Ludacris as a Lion: Behind the Fanfiction Curtain

Twitter account @Fanfiction_TXT finds the best/funniest fanfiction on the Internet.

September 26, 2012

Chris Randle is a writer from Toronto who has written for The Globe and Mail, The National Post, The Comics Journal, Social Text, the Village Voice an...

| | Kevin Martini

A writer of anti-Sailor Moon fanfics becomes trapped in one of his own stories. Now he must try to explain Trent Reznor to his friends, and face the harsh reality of how conformist Hogwarts is. It has been months since I was married to Ludacris and a whole year since we turned into lions.

The passage above isn’t a stream-of-consciousness passage from the 2012 equivalent of Finnegans Wake, and as far as I know, Chris Bridges remains un-leonine. It’s a few choice lines discovered by @Fanfiction_TXT, one of several “___TXT” Twitter accounts that search particular online ecosystems for the most bizarre and funny-looking specimens. I’ve been struck by the uncertain status of the fanfiction form—as Emily Eakin notes in the New York Review of Books, no genre receives more ridicule, but this guileless one also produced 50 Shades of Grey and its millions of novel-inspired BDSM sessions. And while @Fanfiction_TXT certainly has a nose for comically outraged fans and crossovers imagined by no one besides their author, they didn’t seem to be compiling quotes out of cruelty. The mysterious explorer behind the account agreed to answer these questions.

What inspired you to start trawling and compiling the most awful/bizarre fanfiction passages like this?

When I was much younger (around middle school) I used to browse quite often. I liked the general idea but there was always some weird stuff, and even at that age I thought some of it was pretty ridiculous. Recently on Twitter I started seeing some of the TXT accounts pop up, such as @TumblrTXT and @SonicFanon_TXT. I searched on Twitter to see if there was one for general fanfiction and I was surprised that there wasn’t one. So just as something to keep myself entertained with I started the account up.

What do you find to be the most popular series/fandoms/etc? How much have they fluctuated since you first discovered fanfiction as a kid?

Naruto and Harry Potter are everywhere. I swear you can search any term for a summary or title and you’ll get either of those series in the results. When I was browsing fanfics at my age (in the early ‘00s) the popular stories were based off some of the anime that was big at the time, and a *lot* of Invader Zim from what I remember. Many of the popular entries seems to be whatever is ‘the big thing’ at the time. Like if I browse the site today, I’d see a lot of Twilight, My Little Pony, that kinda stuff. I think Naruto and Harry Potter are the most consistently popular overall though, especially since Potter has the most fanfic entries on the site of any series and Naruto has the most entries of any anime.

I’ve also noticed that a lot of fanfics (and some of your funniest discoveries) involve unlikely crossovers between different media, like DBZ characters ending up in the magical land of Equestria. Has that phenomenon increased over the past decade?

The crossover discoveries I’ve made are some of my favorites. Most of the time it’s just crossovers between popular series but then you hit something totally random, like a Rocket Power crossover with Titanic. It’s one of those concepts that’s really weird but at the same time I have to appreciate people thinking up odd combinations like that. Every now and then I get Twitter mentions from people who tell me they wrote crossovers when they were kids before they knew what fanfic was, so I don’t think the popularity of crossovers is too new of an idea.

And some of them don’t appropriate fictional characters at all—they’re about celebrities, or historical figures. (Somewhere on my computer there’s a Smiths slashfic I stumbled across, whose author captured Morrissey’s speech patterns with hilarious accuracy.) Do those writers tend to be a distinct group?

I believe FFNet eventually ended up banning fics based on real people. So I don’t come across those as much, although now and then a couple slip by and get in. They can be amusing but I’m sure the site doesn’t want to deal with possible legal issues. As for being in a separate group, I’m not quite sure if it is a subgenre by itself, but I wouldn’t be surprised, I came across writers who only wrote stories about certain singers.

Yeah, I was going to say, aside from the heightened legal risk, fanfiction is uncommercial by nature, which might make celebrity stories unkosher. And in my experience those tend to be more explicitly sexual, and FFNet also attempts to ban “erotica,” right?

Yeah, they seemed to have wiped as much of the pornographic ones as they could. I remember X-rated ones being a lot more common then. Nowadays the ones that slip by the admins are odd fetish material that I think they just ignore. I usually don’t go around looking for quotes from the erotic stories, since most other TXTs do that anyway and it’s not really as funny as it seems. The one exception I made was when a reviewer got really angry at a Pokemon sexfic for calling some Pokemon “dogs,” which I still personally find to be one of the funniest I’ve used.

Hahaha, did he think it was some kind of slur? I don’t know if you ever browse the fanfic message boards and such, but I’m curious about how people have responded to 50 Shades of Grey—in one sense it’s a tremendous popular success on the community’s part, but a lot of authors seem to regard it as a betrayal of the, uh, medium.

I’ll be honest, I haven’t paid too much attention to the whole 50 Shades ordeal. I know the story behind its origins and all but I guess I’ve just ignored it. I did quickly browse the 50 Shades fanfiction category to see if I could find some more quotes or bizarre stories there but honestly, it’s pretty tame from what I saw. I don’t know how to feel about fanfiction of fanfiction though.

Oh my god, there’s 50 Shades fanfiction? Such a mise-en-abyme. What is your sense of the typical demographics of these authors? Like, who are some of the biggest ones?

In age? I’d say maybe high school, early 20s for most. At least from what I come across. Usually I don’t go digging through personal profiles though so I don’t really notice. I’d just guess that age range for the majority.

Oh, yeah, I was also thinking gender and social class and so on, but it’s probably hard to discern those much of the time...You said that you rarely look at anyone’s profile, but have you noticed any especially prolific or popular authors on the site? If so, do they tend to have any traits in common? And do you ever follow favourite, dependably bizarre writers?

I can’t think of any popular names off the top of my head but there are definitely a few profiles I came across that had, like, 200+ stories each. One writer I came across had over 1000 stories, mostly based off dramas like Grey’s Anatomy, and she seemed to be pretty popular from what I saw. The more popular ones on the site I tend to see seem to do less crazy crossover stories and more stories that are “realistic” to the canon, if I put it that way.

There are a couple authors that I’ve come across that I’ve bookmarked for various reasons. One is ShakespeareHemmingway. All his stories are basically about Garfield the cat involved in crazy action sequences, like saving Natalie Portman from Ashton Kutcher and defeating all the Street Fighters. Another one I keep an eye on is The Pete Peterson Experience. I thought he was a troll at first but now I’m not really sure. He does a lot of bizarre, sort of offensive stories about random characters dying and Sly Cooper. I mainly keep an eye on him not only for his stories, but for the people who get really angry at him in the reviews, their statements are pretty funny. I was also introduced by a fan to someone named Sferic, who only did a handful of stories a couple years ago but man, she gave me tons of tweeting material.

You mentioned reading FFNet in earnest when you were younger, or relatively in earnest. I don’t know how invested in it you were (you never wrote stories yourself, right?), but have you found yourself gaining a certain strange affection for fanfiction through this project?

I might as well admit, I did write and upload a couple when I was in middle school, I think about Aeon Flux and Batman Beyond? They got removed though when they switched away from script formatting, which I’m sort of bummed about cause I would’ve totally posted them now. I had really atrocious grammar back then and I know the Batman one was especially awful. Even though I have no interest in heavily reading fanfic or writing it now, I can admit I do get some sort of affection from these. It’s a much more generally innocent time where younger people are conversing about what they enjoy. I don’t use the account to be negative about fanfic, but mostly to give a glimpse into a world that’s always there, and will probably go on forever long after I’m dead.

Chris Randle is a writer from Toronto who has written for The Globe and Mail, The National Post, The Comics Journal, Social Text, the Village Voice and the Awl. Along with Carl Wilson and Margaux Williamson, he is one-third of the group blog Back to the World.