Keeping Track of Fanworks on the Internet
|Related terms:||Fic Finding, Bookmark, Archive|
|See also:||Searching for Fanworks on the Internet, Sharing Deleted Fanworks, Delicious|
|Click here for related articles on Fanlore.|
Ever since fans started posting fanworks on the internet, their permanence and accessibility has changed.
Keeping Track of Fanworks Once You Find Them
Fans have printed out fanfic from the internet, downloaded fanworks to their hard drives, saved links using either their web browser's bookmark feature or a word document, or posted links online to webpages, blogs, journals, or social bookmarking services. Fans also use any site feature that can keep track of things on the site that they like, including the bookmark or "mark to read later" functions on AO3, the favorite/"like" option on DeviantArt and Tumblr, and even the subscription function on Fanfiction.net. Additionally, AO3's "Download" button makes it straightforward to download fanfics in MOBI, EPUB, PDF and HTML format to read later.
Much of Tumblr activity is reblogging posts by other people that you like, and secondary Tumblrs are sometimes set up specifically to reblog everything on a given topic so that everyone else can find it. Another way to hold onto fanworks is unauthorized re-posting of the fanwork itself; in fandoms where archiving without permission is taboo, this strategy can result in a lot of angry fan creators descending upon the would-be archivist.
An archive is an online collection of fanworks, usually fanfiction, providing a centralized place for people to post and look for stories. The term generally means a multi-author collection, most likely open to anyone to submit stories, occasionally moderated for content or quality. Most fanfic archives focus on a specific fandom, or a genre or pairing within that fandom, although some are open to all fandoms, such as the Archive Of Our Own or animemusicvideos.org.
On LiveJournal, fans who lose track of a fanwork they once enjoyed can hope to find it again by posting a request to a Fic Finding community. Similar communities exist on Tumblr to help fans locate fanworks of a particular fandom or pairing, such as Clint/Coulson fic finders. Mailing list fans have often asked their fandom mailing lists. And some fans now post their requests on Yahoo!Answers.
However, fanworks on the web can easily disappear entirely. GeoCities and similar services provided free web space in the 1990s, and many fans used the services to put up their own stories or manually code archives of fanfics submitted by others. Meanwhile, other fans maintained fansites on university servers (see The Gossamer Project) or paid for server space once commercial ISPs appeared. Each of these methods has resulted in dead links as fansites were moved or deleted, payments were discontinued, fans graduated, or free webhosts were shut down. Large archives can be doomed by their own popularity as bandwidth costs soar, and commercial sites have discontinued features (imeem) or folded entirely (Fanlib) when they didn't succeed in making a profit. Youtube frequently removes fanvids and other remix videos when copyright holders complain. On LiveJournal, users can decide to friendslock or delete content previously made public, and there is a practice of users temporarily deleting their accounts sometimes just to force themselves to get RL work done.
Fans have found various work-arounds for dead links:
- download to your hard drive (unless your hard drive dies)
- google the title in hopes the author posted in more than one place (unless they took it down everywhere)
- look up the URL on the Wayback Machine (unless the website is served dynamically or has robots.txt or was never archived there)
- contact the author/creator to ask for their copy (unless there's no contact information or the creator's hard drive also dies)
- contact other fans to ask for their copy (unless you don't know anyone who's into that fandom)
A few fans feel uncomfortable looking for lost fanfic on the assumption that the author removed the fanfic for a reason and that their desire to read the story again is a violation of some unwritten fandom rule:
"I feel a little bit bad about using archive.org to retrieve fanfic that has been otherwise left to die by its owner? Obviously, I'm not going to distribute it, but the culture of fandom is such that if they don't want it out there any more, I feel at least a bit bad for going back and getting it.
On the other hand, some of this fic has immense nostalgia value for me, because it was a lot of the earliest fic I read after discovering that fanfic was a thing. So regardless of what the author thinks of it, I have many fond memories, and I'd rather save it now for my personal re-reading in future rather than possibly never be able to read it again.I still feel a little guilty, though."
A 2014 Discussion About Fiction Loss
[lanalucy]: I've run into the same question with old JAG fanfic. I go to find something I loved, and I have to rejoin an old yahoogroup to find it in the message archives.
[ wendelah1 ]: Just last week, I was going through someone's rec posts, looking for Gilmore Girls fanfic. I kept finding stories that sounded good, but the author had deleted their journal. Just like that! Gone! Poof! The thing is Gossamer hasn't been updated in over a year. Maybe it's nearly two years now. The owners of the site are busy people. It makes me anxious even thinking about the possibility of that archive going away but it easily could. There is a lot of fanfic there that can't be found anywhere else other than the Wayback Machine, and that's assuming the author had a website back in the day.
[lanalucy]: Yeah, people get busy, people grow out of their fandom interest, people become "serious" writers and disavow all knowledge of their prior fanfic persona, and let's face it, people die.
[wendelah1]: A couple of years back I tried to talk an author into orphaning her fic at AO3. She wasn't interested. She took down her website and blocked it from being displayed on Wayback. She had her fic removed from Gossamer and from Fugues and a few other sites with active management. Ironically, I recently found a sizable cache of her fic on Wayback that had been archived on an old, long defunct rec site. I know she has stories still up in a couple of other old archives too. It's really hard now to erase all traces of an old fandom identity if you were popular and recced. I understand why people who posted under their real names--and there were a surprising number who did back in the day-- would want to fix that by changing to a pseudonym, reposting under that instead. If you're planning to file off the serial numbers and get people to pay for your fanfic, whoops, I mean romance novels, I can see why you might need to do that too. You can't have two versions of the same story out there with different character names. So those authors probably won't agree to orphaning their fic either.
Fanworks may be removed from the internet either actively, through deletion by the creator, or passively, through abandonment. This makes fanworks no longer available at their original source.
Further Reading & Meta
- Who's fic is it anyway?
- To Save or Not To Save (Fanfic); archive link page 1; archive link page 2; archive link page 3 by bethbethbeth (August 2005)
- "it's a pretty common thing for people to use their subscription list, which isn't publicly viewable, as a hidden bookmarks for fics we're embarrassed for people to know we liked. I'm actually surprised when someone doesn't realize that's why people use it for fics that are completed." Fail_fandomanon comment 21 September 2013
- devil_girl91. Underwater Light by Maya?, posted 11 March 2009.
- And sometimes users react by making remix videos about it: Hitler reacts to the Hitler parodies being removed from YouTube
- See some of the explanations given on deleting-my-lj posts.
- I feel conflicted dated May 27, 2013; WebCite.