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Trope · Genre
Synonyms: Metafiction
See Also: Self-insertion, Fourth Wall, Meta, Fandom AU, Authorfic
Tropes · Slash Tropes · Tropes by Fandom
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Metafic is a genre label often used to describe fanfic in which characters interact with the story's author or are otherwise aware that they are fictional characters. It is a fanfic-specific variation on metafiction[1], a term in literary criticism for fiction that refers to the conventions of fictional writing.[2]

Metafic is often written to poke fun at fanfic clichés [3] or comment on developments in canon or fandom.[4]

Another way for stories to be meta commentary on fandom is to be fic about fandom, i.e. taking place in the "real world" of fandom. Either characters can be transported into our world and meet with fans and see fandom, such as in the Blake's 7 Cheeeseboard series in which Avon ends up in the middle of a Blake's 7 convention, or the story can be just set in fandom, like Fandom is a Way of Death by Bill W. and Alan R.

Since RPF already takes place in some version of the real world, encounters with RPF characters and their fans might be metafic, or it might just be a self-insert. Or all RPF might be some form of metafic.

Metafiction in Canon

  • Robert Louis Stevenson's short story The Persons of the Tale (1896) is a dialogue between Treasure Island characters about who is most loved by the author.
  • Rudyard Kipling's The Janeites (1922) is a story of Jane Austen fandom in WW1, in which the members of a military Freemasonry lodge recall how their interest in Austen's work helped them deal with the horrors of war.[5]
  • Rocket to the Morgue by Anthony Boucher (1942) is a detective novel whose characters are modelled closely on Boucher's friends, South California science-fiction fans and writers of the period, and much of it is commentary on their activities. Similar later novels include:
  • Tales from the White Hart by Arthur C. Clarke (1957) is a collection of short SF "tall tales" supposedly told by attendees at the (real) monthly London SF pub meeting. The framing narratives for most of the stories include real authors and fans of the period.
  • The SF story Hall of Fame by A. Bertram Chandler (1969) sees Captain Grimes, the hero of many of Chandler's stories, dislodged from his normal universe by a freak spacedrive accident and ending up in a club for fictional characters whose members include Sherlock Holmes, Jeeves, etc. Jeeves decides that Grimes is not a character who is likely to become a permanent resident due to the quality of the stories. Grimes then travels to the "real" world and confronts Chandler and demands he does a better job.
  • The BBC TV series Gangsters[6] (1975-78) deliberately broke the fourth wall on several occasions, most notably in its second series which had repeated cuts and pans to the author, Philip Martin, dictating the script to a typist near the location of the previous or next scene, e.g. outside an Indian shop when the previous scene was set in a room above the shop next door. Martin also played several secondary characters in the series, one of them an assassin who killed the star of the show. The series ended with a party scene in which the characters walked off the set, revealing the studio setting as they left.
  • The British animated TV series Danger Mouse (1981-1992, 2015-) has characters who are aware that they are in a TV show, occasionally argue with the narrator, etc.
  • Deep Secret by Diana Wynne Jones (1997) is a fantasy novel set in part at a fantasy convention and drawing on the behaviour of fans.
  • Galaxy Quest, a 1999 film that affectionately parodies Star Trek and its fanac and fan culture.
  • Thursday Next, the heroine of several of Jasper Fforde's novels, is a Jurisfiction agent assigned to protecting fictional worlds from reality and from each other. In the first novel, The Eyre Affair (2001) she is responsible for (amongst other things) giving Jane Eyre its current ending, as opposed to a formerly dull and unsatisfactory ending.
  • The web comic 1/0 by Tailsteak (2001-3) was devoted to breaking the fourth wall; from the outset the characters interacted with their creator.
  • Doctor Who episode Love & Monsters, in which a fan who has been tracking the mysterious man and his strange blue box (who is part of a group of such fans who engage in more-or-less typical fannish activities, including one new fan quickly becoming rather toxic) gets to actually encounter The Doctor and the TARDIS.[7]
  • Community episodes involving Inspector Spacetime are almost always metafiction about media fandom. Especially the episodes set at Inspector Spacetime conventions...
  • In the novel MM9 by Hiroshi Yamamoto (2007, English translation 2012) characters become aware that their universe is in the process of transitioning from being driven by "mythical" forces (which allow giant monsters to exist) to one ruled purely by scientific principles. As part of this transition the characters will become fictional.
  • Lost in Austen, a British 2008 miniseries in which the heroine, a fan of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, inadvertently swaps places with Elizabeth Bennett.[8] It is a fanwork that includes metacommentary for both the novel and the [1995 miniseries] adaptation; the heroine asks Darcy to wade out of the ornamental lake for her, and at one point berates him for not being as good as in the book.
  • Several episodes of Supernatural use metafictional concepts. Most notably:
    • Episodes from Season 5 (2009) onwards feature the character Becky Rosen who is aware that the Winchester Brothers are the heroes of a novel series, writes Wincest slash, and is surprised to learn that they are real.[9]
    • In episode 5.08 Changing Channels (2009) a Trickster throws the Winchester brothers into several TV shows.[10]
    • In episode 6.15 The French Mistake (2011) Sam and Dean Winchester are sent into an alternate reality in which they are presumed to be the lead actors working on a television show called Supernatural.[11]
  • The CSI episodes A Space Oddity (2009) and Blood Moon (2010) involve murders at SF and fantasy conventions and commentary on fan behaviour.
  • The novel Redshirts by John Scalzi (2012) is set in a Star Trek-like universe whose characters realise that they are the characters in a TV show, and come up with a daring plan to save themselves (and their universe) by confronting their creators.
  • Stargate SG-1 episode 200, which parodies many media properties and pop-culture phenomena, including SG-1 and its fandom. Among many other things, the episode alludes to the main fandom slash pairing, lampoons the show two of its characters used to be leads on, and mentions interest in a younger and edgier version of the show -- all wrapped up in the meta aspect of being about pitches for Wormhole X-treme, a previously featured in SG-1's canon (but rapidly canceled) TV show based on SG-1 itself.[12]
  • Con Man is a forthcoming crowd-funded web series in which Alan Tudyk (Hoban "Wash" Washburne in Firefly) plays an actor from a former cult TV SF show now reduced to working the convention circuit.
  • Several comics characters are in canon sporadically aware of their status as fictional characters and comment about their writers. In the comics this refers to the comic creators, in fanfic this often refers to the person writing the story, its readers, etc. Deadpool and She-Hulk, and occasionally The Joker are the most obvious examples. The Marvel supervillain The Purple Man appears to have this power, and can make others believe that they are part of a fictional world. He is also aware that his history with Jessica Jones is a retcon. Several other comics characters have some version of this ability; similarly, many animated characters are portrayed as aware of their artists and/or audience, e.g. Bugs Bunny.[13]

Fanfic Examples


  1. ^ Wayback Machine version of the essay, An Unorthodox History of Metafiction, by Kit Mason, accessed May 8, 2010
  2. ^ Merriam-Webster, accessed May 8, 2010
  3. ^ Kielle. Blood and Warm Blankets, at the Henneth Annun Story Archive, posted 13 September 02. Accessed 10 October 08.
  4. ^ Beth H. When the Muse Strikes, posted 21 November 2004. Accessed 10 October 08.
  5. ^ Kipling, “Jane’s Marriage,” and “The Janeites” by James Heldman (accessed 4th July 2015
  6. ^ Gangsters on Wikipedia (accessed 25th July 2015)
  7. ^ Love & Monsters episode entry at Wikipedia (Accessed 26 April 2011), and Love & Monsters episode entry at the TARDIS index file Doctor Who wiki (Accessed 26 April 2011).
  8. ^ "[...] Lost in Austen, which we could rename as Mary Sue Steps Through the Mirror." in Fannish Films by yourlibrarian, 9 July 2009. (Accessed 26 April 2011)
  9. ^ Becky Rosen on Super-Wiki (accessed 11th July 2015)
  10. ^ Changing Channels on Super-Wiki (accessed 11th July 2015)
  11. ^ The French Mistake on Super-Wiki (accessed 11th July 2015)
  12. ^ SG-1 200 episode entry at Wikipedia (Accessed 26 April 2011), and SG-1 200 episode entry at Stargate Wiki (Accessed 26 April 2011).
  13. ^ Superpower Wiki - 4th Wall Awareness accessed 24th June 2015
  14. ^ As Lucid As Hell Sandy Keene (Older), accessed January, 2009.
  15. ^ Gus Goes For the Gold Star (on Yuletide), accessed 28 December 2009.