After seeing Episode 170 of Fanfic Critic, ‘In A Galaxy Far Far Away’, I thought I’d post this column discussing two types of fan fiction (and other types of fiction) that are often confused, but are definately different from each other. And I’ll give some examples of where they occur outside of fan fiction.

First off, there’s the crossover fic. This is where characters from one fictional world’s universe meet characters from another fictional world’s universe. For example, Buffy the Vampire Slayer teaming up with Blade, Batman teaming up with Spider-Man, or Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner meeting up with Tom and Jerry. Often at times, there’s an explanation for how these characters meet up. For example, the starship Enterprise might enter a wormhole and wind up in the Star Wars galaxy.

Then there’s the fusion fic (also called ‘mashup’ by some). A fusion fic is set in a world where elements of two fictional universes are merged together so that characters, concepts, and settings are just blended together into one. For example, there are fics out there where Ranma Saotome of Ranma 1/2 is from Tatooine and his rival Tatewaki Kuno and his sister Kodachi are Imperial commanders, or where Buffy is a starship captain in Starfleet and her friends are the senior officers.

The fan fiction the Fanfic Critic reviewed in Episode 170 of Fanfic Critic, ‘In A Galaxy Far Far Away’, is a fusion fic combining the 2009 Star Trek (the Kelvin timeline) with the Star Wars universe. In it, James T. Kirk is an apprentice Jedi, and Dr. McCoy is a Jedi Master. And, apparently, Kirk’s father was a Jedi as well. There also appears to be a tie-in with the 2009 film’s plot involving Nero (the vengeful Romulan, not the Roman emperor), but I’ve only seen the Fanfic Critic’s reading of chapter 1 and don’t really know how the rest of the story goes.

But I’ve seen enough to know that this is a ‘fusion’ fic, as opposed to the regular crossover. The Fanfic Critic described it as a crossover, but in fact the ‘fusion’ fic is kind of a sub-genre of the crossover fic.

Anyway, examples of both regular crossovers and fusion fics occur outside of fanfic, too. Occasionally, on television two crime dramas that are otherwise unrelated will have their investigators working together to catch the same criminal. Spinoffs occasionally do crossovers with their parent shows, such as the time a Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode featured a storyline involving Spike and a magical ring that shielded vampires from sunlight. That storyline was continued in an episode of Buffy’s spinoff, Angel.

Comic books have provided hundreds of examples of regular crossovers. There have been the occasional Marvel and DC crossovers, where Batman meets Spider-Man, the X-Men team up with the Teen Titans, and Superman gets some help from the Fantastic Four. We’d be here all day if I were to mention even a third of the crossovers that have happened in comic books.

Probably the most elaborate was the ‘Marvel vs. DC’ crossover where two cosmic entities pit the heroes of the Marvel and DC universes against each other. In the midst of this, something happens to briefly cause the universes and characters to merge together, resulting in the Amalgam Universe.

The Amalgam universe is a perfect example of a published ‘fusion’ fic (and at the moment, it’s the only published ‘fusion’ fic I can think of). Here, we have Spiderboy (a cross between Superboy and Spider-Man), Iron Lantern, Shatterstarfire (a cross between Starfire of the Teen Titans and Shatterstar, a character from an X-Men spinoff), and Dark Claw (a blending of Batman and Wolverine). The Amalgam universe was seen in a weeks’ worth of one-shots before the plot of ‘Marvel vs. DC’ resumed with the universes returning to normal and the heroes of both worlds teaming up to save the day.

This didn’t stop DC and Marvel from doing a later series of Amalgam one-shots, but I’ve never read those or seen plot summaries so I can’t make any informed comments on them.

Would I recommend the Amalgam one-shots? Well, unless you’re familiar with each of the characters and concepts ‘fused’ together, I’d say no. Otherwise, there will be all sorts of references that will just confuse you. For example, if you’re not familiar with both the 90’s Superboy comic as well as 90’s Spider-Man comic books, the ‘Spiderboy’ Amalgam one-shot will be like this Animaniacs joke.

Wakko: Knock knock!

Dr. Scratchensniff: Who’s there?

Wakko: Max!

Dr. Scratchensniff: Max who?

Wakko: Max wants to come in and go crazy!

Dr. Scratchensniff: (after a pause) Okay, now that’s not really a joke, is it? You see because it makes no sense.

Wakko: It does if you know Max!

Dr. Scratchensniff: But I don’t KNOW Max!

Wakko: If you did, you’d be laughin’!

As the Animaniacs quote above so brilliantly illustrates, an in-joke is only funny if you’re in on the joke. And the Amalgam comics are basically in-jokes for fans of both Marvel and DC.

Then again, the same can be said for most ‘fusion’ fics. Of course, the Star Wars/Star Trek 2009 ‘fusion’ fic mentioned above is probably more accessable than many, as there are plenty of people out there familiar with both the Star Wars franchise and the 2009 Star Trek movie. Therefore, I don’t think many people will read it and have a ‘But I don’t know Max!’ reaction.

Anyway, I’ve kind of rambled on for a bit and have sort of digressed. But I hope I’ve satisfactorily explained the difference between a ‘regular crossover’ fic and a ‘fusion crossover’.

Have any further insights? Feel free to leave your comments.

4 thoughts on “Fanfic subgenres: Crossover fics and fusion fics

  1. Fusion fics are always so hard to pull off well. When you have characters with established personalities, you have to make sure those personalities will properly gel if you shove them into a new setting. Not to mention do the tones mesh properly (putting the Power Rangers in a slasher movie… probably not the best call).

    I’m all for a good crossover fic, as long as the characters are brought together in a proper way and it doesn’t always fall back on the “interdimensional travel” excuse.

    1. Interdimensional travel is pretty much the best way to cross over characters who live in different universes, such as Marvel and DC, or just about any other property where characters clearly do not live in the same universe as each other.
      .
      Crossovers (unlike fusion fics) are very common in fanfic, and very common in comic books and television as well. Most of Dick Wolf’s shows (the Law and Order shows, the Chicago shows) frequently cross over, but it’s easy because they’re set in the same universe. What would be trickier would be crossing over, say, Red Dwarf with Futurama. They’re both sci-fi comedies, but clearly set in different universes.
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      Of course, one has to work hard to make a crossover work. There has to be some reason for characters from different series to come together, and of course characters from each series has to be given plenty to do. The writer should try to give everyone their moments to shine, so that one series isn’t overshadowed by the other. I could go into more detail, but that’s for a whole other discussion on how to write good crossover stories.

    1. Fusion fics are admittedly one of the subgenres we most rarely see outside of fan fiction. I originally wrote this in 2012, and still can’t think of any other examples of fusion fics outside of fan fiction besides the Amalgam comics. So while I’ve revised and updated many of my older blog posts, I haven’t really seen the need to update this one much.
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      Fusion fics, probably even more than regular crossover fics, rely on audience familiarity with the source materials. While crossover fics can easily tell readers everything they need to know about characters, settings, and plot threads in the series they’re not familiar with, fusion fics have a harder time doing so, as they’re set in an alternate world that combines elements and characters into new versions of themselves. Fusion fics are definitely an interesting approach, but they’re best appreciated by those familiar with both universes that are being combined.

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