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.
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