A statistical look at The Force Awakens’ fan fiction

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Remember when a respected publication wrote about The Force Awakens fanfic? Well, here’s an intriguing follow-up of sorts: Tumblr user DestinationToast on the Archive of Our Own stats for the fandom.

Archive of Our Own (aka AO3) is arguably the most important fan fiction archive for general fandom. This isn’t a complete picture of Star Wars fan fiction, as Star Wars has always been a bit of an outlier to overall fandom trends, but The Force Awakens is the first major Star Wars film to come out since AO3 launched in 2008. Toast does look briefly at the numbers for old standby Fanfiction.Net (FFN,) plus relative newcomers Tumblr and Wattpad.

Another major outlet for Star Wars fic is TheForce.Net’s Jedi Council boards, but no doubt the message board format makes these sort of things much harder to track. I do hope that authors on the JC have gotten better about double-posting their works to FFN or AO3… A lot of fics were all but lost when TFN migrated their boards to a new system several years back, causing posts of length (aka mostly fanfic) to be truncated beyond readability.

The weird and wacky history of Star Wars slash

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We had The Atlantic looking at The Force Awakens fan fiction last week, but now there’s a historical look-back at slash in the fandom from Lady Business at Livejournal. Behold! Fans actually asking permission to fandom! Letters from the fan club president! “Fandom is about celebrating the story the way it is.”

The spectre of all this was still hanging over fandom when I first found it in the ’90s, believe it or not. (Or maybe I just knew a lot of zine folks in the Star Ladies.) It wasn’t until after The Phantom Menace – and the huge and (officially*) uncontested slash fandom that came out of it – that the paranoia eased.

* There were flame wars. Oh, were there flame wars. But Lucasfilm stayed out of it. Slash bans – like the infamous one at TheForce.Net’s Jedi Council forums that was only removed last year – were solely coming from fansite owners and operators.

Fanfic in the mainstream: The Atlantic discovers Reylo

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In a post-50 Shades of Gray world, it seems like mainstream coverage of fan fiction is all but inevitable. And sure enough, here comes the Atlantic with a look at the fic prompted by The Force Awakens, with a focus on perhaps the most controversial ‘ship of all: Reylo.

For those who have remained blissfully unaware, Reylo is the portmanteau (ahh, modern fandom) for Rey/Kylo Ren. It’s by far the most popular new heterosexual pairing for The Force Awakens on the major fandom fic archive, Archive of Our Own (aka AO3,) with 1330 works. Finnrey (Finn/Rey) may have more canon support, but less than 500 fics. (Just over 500 is Jedistormpilot, aka Rey/Finn/Poe.)

The Atlantic article is, as these things go, not bad. It at least touches on most of the major ships that are flooding AO3, and it’s pretty clear of the ‘teehee, girls writing gay sex’ subtext that we frequently saw back at the height of Harry Potter fandom.

That said, slash (male/male pairings) still rules modern fandom, and The Force Awakens is no different. Both major slash pairings for the film top Reylo and Finnrey combined, with tags for Stormpilot (Finn/Poe) and Kylux (Kylo/Hux) both hosting over 2000 works. These numbers aren’t scientific, of course – AO3 writers can and do tag multiple ships for the same works, and not all fics are even about ‘ships. But it gives you a general idea.

However, Star Wars has rarely followed general fandom trends, and a lot of what we’re seeing here on AO3 is a post-movie flood that’s likely to die down as other films (Captain America: Civil War is a likely candidate) divert attention. What will the fanfic landscape look like a year from now? Or by the time Episode VIII is launching trailers? Who knows.

In the interest of, um, science or something, feel free to recommend your favorite The Force Awakens fics in the comments. All pairings and ratings are welcome, just be clear with your labeling. (Yes, basic HTML works.)

No more slash restrictions on TFN’s Jedi Council boards

As far as venues for Star Wars fan fiction are concerned, the fan fiction area on TheForce.net’s Jedi Council message boards may very well be the oldest still-active fan fiction community on the internet.

slashing-action2They were also rather infamous for a well-known rule that precludes fanfic that features same-sex relationships. (Often called slash and/or femslash.) And now, it’s allowed. Writes moderator Grand Admiral Jello:

I can now announce that MS has decided that the lifting of the same-sex romance ban applies to canon and EU characters as well as original characters — it’s a full lift, in line with the existing PG-13 rules about opposite sex romances. I’m sure we’ll have something official-ish soon, but we thought you all should know ASAP so there’s no uncertainty that this is a full lifting of the ban.

The first announcement this morning left the status of slash with existing Star Wars characters unclear.

The Jedi Council boards have always had a rating restriction of PG-13 and under for fanfic.

Slash fanfic has been around in various fandoms since (at least!) the days of the original Star Trek. In Star Wars fandom, slash exploded when the popularity of Qui-Gon/Obi-Wan back in 1999 practically created a subfandom out of whole cloth – and LFL stayed hands-off. Slash has been a hot-button issue among fans ever since – and occasionally before. But as the times change, both in society and in fiction, good on the TFN owners and moderators for finally putting the ban where it belongs – in the past.

Forum poster guessed ‘The Force Awakens’ title back in 2012

tfa-tfn-guessTheForce.Net tracked down forum member Queen Gimmedala, who guessed the Episode VII title way back in 2012. She told Eric Geller:

Ultimately this was a random guess. No inside info or connection to Lucas. But to me it seemed logical that the first movie in this trilogy would need to address the force. I’m a believer that the movie titles in each trilogy closely relate and I suspect this will carry over for the ST.

So I knew it was going to be 3 words, and the force. I also know that the wording would be vague/ambiguous/old fashioned like all the other six movie titles.

The Phantom Menace (something is wrong with the force), A New Hope (something is helping) and The Force Awakens (It’s BACK BABY). I LOVE IT.

Pretty neat! This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a fan predate an episode title, although under vastly different circumstances: The title Revenge of the Sith was used on a 1986 fan fiction novel, a story set some 40 years after Return of the Jedi.