Sometimes even fanfic tags are works of art

No cows were harmed in the making of this article.

 

Aja Romano

Fandom

Published Dec 20, 2013   Updated May 31, 2021, 11:21 pm CDT

Sure, fanfiction is transformative, it’s often subversive, and it’s frequently very serious. But one of the reasons we love fanfic here at the Daily Dot is its whimsical side. 

The Archive of Our Own (aka AO3), especially, is a great example of this dichotomy. The site was formed as a liberating, nonprofit fanfic archive designed to protect and preserve fanworks. It’s been anointed one of Time’s 50 best websites on the Internet and has become a noted fan-supported website with over 375,000 fics uploaded in 2013 alone.

But when you take a stroll through its “freeform” tags, the tags that aren’t about categorization and are all about having fun, you meet with a repository of creativity formed somewhere between “shameless self-gratification” and “ideas that sounded great when I was high.” Thankfully, the Twitter account @TagsofAO3 is here to catalog the best of the best. 

I took painkillers while coming up with this (South Park)

— Good Tags Of AO3 (@TagsOfAO3) December 10, 2013

What can we learn about our fandoms and the things we write for them from tags? Well, let’s start with the basics.

no cows involved (Pacific Rim)

— Good Tags Of AO3 (@TagsOfAO3) November 7, 2013

In this, the first tag that the newish Twitter account sent into the world, we learn the basics: No cows were harmed in the making of this Pacific Rim fic. Which is good, because the title of the fic in question includes the phrase “naked calf.” See how useful freeform tagging is? You can make puns and include helpful information all at once!

Sometimes the beauty of fanfic is how gracefully it can make fun of itself. What’s better than a three-way crossover fic that purports to ‘follow canon’? Nothing, that’s what.

This follows canon (sort of) (Big Bang Theory/Glee/America’s Next Top Model)

— Good Tags Of AO3 (@TagsOfAO3) December 16, 2013

Wait, maybe we’re wrong. This one is definitely better. What does the ghost of Ansel Adams, fanfic writer, do exactly? Does it even matter? It’s Homestuck.

RT @biosurprise: @TagsOfAO3 channeling the ghost of ansel adams (Homestuck)

— Good Tags Of AO3 (@TagsOfAO3) December 16, 2013

We’re assuming this one features Bruce Banner and Tony Stark doing math:

3.1415926535 (The Avengers)

— Good Tags Of AO3 (@TagsOfAO3) December 16, 2013

Update: having looked up the fic, it turns out we were more or less right, but the pregnant Clint Barton was unexpected.

origami is fantastic (Les Misérables)

— Good Tags Of AO3 (@TagsOfAO3) December 14, 2013

Do you hear the people fold, folding the cranes of revolutionary zen? 

Then there are the tags that we can truly learn from:

dont do home piercings thats stupid (Homestuck)

— Good Tags Of AO3 (@TagsOfAO3) December 6, 2013

stay in school kids (Supernatural)

— Good Tags Of AO3 (@TagsOfAO3) December 8, 2013

But maybe the best part about AO3 freeform tagging is that so many tags don’t need any explanation at all, because no matter what fandom you’re in, we all know exactly what you’re talking about. Let’s face it, we’ve all written versions of each of these fics:

False Declarations of ‘No Homo’ (Attack on Titan)

— Good Tags Of AO3 (@TagsOfAO3) December 13, 2013

adorable manly cuddling (Merlin)

— Good Tags Of AO3 (@TagsOfAO3) December 13, 2013

SHIP DARCY WITH ALL THE THINGS (The Avengers)

— Good Tags Of AO3 (@TagsOfAO3) December 14, 2013

Hurt/Comfort, But Mostly Hurt (James Bond)

— Good Tags Of AO3 (@TagsOfAO3) December 7, 2013

I’m pretty sure this was somehow inspired by Pretty Woman (Rise of the Guardians)

— Good Tags Of AO3 (@TagsOfAO3) December 14, 2013

enjolras doesn’t die in this, i guess that’s something (Les Misérables)

— Good Tags Of AO3 (@TagsOfAO3) December 6, 2013

RT @zolacnomiko: @TagsOfAO3 TAYLOR SWIFT SONG TITLE (The Hobbit)

— Good Tags Of AO3 (@TagsOfAO3) December 12, 2013

The universality of so many fandom tropes makes the truly quirky fanfic descriptions that much more delightful:

intimidating Polish grandma (Teen Wolf)

— Good Tags Of AO3 (@TagsOfAO3) December 10, 2013

Is there any other kind of Polish grandma?

i cannot believe i just wrote a fic about sea monkeys (Prince of Tennis)

— Good Tags Of AO3 (@TagsOfAO3) December 3, 2013

We’re awed by your prowess, author.

Can zombies give consent? (Hannibal)

— Good Tags Of AO3 (@TagsOfAO3) December 7, 2013

Gosh, we hope so. (Or do we? Wait, Hannibal?)

concussed ducks in love (The Hobbit)

— Good Tags Of AO3 (@TagsOfAO3) December 6, 2013

CONCUSSED DUCKS IN LOVE. Look, if you’re not on board with fandom yet, go get chased by angry, non-concussed, non-emotionally-satiated ducks.

Or giant lizards.

seriously there are giant lizards (The Avengers)

— Good Tags Of AO3 (@TagsOfAO3) December 4, 2013

Maybe ducks and lizards. The best thing about AO3? We can have it all.

Illustration by nnysgirl666/deviantART

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*First Published: Dec 20, 2013, 11:19 am CST