Fan written fiction – fanfic – is nothing new, but the internet has changed the way it’s created and distributed, allowing fan communities to flourish and interact. Technological advances now mean creating works of fanfic is no longer limited to those who can write or draw – it’s fairly easy these days to create a gif set or Photoshop a screengrab to illustrate your fanfic pairing (or OTP, as those in the know say, apparently – I’m such a noob I’m never entirely sure what it means . One true pairing? Partnership? Something like that, anyway.) It’s a thriving market (Amazon just announced it would be publishing fanfic, and of course 50 Shades of Grey started out as Twilight fanfic) and many creators have embraced it, praising fans’ enthusiasm and recognising that it’s actually an honour to have a fanbase so committed to your characters that they want to write their own stories about them.
But I’ve never been into it much myself. As a geek, there’s plenty of shows and characters I love, but I’ve just never been much of a ‘shipper’. I’m happy enough to invest in any relationship a show puts in front of me, but that’s generally been the extent of my enthusiasm. But since getting hooked on Tumblr – and I am ridiculously hooked on Tumblr – I have discovered whole fanbases who are passionate (sometimes obsessively so) about their OTP, and I’ve been impressed by the huge amount of creativity, humour and wit on display in these fandoms. I can’t ever see myself being a hardcore shipper, but there’s plenty to enjoy for the casual fan, and I’ve surprised myself by how much I enjoyed finding out about this world. So here, for the curious, are my top 5 ships (and their common Tumblr tags where I know them, should you wish to explore) – and the one I really, really don’t get.
(Note, apologies for the fact that this is an entirely M/M post, which is less a result of any bias than that just happens to be what I have encountered – though I’ve noticed an interesting side effect of removing women from the romantic equation, in that tends not to erase them from the story, but empower them – for instance, Pepper Potts turns from being Tony Stark’s girlfriend to his super capable business manager, and ends up actually being more interesting. If you have any favourite M/F or F/F ships, let me know in the comments.)
Kirk/Spock – Star Trek
Generally considered the original slash fiction, this has been a popular fan fantasy for decades and rewatching old episodes it’s easy to see why, with the mix of Spock’s cool intellect and Kirk’s hot blooded emotion a classic case of opposites attract. The fandom has found new fuel in the reboot, no doubt assisted by the fact that Pine and Quinto have amazing chemistry on screen, are super easy on the eye, and they seem to get on like a house on fire whenever you see them being interviewed. Certainly Star Trek Into Darkness was happy to ramp up the emotional connection between the two, so this one looks to run and run. (Looking to find some? Try the tag Space Husbands).
Cas/Dean – Supernatural
No show is quite so self-aware as Supernatural, frequently engaging with the fanfic obsession that grew around the two Winchester brothers (labelled Wincest – hardcore fans won’t let a little something like the fact that they’re siblings get in the way of steamy romance). But with the arrival of the angel Castiel, fans were gifted with a relationship that is both slightly less icky for those squeamish about incest, as well as being one many viewers would argue is genuinely canon, and with some justification. It’s hard to ignore the fact that Misha Collins’ angel and Jensen Ackles’ hunter have traded plenty of soulful looks and emotional moments, and share a self-proclaimed ‘profound bond’, though the writers remain coy about just what the nature of that bond is. But if you want an OTP that includes plenty of angst, this could be the one for you. (Wanna find it? Look for Destiel)
Iron Man/Captain America – The Avengers
After the Avengers movie came out there was a certain amount of ‘science bros’ shipping between Tony Stark and Bruce Banner, but a more common ship seems to be that of Tony and Steve Rodgers. In some ways it works perfectly because, like Spock and Kirk, the men complement one another well – the one reckless and occasionally thoughtless, the other a little uptight and old fashioned but decent and upstanding. Certainly in the comics there’s plenty to support this reading – all those ‘you make me a better man’ type speeches from Iron Man, and their complementary nature was highlighted in an AU where a female Natasha Stark (Iron Woman) and Steve got married. It’s not hard then to read the verbal sparring in the movie as sexually charged, and I must admit I hated Tony and Pepper’s relationship so much in the third Iron Man movie I would have preferred him to run off with Steve. (Tumblr tags: Stony, Super Husbands)
Clint Barton/Agent Coulson, The Avengers
I have no idea where this comes from, and there seems little evidence that it’s even hinted at in canon (feel free to correct me), but I’m actually quite charmed by the idea, so I’m including it. It tends, generally, to exist in the same universe as the Stony story, so is often not the primary focus, but I’m always happy to see Agent Coulson so I like it. (Plus I do like the explanation that the ‘cello in Portland’ was actually an in joke, as cellists – yes! – use a bow…)
John / Sherlock, Sherlock Holmes
In some ways one of the first ‘ships’ – people have been speculating, fantasising and joking about the pair’s relationship since way back, and there are plenty of published works out there where it’s made explicit that it’s a gay relationship. The BBC series Sherlock seems to have reignited this with a passion, no doubt in part because the actual show seems to spend so much time treating the pair like a married couple (while loudly protesting that they are not), assisted by the fact that Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch have such amazing chemistry. Interestingly, Elementary – which features, of course, a female Watson – doesn’t play with this very much at all. Lucy Liu and Jonny Lee Miller are both great and work well together, but it’s a relationship entirely devoid of sexual chemistry (and actually more interesting for that).
And the one I just don’t get…
Hannibal Lecter/ Will Graham
I have mixed feelings about Hannibal as a show – it’s well acted and original and has an impressive cast, but it’s also gratuitously, graphically violent and plagued by characters doing stupid and/or unbelievable things just to further the plot, but it seems to have very quickly developed an obsessive fandom. I simply don’t get people who ship Hannibal – a psychopathic cannibal who is manipulating Graham’s fragile mental health for his own ends – and Will, the increasingly unravelling profiler. Hannibal is also happily allowing Will’s potentially fatal illness to advance so he can check out the symptoms. How, erm, romantic…
So, those are my favourites. Yours? Or do you think the whole phenomenon is nuts? Let me know in the comments. Incidentally if you feel there’s an OTP missing in your life do check out my book, Wolf Night, which features and eminently shippable pair…