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18 May 2007 @ 04:37 pm
Discovering "Smarm"  
Not the obsequious kind, either.

Yesterday, wandering through metafandom, I happened on a discussion of "smarm" fic. thelana is probably laughing her butt off right about now...


So, "smarm" is what one really might consider sexless slash. Proponents don't see it that way, and it doesn't always cross that line, but sometimes the manLove is more than brotherly, you know?

What thelana's going to laugh about is that I have unwittingly written "smarm" on occasion. Sometimes I still think of it as Gen (the manLove is typically brief and doesn't go on and on), and other times it's supposed to be Slash but doesn't get as far as I'd intended (in which case, I really consider it "light Slash").

A very thorough definition/argument of what constitutes "smarm" can be found here. The audience for it is readers who want big manLove and affection and often touching and cuddling, but no sex. Slash lovers may wonder what the point of that is, but I clearly remember that my first Slashy desires were around age 13/14, and I would have been perfectly happy to fade out with romantic kissing and snuggling together in bed. Obviously, I've expanded my horizons since then, but you get my point. The thing is, though, that's still Slash to me.

So, case in point there is this Sentinel story, Beach by two very big fans of smarm, and for me that is definitely slash. Check out this chapter here, where there is kissing, tonguing, and I believe also declarations of love.

Looking at the larger story (I wasted some 3 hours at work reading this thing, and hating myself afterwards), if you look past the buckets of crying in the story it is a big hurt/comfort-fest of touching, cuddling, kissing, hair-petting, declared love, romanticizing of the other person, pondering on "joined souls" and "owning each others' hearts". There are also some 11 installments of naked showering, and some 6+ of naked bed-cuddling before it wanders off into a dream sequence (still a WIP).

See, now, that is clearly romantic love to me-- it might be brotherly love if they were actual brothers (though if there's tonguing, I think some misunderstandings are going to arise!), but how is that NOT light Slash? The fact that there's no mention of arousal when they're mooshing their groins up against each other? (Seriously. And as the rest of the story is written, if you're that emotionally thrilled by someone I don't see a physical reaction not happening, especially for men).

So, I read some more in that genre last night (could not help myself-- and I never even watched the Sentinel!). Some of it is just a hug, a touch here and there. But there are loads of what can only be called cuddling, honestly.

I don't know. I can definitely see why there would be an audience for stories that cut off at the pre-sexual point, but most of what I read I'd still say is Slash or Slashy.

And that particular story, 70+ installments and not yet finished... I have to call that emo-Porn, because it totally is. Not a bad thing, but that definitely describes it.

Clarification: I totally forgot about the range of canon behavior. I.e., if we're talking "Starsky and Hutch" even a single kiss on the mouth might just be Gen smarm, depending on how romantically skewed that was. Virtually everthing else was already canon. NOT that I have any complaints about that...

What do all of you think? Probably many of you were already aware of it long before me!

So, thanks to the time wasted on the story in the cut zone above, I never did get out to exercise yesterday. :( Which means that today, I had legs and then some! In other words:

Cycling: 34 miles for speed today! Whoo! Plus a couple more to warm down. I did nearly get hit by a van, making a U-turn right into the bike lane where I was progressing, and she stopped right in front of me. I was pissed. I smacked one of her back windows with my fist and came around to discuss this with her, but she was already stumbling through an apology and was honestly so horrified with herself that I relented, and thanked her for apologizing. Yikes!

No interesting animals today-- not even the pygmy goats were out! Earlier this week, along this same route (the office, not the bike path), I caused a mini cattle-stampede. \o/ On the plus side, the roadkill count is still down.

Got a drabble to post this weekend for bluesister, if I can force it to be 100 words and not keep creeping up. Almost there...



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The Good, The Bad and The Lanathelana on May 19th, 2007 06:46 am (UTC)
I don't think that it's laughworthy at all. I can totally get the desire for smarm*. And I agree with you, I would group it under slash.

Or rather: in my personal invention "shippy fic". I mean, if the story is all about A and B are meant for each other and how they do cute things together and how they are the best and about how much they adore each other, of course that is shippy in nature. The story is all about the relationship and somebody who doesn't care for the relationship will most likely be bored if not annoyed, even if there is no sex.

I'd even say even if the acts don't even go beyond what is normal in canon, if that's all the story is about, it would still feel shippy to me. I still say, you can *feel* if a story is Gen or Smarm. Because normally you can just feel if the author is pinging more for a sober, down to earth, de-romanticized, simple portrayal of a relationship or whether the author believes at heart that there is something really special and precious about this relationship and how it is potentially above all others and the fic is about portraying that, then that is clearly "shippy" to me and not Gen. It's kinda the difference between enjoying and appreciating a pairing and getting really shippy/giddy about it.

Let's say Lincoln and Veronica have a relationship. It's canon that they have had sex, had a relationship, kissed, declared loving intentions. So a fic that just mentions "they had sex" could be Gen. A fic where Lincoln muses about his life and mentioning his relationship with Veronica could be Gen. A fic about how sweet and precious their love is shippy. A fic with a large action plot with some side emo porn about how they adore each other and sacrifice for each other and bawl and cry is still shippy because it's about showcasing a particular relationship. Even if it's not the only thing that happens, it's about what the emotional focus is. And/or how much dramatic license you take.

I kinda have this theory that "Gen" is more about *people* and shippyfic is more about "Relationships" as a unity/entity. Kinda the difference between portraying a relationship as being something a certain character happens to have and that happens to be part of them and portraying the relationship as the main deal. If it's more "X muses about the relationship" or "the relationship affects X" then it's more obvious that the character of X stretches beyond the relationship. With shippy fic it's more often that the relationship is the beginning and the end, the above and beyond of the characters and/or the story. Err, am I making any sense?

Basically, even if people are in denial about how slashy (or "het-y" for that matter) a story is, I think they'd at least have to acknownledge that it is shippy.

*After all, I have said before, with certain pairings, especiallly brotherslash there are plenty of times when a Gen story on their relationship can be at least as satisfying as a slash story. And that is even a lesser definition of smarm since doesn't even need to be a big emphasis on love and cuddling, just angst and the relationship being the most significant and emotionally relevant.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Sam & Dean Genhalfshellvenus on May 19th, 2007 07:05 am (UTC)
I don't think that it's laughworthy at all. I can totally get the desire for smarm*. And I agree with you, I would group it under slash.

Oh, I definitely understand why it appeals and why some people want it to stop short of being sexual. But just as you say-- it's still Slash to me.

Your "shippy fic" definition really worked for me in explaining the difference between Gen and not-Gen.

Regardless of how the 'ship manifests itself (sexual, musings, angst, fluffy thoughts), it's still not Gen at that point. It's a romantic/sexual genre instead.

And that is even a lesser definition of smarm since doesn't even need to be a big emphasis on love and cuddling, just angst and the relationship being the most significant and emotionally relevant.
Yes, I agree. For some readers, brotherslash is really more about the love-- they might prefer it to stay under a certain level of explicitness and just focus on the emotional aspect instead.
The Good, The Bad and The Lanathelana on May 19th, 2007 07:16 am (UTC)
It's kinda hard to draw the line. That fic you describe sounds like it wouldn't be my thing, but that's just because crying emo man always turn me off, whether it's gen or shippy or whatnot.

At the same time, I can get the desire for smarm. Sometimes I wonder if some really whimsical fics, like, I dunno, Michael and Lincoln are in a snow fight or watch movies or do other cute stuff isn't borderline smarm as well. Like it's cute and adorable and so darn whimsical but it might be extremely pointless to somebody who doesn't adore the relationship.

Let's take some of mooyoo's stories, often you can claim that they say something in particular about the characters. Like a Gen story about what book Michael likes says something about his personality. A Gen story that showcases protectiveness from one brother to the other might offer an explanation for later behavior. A humor story almost always showcases the humor first. Yet there might be Gen-y stories where the "Wheeeeee!" over how cute and adorable the relationship is takes over anything else. A certain "chickensoup for the soul" effect, let's read really cute stories about A/B doing cute things because it's so cute and cheers us us.

Now straight up emo-porn (like Hurt/Comfort, protectiveness and such) can also be awesome. Though I have to admit that emo-porn leaves me kinda queasy in a lot of cases. Don't really know why.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Venushalfshellvenus on May 19th, 2007 08:26 am (UTC)
That fic you describe sounds like it wouldn't be my thing, but that's just because crying emo man always turn me off, whether it's gen or shippy or whatnot.
Oh, I totally thought of you as I was reading it, because the crying-- my god, it never stops. I've never seen anyone cry that much that wasn't about 2 years old. :0

A certain "chickensoup for the soul" effect, let's read really cute stories about A/B doing cute things because it's so cute and cheers us us.
There's definitely that effect, though more of the "fluffyFic" variety I think. It's like "comfort fic" in the sense of what comfort foods are. Not always very substantial, nor good as a long-term diet. But very satisfying for the now. :)

Now straight up emo-porn (like Hurt/Comfort, protectiveness and such) can also be awesome. Though I have to admit that emo-porn leaves me kinda queasy in a lot of cases. Don't really know why.
For me, it's often awesome until it just becomes too much, and I feel like the author is deliberately torturing the characters in order to manipulate me. Then it becomes icky. :0
she said mysteriously: thinking faceresounding_echo on May 19th, 2007 07:46 am (UTC)
especiallly brotherslash there are plenty of times when a Gen story on their relationship can be at least as satisfying as a slash story.

WORD. I think that's part of the appeal of brotherslash to me. I know we've had this conversation before, but for me I think the necessary history between the characters means that the emphasis can never be just the sex (even in a PWP) because their relationship is always already more than that. I love little explorations of the inevitable angst and complexities within a brotherslash relationship. Just reflecting on my own handful of fics, there's a reason I never wrote explicit slash (let alone explicit sex) even though I consider myself a slasher (I have no problem claiming this identity--I love gen and slash equally but I get my gen fix in canon so in fandom, bring on the slash!). For me, the appeal is always the tensions in a relationship, tensions that need not necessarily be sexual (even if I tend to sexualize the relationship). That makes sense, I swear.

Mostly? :waves: I've missed you. How have you been?
The Good, The Bad and The Lana: 1ww cartoonish excitementthelana on May 19th, 2007 08:01 am (UTC)
Sometimes I wonder if I'm more married to Gen than I think. Kinda, like there's a subtle difference between saying "I want to write/read a story where A/B are together" and "I want to write/read a story about what it would be like for A if A/B were together". I'm a big fan of dysfunctional or complicated or "warts and all" type of relationships and I'm usually the person who calls for a fic to be grittier. Almost like a category for stuff that is slashy but not all that shippy. Or shippy, but not that slashy (for example because it isn't fully realized).

In the end, it's really hard to say what exactly will give you the special "kick" in a fic. ARGH!

For me, the appeal is always the tensions in a relationship, tensions that need not necessarily be sexual (even if I tend to sexualize the relationship).

Wordy McWord.

Mostly? :waves: I've missed you. How have you been?

Mostly programming. Stupid project. Grrr. And after that I have a longer paper to write. It's really annoying.

I still watch some fannish stuff, I just really don't get much around posting about it. Odd thing, with the less time for livejournal, you kinda find yourself super-filtering. Like I have cut down to 5-10 people whose journals I check when I do go on livejournal (halfshell and dangermousie[bw fandom] being the ones I check the most regularly :D LOL, there are just some livejournal people I like to compare of a radio station. I just *like* reading them. Even if we don't have a fandom in common at the moment, some people just have a certain enthusiasm or what I call "a pleasant writing voice" that I just enjoy "listening" to them in any case).
she said mysteriouslyresounding_echo on May 19th, 2007 08:20 am (UTC)
I like to think I'm not shippy, but I might just be in denial. :( But I don't like fluff, so I think I'm saved from weird!shipper land. Yes, the grittier the better.

Sorry RL is kicking your ass. Sometimes school can just stfu, ya know? I too had to filter things--I've cut down drastically on the comms I read (and of those I mostly skip over too) but my friends list is rather managable (under 30) so I try to keep up. Plus I like you lot and enjoy reading your posts even if I don't comment. Radio stations indeed (the metaphor works even though I haven't listened to the radio in five years...)
The Good, The Bad and The Lana: 1ww hair raisingthelana on May 19th, 2007 08:25 am (UTC)
(the metaphor works even though I haven't listened to the radio in five years...)

Heh, me neither. Then of course, livejournals are much better than radio stations. They exist for any range of topics, you can interact with them easily and naturally. You can get the latest whenever you check them (you aren't bound to a certain timetable) and there are no endless repeats :)

Plus, I read faster than you can listen. In short, livejournal = teh win :D
(no subject) - resounding_echo on May 19th, 2007 08:27 am (UTC) (Expand)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Venushalfshellvenus on May 19th, 2007 08:29 am (UTC)
Mostly programming. Stupid project. Grrr. And after that I have a longer paper to write. It's really annoying.
Will you be done in May or June, at least for this year? We've hardly seen you lately, though RL is obviously more important than fandom!

Like I have cut down to 5-10 people whose journals I check when I do go on livejournal (halfshell and dangermousie[bw fandom] being the ones I check the most regularly :D
Eee! That's so sweet. :) It totally makes all my ridiculous ramblings seem worthwhile. ;)

Aren't you tired of the cycling updates yet? Or how about weird stories involving my kids? (with Christopher, the "weird" is pretty much self-generating). :0
The Good, The Bad and The Lanathelana on May 19th, 2007 08:53 am (UTC)
Eee! That's so sweet. :) It totally makes all my ridiculous ramblings seem worthwhile. ;)

You probably get checked the most. Incidentally you and iscaris are the only ones on my update list where I get an email notification when you post (with the tags and headlines) so I usually check within a day of you posting [well at least when the tags are only remotely interesting/relevant to me].

Aren't you tired of the cycling updates yet? Or how about weird stories involving my kids? (with Christopher, the "weird" is pretty much self-generating). :0

(1) Well there are hidden gems sometimes ;P
(2) Like we discussed before, your real life post are much more readable than the ones by most people. Might be half becuase of the kinds of stories you tell and part that "pleasant writing voice" thing :D You could probably muse about the proper raising of beans and carottes and I would still find it pleasant :D

Will you be done in May or June, at least for this year? We've hardly seen you lately, though RL is obviously more important than fandom!

I'm kinda hoping that at least the programming aspect will be over soon. Sigh. Will see. Programming is so annoying, since I'm one of those people who always starts programming to get the desired effect and *then* goes back and cleans up the code, do the commenting [of course here your motiations suffers; because you sorta have already achieved the effect and now you have to go *back* and ARGH! it's just so unmotivating!]. Which of course is exactly the wrong way to do it. Because of course you should start out with clean programming even if you don't have the right effect rather than have the effect and then chage everything to clean programming. Of course after that I still have some exams that I actually wanted to do this semester. But it's hard to predict how much time that will eat up. It's usually more a frame of mind thing, how much of my focus it requires. If it eats up my focus then finding the focus to do livejournal is hard even if I theoretically had the time.

I've actually been meaning to do a family/cute nephew-niece picture spam since forever (actually ever since I received the pictures in January! And now I have the Easter ones as well and little nephew is petting a baby sheep!), but I just can't get around even though the pictures are right there on my hard drive (because of course they still have to be cropped and organized and stuff).

For me, it's often awesome until it just becomes too much, and I feel like the author is deliberately torturing the characters in order to manipulate me. Then it becomes icky. :0


Yeah, sometimes the darkess is too overwhelming. And with overwhelming smarm then sometimes yes, you can't help but feel: how can they keep taking it further and further without the romantical option at least cropping up as a potential solution?
(no subject) - halfshellvenus on May 19th, 2007 05:55 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - thelana on May 19th, 2007 08:01 pm (UTC) (Expand)
The Good, The Bad and The Lanathelana on May 20th, 2007 06:30 am (UTC)
*sneak peek*

Re: *sneak peek* - halfshellvenus on May 20th, 2007 06:56 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: *sneak peek* - thelana on May 20th, 2007 10:23 am (UTC) (Expand)
Livin' La Vida Dorkawere_lemur on May 20th, 2007 09:00 am (UTC)
I'm a big fan of dysfunctional or complicated or "warts and all" type of relationships and I'm usually the person who calls for a fic to be grittier.

"Warts and all" is more interesting, to me at least. Disfunction is more fun to write about than happy fluffbunny stuff, at least if it's going to be a series.(But hey, I'm the one with the AU where James Bond is trying to brainwash Alec Trevelyan, so obviously I've got my biases.)
The Good, The Bad and The Lana: smilie priyankathelana on May 19th, 2007 08:08 am (UTC)
BTW, some of the odd effect of having less time for normal fannish things:

- I find myself addicted to non-fiction books and documentaries
- I started getting into audiobooks. Something I swore I would always scoff at.
she said mysteriously: peace through musicresounding_echo on May 19th, 2007 08:25 am (UTC)
Documentaries ftw. If you have any recs, I'm always on the look-out.

I have an odd relationship with non-fiction. I mean, I love it and read a lot of non-fiction for school, but when I hear "non-fiction" I think "philosophy" and/or "theory" which doesn't seem to be the popular notion of non-fiction (science stuff, contemporary politics, history and the ever-dreaded auto-biography).

As for audiobooks...:mocks you: They are only acceptable for road trips, and then only maybe. Frankly I think road trips are the perfect occasion for mix-tape-a-thons.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Venushalfshellvenus on May 19th, 2007 08:31 am (UTC)
but when I hear "non-fiction" I think "philosophy" and/or "theory" which doesn't seem to be the popular notion of non-fiction (science stuff, contemporary politics, history and the ever-dreaded auto-biography).
Non-fiction kind of dulls me out much of the time, but "Crisis In The Hot Zone" was a totally different story, and I'll try anything by Jon Krakauer. "Into Thin Air" is his best-known book (disastrous Mt. Everett summit climb), but I like "Into The Wild" much better.
(no subject) - thelana on May 19th, 2007 08:38 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - resounding_echo on May 19th, 2007 08:39 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - halfshellvenus on May 19th, 2007 05:50 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - resounding_echo on May 19th, 2007 07:10 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - halfshellvenus on May 20th, 2007 07:16 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - thelana on May 19th, 2007 08:36 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - resounding_echo on May 19th, 2007 08:46 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - thelana on May 19th, 2007 08:50 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - thelana on May 19th, 2007 09:05 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - resounding_echo on May 19th, 2007 09:09 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - thelana on May 19th, 2007 09:15 am (UTC) (Expand)