If you want to get a really good idea of what a fandom’s about, it’s always best to start with the fanfiction. Fics reflect the desires, obsessions, ambitions, and preoccupations of the many minds that make up a fan community; it’s no different for USyd. On Archive of our Own (the biggest fanfiction archive on the net), there are a handful of fanfictions set at Camperdown Campus with alternate reality narratives of characters from pop culture. From DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, to Yuri!!! On Ice, all the way to the band 5 Seconds of Summer. In them, they capture the oeuvre of the campus imaginary, and present to the reader a curious vision which doesn’t always make sense.
In sidere mens eadem mutato, a three part series about Mick Rory and Leonard Snart, Heatwave and Captain Cold from DC’s Legends of Tomorrow respectively, as professors at USyd. Written and set in 2017, the trilogy sees Mick and Rory married and teaching in the University’s history department. There are few hints of the actual narrative of Legends of Tomorrow, but the characterisation bleeds through. In recognition of the show, Leonard’s nickname amongst the faculty is Captain Cold, a nod to his name in the show and his frosty disposition to students at USyd. They go to Clem’s Chicken, discuss “passive-aggressive lecture hall booking”, and mention Fisher Library and Campos Coffee. Through this lens, prouvairablehulk (the author) tells a story of two snarky and irreverent history professors navigating university life: trying to set up forensics department Barry Allen and Athletics Director Oliver Queen and adopting troubled students along the way. It hits a unique intersection between fans of the CW and students of USyd. It references campus landmarks without overdoing it and sprinkles the show’s cast throughout the story with restraint.
In Audacity Is Its Own Reward, Yuri!!! on Ice comes to USyd. The author, ineptshieldmaid, described it as an “an extensive exercise in gratuitous sydney details” and something that required them to “read an entire year of archived issues of Honi Soit for.” Following the relationship between Mila Babicheva and Sara Crispino, this fic is set in 1965 and touches heavily on feminism on campus and the mobilisation against the Vietnam draft. Exploring life in college, tennis takes the place of ice skating for Mila and Sara and a queer love blossoms. This deals with an entirely different USyd from sidere mens eadem mutato, with the two periods of campus history feeling distinct and insulated.
dare4distance is a 5 Seconds of Summer fanfiction that sees lead guitarist Michael Clifford leaving rhythm guitarist Luke Hemmings for the University of Sydney. Told through a mix of original poetry and prose, there are no explicit references to USyd, with the uni serving as more of a piece of narrative context than an aesthetic or cultural setting. With Luke back in Adelaide, this is a tale of infidelity, long distance love, and uni heartbreak. The piece ends “That night, Luke curled up in his bed. Alone.”
All up, there are five fanfictions set at USyd that I could find. I trawled through AO3, Fanfiction.net, Wattpad, and the many other niche fanfic archives that litter the web. It’s a number that feels both more and less than what I expected. While they cover gay anime, a CW spinoff show, and an Australian boy band, what connects them is a love for the iconography and legacy of campus. Manning, Fisher, the Quad, and King Street all dominate the imaginaries of these settings. There are examples of campus being represented in fiction, with Dom Knight’s Comrades and Diana Reid’s new Love and Virtue both bringing Camperdown Campus to the page. But other than Honi’s very own Harry Styles fanfiction, there are few examples of authors bringing the universe and characters of media properties to the setting and conventions of USyd. There’s something uniquely comforting about seeing the characters you love in a context you experience every day. There’s nothing necessary about these stories, but like all fanfics, they serve a personal indulgence that needn’t benefit anyone but the author. I’m certain that the fanfics I’ve found barely scratch the surface though. Apart from the published ones I simply didn’t identify, every student makes their own campus fanfictions everyday: injecting their own characters and storylines into a space and culture they hold dear. In many ways, USyd is a fandom of its own, with its well known arcs, debates, and cast of colourful characters. So if you’re thinking of writing a new fanfiction, why not set it at your very own university?