Thoughts on shipping.

A ship-shipping ship, shipping shipping ships. source (for the image, as well as the caption)

A ship-shipping ship, shipping shipping ships. source (for the caption as well as the image. I’m not that clever).

Not that kind of shipping. Shipping. Like when you write fan fiction (on paper or in your head) in which fictional characters fall in luuuuve with each other and (presumably, at some point) have sex and/or are permanently joined together in sacred and/or fleshy bliss. It comes from the word “relationship” – hence “shipping,” as in: “I ship Harry and Ron, everyone knows they were the real love story at Hogwarts!”

And if you don’t know it yet — yes, that really is a thing, all across the various realms of geekdom, and recently more broadly in popular culture. So you’ll have fan communities who create art or write stories or make videos that bring together two (or more) characters who were not imagined by their creator as romantically involved.

Coupla things. Thing the First, and let’s just get this out of the way: I have a thing about canon. The creator is, to my mind, God in the universe of these characters to whom we feel so attached, and thus, if JK Rowling didn’t think that Harry and Ron would fall in love — well, she would know. Plain and simple. It’s one thing to create fan art that builds on the creator’s world, but I honestly think it’s another thing entirely to upend the story as the creator intended for it to be told. In my always humble (and probably minority) opinion.

But here’s Thing the Second, and Thing the Second is actually the thing that I believe is most important.

Most of these imagined relationships (Harry-Ron, Kirk-Spock, Jess-Jules [Bend It Like Beckham], Arthur-Merlin [Merlin], Katniss-Peeta-Gale, etc and so on, ad infinitum) don’t just upend the story as originally conceived, they upend the sexuality of those involved, often because the characters are so close — their relationship runs so deep — that we do not know how to let it be friendship. We do not know how to understand need and longing and fierce loyalty, unless it’s about romance and sexuality.

And thus, to my mind, when we ship Kirk and Spock, or Arthur and Merlin, or Sam and Frodo, we’re not only doing a disservice to the creator’s vision, we’re dishonoring the characters, and revealing more about about ourselves and our society than we may have intended. 

Note, for instance, that most shipping seems to entail male characters — as a society, we’re usually ok with girls and women loving each other and expressing that love in a way that is not romantic or sexual. Men on the other hand? We really don’t know what to do with that.

So we change it. We diminish and dismiss men’s capacity for loving each other — truly, deeply loving each other — and insist that such love can only find true expression in something akin to 21st century notions of romance and sexuality.

Once upon a time, in mid-19th century America, men wrote love letters to each other — honest to God, “I haven’t been able to stop thinking of our last hours spent together,” love letters to each other. Like, it was thing. You wrote to your friends and told them how you felt.

And true to late-20th/early 21st century form, letters such as these have led some to conclude that Abraham Lincoln himself was gay, despite copious evidence to the contrary — because why else would he express such tender affection for a man? Even though I presume that at least some of the men writing these letters were, in fact, expressing an emotion to which they were otherwise unable to give voice, sheer statistics would suggest that most of them weren’t. Which is to say: We weren’t always like this, America.

I do understand that some fan fic/shipping comes in response to the appalling dearth of LGBTQ love stories in our culture, and I guess it’s easier for me, a straight woman, to not want to validate the work that some people create around a love they’d like to see expressed. I will concede that.

But beyond that, mostly it just cheeses me off. You cannot tell me that a romantic, sexual relationship between Sam and Frodo would have been deeper or more real than the relationship we are told they had; you cannot tell me that Merlin’s love for Arthur was any less because they didn’t have sex.

I’m tired of telling boys and men that they cannot, may not love each other — frankly, shipping of this kind is little more than the flip-side of guys who yell “No homo!” after a big hug. There is nothing wrong with men falling in love with other men; there is also nothing wrong with men having loving friendships.

And with that, I have likely sealed my fate in the geek community, and so I bid you adieu. It was fun while it lasted. I’ll just be over here, reading my books.

What space sounds like.

You heard me.

From NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory:





I mean. I just.

Did you hear me? You heard me! You heard SPACE!

And now, just for snicks, throw in the fact that Voyager has left the solar system. It’s gone. Se fue. And we have no idea whatsoever where it will end up and what it might find. I honest-to-goodness have chills just writing that.

It’s only a matter of time….

kirk voyager

On Star Trek and male tears.

kirk and spockSo behind. On so many things. OMG.

Among the things on which I am no longer behind, however, is Star Trek: Into Darkness; I am, however, behind on writing about it, which I intended to do the day after we saw it, which was like, what was it now (counts on fingers), ten days ago? Ish?

Be forewarned: Spoilers ahoy. (But you should have seen it by now, anyway).

Anyhow, here I am, and bottom line: It was good. Not great, certainly not as good as the original reboot (can we say that? “Original reboot”?), but pretty good, and absolutely enjoyable. Worth the money. I laughed out loud at the reference to Christine Chapel.

I do remain flummoxed as to why the men of this generation of Blockbuster Filmmaking appear congenitally incapable of writing/directing/producing so much as two female characters who actually interact with each other (seriously: JJ, Joss, Peter? What the hell?), but I’m so used to that by now that I’m not even going to bother going into it here. (More women in Hollywood would be boss, but honestly, before we even raise that question, you’d think that these men, of all men, might have cracked that particular nut on their own. Honestly). (Anyway).

No, while the women/lack of women/lack of diversity of female shapes/I could go on but I won’t… bothered me, I was more struck by something else, something positive: The men.

I’ve been a Star Trek geek since I was a child, and I believe that Star Trek, in its many iterations, is part of what is makes today’s world better than the one into which I was born. Truly. Over the course of the various series and movies, Star Trek has brought into our culture a multi-hued universe in which women could hold positions of authority, sexuality was (a little) fluid, diversity of culture was valued, and serious questions about the nature of humanity and human interaction were broached (nearly) every week (also, there was some bad fashion and way too much of Riker’s trombone, but I digress). The universe that Star Trek presented was never perfect, but it has generally been better than the one in which we actually live.

And the men have always been, ya know. Manly.

Mucho manly. Strong. Stoic. Occasionally weak at the knees over a dame, or possibly a life-altering experience, and everyone knows that Spock has been, and always shall be, Kirk’s friend. And once that’s been established, Kirk yells (ahem): “KAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHNNNNNNNNNNNNN!” because he’s manly and his friend has just died and men vow vengeance reallyreally loudly when their friends die.

But in Into Darkness, Spock and Kirk aren’t just friends. They’re loving. They love each other. When Spock looks absolutely baffled when Kirk says “I would have missed you,” Kirk rolls his eyes and sighs loudly and walks away, clearly stung and frustrated. When Uhura complains about how withholding Spock can be, she ropes Kirk into the conversation, who initially resists being roped into the conversation, but then joins in (and then, you know, somethingsomething the shuttle’s in danger! something).

By the end of the movie, Spock is no longer visibly baffled by expressions of affection, and Kirk weeps and tells Spock he’s scared, and then Spock does the little he can to try to help his friend with his fear and then, when he yells: “KAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHNNNNNNNNNNNNN!” — well, ok, that moment might be too abidingly linked with William Shatner’s Kirk to work as well as you want it to, but still, it carries a different kind of wallop.

And there are other moments in which men get to demonstrate a range of emotion and affection they are rarely allowed in mainstream film, and: Wow. I was moved, and I was grateful.

Because while there is clearly nothing wrong with love scenes between men — that is not the only way in which men love each other. That is not the only way in which men can feel tenderness and vulnerability with each other. Men shouldn’t have to be gay in order to openly love each other.

And that’s what I have to say about Into Darkness. Late, jumbled, much too rushed, but there it is. Thanks, Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto – you did great.

And now I’m off to the next thing I’m behind on.

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