|Tropes and genres|
|See also||Self-insertion, Fourth Wall, Meta, Fandom AU, Authorfic|
|Related articles on Fanlore.|
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, a term in literary criticism for fiction that refers to the conventions of fictional writing.
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.
Variations and Subgenres
Authorfic is a type of metafic where the story's author appears in the story and interacts with the canon characters. These often involves breaking the fourth wall. The author who appears in an authorfic can be a fic author or the canon creator of the source material.
Fandom AU are stories where canon characters are reimagined as fans, involved in fandom. This can involve characters as fanwork creators or fans attending conventions. The Fandom AU is different to fourth wall breaking stories where canon characters become aware of fandom.
Actor Character Universe Crossovers
One subgenre of metafics involves actors finding themselves in the canon universe, or characters finding themselves in the "real world". This type of story often involves characters interacting with the actors, and may also be considered a subgenre of Actor RPF. One canon example of this trope is the Supernatural episode The French Mistake, which aired in 2011.
However this trope was been written into fanfiction long before the appearance of this episode. And Be One Traveler (2006) is an SGA story where the one of the actors finds himself temporarily stranded on Atlantis; interacting with other characters and explaining to them that they are fictional characters in his reality.
Some stories may also overlap with body swaps, wherein a character or multiple characters swap bodies and realities with the actors who portray them. Parallels a Buffyverse slash fic by Jenny from the early 2000s, saw Spike and Angel swap bodies and universes with the actors who played them on TV.
Characters Reading Fanfiction
Stories where a character reads fanfiction often involves that character reading fanfiction about themselves. This is often a meta commentary on fanfiction tropes, characterization and writing styles employed by that fandom. A character reading fanfic story may be considered a type of response fic. This is also a fairly common trope in RPF stories, with Real-Person characters having access to RPF stories via fanfiction websites.
However there are also stories where characters read fanfiction written by other characters. This type of story may overlap with Fandom AUs or they can be canonverse stories where a fandom has grown around well known people in that universe.
In Harry Potter fandom, Characters Reading the Books was a common fourth wall breaking trope. These stories had a lot of similarities with stories where HP characters read fanfic. This specific type of metafic has since spread to other literacy fandoms.
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.
- 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:
- Gather in the Hall of the Planets by Barry N. Malzberg (1971), a parody of fandom and the early years of Scientology.
- Bimbos of the Death Sun by Sharyn McCrumb (1988), a murder mystery set at a fantasy convention, with unflattering portrayals of fan and author behaviour.
- Geek Tragedy, DVD Extras Include: Murder, and Cursed Among Sequels (all 2010) by Nev Fountain are murder mysteries revolving around the writers, production team, cast and fans of a long-discontinued cult TV SF series, and drawing on fan behaviour for much of their plot.
- I Am Providence by Nick Mamatas is a murder mystery set at the NecronomiCon Providence, Lovecraft convention. Many of the characters are based on the existing Lovecraftian writers, scholars and fans.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. 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.
- In episode 5.08 Changing Channels (2009) a Trickster throws the Winchester brothers into several TV shows.
- 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.
- 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 cancelled) TV show based on SG-1 itself.
- 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.
- Stephen King makes an appearance in the 7th book of his The Dark Tower book cycle where he interacts with the main protagonists
- fandom in general: Fandom is a Way of Death, a gen 1984 zine where the characters are well-known fans in Los Angeles; the story comments on fandom.
- fandom in general: Deep Fanfic Thoughts, by Jack Handey by Vali (2001)
- fandom in general: Several notable stories from the Yuletide fic exchange are well-known metafics.
- fandom in general: In the beginning, there was canon... by b-cavis. Crackmeta/metafic. (2005)
- fandom in general: Works tagged "Characters Writing Fanfiction" and "Characters Reading Fanfiction" on AO3
- multifandom: Support Group for Fan Fiction Characters: First Meeting, Slash Chapter by Cousin Shelley - characters from various fandoms complain about the way authors treat them in bad slash stories.
- multifandom: Chapters 78-81 of The Secret Return of Alex Mack (2012-14) are set at a comic con in which the heroine is trying to work as a press photographer, relax, and cosplay, and discovers that her Terawatt identity has suddenly become the most popular costume at the convention. An incident needing her to intervene as Terawatt makes things more complicated.
- multifandom: Subreality Café, created by Kielle. The Cafe exists on the borders of imagination and provides a place for authors and fictives to interact. What began as a single story on Alt.comic.fan-fiction became a genre of its own, with an archive, a mailing list and off-shoots into various fandoms.
- Buffy: Ten Things That Never Happened in the Buffy Fandom by Booster, in which the magical creation of Dawn Summers in Buffy S5 has weird effects, not only inside the show but in the fandom surrounding it. (2006)
- Buffy: Agents of the C.O.A. (2006-2010) is an unfinished multi-author round robin about "agents" who make Buffy crossovers work.
- Forever Knight: Vice Versa by Dianne T. DeSha, in which the characters post to the mailing list for a TV series called Real Life. The sequel, Vice Versa II: Horrible Mutant Daughter of Vice Versa, parodies actual posts to the Forever Knight mailing list, ForKNI-L.
- Homicide: Life on the Street: Permanently Offline by Wendi Jeff and Saundra Mitchell, in which the actual show's characters were the "real characters" working for the Baltimore PD, having to deal with the actors, and the fans, of a popular show based on their activities.
- Inspector Spacetime: The Lone Blorgon by Spirouline; a fan of the show watches an episode. (2011)
- Leverage: Life in the Twenty-First Century by aces, in which Alec Hardison is a life-long member of fandom. (2010)
- Lois and Clark: Swap Meet: Burbank by Debby Stark and Swap Meet: Metropolis by Margaret Brignall are linked stories with the same premise but different viewpoints: "Lois and Clark find themselves in an alternate universe where they are characters on a television show, played by Teri Hatcher and Dean Cain. Meanwhile, Cain and Hatcher are sent to Metropolis in Lane and Kent's place. Can the foursome solve the mystery of their switch and get back home where they belong?" (both 1998)
- Lois and Clark: Late Night at the Daily Planet by Deadly Chakram: What happens when the Daily Planet computers link to the Lois & Clark Fanfic Archive? (2012)
- Lois and Clark: Fictitious Persons (2014) by Debbie G.; Time-travelling villain Tempus kidnaps Lois and Clark's daughter and strands her in a parallel world where Lois and Clark are fictional characters.
- Merlin: Pairing: Pendragon/Merlin by anonymous, Fandom AU in which Arthur and Merlin are respectively a BNF fanwriter and shy betareader in the Starz' Camelot fandom, who meet first online (LiveJournal features heavily) and then in real life at a con. (2011)
- Popslash: As Lucid as Hell, by Sandy the Older, set in "The Popslash Works In Progress Dorm" where the characters talk about the stories they're characters in, and complain about how slow their authors are.
- Psych: Gus Goes For The Gold Star, by Livia, a slash Yuletide story about Gus writing a Yuletide story -- meta and recursive, both! (2008)
- Stargate SG-1: A Collection of E-mails from the SGC Archives (the Wanky Wormhole Remix) by Beatrice Otter, gen. Vala writes Wormhole X-treme slash, Jack flames her, Teal'c contemplates writing it up for Fandom Wank and the rest of the SGC is drawn in willy-nilly. (2010)
- Stargate Atlantis: See John Run and Hello, Rodney! by Eildon Rhymer, crackfic with accompanying fanart. Musings on common tropes in SGA fic and characterization (both fanon and canon) as seen through the eyes of a very special children's librarian during storytime. Includes "Ideas for extension activities for parents and teachers" sections that offer whumpable Sheppard puppet and dress-up doll patterns. (2007 & 2008)
- Stargate Atlantis/Stargate Atlantis RPF: And Be One Traveler by amireal and trinityofone, slash. One of the SGA actors finds himself temporarily stranded on an Atlantis that is real, while its residents are shocked to hear from him that in his reality their lives are the basis for a television show. (2006)
- Supernatural: Becky is Not Writing This Story by Grey Bard. Gently satirizes the angel Gabriel's trollish tendencies, Becky as a Mary Sue, love of BNFs, and Diana Gabaldon's RPS inclinations. (2010)
- Supernatural RPF: Common Knowledge by elucreh, a non-AU J2 metafic in which Jared discovers J2 filk and "elljay" and starts reading a lot of fanfic. (2007)
- Supernatural RPF/Twilight: Live Free or Twihard by poor_choices. Especially cracktastic college AU - Romeo and Juliet through the lens of the Twilight fandom, in which Jensen Ackles's family are hardcore Team Edward Bella/Edward shippers while Jared Padalecki's are hardcore Team Jacob Bella/Jacob shippers. Complete with Fandom Wank, anonmeme, and Fandom Secrets references, fandom RPGs and extensive use of sockpuppets, relatives not understanding the difference between internet vs. real life and/or slash vs. homosexuality, and faked pseuicide. (2010)
- Supernatural/Supernatural RPF: Origin Story by nom. When he was younger, a family of hunters saved Eric's life. Then he made a show about them. (2011)
- Wayback Machine version of the essay, An Unorthodox History of Metafiction, by Kit Mason, accessed May 8, 2010
- Merriam-Webster, accessed May 8, 2010
- Kielle. Blood and Warm Blankets, at the Henneth Annun Story Archive, posted 13 September 02. Accessed 10 October 08.
- Beth H. When the Muse Strikes, posted 21 November 2004. Accessed 10 October 08.
- Kipling, “Jane’s Marriage,” and “The Janeites” by James Heldman (accessed 4th July 2015)
- 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).
- "[...] 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)
- Becky Rosen on Super-Wiki (accessed 11th July 2015)
- Changing Channels on Super-Wiki (accessed 11th July 2015)
- The French Mistake on Super-Wiki (accessed 11th July 2015)
- SG-1 200 episode entry at Wikipedia (Accessed 26 April 2011), and SG-1 200 episode entry at Stargate Wiki (Accessed 26 April 2011).
- As Lucid As Hell Sandy Keene (Older), accessed January, 2009.
- Gus Goes For the Gold Star, accessed 28 December 2009.