What else have people to do during the lockdown but read fanfic? Or so it seems. Not only have AO3’s readership numbers gone through the roof, they’ve been able to raise plenty of money to keep the site healthy.
“For a lot of book lovers, rereading old favorites is the only reading they can manage at the moment” says Sarah Wendell in the Washington Post.
Fanfiction sites have also been experiencing a massive surge in traffic during the Quarantimes. Hugo Award-winning site Archive of Our Own announced that it was taking emergency steps to manage server loads with “weekly page views increasing from 262 million to 298 million in just two weeks.” The increase isn’t surprising: Fanfic was already popular, but now it offers the soothing experience of new stories set in recognizable places with characters we already know. A large portion of the cognitive work is already done before you even begin reading.
Here’s this year’s traffic graphed month-by-month. The green line at the top is April.
Archive of Our Own’s administrators reported a surge of donations, too.
The OTW’s April fundraising drive is over, and we are humbled by your incredible generosity. Your donations far surpassed our initial goal of US$130,000, bringing our total to US$458,501 donated by 14,905 people from 96 countries. We are beyond grateful, and as committed as ever to this community that we’re all building together, every single day. We cannot thank you enough for helping our mission and for ensuring that our projects will grow even more in the future.
FOLLOW-UP. Meanwhile, AO3 remains blocked in China, however, the actor at the center of the controversy has made a widely-viewed, though not very specific, apology: Global Times writer Gong Qian has the story — “Chinese actor Xiao Zhan’s apology video goes viral following AO3 controversy”.
A video of an interview with Chinese singer and actor Xiao Zhan has gone viral on China’s Twitter-like Sina Weibo, with many Chinese netizens praising the star for his courage to apologize to the public for the actions of fans who caused overseas fanfic platform Archive of Our Own (AO3) to become blocked in the Chinese mainland back in late February.
In the video released Wednesday on Sina Weibo, Xiao said, “Some time ago, some disputes related to me occurred, and this dispute happened during the key period of the COVID-19 pandemic, and I feel very sorry. If those disputes caused some trouble to some people, I want to make an apology to them.” Although the star did not specify what the “disputes” were, many Chinese netizens have surmised that he was referring to the AO3 controversy from three months ago. The video had earned more than 39.15 million views as of Thursday afternoon.
In February, the star and a portion of his fandom became the center of controversy after a group of Xiao’s fans reported overseas fan fiction site AO3 to the Chinese authorities for hosting fan fiction that depict Xiao and his male co-star Wang Yibo from the hit TV drama The Untamed in a same-sex relationship. The fans claimed they reported the site to protect their idol’s reputation being ruined from what they claimed were pornographic stories. The platform, which was extremely popular in the Chinese mainland, became inaccessible soon after, provoking a huge backlash among the public, with some criticizing the fans for damaging artistic freedom.
[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster for the story.]
So numbers are up substantially even without China. That’s impressive.
I’m glad to hear the numbers (and donations) are up. If I wasn’t doing so much Hugo reading at the moment, I’d be one of the many reading at AO3 to get through this.