Sunday, November 13, 2005

Terminally Hip

Not words anyone expects associated with Bardiac, eh?

Recently S, a student in one of my classes, came to confer with me about a research project he's working on (not for my class). He edged around the topic delicately, saying that he's interested in writing about science fiction/fantasy characters and sexuality, but not in the actual books.

"You mean, like slash?" I asked. (NB. I love Urbandictionary dot com.)

S looked at me, eyes widening. "You know what slash is?"

My internal alarm went off. Uh oh. I've outed myself in some bizarre way? Naw, couldn't be. If I know something from pop culture, then, well, it's got to be such common knowledge that anyone under, say, 60 knows about it. (Unless we're talking about pop culture of England in the 16th century, then, I like to think, I'm a bit ahead of your average bear.)

"Everyone knows what slash is. It's common knowledge, isn't it?"

S insisted I was wrong, and that, in fact, it was... rather unexpected that I knew. (That was the polite way to put it.)

We went on with the conversation. And it got me thinking. So, of course, being the overly curious fool I am, I started randomly asking around my department, except, of course, I wasn't really random. I only asked people I felt fairly comfortable with, because while I'm abnormally curious, I'm not alone in my department. As is true, I hope, of all academic communities, we're a bunch of inquisitive nerds in this department, and I was sure that I'd have to explain the term to everyone I asked who didn't already know it. So, for sure, there were people I didn't ask.

Of the 15 people I asked, two knew the term. (Now, of course, all 15 do.) And those two were just the people you'd guess: faculty who teach sci-fi and pop-culture/theory (though not all the faculty who teach these topics knew the term). I asked one person outside the department, and as I expected, she knew.

I sent S an email explaining my research and congratulating him on my error. Evidently, S was much amused by the thought of me asking other innocent and well-meaning faculty members if they knew what "slash" is. (I live to entertain.)

The bonus is that I have apparently gained a bit of a reputation among a very small, select group of students for being ... well, for lack of a better term, hip. That's me, terminally hip.

Slash is actually a fascinating phenomenon: it's mostly written about two male characters in a homoerotic or gay relationship, and yet mostly written by females. (Often the writers need serious lessons in anatomy.) Slash fics sometimes explore issues of power, dominance, and sexuality in some pretty challenging and interesting ways; sometimes, they're just really unreadable.

My mind goes exactly where you'd expect: Shakespeare slash! Horatio and Hamlet! Leontes and Polixenes! Ferdinand and Caliban! Lest you think I jest, there actually does seem to be some Shakespeare slash. (These things are rated by explicitness and audience appropriateness.)

So, think I can fly it for a seminar at SAA next year?

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