The State of the NCISLA Fandom: Strong to Moderately Strong? Pt. 1
Fun with Numbers
I had never been involved in a fandom before I fell in love with NCIS: Los Angeles. Over the seasons, I’ve made friends here. Some are still as passionate as I am about the show, while others have moved on to new obsessions. It made me wonder about the current level of enthusiasm in the fandom as a whole. Are we as strong as we once were? Why or why not? As we come to the start of Season 8, I set out to answer these questions. I compiled a few statistics and then asked some wikiDeeks contributors and other NCIS:LA fan fiction writers about their experiences. Today we’ll look at the numbers, and in Part 2 we’ll talk to the fan fic writers. Don’t be too afraid- there are just a few graphs!
She told me size doesn’t matter.
Let’s start with a look at the overall size of the fandom. We know NCIS:LA draws millions of viewers every week from all over the world, but I was more interested in the small but vocal group that goes beyond casual viewing. It’s tough to find long-term statistics from Tumblr or Twitter, which would be great ways to gauge enthusiasm. Instead I used data from what must be among the most passionate group of fans – the fan fiction writers – by looking at stories posted to FanFiction.net. First I looked at the total number of stories posted by NCIS:LA fanfic writers compared to other fandoms (click each graph to enlarge for a clearer view):
Despite its lengthy run, far longer than most television shows achieve, NCIS:LA has not been as successful at inspiring fan fiction as some other procedurals with much smaller ratings or shorter runs. The mothership, NCIS, dwarfs NCIS:LA’s total, with seven times the stories. And for further reference, while NCIS:LA has generated 5600 stories and NCIS 39,500, Harry Potter, the largest fan fiction topic from any category, stands at a whopping 748,000 stories. So I’d say the NCIS:LA fandom is relatively small.
But small size doesn’t mean those of us here aren’t an enthusiastic bunch. Hannah (AKA Divergent338) says, “It certainly isn’t the largest fandom I’ve been in, but it’s a very fun one, with a real lack of animosity. People in this fandom tend to be incredibly accepting and welcome to new ideas and additions and that’s wonderful.”
Tonight? Tomorrow. And the day after.
To gauge how this passion has changed over time, I looked at the number of new fan fiction stories published on ff.net each month since the start of the show:
Keep in mind that multi-chapter works only appear in the graph once, in the month when Chapter 1 is published. So after Season 4, for example, “Descent” triggered many stories that continued to update throughout the summer, but we are just seeing the initial spike in May when most of them started. Plus, these numbers are limited to work posted to FanFiction.net. The changes over time could be related to that site’s own popularity changing. I looked to see if more NCIS:LA writers have been migrating to Archive of Our Own (AO3.org):
So although there’s been a small uptick in works posted to AO3 over the course of the series, the total number there only represents a fraction of those on ff.net. Plus some writers post the same stories to both sites, making the AO3 numbers even less meaningful. In other words, migration to a new platform doesn’t seem to be an explanation for the overall decline in story volume.
It’s a love story.
While I was counting up stories on ff.net, I figured I’d take a closer look at their content. I was curious about which characters were inspiring them. I made a new version of the above graph with a couple of extra lines: one for stories that included Deeks, and another for stories that included Callen:
Before we compare Deeks and Callen, let me first point out that the character with the most fan fics is actually Kensi, with 3300, which relates to the most popular genre of story on ff.net. As much as I love the hurt/comfort and the angst, it’s no surprise that romance is the most common category of NCIS:LA fan fiction writing:
Given fan fic writers’ love of romance, Deeks would have a natural advantage over Callen simply because of his Thing with Kensi. Callen, in contrast, has only had a string of random women in his life such as Tracy and Joelle. If Callen writers want to write a romantic story, they either need to use one of these random women, ship him with Kensi or Nell, or pull in an original character. This has to be a big reason why Deeks has 3200 stories, 2800 of which also feature Kensi, while Callen has only 1800 (600 of which feature Kensi). [Also keep in mind that just because a story features Deeks, it doesn’t necessarily mean he’s the star. There are many team fics that include him as well as Callen.]
Still, Callen fics over time have remained relatively unchanged, even through the peak of Season 5. Deeks and Kensi have really driven the overall level of fiction writing.
Deeks and Kensi dominate the list of most favorited stories on ff.net. The list also reinforces the notion that everyone loves at least a little romance. Of the top 25, all but one involve a romantic pairing. The one that doesn’t tells the story of Deeks and Callen discovering they are brothers.
So where does that leave us exactly?
What all these graphs show is a slow build-up in the number of fan fics throughout Seasons 1 and 2, culminating in a peak at the end of Season 3 (“Neighborhood Watch” and “Sans Voir”). Season 4 maintained the Season 3 levels, again spiking with the finale (“Descent”). Volume peaked in November of 2014, during the first half of Season 5. Since then, it has steadily dropped to its current level, which roughly mirrors that of the first two seasons. I’ve reposted that first graph here for reference:
Apryl’s (AKA aprylynn) experience as an NCIS:LA fan mirrors some of those highs. “I’m not as enthusiastic as I’ve been before,” she relates, “but I still love the show. The height of it was after the Season 4 finale. ‘Descent’ had such an intense cliffhanger and all of us couldn’t help ourselves from spending the whole hiatus speculating and impatiently waiting for the show to start again. There hasn’t been anything that intense happening on the show in awhile so that has affected my enthusiasm. But I would still say it’s my favorite show and there’s still a lot about it that I enjoy.”
Tess observes that the lack of “Descent”-level cliffhangers in subsequent seasons is reflected in the much smaller (or non-existent) bumps from Season 5’s “Deep Trouble,” Season 6’s “Chernoff, K,” and Season 7’s “Talion” finales. She says the lack of a good cliffhanger, which doesn’t include the “are the guys on the cover of the DVD boxes going to be killed in a narco sub?” story makes a difference in terms of “a starting point for a big hiatus summer story or debate on Tumblr, Twitter, etc.” After “Talion” neatly finished up the season, Tess says, “All summer writing was from scratch.”
It would appear that Season 5 was a big turning point in terms of fan fic writers’ enthusiasm. It could be due to the quality of the content. That the drop continued after Season 5 might be related to the Season 6 move to Monday nights, which resulted in lower audience numbers. Perhaps, given the importance of romance, Deeks and Kensi getting together made those will-they-won’t-they stories feel irrelevant. Or it could just be a natural trend for every show as it gets older.
As we look forward to Season 8, what exactly is the state of the NCIS:LA fandom? That’s a pretty subjective question, but there did seem to be consensus among our panelists. Most commented that the fandom is still active, but smaller or quieter than in years past. Colette (AKA homegrownoregano) and Gayle (AKA Densiland) both noted a lack of hiatus activity such as collective re-watching or challenges. The reduced size has in itself affected Apryl’s enjoyment of the show. “The fandom being smaller has diminished my enthusiasm a bit. There are not as many discussions going on or fanart and fanfic being made,” she says.
Some long-time fans have definitely moved on to other things. Courtney (AKA hermionesmydawg) says, “I’ve found other fandoms to fuel my obsessions.” Lindy (AKA Sweet Lu) observes, “Perhaps it’s a common thing to lose interest after so many years or be seduced by some other character that touches deep emotions. Even the [fan fiction] writers have changed over the years. They seem younger and like the lighter aspects of the show. But I appreciate all of those who write about what they are passionate about.”
In Part 2 we’ll talk in more depth with our fan fic writers to find out what, if anything, has affected their enthusiasm for the show. We’ll hear from a couple people who’ve left the fandom altogether, and from some who are as enthusiastic as ever. Did Deeks and Kensi getting together dampen excitement? What about the whole Internal Affairs investigation and Deeks’ lies to Kensi? And what about our interactions with one another? Have we been playing nicely when debating the merits of the show?
In the meantime, do you have any theories about why fan fiction writing volume has dropped so dramatically? And how do you rate your current level of enthusiasm for the show?
Want to Read More?
If you’re interested in seeing more examples of fandom-related statistics (not NCIS:LA-specific), check out toastystats.tumblr.com.
Many thanks to wikiDeeks Founding Editor Diane and Contributor Tess for reviewing a draft of this article.
You are amazing and I am seriously impressed with all those charts. I am still one of the enthusiastic fans, and I can’t help thinking that the beginning of the new season will entice some fans back, since it will involve Densi. Hopefully the first few episodes will inspire more fan fiction writers and bloggers to post new content. I hope the move to Sunday will improve the show’s numbers…I’m already worried about Season 9…and yes…I am obsessed.
Season 9? Lindy you are stressing me out, LOL.
Sorry I haven’t read the entire article yet; time issue today. However, my two cents about FanFic is that, for me at least, the FanFic writers are better than the writers on the show! Which is frustrating. The writing is so great; you really get into the story and characters. At some point it does become frustrating because what FanFic writes and what the show produces are so different. So for me, lately I’ve had enough frustration in my life, for now; I’ve pulled away just a bit. I do love the show! It feels like its just almost perfect; like the show finally found its groove. I hope to see many more seasons that is for sure!!
As always I love WikiDeeks!!
Sorry everyone for my tardy replies- I’m currently traveling with only sporadic Internet access. I’m also responding on my phone so please forgive any typos.
Olapa53, I love the fan fiction too. I think it’s spoiled me in some ways because the DC writers can go beyond the bounds of a 42 minute procedural and give us so much more, in terms of both character and genre. If only the show had as much flexibility!
And yes you’re right, this is a Deeks site. We try our best to welcome all opinions, but those who dislike our favorite character shouldn’t be surprised if few people agree with their views.
PS; If you’re referring to people coming into the forum after a show I will admit I pulled back from that a bit also. Mostly this is a WikiDeeks site; get it people! Some viewers came on to rock the boat, be argumentative, etc. not my style. It was fun; I hope it continues to be fun. I’m not trying to censor people but REALLY! This is a site for Deeks lovers!
Count me in as an enthusiastic fan! I loved season 7 thought it was one of the best , am looking forward to season 8, and hopefully nine.
I appreciate all your numbers. As a data person, I think you are certainly giving us the state of fan fiction, however, I think it is really only a part of the fandom. I certainly have lots of friends who have watched the show from the beginning and have no idea what fan fiction even is. It also seems like there are a lot of new, young, international fans, and I am not sure where they really post their stories if they write them.
I, however, am a fan fiction fan so what I would to see more of in part 2 is an interview with some of the newer writers, who are writing multi chapter NCIS LA fictions and find out how they got involved in the fandom and fiction writing, when they started watching the show , etc. I would also like an in depth interview with a senior writer , Sweet Lu, on how she writes her quality work, how she stays motivated , how she creates her own characters to interact with Deeks, and where she might be taking Deeks next ( I am sure hoping for a next.)
Part of being in a fandom is people come and go for personal as well as show reasons, I have to be honest, I do not really have much interest in reading about why people are no longer in the fandom. It is good they are happy , but they have moved on.. It is a natural evolution.I would much rather see this site focused on folks who are still active in the Deeks fandom and have ideas that maybe be critical of the show but the fans are still invested in the show being successful and really still like our Detective Deeks!
Hey sassyzazzi, thanks for your comments. I agree that ff may not be the best way to assess enthusiasm. I’d have much preferred to look at Twitter and tumblr but couldn’t access that data. I did look at wattpad as a potential source for ff from younger writers but there was almost no NCISLA work there. I didn’t research any international alternatives to ff.net and AO3- that would be so interesting to know about that type of activity happening elsewhere! I will say that I invited a couple of writers whose work I admire and who seemed new to the fandom to participate but they declined.
Sorry you weren’t interested in the folks leaving the fandom- guess that means Part 2 didn’t work for you. 😦
Being new to fandom, I was actually surprised to see people who seemed so passionate about the show have their feelings changed, so I wanted to find out more about it.
I love your idea for a story about our longtime writers- I’ll definitely add it to my TO Do list. Keep those ideas coming!
After 7 seasons I am still a very enthusiastic NCIS LA fan. This is not the first show I watch, and it won’t probably be the last, but it’s the one in which I have been invested the most.
While for other series I just watch the episodes, period, of NCIS LA I like to follow spoilers, enjoy behind the scenes photographs and information, speculate about what might happen in future episodes, read fanfiction and write some comments here or fanfiction reviews.
No other series has had this effect on me so far, but I am glad I still have this “obsession” to keep me company in a world where passions seem to be very quick to change, almost disposable. On the contrary, I am usually quite constant and loyal. Once I have found something that interests me and gives me motivation, I stick to it.
The only thing that sometimes has frustrated me about this show is some plots and some writers’ choices. The most meaningful example, for me, was when in Season 6, before All in, we didn’t know where Deeks and Kensi stood. That was one of the lowest points of the show in my opinion, together with Deeks returning Kensi her knife without a clear and consistent explanation.
I honestly don’t know if Deeks and Kensi together has made the number of fans of the show decrease for lack of interest, for me it’s been the opposite: I had been looking forward to their “next level” so much that when it happened for real, it was extremely rewarding. And how their relationship was dealt with in Season 7 was extraordinary: adult, mature, genuine, but still with its trademark of banter and funny moments.
Thanks Wikideeks staff for providing a place where we can leave our thoughts and opinions. I am very grateful to all of you.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Cladani, all I can say in response to your comments is Yes! I totally agree with everything you said, from the unique way the show has affected me to the huge frustration with Season 6 Densi, to the happiness with the current version.
So much hard work went into this great article. Love our smart fandom!
Thanks Tess, and thanks for participating!
I love this site and the chance to be able to express our thoughts on the show. I have said before the ONLY reason I watch the show is because of Deeks and Eric Christian Olsen. I love the Densi relationship but I have to admit was not a fan of Kensi. I think she has become more likeable for me now she is with Deeks. Season 7 has been the best for them in my opinion with us finally seeing them together as a real couple. I think their relationship is more fun to watch now then when they were dancing around each other before. (And I think the show has finally realised how incredibly popular these two are together). I do think that the show still has problems with the storyline consistency. I still don’t feel that Deeks gets enough respect from Callen and Sam, but it seems to depend on who has written the episode. You only have to look at the number of fan sites on Deeks & Densi to see how popular their fan base is. (I have recently created a Deeks fan facebook page) I enjoy reading the fan fiction as well. There are some clever writers. Thank you again for having this fantastic site for us obsessed Deeks fans!
Donna Marie, kudos on your Facebook page- another indication that there are still plenty of enthusiastic fans out there.
Thank you. I love Deeks but all credit goes to the amazing Eric Christian Olsen.