This Week in Fandom, Volume 70

Welcome to This Week in Fandom, the OTW’s roundup of things which are happening! (I’m Stephanie, taking over as the primary writer for TWIF, and I’m stoked to be here.) Before we start: Star Wars: The Last Jedi, again, had a domestic opening weekend gross that was the second-biggest ever recorded. If you’ve seen it, let us know what you thought of the movie in the comments!

An entertainment group called Botnik Studios has compiled a hilarious Harry Potter fanfiction based on text generated by artificial intelligence. “Harry Potter and the Portrait of What Looked Like a Large Pile of Ash” comprises about three pages of fiction that contributors wrote using predictive keyboards trained with text from all seven Harry Potter books. The fanfic mirrors Rowling’s writing impressively well in its style and vocabulary, if not in its spectacularly bizarre content:

Harry could tell that Voldemort was standing right behind him. He felt a great overreaction. Harry tore his eyes from his head and threw them into the forest. Voldemort raised his eyebrows at Harry, who could not see anything at the moment.

“Voldemort, you’re a very bad and mean wizard,” Harry savagely said. Hermione nodded encouragingly. The tall Death Eater was wearing a shirt that said ‘Hermione Has Forgotten How To Dance,’ so Hermione dipped his face in mud.

The work immediately went viral, spawning an outpouring of fanart and even an audio recording by actor Michael Goldstrom. Meanwhile, the predictive keyboards used to create the story’s narration and dialogue are both available on Botnik Studios’ website, if you’re curious to try them out for yourself.

The Walt Disney Company announced an agreement to acquire most of Twenty-First Century Fox, Inc. Fox intends to distribute its broadcasting network and stations, such as Fox News and Big Ten Network, to shareholders before selling to Disney all of its film and TV studios and its cable entertainment networks. While the deal may not pass United States government regulation, if it does, Disney will secure its position as the movie studio leading in market share, become the majority owner of Hulu, and fulfill a prediction that The Simpsons made back in 1998.

With Disney poised to claim ownership of thousands of Fox franchises, as Vox reports, some fans are particularly excited about the possibility of characters like the X-Men, Deadpool, and the Fantastic Four whose cinematic rights Marvel had previously sold to Fox finally joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The article recaps that the merger could allow the Marvel Cinematic Universe not only to create movies for new characters, but to tell crossover stories that have never before been possible:

Because of splintered film rights, Marvel’s crossover comic stories like the aforementioned Avengers vs. X-Men and House of M could never be told. Crossover comic book events that did make it on screen, like Captain America: Civil War and the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War (which looks to be an amalgam of the Infinity Gauntlet event as well as the Infinity arc) are only half-told with Avengers characters; in the comic books, the X-Men and Fantastic Four are present for those stories. A huge comic book crossover event on the big screen would be a spectacle, and done well, it could be as pivotal to the superhero movie genre as The Avengers.

Fans’ reactions on social media range from enthusiasm about potential new Marvel crossovers to criticism of the Disney-Fox deal as giving Disney too much power in the film industry.

Others worry that Disney’s ownership of these additional Marvel franchises will restrict the creativity of future films.

Besides discussing these implications for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, people are speculating about whether the Disney-Fox deal will make everyone from Anastasia to the Xenomorph Queen into Disney princesses. This is my favorite tongue-in-cheek suggestion:

Film School Rejects has published an excellent thinkpiece about the language people use to talk about fanfiction, particularly as a female-dominated fannish space. The article argues that female fans lack mainstream visibility, not because there aren’t many of them, but because they primarily demonstrate their fannishness by engaging with fanfiction—and then frequently conceal this aspect of their life from others because of negative stigma.

“Like fan fiction” is an increasingly common criticism being thrown around in the world of pop culture commentary. Fan fiction is a female-dominated expression of fandom, and it is arguably the expression of fandom that is quickly starting to receive the most derision, even as fan culture becomes more and more mainstream. There is a long and well-documented history of things considered feminine—whether personality traits, pastimes, or forms of entertainment—being devalued and disproportionately criticized. I think it entirely possible that these two things are not unconnected…

As both a popular culture commentator and reader of fan fiction I have just one suggestion/plea/Christmas wish: can we show some love for adjectives and switch to the far more accurate critique “like bad fan fiction”? After all, what would you even call shows like Sherlock or a film like Mr. Holmes or a musical like Wicked besides fan fiction? Fan fiction, when it’s good, really is pretty damn good, and I think it’s high time we acknowledge that.

Have you had any noteworthy experiences sharing fanfiction in person with others? Let us know in the comments!

In closing, I leave you with a memorial to AOL Instant Messenger, which AOL has (finally) shut down for real. While it’s sort of shocking that it’s managed to stay alive for this long, the retiring of AIM is still a milestone for those fans who avidly used it in the 1990s and early 2000s.

We want your suggestions! If you have a story you think we should include, please contact us! Suggestions are welcome in all languages. Submitting a story doesn’t guarantee that it will be included in a TWIF post, and inclusion of a story doesn’t mean that it is endorsed by the OTW.

This Week in Fandom

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