It had been a long battle for survival, but he managed to stop the imbeciles from defeating him for real.
Thus begins the longest work of fiction ever written.
Nope, it’s not Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time).
It’s The Subspace Emissary’s Worlds Conquest, and it’s a Super Smash Bros. WIP (work-in-progress) on fanfiction.net. As of July, the fic is 3,548,615 words long. That’s three times longer than Proust, and six times longer than War and Peace.
You might say that AuraChannelerChris, the author of Subspace Emissary, has a tendency to wax verbose. Their FF.net author profile alone is ten thousand words long. There’s even a 60,000 word prequel, itself longer than some novels, that brings the current word-count above 3.6 million. It also has 2,200 reviews (an average of one review every 1,700 words), and its own TV Tropes page.
The fic, which first began updating in 2008, is something of a meandering mess. Here’s what we get when our hero is introduced:
Hello, I’m Chris. I’m a 16 year-old teen. You’re getting this so far, right? Okay, I’m just making sure. I’m a 16 year-old. I have short black hair, and you could say that I look Hispanic due to the color of my skin. Truth is, I AM Hispanic, but yet I live in the U.S., specifically Los Angeles, California, in a house where I rule by my lonesome due to some…rather unfortunate decisions I’ve done in the past…
…Well, not exactly alone…
As for the plot, it’s equally convoluted, involving a real-life Pokémon species called a Lucario whom Chris has adopted. Together, they play Super Smash Bros. Brawl and realize that they’ve opened a portal to the Subspace Army, an advancing horde of would-be world-conquerors who must be defeated using the help of the Smash Bros. catalogue of good guys.
After The Subspace Emissary, the next contender for the prize of longest fictional work may be a mid-2000’s Teen Titans fanfic by a writer who’s now a My Little Pony superfan. The fic is “These Black Eyes,” by Post—reposted in 2009 after being deleted, “These Black Eyes” (TBE) had a small but devoted fandom following. The last part of TBE is sadly unfinished, but if it were extant, it would put this behemoth at more than 3 million words long, perhaps surpassing “Subspace Emissary” as the word-count champ.
By comparison, Proust’s famously dense novel about the French aristocracy is only 1.2 million words long. And where Proust opens In Search of Lost Time (or Remembrance of Things Past) with a long and philosophical missive on sleep, both AuraChannelChris and Post open their fics with thrilling action sequences.
They also both feature original male characters as the protagonists who carry us into the fictional world as outside observers along with them. This is a classic Gary Stu trope, so familiar that Post, the author of These Black Eyes, mocked their own writing for utilizing it when he reuploaded the fanfic in a fit of nostalgia.
Why was it Super Smash Bros. and Teen Titans, of all things, that inspired such epicness? For starters, everyone loves a superhero, and Teen Titans has five at once, while the unconventional heroes of the Nintendo Mario franchise and Pokémon are no less beloved, if a little quirkier. Both fandoms are animated, and both are part of popular franchises. The anime-influenced Teen Titans had lots of quips and witticisms from its crime-fighting quintet, and plenty of action sequences to boot, while Smash Bros. is an action game from start to finish—more than enough excitement to keep a teenage boy busy as he indulged in his daydreams of having superpowers and hanging out with cool heroic teammates.
Besides, who doesn’t want a 6-foot-tall Pokémon to accompany them on their action adventures?
While the third and final arc of These Black Eyes will never be reposted because its own author thinks it’s terrible, Subspace Emissary is still going strong. The 208th chapter, posted earlier this month, sees characters monologuing their way through fights in an effort to win the game.
But to judge from the reviews of the fic—many of which are variants on, “holy crap, this is the longest work of fiction ever written”—AuraChannelerChris has won already.
Illustration by yellowhima/deviantART