If you didn’t grow up in the 90’s, you probably weren’t part of the internet fan-fiction boom of that decade. It became common practice for authors to take the worst fanfics on the ‘net and lampoon them in the style of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (which now exists as Rifftrax and Cinematic Titanic), using a cast of original characters to make fun of the terrible stories that infested the internet back then. They still infest it today, but “fanfic MST’s” (as they used to be called) have been outlawed by fan-fiction communities for years, forcing MST authors to huddle together in secret internet clubhouses and exchange their riffs like pornography. Most of these clubhouses have long since croaked, but I continue to write MST’s as a form of criticism in an age where criticism is blasphemy, laziness is rewarded, and mediocrity is celebrated as genius.
The Fan-Friction webseries is my collective effort to lampoon terrible fan-fiction (and sometimes creepypasta) in a fun way. Each installment is a tongue-in-cheek Hanna-Barbera-esque adventure story, in which the heroes are forced to suffer through bad fan-fiction as part of the plot: fanfics are used for brainwashing, encrypting messages, and at least once as a WMD. The adventure segment of each episode always bookends the fanfic riff, which is the highlight of each story. All of the fanfics (and creepypastas) are real ones surgically removed from the toxic colon of the internet: some are relatively recent, others are notoriously ancient and evil, but all suffer from incoherence, laziness, broken logic, plot holes, immaturity, absurdity, boring narrative, fedora-wearing pretension, insufferable Mary-Sues, and other things that often got them ten-star ratings on Fanfiction-dot-net.
During the adventure segment, scene changes are always indicated by line breaks like the one above; the riff-of-the-day is preceded by an extra-long line break.
During the riff segment, the reader is presented with the featured fanfic or creepypasta, sometimes in its entirety, in whatever format it appeared on the internet–
>APPLEBETTY: –while the heroes of the adventure segment periodically interject, with their names in bold, to make fun of the passage they just read.
>APPLEBETTY: (Rod Serling) Sometimes the riffers will impersonate specific characters in the fanfic as part of the joke, indicated by the name in parentheses.
This format was adopted by 90’s fanfic riffers to emulate Mystery Science Theater in “transcript” form (and to confuse the hell out of anyone who works in broadcasting).
The first four episodes in this book were written about fifteen years ago. They have been considerably edited and refined since their original incarnations, but since the adventure segments were written as more of an afterthought back then, they still don’t hold up quite so well (they have their moments anyway). Well, if the adventure is half-assed, there’s no point in it being there; and reading a riff on its own is pointless and boring; so starting with “Pasta Salad” — the first episode of the series revival, nearly fifteen years after its inception — I began treating the adventure segments as proper short stories, making each episode more personalized, more nuanced, and more unique; and making the reader less likely to skip straight to the gags.
Internet fiction riffs are still being written today, but they’re arguably even more unreadable than the terrible fiction they lampoon. I can say with utter confidence that Fan-Friction is as good as fanfic riffing gets, on the internet or elsewhere. I know this because, unlike other fanfic riffs, Fan-Friction actually makes people laugh.
Note: This brief essay thing was added to the 4th Edition of Arnold Odyssey: Fan-Friction Series 1.