Fanfiction. It’s all about the shipping, right? Your show won’t make your ship canon, so you take to AO3 and give your OTP the happy ending they deserve. And didn’t fanfiction as we know it evolve from Kirk/Spock (a.k.a. The Premise, the unspoken fan-consensus that the two of them were meant to be lovers)?
Well, yes and no.
I love shippy fics, don’t get me wrong. I live for EraserMic, the bulk of my recent fanfiction output has been ship-based, and slash fiction is my escapism when regular media gives me nothing but bland het and sterotypical cis-gay stories.
But there’s more to fanfiction than slash.
I adore writers who can produce tightly plotted, well-crafted stories that are plot-driven rather than ship-driven. Or even if any shipping is background or not the primary focus. There’s much to be said, too, for writers who write ships that are entirely about romance with not a hint of smut in sight. My last few shippy fics have all been tagged ‘non-sexual romance’, partly because I think it’s important to show that relationships aren’t primarily about sex.
Most of the anime I watch now, I couldn’t care less about ships. I’ve read the odd Reo/Mabu, but that’s canon anyway. I’ve looked at Reigen/Serizawa, but as I’m anime-only with MP100, I have no real hoyay to base the ship on. Maybe it’s because as my tastes change, I watch more action shows and dramas with less focus on close relationships, or maybe I’ve just been around fandom long enough that there isn’t much new in any of the shippy fics that have filled up AO3 now. Maybe it’s because, way back when I first got into fanfiction, slash was very much a niche thing (unlike the fandom behemoth it is today), so most fics I encountered were het or gen. And what I loved, more than any other content, was fic that captured the tone of the show.
My first online fandom was ‘Frasier’, a show with a very distinct humour and style. The fandom’s transformative works were either Niles/Daphne stories (with a smattering of Niles/Roz, my ship of choice), Mary-Sue fics, or gen comedy stories. The writers who could recreate the feel of an episode in prose were, to me, utter geniuses – literary masters who ought to have been writing for the show.
Beyond that, through ‘Big Wolf On Campus’ and into ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’, canon gave tons of material ripe for exploring in fic. Although I read a decent amount of ship-focused stuff, my writing focused largely on character studies and gen stuff exploring the geek trio from season six (you may be aware of my penchant for the marginalised side characters).
It wasn’t until I started watching buddy cop shows like ‘Starsky & Hutch’ and ‘Due South’ that I really started to think of myself as a shipper, and even then there was plenty of gen content to keep me satisfied.
Honestly, it makes me sad to see how fanfiction has become all about the shipping, to the detriment of practically every other genre. There’s so much potential for creativity that’s being ignored in favour of rehashing the same old stuff again and again. I’d happily lose every single BakuDeku fic on AO3 if someone would write just one comedy fic about the UA faculty. Or how about we leave Saitama/Genos alone for a while and write more S-Class hero outings like the onsen special episode?
When you’re not focused on romance or smut, it can feel a bit daunting to craft an entire plot about something else. Plus, of course, there’s the glaring obviousness of how popular ship-fic is with readers, and it’s tough to put work out there when you know it might not get much attention.
Still, I’d encourage everyone to give it a go, whether you’re a fic writer or a reader. Whether it’s a quick drabble, a crossover, or a multi-chapter epic, there’s far more to fanfiction than ships.
I’d love to read your recommendations for non-shippy fanfiction. Do you have a story of your own to share? Or a favourite bookmarked fic by another author? Regardless of the fandom, share your recs for gen fic with me in the comments!