Desert Island (fan activity)

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Related terms: Meme, Rec, The 1985 Hatstand Express Top Ten Lists
See also: Top Ten, Stranded on a Desert Island
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Desert Island is an activity where fans ask each other about which fanworks "they would take if they were to be stranded on a desert island." It's similar to reccing, but the focus is not recommending what you like think others would enjoy, but instead on what you hold dear. These fanworks are often have a focus of print fiction, due to the fact it appears to be an older term when print was the primary medium, and because desert islands presumably did not have electricity.

The activity is also very popular in music fandoms and often referred to as "desert island picks." See some Usenet discussions here.

The term can also refer to fans speculating on scenarios where they themselves are trapped on a desert island with fandom characters, a sort-of self-insert riff on the Stranded on a Desert Island trope.


The most prevalent use of the phrase is fans listing their favorite fanworks, usually fiction, though sometimes vids and fanart.

Often the Desert Island list challenges fans to limit their selections to five, ten or twenty items. This stipulation is often ignored fans tweak the "rules" and count series of fics as an single work and other fudging of definitions. Some fans cheerfully announce off the bat that they are not following the rules as it is too limiting.

A fan in 1996 responded to another fan's lengthy list and joked: "NOW we know what sank her cruise liner and landed her on the stupid island in the first place.... ;-)" [1]

Other fans expand on the challenge, adding creative touches:

This would be the perfect opportunity to get some writing done. It takes 30 minutes to read the average zine, so I wouldn't bother. Instead of taking a zine, it would be a laptop, or a whole pile of paper and a pen, and I'd write my own. No excuses, no TV, no email, no friend's phone calls. I'd get all my Magnum Opii (Opusus?) finished off, a few short stories, maybe even a few bits of artwork. [2]

I'd take the complete body of Sebastian's work (zine, circuit, in progress) in all the fandoms she's written in ([[[Pros]], B7, K/S) and bind all the stories into my own zine. Once on the island, I'd reread everything with a mind to creating my own, private superzine of her work. And since I would never travel anywhere without my computer, printer, and supplies, I would then spend the rest of my enforced stay designing and printing the opus. [3]

"What If" Fantasy Scenarios

Though less common, "Desert Island" is a way for fans speculate about being with specific characters in isolation.

This reminds me of the "desert island" question that was posed on the B7 list last year. It was something like: if you had to be stranded on a desert island with just one of the B7 characters, who would it be. People would give different answers in different scenarios, which narrowed down pretty much to four: is or is not the relationship platonic, and is or is not the situation life-threatening.

Forgetting about the life-threatening scenario, my own answer surprised me, being the big B/A fan that I am: Vila. Why? ... Vila is much more normal than either Blake or [Avon. I love B & A as heroes, but in real life they'd be too much for me (or anyone else except each other, IMO).

Similarly, in the Trek universe, I can imagine settling down with McCoy, but not Kirk or Spock. [4]

Which Simon to have on a desert island, eh? Well, whichever one you pick, you'd end up with the other one, too, arriving eventually to rescue him, because nothing would keep these guys apart for long. Before I jump to the obvious choice (for me) of Rick, AJ has some pluses on his side. He's a terrific cook, and could probably think up ways of spicing up the basic coconut-fish-and-banana diet... That's assuming, of course, that there's something to eat and drink on this island, as the question was not "Which Simon would you want to slowly starve to death with?" Though, if food grew scarce, AJ has a lot more meat on him if one's thoughts turn to cannibalism. He is also very well educated and could probably carry on interesting conversations to pass the time. [5]

There will be squeeing and music vids and arguments about which ten BSOs you would take to a desert island... [6]

Examples of Use


If I were stranded on a desert island and could only have ten K/S stories to read, what would they be? So for what it's worth, this month, in alphabetical order, they are: Cave of the Heart - Gayle F, Chimera - Susan K. James, Comes the Rain - Sharon St. James, Courts of Honor - Syn Ferguson, Dark Dream Revisited - Mary Lowe, Rumor Has It - Devery Helm, Take Home this Traveled Heart - Judi, The Price - Syn Ferguson, Til Only the Stars Remained - Della Van Hise, Those Who Favor Fire - Lezlie Shell. [7]


...[My slash desert island fic] would probably be "Waiting To Fall", 'cause then I could use it for a doorstopper in my hut when I wasn't reading it. [8]

What one slash zine would you take with you to a desert island? If it was a looonnnngggg stay, probably THE HUNTING -- all of it... If my desert island stay were only a short one, I'd take my favourite circuit stories, "Veils of Mourning" and "The Return". [9]


"Desert Island S&H" was a sort of questionnaire, which each of us filled in with answers to such posers as "Which episode *must* you have, when you're stranded on the desert island? [10]


You know that "If I could have only one..." question? Well, Changes is the 'zine I would choose if I were stranded on a desert island. I have read this three times so far, and cried buckets each time. Sometimes from sadness. Sometimes from happiness. Don't sit down to read this without time to read from cover to cover and a family-sized box of extra soft tissues! [11]


One of the panels at Close Quarters was a discussion of our favorite (and/or) desert island fic/zine/episode of Pros; ie what we would take if we knew we would be stranded on a desert island with a solar-paneled dvd player. [12]


A Passing Feeling (F/K) [buZillah/Visonshadows]. This is my Due South desert island fic. I have read it more times than I can count and love it to pieces. Set in the future, Ray, Fraser and their children return to Chicago when Ray’s mother dies. The story is an amazing look at love and family and how we communicate (and miscommunicate) with those we love. Everyone is this fic feels real because Zillah writes them as people with faults and everyday frustrations. This makes me cry and laugh and fills me with love. [13]


There are so many great stories, but in the end, I'm going with my desert island story. Nearly everyone in TXF fandom has read and loves Parabiosis; nearly everyone has read and has an opinion about Iolokus (for the record, I love it).[14]


  1. ^ from Megan Kent at Virgule-L, quoted with permission (September 19, 1996)
  2. ^ quoted anonymously from Virgule-L (Jan 27, 1996)
  3. ^ quoted anonymously from Virgule-L (Jan 27, 1996)
  4. ^ quoted anonymously with permission from Virgule-L (Jun 17, 1993)
  5. ^ from Simon and Simon Investigations #5 (March 1987)
  6. ^ a fan describes a slashbash Temaris, Archived version (2007)
  7. ^ from The LOC Connection #29 (1991)
  8. ^ Alexfandra, quoted from Virgule-L with permission (Jan 23, 1996)
  9. ^ quoted anonymously from Virgule-L (Jan 24, 1996)
  10. ^ an activity at Zedcon in 2001
  11. ^ from a fan at the Sentinel Slash Library (2008)
  12. ^ Close Quarters Desert Island Episode/Zine/Fic dated July 18, 2009
  13. ^ from Due South author profiles (2010)
  14. ^ comment by wendelah1 at Nablopomo: Day 7, November 13, 2013