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This page is about the fan activity. For other uses, see Challenge (disambiguation).
Synonyms: Fic exchange, Ficathon, Fest, FUH-Q Fest
See also: reel, gift exchange Category:Challenges
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A challenge is an organized activity in which participants agree to perform or produce fan activities or fanworks according to some predetermined criteria.

Some challenges are gift exchanges, in which each participant produces a work as a gift for a specific fellow participant. Other challenges are prompt-based, in which each participant is given an assignment from a list created or compiled by the challenge mods. Challenges may also involve participants working together to create a larger work, something like a round robin. Remix challenges occupy an odd sort of niche, wherein each participant uses the work of another participant as a prompt, but the final product is not necessarily considered a gift.

Challenge activities may involve fanfiction, vids, fanart, recs, podfic, or any other sort of fan activity.

History of Challenges

Fans have been "challenging" each other since the beginning of organized fanworks.

Fans in media zines sometimes wrote fiction in response to a single piece of fanart offered up by an artist or editor. Some early examples were in the mid-1970s in Interphase. These were sometimes referred to as Art Interpretations.

An example of an early online fiction challenge is the 2000 Kirk/Spock Online Festival seen here.

Exchanges or Ficathons

In an exchange of fannish works, frequently called a ficathon when fan fiction is exchanged, when participants sign up they provide both a request (specifying the nature of the fanwork they would like to receive: medium, genre, pairing(s) or characters, rating, and possibly a prompt) and details about the kind of fanwork they are willing to provide.

The mods assign a recipient to each participant, who must produce a fanwork meeting their recipient's request by a deadline. Usually the participants are required to work in secret, not revealing whose request they have received until after their assignment has been completed and the finished fanworks have been posted. If a fan is unable to complete her assignment, a pinch-hitter may be assigned.

Nearly any type of fanwork might be the subject for an exchange, including fanfiction, fanart, vids, meta, essays, and concrit.

Secret Santas

The Secret Santa is a special kind of ficathon. The difference between a Secret Santa and a regular challenge is that the authors of the stories remain secret for some time after the challenge, and are then revealed, usually sometime around December 25. Occasionally this leads to controversy when it is pointed out that Secret Santa challenges may, through terminology or scheduling, inadvertently cause non-Christian fans to be or feel excluded.

Yuletide is currently the largest fannish Secret Santa challenge; the first online fannish Secret Santas were Secret Slasha (Buffyverse) and Don We Now Our Gay Apparel (popslash), both of which began in 2001. (if someone knows of an earlier one, feel free to edit).

Currently, most large fandoms have at least one Secret Santa; very large fandoms, like Harry Potter, may have several. There are also several multifandom Secret Santas like Yuletide and I Saw Three Ships.

Mini Ficathons

The first minis community on LiveJournal was femslash_minis founded by Cadence K. It featured a series of short ficathons, with one or two week deadlines and low required wordcounts. The featured fandoms were the Buffyverse and Firefly.

Many similar communities now exist, including TWW Minis for West Wing and Get Your Toaster for BSG femslash.

Shuffle Vidding

Shuffle vidding, developed by DannyPhantomSG1 and JaneDoe in 2015, is a vidding-specific challenge that is run similarly to an exchange.


A fanbang, shortened to just bang, is a fandom community driven event where groups of fancontent producers come together to produce a huge amount of fanwork. It usually consists of two parts, a piece of fic, and an accompanying piece of art. While originally intended only for illustrative and visual fanart, bangs have been expanded to allow for inclusion of podfic, fancrafts, gifsets, edits and playlists. Sometimes, if a bang has more of one kind of producer (usually writers), they will ask producers to team up to create one piece of collaborative fancontent.

There are a few different kinds of bangs:

A Big Bang is distinguished by its high required word count (the Merlin Big Bang required 30,000 words, the Captain Swan Big Bang required 40,000) and the pairing of fan authors with fan artists. Authors usually have a preliminary deadline by which they must hand in a rough draft, which provides the artist assigned to them time to create an illustration or cover for their fanfiction.[1][2]

Many other forms of art have been included as allowable artist contributions, which allows people to create podfic, vids, crafts, and playlists for the fics with which they have been paired.

Many bangs have lowered their words counts. 20k-15k is considered average for a modern bang; for example the Captain America Big Bang requires 15k, while the Stucky Big Bang required 20k in 2017.[3][4]

A Reverse Bang or Reverse Big Bang is when a visual artist creates a piece of work first, and through a claims process, authors are paired with artists in order to create connected fanwork. These sorts of bangs limit the kind of art that you can offer, as podfic is usually not accepted for Reverse Bangs.

There are also Little Bangs, sometimes independent of other bangs, and sometimes done in between Big Bang seasons, such as the Captain Swan Little Bang, which has a much shorter word count of 7.5k.[5] Often these are not called Little Bangs, but just Bangs, such as The Sam Wilson Birthday Bang which required only 5k.

The term Flashbang was coined by Carter to describe a bang that would take place over a very short timeframe, and would allow for instant collaboration between creators, rather than going through a pairing or claims process after one group had produced fanart or fanfic. There is also a Tumblr for the Iron Man Flash Bang

A Flash Bang is a collaborative fanwork creating event. This event is centered around a very short time frame, in this case 8 weeks. Unlike a traditional bang, instead of a two phase process where one person creates a work and another claims it, in this bang authors and artists will be paired off at the beginning of the bang and will collaborate together to create complementary works, one written and one audio and/or visual work. This way the bang can run on a much tighter schedule and writers/artists have the opportunity to work collaboratively from the beginning.[6]

Charity Drive Challenges

In charity drive challenges, participants list the types of fanwork they would be willing to provide, and other fans bid for the right to make a request. The winning bidder donates the amount of her bid to a selected charity. She then provides a detailed request to the fan who originally made the offer, and this fan eventually presents the winning bidder with a finished fanwork tailored to her request.

This type of challenge can be controversial because it contradicts the fannish principle that some types of fanworks, especially fanfiction and vids, should not be bought or sold. (The taboo against money changing hands when it comes to fanworks has historically not been so strong when it comes to fanart.)

The counter-argument is that since no fans are actually profiting from their fanwork in the case of a charity challenge, it technically isn't the case that fanwork is being "bought" or "sold." But the fact that money is involved at all (sometimes in extremely large sums) still causes some fans to worry that these types of challenges may draw the attention of TPTB and open up the participants to legal risk.

Some examples of charity challenges include Sweet Charity, Live Long and Marry, and Vidders4ACause.


In a fest, also sometimes called a prompt meme, the mods solicit prompts, collate them, and provide the list to participants. Each prompt may be claimed only a limited number of times (usually once or twice, or once each for fanart and fanfic). Participants may be assigned scattered due dates, resulting in weeks or months of daily fic, or all fic may be due on one day.

Recent examples include the LGBT Fest (now replaced by Queer Fest, after the original creators of LGBT Fest decided not continue with it) and The Characters of Color Love Fest.


Games challenges are contest-type fests, where teams pitted against each other create fanworks to be voted upon. The team with the most votes wins the round. Originated with Snarry Games in 2006.

Porn Battles

The largest porn battle is run by Oxoniensis. Twice a year, she solicits prompts consisting of pairings and prompt words, collates them, and provides the list. Participants have one week to:

{...] pick a prompt (any prompt, even if it's your own) and write the porniest bit of fiction you can, or make the hottest manip or painting or vid or song. Make it as kinky or as subtle as you like, but make it hot, melt your readers, create a stampede to all the fannish bunks worldwide.[7]

Other fans periodically run similar challenges, not all of them adult-oriented.


Theme challenges are ones in which participants make a claim, such as a character or pairing, and create fanworks about that claim while inspired by a set of various themes or prompts. The first themed challenge community was 30 Kisses, which was founded in early 2005. It inspired the creation of many similar challenges such as 10 cliche fics, 31 Days and Icon Fiend 100.

Prompt Tables

The first prompt table was Fanfic 100, billed as "the ultimate FanFic challenge." Like theme challenges, participants claim a theme, e.g., a character, pairing, or fandom, and must complete a set number of fanworks to various prompts. For instance, a Fanfic 100 participant who claimed the pairing Spike/Buffy from Buffy the Vampire Slayer would have to write 100 Spike/Buffy stories to such prompts as heart, moon, and months.

There are many, many spin-off communities, including ones specifically for icons and recs.

Drabble and Flashfic Communities

Many fandoms have drabble or flashfic communities. The mod provides a weekly prompt, and members have that week to write drabbles or short stories that meet that prompt. For example, Advent Drabbles is a multifandom challenge that operated for 24 days during December.


There are many Icontests (Icon Contests) on LiveJournal. The mod provides a weekly prompt, and members create icons that meet that prompt. Members then have a chance to vote for the best icons.


LIMS stands for Last Icon Maker Standing. These are ongoing icontests; icon-makers sign up at the beginning of a cycle, and each week the icon maker whose icon(s) garners the fewest votes is eliminated.


A bingo challenge is one in which themed prompts are distributed as bingo cards. The bingo cards are then filled out by the creation of various fanworks to accrue points. The first bingo challenge was Kink Bingo.

On-Going Challenges

Many websites or communities may have a list of prompts that passers-by or members are welcome to fulfill at any time. For instance, Yuletide invites writers to fulfill New Year's Resolutions year-round by writing unfulfilled prompts from the previous year's challenge; 1 million words is an ongoing project that aims to have participants write as many words as possible using prompts.


Be The First! is a challenge in which fan writers write the first stories for obscure fandoms or media texts.


Some people feel that due to so many challenges, there isn't enough spontaneous fic writing happening in fandom.[8]

A fan wrote:

Challenges annoy me, and the more specific and prescriptive they are, the more annoyed I get. I suppose I think that if you're so keen that a particular story be written then you should bloody well write it yourself. I'll sometimes see one that is sort of interesting, but what I'd want to do with it is usually quite different from what the 'challenger' is demanding. Especially hate "must have big Qui grovelling scene and boot sex" sort of prescriptions. Hello, the writer can write whatever they want. Possibly I'd feel friendly toward these things if they were called "humble requests" rather than "challenges" (or "challanges" which is worse). I don't mind open-ended ones so much, because they implicitly give the writer more scope to write what they fancy. I think tossing around "ideas" in discussion is more constructive. [9]

Another fan that challenges produced boring, careless fiction:

... you’ll never find me either issuing challenges or participating in them. They are, in my opinion, anathema to decent writing. They’re incredibly silly, and I wouldn’t even agree that they’re harmless since they engender a belief that they are actually producing fiction worth having. In our throw-away culture, surely a greater challenge is to produce something which will have value for more than the instant moment? Something which provokes a warmer response than a mere wry smile as it is tossed into the trash can of history? The aim of every fan writer should be to produce work which can still be read with pleasure in ten years’ time - by a core audience of Old Faithfuls, a constant stream of new readers, and most importantly of all by the author him- or herself. If you don’t set yourself that target, if you don’t even believe it is possible, then you need to re-examine your whole reason for writing as it is quite likely you’re wasting your time and everyone else’s. [10]

On the other hand, many fans enjoy challenges, and the specific crowd of fans who like participating in challenges sometimes call themselves exchange fandom.


See Also