What are the imaginative roots of JT 'Terminator' Leroy? JT’s enigma is borne of sticky inspiration, not by-the-numbers construction. How did his creator, Laura Albert, cook up such a dazzling, troubled boy? Where did the immaculate conception take place?
Many hoped that some sympathetic genesis could be found in Laura's own history: was she once an addict, a whore, an abused child? Alas, Albert is only an heir to privilege and shelter.
The truth is this: Laura Albert wins the crown for the most notorious Slash Fiction author of all time. Yes, Slash Fiction, that wanderground of heterosexual womenfolk who write gay porn about the male legends of our time.
What’s amazing is that Albert could take something that by its nature, is a pretense, and graduate it to a full-scale hoax.
What about Leroy smells like Slash?
Kirk: Well, Mr. Spock, if we can't disguise you, we'll find some way of explaining you.
Spock: That should prove interesting.
JT’s writing is filled with S/M, homosexual, violent, romantic sex. You might think such territory would be the province of a seasoned leatherman, but that would make you old-school. For at least the last ten years, 99% of all such erotica has been written by heterosexual women. Laura Albert fits the profile like an FBI binder.
Slash Fiction is an internet phenomenon that grew out of the sci fi fanzine communities. It’s any piece of fiction where you write an outrageous sex episode between two of your favorite male-bonded characters from a canonical pop-culture source: Batman/Robin, Kirk/Spock. (You see where the slash comes from...)
It started with Star Trek and went forth into every galaxy: Harry Potter Slash. Adam-12 Slash. Cheney/Bush.
The reason you don't usually see Slash in print, is because it is deliberate copyright violation. If you publish a story about Robin’s boner for Batman— (as I found out when I published Best American Erotica '99, with Kelly McQuain's "Je T'Aime Batman, Je T'Adore") DC Comix will call the publisher with a cease and desist order. These characters are owned by their authors.
So Slash has never made any money. It flourishes online, a volunteer army of fantasiasts.
This is where it gets interesting, and painful. Laura's Slash-muse was undoubtedly author Dennis Cooper, and the late George Miles. Dennis has written five books in homage to George, called "The George Miles Cycle," and has said that every protagonist he ever devised is modeled on his boyhood friend.
George and Dennis went to high school together. Dennis first met him out on the athletic field as George was careening through a rather heavy acid trip. Suffice to say, their bond met the legendary vibe associated with Slash Olympians.
JT first approached Cooper, by phone/email, at the beginning what would become the Sarah manuscript. Laura worshiped Dennis— a superfan. I’m sure Dennis would have been kind to Laura if he had been introduced to her as a reader— but his reactions were deeper this time. It wasn’t "Laura" or "Emily Frasier" (another of her pseuds) who reached out to him; it was JT, the ghost of George Miles crossed with Oliver Twist.
Close readers of literary fiction respect Dennis Cooper, myself included. His writing is as transgressive as DeSade and as eloquent as the Bible. He has authorial gifts that most of us will never manifest. He also specializes in stories about young men who have been used, sold, and fucked into a kind of oblivion that makes it hard to keep your grip.
JT engaged Cooper as his first serious editorial mentor, and kind friend. This is the kind of relationship Laura specialized in soliciting— she was the talkwhore of all creation. Don't claim you wouldn't have fallen for it if you weren't on the other end of the line. It was diabolical.
One day JT was privy to a picture of George that Dennis was going to use to illustrate his next book cover. As Dennis explains on his blog:
When Period was about to come out, I sent JT a jpeg of the cover. At that time, Sarah was due to come out in about six months. He begged me to use the cover photo— which is of the real George Miles taken by me in 1967— as his author photo.
He promised me that he was never going to have photos taken of him, do interviews or any public events because he was too painfully shy and reclusive. Because he was a good friend and because I thought his book would come out and have a quiet life like most books, I said he could.
Well, of course his book didn't have a quiet life and of course he did as many photo sessions, interviews, and events as he possibly could.
I told him it really bothered me that he was exploiting the image of George Miles— my greatest friend and muse— and I asked him to admit the photo wasn't him but he refused.
I went along with his lie for a long time because he was my friend even though it upset me and even though I was angry that he knew it upset me and he didn't care. Eventually I'd had enough and revealed the photo was of George. He was furious at me for blowing his cover, and that was basically the end of our friendship. That's the short version of the truth.
This photo of the ethereal and can’t-quite-put-your-finger-on-him-sexy George Miles gave the immediate impression being the real deal. Like all of JT’s milieu at the time, I thought that snapshot was Natoma Street Wench hisself.
But when the big money came to call, and personal appearances were demanded, JT had to change the narrative. Laura hired accomplice Savannah Knoops, to play the Wig & Sunglasses role. A financial necessity, perhaps, but in terms of Laura's Slash arc, she killed off her Main Man— the ultimate Slash taboo.
If you’ve read Sarah, and The Heart is Deceitful, go unveil Dennis Cooper’s The Sluts and view the original source. Dennis is writing fiction, masterful fiction, which Leroy churned into an autobiographical persona and fan-imitation. It could only happen in a Slash picture show.
Obviously, most Slash writers are not sociopaths. They’re fans with wonderful imaginations and no pretense. If their fiction was out in the open, it would be a huge relief to reveal the scope of female sexual appetite.
Instead, it’s stifled, and for no good reason. Batman and Robin deserve the homosexual fantasy life they’ve inspired.
Why are straight women are the foundation of Slash? Their counterparts are the legions of men who dream of lesbian liaisons. These fans are not latent; they are not on their way to gender reassignment. They are as mainstream as any Kinsey 1 or 2.
Slash attractions dwell in the belly of sexual fantasy, which is infinitely vicarious, and enchanted with The Other— whoever that might be.
When you fantasize about something that doesn’t include YOU— that can’t include you— you can go all the way. Women don’t just get to have a hard cock in a slash fantasy; they get twice the hard cock— and every metaphor that implies.
Now, not every straight person has a queer fantasy life, or vice versa. But what we all have is a fantasy life that goes beyond what we know, that explicitly breaks boundary. Anyone who protests that their erotic fantasies are limited to strolls on the beach and movie-star kisses has obviously not had a little chat with their unconscious.
Slash fiction is an under-publicized revolution in female eroticism. It's no wonder that Laura's writings didn't get "spotted" as Slash; the genre isn't on bookstore shelves. The stereotype that women are incapable of entertaining nasty, brutal boy thoughts in their heads is just the kind of bunk you will find in women's magazines and chick-lit fiction, ad nauseum.
The Slash world knows better where spunk lies in women's hearts.
And Laura Albert knows better how to just plain... lie. In her hands, Slash went a step further— past the subversion of TV & Comicbook Heroes and into the queer avant-garde. She opened a vein and mined a brand new orphan darling, a composite of a truly daring male duo.
Does the kid stay in the picture? The archetype will surely live forever. But Laura/Emily/Terminator, Inc. betrayed her own infatuation. She's not only a Slash Fraud, but a Slash Judas. If one more person finds the real Dennis and George through Sarah, though... maybe, just maybe, it was worth it.
All photos from http://denniscooper.net/