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How a Wangxian fanfic broke AO3 tag system

AO3 is the biggest fanfic archive on the internet.  There are other options for publishing your works online but AO3 has the best tagging system out there. This system makes it easier to find and organise works but last week we saw the rise of a fic that is putting the system under a never seen before kind of strain.


The tag system

The tag system is the best tool AO3 offers its users. It’s an incredible feat accomplished solely by volunteers and it’s amazing. If you tag your work with a specific genre everyone browsing that tag could find it. You can find works by characters tags, genre tag and other oddly specific tags.  The tagging system it’s also useful to avoid triggering content like character death, violence, or sexual themes.

Correctly tagging fanfic is almost as important as writing it well. It’s an art and you need to know the balance between giving your readers enough information and avoiding tagging too much. Naturally, longer fics have more tags and the system have been working properly for years until a certain fic came along.

Sexytimes With Wangxian

The MDZS (and The Untamed) fandom seem to have a knack for getting in trouble and creating controversy. Just at the beginning of 2020 and end of 2029 Ao3 got banned in China after a huge fandom war broke out because of a fic but that’s a story for another day.

This controversy is about a fic called Sexy Times With Wangxian and the fact that its author decided to tag every little thing that happens in it. The author used tags such as grandmothers, bread, good… it’s crazy. It took me 30 seconds to scroll past the fic summary when I first discovered it! The fic has 1000 tags but some users stated it has weel over 3000 tags. No one’s insane enough to count them.  Fanlore states that: “As of February 15, 2021, the work had 1754 tags, increasing from 1598 on February 2, 2021″

What was the deal?

This fic made it impossible to use many popular tags. It may not seem that bad but having this monstrosity of tag list on a tag made fiding a fic quite difficult. The other issue with this fic is that meanwhile, the author tagged every superfluous thing they didn’t tag trigger warnings, meaning readers could unknowingly stumble upon triggering content.

The situation had the potential to get worse since the author threatened to make the fanfic a crossover between many large fandoms such as Attack On Titan and The Marvel Cinematic Universe. So like a disease, the monstrous collection of tags could spread across the archive.


What was done about his?

Sexy Times With Wangxian is currently unavailable on Ao3 since the author had their account suspended but not because of misusing the tag system but for threatening people via the comment section. Apparently, this ban will last for a month so we will surely see further developments in this situation. We are witnessing fandom history in the making just like when My immortal was first published! It’s annoying but kind of exciting.




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Hamlet is our Editor-In-Chief and co-founder of The Fanfic Collective. She has a degree in Communication Studies. Hamlet is currently an English teacher and part-time dancer. She landed on the world of fanfiction after reading a Jonas Brothers fic when she was 12. Her main fandoms are Sherlock, The MCU, Good Omens and Buzzfeed Unsolved. You can catch her on AO3 as Igraine_Smiley.


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