Erin and Alan started The Fic List podcast this summer to read and review fanfics. In their own words, "It's like a book club... but for fanfiction." So far, they've talked coffee shop AUs, angst and fake dating, with more tropes to come!
FANFICED spoke to Erin and Alan about the need for more positive fanfiction podcasts, some favorite tropes and creating a space for people to be proud of being part of the fanfiction community.
When did you start reading fanfiction?
E: I started reading fanfiction when I was around 13 years old; Green Day’s “American Idiot” came out that year, and it opened me up to a whole new world of music. My burgeoning emo/pop punk phase coincided with discovering bandfic on Quizilla, and a life-long habit was formed.
A: I believe I was also around 13, maybe 12 but that’s a little too racy for the kind of stuff I was reading. I started reading Male/Male fics because I couldn’t find a ton of easily-accessible gay-centric works of fiction. The few that were available were usually either tragedies or porn. My need for representation led me to Quizilla and I haven’t looked back since.
What are your main fandoms?
E: Currently, my main fandoms are "The Magicians," the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the new "Star Wars" trilogy. I dabble across other fandoms, but the vast majority of my recent bookmarks comes from those three!
A: I don’t watch a lot of current TV, so I feel like my main fandoms are pretty outdated. Or as I like to say, classics. Anime was my gateway and still probably holds a good portion of my love. So I’ll say that "Naruto," "Harry Potter," "Glee" and "X-Men" (the recent movies with James and Michael) are my mains!
Are you a pairing shipper or a GEN reader?
E: I didn’t realize it until you asked this question, but I am almost exclusively a pairing shipper. I happily ship-hop, even within a single fandom, but it’s rare that I read a true GEN fic!
A: Huh. I also never really thought about it! I’m a pairing-shipper, I suppose. I DON’T LIKE CHANGE.
E: Neither of us do. While I stick to particular fandoms, it seems to me like Alan sticks to particular ships—but both of us have the same amount of ardent commitment to our loves!
How often do you read fics?
E: Basically every day. There are waves where I get very into a particular fic and get a little over-invested and then take a break, but generally, I read at least a little bit of fanfic every day!
A: I would say it goes in cycles for me. There is always a couple of months where I INHALE fics. Just fic after fic after fic. And then eventually I’ll find one that just wrecks me and I’ll need to take a break for a few months. Then rinse and repeat.
What does fanfiction mean to you?
E: Fanfiction means a lot of different things to me. For a long time, fanfic was a great source of shame and embarrassment, but I’ve reached a point in my life where that just isn’t the case. Now, fanfiction is both a cathartic outlet for me personally and something that I happily share with certain friends in my life! On a more meta level, fanfiction has always represented a space for queer expression and storytelling to me, as I was figuring out (and continue to navigate) my sexuality. I identify as panromantic asexual, and to be perfectly honest, I first learned about the term asexuality from fanfiction. It obviously isn’t my only reference point any more, but discovering that terminology in fanfic was really important to me figuring out who I am. As such, fanfiction to me is an avenue for self- and shared-expression for marginalized or otherwise overlooked communities, as well as an avenue for agency and creativity!
A: To me, fanfiction has always been a safe haven. All ideas are welcome. It’s a community that reaches out and soothes and heals and challenges you. It fills a void and makes me feel a little more understood and heard and validated.
RPF or fictional source material?
E: Now, I tend to read more fictional source material; although, I do sometimes enjoy RPF of actors/people from those fictional works. If I read RPF now, it actually tends to be more reader/actor, rather than actor/actor. As mentioned, I did come from bandfic in the early days, but I transitioned to more fictional source material reading when I moved from Quizilla (RIP) to FanFiction.net sometime in the 2010s, mostly because at the time ff.net didn’t allow RPF!
A: I don’t really have a preference! I used to exclusively read fictional source material, but ever since we started doing The Fic List, I’ve started trying to branch out into RPF. I’ve had a recent obsession with One Direction fics and Erin has had to bear the brunt of it!
What made you start The Fic List?
E: As I remember it, Alan and I started talking about fanfiction in casual conversation—probably while we were recording our other podcast, Podtergeist—and when we realized we both 1) read fanfiction and 2) actively enjoy it, decided to do a second podcast where we seriously sent each other fic to review. We were both a little sick of only ever hearing discussion on bad or weird fanfic, since there is such great quality writing to be found out there, and we thought it would be a really interesting thing to discuss!
A: Well Erin and I do another podcast (Podtergeist) about creepy/supernatural themes and during one of our recordings the subject of fanfiction came up. As I recall, I started gushing and Erin slowly started opening up about reading fanfiction. Eventually, we were both super animated and talking about sending each other some of our faves. Then I jokingly threw out that I’ve always wanted to do a book club podcast and we should do that with fanfiction. Erin loved the idea and she ran away it! She started pitching names and logos and topics to talk about. The moment I knew we were all in was the moment Erin made a Google Drive folder for us.
E: I do love Google drive.
How do you choose the fanfictions you read/review for the podcast?
E: When we plan an episode, we pick one general content tag and one AU tag to discuss per episode—those are the only requirements either of us have to fulfill in terms of choosing a fic to send. For me personally, I have an absurd trove of bookmarks to choose form—literally thousands—so I usually have at least one or two in mind when we pick tags. If I don’t, I filter for the tag and reread through some options until I find one I think Alan will like. I try not to overthink it too much and go by gut-instinct; I know what I like, and I hope Alan enjoys what I send him!
A: Like Erin mentioned, we come to an agreement on a general tag and an AU tag we would like to cover next and then we go off into the fanfic wilderness to explore. Erin has like 3,000 bookmarks to sort through, but I never really bookmarked anything and took several years off from reading. So, I always have a hell of a time trying to read through a bunch of fics to find something that I think is well-written, true to the spirit of the tag and that stands a chance against Erin’s scrutiny!
How do you evaluate the fanfictions you review?
E: Completely arbitrarily. The more serious answer is that we don’t have a rubric; we usually start with a summary and then discuss the highs and lows of the fic as we see them. Our critiques are totally subjective, but usually come down to 1) did I enjoy reading this fic? 2) do I think this fic was well-written? 3) did it do what it set out to do narratively? And 4) was there anything particularly notable about this fic we should discuss? We then rate the fic on a scale of 1 to 5, but because we’re nerds, we do get into decimal point ratings on almost every fic.
How much time do you tend to dedicate to preparing for and recording the podcast?
E: It really depends on our schedules; we both have full time jobs plus side gigs, so it’s hard to get together. We record multiple episodes in a single recording session so that we have an abundance of recorded material “in the bank,” but we often go a few months between recordings. I am also notorious for saving all my reading until the night before we record. The bulk of my work comes in the editing process and maintaining our social media accounts, to be honest!
A: Oh god, so much time. I am a slow (but determined) reader. So that means that I spend a lot of time reading. A LOT. Usually, I have a fic open on a separate window at work for whenever I can spare a minute. So for me, the preparation is always the hardest part. Reading the fics that Erin sends me is much easier because I’m just along for the ride, and recording the episodes is just plain FUN.
You've talked about a few major tropes on the podcast. What would you say your favorite tropes are?
E: I have a lot of favorite tropes, but I particularly love tropes that up the dramatic tension in predictable-but-slightly-new ways—sharing a bed, enemies to lovers, proposal fics, anything that has a predictable framework but leaves you asking how this particular situation will unfold! I am definitely someone who prefers angst and hurt/comfort to pure fluff, so tropes that start with characters disliking each other or starting off on the wrong foot (or, in the case of proposal fic, one character taking a big risk and not knowing how the other will take it or something like that) are always fun for me.
A: I don’t think I have any favorites. I’m pretty open-minded! I think that as long as the concept is intriguing, I’ll read it!
What does the future of The Fic List look like?
E: I can only speak for me, but I definitely envision us continuing to record new episodes, and I’d really love to build an online community of folks who also love fanfic and help us find new works, share great authors, and generally celebrate fic. I think there’s still a lot of shame and secrecy associated with fanfiction that I would love for us to help end, so we can lift up all the people who put so much heart and soul into their fics! Practically, I’m really hoping we can start getting recommendations from listeners to expand our fic horizons (Alan and I are so firmly rooted in our fandoms, it can get a little redundant sometimes!) and start some awesome dialogues, just like you do on this blog!
A: I think that Erin really put it wonderfully! I think that we are having such a good time making the show and we’ll keep grinding episodes out for the foreseeable future. Ultimately though, we do want that community to interact with. People that let us know what they thought of the fics we read, or that recommend their favorites to us! Much like fanfiction, we do it because we love it, but also because we’d love to share it with other people who love it just as much as we do.