You have read “Fanfiction 101: Where to read and post”, found yourself scrolling across FanFiction.net on a lazy Thursday afternoon and realized that there are all these weird words you have no idea what they mean: gen, slash, pre-slash, etc. Most likely, you have found the main genres of fanfiction.
Like all forms of literature there are more genres that you can count: fix-it fic, coffee shop au, modern au, dark fic, hurt/comfort, etc. However fanfiction can be easily classified into two main categories: Gen (that comes from the word “general'') and Slash (that comes from the slash used to identify romantic pairings in AO3 and others).
Gen refers to works that do not focus and/or contains any romantic and/or sexual content. It is also referred to as a category that is “safe for all audiences” however, that is not always the truth. Slash is the opposite, stories that use the label, have two or more characters place in a sexual and/or romantic situation.
However to fully understand the meaning of these two concepts we have to look at the history of these two terms, which is quite complex.
In the beginning of fanfiction as we know (the 50s-60s) there was an uproar of kirk /spock transformative works that ended up saving Star Trek (watch: How Slash Fiction Saved Star Trek). Because of the homophobia at the time and effort was made to differentiate the normal “gen” and the other “slash”.
Therefore even if we have move past this definitions, the transgenerational nature of fandom and literature means that you might encounter works tagged “gen” that have romantic and/or sexual heterosexual relationships. In the same vein, people might associate the word “slash” with only men loving men fanfiction, adding the prefix “fem” when is woman loving woman or “het” when a ship is straight.
However, people have started to add the prefix “masc” or “m/m slash” in order to change the default of slash to only featuring men. This initiative might also be tied to the efforts that are being made in order to grow the femslash genre which is severely lacking (read: Fanfiction Follies: Where’s All the Femslash?).
Additionally at the time of writing this article there is no prefix or term stablished for relationships that feature non-binary partners (if you don’t count AO3’s option to label it as “other” which I don’t).
For works that focus on polycules, a main character that practices a different form of polyamory, or multiple ships at the time, writers can label their work with “Multi”. Multi sometimes gets mistaken for Gen, but essentially they mean different things.
Considering that fan fiction is self-published (in this day and age) there isn’t an “industry” or “press” in charge of labeling all the works according to a distinct set of characteristics. In this case the responsibility falls to the author to decide how they want their story to be approached - and that varies from person to person.
In the end wherever you write gen, masc-slash, femslash, het slash, multi of gnc-slash (?), just remember that your writing is valid and (this applies to all forms of literature but especially fanfiction) your story is for you at the end of the day.
Ari Ochoa Petzo
is a Mexican-Venezuelan bi genderfluid writer. They like dancing to old music and history. In their free time you can find xem trying to coerce their friends to participate in another of their crazy projects.
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