|See also:||Migratory Slash Fandom, Two White Guys, fanon|
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A self-sustaining ship is "the occasional juggernaut pairing [that] goes full-on fanon early in its history and then becomes self-sustaining because the "canon" is whatever fic was popular most recently."
Discussion on FFA arose around Kylux's popularity and the steady supply of fanfic created for the ship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens fandom that defies the usual fic-writing activity trends in movie fandoms, as well as the influence of fanfic that creates extensive, self-generating fanon that acts as a basis for some popular ships.
It has been steadily busy, unlike the other ships, which had a burst of activity and then got kind of quiet. http://68.media.tumblr.com/9be225f93a84a8622ac01e2dbf4cafb8/tumblr_ov7p86H9d91qf373eo3_1280.png
- That's a super interesting graph. I wonder why it stayed steady?
- I want to say because its main "source material" is fanfic. Every new fic uploaded by a BNF/MNF that gets popular is new material you can build your own fic ideas and fanon worldbuilding on, whereas the other ships are kinda just standing around waiting for new canon material to propel them forward, which leads to the typical movie fandom output the graph shows. (I'm not even dissing Kylux, I'm into Clint/Coulson and from what I can tell, our fandom operated the same way which led to a steady supply of fic for years with no canon to build on in sight.)
- I would argue it's other main source material is also fanart. Kylux artists are both prolific and share interesting ideas and AUs. That's what drew me to the ship. Jeusus alone has drawn hundreds of pieces and the other artist's are as talented and influential within the fandom. They influence the writer's and vice versa keeping it going strong.
- I've been looking at other movie fandoms, and it's an unusual pattern. The closest ship I could find was Arthur/Eames. (In terms of how the graphs look. Not because "3 seconds of screen time, how dare it be popular?!")
Single-movie fandoms that follow similar patterns to the non-Kylux TFA ships:
Multiple-movie fandoms that show a related pattern: 
Movie fandoms that showed other patterns: 
(Actually, MCU does kind of follow the normal pattern. It just has so many more movies and other things being released that the graph is too messy to be easily analyzed.)
I haven't looked much at TV fandoms yet. I did look at AO3 overall, and there are seasonal trends (which I can summarize as "If college students are on break, they post more fic").
Most ships, including intensely popular ones, are active after new canon has been released or when people have free time. The longer the time elapsed since new canon, the deader the ship.
My theory is that the occasional juggernaut pairing goes full-on fanon early in its history and then becomes self-sustaining because the "canon" is whatever fic was popular most recently.
It would be interesting to look at Teen Wolf posting trends since Sterek is often accused of being all fanon, and the canon alienated many different shippers at different points. Hawaii Five-0 might be interesting for similar reasons, though I think the alienation mostly just killed the fandom in that case. I've pretty much exhausted the movie fandoms that AO3 can provide reasonable data for. (I'm sure LotR or the Star Wars prequel trilogy or PotC would be interesting, but their initial bursts of activity are years before AO3.)