krpalmer: (mst3k)
[personal profile] krpalmer
A while ago, I commemorated the tenth anniversary of a notable MSTing and then took the opportunity not that much later to mark the same anniversary for the first "solo MSTing" I'd written. I did write a few more MSTings after "Undocumented Features," but marking each of their tenth anniversaries did seem a bit grandiose. Now, though, it's been ten years since the last MSTing I completed going by the date stamp on my personal file of it, which does feel a bit more significant in its own if somewhat dowmbeat way. In accepting the opportunity, though, I did get to thinking I could say something brief about each of my solo MSTings preceding it anyway.

When I finished my first MSTing, I'm pretty sure I already had a followup in mind, one where, working on all by myself to begin with, I'd get to move back into the "Mike and Deep 13 era" that was sort of my "default period" for MSTings after the very first ones I'd seen had been set then. A self-identified crossover between Neon Genesis Evangelion and the movie "Armageddon" seemed to offer that essential attention-grabbing hook, with more peculiarity to follow. By the time I'd managed to slog through all four parts the author had actually written of the unfinished work, though (I imposed on myself through one part the experiment of only looking at the next few lines and not moving beyond them until I'd thought of a "riff," which given what skills I did have didn't add any speed), I was already wondering a bit if this amounted to my "sophomore slump." I suppose that over the long course of writing the MSTing, I'd grown that much more uncomfortable with "this work is intrinsically bad and can therefore be mocked just by mentioning it," which didn't help either. On the other hand, the MSTing didn't get purged when the site owner of the "Vault of Anime MSTings" decided he'd accepted too many low-grade works over the years.

On moving on to "Lost Soldier," though, things seemed to pick up. By this point I'd started noticing how other MSTing authors treated fanfiction.net as an inexhaustible source of high-grade "bot fodder," and when I looked into its Robotech section I happened on one story that had me laughing uncontrollably in its "raw" form, which started by bringing a "one-episode character" back and just sort of spun up from there. Even its author asking me not to make fun of the bad spelling when I asked him for permission to build a work of intentional comedy around his efforts didn't quench my resolve.

By the point I'd finished that MSTing, I was feeling more confident and ready to try something not an "anime MSTing," perhaps even daring to submit it to the central MSTing archive Web Site #9, where readers could apply the potential harshness of numerical ratings. Remembering the old tradition of MSTings of works other than obvious fanfiction, I then thought of an old CD-ROM of "space files" my family had bought in the "shovelware" era that included posts to the space science Usenet group. Among the uninterrupted gloom of the early 1990s, one net.nut had been posting transcripts of conspiracy recordings from the early 1980s, one telling (after the world hadn't ended the way it had been supposed to for the sixtieth time or so) that the first space shuttle mission, intended (in the recording from a few months before) to fly over Russia and drop off a spy satellite to prepare the Bolsheviks who had just taken over America from the "Rockefeller cartel" for nuclear war, had in fact been destroyed by the Russian "jumbo cosmospheres," only for this to then be covered up in the shoddy fashion that identifies any self-respecting conspiracy. Fairly early on, I had the idea of invoking a minor guest appearance from Michael J. Nelson I'd noticed in one of the actual episodes I was now well on my way to working my way through by setting the MSTing in the "Joel era." Unfortunately, the real world smacked me in the face when the real space shuttle Columbia burned up on re-entry, which made joking about that sort of thing seem a lot less funny. After admitting all of this to the message board of the Vault of Anime MSTings and getting a few "I think you're a good enough writer to be able to treat this tastefully" responses, though, I found the fresh resolve to finish the MSTing as a strange sort of commemoration.

By this point, though, Web Site #9 and its mailing list had been shut down by its maintainer with the excuse he was about to move, and I was starting to get the ominous feeling he wasn't going to put it back online. (It had come to seem he was getting pretty uncomfortable with the thought of potential legal challenges, anyway.) While I was still able to list my fourth solo MSTing on my personal home page, it was starting to feel like things were very much winding down in the "anime MSTing" community as well. Trying to do what little I could, I started searching through the Google Groups archive to find those MSTings that had been posted to Usenet as well, and in noticing how short yet pointed some of the early ones had been, in comparison to the lengthy works of fanfiction that took teams of "MSTers" months or longer to get together, I had the idea of looking for something short and writing a MSTing of it in preparation to be attached to some hypothetical longer work. The mere introduction to a never-really-started Robotech story seemed diffuse enough to give me the chance to build "riffs" around it, but as I prepared to fit it into a larger work an idea for a "host segment" was also coming to mind. From one of the people I'd been collaborating on the MSTing "Legolas, Back to the Future" with I'd first heard of Wikipedia, and as much as I was amused by the thought of navigating from subject to subject the way I'd first supposed the World Wide Web itself would work I was quite conscious of the "this is to be treated for entertainment purposes only" caution applied to its "crowd-sourcing" (which might still have to be remembered these days...) It was only a short step from finding an article devoted to Crow T. Robot himself to seeing its further reference to MSTings wasn't quite accurate. The one little wrinkle with building a joke around that was that when I introduced my work in progress to the Vault's message board, someone had corrected the mistake within hours. Further jokes in the opening segment about Dr. Clayton Forrester being a "mad scientist" in a field of science not usually so closely connected to madness weren't affected by that, though.

Things sort of sat there for a few months as I tried to find something suitable to follow "The Double Cross," and then the maintainer of the Vault of Anime MSTings proposed a monthly challenge on the message board where people would try to "riff on a topic." Although he just may have pitched it with an air of "do it this way or not at all" instead of "this might be fun," I went to fanfiction.net anyway, looked into its Lord of the Rings section, and typed in a random number for the specific page to go to only to find myself faced with a brief, apparently joking crossover between Lord of the Rings and Neon Genesis Evangelion. It seemed a definite sign.

Although I was never exactly the quickest "riffer," I did get things lashed together in time to submit the MSTing to the challenge. It went up on the Vault, but it didn't seem anyone else had bothered to get something finished in time. Then, the Vault's message board shut down, and while it still continued to put up occasional submissions for some years to come that seemed it for the "MSTing community." That may have kept me from ever writing up a "MSTing guide" for that last solo MSTing of mine, for the possibly specious reason that I didn't have another entry to balance the columns on my home page. (I'd contributed to one or two more group MSTings that never got fully compiled; I just stopped getting emails about them.) In the end it didn't seem to bother me too much, though, because I'd just happened on the small knot of "positive Star Wars movies fans," which was that much more interesting to become part of.

Since that point I have wondered about working on more MSTings; "Elmer Studios" returning after an absence of years did help there. I suppose I'm not really into reading fanfiction any more, though, which makes trolling through archives of it to find things entertainingly bad (not just "stuff that deserves a harsh response, however cloaked in humour" any more, or at least I'd hope) that much more distant. The sprawling off-kilter epics MSTings seemed to wind up trying to take on don't seem to be around as much anyway, for all that I have imagined a recent anime title or two from the past decade might well offer enough opportunity for spinning off on strange, self-gratifying tangents. Still, it is something I remember.

October 2017

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