MSTing (//), MiSTing (//), or riffing is a method of mocking a show in the style of the television series Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K) and, in particular, is a form of fan fiction in which writers mock other works by inserting humorous comments, called "riffs", into the flow of dialogue and events.
In MSTing, the author picks a badly written piece of text—usually a Usenet post, web page, or some other source such as a rant, spam or fan fiction—and inserts mocking comments from fictional readers of the text, essentially writing a script as if the MSTing were a movie. While "standard" MSTings attribute these comments to the three main characters of the MST3K cast, others might use characters - usually (though not always) from the universe of the story being mocked. Often a prologue, epilogue, and intermissions are added in which the characters discuss a topic on the same theme as the original text, although intermission segments are usually dropped if the original work is short. Over time, the term MST has also been used[who?] to describe general fan fiction mockeries, without the use of the MST3K character-based joke format.
MSTing began in the early 1990s, as fans of the show, many of whom were involved in Usenet discussions in groups such as popular MST3K newsgroup rec.arts.tv.mst3k.misc, began adding amusing or critical remarks to others' posts, attributing them to the show's characters (typically, Crow T. Robot, Tom Servo, Joel Robinson, and later Mike Nelson).
The MSTing Mine credits Eric Alfred Burns as the writer of the first MSTings in February 1993, three short lambastings of Internet criticisms of MST3K itself. The "canonical" MSTing style mostly derives from these first three postings, including Usenet-style quoting of the original work and script-style lines for the riffers and characters outside the theater. Other authors followed suit with MSTings of other works. By the end of the year, at least 29 original MSTings had been posted.
As the phenomenon grew, it spread to other media and other forums. The newsgroup alt.tv.mst3k.mstings was established on Usenet for this fan writing. A discussion category on Yahoo!, "Entertainment > Humor, Jokes, and Fun > Parody > Usenet Parodies > MiSTings" (no longer active in 2007), was created for discussions there. MSTing for popular TV shows such as Star Trek: Voyager, other genres such as anime, Usenet postings, and the MSTiers' own original works were fodder for this written mockery. Recently, technologies not present when MSTing was started, such as Wikis and YouTube have been used.
Issues and ethics
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Generally for copyright and ethical reasons, "MSTers" attempt to gain the permission of the original story's writer before writing an MST treatment of the work in question. While it is not clear that this is legally or ethically necessary—the Fair Use doctrine technically permits reproduction for the purpose of parody—such permission is usually sought out of courtesy. As with the television version, some authors of works that have been made into "MSTings" have been rather negative about the treatment of their works and have requested the "MSTing" to be removed (which is generally done when requested), while others appreciate the humor and light criticism the collective result brings. Works of some of these latter authors (notably Stephen Ratliff for his Star Trek: The Next Generation fanfiction, in which teenage character Marissa Picard became an ensign in Starfleet shortly after her 14th birthday) became works that many "MSTers" seek to use as a basis for a "MSTing".
Additionally, some fiction sites such as FanFiction.Net have banned the posting of MSTs, either because they do not allow "script format" works (i.e. formats that are not standard for short stories, novellas, or novels, including those in teleplay or screenplay format, or those meant to imitate chat room conversations), or because they contain copyrighted material not written or owned by the MST's creator, or because the sites in question simply do not want to deal with upset authors getting angry about MSTings of their work.
- "Sequential Tart's Guide to Anime, Manga, and Miscellaneous Japanese Terms: A Glossary". Sequential Tart - A Comics Industry Web Zine. Retrieved 2007-01-30.[dead link]
- "A.R.Yngve parodierar sin egen roman". Mitrania. Retrieved 2007-01-30.
- "Ms. Nitpicker's Fanfic Glossary". Retrieved 2007-01-30.
- "Index of old MSTings". The MSTing Mine. Retrieved 2007-01-27.
- "MST3K FAQs: MSTie Cyberspace". The Satellite News. Best Brains. Retrieved 2007-01-27.
- "Web Site Spotlight: March, 1998". The Satellite News. Best Brains. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 2007-01-27.
- Spencer, S. (16 September 2005). "Zorak's Voyager MSTing Archive". Archived from the original on 3 January 2007. Retrieved 2007-01-27.
- McLees, Tim. "Shuuichi's Vault of Anime Mistings". Retrieved 2007-01-30.
- Mamer, Karl (6 October 1996). "The Net: A Magnet For Bad Fiction". Toronto Sun. p. C15.
- "It Came from English 101!". River City Random. 13 November 2004. Archived from the original on 27 October 2009. Retrieved 2007-01-27.
- "WikiMsting". 25 January 2007. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 2007-01-30.
- RiffTrax – A spinoff of Mystery Science Theater 3000 with Michael J. Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett
- The MSTing Mine – An archive of MSTings originally posted to the MST3K Usenet newsgroups.
- The MSTers' Reference Centre
- EWIC MSTing FAQ Sheet
- How to Write MiSTings
- The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Fanvid and Live-performance Database
- A MSTing For All Seasons – Still active though sporadically updated.
- Project A.F.T.E.R. – Features fan fiction mockeries that do not use traditional character-based jokes.
- Fan-Friction – One of the only still-active MSTing webpages, featuring fan fiction and creepypasta mockeries.
- Court-Record's Sporking Theatre Where MSTings are called "sporks." Featuring fan fiction MSTings exclusively from the Ace Attorney fandom. Still active.