Ode to Big Bangs

Big Bangs are a callback to fanfiction’s early ties to zine culture.

Fotolia.com | © merion_merion

Fotolia.com | © merion_merion

On the wintery second day of 2014, moderators writcraft and mab posted an ambitious prompt on LiveJournal. They named it the “Harry Potter Big Bang,” a year-long challenge to write a novel-length fanfiction about J.K. Rowling’s infamous protagonist. In fandom, “Big Bangs” refer neither to cosmological phenomena nor mediocre CBS sitcoms, but to challenges where fans write lengthy fics over a set period of time. Big Bangs encourage collaboration with fan artists to create illustrations for the fics. The goal is to publish the finished works online for fans to enjoy.

For the 2014 Harry Potter Big Bang, the minimum word count was 50,000 words, about 30,000 short of Rowling’s Philosopher’s Stone. Writers were given a strict year-long schedule to ensure everyone kept on pace. Any Harry pairing (Drarry, Snarry, H.M.S. Orange Crush, Pottermort, Candyshipping) or identity (genderqueer!Harry, dark!Harry, rockstar!Harry) was acceptable.

While the most obvious goal of these Big Bang collaborations is to produce lengthy fics, their underlying drive is to support and encourage writers. Writers team up with beta readers for feedback on plot, character development, and grammar, while community moderators provide more general writing advice in forums. For the Harry Potter Big Bang, thirteen writers partnered up with beta readers, exchanging works for a months-long editing process. These rigorous beta reading sessions are characteristic of Big Bangs to ensure that high-quality fics are produced.

The format of Big Bangs is a callback to fanfiction’s early ties to zine culture, where writers and artists would collaborate on stories for underground print magazines. This legacy carries on today, with several Big Bangs making fanart an integral part of the publishing process. Unlike the writing sign-ups, the artist sign-ups take place much later in the process, usually when the first draft of the fic is complete. In the Harry Potter Big Bang, writers and artists exchanged names on November 1st, giving artists two months to complete their work.

Big Bang challenges are great for fanfiction communities because the work produced is often high-quality. In particular, the Harry Potter Big Bang has produced several exceptional fan works, including some of my favorite fics of all time. The collaborative nature of these Big Bang challenges reflects the most positive tenets of fandom, including fostering creativity, encouraging others, and, most of all, the spirit of community.

About Malory Beazley (40 Articles)
Malory has taken her interest in fandom to the academy, penning a Master's thesis entitled "Out of the Cupboards and Into the Streets!: Harry Potter Genderfuck Fan Fiction and Fan Activism." You can find her in Nova Scotia, sipping coffee, writing fiction, and reading slash.

6 Comments on Ode to Big Bangs

  1. Aww, I miss these! I’d almost forgot about eagerly waiting for the stories to be finished and posted.

  2. Rachel Smith Cobleigh // May 3, 2016 at 11:10 am // Reply

    Thanks for educating us about this phenomenon! I’d never heard of it before, but it sounds wonderful: collaboration, community support, encouragement, and high-quality results. I wonder if it could be sustainable in smaller fandoms, though.

    • Great point! I imagine it takes a ton of work to organize Big Bangs, especially making sure everyone keeps on track with the publishing schedule. But from what I’ve seen, the results are totally worth it.

  3. Thanks for reading! I’ve been steadily working through all the fics written for the 2014 Harry Big Bang. There are some gems in that collection and I should have some reviews coming soon.

  4. I love this. I’ve read quite a few Big Bang fics, but I’ve never actually known what it meant. I hope I can participate in one some day

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