Curtainfic

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Synonyms: Curtain!fic, Domestic fic
See also: Fluff, Schmoop, Tuppertrek, Domestic Avengers
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Curtainfic is a term used to describe fan fiction focusing on domestic tranquility, such as the characters in a romantic pairing "shopping for curtains" (literally or figuratively) and building a home together.

It can be part of a larger romantic plot (for instance, showing that the characters are "acting like a couple" or denoting a happy ending), or a way to explore how characters from fantastic or action-packed settings would behave in ordinary circumstances. This latter incarnation often draws criticisms of being Out of Character, and fans who object to the trope often do so because of the cognitive dissonance it provokes from reading hardened, grizzled action heroes or characters from dark and dangerous canons behaving so domestically. Some writers have found fertile ground for crackfic in subverting the trope or showing just how unlikely it would be in a canon-compliant scenario.

However, many fans are drawn to this trope specifically for its fluffy and soothing nature, whether this contrasts with or complements the original canon. Curtainfic is typically identified as being specifically romantic,[1] and sometimes as a slash-specific trope,[2] but the term has also been applied to gen fic.

Tropes

Curtainfic may overlap with or include elements of related tropes, such as:

  • Established relationship
  • IKEA fic set in the 2010s or later, in which the characters go shopping for furniture (especially baby furniture such as cots and cribs) then have trouble assembling it, regardless of their technical skills in other areas
  • Kidfic, which may spend considerable time describing the domestic details of preparing for a new baby or adjusting to life with children
  • Quarantine fic may involve domestic situations in an established relationship or similar situations may force getting together

History

It isn't known precisely when the term "curtainfic" was first used, but the below references from the late 1990s (which so far are the earliest found[note 1]) show that "hang[ing] the curtains" or "curtain-shopping" were already established terms for a particular type of domestic fic.

A letter of comment from a reader, in the Due South zine Pure Maple Syrup #4, published January 1997:

"And They Lived Happily Ever After, The End" by Julien--The fifth and final story of the above series and exactly what it says it is. And they clean an apartment, though I don't think we actually *see* them hang the curtains. :-) [3]

A reference in a September 1998 exchange between fans:

<_Te_> I think that a lot of violence can be excused by looking at canon. Rape, snuff, anything and everything is far more plausible than M&K going shopping for curtains.
<_Torch_> The Curtain Challenge. Write a curtain-shopping story that isn't schmoop. Can it be done?[4]

It's possible that several fans independently started using "curtain fic" or "shopping for curtains" as a shorthand for this specific type of domestic fic, as the trope of characters making a home together may well have existed without being given a specific name. As a fan commented in 2009,

I sometimes wonder if I wasn't present at, if not actively involved in, the origin of the term "curtain fic" -- because I distinctly remember a discussion on the old FCA-L mailing list[note 2] about slash fiction, where I commented crankily that I didn't particularly care for the kind of slash story which ignored the existence of the canon universe so thoroughly that the whole point of the plot was that Characters X and Y went shopping for curtains.

Of course, given that things like this travel in waves across fandom, if it was bugging me at that point in time it was probably bugging another couple of dozen people as well, and probably in something close to the same terms.[5]

Fan Comments

General

2003

From a rant on Livejournal:

I don't like the term "curtain fics". I really don't.

What it means, taken literaly[sic], is a story where two people in an established relationship decide what curtains their home should have. Now, since there can't be all that many stories that are actually about curtains, an addition to the interpretation would be "or stuff like that".

Now, to me, that implies something rather saccharine and plotless. But the phrase isn't just used about saccharine and plotless stories set in an established relationship - it's used about any story set in an established relationship, rather like the way some people use "Mary Sue" about any original character.

And it annoys me, because it's the old romance trap all over again: nothing interesting could possibly happen to people once they're together. Lovers must be kept apart at all costs (a brief period together can be allowed - in the beginning if it's a tragedy and the end if it's a comedy).[6]

A challenge at DS Flashfiction that sought to subvert the idea of "curtainfic":

i'd love to see forty-odd tiny curtainfic stories. buying curtains, hanging curtains, climbing them, pulling them down, getting them all dirty -- curtains of hair, th-th-that's all folks curtains, iron curtain metaphors -- let's beat this hoary old cliche into the ground, shall we? [7]

2006

A fan reflecting on fic preferences in a Livejournal post:

Defining what it is you like about stories isn’t always easy, but it’s a lot easier than sticking to that definition. A few days ago a few of us were ‘chatting’ about whether or not it was possible to establish a definite or fixed set of criteria for classifying the stories we liked. And if applied consistently, would these criteria enable you (almost) to predict the kind of story you would prefer? And were there common denominators between the stories that one liked, even though those stories might at first appear to be very different? I’ve always thought I preferred the stories which came under the label of gritty realism; day-to-day realism; non-sentimental; non-slushy; non ‘curtain-buying’ fics; stories where the characterisations are true to the Bodie and Doyle of canon; stories which might contain some degree of wistfulness, sadness or have an air of melancholy about them. In my earlier days of reading Pros I’d happily read stories which probably couldn’t be described in this way, such as The Hunting by Jane, but lately I think I’ve become much more picky, less easy to please and probably less likely to be satisfied by that type of story.[8]

2012

A comment on Come Morning Light, a DeanCas fic:

Wow, this is fantastic. It's starts out as an atmospheric curtainfic, and then it develops into so much more that it simply took my breath away. I love how you show Cas's more than questionable actions and his somewhat dubious reasons for doing what he does, and how ultimately Dean chooses the illusion, because he'd rather live the lie with Sam than face the truth without him.[9]

2017

From an essay entitled 'What is Curtain Fic?' by fantasy author J.M. Ney-Grimm:

It’s always a little startling when I discover something about myself – in this case, my reading tastes – that is fundamental and yet has gone unsuspected by me for years. But the illumination shed by learning the term curtain fic shone further than the books I read.

Because my first thought upon perusing the definition was: “Ah, ha! So this is a thing! People like stories with this quiet, mundane focus. Which means that my longing to write a story with a quiet, non-epic scale is not just a strange oddity possessed only by me. I could gratify my wish to write in this way. And there might even be a few people who would read it and enjoy it. Wow!”[10]

2020

A comment in a FFA thread on Temeraire:

Cozy and conflictless curtainfic? I know people like to rag on it, but it's a old and proud fandom tradition for a reason.[11]

2022

A comment in a FFA thread on 'Fandom Brattiness':

I have noticed that plenty of dark ships in canon of any gender combination seemed more likely to get wall-to-wall fluff fic while fluffy ships got endless angst fic, but assumed it was the "I want from fandom what I couldn't get from canon" thing. But that could just be confirmation bias. Plenty of Hannigram-level m/m ships get a lot of curtainfic, though, and plenty of fluffy ships get "everybody dies and/or fights/kills each other" because...idk, I assume again because it's different.[12]

Manifestation in Different Fandoms

Fans have often commented on the particular forms that curtainfic tends to take in their respective fandoms:

Somehow this challenge collided head-on with the discussion I was having with someone the other day, saying that in Due South, curtainfic is usually plumbingfic... and here's what happened.[13]

To me curtainfic is kind of inherently shippy because the characters are nesting and establishing a life together. But I think the trope works best as gen when it's more than two people -- a found-family type situation. TW has some preslash (essentially gen) fic where Derek rebuilds the house and all the pack moves in. With SPN, it's usually everyone settling down together and being all domestic in the bunker.[14]

The Supernatural Wiki observes:

In Supernatural fic, these stories - predominately Wincest or Destiel- cover any pairing, and often focus on a time after the characters have retired from hunting and settle down together or on interludes when they stay in one place, often due to someone being injured. There are also stories which are Gen (any combination of characters including Team Free Will) or even Sam and Dean settling down with a female partner.

[...]

J2 stories in this genre have always been around, although when Jared and Jensen started sharing a house in Vancouver in mid-2008 the number of non_AU stories written in the genre increased markedly.[15]

Example Fanworks

Fanfiction

The suggestion was made that curtainfic is impossible in Age of Sail fandoms. damned_colonial promptly took this as a challenge. Not a crossover in the traditional sense, this is a set of 5 ficlets with a common theme: curtains. They are by turns humorous and sweet and each one is a perfectly believable snapshot of the time and the characters.[16]

Fanart

Events & Challenges

External Links

Notes

  1. ^ If any earlier examples are known, please add them!
  2. ^ FCA-L, a mailing list for the critical discussion of fannish topics, dates back to November 1999 - so the previous two quotations predate this, but it's more evidence of the term having been in use in the late 90s.

References

  1. ^ In 2009, aelfgyfu_mead wrote of a fic on Dreamwidth that was supposedly curtainfic: "I think it's borderline; it's not romantic-domestic, for the most part, which is my understanding of curtainfic." (Cliché meme twist by aelfgyfu_mead, January 21, 2009). This FFA thread features an entire discussion on whether or not curtainfic can be gen; most conclude that the trope is dependent on romance, but some argue that gen fics focusing on establishing a home together could/should qualify.
  2. ^ In a 2008 piece of meta on Dreamwidth (Archived link), staranise wrote that "Slash has curtainfic"; The Fanfictionary by eiahmon states that curtainfic "is either a Slashfic or is a Sequel to one". (Archived link)
  3. ^ Pure Maple Syrup fanzine, issue #4, 7 January 1997; Letters of Comment, reader's initials C.F., page 136.
  4. ^ "quote from discussion between fans on X-Files usenet". email archived from Alt.tv.x-files.creative usenet. 1998-09-10.
  5. ^ malkingrey (2009-01-23). "comment by malkingrey on rahirah LJ re Fic cliches meme". LiveJournal. Archived from the original on 2021-05-11.
  6. ^ cmshaw (2003-09-23). "LJ post re curtain fics". LiveJournal. Archived from the original on 2021-04-16.
  7. ^ kattahj (2003-05-15). "ADMIN POST: Curtainfic Challenge". Dreamwidth. Archived from the original on 2022-08-27.
  8. ^ shooting2kill (2006-01-18). "Murder on the Moor". LiveJournal. Archived from the original on 2014-10-03.
  9. ^ frozen_delight (2015-03-25). "comment on Castiel/Dean Winchester SPN fic". AO3.
  10. ^ J.M. Ney-Grimm (2017-07-28). "What Is Curtain Fic?". http://jmney-grimm.com. Archived from the original on 2021-06-22. {{cite web}}: External link in <code class="cs1-code">|website=</code> (help)
  11. ^ "comment on FFA". Fail Fandomanon. 2020-05-20.
  12. ^ "comment on FFA". Fail Fandomanon. 2022-01-09. Archived from the original on 2022-08-27.
  13. ^ damned_colonial (2005-04-28). "Oh, What A Dirty, Dirty Challenge by damned_colonial (Water Cure)". Dreamwidth. Archived from the original on 2022-08-27.
  14. ^ "comment on FFA". Fail Fandomanon. 2014-01-31. Archived from the original on 2022-08-28.
  15. ^ "Curtain Fic". Supernatural Wiki. last revised 2019-04-16. Archived from the original on 2022-08-28. {{cite web}}: Check date values in: |date= (help)
  16. ^ fairestcat (2005-08-15). "Horatio Hornblower/Master and Commander/Pirates of the Caribbean/Sharpe (PG)". Dreamwidth. Archived from the original on 2022-08-27.