During the internet fanfiction boom of the 90’s, doing Mystery Science Theater versions of bad fanfics was a relatively popular thing: it wasn’t uncommon to visit a favorite fanfiction emporium and find “MSTs” as one of the genres. “Lemon” fics — AKA fanfic erotica — were the favorite targets, since they were almost always the worst of the worst, combining tasteless content, asinine plots, annoying characters, and incompetent rhetoric into a rancid, godawful package.
Lampooning bad fanfics was a fun humor-writing exercise — taking something truly terrible and making it funny — but it was hard to pull off. Sometimes you’d luck out and find an MST’er who was actually funny (Loden Taylor’s “Escher” series inspired me to do MST’s in the first place, and fellow riffer Karthesios became a longtime friend of mine), but the vast majority of fanfic MST’s were painfully unfunny… especially to the original authors. It wasn’t long before author complaints began to pour in, and fanfic sites all over the web began to forbid MSTs altogether in their site rules. As quickly as it’d proven popular, the art of MST’ing basically died off, reduced to small communities skulking in obscure corners of the internet.
So why the hell would I continue to do it? Because an MST’er is ultimately a critic: one who feels obligated to pick apart bad internet fiction in an era where “crap” is the standard for too many readers and authors. And because I wanna have a little fun and express myself while doing so.
My early efforts, called Mike’s Desk Theater, followed the typical fanfic MST structure: a framing device which introduced the riffers and established why they had to riff bad fanfiction; and the fanfic riff itself, which was the bulk of the episode. A few years later I tried doing fanfic MST’s again, but they were outlawed by this time and I didn’t have anyplace to upload them. This new run of MST’s was called Fan-Friction, and unlike Mike’s Desk Theater, it was funny rather than tiresome. Fan-Friction took a unique approach to the MST format by introducing the fanfic(s) in a different way each episode: one episode the fanfic is a method of brainwashing, the next a means of coding an important message. I only wrote four full episodes before retiring from the hobby again for a decade.
I recently returned to Fan-Friction while between serious projects, to remaster the old episodes and write new ones: new riffs bookended with newer, better framing devices. All of them are as amusing to new readers as they are offensive to the original authors. I hope Arnold and the gang bring you lots of laughs, if not a bit of nostalgia for the good ol’ days when publicly mocking terrible fanfics was acceptable behavior.