Originally posted to my LJ in November 2005.

Anyone who knows me will already know that I prefer established relationship (ER) stories to first time (FT) stories, and the longer I'm in fandom, the more I find myself wanting to read mainly ER stories.

It's not just as a reader that I prefer them, but also as a writer. Further down this post I show the break down of my stories by fandom and by genre.

What follows are my thoughts on why I prefer ER to FT stories, and how, IMO, it ties in with romance.

I prefer ER stories mainly because for me the joy is not about how they get together, but about their lives once they have got together. It's about their relationship. It is also fair to say that in my ER stories, the couple are always (or as near to always as makes no difference for the purposes of this ramble) throughout, or end up being, in a committed relationship.

I like ER stories because they are more likely to contain external conflict, which is what I look for in a story and which I love, rather than conflict between the two main characters - and this is mainly what I write. However, it's pretty much also what I write when I write FT stories. I don't drag out them coming together, I don't show them angsting over whether they should do so or not, I don't have them arguing all the time, I get them together pretty much without any huge effort or worry on their behalf, and again rely on the conflict being external to them.

I've always said that for me slash equals romance, love, affection and togetherness; it does not equate to conflict. Unfortunately romance has become, seemingly a dirty word, and one to which people don't want to own up to liking or writing. Romance has become synonymous with Mills & Boon (Harlequin) romances, and these books are sneered upon by many people. Romance is seen as being sugary, all hearts and flowers, nothing but soppy words, and as not being what two men would share.

I disagree, on all points.

Romance shouldn't have to be synonymous with soppiness, because it is also about passion, devotion, affection, fondness, intimacy, attachment, warmth - most of those words can be applied to the partners relationship even if one doesn't add sex into the equation. And men can be and are just as romantic as women (sometimes even more so), either in relationships with women or with other men. They care, they love, they are affectionate, they are fond of one another, warm towards their partner and attached to them. Would many people actually want to be in a permanent or long-term relationship that didn't involve several, if not all of these things? Why then does this seem to stop being important when it comes to slash fiction?

I would say that most of what I write does fall into the 'romantic' category, yet, looking purely at the format of my stories, I do not write the 'standard' romance. The 'standard' romance is: 'boy meets or already knows girl. They are attracted to one another, but also have issues with one another of one kind or another. This leads to massive conflict between them. And they spend most of the book/story arguing - sometimes bitterly - vowing to never see one another again, fighting their desire to sleep together, sometimes literally fighting, sleeping together and then regretting it, until finally all is well on the penultimate page. This isn't what I write, and yet it is the formulae in many ways of so many slash stories - stories written by people who say they hate romance.

So it's odd. Here we have someone, me, who will hold up her hand and say, 'hey, I write romances', but when it comes down to it, playing by the 'rules' of romance writing, I don't. And yet we have other people who'll hold up their hands and say 'I hate romances; I don't read them or write them', but again, playing by the 'rules' or romance writing, they do.

It makes me ponder whether FT fans, especially those who don't really like ER stories, don't actually want the relationship itself, they want what gets the partners to the relationship - I want the opposite. Recently there has been discussion on a MFU list and a friend's LJ (I won't quote her as her journal is friend's locked), concerning whether seeing the boys together on-screen in a gay relationship would increase of decrease interest. For me it would be the ultimate icing on the cake. I'd love it. To be able to watch Gibbs and Ducky, Napoleon and Illya, Bodie and Doyle, Benny and Ray actually clearly together, would be a dream come true. And I would be even more (if that's possible) hooked and enchanted. But many people said that it would actually have the opposite effect, i.e. seeing them together would make them lose interest. I was very surprised when I saw these views expressed by the majority of people who commented/posted.

Why would this be? Why do people who spend quite a lot of their time thinking about, dreaming about, writing about, reading about, drawing, fantasising about two particular men together in a intimate, loving relationship, not want to actually see them in this relationship on-screen? And I'm not talking about sex here - although, I wonder, would that make a difference for some people? I'm talking about the same episodes that we see, deconstruct, squee over, talk about, reconstruct, freeze-frame time and time again at the point where A hugs B, etc. etc. - basically, everything we already love and know. All that is different is that rather than us having to say 'oh, that look, they must be in love and a couple', we know they're in love and a couple?

Could it be, as I speculate, that really it isn't the relationship per se that people are interested in, but rather how they get there? I'm not saying this is the case, not at all. Nor that it is wrong if it is, I'm just curious and intrigued.

A break down of my stories showing ER vs. FT by fandom (as at May 2006)









Starsky & Hutch






The Professionals






Due South






The Man From U.N.C.L.E.












Sapphire & Steel











*Include four pre-slash stories

**Includes two crossover stories with NCIS

***Includes two crossover stories with The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and one with Sapphire & Steel

****Includes one crossover story with NCIS

The Pros result surprised me, actually. I thought I'd written far more ER stories than I actually had. However, as I say above, when studied (not that anyone would want to do this thing), my FT stories are structurally very like my ER ones.

The reason for the relatively low number of ER stories in Due South is because once a show exists entirely in canon, I can't ignore canon. I have to work with it, and for DS this means writing Call Of The Wild fix-it stories, that explain the events of CotW, and get Benny and Ray back together. And as I say above, for me ER also equates to 'committed', thus I have to write post CotW really, just to satisfy the, some might say, masochistic side of me who can't do like some friends of mine (both Vecchio and Kowalski fans), and simply ignore the 'wrong' seasons. To be honest, if Ray Vecchio didn't appear or wasn't mentioned at all in Seasons 3 & 4, then I could probably ignore the Kowalski seasons.

As far as NCIS goes, some of my stories contradict canon (ignoring the fact that strictly speaking slash in itself can be said to contradict canon), as I began writing in this fandom (for the first time ever) whilst the show was still airing. However, the stories stick to canon within the seasons in which they were written.

As far as MFU goes, I (like some other writers) mostly ignore The Fifteen Years Later Affair, as being so far after the series not to really 'count', but again, as it nags at me and hovers in the back of my brain saying 'I happened', I have dealt with it in more than one story.

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