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 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.
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.)
They 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.
TheForce.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.
Yuletide, the annual rare-fandoms fanfic gift exchange, had a rule change this year that suddenly made it relevant to our interests – they allowed requests from lesser-ficed parts of large fandoms like Star Wars. So, for the first time, we’re seeing Star Wars fanfics among the offerings. 32 of them, in fact, including a whooping 13 X-Wing fics. Other requests included the Thrawn trilogy and The Old Republic.
EU-based fanfic has never been exactly rare, but it does tend to focus on the big ‘ships (ahem) so if you’ve been looking for something a little different, check out the listings. The authors are all currently anonymous, but will be revealed on January 1st, per Yuletide tradition.
There’s a long history of fans monetizing their fanfic – but generally they do it by filing off the serial numbers, changing the names, and repurposing it as ‘original’ work. Fifty Shades of Grey may be the most infamous example, but it’s hardly the first.
Now Amazon wants to cut out all that work to get your fanfic published: They’ve launched Kindle Worlds, “the first commercial publishing platform that will enable any writer to create fan fiction based on a range of original stories and characters and earn royalties for doing so.”
How are they not getting their asses sued? Well, they’re actually licensing the stuff. First up is Alloy Entertainment, the Warner-Bros. owned book packager responsible for such book-series-turned-TV as Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars and Vampire Diaries. Not your bag of blood? They plan “to announce more licenses soon.” (For what it’s worth, I really doubt that Lucasfilm or Disney would sign on to something like this – at least not this early on.)
Naturally, they’re not allowing porn or crossovers, which disincludes plenty of fandom right from the start, but it’s still pretty troubling – and something that could end up very disturbing precedent.
The first and only rule of fanfic fandom is you don’t sell your stuff. I firmly believe that the line between fanfic and profic is something that should only be crossed very carefully and with great caution. And, let’s face it – most fanfic is awful, porn or no porn.
The idea of actually monetizing fanfic is no real surprise – it’s been tried, and failed, a dozen times over, and the runaway success of 50 Shades made this nigh-inevitable. To have the Powers-That-Be actively involved in fanfic has a real potential to change this very specific fandom activity – and not for the better. Part of the point of fanfic, to my mind, is the complete lack of tether. It rarely pays off, but when it does, those are the moments that make the whole enterprise worth it.
This alone is no great shakes – Alloy and a couple of writers making a couple bucks off some PG smolderfests is not going to change the whole landscape of fandom. But it’s a very dangerous first step that could lead to more corporate policing in the fanfic realm, the making such a thing mundane – and that’s something I am not in the least comfortable with.
Sure, we winced when ex-Twilight story 50 Shades of Grey became the giant bestseller of 2012. But for the world of fanfic, what’s worse than watching badly-written BDSM shoot up the bestseller lists?
Could it be… Boy band fan fiction? Penguin has picked up a story called Loving the Band, written by a 16-year-old “One Direction super-fan”. Maybe the cash will help take the sting out of the embarrassment she’ll feel about the thing in 5 to 10 years – assuming it proves even a fraction as sucessful as 50 Shades, anyway.
James sent in several videos from San Diego, including this tour of Her Universe’s new offerings from Ashley Eckstein, including our first look at the new Her Universe logo tee! And Ashley mentions that they have lanyards, which have been pretty thin on the ground at cons lately… I hope they bring them to Celebration!
UPDATE: Bryan Young talked a bit more in depth with the PR people about the contest, and the fan fiction thing “is not the primary goal.” Nonetheless, the whole concept makes me very nervous, something which I’ll explore further later.