It’s a huge undertaking to try to sum up twenty plus years of a fandom, but this page should provide a little bit of a primer to anyone who is new to hanfic. If you disagree with anything said here, feel free to shoot me an email and offer your opinion. Obviously this article is just the work of one person, although I have had some help, so it won’t be completely unbiased and informative, but I hope it is still helpful.
I’ve divided the article into two sections. First, some basic demographics and things. Second, a history by roughly defined “era.”
Age: The average age of hanfic authors has always quite closely mirrored the boys ages. In 1997, most of the fans were teenagers, although a significant portion of authors were older (twenties and up). Today, the majority of us are in our twenties and thirties.
Gender: Overwhelmingly female, with a few notable male authors (or, at least, male pseudonyms) and a handful of trans* authors as well.
Nationality: The English-speaking fandom is primarily American, with a smattering of Canadian, Australian and British fans as well. There is also an active South American fandom, mostly in Brazil and Chile.
Other Fandoms: Hanson fans are often not involved in any other fandoms at all, but there are some trends. In the early days, some were also fans of boy bands such as the Backstreet Boys and N Sync, or the other brother band, The Moffatts. Today, some are fans of other brother bands like the Jonas Brothers or Tokio Hotel. A fair amount are also involved in bandom, Glambert, One Direction, J-Pop and J-Rock fandoms. Other fandoms are generally whatever else is popular at the time — Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Twilight, for example, and whatever else is currently popular.
Other demographics are tough to measure and trying to do so would probably offend many.
Length: Long fic is the preference. Oneshots are usually of the smutty persuasion or written for specific challenges.
Genres: In hanfic, genre usually means het, slash or cest. Het was most popular in the early days, but cest is growing and taking over in recent years. Regular slash has never had a huge presence. Romance, angst and drama are the most popular genres. Other popular ones include comedies, mysteries, thrillers, and just about anything else you can think of.
Crossovers: The most popular crossovers in the late 90s and early 2000s were with The Moffatts. Other brothers, such as Gil and Tal Ofarim, briefly got in on the act as well. Taylor was usually paired with Scott Moffatt and Gil Ofarim, and Zac with Dave or Bob Moffatt, and Tal Ofarim. Other popular crossover subjects include any bands they have toured with or otherwise associated with, including but not limited to: Phantom Planet, Everybody Else, Ben Jelen, Rooney, etc. Crossovers with other pop artists (BSB, N Sync, etc) exist but aren’t very common. There have been a few notable crossovers with LoTRiPS, Glambert and Eminem. Read my crossovers page for more information.
Formats: Songfics were popular in the early 2000s but have largely fallen out of favor. Drabbles and ficlets are sometimes written, with an LJ comm existing for hanfic drabbles. Some script fics exist. Other unique fanfic formats (podfic, “5 things,” etc) used in other fandoms are generally not present in hanfic.
Other Conventions: Character pictures are quite common, usually using actresses or models to “play” the original characters in a story. Authors often create soundtracks or fanmixes for their stories. If an author posts to a personal website, they will usually create a new, special layout for each story. Stories posted on LiveJournal usually have banners to accompany them.
Visit this page for more information about common tropes in hanfic.
Archives: Many authors, especially of slash and cest, used LiveJournal to archive their stories until changes to the platform caused it to become unpopular around 2016. Few have transitioned full to
Challenges, Contests, etc: There have been several, which can be found listed here, although few are currently active. Writing sprints, held a few times a week for hanfic authors, were also quite popular a few years ago.
Awards: Many awards have been held through the years, though fewer in recent years. Some of these have been in connection with the challenges held. Go here to see what awards are currently running, if any.
Newsletters/Mailing Lists: Three in recent history: Just Shy of Reality by email, Hanson Fiction on the LJ community of the same name, and the one now run by yours truly (link in the sidebar). It was very popular in the past to send out stories or notify readers of updates by mailing list. Hanficml was the most popular of these. It existed not just to share, but to critique stories.
Forums: JSOR was the largest and most popular forum specifically for hanfic in recent years, although others exist. Various Artists was also highly popular and occasionally is still used, mostly for fic searches.
Journal Communities: A wide variety exist, for all genres and interests. Some are more active and organized than others, and many suffered when LiveJournal put all communities on moderated posting–even those with inactive mods. The most recently active, Hanson Fiction @ LJ, is an offshoot of PTH. View a list of them here.
Middle of Nowhere Era, 1997-1998
It didn’t take very long for Hanson to become fanfic fodder. Only two months after the release of MON, the first documented hanfic, Hanson and Hugo, was published on Nifty.org. Dozens of similar slash stories followed.
Possibly the first hanfic written by a (presumably) female fan is one that appears on many early Hanson websites. An author is never listed, and the story goes by a few titles, most commonly “Ike’s Letter To Tay In Heaven.” Here is one link to it. This author claims to have written that fic. You’ll notice a big disclaimer always accompanies it, implying that most of the readers were not familiar with fan fiction at the time. Many other stories followed this one, with the first noteable and widely popular one being linkTulsa 74312. Written as a parody of the soap opera style, it set the standard for early hanfic romance. One website claims it was originally published in July 1997, while a counter on the original website dates back to September 8, 1997. Hanson Meets a Cocckroach probably predates it slightly, being published on July 21, 1997, and Kristen states here that she began writing For What It’s Worth during Easter weekend of 1997, though it was not published online until later in the summer. One website makes the claim that the story Some Changes Are Good was one of the first hanfics ever, but I can find no proof of that.
By the end of that summer, hundreds of Hanson fan sites littered the web, and most of them contained at least one story. Several early sites from the summer and fall of 1997 stated that there were 700 Hanson fansites; I have no idea where this statistic comes from, but it seems to have been passed around a lot. A fan from the early days told me that she remembers there being “thousands” of fansites by the end of that summer. The site that would become Various Artists went online in August 1997, and hosted over 600 hanfic sites by the time it was renamed (from Kim’s Stories and Links) and relocated in early 1999.
Lots of early stories were also shared through email newsletters and mailing lists. Many of these mailing lists hosted round robin style challenges where many authors contributed to the same stories, as well as “character calls” where fans could submit their own characters (usually based on themselves and their friends) to be featured in stories. Many of the early stories were the typical teenybopper fare, but there were also some very talented and creative writers taking inspiration from Hanson. One early mailing list and website, Yellow Walkie Talkie was especially influential. It was a repository for unique, unusual, even controversial, fic and continued until around 2004.
There was definitely an oversaturation of stories in the early days, and it wasn’t uncommon for most general Hanson websites to also feature a fan fiction section with both their own stories and links to others. As fans began to experiment and write more unique stories than teenybopper style boys-meet-girl tales, the fandom really started to develop and form communities. Awards, forums, groups and websites catering specifically to hanfic were soon to follow.
The term “hanfic” itself was probably first coined during this time, but I can’t say for sure when it first appeared or how. The earliest reference I can find to “hanfic” comes from late 1997 and may be the first usage of it, since the author explains how she came up with the term–combining “Hanson” and “fanfic,” obviously.
“Album X” and This Time Around Era, 1999-2000
The year that Hanson spent recording “Album X,” later known as This Time Around, is often referred to as the Hanson Drought. There was little new canon for fans to work with and many grew bored with the band and moved on to other interests.
However, those who remained helped shape the fandom and develop its identity. Already fans were growing weary of teenybopper stories and endless Mary Sues. They wanted more substance and meaning in their stories. Hanson’s sophomore album, full of mature, angsty lyrics, provided fans with even more longing and inspiration for serious stories.
Two noteworthy websites hit the internet during this time. The first, in 1999, was HansonFiction.com. It provided hosting for the talented elite of the fandom until late 2009. Many of the fandom’s classic stories could be found there and it was the first stop to find quality fiction and discussion. The second was the Yahoo Group Hanficml, created in early 2000. It was created with the aim of providing fans with meaningful feedback on their stories. The goal of both these sites, and many others created during this time, was to help hanfic authors to grow and prosper.
It’s also impossible to ignore the influence of one story in particular during this time. Devil Angel practically had a fandom unto itself. There was a Yahoo Group, a LiveJournal community, and even deleted scenes and fanart. Today’s slash and cest community can easily trace its roots back to the “Moffson” community that formed around this story and the others that quickly followed.
Although the drought certainly took a toll on the fandom’s size and productivity, this is the era when hanfic really began to come of age and find itself, and the fic of the era shows that maturity and creativity.
Strong Enough To Break Era, 2001-2003
1999 was a veritable downpour compared to what fans went through for the three long years that Hanson struggled to free themselves from Island Def Jam. It was difficult to keep up morale and keep writing when the band continued to fall further off the radar. Even Hanson.net revealed little of what was going on–snippets of demos, short blogs and dark photographs were all the fans had to keep sated and inspired.
Then, in 2002, the fandom was dealt a terrible blow. Suddenly, Taylor was married and a father. Fans didn’t know what to make of this, but few of them were happy. The effect on hanfic was immense. While many chose to write stories that dealt with Taylor’s real life, the idea of including the wives and families in fics remained controversial for a while (although not nearly as controversial as in other RPF fandoms). Many found it easier to just ignore “canon” entirely, not out of any moral reason, but simply because it was easier to carry on writing that way.
FanFiction.net’s decision to delete all RPF fiction was also a small blow dealt to the hanfic world. Somewhere around 1000 hanfic stories were archived there, but even at that, it was hardly the primary source for hanfic. Fans continued to host their stories on personal websites, and a few moved to LiveJournal.
Those who lingered on and continued to write simply had to make the best of things. With all three boys finally over the age of consent, smut became more popular than ever before. Whereas “erotica” was often kept entirely separate from other stories, or strongly warned for when it wasn’t, adult material started to be integrated into more and more mainstream stories. Sites such as HansonErotica.com, HansonPorn.com and LustJunkie.com were among the first to embrace the smutty side, rather than keeping it hidden and secret.
Although incestuous hanfic had a small presence from the beginning, it was generally quite seperate from the rest of the fandom. Akimbie’s story On My Own, written during this era, was one of the first to achieve widespread popularity, though it was not the first ever. It was predated by Oh, God and many of Candystix’s stories, as well as some of the early stories posted on sites such as Nifty.org and Yellow Walkie Talkie.
Alternative universe stories allowed fans to carry on even in light of a reality that was less than ideal, while others found new inspiration in the fanfic-like turn reality had taken. The fandom shrank, to be sure, but carried on.
Underneath Era, 2004-2006
This is considered by many to be the second golden age of hanfic. For whatever reason, perhaps simply the sudden presence of new music and appearances by the boys, fans came out in droves to write new stories during this time.
With the boys finally all grown up and their lives going off in directions that perhaps the fans didn’t always like, alternative universe stories took on a new life unlike never before. AU stories continue to be quite the norm– whether they simply deviated from canon in major ways or completely rewrote the boys’ life stories.
Personal websites continued to be popular during this time, but a number of fans (mostly those writing slash and cest) joined the larger fandom migration to LiveJournal. Fansons always had a presence on LiveJournal and a few general hanfic communities existed there, but several more specialized ones cropped up during this era (and continued to in the years to come).
Slash and hancest–a term which was first coined during this time–also began to grow in popularity. It had always been popular, but with smut continuing to be less separate from the rest of the fandom and authors searching for new and innovative plots, hancest’s popularity only grew and grew. The term hancest, in fact, was most likely first used in a comment on a chapter of If You Read This, the first story in the Lost Without Each Other Trilogy. Other comments use the terms hanslash and hansexual, but these don’t seem to have caught on. A few months later, the term “Zaylor” (replacing the previous terms T+Z and TZ) is first used in a comment on a chapter of You’ll Never Escape, the second story in the trilogy.
Sadly, this golden age came to an end in 2006. In May of that year, all discussion of fanfiction was banned on Hanson.net. The popularity of smut, particularly hancest, was blamed for this, although the band and the forum administrators offered no explanation for the sudden ban. This caused turmoil within the fandom, and created bad feelings toward both the band and other fans and writers. The fandom began to fracture into two groups–“het” and “cest.”
When fans reminisce about the old days of hanfic, they may be talking about the MON days, but its just as likely they are talking about the Underneath era.
The Walk Era, 2007-2009
This era, sadly, saw the hanfic world splintering and beginning to fall apart. More marriages and children made it tougher for fans to keep up their fantasies and illusions about the subjects of their stories. Writing about the families wasn’t always pleasant or desirable, but was becoming unavoidable. What was canon and what was AU changed practically by the day, making it almost easier for fans to just write completely AU stories and be done with it.
The banning of fan fiction from HNET in the previous year really took a toll on the fandom, and furthered the divide between “het” fans and “cest” fans. For whatever reason, cest (which had always had a small following in the fandom) was suddenly booming in popularity–a fact that many het fans did not appreciate. The het writers largely kept up their personal websites, while cest writers continued to relocate to LiveJournal. LJ allowed them to keep their stories locked up and avoid conflict with fans who didn’t care for the subject matter. The tension between these two groups came to a head in 2009 when a few het authors made a point of specifically banning cest from their awards and challenges. Cest fans didn’t take kindly to that, and the fandom became filled will animosity. A disgruntled fan unhappy with het’s dominance of the dialogue wrote Kittens Are Either With Us Or Against Us to prove a point about all–not just het or cest–that could be done with hanfic.
Nevertheless, tons of great fiction was written during this time. Fans continued to experiment and expand the types of stories they wrote. There were many new and innovative challenges during this time to inspire authors. Although the fandom did shrink much during these years, its creativity did not wane.
Shout It Out Era, 2010-2012
This era saw the hanfic world continue to shrink, but new and old fans and writers constantly appeared, proving that as long as Hanson are around, there will always be some interest in hanfic.
Het’s popularity in particular continued to wane, while cest–Zaylor in particular–only grew. Tumblr grew to be a huge source for photos, videos and such related to the band, especially anything concerning Zaylor. Many new fans were introduced to Zaylor this way and thus became readers and writers of the genre, while staying largely unaware of the existence of het fic. One Zaylor fic in particular, Truth is a Whisper, owes a large part of its popular to the authors embracing Tumblr as a way to promote their writing.
A handful of old school fans were reintroduced to the band thanks to Shout It Out and have since returned to the fandom, bringing with them a new/old perspective on writing. There also seems to be an influx of international fans trying their hand at writing hanfic in English, making the hanfic community possibly more diverse than it has ever been.
With one pairing dominating the whole hanfic world, authors had to be especially creative to keep things interesting. This meant new and wildly alternative universes, and also the inclusion of other celebrities. The usual suspects–The Moffatts, Alex Greenwald and other friends of the band–were all accounted for, as well as some more unexpected crossovers. An arguably “crack pairing” with Tommy Joe Ratliff, SNAFU was surprisingly successful with members of both fandoms.
As always, even though the fandom may shrink, the creativity and variety remains.
Anthem Era, 2013-2017
There’s a clear pattern of hanfic interest ebbing and flowing with the release of new albums, but the Anthem era showed what seems to be another trend.
While a new album always brings new and old fans out of the woodwork, it takes a few more years in between to really get the fandom going again. Obviously, it all started in 1997 and went strong for a few years, but the wait for “Album X” and the even longer wait for Underneath really caused the fandom to suffer. Underneath, however, brought about a new “golden age,” but even that faded after years of in-fighting between het and cest fans. While it’s nothing compared to Middle of Nowhere or even Underneath, the Anthem era has finally seen the fandom booming again like it hasn’t in years.
So, why is that, aside from the seemingly cyclical nature of things? There are a few possible reasons.
Social media continues to be important as a promotional tool. More authors are using Tumblr to post short fics and “ficspiration,” and promote their stories. The Hanson App for iPhone and Android, launched along with the Get The Girl Back single and discontinued in 2017, was also a great tool for growing friendships and promoting all kinds of fan projects. Because it didn’t have the same rules as the HNET forums, promoting fanfic appeared to be allowed, and several fans did so to great success. One of these success stories has to be mentioned specifically–Ten Years And Muses. While cest dominated the previous era, this massive het hit has brought lots of fans back to that side of the fandom, many of whom were previously unaware of hanfic or hadn’t read any for years.
Posting stories to fandom archives such as AO3 and Wattpad also seems to be growing in popularity and potentially bringing in fans and others who might not have been aware of the Hanson fandom before. Overall, that seems to be what has kept us going–not just the old fans who are still devoted to hanfic, but new fans who have either just discovered hanfic or Hanson entirely. The more we branch out and find new audiences in new places, the more we grow and continue to be a wonderful fandom to be in.
In conclusion, I want to thank everyone who contributed to this page in some way. Brittney and Nat, in particular, contributed some information that filled in gaps in my own recollection. Elizabeth and Paola are always there to discuss various aspects of hanfic with as well, and that too helped me to put this history together. Many others have helped in some way, too, and while I can’t possibly name everyone, I certainly appreciate all of their help.