The Water Cooler: The Best Worst Harry Potter Fan Fiction, Running An RPG Like A TV Show, And A Ron Swanson Diner

Welcome to The Water Cooler, a weekly feature where the /Film staff is free to go off-topic and talk about everything except the movies and TV shows they normally write about. In this edition: Hoai-Tran delights in new information on My Immortal, Jacob finally gets Blades in the Dark to his table, Ben visits Boston, Brad eats at a Ron Swanson-themed diner, and Peter performs magic for a group of strangers.

Hoai-Tran Bui is Fixated on the Resurfacing of the Most Infamous Harry Potter Fan Fiction, My Immortal

Let me take you back to 2006, to a time when Harry Potter mania was at its peak, social media was mostly untested, and fan fiction was really starting to take off. That was the year that spawned what is widely regarded as the worst fan fiction ever, My Immortal. Heavily influenced by the emo-goth bands that were ubiquitous at the time (My Immortal is named after the once-popular Evanescence song), My Immortal was a 44-chapter fan fiction chronicling the adventures of Ebony Dark'ness Dementia Raven Way, a petulant vampire attending Hogwarts and dating Draco Malfoy — a sensitive bisexual reeling from his break-up with Harry Potter (known only as "Vampire Potter" in the fic). The fan fiction ran for nearly two years and spanned 22,700 badly spelled, laughably stilted words — that's one-third the length of the first Harry Potter book by the way. It hit all the marks of a bad fan fiction: a Mary Sue insert, woefully out-of-character depictions, terrible grammar and spelling mistakes, and far too many descriptions of the students' Hot Topic Outfits. Also Snape was a Japanese-speaking teacher named Proffesor Sinister.

Of course, as ridiculously bad things are wont to do, My Immortal immediately earned a cult following, with a dedicated Wiki page studiously keeping track of the nonsensical subplots and name changes (Hermione became B'loody Mary Smith, and Ron is inexplicably known as Diabolo), and later, a live-action web series.

So why did it gain such an immense following? Precisely because of how artfully bad it was — for 44 whole chapters. Snippets like "'I MAY BE A HOGWARTS STUDENT....' Hargirid paused angrily. 'BUT I AM ALSO A SATANIST!'" or "'Kool.' Said Serious as Voldemort and Hedwig started 2 make out sexily,'" could only be the product of a genius mind, right? Even I, who wouldn't explore the world of fan fiction until 5 years later, had heard of this notorious fan fic. Hundreds of Internet sleuths emerged to find out who precisely the mysterious author was — and whether the whole thing was actually masterminded by a clever troll commenting on the state of fan fiction itself. And now, 11 years and countless false claims later, we may have finally discovered the true identity of the author of My Immortal.

Buzzfeed has an extensive report of this discovery, which involves a hacked FictionPress account, the discrediting of a YA novel cheating the New York Times Bestseller List, and the author's ultimate tell-all on her Tumblr. The author is reportedly Rose Christo, a novelist currently working on a memoir that may or may not be about My Immortal. One thing she will not confirm though: whether My Immortal is just one giant troll fic. But maybe it's better not to know, so that My Immortal can live on in infamy for — well — eternity.

blades in the dark

Jacob Hall Finally Got Blades in the Dark to the Table

After months of planning (and a few appearances here in The Water Cooler), I finally managed to get John Harper's fantasy tabletop RPG Blades in the Dark to the table. And it was as fun as I had hoped. Set in a fantasy world undergoing industrial revolution, the game casts players as members of a fledgling criminal organization that you build from the ground-up. In this case, I oversaw my players (a mix of RPG vets and newbies) as they built a cast of disgraced nobles, framed cops out for revenge, and obsessive street rats and decided that they would be a team of thieves and saboteurs known as "The Blackjacks." And then I unleashed them upon the city of Doskvol to steal, cheat, lie, and occasionally murder (my table was surprisingly anti-"kill everything in sight," but it turned out that one villain I cooked up really had it coming).

When I've played longer, I intend to devote a larger article to his game. Not because it's great (and it is one of the best RPG systems I've ever encountered), but because I made the active decision to treat the campaign like a season of television, an angle that seems to be working out rather well and immediately fired up the imaginations of the TV and movie fans in the group. I framed our first session as our pilot and each time we gather will be the next episode in the "season," with everything ultimately building to a climax/season finale of our own devising. This angle has helped shape the way we play the game in a big way – no one plays to make the numbers on their sheet get bigger, they play to push their characters into desperate and fun situations that they'd want to see in a TV show. We're the actors, directors, and writers of our own fantasy series.

It helps that Blades in the Dark's ingenious mechanics are inherently cinematic, allowing for situations to spiral out of control and for characters to appear effortlessly badass in the face of danger. I'm eagerly awaiting episode two of my new favorite show, mainly because it's the show I get to create alongside some of my best friends in the world.

Boston trip

Ben Pearson Visited Boston For The First Time

Over Labor Day weekend, my wife and I met up with my parents for a quick vacation to Boston, Massachusetts. It was the first time there for all of us, and we had a lot of fun doing tons of touristy things. We checked out the bar that served as the exterior for Sam Malone's bar in Cheers, ate a ton of great food, spotted some shooting locations from The Departed, and braved the lone rainy day of our vacation for a quick side trip to Salem (via a train, which none of us had ever been on before, so that was also fun). Pro tip, though: The Salem Witch Museum looks cool from the outside, but is almost unspeakably lame inside. We're talking "terrible animatronics that don't even move" levels of lame. Avoid at all costs.

Back in Boston, we went on what's called a "duck tour," in which you ride in a WWII-style amphibious vehicle that cruises around the city streets and then slides into the Charles River and basically turns into a boat, providing some cool views of the city from the water. We also tackled The Freedom Trail, a 2.5 mile path through Boston that takes you past a bunch of important places in U.S. history. There's the Old North Church, which displayed the lanterns on the night of Paul Revere's famous ride ("one if by land, two if by sea"); Revere's old house, built in 1680 and largely preserved in the state it was when he and his family lived there; the site of the Boston Massacre; and a few other spots worth seeing. It may sound kind of dumb, but something as simple as walking in the steps of our founding fathers humanized those men more for me than any history book ever did when I was growing up, and gave me a new appreciation for that dangerous era of our nation's history.

Whisk Chicago

Ethan Anderton Enjoyed Delicious Brunch at a Ron Swanson-Inspired Restaurant

Last weekend, I went into Chicago for a friend's wedding and stayed overnight. Before I went back home in the morning, brunch seemed like a pretty damn good idea, and when the friend I stayed with informed me of a Ron Swanson-decorated restaurant called Whisk, that was all I needed to know. Since Ron Swanson loves breakfast so much, I could only imagine that the geniuses who came up with this restaurant did too, and I was right.

Whisk is located near the Ukranian Village in Northwestern Chicago, and not only are the interiors covered with various paintings, drawings and images of Nick Offerman as Ron Swanson from Parks and Recreation, but it has some incredibly tasty food as well. On this particular day, I enjoyed the signature Reese's pancakes, featuring peanut butter cup pieces, a white chocolate sauce, fresh bananas and chocolate mascarpone. It was heavenly. I had a taste of their pumpkin cinnamon roll pancakes as well, and those were delightful too. As I understand it, this place has delicious burgers too, but I didn't get a chance to try them myself.

You can check out Whisk's full menu and learn all about it right here. If you're in Chicago and need a good brunch or burger spot, this is a good place for you to stop.

Peter Sciretta at the magic castle

Peter Sciretta Performed Magic in Front of Strangers at the Magic Castle

Last week, David Chen and his fiance were in town and I was able to hang out with them for two nights. Saturday night, we saw John Williams perform a concert at the Hollywood Bowl, which is always fantastic. On Friday night I took them to The Magic Castle in Hollywood, as they had never been. Now that I have my membership, this is something I expect will happen a lot more often. Stephen Tobolowsky and his lovely wife Ann also joined in on the fun.

We got to the castle a bit early and there were no shows going on, so I began giving the group a tour. Downstairs, I pointed to the room where I had my audition. And at that point, someone, probably Stephen, asked me to perform a magic trick for the group. I was hesitant, but now that I have my membership pin, I can perform magic tricks in the Castle. And no one was around, so I decided "Hey, why not."

When I wrote about becoming a member of the Castle on the site, I got tons of messages from friends and readers telling me they'd love to come watch me perform at the Castle, something I never intended to do. I like going to the Castle and watching the masters at work and enjoy being part of this community of magicians. I had brought some cards with me to perform a couple things for them at dinner, but maybe I'd perform for a few friends in one of the Castle's magic spaces. Just this once.

So I sat down at the table at the front of this impromptu magic performance space filled with rows of tables and began showing them one of the card tricks I performed during my audition. And of course, just as I began setting up the trick, a large group of strangers came down the stairs and decided to sit down and watch the magic. I mean, this is what happens at The Magic Castle: you find magic in every corner of this historic venue. So what began as me performing a trick for a few friends turned to me doing a show for a dozen strangers.

Because there was a growing group in the seats before me, I performed a couple more tricks before I admitted that it was all the magic I had brought with me to the Castle that night. Probably not the most climactic ending, but I thanked the onlookers and left with my group to enjoy the castle.

Normally, this would have been a terrifying experience for me, but just a couple weeks ago I performed the same tricks for a committee of magicians for my membership audition. Tricks and routines I practiced for months. That was truly nerve-wracking. Getting through that experience made this easy, fun and exciting.