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.
Anyway, let’s get started on the nerdiness. In this post, we have a new dataset: we took the data from 2006 to 2016, but from October to October since we didn’t want to see an “artificial” drop in 2016. However, AO3 only exists since 2009 so you might want to be a bit wary on the results before then. We did not put any limitation on length this time.
Good news: no decrease in the number of fics published.
What are the main ships?
Historically, Sam Winchester / Dean Winchester (“Wincest”) was the biggest ship in the fandom, which makes sense because the show was lacking other characters, it was basically two brothers all alone in America, with very few sidekicks (hi Jo, though).
After Castiel’s arrival in season 4 episode 1 “Lazarus Rising”, it gradually shifted until Dean Winchester / Castiel (Destiel) became known as an “OTP” (One True Pairing). Coincidentally, we are in the middle of the Dean/Cas Big Bang 2016, which promises some exciting new fics.
Let’s see the preponderance of the ships in the Fandom. This chart shows the main pairings only.
It’s not a big surprise that the two major ships are Wincest and Destiel. As we already know, when Destiel rose, Wincest lost in importance, but it is still the second major ship in 2016 (more than 3500 fics between October 2015 and October 2016).
Wincest dropped significantly since the early days of SPN fics, but is still alive and quite a big percentage of fanfiction today. Even though the numbers for 2006/2007/2008 are a bit wonky, I feel like there were not that many characters then, that were not the Winchester brothers themselves.
What was more surprising is that Sabriel (Gabriel/Sam Winchester) is the third ship in the fandom – quite important since 2010. It is all the more interesting considering that Gabriel (a.k.a. “the Trickster”) appeared in 6 episodes only. He was, however, a well loved character in the fandom, probably because of his snarkiness.
“slash Reader” and “slash you” are relatively new genres (they seem to have appeared around 2013-2014) that are small but fastly growing (for Dean, Sam and Castiel at least). Also, it’s basically one-shot, very short PWP. We grouped /reader and /you as “/reader”.
About the secondary ships
Do ships tend to switch between main and secondary? Jessica/Sam, John/Mary and Ruby/Sam, as main ships, lost in importance since 2006-2007. Actually, there is no non-dudeslash pairing in the top 5 since 2011 (except maybe Dean/Reader). One thing I noted about Jessica/Sam, is that they have declined in the last years but they still exist as secondary characters in fics, especially in AUs when Sam is depicted as a someone stable and successful in an established relationship. Let’s look at the numbers (science!) to see if my first impression on the matter is accurate.
Obviously Wincest and Destiel come first and are more than 80% main ships in fanfiction. I can only suppose that Destiel as a secondary ship would be in 3+ characters ships (i.e. Sam/Castiel/Dean). John and Mary Winchester are mostly supporting characters, I often read fics where they were mentioned as a pairing, but Mary was dead and John a raging alcoholic trying to cope (see “John Winchester’s A+ Parenting” tag – probably my favorite one).
Looks like my first impression about Sam and Jess was right, they are most of the time supporting characters, often present to help Dean overcome his issues.
Another explanation on some of these pairings is that they actually refer to ex-relationships that happened before the setting of the fic, see Sam/Ruby, Dean/Lisa, Castiel/Meg.
How are the ships evolving? Which are the trendiest?
This chart shows the trendy ships. We can see that the fastest growing ship is /reader and Sam/OFC (Original Female Character – its counterpart being OMC, Original Male Character). Sabriel (Sam/Gabriel) is still growing but becomes more and more secondary. Destiel seems pretty stable though. John/Mary is growing again as secondary ship. With the new season of SPN currently airing, we can only guess that Mary’s presence will become more prevalent.
Let’s have a compassionate thought for Benny, Ruby, and Meg… who are not looking up, which makes me a bit sad because they were amongst my favorites. Here’s a gif of Benny just because.
As much as I love Supernatural, it is hard to deny that it can lack interesting female characters. I, for one, loved Jo and Charlie quite a lot, and often encounter them in fanfic but more as Dean’s sidekicks than anything else.
We did not mention Supernatural RPF in this post, mostly because I know nothing about it. If that’s your thing, I would love to hear about it.
On a non-related note, you should totally check out Shipper’s Guide to the Galaxy‘s videos on youtube, and especially this new one that I enjoyed about a Dean / Buffy pairing. Only in fandom.