Textual Echoes: Praxis

One true threesome: Reconciling canon and fan desire in Star Trek: Voyager

Bridget Kies

Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, Indiana, United States

[0.1] Abstract—Fan-written stories that involve three-way relationships among the characters Tom Paris, Harry Kim, and B'Elanna Torres from Star Trek: Voyager capitalize on the homosocial bond between Paris and Kim and the canonical relationship between Paris and Torres to create a queer triangular relationship in which characterization, sexuality, and desire are all reoriented from the canon. Some of these stories relegate the nontraditional relationship to something approximating heteronormativity; in these instances, the story mirrors the canon in its often undesirable depiction of domesticity. In other stories, the triad moves away from dominant cultural expectations like marriage and children; in these stories, the triad seems to endure happily. The key to the stability of the erotic triangle therefore shifts the relationship or relationships away from the burden of hegemonic values, both in canon and in fan fiction.

[0.2] Keywords—Fan fiction; Gender; TV

Kies, Bridget. 2011. "One True Threesome: Reconciling Canon and Fan Desire in Star Trek: Voyager." In "Textual Echoes," edited by Cyber Echoes, special issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 8. http://dx.doi.org/10.3983/twc.2011.0248.

1. Introduction

[1.1] The writing (or rewriting) of romance by fans has long been a major focus of research among fan studies scholars. Foundational studies by Patricia Frazer Lamb and Diane Veith (1986), Constance Penley (1991a, 1992), Camille Bacon-Smith (1992), and Henry Jenkins (1992) have investigated the development of slash as fans of the original Star Trek (1966–1969) exploited the source text for its emotional intimacy. The model they used was that of a resistant reading of the source text, in which fans reclaim their favorite characters from producers.

[1.2] In spite of seemingly radical reinterpretations of characters who are typically heterosexual in the canon, more recent studies have shifted away from the resistant model. Christine Scodari (2003) has called attention to the tendency of slash to reaffirm the hegemonic, rather than resisting it; Sara Gwenllian Jones (2002) has argued that slash is a reading of the canon's own homoerotic subtext. Elizabeth Woledge (2006) has observed that slash is at its core concerned with the intimacy between the characters, regardless of larger genre classifications. What these scholars have in common and what has been the principal rhetoric of fan fiction studies is the extent to which slash is compelling in its formulation of romance between two men.

[1.3] Fan studies scholars are just beginning to write about fan fiction involving other kinds of nontraditional situations and relationships, such as male pregnancy (mpreg) and incest. These stories receive much less academic attention than slash, yet they are equally important to understanding how fans negotiate intertextuality. In this vein, I will concentrate on another kind of unconventional relationship that is seldom written about, though quite abundant in fan fiction archives: the threesome.

[1.4] Because much of fan fiction discourse has been about the ways fans dissect the canon, I concentrate on the friction between the canon's homoerotic message (intended or not) and its typical romance subplot between the hero and heroine. This friction often forces fan fiction writers to make a conscious choice to support the slash pairing or the heterosexual one, which may be more explicit in the canon. Catherine Driscoll observes that "pairing and rating function as more important generic markers than terms like comedy or angst, and are more usual search categories for fan fiction archives" (2006, 84). Indeed, many archives are devoted exclusively to one particular pairing. However, this emphasis limits possibilities and has the potential to pit fans against each other.

[1.5] Fans who compromise between a text's latent and manifest romances have a third option: to write about a three-way relationship, which I will refer to as a triad. Assume for a moment that a fan wants to remain relatively faithful to the canon in his or her fan fiction because, as Driscoll points out, "only by characterization, setting, and plot can a story enter the web of canon and become part of the community that will circulate it" (2006, 91). Fan fiction stories involving a triad can merge established canonical elements like the heterosexual romance plot with the interpretation of latent homoeroticism; these stories have the potential to queer characters and relationships in a way that calls into question dominant cultural values.

[1.6] Writing about queer readings of Harry Potter, Ika Willis argues for an analysis of fan fiction that operates outside the paradigm of either resisting the canon or incorporating its latent elements. Instead, she suggests considering the manner in which fan fiction "reorients a canonical text, opening its fictional world onto a set of demands determined by the individual reader and her knowledge of the (fictional and nonfictional) world(s)" (2006, 155). Willis's concept of reorientation is particularly helpful in shaping a discussion about stories of the triad, which reorient desire and identification, characterization, and genre.

[1.7] The formulation of the triad is an erotic triangle, which Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick (1985) explains is a common theme in literature, television, and film of two rivals competing for their beloved. The homosocial bond the rivals share, Sedgwick notes, may shift the trajectories of desire among the participants. Lincoln Geraghty (2003, 456) and Jenkins (1992, 186) have analyzed the erotic triangle among the characters Kirk, Spock, and McCoy of the original Star Trek. McCoy and Spock are both close to Kirk, but he values different qualities in them: emotion from McCoy and reason from Spock. Any jealousy either McCoy or Spock might feel over the other's friendship with Kirk serves as a powerful bond that connects them as much as it pits them against each other as rivals. Given that this triangle does not include a female sexual object of desire, the tension between Spock and McCoy is ultimately resolved with all three men sharing in the friendship. Geraghty has also examined the subtextual erotic triangle among the characters Garak, Bashir, and O'Brien from Deep Space Nine (1993–1999), the third Trek series, noting that although Garak and O'Brien do not have much, if any, of a canonical association, they are bound to each other in their mutual desire to share more of Bashir's time and attention (2003, 457). There is yet another triangle among O'Brien, Bashir, and O'Brien's wife, Keiko. In the episode "Extreme Measures" (1999), Bashir even suggests that O'Brien likes him better than Keiko.

[1.8] Star Trek: Voyager (1995–2001) clearly presents erotic triangles that fan fiction writers enjoy manipulating. Captain Janeway and her first officer Chakotay struggle with their sexual tension until the arrival of Seven of Nine in the fourth season upsets the status quo of their relationship. The canonical (if remarkably undeveloped) relationship between Seven of Nine and Chakotay, combined with Janeway and Seven's relationship (read by fans as alternately maternal or lesbian) results in a powerful Janeway/Chakotay/Seven triangle. David Greven (2008) also argues that there is a "stirring allegory of same-sex desire" as Janeway and the Borg queen compete for Seven of Nine's loyalties and affection in another, all-female triangle. I have chosen to concentrate on the erotic triangle of Tom Paris, Harry Kim, and B'Elanna Torres. This triad contains Voyager's primary male pair-bond (Paris and Kim), which often echoes the famed Kirk/Spock relationship. It is one of few canonical, lasting romantic relationships in the Star Trek universe (Paris and Torres), and sufficient canonical evidence as well as fan support exist for the third pairing (Kim and Torres). Additionally, there are abundant fan fiction stories containing this triad.

[1.9] Paris/Kim/Torres fan fiction investigates the ways in which the three characters struggle with varying degrees of attraction and rivalry. Among the stories I have studied, the characters have different initial responses to the idea of the triad, and different characters are portrayed as the sexual aggressor. The stability of the erotic triangle is linked to the emphasis on certain hegemonic values in the story. In stories in which the triad is reoriented toward an approximation of heterosexuality, the relationship does not last, or the characters suffer. In other stories, the triad is oriented away from certain cultural expectations, such as marriage and children, and tends to endure, with the three characters happy.

2. "If I didn't know better, I'd say those two are in love"

[2.1] Before explaining the triangular relationship of Paris/Kim/Torres, I want to briefly introduce Paris/Kim and Paris/Torres to show how writers of the triad are drawing on these pairings. Before the narrative arc of the Paris/Torres romance, the friendship between Paris and Kim was extensively portrayed on Voyager. Paris and Kim are mismatched opposites in the series pilot: young, naive Kim is fresh out of school, but Paris is a world-savvy, only slightly reformed criminal. The two spend vast quantities of recreational time together: playing pool, receiving massages from scantily clad women, and saving the Earth in a 1930s science fiction holoprogram (a kind of virtual reality) called Captain Proton. As Woledge observes, slash writers often capitalize on homosociality by "isolating their characters alone on alien planets, or in historical or futuristic eras, thus creating an intimate bond of two" (2006, 101). The exclusive homosocial environment of Paris and Kim's recreation provides ample subtextual evidence for Paris/Kim slash. Although the characters' recreational pursuits attempt to flaunt their heterosexuality and hypermasculinity, they are also full of homoerotic subtext: bondage, captivity, and, most importantly, separation from others.

[2.2] In addition to the amount of time Paris and Kim spend together, Kim's hapless love life is a running joke in the series. He is frequently depicted as asexual, virginal, or simply unlucky, and his lack of success in heterosexual relationships leads slash fans to assume Harry Kim's desire for Paris. The fan Web site P/K All the Way cheekily asks, "Why does Harry only pursue unattainable women? I have my theory" (figure 1). The comment is punctuated by an emoticon of a winking smile (2003a). In his examination of Kirk/Spock slash, Henry Jenkins notes that in the series and movie sequels, "Kirk consistently renounces romantic ties that might interfere with his professional duties, while he has just as persistently been prepared to disobey orders and put his job at risk to protect his 'friend'" (1992, 216). Although Kirk has a plethora of "alien babes of the week," his loyalty is ultimately to the Enterprise—and to Spock. Likewise, many Paris/Kim slash writers assume that Kim sabotages his chances at having a successful relationship because his true love is Tom Paris.

Figure 1. Fan Web sites like P/K All the Way use screen caps of episodes to analyze scenes between Paris and Kim for their homoerotic content. [View larger image.]

[2.3] Perhaps the most significant episode in a slash reading of the series is "The Chute" (1996). Imprisoned together and injured, the two men reveal their dependence on each other, like Kirk and Spock before them. In the few seconds before Spock's sacrificial death to save the Enterprise in the 1982 film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, he and Kirk press their hands against a glass separating them in a gesture that bespeaks their pain and their intimacy. Similarly, in "The Chute," as Paris and Kim face imminent danger together, they hold hands and sleep with their heads on the same pillow. In a telephone interview in July 2009, Anneinchicago, the archivist of the PKSP (Paris/Kim Slash Party) asked rhetorically, "Could there be a slashier episode?" Michelle Erica Green writes in her review of the episode, "If I didn't know any better, I'd say those two are in love."

[2.4] The homosociality of episodes like "The Chute" helps the series avoid what Jones calls a "trajectory toward domestic stasis" (2002, 88). In spite of the slashy subtext of "The Chute," Voyager soon moved into domestic stasis: the narrative arc of the Paris/Torres romance began shortly after the episode and continued to the series finale. Constance Penley notes that one recipe for heterosexual romance in science fiction must include the threat of death, which awakens desire (1991b, 74). Following this formula, all the milestones in the Paris/Torres romance occur in various life-or-death scenarios: revelation of initial sexual attraction, profession of love, and the marriage proposal. In the final season, Torres and Paris are expecting a child and thus enter the realm of domestic stasis, promulgating family values.

[2.5] Geraghty observes that the changing American political landscape of the late 1990s shifted Star Trek from a world of individuals fulfilling their own desires while leaving loved ones behind to a world full of committed relationships and children. "What this pattern of long-term relationships indicates," he writes, "is that [Star Trek] believes in the fundamental need for marriage as part of American society. In the future the need to live with the person you love and commit to is the most important feature in a balanced and loving relationship" (2003, 447). Voyager's contemporary, Deep Space Nine, features many heterosexual, if interspecies, relationships; however, by the series' conclusion, several of these relationships suffer as a result of one partner's death or disappearance. While Paris and Torres may be the only canonical couple on Voyager, they remain alive and married to each other at the conclusion of the series and even have a child. The Paris/Torres relationship therefore reaffirms heteronormativity (that we should all seek to marry a person of the opposite sex and have a child together) and attests to the possibility of long-term, committed relationships for Star Trek characters in spite of their space-faring lifestyles.

[2.6] Geraghty cautions that this "reassertion of so-called family values, communicated through the bond of marriage, promotes a very heterosexual version of social relations" that "does not accurately reflect the true nature of America's diverse society" (2003, 449). Additionally, the family values and marriage depicted between Paris and Torres present a grim version of heterosexual domesticity. Jones describes heterosexuality as "antithetical to the exoticism and adventure that characterize the fictional worlds of cult television series" (2003, 87). For this reason, she argues, the portrayal of long-term romance or marriage in the canon can cause "both the cult fiction and its fans [to be] unceremoniously returned to the structures, realities, and stresses of everyday life" (87). The Paris/Torres marriage is only seen sporadically and often in crisis mode. After the announcement of Torres's pregnancy, nearly all subsequent Paris/Torres scenes focus on it, with the couple bickering over names and ethnic heritage. Torres, an action hero in the previous seasons, is frustrated that she can no longer participate in away missions because of her condition. In addition, the marriage affects their relationships with others. Paris is not seen spending as much time with Harry Kim, and in the series finale, Kim approaches Paris to have "one last adventure," suggesting that the birth of the child will mark the end of their friendship. In an analysis of the portrayal of relationships in Star Trek, Elspeth Kydd writes that the franchise "regularly introduces sexuality within the framework of reproduction and the conventions of romantic love" (1998). Indeed, the Paris/Torres relationship seems to follow this convention: boy meets girl, boy and girl must get married, girl must have baby. Presumably the completion of this sequence allows them to live happily ever after, yet that happiness is not prevalent in the canon.

[2.7] The source text thus establishes heterosexual domesticity as the preferred lifestyle, even as it depicts it negatively, simply because it offers little alternative. Part of the friction in the Paris/Torres relationship is, of course, intended to allow sufficient narrative tension for continued story lines. Fans capitalize on this tension to produce both Paris/Torres and Paris/Kim fan fiction. Paris/Torres stories are often in the form of episode additions, with Paris openly professing his love to compensate for his canonical silence. Paris/Kim stories, on the other hand, often have Paris break up with Torres and turn to Kim for comfort. Paris/Kim writers often point to the fact that Paris and Torres are frequently seen fighting, though they are infrequently seen making up. For example, in "Memorial" (2000), Paris has been implanted with memories of participating in a bloody alien war and rejects Torres's offer to help him through the trauma. P/K All the Way observes in a review of "Memorial" that, in spite of the problems between Torres and Paris, Paris and Kim have no trouble managing their relationship:

[2.8] On the good side, [Paris/Torres] is certainly no threat to [Paris/Kim]. What an awful relationship. He takes her for granted. And once again, he gets possessed and abuses her. (That excuse is getting old, Tommy-boy.) And once again, Tom and B'Elanna have a huge fight…and there's no real reconciliation on-screen.

[2.9] Tom and Harry, on the other hand, were great in this episode…Harry is very grumpy in the opening scene, but the way Tom keeps looking at him…there's more chemistry there than in the kiss he gives B'Elanna as they exit the hangar. (2003b)

[2.10] Each possible pairing—Paris/Torres, Paris/Kim, and Kim/Torres—has potential obstacles that must be overcome, as well as commonalities that unite the two characters. In spite of Star Trek's long history of snubbing same-sex couples, which Kydd (1998) and Jenkins and Campbell (2006, 89–112) have written about, more recent writings by David Greven (2009) and Stephen Kerry (2009) have proposed that the franchise presents fluidity in gender and sexual identity in the later series. Stories involving the triad capitalize on that fluidity to perform a queer reading of the series. Rather than attempting to determine which relationship in the erotic triangle of Paris/Kim/Torres is the "one true pairing," fans may choose to eliminate that tension by writing instead of the "one true threesome."

3. "Interesting and varied ways"

[3.1] Much of what is considered problematic about slash, such as its lack of strong female characters or the phallic identification as a complacent acknowledgment of woman's inferiority, is eradicated in stories of triads. Green, Jenkins, and Jenkins quote fan fiction readers and writers giving a number of reasons why they prefer slash rather than romances between male and female characters: the heroine is a more minor character while the hero gets to enjoy the adventures, the female romantic interest is a "screaming ninny," or there simply is no female character in the canon and one fears writing a loathsome Mary Sue (2006, 66–71). Scodari rightly notes that recent science fiction series, however, do present strong female characters (2003). Voyager has three—one of whom is the captain and therefore the hero(ine) of the show.

[3.2] Mirna Cicioni describes slash as "a fantasy of authentic love which can only exist between equals; specifically, people who are strong and share adventures as well as emotions" (1998, 69). The argument that a man and woman cannot be equals is contradicted in the canon by strong female characters, and this is reinforced in a Paris/Kim/Torres triad. A primary reason for this is that Torres is an atypical female love interest: as a half Klingon, she is canonically stronger than the men and prone to aggressive behavior. Her biracial identity therefore makes her bigendered (Roberts 2000, 207). Clearly, she meets Cicioni's definition of an equal. Paris is initially the tortured hero, and therefore brusque but misunderstood, yet his relentless pursuit of Torres shows his emotional fidelity. Kim is often sensitive (he plays the clarinet and frequently talks about missing his mother), but he is also physically strong. Among these three characters we see a variety of gender characteristics that make for a triangular relationship in which no one is the clear inferior "female" object of desire and no one the clear "male" lover. Equality, then, is not established by a pairing of complementary equals but rather by an assemblage of personalities that mix traditional gender roles in various combinations.

[3.3] The triangular relationship is often viewed as oedipal, with the third party as the taboo parental object of love and therefore unhealthy. Moving away from the oedipal model, Jessica Benjamin's notion of the Other is a part of a triadic relationship with the self and the object of desire, which she calls "the music of the third to which both [partners] can attune" (1998, 24). Judith Butler notes that Benjamin's triangle allows for "several coexisting identifications…and the notion that we might live such apparently inconsistent identifications in a state of creative tension" (2004, 136). Tracing through possible formulations of triangular desire and citing Sedgwick's (1985) analysis of homosociality, Butler reminds us that "the point is not that the phallus is had by one and not by another, but that it is circulated along a heterosexual and homosexual circuit at once, thus confounding the identificatory positions for every 'actor' in the scene" (138). Butler and Benjamin's arguments have interesting implications for a reading of fan fiction as neither resistant to the source text nor merely incorporative of its latent homoeroticism but, as Willis argues, invested in reorienting the characters and their world.

[3.4] The idea of shifting identificatory positions is abundantly clear in several stories of the triad. In Nyani-Iisha Martin's fan fiction story "In Triplicate," for instance, Paris has erotic dreams with a phantom lover who morphs from Kim to Torres and back. Although he notices anatomical differences as the lover's body changes, Paris seems unfazed by larger matters of sexual identity. Paris therefore enjoys sex with a man, a woman, and something in between as the changes occur. In "Triptych," Merri Todd Webster has Harry Kim contemplate his preferences: "He had always liked being penetrated, being fucked; he'd discovered that years ago, with his first male lover. He liked fucking, too, it really didn't matter who did what." The philosophy of "it doesn't matter who does what" in both of these stories demonstrates fluid, complex sexual identity.

[3.5] Multiple, complex identifications are not just for the characters of these stories but also for readers. Penley comments that in the reading and writing of Kirk/Spock slash there are "multiple possibilities of identification and numerous pleasures" (1992, 480). A reader can identify with either man and thus experience having the other; she can also position herself on the receiving end and imagine being had by either character. The triad only increases the possibilities: identification with any of the three characters or switching among them within a given story as they kiss, top, penetrate, are penetrated, perform any of these acts simultaneously, or watch the others perform these acts.

[3.6] In particular, the inclusion of Torres into the triad queers the possible readings of the story, as Torres is often described as being as much as an object of desire as Paris and Kim. Victoria Somogyi remarks that in fan fiction stories involving Captain Janeway, readers get "both the experience of being a woman having sex and the experience of desiring and making love to a woman" (2002, 401). Likewise, Paris/Kim/Torres stories often capitalize on the simultaneous desire of wanting to be B'Elanna Torres and wanting to have her through discussions of her reactions to the scenario, physical and emotional, and through vivid, erotic descriptions of her body. In Emma Woodhouse's "B'Elanna's Reward," for instance, the reader watches Torres during the sex act from Paris's point of view: "Her head was thrown back and her eyes were closed, her breasts swayed enticingly" (2002b). Similarly, Kim catalogs the more sensual parts of Torres's body during their first sexual encounter together in the same author's "Epiphany": "Slim shoulders and unusual collarbone and those wonderful breasts with the sharp chocolate-colored nipples" (2002a). In both of these stories, the reader is given one of the men's point of view in order to admire Torres's body and become as aroused by her as he is. Switching perspective also allows the reader to be Torres remarking on the men; in this way, these stories allow the reader to both desire and identify with her at once.

[3.7] Because of the complexity of identifications and desire in erotic triangles, Butler notes that there are "profound and perhaps inescapable ways that heterosexuality and homosexuality are defined through one another" (2004, 139). Tom Paris's desire for Harry Kim, for instance, must be defined in relation to his simultaneous desire for B'Elanna Torres—the homosexual defined through the heterosexual—and vice versa. The simultaneity of these desires makes it difficult to call Paris and Kim in the triad simply heterosexual or homosexual; even bisexual would not describe the manner in which they appreciate two lovers at the same time. It is similarly difficult to label Torres a heterosexual; although in the triad she is only having sex with men, this limited term does not encompass the pleasure she derives in watching the two men perform without her. The diverse ways in which the characters in the triad can express desire and perform sexual acts thus reorients their sexuality as understood within the canon.

[3.8] The reorienting of the characters' sexuality is a shift in their characterization, particularly for Harry Kim. Where Kim is canonically asexual, virginal, or cursed, in Paris/Kim/Torres stories, he gains two lovers at the same time. He is frequently described toweling off in front of Paris and/or Torres after a shower, revealing more of his muscular frame than necessary. Writer CKC extends that boldness in the story "Triangulation." Here, Kim is not only a participant in the triad but actually orchestrates it. This reorienting of established characterization does not, however, cause the stories to diverge so wildly from the canon as to be unbelievable. Among the stories I have studied, writers are quick to note, like Paris/Kim slash writers, that Kim's canonical failures are simply the result of his awaiting his true love (or loves) and that his newfound confidence is a testament to the positive effect the triad has had on him.

[3.9] The complex identifications and desires created by the triad also reorient the genre of the stories. When Torres watches Paris and Kim, the story closely resembles traditional slash in that the relationship between the two men is at the forefront. That many of the triad stories come from writers of Paris/Kim slash and are housed on Paris/Kim archives is unsurprising because the sex between the two men is often described in loving terms typical of slash. In "B'Elanna's Reward," for instance, Paris declares, "I'm yours" to Kim during the sex act, Kim promises that he will never leave Paris, and Torres is so moved by the scene that she cries. Sex in the triad or between either man and Torres, however, is described with less romance and more eroticism. In such cases, Torres serves as an avatar for the slash fan, able to have both Paris and Kim (and watch them) without intruding on the special bond they have with each other. Here, traditional slash is reoriented with the addition of Torres; it draws upon slash conventions but suffuses het (heterosexual romance or erotica) into the scenario. In other stories, what resembles traditional het is complicated by the additional relationship between the two men. In "Party of Three," for example, Paris and Torres are an established couple when they invite Kim to join them. Kim hesitates at first and ultimately leaves the triad; in the interim, however, writer DianeB reorients the genre to something beyond either slash or het, queering the genre of the story as much as she queers the sexual identity of the characters.

[3.10] The ability of the triad to endure is directly linked to the story's transcendence of the slash/het genre binary and the characters' transgression of traditional sexual identities. A regression to traditional gender roles and domestic themes as well as unequal desire across the erotic triangle can upset the relationship or relationships. In these instances, there is no longer a triad but rather a more traditional erotic triangle of two rivals and one beloved in the form of two simultaneous heterosexual relationships.

[3.11] The primary mode for the collapse of the triad is unbalanced desire. When the relationship on one side of the triangle is weaker than the others, the triad does not last. In the case of "Party of Three," the Paris/Kim and Kim/Torres sides of the triangle are weaker than Paris/Torres, leaving that to be the only remaining relationship at the conclusion of the story. In Tonica's "Never Be the Same," Paris is willing to allow Kim to have a relationship with his girlfriend Torres because he knows he cannot provide for all of her emotional needs, but he tells Kim, "You have to know that I wouldn't want anything more." Kim is likewise willing to share Torres but tells Paris in equally vague terms that he is "not into any of that either." Readers can interpret "that" as sex between the two men or among all three. Regardless, it is interesting that they are willing to sleep in the same bed with their shared lover but quick to denounce other nontraditional relationships. This arrangement raises questions about Torres's role as the principal erotic figure: is she a powerful seductress who claims both rivals, or is she merely a sexual object that the men pass back and forth? Either way, because there is a clear shift away from the homosocial bond between the rival lovers that Sedgwick describes as a critical part of the erotic triangle (1985), it is perhaps no wonder then that Paris departs from the triad later in Tonica's series.

[3.12] Although marriage legally cements the bonds among the three characters, stories involving marriage tend to perpetuate certain restrictive moral conventions surrounding relationships and children. Often in slash the bond between the two male characters "develops into a virtual marriage: The partners make an explicit commitment to each other, promise to forsake all others of either gender, and decide to live together" (Cicioni 1998, 165). This virtual marriage continues Woledge's (2006) claim that most slash is primarily about the intimacy between the characters, regardless of how explicitly the sex may be written. Some slash, of course, assumes the legality of same-sex marriage in the canon. In several Paris/Kim/Torres stories, the writers have established the legality of a trio marriage. Their characters are therefore given the chance at "happily ever after" with a wedding. While this move is generally supportive of the triad, it reinforces the notion from the canon that a legal marriage is the preferred, or natural, outcome of a relationship, and consequently causes the triad to lapse into the same domestic stasis as the canon it is trying to subvert.

[3.13] Marriage is also frequently a prerequisite for pregnancy, or at least the birth of children. In the story "Bombshell," written by Rose, A. Kite, and T'Lin, Paris and Torres are married, but Harry Kim has secretly been part of their relationship for several years. When Torres becomes pregnant with twins, the three conclude that Kim must marry into the relationship before the babies are born. Similarly, in T'Lin's "Commitments," Torres asks Paris to be the father of her child, and he agrees on the condition that she and Kim marry him first. The message of these stories is that it is wrong to have children out of wedlock, even if wedlock occurs in the unconventional triad setting.

[3.14] The common plot development of pregnancy aligns the unconventional triad with quite conventional and unflattering depictions of parenthood. In all of the stories I read involving pregnancy, Torres has two simultaneous pregnancies, one by each man, and this relegates the queer triad to the two heterosexual relationships of Paris/Torres and Kim/Torres. In Tonica's "Baby Boom," Torres becomes injured, leaving Kim and Paris to each carry his own child to term. The story becomes mpreg here, queering its genre identification but usurping stereotypical narrative conventions: the two men exhibit wild mood swings and fret about body issues, and Torres is afraid to have sex with them. Additionally, Torres's accident may be read as a critique of the working mother who, by nature of her selfish desire to have a career, has risked her babies' lives. Likewise, in "Bombshell," the two expectant fathers essentially function as one character, with their attention devoted exclusively toward Torres (and away from each other) and her mood swings directed equally at both of them.

[3.15] These stories borrow certain values and narrative stereotypes from more conventional stories, but the fact that the marriages and pregnancies occur in the unconventional triadic setting shows a reorienting away from traditional heterosexual romance narratives. The announcement of Harry Kim's involvement in the relationship in "Bombshell," for instance, can be read as an allegory for coming out. When a crew member harasses Torres for her part in the relationship, Paris scoffs, "I thought he would be a bit more enlightened than that." Tellingly, both the law and Captain Janeway, the ultimate authority on the ship, are on the trio's side. Janeway at first makes a joke that co-opts the ideology of premarital sex as immoral, asking if Paris and Kim are going to "make an honest woman" of Torres by marrying her. Nonetheless, she is only joking, and she insists that the three have a public wedding ceremony so that the crew will understand her support of their relationship. Here, Janeway and the law serve as surrogates for "real" fans who understand Star Trek's celebration of "infinite diversity in infinite combination" (note 1), while Paris's dismissal of the harassing crew member could be a comment aimed at a reader who might flame the authors. In spite of the heteronormative overtones to the triad as the story moves into pregnancy and domestic themes, the triad is in the position of the minority battling for acceptance, supported by law if not yet by public opinion.

[3.16] When the triad distances itself from marriage and pregnancy as preferred outcomes to the established relationship, it tends to endure more happily. After the first three-way sexual encounter in Nyani-Iisha Martin's "In Triplicate," Paris asks, "OK, what the hell did we do tonight?" Torres answers that they "had sex in interesting and varied ways." Kim seems less concerned with the physical than the emotional; he says they showed how much they care for each other. Paris, satisfied with both answers, concludes, "And we started something I hope lasts." Although Torres jokes that they could take the Klingon marriage oath, the three do not make their arrangement permanent in a formal or legal way, and thus commitment to the triad is purely voluntary. The story (and the series to which it belongs) demonstrates that marriage does not need to be the conclusion after finding the one or ones you love. Furthermore, the three never share quarters or have children together. That the series does not result in the same domestic stasis as the canon itself eventually opens up possibilities for what it means to be in a committed relationship—and how a committed relationship may be defined.

[3.17] The stability of the triad in Martin's series stems at least partly from the fact that the characters frequently discuss their relationship, unlike the characters in DianeB's "Party of Three." For instance, in Martin's "Remembrances," Kim seeks permission from Torres and Paris to have a fling with the "alien of the week." The incident doesn't seem to affect the triad once the alien is gone; if anything, it invigorates their desire for each other. The characters' continued questioning of the relationship assures readers that it is not something into which the characters have leapt without looking.

[3.18] Additionally, desire on any one side of the erotic triangle is equal to the other two sides. Martin demonstrates this with a series of vignettes detailing sexual encounters between Paris/Torres, Paris/Kim, and Kim/Torres. These vignettes help to stabilize the erotic triangle by highlighting the distinctiveness of each pairing. In scenes that are set after various episodes, each character has an opportunity to profess his or her love to the other two (separately). Martin capitalizes on moments in the canon that have taken an emotional toll but were not resolved on screen with her complementary unseen narrative of the triad (though, admittedly, her series does not extend as far as season 7, when Paris and Torres marry in the canon). As she writes the triad, all are equally desired and equally desire, and they maintain commitment only through demonstration of their feelings for each other. While many of the other Paris/Kim/Torres stories I have analyzed align in certain ways with hegemonic values, Nyani-Iisha Martin's series allows the queer relationships to endure without wild distortion of events and characterizations in the canon.

4. Conclusion

[4.1] Fan fiction studies have historically focused on slash, either as resisting and rewriting the canon (Lamb and Veith 1986; Bacon-Smith 1992; Jenkins 1992), as working with its homoerotic latency (Jones 2002), or as reproducing hegemony (Scodari 2003). More recent writing, however, notes that fan fiction is not monolithic and often attempts to do many different things at once. The application of queer theory thus allows for a reading of fan fiction outside the traditional paradigm, a reorienting of the canon and its characters (Willis 2006). I have chosen to concentrate on stories of triads, which often attempt to reconcile canon with latent textual elements. These stories queer the characters' sexual and gender identity and desire, and they also queer the genre into which they are written.

[4.2] The erotic triangle between Paris, Torres, and Kim loses its stability when the triad attempts to align itself with heteronormativity and remains stable as it distances itself from certain hegemonic values. Marriage and pregnancy cause the triad to lapse into the same domestic stasis as the canon, in spite of the unconventional relationship in which these events occur. Other stories, however, do not alter events of the canon but capitalize on them to demonstrate how the three characters maintain their triadic relationship without acquiescing to the same domestic stasis as the canon. Voyager fans who write these stories have managed to do what the producers have not: put all three characters into an equitable, erotic, loving relationship.

[4.3] Stories of triads can thus be telling in examining how fans negotiate their own desires for characters in a series with the canon and in how fans write and read relationships. Given that many narratives draw upon the convention of a heterosexual romance subplot but also make use of a homosocial male pair-bond, it seems fitting to devote more attention to this largely ignored subgenre of fan fiction.

5. Acknowledgments

[5.1] A version of this paper was presented at the Textual Echoes symposium in 2010. I thank Cynthia Rutz, Jennifer Bjornstad, and Elizabeth Wuerffel for their feedback. Permission to quote selected fan fiction stories was obtained from the authors when possible.

6. Note

1. The Vulcan IDIC (meaning "infinite diversity in infinite combination") was first introduced in the original series. Fans have long pointed toward this concept as emblematic of Star Trek's commitment to tolerance and diversity, which they often use in their fan fiction.

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