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Episode 62— Fanfiction Part 1: An Introduction

An introduction to fanfiction lingo and tropes.

Friend of the pod Tara Lehmann and YA author and fanfic veteran Mary Elizabeth Summer join Emily to define different fanfic conventions and talk about their experiences writing and reading fic. If you’re worried you won’t be able to remember all these terms, never fear! We have included a glossary below for your reference. (Also, you can @ me on Twitter to split hairs, but I do not have the energy to join the anti/pro argument, thank you please.)

I think it is a valuable exercise for anybody and everybody who is willing to sit down at a keyboard and just write. It doesn’t necessarily have to be anything fantastic; it doesn’t necessarily have to be long, but I do feel that it is a very important addition to our popular culture In this day and age. —Tara Lehmann

Listen to our interview with Tara here. (This is from our early days, so beware the sound editing.)

A Glossary of Fandom Terms

  • Anti-ship: a position some fans take against problematic fictional ships between characters with unhealthy dynamics or canon abuse within a work; this is an opposing viewpoint to pro-shippers, and this disagreement between the two groups is a source of many conflicts (sometimes extreme ones) in fan communities.
  • AO3: the abbreviation for the website Archive of Our Own, which is currently the largest fanfiction website on the internet.
  • Beta reader:a person who provides a second pair of eyes, comments, and often edits to a standalone work or chapter of a fic before it goes online. They also often provide ego boosts, reality checks, and cheerleading. Beta readers are often used by people who write original works for self-publishing and sometimes traditional books (though often the author’s editor or agent fills that role).
  • Canon: the source material without the addition of any fan works, whether that be a book, movie, TV series, comic, podcast, or some combination of all these things.
  • Discord: a chat app that is used by many for professional or recreational purposes, and often serves as a meeting place for members of different fandoms.
  • Fandom: the collective noun referring to people who are aficionados of a particular media property.
  • Fanfiction(.)net: one of the first websites used as a location to share and interact with different works of fan fiction.
  • Fanon: tropes or storylines that develop within small groups of fans or fandoms at large outside of the canon material.
  • Fanworks: any derivative work that someone makes using the characters, storylines, or other features of a work; could be fics, art, video mashups, or other creative ventures.
  • Fic: a shortened way to say “fanfiction.”
  • Headcanon: a personal belief or story a fan maintains about the canon work that enhances the story for them or fills a gap in the original work; this could be shared with other fans or kept to oneself.
  • Lemony: a way to describe a fic that has explicit material in it—a throwback to the days where fanfic was mostly included in forums and on Livejournal.
  • Pro-ship: conceived of as either a shortening of “problematic ship” or someone who has the attitude that all ships are valid, even ones that would be problematic, illegal, or abusive in the real world; some use the term to imply endorsement of inappropriate relationships outside of a fictional context, and this disagreement is the basis of many and conflicts (sometimes extreme ones) in fan communities.
  • Real Person Fanfiction (RPF): a genre of fic that uses real people, specifically celebrities, as characters in fanmade works.
  • Ship: a relationship—usually romantic—between two characters that may or may not appear in canon, but that is supported and promoted by writers and readers within the fandom.
  • Tagging: the words used to describe what type of story is being told in a work of fanfiction; usually includes tropes, characters, ships, content warnings, and the odd original statement that has nothing to do with the actual fic.

You can also read this very comprehensive summary the website Vox put together of different fandom terms.

Mentioned on this episode:

Read the transcript for this episode here

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