This work is part of a series, starting at FanFiction 101: Where to Read & Post.
AU as a fanfiction trope and/or genre might be the most diverse. Its most basic definition is a transformative work that differs from the canon established by its original source.
Although the concept of alternate universes is not limited to the fanfiction universes (i.e. the “What If…” marvel series), it thrives on fandom culture.
“AU fanworks cover a great deal of creative territory, and much discussion has gone into how exactly to classify the term and its subtropes. The openness of AUs allows fans to stretch themselves creatively.” fanlore.org
Canon-divergence is considered one of those sub-tropes however, unlike other types of AUs the world stays mostly the same. As the name suggests a canon-divergent fanfic is a story that changes the events of the plot in a significant way for the characters but not so much the world. It asks “What if x character…?” rather than “What if the world…?”
Fix-it-fic is an especial type of canon divergence in which it is not the content that creates the distinction between fix-its and other works but rather the intention of the author. As its name says, fanfics in this sub-sub-group attempt to fix the canon to the more compelling version than the writer has.
Alternate Universes that are set in Other Worlds have infinite more variations than the canon divergent ones, fanlore’s list of examples divide them in four.
Likewise period-based AUs take your favorite Austen heroine and have her navigate the 2022 dating culture.
Another fun fact about period-based AUs is that they may be tagged with “1920s but just for the aesthetic” in AO3 so that you can enjoy the fantasy of a speaksy without questioning too much the social inequalities of the era.
Coffee Shop AUs specifically have become a symbol that if your fandom has one it has officially become a “fandom”. The Headcanon Magazine (a lit mag for all things fandom) centered its entire first issue around this fanfiction genre, so I go read it.
Canon AU is the oxymoron of the decade but it mostly refers to Alternate Universes that originate within the franchise. Fans of comics have the most fun playing with those, though it is said that Star Trek brought the formula to the (U.S.) public with its “Mirror Universe”.
What makes a good AU? This is a question people in fandom have been answering for centuries and it still has to have a definite answer, you might as well ask “What is art?”
However as a reader and writer of AUs I say that a key-factor is a balance between nurture v.z. nature, and distinguishing which traits the characters have because of who they are and which because of their circumstances.
It is a rather impossible task, but I believe in you! So go write AUs if you already love them or give them a read if you were wary before. After all there is a subtype of this genre for every one of us.
Ari Ochoa Petzo
is a Mexican-Venezuelan bi genderfluid writer. They like dancing to old music and history. In their free time you can find xem trying to coerce their friends to participate in another of their crazy projects.
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