Happy and Unhappy Endings

From Fanlore
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Tropes and genres
Synonym(s)Happily Ever After (HEA)
Related tropes/genresFluff, HEX
See alsoDeathfic
Related articles on Fanlore.
the back cover of the Starsky & Hutch zine, Code 7 #3, Jean C. (xerox copy
the last page of Priority A-3, a Professionals zine that promised no death stories

Happy and unhappy endings in fanworks, along with Deathfic, are something fans tend to feel strongly about.[1]

The Appeal of the Happy Ending

A fan in 1990 writes: "Who cares if a happy ending is unrealistic? Tragedy is definitely NOT more satisfying!!! Just ask all the poor Blake's 7 fans. Or all the RoS fans who spend all this time writing stories to bring Loxley back. Or all the Beauty and the Beast fans!... There's enough tragedy in real life, let alone in our entertainment." [2]

For a long and fascinating 2005 discussion by Professionals fans on happy endings, see Et in Italia reprise, from Pros-land [3]


What Constitutes a Happy Ending?

For some fans and readers an HEA is constituted when everyone ends up happy, with no one dying or suffering and with everything full of flowers—like a fairy tale ending. But for others if the main characters, or at least the pairing of the story has a pleasant, even if not happy, ending is already a form of HEA.

What Constitutes an Unhappy Ending?

Some discussion is here: Unhappy Endings, Archived version, nakeisha, April 20, 2007

Different Fandoms' Views On Them

A fan commented that unhappy endings were fine in some fandoms, but in others is not as acceptable: "I agree entirely with [the] anti-tragedy stand. I can pick up any newspaper if I want tragedy, and while I recognize that most lives back then were short and brutal, I don't need that shoved in my face. I did think the final episodes of Blake's 7 and Beauty and the Beast were terrific, but the death of Loxely is tragedy enough in RoS." [4]

  • are fandoms in general or specifically more tolerant of endings that aren't happy?

Change Over Time

Some Anecdotal Thoughts from Fans

  • "I will say that I not only prefer a happy ending, I absolutely insist on it. I LOATHE death stories and busted partnerships. Now, happy endings do NOT mean to me that they retire to the safety of the suburbs and start picking out curtains (dislike those endings almost as much as deaths). As I said on Space City, a B7 happy ending to me is that the Federation is still out there, the war goes on, but Blake and Avon no longer sleep alone." [5]
  • "As a reader (and new writer), I must express some of the dismay and frustration I've felt at the discouraging reviews I've seen for some stories that I consider to be truly wonderful pieces... I suppose I can understand the desire for happy endings, especially when your everyday job is full of endings that are not so happy. But it breaks my heart to think that wonderful writers... are going to be criticized simply for not telling a happy story!" [6]
  • "Even if I know it's a happy-ending story, that doesn't deprive me of the angst or whatever else. I'm able to live through it with the character--if he doesn't know the outcome is going to be happy, then I can suspend my foreknowledge of it and get into the journey with him." [7]
  • "In a short story, I can accept an unhappy ending that still has hope for an improvement in circumstances, but in a novel, I definitely want an upbeat ending." [8]
  • "I don't think we're ever satisfied with the endings of things that we don't want to end. Most recently, a friend who is a Falcon Crest fan, doesn't like the series' happy ending, but I think she would have been just as disappointed with a tragic ending." [9]
  • "... there seems to be more of a split in the presses. The British presses seem to be predominantly producing the happy ending type of story whilst the American ones seem to have more and more of the 'let's kill them off or 'leave them unhappy and apart' endings. I haven't mentioned the Australian presses, mainly because there seems to have been so very little from them of late, although what there has been has usually been at the 'happy ending' end of the spectrum. I would like to ask though - am I in the minority here? Do most fans want gritty realism, Aids, depression and death or, like me, do they want more of the hurt/comfort, angst-but-happy-endings that seem to typify the early stories of the fandom? Comments please!" [10]
  • "My understanding is that there was an emphasis on happy ending stories in the earlier days of fandom because there was quite a reaction against a few sad stories that were published. For example, my recollection of Nome 2 is that it is a real downer of a zine. I think that Robin’s First Time series and the As I Do Thee series were born from that reaction. If that is true about early fandom, I guess one conclusion might be that folks really demanded the happy ending." [11]
  • "I agree that Blake's 7 popularity has noting to do with its ending -- especially since [we]... became fans before the run was over, after seeing a few of the better episodes... In fact, Boskone weekend we missed the final episode, and later watched it on videotape -- it ruined my "convention high" and left me unhappy for days." [12]
  • "Whether the ending is happy or not, I won't put up with a story without hope. One of the bright blazing lights in Blake's 7 is the way that, even when the whole world is against them (particularly Blake, but even Avon in his own cynical way) they won't give up. They won't pack it in, they won't succumb to despair. Hey, when Avon is surrounded by troopers, what does he do? He smiles. Okay, full of irony and self-depreciation, but not defeat.[13]
  • "I like happy endings as much as the next person, but too many too sweetly happy stories make my teeth ache. I don't really like tragedies, though. Because I don't like despair. And most tragedies end in despair, when the protagonist realizes (or at least the audience realizes) that he has destroyed himself." [14]

Meta/Further Reading


  1. ^ See "Merry-safe ending" at Merryish's Fanlore page.
  2. ^ Herne's Stepchildren #3
  3. ^ "WebCite". Archived from the original on 2021-04-11.
  4. ^ Herne's Stepchildren #4
  5. ^ comment on Virgule-L, quoted anonymously (Dec 16, 1995)
  6. ^ "The K/S Press" #6
  7. ^ "The K/S Press" #6
  8. ^ "The K/S Press" #7
  9. ^ Herne's Stepchildren #4
  10. ^ DIAL #1, a fan comments in a zine review
  11. ^ The K/S Press #4
  12. ^ Herne's Stepchildren #3
  13. ^ Lysator, July 1998
  14. ^ Lysator, July 1998