"Anything you post online stays there forever." It's a favourite phrase of the older generation, the folks who didn't grow up with the internet but instead saw it come about during their lifetime. It's very true in some ways, there will always be at least a trace, but the internet isn't nearly as permanent as they would lead you to believe.

What's got me so sentimental? I hear you ask. Fanfiction. It's a favourite passtime of mine, both reading and writing, so it's no surprise that I'm thinking about it. I'm thinking about something a little more specific, though. This one specific fic. I won't share too many identifying details as I don't think the author would want that (as you'll soon see) but I'd like to talk about a deleted fanfic and why I think you should download your favourite fanfics.

So the fic in question is nothing particularly special. Soulmate AU, around 140k words, unfinished. The chapter count has a finite end goal listed and the amount of chapters that existed at the fic's deletion was just 3 short of that goal. Sad but probably not uncommon.

When I bookmark things on AO3, I write in the notes the name, fandom and author of the fic for exactly this scenario. I opened my bookmarks one day to find this fic deleted and I only knew which it was due to the fact that the notes persist after the fic is deleted. Luckily, I have a copy of the fic downloaded, as I tend to do with all of my favourite fics (speaking of, there are a bunch of fics I've yet to download, I really should get around to that) so the fic isn't gone forever, it lives on in my Google Drive. I don't plan on sharing it around, out of respect for the author, unless someone specifically asks "Hey does anyone have a copy of this fic, it got deleted".

For the longest time, I thought nothing of it. Sometimes people delete fics. Yes, AO3 is an archive and there are ways of keeping the fic while it not being associated with you anymore but, at the end of the day, it's the author's choice. One day, though, I got curious and decided I'd check out the other fics this author had to offer. I put their name into the AO3 searchbar (exactly as it appears on my downloaded fic) and found... nothing. They're gone. I counted this as a loss and moved on with my life once more. What can I do after all?

Today, though, I got curious. I'm not entirely sure why. I was reading a fic (different ship, fandom, everything, the only similarity I can think of is the fact that they're both longfics) and suddenly remembered the existance of this fic. I messaged my sister (who also loves the fic and mourned its deletion right alongside me) and decided to take to Tumblr to see if I could find trace of the author's existence.

My methods were nothing fancy, just typing the author's name into Tumblr's searchbar and hoping. Immediately I saw post after post recommending this author and their fics. I saw people mentioning them and even drawing fanart of their fics. I got the sense that they were definitely part of the community. This made me more curious because it more or less ruled out the idea that they might have been bullied out of the fandom or something similar, so I decided to try the Wayback Machine. Any links to their Tumblr or AO3 didn't work but maybe I'd get lucky and someone would've saved a snapshot?

I was right. There was one snapshot each for both the Tumblr and AO3. Both were from mid-July 2022. The AO3 one, unfortunately just showed this:

An entirely white website. Small text in the top-left corner reads Retry later.

That's the entire webpage, by the way. The only things I cropped out were my computer's UI and the Wayback Machine UI (and I only did that to remove the username of the author). The Tumblr proved more useful, actually. I actually managed to get on there. The fic was last updated in 2020 but one of the most recent posts on the author's Tumblr say that their life has been hectic but they plan on continuing the fic soon. Most of the posts that would load praise this one particular fic and at no point does the author seem bothered by this praise (that doesn't mean they weren't, of course, just that they didn't show it). That's about the limit of the usefulness I had for the Tumblr account, save for two things:

  1. It gave their name and pronouns
  2. It linked to their AO3, proving that this was the same person and that they probably didn't have any other internet presence (that's tied to their fanfiction, at least)

In the meantime, my sister dug up an Instagram and a Wattpad but both were easily proved to be run by someone else.

...And that's where the trail goes cold. I believe, anyway. I'm not an investigative journalist or anything even remotely close to it. Maybe I missed something but I doubt that I did. It seems as though this author is gone. I don't know why. Maybe there wasn't a reason, maybe they just didn't want to be associated with that name or those accounts anymore. It's impossible to know. And that's fine. It's not exactly a mystery worth a spot on Buzzfeed Unsolved.

Back to the point I was trying to make with this post. Fics can disappear at any time with no warning. You never know when your favourite fic or your favourite author might suddenly disappear from existence (as far as the internet is concerned). At least if you download fics you know that you'll have them, at least. (Assuming you don't delete them, or your computer gets wiped, or whatever.) So, yeah, download fics!
~ Boots