MSTing

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Synonyms: MST, Misting, MIST-ing, MiSTing
See also: Badfic, evol fic, crack, Godawful Fan Fiction, Lord King Bad, MST3K, sporking, turkey-ing, brain bleach, Pop-Up Fic, Turkey Reading
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MSTing is a type of sporking or mocking of badfic. It is inspired by the TV show Mystery Science Theater 3000, which was often abbreviated as MST3K. The characters on MST3K would watch and make fun of bad movies; in fan-written MSTs, characters make fun of excerpted badfic by another author. The term MST can be used as a verb and is sometimes written as MiSTing.

Some fans find MSTing to be mean-spirited and unfunny, but others think they are good fun, and a few defend them as helpful to people who want to improve their writing.

See The Marissa Stories.

A History

Herewith follows a brief history of MiSTing. (No, I wasn't around for all of it, but a good portion, yes.)

In early 1993, someone posted an "MST3K SUX" post on the MST3K newsgroup. Eric Alfred Burns, to give him his full due, MiSTed it. It caught on with some people--they started MiSTing other posts they'd find on newsgroups. At first, it was limited to newsgroup and email spam, and net.kooks such as Robert McElwaine, John_-_Winston, Alexander Abian, and Ludwig Plutonium. (Spock: "Ahh. The giants.")

But late in 1993, the motherlode was found. Fanfiction. (Trivia note: The very first piece of fanfiction MiSTed? 'Cyborged,' a Star Trek/Dr. Who crossover.) That started the MiSTing explosion in 1994.

For at least the first couple of years, however, permission was not asked to MiST someone's piece of work. Fanfiction was viewed as just another type of newsgroup post--open to the public, and open to commentary.

SPECULATION: I would guess that the RATMM (rec.arts.tv.mst3k.misc) experience with Stephen Ratliff is what spurred the authorial permission movement.

FACTS: Stephen Ratliff's Star Trek fanfiction quickly became a favorite target of MiSTing. (If you've read his stories, or the MiSTings, you understand why. *grin*) The first several stories were MiSTed without his permission or knowledge. Eventually, though, he did find out about it. At first, he was upset. He came to RATMM and started posting. He was not...precisely well-received. So the relationship was rocky at first. But RATMM denizens soon realized that Ratliff himself was really quite a nice guy. And Ratliff realized that, while his stories were being MiSTed, it was done in a spirit of fun, not to denegrate him. The relationship warmed. Ratliff became a fan of MST3K, and the RATMM folks welcomed him into the newsgroup. He began to look forward to the MiSTings of his works--he actually wrote once that the MiSTings were the best form of C&C he ever got. And RATMM folks would be the first to admit that his writing definitely improved over time...though that didn't stop them from continuing to MiST it. *grin*

I think it's because of this that MiSTers realized that fanfiction is something that an author really does work at, whether the results are good or bad. Not every author will welcome having it parodied. MiSTers also realized that MiSTing is more fun when the author grants permission--for both the author and the MiSTer(s). So, when a MiSTing FAQ was created, one of the key points was to gain authorial permission to MiST fanfiction. (Email spam and non-fanfiction newsgroup posts were, of course, still fair game. And if you tried and failed to get hold of the author, it was up to you whether or not to continue. I had a case like that, and decided not to proceed...especially as I decided that it'd be easier, and much more fun, to MiST something I'd written ages ago. *grin*) And so, for several more years, MiSTing flourished. And it was funny. [1]

Not Allowed on Some Fan Sites

FanFiction.Net is one site that has banned the posting of MSTs. This may be due to three reasons. One: FanFiction.Net does not allow "script format" works. Two: MSTs contain copyrighted material not written or owned by the MST's creator. Three: The site may not want to deal with fans complaining that their fanworks were lampooned.

Fan Comments

2005

I come from MST3K fandom from over ten years ago. Nothing big, helped with a few websites, did a few MSTings. It was a lot of fun, and the internet of course provided a lot of fodder. However, there also seemed to be some respect for the source author for the most part (in fact I ended up getting to know a few of them, and in one case parodied a fic for being UNEXPEXCTEDLY good, which was a lot of fun).

Over time, it felt that parody gave way to more flaming and more personal vendettas. The affection for flawed material seemed to vanish - that love of something flawed because it told you about yourself, or the author, or it was a guilty pleasure, or had a seed of something good in it.

My take on such things hasn't changed from the "old days" - don't insult the author and if you do an indepth parody, a MSTing, ask for permission. If you have a community dedicated to finding badfic, don't let things get personal or nasty. Have a laugh - and if the author asks for real help, give it.

I've seen authors parodied ask for help - and even listen to advice.

I think by publically posting something there's nothing unethical in parodying it. The internet is, after all, public. But I prefer a level of civility and humor. Besides, we've all done crap ourselves.

However, as noted, the parody element of fandom seems to be too often turned to insults and flamewars for my taste. It's too easy for things to become flamebait and flashpoints.[2]
Like the bumper sticker says: Mean people suck. It was true on the playground. It's equally true in fandom. There's a whole world of room for humor and fun without crossing over the line and being mean. So don't. [3]
I MST and am unapologetic for it. I do not flame or make fun of the author, just make jokes about the fic. It's one of the risks people take by posting their stuff on the internet. I especially find it laughable when those who show a complete and utter lack of respect for their audience by proudly proclaiming they couldn't be bothered to use spellcheck get upset when they're not shown any respect in return. [4]
I've never really enjoyed MST-style humor, and thus have not had much to do with them. I think the only one of any substance I've ever sat down and read most of the way through was My Inner Life, the legendarily bad Zelda fanfic, and that's simply because it was only available in MSTed form at the time. I don't know if that level of nastiness is common, but the MSTer had gone through, practically line by line, to mock the fic and the author. Which isn't to say the fic didn't deserve to be trashed, but I was rather amused that the MSTer, who claimed to hate and despise both the fic and the author, had spent so much time and effort on it. Why not just hit 'back'?

That being said, I like sporking communities. Badfic has always been one of the hidden treasures of fandom for me; there's plenty of garbage out there, but every once in awhile you will come across something so sublimely bizarre you just have to admire it in its own special way. How on earth did the author view the canon and get that out of it? What possessed them to think readers would appreciate it? Where did they get the idea that their level of spelling and grammar was acceptable?

I've never actively participated in any such community because most of my bafflement is focused on the author, and I've never felt a need to say "Hey, I think sexisnapegurli69 is a nut, check this out" in public; but it's nice to see what others manage to dredge up.

However, I've withdrawn from most of them lately, because instead of mocking the stories, many of these communities seem to feel that they are the great defenders of fanfiction. marysues is overrun with "Ack! Yuck! Kill it with fire!" sort of posts, rather than jabs at Lady Moondrop Alandrielle's purple eyes with glowing amber flecks. GAFF members regularly make a habit of reporting the fics they find to ff.net. Not only is it mean-spirited, it spoils the fun; no one else is going to get to see those fics and marvel at their insanity once they're gone. [5]
I don't actively participate in any fandom but I know within our group we cannot watch anything without MST-ing. For us that is part of the appeal- to be able to watch and enjoy a series while cracking jokes and enjoying the company of friends. I don't know if I'd want to read pages and pages of it elsewhere but when I watch a series with my friends I'd be lost without the MST elements. [6]
See, I love things that are bad. I go on hunts for fics That Are Bad. Not, like, unreadable bad, but like, enjoyably bad. (Which is a different thing for everyone, I think.) But I keep my commentary private, and just between a few friends and I, because while I'm honestly not trying to be mean about it, I know some of the authors of these stories (my fandoms are rather small), and I actually like them, and don't want to offend them. Because their stories are unmistakeably bad. They're also so much fun to read.

Generally, I think publically MSTing or otherwise mocking something isn't a good idea. Especially if you're reposting an entire story without permission, which is another reason for someone to get angry with you, y'know?

I do think you're right, though, that the idea of a MSTing has gone from being an homage to MST3K and it's Love Of Bad Things to often cruel (and unfunny!) public commentary on fic that's "not up to par." [7]
I've had one of my fics MTD'd twice, and frankly, I hate the practice. I completely agree with the MST'ers that the fic in question sucks, and have seriously considered removing it from the Internet for that reason (although since it's been up for nearly three years now, there really isn't much point in doing it). I would have really appreciated it if the MSTs had been presented to me as con crit, but both of them are nasty, flamey attacks on both my fic and me as a person/writer. And neither requested permission before doing it. I think the genre sucks. I've never read a really funny MST. Most of the MSTs I've read are just as bad as the fics they spork. [8]
*de-lurking*

I used to love sporkings and MSTs, but they don't hold the appeal they once did for me. The main reason isn't the unreasonable cruelty to the author (though that gets on my nerves as well), it's the people who treat bad fanfic like it's a monster out to get them instead of an amusing read. The 'Ahh! Kill it with fire!' attitude of marysues that memoriamvictus mentioned is a good example of this.

I read fanfic to have FUN, and I read badfic for the same reason. Some people I've seen, however, give off the impression that they read badfic because they're masochists and/or feel the need to defend good fic and canon by ripping the authors of badfics to shreads. I'm not going to try stopping them, I just feel I have other things I'd rather be doing than getting so strung-out about fandom.

Forgive me if this post is out of line; it's been a while since I've actively participated in fandom and I might've crossed a line somewhere, I dunno... :\[9]
I enjoy reading badfic and showing it to friends, though I rarely (never? can't remember) mock it publicly. Usually, because I'm paranoid, worried that the author Will Instantly Know and then have her feelings hurt. However, I don't begrudge anyone else their MSTing, especially when they do it well. That's the thing -- I'd rather read a straight-up badfic, raw and uncut, than a MST, because there's a fine art to MSTing and not every MST is equal. That said, the MSTing of Stephen Ratliff's Time Speeder? Classic. Classic. [10]
Agreed. A Good MSTing IS a good fic. A bad misting is really sort of a travesty. Part of the magic of the Ratliff misting is the sense of humor of the author himself - he let people get away with it and in some ways encouraged it. Having met the man, he is honestly one of the sweetest people you'd ever meet and very, very smart.[11]
The second I see the phrase "MST" I immediately assume it's not really what I came to know as a MST. Generally what passes for MST these days in my experience is "put breaks between the authors' work to rant at them, more than likely without a cast or anything in the way of glib host segments". It's more of a verb now than any paticular attempt at a style of silliness or well-intentioned fun.

Which saddens me deeply.

So I dig out MANOS and it makes me feel better.

Well, worse - but better. ._.[12]
My problems with MSTs stem more from the fact that I'm a 100% bonafied comedy snob than anything else. I read a whole bunch a long time ago (I think I've read every Ratliff MSTing, and let me say, *that* takes some time) that were amazing; but my fandom... Sigh.

I'm on one of the fairly elite mailing lists in the fandom, and aside from the whole "ahaha, we're better than everyone else!" wank that happened every other week, there was a phase which sort of became proving how superior we were by MSTing other people's work. The problem was that the MSTs just weren't funny. A lot of them were mean spirited; even the ones that weren't were lame. They didn't have jokes, they had commentary. (And, at the age of 21, I'm considered ancient by my fandom; most of the people in this group couldn't even have told you what MST3K was. I weep.)

Pointing out spelling/grammar errors isn't funny. If you make a joke out of it, that's one thing; but just saying, "Ha ha, she doesn't know how to use commas!" isn't a joke.

All of this eventually led to the most massive outpouring of wank my tiny little fandom has ever seen, complete with my group being TOSed off a free message board, one of my friends being TOSed off of her free webpage server, LJ flamewars, bannings from the group, flamewars at someone else's MB, and so on. I nearly quit the group at that point, because I hate drama. Sigh.

So my MSTing experiences within my own fandom aren't great. I enjoy them when they're well written, though; and occasionally write them, but only share them with a few close friends in the fandom. (Because I do it without permission, and don't want people stumbling across them and being hurt--I mock, but I'm a very firm believer in concrit, and I tend to send it to those same authors.)

As for badfic sporking communities, most of them aren't funny either, so why bother? I used to read the Mary Sue Report, but it's now far too full of witch hunts for my taste. And I can find enough badfic on my own, so why bother reading a community for it? [13]

Some Examples

Further Reading/Meta

References

  1. Sounding off on MiSTings, Sarah/bookworm1225, October 24, 2006
  2. comment by dragonscholar at Sporking, MSTing, and mocking in Fandom; archive link (2005)
  3. comment by malnpudl at Sporking, MSTing, and mocking in Fandom; archive link (2005)
  4. comment by kyuuketsukirui at Sporking, MSTing, and mocking in Fandom; archive link (2005)
  5. comment by memoriamvictus at Sporking, MSTing, and mocking in Fandom; archive link (2005)
  6. comment by loraleibunny at Sporking, MSTing, and mocking in Fandom; archive link (2005)
  7. comment by unloveablehands at Sporking, MSTing, and mocking in Fandom; archive link (2005)
  8. comment by gmth at Sporking, MSTing, and mocking in Fandom; archive link (2005)
  9. comment by ex_seventee at Sporking, MSTing, and mocking in Fandom; archive link (2005)
  10. comment by wemblee at Sporking, MSTing, and mocking in Fandom; archive link (2005)
  11. comment by dragonscholar at Sporking, MSTing, and mocking in Fandom; archive link (2005)
  12. comment by eibii at Sporking, MSTing, and mocking in Fandom; archive link (2005)
  13. comment by queenitsy at Sporking, MSTing, and mocking in Fandom; archive link (2005)