Everyone knows that in fanfiction, there are no rules. Do you think Agents Mulder and Scully of "The X-Files" would have a fun time romping around Narnia? There's a story for that. Frustrated in high school English class because the looming eyes of T.J. Eckleburg in "The Great Gatsby" never found love? You can learn all about the billboard's torrid affair with the U.S.S. Enterprise of "Star Trek," if you want -- and believe it or not, both of those stories were written by the same person as part of an erotic fanfiction contest.
Yup. You read that right. An erotic fanfiction contest.
Just such an event took place last night (October 6) as part of New York Comic Con's Super Week, when writers competed for the title of the raunchiest, most hilarious fic writer in a competition known as Shipwreck. The event was first started in the summer of 2013 by Amy Stephenson and Casey Childers, who jokingly refer to their original vision for the show as "Creepy Uncle Masterpiece Theater." Once a month they pack the back of the Booksmith, an independent bookstore in San Francisco, but with the help of their friends at the "Welcome To Night Vale" podcast they were able to bring the event to New York for the first time last year.
Here's how it works: Shipwreck takes six "characters" (they use that term loosely because occasionally the characters are inanimate objects) from a beloved book -- sometimes a literary classic like "Moby Dick," sometimes a fan favorite like "Twilight" -- and hands them off to a crew of writers who are basically allowed to do anything they want from there. Then all the writers must sit on stage and squirm uncomfortably as their stories are read aloud, blind, by an impartial narrator. Without knowing who wrote which story, the audience marks down their top three fics of the night on ballots handily provided by the Shipwreck staff, and the one with the most votes wins. The prize? Equal amounts of pride and shame, and the opportunity to defend their title next month.
When they come to New York City, things get especially bonkers. There's a musical interlude by nerdy a cappella group Choirfly (Full disclosure: one of the members of Choirfly, Susana Polo, is a friend and former co-worker of mine) as the Shipwreck crew tallies votes offstage, and the narrator is none other than Cecil Baldin of "Welcome To Night Vale" fame, who lends his sonorous voice and amazing comedic timing to all kinds of very perverted and strange situations. Like this, for example:
As you can gather, last night's theme was the fantasy classic "Lord Of The Rings," and it certainly did not disappoint. Second place went to a story-- written by the very same author of that Eckleburg/Enterprise fic I mentioned earlier -- in which Galadriel gets hot and hairy with Gimli the dwarf, only to realize that he's really thinking about sleeping with Legolas (they were totally the OTP of the night, because their sexual encounter with one another came in third). And the first place winner was a fic about Tom Bombadil seducing the hobbits, written entirely in rhyming verse.
But what makes a winning erotic fanfic in the first place? "It can't just be dick jokes," Shipwreck co-founder Casey Childers told MTV News. "It has to talk to the work, it has to be clever about the way it talks to the work. It can wrap in inside jokes that are big enough that people can get in on it -- although politically current jokes don't work. People are kind of meme saturated." Some examples the two co-creators (Childers and Amy Stephenson) gave to us: a recent story based on the hat from "The Catcher In The Rye" which the writer framed in the form of Amazon reviews, and a "Gone With The Wind" piece that reimagined Scarlet O'Hara's iconic love interest as "T-Rex Butler."
Surprisingly, when romance writers are added to the ticket they don't usually win -- Stephenson figures that their pieces are a little bit too real for Shipwreck audiences. But you know who does consistently win? Children's book authors. "Children's writers do really well at this, because there's something about that random association and silliness that they understand fundamentally," Stephenson admitted. "They're used to thinking about things from childrens' eyes."
And if you're watching live, be sure to look out for whoever's laughing the most on stage at any given moment-- they might be the one who wrote the fic you're all currently being scandalized by. "Everyone knows when their own jokes are coming, so they're laughing before the joke lands," she revealed.
But if you're not in San Francisco or New York, you can still observe the NSFW madness from afar. Shipwreck also has a regular podcast where they post recordings of their live show, as well as a Tumblr where you can read previous works -- and last night they just announced they'll be publishing a book sometime next year. Let's hope T.J. Eckleburg makes the cut. He deserves it.