Monday, July 30, 2012

Fanfic Retrospective – Fate of the Children

Fate of the Children wasn’t an early fic for us (Episode 38, so it’s not like we’re green at this point) but was one of those “big deals”. It helped cement our reputation with Evangelion Mary Sue fic, as well as presenting us with a whole mess of situations that would keep reoccurring. Besides, that, there’s no two words about it: FotC was just plain bad. It had an unbearable, over-powered, omnipotent, always-right Mary Sue, one who was never once called on their BS by the others around them. It replaced a canon character with a horrible and inane OC just so that the Sue could sleep with another character. And not just did it crap all over Evangelion’s canon, themes and concepts, but it marginalized the canon to the degree of making them redundant, save for serving as shallow love interests.

It’s also a fic that will not only never see a Rebuild, but I do actually regret MSTing. This might sound odd, but there are a number of genuinely good reasons for this.

Fate of the Trollfic
Looking back with hindsight, it becomes obvious that FotC was Trollfic. The signs were there, but at the time it wasn’t a conclusion that you could immediately reach. After all, this was the wild and wooly early days of the Interwebs where such behavioral patterns weren’t as well known. Back then, writing a gushing pile of self-insert crap simply to make fun of others, but to do such in a non-obvious way (rather then kick-you-in-the-face parody) wasn’t exactly common. And it’s clear that the author of FotC (and we’ll have more on that later) had put a lot of time and effort into their creation. But yet, the signs were there.

First up, the one that is likely not known. FotC was found in an anonymous internet archive, one that’s long gone (and no, for the life of me, I can’t think where that was either.) The fic (and the rest of the archive) was pulled not too long after we ‘discovered’ it and well before the MSTing went live. Today, there’s scant little evidence of the fic even existing save for references to our version. Not good signs.

The second is the author, or more to the point, the lack thereof. On the original archive, there was no credit save for a pen-name. The author had no e-mail address, no contact, no homepage, no guestbook to deface or anything else. Combined with the fic’s sudden disappearance, one is left with the idea that this author didn’t want to be found (Jokes about the quality of the fic aside), especially odd given the oft attention-whorish behavioir seen in Mary Su fic writers, and doubly so when the authour’s notes in the fic proper are full of gushing pride for their creation.

And then we get to the fic itself. In their cliff notes, the writer gushes all over Hellstorm Evangelion, which right there and then should be a red light. Looking back at it, Hellstorm is oft seen as a doofy, inadvertently crazy awesome story written by a manic-depressive kid as a way of coping. At the time, however, it was seen as canon defilement writ large and certainly without any redeeming features. The idea that someone would like this fic seems preposterous, but yet it’s right there, kicking you in the proverbial teeth.

There’s lots of little things in there as well that, while seemingly minor, do add up when combined with the above observations. The degree of out of character, while not as broad as some fics (couch couch DELTA Invasion cough) is so oddly specific in places as to be suspect, as if the author was deliberately hunting and pecking elements to get a rise out of the reader.

Our titular Sue is particularly offensive in this case. Her Dragonball-esque “AT field powers” seem to have been deliberately drawing from other fanfics and their representation of such abilities (DELTA Invasion again comes to mind, but it’s far from the only guilty party here) to the point of ridiculousness. Her ability to magically solve the longstanding emotional issues of any female character through the application of hot girl-on-girl action reads less like an attempt at character reinterpretation and more of an attempt to be deliberately bad, especially when combined with her quickly building a miniature harem. Likewise, her treatment of the male characters seems to be an effort to enforce negative serotypes (“All boys are hateful and yucky!”) for the simple sake of causing trouble.

Oh, and the hamburgers. Can’t forget them.

Finally, there’s the inane Jo. Looking back at her, when combined with the evidence above, she does come off as a deliberate troll character. Her replacing Kaoru as the 17th Angel serves no purpose beyond giving Lisa another girl to sleep with and further marginalizing Shinji (icky poo stinky boy germs and all). For the author’s professed “love” of Hellstorm, the decision to take this character (and the “boys love” dynamic that came with it) out of the mix seems a little odd.

I admit that, yes, the evidence is shaky, but I can’t hide the fact that it’s there. I’m not the only one to have considered that, in the end, FotC was a trollfic aimed at the then-burgeoning Evangelion fanbase. And, by MSTing it, we gave it a higher profile then it deserved, which might have been the plan all along. However, even there’s an odd twist in the tale.

Trolling the Trollfic
Some time after our MSTing of FotC, we received fan-mail from someone claiming to be the author of said fic. Unlike the usual walls of “You are just haters, you don’t appreciate my brilliance, you’re just jealous of my awesome character and so forth” that usually constitutes feedback from authors, this time they were agreeing with us, which we found to be… odd, to say the least. (Especially in light of the fact that, frankly, I said some things in the FotC MSTing that I’m not proud of at all). They had their own comments about how much they thought the fic sucked and how our version had ‘improved’ it.

They also added that they now hated Hellstorm Evangelion.

As a way of apology for this, they presented us with the “Special Edition” of FotC, a version that, apparently, had not been released anywhere else on the interweb (and thus could be a sort of “Elmer Studios Exclusive”, for whatever that was worth). This version sought to redress the flaws of the original, presumably to improve it and tell a better story. Or at least, it did in theory.

The fact is, in the “Special Edition”, Lisa Foster goes from omnipotent to epic fail. Rather then attracting a schoolgirl harem, she instead manages to mortally offend and make lifelong enemies of Rei and Asuka. She messes up everything she does (in spite of still having her god-like AT field powers) and becomes almost redundant in her own fanfic. All she manages to do is bang the still strangely present (and now more redundant then ever) Inane Joe, and even then that becomes a turnaround. In the Special Edition, Jo kills Lisa, only to then be squished by Shinji and EVA-01.

On the surface, it manages to be, in many ways, worse then the original. It loses its appeal of “sheer badness” and replaces it with “just generally poor”. The grammar and spelling, already pretty damn bad, managed to get even worse in places, including a number of strangely amusing incidents where text had been changed with little checking. The best example is one reference to “The long-haired operator” had become “the Aoba operator”, but there are others.

However, looking back at it, I’m not even sure if the fic came from the same author. Their communications with us came from a hotmail account, which is not exactly the most reliable of sources (and was even less so back in 1999 then it is now), and we had no real proof of identity beyond their sharing a handle, their say so and their terrible typing. Since we had no contact details for the original fic, there was little reason to doubt their story and claims; after all, nobody would want to claim that they actually wrote that heap of crap, right?

But again, the evidence is scanty but does lead to certain conclusions. An anonymous author claiming to be an anonymous author combined a rework that turns into more anti-fic then anything else suggests that the “special edition” was created as a troll of the original… likely without realizing that the original was trollfic itself.

Or I could just be reading too much into this.

Either way, FotC and its “Special Edition” are unlikely to see rebuilds. They’re on the archives, preserved there for all time, and remain a part of Elmer Studios history and lore, but at the same time, what they represent has changed since then. Of course, if the original author of either (both?) editions is out there and they happen to read this, feel free to drop me a line and tell me how far off-base I am.


  1. That's an interesting position to come to (and to admit to too, I suppose). Having decided quite a while ago "we shouldn't 'MST' because we dislike something, but instead because we see ridiculousness and this makes it that much more entertaining" perhaps gives me an ambiguous "we don't _have_ to back away" perspective on the problem, but I do see your point. (I suppose it just might call into question the mood I looked at "Undocumented Features" with, anyway...) I do find myself thinking of a MSTing by Joseph Nebus, "On Beards and Evolution," where partway through Joel, Tom, and Crow started asking each other if they'd just been sent a big joke...

  2. I never knew about the mysterious circumstances around the fic. It still doesn't seem like an obvious trollfic. It wasn't that over-the-top, not as much as Hellstorm at least.

    I do think your treatment of Hellstorm and FotC was on the homophobic side. I don't like people treating homosexual pairings as being more perverted than heterosexual ones.