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Bluffer's Guide to Fanfiction

Saturday, 18th September 2010
Harry leant forwards and stared deeply into Snape’s coal-black eyes. “You’re beautiful,” he whispered, before slowly bringing his lips to the Potion Master’s soft cheek...

Don’t worry, that wasn’t a deleted chapter from the latest Harry Potter book but an example of fanfiction. Wish Harry would fall in love with Snape? Write about it. Annoyed that Buffy doesn’t have magical flying abilities? Write about it. For the uninitiated, fanfiction is a chance for fans to unleash their creative licence and write stories about their favourite characters from just about anything, from Super Mario to the Bible. The culmination of this seething underworld of dedicated fan stories comes in the almighty Fanfiction.net, with over 2.2 million users and stories in over 30 languages.

Fanfiction is a phenomenon that has been around much longer than the Internet, but has blossomed and grown a huge extent because of the power of the web. The reaction of the original authors themselves however can vary. JK Rowling herself has given her blessing to the 475,385 (and counting) Harry Potter archive of fanfiction.net, but other authors are sometimes not so willing. Anne Rice, the author of the immensely popular Interview With a Vampire and subsequent Vampire Chronicles, has forbidden fanfiction related to any of her characters and asked for any stories to be removed from the site.

Quality differs wildly and the author’s idea of a good story involving a Lord of the Rings and Teletubbies crossover may not be to your taste. Often though, the worst stories are the most entertaining, the most notorious example being the infamous Harry Potter fanfiction 'My Immortal', a 44 chapter epic that truly has to be seen to be believed.

Apparently meaningless jargon abounds on Fanfiction.net, and it often takes a while to realise what all the acronyms and fanfiction-specific vocabulary actually means. Do you know a Mary-Sue from an AU? Or your lemons from your OCs?

AU – alternate universe. This basically means that the author does not have to answer to literary canon as literally anything can happen. For example, Harry Potter is born to Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy in an alternate universe. Or has pink hair. Can either be good or very, very bad.

Canon – something that has happened in the book/film/game etc. and therefore can be proven to be a true event/characteristic. For example, Super Mario likes red mushrooms in the games. Therefore that is canon.

Crossover – also known as X/O or Xover. A story that involves characters from two or more different book series, films, games etc. Are very tricky to pull off but a guilty pleasure if you ever thought Artemis Fowl and Alex Rider would make a great love/hate couple.

Mary-Sue – a character created by the fanfiction author that is clearly a wish-fulfilling version of themselves. They will often be incredibly beautiful, have an unusual name and eye colour and have some sort of special power. All the canon characters will fall in love with them. The male equivalent is sometimes called a Gary-Stu.

Lemon – also lemony. For unknown reasons, lemon is often a keyword used to indicate that the following story is merely gratuitous sex scenes with little or no plot. For example ‘Edward and Jacob have hot angry sex, just a short lemon.’

OC – stands for Original Character. This will be a good version of a Mary-Sue, a character created by the author that is fairly well-written. Often included in the descriptions of stories as OCs are not usually liked in the fanfiction world.

Ship/shipping – the term for a desired relationship between characters. For example, “I ship Hermione and Ron,” means that you want them to get together.

Slash – indicates a story with homosexual pairings. Can refer to male/male or female/female. Femme slash is also used to indicate specifically female/female pairings.

This is only a short introduction to the weird and wonderful world that is fanfiction and the only way to truly understand it is to get reading!

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#1 Anonymous
Sun, 19th Sep 2010 1:00am

It was....... Dumbledore!

#2 Anonymous
Sun, 19th Sep 2010 3:31pm

It's worth mentioning that a significant fraction of most available fanfic is slash (male-male), usually by female authors. Edward-Jacob, Harry-Draco, Snape-Harry (commonly known as Snarry) and Merlin-Arthur form a thick coating on any fanfic repository, although digging down can yield some surprises, good and bad. Snape-Crabbe, Snape-Dumbledore and Harry-Vernon, anyone?

#3 Anonymous
Sun, 19th Sep 2010 10:21pm

Reading fanfics is what made me interested in literary criticism in the first place; I even once managed to bring it up in a seminar

#4 Anonymous
Mon, 20th Sep 2010 1:19am

I could never get into fan-fiction, even though growing up I loved the cult TV shows and films that seemed to generate it. The published stuff was usually poorly written and didn't capture the characters. The unpublished stuff sloshing around the internet always boiled down to homo-eroticism that didn't even try to be readable.

Still, if you like that sort of thing...

#5 Natalija Sasic
Mon, 20th Sep 2010 3:29pm

Ah man, this brings back so many memories; my 14-15 year old self spent most of her time on fanfiction.net...I still use terms like Mary-Sue in everyday conversation, usually to refer to someone really beautiful/talented/lovely/adored by all but who you just irrationally hate for some reason

#6 Anonymous
Fri, 24th Sep 2010 7:46am

Oh my god... I spent most of my early teens immersed in fanfiction, especially of the Harry Potter variety on fictionalley.org... I honestly believe it was half the reason why I became good enough at writing/critiquing to do English! What a relief to come on here and see others know of this... though still not so much so that I can refrain from clicking that "Post Anonymously" box above...

#7 Natalija Sasic
Fri, 24th Sep 2010 8:01pm

I just checked out 'My Immortal'...dear God.
My favourite line: "Then he put his thingie into my you-know-what and we did it for the first time."

#8 Lizzy Pennock
Fri, 24th Sep 2010 8:18pm


#9 Anonymous
Mon, 27th Sep 2010 5:01pm

Snap was pointing a camera at me! And Loopin was MASTICATING to it!

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