Female-centered fan fiction as homoaffection in fan communities

Ria Narai

University of Wollongong, Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia

[0.1] Abstract—In the scholarship of fan studies, a lot has been said about why female fan communities enjoy writing about male characters and relationships in fan fiction. In contrast, there has been a dearth of research into female fan communities that are centered around female characters and their relationships with each other. Here I examine the heretofore unnamed female-centered fan fiction genre of homoaffection fic through a close reading of examples chosen from the Star Trek fandom. I show how this fan fictional genre reworks the masculine narratives of the television series and movies in order to define female experience and demonstrate the way in which this in turn creates female communities in both the world of the fic and our own world.

[0.2] Keywords—Community; Female fandom; Femslash; Gift economy

Narai, Ria. 2017. "Female-Centered Fan Fiction as Homoaffection in Fan Communities." In "Queer Female Fandom," edited by Julie Levin Russo and Eve Ng, special issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 24.

[0.3] White picket fences have no place on space stations.

—Hellekson and Busse (2014)

[0.4] With Jadzia and Keiko both gone, Nerys became painfully aware of just how much she'd come to rely on the two of them for support, advice and, yes, gossip.

—AceofWands, "Casting On" (2014)

1. Introduction

[1.1] This special issue of TWC sets out to "collect and put in dialogue emerging research and criticism on the subject" of femslash, and my paper contributes to this goal by attending to a particular fan fiction genre that incorporates femslash but also refuses to draw a strong distinction between sexual and nonsexual relationships between women. As an academic fan, I believe, like Jenkins, that fan fiction is a resistive form of creative expression practiced by women (note 1) who seek to "colonize" the texts they are fans of by "reworking [them]…to become open to feminine pleasures" (Jenkins 1992, 114–15). This focus on fandom as a community of women has intrigued scholars, particularly in regards to slash. However, comparatively little has been said about the women who talk, read, and write about women in fan fiction, which is particularly lamentable given the extensive work about women reading and writing in other female-centric genres such as romance fiction (e.g., Radway 1984). There are even some similarities between the genres—for example, Radway's notion of romance fiction as compensatory literature that "enables [women] to relieve tension…diffuse resentment, and…indulge in a fantasy that provide[s] them with good feelings" (1984, 95) could easily be applied to fan fiction as well. But the scholarship on women in fan fiction in general, and on femslash specifically, is incredibly sparse—as Reid points out, "the existence of women writing about women in fandom is generally ignored" (2009).

[1.2] In this paper I seek to rectify this lack, sketching out the characteristics of a fan fiction genre that fans recognize but have not named, homoaffection fic, and showing how it reworks masculine narratives and in doing so centers and revalues female experiences, bringing into being female communities both in the world of the fic and—through its circulation in female fan communities—in our own world. The examples of homoaffection fic that I have selected come from the Archive of Our Own (AO3; and are based on the various Star Trek television series and movies. They were chosen through consultation with the community of Star Trek fans on Tumblr, and I have obtained permission from all the creators of the fan fiction included in this paper.

[1.3] In order to analyze these examples of homoaffection fic, I am drawing upon a number of theoretical frameworks including the notion of the lesbian continuum, theorized by Eve Sedgwick and expanded by Adrienne Rich, which "[includes] the sharing of a rich inner life…bonding…[and] the giving and receiving of practical and political support" (2003, 27); Elayne Rapping's use of the private sphere in analyzing soap operas, particularly the "things women do in [the private] sphere [that] are seen as central to the maintenance and proper functioning of human life" (2002, 52); and the existing fan studies scholarship on the gift economy in fandom.

[1.4] I must also clarify that in this paper I use the potentially problematic terms "masculine narratives" and "feminine narratives/pleasures" in reference to the public sphere and private sphere, respectively, which treads uncomfortably close to gender essentialism. That is, of course, not my intention at all. I use these terms not because men and women have innate properties that align them to these different spheres but because these terms are socially produced in many domains (including fiction and fan fiction) and are therefore useful to my argument.

2. Defining homoaffection fic

[2.1] Homoaffection fic is not a named genre in fandom. It was while reading Star Trek fic in other named genres, such as fluff, curtainfic, fem gen, and femslash that I began to identify similarities and recognize the conventions of a new genre. The fic was female-centered—not just because the main characters were women or because it was focalized through a female character but because it was centered on the relationship between two or more female characters. Also, if a male character or a relationship with a male character was included or discussed, then it was secondary to the main focus on female characters and relationships. However, it was not just that this fic centered on women but what women did in the fic itself that I identified as a generic convention. In terms of conventional narrative structure, nothing happens in the fic. The traditional plot—of set up, conflict, resolution—is not present. Instead, there is an emphasis on the female characters offering each other emotional support, with their relationships being profoundly positive.

[2.2] Although it is not a named genre, fans other than myself were able to recognize it when asked. As an author of homoaffection fic, I reached out to my community for fic that fit within the genre. I selected examples for this paper by sharing a post with the Star Trek fan community on Tumblr, describing the type of fic I was looking for and asking for recommendations. Within a week I had been sent over 30 examples.

[2.3] It should be noted that although homoaffection fic is an unnamed genre, it is similar in some ways to another fic genre that existed prior to and in the early days of the Internet, known as smarm ("Smarm" 2016). This genre was similar to the hurt/comfort genre, with an emphasis on the comfort: like homoaffection fic, it emphasized characters caring for and supporting each other through everyday experiences that were not part of the original narrative. Unlike homoaffection fic, smarm—like most fan fiction genres—was primarily associated with male-male friendships; however, it did include stories written about women. Another dissimilarity was that smarm was seen as the antithesis of slash, with characters not having a sexual relationship of any kind ("Smarm" 2016). The existence of smarm demonstrates that this type of storytelling, and the accompanying caring community of female readers and writers, is not a new phenomenon in fandom. And it also serves as a reminder that there are similar genres to homoaffection fic which focus on male-centered stories, in contrast to homoaffection fic's unique focus on women.

[2.4] In naming this genre, I have borrowed the term homoaffection from Caroline Gonda, who in turn adopted it from Susan Lanser to describe same-sex relationships in a way that emphasized the importance of affection as opposed to being constricted to a sexual/platonic binary with terms such as homoerotic or homosocial (2007, 92). This seemed appropriate to my classification, as the fic encompasses a wide range of relationships: sexual, romantic, platonic, and familial. This diversity of relationships between women can be understood in terms of what Rich and Sedgwick call the lesbian continuum. Rich suggests that "we consider the possibility that all women…exist on a lesbian continuum" (2003, 136), with Sedgwick explaining that "the diacritical opposition between the homosocial and the homosexual seems to be much less thorough and dichotomous for women, in our society, than for men" (1985, 2).

[2.5] In other words, because men in our society are confined to such a strict heterosexual/homosexual binary, any expression of homosocial behavior or affection between men must not be classified as anything other than a normal aspect of heterosexuality and defended, sometimes violently, as such. However, women are not restricted to the same binary, and the line between heterosexuality and homosexuality is blurred, particularly by homosocial behavior and affection. Sedgwick goes on to explain, "At this particular historical moment, an intelligible continuum of aims, emotions, and valuations links lesbianism with the other forms of women's attention to women: the bond of mother and daughter…the bond of sister and sister, women's friendship" (1985, 2).

[2.6] It is these forms of women's attention to women depicted by homoaffection fic. This is best illustrated through a close textual reading of a short example of homoaffection fic. The example I am analyzing, "Ice Cream, Coffee and Strawberry Tart" (2013) by cosmic_llin, is the third fic in a series about the romantic and sexual relationship between Seven of Nine from Star Trek: Voyager (1995–2001) and Sarina Douglas, a minor character from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993–99). Voyager and Deep Space Nine are two separate spin-off Star Trek television series, which ran almost concurrently and are set at roughly the same time in-universe. Deep Space Nine depicted the adventures of the crew of the titular space station in what is known as the Alpha Quadrant—the region of space that the Federation is situated in. Voyager is set on the titular starship, which is flung to the far-off Delta Quadrant on the other side of the galaxy. The series depicts their voyage home and culminates in their arrival at Earth in the final episode.

[2.7] The character Seven of Nine joins the crew of Voyager halfway through the series, having been rescued from the Borg Collective—a hive-mind of cyborgs, assimilated from humanoid races across the galaxy—by whom she was assimilated as a 7-year-old. The character of Sarina Douglas, meanwhile, appeared in only two episodes of Deep Space Nine; in "Statistical Probabilities" she is introduced as a genetically engineered human who processes information so quickly that it cannot get to her visual or auditory systems, rendering her unable to interact with her surroundings. In her subsequent appearance in "Chrysalis" an operation is performed which corrects the problem, allowing her to properly interact with the world for the first time since she was a child. Seven and Sarina never meet or know of each other in their respective series, but they have a great deal in common. They are both geniuses and work as scientists, and both have difficulty with social interaction because of their upbringings. Furthermore, they share a love of singing, which is established in their respective series and is part of the first fic in the series "Jasmine and Rose" (2012), in which Seven and Sarina meet at a scientific conference and develop romantic feelings for each other. By the time of "Ice Cream, Coffee and Strawberry Tart" (2013) their relationship has been established. As the title suggests, the fic consists of three sections—one for each conversation Seven has about her relationship with Sarina.

[2.8] Seven shares ice cream with Naomi Wildman, the first child born on Voyager. Their relationship is a curious mixture of maternal and sisterly, as a result of their age difference. Their conversation begins with Seven commenting on Naomi looking older:

[2.9] "Naomi Wildman," said Seven. "Your appearance has altered. You have gained approximately six centimeters in height since our last encounter, and you have modified your hairstyle." She paused, and smiled. "It is very…grown-up."

"Really?" Naomi beamed back, sliding into the booth opposite Seven. (cosmic_llin 2013)

[2.10] Following this, they order the ice cream, and Naomi tries to tease information out of Seven about Sarina. There is a childlike innocence to Naomi's questioning: "'A gift? Who from?' [Naomi] 'A friend.' [Seven] 'A girlfriend?' [Naomi]." Even her observation that Seven looks different because she is "smilier" contributes to the overall tone of their friendship. This is reinforced by the ending of this section, with Naomi entreating Seven to "'tell me about Sarina!'"

[2.11] The second section, the coffee, is shared with Admiral Kathryn Janeway, Voyager's former captain—which fans would anticipate, because of her well-established love of the beverage. Seven and Janeway share a professional relationship, as implied by the coffee, and yet there is also a maternal aspect to it in the television series. This is reflected in their dialogue:

[2.12] "Status report," said Admiral Janeway, taking two mugs from the replicator and bringing them over to the couch, where Seven was sitting.

"Everything is fine," Seven said, taking her mug.

"…and?" (cosmic_llin 2013)

[2.13] This continues, with the Admiral's repetition of "… and?" prompting brief, practical answers, until Janeway finally asks Seven to "tell me everything." This request is followed by the longest paragraph in the entire fic:

[2.14] So Seven told her how Sarina's shuttle had been twenty-three minutes late, how they had tried almost every restaurant on Earth that Sarina had ever happened to read about in a book, how they had gotten lost in Kaluga, seen an old-fashioned movie, walked the entire length of Federation Row in Paris, bought confectionary from street stands, and talked for hours about the new warp engine developments that had been in the news lately. (cosmic_llin 2013)

[2.15] The use of short sentences and repetition in the first half of this section builds up the suspense, which is satisfied by the condensed description of all the details Seven shares with the Admiral. This paragraph in particular reflects a common female experience, of giving an in-depth retelling of a date to a female friend.

[2.16] The third and final section is Seven's conversation with her only living relative, her aunt Irene Hansen, who appears briefly in a single episode, having reached out to contact Seven in the Delta Quadrant, along with all the other families whose loved ones are on Voyager. This section of the fic begins with a discussion of the strawberry tart:

[2.17] "How's the strawberry tart?" Irene asked.

Seven swallowed her current mouthful and smiled. "Excellent, as always," she said. "Aunt Irene, you do not have to make it every time I visit. I know from experience that preparing food by hand is time-consuming."

"Nonsense, it's your favourite," said Irene. (cosmic_llin 2013)

[2.18] The caring relationship between them is established through the homemade strawberry tart and the effort that Seven's aunt goes to in making it. This initial discussion is followed by Irene asking whether Sarina also likes strawberry tarts and suggesting that Seven bring her to meet her, prompting a discussion about their relationship.

[2.19] "So…it's getting serious between the two of you?"

Seven paused for a moment to consider the various meanings of the word serious.

"Perhaps?" she ventured. "I am unsure. I don't know yet what I want to happen next, or how I foresee our relationship progressing…I like how things are now."

"Well, as long as you're both having a good time, that's the important thing," Irene said. "It does my heart good to see you happy, Annika." (cosmic_llin 2013)

[2.20] Irene's use of Seven's birth name, Annika, is a reminder of the familial relationship between them, different to the one she has with Naomi or Kathryn.

[2.21] From this analysis, it is clear to see the four kinds of relationships that cosmic_llin has plotted in this fic. Seven and Sarina's romantic and sexual relationship is at the center of the three conversations, yet it is not the focus—the platonic friendships she has with Naomi and Janeway, her chosen family, and her familial relationship with her aunt—are the main features of the text. And each relationship is different yet similar, a perfect example of the many different relationships that are part of the lesbian continuum and the way that they all "[include] the sharing of a rich inner life…bonding…[and] the giving and receiving of practical and political support" (Rich 2003, 27). It is this, the women supporting Seven and her relationship with Sarina, that is what happens in the fic. Their dialogue and their actions—particularly the expression of emotions and eating and drinking—is what makes up the majority of the fic. In order to see what is at stake here, I draw on Rapping's work on the importance of the private sphere to soap opera fans. She states that there is

[2.22] a sharp delineation between the male driven public sphere, in which work, business, and public affairs are handled, and the female driven domestic sphere…in which [takes] place the work of caring for and maintaining family relations, the socializing of children, and the negotiation of emotional and spiritual matters…This realm was seen to promote values such as caring, emotional openness, mutual support, and concern for the welfare of the group. (2002, 52–53)

[2.23] In the private sphere, Rapping argues, "the things women do"—in particular, "the work of caring for and maintaining family relations" and the expression of "caring, emotional openness, [and] mutual support"—"are seen as central to the maintenance and proper functioning of human life" (2002, 52–53). This centralizing of "the things women do" characterizes homoaffection fic as well as soap opera, and it is part of the way in which this genre of fic defines, constructs, and revalues female experience. A connection between soap opera and fan fic along just these lines—their construction and representation of female lives—has been drawn by Camille Bacon-Smith, who states that "fan writers, like soap opera fans, want to see characters change and evolve, have families, and rise to the challenge of internal and external crises in a nonlinear, dense tapestry of experience" (1992, 64). She claims this is so as "whether because of innate qualities or socialization, women perceive their lives in this way, and they like to see that structure reproduced in their literature" (1992, 64). Whether this is true of all fan fiction or not, it applies to homoaffection fic.

3. Defining, constructing, and revaluing female experience

[3.1] To establish fan fiction as a form of literature that seeks to rework existing texts to "become open to feminine pleasures" (Jenkins 1992, 114–15) raises the question of what, exactly, is meant by feminine pleasures. Fic focusing on traumatic events such as character death, humorous romantic comedy plots, epic tales more complicated than their original source text—fan fiction encompasses all of these and more, and as it is written primarily by women, it follows that it must all then be fulfilling feminine pleasures. But homoaffection fic seems to focus on a specific form of feminine pleasure, the one hinted at by Bacon-Smith, of seeing characters exist in a "nonlinear, dense tapestry of experience" (1992, 64) encompassing the everyday, reflecting women's experience of their own lives. In Bacon-Smith's view of what fan writers want in their fic, "it is living day to day that matters, not the single events that make up individual plots" (1992, 64).

[3.2] This is reflected in homoaffection fic, which focuses on the mundane and trivial and revalues them as important. The fic I was recommended features a variety of domestic activities from eating, drinking, sleeping, and bathing to knitting, gardening, visiting the holodeck, or going on shore leave, as well as the other, most common aspect of homoaffection fic: emotional support, with female characters confiding in each other and receiving support and understanding, as well as physical comfort and nurturing, in return. Often, as in "Ice Cream, Coffee and Strawberry Tart," the two are linked together, with the domestic activities being used to nurture a character physically while they are being supported emotionally.

[3.3] For example, "Pomegranate" (2010) by Raven follows on from the events of the Star Trek (2009) movie, with the character of Nyota Uhura returning to her home on Earth to heal from the ordeal. Tea serves an important function in the story. It is established that making tea was how her mother nurtured her when she was studying to join Starfleet—"Nyota studied late into the night, every night, and her mother made tea after dark and poured out mute, loving cups"—and that this is how she continues to nurture and comfort her when she returns home: "'I'm so sorry,' her mother says, softly. 'I'm so, so sorry. I know I can't understand.' She lets go and stands up. 'Let me make you some tea, baby, okay?'" The mundane, domestic act of drinking tea is given a sense of importance in this example of homoaffection fic—and it is not an isolated example.

[3.4] My own fic, "Casting On" (2014), depicts the formation of a knitting circle among the women of Deep Space Nine. Knitting serves to bring the women together as they support and comfort each other. They also drink tea while knitting and talking and, as in "Pomegranate," it is not treated as just a descriptive detail but as an essential part of the story. In one scene, Keiko O'Brien—the wife of main character Miles O'Brien—joins the knitting circle after a harrowing few weeks when Miles's life was put in danger numerous times. When she arrives, she is emotionally distressed. The other women there settle her on the couch then get her some tea to drink: "Keiko brought the mug to her face and inhaled deeply. Dax was pleased to see some of the tension ease from her shoulders" (AceofWands 2014). This then allows Keiko to open up to the other women emotionally. Something as simple as providing and drinking tea is constructed as an important aspect of female experience—and homoaffection fic revalues this experience as itself important. This is a political act of resistance to traditional (masculine) narrative values.

[3.5] Hennegan laments that, in traditional literature, "the bulk of women's lives go ignored, unknown, unrecorded. Women's lives are too 'trivial,' 'boring,' 'narrowly domestic' to matter and the novels which depict them are equally expendable" (1998, 184). And her examination of so-called women's books written in the 18th and 19th centuries reveals "meticulously detailed accounts of a women's world" with less visible male characters, and whose "real content lay in the women's interactions with each other: in the advice they gave, care they took, support they offered, sacrifices they made" (1998, 174). This description clearly fits homoaffection fic as well, suggesting that it is not a new phenomenon but a continuation of an existing form of literature—one that constructs everyday domestic activities and emotional support as a defining part of female experience and that revalues this as something important and worthy of being written about. This raises the question, however, of what pleasure is to be gained from reworking the masculine narratives of an action-adventure science fiction television series to focus on the female experience of the everyday and the domestic. That is, why write homoaffection fic in the Star Trek universe when women's fiction already exists?

4. Reworking masculine narratives

[4.1] Henry Jenkins notes that "most traditionally feminine stories do not require such constant reworking in order to become open to feminine pleasures" (1992, 114), suggesting that part of the pleasure is, precisely, in the reworking itself. Pugh states that a fic writer of her acquaintance once remarked that "people wrote fanfic because they wanted either 'more of' their source material or 'more from' it" (2005, 19). In other words, either they love the text so much that they want to continue spending time with those characters in that world, or their desires are not being fulfilled by it and they want more. I believe both to be true in the case of homoaffection fic. The writers love the world of Star Trek and its female characters, and yet Star Trek episodes are traditional masculine narratives—as are most television dramas.

[4.2] Fiske defines masculine narratives as those "structured to produce greater narrative and ideological closure" (1987, 200) and contrasts them to soap operas, noting that masculine narratives "have a single plot, or a clearly defined hierarchy of main and subplots" in contrast to the multiple characters, plots, and perspectives of soap operas (1987, 219). Furthermore, masculine narratives tend to focus on the public sphere, as outlined by Rapping (2002), and to center on the work that the characters do. Because of their desire to explore more feminine pleasures, the writers of homoaffection fic focus on a different aspect of the characters' lives than what we see in the masculine narratives of the series. This is illustrated in different ways in the examples I have selected.

[4.3] In some cases, the fic explores events that would never happen in the series, such as "Coffee in Bed" (2010) by Opal Matilla—a series of fics about the romantic, sexual relationship between Admiral Kathryn Janeway from Voyager and Doctor Beverly Crusher from The Next Generation (1987–94), two characters who never meet in the series. The fic series is set after Voyager returns to Earth, and follows on from The Next Generation movies, when Janeway is an admiral at Starfleet Headquarters and Crusher is the head of Starfleet Medical. The series follows their relationship as it progresses from dates to moving in together—then continues to marriage and pregnancy in a subsequent series—and much of it is entirely domestic, without any of the markers of traditional masculine narrative. For example, "Ours" (2011), a fic halfway through the series, consists of the two women adjusting to moving in together, particularly Kathryn getting used to the idea of them sharing a cat. Much of the fic is devoted to erotica and dialogue between them about the aforementioned cat.

[4.4] This is one of the ways in which homoaffection fic can completely rework the characters and events from Star Trek to fit feminine pleasures. However, it is not the only way in which homoaffection fic reworks masculine narratives. Other examples center around the events of particular episodes, specifically the emotional impact that they have. "Kindred Spirits" (2014) by allamaraine follows the Next Generation episode "Lower Decks," where a young Starfleet officer, Sito Jaxa, dies on a dangerous mission. Although we do see some of the characters grieving, including Captain Picard, who sent her on the mission, there is not much space given to that grief in the episode. By contrast, allamaraine's 2,000-word fic focuses entirely on Doctor Crusher comforting her grieving friend and nurse, Alyssa Ogawa. The fic culminates in Beverly physically comforting Alyssa as she cries:

[4.5] Beverly felt her chest tighten at the sound of Alyssa's grief. "Come here," she said, gathering Alyssa into her arms.

"I miss her so much," Alyssa sobbed, before burying her face into Beverly's shoulder.

"Shhhhh," Beverly stroked Alyssa's hair and gently rocked her back and forth. "I know, I know." (allamaraine 2014)

[4.6] A similar scene occurs at the end of my fic "Casting On" (2014), set during the second and third seasons of Deep Space Nine and filling in the gaps between episodes, in terms of the emotional impact that these events have on the female characters. The final scene follows on from the events of the episode "Life Support," in which Kira Nerys's lover has died. In my fic, Jadzia Dax arrives at her quarters to comfort her while she is grieving:

[4.7] Jadzia lead her, gently, across the room. She pressed firmly on her shoulder, silently urging her to wait there, and went and heaved Nerys's couch around until it faced the window. Then she took Nerys's hand and pulled her down onto the couch beside her. They looked out at the bright stars, undulled by a planet's atmosphere, and the low hum of the station's environmental control system was the only sound to be heard.

And when Nerys started to cry again, soundlessly, her whole body wracked with sobs, Jadzia said nothing, but wrapped her arms around Nerys and gently rocked her from side to side. (AceofWands 2014)

[4.8] These examples are two among many in homoaffection fic, and they demonstrate the way that this fic revalues female experience and constructs it as something valuable. It is not simply that fans are adding female experiences to the traditionally masculine plots of Star Trek episodes, but that by focusing on them they are fleshing out aspects of the Star Trek universe that are considered trivial and thus creating a much richer narrative world, encompassing a wider range of human experience. And in doing so, they are reconceptualizing the television series not only for themselves, as individual fans, but for others. In her paper "Slash as Queer Utopia," Willis states that "to say that Blake and Avon are in love is not only to make a claim about the content of Blake's 7; it is also to make the claim that queer desire exists and can be recognized" (2007, 4); analogously, homoaffection fic does not just make a claim about the Star Trek universe but insists that in our world, the things women do exist, and that these things are not only valuable and worthy of being written about but are crucial to maintaining a livable world. With this emphasis on reworking masculine narratives to open them up to female experience, homoaffection fic attracts fans who are also interested in exploring those possibilities. The women writing about these characters want to explore the relationships between them that might only have been hinted at, or given less emphasis, in the original text. Or, as with many of the examples, they might bring together characters who never even met.

[4.9] But in writing fic about women coming together to form female communities, the fic itself also acts to bring the fan writers and readers together to form their own female community. As Stanfill and Condis note, "fan work creates fan community—fandom itself—through the production and maintenance of affective ties" (2014, 3.4). In other words, by interacting with each other—whether in comments on fan fiction or talking in a community space like Tumblr—these fans form a community. Indeed, as Scott notes, "it is the reciprocity and free circulation of fan works within female fan communities that identifies them as communities" (2009, 2.10). So the creation and circulation of homoaffection fic, whose focus is on female communities and relationships, in turn develops reciprocal female communities and relationships among the fans who write, read, and share it.

5. The role of the gift economy

[5.1] It is not simply the circulation of fan fiction in fandom that forms a community. The Star Trek fandom is vast and stretches across real world and online spaces, and the subset of the fandom who write and read homoaffection fic is small and centered around Tumblr and AO3. Their community is formed through their interactions in these online spaces. The social aspects of this community take place on Tumblr, where pictures, fic, and vids are shared and where discussion about the female characters, their relationships, and particular events and episodes is common. Wilson states that the "affective discourse of fandom (that is, excited conversations and expressions of love) is inextricable from the production of fan fiction" (2016, 3.6) and this is true of the community that I am examining. Many of the fans who interact on Tumblr also write fan fiction, and because of their affective ties, they often write fic specifically for each other. But as Turk notes, "While some gifts are made for and presented to specific fans, whether in the context of a preexisting friendship, a prompt or request, or a fest or challenge, they are typically made available not only to that individual but to the community as a whole" (2014, 3.1).

[5.2] Even when fic is written for someone, it is still shared on the AO3 to be enjoyed by the entire community. In the selection of homoaffection fic chosen for this paper, a number of examples were gifts. "When The Working Day Is Done" (2015) was written by glitteratiglue for cosmic_llin, with the note "because she got excited about the idea and didn't tell me I was insane for wanting to do it," suggesting a friendship between the two writers that extends beyond reading and writing fic. However, friendship is not a prerequisite for gifting fic. Since 2014, cosmic_llin has run an annual Star Trek Friendshipfest on the AO3, described as "a fanfiction exchange for friendship stories set in the Star Trek universe" ("Star Trek Friendshipfest" 2014). Fic exchanges are a common practice in many fandoms (and across fandoms). Writers sign up for them, request pairings they would like to read, and offer the pairings they are willing to write. Then they get matched, anonymously, and have a limited time to write fic of a certain length, which is then shared on the AO3.

[5.3] This particular fic exchange is often a source of homoaffection fic, with participants requesting female friendships. I myself have been the recipient of fic in these exchanges, including "Everything Will Be All Right (If You Keep Me Next To You)" (2014) by silly_cleo, written for my request for more fic about the women of Deep Space Nine being friends. And "Kindred Spirits" by allamaraine was another gift of that same exchange, written for glitteratiglue. I mention these examples in particular to demonstrate not only the way in which the fic exchange is part of the existing community—as it is made up of many fans who already know and interact with each other on Tumblr—but also that it is part of the making of that community. Although fans may not have interacted prior to writing fic for each other, the act of writing that fic can serve to form the first bonds of friendship and establish a sense of community. Fans discover that they share similar interests in terms of what they want to write and read about, which naturally encourages them to seek out and interact with each other on Tumblr in the hopes of being able to discuss those shared interests. Thus the gift economy creates social bonds and constructs fan community.

6. Conclusion

[6.1] In the chapter of The Fan Fiction Studies Reader about slash, Hellekson and Busse suggest that the only relationships that make sense in the universes of cult television are homosexual ones, as heterosexual relationships are "bound to short-circuit the adventures and fantastic explorations" at the center of these series (2014, 80). They suggest that "domesticity cannot be allowed in these universes, and within a heteronormative ideology, heterosexual relations will eventually lead to domesticity…White picket fences have no place on space stations" (Hellekson and Busse 2014, 80). Obviously, I do not agree with this assertion. Homoaffection fic, the fan fiction genre I have defined and illuminated in this paper, embraces domesticity and incorporates it into Star Trek—a cult television universe it is supposedly antithetical to.

[6.2] Furthermore, with its central focus on female characters and their relationships with each other, homoaffection fic embraces domesticity while simultaneously resisting heteronormative ideology. It defines domestic activities and emotional support as essential aspects of female experience, and it constructs and revalues this as something worth being written about. And it counters the notion of domesticity having no place in the action-oriented, masculine narratives of Star Trek by reworking those narratives to make them open to feminine pleasure. By creating this sense of female community within the fic itself, it also creates the same supportive community among the fans who create and circulate this fic—of which the giving and receiving of gift fics is an integral part.

[6.3] Although this paper has focused solely on Star Trek and on a specific section of its fan community, Hennegan's commentary on women's fiction in the 18th and 19th centuries makes it clear that homoaffection is part of a long tradition of feminine resistance to masculine narratives. The link between this form of literature, in which female experience is valued as something important and worth writing and reading about, and fan fiction has previously been unacknowledged by scholarship—in much the same way that femslash and other female-centered forms of fan fiction have been ignored. And yet, as this paper demonstrates, these forms of fan fiction serve an important need for female fans. They create a richer narrative world that encompasses a wider range of human experience—specifically, female experience—and revalue this experience as important.

[6.4] As with femslash and queer female fandom in general, there is plenty of scope for further research into homoaffection fic as a genre of female-centered fan fiction and the role it plays in creating and serving female communities. So too is there scope to explore the similarities and differences between homoaffection fic and other similar fic genres such as smarm. But in terms of its role in the Star Trek fan community, this paper has demonstrated that through reworking the traditional masculine narratives of Star Trek, homoaffection fic has continued the tradition of illuminating the lives of women and thereby unequivocally states that white picket fences do indeed have a place on space stations and starships.

7. Acknowledgments

[7.1] I thank both my supervisor Ika Willis and fellow homoaffection fic author Llinos Cathryn Wynn-Jones for their help, guidance, enthusiasm, and encouragement.

8. Note

1. Although here I refer to female experience and female community, I must clarify that I am not referring to an innate characteristic attached to biological sex, but a socialized way of being not limited to heterosexual, cisgendered women—as there are a diversity of genders and sexualities present in fan communities.

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