Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009 02:55 pm
Having written Why I like Gen and Why do we femslash? I felt I should finish off the "Fanfic which is not slash" tryptych :) (I do like slash too, but I think there's enough meta on it out there already)

So: Het has a bad rep. It's all soppy and romanic and sexist and cliched and boring. Except it's not.

Since I think we can all agree that "Stories containing heterosexual relationships" have the potential to be good (that description covering most of all fiction ever), I've tried to give a bunch of examples to show that het fanfic is (sometimes) awesome or at least interesting in practice. (Though of course Sturgeon's Law applies)

Note that I'm not saying that not-het isn't awesome too. If you prefer not-het but think het is all fine and well for what it is, that's fair enough. It's the "All het is crap" argument which bugs me.

EDIT: Written in 2009, slightly updated in 2013.

Deconstructing Gender Roles

Most het relationships in popular canon are pretty skeevy. So rather than avoiding them, why not show them and then poke at all the skeeviness?

For example, the only het I've written thus far (2013 EDIT: lol) is The Great and Glorious Rule of Queen Nancy the First which continues the deconstruction of the Disney Princess archetype started vaguely in "Enchanted".

There is a whole genre of het fixit fic which unfridges Women in Refrigerators, see for example dry your hollow eyes.

Five children that weren't...and one that was plays around with the possibilities of pregnancy in the Torchwood universe.

Unheteronormative het

On the whole I don't think Rule 63 from m/m or f/f to m/f counts as het, but trans fic does. For example As Good as a Boy turns George/Jo from the Famous Five books from f/f to m/f, while Here in Spain I Am a Spaniard turns Arthur/Eames from Inception from m/m to m/f.

And obviously actual genderswap turning m/f into f/m is het and can be really interesting. Consider for example A Long Engagement, or the Improvement of Human Reason, as illustrated in the long and tortuous courtship of Edward Bennet, squire, and Philadelphia, Lady Darcy which swaps the genders (and sexes) of Darcy and Elizabeth from Pride and Prejudice.

There's also unconventional kinks like incest, BDSM, pegging etc, and fics which are just....wierd. I am a huge fan of het where the woman is like a robot or terrifying alien who may at any moment eat the guy's face or whatever.

In The Trooper and the Maid Aral and Cordelia from the Vorkosigan Series try reversing an old Barrayaran folk song.

In the Homestuck fic The Baths of All The Western Stars Feferi turns Sollux into a starship with love.

And of course there's all the fic which contain het and slash (and maybe even femslash!): poly fic and also fic with more than one central romantic pairing.

Interesting for other reasons

As any gen fan will tell you, there's more to a piece of fiction than relationships. Just because a story contains a particular romantic or sexual relationship doesn't mean that's the most important or only interesting thing about it.

Your Cowboy Days are Over is a fantastic heartbreaking story which does contain some fairly explicit het sex, but while that's an important part of the story it's neither romantic or titillating (well, not to me. YMMV :)).

Cities in Dust (shit let's be hardboiled) is a really amazing Homestuck detective AU which is also Dave/Terezi (my current het OTP, they have such a great weird dynamic)

And even when a story can accurately be described as "a het romance" and/or "het porn" etc that doesn't mean it can't have a cracking plot, interesting ideas, and deep things to say about the canon.

Finding Himself is a Hermoine/Cedric AU which works as a straightforward romance, but is also a really engaging alternate version of how the HP story could have gone, and an affecting journey through disability.

Lunch and Other Obscenities is an adorable Uhura&Gaila friendship fic with a side order of Uhura/Spock which explores cultural differences and taboos.

In Buy The Stars a player character rescues a rubbery man in distress and it is all very odd and sweet.

And what's wrong with shmoopy cliche anyway?

One of the things fanfic meta has made me think about is that women have, on the whole, been told that our interests are uninteresting and unworthy, and that our sexuality either doesn't exist or is gross. This is used as a justification for lots of weird kinky porn and fair enough. But what's wrong with those of us with a taste for plain old vanilla het romance indulging it? I think the disdain people have for romance novels on principle (rather than criticisms of particular aspects of the genre) is a symptom of patriarchal disdain for "women's things" (see also On society, fiction, and the romance novel)

Personally I still like my self indulgent romance to be relatively unsexist and thoughtful, but if other people enjoy revelling in bodice rippers etc that's their bailiwick. And if people only enjoy reading het romances then I don't see that that means they are necessarily homophobic or whatever, any more than only reading slash means you are necessarily misogynistic. Personal taste isn't always a matter of choice or politics (Of course there is some of both homophobia and mysogyny amongst both het and slash writers and readers, but it doesn't pay to overgeneralise)

So, some het I enjoyed primarily as romance:
A Most Convenient Mishap is a forced Marriage Pride and Prejudice AU which has some interesting things to say about gender and didn't skeeve me like I thought it would.

Break has Spock and Uhura falling love over linguistics.

No het PWP because I don't read it, but it's definitely out there :D

And now, some interesting het which isn't fanfic

Because I can :)

Fancomics: The Death of Narcissa Black for moody darkness and Of Mice and Mayhem for fun.

Fanvids: Buffy vs Edward, Icebound Stream, and pretty much everything relevant by Obsessive24.

Fanart: I don't tend to save fanart but I'm sure there's some around! Stars is really gen but is totally adorable :)

So, any other ways het can be awesome I've missed? Any other relevant recs people feel like sharing? (I probably won't add them to the post but I might read them :D)

(new section) Recommended fandoms for interesting het fanfic:

Player character/Male Love Interest for Bioware games. The main characters of these are all written so that you can play as male or female, and both get to be a central hero with adoring love interest sidekicks. (There are also great m/m and f/f romances, but we're talking about het!) Lots of fic and while it's not all GOOD most have a badass female lead who gets to be the hero.

Homestuck has lots of domineering and complex female characters, which is sometimes reflected in the fic. I am personally a huge fan of Dave/Terezi. With Sollux/Feferi there's all the baggage of class difference, turning into empress/slave with Condesce/Psyonic.

Sif/Loki from Thor: Straight forward warrior woman and sneaky magician man! There is a similar dynamic with Jaime/Brienne in Game of Thrones afaict but I'm not in that fandom.

And here's a rec post I wrote for original het with reversed dynamics.
Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009 09:03 am (UTC)
Well, the story I think of as being "That het story I wrote" (Xenophilia, SGA, John/Elizabeth) is LIKE ALL MY SLASH really about personal journey and coming to terms with one's own sexuality. But it's from a deliberately female perspective this time.

I think therefore that one of the things that het fanfic can do is discuss how as women we deal with men, in a critical fashion. With hot pr0ns.
Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009 07:14 pm (UTC)
Ah, but het-by-slashers is of a much higher quality, well known fact *nods sagely*

*wince* I honestly don't think of myself as a slasher. When you look at my stuff there's a higher percentage of slash than het, yeah, but--I write fic, y'know? I just write the same kind of story in my slash as I did in this story. I mean, I also wrote this thing called "Academic Pursuit", which is het, but totally not the same story.

I'm not really irritated, just a little bewildered. I guess it's because het has such a bad rap in so many slash circles. And like you've just pointed out, there's enough good reasons to write it to go around. Hmmm, dunno.

Anyway, yeah, "x with porn" is definitely a trope in fanfiction.
Wednesday, June 24th, 2009 08:19 am (UTC)
Oops, sorry. That's the problem with sarcasm/facetiousness: it's never clear how much of the statement/framing the person saying it agrees with. Anyway yes, I might well write some m/m slash myself one day but still wouldn't call myself a slasher, and I didn't mean to imply that you Are A Slasher just because you have written some slash.

Heh, I knew you were being facetious, there's just--I wasn't sure how much of the sentence was in on the joke, if you know what I mean. There are enough people who generally classify themselves as slashers where it wouldn't be too weird to hear, "Well, I'm usually a slasher, but I wrote that one het thing..." but that's not really where I'm coming from. I don't normally clutch desperately at my artistic integrity, but, y'know, I just write stories.

I find it moderately more interesting that almost all of my slash falls into the "personal journey of discovery" story type and only one (of, like, three) of my het stories does.