Hello and welcome to This Week in Fandom, the OTW’s roundup of things that are happening. Before we get started, did you know that this week marks one year since the Game of Thrones season finale? Yes, it has been an extremely long year. In any case, fans marked the occasion on Twitter with exactly the enthusiasm that those of us who do remember those dusty days of 2019 might expect.
Disconcerting times for many of us this week as the New York Times published an article about the Omegaverse (or ‘wolf-kink erotica’, as the headline writer has it). The (paywalled) piece, which includes interviews with OTW staffers Rebecca Tushnet and Kristina Busse, addresses the topic in the context of a lawsuit brought by one romance novelist, Zoey Ellis, against another, Addison Cain. Cain issued DMCA takedown notices against Ellis’s work, costing her (Ellis says) money and readership, on the basis of plot similarities which will be very familiar to anybody who’s dipped a toe (or indeed, a whole joyful limb) into the waters of A/B/O:
In both books, Alpha men are overpowered by the scent of Omega heroines and take them hostage. In both books, the women try and fail to suppress their pheromones and give in to the urge to mate. In both books, the couples sniff, purr and growl; nest in den-like enclosures; neck-bite to leave “claim” marks; and experience something called “knotting,” involving a peculiar feature of the wolf phallus.
Intellectual property lawyers are interested in the case because of its implications for future litigation, particularly in a context where fanworks (and their tropes) are increasingly entering the mainstream. As one fan pointed out on Twitter, fandom’s collaborative ethos and gift economy doesn’t translate effectively into more traditional economic models:
Lawyers: awesome, this is a free win, everyone knows that the first person to monetize an idea owns it forever
The @OTW_News, fic writers, everyone else: actually, this is an idea that people share
Lawyers: what is “share?”
— Morgan Wilde (@songlin221) May 23, 2020
Interested readers can find more context about the whole dispute on the ‘Omegaverse Litigation’ Fanlore page; can read the entire 152-page complaint from the lawsuit filed by Ellis and her publishers in Oklahoma online; and finally, can enjoy over 73,000 works tagged ‘Alpha/Beta/Omega Dynamics’ on AO3.
Another example of transformative works entering mainstream culture is Rodham, published this week by Curtis Sittenfeld, bestselling author of American Wife. The novel has a simple premise: what if Hillary Clinton hadn’t married Bill? It’s a classic RPF setup and fan creators will empathise with Sittenfeld over the specific tone of mildly disgusted amusement with which some critics have greeted her work (in many instances, without actually having read it); for instance, this (NSFW!) Jezebel piece, which takes a look at Sittenfeld’s sex scenes and compares them with fanfiction, without being particularly flattering to either.
Other reviewers have been more willing to engage with the premise (a recent tweet by Sittenfeld singles out pieces from the Guardian and NPR) and for this fanfiction reader, it’s certainly another interesting example of what happens when fanfic aesthetics are deployed in more conventional literary contexts.
In more conventional fandom news, viewers of the CW’s latest DC adaptation, Batwoman, were shocked to learn that star Ruby Rose would be leaving the show at the end of the first season. Rose, whose casting had drawn attention as a gay actor playing a gay superhero, announced her departure in a surprise statement this week. “This was not a decision I made lightly,” she said.
Speculation as to the story behind Rose’s departure has of course proliferated. Initial suggestions pointed to a back injury Rose sustained during filming on season 1, but subsequent reports in Variety and Vulture suggest that the gruelling schedule Rose endured as a series lead also played a part in her decision to quit. In any case, Warner Brothers and the CW have stated an intention to seek another ‘member of the LGBT community’ as Rose’s replacement, and actors including Brooklyn 99‘s Stephanie Beatriz and The Magicians‘ Jade Tailor have already thrown their hats (or cowls?) into the ring.
*reads everything about Batwoman
— Stephanie Beatriz (@iamstephbeatz) May 20, 2020
Soo… since #rubyrose is no longer playing #Batwoman on #BatwomanCW I think they should cast someone with fighting skills (like krav maga) who has already played a bad ass on screen the last 5 years and loves working crazy hours! Just saying @TheCW I’m right here waiting🙋🏻♀️
— Jade Tailor (@JadeTailor) May 21, 2020
Also this week, we learned that the much-touted ‘Snyder Cut’ of Justice League will actually see the light of day. The 2018 superhero movie, initially directed by Snyder and retooled by Joss Whedon after he had to exit the film, received a fairly lukewarm reception from critics but there have long been rumours about the existence of an alternative director’s cut, four hours rather than the two-hour Whedon version which eventually hit cinemas; ‘an entirely new thing’ as Snyder told the Hollywood Reporter this week.
Two years after the movie first appeared, the fans who have been campaigning to #ReleaseTheSnyderCut were shocked and delighted to learn that a version of Snyder’s original vision will be coming to HBO Max in 2021; either as a miniseries or a four-hour epic. The production is likely to be expensive, entailing a good deal of additional effects work and possible further contributions from the acting cast, including Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, and Gal Gadot; it’s also a testament to the power of fan pressure. As Snyder comments in his interview, ‘this wouldn’t be happening without them’.
That’s all from us for now – but before we go, has anybody been reading the new Hunger Games novel? A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes came out this week and delves into the childhood of Coriolanus (aka President) Snow. How do you feel about Suzanne Collins’s choice of protagonist? Are there any other Hunger Games characters you’d prefer to know more about? Maybe you have some fic recommendations for us! Let us know your reaction in the comments.