Covid-19 and Fandom

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Also see Con Plague.

Event: Covid-19 and Fandom
Date(s): March 2020 -
Type: The impact of Covid-19 on fandom
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The Covid-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on the daily lives of much of the world's population. In an effort to prevent the spread of the virus many people self-isolated in line with their country or state's guidelines. These self-isolation measures also had an impact on fandom and fan activities.

In 2020 and 2021, many large gatherings of fans at conventions had to be cancelled, with some events going online and holding virtual cons. At the same time, many professional media suspended production, and there was a noticeable increase in fans accessing fan created content. Fan creators also responded to the crisis with works dealing explicitly with Covid-19, social distancing and related topics.

Covid-19 also resulted in the deaths of many fans, several of whom were well known figures in fandom, including Bast and Anne Elizabeth Zeek.

Disruption in Canon Creation

One of the first forms of social distancing implemented in many places was limiting the number of people who could gather together in one place. Since many forms of professional entertainment (and things that inspire fandoms) require large numbers of people, it resulted in cancelled events and production hiatuses.

In terms of American network television, most shows were unable to finish filming the last few episodes of the season before the production hiatus was implemented. For shows in their final season, such as Supernatural's season 15, it left the question of whether there would ever be a proper ending. For shows in their first season, it severely complicated the idea of renewal.

Not just existing shows were affected. New shows were unable to film a pilot, essentially stalling the creation of new fandoms. For months, therefore, the entire idea of the 2020-21 TV season was in question.

Music RPF fandoms were also affected, as popular bands and solo acts cancelled or postponed their tours. For example, at least some of the tourdates for My Chemical Romance's long-awaited reunion tour, scheduled to begin in March, were postponed.[1] BTS's 2020 tour was also postponed.[2]

Sports RPF fans were similarly affected, as various team sports cancelled their seasons.

All Broadway productions stopped performances on March 12, so Theater fans could no longer attend performances, and some shows ended up closing and not planning on reopening.[3]

Increased Demand for Fanfiction

March 2020 saw a surge in people reading fanfiction, as schools and colleges closed and many people were self-isolating at home. The fanfiction archive Ao3 put emergency measures in place to help the site cope with its increased traffic.

Emergency measures affecting works

The Archive has seen a marked uptick in traffic during March, with weekly page views increasing from 262 million to 298 million in just two weeks. We expect this trend to continue, and in order to keep the site running, we need to take emergency measures. The quickest, most helpful change we can make is caching the works we serve to logged out users. Unfortunately, this means that starting immediately, logged out users may experience a delay in work updates, and hits from logged out users will no longer be included in works' hit counts.[4]

Fans reacted positively to the measures. Many encouraged logged out users to sign up for accounts, with Ao3 users on Tumblr offering to send invite links to logged out users. Readers were also encouraged to show their appreciation for creators through the use of comments and kudos, as hits might no longer be an accurate reflection of readership.

my recommendation is to get yourselves some AO3 accounts if you somehow don’t have one yet. and, as a creator, I would highly recommend leaving feedback on stuff you like. there is going to be an artificial decrease in hits for authors for a while, and this is a particularly lonely and stressful time. if someone’s work is helping you through this difficult time…. help them in return.[5]

This was continuing a trend some were already noticing in fandom. Even before the Ao3 emergency measures were announced, some fans had been encouraging readers to leave comments as a show of gratitude to fanfic writers in this time of crisis.[citation needed] There definitely is evidence that fans were commenting more during the period. Comparing April 2020 to February 2020 numbers, traffic was up by 24% and kudos increased by 23%. At the same time, comments were up an impressive 42% on February's numbers.[6]

Others encouraged fans to donate to the OTW, the volunteer organization behind the Ao3 that relied entirely on donations.

And if you can spare in in the meantime, consider donating to AO3. We’re home in isolation and they’re here for us, hosting the fanfiction we’re all keeping ourselves busy reading and writing to slow the effects of cabin fever. Sending a few bucks their way to help them keep doing that wouldn’t go awry.[7]

From a 2022 discussion:

I belong to the group of people who started fanfic writing as a hobby during the Covid lockdown because their other hobbies weren't available /work from home/no travel etc. I think there are quite a few of us.

Enough to swell AO3's readership.
Oh, that's a good one! It's so recent that it's hard to think of it as history, but you're right. Kind of a modern day version of Boccacio's Decameron, with all of us staying inside during a plague and telling each other stories.
I wrote a single one-shot in October 2019 just to get a particular idea out of my head and correct a grievous situation in canon, but in March of 2020, when I was forced to begin working off-site, I delved back into that fandom to produce a sequel. 900K words across a dozen fandoms later, and here I am.
Same here! Covid got me into so many hobbies I may never have gotten into, fanfic writing may be one of my favorites.
I finished off a book series during quarantine and found myself hungry for more, what with nothing else to do. I began writing an alternate ending (of which I’m 13k words in!) but that was taking too long- I wanted to read it now! I couldn’t just wait for me to finish! I had knew vaguely of Ao3 (how I found out about is a saga in of itself) and decided to take a gander. The rest is history, as they say.
And then there was the 2020 pandemic, where I went a little bit crazy, but in a very quiet and productive "I think I'll just write 100,000 words in two months" fashion.[8]

Trends in Fan Created Works


By mid March 2020, quarantine fics were appearing on Ao3. Some of these works were Canon AUs where the reason for the quarantine was not related to the current Covid-19 virus. Still other works were canon-divergent works or Modern AUs set during the virus outbreak, and featured characters self-isolating in line with Covid-19 measures. In some of these works, Character X gets corona virus can lead to sickfic scenarios.

In some cases, people who became well known during lockdown began to appear in fanworks, including fanart and RPF. This includes fics, widely reported in the UK, pairing P.E. teacher Joe Wicks x Reader.[9] Health Ministers and high-profile medical experts also began appearing in Political RPF fics on Ao3 throughout 2020 and 2021.

Fandom specific tropes & storylines

  • In Good Omens fandom, Covid-19 is sometimes the work of Pestilence, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Pestilence may also have a hand in spreading misinformation about the virus and downplaying its seriousness. In some works Pestilence comes out of retirement for Covid-19, while in other works they have been spreading misinformation about vaccines for decades.
  • An article about fanfiction set in specific locations revealed the influence of current events. "In books and writing, you can put yourself in the place of a character, and, in [the fan fictions], I can put myself in a character who’s on campus when I personally can’t be on campus." [11]


Fanvids made in response to the virus outbreak, sometimes drew parallels between post-apocalyptic source materials and current events. Some of these vids use actual news footage and reporting on the virus outbreak, inter-cut with scenes and audio from fictional source materials.

Fests and Community

Lock Down Fest ran from March 20–30, 2020 and was a "non-anon, self-posting, multi-ship and multi-fandom mini fest that is designed to bring comfort to everyone staying indoors under quarantine restrictions at the moment and to all of us experiencing fear because of the pandemic" that was hosted on AO3. All works posted as part of the fest had to follow one of two themes, either "Getting Stuck In/Isolated Together (which doesn’t need to involve the virus in any way whatsoever)" or "Quarantine-inspired, if it occurs during the current pandemic".[12] 179 works in 110 fandoms were posted to the collection.

Fic Journal of the Plague Year is an ongoing fic collection on AO3. The profile states: "All fics in this open collection should be: (1) written during the period of the coronavirus situation and (2) include commentary in the end note explaining how the fic and/or writing process were affected by the global crisis. The fics don't necessarily have to be about illness, isolation, or the effects of the pandemic; instead, the feelings, thoughts, and experiences the writer is going through during this situation should have influenced the fics in some way."[13]

Starting with issue #221, released on March 27, 2020, the weekly newsletter The Rec Center began including a new section titled "lockdown stuff", described as "any fandom-oriented online community events, fests, virtual cons, etc".[14]

The Isolated Johnlock Collection on AO3 collects fanworks for the Sherlock (TV series) (and related fandoms) that are thematically related to the pandemic. Specifically, works where "John and Sherlock are isolated at 221B or somewhere else (abroad, an island) due to CORVID19 or any other type of apocalypse (aliens/zombies). One of them can be isolated while the other is an essential worker. John and Sherlock can be characters in the background while your main otp takes the lead." As of August 2020, the collection has 60 fanworks.[15]


A quarantine house meme posted by weallturnleft on tumblr for the Star Trek fandom.

People have responded to Covid-19 with a wave of related memes in and out of fannish circles. One popular trend is photoshop manipulated images of fictional characters wearing masks or edits of fictional characters with captions related to Covid-19 safety. Some fans have found screencaps of characters standing far apart and added jokes about social distancing.

Another trend includes creating a list of fictional characters (or outside of fandom, celebrities or politicians) divided into houses and having commentators choose a house to lockdown in.

this quarantine got me feeling like luke’s guy walker… trapped on dagobah with that gay little frog, help LOL![16]

At the end of 2020, there were many fandom-specific 2020 Calendars - with creators using gifs from a particular source material to represent the months of 2020. March often extended for several months, while several other months merged into one month.[17] Some Calendars also included Destiel, as an event occurring between November and December, a reference to November 5, 2020.[18] A very early text post by Tumblr user gracelessstars may have been the inspiration for these 2020 Calendars; posted on December 2, 2020, several 2020 Calendars link to this post as their inspiration.[19]

In mid - 2021, the My Fall Plans / The Delta Variant meme arose on Twitter and spread to other social media sites and Tumblr.[20] The meme usually consists of two pictures, often from the same source material, one labeled "My Fall Plans," and the other labeled "Delta Variant". The implication been that the Delta variant is turning up to ruin people's 2021 plans.

Cancelled and Reorganized Events

  • 221B Con cancelled their April 3–6, 2020 con. The unofficial "221B-Consolation Fest" tumblr account ran a fest the same weekend.[21]
  • Bitchin Party aka Pacificon, originally scheduled for April 3–5, 2020, is postponed until November 13–15, 2020.[22]
  • Concentric Eastercon 2020, cancelled.[23]
  • CONfabulation rescheduled their 2020 convention for October 21–24, 2021.[24] They are holding an online convention in 2020 on November 7 and 8.[25]
  • CON.TXT, scheduled for July 24–26, 2020, was postponed until July 9–11, 2021.[26] They will be hosting a free, one-day virtual con on July 25, 2020.[27]
  • CoNZealand, the 78th World Science Fiction Convention, has announced plans to hold a virtual convention.[28][29]
  • Emerald City Comic Con was rescheduled from March to August.[30]
  • Europodfriends, scheduled for October 16–18, will be online-only.[31]
  • FanWorks Con rescheduled from August 8-9th, 2020 to March 19–21, 2021, with plans to hold a virtual con during the original con weekend in August 2020.[32]
  • Gamescom 2020, Europe's largest Video gaming convention, scheduled to run August 25–29, will be held as a digital event[33]
  • San Diego Comic Con 2020, slated for July 23–26, will return to the San Diego Convention Center July 22–25, 2021.[34]
  • Shrekfest Wisconsin 2020 was cancelled.
  • VidUKon, scheduled for June 12–14, 2020, cancelled the physical con and will instead run as a virtual con during the same dates.[35]
  • Wiscon 44, scheduled for May 2020, was cancelled.[36] An online convention is planned.[37]
  • Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund - Orange Mike Lowrey, the 2020 TAFF winner, was originally scheduled to attend the 2020 Swecon and Eastercon; those trips were cancelled, and as of September 2021 he has announced plans to take the 2020 trip in spring of 2022, attending the Eurocon and Eastercon in April.[38]
  • The three Final Fantasy XIV fan festivals meant to take place in 2021 were cancelled and consolidated into one single online festival.[39]
  • Enchanted 3 was delayed from its original date in June 2020 to April 2021, before being moved again to October of the same year.

A "Con-Solation Vidshow" was organized by seekingferret for vidders to showcase premiering vids for cancelled cons.[40]

Example Fanworks

A meme posted by What Happens on the Holodeck, Stays on the Holodeck. Many fans have produced fannish memes to encourage social distancing or mask wearing, with varying levels of bluntness.

Examples Wanted: Editors are encouraged to add more examples or a wider variety of examples.









  • "FicJournal of the Plague Year: An [[AO3]] Community". Archived from the original on 2022-04-10. {{cite web}}: URL–wikilink conflict (help). The description reads, "As people all over the world deal with the coronavirus and its fallout, fic writing can be a place to process our feelings and provide a document of how fic and fic communities are helping us through this very weird time. All fics in this open collection should be: (1) written during the period of the coronavirus situation and (2) include commentary in the end note explaining how the fic and/or writing process were affected by the global crisis. The fics don't necessarily have to be about illness, isolation, or the effects of the pandemic; instead, the feelings, thoughts, and experiences the writer is going through during this situation should have influenced the fics in some way."


Further reading


  1. ^ Wikipedia:My Chemical Romance Reunion Tour (accessed 3 May 2020)
  2. ^ Wikipedia:Map_of_the_Soul_Tour (accessed 3 May 2020)
  3. ^ Archived from the original on 2021-06-25. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. ^ Emergency measures affecting works, AO3 newspost. March 31, 2020.
  5. ^ Emergency measures affecting works, tumblr post by callmearcturus, March 31, 2020.
  6. ^ AO3 Statistics 2020: A Look Behind the Scenes, published May 9, 2020.
  7. ^ [1] reblog by kedreeva, March 31, 2020.
  8. ^ from What parts of fandom history were you a part of? (August 2022)
  9. ^ Joe Wicks fan fiction is the material to get you through lockdown, Evening Standard, April 2, 2020.
  10. ^ Good Omens gets official quarantine fanfiction for the book’s 30th anniversary (Accessed May 22, 2020)
  11. ^ Student compiles spreadsheet of Ithaca College fan fiction (Accessed September 26, 2020)
  12. ^ "Lock Down Fest". Archived from the original on 2022-03-25. Accessed 9 April 2020.
  13. ^ "Fic Journal of the Plague Year". Archived from the original on 2022-04-10. Accessed 9 April 2020.
  14. ^ "The Rec Center #221". posted 27 March 2020.
  15. ^ Isolated Johnlock Collection, Archive capture from August 13, 2020
  16. ^ Tumblr reblog (Original OP deactivated)
  17. ^ 2020:A New Girl Calendar by lovelovecaliforniadreams, December 28, 2020.
  18. ^ 2020: A Witcher Calendar by redbelles, Dec 20 2020.
  19. ^ 2020 has been like post by gracelessstars, December 2, 2020.
  20. ^ My Fall Plans/The Delta Variant at Know Your Meme
  21. ^ "221B-Consolation Fest 2020 is OPEN!". Archived from the original on 2020-04-04.
  22. ^ "BP2020 POSTPONED to November 13-15". {{cite web}}: |archive-url= requires |archive-date= (help), posted to dreamwidth, 10 March 2020.
  23. ^ Important Announcement from the Chairs of Concentric Eastercon, March 22, 2020.
  24. ^ "CONfabulation website". {{cite web}}: |archive-url= requires |archive-date= (help) (Accessed 4 April 2020.)
  25. ^ "CONfabulation twitter". Archived from the original on 2020-08-01. {{cite web}}: Text "(Accessed 1 August 2020.)" ignored (help)
  26. ^ "CON.TXT 2020 homepage". {{cite web}}: |archive-url= requires |archive-date= (help), updated 26 March 2020.
  27. ^ "Announcing dates for CON.TXT 2021!". Archived from the original on 2020-06-10. posted 8 April 2020.
  28. ^ CoNZealand is going virutal, blog post March 25, 2020.
  29. ^ CoNZealand: Special Announcement, March 25, 2020
  30. ^ "A Statement From Reedpop – Organizers Of Emerald City Comic Con". {{cite web}}: |archive-url= requires |archive-date= (help), 6 March 2020.
  31. ^ "EPF 2020 - Virtual event only". Archived from the original on 2020-05-03. posted by frecklebombfic in the dreamwidth community, 28 April 2020.
  32. ^ "FanWorks is officially moving to March 19 - 21st, 2021". {{cite web}}: |archive-url= requires |archive-date= (help), posted to dreamwidth, 16 March 2020.
  33. ^ "Gamescom is officially canceled, but a digital event is 'definitely' going ahead". Archived from the original on 2020-05-03. {{cite web}}: Text "PC Gamer" ignored (help)
  34. ^ "Coronavirus pandemic cancels San Diego Comic-Con 2020". Archived from the original on 2020-05-03.
  35. ^ "VidUKon 2020 - We're going online!". posted 30 March 2020.
  36. ^ "WisCon 44 is now canceled". {{cite web}}: |archive-url= requires |archive-date= (help), 24 March 2020.
  37. ^ "We're Planning An Online WisCon!". {{cite web}}: |archive-url= requires |archive-date= (help), posted 31 March 2020.
  38. ^ "Eastercon 2022 Announced - Comments". Archived from the original on 2021-10-27.
  39. ^ "Important Announcement Regarding the European Fan Festival". Archived from the original on 2022-03-03.
  40. ^ "con_solation dreamwidth community". {{cite web}}: |archive-url= requires |archive-date= (help) (Accessed 4 April 2020.)
  41. ^ Episode 150: Post-Pandemic Fandom on Archived and accessed on September 1, 2021.