This is a quick study I conducted between yesterday and today. For referential purposes I should probably say this study was conducted in April/May 2012
As I mentioned in a past entry, I have been reading fanfiction for about ten years now, since 2001 or 2002, I can’t quite pinpoint it anymore. During that time I have read hundreds upon hundreds of stories, from anime, literature, to film and television series (and even once or twice to game and comic book). Through my experience in different fandoms I came to form a mentality for the kind of people who read and write fanfiction, and through experience alone I formed assumptions about it. For example, the assumption that almost everyone who writes fanfiction is a girl may not be entirely accurate. I have heard of plenty of guys who write it as well, although I will still maintain that it is mostly pre-16 year old girls and post-40 year old women.
Yesterday I discovered that another of my assumptions regarding fanfiction was not only incorrect but surprisingly quite wrong. For a long time I believed that the most prolific genre was that of ‘hurt/comfort’, a genre which, as the name suggests, is about hurting a character or characters and having other characters comfort them. I had always noticed that there seemed to be an incredible amount of this genre in every fandom I explored, and I arrived at the conclusion that we are all (readers and writers alike) a bunch of sadistic weirdoes.
I decided to conduct a study of the number of fics written for each genre in order to determine concretely which genres are the most popular after all, and whether I am correct in stating that ‘hurt/comfort’ is the most written for genre. It turns out, however, that this genre is actually a small percentage of the total amount of fanfiction written, which has made me have to reconsider some conclusion about myself and the people I read.
Knowing that statistics might not be the same across different fandoms, I performed my study across four different fandoms, namely: Harry Potter, House M.D., Stargate SG1 and Sherlock. There are two reasons for my choices. The first is that I also did an overview of the most prolific fandoms in the categories of ‘Books’ and ‘TV Series’ in order to determine which fandoms are the most popular. I selected only these two categories for convenience sake, and if I ever take this study to a large scale I would of course make it across all categories. The fifteen most popular books and tv series in Fanfiction.net are:
Books TV Series
Harry Potter 591,149 Glee 70,683
Twilight 199,469 Supernatural 61,251
Lord of the Rings 46,297 Buffy 44,181
Percy Jackson 25,613 Doctor Who 37,071
Hunger Games 17,307 NCIS 30,550
Maximum Ride 15,746 CSI 26,253
Warriors 12,550 Stargate: SG-1 25,767
Phantom of the Opera 10,273 House M.D. 20,499
Song of the Lioness 8,109 Bones 18,149
Outsiders 6,937 Stargate: Atlantis 17,796
Vampire Academy 5,952 Gilmore Girls 16,099
Mortal Instruments 5,281 Vampire Diaries 15,313
Inheritance Cycle 5,080 Sherlock 14,719
Animorphs 4,837 Degrassi 14,238
Artemis Fowl 4,761 Power Rangers 14,050
It can easily be seen that my choices are among the top fandoms for amount of stories written, which justifies studying them as they are clearly popular. The second reason for my four specific choices is that I have read many fics in these particular fandoms, and had based my generalized assumptions on them. I have, of course, read fics from many of these other fandoms, as well as from other categories (most notably anime), but I will stick to only these four for now.
The genres provided by Fanfiction.net are the following: adventure, angst, crime, drama, family, fantasy, friendship, general, horror, humor, hurt/comfort (h/c), mystery, parody, poetry, romance, sci-fi, spiritual, supernatural, suspense, tragedy, and western.
Here are the results of my study:
As can be seen, the most popular genre, to my utter surprise, is ‘romance’, followed by ‘general’ in all fandoms. Hurt/Comfort, the genre I thought would come on top, actually places between fifth and eighth, comprising only between 2.75% and 9.29% of the fanfiction written, compared to the 22.10% to 31.48% of romance, and the 16.87% to 20.04% of general. Even humor, drama and friendship placed higher than h/c (except in Sherlock where drama ranked one percentage lower, and in House M.D. where friendship was under h/c by two percent). Only adding the percentages for hurt/comfort, angst and tragedy do we get closer to my previous conclusion. In that case, fics of ‘general unwellness’ would rank around 12%, 19%, 16% and 17% respectively. However, if we were to do this, we would also have to merge the results for ‘humor’ and ‘parody’ for example, which would still make h/c rank relatively low among the more popular genres.
Overall, a most interesting study which proves that:
1) You should not make assumptions without all the data, no matter how many years of experience you think you have.
2) People are much more romantic than I gave them credit for, although this also lowers my respect for the medium in general.
3) Once again, thanks to my weirdness, I rank between fifth and eighth on the ‘normal-meter’, to which I can only say ‘at least I don’t read/write westerns’.
One confused ff-writer/reader signing off,
All data accurate as of 1 May 2012 for the database of Fanfiction.net.
Additional footnote: It should be noted that most stories have two genre categories which is why, for instance, there are 591,149 fics written for Harry Potter, but the sum of all the ‘individual’ entries for each separate genre produces a much higher number of 1,025,313. This does not affect the results at all, since they are percentages.