Hello and welcome to This Week in Fandom, the OTW’s roundup of things that are happening! Before we get stuck in, did you see these very cute fandom-themed pregnancy announcements from Florida blogger Grace Navarro? She posted a different one each week throughout her pregnancy! Do you have a favourite? Let us know in the comments!
In an effortless segue from birth to death, the first news item that we have for you guys today is an article from the Atlantic. In ‘How to Murder Harry Potter’, journalist Kaitlyn Tiffany explores something that she calls “deathfic”: ‘the kind of fan fiction in which a beloved character dies, typically in a way that is as painful for the reader as possible.’
Some fan experts questioned the breadth of Tiffany’s working definition:
I kind of lost it at the idea that stories about Frodo going into the West are part of the same category as stories about Justin Bieber or Harry Styles getting whacked. ?One of these things is not like the other, one of these things just doesn't belong?
— Flourish Klink (@flourish) February 21, 2020
But however esoteric the categorisation, we did find the article respectful of the works and readers it explores; and in consequence, the conclusions at which Tiffany arrives feel valid. She finds that such stories serve a number of purposes. Some writers use them ‘to give a beloved character the mourning that the commercial narrative didn’t have time for’; others to ‘sort out experiences from their own life’. In the end, she concludes, it comes down to control: deathfic ‘stuns the system and then allows an easy exit’. Sometimes, that’s what we need.
Next up: Whatever your opinion on EL James, she’s indisputably the most famous fanfic author in popular culture. Her success looks set to continue as on Feb 25, Variety announced that Universal has optioned the rights to James’s most recent novel, The Mister (2019). Although the new novel lacks Fifty Shades‘s notoriously explicit (and inaccurate) engagement with BDSM, it seems that James’s interest in uneven power dynamics is here to stay. (And that’s okay! You’ll find no kinkshaming here.) The Mister tells the story of Maxim Trevelyan, a wealthy British aristocrat who develops a romantic relationship with Elena, his Albanian housekeeper, who is on the run from human traffickers. No doubt Universal will be hoping to replicate the success of the Fifty Shades film franchise, which they also produced and which grossed over $1.3 billion.
Our final piece this week is an agony aunt letter from the Washington Post, in which advice columnist Carolyn Hax responds to a parent concerned about her 16-year-old daughter’s apparent lack of extracurriculars. She ‘gets good grades, but doesn’t seem to have any friends, doesn’t date, doesn’t go to parties… Her entire life is focused on a blog she runs and the fan fiction she posts’. How’s that for #relatable content?!
Thankfully, Hax takes issue with the parent’s condemnation, pointing out that her daughter ‘is involved with something… just not what interests you’. Fanfiction will make a great subject for a college admissions essay! And friends-wise, ‘she might have a huge community you don’t see’. Hax’s most important advice? ‘Stop trying to fix her’.
The column’s readers support Hax’s point of view. ‘My mom used to laugh off science fiction and fantasy as… “silly stuff”‘, one writes. ‘And then I moved to LA and got on the writing staff of a fantasy TV drama’. This is the type of energy we could all stand to channel!
One last thing before we go: Eurovision might not happen until May, but the Eurofans are already gearing up. Twitter user @ori_with_an_a made a post this week suggesting fandom names for every participant already confirmed for the event. Time to pick your teams…