Original Fiction

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Discussion of the controversy surrounding it probably shouldn't be the biggest part of this page, but I don't know enough about anything else to continue this article's expansion.

Synonyms: orig fic, origfic, orific, ofic
See also: Fan Fiction, Profic, Filing Off The Serial Numbers, Original Slash
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The term original fiction is often used in fanfiction-writing fandom as an antonym of fanfiction. Some people use it to mean any professional fiction, but some fans feel that the term original does not suit professional fairytale retellings, media tie-ins, and other similar profic.

Whether fiction about real historical figures counts as RPF, "original fiction", plain old historical fiction, or something else is a matter of debate. The Archive of Our Own considers the latter examples to belong to RPF fandom.

Many fans consider original fiction to be, by definition, not a fanwork. However, for many other fans and entire sectors of fandom original fiction is just one type of fanwork that exists alongside fanfiction. This is especially true in Spanish[1][2], German-speaking[3], and Japanese-speaking fandom communities, and in Original Slash and Original Yaoi communities. Jane Austen Fandom[4][5] is another community where original fiction is treated similarly to fanfiction.

Grey Areas of "Original" Fiction

Very few stories qualify as "original" fiction, in the sense that the author created every setting, concept, or story trope that appears in her story. For instance, almost all realistic fiction is set in a real city, often in a very particular timeframe. Yet, although an author did not invent Moscow's Red Square before having her characters walk through it, this does not mean her story will not be considered original fiction.

Similarly, concepts such as elves, vampires or wizards are used by many fantasy authors, and are not "original" inventions; however, the usage of such concepts does not disqualify a story from being "original fiction."

Original Fic vs. Profic vs Fanfiction

Some fans feel that original fiction is an inapt term for fanfic's opposite—fanfiction can be incredibly original. Profic, short for Professional Fiction, is an alternate term, since one possible defining trait of fanfic is its amateur status. The two terms are not perfect synonyms though. Treating them as such discounts all the original fiction that is available for free on the internet or stashed in a drawer without the writers selling the stories to a professional publisher. The term profic also includes media tie-ins.

Many fans consider some AUs in FPF or RPF fandoms to be very little different from Original Fiction. See Filing Off The Serial Numbers for a discussion of how these three types of fiction can intersect.

Original fiction is often not considered a fandom, although a piece (or related pieces) of original fiction may serve as canon for fan activity. The exception to the 'not a fandom' understanding may be original slash. Original slash is homoerotic fiction which is written in the style of slash. In journal-based fandom circles, the walls between slash original fiction and original fiction in general are coming down. There are challenges like Origfic Bingo and Original Fiction Big Bang that are formatted exactly like their fannish cousins, and draw participants from the ranks of fanfiction writers and fan artists. In 2010 there a kink meme opened,[6] prompting some to think that Original Fiction is its own fandom.

In fan communities where "original" is just one flavor of fan activity, there is little controversy over its inclusion. Original fic often has its own section on fanfic archives. Sometimes this will be an entire sector of the archive; other times, one of the "fandoms" included is original fiction. Often, fans will transition from writing fanfic to writing original fic of the same variety and back again. For example, the participants in Shousetsu Bang*Bang are usually yaoi fanfic writers.

Inclusion of original fiction on AO3

In 2010, Archive of Our Own asked for opinions on hosting original works at the archive. The response was long and vigorous.

Most of the good parts of fanfiction, I don't have access to in original work until the third or fourth novel. The world just isn't fucking lived in enough to trigger the joy of repetition before the 300,000th word, okay? I don't step into your original fiction novel knowing and loving your characters like you do, dear author, and, frankly, if I'm in a fanfic reading mode, I'm not really looking to get to know somebody new, okay? I want to curl up with an old familiar friend, or at least somebody I've heard all of the latest gossip about.

[...]

But I hate for the streams of original fiction and fanfiction to cross. Stay out of my ghetto! It is nice and comfy in here! (Also, I will not be able to stand it if you get pissy about people writing fanfiction about your original work when you post said work in fanfiction spaces. My epicaricy will know no bounds. I might even be moved to bake a schadenfreude pie.)[7]

I am very weary of the Archive limiting itself to a definition of fanworks that is very clearly, very exclusively rooted in the LJ-mediafannish sphere. I respect that particular fannish experience that is, I think, exemplified by [the commentary quoted above].

Yes, the OTW grew from this very sphere. But I support the OTW not only because I am a media fan accultured in Journal-land. I support it because I very strongly believe that it can outgrow its source community and be of benefit to wider fandom. LJ-based fandom (and especially the meta-ish segment that most OTW projects draw from) is NOT the be-all and end-all of fannish spaces.

I a) know (certain animanga fannish spaces, Jane Austen fandom) and b) believe that there are fannish cultures that don't draw the original/fanwork distinction the way LJ mediafandom does, that seamlessly incorporate original work with a fannish sensibility (of a fannish genre) into their fan experience.

And I simply don't believe we should outright exclude these fans and their fannish experience only because, at the moment, the existing user base is overwhelmingly of a particular mediafannish subset.

[...]

I know a bit about advocating for not yet existing users. The strong parallel I draw is between making the Archive English only, because, well, this is where we're at at the moment -- English-language mediafandom. But I think it would be ineffably sad if we denied our own potential as an organisation, denied ourselves to grow and become richer, because we were unable to consider and incorporate other voices and perspectives. Other languages, other definitions of fannish community, of fanworks.[8]

There are some people who want to keep a wall between original and fan fiction, and want to keep AO3 limited to fan writers. And I can see their point - I, too, am far less likely to read something if it's original: it's harder work to read, less likely to be id-tastic, when I'm in the mood for fanwork I don't want original, and either the average quality of original fic is less, or I simply don't have good enough filters for finding the good stuff with original as compared to fan work. Plus, many original writing communities are not only very different in culture to fanwriting communities, some of them are openly hostile to fanwriting, or to some of the values that my particular fanwriting community espouses.

The problem I have with that viewpoint is that the separation between original and fan work *isn't* a wall. It is, at best, a long sloping gradient with something on it that might be an attempt at a wall that has fallen over in places and wasn't very straight to begin with (and has only been there for a paltry few decades anyway.) The boundary between original and fan work is not a hard boundary. People have brought up historical RPF several times already, but as far as I'm concerned, it's only the tip of the iceberg.

[...]

I would love if "not fan-fic-y enough" was one of those categories I didn't have to worry about on AO3. And since - *for me* - the most important role of AO3 is to be an archive for fanwriters to universally preserve and organize their work, I want all the edge cases to be allowed; if that means blanket allowing original fiction (and I suspect it does), then so be it. I would, however, support a restriction that every author account must have at least one definite fanwork uploaded, to preserve the archive as primarily fannish and to filter out people who are hostile to fanfic culture. And a rule that any original work hosted on AO3 must allow derivative work.[9]

I'm not saying it has to be now. I'm not saying that there aren't very good arguments against hosting original work. All I'm saying is that we may be too self-centered to consider what this may mean for the Archive's future user base, and you know what? I'm more afraid of stagnation and exclusion than of different fannish modes of expression.

AO3 chose to include original fiction in the Archive, under the fandom tag "Original Works," but the wording on what kinds of original fiction are allowed is vague.

The AO3 Terms of Service FAQ says:

Can I archive original fiction?

Yes and no. Although some users may want a place for all their creative work, our current vision of the Archive is of a place dedicated to fanworks in particular. The Archive was designed to serve the mission of the Organization for Transformative Works(OTW), which was "established by fans to serve the interests of fans by providing access to and preserving the history of fanworks and fan culture in its myriad forms."

Because our long-term plans include hosting fanworks of all kinds, not just fan fiction, we concluded that it was better to draw a line between fanworks and non-fanworks and only host the former, in order to avoid becoming a general repository for all sorts of creative works. In addition, we will enforce the noncommercialization policy strictly, including a ban on works posted to promote the sale of the author's other works, even if those are not hosted on the site.

However, there are a number of varieties of works produced by fans that do not fit comfortably into a narrow definition of fanfiction, fanart, vids, or other types of fanworks. Some of these do fall within our mission. In particular, original fiction that is part of an Open Doors project is allowed, as are types of original fiction and quasi-original fiction produced within a fandom context. Examples include such things as anthropomorfic, original fiction that is produced as part of a fandom challenge, exchange, or charity event, and genres such as Original Slash, Original BL, and Regency romances produced in Jane Austen fandom.

[...]

We presume that, by posting the work to the Archive, the creator is making a statement that they believe it's a fanwork. As such, unless the work doesn't meet some other criterion, it will be allowed to remain.[10]

How will you draw the line between fanworks and non-fanworks?

The presumption is that a work is a fanwork, but if it's clear from context—tags, author's notes, etc.—that it's not, it may be removed for violating the Content Policy. Please note that alternate universes/alternate realities or fanworks set in the distant past/future of a particular canon are still fanworks. Original works that are not based on a specific media source (canon) may also count as fanworks so long as they are fannish in nature. Please see "Can I archive original fiction?" above for more detail.[10]

In 2017, when the topic of Yuletide including The Course of Honour, an original slash novel post on AO3, anons on yultetide_coal debated and wanked their hearts out. Three anons discussed why they think The Course of Honor and works like it count as fannish and how it differs from self-pub work:

It's not fanwork in that it's based on anyone's intellectual property, but TBH a lot of it reads like a lot of fanfic for fandoms I'm not in - it has the same "the author's primary interest here is the tropes/kinks" feel, the same missing characterization... essentially, the same focus on what the author gets off on and lack of content that readers who don't get off on that might find interesting.

That's relatively rare in published work, presumably because the odds of the author, editor, and other involved parties all sharing a fetish for e.g. obese female submissive with steampunk sex machines in a body-positive AU of the Victorian era (it exists, it's on AO3, I've never read it but it has a couple hundred kudos so apparently it's got a pretty good audience) such that they'll let it go to print without having anything else interesting is minimal. On AO3, there's no such filtration. If you want to post your idfic that has nothing for anyone who doesn't share your exact id, nobody's stopping you. And there's no financial factor - Amazon self-published authors tend to self-filter to make sure people will be willing to read what they publish, which tends to mean that you get some very specific subgenres and very little crossover. It's less of a kitchen-sink approach.[11]

Thanks, that's an interesting analysis that rings truer to me than just "it's obviously a fanwork".

I think that's one of the reasons Course of Honour gained popularity - dedication to fannish tropes that were very much in keeping with prominent preferences on the platform where it originated (ffa) + enough worldbuilding around the edges and accessibility that its fans could recommend it generally. I think you're right that the characterization and themes - beyond the tropes - are light enough that it wouldn't have got through trad publishing without looking quite different, but there's still *enough* there for it to gain traction. It's a really, really good fit for people who read fanfic and also read romance & light sci-fi.[12]

A lot of the sorts of fans who used to write "original slash" now self-publish ebook erotica. I've been reading a lot of it lately, and it's exactly like the longer original works posted to AO3.

The only difference is whether someone thinks of their feels-y idfic as for-profit erotica or as a fanwork that belongs on a fic archive.[13]

Examples for original fiction in zines

A number of original fiction zines have been produced within fanworks-producing fandom. These have been created and distributed in the same manner as zines containing fanfiction--by the same publishers and writers at the same cons and through the same mailing lists and adzines. (Other types of zine such as SF fandom zines and Riot Grrrl zines may also contain original fiction, but without a link to this type of fandom.) Some zines contain a mixture of original and fanfiction.

Further Reading

See Also

  • Filk is another area of fandom with a lot of fanworks on original topics mixed in with ones based directly on commercial media properties.
  • Gamer Fic generally features not only entirely original characters but may also have little or no connection to commercially produced game settings.

References

  1. The livejournal community léeme despacio mixes fanfic with original fic (rules say "Ya no sólo hablamos de fan-fics, hablamos de cualquier género literario que querais tocar.", which means "We're not talking about only fanfic, but any literary genre you want to use.").
  2. The livejournal community recs_ftw accepts recs on any fandom and original fiction, as it says in the rules ("Fanfic y RPF, RPS, y los queridos originales. ¡Todo es bueno a la hora de recomendar!" or "Fanfic, RPF, RPS, and beloved originals. When you're rec'ing, it's all good!").
  3. The Freie Arbeiten category in fanfiktion.de, which includes subcategories for prose and poetry.
  4. A Novel Idea, Derbyshire Writers' Guild parallel forum.
  5. The Original Stories subforum at the A Happy Assembly fanfiction board.
  6. original_kink profile accessed October 30, 2010
  7. zvi, is grumpy old fic queen, posted 04 April 2010. (Accessed 31 July 2018.)
  8. lian, on that origfic discussion, posted 09 April 2010. (Accessed 31 July 2018.)
  9. melannen, On original fic and fanfic, posted 10 April 2010. (Accessed 31 July 2018.)
  10. 10.0 10.1 Archive of Our Own Terms of Service FAQ, accessed 31 July 2018.
  11. Anonymous on yuletide-coal on 05 September 2017. (Accessed 05 August 2018.)
  12. Anonymous on yuletide-coal on 05 September 2017. (Accessed 05 August 2018.)
  13. Anonymous on yuletide-coal on 06 September 2017. (Accessed 05 August 2018.)