In this article:
- AO3 fandoms are communities on Archive of Our Own, a website that hosts fan-made stories, that create fiction about existing media IPs. These are often other books but movies, videogames, and even classical mythology are common topics for fanfiction.
- Despite the negative attitudes towards fanfiction being low quality as a whole, several AO3 fandoms stand out from the rest for their consistently good quality fanfiction.
- This list names some of the most consistent AO3 fandoms when it comes to fanfiction quality and includes suggestions for specific pairings/works to check out if you’re trying to get into reading fanfiction.
You may have heard it be said that there are no original ideas and no original works of art. Even the biggest, most beloved works of fiction in the past centuries have referenced older works.
Mythologies have different versions of the same stories, Star Wars references Frank Herbert’s Dune, and let’s not get started on the number of movies and shows that have copied the iconic motorbike slide from Katsuhiro Otomo’s 1988 film, Akira.
AO3 fandoms take this to its natural conclusion by creating works directly inspired by and borrowing from existing work. AO3 stands for Archive of Our Own, a website that allows people to upload their fanmade work to share with thousands to millions of fellow fans. Meanwhile, fandom refers to the communities of fans that follow and create content about a franchise.
These are just a few of the most consistent AO3 fandoms in terms of fanfic quality.
1. A Song of Ice and Fire Fandom
A Song of Ice and Fire is a book series written by George R.R. Martin that the hit HBO series Game of Thrones was based on. We’re talking about the ASOIAF fandom, not the GoT fandom.
A Song of Ice and Fire is known for its rich worldbuilding that gives fanfiction writers a lot of subplots and concepts to play around with. The fandom has fics dedicated to everything from the Northerner plot to reinstall the Starks as Kings of the North to ones about Nymeria, the legendary Rhoynish warrior who married into the Martell family in Dorne.
The most interesting ones, though, are the fanfics that create alternate timelines based on ideas such as “What if Robb Stark didn’t die during the Red Wedding?” and, a personal favorite, “What if the North had cows?“
The AO3 fanfic The Many Sons of Winter asks the latter question but changes one fundamental worldbuilding aspect of the North: its lack of economic power. The fanfiction moves the busy ports of Dorne up to the North which becomes a trading hub partially because of a variant of cattle than can survive the harsh winters of the North.
This minor change during the reign of Torrhen Stark, just a little after Aegon’s Conquest, transforms the North into a stronger, more culturally distinct region. There are more godswoods, less Andal influence, a bustling city, and more Starks to go around since the prosperity of the region can support multiple cadet branches.
2. Avatar: The Last Airbender Fandom
One thing you’ll start to notice as we go through our list of the best AO3 fandoms when it comes to fanfic quality is that most of these franchises have extensive worldbuilding behind them. After all, it’s much easier to write a juicy fic with a solid plot when you have a ton of material to work with.
That’s likely why Avatar: The Last Airbender, a show that is technically a children’s cartoon, has earned a spot as one of the most written about fandoms.
Avatar: The Last Airbender, or ATLA for short, has drawn legions of adult fans over the years because of its thoughtful storytelling and emotionally complex characters. While the show keeps things fairly family-friendly, it doesn’t shy away from showing the effects of war on individuals and communities and how trauma can change the trajectory of a person’s life.
Some of the best ones tend to focus on Zuko and/or Azula because the two are so complicated that it honestly doesn’t need any explanation why they’re a favorite for fanfiction writers to use as a character study.
Fire Nation Yacht Club is a two-part fanfiction about Zuko, Azula, and their very messed up family. It’s short but sweet and really, can a fic get thousands of kudos (AO3 likes) with only a few thousand words if it weren’t at least okay-ish?
If you want something longer but also serialized, you can try the much more acclaimed where the stars do not take sides, a nine-chapter fanfiction with over 19,000 kudos.
It follows a young Azula’s growth into a ruthless strategist after the disappearance of her brother and mother only to later rediscover that the brother she’s yearned for has been conspiring with the Avatar in secret.
3. Star Wars Franchise Fandom
There are few fandoms that can hold a candle to the sheer size of the Star Wars franchise’s fanbase. It’s been around for decades and at this point, it would be a miracle if it didn’t have fanfiction about it. It also happens to be one of the more cross-overed franchises, typically with other big names like Harry Potter and Doctor Who.
Star Wars fanfiction has been around before AO3 and, for that matter, the internet as we know it today.
SW, as it’s sometimes called online, began getting fanfiction made about it around the ’70s and ’80s. Back then, fanfiction had to be published in paperback format. These were called zines and there are still some being made today but it’s more common now for a fic to get popular online first and then be offered up for pre-orders as a paperback book.
Many early fics were, as they are today, slash which is what fandoms call erotic fanfiction and it wasn’t uncommon for them to be about queer pairings.
Today, within the current Star Wars AO3 fandom, the competing factions are Reylo (that’s Kylo Ren and Rey) and Kylux (Kylo Ren and General Hux). The two also, unsurprisingly, tend to have some of the more consistently good fanfiction on the side.
Ad Augusustana per Sciencia is a Kylux fanfiction that doubles as a love letter to Star Wars: Thrawn Trilogy.
The fic reimagines General Hux as a more Thrawn-like figure who is unapologetically ruthless but has a secret soft spot for the arts and history and turns Kylo Ren into a more rigorously dedicated follower of the Knights’ philosophy as the author imagines it. The writing gets so incredibly poetic that you might wonder how you’re actually reading this for free.
Like Young Gods is a Reylo fanfiction with a side of alternate history. As the author puts it, think Jedi Academy AU that’s basically Hogwarts with lightsabers. They’re Jedi knights together, they go on adventures, they save the galaxy, and they fall in love. It’s a lot of fun and a lot of words considering that it’s a two-part series with over 200,000 words in total.
4. Marvel Cinematic Universe Fandom
The O.G. The legendary. Everybody give it up for the Marvel Cinematic Universe AO3 fandom. While a lot of AO3 fandoms have much older roots (hello, Star Wars and Star Trek), the MCU fandom was still new when everyone started migrating from FanFiction.net to AO3 so for a time, they actually had the biggest presence on the site.
If you’ve ever seen the words “we deserve a soft epilogue, my love” and wondered which 19th-century poet wrote it, you may be pleased (or not, if you’re a snob) to know that it’s actually a line from a poem written about Bucky Barnes and Steve Rogers as a couple.
It’s a little harder to recommend specific fics from this fandom since out of all other AO3 fandoms, the MCU fandom (likely) has the most characters and subplots happening at the same time.
Generally speaking though, the ones about complicated characters are the best. Sort by Loki-centered or Wanda-centered fics and throw in the Angst or Hurt/Comfort tag.
Steve/Bucky has also proven to be consistently good over the years but if you really want a pairing that makes you scratch your head and wonder “How on earth?”, check out Tony Stark/Loki because oh boy.
5. The Greek Mythology AO3 Fandoms
AO3 fandoms focused on a Greek mythology-inspired franchise are a dime a dozen. There are Percy Jacksons and Hadeses out there together with smaller, less popular franchises. Yet all of them are just fanfiction of the O.G: actual Greek mythology.
Yes, there are people writing Greek mythology-inspired fanfiction on AO3 still. The female goddesses tend to be a favorite in these communities, but the one that consistently crops up and has some of the best fics are the ones about Apollo and Artemis.
“Blood is what binds them, first and foremost, but she wonders if it will ever be enough.” is how one of the best fics under the Greek mythology tags introduces itself.
and never without sacrifice explores the tensions between the twin deities as they tiptoe on their feelings for each other throughout centuries. Terribly in love yet forever doomed to remain apart, Apollo and Artemis take as much as they can from each other without intruding on each other’s divine domains.
Answering Questions You Might Have About AO3 Fandoms if You’re New to Fanfiction
How do I sort through AO3 fandoms?
Archive of Our Own does not have an algorithm. This means you have to sort through content on your own. To do this efficiently, try starting with a Google search.
Enter the franchise you’re interested in and add “AO3” after the franchise name. This will take you to the main page for the fandom. From there, you can specify romantic and platonic pairings you want to see as well as the genre you’re looking for.
How do I filter out content I don’t want to see?
AO3’s elaborate tagging system lets you indicate what fanfiction you don’t want to see. Just add a word to the “Exclude” section and it will filter out all fanfiction containing that tag.
What if I see something I don’t like?
AO3 fandoms don’t always see eye to eye, but they’re not afraid to call people silly for interacting with content they don’t like. If you’re not a fan of a specific pairing or theme, as is common with kink-related fanfiction, ignore it. That content exists for someone and if the market isn’t you, you can just go through your filters again.
Is reading fanfiction illegal?
No, and it’s not exactly illegal to write fanfiction either. Generally, no one really goes after fanfiction writers and readers as long as the work isn’t monetized. Of course, many creators do not want to be sent fanfiction out of fear of later being accused of stealing ideas from fanfic. (Yes, it happens).
Zines are a different story, though, and they do tend to fall into grayer legal territory but some companies like Hoyoverse, the developers of Genshin Impact, explicitly allow for fan-made content and merchandise to be registered with them.