What Hanfic Fans Really, Really Want
by: Bethany (website)
I know a lot of you have been really interested in the results of my hanfic preferences survey, which was modeled very closely on a survey from the podcast Fansplaining, held late last fall. You can read their results . It has taken me a while to gather mine together into a nice little presentation, but here we are, finally.
Not to start out on a depressing note, but I was a little underwhelmed by the turnout. I know we aren’t the massive fandom we once were, but judging by the hits many of our fics receive on AO3 and Wattpad, there must be more than sixty readers out there. Still, these sixty are fairly representative of the fandom–The English-speaking side of it, at least.
Who are hanfic readers?
First, the demographic questions. Most readers, it seems, are between the ages of 25-34. This isn’t too surprising. We’ve always closely mirrored Hanson’s ages, but the fic writers now seem to be just a bit younger–the older millennial set who are independent and living our own lives, but with few responsibilities (school or family) to impede our free time.
It’s also not too surprising that most of the hanfic fandom is female; it hardly bears spending any time analyzing. Also not surprising that so many of us are not straight. There’s some real truth to Kate McKinnon’s joke about Taylor Hanson being a big part of figuring out her sexuality. Still, while we might be less straight than society at large (I suspect), we’re straighter than the respondents to this fandom sexuality survey.
When it comes to nationality, the survey seems to be a bit skewed. It’s no surprise that we’re mostly American, but I know there are also large portions of the fandom in other countries, such as Brazil. Perhaps it’s because the survey was written in English, but it just doesn’t seem to have reached every corner of the globe where the Hanson fandom exists.
What types of ships do hanfic readers prefer?
By a somewhat narrow margin, hanfic readers prefer het, but slash is quite well represented as well. Gen, or stories with no pairings at all, rank third, but well behind the two most popular choices. It’s worthwhile to note that most respondents were interested in more than one type of pairing; despite the constant anti-cest sentiment, there are actually very few of us who limit our reading to only one genre.
Where do hanfic fans find and read fic?
I am willing to admit that I may not have worded my choices well enough for this question. Hanson-specific archives came in third, but given how few of these have ever existed and how little fic they hosted, I find this improbable. I believe most respondents assumed this referred to what I actually meant with the option “personal websites.” Personal websites are ones like my own Extemporaneous; Hanson-specific archives are sites such as the now-defunct TheTightrope.org.
So, if we combine those two options together like I have above, the all-time most popular source for hanfic has been personal sites and archives. AO3 comes in just a bit behind those, showing its growing influence in our fandom after several years of very, very slow growth. Coming in third is LiveJournal, although the recent server move has probably killed its influence on one of the last remaining fandoms to still use it. Unlike the originally fansplaining survey, Wattpad was well represented here, and I suspect it will continue to grow in popularity amongst hanfic fans.
On a side note, I’m a little disheartened to see how few old school slash fans who, like me, cut their teeth on Nifty.org, are still hanging around our fandom. The end of an era, I suppose.
Now, on to the tropes…
What tropes do hanfic readers love most?
Of these, only two appear on Fansplaining’s list as well; friends to lovers ranks one on theirs and bed sharing ranks five. I will admit that I had to fudge some of these a bit to break ties, looking also at how many received maybe and no votes. But this is a pretty representative list of what we enjoy, I would say.
What tropes do hanfic readers like least?
This is a really crazy list, because the majority are AUs. Turns out, we really like things close to “canon.” Even the ones that aren’t AUs–genderswapping and bodyswapping–are pretty major transformations. It’s also worth noting that this list doesn’t share a single thing with Fansplaining’s list. Part of that is because things like underage and incest are more common and popular here. Part of that also seems to be because many of my respondents didn’t know what things like “noncon” even were.
What’s really interesting is, then, to look at the most controversial tropes, the ones that got almost equal amounts of yeses, noes and maybes.
What tropes are most controversial?
Many of these have a pretty high “what is this?” rating as well, as do a few other fandom slang terms. This boosted their score a bit here. Again, notably absent is incest, which just barely missed making the cut, along with noncon. Perhaps many readers misinterpreted some of these slang terms, but there’s no denying the popularity (and controversy) of incest in our fandom. For what its worth, dubcon is the only one in this list to also appear on Fansplaining’s.
Unlike Fansplaining, I chose to use the term “maybe” rather than “meh.” I’m not entirely sure if this was a great choice, but I did feel like “meh” was a confusing term. That said, “maybe” doesn’t quite express disinterest in the same way. Perhaps that is why only one item on my poll received an overall “maybe” rating–that item being parodies. Not surprising at all, though, considering how the world likes to make fun of Hanson. Why would we want to read that in fic, too, unless it’s done really well?
However, I would say more of my respondents were confused about the terminology used than Fansplaining’s were, due in large part to how mono-fannish many of us are. Still, I was surprised that some terms confounded by respondents. The most confusing ones, apparently, were:
What tropes are hanfic fans least familiar with?
To be fair, I should have spelled out PWP. That one’s on me. The rest are either a bit too fandom-y, a bit too literary or just a bit too new. Three of them–hard gen, epistolary and imagines also seemed to confound Fansplaining’s respondents, so we’re not that odd. But we are definitely separate from a lot of the trends of fandom at large, so the fact that seemingly self-explanatory terms (wingfic?!) elude so many us isn’t surprising.
I’m going to skip over breaking down all of the categories, because, frankly, some of them are pretty difficult to analyze. Like Fansplaining’s respondents, we were largely enthusiastic. I’m not analyzing the rest of the data in detail here, because for the most part, we love everything. For whatever situation you want to write, there is likely to be somebody who wants to read it. We’re also more open to incest, underage and other things that seem like hard passes for so many other fans. We might seem like a more conservative fandom, overall, but the results here say otherwise.
Of the write-in responses and comments I received on social media, there were few revealing things. Some expressed their dislike for incest and love triangles, which were already listed on the survey; there was no need to be repetitive. Others mentioned disliking stories that featured the wives heavily, and I will admit that omitted that from the survey. My bad.
Others complained about a lack of het and gen in the fandom, which is true enough, and can only be remedied by writing it yourself and/or being very encouraging to the writers who do exist. Still others expressed a desire for more stories featuring Hanson as essentially original characters (which I suppose falls under the heading of hard “non-famous AUs”) and continuations of older fics (like Devil Angel). If you’re looking for something to write, consider that along with my data on what else is most popular!
Lastly, some respondents admitted they were open to reading almost anything, as long as it is written well. They may be picky about how authors approach certain topics, but they are not entirely closed off to the possibilities that exist. So, like Fansplaining, I’d like to end this by asking you to let me know what tropes you thought you didn’t like… until you read that one story that really, really did them right. And, of course, I would also like to encourage everyone to keep writing! This survey is interesting, but it isn’t the final word on what should and shouldn’t be written. Write what you like, and the readers will come, I promise.
If you’re interested in reading the full results, you can find them here!