The fan fiction site, Archive of Our Own — built, run, and written primarily by and for women – is an unexpected contender for the Best Related Work category at this years Hugo Awards.
Archive of Our Own (often known as “AO3” for short) is an online platform for fan works— creative work based on existing media like novels, books, and video games, produced by fans of the originals. The nearly 5 million works archived there—4,690,000 as of this writing—represent almost 2 million registered users and countless more who visit the site every day, consuming content and leaving comments. Fan fiction makes up the majority of content on the platform, and these written works range from stories that are a couple of hundred words long to novel-length epics that rival the word counts of the Game of Thrones series.
But what makes Archive of Our Own so remarkable isn’t just the millions of fans and creative works it hosts. It’s also the kinds of people who build, maintain, and contribute to this dynamic, surprisingly less-toxic corner of the internet.
Founded in 2008, AO3 is far from the first platform where people have gone to share and consume fan works. We can trace fan fiction itself at least all the way back to Jane Austen and Sherlock Holmes, and fan fiction culture in its current form to Star Trek fandom in the 1960s, when people met at fan conventions and passed around stapled-together zines with stories about Kirk and Spock. Fan fiction has also had a long history on the internet, beginning largely with Usenet groups like alt.startrek.creative. Other huge fan fiction platforms like FanFiction.net have also been around for decades. But AO3 has skyrocketed in popularity over the past decade and become a hugely important part of fan culture—so significant that a recently released young adult novel contains a shoutout to the platform, both from one of the characters and in the author’s acknowledgments
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