Fanwank

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This article is about the practice of explaining away canonical errors. For the term describing online arguments and/or bad behavior, see wank. For the Journalfen community that mocks wank, see Fandom Wank.

Synonyms: Spackle
See also: Fix-it, Retcon, Watsonian vs. Doylist, Missing Scene
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Contents

Fanwank, originating in comics fandom letters-page practice, is a verb that refers to fannish justification of continuity or other errors. When used as a noun, it refers to the explanation itself. Other terms for this are spackle.[1] Often over-elaborate and implausible, fanwanks are generally not meant to be taken too seriously, but serve merely to humorously paper over a credibility gap in the canon. However, fanwanking is occasionally done with serious intent to transform a canon with continuity problems into a self-consistent narrative. It can also be done in the medium of fanfic rather than meta, so some missing scenes function as fanwank.

Working out elaborate explanations for inconsistencies in canon is a common pan-fandom pastime for many fans. For example, in Sherlock Holmes canon, Watson indicates in one story that his war wound was a bullet in the leg, but in another story, he was shot in the shoulder. The usual fanwank is that he could have been shot while bending over, thus allowing the bullet to pass through his upper leg, then his shoulder.

The tendency of fans to come up with (sometimes incredibly outlandish) explanations for inconsistencies, rather than just admit that it was a continuity error, has been oft-parodied, e.g., in The Simpsons ("Whenever you see something strange with continuity, a wizard did it.") or Mystery Science Theater 3000 ("If you're wondering how he eats and breathes, and other science facts / Just repeat to yourself, it's just a show, I should really just relax.").

Marvel comics creator Stan Lee initiated the practice of awarding 'No-prizes' (that is, no prize) to letters-page writers who identified an error and then explained why, of course, it wasn't an error at all. Although fanwanking was first named as such in comics fandom, the usage has spread widely to non-comics discussions.

References

  1. See for example a discussion in sz_zines where spackle is described as a fanfic term meaning to fill in plot holes. (Accessed 01 April 2010)