Welcome to another installment of Fanfic Subgenres, where I discuss certain subgenres or elements of fan fiction, and then discuss professionally-produced works where those elements also apply.

In honor of Valentines’ Day, I’ll discuss ‘shipping’ in fan fiction.

In fanfic and fandom terms, ‘ship’ refers not to boats at sea or even spaceships, but to ‘relationships’. In particular, it refers to romantic relationships between characters in a franchise that certain groups within the fandom want to see happen.

This often happens in works that have protagonists with multiple love interests. Archie of Archie Comics has Betty and Veronica (with Cheryl Blossom being a possible third option). In Star Trek: The Next Generation, Counselor Deanna Troi has had both Riker and Worf as love interests. Buffy the Vampire Slayer has had Angel, Spike, and a few others. And the anime Ranma 1/2 has the leads Ranma Saotome and Akane Tendo, both with several alternate romantic interests even though it’s clear they’re destined to be together.

I could go on, but you get the general idea. Most franchises, even those whose protagonists are usually slaying monsters, averting interplanetary wars, saving the galaxy, or trying to be the best martial artist around, have romantic subplots that involve several characters. So it’s only natural that different groups of fans would root for certain pairings.

So of course, we’ve got Archie fans who root for Archie and Betty and some who root for Archie and Veronica. We’ve got ‘Troi/Riker’ shippers and ‘Troi/Worf’ shippers. In Harry Potter fandom, we’ve got ‘Harry/Hermione’ shippers as well as ‘Ron/Hermione’ shippers.

Of course, in fandom, ‘shipping’ is not just limited to characters who are romantic interests in canon. It can happen even between characters who have little or no romantic link in canon.

Fans will pair just about any characters together regardless of whether or not the romantic relationship is in any way canonical. Fans will pair Captain Kirk with Lieutenant Uhura based on one little kiss scene in one episode that wasn’t even really them (they were being influenced by outside forces at the time). They’ll pair Buffy with Xander even though their relationship never goes beyond friendship in the series (if Xander’s attracted to Buffy in that way, it’s a one-sided attraction). Ranma 1/2 fans will pair Ukyo Kuonji (okonomiyaki cook and one of Ranma’s alternate love interests) with Ryoga Hibiki (Ranma’s rival in both martial arts and in affections for Akane) even though they’re not romantically involved in canon, either.

And then we get the more bizarre pairings. We get the ‘slash/fic’ pairings of two same-sex characters who are not gay for each other in canon (Kirk and Spock, Superman and Batman, Harry Potter and Ron Weasley, the Fanfic Critic and Susan, and so forth). We get ‘crossover’ pairings of characters from different franchises (Princess Leia and Captain Kirk, Merida and Hiccup, Carmen Sandiego and Waldo of Where’s Waldo). And we get some really crazy pairings that just plain make no sense (random characters paired together seemingly just for the fanfic author’s amusement, even if in canon they’re mortal enemies). I could do several articles on these subgenres of ‘shipping’.

In any case, writers and publishers of professionally-produced works can indulge in ‘shipping’, too. DC Comics has, in the past twenty years or so, produced graphic novels and mini-series called ‘Elseworlds’, so named because they are set in alternate realities outside whatever is the normal DC canon at the time. Some Elsewords stories are among DC’s all-time best, such as Mark Waid and Alex Ross’s Kingdom Come. Others, such as JLA: Act of God and Superman: Distant Fires read like really bad fan fiction and end up being verbally eviscerated by Linkara on Atop The Fourth Wall.

But the one thing all of those Elseworlds stories have in common is that Superman and Wonder Woman are paired together romantically in all of them despite their only being Justice League teammates in most normal depictions. The only reason for pairing them is because Superman is DC’s best known male hero, and Wonder Woman is DC’s best known female hero. That’s it.

However, it works somewhat in Kingdom Come because Superman’s normal love interest Lois Lane has been dead for years by the time the story begins, and the ‘shipping’ isn’t a big part of the story anyway.

The same cannot be said of the other two stories. In JLA: Act of God, Superman and Lois Lane break up due to the fact that everyone in that story is written like an idiot aside from Batman (seriously, JLA: Act of God reads like it was written by an extreme Batman fanboy who’d troll the Internet saying that heroes with superpowers suck), and in Superman: Distant Fires, the relationship drives Captain Marvel into a jealous rage that is completely out of character with his normal depiction (this, among other things, is why Superman: Distant Fires reads like the sort of bad fanfiction the Fanfic Critic would read on her show).

Personally, I don’t care for Superman/Wonder Woman ‘shipping’. For one thing, it comes at the expense of Lois Lane, who Superman (in normal realities) cares for a great deal despite her lack of super powers. For another, when done badly (as it was in JLA: Act of God, and Superman: Distant Fires,) it reduces Wonder Woman to nothing more than a shallow love interest when she is supposed to be a strong female character on her own.

On another note, I find that the most interesting thing about the whole Twilight fad was how those marketing the movies actually encouraged ‘shipping’ among the fandom, hence the whole ‘Team Edward’ and ‘Team Jacob’ thing.

But in any case, ‘shipping’ has been around for a long time in fandom, and will most likely be around for a long time to come.
That’s all for now. Feel free to leave your comments below.

When originally posted, this blog received the following comments.

7:18 PM on February 4, 2013 I have always been confused and fascinated by the idea of Shipping. On the surface it seems like the kind of things only girls do but plenty of guys do it as well

Glad to see you brought up the Superman & Wonder Woman thing fun fact the 2 are usually together most often in alternate universe stories.So even the writers tend to ship lol

5:05 PM on February 4, 2013 I do ship. I have one in particular I admit isn’t canon, but like it anyways (Cameron and Sarah Connor from Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles). There are some ships that don’t make sense to me like HermionexDraco (Harry Potter series). I find shipping to be harmless fun to indulge in

1:29 PM on February 4, 2013 Shippers aren’t so bad… They’re weird, but as long as the story is good, I’m fine with that. AS LONG AS THE STORY IS GOOD, is a very hard thing to say. Being decent is a trait that’s hard to find because some of those people are just… Hopeless. Yeah I said it, hopeless. I don’t exactly ship people in “Charlie”, (well with the exception of one, but it’s subtle; at least I hope it’s subtle) because I just hate romances man. I do, it just makes me pissed off beyond any damn thing I’ve read. It’s ALWAYS the focus on every goddamn show, book, or movie. Mothafucka, just listen to/watch the story, not the characters hooking up! Every time I watch a show like, “The Legend of Korra” I know, I FUCKIN KNOW, someone is out there shipping people right now.

1:14 PM on February 4, 2013 I have never really got into fanfics, and this is one of the reasons why. One of the first shows I ever looked up fanfics on was MASH, a personal favorite.. Every one of the fanfics was a deal like this and it got tedious fast. It kind of turned me off from it. Good work

1:10 PM on February 4, 2013 Funny you bring this up, I’ve been reading some MLP fanfics seeing as there was no new episode this week and it was rather disturbing how many many MLP shipfics, there were. And I don’t just mean the main 6 characters with other male characters as there aren’t that many male characters on that show. I can only think of 4 off the top of my head but rather there were ship fics, putting the girls together with each other. I have nothing against this personally but I don’t want to read those kinds of stories and I’m sorry but that just seems weird for this type of show.

Chris Lang
9:48 PM on February 4, 2013

TheDVDGrouch says…
I have always been confused and fascinated by the idea of Shipping. On the surface it seems like the kind of things only girls do but plenty of guys do it as well

Glad to see you brought up the Superman & Wonder Woman thing fun fact the 2 are usually together most often in alternate universe stories.So even the writers tend to ship lol

Well, the whole point of my Fanfic Subgenres series is to show that certain tropes of fan fiction sometimes turn up in professionally published works, too. Of course, nearly all of the examples I’ve given in these articles tend to be from comic books. Since comic books tend to be written by Ascended Fanboys these days, it’s waaaay too easy to find examples of fanfic tropes in comic books.

@Jashykins Shipping can indeed be harmless fun. But some fans do take it a little too far. I’ve heard the stories of fans that are in favor of one ‘ship’ clashing with fans that are in favor of another ‘ship’ , and things getting ugly. In any case, I’m not against the idea of ‘shipping’ when it’s done in moderation, and the people doing it aren’t taking it TOO seriously or obsessing over it.

@Soja Indeed, I have to agree that as long as the story is GOOD, I’m fine with it. But a number of fics that revolve around ‘shipping’ tend to take things too far. They often resort to bizarre over-the-top ways of breaking up an ‘official’ couple just to get their preferred couple together. Have the unwanted person die, go insane, turn evil, or get unceremoniously removed from the scene … some of the ways they write out the unwanted interest are so forced, they’re ridiculous.

@Moviefan12 You’ll get no argument from me there. Those sort of fics baffle me. Same-sex pairings of magical ponies from a kids’ show? I do have to wonder just how serious those fic writers are.

And those were the original comments. Any more comments about shipping? Do you want me to do more articles about the various shipping subgenres? Feel free to leave more comments. (Oh, and Fluffyman and jashykins did a collaborative blog about shipping not too long ago. I’ll edit in the link to that blog when it shows up here on this site).

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