Samuel Ashworth| Longreads | September 2019 | 13 minutes (3,389 words)
Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) are nestled in one another’s arms, sweat glistening on their muscled chests. They kiss softly and tenderly. It’s the middle of the night in a hotel somewhere on the campaign trail, and they are in love.
“So, if you were an animal, which would you be?” asks Ted.
“Let me think,” says Marco. “A manatee.”
Welcome, friends, to the glorious world of congressional fan fiction. If you’ve always associated fan fiction with the kind of people who hand-sew their own Star Trek jumpsuits, think again. Since going online in the late ’90s, fan fiction — a fan-created spinoff (sometimes way, way off) of an already-existing pop culture presence — has exploded. Its protagonists range from fictional, like Han Solo, to real, like Ariana Grande or members of the British Parliament. Published stories, which can range from a few hundred words to a few hundred thousand, number in the tens of millions, and boast an immense readership. The genre also remains one of the few resolutely not-for-profit corners of the internet: Since the work often involves trademarked intellectual property, fair use rules forbid fanfic authors from making money off their writing, unless they change all recognizable details, as E.L. James did with her BDSM Twilight fanfic story, Fifty Shades of Grey. Stories about congress fall under the penumbra of “Real-person fiction,” which isn’t bound by copyright laws in the same way.