Although the most common form of M/M is erotic romance (romance stories in which erotic scenes are vital to the storyline), the primary focus of most M/M stories is not sex but emotional interactions.
Theme also permeates many BDSM stories by M/M authors. At mannazone, a forum for discussions of The Administration, readers have debated such subjects as dystopias, personality disorders, politics, and cooking. Although the SM storyline is obviously much cherished by many of the readers, erotic topics are rarely discussed at mannazone.
Historically, BDSM literature arose out of erotica. But in the M/M community,
BDSM literature arose out of non-erotica. Series like The Administration
which gives as much attention to characters' friendships as to characters'
bed-romps would be unthinkable in most gay BDSM anthologies. Yet such
stories hardly raise an eyebrow in the M/M community.
Syd McGinley: Dr. John Fell
"Two Doms clothes shopping isn't pretty," says the protagonist of the Dr. John Fell series, shortly before he engages in a little manly conflict with his fellow shopper. Masculine trials of strength occur frequently in this series published by Torquere Press, featuring a scholarly, cross-tempered Dom who reluctantly takes in boys who have been abused or ill-trained. Yet the word "Dom" will alert leather readers that we are not in the Mineshaft any more.
Author Syd McGinley, who cites John Preston as an inspiration, has created an interesting mix of gay and heterosexual BDSM traditions in Dr. Fell's world: amidst fistings and references to "my sir," there are mentions of subs, pets, D/s, and (in one tongue-in-cheek sequence) m/m.
Gay characters in M/M stories usually use BDSM terminology that originated among heterosexuals. Scholars of M/M literature (who have focussed their attention entirely on slash fan fiction and its Japanese cousin, yaoi) often describe the insertion of heterosexual background into M/M stories as "feminine." I'm afraid this assessment is far too simplistic. Some M/M writers have successfully made the transition into markets for gay male readers (or started there), while other M/M writers have left their readers puzzled as to what their gender is. When a bisexual male reader discovered that one of his favorite authors a writer of original slash domestic discipline tales was female, he cried, "This is weird! She writes about men as if she was inside our heads." By a similar token, I would have found it difficult to identify Nigel Puerasch's own gender (he is a writer of M/M fiction himself) if he had not told me; he has successfully adopted certain "feminine" conventions in M/M literature.
M/M therefore becomes a world where gender ambiguity reigns. Although
nobody can deny the vital role that female literary tastes have played
in shaping M/M fiction, the M/M literary community has become a place where
men and women, gays and straights, can interact and learn from one another.
In this respect, M/M fiction can help break down the old, destructive walls
in the leather world that have prevented masculine folk and feminine folk
from sharing their common love of BDSM literature.
Francis, Manna. mannazone.org.
Lanyon, Josh. Man, Oh, Man! Writing M/M Fiction for Cash and Kinks (a survey of M/M literature in the genre romance community, with many quotations from authors and editors). mlrpress, 2008. mlrpress.com.
McGinley, Syd. sydmcginley.com and inlocodomini.com.
MAS-Zine (original slash CD zine that often published BDSM fiction and art). web.archive.org/web/*/http://www.mas-zine.com/.
Peterson, Dusk. The Slash Skinny: Publishing News and Marketing Report on Original Slash. Love in Dark Settings Press, 2007. duskpeterson.com/skinny.
The Skinny (M/M newsletter). community.livejournal.com/origslash_news.
A slightly different version of this article appeared in Issue 2, 2010 (PDF file at adults-only site) of The Leather Times, published by the Leather Archives & Museum.
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