My Immortal (fan fiction)
My Immortal is a Harry Potter fan fiction serially published on FanFiction.Net between 2006 and 2007. Known for its incomprehensible narrative and constant digressions, the story centers on a 17-year-old female vampire, a non-canonical character, and her relationships with the characters of the Harry Potter series, most notably her romantic relationship with Draco Malfoy. Ultimately, she is prompted by visions to travel back in time to try to defeat the main antagonist of the series, Lord Voldemort.
Since the beginning of the work's publication, it has garnered infamy for bad writing, inconsistency, and disregard for the Harry Potter source material. Often regarded as among the worst fan fiction written, My Immortal is felt to be a detriment to those attempting to bring legitimacy to fan fiction. Despite this, the series has also inspired multiple derivative works, including a YouTube web series, and is viewed with nostalgia for adolescent fan life.
The author's identity has never been confirmed and has been deemed by many as "unsolvable". The author published the story under the username "XXXbloodyrists666XXX" and self-identified as Tara Gilesbie. In September 2017, someone claiming to be the author updated a FictionPress account stating that she had created an active Tumblr account under her real name; an effort to locate this Tumblr account resulted in the account of young adult novelist Rose Christo. She has since stated that she was one of two co-authors of My Immortal, and had provided evidence of her authorship to Macmillan Publishers, but controversy that same month over factual errors in her then-forthcoming memoirs has led to doubt as to her authorship.
The story has been speculated to be a hoax designed to either troll readers or to satirize fan fiction, but the work and the alleged online presence of the author has also been described as too elaborate and too time-consuming to fake effectively. In September 2017, Christo stated that My Immortal is a work of satire, though any evidence of this is tied to her own claims of authorship.
Background and publication
The work was published to FanFiction.Net between early 2006 and 2007, ultimately totaling 44 chapters and nearly 22,700 words. The forty-fourth chapter was accompanied by an author's note explaining that the author was leaving "dubya [sic]", commonly believed to be Dubai, and the chapter would be the last until the author's return. However, no further chapters were published. It was removed by site administrators in 2008, a few months after its last chapter was published. However, it survives in copied-and-pasted versions across the Internet. The work apparently takes its name from the song "My Immortal" by Evanescence.
Style and genre
My Immortal is split into 44 brief chapters. Author's notes, indicated by "AN", precede and are dispersed throughout the narrative prose. These notes are written in a largely phonetic spelling and characterized the author as "standoffish". As the work progressed, these author's notes increasingly became "defensive, impenetrable, and prone to mentioning suicide attempts" and defended the work's poor spelling and deviation from canon characterization from negative reviewers.
Abraham Riesman of Vulture.com described the prose as having "awkward rhythm, strange digressions, and stultifyingly purple prose" and noted that the work is "agonizing" to a regular fan fiction reader because of "all the hated tropes" it employs in the opening passage alone. Adi Robertson of The Verge observed that the quality of the prose declined after the twelfth chapter, when the work's editor had a falling out with the author and became temporarily uninvolved with the work; even after the editor and author reconciled, Robertson felt that the prose "never recovered". Gavia Baker-Whitelaw of The Daily Dot noted the work "featured all the hallmarks of terrible fanfic: hundreds of grammar and spelling mistakes, a nonsensical storyline, and a Mary Sue protagonist who was clearly a glorified version of the author" and pointed out the numerous descriptions of the protagonist's Hot Topic outfits.
The work is characterized by misspellings permeating both the work itself and the author's notes, to the point that the names of the protagonist and canonical Harry Potter characters are frequently and variously misspelled.
The work has also been noted to fail to adhere to Harry Potter canon. It features "an incredibly OOC [out-of-character] Harry Potter universe" where "at no point do any of the Harry Potter characters act even slightly like themselves". References to "decidedly un-Harry Potterish bands" such as My Chemical Romance have also been noted.
Chapters 39 and 40, according to the author's notes, were written by a hacker, and the writing in both chapters was a "much more controlled prose that read like a lampoon of the previous 38".
My Immortal was published under the username "XXXbloodyrists666XXX", and the author also used the name "Tara Gilesbie". Author's notes in the story identified a friend nicknamed Raven, operating under the username "bloodytearz666", as the work's editor and beta reader. Later author's notes claimed that someone hacked into Gilesbie's account and wrote chapters 39 and 40.
The true identity of the author became subject to wide speculation, and since the publication of the final chapter, various individuals have claimed to have written the work in jest or as a hoax. Due to its "systematically terrible" quality, the work is often believed to be a satire or parody of fan fiction.
At the same time, the "exceedingly complicated" details of the work, including a series of related online accounts outside of FanFiction.net and the effort of writing a work of such length, led to a "consensus" among users of Encyclopedia Dramatica—a website notorious for online trolling and dedicated to cataloging "internet culture" — that it would be too difficult to fake and that Gilesbie was writing sincerely, a sentiment apparently shared by other online communities who mocked the author. Brad Kim, editor of Know Your Meme, supported the work as genuine, citing his experiences with writing workshops on LiveJournal and Xanga where he encountered similar works, as "these were the kinds of things that would be formulated by a high-school teenager in the early 2000s". Writing for Vulture.com, Abraham Riesman wrote that "[t]he mystery of the authorship of 'My Immortal' — even in this privacy-averse age — appears unsolvable."
Rose Christo, author of young adult novels, began writing a memoir about her alleged experiences as a Native American child in the New York foster care system titled Under the Same Stars: the Search for my Brother and the True Story of My Immortal. The memoir details the period of time during which she allegedly co-wrote My Immortal. Macmillan Publishers allegedly hired a lawyer to verify Christo's claims over the course of three days; she claimed to have provided proof through the email address with which she created the FanFiction.net account and a flash drive containing the first eleven unedited chapters of My Immortal.
In March 2017, Christo quietly stated on her Tumblr account that she co-wrote My Immortal; however, the post gained little notice. In early August 2017, Christo posted an update to a previously unknown FictionPress account seemingly related to Tara Gilesbie that similarly received little attention.
Later in August, an independently published Handbook for Mortals came to public attention after it was discovered that its sales were artificially inflated to push it to the top of the young adult New York Times Best Seller list, from which it was subsequently removed. Writing similarities between the novel and My Immortal led to speculation that Handbook for Mortals author Lani Sarem was the author of My Immortal. Christo again updated the FictionPress account to say she was not Sarem. She also posted on FictionPress to state that her only social media account was on Tumblr, which operated under her real name. An editorial assistant at Macmillan Publishers also stated that Sarem was not the author of My Immortal and stated that MacMillan was to publish the author's memoir.
These statements sparked a search for the claimed Tumblr account, which was found as Christo's in early September. By September 5, Christo stated on her Tumblr account that she co-wrote My Immortal and that she had provided proof to her publisher Macmillan Publishers, later reported by BuzzFeed, and on September 7, Buzzfeed published her first official statement as the alleged author of My Immortal. She said of her decision to publicly identify herself as a co-author: "I would never have come forward about My Immortal if not for the fact that it coincided with the things that happened to me as a teen."
Later that month, a forum post on Kiwi Farms, a forum notorious for perpetrating doxing, by Christo's brother (the subject of her memoir), verified as such by the forum operators, refuted several of Christo's claims in the upcoming memoir, including those of their ancestry and shared childhood history. The memoir was subsequently canceled by MacMillan after an investigation found factual errors in her narrative; Christo stated that these errors had been purposefully made in an attempt to protect her family's identity. Christo's brother has additionally said that he does not know if Christo wrote My Immortal and that she enjoyed ridiculing badly written fan fiction. Christo confirmed via Tumblr in October that her original name was Theresa Rose Christodoulopoulos, confirmed her brother's identity, conceded to many of his revelations about her, but also disagreed with a few of his claims and reiterated her claim that she was one of the authors of My Immortal. She closed the Tumblr account a few days later. Vox described Christo's authorship claim as one of the more likely claims she has made, though still in some doubt.
The protagonist of the story is Ebony (occasionally Enoby, Eboby, Evony, Ebory, Enobby, Enopby, Egogy, Tara, or TaEbory) Dark'ness Dementia Raven Way, a seventeen-year-old vampire who attends Hogwarts (located in England instead of the original books' Scotland) as a member of Slytherin House. Hogwarts is depicted as being divided between two cliques, the "goffs" and the preps. Ebony and all the sympathetic characters are part of the goth clique while the members of the prep clique are portrayed unsympathetically. Many of the main characters of Harry Potter are given "goffik" [sic] makeovers, moved to the Slytherin House, and renamed.
The story begins by focusing on Ebony entering a relationship with Draco Malfoy, who is depicted as shy, sensitive and bisexual. Ebony and Draco have sex in the Forbidden Forest, but are witnessed by Hogwarts' principal Albus Dumbledore (often referred to as "Dumblydore" with his first name being Albert), who screams at them and derides them as "motherfukers" [sic]. When reviewers complained that this was extremely out-of-character for Dumbledore, the canon version of which is almost always calm, composed, and polite, the author justified this by explaining that Dumbledore had a headache at the time. Later, after learning that Draco used to date Harry "Vampire" Potter (a nickname he gained because he "love[s] the taste of human blood"), Ebony becomes so angry that she runs crying into the Forbidden Forest, where she meets Lord Voldemort. Voldemort, speaking in faux-archaic English (unlike his teenaged self from the 80's), gives her a gun and demands that she kill "Vampire" Potter or else he will kill Draco, but Ebony refuses. Later on, Draco learns of this encounter and he is so angry that Ebony kept it from him that he commits suicide by slitting his wrists.
In a subsequent scene, however, Vampire has a vision of Draco being held prisoner by Voldemort. The discrepancy between this and the earlier depiction of Draco having committed suicide is not explained. After rescuing Draco from Voldemort, Ebony and her friends attend a My Chemical Romance concert in Hogsmeade. After some songs have been played, the concert ends abruptly when the members of My Chemical Romance reveal themselves to be Voldemort and his Death Eaters. Voldemort, who had been disguised as lead vocalist Gerard Way, proclaims his intent to kill Ebony and Draco for the former's failure to kill Vampire, but they are saved by Albus Dumbledore, who has just given himself a gothic makeover. The next day, Dumbledore gives a gothic makeover to the Hogwarts Great Hall as well, but Ebony feels that he is a poseur and dislikes him greatly, a sentiment shared by her friends.
During this time, Lucius Malfoy and Sirius Black are inexplicably shot by a "black guy". There is also a secondary plot point in which Professor Trelawney ("Trevolry") / Professor Sinistra ("Sinister", "Sinatra"), combined into one character, has an addiction to what is presumably the truth serum Veritaserum. A third plot point sees Professor McGonagall (often referred to as "McGoogle" or "McGoggles") and Severus Snape (often called "Snap", or "Snope" at times) attempting to rape or harm the protagonists. Yet another plot point follows Remus Lupin and Snape being bisexuals who spy on Ebony, at one point resulting in a moment shortly after Draco's "death" where they are sitting on their broomsticks with "Loopin masticating [sic]" to Ebony bathing. In addition, Hagrid is inexplicably a teenaged Hogwarts student who has a crush on Ebony, and who is also a Satanist.
Ebony begins having mysterious visions, which she is told indicates she must travel back in time (using a pensieve) to stop Tom Riddle from becoming Voldemort by seducing him, and to retrieve a cure for Sinister/Trevolry's addiction to "Volxemortserum". Arriving in the past, she meets the young Riddle, who calls himself "Satan", and who has been mistakenly referred to as "Tom Anderson", "Tom Bombadil", and "Stan". "Satan" is in a band with James Potter, Severus Snape, Sirius Black, and Lucius Malfoy. He is uncanonically depicted attending Hogwarts at the same time as the Marauders in what is further uncanonically portrayed as the 1980s. The author points out a few anachronisms in these scenes, telling readers to ignore them. There is also an unexplained cameo by a gothic Marty McFly, who gives Ebony a black DeLorean time machine able to transform into an iPod, allowing her to travel forward in time.
Eventually, Ebony brings "Satan" forward in time, where he morphs into the present-day Voldemort. This leads to a confrontation between the forces of good and evil in the Great Hall. The story ends ambiguously with Ebony firing off an Avada Kedavra curse, which is misrepresented as "abra kedabra".
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Before its removal from FanFiction.Net, My Immortal allegedly gained between 8,000 to 10,000 reviews per posted chapter, most of which were negative and contained flaming. The quality of the writing and the author's apparently Goth lifestyle also drew attacks and mockery from users on Encyclopedia Dramatica, TV Tropes, LiveJournal, Something Awful, YTMND, and YouTube.
Rob Bricken of io9 described the work as a "masterpiece of weirdness" and a "masterpiece of literary disaster". Mathilda Gregory of BuzzFeed called My Immortal a "work of comic genius" that is "oddly touching."
The work is often cited as the worst fan fiction ever written or at least a "strong contender" for the title. The work is considered "iconic" not only within the Harry Potter fandom but also within the larger fan fiction community.
The infamy of the work is considered a "constant millstone around the necks of fanfiction enthusiasts who struggle to bring legitimacy to the genre". Christo claimed in September 2017 that My Immortal is a work of satire, though any evidence of this is tied to her own claims of authorship.
My Immortal inspired further fan works, including fan art and further fan fiction. It was the subject of numerous YouTube dramatic readings intending to mock the work, and it later inspired a fifteen-episode web series satirizing the work.
- The Eye of Argon, a published 1970 novella with a similar reputation
- Poe's law, an online phenomenon in which it is difficult to distinguish authentic works from satire
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- Baker-Whitelaw, Gavia (July 29, 2013). "The worst "Harry Potter" fanfic ever is now a hilarious webseries". The Daily Dot. Archived from the original on June 12, 2016. Retrieved June 12, 2016.
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- Pless, Margaret (July 19, 2016). "Kiwi Farms, the Web's Biggest Community of Stalkers". New York. Retrieved November 4, 2017.
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- Bryne-Cristiano, Laura (October 5, 2017). "The 'My Immortal' mystery grows: Five new questions after the memoir's cancellation". Hypable. Retrieved October 6, 2017.
- Lee, Jarry (October 3, 2017). "The "My Immortal" Book Is No Longer Going To Be Published". Buzzfeed. Retrieved October 5, 2017.
- Christo, Rose (October 7, 2017). "kamakisikaw - Rose Christo's Tumblr account". Tumblr. Archived from the original on October 7, 2017. Retrieved October 7, 2017.
- "The My Immortal memoir has been canceled, and the mystery of the notorious fanfic deepens". Vox. 2017-10-09. Retrieved 2017-10-09.
- Payne, E.A. (2011). The Ultimate Guide to the Harry Potter Fandom. Rowan Tree Books. p. 141. ISBN 978-0615714912.
- Gregory, Mathilda (February 19, 2016). "The Gloriously Immortal Life of "My Immortal"". BuzzFeed. Archived from the original on September 16, 2016. Retrieved August 20, 2016.