“If there’s anyone [in comics] who needs to get laid,” Shipwreck organizer Amy Stephenson told the huge crowd at The Bell House last night, “it’s these morose characters.” She was talking, of course, about the cast of Alan Moore’s masked-hero graphic novel Watchmen. The fact that it’s New York Super Week only makes it more fitting that Shipwreck chose Watchmen around which to craft a night of erotic fanfiction that was just as dark and dirty as Moore’s book.
It was Lock In author John Scalzi who took home the dubious honor of first place with his inventive look into the mind of Rorschach’s psychiatrist Dr. Malcolm Long. But the path to Scalzi’s win was incredibly entertaining, as Welcome to Night Vale’s Cecil Baldwin read the stories aloud to cheers, incredulous laughter, and more than a few shocked gasps.
Warning: some of the language quoted below gets a little salty.
Here’s how Shipwreck—usually based in San Francisco, but now having crossed the country twice for ShipwreckNY—works: Six writers are assigned characters from a great literary work, and tasked with writing the most ridiculous, button-pushing, hot’n’heavy, canon-or-not erotica.
The characters are randomly assigned, which Stephenson believes pushes the writers out of their comfort zone. “I think that if they got to choose who to write about,” she said, “it would be less fun.” They’re also limited to 800-1,200 words—but after that, anything is fair game.
The stories are read anonymously, and the audience votes for the top three; the winner then gets to return for the next month to defend his/her title. The winner of the previous ShipwreckNY was Jeffrey Cranor, co-creator of Night Vale, who cracked up that audience with automobile-centric Great Gatsby smut. Now that a winner has been crowned, we can tell you who wrote for whom:
- Naomi Novik (Temeraire series)—Jon Osterman/Dr. Manhattan
- Jeffrey Cranor (WTNV)—Ursula Zandt/The Silhouette
- Sarah Maclean (Never Judge a Lady By Her Cover)—Sally Jupiter/Silk Spectre I
- John Scalzi (Lock In)—Dr. Malcolm Long
- Kevin Avery (Last Week Tonight with John Oliver)—Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias
- Kate Leth (Adventure Time, Lumberjanes)—Dan Dreiberg/Nite Owl II
Half the fun was watching the writers’ reactions up on the stage, as they tried to play it cool so that you couldn’t guess whose story was whose, but instead wound up responding to all of the other outrageous stories. If you watched closely enough, the writers would give away which stories were theirs by the flickers of pride on their faces. Though Scalzi, to his credit, remained straight-faced through all six stories. And of course, the ones who cracked up clearly gave away that they hadn’t written the more ridiculous pieces.
Leth and Avery were the most amusing to watch. Avery spent half the night with his head on the table, and even had to walk offstage for one story (either when Nite Owl II and Silk Spectre II roleplayed as randy birds, or during Dr. Malcolm’s naughty journal entries); and Leth provided a running commentary on both the Silhouette (crime-fighting turns into lesbian wrestling) and Dr. Manhattan (her “wtf” face in response to the orgasms in a box) stories.
Soon you’ll be able to read the stories in full on the Shipwreck Tumblr, but here are some highlights from last night:
- “The two figures lunged at each other, like two freight trains trying to fuck.”
- Dr. Malcolm’s longing for a Rorschach bodysuit made out of the same material as his mask—the shifting inkblots looking like a butterfly framing his “very fleshy proboscis.”
- Malcolm’s poor wife Gloria, who becomes the recipient for all of his forbidden workplace fantasies.
- “Caw! Caw!”—the mating call of our two bird-people, but made even better by Cecil’s delivery.
- In typical Dr. Manhattan fashion, he thinks that giving his ex Janie the eight orgasms she faked during their relationship (packaged as balls of hormones and energy) is the perfect gift. She never uses them.
- The audience chanting “Big blue dick! Big blue dick!”
- Dickless Ozymandias action figure to the very endowed Ozymandias figure: “Fuck me! Fuck me in my leghole!”
My personal favorites were the pieces written by Scalzi, Novik, and Maclean. I’ve long been a fan of Maclean’s romance novels, and I was pleased to be able to detect her voice in the Sally Jupiter piece. In keeping with her progressive novels, her piece had Hooded Justice—about whom we know very little in the book—beg Sally Jupiter to penetrate him. Points for non-heteronormative sex. I’ve already pointed out several excellent moments in Scalzi’s; the fact that he made this minor character’s weird erotic crush so believable is likely what helped him win.
Then there’s Novik, whose piece read the most like an erotic fanfic—no surprise, as she helped to build the Archive of Our Own for fanfiction in 2008. The repetition of interludes starting with “Dr. Manhattan is making love to [insert character] [insert number of times]” provided an excellent framework that she then subverted. I was especially impressed with how she pulled from canon in the Ozymandias interlude, where Dr. Manhattan doesn’t actually remember how many times he and Ozymandias do it. My one quibble was that not all of the writers were able to display as keen knowledge of canon; as a former fanfiction writer, I appreciate it when writers can keep me grounded in a fanfic.
While the ShipwreckNY folks tallied up the votes, New York’s premiere geeky a capella group Choirfly entertained us with a parody-heavy set. Songs included “The Hero of Canton” performed in the style of a madrigal arrangement, and my personal favorite, “Foiled”—villains crooning about how “the JLA just ain’t for us / we crave a different kind of buzz” to Lorde’s “Royals.” (Full disclosure: I’m friends with several members of Choirfly.)
Shipwreck is looking to return to NYC again, so keep up with them on Facebook to find out about future shows!
Natalie Zutter writes plays about superheroes and sex robots, articles about celebrity conspiracy theories, and Tumblr rants about fandom. You can find her commenting on pop culture and giggling over Internet memes on Twitter.