Archive of Our Own

Photo, Cosplay photography moo cards, Jonathan McIntosh, Flickr, 2010
Jonathan McIntosh, "Cosplay photography moo cards," Flickr, 2010.

Fandom is a world that has produced more than one professional romance author. Whether you’re a long-time fan or simply interested in taking your first step into the world of fandom, Archive of Our Own (AO3) is a great place to start. Launched in 2008, AO3 has grown rapidly in popularity. Recognized by Time Magazine as one of the Fifty Best Websites of 2013, AO3 is one of many projects run by the nonprofit fan advocacy group the Organization for Transformative Works. AO3 was built to provide fans with a non-commercial and fan-operated archive for their creative work, and. AO3 is committed to protecting fan work from legal threats and rescuing and housing older fan archives before this material is abandoned or lost. Due to these efforts, AO3 serves a practical need for fans, but fans’ use of the archive can also be a sign of support for the Organization for Transformative Works.

How do fan fiction authors respond to popular romantic texts, such as those by Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer?

Visitors to AO3 can explore this question in the Books & Literature section. Fan work also often clusters around particular romantic pairings. This means that AO3 provides visitors with examples of ways fans are reworking pre-existing media texts to incorporate romantic themes and explore alternate romantic possibilities. For example, while male/male romance is now beginning to grow in popularity in commercial romantic fiction, fans have been producing same-sex romances for decades. This content is well-represented on AO3.

Site features like the Challenge and Collections sections can provide visitors with a glimpse of the many different ways fan work is generated. For example, AO3 houses fan fiction created for the annual Yuletide challenge, a rare fandom and pairings challenge that many thousands of fans participate in annually. AO3 also does not limit content to fan fiction. Fans’ remix videos and artwork, as well as commentary on fandoms and fan practices, can also be found on the site. Finally, due to AO3’s efforts to house older fan archives, the site may be useful to those looking for older works of fan fiction or interested in older styles of fan production. These works can typically be found by browsing or searching through the Collections section of the archive.

AO3’s search capabilities are numerous and flexible, allowing visitors to navigate the site in many different ways. In addition to browsing by fandom, popular tags, collections, and user bookmarks, AO3 also offers ranking-based search features (number of hits, user comments, etc.). Unlike (another major fan archive online), AO3 is also designed to let visitors search by romantic pairings, popular story tropes, and even popular romantic and sexual kinks. These features help to make fan interests in various types of romantic and erotic content more visible. Please note that AO3 uses detailed labeling systems for its content and these appear as graphic icons and written text in the heading of each story. Since adult content is permitted on AO3 and constitutes a significant amount of site content, visitors new to the site will want to take a few minutes to acquaint themselves with the labeling system.

Katherine Morrissey

Katherine Morrissey is a PhD Candidate in Media, Cinema and Digital Studies in the English Department at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and has a Master’s in Communication, Culture, and Technology from Georgetown University. Katherine’s research interests include popular romance, gender and sexuality within popular media, and participatory culture. She also has professional experience in communications and marketing in the nonprofit sector, as well as web and graphic design.

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