With more than 5.5 million articles, Wikipedia is an invaluable resource, whether you’re throwing a term paper together at the last minute, or seeing if there’s a good private school in your area with a magical-hat-based admissions department so you can downplay your lousy test scores. We explore some of Wikipedia’s oddities in our 5,533,678-week series, Wiki Wormhole.
This week’s entry: My Immortal
What it’s about: What some consider the worst fan fiction of all time. (Which, as anyone who’s read much fanfic can attest, is up against some stiff competition). Published in segments in 2006-2007 as Harry Potter fanfic, it focuses not on Harry, Hermione, Ron, or even any of the series’ many supporting characters, but introduces a teenage vampire, who tries to travel back in time so she can defeat Voldemort, but only after what Wikipedia charitably calls “incomprehensible narrative and constant digressions.”
Biggest controversy: No one’s sure who even wrote My Immortal. It was published under the name XXXbloodyrists666XXX, who eventually gave the “real” name Tara Gilesbie. However, in September 2017, established YA author Rose Christo claimed responsibility, suggesting the work is an elaborate satire. She claims she has provided “evidence of her authorship” to Macmillan Publishers, but the imprint found factual errors in a planned memoir by Christo, so we don’t know whether her claim to authorship is a hoax. Wikipedia doesn’t have any information on Gilesbie, and it’s unclear whether she’s come forward at some point or is in fact a real person.
Strangest fact: At one point, Gilesbie claimed someone else hacked into her account and wrote two chapters late in the book. (Regardless, she plowed ahead with the story, never excising or rewriting those chapters). But there’s nothing stranger about My Immortal than the storyline, which is referred to more than once as “exceedingly complicated.” It includes many familiar Potter characters, depicted in unfamiliar ways. For example, Harry is a vampire; Snape and Lupin are lovers; professors Trelawney and Sinistra (the occasionally mentioned astronomy professor) are combined into one person; Hagrid is a teenage student (with no explanation); and Tom Riddle, who would become Voldemort, was in a band with James Potter, Snape, Sirius Black, and Lucius Malfoy while at Hogwarts in the ’80s, even though in the books Riddle is a generation older than the other characters, who attended school in the ’70s (the elder Potter died in 1981).
Draco Malfoy (here a bisexual goth) also kills himself early in the story, but later appears alive and well as Voldemort’s prisoner, with no explanation. Dumbledore later goes goth, but is considered a poseur by the other characters. There’s also an inexplicable cameo by Marty McFly, complete with DeLorean (which, equally inexplicably, can transform into an iPod).
Thing we were happiest to learn: Not everyone hated it. Io9 described the story as a “masterpiece of weirdness,” Buzzfeed called it “oddly touching,” and the story has garnered a following of “so bad it’s good” fans not unlike the cult surrounding The Room. While some believe Christo’s claim that the story is a parody of bad fan-fiction, the prevailing view is that too much care was poured into the story for it to be anything but sincere.
Thing we were unhappiest to learn: Spelling is a subject clearly not taught at the Hogwarts depicted in My Immortal. The main character is 17-year-old vampire Ebony Dark’ness Dementia Raven Way, but her first name also appears as Enoby, Evony, and Egogy. Professor McGonagall is often called McGoogle, or McGoggles; Snape is sometimes Snap or Snope; Lupin is sometimes Loopin; Young Tom Riddle sometimes refers to himself as “Satan” but also occasionally as “Stan.” As with most aspects of the story, it’s hard to tell if the cavalier disregard for consistent spelling is legitimate bad writing, or a satirical attack on the perceived quality of other fan fiction.
Best link to elsewhere on Wikipedia: Before there was an internet, The Eye Of Argon held the title of worst fantasy book, and was passed around in analog fan circles as a “so bad it’s good” masterpiece. Written in 1970 by 16-year-old Jim Theis, the novella tells the heroic tale of a barbarian named Grignr, and was good enough to be published by the Ozark SF Society’s journal. Writers Tom Scortia and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro got ahold of a copy and “took turns reading it to each other until we could stand no more.” It spread throughout sci-fi fandom and as group readings “started to become a hideous entertainment.” The text of the story is available online, but leaves out some of the original’s charm, mainly the typesetting (mimeographed, poorly) and illustrations, which “were a match for the text.”
Further down the Wormhole: This concludes our trip down the Wormhole for 2017. We’re taking a break for the holidays, but will be back in the new year to start a new chain. We would normally link this article to another one like we do every week, but we’re taking the rare opportunity to break the chain so we can start anew with something even rarer: a Wikipedia article that has no links to it. We’ll start 2018 with a look at Deleted Articles With Freaky Titles.