So Bad Its Good: Literature
These are not books to be leafed through quickly. They should be laughed with (or at) whenever the opportunity arises. note
- The Adventures of Archie Reynolds. Preteen boy goes about his everyday life, dealing with bullies, playing some harmless pranks with a girl, and getting into danger dealing with criminals. That sounds pretty fun, doesn't it? The problem is in the execution. The kids act very weird for kids that age. A girl cracks an egg over Archie's head and calls him an "egghead." (And she's 12?) The boys act like Girls Have Cooties or something, despite the fact that real boys and girls that age tend to be discovering each other. There's a lot of godawful repetitive writing. Sometimes the writing tells you something happens, then tells you why it happened, which even books written for younger kids don't do. All sorts of improbable things happen. It's hilarious.
- ANTIGUA: The Land of Fairies Wizards and Heroes. The summary is enough to give you a good idea; "Search Inside" if you dare. The scary part? It was written by an adult.
- Sweet Mother of God, the exclamation marks! There's more of them than full stops on the sample page! If multiple exclamation marks are a sure sign of a diseased mind, then so's that. Oh yeah, and there's no such thing as a "lightening bolt!"
- Theophilus Marzials's poem, "A Tragedy" is considered the worst poem in the English language. Read it out loud in your most Shakespearean voice.
- Played With in The Book Of Heroic Failures: The Official Handbook of the Not Terribly Good Club of Great Britain. The book itself is brilliant, but it's a documentary of scores if not hundreds of accidents, mix-ups, flubs, faux-pas, and general failures
- One of the oldest surviving examples is Felicia Hemans' Casabianca, which is surely the single most parodied poem of all time. The best-known parody (which is also quite an accurate synopsis) being Spike Milligan's Casabazonka:
The boy stood on the burning deck
Whence all but he had fled —
- The Clique. It's full of Product Placement, Most Writers Are Adults, and disturbing morals, every main character is a Jerk Sue, and tries its hardest to sex up middle school age girls. It has a huge fan base due to Bile Fascination. But warning: it's a massive trigger for bullying victims.
- The Diamond Brothers books by Anthony Horowitz. Intentionally. It's obvious he had fun writing those...
- English As She Is Spoke is a famously So Bad, It's Good phrase book from the 19th century. It's what happens when a Portuguese guy who doesn't know English but who does know French decides to write a Portuguese-English phrase book by means of a Portuguese-French and a French-English dictionary. Babelfish, before the Internet.
- This is the basis of The Eye of Argon's fame. This Conan the Barbarian style fantasy story is so horrendously written that it causes hysterical fits of laughter as your brain inevitably fails to reconcile the senseless drivel that constitutes this verbal abomination. Many gaming conventions hold "Eye of Argon" parties where players take turn reading it aloud, trying to see who can read it the longest while keeping a straight face.
- The FBI's 83-page internet slang glossary was widely mocked upon its publication in 2014 for numerous abbreviations and slang terms that were outdated by many years and some that have likely never been widely used. (Ever heard someone drop "GIWIST" - "Gee, I wish I'd said that"?)
- Fifty Shades of Grey is Twilight without vampires, with even less plot and even worse writing but it's hilarious with all the idealized sex scenes. Bonus points if you're Hungarian, as the Hungarian translation is filled not only with mistranslations, but things "translated" that didn't need translation. Kings of Leon, for example, became "Oroszlánkirály" (Lion King). This led to Memetic Mutation under the name Tótiszism (from the translator's name, András Tótisz). This is worse than the Hungarian Slayers dub's Verselő Lina ("translation" of Lina Inverse), but at least, this is hilarious compared to the other "plain bad".
- Ghost, better known as the "OH JOHN RINGO NO" book. It was written by John Ringo letting his Id run free in order to clear his head of the idea so he could get back to other works whose writing the idea was blocking. Much to his chagrin, a sample posted to the Baen's Bar forums resulted in an outpouring of support that demanded it be printed. Rule of Cool fully applies.
hradzka: The PALADIN OF SHADOWS series is arguably the most horrifying series of books I have ever read. It has a hero I can't stand, politics so strong they're comical, and sex scenes that are downright horrifying. And I cannot stop reading it. I am going to buy every single one, and if Ringo ever comes out with a spin-off featuring Katya as Cottontail the Bionic Whore, I will buy that too. Because dammit, there's bad, and then there's so bad you have to memorialize it for future generations.
- The Star Wars Expanded Universe novel The Glove of Darth Vader and its sequels are packed with Narm, Anvilicious Green Aesops, and Written Sound Effects (in a novel!); inevitably, many readers enjoy them for it. That the writers in an interview defended the series by pointing to its popularity among students, a demographic notably fond of Snark Bait, suggests that they're in on the joke even if they originally weren't. These books were probably aimed at children, given the number of pictures and the painfully simplistic plots. 10 years later, though, they qualify for this trope.
- Inheritance Cycle is a borderline case, either falling into this or Guilty Pleasures. Were it not for the awesomeness that is Jeremy Irons, the film would not be either.
- Knight Moves, supposedly a romance, but in fact awful erotica. A woman accidentally ends up in the men's room of a Medieval Times-type restaurant, which somehow sends her to the Middle Ages. There, she screws her way through most of England before returning to Philadelphia for a hideously racist Your Momma rap contest with a street gang who speak nothing even resembling street speak. And if that's not enough, the sex scenes veer from IKEA Erotica to Purple Prose and back, violently. One of the more work-safe excerpts:
"And 'tis time for us to partake of Pleasure's fruit again, milady. My codpiece has desired your lady-softness all day long.".
- Read a review, in all its NSFW glory, here.
- Hilariously, the hero of the "Knight Moves" is named Lord Verdigris. Verdigris is the green stuff that forms on copper, brass or bronze when its been exposed to the air or seawater for too long (think Statue of Liberty).
- Note to Ms. Layne: written 8-bit video game sound effects have no place in erotica. Usually.
- Another of her books, A Capitol Affair, is reviewed here. The Fetish Retardant is exemplified by the use of the word "melty".
- There is a suggestion out there that Jamaica Layne is not a "her" but a "him", given the specifics of the writing. One might also speculate about the identities (or, as the case may be, identity) of the anonymice who pop up to defend her (or his) works without substantive rebuttals to the criticisms made by the review.
- Latawnya, the Naughty Horse, Learns to Say "No" to Drugs. Just plain hilarious. Very poorly written story of a horse who encounters other horses engaging in "drinking games" and "smoking games". The writing is not only bad, but repetitive. The illustrations are downright surreal; you just have to see the horse with a beer bottle in its mouth. Plus, this is probably the only children's book ever in which a horse actually ODs from marijuana! (Complete with illustration!)
- The "about the author" is also hilarious, but probably shouldn't be.
- Left Behind. Cheesy Airport Fantasy gets into a head-on collision with Anvilicious Christian Fundamentalist propaganda, with no survivors. Of particular note, the first book gives us a scene of the Big Bad at the United Nations giving what is explicitly described as a "moving" speech, with the reader expected to agree. A moving speech that involves... rattling off United Nations trivia. Dramatically. It would be hilarious even without the blogger making fun of it.
- Llandor, a fantasy novel by Louise Laurance. Features technology-is-evil rants by the main characters, Meat-Eating Is Evil rants by the main characters, a Face-Heel Turn by a technology-loving meat-eater (he came from our world and just couldn't give them up, the bastard), and weird morals ("fat people should expect and accept being be bullied"). Thought hippie elves were created by Paolini? Wrong. Add a plot ripped from Lord of the Rings and Star Wars, and you've got an entertaining novel.
- Magnus by Matthew Dickens: Purple Prose galore, but quite entertaining with its comic-book concepts and awesome fight scenes.
- The Maradonia Saga, a self-published book by teenage author Gloria Tesch, is in the running for the worst piece of fantasy literature to ever be offered for sale. It features poor editing, terrible formatting, inexcusable grammar and punctuation errors, nonsensical characters and plot, and plagiarism from the Bible. All of these things would ordinarily doom a book to So Bad, It's Horrible status. But not in this case. Oh no, somehow it manages to go all the way around the scale again to hilarious! Be warned, though: trying to read this book will melt your brain. Please use protection and amusing commentary to preserve your sanity. We don't want to be responsible for any mental damage.
- The first 3 books in the Meg series by Steve Alten. Shallow characters and laughing at the laws of reality and probability abound. Jonas Taylor does many things when defeating sharks and villains that are so unlikely and insane that they are Crazy Awesome.
- Dale Courtney's Moon People, a science fiction novel published via vanity press Xlibris, written in a way that makes one wonder whether the author has ever seen a novel. Just read the first four pages and imagine an entire novel written like this. Oh, and it has two sequels!
- The notorious 1969 hoax novel Naked Came the Stranger, written by a team of journalists led by Mike McGrady, was deliberately written horribly to ridicule American culture. Once the public were aware that the poor quality of the hoax was intentional it quickly became popular, proving McGrady's theory - that American culture had sunken so low that anything sex-filled was seen as desirable - to be correct. After all, Sex Sells.
- One Sexy Daddy is a pretty run-of-the-mill bodice ripper, though it gets mixed reviews from regular readers of trashy romance novels. What's so bad about this one that it's good is the cover; Lord have mercy, the cover! As some have pointed out, that cover alone probably sold a lot of copies, and most of the buyers weren't even child molesters; just people looking for a gag gift...
- ''Now that I'm a Ghost I'm Gay'' (lack of commas intentional). In addition to the slightly odd NSFW cover (as in, two naked men embracing and about to kiss), the book itself warns you for "a climax that will haunt your fantasies for days." "Haunt" is probably not a good word to use while advertising gay pornography, regardless of the amount of ghosts in it.
- The Playboy Sheikh's Virgin Stable Girl, as this review concludes.
Kaliq dismounted with the same speed and grace as he would remove himself from the body of a woman he had just made love to.
- Amanda Palmer's "Poem for Dhzokhar", dedicated to one of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects.
- The Shadow God. Oh dear, The Shadow God. Everyone who's run a Google search for 'Worst book ever' has probably heard of this one, as this review justifiably appears on the internet several times. In short, the thing is so overloaded with side-splitting Narm and gratingly godawful prose that you just can't help but love the author for his delusions of talent. Seriously, whose day isn't made brighter by lines like, "It infiltrated his lungs, filling them with a kind of innovativeness he had never felt before"? Read a sample and beware of aneurysms.
- Shadow Zone: Revenge of the Computer Phantoms, a children's book that does everything wrong. It's a horror novel about a computer game coming to life and invading the real world. It gets many basic facts about computers and games wrong and portrays every aspect of computer nerd culture unrealistically. The plot was as stupid as you could possibly get. And yet, it can be enjoyed for its badness if you can get past the plot.
- In recent years, there's been a surge of twenty and thirty-somethings rereading their old Sweet Valley High books and mining them for all the camp glory they're worth.
- Ditto The Babysitters Club.
- Taken By the Pterodactyl, an erotic novella about a farmer being captured by a pterodactyl and taken to his nest, where he deflowers her. TV Tropes doesn't judge you if this turns you on, but many readers have laughed hard at its narmy style and the inherent anachronism of pairing humans and dinosaurs (as well as just deviating from normal sexual practices).
- A significant portion of Twilight's internet fanbase enjoys the books because of the melodramatic plot, unrealistically 'perfect' characters, and sparkling.
- The Xanth series was good in the beginning but has degenerated into So Bad It's Good. It was always meant to be light fantasy, but it got cheesier and cheesier as time went on. Fans got more input; and the amount of species, hybrids, and puns in Xanth increased.
- Then there's his Jason Striker books which have not aged well. It's Bloodsport with a middle-aged Judo protagonist and, as usual for Piers Anthony, teenage love interests.
- Amanda McKittrick Ros. The Inklings (a literary group that included C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien) would have competitions to see who could read her writing for the longest time without laughing. Here's her prose:
"Speak! Irene! Wife! Woman! Do not sit in silence and allow the blood that now boils in my veins to ooze through cavities of unrestrained passion and trickle down to drench me with its crimson hue!"
Holy Moses! Have a look!Flesh decayed in every nook!Some rare bits of brain lie here,Mortal loads of beef and beer,Some of whom are turned to dust,Every one bids lost to lust;Royal flesh so tinged with 'blue'Undergoes the same as you.
- And her poetry:
- Mark Twain himself declared one of her works, Irene Iddesleigh, "one of the greatest unintentionally hilarious novels of all time."
- Becca Fisher's awful amish romances are poorly researched, rely on Said Bookisms to a ridiculous degree, and are absolutely cringeworthy.
- Edward George Bulwer-Lytton (the original writer of the notorious opening phrase "It Was a Dark and Stormy Night...") has a contest for deliberate So Bad, It's Good work named in his "honor". Although, as has been pointed out by many critics, the Purple Prose concisely describes the scene. The book is more notorious than bad.
- George Orwell discusses the phenomenon as it applies to literature in his essay "Good Bad Books".
- The works of Harry Stephen Keeler are like this, with his nonsensical novels maintaining a cult following many decades later. A good retrospective on why his works are so infamous can be found here. The Flying Strangler-Baby is one of the best/worst things ever.
- The "great" Scottish-Canadian poet James McIntyre, 1828-1906, best remembered for the timeless classic, "Ode on the Mammoth Cheese Weighing Over 7,000 Pounds." Sounds so Vogon. Maybe a truly epic piece of cheese just does that to peoples' brains.
- The Reverend Lionel Fanthorpe, who wrote about 80% of Badger Books' sci-fi output under so many pseudonyms and with such a rush to churn out nonsense before the deadline that nowadays even he isn't sure which books were his. He was a master of deliberately writing So Bad, It's Good, since the Badger Books methodology made it difficult to write anything good good. He is associated with pages of blatant padding, plots based on barely disguised William Shakespeare or chess games, more blatant padding, still more padding, a vague relationship to the cover picture, back cover synopsis and title he had been given (they never seemed related to each other), and yet more padding. Padding in large amounts! Unimaginable quantities of padding! (And so on...)
Nick Lowe: There the heroes were, stranded deep in an enemy sector of space, surrounded by an entire enemy fleet with the guns trained on them, when the maestro realized all of a sudden he had only one page left to finish the book. Quick as a flash, the captain barks out: "It's no use, men. We'll have to use the Flaz Gaz Heat Ray." "Not – not the Flaz Gaz Heat Ray!" So they open up this cupboard, and there's this weapon that just blasts the entire fleet into interstellar dust. One almighty zap and the thousand remaining loose ends are quietly incinerated.
- And the "Flaz Gaz Heat Ray" "Perhaps the most outrageous deus ex machina ending in all literature":
- The total oeuvre of William Topaz McGonagall, perpetrator of the worst poetry in the English language - though his considerable popularity at the time suggests that both he and his contemporary audience were in on the joke.
Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silv’ry Tay!
- Not only was he crap, he also had awful taste, such as his truly shoddy "tribute poem" to the Tay Bridge Disaster:
Alas! I am very sorry to say
That ninety lives have been taken away
On the last Sabbath day of 1879,
Which will be remember’d for a very long time.
’Twas about seven o’clock at night,
And the wind it blew with all its might,
And the rain came pouring down,
And the dark clouds seem’d to frown,
And the Demon of the air seem’d to say—
“I’ll blow down the Bridge of Tay.”