So earlier this evening I was called a “shipper” by a friend, giving me the opportunity to finally ask an actual human being (I’m beginning to think this is defined by the ability to spell, but I digress) what the hell that meant. Apparently it’s someone who gets involved in the relationships of characters on TV shows, often with too-cute mooshings of character names to symbolize the union (desired, existing, or otherwise).
…part of the compact between reader and writer …[is that in] fiction, you’re being told something that matters, and that you’ll care about, and which will have consequences, and won’t leave you feeling cheated.
It’s probably just my desire to very much not be associated with the sort of people I suspect “shippers” to be (the mind alternately switches between women writing fanfic I’d be horrified to stumble across and something vaguely 17th century-ish and involving lots of rum), but this is what draws me to character stories. It’s not necessarily the fact that a couple is or is not “having a relationship” as it is that the tension often creates a lot of great writing opportunities for those doing the writing. Give a good writer a good opportunity, and she’ll usually take it. Add in some good actors who have chemistry, and you’ve got something compelling.
It doesn’t have to be a romantic relationship for this to work; of all the series I can think of, Deep Space Nine did a fabulous job making almost all the characters have dynamic and engrossing interpersonal relationships.
Of course, if we look over the list of chararcter interpersonal relationships that I’ve been most fond of, a pattern does emerge: Kira and Odo, Picard and Crusher, O’Neill and Carter, and just so people don’t think that the pattern is “my god she’s a science fiction geek!”, Maddy and David and Ross and Hathaway. Sort of telling, isn’t it? Perhaps there’s something to be learned there. But I maintain that I’m not a shipper, merely someone who appreciates compelling character dynamics of any type.