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Fanfiction Glossary
by TheRoach

When people come into a fan fiction forum or newsgroup, they often are overwhelmed by the terminology used. And no, I'm not talking about people writing in 'Leet', but the special terms used to describe ideas and people. Like other areas, fanart and fan fiction have technical terms of their own, and just like an artist knows what Bristol Board is, or a writer knows that "Strunk/White" refers to "Elements of Style" by William Strunk jr. and E.B. White, so does a group of fans have its own language. The most common and universally used terms are collected here for a quick review.

fandom - the more or less unorganized masses of fen (plural of fan) for a specific show, artist, series, book or similar. People who have been around in a specific fandom for a long time are called dinos, and when they join another fandom, they are called dinews.

canon - the original text / show / artwork that sequels and fan fiction/fanart is based on. People who insist that everything in a fanfic must follow canon are called purists or, negatively, canon weenies, where the affliction they are saddled with is termed canon weeny flu. A purist is the one most likely to complain about a spider, i.e., a plot or characterization inconsistency.

(alternate) universe, continuum or Elseworld - the 'world' characters live in, including character relationships, knowledge etc. An 'alternate' or 'parallel' world would deviate from the canon world usually in a manner like the Marvel 'What if...' comics did, exploring the effects different decisions made by the characters or different results of natural or historical events would have had. Do not confuse this with an Alternative or AltFic, which is used mostly in the Hercules and Xena fandom, and is used to describe a story that includes a lesbian pairing.

A special case of an alternate universe are Deathfics, in which most characters die in horrible and/or grotesque fashion, either as a sort of revenge, or to explore the ramifications of the deaths.

Crossover - A combination of characters, places, items etc. that belong to different universes. E.g.: What would happen if Sheridan and Susan Ivanova (from Babylon 5) were to meet the Daleks and the Robomen from Doctor Who? A crossover by definition cannot be canon. A specific subdivision of Crossovers are Guest Stars in which only a single person, place or item is introduced into another universe. The best-known guest star probably is the fluids of Jusenkyo from Ranma 1/2, especially those from Nyanniichuan.

Mary Sue - a.k.a. Marty Stu, Marty Sam, or occasionally Avatar. Sometimes an author includes a character in his/her fanfics that is based on the author him-/herself, which then proceeds to save the day and is perfect in all respects - usually nauseatingly so. Often, a Mary Sue has the tendency to outshine and outrank the 'real' heroes of the fiction, which is why this name has a negative connotation. This is opposed to a self-insertion, which also features the author, though in a lesser role, far from perfect and usually not fundamental to the plot. A famous writer of self-insertions would be Clive Cussler, who has himself appear in most Dirk Pitt novels.

While we're talking about Mary Sues and negative connotation, a BadFic usually is intentionally written badly, for humoristic purposes. This term comes from the X-Files-fandom where stories by Mary Sue Whipple are cited as a prime example.

Virtual Season - often also called Sequel: a story or stories that take place after the canon events or, in rare cases, after a specific other fan fiction.

Hammerspace, occasionally also called Bikinispace (especially in the Dirty pair fandom) is an explanation for a phenomenon that has astounded readers of humorous manga for ages: where do small girls get the giant hammers they use to clobber up the hapless male lead from? It seems to be an extradimensional fold holding all sorts of items.

Another 'this cannot be real' phenomenon often found in fanfics is the derogatorily named Hollow Man Sydrome, in which a character takes more damage than any human could possibly survive. The only reasonable explanation: there are no internal organs that can be damaged...

Lemons, limes and other citrus fruit are found especially in the Anime fandoms and denote pieces with romantic, sexual or erotic content. The original Lemon denotes a piece with explicit sexual content. A lime has slightly more plot, less sexual content and no intercourse, when compared to a lemon. An orange has characters kissing passionately, but doesn't go any further. A grapefruit usually is sexually very implicit, involving rape. The other citrus fruits have not yet been associated with definitions - kumquats anyone?

About relationships: A relationshipper, -shipper, is someone whose stories concentrate on (canon or not) relations between characters. In some cases this can lead to the Cartwright syndrome, in which a female love interest for a male character is created and killed off at the end. In different fandoms, people concentrating on relationships are described in a variety of terms, e.g. '-shipper' in the Pokémon fandom (e.g. Rocketshipper, concentrating on Jessie and James), or combining parts of the names in Digimon and Smallville fandom (Clex - Clark and Lex in Smallville, Daiory - Daisuke (Davis) and Iory (Cody) in Digimon).

More generally used terms for sexual content, especially in the Anime and Manga fandom, are hentai (Jap.: pervert), and ecchi. The latter gets its name from the first letter 'hentai' is written in in Japanese, and is defined as 'softcore', while 'hentai' usually describes hardcore, though the terms often are also used interchangeably.

Slash - This is an old term. It seems to have originally been coined on the Star Trek FanFiction newsgroups, though the genealogy of the term is not completely clear. The Original Star Trek series appeared to have shown some homoerotic undertones between James T. Kirk and Spock, and fan fiction writers used to annotate this as [Kirk/Spock] to warn potential readers. Similar pairings in other fan fiction were also noted name-slash-name, and the 'slash' descriptor became the name for the whole subgenre. It describes a usually erotic to pornographic pairing of two characters of the same sex who don't 'belong together' in the original continuum. Occasionally, one encounters the (mis-used) term straight slash for a heterosexual coupling.

It may seem that fan fiction is abundant with sexual stories, but that is not so. Most of it falls under the category of Gen (General). This often also comprises genres such as Mystery, Action/Adventure and humor.

Fanart / Fan fiction is not limited to stories and pictures. From the fandom, there also come filks, which are musical pieces, often, though not always, set to well-known tunes. Originally a mis-spelling of the word 'folk music', 'filk music' has become a well-known phenomenon, and today there are filks about just about anything. "Weird" Al Yankovic often is considered a filker.

A Doujinshi is a manga or gekiga drawn not by the original mangaka (manga artist) but by fans: it is a Japanese form of fanart.

When fen come together for a convention, or con, they sometimes engage in cosplay (costumed play). Players dress up as characters and often re-enact scenes from the originals or from fanfics.

Please remember that the terms given here can only give a short overview. Especially in the area of relations, the fen have a vast imagination for names.

For those that would like to know more, the Writers University has a large dictionary of terms, even though the site still is under construction. The old site, also available there, is a good repository of information for fan writers.



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