Fanfiction is an integral part of the internet landscape. Since the 1990s forums and websites have been created so people can share stories about their favorite fictional characters boning. It is such an important part of the internet and fandom culture that there are academic studies devoted to the study of fandoms and fanfiction. And no talk about fanfiction can go without discussing one of the most iconic fan fictions on the internet. Uploaded to fanfiction.net between 2006 and 2007, it is the most popular and most infamous works of Harry Potter fan fiction (barring the Cursed Child). It is, of course, My Immortal.
My Immortal, written by Tara Gilesbie or XXXbloodyrists666XXX follows vampire witch, Ebony (or sometimes Eboby) Dark’ness Demertia Raven Way through her time at Hogwarts, where she dates gothic versions of signature characters, such as Draco Malfoy and Vampire (Harry) Potter. The writing is poor, the characters flat, and the plot revolves around which 2007 emo band is performing in Hogsmeade next. It is notoriously awful, and considered to be an encapsulation of everything wrong with fanfiction.
Questions over the authorship have been ongoing ever since the first chapter was published. Some have argued that the fanfction is so bad, so indicative of fanfiction culture of the time that it had to be a well-made parody. Others maintain that the sincerity of the author means it must be legitimate. Many have claimed ownership, but all are eventually disproven. I doubt we’ll ever find the real author of this modern day masterpiece of bad writing. And I’m ok with that. Sometimes, the real author doesn’t matter. My Immortal reveals much more about Tara Gilesbie than the reveal of the authorship ever could.
The portrait My Immortal paints of its author is so exact – it’s amazing. Through this fanfiction we can see what she is obsessed with, what annoys her, how she views the world, She is extremely interested in all things gothic, but doesn’t seem to have must knowledge about the subculture over than clothes from hot topic. And speaking of Hot Topic, she has clearly poured over their collections with the amount of time and detail spent on describing each gothic outfit. She has a friend, Raven/ bloodytearz666, who also wrote fanfiction, and occasionally gets in a fight with (this can be seen both through authors notes and the treatment of Raven’s insert character throughout the text). The author is slightly biphobic, and seems to fetishise gay men – all of her characters are bi, including Ebony, but only the boys are told to have had any romantic interest in each other.
But the true picture that My Immortal gives us of its author is that of an insecure, awkward teenage girl who longs to be the center of attention, with a hot boyfriend and multiple guys fighting over her. She wants to be desired, to be cool and mysterious and a little bit dark. She wants to rebel against authority and kiss boys and “do sex with them”. She’s a teenage girl, and that oozes out of every chapter.
My Immortal in some ways reminds me of the classic bad film, The Room, directed by Tommy Wiseau. Like The Room, My Immortal, deals with a self insert character of the author who seems to be the center of their world, but really ends up revealing far more about the author’s hopes, dreams, and insecurities that is really comfortable. And in a way reveals something about our own attempts at wish fulfillment.
It may be a train-crash of a work of literature, by My Immortal is a deeply personal train-crash. We can’t help but look because it reflects something we’ve all wanted for ourselves. Who hasn’t wanted to be the best at everything? It feels nice to pretend we’re the centre of the universe, and everything revolves around us. What My Immortal does is expose that wish fulfillment as what it is: shallow and self-serving.
But that doesn’t even matter. My Immortal revels in its own self-centeredness. It is all about Ebony Dark’ness Demertia Raven Way, because why not? My Immortal is not trying to be anything more than it is: a fun bit of wish fulfillment for a teenage girl. There’s nothing wrong with that, and if the author of My Immortal found writing this fanfiction where Draco Malfoy sang My Chemical Romance songs to flirt with her empowering, who are we to judge? It may be terrible, but there are more harmful works of art out there.
I’ll probably never stop thinking about My Immortal, and its author, whoever they are. It’s an enduring work of fiction because it almost feels like its not. The author lives alongside the words, as much a part of the overarching narrative as the numerous descriptions of Hot Topic clothes. It’s a piece of art that could only exist on the early internet, where everyone is both anonymous and therefore vulnerable, where you can gain extremely clear insight into someone who’s screen name is XXXbloodyrists666XXX Long live My Immortal, and anyone who disagrees is a prep.
[Jo Reid – @jomreid]