We need to have a serious talk about this Gilmore Girls fic.
As Will Smith once said, OK. Here’s the situation.
Someone is writing The Subsect. Jess’s novel. I’m frankly amazed that in all the years of online Gilmore Girls fandom that no one has attempted to do this before, and it’s entirely possible that someone has. But I’m too new to this fandom to know, and if someone tried to write The Subsect before, it probably wasn’t like this story.
Because here’s the thing. This version of The Subsect, in its current online metafictional form, is fucking amazing. It’s so good that I thought, after a first pass, that it might actually be very good, very well-placed guerrilla marketing for the revival. But I don’t think it is. I think it’s just a fic. Written by some wicked smart person somewhere out there.
If you want to read it, it’s here. The single most devastating thing about it, so far, is that it’s only two chapters long.
I have many thoughts about this story, but let’s start at the beginning, in the first chapter.
And as a note, the following contains many spoilers, so if you want to remain unspoiled in regards to this story – however filthy and corrupted your mind may already be – stop reading now, go read the damn first chapter of The Subsect, and then come back and read this.
Thoughts on the first chapter of the fanfictional Subsect, in no particular order. Here come some bullet points…
- The first chapter is set in New York City, where we find Jess growing up as a youthful hoodlum and accomplished card shark, as you would expect. The level of accurate, ultra-specific detail about NYC in this story, though, is mind-boggling. Subway stops. The names of businesses. Geography. Every word of it – with a couple of fascinating exceptions, which I’ll talk about – is real. And it’s not just accurate in general. It’s accurate to the period of the story. An example: At some point, the narrator – called J., but I’ll presume it’s Jess – mentions a bookstore near Columbia University named Labyrinth. It’s real, but it’s now under new ownership and has a new name. You’d never know this, ever, unless you went to that bookstore before it was renamed. So whoever’s writing this is a New Yorker and has been for a while, or they’re a research freak of truly epic and admirable proportions.
- The story contains a freakishly contextual reference to Italian opera, and an ominous quote from Julius Caesar in Latin that both foreshadows the conflict later in the chapter and harkens back to Jess’s growing affinity for gambling. This is not garden-variety fanfic, friends.
The story invents a completely genius plot device that has Jess leaving NYC for Stars Hollow not just because he’s bad and is doing bad things — although he is and does, per cannon and the details of this story — but he also leaves the city in the wake of 9/11. The craziest thing about this? It totally works. The episode where Jess steps off the bus in Stars Hollow aired on October 20, 2001.
There are two references in this story that are clearly fictionalized. (And there may be more. I just haven’t spotted them yet.) The first one is about Liz working at Shrafft’s as a waitress. Newsflash: There is no Schrafft’s anywhere in NYC, and there hasn’t been since maybe the 1970s. So why the fictional reference amidst all this hard, cold, New York-y reality? Well, here’s the deal. As the story mentions, the Scrafft’s where Liz works is on 79th Street, and there was indeed a Schrafft’s restaurant on East 79th Street, though it was closed long before the action of this story takes place, and has now been torn down. But this particular Schrafft’s is notable because it was mentioned in a J.D. Salinger novella called Raise High the Roofbeam. Who would write that kind of obscure reference into a novel that’s otherwise positioned as a thinly veiled memoir? Why, your favorite pretentious literature nerd and mine: Jess Fucking Mariano. In fact this reference breaks the otherwise factual fabric of the story. It fucks up everything that’s been so meticulously plotted before and after it — including the piece’s careful attention to geography. As Liz gets off her shift at the fictional Schrafft’s, she beelines it for the 2 train to head uptown to her next job in the Bronx. Well, the Salinger Scrafft’s was on the East Side of Manhattan, where there is certainly no 2 train. The point of all this? To make you, dear reader, believe in your soul of souls that Jess Mariano wrote this story. If he wasn’t a fictional character on TV show, I might think that he actually did. The other fictional reference is when J. describes being robbed and beat up in a park in Bensonhurst by the Jones Street Boys, who are a fictional gang in the video game The Warriors.
It’s also worth mentioning that the chapter’s opening language is so very, very true to Jess’ character. The sense of poetic surreality. The ten-cent words. The thin veil of fiction over what’s clearly a memoir. It is the kind of stuff that first-time dude novelists do when they’ve spent too much time reading the beats. The result? It’s all weirdly convincing. I don’t just believe that Jess wrote this story. I believe that there is, in fact, a Jess. So how did we get here? Where the best piece of metafiction I’ve read all year is a Gilmore Girls fanfic? Tell me that.
I have more to say about this story. But I need to re-read the second chapter first and this post is really long and annoying, so I’ll stop.