The New York Times Just Discovered Erotic Fanfic, Made This Baby-Boomer-Approved Guide for You
According to Topless Robot, the New York Times Magazine recently received a redesign and added a slew of new features, including “Search Results by Jenna Wortham,” an annotated, twice-monthly guide to navigating the Internet’s series of tubes. And the tubes highlighted in this week’s inaugural column were particularly compelling: fictional penises and the fans that ship them. Welcome to the Internet, NYT! It’s a beautiful, ridiculous cesspool!
Here’s an excerpt from the fanfic primer (a print version of the handy guide will appear in the Magazine this Sunday):
Part of the Internet’s beauty is the space it affords people to take an idea and run with it . . . and run with it and run with it, until they end up miles away from where they started. Among a subset of online superfans of the BBC show Sherlock, solving mysteries is mere window dressing for the real story: one about unrequited love between Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Dr. John Watson (Martin Freeman). This sort of wholesale invention, by viewers, of a romance between fictional characters who are not romantically linked on-screen is a form of something known as “shipping” (short for “relationship-ing,” the term can also refer to rooting for actual fictional couples). It is by no means limited to Sherlock — any form of pop culture, from Scandal to One Direction, is fair game — but that show has inspired vast and vivid fictional worlds, completely imagined by shippers who share screenshots, drawings and even entire books speculating about what a dalliance between Sherlock and Watson (or Johnlock, as it’s known) might look like.
This section is particularly relevant to my interests:
For example, one offshoot of Johnlock, known as Fawnlock, imagines Cumberbatch as an ethereal deer, complete with graceful antlers and a speckled coat — and of course his lover, Watson, cradled in his forelimbs.
The article ends with a helpful glossary of Internet terms frequently used by shippers and a lovingly curated Johnlock slideshow. Truly, we live in an age of miracle and wonder.
Although there’s something endearingly desperate about a print magazine adding an Internet for Dummies column, it’s also an indicator of fanfics’ new visibility in mainstream media (thanks, I guess, Fifty Shades) that an institution like The New York flipping Times wants to share shipping and slash with its readership and is helping fan artists gain exposure. (Bonus points to Jenna Wortham for not condemning shippers’ tastes or making a joke out of fans who dedicate their time to making art or fic.)
No one tell the Times or their readers about gifs yet, though. Let’s take this one bloated Sunday paper at a time.