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All fanfic is arguably an Alternate Continuity, since the audience can assume it intends to follow Canon to a specific point, then branch off. Indeed, the only major fic types that don't branch off are post series Continuation fics and those written to fit neatly into canon, as they don't disrupt the continuity. However, labeling something an AU Fic sometimes has a different implication, where one fundamental aspect of the series is completely overhauled from its point of origin.
The standards for how much is fundamental to the series vary by fandom and by time of writing, but the fic types that are usually considered AU are the following:
- Contextual Reassignment - When the fundamental aspect that is changed is the world itself. Overt changes in the universe rules and World Building constitute the most universally accepted meaning of AU. Thus, the fan equivalent to an Elseworld. However, there's a lot less tolerance of altering personalities and abilities. These come in two main forms:
- Familiar Contextual Reassignment: When the characters are taken out of their world and placed in a setting that is fairly familiar to the author and readers - the High School AU is especially common, putting characters who would not have met or even existed for years in close proximity during teenage years.
- Unfamiliar Contextual Reassignment - When the characters are taken out of their world and placed in a setting much more unfamiliar to the author or the reader - for example prison, a Nazi Death Camp, Normandy 1066, or possibly Mars.
- What If - For lesser changes, there are the What Ifs about major events in the series - how 'major' counts as 'major' is debatable. There are two common forms of this.
- Alternate History - Where the author takes one point of time, one event in the universe and changes the outcome of it radically, such as an important decision, or who won an important fight, and continues from that point. Sometimes called a Divergence Fic.
- Character Facets - The author speculates on what would happen if a single facet of a character's enviroment was different about them, or may blatantly ignore a Word of God statement, for example, what if a character was blind, or had a little brother in the show right from the start.
- Continuation - There are also the Continuation fics written before the series has finished, which are rendered AU when new episodes in canon contradict the events of the fic. This is more of an Alternate Continuity, as the opening paragraph mentions, but tends to be considered AU too. Retrospectively, these fics become the What If variaton mentioned above, but are written from a different stance. (Harry Potter ficdom was particularly prone to these until after the publication of Deathly Hallows.)
Full-blown AU fic is tricky, as it should require a fair notion of the original series itself, making it harder to read for some casual fans. There's also the major danger of the Transplanted Character Fic, because if you change the plot too much the story's not so much a Fanfic as an original story with familiar names. On the plus side, rookie fans who might suffer from Continuity Lock Out in the canon series because they only found it after it became established may be able to enjoy AU fics, particularly if they actually explain a lot of the universe and don't assume that you know all the important things already. Trying to follow Buffy the Vampire Slayer when you first start watching in its fifth season, with all the Character Development that's taken place up to that point, is a lot harder than cutting your teeth on an AU fic that starts out with the Scoobies in high school and doesn't require any advance knowledge of the setting.
Anime & Manga
- Downfall is a continuity where Aizen never was the villain, instead Unohana, you know... Team Mom... is the Big Bad. Kyoraku and Ukitake follow her. Nel is Primera. Gin and Ran are Soul Society's resident experts on relationships. Rukia dies.
- Gregg "Metroanime" Sharp's The Bet is a cycle of stories based around a competition by a group of gods, demons, spirits and the occasional mortal to see who can make the biggest change in one of several "standard" timelines (the Canon versions of Ranma ½, Tenchi Muyo!, and Sailor Moon among others) with the smallest alteration. Each entry in "The Bet" is a small Alternate Universe Fic. The Bet inspired many contributors and imitators, and turned Alternate Universe Fics into sort of a cottage industry for Sharp.
- A Fox in Tokyo by Doghead Thirteen is one for Naruto, where the main change is that it's set in the author's Mega Crossover Top Dog universe, which includes a modern-day Tokyo where Nerima is a separate country owned and ruled by Soun Tendo, who is a werewolf. Needs to be seen to be believed.
- Team 8: Another Naruto fic. Something (currently a Noodle Incident) happens in Kurenai's past, and when she is tapped to train a genin team, she goes out of her way to request a specific newly-graduated ninja--her ninja team consists of Hinata Hyuga, Shino Aburame, and Naruto Uzumaki.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion R is one example of such a fic, diverging from the (formerly, with Rebuild) canonical timeline at the end of Episode 24 and beginning of the End of Evangelion. Essentially, Gendo anticipates Seele's attack, decides he's not ready for it, and begins a major reconstruction of Tokyo-3 in order to make himself a public hero that is temporarily untouchable. In retaliation, Seele builds a bunch of faux Angels for the purpose of attacking Nerv and initiating Third Impact in a more plausibly deniable way, while also recruiting another human-like Angel (ala Kaworu) to help them. Also, Shinji gets better. As does Asuka. And Rei. And everyone else. Well, almost.
- Ascension is another Evangelion fic that has the divergence-type premise: Seele's plans for Instrumentality were interrupted by the events of Half Life (the fic is a crossover) bringing Second Impact two years ahead of schedule. This fundamentally altered the universe in several ways, making Kaworu and Rei into Artificial Human Tyke Bombs designed to hunt Combine Advisors, Asuka into a Military Brat who grew up with her father and Shinji into a late-comer secondary character. Yui didn't get involved with Seele and kicked Gendo out when Shinji was little then adopted Rei to make up for Gendo taking Shinji with him. Kyoko was assassinated for going against Seele's dogma, making Asuka into a Failure Knight since childhood. Evangelions were developed independently of Seele's influence but are based on the Nihilanth instead. Later on it's revealed that it's not quite the same universe at all.
- For Code Geass, a major point of divergence from the anime's original plot is explored in Lelouch Of Britannia, where the author explores the What If scenario where Lelouch is not banished from the court, and grows up in Pendragon. The answer? Quite a bit, but with some interesting parallels to the original timeline.
- A Yu-Gi-Oh! fanfic called Son Of Apophis. All the character's Yamis become older brothers, with the exception of Bakura, who's an older cousin that is secretly a half-brother. Card games still exist, and it's implied that Yami is still the champion of them, but the tournaments seem to have never taken place. Yami Marik is no where near as psychotic or violent as he is in the actual manga (though he used to be, years ago) and Marik was crippled by his father.
- It takes place in a new cyberpunk/gothic setting, but Soul Eater has an AU by Ryo Hoshi called Shadows on the Walls, which has a very strange mix of People In Jars, Lotus Eater Machine, and features some familiar faces traveling as a band...and has the Cargo Ship of Soul Eater Evans and booze. Oh, right, and Maka is a prostitute and Noah does what he does best.
- Another one for Soul Eater would be A Soul's Songbook, which is a result of a single What If involving a switch in who won a battle nearly a thousand years before the start of the canon that ends up turning it into a Crapsack World run by the Big Bad of the canon, with, among other things, a rare example of Crystal Dragon Jesus sharing a world with Real Jesus...and the Eldritch Abomination cult.
- Genius is a Curse, a Death Note Dark Fic, where Ryuk never drops his Death Note, and Light never becomes Kira, and thus has nothing to alleviate his sheer boredom with. Deals with clinical depression.
- By the same author as Genius is a Curse, a more extreme example of AU. It's Just A Game. The page description: "It's 2016 & Light is bored to death. Ryuk offers him the Death Note, a program that lets him wreak havoc anonymously in a virtual world. L pursues this Kira, but when real people start dying, the line between fantasy and reality blurs beyond recognition." L works for Wammy House, the software company making the game, and Ryuk is a disillusioned game programmer they fired. Seems to toy with Your Mind Makes It Real.
- Fullmetal Alchemist Threads of Time focuses on the notion of Alphonse attaching Edward's soul to a suit of armor, and Alphonse obtaining automail limbs.
- Zeon Quest is a Gundam AU fic focusing on how one soldier has managed to already permanently alter the Universal Century.
- Freefall is a real-world AU crossover fic of Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle and XxxHolic, among many other CLAMP works, that has no magic, time-travel or monsters- and yet manages to be just as complex and involved as the original canon.
- Nerima Magistra Nelly Magi is a retelling of Mahou Sensei Negima with every character's gender reversed.
- Though a Bird Can't Fly, That Doesn't Mean It Never Will is a One Piece "What If?" fic in which Zoro's childhood rival Kuina is blinded instead of killed in her tragic accident. She grows up to be a Blind Weaponmaster who ends up joining the Marines in order to track down Zoro and find out why he's become a pirate.
- Given the nature of Axis Powers Hetalia and the liberal use of A Us by Himaruya himself, it's no surprise that there are a good deal of them. One example, though a Dark Fic one, is All He Ever Wanted, involving an Alternate History where England keeps his alliance with Japan. It Got Worse.
- AUs of the first type (contextual reassignment) are common as well, for example Part Right, Half Wrong, a Third Crazy.
- Matrose Mond by David H. Olivier sets the action of Sailor Moon in Nazi Germany.
- The Spider-Woman series, which posits what would have occurred if Mary Jane Watson had been bitten by the radioactive spider rather than Peter Parker.
- Speaking of such, there's a surprising amount of 'retelling' stories, basically with a similar premise as Ultimate Spider-Man: Spdey's adventures retold, with original and familiar ideas thrown around. Sometimes, they can be epic and even Better Than Canon, other times they can fall into common fanfic problems. Notably, Gwen Stacy dies in a lot of them, seemingly for no reason. To a lesserdegree, other comics, such is Iron Man, Avengers, Batman, and even Transformers get the same treatment.
- Odd Couple, for Transformers Animated. It originally centered around Prowl and Lockdown, but eventually became so fleshed out that an entire other story set called Odd Moments was put up to show peeks into everyone else's stories.
- Heroes and Demons is an AU of Iron Man. What if Pepper never met Tony until way after he got kidnapped in Afganistan? It involves mixing in elements from comics but really fleshed out the world without Iron Man.
- Mike Wong's Conquest applies an alternate continuity to post-movie Star Wars in order to make the story work. Here, Darth Caedus kills Luke and reforms the Empire, and also brings Jaina Solo to the Dark Side.
- Luminosity's laconic page says it all: Twilight with a rational Bella. And then the story just goes from there...
Live Action TV
- Stargate Atlantis:
- The Retrograde series by Ltlj. Its main premise is that the Daedalus did not reach Atlantis in time, but rather, the shadowy bad guys of the NID sent the Iapetus to destroy Atlantis first.
- Out Of Bounds by Icarus (figure skating AU)
- Written By The Victors by Speranza (secession AU)
- Take Clothes Off As Directed by Helen (D/s AU).
- There is an entire genre of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fanfics called "Halloween fics." They're mainly Crossover fics. They are all based on the premise, "What If so-and-so had dressed up as such-and-such on the Halloween Ethan Rayne came to town, and there was some sort of lasting effect?" There are actually a bunch of really good fanfics that come out of this genre, particularly Scribbler's "Jedi Harris", in which Xander had dressed up as Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan MacGregor's version) instead of a generic soldier.
- There are several AU NCIS fanfics where Caitlin Todd does not die and is still a member of NCIS alongside Ziva, more often than not in a relationship with her, like the work here.
- Take My Hand is an AU Lost fanfic where the Others, rather than hostile natives, are soldiers running a tyrannical government led by Ben. The whole story is full of nods to the original continuity, while maintaining the mood and atmosphere of classic dystopian fiction.
- The Hardy Boys Nancy Drew Mysteries has Blood Circles, where magic works, Joe Hardy is psychically gifted, and Orrin Thatcher from the "Voodoo Doll" episode is a real serial-killer/magic-user using death and blood to raise power. The tale crosses into Dark Fic territory, but keeps the sense of humor prevalent in the show and stays mostly in the show's continuity.
- With Strings Attached. The Beatles on another planet. The ultimate in Unfamiliar Contextual Reassignment.
- Scott Keith's World Hero Federation fics, and the countless verses inspired by them, cast professional wrestlers as superheroes. Maybe it's the spandex...
- One wrestling crossover is this epic series, written in the late 90's, called Fanfic/Wrestle Trek. Yes, that means what you think it means.
- A recurring column on Wrestlecrap is "Rewriting the Book," which explores scenarios in Professional Wrestling's past storylines (e.g.: Ted DiBiase once offered to buy the WWF Championship off of Hulk Hogan for one million dollars. In the RTB story, Hogan accepts the payoff).
- The Warhammer 40,000 universe, courtesy of the Bolter and Chainsword forum, has a variation of the canon universes Horus Heresy entitled The Dornian Heresy. Essentially it explores the setting replacing the main antagonist with the titular brother - Rogal Dorn. Still a work in progress.
- Also of note is a seperate attempt, from the same forum, to replace the main antagonist of the Horus Heresy with another of his brothers - Roboute Guilliman.
- One troper is working on a Valkyria Chronicles / Real Life double AU, called Battlefield Gallia. It's still early in the war (November 1940, Operation Sea Lion), but World War Two as we know it will take place in some shape, albeit in really mutated form. As of yet, Gallia mostly resembles Poland, and we all know who won there.
- Renegade is a crossover fic that explores how differently the Mass Effect universe would be if elements of the Command and Conquer Tiberium universe were worked into the continuity, notably being that GDI replaces the Systems Alliance and has enough military prowess to remain independent of the Citadel.
- A Complete Turnabout, an Ace Attorney fanfiction, takes place in an Alternate Universe where the DL-6 incident never happened, with the twist that the main character is Canon!Phoenix, trusted into Alternate!Phoenix' life for reasons yet to be revealed.
- Devil May Cry's Dante being Nero's father in "Like Father, Like Son" (Which, hell, might even be canon, but the generally accepted theory is Vergil). Sink-or-Swim Fatherhood hijinks ensue.
- A very different Contextual Reassignment Sonic the Hedgehog fanfic is found in Prison Island Break. The entire story not only takes place in a high-security prison, but almost all of the characters (from a wide range of Sonic continuities) are convicted criminals. Their goal to escape prison is neither noble nor heroic since there is no doubt that they are guilty, and most of them are unrepentant. Despite this, the story is popular for keeping all of them in-character, and even their very different criminal backstories still seem to suit their original characters.
- Coffee, Black is a Dragon Age 2 fanfic which takes place in modern America. It is written through Garrett Hawke's point of view, while he works in a coffee shop and is practically hypnotized by a mysterious tattoo covered hipster named Fen. It can be read here. (Warning: as it was originally inspired by a prompt from a Kink Meme, it gets VERY steamy later on.)
- Hanna Is Not a Boy's Name has several well-loved and widely played with A Us:
- Dead Of Night is a swapped 'verse, with zombie!Hanna, Unzombie, vampire!Worth, human!Conrad, and so on. Pairings are Conrad/Worth and platonic Hanna/Unzombie. Has coverart, Chapter illustration, and assorted other comics and art.
- The Punk AU has... well, a brash and outlandishly dressed Hanna, with Unzombie as a police officer he ends up working with. sometimes slash, sometimes pre-slash or friendship.:
- Then there's the obligatory post-apocalyptic dystopian AU, Lightwaves.
- There's fics that switch the blood colors of the trolls and the guardians of the children, like Red Dead Virgo (which is popular enough to get its own fanworks) and Don't Name It.
- There's fics that take the trolls' hemospectrum, flip it on its head, and extrapolate from there, like Be the Sea Dweller Lowblood and Hemostuck.
- There are also alternate settings, such as:
- Troll Cops, an AU wherein the characters are all police/criminals/superheroes/etc).
- If No One Loved The Sun Would Burn Out. (You can read it here.) From The Dreamer fandom, it's Alexander Hamilton/Beatrice Whaley. Yeah, you read right, the Alexander Hamilton.
- That Guy With The Glasses:
- AKK's "Raumjager" for Galaxy Rangers uses a timeline where Nazi Germany not only won, but has gone on to conquer the galaxy, and the normally persecuted Shane is now considered a paragon of the ubermenchen ideal...scarier when you remember that the writer is German herself. She also wrote "If Only," where Niko wishes the tragedy that brought the Rangers together never happened.
- A:TLAR is a full-on AU reboot of the Avatar: The Last Airbender storyline.
- Pirates Versus Privates takes almost every Disney canon there is and smashes them together, though it focuses the most on the Sensational Six.
- The Avatar: The Last Airbender fanfiction Embers by Vathara. Starting initially as a smaller one shot, it deals with what could have happened had Zuko and his Uncle had just slightly differing thoughts after the Siege of the Northpole, with an astounding amount of cultural and historical research put into this retelling.
- For Teen Titans, "Northern Star" and "Apprentice" are two very good examples of the Apprentice AU theme that is popular amongst TT fanfiction - the idea of "What if Robin had stayed as Slade's apprentice?"
- The Star Trek vs Star Wars fic Star Crossed is also a Star Wars Alternate Universe fic, positing a timeline where Luke Skywalker surrenders to Vader at Bespin and becomes the Sith Lord Darth Nemesis.