I’ve planned to post this a lot sooner, but, alas, university kept me fairly busy this week.
While trying to work on a more organized concept for this blog, I realized that I didn’t want to use it solely for fanfiction reviews and recommendations. There is a big difference between books and fanfiction, and while I have no problems navigating through fanfiction communities and websites, I know from experience how it’s like to be a novice fanfiction reader. As my blog is bilingual, I also wanted to take into consideration how many readers don’t have English as their mother tongue and thus have a harder time to understand certain things. Furthermore, fanfictions are a rather particular part of fandom culture (in comparison to, e.g., fanart), and it’s unlikely that you will browse the internet to look for fanfictions without any troubles if you have absolutely no experience.
This is why I want to start this off with explaining a few general terms that are commonly used on the internet. Perhaps I should mention that I’ve spent most of my time on tumblr, Archive Of Our Own (AO3), and various forums dedicated to manga and anime, however, the things I’ll talk about in the following are not exclusive for certain websites (from what I know, that is).
What’s fanfiction? I discovered fanfiction thanks to a friend who introduced me to the German website fanfiktion.de years ago. It feels a bit funny to explain what fanfiction is but then again, I remember a time when I didn’t know about the possibility to read stories on the internet. Especially not that there are websites filled with so many stories which are completely for free. Don’t judge me, that concept blew my mind when I was a 12-year-old and it still does up to the present day.
Now, what’s fanfiction? The term itself speaks volumes, actually. Whenever someone who is not a professional uses (parts of) a story and its characters created and rightfully owned by another person who is usually a professional to write their own story (which can be slightly altered or completely different from the original), the product is called fanfiction. The term “fanfiction“ can also be used to describe original stories that don’t recycle ideas, plot lines, and characters. Generally speaking, the majority of fanfictions are shared online for free.
Let’s focus on a few essential terms now. The initialism “OC“ is a term commonly used in fanfiction communities that means “Own Character“. When the tags or the summary of a story mention the term “OC(s)“, it means that the story includes one or more characters that were created by the fanfiction writer. I can, for example, write a fanfiction for the show Grey’s Anatomy and insert as much of my own characters as I like, and it’s completely up to me how important their roles are.
I have to admit that I usually really dislike fanfictions that include OCs who play a more prominent role in a story for the simple reason that many of them are too boring and not properly introduced. Furthermore, most people want already existing characters playing the important roles which is why a lot of writers only use OCs as a trigger for character development, misunderstandings, and so forth.
Either way, OCs can be enjoyable and important as long as the writer knows how to work with them.
No, I’m not going to talk about the Titanic here, the ships I’m referring to bring tears to people’s eyes just as well, though.
When someone talks about a “ship“, they usually refer to a bond between two characters which has a romantic context. To put it simply, a ship refers to a couple. However – and please note that this is not uncommon – people can also talk about ships in a platonic way which is then mentioned as such. Okay, for everybody who has never heard of the word “ship“ in that type of context, it might sound a bit weird at first, but I promise that it gets easier as time goes by.
The term “ship“ is used as a noun as well as a verb which means that instead of saying “I like this ship“, I could say “I ship them“. In the end, it means the same thing: I enjoy the idea of a certain fictional couple being happily in love. If someone is particularly enjoying stories for their romantic aspect, they usually call themselves “shippers“.
There are many other examples of how this can be used, but it’s just important to get the gist of it in the beginning.
“Canonization“ And Something Being “Canon“
One of the most wonderful things a shipper can experience is the moment they are able to say: “My ship is canon!“ I assure you that this is not referring to Canon cameras (even if a lot of people make that joke because both are written the same way). The word “canonization” means that something that was not considered to be true in the original story is an undeniable fact of that universe later on.
Those ideas have no restrictions whatsoever! I could think about what ships will become canon in the future or whether my favorite character likes their coffee black or not. No matter how small or big my own ideas are, they are my own so I can write and talk about them, but they are not something that other members of my fandom have to take into consideration if they’re not to their liking.
After the canonization of something, however, that certain idea is considered to be part of the original story – so from the moment of its canonization, something is a fact.
When people in fanfiction communities talk about “headcanons“, they refer to the ideas I mentioned above. Headcanons equal ideas that people have about characters, bonds, or the plotline. The term itself is already hinting that those ideas are only “canon in your head“, so while the original story is canon for everybody who reads the original story, your own headcanons for that story are not canon and are thus not considered to be facts.
I for one really enjoy reading about other people’s headcanons and sharing my own headcanons because every fandoms lives from its interesting, multifaceted, humorous ideas that people come up with. Furthermore, a lot of fanfictions are founded on headcanons that writers have seen somewhere on the internet, so being in an active fandom is basically a thrilling vicious circle of headcanons inducing new fanfictions and fanfictions inducing new headcanons and so forth.