What is fandom lore? Essentially, it’s the history of fans and their activities within fandom, particularly ones that have led to stories being passed around and becoming, well, something like legends – and not only within their communities, but within fandom as a whole.
The explosion of social media throughout the past decade has caused fandom to take on a life of its own, with its scope and reach growing by leaps and bounds since the days of Geocities pages and simple message boards. While the current ease of taking part in fandom discussion and activities has certainly led to some newsworthy events, here are ten infamous pieces of fandom lore that will probably never be topped.
Anne Rice vs. Fandom
Anne Rice’s disavowal of fanfiction might be the most well-known piece of fandom lore about her, but there is actually much more to her feelings about and actions toward her fans – actions that have become legend in not just her books’ fandoms, but across the board.
The saga began in 2000 when Rice added the following statement to her website: “I do not allow fan fiction. The characters are copyrighted. It upsets me terribly to even think about fan fiction with my characters. I advise my readers to write your own original stories with your own characters. It is absolutely essential that you respect my wishes.”
It continued in 2001, when fanfiction.net received a letter from Rice’s lawyers insisting that the site remove all stories featuring Rice’s copyrighted characters. Around 2012 she essentially announced that she had developed a new ‘live and let live’ stance on fanfiction, but the damage had long been done – and it didn’t help that after her war on fanfic, Rice unleashed her fury on many who wrote critical reviews of her works, including insisting that they were ‘interrogating the text from the wrong perspective’ and even, at one point, essentially using her Facebook page to rile her fandom up about a small-time blogger’s negative review of her novel Pandora.
No wonder so many outlets have used Anne Rice as a cautionary tale regarding how not to interact with fans.
Axanar: The Fan Film That Never Was (& Probably Never Will Be)
Few fandoms have as much history as that of Star Trek, so it’s no wonder that the long-running story of the fan film Axanar still raises eyebrows in 2019. The film’s tale began with a concept short called Prelude to Axanar that debuted to rave reviews at San Diego Comic-Con 2014 and kicked off a series of events that culminated in CBS filing a lawsuit against Axanar‘s would-be creator Alec Peters.
Both the Prelude and Axanar itself were crowdfunded projects, with several different campaigns bringing in more than $1.3 million – though there were also direct sales and private donations involved, leading many to place the approximate amount of money raised at at least $1.5 million. Much of these funds went to fulfilling Kickstarter perks, securing a commercial warehouse and converting it into a working film studio and soundstage, and building sets. Unfortunately, despite having several Star Trek actors and Richard Hatch of Battlestar Galactica fame signed on, things went downhill quickly, with director Christian Gossett resigning first, followed by actor Tony Todd. And then came the big blow – CBS and Paramount suing Axanar over copyright infringement.
All forward momentum on the film came to a halt, many crew members walked out, and as the lawsuit progressed the remaining funds were quickly depleted. Despite rumors cropping up in mid-2016 that the lawsuit would be dropped, it didn’t end until it was settled in January 2017, and since then very little progress has been made on the film, while Peters struggles to raise funds to simply continue renting space to essentially store the sets that weren’t destroyed or sold when he was forced to move to a smaller facility after the lawsuit.
A Different Kind of Cupcake(s)
It’s no wonder that despite being unable to pinpoint the exact origin of the creepy My Little Pony fanfic “Cupcakes”, fans believe that it got its start on 4chan. The story begins with Rainbow Dash meeting up with Pinkie Pie to bake some cupcakes…only it turns out that Pinkie Pie’s key cupcake ingredient is other ponies. Not only that, but she prances around in a dress made of skins, Pegasus wings, and cutie marks.
Despite being considered “crude, gory, and traumatizing”, “Cupcakes” became one of the most popular MLP fanfic series ever, prompting plenty of discussion and fanart and even being named a “Legendary Badfic” by the Protectors of the Plot Continuum Wiki.
The FFVII House: Fandom + Communal Living, What Could Go Wrong?
Communal living, especially among younger people, certainly comes with a host of difficulties. I personally have heard some pretty rough tales of communal living – regardless of whether the people involved met via fandom or not – but the the story of the Final Fantasy VII house definitely struck a chord with people, and not just within fandom. It began with a manipulative, secretive girl named Joanna, who gathered people in need and claimed she could give them a home – but only if they allowed her to call them by FFVII names and took part in her ‘magical’ rituals.
You would hope that a home built around the idea that a group of people who loved the same thing and claimed to want to understand and support each other would be the safe haven its founder claimed it to be, but instead the living space became a cesspool of filth and abuse. Leaving the house led to people being shunned both on- and offline, a tactic that scared many of the residents into staying much longer than they wanted to, particularly as they often didn’t have anywhere else to go – or didn’t have the money to move on, since any money they did bring in was essentially confiscated to keep the house running.
Despite the fact that the FFVII house seems to have collapsed in on itself (metaphorically speaking) well over a decade ago, its legend lives on – and not just in the FFVII fandom, thanks to the 2015 Vice article detailing one resident’s experience.
50 Shades of Fanfic
If you don’t know how EL James’s 50 Shades series came about, well, color me shocked (pun intended). The long-story-short is that she wrote a Twilight fanfiction that took place in an alternate universe, it became insanely popular, and eventually she simply changed the names and a few other telling details and was able to get a book deal. Everything else is history – the series was a bestseller, movies were made, and while people have raised concerns both about how her novels came about and their portrayal of the BDSM lifestyle, the story of James and the 50 Shades series is arguably one of the more positive on this list.
Compendium or Copycat? JK Rowling vs. the Harry Potter Lexicon
In the beginning, the Harry Potter Lexicon – a fan created online encyclopedia of the Harry Potter series – was lauded by JK Rowling as “a great site” that she even admitted using to fact check. In fact, the Lexicon even won her Fansite Award at one point.
Unfortunately, when Lexicon creator Steven Vander Ark began working with RDR Books to publish a physical copy of his site, Rowling not only balked at the idea – she sued the would-be publisher. Rowling claimed that she “took no pleasure” in doing so and that she was merely fighting for the rights of authors to protect their original work. She insisted that “The proposed book took an enormous amount of my work and added virtually no original commentary of its own.” Yet despite these tempered words, Rowling also called the book ‘wholesale theft’, plagiarism, and a waste of money. She won the lawsuit, but this ended up being less of a discouraging decision and situation and more of a learning curve, showing fans what isn’t tolerated should they be interested in publishing their own companion guide(s), Harry Potter or otherwise.
Back in 2017, some fans of Voltron: Legendary Defender took a tour of Studio Mir, snapped some unauthorized pictures of confidential storyboards, and then posted them on the internet. While many of these fans removed their photos after finding out that yes, the studio could get in trouble with their partner DreamWorks over the leaks, one fan refused, stating that they would only take down their pictures if their ship (“Klance”) was made canon. DreamWorks refused to comply and eventually things died down, but the situation as a whole painted shippers in a very bad light – one that won’t be forgotten anytime soon.
From Plagiarism to Possible Probable Cyberbullying: Cassandra Clare
Nowadays Cassandra Clare is probably more well known as the author of the YA series The Mortal Instruments, but her history as a problematic Harry Potter fan is impossible to ignore. Clare was accused of everything from plagiarism to profiteering to cyberbullying, and while her Mortal Instruments series didn’t share much with her infamous Harry Potter fanfic “The Draco Trilogy”, if you have read both it’s difficult to ignore some of the character similarities. Additionally, many find it telling that Clare had a history of siccing lawyer friends on anyone who brought up her questionable actions…and that most of the blog entries and Wiki articles detailing her wrongdoings were deleted without explanation.
At the very least, Clare is a controversial figure; the middle ground is that she’s a fandom-famous person who got partially (possibly mostly) plagiarized works published. At the worst, she was a bully who used her fandom fame and her connections to silence her detractors.
The failure of DashCon, a convention founded by and for Tumblr users, has gone down in fandom history. Originally named Tumbl-Con, the founders changed the name to DashCon to clarify the fact that they weren’t directly affiliated with Tumblr. They raised $4,000 on IndieGogo, but apparently counted on at-con ticket sales to pay for things like covering travel and rooms for their main guests, the creators of Welcome to Night Vale. Unfortunately, those sales didn’t happen, which led to WTNV walking out, as they couldn’t afford to travel and stay on their own dime.
At one point the convention organizers sent out a plea to raise $17,000 just so that the convention could continue, At the same time, their solution to attendee complaints was to offer them an extra hour in the [small, questionable] ballpit. In the end, it wasn’t just money troubles that did them in – certain fandom committees dissolved without notice, panels started late or didn’t happen at all, and projected attendance ended up being several thousand people higher than the actual numbers (1,000 or less actual vs. 3,000-7,000 projected). It was a financial and organizational nightmare, and it has plagued crowdfunded conventions ever since.
My Immortal IS Immortal: Harry Potter Fanfic That Will Go Down in History
Whether you’re a Harry Potter fan or not, if you’re involved in online fandom it’s nearly impossible to not hear about “My Immortal”. This fanfic, with its nonsense storyline and obnoxious original POV character, is so bad that many have wondered if it’s a hoax or satire…but the supposed author had such an online presence that it’s hard to believe the fanfic is a fake.
The fact of the matter is that whether or not “My Immortal” is a fake, the fact that it carries with it a ridiculous plot, is replete with spelling and grammatical errors, and that Ebony (also known as Enoby, Eboby, Evony, Ebory, Enobby, Enopby, Egogy, Tara, or TaEbory) Dark’ness Dementia Raven Way has been hailed as one of the worst original fanfic characters in history.
What other infamous pieces of fandom lore have you come across? Let us know in the comments!
Author: Tara Lynne
Tara Lynne is an author, fandom and geek culture expert, and public speaker. She founded Ice & Fire Con, the first ever Game of Thrones convention in the US, and now runs its parent company Saga Event Planning.
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