krpalmer: (mst3k)
[personal profile] krpalmer
It so happened that when the MSTing of "The Misery Senshi Neo-Zero Double Blitzkrieg Debacle" was being released on an unsuspecting world, I was making the final touches on a first MSTing of my very own. The juxtaposition in time does seem to make looking back at both works just a little awkward, though; I wouldn't want to claim my own is on the same level as a strong candidate for "the greatest ever"... but if I can draw a distinction between "appreciating the accomplishment of others" and "remembering my own work," I might yet be able to manage it as I return to the MSTing of the first part of "Undocumented Features." (My old "MSTing guide," I suppose, means I don't have to summarise the story right now...)

When I heard another "MSTer" announce he was organising a group MSTing of Undocumented Features and the feeling strengthened in me that, after having read many MSTings and even having seen a few episodes of the series itself on videotape, I might even be ready to start contributing myself, I suppose I still had the feeling we were "aiming high." (And even given that I've just said I shouldn't be trying to suggest comparisons between my MSTing and more notable works, I do have to admit I knew Adam Cadre had said the same thing at the beginning of the MSTing of "The Eye of Argon," his own first MSTing no less, and could mull over that...) I started hearing about the fanfiction series named Undocumented Features not that long after I first went online and began nosing around the fringes of anime discussion there; I knew it had a notable reputation. To be sure, the first time I tried to begin at the beginning, something about its opening salvo of things its author knew had completely overwhelmed me, and the second time I tried that, I managed to bluff my way past the initial introductions to the point where the college-student characters produce an arsenal of heavy weaponry and start gunning down attackers it seems we aren't supposed to like any more than they do, and broke off horrified... and then, the authors churning out further chapters in the work also started a story based on the notable new thing in anime, Neon Genesis Evangelion. I started reading it with sort of a feeling that this helped remind me about having seen the first episodes of the show at my university's anime club... and then, I saw some "fanfic reviews" of it angrily accusing it of having missed the point, missed whole layers of meaning in the anime, by writing out the imperfect main character and replacing him with someone grotesquely overqualified. (Rather later, there do seem to have been reevaluations beyond "this story is good because it's not as depressing as Evangelion," stating that it managed to move to whatever extent beyond shrugging off the challenges of the original, but I do still have the feeling that at first it amounted to the sort of misstep that turns people against perhaps even authors...) Right around that time, too, I was getting into MSTings, and developing the feeling that even a polished "self-insertion" story was still not that different from the subliterate forms of the same. I made one more valiant stab at Undocumented Features, and this time read a lot of it, but by this time I found the main characters racking up anime characters as girlfriends among other accomplishments as somewhere between disturbing and unimpressive.

So as much as I've decided over time that I find Mystery Science Theater 3000 funny "because it adds to the humour that 'cheesy' movies have in their own right," not because "we need to fight back against 'bad' movies," there may have been darker undertones to my motivation, no matter that I was trying to watch myself and not sound "too mean." I suppose that at first, I was taking reassurance from the thought that there were other people "riffing" alongside me... but one day I asked the person who had announced the group MSTing for a progress report, and he admitted that he wouldn't be able to work on it any more. I reacted to that, though, by asking if I could take over leadership of the group MSTing myself... and when the other people stopped responding to my emails without ever having sent in "riffs" of their own, I was still in a mood not to give up. Perhaps, too, I was thinking that now I wouldn't have any trouble with my thought that, given all the "non-standard MSTings" with various characters replacing the Mystery Science Theater crew that were cropping up in the "anime MSTing" subcommunity, I could make my MSTing distinctive just by making it "standard."

Working on a MSTing was always a slow process for me, a matter of a few quips tossed in here and there per day; it took me over a year before I didn't feel altogether embarrassed by the product and I took the plunge of submitting it. When first announcing that I was now leading the MSTing, I had received a few "no, see, Undocumented Features is a good story" responses, but I didn't get any angry emails afterwards. On the other hand, I didn't get any lengthy, impressed fan letters either, although comments here and there at least let me convince myself other MSTers had read it as part of a growing response to all the "self-insertion fanfics" turned out by the original authors.

That was then, of course. As for now, though, for all that I would still say the riffs are sparser than in a typical MSTing and they do give the impression of someone whose awareness of Mystery Science Theater and a certain number of other references were more or less borrowed from other MSTings (my characterisations do seem to fall into "muttering nitpicker, befuddled straight man, off-colour free spirit"), I was able to go back to the work not that long ago with a feeling that it still wasn't that bad in its own distinct way as far as MSTings go. I could say that some parts of the story seem to have been more difficult to say really funny things about than others, and I do sort of wish I could have made more than a few tentative stabs at the story being set in 1991... although that does let the question glimmer as to whether I could make revisions. Just looking at it, it seems it would be easier to rephrase or replace existing riffs than come up with new ones. The real problem, I suppose, is that in an age where other people announcing revisions make ostentatious declarations that they won't make the mistakes they allude to George Lucas having made, there are too many irritating connotations for me to really go ahead with it. On a lighter note, I do know more now about the Dirty Pair anime series, the one at the very core of all of Undocumented Features, but having a sense of how an attempt to get a grasp on the characters went sort of off (to say nothing of going in a rather different direction anyway) might not have been necessary for the MSTing; it also might have helped me avoid sounding like a nitpicking know-it-all.

I can suppose that a retrospective about something you're not doing any more might seem sort of off itself. Of course, the "MSTing community" sort of closed down, but beyond that I read rather less fanfiction than I used to, and can wonder if I somehow saw it in part as "making up for not being able to see the original"; things are somewhat different that way now... That may be at least one factor in why I'm not writing MSTings any more. As well, I think I have mellowed a bit when it comes to the mere existence of Undocumented Features; after all, I never had to read it in the first place (and that amiable feeling may be a good thing, because the people who wrote it are still turning out followups...) Still, as I said, I wrote some MSTings a while back that I haven't quite completely grown beyond yet.

August 2017

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