Fanfiction Study

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,

AR

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.

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2 thoughts on “Fanfiction Study

  1. I AM KIRA says:

    However, one fandom not mentioned here is MLP, which has so many fanfictions that it needs its own site for it. On Fimfiction.net, there are 92,000 (There were about 12,000 when this article was posted) And many of these fics are significantly longer than the books listed here that have fandoms.

    Like

    • Amaya Ramiel says:

      Hmm, I assume MLP means “My Little Pony” (that’s what wikipedia tells me, anyways), but FF.net (which is the website I used for this “study” – and I use that word very loosely) only lists little over 23,000, which would have been even fewer in 2012. Indeed, I don’t even use ArchiveOfOurOwn.org, or any of the specialized fandom databases.

      In any case, the two categories that I look at are books and tv. You’ll note I don’t look at films or other cartoons, or even anime (the latter which might have yielded results closer to my original expectations, who knows). Moreover, as I state in the article, the four fandoms I pick are merely because I am personally familiar with them, and had mostly based my assumptions and expectations off of my interactions with them. Having never watched MLP, or read any fics in that fandom, I could not even begin to have an opinion about its tendencies, much less formulated any behavior theories about the content of its fics.

      However, if you would like to conduct a similar survey about the common genres in MLP fanfiction, you are most welcome to do so.

      Cheers, AR

      PS. What does the length of individual fanfictions have to do with the length of original works?

      Like

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