Hello and welcome to Fanfic Subgenres, where I discuss various subgenres and tropes commonly associated with fan fiction, and then give a few examples of those tropes in professionally published fiction.
This time, I’ll be talking about a trope common in ‘answer’ fanfics (fanfics that are written in response to another fan fiction). It’s ‘They Read the Fanfics Based on Them’.
It’s no secret that fan fiction can be very weird sometimes. Sometimes, they take characters in very strange and bizarre directions the source material probably wouldn’t go in. (Unless, of course, the creators run out of ideas and decide to just use whatever crazy ideas they can think of, which has happened in a few series as they begin to wind down, and maybe one or two that the creators thought were in the process of winding down but kept going anyway *coughSimpsonscough*. But I’m digressing).
Fanfics can be places where characters can sometimes go to bizarre places, or engage in bizarre behavior that might seem to be a weirdly exaggerated version of their canonical selves, if not wildly out of character. So it’s only natural that some fanfic writers write ‘answer’ fics where the characters read the fanfics and comment on them.
The infamous My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic fanfic “Cupcakes” has received a few such “answer” fics where the Mane Six ponies read the fic and laugh at how weird and out of character it is. Other fandoms have these types of fics, too. Comics, anime, and various popular franchises have fanfics about the characters reading their fanfics. And when they do so, they usually make comments on what the writer got right about them, and the weird ideas the writer seemed to have about them, and of course will make comments on the weird ‘shipping’ that goes on (‘crack pairing’, a ‘shipping’ of characters together that makes no sense in canon, is a natural for this sort of commentary).
This isn’t always by one writer commenting on another writer’s fanfiction. Every now and then, the writer of the original fic will write a story of this type talking about their earlier fanfic. When that happens, it’s often full of self-deprecating humor. Perhaps the writer is being honest with their readers about that previous fic, or maybe they’re looking back on their earlier fic from a distance and feeling a bit embarrassed by it.
Anyway, fan fiction has come within wider visibility in the last twenty plus years, thanks to the Internet, so its existence has been acknowledged in professionally produced works as well. And sometimes, there will be occasions in actual episodes of a TV series where the characters might read fan fics based on them.
One notable example is the episode of Supernatural titled “The Monster at the End of This Book”, from Season 4 of the series. The main characters Sam and Dean discover that someone has been writing books based on them. This leads them to further discover the existence of an online fandom where they encounter plenty of ‘Sam’ girls and ‘Dean’ girls, as well as ‘Slash’ fics.
Chicago Fire has a similar variant of characters encountering fan fics based on them in the season opener of the fifth season, titled “The Hose or the Animal”. In the comic relief subplot, paramedic Sylvie Brett tells her friends at Firehouse 51 that she’s discovered a site online featuring “firehouse fiction” of the erotic kind. She reads one such work aloud, and it’s not long before Joe Cruz and Brian ‘Otis’ Zvonecek figure out that the descriptions of the characters in the fiction seem familiar, and the names Genevieve Lawson and Melissa Jay seem like variations of Gabriela Dawson and Leslie Shay, two other paramedics who worked as a team in previous seasons. It becomes clear to them that the author of the fic must be someone who works at the firehouse. And indeed, it’s not long before Brett discovers that Randall ‘Mouch’ Muholland, one of the older firefighters at Firehouse 51, has been writing such fics under a pen name.
I’m sure if I were to look at Tropedia’s ‘Oh Crap, There are Fanfics of Us’ page, I’d find some more examples.
In any case, the presence of this fan fiction trope in actual television shows, regardless of the form it takes, is an indication of how far fanfiction has come in influencing our culture.
If you have any more examples (in either fan fiction or in TV, movies, comics, or whatever) of characters reading fanfics based on them, feel free to mention them in the comments.