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By Haich-Slash-Cee

Posted With Permission

You can read the original Tumblr Post HERE along with commentary by the whump community in the notes. The author would be glad to take any of your feedback and comments there.

Author's Notes:

I’m mapping out hurt/comfort and whump discourse in fandom over the course of 50 yrs. I’m open to revisions! 

This is probably U.S. / North America centered. I’m a millennial. I’m using Fanlore and other wikis for pre-1990′s, or for fandoms I’m not familiar with. In case it’s needed, an overview post about vocab/concepts like “whump” “hurt/comfort” and how I specifically use them. I’m putting this history post together because… Eh, curious.

I noticed how technological developments, especially with internet and online platforms, have affected fandom discourse. So I have woven in major internet milestones into the timeline as well.

Author Cited Sources:

1970s

1972 - “Get ‘em” fanfics.

Fans share fanfics through mailing paper zines.

From Fandom Wiki: First there were zines[1], lovingly mimeographed[2] and stapled by our fandom foreparents, and those who remain to us from the Zine Age are powerful and wise

From Get ‘em wiki“Get” stories were frequently gen, and often light on the comfort.

1979 - “Hurt/Comfort” tropes are well recognized in fanfics

Hurt/comfort wiki: By 1979 when “This Deadly Innocence (The End of the Hurt/Comfort Syndrome)”[3] by Leslie Fish[4] was produced, the term 'Get-’ had fallen out of use and the term Hurt/Comfort was primarily being used. As one of the first Kirk/Spock stories ever published to make the leap from Gen to Slash, the tropes of Hurt/Comfort were well recognized.

(Also, there sure was a lot of drama happening in 1970′s Trek fandom, apparently.) 

1980′s

1981-1988 - Star Trek and The Vault of Tomorrow

Star Trek.jpg

Update thanks to ha-bloody-ha 

“The fandom that I’m most familiar with from that era is ST:TOS. I’m not sure the term “hurt/comfort” was in use (and “whump” definitely wasn’t), but there were whole big zines with multiple short stories in the genre, plus a few mass-market paperbacks that were very strong on the queer content and the whump. Sadly, those books were REALLY badly written. Check out “Vault of Tomorrow” on fanlore.org to learn about a good h/c zine.

The entry on fanlore.org about Sondra Marshak (one of the very bad writers of the mass-market h/c paperbacks) is also fascinating.

The ST:TOS fandom was producing and distributing fanfic even before the series finished. I used to buy zines at conventions because that was the only place I could lay hands on them. I still have a few issues of Vault of Tomorrow.”

About Vault of Tomorrow, from Fanlore.org:

Considered to be the ultimate in hurt/comfort fanzines, stories feature primarily Kirk, Spock and McCoy. Often emulated in the years since Vault ceased publication, but never duplicated – only LoneStar Trek has even come close to providing the ultimate in hurt/comfort reads.[5]

And maybe this computer stuff was happening in the 1980′s thru 1990′s?

'''Continued from Fanfiction wiki: “'''Then there was Usenet, where formatting went to die. You know not the strength it takes to read 60k fics entirely in Courier New, or the pleasure of a really artistic looking section break marker composed of ASCII characters….”

1990s

1991 - Public internet is launched.

….I guess this description was from around here?

Continued from Fanfiction wiki: “….Then there was the Great Schism, as fandoms spread far and wide across the Web, and basic HTML was the whole of the law. Many of us lied our way into private “18+” listservs, and roamed the webrings, lamps aloft, in search of one virtuous author (or at least somebody else who shipped the thing).”

1992 - H/C Fanfiction and Bacon-Smith “Enterprising Women”

Enterprising Women: Television Fandom and the Creation of Popular Myth (Contemporary Ethnography) by Camille Bacon-Smith is published.

A review by Anne Collins Smith in 1997 as well as other people express disappointment at Bacon-Smith’s views of hurt/comfort in fandom.

Amanda L. Straw also criticizes Bacon-Smith (page 22 of her thesis).

Straw does mentions that h/c fics in general have changed from 1992 to the 2010′s. Fanfic writers used to be primarily 30′s - 40′s and excluded minors (because the fanfics were snail-mailed). As of 2015, Straw wrote that that reader and writer ages are much younger (18-24ish, she estimated). The subject matter of h/c has also changed from 1992; in 2105, Straw consider the genre much broader, with genres such as fluff.

Hm. I kind of think fanfic writers skew younger than Straw’s estimate of 18-24. Just from talking to IRL folks (including moi) who wrote fanfiction in their tweens and teens, in the 2000′s.

I do vaguely remember being scared off by the category of “hurt/comfort” on fanfiction.net during the 2000′s on fanfiction.net. I wonder if it’s related to how h/c subjects have changed from the 1990′s to 2015.

1995 - Mainstream Internet starts to become available to the public.

Somewhere in here, early internet fanfics are happening. I’m not real clear on the details. Anyway, the internet (and what kind of social forums the internet can support) is going to impact fandom communities.

For example, two years later….

1997 - “MulderTorture Anonymous” X-Files fanfic archive created[6]

Mulder Torture.jpg

The 1997 language in the title is interesting. if an archive like this came together in 2019 – well, first of all, with Ao3 and its tagging system pretty firmly established, would there be such a need for a specific database? Also, “MulderTorture Anonymous” might just be called “Mulder Whump”. And why bother with “Anonymous”?

Of course, if you consider the context of 1997 – see my earlier part about 1992 h/c fanfics and Bacon-Smith giving them side-eye – a more coy “MulderTorture Anonymous” does make sense. Although the group’s visual banner isn’t being coy. Still, I guess in 1997 people aren’t going to outirght call their group “MulderTorture United” or “Proudly Posting MulderTorture Stories Right Here”.

(See later notes on 2017-2018 Tumblr blogs, for some contrast.)

Also, in that MTA wiki info written in 1997, no one seemed to be using the terms “hurt/comfort”. I found that odd.

1998 - Fanfiction.net starts[7]

1999 - LiveJournal starts and houses fandom and fanfics.[8]

I missed out on LiveJournal, so there’s probably interesting LJ history I’m not aware of.

2000s

Somewhere around early 2000′s: “Dannywhumping” is commonly used in Stargate fandom.

A neat note from tumblr user nicislive: “I definitely remember a specific Daniel-whump mailing list around the time that Stargate S5 aired. Not sure when it started but it was a THING in Stargate fandom.” (Stargate S5 aired 2001-2002[9].)

From Tumblr user alipeeps, from this post:

“When I first started getting into online fandom - which back in the day was mostly on show-specific fansites/forums etc and ofc fanfic on ffnet - hurt/comfort was the term generally used. I first came across the term whump on the Gateworld forums (fansite for Stargate SG1 and Stargate Atlantis (at the time - it was before SGU etc)) which had “whump” threads for various characters, for folks to chat about hurt/comfort of those characters.

In Gateworld whump was just another, more concise I guess, term for hurt/comfort (the term was, I believe, coined from the “whump” noise of either a character being hit or hitting the floor as they collapse - as opposed to the “thunk” threads on Gateworld, which were so named for the thunk sound of fangirls hitting the floor as they fainted from how hot the character is :D ) and the two terms were used interchangeably. Whump was literally just another name for hurt/comfort and there was no differentiation between the two, no varying of definition of e.g. one being more graphic than the other or one involving comfort and the other not etc. It was just two different words for the same concept. So that’s how I’ve always viewed and used the term whump.”

(I wasn’t in the SG fandom, so I’m going by Fanlore wiki and comments by fans. As a note, I don’t remember hearing about “whump”, as a general term, until closer to 2010 ish.)

2000 - 2002: An autoethnography tangent. With The Invisible Man and Farscape Scific public message boards,  h/c discussions are mostly between the lines? “Whump” is not vocab yet.

My little corner of the internet, during the early 2000′s.

So I was previously wondering if people were using “hurt/comfort” or how openly they were discussing the concepts, on the 2000′s Invisible Man message boards (see the very end of my post about this). Let’s include the 2000′s era Farscape message boards too, why not. I was there too.

My conclusion is: on the SciFi message boards, I don’t remember the specific phrases “hurt/comfort” or “whump”.  I also don’t remember open, regular discussions about concepts of physical whump or h/c. Note: I do have memories of one post on the Farscape BBoard that discussed what we’d call whump. (It made a huge impression on Younger Me, and was part of my early awareness about it.) Also, I might have just not noticed if said phrases were used. But I kind of think the vocab wasn’t as widespread.

However. Between the lines. Different story. On the I-Man Bboard, I do remember specific threads that make me think there were h/c and whump fans who were talking to other h/c and whump fans. There was one I-Man BBoard discussion where fans recommended movies and shows wherein the main male character would specifically have… a lot of stuff happen to them. Someone wrote about how the other fans might like “Strange Luck” because it was a show where the protag keeps getting into accidents and kept getting hurt. (Note, quick review, I watched a ep of this show and didn’t get into it.) I mean look at these recommendations these people, specifically mostly women, were trading.

I could point out a few more reasons why people might keep their whump-talk between the lines:

1) These were the official and public SciFi Channel message boards, which probably created a certain community and put pressure on some topics. (For instance, the fan community was aware the the show’s actors quietly snooped on the boards. On the I-Man boards, one of the actors regularly posted behind-the-scene stories. Might get weird to talk whump in those settings.)

2) On the I-Man board, which was distinctly majority women and also still being the early 2000′s, there might have been a community and gender-related pressure to be… idk, ladylike and not be thrilled at violence? I’m a little shaky on this conclusion. But, ie, it was ok to squee about how one wanted to comfort the main male protag, or basically publicly talk about the emotional h/c aspects. But pontificating on the physical whumpy parts? Maybe not so much.

3) With The Invisible Man, I think people took their hurt/comfort discourse  to more private fanfic communities instead. Fans hosted their own small fanfic pages on Geosites or Angelfire or etc, which are less public spaces. (Even fanfiction.net was a step away from the main I-Man community space.) Also, with writing fanfics, openly exploring h/c seems more accepted.

Looking this up, it turns out that there were definitely The Invisible Manzines and mailing lists which covered slash and other topics.

Interestingly, the phrase “hurt/comfort” isn’t actually used on this fanfic archive page. Although, scanning the fanfic titles? This is angst and h/c smorgasborg. (R2, a well-known fan in the I-Man community, wrote fanfics that were absolutely h/c and whump. There’s a few fics on that page. Reading her fics was some of my first awareness of the concept and that people could deliberately write about it. Perusing them 15 yrs later? Yep, still very h/c and whump. I don’t think R2 promoted these fics on the main I-Man message boards herself, though. Other people posted about her fics at least once or twice.) 

Again – lots between the lines, but not very public.

Other early 2000′s notes:

(I am getting into the weeds in this section, just to warn you.)

Even though the phrase/concepts of “Hurt/comfort” were established by the late 1970′s in Star Trek fandom (according to the wiki), I’m not sure if or how “hurt/comfort” was being used at large. I wonder if the lingo became popular much later. A collection of various observations: I don’t see “h/c” on the old webpages and I don’t remember coming across the specific phrase, compared to now. Tumblr person @ha-bloody-ha doesn’t remember it in the 1980′s either. Amanda L Straw found the phrase online and was familiar with it for years. I wasn’t involved in LiveJournal communities or other online communities, so I can only noted that “h/c” wasn’t around in my corner of the internet and I missed out on LJ culture. @the-wandering-whumper mentions that it, circa 2016, H/C was used in FF.net and LiveJournal (and encompassed what would be called “whump” on Tumblr).

Was there shifting definitions of hurt/comfort between paper zines and online fanfics? The hurt/comfort wiki mentions: I remember in the old days of zines there were stories people tended to call ’get 'em’s’ where it seemed the whole purpose was to see how much a character could suffer. When I write hurt/comfort, I tend to be working toward the comfort part of the equation, whether it’s just the quiet support of a friend or more intense support. The comfort part for me is the affirmation of the friendship and loyalty, and when I write it, that affirmation is the purpose. The hurt part is just a way to get to that point. I somehow don’t think h/c means quite the same thing in online fanfic than it used to mean in the old style zines. [28]

As a note, broadband internet and torrenting digital versions of shows and movies is a Thing that settles in around 2002-2003. I think. I heard torrents subsided with Netflix becoming popular, which was easier and less virus-y. But, seeing people’s 2019 reaction to Disney plus and the fragmenting of streaming services… well, torrenting might be having a come back. 

2004-5ish: Web1.0 shifts to Web 2.0.

This allows for sites like Tumblr to be created. 

2007: Tumblr starts. LJ Strikethrough and Boldthrough happens. This pushes people to Tumblr and also the idea of AO3 is formed.

Further Reading:

Somewhere around 2005-2010 (I’m assuming), Tumblr user bemusedlybespectacled​ from this post mentions ways that the lingo “whump” began to spread. And how the associations with ”whump” were different.

“WHEN I WAS A YOUNG GIRL (by which I mean when I was fourteen and getting into fandom for the first time), “whump” as a term was very specific to only a few fandoms. I believe it started in the Stargate: Atlantis fandom, and then from there migrated via a couple of authors to the Numb3rs fandom[10], which is where I picked it up. Everyone used “hurt/comfort,” but “whump” was specifically used for really graphic shit. Horrific torture that lasted for fifteen chapters. Field medicine without anesthesia. The victim finally getting medical care at a hospital, but hunted by assassins even while hospitalized and having to fight them off while attached to an IV, then collapsing as their loved ones tearfully sobbed over their broken fucking bodies. That kind of shit.

To an extent, I still consider “whump” to be more graphic and emotionally intense than every widdle booboo and ouchie. “But I think the reason whump thrives on Tumblr, as opposed to hurt/comfort, is the same reason portmanteau ship names outrank slashed ship names (ex: Spirk v. Kirk/Spock) on Tumblr: you can’t use slashes in tags. […]”

(OP note: I’m a little confused about the tag business, but also, I’m not that Tumblr savvy. Similar to bemusedlybespectacled​, I also have vague recollections of “whump” being associated with more extreme fictional graphic scenarios, back in the day.)

2008-9: Phrase and concept of “Whump” is more firmly established; begins to spread to various fandoms? 

Also, Ao3 starts here.

So the Whump fanlore site mentions “whump” showing up a couple of times, starting from a possible 1996 mention in Earth 2 fandom. But mostly, the Stargate fandom is credited with creating the word “whump”. There’s mentions in Stargate fandom, starting with an English zine from the year 2002 that mentions it, and a few points in time after that.

OP notes: I vaguely remember coming across the phrase “hurt/comfort” online at some point, maybe on fanfiction.net and maybe in early 2000′s. I think I came across the phrase “whump” closer to 2010′s. My assumptions are that “whump” was more limited to SG in the early 2000′s, started to spread in a limited way, and then became more generalized and spread rapidly in the late 2000′s.

How strongly supported are my assumptions? Let’s get nerdy and look at some google graphs and late 2000s blogs.

Expanding discourse on H/C and whump on LiveJournal? 

I think this 2008 LiveJournal discussion by alipeeps was the first discussion on whump that I came across

I’m assuming this is the same alipeeps whose Tumblr whump blog was among the early 2011-2012 wave of tumblr whump blogs.

Also, is it just me or is there a certain careful treading of words in this 2008 discussion? It just feels like people are starting to explore this and it isn’t quite common discourse. At least in that thread.

Straw also mentions discussing hurt/comfort on her LiveJournal in 2009 (pg 9 of her paper).

I’m wondering if there was a spreading online discourse on h/c and whump, around this 2008-2009 period.

2004 - Present - Google Trends

Google Trends: “Whump fanfiction”[11] starting to be searched around-ish this time. Spikes a few years later.

Google Whump.jpg
  • Searches for “Whump fanfiction” first shows up around 2007 and is more sporadic from 2007-2009. There’s more activity around 2009-2011 ish, then a rising line of use around 2012. 

2011-2014: First Wave of Tumblr Whump Blogs and rising popularity of word “whump”

Copying from the Whump wiki:

It is unclear when the first whump blog appeared on Tumblr, but some of the earliest blogs included uuhshiny (9/29/2011), fyeahvulnerablemen (10/10/2011), alipeeps (1/16/2012), dailywhump (9/27/2012), whumpersunited (1/30/14), and whumpgalore (2/28/2014). Many tumblr users credit fyeahvulnerablemen and whumpgalore as their first experiences with whump.

The emergence of the whump community on Tumblr is thought to have been the result of, at least in part, the Strikethrough and Boldthrough[12] controversies over at LiveJournal in May and June of 2007. This signaled a shift in fandom away from the popular site and to other lesser known and fan run social platforms.

I remember finding a very limited number of tumblr whump blogs around 2012, so this matches my impression.

More Google Trends stuff:

  • Again, “Whump fanfiction” first shows up around 2007 and is more sporadic from 2007-2009. There’s more activity around 2009-2011 ish, then a rising line of use around 2012.
  • Whump” is used since 2004 but shows a marked increase starting around 2011-2012 ish. (The image search of “whump” seems… uh… kind of the same since 2008? Maybe a little more since 2015?)
  • The words “Fanfiction” and “Archive of our Own” also show increases in 2011 ish.
  • “Hurt/comfort”, “Hurt/comfort fanfiction” and “h/c” show spikes around 2004-2005, then a leveling out that doesn’t really change in 2011 or any other year. (”h/c fanfiction” doesn’t show results.) Not sure what this means.
  • Honestly I’m not trained on reading data or running stats on this kind of info and I’m not confident about drawing conclusions.
  • I guess the year 2011 shows search terms like “whump”, “whump fanfiction”, “Ao3″ and “fanfiction” all becoming popular.
  • Also the word/concept of “whump” was first used in 2007-8ish and became markedly popular around 2011-2013 ish. Which matches the first wave of Tumblr whump blogs.

2014 - 2019:  Second Wave of whump blogs on Tumblr. And Tumblr Purge.

So I just invented the phrase “second wave” regarding whump blogs. But also, it’s true! The whump wiki, at least, documents an explosion of new lingo and culture around whump circa 2017-2018. There’s apparently endless numbers of whump blogs now – compared to the very finite number of whump blogs around 2012ish, that I remember seeing.

Also, just from browsing the whump blogs? It seems like a whole group of people grew up/caught up with with much more discourse and ideas around whump and h/c. They’re taking for granted the premises and they are moving on. Which is really interesting to watch, for me.

Just for contrast, from @ilikemovies26 * : This Is Why I Like Whumpers

Why I Like Whump.jpg

The blog heading reads: “I love whump. I love hot men. I love hot men covered in blood and wincing in pain even more.”

Can we take a moment and try and transplant that into 2008? Or the 2000′s, or 1997? Naaaahh – this is def Second-Wave Tumblr Whump Blog, to me.

Also, the page gushes adoration and camaraderie of fellow whumpers, which I feel like might be another characteristic of the 2017ish wave of new whump blogs. (The whumpapedia wiki mentions The Day of Kindness” – It was decided that on the last day of every month the Tumblr Whump Community members would send words of kindness and encouragement to each other). 

Note: I get a similar vibe of camaraderie when I read the 1997 fanlore article about creating the MulderTorture Anonymous database. So that’s interesting.

(*ilikemovies26 gave an ok for me to mention their tumblr as an example)

2018 Tumblr Purge:

I heard that 1/5 of Tumblr users left (with news about migrations to Pillowfort, LJ, Dreamwidth, Twitter). How did the 2018 purge affect the whump community? What’s happening since then? Have people moved to, say, private Discord servers?

* I do see posts about specific fandom or whump Discords, so that might be what’s happening. I’m not sure if Discords are concurrent or if we’re shifting towards more Discords.

2019-2020: Tumblr Whump blog shifts and an emerging Third Wave

@the-wandering-whumper notes (in early 2020):

“I think it could perhaps be argued that there is even a 3rd wave of whump blogs that began within the last year or so, culminating in a community split. I see two types of whump blogs now, and it’s just a recent shift: fandom and original content creators. The 2nd wave seemed to be more visual/fandom oriented with heavy inclusion of h/c into their definition of whump, while this new wave of whumper seems to be text/OC focused with more emphasis on separating the physical and emotional.”

This is interesting! I noticed, roughly, a change in what Tumblr and whump  discussions looked like (checking in on Tumblr closer to 2010, then in 2016, and now in 2020). But I haven’t been involved in the Tumblr whump community enough to really pick this up. I would love to get more info!

Other linguistics notes

The terms “Hurt/comfort” “Whump” are blurry in the details of how they differ. I noticed that ideas or subjects might shift between being called “h/c” or “whump” depending on the communities, platforms and time periods. 

(I haven’t explored how “angst” is used in fandom. “Angst” “Hurt/comfort” “Whump” tend to be adjacent. I noticed that some communities, like the Steven Universe tumblr fandom, use “Angst” as a catch-all.)

@the-wandering-whumper notes: “When I first got started, “hurt/comfort” was the term i heard most often. It’s what I searched under on ff and AO3.  I saw your comment about not being on LJ, but h/c is what I saw most people using for what I call whump today.”

I did notice that the “hurt/comfort” tag is generally still more popular on Ao3 compared to “whump”. And it sounds like h/c communities are still active on LJ, even today. On Tumblr, at least me and one other person feel like “whump” has expanded from its original use and is now used to cover a lot of hurt/comfort ideas. (There’s still specific discussions on “hurt/comfort” and I’ve seen blogs that are not whump-centric use “hurt/comfort” or “angst”.) I’ve also seen at least one mainstream book publisher use “hurt/comfort” and “hurt / no comfort” in a promotional tweet.

Here’s a post that might be relevant by Tumblr User macgyvermedical:

At any rate, the discourse continues to change and expand and language continues to shift. 

Thanks for following along on this post!

PS – Again, I don’t know stuff + I am open to revisions, thanks! Also if there’s, idk, a student writing an ethnography paper who wants to talk to me, go ahead. Cultural anthropology is one of my fav subjects; I think it’d be rad to be cited in a paper; and I wish there were more informal or formal studies on all this. If anyone knows any more studies of whump or h/c, please send them my way.

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