Ever read a fanfic set in an immersive, canon-esque universe that sticks with you to the point you sort of forget the actual canon occasionally? I consider that “fanscaping”, which is a portmanteau of “fan” and “landscaping”. I think a lot of people in fandom are already doing similar things, I just wanted to put a name to it!
Many people consider these kinds of fanfics “AU” (Alternate Universe) and that is true, though even the most canon-compliant fic is AU if we’re getting down to it!
A “fanscape” usually means more subtle changes to mains, most especially if canon is not complete or always shifting (coughcomicscough). It’s an extreme form of what is frequently called “headcanon” (personal ideas about story and characters), though more concerned about the structure that holds up the story and characters. This generally means tying to make sense of canon that hasn’t been stated yet or canon that is not fleshed out. (Replacing canon structures is A-OK too, but that’s for Course 201!)
Talking about this isn’t really going to explain the concept well, so instead I will show you a treatment that L and I did for a show we like, the recent superhero anime Tiger & Bunny.
Tiger & Bunny is a story about superheroes. The superheroes are always NEXT, humans with various powers. These heroes are sponsored by corporations. Their activities are filmed and put on television. The timing and manner of their crimefighting ability is measured by points during broadcasts. At the end of a “season”, a King of Heroes is crowned. The better a hero does, the more sponsors they accrue.
Those are basic facts about the background of the story’s world. You learn all this in the first two pilot episodes: they are “statement” facts.
But what you also learn is this:
A young boy seeks to punish his former friends after they spurned him for developing NEXT powers, and that means the Heroes must pursue him, capture him, and bring him to justice.
This is a “judgement” fact. The actions of this young NEXT is what drives the main caper, and thus the initial character development of the titular Tiger and Bunny.
This is one of the first in-canon hints of the prejudice against NEXT. More information is provided in the second part of the pilot arc as one of the main characters, Kotetsu (Tiger), tries to calm the boy down. He mentions that something similar happened to him when his powers manifested. Whether this really did happen to Kotetsu is unsubstantiated at this point in the story, but the exchange makes it feel as if this happens enough for this shared experience to be believable.
For us, this scene was a seed that began to grow a larger idea of how NEXT fit into society, developing into the idea that there was a kind of institutionalized prejudice that set NEXT apart from the non-“gifted” humans. This is later confirmed, but we expounded on it.
I will go into this particular treatment of how we informed our creative decisions regarding legal structures and social unrest in a later post! Hopefully, though, you see how a single kind of “scene” can inspire someone to try and work with what canon gives to create a backdrop for their fanworks.
UP NEXT (haha) in FANSCAPING 101: Actual Geography Stuff, Everyone’s Related!, WTF Era is This?, Politics Plot-itics. And more things with silly names!