|See also:||Metadiscussion, Metafandom, Metafic|
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In fandom, meta is used to describe a discussion of fanworks of all kinds, fan work in relation to the source text, fanfiction characters and their motivation and psychology, fan behavior, and fandom itself.
Meta or a meta essay can also be a fan-authored piece of non-fiction writing that discusses any of the above topics.
The term “meta” describes something that is an abstraction of itself (X about X).
Meta, in Fandom terminology, is usually used to describe the analysis of a show, its characters, or Fandom itself. Very often, people create meta that is almost academic in nature, citing multiple resources and defending their point of view.Meta [is] a blanket term to include things like headcanon, ship manifestos, theories, and character analysis. 
Meta can be described by both intention and scope. [It can be] about fandom as a whole, a particular fandom, a particular event, a particular canon, a particular episode or aspect of something, it all counts. Fandom talking about itself or its interests in a thoughtful way is the best description we can come up with. When it comes to intention, pretty much anything that isn't fictional or conversation would count. Meta can be very long (even a series!) or it could be just a few paragraphs. 
- See Category:Meta
Origin of the Term
Meta describes a concept which is an abstraction from another concept, used to complete or add to the latter. It is derived from the Greek preposition and prefix meta- (μετά-) meaning "after", or "beyond".
Not All Fans Agree on the Definition
Unlike LiveJournal-based fandoms, on mailing lists the term is metadiscussion, not meta, and it almost never means "discussing the source/characters/fanworks" -- those things are simply everyday discussions. Metadiscussion means "discussing the discussion", or shifting away from the topic at hand to talk about how the topic is being discussed. For more, see Metadiscussion.
Some Fan Comments
Seriously, what is with this new 'meta' definition? Does anyone understand why people are using this term for basic discussion now? I saw it all over the place, with people defining anything that wasn't creative work or recommendations of creative work as 'meta'. Since when did talking about the source become 'meta'? And if basic discussion is meta now, what is the discussion style formerly known as meta now called? (Whether the former metadiscussion of 'discussing the discussion', or the former metadiscussion such as happen(ed)(s) on FCA-L, where broader fannish topics are discussed.) 
I absolutely loathe that normal fan discussion is now being labelled "meta" and as a result, many fen are increasingly eschewing the idea of discussion because they erroneously think discussion must mean an academic treatise! Meta-analysis has a very specific meaning. I'll even accept the term being broadened to relate to non-statistical overview analysis of fandom interactions and trends. But to call any fandom discussion "meta"? NO, a thousand times NO. It drives me nuts that a number of influential fen with academic backgrounds routinely promote such usage. 
Sometimes fanworks themselves become metafic, where characters within the text comment on canon or fandom. Back when RPF was rare, some people called any story meta where the characters and the actors for those characters interacted. See some fiction examples.
A fic that utilizes the pairing of Meta/Fandom: Untitled Anthropomor-Fic; archive link (NC-17) by alyse (219 comments) ("But Meta had a way of making that seem okay when it had Fandom at its mercy. Meta had a way of making everything seem okay when it touched Fandom just right. When Meta did that, Fandom was just Meta's bitch. And Meta knew it.") (2007)
Recursive fanfic may also be called metafic.
In vids, the tag meta is occasionally used when images of fans appear along with images of characters, but the term metavid is more commonly used to describe a vid that comments on a specific show, or its fandom, or fandom as a whole.
Fans have also had a lot to say about fandom itself, often in the form of meta essays. These can take the form of formal essays, but also as posts to personal journals.
- 2002: The Metablog noticeboard community provided a central place to post links to "blogs and LJs that discuss issues of importance to fandom." Metaquotes community provides the lighter side.
- 2004: The Shipper's Manifesto, a community for shippers to post meta essays in support of a particular pairing.
- 2005: The metafandom newsletter community on LiveJournal and (after Strikethrough, 2007) on InsaneJournal compiles links to "interesting discussions in fandom" over both journalling sites (but no blogs).
- 2007: The meta_roundup community on InsaneJournal compiles links to ""fannish stuff of interest" on InsaneJournal exclusively.
- 2019: This Week Meta
Resources, Further Reading, and Meta Meta
- Category:Meta Essays
- From Metaphysics to Teen Wolf Meta: The Evolution of a Word; archive link by Annalee Newitz (June 2, 2014)
- The Wave Theory of Slash, originally posted by Lezlie Shell in 1993.
- Slash Fiction is Like a Banquet, an essay written by Arduinna comparing fandom to a potluck (1999)
- meta by Judith Gran, On Trial "A fanfic writer finds herself in a 23rd-century court, on trial for intentional infliction of emotional distress.", Archived version (late 1990s, early 2000s)
- LJ Communities ! = Mailing Lists, a fan discusses the changing nature of fan discussion, meta, and the then-new fannish platform LiveJournal (2005)
- Women's Work by Luminosity & Sisabet is a fairly explicit (and controversial) commentary on misogyny in the text for Supernatural (2007)
- Us by lim is a multifandom vid about fandom, and the ways that fans manipulate and use their canon sources (2007)
- Some of Us Really Do Watch for the Plot, a Supernatural zine published in 2007
- On symposia: LiveJournal and the shape of fannish discourse (2008)
- The Fanfic Symposium (series of essays)
- The Fan Meta Reader
- The waning of ambivalence by sophia helix (2005)
- Metafandom (community)