Warrior Lovers

By Catherine Salmon and Donald Symons.

Review By Judith Proctor

It's been interesting for me to read this book, not just because I have a strong interest in Darwinism and evolution in any case, but also because it was Catherine Salmon who first introduced me to Blake's 7 slash many years ago.

I'm mentioning this because I think there is always doubt among the readers of an academic book as to whether the writer has personal experience of what they're writing about. I know Catherine and can fully vouch that she knows what she's talking about. Her taste in fiction is probably not the same as mine, but reading the book, I can see where she's coming from and I do find the book plausible regarding a large and popular subset of slash stories (first-time stories between men who are normally heterosexual). It doesn't account for all variants of the slash genre, but the theory is internally consistent and there is a dollop of good logic there. It doesn't deal with the S+M end of the genre, nor with PWPs (plot? what plot?), but I can analyse much of what I write in the terms of the book even though I go about stories in a different way.

The premise here is that friendship has to be more important than sex - that the relationship is everything. I can recognise that in what I write. I don't do it so romantically as many others or with as many happy endings, but that's still what it boils down to. (If I love you enough to die for you, then that's pretty convincing proof of affection.)

The evolutionary argument is that women want life-partners, whereas men quite like life-partners but are never averse to a quick bit on the side (I did like the research quoted to show this - it was great fun and very convincing.) If women are programmed by evolution to desire intense relationships then an male/male pairing, based on friendship even more than sex, can be erotic as the relationship cannot fade as the sexual attractiveness fades with age.

The book spends several chapters explaining adaptionist terminology, human mating preferences and romance novels (Mills and Boon, etc.) before moving onto slash fiction in the last few chapters. People wanting an in-depth psychological account of all slash writing will be disappointed, but that isn't what the book is meant to be about. It finds its line of argument and follows it step by logical step and concludes that slash is essentially romance fiction for women who find it easy to identify with men - often those who are into science or who were tomboys as children (which would help explain why so much slash grows from SF shows).

I don't think this book is the final answer as to why women read slash, but I think it raises some interesting points and I certainly don't regret buying it.

Available from:
The Internet Bookshop (Hardback)

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Last updated on 09th of July 2001.