The Fanciful Fiction Auxiliary is a fictitious amateur writers’ group comprising miscellaneous oddball characters with ‘ideas’ about their place in the literary world, presided over by its triumphantly egotistical founding member, Valkyrie Cul-de-sac (played by the real-world founding editor of the FFA, Jackie Ryan). The various ‘members’ of the auxiliary are devised and performed by a revolving group of writers who have been invited to … turn bad. To go rogue. To overwrite. To underwrite. To ‘do it wrong’.
So wrong it’s right.
Writers aren’t just submitting a story when they produce something for the FFA; they are creating (and writing in the voice of) characters that fit neatly into its pleasantly delusional world. Contributing authors may also pose for awkward story ‘cover photos’ in costumes befitting their eccentric creations, and perform FFA-related readings in absurd character at various festivals. It’s a complete world, you see. Completely bonkers.
Fanciful Fiction Auxiliary stories often include an element of romance, but there are no strict rules regarding genre or content. The literary indiscretions committed in FFA mode are not intended as sweeping critiques of any of the genres they might haphazardly misrepresent—though some of them unpack ungainly techniques and questionable or hackneyed tropes to wry effect. The emphasis is on creating something so amusingly odd it is difficult to imagine the story existing somewhere else. These pieces are light-hearted exercises in wordplay en route to creating something so antithetical to good writing that it becomes … great fun. Contributors range from emerging writers through to award-winning international bestselling authors and literati. They are typically pun-loving, genre-embracing feminist lefty dorks, and they have—without exception—noted how difficult it is to write ‘good-bad’.
The origin of the FFA is a lengthy and uninteresting tale. For years, FFA creator Jackie Ryan had corralled group viewings of 80s blockbusters, such as Return to Eden and Lace (with a side-order of Dynasty and Dallas), and had long admired spoof writing offerings, such as the opening sequence to Romancing the Stone. Several years ago, she was reminded of that sequence while watching rehearsals for the play Head Office by Lisa Fa’alafi, Lucas Stibbard and Neridah Waters, which featured a reminiscent spoof. Jackie was inspired to re-watch the Romancing the Stone opening sequence with fresh, hungry eyes. She wanted more. Much more. She wanted to make her own contribution to the anti-canon. But writing romance spoofs wasn’t new territory. What could be new?
Well … what if these anti-works had been produced in earnest? What sort of characters could stray so far from the genres they presumably love? So mishandle the tropes? Descend so emphatically into cliché? Were they bubble-wrapped with wealth? Ego? Denial? All of the above? Perhaps they would cluster together in like-minded, misguided groups. And thus a (too) bold new writers’ group was born.
Jackie named it ‘Fanciful Fiction Auxiliary’ to raise the spectre of bygone citizens’ groups and to signal that its fictional members might not be all they imagine themselves to be: why call themselves a writing auxiliary? Is it possible they don’t understand some of the big words that they use? Jackie morphed into Valkyrie Cul-de-sac, the personally acclaimed Convenor, Grand Vice Executive Chancellor, and Supreme Foundational Member of the FFA.
Enter Kathryn Kelly: dramaturg extraordinaire, theatre reviewer, academic, and romance novel addict. Kathryn was excited by the theatrical possibilities for live readings of original bad work—and by the prospect of unleashing some herself (which she promptly did, with her FFA pseudonym Misty Dawn).
Enter (through the same door!) Carody Culver: talented writer and editor with a love of B-grade and a PhD in cookbooks. Carody was similarly enamoured with the opportunity to be a writer without tasteful borders. Under the pseudonyms Tuesday Thatch and Sunday Best, Carody has contributed a number of FFA stories; she also co-edits all FFA stories with Jackie (we like all our mistakes to be on purpose).
The founding members have since been joined by a dazzling collection of emerging and established writers (as seen in the ‘Special Guest’ section of the website), and it has been an absolute delight to see what each writer brings to this bizarre little world.
The FFA had a sellout show and accompanying art exhibition at the Brisbane Powerhouse in 2016, and has performed at Brisbane Writers’ Festival, Woodford Folk Festival, the Queensland Poetry Festival, The Planting, the Brisbane Fringe Festival, Bad!Slam!No!Memoir!, and Noted Festival. In 2015, the FFA ‘Feathered Quill’ writing award was introduced, the inaugural winners of which were Adam Hadley and Michelle Law. Subsequent winners include Michelle Dicinoski, Lorelei Vashti, and Pascalle Burton.
In 2017 the FFA website was archived by the National Library of Australia as a site of cultural significance.