Archive of Our Own recently discussed something that I’ve never given much thought: what happens to our online presence after we die.
Okay, say you get run over by a bus. Hard luck, but death is that greatest of levellers which brings low the mighty and the weak. But there’s that Facebook account, the Gmail address, the blog, that thing of yours on Tumblr, the YouTube Let’s Play videos you’ve uploaded, and all the rest of the digital works that you leave behind as an online reminder that the world once contained you. What happens to all of that when you’re gone?
Nothing consistent, that’s what. Different sites have different policies, and it is likely that they won’t match exactly what you would want to be done after your death.
Well and good. This is the 21st century, after all, so why not write a social media will? Your executor will need to do all sorts of things that you’ve instructed them, after all, so why not include a few lines about your Facebook account on your will?
But there’s the rather sensitive sticking point of fanfiction. Maybe your executor isn’t someone you want reading your embarrassing works, which you were only comfortable sharing with anonymous people online instead of the aunt who knew you when you were in diapers. Even if you’re not leery of having the person responsible for selling your possessions handle your Transformers fics, they won’t necessarily be a fan of the same things you were and won’t understand exactly what to do with your stuff.
Enter the fannish next of kin. They’ll understand which fics you wanted deleted and which fics you were okay with leaving for future generations to peruse (and maybe laugh at). It’s a nice idea, and it’s one I’m glad Archive of Our Own came up with.
For myself, as someone who’s studied history I say preserve my fics until the heat death of the universe. I admit that they aren’t great literature, but there’s something to be learned even from the most unassuming of writings – linguistic quirks, the zeitgeist of a specific era, how ideas are propagated, and many more things I am unable to imagine.
Enjoy my fics, future people. I poured my heart and soul into them, once upon a time.