The 10 best tales of online drama from 10 years of Fandom_Wank
Fandom Wank may be languishing away in an unappreciated corner of fandom the days, away from a new generation of Tumblr-centric fans, but the Internet’s premier fandom gossip site has given us a decade of fun, laughs, and for some fans, moments of immortalized embarrassment.
It's also given us a valuable repository of fandom in-jokes, cultural memes, and ways of understanding our own bizarre Internet communities.
On Friday, we brought you a look at the cultural and social importance of FW through the years. Today, we'll bring you our very favorite highlights from the last 10 years of fans (and sometimes creators) behaving badly.
Why should you care about fans from 10 years ago? Firstly, because some of them are still around and causing trouble. And secondly, because this level of bad behavior transcends fandom and becomes sheer universal WTFery—it’s fun for the whole Internet!
No one does drama on the Internet better than fans. And no fan proves this better than our #1.
1) MsScribe: The Nanny Did It
Illustration via dop12/deviantART
MsScribe, a former Harry Potter fan and LiveJournal user, is an unabashed fandom legend. Encyclopedia Dramatica considers her "one of the greatest trolls in the history of the internets." She's been called a real-life Mary Sue—star of her own fanfic. Only the fanfiction was reality, and the bit players in her story were well-known members of Harry Potter fandom.
To understand why the long, convoluted, and dense story of Ms Scribe captivated thousands of people who read it when it turned up on exposé journal Bad Penny in 2006, you have to understand five very important things about the early days of the Harry Potter fandom:
The fandom, in the tumultuous time frame between roughly 2000 and 2004, was a smaller, more insular place where everyone knew each other, and rivalries—especially among rival fan sites and communities—ran long and deep.
Many fans had a deep and bizarre amount of reverence for a group of fans who made up what was known in the fandom as the "Inner Circle," an imagined hierarchy of fandom celebrity which could have been a secret papist cabal for all the mystery and cult worship surrounding it—not to mention all the things people would do to get into it.
The early days of Harry Potter fandom had been full of non-stop drama, including a period of some months where homophobic, racist trolls using fake LiveJournal accounts harassed numerous members of fandom, prominently members of the Inner Circle and their friends. These "nutty Christians" were widely thought to be the work of bitter members of a defunct fan website that no one had ever liked anyway. (At least no one worth knowing.)
But that was years ago, and everyone had moved on.
- Or so they thought.
What made the MsScribe story extraordinary was not just that it steadily dropped the bombshell that everything HP fans thought they knew about what went down in 2003 was a lie. It wasn't just the revelation that a well-liked and respected member of the community had apparently spent years cultivating an extended and successful attempt at trolling the entire fandom.
Nor was it that in the process she allegedly managed to blame her own trolling on an entire fan website, singlehandedly causing its ridicule, disgrace, and eventual complete shutdown.
Nor was it even that the writers of the exposé had spent years meticulously investigating, tracking, and compiling IP evidence to make their case, then spent three more years patiently waiting to reveal their evidence.
It was that none of this should have been news at all.
In 2003, when MsScribe accused the fanfiction archive Gryffindor Tower of being behind the spate of trolls, the archive members triumphantly countered with evidence proving that she had orchestrated the months and months of fan harassment.
But in 2003, starstruck and held under the sway of the faultless Inner Circle, many of whom hated Gryffindor Tower, no one in the Harry Potter fandom ad wanted to listen. Instead, fans met the collected evidence of the website moderators with even more ridicule, and the entire archive community was laughed down by MsScribe's larger and louder social circle.
The MsScribe saga isn't just a story about one woman. It's a story about an entire Internet community trapped in a cult of belief so intense that one woman was able to manipulate its entire social structure to benefit herself. In the tale the Bad Penny writeup unfolds, MsScribe's trolling wasn't mindless; it was designed to highlight how fundamentally bizarre the social dynamics of early Harry Potter fandom were, and that just from a few calculated interactions with certain fans, anyone could rise through the ranks to become a BNF, or Big Name Fan.
MsScribe was a woman many fans had met and spent time with. In real life she is a successful entrepreneur with a family and a history of minor political involvement. In 2006, the Harry Potter series was winding down, fans had moved on, and the haze of groupthink had finally lifted—but many fans were still friends with MsScribe.
Bad Penny's account, posted in serial form, had readers clamoring for more like a mob of Dickensian orphans, as each new update revealed shocker after shocker: Stories of MsScribe creating fake identities, writing accounts of her real life that held a suspicious amount of smug liberal appeal, all while simultaneously trolling her friends with racial epithets and incendiary homophobia. And, of course, the ultimate, incidental, destruction of Gryffindor Tower. The utter shock waves that each of these subsequent revelations sent throughout the Harry Potter community brought on a spate of collective self-reflection that few fandoms since have had occasion to undertake.
As for MsScribe? After a period of silence, she popped up the following year and posted a long denial, blaming the entire thing on her nanny.
That's what we call adventures in babysitting.
Photo via Open Library
Andrew Blake is an accused scam artist and alleged cult-leader who's been unleashing his intense, often expensive spiritual guidance on unsuspecting fans for over a decade.
Andrew Blake was born Amy Player. In the heyday of Lord of the Rings fandom, this charismatic fan was the center of a tiny group of friends who lived together as a dysfunctional mini-cult formed around Blake's belief that he could contact and connect with spirits from alternate realities. He was a multiple, or plural--someone who believes they can channel alternate fictional personas, a bit like the practice of recalling past lives.
Sometimes the personas were fictional, like the female alter-ego known as "Victoria Bitter." Sometimes the personas were the imagined alter-egos of real people, such as "Jordan Wood," supposedly an alter-ego of the actual Hollywood actor Elijah Wood. As Jordan Wood, Blake claimed to be able to speak the language of Hobbits and communicate with characters from J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth, which supposedly existed in an alternate dimension. Or so he compelled his rapt circle of friends and admirers to believe.
"Jordan Wood" was Blake's primary identity when he decided to organize a fan convention and tell everyone that Viggo Mortensen and Elijah Wood would be attending to raise money for charity. In the disaster that followed, Blake allegedly scammed his fellow fans out of thousands of dollars, and duped three Lord of the Rings actors into coming to California for a convention that never happened, where they wound up having to awkwardly couch-crash as "Jordan"'s friends realized that he'd defrauded them. An even greater shock came when online fans realized that "Jordan" and "Victoria" were the same person: Victoria had supposedly committed suicide on the fan forum months before.
One of the fraud victims wrote a hilarious and jaw-droppingly bizarre account of her experiences: When a Fan Hits the Shit.
Blake (as Amy Player) was subsequently fined for fraud in Oregon, but returned to fandom a few years later as Andrew Blake, the LiveJournal user "thanfiction." Thanfiction grew—what else?—-a devoted cult of fan followers around his popular fanfic Dumbledore's Army and the Year of Darkness. He held a fan meetup for himself, and claimed various fictional identities, all while allegedly suffering from a strangely non-terminal terminal illness.
All of this is fun and games—like the part where he claimed to have lost "a son" in a fierce custody battle who turned out to be a bird—but it gets more disturbing when you learn that among the members of his early cultish household was a young teenage girl living unsupervised with Blake with the blessing of her blissfully ignorant parents. And in 2011, things took a horrific turn when Blake was involved in events leading up to a double murder-suicide, when the husband of a fan he had been rooming with shot and killed his wife and a fellow roommate before turning the gun on himself. Blake was shot in the ankle, and survived by hiding in the closet.
Last week, Blake once again made waves in fandom by arriving on Tumblr, allegedly claiming to be "a vessel" for the Supernatural character Castiel—exactly as he did ten years ago when he channeled the spirits of Elijah Wood, Orlando Bloom, and other Lord of the Rings actors and characters.
The more things change.
3) "His 'wife?' A horse."
Photo via lilia73/deviantART
It's a good day on the Internet when you avoid anyone who takes “animals are people too” a little too far, but today is not that day. Fortunately, Fandom Wank offshoot otf_wank ("Other than Fandom") is here to hand you the brain bleach.
Possibly because he didn't want to experience the reaction that he subsequently received, LiveJournal user darkhorseman was euphemistic when he posted to the Polyamory community looking for advice: He wanted multiple partners but wanted all his partners all to remain faithful to him. He described himself as having, er, a 'stallion mentality,' but took care to assure readers that his wife was cool with it:
I have what a friend calls “The stallion mentality” I am poly but I prefer my partners not to be. This is not a problem with my wife as she is not poly and does not mind that I am. She has no interest in anyone else but me.
The polyamorous members of the community were positive in their responses until one of them put two and two together, and realized the awful truth: darkhorseman was not just a well-meaning Furry; he was an actual zoophile, and his "wife" was an abused mare.
Darkhorseman responded that he and his “wife” were "soulmates," and his human companion showed up to defend his lifestyle choices, prompting a debate we're very glad we can no longer read about whether animals can give consent.
Amid the trauma, reader katienichol dug up this gem, a quote from darkhorseman on his own journal about his “wife”:
There is a chance right now that she may be pregnant. We arnt sure yet so I know this is going to change alot of things if she is but I am certianly happy.
...which prompted her classic response:
o_O Maybe she's not as happy with monogamy after all? Because dude, I'm pretty sure it ain't yours.
Andrew Blake's habit of channeling alternate personalities wasn't exactly unheard of in the world of fandom. Some people view this practice as an extended kind of roleplay; others see it as a lifestyle that deserves basic respect, understanding, and consideration.
Fandom Wank, of course, showed none of the above when it stumbled across the Snapewives; but to be fair, the Snapewives don't seem to fit into an identifiable category of behavior. Were they multiples? Roleplayers? A really ambitious writer's circle?
Or were they just a collective of well-meaning but deluded women who seemed to believe themselves to be married to Hogwarts Professor Severus Snape?
If so, they certainly wouldn't be the first. Medieval women like Hildegaard Von Bingen and St. Theresa were visited by spiritual ecstasies from the Lord; female spiritualists in the 19th century like Emma Hardinge Britten spoke of communing with spirit mediums. Throughout the world, stories of religious leaders who "fall in love" with their chosen deity abound.
The Snapewives certainly revered their beloved fictional Harry Potter character enough to form a religious practice--one of them, a fan named Lady Darkness, even wrote him her wedding vows, under the title "My Unbreakable Vow to Severus Snape."
Before the Snapewives saga was over, she would tearfully break up with Severus, recognizing that her love for him was keeping her away from caring for her kids, and acknowledging that "he was right" and she was not the woman for him. But not before Fandom Wank had a field day, combing through their blogs and finding endless examples of their views on Severus Snape ("do not call him just Snape, he hates that").
The denizens of Fandom Wank discussed whether they were stirring an innocent nest of hornets with this one, since the Snapewives weren't exactly hurting anyone. And in the end, Lady Darkness herself might have had the last word: "It isn't forbidden to dream and love. And just because those morons don't know how to, doesn't mean we don't."
Just so you don't dream and love during your next magical Potions class.
Photo via ladylestat88.deviantART
The best part about Anne Rice wank is that when it happens, you know it's going to be epic. Like the time the Interview with the Vampire author explained to her fans in 2003 that she had evolved beyond the need for an editor. Or the time she called the vampires in Twilight "ridiculous." But best of all is her turn in the annals of Authors Behaving Badly, when she showed up on Amazon in 2004 to berate disappointed reviewers of her latest book.
[T]he writing you are reading is quite deliberate, that it is informed and it is conscious, as well as being the result of intuition. It is the result of all that I am—my education, my mystic sensibilities, and the student in me.
Fandom Wank, however, cared little for her mystic sensibilities, and much more for the logical fallacies behind her outrage—especially when she tossed up the gem that one reader was "interrogating this text from the wrong perspective."
In a way, poor Anne Rice's pain served as the scapegoat for the resentment of every fan who's ever had to listen to a controlling creator tell them how wrong they were. Fans, who know full well that the author is dead, have little patience for whatever ideas about authorial intent might belong to the author's zombiefied corpse.
But they do respond well to humor. "Interrogating the text from the wrong perspective" has proved such a handily amusing, misguided catchphrase that members of fandom still use it casually today--usually referring to entitled storytellers who think they know best how an audience should respond to what they have created.
Photo via The Wayback Machine / Fandom Wank Wiki
You had to be there for 2004's CrystalWank, the largest wank in FW history and the first one for which the owners of Journalfen, the domain where FW is housed, manually lifted the comment restriction for the community so that the party could continue. It was the largest wank in FW history--and it was comprised almost solely of bad photoshop art.
The wank involved a Lord of the Rings artist named Crystal who was attempting to sell her fanart at conventions. The problem? The "art" was just clumsy Photoshop work of actor Dominic Monaghan, ranging from decent tries to the downright sloppy. In attempts to play around with their own "fanart," FW denizens spawned what is perhaps the community's most beloved phrase, in response to a guest appearance by Crystal herself, who showed up and offered "proof" that the real Dominic Monaghan was a good friend.
Whoever was lying on her bed, it was obviously not Monaghan, whose "hed" had been "pastede" on. (Yay!)
CrystalWank racked up a staggering 10,000 comments and is still spoken of fondly today.
Illustration via littlexb/deviantART
The details of this wank are lost to time, but the catchphrase remains. Originally posted to old-school gossip site Fametracker, this story would instantly qualify for Copypasta Hall of Fame. Or at least it would if Fandom Wank ran the world:
I dated a man who was much older than me when I was 20. he has a very fit body and was 45..think close to george cloony's age and he told me that if I went out w/ him, I could see what the nicer restaurants were like and how to meet men who had culture. (live in small town in sc..tired of men that chew tobacco)
he had traveled the world, owned many businesses, drove a porche, had a yacht, mansion, he was perfect
of course many other females wanted to date him and he decided we should be friends. and now he dead from coke.
Sometimes the simplest wanks are the ones that keep on giving.
8) Usagi Kou
Photo via kou-usagi/deviantART
Hell hath no fury like a cosplayer, er, copied. Or so the world learned when Fandom Wank discovered Sailor Moon cosplayer and fantasy-struck fangirl Usagi Kou. The many adventures of Usagi Kou included flipping out at the general existence of other Sailor Moon cosplayers, refusal to pay rent, forcing her boyfriend to buy back the engagement ring her ex-fiancee had returned, telling a transgender friend they were a "shell" of the body they were born with, and reportedly urging a rape victim to commit suicide.
But the real reason Usagi Kou makes our Top 10 is that she and her on-again, off-again band of followers illustrate perfectly one of Fandom Wank's eternal truths--otherwise known as Snacky's Law, a corollary of Godwin's Law of the Internet.
Snacky's Law, as created by Fandom Wank moderator Snacky, in Fandom Wank offshoot jurisimprudence:
Whenever two (or more) groups of people are arguing, anywhere on the Web (usenet, mailing lists, message boards, blogs, etc.), inevitably, someone on one side of the argument (regardless of age or gender) will compare the group on the other side to "those bitchy girls who made everyone's life hell in high school."
The Usagi Kou wank won Snacky's Law in this thread, but it's really Usagi Kou herself who embodied the principle.
Illustration by thiscrispykat/deviantART
This is frankly the most boring snorefest of a wank ever to spawn a cultural saying that has spanned decades. Once upon a time, a fan named bohemianfaerie wanted to share her "thoughts on yaoi" with us--and in the process she sparked a question fans are still asking to this day.
Ideally, you should never ask someone's thoughts on yaoi if you actually want to know the answer; but this hasn't stopped the use of the phrase from becoming less ironic and more sincere over time.
This is probably because in a world bursting at the seams with slash fangirls, everyone wants to tell you their thoughts on yaoi.
Illustration via shadesdarkeyes/Photobucket
When the bestselling author of the beloved romantic fantasy series Outlander calls all of fandom a bunch of rapists, you can pretty much scratch off your fanfic bingo card and go home. We would have put this endlessly hilarious wank higher on our list, except that it hasn't generated nearly as many famous quotes as the rest--which is a shame, what with great passages like this one:
You can’t break into somebody’s house, even if you don’t mean to steal anything. You can’t camp in someone’s backyard without permission, even if you aren’t raising a marijuana crop back there. And you can’t use someone’s copyrighted characters for your own purposes, no matter what those purposes are. Really. I’m not making it up; this is International Copyright Law.
It seems Ms. Gabaldon doesn't believe in the existence of Fair Use, which is odd since it's how she was able to write professional fanfiction tie-ins for Disney, and how she was able to base her own character off of a character from Doctor Who. But she's more imaginative when it comes to analogies: over the several days in which she ranted magnificently at the thousands of incensed fans who turned out in response, including Cory Doctorow, she compared fanfiction writers to trespassers, husband stealers, junkies looking for their next fix, and thieves. Oh, and then someone found the time she stated that fanfic was "revolting... Like someone selling your children into white slavery."
Fanfiction--it's like forcing someone into prostitution, in a way!
Our favorite response to all of this hubbub is still this one:
Doing it for money is better than doing it for love? That's not what they taught us in sex ed!
Full Disclosure: The writer has a longstanding association with Fandom Wank, and is closely connected to the events of the MsScribe story, in which she is briefly mentioned.
Photo via lilia73/deviantART
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