A metafic (or metafiction) is a work of fiction that explores the nature of fiction itself. Much like any mechanism, fiction can malfunction, creating misleading expectations in the mind of the reader. If one were to read nothing but romance stories that end happily, one might come to think that all romances, no matter how turbulent, will come out well in the end. Daria fanfiction can malfunction, too. Too many Daria/Trent shippers, and a reader might believe they are the perfect couple, blithely ignoring such important issues as Daria being underage or the two having nothing in common.
A metafic (metafanfic?) self-consciously shows how the reader is being mislead by repeatedly drawing attention to the critical flaws in a certain category of writing. The effect can be jarring on the reader, causing one to wake up and break the flow of the narrative, but this is exactly the point. The reader is thus alerted to unreasonable expectations and illogical consequences. Is Tom Sloane really evil? A metafic might point out that, aside from kissing Daria while still dating Jane, Tom is actually a well-mannered and good-natured character, his flaws being rather minor compared to folks like Tommy Sherman or Angela Li. However, the metafic might also have other characters treat Tom as if he were poisonous, or exaggerate his supposed evil to the point that he is the secret master behind every evil thing in history, from the Inquisition to disco music.
The whole issue of the appropriateness of a Daria/Trent relationship is usually attacked in Anti-'shippers, which can (if done with an awareness of realistic issues)) serve admirably as metafiction. The Waco Kid's "Timeless Love" makes it clear that, in order for Daria to really believe Trent Lane was a good match for her, she would have to be insane.
Certain kinds of metafic instead take aim at the fandom's perception of fanfiction, in general or about specific tales, or at the attitudes fanfic writers have about their work. This form of writing was once called faanfiction. In "The Horror of Getting a Daria Fanfiction Reviewed," Ace Trax uses an Angela Anaconda fanfic to look at the anxiety writers experience when their Daria stories are reviewed. Ruthless Bunny's "Melody Powers and the Temple of Doom" does the same thing using Daria herself. Both use comedy in pointed ways to deflate the egos of writers who have difficulty tolerating negative reviews.
Metafiction can violate the fourth wall by having characters address the reader throughout the tale or in brief asides, or by having fanfic authors appear in the story, manipulating characters and events in ways meant to highlight their particular styles. At times fanfic authors meet their creations, but the Daria characters get revenge on the authors for abusing the characters in their stories. One Daria episode that was notorious for its off-canon and out of character fourth-wall violations, start to finish, was "Daria!," though other episodes included minor examples (e.g., "Quinn the Brain," when Daria in Quinn's clothing smiles at the viewers, having successfully gotten Quinn to stop acting like a brain).
Not all metafiction is so blunt, however. The jarring that the reader receives can be subtle, too. Consider a story in which Tom berates himself after Is It College Yet? for losing Daria, blaming his impulsive kiss for screwing up any possibility of keeping the relationship in the long term. While he does this, he goes about his daily life doing good works per usual, his real sins being insignificant compared to his achievements. This could challenge the "Tom Is Evil" stereotype that pivots around The Kiss, putting that event in better perspective.
An excellent example of Daria metafic is Scissors MacGillicutty's "Where's Mary Sue When You Need Her?" which both skewers Mary Sue stories and angst stories. More precisely, it skewers the idea that all Mary Sue or self-insert stories are terrible by being excellent, although the author himself has reservations about it. The author did invert the traditional Mary Sue trope of having the self-insert character be omniscient, omnipotent, and physically irresistible, as his Mary Sue persona is physically and morally weak, clueless, and can't even admit his attraction to Daria to himself. Angst gets a skewering as, even while the fanfic portrays a well-crafted angsty melodrama, Scissors-the-character is writing it as a deliberate way of hurting and degrading Daria, and both him and other prevelant angst writers are presented as malicious and sadistic.
Another example of Daria metafic is The Angst Guy's "Deus Jane," which uses continuity errors and non-diegetic elements of Daria the cartoon as objective elements of a world created by a Jane Lane with god-like powers of creation. Thus "Deus Jane" not only calls the reader's attention to that it is a work of fanfiction, but that the original work from which its derived contains numerous technical flaws.
A more recent example is Jim North's "Bringing the Angst", where Daria goes around spreading angst and melodrama by touch: a parody of the then-prevelant angst fics, highlighting their occasional ludicrousness. The follow-up, "Bringing the Cheer", continues this with an over-the-top 'cheer' fic version of Lawndale.
An example of metafic in canon is the episode "Write Where It Hurts", where Daria agonizes over a story she has to write for Mr. O'Neill.
The following are examples of metafics in Daria fandom.
- Bringing the Angst and Bringing the Cheer by Jim North
- "Deus Jane" by The Angst Guy
- "The Fall of the Angst Lords," by Gouka Ryuu ("faanfiction")
- "The Horror of Getting a Daria Fanfiction Reviewed," by Ace Trax
- "The Invention" by The Angst Guy
- "Melody Powers and the Temple of Doom," by Ruthless Bunny
- "Timeless Love," by The Waco Kid (a Daria/Trent anti-shipper)
- "Walls? What Walls?" by smk
- "Where's Mary Sue When You Need Her?" by Scissors MacGillicutty