petra: Paul Gross smooching a skull (Geoffrey - Smooching Yorick)
[personal profile] petra posting in [community profile] pacifi_cant


For the sake of argument, I'm going to be dealing with stories that involve a lasting triad or vee relationship, rather than ones that are more along the lines of A/B + C for right now; the latter are more widespread, fannishly.

Before I embark on a tour of the recent upswing in polyamorous writing in fandom, I feel that I ought to introduce my biases. According to my threesomes/moresomes tag in my delicious, I've written 23 such groupings over 10 different fandoms, some multiple times. Some of them have more canonical subtext than others; some of those stories have in-depth consideration of the long-term relationships involved, and some do not.

It's also worth noting that I have never defined myself as an OTP-type fangirl. The pairing I've written the most kept my attention in part because I could never convince myself that they could turn their canonical affection into a lasting romantic affair. Starting from that stance, it was perhaps easier for me to consider OT3s as a viable construct than it would be for people who are invested in the happily-ever-after parts of their favorite romantic pairings, or who find contemplating their favorite characters with people other than their One True Love to be uncomfortable.

As for the general fannish discovery that OT3s make good story setups, the fannish motivation that drives people to want OT3s varies from fandom to fandom. In the fandoms PacifiCon focuses on, I'm aware of relatively significant amounts of OT3 stories in BSG, due South, Eastwick, Leverage, Star Trek: Reboot, Twitch City, and White Collar.

To break that down, I haven't seen the relevant bits of BSG to the threesomes I know my friends ship, but I've been told there's some significant subtext for at least one OT3.

Due South's major OT3 is the result of major fannish wars and the search for useful compromise. That it is also written in ways that are character-based, sweet, and hot is a function of the fandom's size and its fans dedication to quality.

Anyone who wonders why Eastwick gets all the f/f/f needs to swallow her pride (or her embarrassment squick with respect to Paul Gross having too much fun with terrible dialogue) and watch an episode. There isn't as much f/f/f as there should be for the show, but that's the terrible thing about having very few episodes and women.

Leverage's OT3 is one I have trouble being objective about: it is endearing, and I've written it, but it has a lot of hurdles to overcome in the form of a woman whose atypical features make it hard for her to read people and a man whose characterization defaults to "gruff bastard" who doesn't appear to want to be close to anyone. There's probably something in Hardison's characterization that makes him unlikely to engage in threesomes, but if so it's escaping me.

ST: Reboot has piles of every feasible pairing and, I suspect, piles of everything else besides. I've seen enough "Where's Uhura, Kirk/Spock writers?" to feel that a minority of OT3 stories that flesh out her character/use the ST:TOS background enough to make her a narrative match for the gentlemen in question are barely redressing the balance, but I appreciate that it's being done.

Twitch City has more canonical threesome jokes than anything yet mentioned (unless BSG went there when I stopped looking), three main recurring characters who are available for shipping, and then there's that smooch in Last Night, for the RPS-intrigued among us--but I digress. I can't describe any of these characters as strong or well-adjusted human beings, but they are all vividly drawn, and there is a definite sense that putting the two men together and leaving the woman out would be out of character. If nothing else, she gets more screentime than the prime slash pairing by an order of magnitude, and she's interesting during it.

Then there's White Collar, the strongest argument I'm going to touch on for "writing m/m about the two male main characters and leaving aside or erasing the woman is incredibly out of character." I haven't read the vast outpouring of fiction in this fandom with any great attention beyond the things that people like well enough to recommend, but I haven't hit on a divorce story yet, and I find that heartening. The canon has two people in a happy marriage and a man who cares about both of them, but also works to strengthen their marriage.

Why does fandom as a whole love the OT3 all of a sudden? I don't know, and I don't know that it does, but I can't give a better argument for White Collar's OT3 subtext than that the Other Man actively ships the established couple.

Why does fandom follow through with that--sometimes--instead of presuming that it's an open marriage? The lady in question cares about both the men, has enough characterization and charm to overcome the general female character-related malaise that plagues much of fandom, and--not coincidentally--is smart enough that it's implausible that they'd get away with anything for very long.

This is not to say that Uhura isn't smart--she's brilliant. But unlike Uhura, White Collar's potential m/m doesn't have decades of momentum. Fandom is, as ever, what we make it, and enough of the fandom has recognized the OT3 potential to make it an important part of the fanon as well as the canon.

I read a piece on maintaining successful polyamorous triads recently that pointed out that a triad quadruples the number of relationships involved: instead of A/B, there's A/B, B/C, A/C, and A/B/C. From a fiction writer's standpoint, that's a lot more material to delve into than A/B, and we all know the vast works that can be wrought about the right A and B and their route to coupledom. But there's also the added complication that all of those relationships have to make some kind of sense. Someone has to extrapolate them from canon, whether it's as easy as, "They kiss!" or as difficult as "Yes, but if one of them moves to Canada, then moves back, then he might theoretically run into the other guy, and they'd probably want something more than that, maybe." Forming a triad without a lot of canon subtext takes a lot of work; White Collar (and Twitch City) are ahead of the game there in that they've got plenty of flirting on all the axes.

So what does it take to make a fandom write OT3s? It needs three characters who are all well-drawn and without whom the core of the story feels incomplete or unbalanced, at least to the person writing the OT3 story in question. For those of us who enjoy m/m/f, female characters to whom male characters are actively and unquestionably committed are a definite step up from the Babe of the Week.

I know there are plenty of media out there in various formats that have indispensable trios. I would love it if the current upswing in the number of people considering OT3s could extend beyond the present set of fandoms and spur on some polyamory stories in earlier fandoms. What OT3 calls to you, reader?

N. B. The above treats mainly with OT3s that have some vague chance of making it into and out of the bedroom without falling apart. I don't require happily-ever-after from my fiction, pairing, threesome, or otherwise, and I would be remiss if I failed to note how much I like OT3s that break each other into their component atoms before they're done. In that regard, I recommend Slings & Arrows.

Date: 2010-04-13 01:28 am (UTC)
umbrella_half: (Twitch City - Newbie Cakery)
From: [personal profile] umbrella_half
This is an awesome post. \3/

Having just written Newbie/Curtis/Hope, I think what you say about Twitch City is true. How could you slash Curtis and Newbie without Hope? She's by far the most sympathetic (normal) character in the show, as well as being pretty kick-arse and well-rounded (and pretty...) I think it just makes the most sense. And I think that Hope/Curtis, the pairing the show presents, can accommodate Newbie fairly easily (and sexily? CKR's characters are pretty much always going to get the love...)

I also think fans often don't like to leave characters (to whom they're sympathetic, at least) out in the proverbial cold, so part of the appeal of an OT3 is often in its being an elegant solution to that problem.

Date: 2010-04-13 01:37 am (UTC)
jesse_the_k: kitty pawing the surface of Atlantic phonograph record on turntable  (scratch this!)
From: [personal profile] jesse_the_k
Loved this essay, and the whole time I was waiting for the S&A reference. Because I think OT3 is canon there – and you have done it brilliantly!

Date: 2010-04-13 02:35 am (UTC)
mergatrude: a hermit crab peering from it's shell with the text "lurker" (Default)
From: [personal profile] mergatrude
Oh, lovely thinky stuff. Thank you.

The dynamics of three are different and complicated and challenge us in different ways to thinking and writing about an OTP, even down to the mechanics. I see the rise of the OT3 as (partly) being about new challenges.

Date: 2010-04-13 06:17 am (UTC)
china_shop: Neal, Peter and Elizabeth hugging (WC - OT3 awwwww!)
From: [personal profile] china_shop
Oh man, I remember my joy at realising I didn't have to exclude Fraser or Ray or Ray from the happy ever after! And now White Collar! *flappy hands of glee* It's like you say -- the show has done such a great job of shipping Peter and Elizabeth, that I just can't believe anything would go on behind her back, and I don't want it to! Which is quite a change from my relentless slashing in DS. *g*

Also, yes yes to the fun complicated dynamics you get to play with. Wheee!

Date: 2010-04-13 03:19 pm (UTC)
fairestcat: Elizabeth Swann-Turner (Elizabeth Will Have Her Way)
From: [personal profile] fairestcat
I read a piece on maintaining successful polyamorous triads recently that pointed out that a triad quadruples the number of relationships involved: instead of A/B, there's A/B, B/C, A/C, and A/B/C.

YES. THIS. I adore the recent upswing in OT3 fic and poly fic in general, but I really wish more people remembered that a three person relationship is NOT just one relationship.

I love OT3 fic, and have for many years (I think my first fannish OT3 was Jack/Will/Elizabeth from PoTC), but recently I've become rather more invested in having poly relationships in fiction that at least somewhat resemble the ones in real life.

Date: 2010-04-15 04:04 pm (UTC)
were_lemur: Jack Sparrow, sprawled on the ground. (don't worry boys and girls there's enoug)
From: [personal profile] were_lemur
I think part of why so many of my stories are (relatively) open-ended without implying that everything is going to be okay forever, world without end, is that that's my conception of *real life,* and I find too much tidiness un-suspends my disbelief.

*nodnod*

Using duration as the sole or primary measure of a relationship's "worthiness" has never made all that much sense to me.

Date: 2010-04-14 02:34 am (UTC)
merisunshine36: white rose floating candle (Default)
From: [personal profile] merisunshine36
A key part of my enjoyment to any OT3 fic is that they really delve into what makes each of the characters tick, in addition to exploring the psychological side of the triad--moments of jealousy and moments or syngergy, which sides of the triangle are closer and which are further apart. My favorite nuTrek 0T3 is George/Pike/Winona. I love writing them because Pike is presented as Jim's mentor/father figure in the film, and wouldn't it be intriguing if the reason why Pike is so invested in him lies in the previous relationship he had with Jim's parents? It opens up a whole new avenue through which to read the interactions between Pike and Kirk onscreen.

In TOS, the OT3 I love is Kirk/Spock/Uhura, especially the stories by Spock Jones. They are wonderfully rich, and leverage those tiny moments of interpersonal chemistry see into some of the hottest fic I've ever had the fortune to read.

Also, just for the sake of reccing, I'd like to point to the Draws series by syredronning, which begins as a Pike/Kirk/McCoy OT3 and evolves from there. She goes into great detail about the dynamics of each of the sub-relationships as well as the triad as a whole, and on top of that, weaves in an amazing sub-plot.
Edited Date: 2010-04-14 02:35 am (UTC)

Date: 2010-04-14 01:53 pm (UTC)
lady_ganesh: A Clue card featuring Miss Scarlett. (my son is smokin' hot)
From: [personal profile] lady_ganesh
Do you have any links for Pike/George/Winona? I find your ideas intriguing and wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

Date: 2010-04-14 03:42 pm (UTC)
merisunshine36: white rose floating candle (Default)
From: [personal profile] merisunshine36
Wooohoooo a convert!

I have only one PGW fic, Like Father, Like Son.

rubynye's Light, Inaccessible and the accompanying drabble are also awesome.

For more fic, check out the Pike/George/Winona tag over at the pike_2009 comm.

From metafandom

Date: 2010-04-14 02:51 am (UTC)
cythewriter: Me + tie dye (Default)
From: [personal profile] cythewriter
I'm more of a gamer than a television fandom type person, but what the heck, right?

From Kingdom Hearts, Axel/Roxas/Xion is one of my favorite pairings, although I kinda suck at writing it. I've written one A/R/X fic where they're all together, and a few Axel/Xion fics where I mention that Roxas is involved, if that makes sense? Like, "Axel kisses her differently from Roxas", or something like that.

Also from Kingdom Hearts (yeah, yeah, fangirl) - Sora/Riku/Kairi. Those three went across all of the worlds for each other. It stands to reason (to me, at least) that they'd all three be romantically involved. I've never actually written them together, which is a bit odd, but I tend to have trouble writing Riku. Again, I tend to mention that even if it's two at the moment, there's usually three.

For Final Fantasy X, I'm attracted to Tidus/Yuna/Rikku, although there isn't nearly enough of it, and I tend to have trouble writing Tidus with the right voice. I dunno, there's something about their dynamic that I like. Rikku is crazy about Yunie, and so is Tidus. Yuna clearly cares deeply about both of them.

I'm sorry, this has been a bit ramble-y, and no doubt full of really random stuff. Just my two cents, and sorry to have bothered you!

Date: 2010-04-14 03:00 am (UTC)
starlady: holmes holds his spyglass against watson's chest (intimacy)
From: [personal profile] starlady
Oo, great post, and great point about the number of relationships in a trio. There's been some great Holmes/Watson/Mary OT3 fic in Sherlock Holmes movie fandom, a lot of it by [personal profile] recessional.

via metafandom

Date: 2010-04-14 03:08 am (UTC)
miss_prince: (Default)
From: [personal profile] miss_prince
My first thought was Vyse/Aika/Fina from Skies of Arcadia (which is a wonderfully joyful game and not very difficult, and I would totally encourage everyone to play it if they have the means). They are the three protagonists, they all care greatly for one another, and although there are a few "Does Aika love Vyse? Does Fina love Vyse?" moments, no one leg of the triangle is treated as more or less important than the others. It's the only OT3 I've come across that I honestly can't fathom any other way; it HAS to be all three, they're ALL important to each other.

I'm also very fond of the Ace Attorney fandom's Phoenix/Iris/Edgeworth (otherwise known as delicious PIE), which is strange because I don't really enjoy any of the two-person combinations within it. This one is different in that it's two characters with individual ties to the third (that is Iris and Edgeworth both having ties to Phoenix), who given enough time may come to find that they're very compatible as well (in my reading of it).

I also squee happily when I see a poly fic containing a group larger than three. It certainly takes a LOT to pull off correctly, but there are so many intricacies to explore, and I find it wonderful.

Date: 2010-04-14 08:15 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] lady_susan
The other one I'm starting to see a bit more of is Stargate SG-1 - a lot of Jack/Daniel writers used to exclude Sam or treat her badly, but she gets included more nowadays. I wish there was more, though.

Date: 2010-04-14 11:01 am (UTC)
sashajwolf: photo of the TG4 (tg4)
From: [personal profile] sashajwolf
Here via metafandom. My favourite fandoms for OT3 fic are White Collar (Peter/Neal/Elizabeth), Doctor Who (mostly Nine/Jack/Rose) and Top Gear RPS (usually Jeremy/James/Richard, who are the three co-presenters). The latter can be problematic because all three presenters have real-life wives or girlfriends, which leads to a lot of fics in which the women are erased, cheated on or "got out of the way" by means of divorce or such - but in the best examples the whole set-up is consensual all round, and sometimes the women are active partners in an OT4 or larger structure. I'd love to see more fics like those, and more poly fic in general, whether the relationship structure is OT3 or something else. Triads are actually a small minority of the real-life poly relationships I'm familiar with.

Date: 2010-04-15 10:55 am (UTC)
sashajwolf: photo of Nine, Rose and Jack with text "menage a trois" (menage a trois)
From: [personal profile] sashajwolf
RPS brings in the whole "Are we writing about the TV personae or the real people? Are the personae married?" issue, and I'm glad that in your fandom there's some peace made with it.

I think pretty much everyone in my corner of the fandom sees it as writing about the TV personae, but the respective wives and girlfriend in this case have been mentioned on air, and indeed I think they've all appeared on screen at least once, in some cases along with the presenters' mothers. So I personally feel that any fic where they explicitly don't exist is AU at best, and any slashfic where they're simply ignored casts doubt on the character of the presenters in ways that the author usually doesn't intend. Obviously not everyone shares my preferences, though.

The former feels like disposal of women

Exactly.

and the latter steps on my first-time kink

Heh. That's one of my biggest kinks, too, but "first time for this pairing" will usually hit it for me, so I don't think that's why I don't like the "now we've kissed..." approach. It's that the way it's executed usually comes across as just another clumsy way of getting those inconvenient womenfolk out of the way. If Jeremy and Francie Clarkson are in fact poly in this story universe, I want you to show me that and let me see her being happy about it, not just tell me in a throwaway line where her husband speaks for her and then gets on with the really important business of shagging his co-presenter. That pattern manages to creep me out even as someone who doesn't normally like femslash or het.

If I had to guess, I'd say that OT3 shows up *more* in fandom than in real life because people who have more of a One True Love bent can get to Two True Loves more readily than Lots Of Loves That Are Awesome But Not Coequal

Yes, that, and also narrativium makes it easier to avoid all the little quirks and incompatible kinks and logistical problems that make it infinitesimally unlikely in real life that my Two True Loves will not only reciprocate my love, but also get the blinding flash of insight in which they both realise that they are also each others' Second True Loves.

Date: 2010-04-15 05:11 pm (UTC)
sashajwolf: text: an apple a day keeps the... ah, no, never mind (an apple a day)
From: [personal profile] sashajwolf
We do seem to be on the same page, and it looks like we have a couple of fandoms in common. I've added you - hope that's okay.

Date: 2010-04-14 03:50 pm (UTC)
lady_ganesh: Wet Havoc holding a gun (havoc (FMA))
From: [personal profile] lady_ganesh
Here from metafandom. My favorite OT3s are from manga and anime: Doumeki/Himiwari/Watanuki from xxxHolic, which the creators seem to ship if anything more happily than the fandom, and Hughes/Gracia/Mustang from Fullmetal Alchemist, which was more like a White Collar situation-- a happy het couple and another man who seemed to adore them both.

And then there's Saiyuki, which lends itself to more OT3s and polyfic than pretty much any source I know (much like the trio in xxxHolic, the creator seems to be on board with at least one of the OT3s).

Date: 2010-04-15 09:48 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] streussal.livejournal.com
I'm currently in The Vampire Diaries, where Katherine (a flashback character so far) canonically has relationships with the brothers Stefan and Damon at the same time. And while Stefan was mind-mojoed, Damon was definitely very okay with this. So the threesome isn't canon, but Katherine totally would have talked them into it at some point, even if it didn't happen then. I generally don't ship incest, but the whole vampire thing generally feels kind of incestuous anyways, and Stefan is the only person I'm 100% certain that Damon wouldn't kill... And currently Stefan dates Elena, Damon hits on her, and occasionally refers to her as "our girlfriend". I mean. Really. Damon/Bonnie/Stefan intrigues me as well, for reasons involving snark and closer power levels and neat relationships. ...now that I think of it, Elena/Stefan/Bonnie could be neat too.

It is a strangely shippable show.

For the Buffyverse, Angelus/Darla/Drusilla and Angelus/Drusilla/Spike are interesting in a horrific sort of way, and basically canon. Angel/Darla/Lindsey has potential. I know some people ship Angel/Cordelia/Doyle and Wesley/Fred/Gunn, though I don't really (and I ship Fred with both Wesley and Gunn!). Basically, the Buffyverse has so many romantic relationships, breakups, friendships, betrayal, etc., that it lends itself well to threesomes.

...I swear I ship non-vampire threesomes, these are just the ones that came to mind. Uh. Criminal Minds has Prentiss/Reid/Morgan, though I tend to see the show as more friendship-based.

Date: 2010-04-15 03:51 pm (UTC)
shadowscast: Mac, Vic and Li Ann from Once A Thief (OaT threesome)
From: [personal profile] shadowscast
Basically, the Buffyverse has so many romantic relationships, breakups, friendships, betrayal, etc., that it lends itself well to threesomes.

Don't forget Buffy/Angel/Spike! Practically canon. If you, um, include dream sequences and the comics, and squint.

I personally have written Willow/Kennedy/Oz.

(Icon from Once A Thief, a relatively obscure but close-to-my-heart fandom with another plausible threesome, Li Ann/Mac/Vic.)

Date: 2010-04-15 06:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] streussal.livejournal.com
Well, Buffy/Angel and Buffy/Spike is canon. Plus, Spike said he and Angel had never been intimate, except that once. (It was totally more than once.) So the trick is just getting them all together at the same time!

...My only problem there is that I don't like Kennedy. Tara/Willow/Oz could maybe work as a pyramid? I don't think Tara is attracted to guys, plus Tara and Oz might not be happy to share at the season four time period, but maybe in some hypothetical future. I admit that Willow/Kennedy/Oz makes more sense to me.

Date: 2010-04-15 06:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] streussal.livejournal.com
I hope this isn't some sort of internal "sociopathic bisexual" cliche, except with more threesomes. The "so long" factor makes sense though.

Hahaha, well Doyle did go on about Angel's mysterious black swirling trenchcoat thing that one time ("maybe a little attracted"). I have more trouble with Cordy/Angel in S1, but yeah maybe a one-off after a difficult case and too much to drink.

Date: 2010-04-15 03:55 pm (UTC)
were_lemur: Jack Sparrow, sprawled on the ground. (don't worry boys and girls there's enoug)
From: [personal profile] were_lemur
Arwen/Boromir/Aragorn was my first OT3; I know that Aragorn/Boromir/Legolas, Boromir/Pippin/Merry and Frodo/Sam/Rosie are also popular LotR triads.

I don't have any OTCs, OTPs, or OT3s in PotC: I'm liable to ship just about anyone with pretty much anyone else, at least for the duration of a story. (And when I say ship, I mean I've written Black Pearl/Flying Dutchman.) Threesome-wise, I've written Elizabeth/Will/Jack and I've got Elizabeth/Will/James floating around incomplete on my hard drive. And while it's not really an OT3, I've written a couple of stories where the premise is that Will told Elizabeth that he didn't care what she did, as long as she was there to meet him in ten years.

In Star Wars, I've written a few Han/Leia/Lando stories. I know that there's Han/Luke/Leia out there, but I've managed to avoid it so far. In the Prequel Era, there's a fair amount of Anakin/Padme/Obi-Wan.

I've also written a couple of Old School Trek Uhura/Sulu/Checkov fics.

Date: 2010-04-16 12:53 am (UTC)
robling_t: (Default)
From: [personal profile] robling_t
I sort of backed into writing an OT3 that's pretty damn off-label even for Torchwood (before you ask, it's Owen/Tosh/PC Andy -- yeah, there's apparently about a 50% chance out of the entire internet that if you hear that combo mentioned, it's RE one of mine...), in which one M/F is at least a reasonable extrapolation but the other M never actually met either of them in canon; the really weird part is, I get comments that it manages to draw in people who ordinarily avoid the plausible 'ship! My theory is that adding in the third party is just enough to change up the dynamic that nothing can be taken as read, so the actual work involved in picturing the ongoing relationship has to end up on-screen in ways that strengthen the story.

As I think about it, though, there's actually less OT3 fic out there for Torchwood than you'd think. Jack/Ianto/Gwen comes up sometimes, as does Jack/Ianto/Captain Hart and Jack/Ianto/Doctor, but apparently the pull of the canon-slash couple tends to drown out a lot of the incentive to go outside that box, even when the source material would seem predisposed to the idea. What weirdness there is can get very weird, considering that I can't think offhand of any combination of the canon characters that I haven't seen Getting Down To It in at least one fic somewhere (except Rhys/Hart, although I wouldn't be at all surprised if that turns up before the end of "Faithful"...), but aside from sex-pollen fics it does tend to happen in tidy pairs, for some reason...

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