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yuletide 2009: hit counts, comments, and predictions for 2010

January 1st, 2010 (10:41 am)

Now that Archive of Our Own allows you to sort for hit count, we can take a look at what the popular fics are this year. I'm writing this on the morning of New Year's Day, so these numbers will change a little, but the results are interesting. Here's the top 10, by hit count:

1	"They Come in Threes"		American Idol RPF/Merlin	53C	2813H
2	"Apocalypse How?		Dinosaur Comics			44C	2211H
3	"wind up the sun 
	and moon"			American Idol RPF		48C	2041H
4	"I Can't Turn This Around"	American Idol RPF		17C	2030H
5	"Most Likely To"		Breakfast Club (1985)		85C	1688H
6	"Every Day is a Reminder"	Calvin & Hobbes			77C	1565H
7	"Of Pants, Pranks and 
	Incidental Courtships"		Merlin RPF			38C	1440H
8	"Not Gonna Write You 
	a Love Song"			American Idol RPF		21C	1387H
9	"The Cable & Deadpool
	Yuletide Special"		Cable & Deadpool		59C	1376H
10	"Black Belt"			American Idol RPF		16C	1338H

For some reason, I have a sneaking suspicion that American Idol RPF may not be eligible for Yuletide next year.

I follow American Idol fic with the same intensity with which I follow AMERICAN IDOL the show -- which is to say, absolutely none at all -- but my guess is that the surge in AI fic has something to do with Adam Lambert, who features in every story above and over whom large swathes of fandom are swooning because he is a talented performer and Brings the Gay. Fandom has always been in love with the HoYay, but as more performers come out and as queer fandom increasingly asserts itself we're seeing queerness being seriously celebrated to the point of being an actual draw. (Note to self: corner market on HOMOSEXUALITY IS MY FANDOM T-shirts.)

The number one fic in terms of hits, and also the one with the dirtiest title, is "They Come in Threes," a 12,000 word Kris Allen/Adam Lambert fic that crosses over with the BBC's show MERLIN, and good grief, just from that description I honestly don't think you could get any more gay into that fic if you slathered it up with butter and introduced it to Tim Curry. AI RPF is also the number three fic. And number four. And number eight. And number ten.

Its absolute numbers are pretty staggering, too. That number one fic, which combines Adam Lambert and Merlin in a perfect slashy storm, gets six hundred hits more than its nearest fellow. Between #2 and #3, there's a gap of 200 hits; between #3 and #4, so few as makes no odds -- and then it's closer to four hundred hits between #4 and #5. But note also that the AI RPF have a much lower comment-to-hit ratio than the other fics up there. "They Come in Threes" got more than twice as many hits as "The Cable & Deadpool Yuletide Special," and the AI RPF got slightly fewer comments. The Calvin & Hobbes futurefic "Every Day is a Reminder" got more than a thousand fewer hits than "They Come in Threes" and over a third *more* comments. And "I Can't Turn This Around," which is much less technically proficient than the other AI RPF, has a really out of whack comments-to-hits ratio: the #4 most read fic this Yuletide, it got only 17 comments. All of this makes me think that most of the people reading Yuletide's AI RPF aren't werewolves. (My nickname for folks with AO3 accounts, because AOOO, Werewolves of Fandom.) A lot of these readers aren't coming here on recs, even; they're here looking at all the AI RPF. Further reason to think it may not be part of Yuletide next year -- that's a lot of folks who aren't in Yuletide who want Adam Lambert fic. I think this is his MERLIN year. (IE, the one year of eligibility after a splashy debut before popularity removes him from contention. BTW, I'm surprised as hell that LEVERAGE, which has eaten my flist alive, didn't show up on this list, and I'm even more surprised that MERLIN RPF was eligible.)

Notes on other trends: Dinosaur Comics made a splash this year, but it'll be interesting to see what happens if it returns next year. Only one fic for a popular webcomic, it got good hits -- but XKCD fic made a huge splash last year, and it declined a lot this year. Maybe the novelty will wear off, or folks will think it's been done as well as it could be, so why bother? Note that, like the AI RPF, Dinosaur Comics fic had a really low hit-to-comment ratio, so I'm thinking this one got linked among a lot of oupenskayas. (Oupenskayas are NOT werewolves.)

The remaining numbers of the top ten, hit-count-wise, are "Most Likely To" (Breakfast Club, 85 comments and 1688 hits), "Every Day is a Reminder" (Calvin & Hobbes, 77 comments and 1565 hits), and "The Cable & Deadpool Yuletide Special" (Cable & Deadpool, 59 comments and 1376 hits). [ETA post-reveal, in the interests of full disclosure: I wrote "The Cable & Deadpool Yuletide Special."] Higher comment to hit ratio probably indicates that more of the people who read these fics were werewolves, which makes sense; these are fandoms that don't have a big outside community that might get linked to Yuletide, and if you're not plugged into the Yuletide community and don't have recs to help you around, you're less likely to stumble on the other popular stories that aren't in your fandom. I'd never seen "Most Likely To" before the archive could be ranked by hit counts.

So, other than "Adam Lambert is eating the universe," what do these figures mean for Yuletide trends, and what can we predict for next Yuletide? First off, Calvin & Hobbes fanfic does *really* well every year. Especially Calvin & Hobbes futurefic. I see this trend lasting for a while, because Calvin & Hobbes is *incredibly* well-suited for Yuletide popularity, for the simple reason that there is no active writing fandom for it but there is not a single person on the planet who does not love Calvin and Hobbes. This means that every Yuletide you will have an audience of people who love the fandom and loved last year's big C&H story, so if you write a really good C&H story your story may well achieve Yuletide-wide prominence.

The only thing holding Calvin & Hobbes back, IMHO, is that there's not much of anyplace for the fandom to go. There's a reason why Calvin & Hobbes isn't a year-round fandom: fandom loves probing borders, and Watterson's genius is such that Calvin & Hobbes's borders are incredibly clear-cut and defined, and when you go outside them the results tend to be kind of final. "Every Day is a Reminder" and some other fics this year could be seen as rejoinders to last year's "The Sandwich Story." In "The Sandwich Story," Calvin grows up and doesn't see Hobbes any more. In "Every Day is a Reminder," Hobbes stays around as an animate creature even after Calvin grows up. Fandom loves writing the same stories over and over, but I'm not sure where Calvin & Hobbes fanfic can go from here. At most, it'll be a beloved Yuletide fixture.

More sign of the power of Calvin and Hobbes is that "The Cable & Deadpool Yuletide Special" also crossed over with C&H. Clearly, Calvin and Hobbes are a draw, though not as powerful a draw as Adam Lambert. I don't know if Deadpool will have a bigger presence in Yuletide next year; his general prominence is certainly increasing since X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE came out, but he's still no pop star. I do think that it's worth noting that meta fic is pretty popular of late, and "The Cable & Deadpool Yuletide Special" owes a lot of its popularity to the fact that it's about Yuletide and basically draws on popular Yuletide stories for its content, a gimmick that's not likely to be repeated because it would suffer greatly from repetition. It's not as technically proficient as this year's Calvino fic "Five Stories the Reader Never Began," but it's more accessible to a general reader because it's less ambitious and more cracky. (Incidentally, check out the comment to hit ratio on that Calvino one: 59 comments from 791 hits. YOWZA. Not as many people read that as the Cable & Deadpool story, but almost twice as many of its readers commented.) My guess if there is a trend involved with this story, it's this: we can expect to see more meta fic next year, and some of it will be pretty popular.

Which leaves THE BREAKFAST CLUB, and "Most Likely To." I don't remember Breakfast Club fic in previous Yuletides, so have no idea whether its success constitutes a trend or if it's just an example of "OH YEAH I LOVED THE BREAKFAST CLUB!" ie, there's not a lot of fic in the fandom and people really loved the fandom so were delighted to see good fic in it. Which, if that's the case, would make this one the leading exemplar of "What Yuletide is All About" for the year. Somebody set me straight in comments.

Here's another prediction: look for a lot more of the Merlin Effect. IE, something becomes very popular within the span of the year and eats Yuletide alive. I am betting heavily on RPF to dominate within this category again next year, given the cyclical nature of pop music and celebrity culture. There will be a New Hotness over whom fandom will go gaga, and there will be a ton of fic squeaking through the eligibility window. If this keeps up, there's a very outside chance that Yuletide might have to review eligibility rules -- but my bet is that this is actually fuel for the growth of Yuletide. Yuletide increases the likelihood of a large audience, and a large outside audience for new fic in a new fandom means that more people will hear about Yuletide who haven't. Moreover, Yuletide having a ton of fic in some new hot fandom every year ensures that the challenge remains hip'n'with-it, and keeps new people coming.

Anyway, there we are: Yuletide, 2009.

[cue music: "Don't You Forget About Me"]


Posted by: Megan (gamera)
Posted at: January 1st, 2010 05:35 pm (UTC)

Part of the reason the Dinosaur Comics story got so many hits is that someone linked it to Ryan North (the comic's creator) and he posted the link on Twitter. A good half of those hits are from non-Yuletiders.

Posted by: keerawa (keerawa)
Posted at: January 1st, 2010 06:30 pm (UTC)

someone linked it to Ryan North (the comic's creator) and he posted the link on Twitter
Oh wow, I am FASCINATED and mildly terrified by that.

Posted by: Megan (gamera)
Posted at: January 1st, 2010 08:22 pm (UTC)

I'll be honest, I was kind of freaked out when it popped up on Twitter.

Posted by: David Hines (hradzka)
Posted at: January 2nd, 2010 04:43 am (UTC)

The author of PALIMPSEST also commented on Twitter, and I know of one other author who is absolutely *thrilled* to have fanfic in existence. A lot of people see it as validating.

Posted by: Megan (gamera)
Posted at: January 2nd, 2010 07:32 pm (UTC)

It's not the author response that really gets to me, I suppose (it was a neutral "I didn't think that actually existed" sort of response which, while not exactly heartening, isn't awful either), but that some random person decided to explicitly bring it to his attention. To me, that's a risk you take with your own fic, not someone else's.

But maybe I'm just being silly and oversensitive about it. I come from a very different corner of fandom than most Yuletide participants, so it's probably just a different set of social rules at work. :)

Posted by: Betty Anne (artistbettyanne)
Posted at: January 3rd, 2010 07:55 pm (UTC)

Both Ryan Q. North (Dinosaur Comics) and Jeph Jacques (Questionable Content) are linked to fanworks/discussion of their series. Ryan's also posted in the past about some English teacher in Japan who used blanks of his comic to teach Japanese elementary schoolers English, as well as a Dinosaur Comics randomizer he was linked to, and Jeph tweets randomly about various fanworks. (Also, I recently discovered that there is SkiFree fanfic on FF.net via Jeph.)

I think the kind of semi-open dialog they've built with their fanbase encourages this sort of linking by random fans, not just the fanworks' creators. I don't know if this is true for other webcomic artists (the only others I follow on Twitter are Ryan Sohmer and Lar deSouza of Looking for Group and Least I Could Do), but I would guess that it's not abnormal in their fandoms.

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