Deleting Fanworks

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Related terms: Pulled to Publish Sharing Deleted Fanworks, Fic Finding
See also: Fannish Regrets, Keeping Track of Fanworks on the Internet, Orphaning Fanworks
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Deleting Fanworks is a not-uncommon practice of removing fanfiction, vids, fanart or other fanworks from public circulation, commonly on the internet. Fanworks may be removed either actively, through deletion by the creator, or passively, through abandonment or by the action of the site moderators.

Practices regarding deleted fanworks changed significantly with the advent of the internet, which fundamentally changed how fanworks could be published and kept track of. There are different opinions on the validity of a creator's choice to delete their fanworks and different decorum and protocols for Sharing Deleted Fanworks.

Reasons For Deleting Fanworks

There are many reasons for fans to delete their fanworks:

  • Gafiating (gafiating from fandom can lead to active deletion or passive deletion like when hundreds of thousands of fansites were taken offline when Yahoo ceased operating websites in 2009. See Geocities).
  • Pulling to Publish and/or Going Pro
  • Damage control, e.g., real life identity and fannish identity becoming connected, (fear of) being harassed or stalked in real life
  • Feeling pressured to finish a WIP that the fan writer has no time or interest in completing
  • Fannish Regrets (embarrassment over early efforts at fan fiction or vids, embarrassment over having been interested in a fandom or fannish activity the fan now feels is juvenile or less worthy of admitting participation)
  • No longer feeling comfortable (getting feedback about or being publicly associated) with a theme or genre the creator once made fanworks in, e.g., RPF, underage, noncon, etc.
  • Feeling under-appreciated and/or not getting enough recognition for their contributions (See Flounce). A subset of this is when a fanwork receives negative or critical feedback or reviews.
  • Removing fanfiction with the intention of rewriting, expanding or improving the story
  • Account Deletion
  • Other Reasons

Discussion

Why even discuss the reasons behind fans deleting their fanworks?

Because, in some fans' minds, the reasons for deletion can change how and when they choose to share deleted fanworks. For example, many fans would consider legitimate reasons to include being concerned about having one's real life and fannish identity connected or trying to break into professional writing, video editing or art. In the past, writers would often have to disavow any fannish writing if they were to be considered seriously for publication. Also, some fans choose to try to commercialize their fanfiction and believe that having the equivalent of a fannish first draft online may harm their profits. However, if a fan is deleting their work merely because they feel under-appreciated, their decision to delete may not be given equal deference.

Other fans react with puzzlement over the idea that anyone would believe they have the right — or the ability — to control the flow of information once it is posted on the Internet; these fans view attempts to delete fanworks futile and counter-productive.[1]

Well. Published is published, electronically or not. So even if an author pulls their work, it's still out there, and people are going to want to read the copies that exist. I think putting an author's deleted stories up on someone else's webspace is wrong, because that's making it available to people who weren't seeking it out. But peer-to-peer trading of copies? That is absolutely within fandom tradition (zine trading), and within real-life media precedent (copies of out-of-print books), and I don't believe it violates any sort of author distribution rights. Comment made by eccentrikita on April 18, 2011 by vickyblueeyez[2]

Some fans are worried about current and future privacy concerns and a potential chilling effect more centralized, obvious, and less-discreet means of sharing purposely deleted fic might have on posting fanworks publicly in the first place.[3] However, to many fans, the reasons for deletion do not matter. And, furthermore, they believe these reasons should not matter to other fans; fan writers and fan creators have, in their minds, absolute control over their fanworks and this control should never be questioned or debated.

Given the wide range of opinions, it is not unusual to find the topic of sharing deleted fanworks discussed in absolute moral and ethical terms with little room for nuance, disagreement or compromise.[4]

The reasons for deleting fanworks — and fans' reactions to the deletion — vary widely across the community, and deletion occurs more systematically in some fandoms than others.

At the same time, there is an entirely different situation when the CULTURE has become that fanwork is not created for any sort of archival purpose. Most popular fanfics in our fandom are removed from the internet within a few months of finishing. This has meant that readers save the fics as their default, and that they don't read stories in-progress because they're afraid they will be taken down. Because it hasn't become an issue of editing for publication or a chance of publication--if the fic is popular, it will be accepted, even recruited, by one of these micropresses--taking them down is the norm instead of having them available. Plus, anyone who takes her fics down for personal reasons ends up publicly crucified, which, IMO is a direct result of those who've removed their stories in order to sell them back to the fandom. No one trusts anyone to be telling the truth any longer. From a comment by giselle_lx[5]

Sharing Deleted Fanworks

Sharing Deleted Fanworks is the activity of sharing fanfiction, vids, fanart or other fanworks that have been removed from public circulation. Tohere are different opinions of the decorum and protocols of viewing or spreading saved copies of these works. Works may be shared publicly or privately between fans.

A few writers who have deleted their fanfiction have tried to push the envelope further, asking that fans not recommend or discuss their deleted fanworks.[6] Most fans find this to be a 'presumptuous' level of control and infringement on their speech.[7]

Alternative Options

See Orphan

An alternative to deleting fanworks has been pioneered by Archive of Our Own, a fan-run archive which aims to give fans more control of their content. In an effort to reduce the deletion of fanworks, the archive created a policy where fan writers can orphan their fanworks. Orphaning a fanwork will disassociate their username and account from a work - essentially removing their identity along with any credits associated with the fanwork, while leaving it up and available to readers.

Orphaning arguably addresses most of the fannish reasons for deletion (see list above), with the exception of fans deleting their work as punishment to other fans or entering into a professional publication contract that requires the fan fiction to be removed from the Internet, while allowing the fanwork to continue to exist. It therefore offers more flexibility to fans who might want to allow others to continue accessing their fic, but without having their identity attached to it.

However, some fan creators who are on the fence about removing their fanwork entirely may choose not to orphan it, as once a fanwork has been orphaned the original creator has no control over it anymore and cannot delete it (or comments on it) at a later point if they wish to.

The OTW's Open Doors initiative proactively offers creators the option of orphaning fanworks that are imported from an at risk archive to AO3 if they no longer want their fannish identity, or former fannish identity, attached to them.[8] The orphan_account user on Archive of Our Own surpassed 100,000 works in March 2019.[9]

Fanworks That Won't Delete

See also Keeping Track of Fanworks on the Internet

It should be said that on Tumblr the fate of fanworks can be very different. There is no way for users to delete reblogs of media (images, audio, video) they have uploaded to the site; even if they delete their original post, the reblogs all display the original content, and other users continue to reblog the reblogs, usually without noticing that the original has been deleted. Reblogging can be a deliberate as well as accidental method of preserving fanworks of interest.

For longer posts such as fanfics and gif-heavy masterposts, the poster might use the "Read More" function, which hides the content of the post in all reblogs and forces everyone to click through to the original post to see it. When the original is deleted, the reblogs still exist, but are essentially placeholders, tantalizing the viewer with what once was. However, even Read Mores are not fool-proof: any reblogger can theoretically still copy-paste the original post and add it to their reblog, and sometimes posts get saved by other websites. However, arguably any text on the internet is at risk of being copy-pasted.

Additionally, Archive Of Our Own's "Download" button makes it straightforward to download fanfics in MOBI, EPUB, PDF and HTML format to read later, easily creating copies that will not be effected if the original source is changed or deleted.

Meta & Further Reading

References

  1. Deleted fic lost and found, poll about creating a deleted fic community and discussion dated April 12, 2011. (Accessed 1 Jan 2012) Contrast this opinion by afullmargin: "Honestly, I've kind of always felt that posting it online opens it up to passing (as long as all credit is given where due) but I understand an author's reasons for removing a piece or deleting entirely. I'd say go for it, I certainly know I'd use it from time to time - but if there happens to be an author that makes it known/has made it known that they don't want their fic shared it would be nice to honor their request." with this opinion by wingslapped: "I'm not enthusiastic about the sort of comm. IMO if an author deletes a fic it should be assumed permission to repost is not given unless they say otherwise via e-mail, lj, etc."
  2. at Deleted fic lost and found, with a poll about creating a deleted fic community and discussion dated April 12, 2011. (Accessed 1 Jan 2012)
  3. "Given today and tomorrow's technology, it's going to take more effort by everyone, writer and readers -- and continuing courtesy regarding fandom's culture of respected pseudonymity to make (more) sure fic writers feel comfortable enough to post their work at all. Creating a comm or any similar project that makes it seem as though, when writers deliberately take their fic offline it will still be easily findable and accessible, might stop some great fic writers from ever posting their stories." Comment by skaredykat at vickyblueeyez' Deleted fic lost and found post, dated April 13, 2011. (Accessed 1 Jan 2012)
  4. "There are so many different reasons for fanworks or journals or blogs to have been deleted and every one is legitimate even if you don't like it because that person owns those items and it's their right to do what they like with them. If the creator has explicitly said they don't mind copies being distributed, that's one thing, but that shouldn't be the default action or assumed to be the case. Personally, I think it's rude and entitled to override the creator's wishes..." From Very emphatically no post by danceswithgary, dated April 12, 2011, (Accessed 1 Jan 2012); WebCite.
  5. vickyblueeyez' Deleted fic lost and found post about fic-deletion practices in Twilight fandom, 18 Apr 2011. (Accessed 1 Jan 2012)
  6. "I've been informed that calamitycrow would prefer people not to recommend....her deleted fiction to others. Hawaii 50 ficfinder LJ moderator post dated August 9, 2012.
  7. "It's reasonable for authors to want to pull their fic from the internet. It's not reasonable to then expect the internet to never ever mention those fics' or that author's existence again. Fic writers are already getting more take-backsies than real world writers ever get with the ability to withdraw their fics from circulation (in the real world, writers can't get all copies of their books removed from libraries, etc., much less ask people never to lend someone else a copy of their out-of-print book). Expecting everyone else to never ever speak about their writing again is a ridiculous level of presumption." anonymous comment in the fail-fandomanon thread Just How Deep Does This Rabbit Hole Go? (Deleted FanFic) dated August 30, 2012.
  8. Claiming Works After an Automated Open Doors Import, Tutorials, Open Doors. Accessed February 23, 2019.
  9. orphan_account on Archive of Our Own, accessed March 26, 2019.