Brothers-in-Arms: or, Your Definition is Different than Mine

The Star Trek fanzine Spockanalia contained th...

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That missing date of the 3rd from my update schedule will haunt me for the rest of my days. Or at least what days I actually see the update calendar on my main page of that month. And assuming I can keep my posting on-track otherwise. But, hey, fell asleep before I could even write my post; there was nothing to be done.

Now:

The Real Part 1 of the Killing Time review, spork, or whatever this actually is, because I don’t know what to call it. “Random-thoughts-and-notes-taken-during-the-reading-of-the-book-which-may-or-not-be-relevant-or true-but-drive-me-nuts-nevertheless” perhaps.

I started rereading this today, because I hadn’t picked the thing up since I made my original notes (but I had to because it’s very hard to finish ‘reviewing’ a book that you haven’t actually read), but had to start from the beginning to, well, get back in the spirit if you will. And promptly made more notes. One-and-a-half, actually. Although at least they are in cursive, and I have very large handwriting in cursive. For instance, I found quotes like this, from page 3 (remember, the first printing):

[Kirk] felt the familiar telepathic door swing open between himself and the Vulcan. It was something which had formed between them over the years, something which had saved their lives countless times and made them brothers.

Firstly, that “telepathic door”. Does that bother anyone else? It’s just such a…dull, but stupid, image. Too physical a metaphor for the situation perhaps: suddenly I realize I’ve never actually minded the “silver thread” of mindlinks before—although talking to a friend who actually reads much more fantasy than I do, this appears to be a fanon thing for Star Wars than fantasy itself. And why is the door telepathic, and how does that help Kirk? Talk to the doooor, Spock….

Also, those “which”s should be “that”s. Or something.

This does however lead me to the two points that I really wanted to make in this part one. Actually, first I only had one, which relates to the title, but the second is also important, and leads to the first. So I suppose it should be first anyway.

So. One thing that really stood out to me on second reading—which was actually, I think, the reason I was so bothered in the first place to start this project—was the characterizations of the characters. Now, this may be somewhat silly of me, but I have higher standards for franchise-published stories pulled from existing canon, and actual fan fiction, which doesn’t really have to hold to any standards, primarily because it’s completely unauthorized. At least the published stuff is reviewed by ‘officials’.

Not that I’m objecting to fan fiction. For one, I read an awful lot of it, and fortunately have a clear distinction between what I can expect there as, well, practically a media in itself, versus other my other reading, even in genre fiction.

But in fan fiction there’s a curious thing that develops called “fanon”. It’s like canon, which is to say, the information from, in this case Star Trek: TOS. Fandom, however, takes from these facts and builds on them, and since there wouldn’t be a name for fan fiction unless it’s shared, fans themselves create information to, usually, fill in gaps. For instance, I’ve heard that Uhura was never given a first name by the show, but somehow, because so many fans use “Nyota”, official Trek eventually used in a movie—thereby making ‘fanon’, canon. But fan-made-facts don’t become canon unless it becomes accepted by a significant portion of fandom. After which point, most newer/younger/less dedicated fans may not even realize it isn’t canon, but have made it part of their experience of canon. (Writing this paragraph has made me feel like such a geek.)

The most blatant version of this in my experience is in the fanfiction.net (known for its total lack of quality control) section for Lord of the Rings. Naturally, the place got a huge boost when the movies came out, and as I was reading in high school—forgive me! I’d seen the movies maybe once, and never quite finished the trilogy, no matter how much I loved The Hobbit in fourth grade. Frankly, many characters are, well, not resembling any character of the original books, nor, particularly the characters in the movies. Especially the elven twins Elladan and Elrohir (do I actually remember that?). They aren’t in the movies, and have the tiniest part in the books as I recall, but in the stories I followed they were joke-y like the Weasley’s and great friends with Legolas—who had naturally been bestest of best friends with Aragorn for some unspecified length of time. And many of those stories were pretty good. But totally, completely, fanon.

Killing Time uses heavily ‘fanon’ versions of both Kirk and Spock.

They’re positively cuddly, for one, although I can hardly count that as it was supposed to be edited out (although I don’t know how far). But mainly, it’s the feeling of the characters. Neither acts like the Kirk or Spock who you see on the show: for instance “[Kirk] reached across the table…’I know it’s an inconvenience to your Vulcan logic to have this link with a human, but just tell me!’ But the gentle smile robbed the words of any harsh implications.” That might not be the best example, mostly because it’s such an over-arching issue, but it does get across how blatant the author wanted to make their relationship, any relationship. No subtlety here.

But because of the fanon ‘slash’ version of this relationship, the overtness is taken for granted. That doesn’t mean the author doesn’t try to show how close they are through other words, however. Like in other slash fandoms, the insistence in calling them brothers.

Back up to that first quote, paraphrased “the door that made them brothers. Or years, whatever. Why do so many slash writers, especially those transforming close friends into couples, insist on describing them like brothers? Or as close as brothers? Now, maybe it’s because I have two brothers that it bugs the heck out of me. Because I know what interactions these stories draw from: the good-natured squabbling, similar tastes, and in-jokes. My brothers do that. So yeah, creepy. Why don’t they ever think of the to-be significant other as “a spouse, but without the nagging”? Which, sexist, yeah, but not so creepy.

Other characters will also comment on the brotherly love going on, in this case, McCoy.

“When you go to sleep, the little boy in you needs someone to relate to—and that little boy automatically chooses Spock—sort of a big-brother figure for your dreams.”

Now, a sophisticated argument might say that such other characters can’t see past their assumptions to the true UST and are making excuses for the characters’ closeness, or falsely identifying the relationship. I’m not seeing much an argument from that, though we’ve only seen McCoy this once. And a threesome would be too much, so I think we can safely conclude that the primary reason for this Freudian metaphor is to ‘prove’ how much they love each other.

Which, no. As soon as you call them ‘like brothers’. Yeech. Is it something to do with maybe people having fewer siblings anymore? Is it because families no longer stay together as adults—you grow up and move out and therefore are only supposed to see your siblings no more than to stay a week every couple years if they’re far away, or drop by for dinner every couple weeks if close? I don’t know, but this trend is disturbing, and not even the same way as deliberate incest or twincest or Wincest or any of the other disturbing combinations that such fans have come up with. At least they know what they’re doing.

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