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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 Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Venushalfshellvenus on May 20th, 2007 06:39 pm (UTC)
Re: here via metafandom
Expect for the part were the authors of these stories, like Beach also read and write slash
In the case of the one story, Beach, the co-author does not appear to like Slash, and the story is being presented as Gen Smarm when it is clearly slash.

That's the denial part. Slash should be labeled as such, in particular to to freak out readers who don't want to cross that line. (Not that I'm one of those, but many people are).

I've been in TS fandom when smarm was a really popular genre
I think I clarified better as I went along-- some of it could clearly be considered separate from Slash (merely overly-affectionate Gen), and some of it is definitly light Slash.

For me, I still think a lot of the appeal is close to the same appeal of Slash, though... Hitting many of the same buttons, just not at quite an extreme level.
Rat Creature: whateverratcreature on May 20th, 2007 07:16 pm (UTC)
Re: here via metafandom
See, personally I'm not much in favor of the gen, het, slash labelling scheme anyway, since I read all three and that in itself doesn't tell me much of what's central in a story. I can't count the number of times I've read story search posts especially in evenly slash/gen buddy fandoms like TS, where the query starts with "I can't remember whether it was gen or slash, but the plot was (insert h/c details/case file plot/whatever)", because whether Jim and Blair were living together as buddies or as lovers was completely irrelevant for the main points. Besides a lot of stories don't fit into neat little boxes anyway, and what people see as "gen" varies like no other category. I mean myself I see gen as a story without sexual/romantic pairings, and well, it's been a while since I read any smarm, but some isn't exactly that, I agree, which is why it is labelled "smarm" for further clarification. But others define gen as anything that is not porn including het and same-sex romance and sexual content, which I find really weird, but see comics_genfic's profile for that "gen" definition. For others anything is gen as long as only canonical ships (whether m/f, m/m or f/f) appear, usually also qualified that it shouldn't be porn, but canon ship romance can be still gen for them, for yet others all G-rated stories are gen, canonical or not, same or opposite sex or not, others are okay with all kinds of background pairings in gen, regardless of rating or canonicity, as long as the focus isn't shippy and so on and so forth. I'm not about to tell someone their story isn't gen if they think it is, much less would I assume to be able to guess any psychological "denial" issues or whatever just from the way fiction is labelled. That's just condescending and presumptuous, IMO.

If something is labelled as "smarm" or even "heavy smarm" in the context of TS fandom readers at least at that time were very likely to be aware that there was going to be far more touching and body contact than you usually expect in platonic relationships (at least in Western countries), so this whole "warning" aspect is moot, IMO. Not that I think slash needs a "warning" as such, beyond any warning actual explicit porn requires. If two people kiss each other with a bit of tongue that's hardly automatically adult-only material, whether the author sees it as sexual or something else. Obviously people may or may not be "freaked out" by all kinds of content (personally I have an extreme eye injury squick because I'm quite phobic about things touching my eyes and such, but I've seen an archive site with a specific warning for that exactly once) but you kind of have to deal with that when you read fiction or get someone else to test read stories for you when you need to feel more safety than applying the backbutton as soon as uncomfortable things happen.
Helen W.wneleh on May 20th, 2007 10:12 pm (UTC)
Re: here via metafandom
If something is labelled as "smarm" or even "heavy smarm" in the context of TS fandom readers at least at that time were very likely to be aware that there was going to be far more touching and body contact than you usually expect in platonic relationships (at least in Western countries), so this whole "warning" aspect is moot, IMO.

ITA.

I also think that you need to know something about Jim to understand why he was in the condition he was in in "Beach." Most other characters would just need a nap.

- Helen
Rat Creature: sentinelratcreature on May 20th, 2007 10:22 pm (UTC)
Re: here via metafandom
Yeah, TS gives great opportunity for sensory h/c without actual live threatening injury that would just lead to a need for a hospital. I mean, I vaguely recall that Beach lost my attention somewhere around chapter 40 or 50 or so at the time, but TS is a great series for h/c because of the senses, because you get Blair as responsible to take care of him, rather than needing to bring medical professionals and such into it, and you can make a case for all kinds of things helping JIm with his senses with enough setup for the readers.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Venushalfshellvenus on May 21st, 2007 02:28 am (UTC)
Re: here via metafandom
See, personally I'm not much in favor of the gen, het, slash labelling scheme anyway, since I read all three and that in itself doesn't tell me much of what's central in a story.

I think you're pretty rare in this regard, though.

Most people want stories explicitly labeled-- not just Gen/Het/Slash, but if there are pairings, well then, which pairings?

Most of us don't have a lot of time for fanfic reading, and don't want to begin a story only to be squicked later, or to find that it's some shippy fantasmagoria when we were looking for Gen or what-not.

I personally don't like Het, and I know a lot of people who don't. Many people don't like Slash. Still others don't like stories featuring a particular pairing as a couple. In all cases, we want to know before we wade in.

Yes, we can always click the "back" button. But we've already invested wasted time at that point.

I also have less trouble niggling people about "false advertising." If you either don't understand what genre you're actually writing, or if you're trying to mislead your readers... people are not going to be pleased with you as an author. Better to know proactively than via passive-aggression, in my book.

I'm not saying you should change your opinion at all, just saying that I don't believe it's the predominant one.
Rat Creature: readingratcreature on May 21st, 2007 02:51 am (UTC)
Re: here via metafandom
See, I want stories comprehensively labelled too in order not to waste my time. I want to know the characters, and the genre, and if it is a pwp I want to know the pairing and the kink, and especially I want a decent summary blurb rather than some random bizarre half-line of dialog for a summary. What I'm saying is that for me the gen/slash/het thing isn't the be -all of labelling.

Say there is a story in an ensemble show like SGA with the whole team, Sheppard and McKay are currently a couple but it isn't really a romance focus, during a pause in the action adventure plot, they camp at night off world there's some talk about previous relationships and Ronon mentions his dead fiancee while there's some UST between him and Teyla but nothing happens yet, also he tells an embarrassing story how he and Sheppard had to jerk each other off for a fertility ritual on a previous mission, but mostly it's the team sitting and talking doing team things. Now if you follow the gen, slash het division plus pairing plus summary you may end up with "Slash, het. Pairings: Sheppard/McKay, Sheppard/Ronon, Ronon/other, Teyla/Ronon." how does *that* represent the story better than labelling it "team action-adventure, characters: Sheppard, McKay, Teyla, Ronon"? With the first you think it's an orgy.

Sure for romance and porn the pairings are the most important thing, for other stories that just also have relationships in them,just listing the pairings doesn't tell you much of value.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Venushalfshellvenus on May 21st, 2007 03:02 am (UTC)
Re: here via metafandom
What I'm saying is that for me the gen/slash/het thing isn't the be -all of labelling.

Ah, I have a better idea of what you're getting at.

You're saying the genre is not the most important part for you-- you'd rather have some idea of the "flavor" of the story, i.e., the "mood" genre as well as the characters/overall genre (i.e., is it drama? Or angst? Is it humor? Or crack? Is it drama and humor both? Is it PWP?)

I actually think pretty much everyone wants all of those things too (nothing like a summary that implies Drama and is actually Crack, for instance). That is, everyone except the people who complain about ridiculously long headers-- but that's usually about the "Oscar-award-winner speech" style of author's notes, and not the summary. :0

Now if you follow the gen, slash het division plus pairing plus summary you may end up with "Slash, het. Pairings: Sheppard/McKay, Sheppard/Ronon, Ronon/other, Teyla/Ronon." how does *that* represent the story better than labelling it "team action-adventure, characters: Sheppard, McKay, Teyla, Ronon"?
I'd probably go with what you have, and add in "mentions of non-shippy slash"-- the jerking-off thing is the most likely to wig people out. Unless it's just mentioned and not actually described, in which case-- leave it off.
Rat Creature: talkratcreature on May 21st, 2007 03:34 am (UTC)
Re: here via metafandom
Of course comprehensive headers with more information are better (disregarding for the moment the whole issue of spoilery warnings and labels, there are after all even romance stories where the tension comes from not knowing whom the character will end up with). What annoys me about the gen/slash/het trinity is its prominence in fannish labelling that assumes this as the single most important categorization, pushing other sometimes far more useful labels aside in the way things are organized etc. also regardless of that these divisions don't ebven make sense for some stories.

When something is labelled smarm *that label already tells the reader to expect an intense, intimate relationship between the two main characters usually with physical contact and affection. That in itself is as useful and and actually more narrow than "gen" or "slash". So why insist on a gen or slash label, when you don't insist that an author absolutely has to declare whether something is a comedy or a tragedy or whatever and *those* labels are all optional?

For example I never felt a lack of labelling or descriptions on saffronhouse's page, there's a section for gen stories with the smarm like "Beach" marked smarm on that page for gen readers not into smarm, and the slash is on an extra page.
Helen W.wneleh on May 21st, 2007 09:51 am (UTC)
Re: here via metafandom
My first thought was, I'd label the story "Team action/adventure, McShep, various adult relationships mentioned and implied."

I'd be explicit about McShep because, in SGA, that seems to be something people want to know.

But if the story has that particular conversation, I'd think there was some overall theme of, I-don't-know, SOMETHING that would bring that up?

- - - -

My issues with the gen/slash/het labeling are similar to yours, though.

- Helen