The Spork is Mightier

May 12, 2013
By nonvoxsedvotum SILVER, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
nonvoxsedvotum SILVER, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
5 articles 0 photos 0 comments

Favorite Quote:
"True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country." --Kurt Vonnegut

Most afternoons can find me hunched over my laptop, clicking earnestly away on the keyboard as I transfer the thoughts in my head onto a Word document. Sometimes I have a book open beside me, sometimes I have my iPod or Pandora running. This isn’t homework or an angst-ridden blog piece. What I’m working on today will be posted on the Internet for all to see within a few days, by way of a fairly well-known Livejournal community called Das Sporking.
It’s safe to assume that most people don’t know what sporking is. The creator and head of Das Sporking, Mervin, defines it thus: “A sporking is basically someone taking a story they think is bad and inserting their commentary into it a la MST3K. It’s a riff—it’s them poking fun at it and pointing out why they think it’s bad. At its heart, it’s a review. On the surface, it’s light-hearted snark, but you’re actually explaining the flaws of the piece in an entertaining fashion.”
One afternoon, I sat at my computer, bored as I poked around the Interwebs for something to do. I’d recently read a Livejournal post by Stoney321 that riffed on the Twilight series, pointing out the Mormon subtext littered throughout the books and other funny, interesting things. At one point in her series of posts—dubbed the “LDS Sparkledammerung”—she referred to it as a “sporking.” I’d never heard the term before. Out of curiosity, I decided to search it and, a few Google clicks later, I discovered Das Sporking.
Thrilled by my new find, I quickly set about reading everything I could on the site. With the aid of the dedicated sporking squad, I made my way through the likes of “Ariana Black,” “Hogwarts Exposed,” and “Rose Potter.” I was in love with the snarky commentary and the way the sporkers were able to point out writing flaws I’d never been aware of before. It quickly became one of my favorite sites to visit. Soon enough, I wondered if I couldn’t do the same thing. Alas, for almost a year, Mervin suspended sporker sign-ups due to some personal issues, but in the fall of 2012, she opened them once more.
Applying for a position on the Das Sporking team was nerve-wracking. I read Mervin’s instructions for application more times than I could count, worried I’d forgotten or missed something. I spent hours trying to fine-tune my entry sporkings—riffs on the first couple of chapters of a young adult novel entitled Shade. I wrestled back and forth, fretting over how I would feel if I got rejected and wondering what would happen if I were accepted. At length, I finally convinced myself there was nothing more to do and I had followed all the instructions to the letter (one instruction, hidden in the list of rules, requested that anyone applying to become a sporker use the phrase “Cram it with walnuts, ugly!” so Mervin knew we’d read all her rules). I took one last look over my submission chapters and my application note, said a prayer, and sent Mervin the message.
Mervin, being busy, does not respond immediately to most messages. I waited with nail-biting tension for almost two weeks, hoping fervently I’d be accepted. I checked and double-checked her sporker sign-ups page, verifying that she would indeed send me a message regardless of whether or not I was accepted. At last, I logged on to Livejournal and saw I had one message. Nervously, I clicked on it, but switched tabs before I could read it—I wasn’t sure if I wanted an answer yet or not. I dithered around for a few minutes, trying to delay the inevitable. Eventually, I took a breath and made myself read Mervin’s message. And then I squealed like a little girl, because I’d been accepted and was now a part of the Das Sporking team. Now it was time to make a name for myself.
All sporkers develop a unique brand of humor. It’s a good trait for writers to have—picking up bits and pieces of styles you like and stitching it all together into the patchwork quilt of your own voice. There’s really no way to learn how to spork other than reading them and deciding what you like and what you don’t. Whether it’s adopting a running joke that works well or a bouncy, conversational style of writing, every sporker has a trademark that makes them pretty easy to identify. Mervin, for example, is famous for losing her temper and going all-out caps-lock rage on writers. Ket Makura, another prominent Das Sporking member, often “explodes” as a way of expressing her fury.
Sporking isn’t always glitter and rainbows. Even though linking back—sending a writer a link to a sporking of their work—is strictly forbidden, people still do it. And the backlash can be terrible. One sporker, Midoriri, took on an author’s note aimed at her when a writer discovered her sporking. The same writer continued her attack in the comments answering Midoriri’s post. Even if the original author doesn’t get wind of the riffing of their work, fans of it may descend furiously on the sporking and attempt to defend it. This mostly occurs with more well-known pieces, such as the Twilight series. A good sporker, however, will be able to stand by the points they made and weather criticism without worry.
Despite the fact that most writers never see their works sporked, it’s educational. Those that read the sporkings can learn what not to do in their writing. Most sporkers are always swift to catch grammar mistakes, such as the misplacement of commas and other punctuation. As for the more subtle attributes of writing, such as plot and characterization, good sporkers can track these things and point out where the author went wrong—or what she did right (we’re not total jerks). We’re often quick to nail a writer for creating a Mary Sue or for twisting a canon character OOC (out of character).
Sporkers have their own vernacular. Much of it is common Internet slang, but some things are specific to the sporking community and the smaller neighborhoods within it. One of the most commonly used terms is Mary Sue, or its male counterpart, Gary Stu. This is a perfect character with no flaws that everyone seems to love, no matter how much they despise everyone else. A Mary Sue can also be an insert character, either for the writer or the reader. Bella Swan from Twilight exemplifies this almost perfectly: she doesn’t have any character flaws, she’s flat and has no personality so readers can slip themselves into her shoes, and almost every major character praises her and thinks she’s wonderful.
The word crossover describes a type of fanfiction that combines two or more previously established canons; for example, the characters of Percy Jackson go to Hogwarts and have adventures with the Harry Potter crew. Words thrown around less often include squick—nasty, gross, or nauseating, whether intentional or not— and slash or shipping—the pairing of two characters, be it canon or not. “Slash” often refers to gay, usually non-canonical pairings. A dead herring, as defined in their Twilight sporking by Mervin and her sister and partner, Mrs. Hyde, “is when an author tries their best to establish a red herring, but goes about doing it in the worst way possible, not by distracting you with something else, but rather by loudly insisting what it couldn’t be—namely, the exact thing it actually is.”
Most sporkers deal in the realm of fanfiction, because fanfiction as a whole is pretty terrible. Since most fanfiction writers are teenagers or young adults, they often lack the experience and expertise to make a story good. That’s where the sporkers come in, as mentioned before. Some sporkers, though, choose to tackle published works. On Das Sporking, the most notable include Mervin and Mrs. Hyde’s riffing of the Twilight series and Ket Makura and Gehayi’s sporking of Fifty Shades. To avoid copyright infringement, most sporkers of novels choose to quote and recap rather than commenting directly on the text.

As I sit and finish up my sporking of Shade, I might laugh at a particular metaphor or growl at the heroine’s actions. I may complain on occasion about how soul-crushing this job is, but I have as much fun writing the sporkings as I do reading them. Perhaps the best way to understand exactly what sporking entails, however, is to read them yourself.

The author's comments:
Sporking is one of my favorite hobbies, and I wrote this article to educate people about it and hopefully get them interested in this great new chapter of literary criticism.

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