The Fanciful Fiction Auxiliary is a fictitious amateur writers’ group comprised of 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 instigator 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 are encouraged to perform FFA-related readings in character as though they are attending a meeting of the auxiliary, and to pose for awkward ‘cover photos’ in costumes and makeup befitting their eccentric creations. It’s a complete world, you see. Completely bonkers.
Fanciful Fiction Auxiliary pieces often include an element of romance, but there are no strict rules regarding genre or content. The literary indiscretions committed in FFA character are not intended as wholesale critiques of any genres they might haphazardly misrepresent (though some are inspired by particular tales or concepts that can be unpacked to wry effect). The emphasis is on creating something so amusingly odd it is difficult to imagine the story appearing anywhere else without an explanatory note. FFA pieces are light-hearted exercises in wordplay en route to creating something so antithetical to good writing that it becomes … good fun. Contributors range from emerging writers through to award-winning, multi-published literati. They are typically pun-loving, genre-embracing feminist dorks, and they have—without exception—noted how good it feels to be bad.
The origin of the FFA is a lengthy and uninteresting tale. FFA creator Jackie Ryan has an unnatural hunger for 80s blockbusters Return to Eden and Lace (with a side-order of Dynasty and Dallas), and has long admired the spoof western/romance opening sequence to Romancing the Stone. Years later, she was reminded of that sequence upon hearing Love by Braille, a short story by Lisa Fa’alafi, Lucas Stibbard, and Neridah Waters written for a romance-loving character in their play, Head Office (inspired in turn by a Brisbane Writers Festival appearance by Smart Bitches Trashy Books co-founder Sarah Wendell, who humorously deconstructed flawed romance book covers), and which appears on this site. Jackie was inspired to re-watch the Romancing the Stone sequence with fresh, hungry eyes. She wanted more. Much more. She wanted to make her own contribution to the anti-canon.
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 masterwork ‘The Island’).
Enter (through the same door!) Carody Culver: talented writer and editor, and debate-winning lowbrow defender 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—though her FFA efforts have not disguised her beautiful way with words. Carody has contributed a number of FFA stories, takes an electric cover photo, and co-edits all FFA stories with Jackie (we like all our mistakes to be on purpose).
Enter Jackie’s thought process: 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. This is how the FFA was born.
Jackie named it ‘Fanciful Fiction Auxiliary’ to raise the spectre of bygone citizens’ groups while avoiding placing gender or content restrictions on contributors, and to signal that the fictional members of the FFA might not be all that they imagine themselves to be: why call themselves a writing auxiliary? Is it possible they don’t understand some of the words they use? Jackie morphed into Valkyrie Cul-de-sac, Carody into Tuesday Thatch, and Kathryn became Misty Dawn. The inglorious logo and cover art is designed by Jackie from an unholy combination of original and stock images.
The founding members have been joined by a dazzling collection of emerging and established writers (as seen in the ‘Special Guest’ section of the menu), and it has been an absolute delight to see what each writer brings to this bizarre little world.
The FFA has performed at Woodford Folk Festival, the Queensland Poetry Festival, the Brisbane Fringe Festival, The Planting, Bad!Slam!No!Biscuit!, Bad!Slam!No!Memoir!, and at Noted Festival. In 2015, they established the FFA ‘Feathered Quill’ writing award, the inaugural winners of which were Adam Hadley and Michelle Law. The 2016 winners were Michelle Dicinoski and Lorelei Vashti. There is also some really neat news that we’re not allowed to announce yet.