Fanfic vs. Canon: Female Characters in Harry Potter

As we well know, fanfiction is dominated by stories about male characters, which can appear a bit paradoxical at first, since it is predominantly written by women.

Several explanations can be advanced on the subject:

  • Canon books, movies and TV series are more often centered around male characters than female ones
  • Even when there are canon female characters, canon male characters are deemed more interesting than female ones in terms of story development and character arcs
  • Or it could be due to internalized misogyny: we would be taught since infancy that men are more of the hero-type than female

The aim of this post is not to solve the question entirely. However, I was thinking that in the case of fandoms based on books, it could be relatively easy to measure how often female characters appear in canon and make a comparison with their presence in fanfiction.

With this question in mind, I naturally turned over to Harry Potter:


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Supernatural and fanfic: the road so far


I might, or might not be, a huge Supernatural (SPN) fan. And, yeah ok, more precisely a Destiel shipper.

SPN’s fandom is huge, especially in fanfiction. We decided to take a more precise look on the matter.

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You + Me = Love

Recently, I started to play with textual analysis… And a question popped up: what about fic titles? How much information about the fic do they convey? Are there favorite title terms?

At least the last question has a pretty straightforward answer. When we take a look at our sample of 10K+ fics published in 2015 on AO3, one word was in the air : love.


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Popular tropes in fanfiction

This week, Elizabeth Minkel and Flourish Kink asked Twitter what their favorite tropes in fanfiction were. This resulted in this interesting chart … and also inspired us: what can we say about favorite tropes or genres with our data about long fics published on AO3 in 2015?

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All about mpreg in fandom! a surprisingly popular niche

Today, let’s dive in a subject a lot of us heard about, but might prefer to ignore… Mpreg! As in, male pregnancy (learn more on the Fanlore page). Yup. As usual, we studied fanfictions that are 10K+ words.

Mpreg is kind of a controversial fanfiction subgenre: people are either fascinated or put off, with very few stance for a middle ground. On AO3, actually a tiny minority of fics are labeled mpreg: in 2015, we counted 1357 fics tagged with mpreg published on AO3, that is 1.9% of the total of 10K words + fics. However, those fics are widely read: they attract way more readers than their number alone would predict.

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Where does our data come from?

You might wonder how did we get the data we work from?

We wanted to retrieve as much information as we could on published fanfictions, in the most precise way available to us. The fics archive website that we use (and, I have to say, love) the most is AO3. As a developer the language I am the most familiar with is PHP, so it only made sense to try and code a crawler… in PHP.

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What are the smuttiest ships?

This post is a reaction to standbyyourmantis’s post who raised a most interesting question: what is the smuttiest ship?

We used individual data on the fics published in 2015 on AO3 to answer (to have a manageable data set, we looked only at fics longer than 10000 words … but that is already 75000 fics!). We computed the stats on smut for the 100 most popular central ships (see there for the details), that is fics classified according to the first ship listed in the description.

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The 100 most popular ships in 2015 on AO3: what place for women?

What are the most popular ships on AO3? This question has already been addressed by centrumlumina or destinationtoast using results from the AO3 search engine. We used another method, by collecting individual data on unrestricted fics. This allows us to complement their results, by distinguishing “central ships”, that are the focus of the fics, from “secondary ships”, that are in the background of the stories. If women are relatively scarce in fanfiction, they also tend more to be part of secondary ships than central ones.

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