We gathered a dataset of 400 fanfiction stories archiveofourown.org49 fanfiction.net.50 Apocalypse, Another World, Changed Environment and New World Order. We then used these stories as thedata for a natural language processing program which can now produce its own, entirely newstories.
An important aspect of the FanFutures project was that the stories we used came from amateur writers It is for this reason we delved into the world of fanfiction.
found ourselves reflecting on the fact that a common response to many of these stories, some of which were clearly amateur and often hastily written, is to assign them and their authors little value. 53felt acutely aware of our positionality, balancing the competing priorities of gathering what we considered a ‘sound’ collection of data, while also remaining true to the crowd-sourced nature of the project. We were constantly reflecting on why we were including some stories and discounting others, wondering whether we were responding to an unconscious bias for particular types of narratives over others. Similar debates abound over the neutrality, or otherwise, of the academic voice and research practice.
Once that urge was overcome, we were excited to think harder about the concerns motivating the makeup of the stories we were seeing. Many writers into situations unwillingly, finding themselves suddenly alone, their family dead, or into some combat environment.
To help us orient ourselves in our search for stories (each fanfiction site had thousands of entries going back many years) we chose to focus on four categories that we thought were likely to produce interesting and evocative future world scenarios: Apocalypse (fires and explosions, ongoing wars, disaster and chaos); Another World (this could include anything from robots, androids and cyborgs to extreme medical developments such as cloning or merging of animal bodies with human bodies); Changed Environment (floods, torrential rain, deserts, clouds, dust, glowing skies etc.); and New World Order (new regimes, corporations taking over the world, alternative governments, totalitarian states, robot/android regimes).
The next stage of the project was one in which these re-readings were themselves re-read and re-told by quite another type of storyteller, opening them up to yet more strange patterns of engagement and disengagement, as they were cut up and put back together by a non-human storyteller.