Maya Williams, 16, is a student at Stroud High School and an aspiring writer.

She lives in Chalford.

My father is a ‘fanboy’.

When he mentioned he had a good idea for an alternative ending for Andy Weir’s The Martian, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to send him the link to The Martian fanfiction site, hopefully to introduce him to the fandom world.

“What’s Mark slash Chris?” he asked, frowning at the tags.

“That’s slash shipping. It’s pairing two male characters together. It’s extremely popular.”


Poor ignorant adults.

“Pairing characters,” I said patiently. “The word’s derived from relationship.

“Fanfictions are pretty much stories written by fans who want a premise to make their ships a reality. Especially if their ships are non-canon, that is, to say, not official.”

My father was looking a little lost by this point.

“See – a fandom is basically a community of people who like a particular book or series or TV show or anime or whatever Many of them write fanfiction or draw fanart and post them on fandom sites for other people to read and comment on.

Most fanfiction and fanart depicts pairings that are either in the original work – these are canon ships – or not official, unconfirmed, or just don’t exist – which are non-canon ships.

“An example of a very popular non-canon ship would be Drarry – Draco Malfoy and Harry Potter, right? It’s not an actual pairing in the books, but lots of people like it.”

My father has not read Harry Potter but he seemed to get the point.

“And... what’s coffee shop AU?” he asked.

“Ah! That’s a very popular trope!” I explained.

“Coffee shop AUs are mostly short, otherwise plotless love stories between person A as a barista and person B as a customer. Cue romance.”

It had taken half-an-hour to explain coffee shop AUs to my mother several weeks ago.

“I would write one, they’re probably the most popular fanfiction trope but I have no talent with writing about other people’s characters.

“My friend writes fanfictions, though! She sometimes sends me them to edit and post online for her...”

“So, what’s an AU?”

“Oh – that’s alternate universe, meaning not set in the same dimension as the original story, although I suppose technically all fanfictions are AUs with that logic.

Modern AUs are particularly popular in medieval fantasies and historical fiction – Hamilton, for example, did you know that there’s millions of people out there that ship people from the 18th century? That’s so cool, right?”

“Yeah,” he said doubtfully.

He focused on his laptop screen again and experimentally chose a fanfiction to read. He didn’t notice the rating, that read ‘Explicit’.

“No – don’t read that one!”