I Saw Three Ships

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Name: I Saw Three Ships
Date(s): 2003-2012
Moderator(s): zvi
Founder: Twinkledru J
Type: Secret Santa
Fandom: Multifandom
Associated Community:
URL: I Saw Three Ships: A Multifandom Threesomes Secret Santa; DW comm
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I Saw Three Ships is a multifandom Secret Santa focused on threesomes.

It was first run by Twinkledru J in 2003. In 2004, zvi took over as moderator[1] and ran the challenge every year until she announced in 2013 that she couldn't mod it anymore.[2]

I Saw Three Ships, colloquially Three Ships or 3 Ships (because of the name of the LiveJournal community), is run like many other exchanges: participants make several requests in multiple fandoms and offer to write in several fandoms. There is a Big List of popular fandoms; everyone must make at least one request in and offer at least one listed fandom, to make matching authors with recipients easier for the mod.

The stories are posted anonymously on the I Saw Three Ships website, and author names are attached a week later.

Three Ships is unique among Secret Santas because stories go live on January 6 (which is Epiphany or Three Kings Day) instead of Solstice, Christmas Eve, or Christmas and because of its threesome theme.


The stories from every round of Three Ships (including 2003), are archived on a website maintained by zvi. The number of participants has varied greatly over the years:

  • 2012 46 stories
  • 2011 43 stories
  • 2010 51 stories
  • 2009 46 stories
  • 2008 46 stories
  • 2007 29 stories
  • 2006 41 stories
  • 2005 40 stories
  • 2004 12 stories
  • 2003 14 stories[3]

The reason for the drop in participation in 2007 is unknown.

In early 2008, in response to that year's crop of stories, Alixtii and wisdomeagle complied some data about the stories posted in all previous years[4]. While Three Ships is probably not representative of fandom as a whole -- because one cannot specify which pairings one is willing to write in a given fandom, fans who are multishippers are more likely to participate than those who have very strict OTPs or OT3s -- it is possible to spot trends like the popularity of certain characters (like John Sheppard), pairings (like Jack/Elizabeth), and threesomes (like Doctor/Rose/Jack in Doctor Who).


In 2005, a participant requested an incest story in the Harry Potter fandom, and zvi scrambled to find someone who might be willing to write this request. As a result, incest requests were forbidden in 2006, which meant that few Supernatural fans were able to participate, despite the size of the fandom, since all the main characters in that show are related.

In 2007, incest was permitted once again, with the caveat that someone requesting incest in a fandom must also request a non-incest story in that same fandom.

Definition of Threesome

2007 was also the year that zvi clarified the meaning of threesome as a result of a 2006 participant's displeasure with the fic they received. The clarified definition is:

When I say threesomes, I mean A is romantically/sexually involved with B is romantically/sexually involved with C is romantically/sexually involved with A at roughly the same level of emotional intensity. Alternately (and this is not the preferred story, but it is allowed), A is romantically/sexually involved with B and A is romantically/sexually involved with C while B and C have an intense, emotional, yet non-sexual relationship (not necessarily a friendship.) What is not allowed is a couple picking up a third party for a brief period of fun and games and then returning to their coupledom without the third party making up part of their sexual ongoing relationship. (changed 10/16/07)[5]


  1. ^ Introductory Post by zvi, 13 November 2004
  2. ^ zvi. There will be no Three Ships 2013, posted to the 3_ships Dreamwidth community, Oct. 10th, 2013.
  3. ^ Archive of Previous Years' Stories and editor's own count of 2007 stories. By convention, rounds of Three Ships are referred to by the year in which assignments are made and stories are written, rather than the year in which the stories go live
  4. ^ 3_ships, Alixtii O'Krul, 14 January 2008
  5. ^ Sorry for my great loserdom, zvi, 14 October 2007