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Welcome to Slash Addict's Comprehensive Fan Fiction Content Guide. At the moment, it is far from complete.
However, some of the basic ideas are listed below...
In human society, or at any rate western society, there is generally a belief that certain things -specifically sexual things- should be age-restricted subjects. Thus it follows that age-related rating systems come into being. The MPAA has its system (G, PG, PG-13, R, NC-17), Video Games have another (Everyone, Teen, Mature), TV shows have another (TV G, TV 14, etc.). FanFiction.net has its own rating system; "K" is for ages 5 and up, "K+" for 9 and up, "T" for 13 and up, "M" for 16 and up, and "MA" for 18 and up.
A number of years ago -I'm not sure how many- a big stink got kicked up at FF.net, following the site's decision to no longer allow explicit content. A lot folks left for more porn-friendly pastures. I have no idea of the official status of said content at FF.net as of today... I can tell you, however, that while "MA" is still listed in their rating guide, you can no longer look for or find stories rated "MA".... However, lots and lots of "M" rated stories are very explicit... So, I'm thinking that FF.net still officially disallows explicit content, and either they don't try to enforce this rule, or else they are simply unable to, given the massive number of fics on their site...
The Suckerlove Placebo Slash community is famous for creating their own rating system based on some of the band's own lyrics and/or song titles. I kind of copied their type of system for my Rasmus fics, as there was no community developed fic rating system for The Rasmus. If this site is going to actually become a major archive of Fan Fiction, particularly Slash Fiction, then I think it needs a fairly straight forward rating system that makes sense. I personally prefer a 'letter' based system, for ease of use and ease of recognition. So, right now, I'm thinking of something along these lines:
"A" = All Readers, suitable for most anyone, say ages 6 and up.
"Y" = Younger Readers, suitable for younger teens and older pre-teens, ages 11 and up.
"O" = Older Readers, suitable for older teens, ages 15 and up.
"X" = Explicit Content, suitable for adults only, ages 18 and up.
Virtually all fiction, regardless of format, tends to be sorted by genre. While there aren't enough stories in the archive to justify sorting by genre at the moment, in time I hope there will be. When that day comes, the following categories will be added to the archives as they are populated.
Action, Adventure, Angst, Comedy, Drama, Fantasy, Historical, Horror, Mystery, Romance, Science Fiction, Suspense, Tragedy, Western.
If you've been reading fanfic, you've probably become familiar with some terms that are widely used. Words such as 'Squee' and 'Squick'... In simplest terms, these are positive and negative feelings towards something, respectively. To be 'squicked' by something is to be disturbed/grossed-out/disgusted by a thing. As with all such things, one girl's squick may be another girl's squee. It's all down to personal taste. For which, you're probably already aware, there is no accounting. ;-)
Anyways, whether one wishes to use it as a way to avoid what you don't like or to find what you do like, it helps to have some indication of what a story contains. The Alt.Sex.Stories newsgroup has long since taken to using text based story codes to keep readers informed on what they're letting themselves in for by reading a particular story. The A.S.S. codes (don't laugh!) are fairly inclusive, though they tend to only focus on sexual things and don't really cover anything about the story's plot (assuming it has one).
Although sexual content is probably the biggest squick concern when reading fics, I often feel that I'd like to know at least a bit about the story line, too. Ideally, this would be handled by the story summary, but that doesn't always happen. As I often read novel length HP fanfic, I really hate discovering ten chapters into it that the story goes in a completely different direction to the one I was expecting. So, let's discuss some issues of content...
There are some things that are less in depth, and indeed are usually mentioned by most writers in the story summary. Still, better to be safe than sorry, so I think these also deserve to be mentioned here and -if they become numerous enough- given their own sub-section in the archives.
"Fluff" - Fluffy feel good story, no real drama or anything, just roses & sunshine. You know, totally unlike real life!
"Explicit" - A general warning that the story contains highly explicit content.
"Lemon" - Same thing as Explicit, but specifically for Hentai [Yaoi/Yuri] stories.
"PWP" - Supposed to stand for 'Plot What Plot?', but mostly used as 'Porn Without Plot'. Basically just a sex scene with no story beyond the action itself.
"Non-Explicit" - Might be some light love play, but nothing graphic.
"Lime" - Same thing as Non-Explicit, but for Yaoi/Yuri fics.
"No Sex" - A story pretty much devoid of all sexual content. How boring... ;-)
"Citrus" - Same as No Sex, but for Hentai.
Additionally, there are a few other things that should perhaps be mentioned.
"Crack Fic" - Basically an intentionally fucked up premise is used for writing the story.
"Alternate Universe" - An AU story uses the characters from a Fandom but not the Fandom's setting. Like having Kirk & Spock be oil rig workers who meet on the job and fall for each other. I've seen a lot of people mistakenly use the AU designation for Harry Potter fics that are still set in the HP universe, but just don't follow the canon story line. That is not what AU is for, folks. By definition, all fanfics are not part of the canon story line.
"One Shot" - A one shot story is intended from the beginning to never be followed up on. In other words, don't expect a sequel. Ever.
"Vignette" - A Vignette is a story, typically only about a thousand words or so, which gives insight to a character or a relationship.
I can totally understand not wanting to give away the ending, but some people really hate reading a fic that doesn't warn them of an unfavorable outcome.
One more thing to note... There is perhaps nothing so terrible as starting a fic, especially a long one, only to discover that the last chapter is not the end of the story and that the author hasn't written the ending yet. Sometimes, it may be on the way, but other times you find that the author stopped with chapter 20 -in March of 2003... =(
Also, some stories may be posted without being edited, which could lead to a less than easy read. Or, you might want to save the version you first read in case the author later makes changes that you don't like. Just remember what George Lucas did to the original Star Wars trilogy!
If we ever get enough writers sending in stories, we might want to mark some of them as 'resident' authors or something.
Although you should know full well that Slash will involve homosexuallity, there is somewhat more to know regarding this topic. In general fiction, you might want to know whether the story is told from a male character's perspective, or that of a female character.
Let me ask a question. What makes something Slash? One might think that any gay male story could be considered Slash. Or, that any lesbian story is Femslash. If you were thinking that, however, you were mistaken. The earliest history of Slash fiction can be traced to Star Trek The Original Series fan fiction of the early 70s, containing, most notably, "Kirk/Spock" plots. So, Kirk/Spock is Slash. Uhura/Rand would be Femslash. Harry/Draco is Slash. Clark/Oliver is Slash. Sam/Dean is Slash(and incest, but we'll get to that later). Buffy/Willow is Femslash. However, Willow/Tara is not. Likewise, Brian/Justin is not Slash.
Do you see the dividing line? Slash is fan fiction that assigns one or more straight characters a homosexual role. Queer As Folk is not Slash. The characters in their canon form are already homosexual, therefore they cannot be 'slashed' by fan fic writers. The actors could be 'slashed', but not the characters. I suppose you could write a story about characters who are gay in canon, and turn them straight... Would that make it \ backslash? =) The point is that you can have plenty of fiction, including fan fiction that is gay, but is not slash.
As A.S.S. points out, relatively few people are squicked by lesbians, but many heterosexual men are squicked by gay guys. As a result, both Femslash and lesbian fic would seem to need their own categories.
"Het" (Heterosexual / Straight)
"Slash" (Homosexual, Male, Non-Canon)
"Femslash" (Homosexual, Female, Non-Canon)
"Gay" (Homosexual, Male, Canon)
"Lesbian" (Homosexual, Female, Canon)
Some folks, both heterosexual and homosexual, have misgivings regarding bisexuals. So they may need a separate category, the only question is whether or not to specify if the bisexual character is male or female.
Needless to say, transgendered persons also have squick potential. Indeed, its appalling the sort of hatred for transgenders harbored by straight women in certain circles.
Sometimes the idea of a 'couple' just doesn't appeal to some folks, and you wind up with three or more people involved with each other by mutual consent.
Okay the next one is rather tricky, and very squicky. I feel it is necessary, at this point, to disabuse anyone reading this of a common misconception... In modern western society, specifically in America, we have this idea that a 'pedophile' means a person 18 or older who molests anyone under 18... This is inaccurate. First off, just because somebody has 'leanings' in that direction, it doesn't automatically mean they'll act on them. Second, the word pedophile very specifically refers to an adult with a sexual attraction to pre-pubescent children. It does not cover attractions to either pubescent or post-pubescent children. There are other, lesser known, terms that cover those.
I'm in no way advocating that anyone should be allowed to engage in sexual contact with anyone under eighteen years of age. I'm merely trying to clear up technical inaccuracies with regards to this touchy subject. Now, having said that, there are schools of thought that same sex adult-child relationships (not necessarily sexual in nature) are desirable and beneficial. Thus, we have 'boylove' and 'girllove'. Now, how you feel about such things is up to you, but they do exist. Regardless of our personal feelings on certain aspects of reality, it is important to acknowledge reality. We can't just stick our fingers in our ears and go "la-la-la!" Well, we could, but it wouldn't really help in the long run.
One more thing that sometimes crops up in fanfic... Is when male characters become female or vice-versa... Several times I thought I was about to get to read a Drarry Slash story, only to find out that Harry was Harriet. Which, of course, means it's not Slash.
Well, now that we've covered sexuality, we can move on to specific sexual practices. Yet more opportunity for squicking you! ;-) BDSM is a pretty common abbreviation for Bondage/Discipline & Sadomasochism. The *ahem* severity of such practices can vary greatly, from simple use of handcuffs to outright torture, the likes of which would make even the CIA shudder.
Even in a world where most real marriages end in divorce, some people prefer to write and/or read about characters enjoying their married life. Go figure.
At the opposite end of the spectrum from 'til death do us part', lies the very first time... Whether it brings to mind Madonna's "Like A Virgin" or finds you whistling a tune from that timeless classic Cherry Poppins, there's only ever one first time. ;-) Most people's first time is memorable for all the wrong reasons. Fortunately, in fiction, it can truly be magical. =)
While not always done for sexual reasons, crossdressing is nevertheless generally classified as a sexual practice. Some may be squicked by men wearing women's clothes... In my opinion, it all depends on the man. The late, great Patrick Swayze pulled it off rather nicely. ;-)
Group sex and/or multiple partners can be either a turn-on or a turn-off depending on your preference... When reading fics, one might prefer to not be like that blind guy at the orgy - having to feel things out.
Speaking of groups, some folks like to keep it all in the family... Whether a mere suggestion used to comedic affect as in Cougar Town, a steamy fangirl twincest fantasy as with Tokio Hotel, or an all too real and disturbed redneck practice, many are in fact turned on by that sort of thing.
Which brings us to families which are still in the making... It might be Patrick from Coupling taking a nice compact pregnancy 'out for a spin', or a Drarry MPreg fic... But most readers will want to know ahead of time.
Some people make a habit of going to strip clubs, while others find the idea of 'paying for it' disgusting... So, it's best to know before you read.
Now for something you absolutely want to know about in time to opt-out. I would think the only 'fun with feces' there was to be had would be watching monkeys throw it at somebody else. I'm just sayin'.
Moving on... Size matters. Well, it matters to size-queens, at any rate. While generally taken to mean the size of the trouser snake you're dealing with, it could also refer to jumbo jugs / massive mammories.
For those not gifted by nature, there are always artificial attachment options. ;-) And, for those with no 'body' to be with, there are inflatables...
As touched(no pun intended) on earlier, underage characters occasionally appear in fiction. As the ages of said characters will vary and the age that triggers a readers squick reaction will also vary, this warrants more than one indicator. Also, a fic may or may not involve adults & youths. Sometimes it's Harry/Ron, other times it's Harry/Snape! ;-)
Please note: I will neither archive nor link to stories containing characters younger than about 11 or so involved in anything sexual. I try to be open minded when it comes to art, but even I have my limits. The only fandom I know of that would have any significant amount of underage 'action' would be Harry Potter. The youngest any of those characters should be is 11, as that's how old Harry was in his first year at Hogwarts. And, in fact, I have yet to see an HP fic that has any sex happening in first year. Although in all frankness, in real life, young boys mess around with each other starting at a very young age. I'm just sayin'.
"High School Age"
"Junior High Age"
Of course, we can't leave out man's(or indeed woman's) best friend. Yes, even Fido sees action on the net... That reminds me of a truly awful commercial. Yep, the one where the little redheaded boy is watching a sheep 'get pushed through a fence' on the web...then runs out of the room, only to return a moment later with the family poodle. Yes, folks, this is the information age. Embrace the horror.
And, of course, there's the subject matter of the Nick Cage movie 8mm... This is, as they say, as hardcore as it gets.
There are also more conventional sex acts...
"Oral" - Cleaning before and after is always a good idea.
"Anal" - After the things we've already discussed, can you believe that people used to think of anal as really out there?
"Handjob" - Ah, the simple pleasures of yesteryear.
There are odd kinks...
"Lactation/Breasts" - Don't play with your food!
"Shoes/Feet" - I've never understood anyone wanting to smell these. Although, my cat sure likes shoes. Does that make my pussy a pervert?
"Watersports" - Better pissed-on than pissed off? I always thought it was the other way around.
"Fisting" - When big simply isn't big enough.
"Swingers" - It takes all sorts.
Bizarre, SciFi kinks...
"Fembot" - Everybody wants one.
"Tentacle/Cthulhu" - Once you've been mind-fucked by a Great Old One, nothing else really compares.
"Vore" - Little Porn Shop of Horrors!
The really bizarre and unsanitary...
The perfectly normal...
"Solo/Masturbation" - The safest choice, really.
And, of course, the really painful...
"CBT" - Ouch! Why the Koala, you ask? Because, believe it or not, there is actually an Australian band called Cock And Ball Torture. No, I've never listened to them, so I couldn't judge if the name is meant to describe the enjoyment factor of their music.
Okay, now that all that sex stuff has been gone through, lets move on to other plot points... Whether turned on or off by it, some may wish to know before hand about substance use/abuse...
"Light Alcohol Use"
"Moderate Alcohol Use"
"Heavy Alcohol Use"
"Light Drug Use"
"Moderate Drug Use"
"Heavy Drug Use"
In terms of both general content and what happens to the characters in particular, it's probably best to forewarn readers of the following...
"Character Injury" - It's the deeper, emotional scars that people like to read about.
"Rape" - Short of killing a character, this is about the worst thing that can happen to them. Why the banjo? Have you not watched Deliverance? Paddle faster!
"Character Death" - Unless it's SciFi or Fantasy, characters usually don't recover from this. And Clones don't really count.
Certain general themes may be the sort of thing some would wish to know about...
"Betrayal/Cheating" - I said I'd be faithful, but I was only kidding, baby!
"Hurt/Comfort" - Aww, he's crying... just makes you want to reach out and... fuck his brains out.
"Mind Control" - Is it really rape if I control your thoughts? (FYI: the answer is Yes.)
"Blackmail" - Take your clothes off, or else!
"Interracial" - Chocolate-Vanilla Swirl gives you the best of both worlds!
A particular style of story, which appeals to some of us, is of Japanese origin. I'm speaking of Yaoi & Yuri. Yaoi is male/male, while Yuri is female/female. Yaoi & Yuri are not Slash & Femslash. Why not? Because, both Yaoi & Yuri are purposefully written to have canonically homosexual characters.
Remember what we discussed earlier, about how Slash can only really be fanfic by its very nature. If canon characters are in a homosexual pairing then they are simply gay(or bi), it isn't slash. That being said, there is something interesting that appears in Yaoi. Actually, both are interesting. For instance, Yaoi(gay) is mostly written by women for women, while Yuri(lesbian) is often written by men for men. Over half of all English-speaking consumers of Yaoi are heterosexual females.
In Yaoi, there are usually two very different participants in the gay relationship... The 'seme' is the top and the 'uke' is the bottom. But, there is generally more to it than just top & bottom. The seme tends to be older, taller and generally more masculine. Perhaps the most significant thing about Yaoi, however, is the uke - who is usually smaller, weaker and notably androgynous in appearance.
Another item of note is that the seme usually aggressively pursues the uke, with the uke often being a reluctant or even a down right unwilling participant in the sex. So, rape, or at least something that sort of starts as rape until the uke decides he actually kind of likes it, is often a major theme in Yaoi. For all of these reasons, although Yaoi can never be Slash, slash stories can be done in the Yaoi style.
While I don't necessarily believe in sorting stories by number of words, it is certainly good to let readers know what kind of commitment they'll have to make to read the whole thing. So, lets talk about length. (Stop laughing!) Okay, we'll start at the bottom and work our way up. (I said stop laughing!) The absolute shortest form of writing is Poetry. A Poem can be of virtually any length, of course, but for now we are only concerned with the shortest of them. The shortest poem commonly cited was written by Strickland Gillilan, it goes like this:
Adam Had'emWith one word for a title and two and a half words for the poem itself, it is certainly very short. However, the shortest poem of all time was actually by boxing legend Muhammad Ali... It consists of just two words:
"ME...WE!"These are both examples of the shortest form of poetry, the rhyming 'couplet'. How, you may ask, can something so short have any real value? Well, a particularly awesome couplet is by H.P. Lovecraft, cited as being contained within the fictional Necronomicon that is so often referenced in Lovecraft's stories, the couplet goes like this:
That is not dead which can eternal lie
And with strange aeons, even death may die
Tell me that's not worth the two seconds it took to read it.
Another quite short form of fiction is alternately called either a Minisaga, a Microstory or an Ultra-Short. These stories are defined as being exactly 50 words in length plus a title of up to 15 words. Fifty words, no more, no less. Minisaga is the most popular name for it, but that name is totally inaccurate. A Saga is a story that takes place over multiple generations, something that is very difficult to manage in 50 words. So, we'll avoid using Minisaga.
"Microstory/Ultra-Short" - Exactly 50 words.
Next up, we have Drabbles... Now, regardless of what you may have heard elsewhere, a Drabble is not just any story that is really short. A Drabble is exactly 100 words in length. No more, no less. Just like Microstories(which are really just half a Drabble), Drabbles are sort of like challenge fics. Writers challenge one another or themselves to write a decent story within very tight word count limits. Personally, I have no interest in attempting such a silly feat. I believe that fiction, as an art, only reaches its best when allowed to go where one's muse inspires it to go, free of all constraints.
"Drabble" - Exactly 100 words.
"Drabble and a Half" - Exactly 150 words.
"Double Drabble" - Exactly 200 words.
"Double Drabble and a Half" - Exactly 250 words. Technically, you could just keep going in 50 word increments, but it's kind of pointless.
Now, Drabbles and the like are fixed word count terms, so they aren't very useful for classification beyond their original 'challenge' signifier. For poems that are very short we have Couplets, but that is only for poems and only for a specific style. So, what terms can we use for just ordinary stories? Well, there are some terms out there which can fit our needs...
The term Flash Fiction or Flashfic refers to any story that is under 500 words. Now, I wouldn't object to the use of this term, except for the fact that 'Flash' is exactly one letter removed from 'Slash'... Confusion could be so, so easy... Therefore, although it has a history of being used for fics of varying length, I propose using the term 'Ficlet' to refer to stories under 500 words.
"Ficlet" - Any fic which is 500 words or less.
Other generally accepted terms in the writing world will serve us well... The definitions for Novel, Novella & Novelette come from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, which uses them for defining the different categories for its Nebula Award. They actually recognize no lower limit for the term 'Short Story', however, I believe that for Slash-Addict's purposes both 'Ficlet' & 'Short Short' should be employed.
"Short Short Story" - Any fic greater than 500 words in length, but no greater than 1,000 words.
"Short Story" - Any fic greater than 1,000 words in length, but no greater than 7,500 words.
"Novelette" - Any fic greater than 7,500 words in length, but no greater than 17,500 words.
"Novella" - Any fic greater than 17,500 words in length, but no greater than 40,000 words.
"Novel" - Any fic over 40,000 words in length.
Additionally, one could add one final category...
"Epic Novel" - Any fic greater than 250,000 words in length. There are, in fact, some fanfics out there of such tremendous length.
While not necessarily an issue of length, at least as measured by word count, if a story either has or is intended to have sequels, it should be mentioned to potential readers.
"Series" - Any fic which consists of at least two distinct installments.
"Saga" - Any fic series which covers a long enough in-universe time span to encompass multiple generations.The Star Wars Saga is an example of this. The Twilight 'Saga' is not. The Twilight story is told over the space of like a year or two for the characters, and no, them having a child doesn't count as multi-generational. Twilight is a series, not a saga. This, undoubtedly, is an example of the folks in the marketing department playing fast and loose with the facts in order to make something sound more appealing. Not that I have anything against Twilight. I've heard it said that you either love Twilight or you hate it, there is no middle ground. As usual, this is bullshit. I don't love it, but I certainly don't hate it.
Whether done by popular vote, or by having individual readers weigh in separately, eventually we might want to provide potential readers with a rough idea of how awesome a story is...