Fan fiction is basically fiction written by fans about their favorite shows, books, movies, etc. It goes beyond being a simple viewer. Fan fiction writers ask “what if?” They want to know what happened between the episodes, about things that were just alluded to in the script, or maybe something that wasn’t mentioned at all. It’s about creativity. And anything you can think of, there is probably fan fiction already written about it.
Still confused? Think about this. Have you ever seen or read a Star Trek novel? That is essentially fan fiction. It’s someone who filled in the blanks between what we saw onscreen. The only difference is that the author was paid, validated by the copyright holders. Fan fiction authors, however, are not paid. That’s where the fair use disclaimer comes in. Since the writers aren’t making money off their stories, and all the rights belong to the copyright holders, most studios look the other way. Most, not all. And if a fan fiction writer is served with a cease and desist letter, they are often asked to remove their stories. It’s very much a delicate balance of respect. The copyright holders let us play with their toys, but they have the right to refuse and take them back home with them.
What Are Some Of The Terms?
There are enough terms in fandom to fill a dictionary, but here are a few to get you started.
- Gen: This is a story that has no romantic or sexual content whatsoever. It’s just some characters hanging out, having an adventure. Might be an expansion of an episode or a whole new storyline.
- Slash: So, you have these two characters who are the same sex/gender. They may be friends in canon, they may hate each other, but your deepest wish is for them to have a romantic/sexual relationship. That’s slash. It’s denoted by the slash symbol between the characters in the fiction heading, such as Dean/Sam. [Okay, technically that’s Wincest, but in broader terms it’s slash.]
- Bi-Fictional: Some fans only read gen, some only read slash, some read both. In those instances, you are called bi-fictional.
- RPF/RPS: Sometimes, playing with the characters from a show or movie isn’t enough. That’s when the actors come into play. RPF stands for Real Person Fiction, and RPS is Real Person Slash. So, instead of writing stories about Dean and Sam, you write stories about Jensen and Jared (J2, it’s a good thing). It’s still all made up, with different names.
- Canon: What’s written or seen onscreen, that’s canon. We know Dean Winchester drives an Impala, we know Fraser has a wolf named Dief, we know Spock is a Vulcan. That’s all canon, unchanging facts (unless you’re in an AU).
- Fanon: In fandom, there could be common elements that become so well-known that they become accepted, and that’s where fanon comes in. Some fans will get mad if you don’t abide by the common fanon in your story, but it’s called fanon for a reason. It’s not true, no matter how much we argue it to be.
- AU: Or Alternate Universe if you want to be more specific. That means the characters are put into settings that are not canon-compliant. Kirk and Spock as detectives, John and Rodney as mobsters, Starsky and Hutch as chefs… you get the picture.
- Crackfic: This is fic that is so far out there, it’s nowhere near reality… but it’s also addictive enough that we can’t look away. Angel and Spike as rubber ducks, for example. And sometimes the crack multiplies and then you have twenty stories with the same cracky premise. It’s a glorious event.
- Genderswap: If you like your characters male, think what fun they would be female! This term signifies that the gender of the character has been swapped. It could be magic or a curse or they were born that way (Always A Girl). Whatever the reason, they are usually very much fun to read.
- MPREG: M stands for male, preg stands for pregnancy. Sound it out, you’ll get it. MPREGs are stories where the male character becomes pregnant, or is at least capable of it. There have been instances of MPREG in the canon of television shows, such as Torchwood, Star Trek: Enterprise, and Alien Nation. But why should just a few fandoms get all the fun? Pregnant men for everyone!
- Podfic: With the constant rush to get everything done, sometimes you don’t have time to sit down and read a story. That’s where podfic comes in. This term means that someone has recorded an audio version of the fic, so you can listen to your fanfic on your favorite audio player. Fanfic on the go!
- WiPs: Or Works in Progress. Fans may be writing a story and posting it in parts; they may even be writing it as they go along. When that happens, they label their stories WiP. This is a warning that the story has more parts coming, or that it may never be finished. Be aware before you fall down the rabbit hole.
Like I said, there are plenty of other terms out there. And some terms are fandom-specific (like Paul Gross Arms \o/ YAY!). Poke around FanLore to find out more terms, and learn a little fandom history while you’re there.
How Can I Learn More?
Every fandom usually has their specific archives where the majority of their fanfic is housed. There are also collective archives that cross fandoms, which is a good place to start. Many articles about fanfic point readers toward Fanfiction.net, but I’m not going to do that because I’m not a fan of the formatting structure. The archive I whole-heartedly recommend, however, is Archive of Our Own (AO3). Every fandom imaginable is there, and there are also download links on the stories so that you can read them on your favorite e-reader. A winner in my book!
You can also find fandom-specific mailing lists on Yahoo, or fandom-related communities on journal sites such as LiveJournal. I feel like LJ is a wonderful place to get pimped into fandom because you may come in liking one show, but you’ll come out being multi-fandom. Happened to me, it can happen to you.
So many fanfics, so little time!
Screencaps courtesy of HomeOfTheNutty