The (not so) humble charm of Eroicaslash

by Rose Red

illustrations by Lorraine

I

Every day a great lot of various episodes are released on TV. Their makers receive money and sometimes even fame for their job. But at the same time there are others who write fanfiction about some of these shows (canons). Their reward is limited. They do get a sort of name, but it is only a pen-name. So by what power they are driven? I think there is a great reward - the  possibility of creation. A lot of educated people with potential do not have a chance to do something not-banal. And there is a touch of irony - that sometimes mass production, namely, the TV serials - can give somebody (and quite a few of them really) an opportunity to show their worth.

It is called fanfiction - a form of writing about matters other people have put on public display. There is a universe (as a matter of fact a lot of them - AUs) in which everybody interested can find something he (or, usually, she) likes better. A canon may be vast - hundreds of episodes - but fandom is much more extensive, and much more diverse too. It includes so-called slash (that I personally prefer). In the average canon there is not - and cannot be (for the time being at least) an m/m relationship, especially between leading characters. So slash fills a void. But is there really a void? My answer is - yes. In a canon as a rule we have a pair - usually partners - who work together, share a good part of their personal life (sometimes even a home - TS), like each other and have really lousy heterosexual connections (the same TS). So their mutual love seems only natural, doesn't it? For me at least slash is a better world where people are free to love without regards to their gender.

I prefer slash to gen. Why? For me slash is first of all about love (and other higher feelings).  style='color:black'>For a lot of canon characters which are already the best of friends, partners and whatnot it seems only logical to fell in love with each other. The canon as a rule portrays them as single (bachelors, widowers, divorced) with a chain of short-term liaisons. It is good for the plot, of course, but fans who care more for their favorite heroes wish them the best - a true love. And who is a more suitable candidate than his soul mate? If one can kill and die for one's partner sake, one must love him – more than a girl-of-this-episode.

The slash universe is a world in which all things at last are in their right places. I like it - who wouldn't?

II

Eroicaslash has its own peculiarities. First of all, it is a pretty unusual sort of canon. It is not a TV show, it is a comic book. It is not of USA (or UK )  origin, but from Japan . The author is a women. Most other canons are very serious (even though there is some humor), but Yasuko Aoike really has fun with her boys. I do not know much about manga, but I understand that "Eroica" belongs to a genre of comic books for girls. There is at least one openly homosexual leading character. So readers (and writers) of slash meet in this case a very different set of possibilities. We have two attractive males all right (they are even more attractive than most other canons’ characters - Yasuko Aoike can grant them mile-long legs and wasp waists and beautiful faces). But they are not Americans, neither of them - they both belong to the Western culture, but it is not the same ( I know that in Highlander, for instance, there is a Scot - but is Duncan really that foreign to Americans? I doubt it.) They are neither friends nor partners. As a matter of fact, there are many more obstacles for their "happy ever after" than in the average canon. So for slashwriters, Eroica offers a great challenge, but at the same time - a great opportunity. One can unleash one's fantasy.

There are some other differences – there are not so many comic books as there are episodes on TV, and on TV we can see characters more clearly as feeling beings (but in manga we can read thought balloons). In short - manga is nearer to slash in form, but it does not mean that "translation" is easier (translation is a very difficult task if the languages in question are related).

Another important dissimilarity - there are not any annoying women in Eroica - not for Dorian or for Klaus either. So slashwriters don’t have to bother explaining away a herd of needless girlfriends, exes and such. I see this as an advantage.

And this manga began in late 70’s - so now our boys are not very young (there’s the same problem with The Man from U.N.C.L.E.). As far as I know there are three solutions:

a) to write about the past.

b) to write about present (down with ageism; so what if they are in their fifties now?). The sole problem: if they are not together yet - why it has been taking so long?

c) to write not specifying the year (this is my favorite).

But what about the arch-enemy of Klaus? If there is not any KGB anymore what is one left to fight with? Of course, neonazis always will be with us, but this can be too unpleasantly close to reality - so it could disturb  while enjoying some nice piece of Eroicafic. And I really can not imagine Klaus versus Osama - they belong to very different realms. It is not that Klaus is a manga hero and Osama is a real (if still living ) person. Osama’s image now makes him a fictitious character in his own right. But they are just not from the same sort of fiction. So the best way may be not to mention any definite foe and just go ahead.

And now we meet another serious problem. In almost any other fandom the big question - why they are not together yet? The usual answer: they (both of any pair) are dying to confess but not taking chances to ruin their excellent friendship and so on - or simply fearing that their feelings are unrequited - or both. But here the question is - how Eroica will at last win? (Or rather, they both win!)

Eroica is not shy about his sexual orientation and Klaus is not shy about his homophobia (or sex-phobia?). In the case of Sentinel one can easily explain why Jim must be bi (a military staff, you know - wink) and Blair is a neo-hippy, student and what not. But how can poor Klaus overcome his Catholic, aristocratic, German, military upbringing? As a matter of fact, all of the abovementioned do not look so troubling. As far as I know Catholic aristocratic German warriors may be no less queer than Protestant plebeian American pacifists. However Yasuko Aoike tells us they style='color:black'> need a hurdle to get over it  - it would be nice if Dorian and Klaus were permitted to fall into each other’s arms at the beginning, but what about the plot? And even though fanwriters like to disagree with canon or bend it, they cannot ignore it - or it will be not fanfic any more. Canon is given - from the hue of a character's hair to his sexual habits.

The task of Eroicafic is to tell us why Dorian fell in love with Klaus. There are a few variants - good looks, the difficulty of the challenge, or the perception him as a  kindred soul - the art lover of a sort, or the good old "partnership turning into friendship turning into love" - it is very difficult with such a background, but it can work sometimes. Or the author can simply plead insanity for Dorian.

But with Klaus one really is going to sweat. He is a self-proclaimed homophobe -  what can be done? As a matter of fact - not so little. First of all, Klaus is not interested in women either. So we have quite a few of stories about Klaus -a  closeted (or even open) gay.

Or it may be "love conquers all" - and so be it. Or one more time : from professional estimation to gratitude to.... Or some more surprising possibilities – such as surrender to a sense of duty. Klaus even might decide to change his life (not so much) and to love Dorian openly.

There is a more limited number of options in Eroicaslash, but it could stimulate the imagination of writer.

Of course Klaus and Dorian have very little in common - but that is a cliché of any canon. To create a workable pair, one needs one guy who is shorter, younger, lighter and etc., and another with opposite attributes. To do the job better, they must differ in background and lifestyle too. It is a basic clause in the labor contract of any canon hero - he has a right to be distinguished. But in Eroicafic there is a bit more than usual share of it. They not only negate each other’s ways of life  - they actually fight and even cooperate only out of need. They are not enemies, but do not have good chances of becoming friends. Klaus can only tolerate Dorian - and not for long. Surely, it is more complicated, but writers of Eroicafic have to go much further than any average fanwriter to find a plausible solution for the eternal enigma - how they could get along?

So one must find something that will bring them together. It may be a "hurt/comfort", but that is a little banal (even though it can turn nice). This sort of epiphany is too common in slash for my tastes. What might be really good would be a story about them finding in each other surprisingly congenial souls. Not that there are not any useful hints in the canon: Dorian seeing Klaus as a romantic soul and Klaus recognizing loyalty and courage even behind  "the foppish facade". A faithful writer of Eroica slash receives rewards all but impossible in other fandoms. It is a very rich psychological opportunity (even though it has its own traps and trite traits).

And there are some more differences. Canon plots as a rule are not terribly interesting. They can be boring, irritating, implausible. So the best way to deal with them from my point of view: all but ignore. And if not - to use them to "discover" under the tedious cover of shooting and brawling a concealed treasure - adventures of the spirit (not only spirit guides, but mortal ones too). But in the Eroica canon one simply could not use the original manga plots. I have read quite a few Eroicafics in which authors did their best to bring some sense into the odd chains of events (for example - the story about Cesar and the tank). But from this source it is worth borrowing some little niceties - singing Major, Klaus’s appreciation of the beauty of steel; and also some nasties - the habit of Iron Klaus to be ready with his fists even against the helpless. And without doubt - the fundamental truth -  these two beautiful boys are fated to be together. Denials, no matter how loud, will not change this.

But if a true Eroicafan manages to believe that somehow a repressed sadistic machine maniac will turn to a caring and loving person and a frivolous hedonist - a faithful and constant lover - it gives me a hope that we ordinary folks can live in peace even with total strangers. For me this romance between a Brit and a German (a xenophobic one in the beginning) also bodes well for all of us.

9.13. 2003.

 

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