If you’ve spent any amount of time in some of the darker corners of the Internet, you probably know that fandom can get pretty strange. (Example: for awhile, it was a meme to write One Direction fanfics about teenagers whose parents sold them to Harry Styles. Based, of course, on a genuine story.) But if you didn’t know HOW strange, I promise that you’re about to find out.
Before we continue, I’m not here to judge fandom itself or to judge anyone’s, how shall I say, ~sensitive reading preferences~. (Is that a subtle enough way to say smut?) I think it’s probably pretty clear that I’ve spent a lot of time on the Internet, so let’s just say I’m only here to judge you if you lied about having HIV to get views on your fanfiction.
Which, regrettably, someone did.
1. Just You wait: hamilton aids fanfic
If you were somehow blissfully unaware as to the existence of the Hamilton fandom, all that is about to change. While many Americans were understandably wowed by a groundbreaking production that placed people of color into an important historical narrative, many Americans also conveniently forgot that these historical figures were vicious slaveowners before writing them into touching, cutesy coming-of-age-narratives. (Touching, incidentally, is the subject of most of these stories. Just in case you didn’t know that either.)
Image Via Variety
There’s a certain degree of cultural sensitivity that goes into writing. Some people would balk at that statement, thinking this means something along the lines of ‘don’t write about characters who haven’t experienced what you have.’ What this ACTUALLY means is don’t lie about having HIV on the Internet. If you thought that went without saying, it might (sadly) be time to think again.
Hivliving was a Tumblr account dedicated to social justice issues, run by HIV positive mods Israa (blueskysapphic) and Naj (allolesbean), the first of whom had penned a popular story that reimagined Alexander Hamilton as a teenager living with HIV in the 1980s. Israa claimed to be a nonbinary Chinese-Pakistani human trafficking survivor living in India; Naj claimed to be an American lesbian of color also living in India.
Unfortunately, I did say ‘claimed to be.’
When Naj posted her cash.me account asking for help with medical expenses, another tumblr user (digoxin-purpurpea) realized that the account had to be based in the U.S., given that this app was unavailable in India. Obviously, that meant two things: that Naj was probably scamming money, and that humanity might deserve to be wiped out via asteroid. In one of the most dramatic callouts of all time, digoxin-purpurpea (whose name and blog have since been deleted) posted the original message sent to Israa.
Image Via Forums.somethingawful.com
There really hasn’t been this much tea spilled since the Boston Tea Party.
Under a different username, digoxin-purpurpea discovered, through checking the location of people visiting their blog, that allolesbean was likely an American college student. Still, while allolesbean admitted to part of the deception, she still claimed that Naj and Israa were real people that she’d first heard of through a friend at summer camp. (Which, tbh, seems like the equivalent of the classic ‘I do have a girlfriend! She just lives in… uh… Canada.’) Inspired by their stories, this anonymous college student did what most inspired people would do: steal their lives and begin impersonating them on the Internet for money.
Image ViA fANLORE.WIKI
Allolesbean claimed that their summer camp ‘friend’ was a student named Alix, who was actually real. That is, REAL close to getting caught.
Image Via Fanlore.wiki
Hivliving subsequently admitted to lying and deleted the blog. I’d provide an apology post, but there really wasn’t one. It’s safe to say that anyone who would do something so troubling in the first place probably isn’t sorry for it. Unfortunately, it’s NOT safe to say that this story is over.
Digoxin-purpurpea wrote kinky Hamilton AU fic about cannibal mermaids. If you have to read that sentence again, go for it, but I’d advise against it. The author had also written a story about Alexander Hamilton having sex with a ghost. Now, I DID consider the logistics of ghostf*cking (aren’t ghosts intangible?) but that’s, thankfully, besides the point. Many Tumblr users accused digoxin-purpurpea of calling out hivliving only to exact revenge against the user who’d called them out for problematic smut. Does that seem plausible? Absolutely not. Does ANY of this seem plausible? It sure does not. All involved parties have since deleted their blogs, and these posts are available only on archives and forums.
2. My Immortal? My God.
One of the greatest mysteries about the infamous Harry Potter fanfiction “My Immortal” is whether or not it’s serious… second only to the mystery of who actually wrote it. In 2017, it seemed like we would finally get some answers. Then, it became quite clear we’d only gotten more questions.
Image Via The Daily Dot
If you’re not familiar with “My Immortal,” a quick Google search will rectify the situation AND possibly ruin your life. Imagine early-2000s Hot Topic culture in written form. Or just take a glance at the line: “I MAY BE A HOGWARTS STUDENT… BUT I AM ALSO A SATANIST!”
The story was authored by a young person under the pen name Tara Gilesbie, who claimed to be a teenager from Dubai. After 2007, her account went silent… until ten years later, when a poorly-written book from an unknown author was projected to outpace The Hate U Give on the NYT Bestseller list. This, obviously, prompted wild speculation—namely, that the author had bought her way onto the list. But one Booklist writer took an ever wilder guess: that the author had written “My Immortal.” According to publishers, she hadn’t, and for a startling reason…
UPDATE: SHE IS NOT THE AUTHOR OF MY IMMORTAL BC THE AUTHOR ALREADY HAS A BOOK OUT??? IT’S NONFICTION??? pic.twitter.com/3gERmLLT8f
— fast slow disco (@veedagger) August 25, 2017
Internet sleuths were quick to find the author, and there was a pretty large bread crumb trail from self-published author Rose Christo…
Image Via @FuriousGalaxyPizza Tumblr
Then readers began catching onto the fact that Christo DID have a book coming out with Wednesday Books, which lined up with the earlier Twitter evidence. Given that the book was called Under the Same Stars: The Search for My Brother and the True Story of My Immortal, it seemed that the sleuthing was over. The description only solidified what fans suspected:
Image Via Syfy
In the early 2000s, Rose Christo was separated from her five-year-old brother and shuttled between foster homes in Brooklyn to the Bronx and back again. Desperate to be reunited with her sibling, she traveled the five boroughs, unable to find any trace of him, as New York State’s child care agencies failed to help her time and again.
Then, with the help of one beloved foster sister, Rose created an infamous piece of Harry Potter fanfiction titled My Immortal, posting it online under the pseudonym XXXbloodyrists666XXX. The “44 chapters and 22,000 words of hysterical, typo-laden hyperbole” went viral as the most notoriously terrible fanfic ever read by the community. For years, fans, writers, and editors researched, debated, and contested the story’s origin and its mysterious author: Was this grammatically challenged rant actually written by a suicidal goth teenager named Tara Gillesbie living in Dubai, or was this a hoax perpetrated by a group of professional authors making fun of fanfiction?
The truth is a gripping, compelling, and surprisingly funny story of how a young girl infiltrated and used the fanfiction community to search for her brother by baiting their attention with a deliberately badly written tale, creating a 10-year mystery that garnered pop culture media attention and remained unsolved — until now.
After fans began bombarding Rose Christo’s since-deleted Tumblr, she updated her FAQ to include a description of the vetting process for her statements. The fact that she had been investigated thoroughly by a publisher, she said, meant that her claim to Internet fame was verifiable and unambiguously accurate.
Image Via Buzzfeed News
After her ‘outing,’ Christo began answering “My Immortal” related questions openly, despite frequent claims that she might get in trouble with her publisher. While some who had long been fascinated with the mystery of this fanfiction were delighted with the response, others wondered why she was willing to be so forthcoming while under contract.
Image Via @Furiousgalaxypizza Tumblr
When the publisher dropped the memoir only a month after its formal announcement, many weren’t surprised. The news had seemed too good to be true; Christo’s story was too akin to a fairytale to have actually happened. Many found it improbable that a bad fanfiction would have been the best way for Christo to find her brother, a strange decision for even a teenager to have made. But Christo herself still claimed to be the story’s author, insisting she’d been branded a liar.
— Laura (@cygnaut) October 2, 2017
But even the most ardent believers in Christo’s integrity couldn’t deny the truth when a man on KiwiFarms began posting that he was Christo’s brother—and that the two of them were white, not Native American. According to him, (user @DawnDusk), his sister was aware of his contact information throughout the timeline of her memoir. The forum itself is a pretty creepy place, so I wouldn’t recommend poking around, but it’s hard to question his claims given that the memoir had been cancelled.
We may never know who the real author of “My Immortal” was, but we know one thing: it sure as hell wasn’t Rose Christo.
3. Cassandra Clar(ify) Your Sources
Listen, I love the Shadowhunters universe. Cassandra Clare (real name Judith Lewis) has consistently made an effort to include LGBT+ characters in her writing—and not just when it became more profitable. City of Bones, which introduces fan-favorites gay Shadowhunter Alec Lightwood and bisexual warlock Magnus Bane, came out as early as 2007—incidentally, the same year I realized my uncontrollable obsession with the baddest b*tch in my middle school was not strictly platonic. (Was it the pink hair? The skate shoes?) It’s worth noting that Clare’s recent plagiarism scandal with author Sherrilyn Kenyon was logically unfounded, the allegations easily dismissed. Unfortunately, her early fanfiction is questionable. Let’s dive in and question it.
Image Via Amino Apps
Clare (then writing under pen name Cassandra Claire) authored the popular Draco Trilogy, three novel-length works of Harry Potter fanfiction following everyone’s favorite bad boy. Admittedly sexier than its relatively chaste source material, the Draco Trilogy was published from 2000-2006, one year before the release of City of Bones. Once under a publishing contract, Clare deleted her account and all of her fan writing. Of course, the stories are still available if you dig. But you don’t have to dig that deep in order to find all the drama surrounding Claire’s work—drama that got her kicked off of Fanfiction.net.
Image Via WRiters Digest
While writing the Draco Trilogy, Clare played a game with readers in which she dropped unattributed quotes (usually from Buffy The Vampire Slayer) for her friends to find. She may have also played some mind games—while some readers knew about the hidden references, she rarely stated outright that not all of the writing was explicitly hers. Generally, her Buffy quotes weren’t so suspect: all the quotations were direct, which seems consistent with her story of wanting them to be found. But some work was heavily paraphrased and not cited—technically not plagiarism but teeeeechnically a pretty shady way of avoiding criticism.
Look at this passage from Tanith Lee’s “Magritte’s Secret Agent” first…
The skin of his face had the sort of marvelous pale texture most men shave off when they rip the first razor blade through their stubble and the second upper dermis goes with it forever.
Now, look at this Draco Trilogy snippet…
‘I’ll be sorry when you start shaving,’ she said dreamily (she was quite lightheaded now), ‘I love that translucent quality your skin has, I always have. And when you rip that first razor through your stubble, that’ll go with it forever.’
Image Via Fanlore.org
She later added a citation for the novel in a different chapter after using some specific world-building concepts that readers also pointed out… but she never added a citation for this particular passage.
Clare frequently defended herself, remaking an account under her current pen name, Cassandra Clare (an account which has since been deleted). On this latter account, she responded indirectly to the allegations by assuring fans that she’d have nothing to gain from stealing anyone’s work:
I’ve mentioned all this before, but I suppose it bears repeating: none of the characters are mine, they all belong to JK Rowling (obviously) and Draco’s & others’ lines come from many sources: some are made up, some inspired by many sources, including but not limited to : Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Forever Knight, Due South, the X-Files, Woody Allen, the Handbook for Evil Overlords, obscure British sitcoms, Monty Python, Shakespeare, and I could go on and on, but rest assured that no maliciousness is intended and I am making not one cent (even more obviously!) off writing this, nor would I even want to. If you want to play spot-the-quote, feel free! More fun for everyone.
Regardless of your opinion on the matter, it’s a scandal that’s stood the test of time because of Clare’s international success… good thing all that money probably helps to drown out the haters!
Featured Image Via Vulture.