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The nonnies made them do it!

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"Only in the spn fandom, can someone be called a prude because they don't agree with bestiality."
    "ikr? This is why we have such a lousy reputation."
        "HIDE YO BROTHERS
            HIDE YO DOGS
                SPN FANDOM IS CLIMBIN IN YOUR WINDOW"

- "Blindfold dream fills" @ spnanonhaven, January 11, 2011


 

0. Intro

"Alpha/Beta/Omega Dynamics" (also known as "Omegaverse" and often just abbreviated to "A/B/O") is a genre combining a series of tropes, creating a shared universe, which originated in SPN / SPN-RPF fandom in between the Summers of 2010 and 2011, very much as a product of anon activity, whether taking place in fic communities that relied on anon participation or in more general anonymous discussion comms.

The present text aims at providing an account of how it arose, or at least make a decent stab at it. Because, as someone at LJcommfail_fandomanon said, "half my impetus for getting into a/b/o was because I just wanted to know how it happened. How does fandom build an entire trope basically from the ground up? It's fascinating to me." And they're not alone in this sentiment, as it was fascinating for those who watched it happen too.

Despite having a clearly identifiable starting point, the formation of A/B/O as a genre can't be explained by one single cause. Rather, it resulted from a confluence of factors, being inextricably linked to the evolution of SPN fandom itself. Which means that mapping out how the genre developed is not that easy a task. There are multiple problems with trying to track down how all of it happened that arise from: the sheer quantity of information to take into account and the virtually impossible task of qualitatively analyze all of it, the transient nature of a good part of that information (this being fandom, sometimes things are just taken down and that information is lost or, at least, directly unverifiable), and the bias inherent in any retelling, in any attempt of trying to piece it all back together.

So this is by no means an exhaustive or unbiased narrative. It's most certainly incomplete and partial. I've tried to include as much factual data as I could, but I am positive I am leaving tons of stuff out (as I kept finding new information the more I looked into it, and there's still plenty more to be mined out there). I have also tried to make it as clear as possible for people unacquainted with Supernatural fandom, but chances of having completely succeeded are slim.

With those caveats in mind, I guess the best way to start is to give some context about Supernatural fandom and its activity in Livejournal.

 

1. Context

SPN / SPN-RPF fandom in Livejournal was large, prolific, centralized and organized.

It had a continuous newsletter from very early on, fic/ recs/ icons & art/ vids' communities, among others, and regular challenges all year round. At the moment, the LJcommspnnewsletter watcher journal (that is, the place that tracks fandom activity, LJuserspn-watcher) is still monitoring 158 communities in LJ.

The data to back up the quantitative aspects when it comes to fic production is relatively easy to get, thanks to LJuserblack_samvara 's project of tagging the fic featured in the newsletter at delicious, which provides us with the data from February 2006 to March 2010.

Here is the link to the SPN Newsletter Tagging Project on Delicious: deliciousaccountsupernatural_fic.

The total number of links listed is 39,425. So yeah, four years, almost 40,000 fics. And this is just for fic. Nevermind discussion posts, art, icon posts, meta, episode analysis, etc, etc. Numbers: SPN fandom had them.

These numbers also back up the thesis that SPN fandom was centralized in Livejournal. Estimating the fic output on Fanfiction.net for the same time period (February 16, 2006 to March 1, 2010) yields a number of roughly 28,050 fics, with FF.Net's ban on Real Person Fiction more than likely largely accounting for the discrepancy of more than 11,000 fics between the two sites (RPF in the newsletter during that period amounts to 8,849 fics) and possibly being the decisive factor on LJ being fandom's place of choice, seeing that many of the writers of FPF (Fictional People Fiction) were also RPF writers.

It's not that SPN fannish activity didn't exist outside the LJ community - because, obviously, it did exist and, besides, fans can be, and are, active across multiple platforms - it's just that Livejournal concentrated the bulk of that activity.

It was also a fandom where the default main pairing was an incestuous one. Yeah, you could write gen (and SPN fandom wrote a lot of gen at the start - see how the gen tag accounts for 10,802 links at the Tagging Project), or het (though the characters for that where either dead or appeared in only one episode, which makes the 5166 fics linked at Tagging Project all the more surprising), but if you wanted regular characters getting it on it was either Sam/Dean or, hey, Jensen/Jared, because that, at least, wasn't incest. And thus it became that, in SPN fandom, RPF was the moral high ground, or so the joke went.

So from relatively early on, SPN's standards for what was regular fic created some unique conditions. Sure, there was some discussion at the start that no, incest was not okay and quite likely RPF was not okay either, but if you check the newsletter that preceded spnnewsletter (the LJcommsn_newsletter, which only had some 30 editions) it's easy to see just how balanced Sam/Dean vs. Gen was from the start.

This first newsletter also shows just how organized the fandom was from the get go. Supernatural started airing on September 13, 2005; and these are the first entries for the newsletter, starting October 28, 2005 - a mere month and a half later (further data about early activity can be found in "Chapter 2: General Timeline"). The first communities for the show were actually set up before it started airing, which indicates two things: there was a good deal of anticipation for the series and the fans were well acquainted with the mechanisms and practices of creating a fannish community for a particular canon.

That made for a very creative environment, where it was easy to push the envelope just a little more. There was a lot of tropey, cracky fic being written at the beginning, as you can see here at the Supernatural Wiki. This was a list of crack fic compiled by an LJ user which eventually got moved to the Wiki in April 2006 (announced here), and the dates of the fics show just how early on this tendency to test and explore tropes and ideas set in. And, as that Wiki entry points out, some of these scenarios ended up Kripked, that is, being featured in canon, by the very nature of the show itself. You see your protagonist using telekinesis to move objects and getting it on with a werewolf and you think, "huh. I could get behind that. I wonder if…".

Being this organized and centralized also ensured that it was simple to keep up with what was happening in fandom, and what was being produced. A new fest was created, fandom knew about it as it was announced in official spaces and promoted by individual fans in their LJs and at fic communities. A new pairing or a particular trope was tackled in an especially interesting way, fandom got to know about it too and fandom got to get in on the fun. Conditions were in place for new things to propagate rapidly.

Precisely three years after the creation of the first newsletter, here's what regular fandom activity looked like, on October 28, 2008. You'll notice that J2 RPF and Sam/Dean are the kind of fic most produced. And this was pretty much the standard order of things (with Dean/Castiel just starting up). RPF was just accepted, heck, it was banal. I look at that edition and my first thought is, "hey, Jensen/Jessica Alba icons. Man, they looked so good together, why is there no Jensen/Jessica? Oh, right. Evil Michael Weatherly." Immediately wondering about RPF possibilities wasn't all that exceptional in this fandom: according to the statistics reported by LJuserblack_samvara here, in March, 2009, RPF accounted for almost 21% of the fandom's fic production in LJ.

And it will be mainly in the context of RPF that A/B/O will come up.

 

2. From anon to namespace

2009 marks an important shift in that it is the year of creation of several anon spaces, both for fic purposes and fandom discussion purposes. LJcommblindfold_spn was created in January 2009, and the LJcommspnkink_meme and LJuserspnpermanon were both set up in July of that same year. (Source for the date of creation of spnpermanon is its Fanlore page, the others are simply a question of checking their community profiles. See "Chapter 2: General Timeline".)

LJcommblindfold-spn was designed as a flash fest, by which I mean, it lasted a limited number of days (between ten days and two weeks, depending on the edition), in which people were allowed to prompt during most of the first week (format adopted in later editions), and the filling of prompts lasted throughout the whole duration of the fest (the timeframes varied from one round to the next, sometimes by mod decision to allow the posting of more fic, sometimes the deadline being extended for external reasons like LJ outages). No new fills were allowed after that and the community got locked down until the next round. That is, the community was literally friends-locked and a person needed to be a member to read its content. This is still the case and the reason why most links here will be to the namespace fic reposts rather than to the initial locked fills. For anyone interested in reading the fic there, membership remains open and all one needs is to have a LJ account and join the community (though considering its 15,774 members, seems most people already have). Writers could claim and repost their fic to their own journals once each round was closed.

The rules were: mandatory anonymity and a strenuous policy of FanloreentryYour Kink is Not My Kink and That's Okay!, which allowed for any kind of requests and forbade disparaging and/or judgmental comments about the requests made and the fic written.

It ran twice a year, in January and July (August, in the first year), in a total of 6 rounds, the last of which was in January, 2012. (Pinboardspn_blindfold is, I believe, the Pinboard account that tags all the fills of all six rounds, showing a total of 1962 links. It doesn't tag the different rounds independently, but for anyone wanting to go nuts with stats about the whole fest, it looks like paradise.)

The first edition ran between 6 and 17 January, 2009 - eleven days. This is the delicious for that first round: deliciousaccountblindfold_spn.

It shows 1046 links, including the unfilled prompts. Prompts filled: 408. The tags show a wide variety of kinks, including: "underage" (104 links), "noncon" (77), "dubcon" (56), "rough" (43), and "bondage" (36), among others (noteworthy, the "I have no idea how to tag this" tag, which wasn't exclusive to this round and is a testament to the more inventive side of the fandom). Mind that these numbers include both filled and unfilled prompts, effectively reflecting what fans participating were looking for. They also reflect a preferred dynamic in the fandom: there are 70 prompts for "bottom!dean" (to 16 "bottom!sam") and 38 prompts for "bottom!jensen" (to 5 "bottom!jared") - SPN fandom had pretty set ideas when it came to which kind of role they mainly associated with each character.

Basically, it was a smashing success. And despite the numbers dropping during rounds 2 (held in August of 2009, with 220 fills, according to its delicious page here: deliciousaccountblindfold_spn_2) and 3 (held in July, 2010, after a one year gap, with 345 fills, according to the diigo page here: deliciousaccountblindfoldthree) it remained active and something people looked forward to. (Links to tagging accounts for all rounds of Blindfold can be found in "Chapter 4: Tagging Accounts for Blindfold".)

It should be mentioned that the mods were rather well-known writers within the fandom, so that helped its popularity (the people behind Blindfold were fleshflutter - only for round 1 -, balefully and lazy_daze, which was very much public knowledge within the fandom). It was not without controversy, but it kept on trucking, based on the strength of the fills, the well-known participants and its festival-like ambiance. The whole thing was done under pressure, so people just got into the experience of it, into the rush of prompting and filling because you'd either hurry up or you'd miss your chance and then you'd have to wait six months, since no fills were allowed after the round closed.

It probably also helped that fans were used to and had a tradition of regular participation in challenges, the obvious example being the LJcommspn-j2-bigbang which had been running annually since 2007 (interestingly, the regular dates for Blindfold, in January and July, more or less coincided with the sign-ups for and the posting of BB fics. I guess that may also have been a contributing factor for its success: "OMG, I just signed up for BB! Let's get in the mood to write stuff / practice/ celebrate / stave off the panic attack (because what was I thinking!) by writing some porn!"). The notion of writing within a constrained time limit was also not novel: LJcommkamikazeremix allowed for less than a month for authors to remix a fic (the first round went live August, 2008). And, of course, there was (and still is), in the larger pan-fandom context, Porn Battle, which has been running biannually since January, 2006, with each round lasting a week. Likewise, the fandom was no stranger to more extreme kink, with LJcommspn-hardcore having been created the year before (February, 2008). (As for comment fic fests, I want to say they were a regular occurrence too, but for once my Google-fu has epically failed me, and I can't seem to find a single example that predates January, 2009.)

Meanwhile!

Right before the second round of Blindfold went live, in August 2009, the LJcommspnkink_meme was created, in July 2009. This is (as far as I can determine) the link for its initial delicious account, which kept on being updated until the beginning of October, 2011: deliciousaccountspnkink_meme. That's two years of data and it can give us a fairly accurate idea of what were the fic trends during that period, which is the relevant period for the purposes of looking into A/B/O's origins. (Here is the link to the current Pinboard account for anyone who's interested: Pinboardspnkink_meme.)

The first links to "mpreg" (total number of fills: 131), "bestiality" (87), and "werewolves" (37), all date back to July 2009, that is, the very month the kink meme was created. They were getting it on right out of the gate, yo.

In the Spring/Summer of 2010, there were several werewolf fics being written: Nature in Tooth and Claw, Run Wolf Run, and The Meek Shall Inherit. They're all J2 fics, responding to prompts that expressly use the term "Alpha" and prompts and fills for this trope remained particularly active in August that year (which can be verified by checking the werewolf tag at the SPN kink meme Pinboard).

The first link to "animal traits" (total: 21) is from July, 2010. And this is LJusertehdirtiestsock's I ain't no lady, but you'd be the tramp, which started being posted July 24, at LJcommcfamiliaris (a community for bestiality, created August 2009), based on a prompt left at the SPN kinkmeme.

A small parenthetical note to say that, coincidentally - or, you know, more likely, not - round 3 of Blindfold closed July, 19. That is, just 5 days before "I ain't no lady…" started being posted. If you look at the date of cfamiliaris' creation, you can see it also coincides with another Blindfold round (round 2 - August 2009). Despite the lack of hard data that only going through the prompts left in a more detailed way would yield, it's not farfetched to hypothesize that there was a multiplication effect going on: kink begets kink.

I ain't no lady, but you'd be the tramp is, basically, the cornerstone fic of A/B/O dynamics. Even if there were no Omegas in sight anywhere yet.

The prompt on which it is based sets up the alpha/beta division and establishes knots for alphas. Specifically, the request was for J2 AU "Doggy style, bottom Jensen", with the prompt, "Their world is just like ours...except...in their world there are two types of men. One is the alpha male, the other is the bitch male. Alpha males are like any ordinary guy with the exception of their cocks, they work just like dog cocks (the knot, tons of cum etc) The bitch male, is just an ordinary guy without the special cock". (Full prompt can be found in "Chapter 3: Timeline of Prompts and Fills".)

The fill sets up the possibility of impregnation for betas and a kind of physiological bond triggered by genetic compatibility, the use of a birth control method (morning after pill), and alludes to the role of women in this society (same as the betas, or rather, betas had the same role as women: getting married, having babies!). But, crucially, it created a whole dystopian 50'esque society based on this gender division, at the same time it reflected on its sexism/gender-based prejudice and referred the existence of more liberal movements that were pushing for equality. Women's Lib turned Betas' Lib. The premise basically is: dashing stranger comes into town and sweeps the local high school ice queen - who wants to get out of the small country town and make something of herself - off her feet, except the ice queen is a boy (Jensen), and the dashing stranger (Jared) is a biker liberal hippie who married his high school sweetheart (Sandy) and went to Cali so that she'd have her freedom (no dystopic house-wifing for her, yay!), which, not so paradoxically, landed said marriage on the rocks. The fic hinted at future happy threesomes too but it never actually went there, remaining unfinished forever, with the last chapter posted on August, 15.

The tramp!verse takes many of the trends and concepts that SPN anon fic memes were playing around with at the time (crystallized gendered roles, animal traits and knotting, mpreg, bonding, issues of consent) and coalesces them into one unified world that functions as some kind of mirror universe that both reiterates and gender-flips roles, and opens the window for reflection on that world and, by extension, ours. Despite being declaredly written for kink, it blindsided its readers with worldbuilding (about which the author had extensive ideas, so it really wasn't fortuitous) and its metaphor for social commentary about gender and gender-related prejudice and discrimination, the struggle for equality and issues of self-acceptance. It set up many of the premises we now take for granted about A/B/O dynamics in one fell swoop. And it really was one of those, "holy shit, what am I reading? This is amazing!" moments. People took notice.

People kept kinking. Common themes kept cropping up. As an example of what was going around at the kink meme at the time, we have LJuserlegion_of_zelda's "Stop Shot" in response to a request asking for J2 featuring growling!Jensen, public claiming, mating - Wereanimal!Jensen has been on his mating quest since he didn't find his mate within his pack. The prompt dates from August 1, the fill from September 7. Again, we have animal traits, mating, bonding.

November 9, 2010 someone posts a request at the kink meme for AnimalTraits, Claiming, Knotting, DomJared, SubJensen, Impregnation with the prompt, "There are three types of men, alpha males, beta males, and omega males. (…)" It is an adaptation of the prompt the tramp!verse was based on, but setting up a three way division of Alpha/Beta/Omega, instead of just Alpha/Beta. Combined with another prompt at the suggestion of a nonnie, which called for heats, hormones used as a form to control said heats, and animalistic behavior, it lead to the writing of Heat (Between You and Me) by LJuserthe_miss_lv, which turned out to be the first fic tagged with "knotting" at the SPN kink meme. (For full prompts, consult "Chapter 3: Timeline of Prompts and Fills".)

Note, however, that this does NOT mean that there weren't any fics featuring knotting before, as the very existence of the tramp!verse demonstrates. It predates the tramp!verse though, the kink appearing as an aspect of bestiality and werewolves AUs: take Worse Than His Bite, the first fic at the kink meme tagged with "werewolves", or Animal I Have Become, which is the second, dating back to August and September, 2009. Or Night Games, the first fic tagged "bestiality", which dates back to July, 2009 - actually, to the very first entry of the kink meme. There are three fills featuring knotting in the first round of Blindfold, the first one posted on January 7, 2009 (the pairing being cursed-into-a-dog!Sam/Dean) and, in fact, reports of fic featuring the kink go back to as early as January 2008. So it was well-established, especially within SPN kink memes, long before the tramp!verse came along. And obviously, SPN fandom did not invent it. I mean, come on, I'm sure some pervy cave people came up with this, way back when. Ayla would know.

In any case, that first prompt introduces the Alpha/Beta/Omega division that later became the standard.

How?

In January, 2011, in round 4 of Blindfold, this Alpha/Beta/Omega prompt is reposted, word for word. And it gets two fills. They are: No Substitution by LJuserpianoforeplay, and Not by LJusertryfanstone.

While the tramp!verse was RPF AU, both of these (as well as "Heat") are semi-AU, in that they use the backdrop of Supernatural as a show in which the actors work. (This sort of narrative frame will also be later used - and subverted - by concernedlily in "Wait For It".)

The societal structure in "No Substitution" is, more or less, a less discriminating version of what is presented in "I ain't no lady…", what it would be a couple of decades down the line, so to speak, but with Omegas still getting the short end of the stick, having to work twice as hard for the same recognition and so on (much like, you know, women nowadays). "Not" reverses the positions, with Alphas being the group discriminated against - there is a really strong metaphor of racial prejudice in this fic, to the point it feels like no metaphor at all.

Both of these fills were really well received when they were posted on Blindfold.

They weren't the only "knotting" fics in that round - in fact, the delicious list for round 4 (deliciousaccountblindfold4) shows 7 fills tagged "knotting", including September by LJuserdragonspell, which is something of a FanloreentryDark Angel fusion, using this show's premise of genetic engineering to explain humans with animal traits, heats and knots.

These 7 fills overlapped with other tags: "heat" (2 fills total), "claiming/mating/breeding" (8 fills), "animalistic" (9 fills), "bestiality" (16 fills). Out of 354 fills, 7 fics with knotting isn't much. When you add up the numbers for the different tropes seen in conjunction though, especially when all of it is happening during a timeframe of just two weeks, it becomes the kind of occurrence that makes people sit up and pay attention. "Hey, look at this thing that is happening." You can see how there was this movement coalescing into an overarching type of fic, the most visible face of which were the then reposted to namespace fics.

The number of comments, particularly to the reposts of "No Substitution" and "September", in the authors' personal journals, shows how positive the response to these fics was. The fact that these were popular authors within the fandom accounts for some of the reception, sure, once the authors were, in fact, known. But if the fic didn't capture some zeitgeist that was going on at the time, then the reaction wouldn't have been what it was. And, in true catch-22 fashion, the fact that the authors were well-established within the fandom and the quality of the fic produced undoubtedly played a role in the subsequent popularity of A/B/O as a trope, as people who probably wouldn't have read it before, gave it a chance.

So did the fandom's anon meme (play a role, that is), first as a venue for the discussion of the anon fic being written and later proving instrumental in the dissemination of A/B/O in particular, with its role in the creation of LJcommtake_the_knot.

LJuserspnanonhaven was the place where anon discussion was concentrated ever since LJuserspnpermanon closed in October, 2010. It was, at the time of round 4 of Blindfold, an extremely active meme: compare the number of posts in January, 2011 in LJuserspnanonhaven and in LJcommfail-fandomanon and you'll see the number matches (7 posts). The difference is that FFA is a pan-fandom meme, while haven was a meme for just one fandom. That is telling of the critical mass there was in SPN fandom at the time.

Because spnpermanon deleted all its content, it's impossible to verify what kind of discussion went on there about Blindfold and its fic, and the kink meme and its fic (unless tracking anons from back then come forth and share that information). However, it is possible to, one, extrapolate that there was discussion if we go by that meme's history of regularly discussing fic (spnpermanon was known for having fic discussion, specifically about fics posted to fests/challenges, namely, the Big Bang), and, two, deduce that there was indeed discussion, based on the information found on spnanonhaven, specifically, and the practices haven took up from the previous anon meme, generally.

On the subject of anon fic reviewing, it is perhaps worth saying that this was a polarizing subject in SPN fandom. Some people were against it for a variety of reasons, one of the objections being that anonymity opened up the possibility for people to just, well, be jerks about the fics and about the authors. Others welcomed it, seeing it as an opportunity to learn what people really thought of the fics written and discuss them from the readership's point of view. Concomitantly, in a way, spnanonhaven functioned almost as the anonymous counterpart to LJcommomgspnbigbang , a discussion community for BB authors, to the point of having developed a standard "Big Bang Support Thread" for writers to talk about their BBs.

In any case, discussion about fic there was and blindfold was definitely a subject of discussion at the anon memes. Here's what was going on in spnanonhaven the day Blindfold round 4 opened: page 3 of post #15.

The two top threads are both about the opening of Blindfold. They are posted within two minutes of each other. The discussion unfolds in the second thread and, if you read through it, there are comments like, "I've posted all my meme-generated wishes" (the day before there is a whole thread dedicated to what types of porn people wanted to see) and, "so... is fanart allowed?" Other threads are titled: Have you guys started writing yet?, Concrit for the blindfold, Blindfold dream fills.

There is also this 'Blindfold exchange' thread which expressly states, "We did this last Blindfold where people posted the prompts they want filled, and then people fill the requested prompts." So yes, there was discussion about Blindfold at the previous anon meme, because the round the nonnie refers to (Round 3, in July, 2010) happened while spnpermanon was still the active anon meme.

Even without analyzing all of it, thread by thread, comment by comment, it's pretty obvious that spnanonhaven was really invested in Blindfold. Nonnies talked about it, linked to it, discussed it, and "have you all started already?", "what are you prompting?", "prompts you want to see filled!", "your favorites", etc, were common subjects every time Blindfold came around. Spnanonhaven promoted Blindfold within itself, functioned as a space for readers and writers to talk and helped, at least partially, to create the dynamic that fueled Blindfold. If you think about it, it makes a lot of sense: if a person is participating anonymously in a fest devoted to kinky fic, a large portion of which will not be claimed, but they still want to talk about what is happening and interact with other people also interested in and participating in said fest, the surest, fastest way to do it, is to post about it in an anonymous space of discussion. You could post about it in your own journal under friendslock (remember that writers could not publicly claim fics until the fest was closed), but unless a significant number of people had access to your locked content, the dynamic of conversation just wasn't going to measure up. It's also a question of management. For instance: with literally hundreds of prompts, there's just no way one single person is going to be able to sift through all of them - but a whole bunch of people with diversified interests are better able to pool their resources and bring to the attention of the group the prompts with the most potential. (This doesn't mean that all blindfold participants, be it writers or readers, were spnanonhaven anons - just that there was overlap between the groups.)

Anyway, in relation to these fics and their reception at spnanonhaven. From the following post (spnanonhaven post # 16, January 14, 2011), in Favorite Blindfold fics, notice how one of the first recs is for "No Substitution". Notice also that Tryfanstone's repost makes clear that she was aware of the discussion going on at spnanonhaven, as she links a thread about her fic and simply addresses the discussion.

So this is a moment of transition: with the claiming of the fills, this is when and how the trope began to emerge from the sphere of anon memes and sock-accounts to the realm of namespace. That gave it the visibility to be further explored and expanded on by fandom at large since not everyone was an active participant of kink and/or anon memes. But what should be noted is that, at its inception, the trope was very much a product of anon culture within SPN fandom.

 

3. What's in a name?

At that stage of the proceedings, one of the difficulties of finding the first examples of the genre through the Blindfold and kinkmeme's delicious listings and tracking its evolution is that, early on, no one called it "Alpha/Beta/Omega dynamics" or "a/b/o" or "Omegaverse".

People called it "knotting au" or something to that effect, and/or listed/tagged it with a series of tropes that made explicit (heh, explicit) what they meant. There wasn't a fixed set of tropes. Because it spread via anon fic memes, the tropes featured in each fic depended on what the prompter suggested and on what the writer made of those requests. So some prompter could ask for "knotting au, heat, bonding, impregnation," and different writers could take all of those tropes into account, or pick and choose which ones they wanted to tackle and/or add different ones. Other prompters would call for a different, more or less overlapping, set of tropes and so on. And the same prompt (the setting/premise) could be spun into very diverse directions. There was a fluidity to it that became a hallmark of the genre, so that each iteration could bring forth a new variation.

The nomenclature was characterized by this same volatility. Other than "knotting au", people also started calling it "alpha/beta" and "alpha/omega" - but it was essentially all the same thing.

The earliest link tagged with "kink:alpha/beta/omega" at the kinkmeme Pinboard dates back to November, 2011. That's way late in the game, however, and the expression definitely started being used before that.

Some nine months before, in March, 2011, the LJ community LJcommtake_the_knot was created, the brainchild of spnanonhaven (as spnanonhaven remained an active venue for the discussion of this type of fic, e.g.: a, b, c, d, e), being described as a Supernatural and Supernatural RPF art and fic community focusing on human knotting and sentient bestiality. Its first comment fic meme started May 9, 2011, and its delicious account (deliciousaccountKnotting_meme) uses both an "alpha/omega" tag (for 3 fills) and an "alpha/beta" tag (for 9 fills).

For the "alpha/omega" tag the first fill is deleted, so the oldest link is to LJuserlazy_daze's Estrus (May 19, 2011). She clearly states, "if you aren't widely read in this, ah, oeuvre, then just to let you know I'm co-opting the loose 'canon' these sort of fics go by, of a world with omega guys that go into heat and self-lubricate and alpha guys with the canine, um, characteristics. (For no apparent reason other than the potential for kinky porn.) God, I love this pervy fandom." Which is a pretty good indicator that there was no set designation yet.

This is the first use of the terms combined as a delicious tag ("alpha/beta", "alpha/omega") I can find. The person tagging was LJuserthe_miss_lv so it is possible that she is the one responsible for then going on to create the expression "alpha/beta/omega dynamics", especially if we take into account that she was also one the first writers tackling the trope.

AO3userChash is the first person I personally remember seeing (with my own eyes! Get your firsthand account right here!) use the expression "Alpha/Beta/Omega dynamics universe" to describe one her fics though - and that was on June 22, 2011 (A Fine Job of Bending All the Rules). Just ten days prior, June 13, she had written Match Made (Alpha!Danneel/Omega!Jensen) where she had noted, "(...) dog-traits sex. Is there a term for that? Other than knotting? WHATEVER, DOG-LIKE SEX. It's all the rage with the kids these days." So it's entirely possible that she's the one who came up with the expression.

Now, if one goes to AO3 nowadays and clicks the Alpha/Beta/Omega Dynamics tag, there will be a couple of fics there that predate June, 2010. However, this is not a reliable indicator because, one, it's possible that some fics just ended up there on account of wranglers perhaps not having a clear idea of what was this trope when it started being used and lumped it with previous uses of similarly named tags, and, two, because of the communal nature of tags in AO3, the tag could have simply been appended at a later date to any fic. At the same time, fics that set up the genre end up not using the label/tag. Case in point, if you go through LJusertehdirtiestsock's fic masterpost, the expression isn't used once, and the fics using this kind of trope are labeled "human knotting". Likewise, at present date, neither No Substitution nor Not are tagged with the A/B/O tag at AO3.

But in May/June of 2011, regardless of who coined the expression, we have a name for the trope. Or maybe by now we could already call it a genre: a whole collection of tropes interacting dynamically to create a shared universe.

In any case, Chash uses the designation for a story with a femmeslash alpha/omega pairing (Adrianne Palicki/Genevieve Cortese), and also for A Cracked Engine Block, in July 19, 2011, featuring a beta/omega m/m pairing (J2, which was pretty much the default pairing for most fics during that first year). These were also the first fics I remember seeing (though it's possible there were a few others before) that departed from the mold and explored other characters and alternative pairings to the alpha/omega slash default standard, as exploring possible options was Chash's stated interest and it is fair to say their work contributed to open up the genre to different kinds of pairings and dynamics (links to this writer's "knotting" fic, all written in the Summer of 2011, can be found here).

In round 5 of Blindfold, July 2011, the expression "alpha/omega dynamics" comes up as a prompt title, and fills include Just Keep Breathing With Me by LJusertebtosca, featuring Alpha!Danneel/Omega!Jensen, and LJuserconcernedlily's Wait For It, a semi-AU RPF where Alpha!Jensen and Beta!Jared play Beta!Dean and Alpha!Sam in Supernatural, both further exploring and expanding the possibilities of the verse.

From then on, it becomes easier to follow the developments, as fics try out new approaches, like characters being able to shift between Alpha, Beta and Omega (LJuserdeirdre_c's Show Me How You Do That Trick) and Omegas being a rare group that merges both Alpha and Beta characteristics (LJuserbewaretheides15's Late Bloomer).

At some point, and actually relatively early in the middle of all of this, the genre jumped from SPN fandom to other fandoms, both through anon prompting in other fandoms' kink memes and through fannish drift of SPN fans. In the process, it seems to have passed from RPF to Fictional People Fic and started being also called Omegaverse - this designation seeming to be mainly associated with Sherlock fandom, if one goes by the fact that it's the tag used on the Sherlock fic meme to designate the trope, and by the comparative numbers of Sherlock fics using the tag in AO3 in relation to other fandoms.

If one goes by the fic posted at AO3, AO3usertwelve_pastels' Be It Fahrenheit or Centigrade in X-Men: First Class, in August 4, 2011, was the first fic to cross the fandom barrier. It is difficult to know for sure though, given that AO3 is not the only repository of fanfic and not all that was originally posted in other platforms has later been reposted to AO3. At the time, several anon fic and kink memes for different fandoms were operating in Livejournal (see "Chapter 5: Other kink/fic memes" for some examples) and, in any one of these, fic that fits the A/B/O criteria might have been posted anytime after LJusertehdirtiestsock's original fic, in the summer of the previous year. Because the genre remained in a state of flux all throughout this period, without even a fixed designation, only combing through all the fic could answer which fics fit those (non-standardized but collectively constructed and generally accepted) criteria.

In the end, that's perhaps the great strength of the A/B/O universe: its malleability and plasticity, the possibility of adding new tropes, reinvent it, reconstruct it, deconstruct it. At this point (September, 2013), the genre has become popular in a variety of fandoms and is well known enough that any fan can just come up with her or his variation, keep to known combinations and recreate worldbuilding structures, or radically reinterpret them and introduce new alternatives, make it full of filthy porn or well thought-out social commentary, or both. As someone else said at FFA, "the possibilities are literally endless."