Previously, I talked about the linguistic and racialized gaps in fantasy worlds, specifically with respect to the construction of magic and magic systems. I’ve been pondering a lot about that still: how do we emancipate magic? Do we racebend, as in the case of a Desi Harry Potter? Do we rewrite histories to reflect the diversities of lived experiences across the world? Or do we still yet create new worlds of our own where Whiteness (and the Western world) is not the baseline for existence? 

To be clear, I think it’s probably all three, happening simultaneously. In a chapter discussing the existence of a racebent Hermione who is Black, Elizabeth Ebony Thomas says: 

Today’s readers are using the tools of social media to make meanings that are not just independent of authorial intent but that can also deliberately contradict it—which is to say that meaning itself is in the process of becoming outsourced and jointly imagined.

Ebony Thomas, Elizabeth. “Hermione is Black: A Postscript to Harry Potter and the Crisis of Infinite Dark Fantastic Worlds.” In The Dark Fantastic: Race and the Imagination from Harry Potter to the Hunger Games, 156. New York: NYU Press, 2019. 

The idea of crowdsourcing meaning is endlessly fascinating and amusing to me; fan communities have been doing it long before it became a mainstream process. However, as often as queer readings are crowdsourced in fandoms, racialized readings are still marginalized to a large extent.

As Thomas says: 

While the production of transformative fanwork and vigorous discussion show that fans are invested in alternate worlds, there is a vast gulf between the acceptance of slash celebrating homosexual relationships between White cisgender male characters and the disdain for racial and ethnic diversity in many fan communities. This shows that not all alterities are created equal and creates an ontological dilemma that must be reconciled.

Ebony Thomas, Elizabeth. “Hermione is Black: A Postscript to Harry Potter and the Crisis of Infinite Dark Fantastic Worlds.” In The Dark Fantastic: Race and the Imagination from Harry Potter to the Hunger Games, 157. New York: NYU Press, 2019. 

Fandom, I think, is at a crossroads in some ways; reconciling this ontological dilemma can be as simple and as complex as recasting Hermione as Black. It involves admitting that fandom has a racism problem, and decolonizing not just fan spaces, but the fannish, participatory self as well. 

But ultimately, emancipating the dark fantastic requires decolonizing our fantasies and our dreams. It means liberating magic itself. For resolving the crisis of race in our storied imagination has the potential to make our world anew.

Ebony Thomas, Elizabeth. “Hermione is Black: A Postscript to Harry Potter and the Crisis of Infinite Dark Fantastic Worlds.” In The Dark Fantastic: Race and the Imagination from Harry Potter to the Hunger Games, 169. New York: NYU Press, 2019. 
Imagination Gaps: Crowdsourcing and Decolonizing Fandom