It's a Fanmade World
March 15, 2015 8:08 AM   Subscribe

Vulture examines past and present trends in the world of fanfiction and searches for the answer to a mystery that has plagued fandom for years: Who is responsible for the best worst fanfiction of them all, "My Immortal"?

Many believe that "My Immortal" is the worst fanfiction on the web, but fandom still can't agree on whether the story is a parody of fan culture or the sincere work of a self-proclaimed goth teen. Its protagonist is the vampire-witch Ebony Dark'ness Dementia Raven Way (aka Enoby), and she may be one of the most well known examples of the Mary Sue trope. In the story, Ebony commences a torrid love affair with Draco Malfoy (aka Dracko/Drico/Drake/Drago). Harry Potter, who has adopted the alias Vampire, also makes an appearance.

My Immortal is one of the stories that will be discussed as a part of the Princeton course Fanfiction: Transformative Works from Shakespeare to Sherlock. (To access the course web site, which includes links to assigned readings, you can select the view as guest option). The course instructor, Professor Anne Jamison, is the author of the book "Fic: Why Fanfiction is Taking Over the World."

You can find the full text of "My Immortal" on fanfiction.net.

Fanlore, the wiki which is managed by the Organization for Transformative Works has an entry about "My Immortal." The cult following of the story is so active that it even has it's own completely separate wiki site.

Previous FPPs about "My Immortal": here, here, and here.
posted by litera scripta manet (129 comments total) 63 users marked this as a favorite
 
The best thing that I learned in Vulture's fanfiction edition is that S.E. Hinton sometimes writes Outsiders fanfiction, just for fun.
And a few years ago I wrote three Outsiders stories to see what kind of a response I would get. I use a different name, naturally. People would say, “Wow, you really got the characters down right!” And I’d be like, Glad to hear it.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:39 AM on March 15, 2015 [41 favorites]


The Princeton course doesn't link to very good fanfiction examples.
posted by Windigo at 8:49 AM on March 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


and this led me to the fanlore wiki. There goes my night.
posted by thegirlwiththehat at 8:51 AM on March 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


One thing I discovered courtesy of the Princeton course site is this web page where you can download all the Sherlock Holmes stories as pdfs or formatted for kindle, ipad, etc. You can even choose whether to download it all as one document, separated into collections, or individual stories. I already knew that the ACD canon was in the public domain, but I was excited to find them formatted so conveniently.
posted by litera scripta manet at 8:55 AM on March 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


meh. It's no Eye of Argon.
posted by MartinWisse at 9:00 AM on March 15, 2015 [8 favorites]


meh. It's no Eye of Argon.

I'm not sure if that's praising with faint damns or damning with faint praise.
posted by eriko at 9:02 AM on March 15, 2015 [12 favorites]


There's apparently also a Berkeley course about fanfiction which has had some interesting responses.
posted by jeather at 9:07 AM on March 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


Also some discussion here in the comments of this fanfic.
posted by jeather at 9:08 AM on March 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


I stand by my theory that the same author who wrote My Immortal is also the same one who wrote Master of the Universe - which everyone now knows as 50 shades of gray.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 9:17 AM on March 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that it was obviously written by E.L James.

edit: good theory, Old'n'Busted! also, jinx.
posted by mrjohnmuller at 9:18 AM on March 15, 2015


I love that it's really not clear if this is satire or not. I don't read fanfic and am not in the culture, and that first chapter quoted looks like a straight-up parody of all that is bad about fanfic. It's just overdone so much: the author's notes, the character description, the Hot Topic namecheck, it's just outrageously bad. But I take the Vulture article's point that if it's parody, it's an awfully elaborate one. Maybe it's a bit of both, it's possible to both love a genre and parody it at the same time.

God bless the fanfic community though for turning one crappy story into some extended bit of entertainment. The investigations, the parodies of the parody... And 15 episodes of a video soap opera? That is a lot of creativity. I was going to say "lowbrow creativity" but the satire is so arch it's something else entirely.
posted by Nelson at 9:24 AM on March 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


This article keeps talking about how open, creative, and without boundaries fanfiction is, but it's always seemed exactly the opposite: it's all about playing in premade, set boxes, boxes usually made by giant companies. The numbers the Vulture article gives seem to underscore this: endless iterations of established properties and media personalities.

Fanfiction seems like the corporate colonization of the last frontier, imagination. Channeling talent and energy away from actual originality and creativity and into free marketing material.
posted by Sangermaine at 9:28 AM on March 15, 2015 [11 favorites]


set boxes, boxes usually made by giant companies.

Twilight, Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Holmes stories, Hobbit/LoTR, Arthurian mythology -- these are big in fanfiction and made by individual writers. But even if we use, for example, Disney films (which are of course fanfiction themselves, mostly), you get Disney characters in other universes, other people in Disney universes, characters meeting each other who never did -- these aren't particularly limited boxes.

And I don't think it's fair to call reusing old stories and/or characters necessarily limited in originality or creativity (though of course much fanfiction is -- but then so is much fiction). It's a well-worn example, but Shakespeare wasn't exactly known for his entirely new plots.
posted by jeather at 9:35 AM on March 15, 2015 [16 favorites]


I lean pretty strongly towards the parody interpretation for "My Immortal." Aside from the numerous times it perfectly encapsulates overdone fandom tropes and trends, I think the the biggest give away is the author's notes. They are frequently nearly unintelligible and yet the actual story doesn't seem to contain many typos aside from the character name misspellings and the very rare but hilarious "errors" such as:

Loopin was masticating to it (hint: he was not chewing...)

Loopin held up the camera triumelephantly

I mean everyone is totally out of character, the syntax is bizarre, and almost everything about it is absurd, but the crazy abbreviations, misspellings, etc in the author's notes are on a whole different level.

same author who wrote My Immortal is also the same one who wrote Master of the Universe

I wish this turned out to be true. I think I would feel a bit less disgusted by the whole thing if the "inner goddess" references and the horrifying, abusive relationship were presented as satire rather than sincere romance. Although I'm not sure even purposeful parody would be enough to excuse that whole franchise.
posted by litera scripta manet at 9:41 AM on March 15, 2015 [5 favorites]


The Princeton course is pretty different from the Berkeley course (which was kind of debacle from fandom perspective); I peripherally know several of the Sherlock fic authors whose work is being covered, and the prof has been really careful and thoughtful in checking with them first and planning how the work will be handled. (She's also an actual prof and not a couple of minimally-supervised undergrads...) Plus she's made some great choices for things to cover, I think (HBBO's "How the Mouth Changes Its Shape" and pennypaperbrain's "Four Corners of the Western World" and wordstrings' Paradox series and at some point I just start flailing uncontrollably.)
posted by dorque at 9:41 AM on March 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


Twilight, Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Holmes stories, Hobbit/LoTR, Arthurian mythology -- these are big in fanfiction and made by individual writers.

Actually those were precisely the corporate properties I was thinking of. They're big in fanfiction due to being media juggernauts. Fanfiction swirls around the big movie or book du jour, and the numbers the Vulture gives proves it.

Disney films (which are of course fanfiction themselves, mostly), you get Disney characters in other universes, other people in Disney universes, characters meeting each other who never did -- these aren't particularly limited boxes.

Of course they are. They're just corporate properties meeting other corporate properties. Mickey meets Harry Potter is playing in the same old sandboxes.

It just seems so limited and constrained and kind of sad. It seems like in the past people took in their influences and were inspired to make something new that's cool like that, but fanfiction is just wanting to make the same thing again.
posted by Sangermaine at 9:48 AM on March 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


They're big in fanfiction due to being media juggernauts. Fanfiction swirls around the big movie or book du jour

I've only done a little poking around on fanfic boards, and only recently, so my impression may be off...but it certainly seems like the movie versions of superheroes, for instance, get a hell of a lot more attention than the much longer-standing original comic book versions. There's less lore/canon to absorb that way, and that almost certainly increases their appeal for the fanfic writer, but still...that difference has been pretty jarring for me.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 9:52 AM on March 15, 2015


This article keeps talking about how open, creative, and without boundaries fanfiction is, but it's always seemed exactly the opposite: it's all about playing in premade, set boxes, boxes usually made by giant companies.

If anything it's about breaking out of those boxes. See the poor showing of Amazon's attempt to monetize fanfics due in part to the original authors being allowed to set constraints, or the freedom Michel Fiffe found he had with his alternate Suicide Squad not having to follow DC's conventions.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:56 AM on March 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


the movie versions of superheroes, for instance, get a hell of a lot more attention than the much longer-standing original comic book versions

a lot of that can be explained by network dynamic in combination with the fact that the movies are more accessible, partly because they're new, and insofar of its own textual canon, a lot more manageable (with the option to tie it to the extant canon existing in the other mediums such as the comics). So, a movie comes out, and to write about it requires not as much research than having to write a fic based on the older, longer, more convoluted comic/book series*. But of course, to see if the movie gets a critical mass of fics depends on the network dynamic I mentioned earlier, which is basically a fancier way of saying word of mouth, and some mouths are more influential than others...

*but the more the MCU movies go on, the less likely this in particular will be true - but otoh current fanfic/fandom culture has grown ever more laissez-faire with being true to canon (for a given value of 'true'). Personally I attribute it to the shift tht happened around the time fandom just stopped accepting tht Qui-Gonn died. xD
posted by cendawanita at 10:00 AM on March 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Sangermain -
You seem to be saying a lot about the quality and derivation of fanfic, in a way that appears intended to devalue the enterprise entirely.

What value does this opinion provide you? Does it improve your understanding of the world? Does it foster better relationships between yourself and other people? Does it add to your income?

I've generally found a lot of fanfic to be terribly written. And I don't really enjoy much of the playing around with characters and settings. But it's quite clear that it's a valuable writing exercise for a lot of people, and as a method of self-expression that is empowering to the authors. So, overall, even though I personally don't appreciate the result of this, it's hard for me to say that there's anything bad about it.
posted by jefflowrey at 10:05 AM on March 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


the other thing that bears mentioning, is that fandom exists as its own culture (capital F fandom?), while at the same time different fandoms have different social behaviours, but on the whole, fans engage just as much with the idea and community of fandom itself as with the respective pieces of canon they've staked an emotional claim on. So quite a lot of the fanfic itself isn't just in response to canon, but also to fandom, which makes trying to parse it on one axis without the other would probably result in a handicapped analysis. So that to me, is one major reason why fanficcers continue to happily produce fanworks - I don't agree they're in a constrained sandbox, and aside from tht assessment, that sandbox is just another arena where the community continues to engage with itself.
posted by cendawanita at 10:06 AM on March 15, 2015 [10 favorites]


Does it add to your income?

I would love to be a paid shill, but sadly no offers have come in.

Your demand that I justify my opinions is silly. I'm just responding to the article, which extols the creativity and limitlessness of fanfic. I question that, because it seems to be the other way to me, just a new frontier that's been exploited for gain that's cynically presented as about "expressing yourself".
posted by Sangermaine at 10:10 AM on March 15, 2015 [6 favorites]


Some fan fiction crosses the line from "fan fiction" and starts looking like outsider art.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:10 AM on March 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Fanfiction seems like the corporate colonization of the last frontier, imagination... it's all about playing in premade, set boxes...

I'm going to go out on a limb and say I rather think it's the opposite; it's the imagination colonizing the world of corporate media. People aren't so much being channeled into these corporate boxes as they are saying "I'm going to play with these toyboxes however I want, whether or not the media giants allow it." Many of of the authors of fanfic are people who may not feel comfortable making their own boxes yet, or who may simply want to feel the joy of writing without (for the time being) necessarily needing to create their own (going to drop the box metaphor now) settings and characters... not every time, at least. And some (such as Naomi Novik) will go on to quite successfully create their own original works.

Don't write the stuff myself, but I see it as a net plus for writers, and I try to be "fanfic positive" with my students when the subject comes up.
posted by kikaider01 at 10:13 AM on March 15, 2015 [24 favorites]


Sangermaine, I understand why you'd see fanfic that way, because that's how I used to think about it. After a while, I guess my interest was piqued by all the intelligent people I knew who liked fanfic, so I tried to immerse myself in it, followed their recommendations, and tried to see what they liked about it. (I'm not saying you have to do this. It's obviously totally fine to not like or get fanfic.)

I found that there are a lot of reasons for reading and writing fic -- as well as the more obvious ones, it can be a very useful technical exercise for a writer; a way of working through psychological issues, political ideas or really anything else, within a defined framework; even (yes, really!) a way of subverting the big corporate properties you're worried about. Robin Kenealy's American Captain, which is highlighted in the Vulture fanfic "syllabus" and has been on MeFi previously, is arguably an example of all of those motivations.

I've seen fanfiction described in several places as a continuation of age-old collaborative storytelling traditions: people passing around tales of the mythic figures of their culture, putting their own spin on them, combining plots and inventing things over time. The folk tales and legends of a society are common property; anyone can tell them. Nowadays lots of the stories we all know are "owned" and copyrighted by media companies, but fanfiction (and other forms of fanart) resist that ownership, basically saying that the stories belong to anyone for whom they're meaningful.
posted by daisyk at 10:16 AM on March 15, 2015 [15 favorites]


Also, everything cendawanita said. :)
posted by daisyk at 10:17 AM on March 15, 2015


I'm no expert on fanfic, but to me it's more like mythology than corporate colonization, wherein you have a widely familiar set of established characters and conditions, and then all sorts of people (not just authorized "speakers," scholars, translators, historians, priests, etc.) create and share all sorts of stories about them for all sorts of purposes ‐ political, emotional, moralistic, analytical, subversive, erotic, iconoclastic, comedic, provocative, and simply entertaining... and of course many of these tales are instantly forgettable, while some are folded into the canon or consciousness, and some resonate particularly well for their time and place (Joyce's "Ulysses" for a modernish example?).
posted by taz at 10:21 AM on March 15, 2015 [11 favorites]


It really delights me that the authorship of My Immortal is still such a mystery. I assumed it would have been found out years ago.
posted by daisyk at 10:23 AM on March 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


Ugh, sorry for four comments (nearly) in a row, but I forgot what the other thing I wanted to say was and only just remembered.

Regarding the numbers in the Vulture article, it's worth remembering that they come from only one fanfic hub, Wattpad, which apparently hosts a very young crowd. Similar statistics for fanfiction.net or Archive of Our Own would probably be very different. I'm going to guess that there's a lot less One Direction fic on those sites.
posted by daisyk at 10:26 AM on March 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


To me, fandom and fanfiction is really about the community as much as the content, in the same way that I come to metafilter not just for the posts but also for the people. One of the things I like most about being able to post stories is interacting with the people who read my stories and who share my love for the characters and the canon.

I love writing, and I started writing my own original fiction years before I ever started dabbling in fanfiction, and I don't think my involvement in fandom has diminished any of my other literary pursuits. In fact, I stopped writing for awhile, and fanfiction was what really brought me back into that groove.

In a lot of ways, writing and reading fanfiction seems analogous to plenty of other hobbies. I think most people wouldn't dismiss someone who enjoys playing basketball for fun without any intention of going beyond backyard pick up games.

I know that this doesn't address the whole concern about it being derivative, but as long as the original authors are okay with fanworks, and considering how much joy it brings people, I guess I have to wonder why it would matter even if it doesn't reach some arbitrary measure of being "creative" enough. (Although I also take issue with that underlying assumption, but I think a lot has been said on that topic already.)
posted by litera scripta manet at 10:27 AM on March 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


Similar statistics for fanfiction.net or Archive of Our Own would probably be very different.

Just for fun, on fanfiction.net, here are the numbers for top TV shows by number of works posted:

Glee (108K)
Supernatural (105K)
Doctor Who (67.8K)
Sherlock (51.9K)

And here it is for books:

Harry Potter (709K)
Twilight (217K)
Percy Jackson and the Olympians (60.7K)
Lord of the Rings (53.2K)

Here are the numbers for top TV shows on AO3 (archive of our own):

Supernatural (97417)
Marvel Cinematic Universe (85097)
Sherlock Holmes & Related Fandoms (75494)

And books:

Sherlock Holmes & Related Fandoms (75494)
Harry Potter - J. K. Rowling (71947)
Doctor Who (29256)

For comparison, AO3 has 35,235 stories posted for One Direction, and fanfiction.net actually doesn't allow stories featuring real people.
posted by litera scripta manet at 10:42 AM on March 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


Sangermain - I'm not asking you to justify your opinion. I'm asking you to analyze it. You said, at least as I read it, two things. One: "I don't like fanfic". Two: "Fanfic is bad for the world and bad for the authors of it" - by distracting them from real creativity and filling the world with more corporate promotion.

It's the second one I'm wondering about. Is it important to you to make that kind of statement? Why?

And, again, I personally don't care what the answer is. I'm just hoping you'll spend a few minutes understanding it yourself, and why it might seem like a bad stance to take.

Again, I fully agree with you that fanfic is generally not something I like. But I don't really see any evidence that it's making the world a worse place or hurting the authors.

I'm happy to be wrong about all of the above.
posted by jefflowrey at 10:44 AM on March 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't know whether you're wrong, but questions like "Is it important to you to make that kind of statement?", seem uncalled for. If you've got a different opinion, just state it.
posted by Segundus at 11:14 AM on March 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


I don't know if fanfic is technically great, but it certainly can be gripping and moving in its own right. Many of them are different enough to be standalone stories with minimal reworkings. Let's be honest, the many Sherlock Holmes retellings (and Wodehouse, and Shakespeare) are fanfiction. Or at least I didn't realise MacBeth was Japanese the first time through.

And regarding the corporate shill argument going on here, a lot of people in the fandom haven't actually read/watched the source media, as weird as that sounds.
posted by Trifling at 11:20 AM on March 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


One of my first exposures to fanfic was from rec.arts.tv.mst3k, when people would look up horrific fanfic online and force Joel, Crow, and Servo to read them. Does anyone do this now, or is MiSTing a relic of the past?
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 11:41 AM on March 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


Right - Sangermaine, lemme tell you why I wrote the one bit of fanfic i've ever done.

I had a regular freelance writing gig for eight years; i wrote the "study guides" for a theater company. I would write one such guide for each of their four shows each season, each guide being a booklet which contained four essays. So that's sixteen articles a year for eight straight years, all for someone with two day jobs.

And after eight years the theater folded - and I was burnt out. I'd been able to do other writing at the first, but after eight years I'd been ground down and started to dislike writing altogether.

And that scared me - because I've wanted to write since I was a child. It was how I processed the world, it was how I thought. But it had become a chore, and not wanting to write left me feeling like I'd lost a limb. But trying to write just made me cringe because I was so fried from the articles.

Finally I decided that what I needed was to write something purely for fun and purely for me. It was the writing what someone else wanted for so long that had made it a chore - I needed to write something that was purely for fun, for pleasure, something that had no pressure. And so I wrote a story about the Tenth Doctor and Agent Mulder getting totally smashed on Scotch in a bar and deciding that the crazy drunken stunt they were going to do was rescue Scully from having been abducted.

I had more fun writing that thing than I'd had writing in YEARS. It was the first time in a long time I'd worked at writing something, the first time I'd put more than just the bare minimum of thought into working out a structure, the first time I rewrote something to improve it. And when I was done, it was the first thing at when someone told me they liked it, I cared. And after that I was able to go after the next writing gig, which I have today.

Fanfic may not be your cup of tea, and it may not be fine literature - but that's not the point. Fanfic is for fun. Fanfic is what helped me fall back in love with writing again; fanfic was a vacation. And that is invaluable.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:43 AM on March 15, 2015 [19 favorites]


I find the opinion that passively consuming media is somehow better for creativity than reworking and expanding it with your own writing to be very confusing.

Unless you're advocating avoiding corporate media altogether, those stories are already there, and people are already imagining alternative scenarios involving the characters or settings, whether they write them down or not. Our imaginations have already been "colonized" by corporations because our narrative culture has been.

And it's simply not the case that the choice is "write fanfiction" or "write original fiction."1 Many people aren't interested in writing original fiction, for various reasons, and simply wouldn't be writing at all. Many people begin writing with fanfiction, and then move on to original fiction. Many people write both.

(Another thing I find confusing: The way that fanfiction is so stigmatized, when it gets so many kids into writing for fun. Like, seriously -- there are thousands of teenagers out there who are writing, editing, and reviewing fiction they or their peers wrote. Of course a lot of it will be shit, because they're kids, but does that matter? They're writing!)

1 Of course, "original" fiction is a myth, and there is a lot more to originality than using your own characters and settings.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 11:46 AM on March 15, 2015 [23 favorites]


With regard to fanfic being derivative, I see a lot of parallels with the visual arts. I love to sketch and have just taken it back up as a hobby (after a very long hiatus). I'm pretty good (though far from great) when sketching objects from life, whether an arangement of objects from my apartment or details of paintings or sculptures in art museums. However, even when my drawing skills were at their peak, I was absolutely shite at drawing anything from my imagination or even my memory of extant objects or landscapes. My mind would freeze at the very thought. Perhaps, if I had kept up the practice, I might have developed in this area; perhaps not.

It may not be an exact parallel, but I can see the appeal of being creative within an established set of parameters. It can be just as freeing as it is confining (if that makes any sense). And as it unlikely that I will ever become an artist with a capital "A", I have a feeling that most fanfic authors realize that it is unlikely that they will become established writers. I'm sure that for many of them it is just a lark, something they do in their spare time, much as sketching is for me.

On the other hand, these fanfic authors are opting to share their work online and that muddies the waters. I'm not for belittling anyone's work and let's face no one like's criticism, but it does seem that a fair number of fanfic authors feel that even constructive criticism is an attack. It feels both a bit naive and wrong-headed. Call me old-fashioned, but you can be very creative while still adhering to the most basic grammar rules and learning to review and edit one's work is a real asset. Most jobs require some amount of writing, even if it's just memos or emails to colleagues. But that's just my own pet peeve (and I'm sure that after the edit closes, I'm sure to find a typo or egregious grammatical error).
posted by kaybdc at 11:46 AM on March 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


I love that Vulture included "Flesh Mechanic" in their Fanfiction Syllabus section.

But they got the summary wrong. It's not that he's a serial killer. It's that he's the next Charlie Manson.

And now I'm going to re-read it and be delighted with it again.
posted by Katemonkey at 11:55 AM on March 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think writing fanfic is, firstly, an amazing way for young people to practice writing with training wheels on - you already have a world populated with characters and rules, so you can focus entirely on the plot, the dialogue, the craft of writing. It's a gateway. You play in the sandbox, and then you start to get ideas for a sandbox of your very own.

And, secondly, it's part of a literary tradition that stretches back to the beginning of fiction and includes some of the most lauded works in the history of writing! Art builds on art. It always has. If you plopped your very favorite author or artist or creative down as a baby in 3,000 BC, of course they wouldn't produce the exact same works all over again once they grew up, because their work isn't just a product of their minds, it's a part of an unbroken vast canon of works that informs everything they do.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:07 PM on March 15, 2015 [6 favorites]


The way that fanfiction is so stigmatized, when it gets so many kids into writing for fun.

This reminds me of the arguments for and against the Harry Potter books when they first came out. There were some people who were all, "That's not real literature," but that argument kind of ignored the fact that the success of that series meant kids were enthusiastically devouring 700+ page books in an age where TV and movies dominated mainstream children's media consumption.

I have to confess, at 12 years old, I was such a budding literary snob that I was totally one of those people who looked down on the series until I actually read it. However, as soon as I started the first book, I couldn't put it down. I've read each book many times over now, and yet my love for Harry Potter never diminished my enjoyment of other great literature.

When I first waded into reading HP fanfiction, I felt a lot of shame about it and swore that I would take that secret to the grave. Now, although I've mostly shifted away from Harry Potter and into the Sherlock fandom, I don't feel any shame about my participation in fan culture. I'm genuinely proud of some of the work I've produced, and more importantly, I get a lot of pleasure out of writing and posting fanfiction.

I respect and understand that not everyone will view this the same way as I do, but I just refuse to look down on or feel shame about something that brings me so much enjoyment and that doesn't hurt anyone else. Life is too short.
posted by litera scripta manet at 12:21 PM on March 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


but fandom still can't agree on whether the story is a parody of fan culture or the sincere work of a self-proclaimed goth teen. Its protagonist is the vampire-witch Ebony Dark'ness Dementia Raven Way
oh come on now
posted by p3on at 12:21 PM on March 15, 2015 [7 favorites]


Try reading this in the voice of Lumpy Space Princess, and then tell me it's not satire.
posted by bicyclefish at 12:24 PM on March 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


I want to write an enormous comment about how the Tumblr-ization of fandom has lead to a shift away from (fanfic)creator-lead communities to consumer-lead communities, and the various arguments about whether or not the invention of "I like this" buttons have contributed to the death of comment culture, and how the move away from Livejournal has destroyed the old feelings of fandom existing in a finite space where you generally knew who your audience was.....

Except that would all just boil down to "I'm old and I'm sad that I no longer feel welcome in fannish spaces" and that's....not actually all that interesting.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 12:29 PM on March 15, 2015 [14 favorites]


And, secondly, it's part of a literary tradition that stretches back to the beginning of fiction and includes some of the most lauded works in the history of writing!

The only difference between modern-day fanfic and classical literature is endurance.

If I wrote a thing where I wanted to be a writer and a magic thing happened where I get to hang out with my favorite writer, and they're my guide through a whole magical landscape where we have adventures and meet all kinds of cool historical and semimythical figures and amazing people together, your first reaction might well be p3on's "oh come on now" from a few comments ago.

Except: that's Dante's Inferno in a nutshell, right there.
posted by mhoye at 12:38 PM on March 15, 2015 [6 favorites]


Narrative Priorities, I've definitely felt that way as well -- fandom just feels different for me now, with the evaporation of fandom communities on platforms like LiveJournal. I have a tumblr now, but I don't know many people there, and I don't feel like I have much to offer.

I was never a big fanfic author because I preferred to write original works. I participated as mostly a reader. I enjoyed discussions about interpretations of shows, about writing, etc--and those are much rarer now. They still happen--people still make them work--but I feel like a lot of the socialization is moving to a different model that is ... less geared toward creating communities, finding friends, etc.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 12:39 PM on March 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Except that would all just boil down to "I'm old and I'm sad that I no longer feel welcome in fannish spaces" and that's....not actually all that interesting.

Wait, what makes you feel unwelcome? Which spaces?
posted by rue72 at 12:40 PM on March 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


I can't speak for Narrative Priorities, but I share that feeling. I was never a fanfiction writer, but I was part of the Gargoyles fandom back in the Station8 days (1997-2002 or so), when the community was a few hundred outspoken people and who-knows-how-many lurkers. Most of us knew each other at least socially in online circles, and many of us actually met in person (turns out I went to jr. high with two other very active members of that community, ha). At least one of the creatives behind the thing we were fans of was aware of / participating in the community. The idea of a community that tightly-knit on the modern net is more or less impossible just due to scale -- a couple of hundred people is maybe a niche in a niche in a niche, and who-knows-how-many of these communities are running in parallel. It's open to a larger world, but it also feels larger and more impersonal.
posted by Alterscape at 12:56 PM on March 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


Sangermain:
Fanfiction seems like the corporate colonization of the last frontier, imagination. Channeling talent and energy away from actual originality and creativity and into free marketing material.


Uh, have you read the Bible lately? The Gospels are the original fan fiction. (Did you know there were far more than what made it into the Bible? There's the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Barnabas, the Gospel of Judas which is essentially the Maleficent AU of the Bible, and so many more.) I had actually planned to write a thesis on it, but my professor just smiled, shook his head and told me that it had been done, over and over again.

Half of Shakespeare's plays are either fanfiction of popular stories of the time or "RPF" (real person fanfiction). Canterbury Tales is basically a Decameron AU set in England. Creativity doesn't happen in an empty box - it often has an "inspired by" attached to it.

My mother, who is a painter, noted something years ago that I found interesting. When she was in art school, one exercise they did fairly frequently was to copy great works of art, in order to develop techniques with brushwork and so forth. To her, fanfiction (and Star Trek tie-in novels) were in some ways an example of the same sort of practice.
posted by rednikki at 12:59 PM on March 15, 2015 [8 favorites]


Many of of the authors of fanfic are people who may not feel comfortable making their own boxes yet

Also I can attest that sometimes the box you make yourself can scare the shit out of you.
posted by localroger at 1:19 PM on March 15, 2015


Alterscape: STATION 8 REPRESENT. I'm trying to remember if we already talked about this in the Gargoyles thread from a while back...? In any case, I used to be "Al =)" back then. Good times. Goooooood times.

Rue72: Mostly I feel like nothing that I have to say or create is of any interest to current fandom communities; that we've moved even more completely into an "OOOH SHINEY!" instant-gratification kind of place, and that the smaller little weirdo pockets have been squeezed out by whatever the dominant conversation/ship/joke/etc happens to be.

Like back in the old HP fandom days, the community was SO enormous that even relatively tiny ships still felt vibrant and active; and even when I was like one of twenty people to be hardcore invested in an odd slash pairing in the ATLA fandom, we had our own little LJ community and fic challenges and most of us had each others' personal journals friended, and it felt like a cozy and fun and supportive little corner that was sheltered and separated from whatever batshit nonsense was going on in the big "common areas" of the fandom.

Tumblr tags serve that same purpose superficially, but it all feels so fluid and impermanent -- a community assembled by search instead of something deliberately created. It's harder to talk to people on Tumblr. It's harder to have what feels like a permanent history that can be revisited.

But! It's like I said. Probably I'm just old!
posted by Narrative Priorities at 1:29 PM on March 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


I used to read Neon Genesis Evangelion fanfic when I was in college. I even wrote a brief fic, it was totally cringeworthy. Mostly Eva fic was colossally self-important and pretentious, but some of it wasn't awful.

I kind of view fanfic writing (and reading) as the literary equivalent of masturbation. There's nothing wrong with it, but it's nothing to be proud of either.
posted by graymouser at 1:46 PM on March 15, 2015


Halflife Fulllife Consequences is the best/worst fanfic ever created. I'm amazed it wasn't at least mentioned by Vulture, or in any of these comments.
posted by Brocktoon at 1:54 PM on March 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


I was in a comment thread -- perhaps it was at Crooked Timber -- where some guy was hatin' on fanfic, and in the course of our conversation I found out that he and I fundamentally disagreed on a point I had been taking for granted. I think that people making things is good, ceteris paribus. He didn't. Some people do not believe that, ceteris paribus, it's better if people make stuff. Yet another thing I have learned from fanfic, if secondarily!

Since people here have talked about fanfiction with bigcorp source texts versus obscure or indie source texts, I will mention one of my favorite "I had never even heard of the source text before reading the fic" pieces, "Fifty Years in the Virtuous City".
posted by brainwane at 1:55 PM on March 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


Try reading this in the voice of Lumpy Space Princess, and then tell me it's not satire.

Try reading anything in the voice of LSP and then tell me it's serious.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 2:01 PM on March 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Does anyone do this now, or is MiSTing a relic of the past?

I don't know if anyone still does it, but I can tell you that I used to be pretty active in that sort of thing back in the day. I still remember this bit from a fanfic involving a villain who belongs to an organization that opposes Starfleet for some vague reason, and at this point was standing on the deck of a small boat:
Tom: I must go down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and sky;
And all I ask is a tall ship and an anti-Starfleet guy.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 2:10 PM on March 15, 2015 [6 favorites]


I started writing fanfic in junior high because of Graham Greene and Jean Rhys. I found The Return of AJ Raffles and Wide Sargasso Sea in the library and assumed it was perfectly fine to write your own sequels and they could be published or produced. At that time, I thought of the internet as a place to look up song lyrics, so it was quite a while before I discovered internet fandom.
posted by betweenthebars at 2:26 PM on March 15, 2015 [7 favorites]


I can't tell if I'm really, really weirded out that the Princeton syllabus includes the term "Faunlock", or extraordinarily intrigued. Mostly I feel like I can't even believe that fanfic, which for me is something so shameful that I only read it on my own personal tablet that no one else is allowed to touch, is being discussed openly in a classroom.
posted by chainsofreedom at 2:31 PM on March 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


really weirded out that the Princeton syllabus includes the term "Faunlock", or extraordinarily intrigued

Originally I thought it was a neat idea, and in fact on some level I still do, but then I decided that in practice it would be pretty mortifying to discuss a lot of fandom stuff in the classroom. I mean, can you imagine trying to have an academic discussion about omega-verse of mpreg or like Dumbledore/Aberforth* slash porn with your professor? In front of people you actually have to interact with face to face on a regular basis?

Also, I could totally see myself getting super worked up in an embarrassing way if some of my fandom buttons get pushed. I still can't watch the end of the Reichenbach Fall (BBC Sherlock) without feeling gutted. And then if someone tried to tell me that "Sherlolly" could/should be canon...well, it would probably not be very classroom appropriate, let's just say that.

*Okay, I made that example up, but I'm sure it's out there somewhere.
posted by litera scripta manet at 2:50 PM on March 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


And then if someone tried to tell me that "Sherlolly" could/should be canon...

Prepare your heart because there is a 25% chance the series will end with ambiguous Sherlock/Molly and a 75% chance that it will end with ambiguous Sherlock/Irene. Because Moffat.
posted by betweenthebars at 3:06 PM on March 15, 2015


Noooooooo Johnlock 4eveh
posted by Windigo at 3:10 PM on March 15, 2015 [6 favorites]


I'm an unrepentant multishipper and ship wars give me hives, but I do have one strong opinion: the smushname for Moriarty/Sherlock should be Morlock, so there, fight me. Consensus seems to be that it's Sheriarty, but consensus is wrong.
posted by dorque at 3:47 PM on March 15, 2015 [10 favorites]


Honestly, I think I would take Sherlock/Irene over Sherlolly any day, though I'm extremely unenthusiastic about either possibility. I love Molly as a character, but it's just so wrong to have them together, and any time I read an article about Sherlock where someone treats that as a positive direction for the series, I close down that tab so hard and with extreme prejudice.

I mean, do whatever you want in fanfiction because that's what it's for, but I hope that's a direction canon doesn't take us in.
posted by litera scripta manet at 3:51 PM on March 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Morlock is way better than Sheriarty. I don't ship it, but I am still totally pro Morlock as a ship name.

Is there a Sherlock/Irene portmanteau? Seems like there must be. Sherlene? Adlock?
posted by litera scripta manet at 3:54 PM on March 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


My wife is a stalwart believer in Johnlock. In fact it gets pretty annoying sometimes so I get on a Sherlock/Irene soapbox now and then just to annoy back. As far as how Sherlock ends it depends on who gets to write the last episode, Gatiss or Moffat. Either way it will be declared a trainwreck by some and no doubt there's something I'll hate about it, like I do about "Scandal" or "His Last Vow" (Irene should have triumphed, Mary should have been the one to kill Magnussen). Nonetheless, I'll watch it about fifty times.

Back in the 00s there was a site that collected bad fanfiction. Only one of those stories stuck in my head because at the time I laughed my ass off while reading it. It's a short story where Legolas ends up hanging on a beach in Hawaii with a teenage girl. Now I wouldn't laugh. This was probably written by a girl who just wanted to create a story inserting herself and a character/actor she had fallen in love with. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that and a lot more right about that.
posted by Ber at 3:56 PM on March 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


Adlock is what I usually see, although I don't read much with Irene in it (unless it's pasiphile's fault, in which case bring it on). Meanwhile, I'm over here deep in Jimcroft hell, with like 0.5 other people.
posted by dorque at 3:58 PM on March 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


You know, the demographics of fandom are pretty interesting across different sites. This is totally unscientific, but I get the sense that Sherlolly is way more popular on fanfiction.net than AO3, whereas AO3 seems to be more of a haven for Johnlock shippers, although I have no numbers to back this up, and it might be total confirmation bias. That may also have something to do with fanfiction.net not allowing anything super explicit, and I think a good 50% of Johnlock stories on AO3 include graphic sex.
posted by litera scripta manet at 4:04 PM on March 15, 2015


Jimcroft hell

I'm actually surprised that isn't more of a thing, but I guess people are too busy shipping Mystrade.

I don't tend to post stories with a strong ship orientation, but I did somehow find myself writing a Mycroft/Anthea short story once, and ever since, I've been kind of fond of that pairing.
posted by litera scripta manet at 4:07 PM on March 15, 2015


I can think of a really good Sherlock/Irene fic rec, should anyone want it.
posted by Windigo at 4:17 PM on March 15, 2015


Aha! Found it. Fair warning: it's explicit.
posted by Windigo at 4:20 PM on March 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


It just seems so limited and constrained and kind of sad. It seems like in the past people took in their influences and were inspired to make something new that's cool like that, but fanfiction is just wanting to make the same thing again.

I wonder what fanfic you've read. Because one of the fics mentioned in the syllabus is how the mouth changes its shape which is an incredibly researched, beautifully written and intensely creative retelling of a Sherlock retelling. So it takes the fanvid that is BBC's Sherlock, genderbends the characters, resets the scene to post-war Britain and overlays it all with a truly intimate and fantastic understanding of lesbian culture in that era.

But yeah, obviously the author is just 'making the same thing again'.
posted by geek anachronism at 4:20 PM on March 15, 2015 [11 favorites]


I'm actually surprised [Jimcroft] isn't more of a thing, but I guess people are too busy shipping Mystrade.

There was a setlock photo (the last time around) of Andrew Scott and Mark Gatiss in costume but out of character laughing hysterically at something, which fanned the flames briefly, but alas only briefly.
posted by dorque at 4:40 PM on March 15, 2015


There's nothing wrong with it, but it's nothing to be proud of either.

There is a lot to be proud of. Writing well is a difficult skill to learn, regardless of whether what you're writing is fanfiction or "original."1 It takes time, practice, and not a little talent.

Most people aren't good writers--and no one's a good writer when they're first starting out. Just because you read and wrote pretentious, navel-gazing fic when you were in Evangelion fandom2, doesn't mean that's the limit of what fanfiction writers can accomplish.

Writing off all of the hard work that these writers put into becoming better at their craft because it's "literary masturbation" is being dismissive without good cause. It has more to do with the stigma against amateur writing (especially the type of amateur writing associated with women and/or nerds) than some kind of inherent limit of fanfiction.

It just seems so limited and constrained and kind of sad.

I think that the idea that the only respectable way to engage with entertainment media is to passively consume it is constrained and kind of sad.

1 I'm going to continue to use "original" in quotes until someone can explain to me how fanfiction is categorically different than many of the major works in the literary canon that also borrow ideas, themes and characters.

2 I also read a lot of pretentious, navel-gazing fic in that fandom, but it's no surprise there's a lot of it there, given that Evangelion is one of the most pretentious, navel-gazing anime ever made. (She says, fondly.)
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 5:28 PM on March 15, 2015 [15 favorites]


Writing fanfiction was how I learned to write.
posted by LindsayIrene at 6:01 PM on March 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


Once you are writing as a fan, you've removed a necessary authorial distance from the characters and their relationships. It always colors fan writing, and is part of why fan fiction is so heavily stigmatized. Readers can tell whether an author relates to their characters as a creator or as a fan.

(Yes, this does mean that some "official" material in long running franchises is basically fanfic, and a small minority of fanfic would hold up as "original" work, but these are exceptions and not the rule.)
posted by graymouser at 6:30 PM on March 15, 2015


I'm always surprised to see "corporate colonization" of creativity and variations thereof leveled as a criticism against fanfiction, because fanfiction as an act of reading against the "corporate" approved narrative, or of criticizing it, is fairly engrained in fandom. Whether that reading against is by queering an otherwise straight narrative with a same-sex pairing, or by expressing a more fundamental criticism of the source material, there's plenty of fanfiction that would make the corporate overlords in charge of the source IP blanch.

Take a look at Written by the Victors, from Vulture's fanfiction syllabus. When the show itself took just about every opportunity to remove the dramatic stakes of a cut-off-from-Earth premise, and never substantively engaged with the inherent themes of colonialism and imperialism, Written by the Victors goes all in with them, and that's a direction the creators and producers of Stargate Atlantis would never have taken the show, even aside from the slash pairing. That whole fandom was an exercise in "Okay, this is an interesting premise which you have entirely squandered. We're gonna fix that."
posted by yasaman at 7:10 PM on March 15, 2015 [11 favorites]


Once you are writing as a fan, you've removed a necessary authorial distance from the characters and their relationships. Readers can tell whether an author relates to their characters as a creator or as a fan.

Have you noticed that you've moved on from focusing on the pretentious fanfiction you've read, to now focusing on how fanfiction writers aren't relating to the characters the right way?

But let's roll with it. There are several problems here.

First, you assume that fanfiction writers are "fans" and relate to the characters that they're writing about in a "fannish" way, when in fact they have a wide range of feelings about their source material.

Second, you assume that being a "fan" means that you can't have the "necessarily authorial distance," but you don't a) explain what this is in real terms, b) explain why fiction can't be good without it, or b) explain why writers of "original" fiction have it. You can't mean that there's a lack of critical evaluation of characters and their relationships, because if anyone produces a lot of that, it's fanfiction writers.

(Seriously, I laughed at the idea that authors of original fiction aren't fans of their own characters.)

The more you try to justify your dismissal of fanfiction, the more it sounds like you should just be dismissing fiction that fails to meet your quality standards instead, because none of it is a problem with fanfiction.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 8:53 PM on March 15, 2015 [6 favorites]


Readers can tell whether an author relates to their characters as a creator or as a fan.

I don't think it's quite as much of a black and white dichotomy as this seems to be getting at. For me, the characters in books were almost as real to me as the rest of the world. They were my escape from my toxic and chaotic childhood, and they were what got me through the toughest times of my adolescence, until I stumbled upon more destructive ways of coping (but that's a whole other story). And then when I put those harmful habits aside, I found myself back here again, cultivating my own little corner of the fandom universe.

I don't think you have to be the originator of a story to feel a part of it. To me, these characters have a life all to themselves which is both fixed in some ways and malleable in others. All I do is try to capture that in my works. Sometimes that involves character studies, and other times I decide on a situation and plot, and figure out how my version of these characters would handle it. I tend to stick pretty close to canon events and characterization, but plenty of people stray farther away from canon and that's great too. As John Watson says in a Study in Pink, "It's all fine."

I've never made a living as a professional writer, but I think I'm pretty decent at it. My fanfiction stories are far from perfect, and it's not like anyone is editing them other than me, but I feel like they do stand on their own. Hell, I'm comfortable enough with my participation in fandom that I even have my AO3 account linked in my metafilter profile.* True, there's a lot of crap out there, and I'm sure some people might think my stories are crap too, but I know there are a lot of genuinely great stories around, and I don't think their being fanfiction diminishes them in any sense of the word.

*If anyone is active over at AO3, feel free to look me up or memail me with your username, and maybe we can share links or story recs or something.
posted by litera scripta manet at 8:57 PM on March 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


Once you are writing as a fan, you've removed a necessary authorial distance from the characters and their relationships.

... and you think there's "necessary authorial distance" between J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter? Between Stephanie Meyers and Bella? Between Tom Clancy and Jack Ryan?

Authorial distance is just a technique; it's not necessary for good fiction. In fact it can get in the way of good fiction, if the author's intent is for the reader to identify with the character. Being a fan of one's character helps the reader understand the emotional context by sharing the author's feelings about the character with the reader. It's why The Sparrow is so emotionally effective (although I think it goes a bit over the top). Or Anne of Green Gables, or even Twilight.

It always colors fan writing, and is part of why fan fiction is so heavily stigmatized.

No, it doesn't always. I can give you many examples of fan writing that are not so colored. Because not everyone writes fanfiction for the same reason; many people writing fan fiction are not even fans of the characters they're writing about. Or not fans in the (derogatory, over-emotional, female) way you're talking about.

Readers can tell whether an author relates to their characters as a creator or as a fan.

Often, this is true. The funny thing, I have found, is how many vaunted "original fiction" writers I can say this about. Anne Rice, Diana Gabaldon, S. P. Stirling, Mary Doria Russell... Funny thing is, that investment in their characters doesn't seem to have hurt their critical or financial success.

Fiction written without any emotional investment in the characters is a cold and alien piece of clockwork, with almost no emotional impact on the reader. I'm sure some people like that sort of thing, but it's not going to touch many people.
posted by suelac at 10:31 PM on March 15, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'm always surprised to see "corporate colonization" of creativity and variations thereof leveled as a criticism against fanfiction, because fanfiction as an act of reading against the "corporate" approved narrative, or of criticizing it, is fairly engrained in fandom. Whether that reading against is by queering an otherwise straight narrative with a same-sex pairing, or by expressing a more fundamental criticism of the source material, there's plenty of fanfiction that would make the corporate overlords in charge of the source IP blanch.

I have absolutely no investment in fanfiction personally but the was my first thought as a response to Sangermain - fanfiction has a long history of presenting fairly subversive takes on corporate properties, and of being subject to attack by IP lawyers. I can think of ways moneyed interests might try to (re?)colonize the tradition of fanfic but I don't know to what extent any of that has happened yet.
posted by atoxyl at 2:48 AM on March 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


"No, fan fiction. You are the demons."
And then, fan fiction was a zombie.
posted by Mayor West at 5:28 AM on March 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Going off of what yasaman and atoxyl wrote, I think one of the reasons I (and I imagine others) feel particularly defensive of fanfiction as a medium is that it tends to be a place where narratives can be created which would never get a voice in mainstream media. Although the representations can be problematic in and of themselves, I still think it's a net positive to have so many depictions of characters that don't adhere to a heterosexual relationship framework.* There are also a lot of vivid depictions of mental illness. By writing genderswap fic, you can make female characters a central part of the story where they wouldn't usually show up. (I suspect that one of the reasons driving so much male slash, especially of the more PG variety, is the fact that for most shows including Sherlock have male characters that are so much more appealing and vividly drawn in comparison to the female characters.)

Basically, fanfiction not only provides a creative outlet, it also allows those people who are part of marginalized groups to see themselves in their favorite characters.

Granted, some of the least well done stories are those in which authors clearly inserting themselves into the narrative, but I feel like everyone deserves a voice, and for now, fanfiction is one of the only ways a lot of us can get that.

*I absolutely respect anyone who takes issue with some of the pretty offensive/appropriative writing when it comes to LGBTQ and other issues, as we discussed in a recent thread about this.
posted by litera scripta manet at 6:00 AM on March 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Once you are writing as a fan, you've removed a necessary authorial distance from the characters and their relationships. Readers can tell whether an author relates to their characters as a creator or as a fan.

Someone needs to tell Bryan Fuller (Hannibal) and Stephen Moffat (Doctor Who and Sherlock) this, I suppose.
posted by Windigo at 6:23 AM on March 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


Someone needs to tell Bryan Fuller (Hannibal) and Stephen Moffat (Doctor Who and Sherlock) this, I suppose.

I think you could make the argument that this is a problem for Stephen Moffat.

I'm pretty sure the reason most fanfic isn't very well written is that it's done by amateur writers, duh. As I said it's not something I tend to find captivating. But the argument about fanfiction stifling imagination reminds me of the argument about licensed LEGO stifling imagination - like dude do you think kids follow the directions?
posted by atoxyl at 6:31 AM on March 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


I think you could make the argument that this is a problem for Stephen Moffat.

OK, touché. But the idea of authorial distance as being 'necessary' in good writing or as being the line in the sand between original and fan works is just not true.
posted by Windigo at 7:25 AM on March 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


The more you try to justify your dismissal of fanfiction, the more it sounds like you should just be dismissing fiction that fails to meet your quality standards instead, because none of it is a problem with fanfiction.

Sure it is. Sturgeon's law says that 90% of science fiction is crud because of everything is crud. Fanfiction has a much lower bar for entry and as a result the failure rate is well over 99%. That's a difference of over 9%, and the problem becomes a needle-in-a-haystack one. Having a limited amount of time in my life, I feel that rejecting fanfiction entirely is a winning strategy.

Do the problems typical of fanfiction exist in original fiction? Sure. Including lack of authorial distance; it's why, for example, people will compare Harry Potter or Jack Ryan to the infamous "Mary Sue." There are reasons why a lot of fiction (and I will accept Sturgeon's 90% line) is bad fiction. But fanfiction, because it's approached from a consciously fannish standpoint and has no editorial bar to filter out any of the crud, suffers these problems in a much more severe and predictable way. Fanfiction authors are much more prone to be playing favorites with characters and relationships, rather than approaching them from the perspective of what makes a good story, than original authors are. Fanfic has known problems for a reason, and I imagine that if you did a double-blind study readers unfamiliar with the fanfic sources could probably tell fanfic from original writing pretty relaibly.

Are my tastes in fiction demanding? Absolutely, I make no apologies for that. Is there good fanfiction? Sure. There's been fanfiction that I personally liked. But the vast majority of fanfiction is awful, generally in predictable ways. Pointing out that a lot of original fiction is bad as well is not a good argument in favor of fanfic. The factors going against it being any good are overwhelming in a way that simply isn't true of original fiction.
posted by graymouser at 7:32 AM on March 16, 2015


Sturgeon's law says that 90% of science fiction is crud because of everything is crud. Fanfiction has a much lower bar for entry and as a result the failure rate is well over 99%. That's a difference of over 9%, and the problem becomes a needle-in-a-haystack one. Having a limited amount of time in my life, I feel that rejecting fanfiction entirely is a winning strategy.

With the advent of self-publishing and low-barrier publishers (Amazon, offhand), this is going to be an increasing problem for all fiction.

I pretty much read fanfiction when someone I trust says "hey, read this one fanfic you will like it".
posted by jeather at 7:37 AM on March 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


Having a limited amount of time in my life, I feel that rejecting fanfiction entirely is a winning strategy.
That seems completely reasonable, and that's mostly my choice, too. I very, very occasionally read fanfiction, and it's always when someone recommends something specific to me. I have read fanfiction that I thought was really good writing, but a lot of the fanfic I've read over the years has seemed pretty amateurish to me. But I don't think that my personal consumption habits are really the point here. Fanfiction appeals to people who are part of fan communities, and those people get something out of reading and writing the stuff and get something out of being part of the community. Fanfic can be not my thing without being bad or pathetic.

I was a teenaged music-scenester, not a participant in fan culture, and I think that comparison is kind of instructive. My guess is that most of us would not want to listen to 95% of rock bands composed of high-school students, but that doesn't mean that those kids are sad losers because they enjoy getting together with their friends and making not-great, derivative music.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:47 AM on March 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


But the vast majority of fanfiction is awful, generally in predictable ways.

I absolutely agree with this. I mean, consider "My Immortal": There are plenty of people who will make legitimate arguments that it is not parody, and the reason there's so much debate is because there is a lot of fanfiction that is sincerely written but absolutely terrible.

To be honest, I don't really read that much fanfic these days. I spend a lot of my reading time on Metafilter or reading longform articles or what have you, and yeah, part of the reason I don't read fanfiction very often is because a lot of it is crap, and I'd rather put my energy into writing because that's what I enjoy more.

I think the disconnect isn't because pro-fanfiction people are arguing that it's uniformly well written. It's more a question of whether or not someone thinks it can be a valid medium or at least a positive force despite the fact that a lot of it is horrifically bad.
posted by litera scripta manet at 10:08 AM on March 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


i do miss reccers and rec lists, and tag-surfing on delicious. it's not like they've disappeared but the part of fandom that i've been following since 16+ years have now mostly resided on tumblr and it's too disparate a network for me to figure out where to go for recs (tho the same feature has made it really good for cross-pollinating conversations, so I do feel it's a much more funner time to enjoy drive-by metas and non-textual fanworks in general). being on top of the good stuff takes more work now, though there is some ao3 functionality that helps me whenever there's a lull in all this non-stop adulting.
posted by cendawanita at 10:22 AM on March 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm definitely in the camp of people who like a bit of fanfiction now and then as a way of peering around corners and behind the scenes of a fictional universe. Aside from the series' massive popularity the fact that JK Rowling's world just cries out for this treatment is in my judgement a huge part of why it's the fanfiction juggernaut. I admit this motivation is probably a distant second to people who want to write their own mary sue romances, but it's certainly a strong driving force.

For anyone who ever did a huge doubletake at the notion that the Pevensie kids lived decades in Narnia and then just got yanked back into the bodies of British schoolchildren Carpetbaggers is a much-needed balm. (and it's by mefi's own cofax!) There are lots more examples in a similar vein.
posted by Wretch729 at 10:27 AM on March 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


Also for anyone curious about recs for good fanfic you could do worse than to look no further than AskMe. More here and here (MCU) and here (Sherlock) and here (Potter). Though it is possible to delve too greedily and too deep.

The TVTropes pages are also good, if a bit uneven.
posted by Wretch729 at 10:34 AM on March 16, 2015 [12 favorites]


cendawanita, have you tried Pinboard? It's nowhere near as active as Delicious was in its heyday, but you can curate a similar experience once you find some trusted reccers/bookmarkers.
posted by yasaman at 10:54 AM on March 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


oh yes, good idea - I suppose I should. Have you any recs on reccers? /recursive questioning. currently i'm mostly in the steve/bucky side of MCU with a helping of Jupiter Ascending (though that is still small enough I can actually surf the whole lot on ao3; it's the steve/bucky juggernaut that I've lost all track of*).

*oh self, did you ever imagine in 2011 that this would be your problem?
posted by cendawanita at 11:03 AM on March 16, 2015


Anyone looking for wide range of recommendations could do much worse than to go to Polyamorous Recommendations, which has two curators who rec quite widely in a variety of genres. They don't rec RPF or under-age sex or incest (I think), and they don't update as often as they used to, but what's there is very good.

Also, they just recently added an RSS feed for a daily random recommendation from the archive.

If you want a look at some of the best fiction found in live-action western media fandom of the last decade, Polyamorous Recs is a good spot to start.

Also, thanks for the shoutout, Wretch729!
posted by suelac at 11:17 AM on March 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Is it gauche if I rec myself? I'm also mostly in the Steve/Bucky side of MCU currently, and I'm here at pinboard. Victoria.p is one of my go-to other reccers, especially for Steve/Bucky, as are bluemeridian and brownbetty.
posted by yasaman at 11:22 AM on March 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


Allow me to expose my total naivete about fanfic for a moment: are there any recs for well-written fanfic that doesn't involve slash/hetslash at all?

Like, I'm interested in other people's takes on fictional characters and universes but I rarely put down a good book and say "I wish I could read about these characters fucking."
posted by murphy slaw at 12:31 PM on March 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


What you're looking for is gen. Gen stories may still have relationships in them (slash or het), but the relationship won't be the focus and there won't be any explicit sex. There's a fair amount of slash or het though that is very plotty and where the relationships and/or sex are there but not critical to the plot or the main theme of the fic.

It's a very broad category to say the least. Do you have any fandoms or sources or genres you're particularly interested in?
posted by yasaman at 12:39 PM on March 16, 2015


Allow me to expose my total naivete about fanfic for a moment: are there any recs for well-written fanfic that doesn't involve slash/hetslash at all?

Here's some stuff from a quick scan through my AO3 bookmarks with the rating capped out at "teen":

The Son of Man by copperbadge, Marvel Cinematic Universe. Summary: "JARVIS did not want to be a real boy. He was quite happy being a building."

Skeletons by flawedamethyst, BBC Sherlock + surprise other fandom. Summary: "Sherlock's refusal to talk about his past hides far more skeletons than John could ever have guessed at. Halloween-esque AU."

The Ichor of Talos by Nikoshinigami, BBC Sherlock sci-fi AU. Summary: "After being convicted of the murder of Sherlock Holmes, Dr. John Watson is sentenced to confinement, therapy, and to the constant companionship of a hologram of his victim to aid in his rehabilitation. While John remains uncertain of his guilt, Sherlock is only too happy to engage in the mystery of his own murder to try and discover why he died and how events set his path to cross with the war ravaged stranger he's now posthumously bound to."
posted by dorque at 12:45 PM on March 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


Do you have any fandoms or sources or genres you're particularly interested in?
My tastes in pop culture are pretty catholic, but I lean more towards sci-fi and crime fiction than fantasy these days. One thing that has historically kept me away from fanfic is that I'm not really a superfan of anything, except maybe Buffy back in the day.
posted by murphy slaw at 12:49 PM on March 16, 2015


Oh, and for anyone else who feels adrift in the post-LJ era of delocalized fic recs, here's my AO3 strategy: Start with a fic or author you like. Click through to the author's AO3 works page and probably binge on everything they've written. To branch out, check whether they have public bookmarks (most do). Find things you like in those bookmarks. Then go to the works page for those authors and binge on their bookmarks. Etc ad infinitum.
posted by dorque at 12:54 PM on March 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


... which also reminds me I should clean up my own bookmarks and make them public, but there are 700+ of them and AO3 has weird issues where inexplicably it's managed to bookmark the same fic for me 10 times in a row. I liked it but not that much, AO3.
posted by dorque at 12:58 PM on March 16, 2015


I've got a lot of stuff under gen at my pinboard, should you desire to look through by fandom. I'll take a stab at some recs too, with the caveat that these may make varying levels of sense depending on how familiar with the fandom/source you are:

Prince of the Apple Towns by kvikindi (MCU): "Howard Stark: his history told." I'm mainly reccing this to give a sense of the wide range of fanfiction possibilities. The style is more literary than is usual for fic, and it's probably not to everyone's taste. But it situates Howard Stark and the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the real history of WWII and the Cold War in a way I haven't seen much of in fandom. It also makes Iron Man 2 retroactively a lot better, which is rather impressive.

Written in Blood and Bone by sholio (MCU, Captain America): "In 1944 it was about survival. Maybe it still is. Steve chases Bucky (and himself); Bucky chases himself (and, maybe, Steve); and Natasha's along because someone has to be the grownup around here and stop everyone from getting killed by rogue HYDRA experiments." Sholio is one of fandom's best when it comes to writing stuff that takes the best of fandom's attention to character and relationships plus plots you could conceivably see in a show/movie/tie-in book.

All destinations approximate by pollyrepeat and jonesandashes (MCU, Avengers): "“Jarvis, please refrain from killing me. I’m coming in to look at you.”" This is just a hilarious and fun romp involving time travel.

The Kids Aren't All Right by Sam Donne (MCU, Iron Man): Remember the reporter in the first Iron Man movie? The one Tony sleeps with and who gives Tony the information that led to his first outing as Iron Man? This is the Vanity Fair article that reporter writes about Tony Stark. I feel like I always rec this to people who are new to fanfiction, and it's for good reason.

Freedom's Just Another Word for Nothing Left to Lose by synecdochic (Stargate Atlantis): This one technically has a past slash relationship, but it's mostly just alluded to and not explicit. In which Dr. Rodney McKay returns to Earth to teach physics at an unremarkable state university. It's about learning how to live again after you've already done the most important thing in your life, and finding a new most important thing. It's one of the classics of the fandom for a reason, a moving love letter to science and teaching and recovery.
posted by yasaman at 1:16 PM on March 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


Allow me to expose my total naivete about fanfic for a moment: are there any recs for well-written fanfic that doesn't involve slash/hetslash at all?

Certainly. If you go to Polyamorous Recs, which I linked above, click on a fandom you're interested in, then click on the tag for Gen. Boom, done.

Random gen recs from my pinboard:

MCU/Discworld: A far too short crossover in which Loki attempts to conquer the Discworld.

Discworld: in which Young Sam Vimes has to solve a mystery, and meets a girl from the Ramtops. (It's borderline romantic, but no explicit business.)(By one of MeFi's Own, but I will leave it up to the author to claim ownership.)

MCU: Bruce goes missing & Natasha goes after him.

Buffyverse: A grim & cold apocalypse for the Scoobies.

SG-1: Teal'c and Jaffa politics, from his son's POV.

SG-1: the other story that could have happened after "Abyss".

SG-1: an epic cyberpunk action-adventure. Excellent.

This one is really inside-baseball. SPN: Chuck becomes a fanfic writer in the in-universe world of Winchester fandom. Brilliant. (Read everything by Lettered, she's great.)

Narnia: a complex & bloody interpretation of the Pevensies' involvement in Caspian's war. Bedlamsbard's interpretation of the characters leans toward the bloody-minded & borderline sociopathic, but her writing is so. good.

Temeraire/HTTYD: smart, funny, creative mashup of these two dragon-related fandoms.

And for a little self-promotion, I offer an SPN story in which not everyone agrees with the Winchester algebra.
posted by suelac at 1:41 PM on March 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


are there any recs for well-written fanfic that doesn't involve slash/hetslash at all?

Most of my fanfic recommendations date back to The X-Files (Hi, I'm old), and there was an AMAZING writer named "Kipler" I found back then who specialized in "there's no sex" fics which were totally believable as "they could be episodes". Her own site is down, so these are links to the wayback mirror of her stories:

Genius

Sages

Chains
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:50 PM on March 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


Oh, Kipler. So awesome.

Her best story, according to many, was Strangers and the Strange Dead. So good. Although that story caused a number of arguments, because there's one particular thing she did that a lot of people considered to be cheating...

X-Files was unnaturally rich in great writers.
posted by suelac at 1:58 PM on March 16, 2015


In response to some of the discussion upthread: The Kids Aren't All Right is one of the stories I point to when people claim that fanfiction is all badly-written self-indulgent porn. Because that story (like many others of SamDonne's) is a searing critique of the political subtext of the MCU, particularly Iron Man and how he is used.
posted by suelac at 2:00 PM on March 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah, The Kids Aren't All Right is one of my go-to recs for the potential of fanfiction. Only one or two steps after The Sith Who Brought Life Day for Star Wars -- I've read lots of good dystopian satire and lots of cute fluffy holiday stories, but never another one that was both at the same time.
posted by bettafish at 2:34 PM on March 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


are there any recs for well-written fanfic that doesn't involve slash/hetslash at all?

Is this where we self-rec? I've written some gen case fics for Sherlock, Ladbroke Grove and The Best Disguises. Also, Sherlock Holmes crossover with Lord Peter Wimsey, The Strange Affair of the Unwanted Emeralds.
posted by betweenthebars at 3:23 PM on March 16, 2015


Thanks, Suelac - I've read the first few chapters of that Narnia story "carpetbaggers" and so far it's exactly the sort of thing I wish people meant when they talked about fanfiction. Is there more? Is there a way to find it without having to learn all the acronyms and whatnot?
posted by Mars Saxman at 3:48 PM on March 16, 2015


I've read the first few chapters of that Narnia story "carpetbaggers" and so far it's exactly the sort of thing I wish people meant when they talked about fanfiction

Well, thank you, I'm very glad you're enjoying it. But as a gentle correction, it is the sort of thing people mean. It's just not the only thing. For many people, fic without sex in it is a waste of electrons. *g*

There is no simple way to find the kind of story you want, although googling "long gen fanfiction recommendations" provides a big pile of links.

As noted above, one way to find good work is to find a story you like on AO3, then read other stories by that writer, then read the stories that writer has bookmarked on AO3, and go on from there.

Another source of particularly good (although not generally long) stories is the Yuletide archive, also hosted on AO3.

But it's hard to find what you are looking for without learning at least some of the terminology. Stories are usually tagged for sexual/violent content, and for the presence of sexual/romantic relationships. As follows:

1. You usually get age-related tags like the MPAA uses or All-Teen-Adult on AO3. Most writers will indicate if there is explicit sex or violence, or dark emotional content. (AO3 allows the "choose not to warn" tag, which can hide just about anything. AO3 also allows authors to warn for character death, which is a big deal for some readers.)

2. Then you get relationship tags: "Gen" is generally romance-free (or with a romance that's only minimally important to the story); "het" and "slash" and "femslash" indicate sexual or romantic relationships, which may or may not be explicit depending on the content rating.

For example: Carpetbaggers is (IIRC) tagged Gen, Teen, because there's no sex or romance in it, but it has a couple of battle scenes and one implied rape threat. Another one of my stories might be tagged Het, All, because it contains a male-female romance with minimal or no sexual content.

Most fic archives allow one to search or filter for both maturity level and relationship category. Sadly, no open archives allow one to search for "no spelling errors" and "recognizable characters only". For that you need recommendations sites or bookmark pages, which do some of the filtering for you--but which might not sort by category. Polyamorous Recs does, though.

There's an LJ community called Epic Recs that recommends only really long stories, but IMO the quality of the stories varies. You can usually check the headers and tags to see if they contain content you don't like.

... which is probably overkill. Sorry. It's just -- ficwriting fandom is still really decentralized and borderline anarchic, and that's great except when it's not.
posted by suelac at 4:44 PM on March 16, 2015 [20 favorites]


If you're specifically looking for more epic gen Narnia fic, there's also rthstewart's The Stone Gryphon series, which goes into what the Pevensies do with the skills and experiences Narnia gave them when they return to England. I especially love Part 2, which focuses on Susan aiding the British war effort while she's in America. Harry Potter is another fandom that had a lot of epic gen fics, if you're looking to branch out.
posted by yasaman at 4:55 PM on March 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


Avatar: the Last Airbender has a ton of quite good and REALLY long gen and shippy-but-plotty adventure fic, but check carefully to see whether they're complete or at least being updated regularly.

For fic novices I highly recommend looking through the archives of the Yuletide gift exchange for better-than-average fics from less fandom-popular works (i.e. not MCU, Sherlock, Doctor Who, One Direction, etc etc etc).

Anyone have recs for authors who focus a lot on the characters who aren't white guys? Especially if they write long plotty stuff, which is an order of magnitude rarer than the short, socially trenchant stuff.
posted by bettafish at 5:08 PM on March 16, 2015


Sure it is. Sturgeon's law says that 90% of science fiction is crud because of everything is crud.

You've misunderstood what I wrote, because this is exactly the point.

I pointed out that so far, your justifications for dismissing fanfiction as "literary masturbation" and "nothing to be proud of" have turned out to be problems of bad writing, rather than problems of the genre. You tried to claim that these are problems of the genre, but these claims don't hold up to scrutiny.

Fanfiction has a much lower bar for entry

This is a case in point. Fanfiction doesn't have a lower bar for entry than "original" fiction; people currently write and publish their terrible "original" stories online, too. And before the internet, angsty teenagers shared their angsty stories with their angsty teenaged friends (or stuffed them in a drawer).

Hell, I remember following an online community for amateur poetry specifically because most of it was hilariously awful. There was an incredibly low bar for entry, but that doesn't mean all non-professionally published poetry is "literary masturbation" and "nothing to be proud of."

So, now you're complaining about writing where there are no gatekeepers. Not about something that is a unique problem to fanfiction, and not something that means that all fanfiction is low quality.

I'm going to leave aside how mean-spirited it is to dismiss the value of people trying to produce a quality work, even if they fail, and point out that you keep moving the goalposts.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 5:09 PM on March 16, 2015 [10 favorites]


Anyone have recs for authors who focus a lot on the characters who aren't white guys? Especially if they write long plotty stuff, which is an order of magnitude rarer than the short, socially trenchant stuff

You're most likely to find those stories in fandoms which are not dominated by white guys. So, don't look at Sherlock or Supernatural or Teen Wolf or Star Trek or the Gateverse or LOTR. Do look at ATLA or Korra, or live-action shows with more women or people of color in them.

Second the recommendation for Yuletide, though. There's always a high percentage of really good stories in that exchange, for an astonishing variety of fandoms.
posted by suelac at 5:26 PM on March 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


I went to sleep and woke up to all these lovely recs, so thank you everyone! Will definitely (HOPEFULLY) get through them at some point. Good to see the reccers whose names I'm familiar with are still at it.

for anyone else who feels adrift in the post-LJ era of delocalized fic recs, here's my AO3 strategy:

That's pretty much how I do it! (when I can do it) But I always get the feeling that I'm missing something out, especially for new writers who hasn't built in a social cachet yet even if their quality is just about the level of some of the more established ones.
posted by cendawanita at 6:49 PM on March 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Wow! I also went to bed and woke up to a thread full of recs, so thanks from me too! My Kindle has been getting a great workout in the last couple of days. :)

Mind you, for all my pro-fanfic sentiments, yesterday I completely embarrassed myself when a coworker asked me what I was reading and I said, "Er, it's actually, well, um, Inception fanfic, but uh, not slash..." It was Of Monsters, dammit. I could perfectly well have said, "Modern fantasy," because a few personal names are almost the entire connection that story has to Inception canon. Sigh, self.

Of Monsters was recced in one of the AskMe threads linked above, by the way, and is beautiful and very good.
posted by daisyk at 1:23 AM on March 17, 2015


Um *cough*

My gen pinboard recs

I'm slowly getting into rating my recs in terms of content, but there's nearly 3000 stories on there, and...yeah. It'll take awhile.

plus, I really need to work on identifying my small but ridiculous collection of fanfiction stories involving knitting. It's a thing okay?
posted by Katemonkey at 7:26 AM on March 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


Can I just say how happy I am that this thread has descended into a cascade of fic recs?

Here are a few of my own favorites:

Baking Bad by heyjupiter: What if instead of cooking meth, Walt and Jesse cooked organic baked goods? Actually a lot darker than it sounds.

From Out of the Ocean Risen by bluestar: Lovecraftian Pacific Rim sequel, mostly focused on Newt and Hermann in K-Science and the aftereffects of his drifting with the kaiju.

A Dream You Dream Together is Reality by lady_ragnell: Turns out Mallorie Cobb was right all along, and the events of Inception took place inside of her husband's dream. Their daughter deals with the aftereffects.

Almost No One Makes it Out by atrata: How would the events of Iron Man have played out differently if Tony Stark wasn't a rich billionaire playboy?

No Reservations: Narnia by Edonohana: exactly what it sounds like, Tony Bourdain goes to Narnia to film an episode of No Reservations.

These ones do have some romantic/sexual elements of varying levels of story-prominence but will definitely be appealing if you are a fan of really interesting worldbuilding:

The Twelve Labors of Sean Parker by antistar_e: People born with superpowers have to go into hiding. The Harvard Connection is where they find each other. (The Social Network; romance plotline is mostly in the background.)

Fastening One Heart to Every Falling Thing by thefourthvine: In a world where most people have low-level psychic abilities and the ability to form a deep psychic bond with a lifelong partner, Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins is on the extreme end of psychic sensitivity and is in danger of bonding with anyone at any moment. His teammate Geno Malkin, on the other hand, has no psychic abilities at all.

Hockey at the End of the World by ionthesparrow: in a dystopian world, Jeff Carter and Mike Richards just want to play hockey to earn their freedom but end up taking part in a much greater fight.
posted by capricorn at 7:54 AM on March 17, 2015 [6 favorites]


(Quick note, the Breaking Bad AU has romance/sex in it too, I hadn't read it in a while and forgot about that. Anyway it's really good! Read it!)
posted by capricorn at 9:52 AM on March 17, 2015


Taking a moment to play the world's tiniest violin for myself and the communities I run with because we never write about things that are popular enough to be recced in threads like this one. That, or the stories have kissing in them and aren't what gets pointed to when people want to legitimize the form.

On the other hand, I have extremely mixed feelings about outing myself as a person who made/makes specific fan things, so it's probably just as well.

ANYWAY wow, lots of good-looking stuff in the comments here! Looking forward to reading it!
posted by Narrative Priorities at 11:32 AM on March 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


Here's a mixed bag (with notes which are gen):

Exclusive by Copperbadge
MCU. Heroes In Manhattan: From Captain America’s Hidden Talents To The Truth About The Hulk, We Debunk The Myths And Expose The Daily Lives Of The Avengers.
Gen, outstanding outsider point-of-view on the Avengers in the style of a journal exclusive.

This, You Protect by Owlet
MCU, gen. The mission resets abruptly, from objective: kill to objective: protect.
Gen. The Winter Soldier's conditioning breaks at the end of the movie, and a slowly recovering and very grumpy Bucky now works on trying to protect Steve - in secret and from afar.

I (created from fantasy) exist solely for you by Mizzy
MCU, with some Steve/Tony but nothing explicit.
Six years ago, without the Avengers Initiative there to save the day, scientist Dr. Eric Selvig sacrificed himself to save the world, the almighty demi-god Thor was lost to a terrible storm, and vigilante Iron Man – spotted with a nuclear weapon trying to take advantage of the situation – was forever labelled an enemy of SHIELD.
This is a comic book office AU, where Steve is defrosted a year too late, Thor has forgotten who he is, and no one knows Tony is Iron Man. Also includes: office pranks, inappropriate post-it notes, and superheroes who like pina coladas and getting caught in the rain

Road to Nowhere by Lise
MCU. When Loki turns up demanding Thor's help on a quest to retrieve the All-Mother from Valhalla, Thor isn't about to say no. But that doesn't mean he's forgotten anything, and what better time than a road trip through the backwaters of the universe for trying to talk things out?
Gen, focused on Loki and Thor after the 2nd Thor movie.

Godchild by Griseldajane
MCU. When Loki finds a de-aged Thor wandering alone on the battlefield, Loki takes the five year old child in and resolves to figure out how Thor was transformed and why...
Gen, bit fluffy.

Orchidectomy by Kumquat Weekend
Some Like It Hot. Brilliant dialogue-only fic (not get, but omg don't miss it anyway)

They Say Of The Elves by Brancher
LotR. Not gen, because it's about Gimli and his feelings for Legolas, but it's beautiful writing, poetic and sweet.

Drastically Redefining Protocol by rageprufrock
Merlin TV series. In which Arthur is Arthur the Prince of Whales, who runs into Merlin Emrys who works in a hospital.
Slash.

Phoenix Burning by Yahtzee
Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Buffy gets resurrected after dying in The Gift - 350 years in the future. Awesome plot!
Gen (there is romance, but that's not the main focus).

Fruitful by Resonant
Discworld. The wedding of Cheery Littlebottom and Keen Slatequarry lasted precisely two and a half minutes, which made it by far the best wedding Sam Vimes had ever attended.
Gen, short, *grin*

I could go on for hours but I need to stay up all night re-reading many stories go to bed.
posted by ari_ at 1:10 PM on March 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


also! If you like long stories and/or speed-read, here is the Novel-Length and Novella-Length Recs list. About 1.800 stories in many fandoms, all at least 20K words long.

Do try Chains of Being (Space:Above and Beyond) and Jeu-Parti (Deep Space Nine) from the TopTen.
posted by ari_ at 1:25 PM on March 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


Discworld. The wedding of Cheery Littlebottom and Keen Slatequarry lasted precisely two and a half minutes, which made it by far the best wedding Sam Vimes had ever attended.
Gen, short, *grin*


Careful now, we don't need any accidental suicides here.
posted by Zalzidrax at 9:54 PM on March 17, 2015


AO3 is down runtil about 5:30 EST today for some server maintenance, but if we're posting about our favorite fanfic stories that show the breadth and depth and power of the genre:

Almost No One Makes it Out by atrata is, for my money, is one of the greatest fanfics ever written or posted to the Internet. Long, largely gen, rewrite of what Tony Stark's life would have been like if he hadn't been born rich as sin. It's a military story written by a military brat.

Concession by obsession_inc, which is a slow-creep, slow-roll whodunnit thriller about privilege and rape culture and gender and power that has ladies (Pepper Potts and Christine Everhart) up front and center, and it's fantastic. Papers have been written about it, for good reason.

In comics fandom, Captain America had a kid sidekick during World War II. Back in the day, it was all light-hearted high-jinks and punching Hitler and sight gags, but modern treatment of the story tends to be way darker I like the rewrite of it alot, but this is the one where Bucky Barnes is nisei, and it's always going to be the greatest fic about Bucky Barnes to ever have been written.
posted by joyceanmachine at 1:57 PM on March 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


I did an FPP about worldbuilding fics in the Potterverse if you're into exploring the Wizarding World through eyes other than Harry and co.

That same worldbuilding (which I love about Harry Potter - the possibilities are almost endless!) is likely why I'm also really taken by a lot of Homestuck fanfic. A lot of Homestuck-based fanfic is not even really about the main characters, but about the setting: namely, the game of Sburb that anchors the entire story. A lot of stories bring different characters to Sburb - sometimes it's popstars, sometimes it's variations on the characters, sometimes it's completely different people or the fandom itself. The core mechanics are the same, but the fact that the mechanics allow for structured variations - such as Land names or God Tier titles - means that it's pretty fun to stick different people in there and see what happens.

The MSPA format - a take on text adventure games, with copious use of Flash, music, animation, and interactivity, as well as strong use of reader commands and second-person pronouns - has also led to some really interesting stories that don't have much to do with Homestuck at all but make use of its iconic form. Sometimes they refer to Homestuck/Sburb concepts while creating a whole different universe, and sometimes something totally unrelated but still awesome.

Has there been other fandoms where the form is as much an influence, if not more so, as the characters and original story?
posted by divabat at 5:50 PM on March 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


I've been stuck for days without access to wifi and only sometimes able to get an internet connection on my phone, but I was so excited to come back to this thread and see all these recs! I can't wait until I've returned to civilization so that I can check these out.
posted by litera scripta manet at 9:54 PM on March 20, 2015


The reason I went ahead and watched a bunch of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the past few months is so I could enjoy the fanvids and fanfic. Thanks for the recommendations! I'm brainwane at Archive of Our Own and Pinboard in case you want to see some more recs from me.

And oh yay there's an FPP about vids including Festivids!
posted by brainwane at 8:49 AM on March 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm going to TOOT MY OWN HORN HERE and how

The Information Operation Division: I wanted to write a novella and I liked the Marvel movies, so I wrote this to prove to myself I could write a novella. I tried to make the self-insert the worst possible person ever.

Fast Break At Tiffany's: Actually inspired by a Metafilter comment, a fun little story about how Black Widow got that necklace in Winter Solider, because I love Hawkguy and I checked out the bathrooms at Tiffany's to make it real

The Talented Mr. Benson: We're NEVER going to know Mr. Bob Benson's backstory on Mad Men, so I wrote it for you. It's both fancy and murderous.


Problems From Everyday Life: The first season of Hannibal as Ask Metafilter Questions.

Community Moderation
: The Supernatural Hunter community really needs an online place to VENT you know
posted by The Whelk at 10:52 PM on March 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


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