This article originally appeared on VICE France.
Ebony Dark'ness Dementia Raven Way is a young, gothic, Satanist witch. Recently accepted at Hogwarts, she steals the heart of equally gothic Satanist Draco Malfoy. After a Good Charlotte concert in Hogsmeade, the black-clad lovebirds consummate their relationship in the Forbidden Forest. All of a sudden, Dumbledore barges in, shouting, "WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING, YOU FUCKING IDIOTS?”.
Ebony cries tears of blood and goes off to sleep in her coffin. She doesn't know it yet, but Harry Potter himself will soon fall in love with her. Renamed "Vampire" following his conversion to Satanism, and now sporting a pentagram-shaped scar on his forehead, Harry has to compete with his former lover, Draco, to win Ebony’s heart. But there’s a catch: Ebony has been ordered to murder Vampire by none other than Voldemort himself!
If you’re confused by this horny, gothic, bisexual portrayal of JK Rowling’s wizarding universe, you’re not alone. What you’ve just read is a summary of the first five (of 44) chapters of the legendary “My Immortal” fan-fiction.
Inspired by the world of Harry Potter, “My Immortal” was originally uploaded on fanfiction.net between 2006 and 2007, by author XXXbloodyrists666XXX, also known as Tara Gilesbie. But the real identity of the author(s?) of what’s been described as the worst fan-fiction ever written remains a mystery. Fans are determined to solve it, haunted by the question of whether this terrible tale was the genuine effort of an ambitious angsty teen, or just bad on purpose.
As if subject to a shoddy encryption program, the spelling and grammar switch from relatively correct to absolutely unbearable from one chapter to the next. According to the extremely reliable “My Immortal” Wiki, a dedicated fan page, the first 15 chapters of the fan-fic were edited by a friend of Gilesbie’s called Raven. After that, all bets are off – the writing increasingly resembles the style of the truly baffling author’s notes that introduce almost every chapter.
"WARNING: SUM OF DIS CHAPTA IS XTREMLY SCRAY. VIOWER EXCRETION ADVISD,” Gilesbie wrote in one note. Or “STOP flaming! if u flam it menz ur a prep or a posr! … PS im nut updating umtil I get five good revoiws!” she wrote in another, asking readers to stop attacking her and threatening not to add any further updates to the story.
In the story’s parallel Potterverse, early-2000s American bands like Good Charlotte, Simple Plan and My Chemical Romance are described as “gothic” in a terminally silly way. The story also takes a jab at the canon of the Harry Potter saga itself, turning all the main characters into second-rate “goffs” and relentlessly butchering their names and personal traits.
Dumbledore – sometimes “Dumblydore” or “Dumbledark” – becomes a gothic poser with a split personality, at times senile and at other times verbally abusive towards his students. Sirius Black, renamed “Serious”, is at one point referred to as “Sodomizes”. The newly introduced character of Professor Sinistra, Ebony’s favourite teacher, also shows up as Professor “Sinatra”. An upsetting number of Hogwarts teachers turn out to be paedophiles.
"It’s all the things that people in the fanfic community most hate," Princeton associate professor Anne Jamison told Vulture in 2015. Through its loose plot and wild characterisation, the story mocks fandoms renowned for their sensitivity – metal heads, Potterheads, goths. Even though a few fans have insisted “My Immortal” is real, others believe it’s a prime example of internet trolling, a masterpiece of this noble art.
Many theories have emerged about Gilesbie’s real identity, and fans have been looking for clues in the text’s 22,000 words – but not much is known about her. The note “omfg im leeving dubya pretty soon kant wait!!!" led many to speculate that Gilesbie was from Dubai. But “dubya” could also stand for an exaggerated pronunciation of the letter “W”, which could have been a reference to an actual place, or a way to mock then-president of the United States, George W. Bush.
After Chapter 44, where Ebony "cries sexily" and shoots “Voldrimort” an "Abrakadabra", “My Immortal” abruptly ends, leaving fans to speculate whether Gilesbie outgrew her “goffic” persona, forgot to update the story or simply got bored and sacked it off.
Since Gilesbie’s last upload in 2007, many have claimed authorship, but none have successfully convinced internet investigators. In 2017, a certain Rose Christo went to great lengths to prove that she had co-authored the fan-fiction. Among other things, she produced a supposedly original typescript and claimed she owned the email address that was used to create the XXXbloodyrists666XXX account on fanfiction.net. This landed her a publishing contract, which was quickly cancelled when internet users proved she had fabricated her evidence.
Almost 15 years after publication, a few stubborn fans are still looking for Tara Gilesbie, convinced the work was simply too time-consuming to be a stunt. In the meantime, the book has reached cult status and even spawned a web series. Whether you discovered it in 2006 or in 2020, “My Immortal” remains a testament to the magic of the internet.