- The Hottest Spot on Earth
She always had hand-outs: that's how you could tell that Dr. Caroline Warde was a college professor and not some Vegas bimbo. What a show-off, Fay thought, snatching a packet from the surf of paper floating above the rows of pink upholstered chairs. The top page, the cover of a recent Slash novel, caught Fay's eye. In a pen and ink drawing, Captain Kirk and Commander Spock sprawled nude on the bridge of the Enterprise, Spock's member (always drawn with two ridges like planetary rings) nestled in Kirk's hand. She stuffed the packet into her tote and picked her way through the crowd toward Caroline at the front of the room. It was the second day of the annual Slash Writers' Convention and both women were scheduled to appear on a panel together.
Caroline was fiddling with a comb dangling from her coif. The woman labeled herself a feminist scholar, but everything about her – long, curly red hair, mini-skirt, big noisy earrings – proclaimed I like sex and I like men. Fay thought of feminists as humorless women who didn't shave and wore army camo. She had said as much to Caroline the day before. Caroline had replied that whether Fay knew it or not, she was a "proto-feminist." Proto as in protoplasm? As in an unthinking blob of goo?
Fay felt patronized by Caroline. She suspected that Caroline entertained ideas about her that she couldn't understand. Ultimately, it didn't matter. Fay was a pornographer; she wasn't trying to learn anything from the professor. On the contrary, Caroline was the one who had been studying Fay along with the other Slash writers at their last three annual meetings. Instruments, she called her questionnaires and surveys, as if little surgical tools were squirreled inside the booklets. The Slashers happily participated, convinced that her probing lent their work stature. In return for their cooperation, Caroline was a regular keynoter and gave hilarious lectures on popular culture. She was always comparing [End Page 63] Slash to Shakespeare, claiming the Bard hadn't intended to write masterpieces, merely the bawdy entertainment of his times. Except in retrospect, there is no high art, she had pronounced. Fatuous bull, Fay thought. The Slashers had applauded, happy to be a part of world literature.
Caroline's real agenda, her view of fandom, could only be glimpsed in Film Femina, the journal she edited. Fay had a subscription. It was full of terminology too obscure for the dictionary, such as structural antithesis and deconstructive fallacy. Fay had no idea what Caroline actually thought of her or Slash. But Caroline Warde was more than just a fan. The Slash writers were her troop of chimps and she was their Jane Goodall.
Caroline watched as Fay made her way to the front of the room. Fay wore an emerald-green satin blouse behind which her breasts jiggled. Framed by short, spiked brown hair, her throat and heavily made-up face flared like a torch. An orange stripe of peroxided hair not present the day before arced from ear to ear. What a metaphor, Caroline thought: a headband of rage! Surrounded by her protégés, Fay seemed the epitome of self-confidence. Caroline was confident, too, though she sometimes second-guessed herself. She had sorted out most of her life except whether she was happy. Since she wasn't actively unhappy, she considered herself happy by default.
She admired Fay Simons, the queen of Slash, one of its earliest practitioners. Fay had produced eleven Slash novels, nine based on Star Trek and two Mel Gibson/Danny Glover spin-offs – Lethal Romance and Lovely Weapon. But instead of sisterhood, there was between the two women what Caroline envisioned as a patriarchal fence consisting of fashion and diets and recipes for gourmet meals in less than thirty minutes – consisting, in essence, of men, whom Caroline loved in all their hairiness and pent-up emotionality. It was the fence which had divided women from time immemorial, so that their discourse was reduced to hurried endearments over white pickets while someone else's underwear consorted...