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Tropes and genres
Synonym(s)crack! (as in crack!fic, crack!vid)
Related tropes/genresAlternate Universe, Badfic, Crack Ship, Crossover, Sillyfic
See alsoHumor, PWP
Related articles on Fanlore.

Crack has two main meanings in a fandom context, both playing off the slang for crack cocaine:

One,[1] that a fanwork is highly addictive. The rec community Crack Van played with this definition. "Crack" was also common slogan in older anime fandom and emblazoned on t-shirts and bumper stickers.[2] One example was "Anime: Crack is Cheaper," referring to both the addictiveness of anime, and the expense of obtaining it on VHS.[3]

Two, crack can describe fanworks with a fundamentally ludicrous premise, or otherwise including a plethora of unbelievable, incredible, or just plain silly elements - that is, implying the author/artist must have been on drugs to produce something so bonkers. It may be used in a compound noun ("crackfic"), or as an adjective ("crack pairing"). On tumblr, posts in the vein of crack may be labelled as crack!post.

These two meanings may be meant simultaneously, e.g. "DC Comics is delicious crack."

History of the Term

A fan, Katharine Scarritt, commented in 2015, about the term she felt she originated. While the date of this use is not specified, it is likely in the late 1990s:

I was also the one who invented apparently the term “crack” for fic... Inadvertently, because we were talking about whether stories should be good, and what reasonable expectations people should have of writers, and things like that. And I said, you know, you get something out of stories – I don't remember the exact analogy now. But it was something like, now people want to go to a story just like going to a crack house and get your fix. They want their fix. They're not interacting with the story, and once that fix is done, they want another new story. I was talking about how we used to reread stories over and over again, just like we watched episodes over and over and over again. Trying to get every, you know, suck every last little piece of juice out of it. Rereading was part of the entire pleasure of fanfic... And that made it therefore really important therefore the write the story as best as you could, because if people reread it, they start noticing flaws. You rarely, if a story's got a good feel to it, you rarely notice a lot of flaws on the first read-through. But you read it again and again, you're going to, errr. We were writing for those people who were going to read it five times. So yeah, I said that, and apparently that got picked up on, and by now “crackfic” is like a meme, you know? It's like, wow. [4]


"Crackfic" is a term for a story which takes a ridiculous premise as its starting point, such as casting all the canon characters as My Little Ponies or Girl Scout cookies. The fic may, or may not, deal with this premise in a serious way. What is considered crack can vary considerably from fandom to fandom - for example, a crack concept for a TV drama set in the real world might be normal for a more surreal or fantasy fandom.

When dealt with seriously, the phrase "Crack Treated Seriously" might be used, a tag or description probably popularised on AO3. The implication is that though the author considers the premise silly, the story is not written to be primarily humorous.

Multifandom fanfiction author Moonbeam defined the term on their FanFiction Terminology as of July 2005 as:

Crackfic -- refers to stories in which completely unbelievable or inexplicable things occur, generally written shamelessly and with no excuse beyond a desire to have fun. Often are also PWPs, though not always NC17. See also: 'PWP'[5]

by September 2017, the definition was updated to:

Crackfic refers to stories in which completely ridiculous, unbelievable or insane things occur, often without reasonable explanation but great enjoyment. Are generally written shamelessly and with no excuse beyond a desire to have fun. Often are also PWPs, though not always NC17. Are almost always humourous, although it is possible to write them seriously. Is so referred not only because such crackfics often seem as if they could only be conceived by an author riding a high, but also because they can be hilariously addictive to readers as well. See also: Humour and/or PWP"


Negative or Neutral Term?

Discussion has arisen within fandom about whether the label "crackfic" can be pejorative. Some claim that initially it was always meant derogatory: "Initally, Crack!fic was short for "oh, god. That's aweful. the writer must be on crack to have beagles be in their story or have blair shot/stabbed/raped/require a liver transplant/etc or think that wings were a good idea." It was derogatory, and there was nothing positive in it. The story was self-indugent codswollop, with no basis in reality or canon, and there was do doubt about that." [7]

Some argue that such a label gives the writer permission to take the topic and/or writing less seriously, thus producing substandard fiction: "The downside is it's also an excuse to be lazy in the name of fun. So I think crackfic in the hands of careless or inexperienced writer could be a painful, ugly thing." [8]

Others believe that crack simply refers to the inherent silliness of the topic, and those who write crack can do so with just as much skill as any "serious" writer: "Crackfic is, IMO, a matter of premise. Crackfic implies an initial premise that is implausible, if not impossible, a premise that's surrealist, even absurdist. Someone turns into a girl. Or a badger. Or a penguin. Or they sprout wings. Or lay eggs. Or get pregnant, despite being a man. x being y for z minutes. They get set down in a historical context outside the limits of accepted behavior, without being called on it - a man is "cast" as a schoolmarm, complete with skirts and petticoats." [9]

Other fans dislike the term as it pre-labels a fic for them: "... that's why it bothers me, sometimes, when an author labels a story crackfic—she's doing the thinking for me, telling me how to judge the story, where to rank it. But I want to do that, myself. And it is, I'm sure, about the writer's feelings about her story and her own process while writing it, but it still bugs me some to be told that I shouldn't be taking this story seriously. What if I do? Does that mean my judgement is off?" [10]

For a very early 2006 discussion of crackfic, see What is this human thing called crackfic?.

Definition & Criteria

Depending on the fandom, certain tropes or plot twists may or may not be considered "crack." A fandom like DC Comics - which features clones, shapeshifters, angels, mermaids, space aliens and an island of magical lesbian separatists all happily coexisting in one canon - has a higher standard for crack than a fandom like due South. In turn, due South's quirky, offbeat tone and occasional moments of magical realism lends itself better to stories with fanciful premises than a source with an emphasis on strict realism, like Law & Order or The Wire. Several DC Comics fans made this point by taking the wtf_27 challenge, and finding examples for every "crackfic" prompt (such as bodyswap or wingfic) in mainstream canon.[11]

Some crack premises that were presented as absurd in older fanworks (even if the term "crack" had not been invented yet) have outlived the original definition. One example is early m/m fanworks such as Kirk/Spock (TOS) in which the very premise was seen as outlandish. Most fans today would also probably avoid labeling or writing a fic where a character "turns into a girl" as crack. Some early crack premises, such as mpreg, once seen as very rare and outlandish would likely be used as a trope today.

Some fandoms are known for crack above and beyond that in canon; e.g. Stargate: Atlantis has a reputation for producing crackfic.

Crack Videos

Crack vids are a phenomenon in some TV and anime fandoms. These are vids that edit, mashup, and remix the canon footage to humorous effect. They may include footage from other shows "using the same format that Tumblr does with gifs to expand on the original scenes and explain what the audience's reaction would be." Often these vids are composed of very brief scenes separated by a burst of static.[12][13]

Because these videos are so brief, they often rely on well-known media. That's why you end up hearing Frozen's Let It Go or the uber nostalgic Every Time We Touch by Cascada. Crack videos reaffirm what the fans already know about themselves. "I have this feeling about this character", it's a way if sharing a communal memory.[12]

The crack vid phenomenon has been traced back to AMV Hell which began in 2004.[13]

Examples in Fanworks




livejournal communities

Further Reading/Meta

External links