When I came out there was nothing it seemed for lesbians beyond dry books you’d find in a Women’s Studies class. There were of course the “classics” of lesbian literature, books I found preachy and decidedly un-sexy. Somewhere around the second year my girlfriend and I were together she kept wanting to watch Xena. I was reluctant, not because I wasn’t all swoony over Xena, but because the show seemed so hokey I didn’t know if I could enjoy it. As with most things, what the girl wants… so we watched Xena. Being the good computer nerd I was, I was all over the internet finding Xena information (ok mostly looking for hot wallpaper of Xena and Gabrielle) and I came across something I’d never heard of… Xena fan fiction. I was intrigued.
Some stories were weak, most were at least worth the time it took to read them, and I think I fell in love with Xena more through the fiction than I ever did the TV show. I quickly found this wasn’t a new phenomenon; slash, it had been around for ages. For those who may not know, slash fiction is a story written where one fictional character is paired with another, the / slash signifies the pairing. Xena / Gabrielle stories were my favorites, but I also found hundreds of stores featuring other female heroines paired up. Femslash is the general term for female pairings.
One of my other obsessions in the mid 1990’s was the X-Files. Pairing up the smart and sexy Agent Dana Scully with someone other than Mulder was my dream. It was at this point I became aware of an author on the Scully Slash email list known as Radclyffe. Now of course she’s famous for her dozens of novels and Bold Strokes Books, but then she was simply the brilliant mind who gave Dana Scully the girlfriend she deserved.
In the years following I’ve read just about every lesbian novel published, The good, the bad and everything in between. I believe that to a certain extent lesbian fiction exists in its own vacuum, that it’s an insulated community where the rules are slightly different. By this I mean that to judge lesbian fiction against mainstream fiction is unfair, certain allowances and concessions must be made. By the same token, if the entire story line is two characters falling in love, the criteria for building a relationship that’s believable to the audience must be more stringent than a thriller novel. With lesbian fiction, you need to make the reader “feel” it.
Mostly I love that lesbian fiction exists, that we are publishing stories for us, by us. Stories of strong women in love. For the next generation of lesbians I hope you appreciate how fortunate you are to see yourselves and your friends reflected in the pages of a book, we weren’t always this lucky.