Lost Works

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Synonyms: Keeping Track of Fanworks on the Internet
See also: Purge, Deleting Fanworks, Lost Media
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Also see Lost Media

Fandom continues to create more and more new works, but among this sea of content, some works get lost, damaged, or removed. These lost fandom works can be totally overlooked and unremarked, or they may gain mythic status in fandom as a shared memory.

Lost works should not be confused with orphaned works, which are deliberately gifted to the commons. Lost works create gaps within fandom archives. Empty spaces where the primary works no longer exist and only the metadata remains.

The Lost Works of AO3

Archive of Our Own was built to be a repository of fan works, primarily fanfiction, but it does not host all media types. Works that are not text, such as audio, video, photos, media feeds, and physical objects can not be hosted on the site. Despite this, fans have found ways to place these objects in the archive by linking images, audio, or video within the fan pages. When the sites which do host this content change, often the links fail and the work becomes lost.

The Audiofic Archive

Many factors can lead to the loss of fanworks including crashing of servers, loss of accounts, the sale or failure of hosting websites, and even deliberate damage by hacking. One such loss occurred when the Audiofic Archive went down in 2017. Damage to the archives led to a disconnect between the backend storage and the index. Although efforts were made to relink or reupload these works, many may be permanently lost.

YouTube

YouTube has gone through a number of changes that led to purges of fan content and fandom creators. Fanvids in particular are subject to inconsistent content enforcement meaning that one work may remain on the site while a similar work or author may be removed.

Self-Deleted Works

Other works are lost when a creator deletes their works, but references to those works remain. This can happen when an author writes a proprietary novel and the publisher insists that they remove the original fan work it is based on. When works are pulled to publish they become lost to the commons.

Website Changes That Lead to Lost Works

Some works are lost when terms of service are changed, or websites are sold. For example, Photobucket[1] and tinypic once hosted free content, but once sold they required annual fees that ended up leading authors to remove or rehost content.

Terms of service changes can ban content that was formerly acceptable. Often the creators of the content do not even know that their work is lost, and sometimes the works are lost forever.

The great tumblr purge of 2018 led many fan creators to move or delete their works entirely, especially explicit or mature fan art. The transfer of works from one site to a new site can also damage connections and cause deletion of website specific data, such as hashtag dialog, that is not easily downloadable.

In “The Meta - a podcast about podcasts, Episode 6: A Brief Timeline of the Homestuck Fandom” they discussed how the closing down of the website, TinDeck caused the loss of a great number of Homestuck audioworks. Although a fan had stored a copy, for a period of time, to much of the fandom, these works were lost. [1]

The Dilemma of Preservation

One problem with fanworks is not only how to preserve these works, but whether they should be preserved. Many a person has posted content as a youth that they regretted when they got older. Should we simply allow those works to be lost? The problem is that once something is released into the commons, it may come to have value to others. So, is it fair for one person to control whether others can continue to enjoy it?

Discussions of this type can be found in other fanlore articles including the following:

Finding Lost Works

Online archiving tools can be of use for finding missing fanworks; many deleted fics and works of art can be found via the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine. However, these archiving sites have limits. They are often unable to capture audio or video, meaning that podfics and fanvids are typically not saved by them. These archiving tools may also only capture some of a work, in the case of multi-part works; if only one chapter of a two-chapter fic is saved, the fic is still partially lost.

Some fans download certain fanworks to view offline, and others proactively download works they like to prevent them from becoming lost. Other fans may be able to find lost works by asking around to see if anyone has a copy.

Examples

Examples Wanted: Editors are encouraged to add more examples or a wider variety of examples.

  • The Madness of Angels by ayalesca was a noted work in the Sherlock fandom. It was a 2014 Holmsies Award nominee. It was removed from the internet by its author, and has been lost to the fandom.

Citations

  1. ^ "The Meta - a podcast about podcasts, Episode 6: A Brief Timeline of the Homestuck Fandom". Podcast. Retrieved February 17, 2021.