How To Find The Best Fanfic On The Internet

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Title: How To Find The Best Fanfic On The Internet
Commentator: Kalla Hale-Stern
Date(s): August 18, 2015
Medium: online
External Links: at Gizmodo, Archived version
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How To Find The Best Fanfic On The Internet is an article by Kalla Hale-Stern.

It is a practical overview of online fanfic and is very Archive of Our Own-centric.

The comments posted are the usual conglomeration of bug-eyed disdain, fanfic admirers, explainers, and reminiscing about the good old days. No article like this is complete without a reference in the comments to Sturgeon's Law.


Fanfiction is one of the internet’s most reviled and beloved genres. Its authors write tales set in their favorite pop culture worlds, from Star Trek and X-Files, to Hogwarts and boy band concerts. For every fic that’s embarrassingly bad, there are thousands more that are brilliant and well-written. Here’s how to hunt down the finest works. The majority of people I know who produce fic are grad students, academics, career writers having fun in a beloved world, and working professionals who consider writing for online audiences a calling. Being young and untested also doesn’t mean the quality is subpar: some of the most popular works out there are produced by talented high school and college students. But the sheer number of pieces available can make jumping into fanfiction for the first time a daunting process. We’re here to guide you through it.

Reactions and Reviews: At the Original Post

  • "Ohh god, why would you write this." -- KomradKickass
  • "Good fan fiction doesn’t exist. It’s a bunch of wish fulfilment fantasies, normally involving a Mary Sue/Harry Stu characters of some form with ridiculous situations and equally ridiculous romantic/sexual situations." -- Bryphon Osiris
  • "There are PLENTY of duds, in fact I’d go ahead and say most are duds. But I’ve been reading fanfic for more than half my life now and I can definitely say I have read some good ones! Of course, you also kind of have to want to read them/be into that sort of thing to enjoy it...fanfiction is very to each your own/ymmv." -- puretrance
  • "Imagine if the collective energy expended on fanfic was instead directed at original works. Imagine if you will, people using their imagination rather than furthering the exploits of corporate icons." -- monty carlo
  • "i’m sort of half-and-half on this. On one hand, a lot is just really hack-y crap that no one will see anyway, and when it is okay, it can be chalked up to “writing exercise.” you know when it DOES bug me though? FAN FILMS. I mean... it’s not money out of MY pocket, but SHIT. Just seems such a waste." -- denverhed
  • "Actually, these days a lot of professional writers start out making fanfic when they find their passion for writing, which inspires them to turn their attention to original works. I’ve run into a couple of fanfics in my time that I could swear were written by a professional author with the aid of a professional editor. I wouldn’t be surprised if that was actually the case, in fact." -- LightIce
  • "This actually just happened to me in the last week or so. I discovered a niche of fanfic I enjoyed, started writing for it, and that spurred me to start writing my own fiction completely different from the fanfic genre I was interested in. While I’m still having fun writing the fanfic, I’m also now feeling the creativity buzz that’s exciting and encouraging me to write original fiction as well." -- DarkPrince010
  • "AO3 is magical, but it’s still tiny compared to, and it’s on its’ way of being surpassed by Wattpad (which is what all the teens are into these days). (This is according to Alexa site ratings and Quantcast stats.) AO3 still has the best search and tagging system though. isn’t quite as bad everyone makes it seem, but there’s so much more crap to sort trough. If you’re looking for fic for tiny fandoms, you’ll more likely have better luck on And keep in mind that if you’re looking for the best fics for giant older fandoms (LOTR, Star Trek, Doctor Who and so on) they might still be found in dedicated archives. Or even livejournal. Rec lists are your friends." -- a blackpanther
  • "AO3 is the wild west! I like the filters but it almost has too much going on. It’s so much harder to suss out indicators of quality. It might be I think that because FFN has been around for longer and is more familiar with more content and a more diverse user base to validate its metrics. So it’s a little easier there to find the better stories through reviews and faves and communities. Livejournal is such a treasure trove for fics. It surprises me how some of those communities are still going crazy strong." -- llaalleell
  • "TBH I hardly ever browse on my own. Rec lists all the way! Or tumblr libraries. Nice big collections of good fic that’s already easily broken down into catagories, can’t go wrong. AO3 still has the highest quality fic for me though. just has, like you said, so much more crap to sort through. And haven’t found much decent on wattpad, it definitely seems for younger writers who are more or less just starting out. All the 1D fics/imagines..." -- Naat
  • "There’s a lot of great stuff on Livejournal, which makes me sad that fandom (along with everybody else) has largely moved away from there." -- BorgCubed
  • "Did fanfic exist before X-files? Or did X-files give birth to it?" -- JohnW
  • "Star Trek: The Original Series fanfics codified a lot of the tropes typical to fanfiction, but it’s been around since there’s been written fiction available to the masses." -- LightIce
  • "It depends on what you count as fanfic. Does every super-special-abilities-detective novel, series or film since Sherlock Holmes count?" -- a blackpanther
  • "If you are a writer yourself, there’s an excellent reason to read dreadful stories. Some have a good story, but lousy grammar — and that’s your cue. Put that story into a word processor, and make it good. (So it’s somebody else’s work. Fanfiction lives on somebody else’s work. They knew the job was dangerous when they took it.) It is quite possible to write a story that is both good and bad. Learn what not to do by reading the bad. You can only take so much of it, but it’s educational. And some of the stories are very, very good." -- EllenRose
  • "Love this idea. Sometimes, I’ll read something on AO3 and it’s almost great, but the writer needs some help with grammar, structure or plot. Other times, I'll read something really great and I don’t want it to end, or I love one tiny subplot and wish it had more. Who says you can’t fanfic fanfics?" -- lonelystarbuckslover
  • "Isn’t that the thing about fanfiction? You want MORE, or perhaps DIFFERENT. Lots of good books have been written by authors who threw something down and cried, “I can do better than that!” And then they did." -- EllenRose
  • "While I do still read a lot of fanfiction, when I saw the title of this article my first thought was “so the tip is wade though a ton of crap until you find some good stuff?” becuase that is exactly the tip I would give to people looking for the best fanfiction on the internet lol... Step 1, go to AO3. Step 2, read everything and pray that you find a gem." -- puretrance
  • "Years ago I didn’t know there was such a thing as slashfic until, in the middle of an X-Files fanfic I had stumbled across, Agent Scully breathlessly demanded “FUCK ME, MULDER!” A naive young thing, I was genuinely shocked. Ever since then I have muttered that phrase to myself when a character on a TV show does something unexpected." -- TomHasDoubts
  • "I’m proud to say I love fanfic, particularly of the X-Files and Doctor Who variety. No shame, however... Maybe I’m just An Old but DAMN, some of the Supernatural and Sherlock fic out there is weird." -- Katal
  • "If you want an example of a fanfiction web site done right, check out It blows away any other sites I’ve seen when it comes to ease of use and searching, categorizing stories you’re following or favoriting, and with a solid commenting system to boot." -- Sinatra45
  • "Years ago I read an X-Files Boba Fett crossover. Was very well-written, not on, but on an archive somewhere. Boba Fett came to earth to collect a scientist, and Mulder/Scully were investigating the same scientist. The characters never meet, just always missing each other, but was quite interesting and very in character for everyone. Wish I could find that one again." -- Sunshine1970
  • "Look, finding good fanfic is like finding something new in the library. You know what you like, and can presumably find the section it's in. But there's gonna be a lot of things you don't want to read, a lot of things that you try out but that end up being crap. There's recs sometimes and that's how I've found some obscenely good things, but really it does just come down towards picking a tag and working your way through it to find absolute beauty. Cause it's in there! It's in there!" --HicSuntDracones