Read this MSTing: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, and Part 9.
Fanfic: Crystal (who narrates in the first person) and Carolyn (more or less the sidekick) are two fairly ordinary Lord of the Rings fans up until the moment when, during their thousandth viewing of "Fellowship of the Ring," a power surge kicks the elf lord Legolas out of Crystal's television into her living room. Of course, they're fairly ordinary fans after that moment, too. It's Legolas who has to do most of the adjustment to a lazy, hazy summer world (at least, nobody goes to school or to work or anything) where the most pressing problem is not looking like a blithering idiot.
This, mind you, turns out to be even more difficult than saving Middle-Earth from evil hordes. Legolas is by turn horrified by small dogs and made hyperactive by heavily sugared coffee. In between these episodes, he gets to tell Crystal that she has the best glare he's ever seen, comfort her when a tree crashes through the roof, and appreciate the number of songs she sings. Carolyn sort of makes do on the fringes.
After finally exhausting everything Crystal can think of for herself, Legolas, and Carolyn to do with a jaunt on horseback (in which Crystal generously gives herself the fastest horse and Legolas one that only understands fractured Spanish) and a visit to the beach, more friends are brought in to take up space. Reinforced, the group heads off to Vancouver for another round of diversions all pleasantly fine taken one at a time but which somehow add up to something genuinely disturbing in context. Then, Crystal gets to sing again.
Crystal lays careful plans to take Legolas to the slightly oddly named amusement part "Playland." Even with that noble goal only days away, though, she still finds the time to teach Legolas to ride a bicycle by driving him around on the back of her motorcycle. For all his training, he manages to wipe out on a mountain bike trail, but this does give Crystal the chance to disinfect and bandage his minor wounds.
At long last, Crystal and company make the journey to Playland. When hyperactively describing the trip and the first rides palls, Crystal sets out to exhaustively plan the rest of the day's fun, giving every single show time at Playland in the process. With that taken care of, it's on to more rides described more vaguely now and an encounter with an old friend, which manages to include mentioning how stupendous Crystal was even back in the seventh grade. The semblance of suspense is then simulated again as Legolas decides to stand even further back in the background by staying off a ride.
Legolas doesn't show up when Crystal's crew gets off the ride, and her friends are swiftly dispersed to try and find him. It's Crystal who actually locates him, and she patronisingly chides him before magnanimously forgiving him. With that taken care of, she further messes with his mind by feeding him a foot-long hot dog and then explaining just what's gone into it. Two musical productions and their quoted lyrics fill out the visit to Playland, and Crystal follows it up by revealing she just happens to be telekinetic and telepathic. These powers are useful mostly for keeping juice stains off the sofa bed.
After some perfunctory displays of her psychic powers, Crystal brings all her friends over for a big feed. Before the meal, Legolas makes a triumphant return to importance by gluing his hands together, and afterwards it comes out that Jeffery, who Crystal thumbnails as a particularly immature compatriot of her little gang, is about to show up. Everyone panics until, in the crisis, it turns out Jeffery can easily be escaped. To celebrate, Crystal and company go out for sushi.
The authorial notes that have headed off most of the chapters expand briefly to a chapter in its own right, in which the author changes her pen name to something more pretentious and then promotes the sequel to her unfinished story, which will have Legolas show up in Mexico, this time (we're told at last) unable to return home. With that promise, it's back to the action already in progress as Crystal and company set up for a church youth group all-nighter and explain one of their elaborate injokes. At the all-nighter itself, Crystal nearly cleans up in the icebreaker games but for the interference of Lori, who we're helpfully informed "is a composite character." Be that as it may, Lori is deftly contrasted against the young girl Katrina, friend of Crystal's unhereforto introduced little sister, who's content with Legolas's autograph. When Lori is denied Legolas's company by Crystal, she repeatedly punches our pacifist heroine in the face until Legolas shoves her around to stop her.
The Lori subplot wrapped up with authority brought in to solve the matter, Crystal shrugs off her injuries and goes to a worship service. Many song lyrics are transcribed, and then it's off to the pool. Intriguingly enough, a character finally enters who's aware of the potential of Legolas as a sex symbol, but Katherine's example is laughed off and the group prepares for a rousing game of capture the flag. An attempt to use Legolas's superhuman abilities to unfair advantage in the game comes to nothing when Crystal does everything by herself to win the first point (if only that.) Yet another service follows, with yet more song lyrics, and then, finally, Crystal arranges a jam session. With thunderous applause from the crowd, the story just kind of stops.
Host Segments: Prologue: Inspired by the popular television show, Crow and Tom try their hands at "Trading Spaces," with Mike as their carpenter. They wind up trading a little too well.
Segment One: As Mike attempts to sort things out, Pearl calls up, having found "The One Fic to Rule Them All!" Bobo and Observer provide mostly appropriate chanting.
Segment Two: The bots assemble a dimensional portal hoping to collect a Lord of the Rings character of their very own, and wind up with an Uruk-Hai warrior. Fortunately, Crow saves the day by replacing the tape driving the portal with "American Idol."
Part One Stinger: Expensive and rare or just described oddly?
Segment Three: Mike discovers the Satellite and its inhabitants to be strangely changed, and a quick glance at the television linked to the dimensional portal shows that Middle-Earth is starting to take on some new yet uncomfortably familiar attributes as well. He orders the bots to shut down the portal just before he (alas, briefly) sees a more pleasant change in the person of Gypsy.
Part Two Stinger: John questions the emergency.
Segment Four: Disturbed by the fanfic's lapping itself, Mike and the bots rush out of the theatre to find Gypsy using the dimensional portal to watch "E.T." The portal happens to be loaded with the special edition version, though, and it's only too ready to turn everything remotely offensive on the Satellite into walkie-talkies as well.
Segment Five: To reassure Tom that the Oompa-Loompas are not about to take over the Earth as one of Crystal's friends fears, Mike calls up Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory on the Hexfield Viewscreen. It turns out not all is well at the Factory, but the plans of the Oompa-Loompas to break Mike's will by singing a song about how bland he is take effect only slowly.
Part Three Stinger: The terrifying Oompa-Loompa-Vancouver connection.
Segment Six: The bots study brochures from "Destinygurl Community College," which teaches through difficult situations. The veterinary courses are finally too difficult for Mike.
Part Four Stinger: You too can own the spot!
Segment Seven: Legolas himself drops in to say hello. He's doing pretty well for himself, "working part-time and going to night school" as he shares a place with Gimli and Aragorn crashes on the couch. He also explains Crystal is his boss's daughter, and his behaviour during a babysitting job to make some money is just "to play with their minds a little."
Part Five Stinger: Legolas unchained!
Segment Eight: The Satellite crew performs "Fangirl Queen," a tribute to Crystal's own tribute to ABBAmania. Pearl likes it just a little too much.
Segment Nine: A panel discussion on Mary Sues is held, with special emphasis on Crystal's adventures and what frayed common threads hold them together.
Part Six Stinger: Reliving the memory.
Segment Ten: Crow happens once more upon the dimensional portal, which has taken on a life of its own and is diabolically breaking the fourth wall down. One of the MSTers meets a gruesome fate; what happens to some of the others is lightly implied.
Part Seven Stinger: Getting right to the point.
Segment Eleven: The dimensional portal pours fictional starships aplenty into near Earth space to do battle. The hopes of our heroes that Crystal will rally Earth's Mary Sues, self-insertions, and author avatars to the planet's defence meet a setback.
Part Eight Stinger: Lori is unimpressed by Crystal's possessions.
Segment Twelve: Legolas and Crystal regroup on Earth and contemplate how to get the Mary Sues on their side. The solution is kind of sexist, but works.
Segment Thirteen: Our heroes watch in horror as the situation in space continues to escalate.
Segment Fourteen: The final confrontation between our heroes and the dimensional portal occurs. A wide-ranging discussion finally hits on the key to save the day.
Segment Fifteen: Pearl, who whiled away the chaos having tea parties with dictators, calls the Satellite to gloat. The Oompa-Loompas burst into Castle Forrester and provide music to bring closure (of a sort) to the tale.
Part Nine Stinger: Legolas picks up on the most disturbing thing.
Reflections (on a MSTing in progress): I signed up for this group MSTing organized by an up-and-coming MSTer practically on a lark, if also enticed by the thought of getting to riff in the process on the poem "The Highwayman," which I remembered from grade school. From the start, the fanfic was undeniably ridiculous. Some of my fellow MSTers have grown increasingly aghast at its enthusiastic description of the myriad mundane details of a very ordinary life, but my viewpoint seems skewed just right to find it oddly yet intriguingly fraught with paradox. It's completely forgettable and absolutely memorable, relentlessly generic and bizarrely unique. Fumbling for descriptions, I've thought of it as Undocumented Features on tranquillizers.
Still, in a raffish genre where fictional characters disturbingly often validate people by striking up relationships with them, the diffident mothering this warped take on Legolas gets in between slowly fading out of sight is sort of a change. Of course, with all that said, the probably unconscious innocence of the story can still disturb me on occasion, and there are a lot of chapters left.
Final Reflections: A lot of chapters later, the MSTing is complete at last, if slightly different in story and response from how I first saw it. Legolas never did quite completely vanish into the background while we were catching up to the author, but in between his asking questions, humiliating himself, and using his elven abilities for distinctly mundane favours, the focus drifted very definitely to Crystal and her gaggle of ordinarily strange friends. It was natural enough to comment on them, but the way they were presented finally seemed to strain the old saying about hating the sinner but loving the sin.
Trying to keep my sense of perspective, I reflected at times on how this one story had been selected, perhaps miraculously and perhaps by simple fate, from among the twenty thousand titles in its category on fanfiction.net, and how it was far from the first fanfic where characters seemingly drawn from real life take over the story from the fictional characters they're supposed to be interacting with. Hopefully, things never did spin out of control, but perhaps that's a question everyone has to answer for themselves.
During the writing of this MSTing, one thing I enjoyed about the process was the serial release structure. It's not the first MSTing to be released in such a way, of course, and the distinct lack of progression in the story it was commenting on helped make such a thing entirely possible, but it was nice to see finished product even while chapters still to go seemed to stretch off into the distant future.
Reflections through a Darker Lens, by Bryan McGucken: I first got into mistings in August, 2002 when I read the epic misting "Triumph of the 'Retart'". I had watched reruns of the television show before that, but, having enjoyed the aforementioned misting, as well as the mistings of Peter Guerin's other two epics, I was instantly hooked and, later that year, wrote a misting of one of my own Daria stories. Although it wasn't as good as my more recent work, I continued misting until I came across Jack Mileur, who gave me encouragement after reading my second misting, one of a fanfic based upon the short-lived Disney cartoon "Pepper Ann". Jack mentioned in March of last year that he had an idea to mist this Legolas fic and did anyone want to join him? I asked him about it, as I admired the mistings he had released to news feeds and Web Site #9. He told me that, although it was true that I was less acquainted with L.O.T.R., that nonetheless this was unnecessary as the story was in almost no respect based on the movie or book. He was right, and I have thoroughly enjoyed working with him and the rest of the group on this project.
I will say that working on the misting was not an absolutely unmixed pleasure for one main reason. Seeing the way Crystal treated her friends in the story made it difficult to maintain a sense of perspective, something the actual show had no problems doing. Admirable though the concept is, it is by no means always easy to keep one's perspective when the main character, an author's avatar in this case, is painted free of flaws. I think this attitude was inflamed by her treatment of Jeffrey toward the end of the story. I don't know if Jeffrey is developmentally disabled, although some of us conjectured on this, but I am sorry to say that this particular aspect of the story hit a bit too close to home, as I myself am disabled. Mind you, I don't use this fact to my advantage, but it is difficult not too just throw up your arms and scream in disgust at Crystal's utter callousness toward those who do not belong to her little clique. Unfortunately, this attitude had some not so pleasant consequences.
Overall, however, I had fun writing riffs for this, and found that I was quite successful at juxtaposing riffs of a purely humorous nature with some somewhat more cerebral comments on the lack of logic and common sense which oftentimes surfaced in the story, a trait common to most riffable material. Jack is a wonderful and intelligent editor, being careful to include only the riffs which are appropriate to the story, but also doing everything in his power to give all involved the exposure they desire. I will close by saying that I hope to someday work on another misting with Jack if I can.
James Bond's Reflections: I'd been really on the fringe of MiSTing for a good while now; ever since I found WSn9, when I was in the seventh grade, I had planned on doing a MiSTing and that it would be so gosh-dern funny. (The latter was a leap of shocking arrogance which I was able to make only because I lived (and still do live) in a very small island community in which more than half of the people appear to think that they are living in Pleasantville, and so I did not have very much local competition for the position of "funniest mother-something-or-other around." Anyways, all I knew of was WSN9; I didn't know anything about FF.net or anything, and I was too lazy to search it. So, cheerfully breaking approximately every single copyright law in existence, I decided to MiST books instead—I was starting one of the Redwall books, my thinking being "Hey, just because it's good doesn't mean I can't mock it!" Thank the Gods that I never even got close to completing any of them, that's all I can say; my humor had a twist towards the pointlessly sadistic, which was (and still is, now that I go back and read it so I suppose I had something) funny in its callousness. Overall, I think I suffered from a similar fate that Mark Twain did, which was that often times earlier in his career the jokes he takes a paragraph to set up are less funny than the sarcastic twists he puts on the end of a sentence. (On a side-note, before I close this thread: there was another book I was planning on riffing to shreds, and its obscure enough and bad enough for me to actually still consider doing it—it's called The Search for Delicious or something very similar to that, and it's all about this medieval kingdom getting into an uproar because no one can agree on what the Prime Minister's dictionary of adjectives should have for the "delicious" entry. You're supposed to think "Wow, what is wrong with these crazy people?" Which would be fine, except that most of the time the book isn't playing it for laughs and is trying to be serious—people go to war over it. My suspension of disbelief has been trampled. But anyway.)
About two years later I found myself two somewhat ambitious projects: the fifth draft to Total Recall (which was quite horrid, let me assure you) and the, ah, Leonardo DiCaprio version of Romeo and Juliet. I spent a grand total of about two years, off-and-on, picking at them, before a (some would say fated) hard drive crash lost both of them. I'm not bitter about that, really; my writing still suffered from a serious "Look at me, I'm hilarious!" quality and I probably would have just embarrassed myself. But the important thing was that it was FUN.
Almost exactly two years ago to the day, I found, completely by accident, Quasispace Portal Theater 3000, the off-shoot of the obscurely infamous Mystery Octagon Theater 3000, and thought I'd join. This was where I ran into some problems; I hadn't read MOT3k, was somewhat generically turned off to the idea of non-standard MiSTing (or "non-mainstream," as I thought of it) casts of characters, did not take a moment to look around their web-board to see what the atmosphere was like and what the people were like, and last but certainly not least had never used a message board before. Quasispace, as it turned out, was a mini-micro-community of riffers who could be very clear when they thought you were being an ass. For all that they were startlingly patient with me, always pointing out just what stupid things I was getting wrong as opposed to outright yelling. Still though, I had a ponderously slow thought process, and had to come to terms with the fact that (GASP!) I really wasn't that funny. So I did what I personally consider to be the shrewdest thing I have ever done in my life: I left, took a step back, waited for them to finish with the episode I had come in on the tail end of, watched, and when I felt like I could handle myself better (about four months later) I came back. And... well, I still got pasted pretty bad. But there was an undeniable improvement. Quasispace ended up being the best thing to happen for me; it got me to really start looking at myself more in respect to other people, taught me the value of not rushing things, and in general gave me a fire baptism to the real world in general.
I read Jack's proposal on the WSN9 dibs list (...Y'know, before it went and died) and was intrigued. I think my thought process was something along the lines of "Okay, new guy, could probably use help, and it's LOTR, which I at least know something about as opposed to any anime or comic series, I don't have any projects, and it involves Legolas, so it's probably a lemon. Ooo! I've always wanted to do one of those (no pun intended)! Okay, doc, sign me up!"
Approximately 30 repeated messages from Jack's wildly-malfunctioning hotpop address later, I was in, and started reading. I was somewhat off-put by the fact that Legolas was popping out of the eighteen-year-old blonde girl's TV and needed a place to sleep and they didn't, like, share the bed, but I quickly came to discover that that was the entire point. (Right, this is the reflections part. Y'know, the part that you actually were looking for and expected to read when you read the words "final reflections" at the top? ^_^) When I first read the beginning of the story I was... shocked. The outrageously OoC Legolas really drove me insane (Y'know those bits in the first chapter where Mike and the 'Bots go crazy and start yelling at the screen? All me, baby, and looking back I am a tad ashamed.) but the thing that pissed me off more was the way Crystal kept patronizing him. Later on, though, I was much more struck by the story's complete and utter circuitous pointlessness. As a fellow MiSTer who I can't remember right now succinctly put it:
TOM: Oh! The suspense! *Will* they get hot dogs? *Will* they get to the show on time?
> We got hot dogs, and got to the show on time.
MIKE: [to TOM] Yes, Tom. They will. TOM: Oh. Well, that's boring.
The esteemed Mr. Palmer (who, for the record, I am extremely proud to have worked with for this) is right to think of this as Undocumented Features on tranqs. I don't want to look like I'm defending Ben Hutchins here (though depending on the context I may well do that at another point in time) but at least there is some sort of often-neglected plot to the story arc. Legolas: back to the future! has none whatsoever; the plot, so to speak, is simply what is happening at the moment and a few shoddily-constructed last-minute cliffhangers. There really is no reason to read the story other than to just gawk at it, unless you happen to be a friend of Crystal's. I mean... think of what Undocumented Features 2, say, would look like without the influence of Wolfgang, or the Itcher robot things. Now imagine that it takes place in present day. That's almost this story to a tea; a somewhat interesting scuffle between the characters (Legolas's sudden bout of psychopathy VS. Zoner's relationship problems) and then it's off to watch those jovial jaunty jumping jehosophats in their jolly jallopies! Really, when you get right down to it, the story is a very detailed livejournal with an elf tacked on.
Now that I've finished reading what story there is of this highly-questionable epic, the thing which strikes me the most is the sheer... I don't want to say cluelessness... off-handed-ness the story is like. ...That was a horrible sentence, but please, stay with me here. The story (and, by extension, the author) skips by so many intriguing subplots that it simply boggles the mind. First of all there is the whole "It's not a lemon? OMGWTF!" factor, which is not so much that there is not sex but that the entire story is so completely devoid of anything resembling sex when setups for it appear to pop up out of every corner. That's just an example, though. Legolas being taught the Christian religion is something which could easily happen (he's at a youth group and Crystal is a youth leader and Lord knows (no pun intended) how much Christians love to brain-wash the easily converted to thei—whooooooops, I'm not supposed to do that, don't wanna get the webmaster in trouble here), but it just doesn't. Legolas could see the LOTR movies and go back and change history in his time for the better, so that so fewer people would have to die, but Crystal refuses to allow it for no reason at all. People could be dying in Legolas's universe without his help but forget that, Crystal wants to go to playland. The Canadian government could put a stranglehold on the world economy just by examining Crystal's television set to discover the secret of time travel, but nope, can't have that either. Any one of these could make for at the very least an intriguing setup, but the author chooses to write none of them, preferring instead to write about how weird her friends are. Speaking of which, the character of Jeffery honestly intrigues me. The mailing list theorized that he might have been mentally disabled—and if I could find conclusive proof of that, than I would have made all of the ranting up to that point look like I was clearing my throat—but honestly, I couldn't find anything to suggest that he was. Because I could not find anything that suggested that he was stupid, or even that he was annoying. I was just looking forward to seeing what Jeffery was like, why he's so annoying, etc.—but nope, Crystal's going to go out of her way to avoid as much character development as possible. It, frankly, made me mad. I actually wanted to know why Jeffery was so annoying and I couldn't see it from the small samples we get of his character throughout the fic, so as far as I am concerned Legolas is threatening to murder a child because he was following him around, and Crystal screamed at him to screw off and die because he asked to ride her motorcycle. Other than serving as a vessel for Crystal and her friends to look good by comparison, I really don't see any of his qualities at all. Jeffery is, without a doubt, the flattest character in the entire fic (his entire conversational repertoire is limited to "Hi!" "You're not the boss of me!" and "Can I ride your motorcycle please?" Which makes the fact that he is also the character the other characters react to with the most vehement exclamations of "Get away!" stand out more sharply.
Just a quick note on Lori here: several (by which I mean 1 or 2) of my MiSTing companions at least made jokes about how they thought that Lori was their favorite character because she punched Crystal in the face, and while I am not saying that there is anything wrong with punching Crystal in the face per se, I have to disagree. Crystal was boring, no question about that. But that doesn't make Crystal's nemesis her antithesis. Lori was just as flat, bland and trite as the rest of the cast, but she just happened to have a "time of the month" service pack installed. She irritated me then, and she irritates me now.
Well, it's over now. I have the advantage of 20-20 hindsight (Bryan, please cease your attempts to give me a vasectomy for that unintended pun), and I can look back on the whole ordeal with some clarity. I have expanded a *lot* as an author over this past year and a freaking half (I *still* cannot believe it's been that long) and I was writing for this all through that year, so this work of satire is a good showcase for watching how I personally matured as a writer, not that anyone cares enough about me to even be interested in that. (I still have to watch those run-on sentences though. Hardy harr.) Honestly though, this was a lot of fun. Jack Mileur had the quite excellent idea of setting up a yahoogroups email discussion list for the MiSTing—which, not only did it give us the ability to talk amongst ourselves about the project, but the files section of the yahoogroup allowed us all to upload our riffs to it, so we could each see who wrote what. In addition, Jack compiled a master-list of everybody's list and released it to the group to look over every time we started working over a new set of chapters. I think that these are both excellent ideas, and in my humble opinion a lot more group efforts should be organized this way; it really helps the quality all around. In addition, Jack worked tirelessly on this project—he and his sister went through and compiled every person's riffs into one huge master file, and edited spelling and punctuation along the way. That, ladies and gentlemen, is commitment. Set that in gold. Plus, Jack was good at keeping every author's funniest riffs without upsetting anyone making them feel like they were left out. This could have just been incredible runs of luck, but I don't think so. Finally, the guy was just really swell to work with and talk with; he never got mad even when I did put in repetitive and unfunny Christian-bashing in my last three chapters' riffs which took me six months to complete and slowed the entire MiSTing to a crawl just because I am a grade-F slacker. He's the kind of guy that, if you did somehow manage to piss off, you'd feel really bad about it.
All of my co-authors were incredible to work with as well—but they only get an honorable mention because they didn't edit. Hah-HAH! Seriously though, even though three of them just up and left us for reasons I am still not clear on, there was a lot of talent working on this. I consider myself extremely lucky to have been able to exchange quips with a group of so many great people, and I would do this again with any of them in a heartbeat. Fellas? How 'bout it? I've got a few projects brewing...
Chan-wu Yi's Reflections: Ordinary. Bland. Mundane. Banal. Yes, 'Legolas: Back to the Future' is all these things and yet so much less. A reckless plunge into blandness, a celebration of mediocrity Mark Twain might have written if he were a fourteen-year-old grrl who thought Lord of the Rings was the peak of filmmaking. (It isn't, of course. That would be Star Trek II: Electric Boogaloo.)
An assemblage of prosaic clichés Frankensteined into a teen-age girl's diary form a story so generic, our illustrious editor speculated—in the way English Literature majors are wont to do—that the story's author was not so much a person as pop culture itself, television using a person to write a story about itself. If so, it succeeded admirably, as 'Legolas' was just as excruciatingly boring as, well, any television programme.
It's exactly the sort of thing one might expect in the era of Vin Diesel and Avril Lavigne. Am I the only one who can't dissociate that girl's name from the headache medicine Advil? Every time people mention the random collection of derivative pop-garbage emanating from her records (which they dubiously refer to as 'music', never failing to induce convulsive spasms of laughter from yours truly) I can't help but respond, 'No, thanks, I've got some Tylenol right here.' I'm not alone here, am I?