"Sorry guys... I can't hear you over the sound of how awesome I am."
—Gloria Tesch, being herself.
“In the early grey of the morning they reached the headquarter of General Genarius and found him working in a mountain of paperwork. Joey and Maya informed the general in detail about Libertine’s report. General Genarius closed his eyes and thought for a long moment until he said, “Wait a minute! Are you telling me that you want to enter the belly of darkness and liberate the mermaids and the unicorns?”
“Yes Sir, we are determined to attack the center of demonic powers and believe in the great opportunity to liberate the mermaids and the unicorns from the cruel grip of the Empire!” Maya said.
-- The typical level of writing quality from the Maradonia Saga
One upon a time, there was a little girl with the lifelong dream of becoming an author. This was a dream nestled between her other lifelong dreams of becoming a model, an actress, a director, an entrepreneur, an artist, and a singer.
However, unlike a lot of little girls that age, this little girl managed to do it. She wrote her first book, the first in a trilogy, and when her magnum opus was finished, it was about 800 pages long. It was -- as pretty much all writing by 13 year olds is-- complete garbage. Luckily for the little girl, her father was ludicrously wealthy, highly unscrupulous, and absolutely convinced that his daughter was a genius. He and her mother self-published the book, and the two that followed, and brought the Maradonia Saga into the world.
That girl's name was Gloria Tesch.
The book was originally called Maradonia™ and the Seven Bridges (yes, they trademarked Maradonia and kept the TM in the title). The sequel was Maradonia™ and the Gold of Ophir, and the third in the trilogy was Maradonia™ and the Law of Blood. However, after self-publishing, the Tesches went back and sawed each book in half, re-releasing the two parts digitally on Amazon as separate novels and turning a trilogy into a nine-part book series, with the first "six" done and the last three books yet to be published. Then she decided to add a 10th title, only ever seen in an Indiegogo campaign list, for shits and giggles.
The titles are:
Maradonia and the Seven Bridges
Maradonia and the Escape from the Underworld
Maradonia and the Gold of Ophir
Maradonia and the Dragon Riders
Maradonia and the Law of Blood
Maradonia and the Battle for the Key
As well as the unpublished titles:
Maradonia and the Lost Secret of Kra
Maradonia - The Unleashed Beast
Maradonia - The Curse of Abbadon
Maradonia - The Vampire Kings
This series is incomplete, with the last four books in the series never coming to fruition, despite Tesch’s claims that they had all been completed and “just” needed to be published.
However-however, when Tesch decided to implode Maradonia in 2018, all of the digital versions of her works were deleted off Amazon, and so only the original physical copies of the books exist, sold by third parties.
The story of Maradonia follows siblings Joey and Maya as they travel from our world into Maradonia, a world between worlds, where their coming fulfills a prophecy to overthrow the evil King Apollyon (who has pet unicorns and a Club of Evil that sings "Mother Earth songs).
The books themselves are bad. Really really bad. They're specifically advertised as being for children, but include copious swearing, violence, and even rape. They're that weird kind of vaguely racist and have the magical native trope, the angry black people trope, as well as faux-Ebonics as written by a white thirteen year old suburbanite.
When Team tesch re-released the books for Kindle and chopped them all in half, they also edited them slightly, taking away some of the shittier choices (No more Mother Earth songs) but also included a prophecy wherein the fall of the Twin Towers during 9/11 was an integral part for Joey and Maya to go to Maradonia because, and I quote, "Everything happens for a reason."
Here's a sporking of the first book, so you can read a summary of it with MST3k-style commentary as opposed to suffering the thing by itself.
What brought Gloria and, eventually, Team Tesch to the public spotlight was the fact that Gloria and company practiced unscrupulous marketing and publicity campaigns in order to sell her book.
They frequently posted advertisements for her book under other author's reviews and book pages, made sockpuppet accounts to boost her own review scores, constantly touted that Gloria was the world's youngest published author-- a statement categorically untrue, even disregarding the fact that her book was self-published, but that no amount of argument would dissuade them from repeating-- and Gloria's own relentless egotism, refusing any critique of her books and referring to anyone who did not agree that her book was brilliant as "haters".
This tactic of false-reviews is not unusual in the crazy-self-published-authors circles (in fact, buying reviews is apparently a booming market for the morally bankrupt auteur), but Team Tesch didn't stop with a few Amazon reviews. They continually inserted themselves into the spotlight, with false interviews (Here's one of the few surviving remnants after the implosion), fake fan accounts on social media and good reads that all only seemed to read just her book, and all sounded eerily similar-- fans that have, by the way, completely vanished after Tesch herself stopped paying the-- I mean, lost interest in finishing Maradonia. Here, you can even see two people (Leah and Mary) who were actual editors hired by team Tesch as they leave reviews on Gloria's now-defunct website.
She also put her books in libraries (notice no sticker) and gave glowing reviews to her own books, which is just kinda tacky, you know?
So Gloria had (and apparently still has) a severe case of the haut-auteur "big ego, small name" going on, but for most deluded authors, the story ends there. Author thinks a book is good, author self published, the book flops, and the author spends their days arguing on Goodreads and in the Amazon reviews.
But not the Tesches. Because most deluded authors don't have Guenter "Gerry" Tesch on their side. You remember the 80's guy from Futurama? The dude who died of bonetitis? That's Gerry Tesch.
Gloria's father and mother, Mariana Tesch, encouraged their daughter at every turn, Gerry especially. While Gloria's mother, an amateur painter, did the cover art for the books, Gerry financed the production of the books, including publication and advertising.
Part of the advertising for the books included an absolutely spectacular book trailer.
Watch it here. It's only three and a half minutes long. I'll wait.
If you noticed that all of those people were clearly paid actors, that the host of the segment is for a show that doesn't exist, and that none of those books are actually for sale inside the bookstore, Team Tesch just placed Maradonia books on top of other books in the displays, then it will not surprise you to learn that the Tesches relied mostly on misinformation to sell their books.
Despite dismal sales and an active and vocal critique community, the family was apparently so certain of the books' inevitable success that there was sincere talk of making a movie and, eventually, a theme park.
For years, the common story was that the Tesches were hideously wealthy, and that was how they managed to fund their nonsense. However, only a few years ago, it was revealed that that was not the case. Not only was the family not particularly rich, they were outright crooks using bankruptcy law loopholes to keep their massive house.
Then people began digging into Gerry specifically, and found that opposed to a loving father blinded by his daughter's perceived talent, he was an abusive huckster who, before coming to America, was under investigation for fraud in Germany, scamming charities.
Yeah, he ran some kind of charity organization called International Mission Aid Service (or “Internationale Missions-Hilfsdienst") that would take money from people wanting to donate to charity, say they would put the money into a specific charity, then pocket the money.
Not only that, but it came out that the Tesches weren’t actually wealthy, but pretending to be so and abusing repeat bankruptcy-filing laws in the US. Namely, they’d file a bankruptcy petition, which paused their home’s foreclosure, but their petition would have something wrong with it (missing paperwork, incorrect signatures, etc.) and the court would take a while before eventually dismissing it, then they’d file another. They did this 11 times before the court finally put a 2-year ban on them filing for bankruptcy again, finally allowing the sale of the house.
Also, Guenter was a domestic abuser with at least one arrest to his record. Yes, that is him.
Suddenly Gloria's crime of being egotistical on the internet didn't seem that interesting, and people instead diverted their attention to monitoring Gerry in that special kind of internet trash-fire way.
You ever fuck up so badly in a creative endeavor that you bankrupt your family (for realsies, this time) and get yourself evicted from your house? Yeah, me neither. But the Teschs managed it.
So, if you’ve read Hazelnut’s wonderful writeup about the movie, you’ll know that, while the theme park never manifested, the movie sure did! Maradonia - The Shadow Empire came out in 2016 after years of development hell, though “came out” is putting it strongly. It premiered in one theater that the Tesches paid for, and then Gerry went to conventions with hard copies of the DVDs, giving them away to try and stir up interest. The only copy currently available on the internet -- linked here, now that Gloria’s lawyers have calmed down -- has a watermark on it from some conversion that had to be done to it.
But how did such a thing happen? Well, it’s a bumpy ride, so buckle in.
Production began sometime in 2011-- except it didn’t.
Though Gloria and Team Tesch bragged non stop about the filming they were doing, and how they were at that moment producing a movie, saying that the movie would be done in late 2011. . then early 2012. . .then late 2012. . . until finally in 2013 Gloria released the movie trailer they had been working on, linked here. Yes, we foolish plebeians had clearly misunderstood her clearly expressed statements that she was filming and directing a movie to mean that she was filming and directing a movie instead of a movie trailer like she intended.
The trailer was released the same time as an Indiegogo campaign, and was created to create interest for the Indiegogo campaign, which would be used to fund the movie. As you can see by that still active link there, they received 1500 out of the 20k they were seeking. According to screenshots from the time, a lot of those donations were from herself
However, in true Tesch fashion, even when they finally did start filming, they were still screwing people over, with Gerry attempting to go around paying several people who worked on the film, and producers leaving the project because of his actions.
But how did we get here? Well. . .
A Sudden Twist
So it’s the late aughts, and Gerry Tesch is desperate to get his film off the ground.
Enter Wardour Studios.
Wardour Studios, previously Wardour Street Studios, previously Quidam Studios, previously a dozen other (now defunct) names, is owned by a man named Steven Nia. As of this writing, the Wardour Studios website is still up. Here, you can see a screenshot of it boasting that they worked on such films as Men in Black Three, Life of Pi, and Batman vs. Superman. According to their website:
“Wardour Studios is a leading global entertainment company with a fast growing and diversified presence in motion picture production and distribution, television programming and syndication, home entertainment, family entertainment, digital distribution, new channel platforms and international distribution and sales.
Wardour Studios’ management team has been led by the Chairman, Steven Nia, since its inception. With over 160 years of the team's combined entertainment industry experience, Mr. Nia built Wardour Studios from a small independent studio to a diversified next generation global content creator and distributor.”
To Gerry, this must have seemed like a miracle. He finally got the attention of a major studio to produce his film. We don't know the specific dealings of what happened, but according to the Wardour Maradonia website's synopsis, it looks as though Gerry, for one reason or another, sold out Gloria's idea; The new description on Wardour’s website shows that the movie would focus on Joey’s character, and that Maya (the one Gloria played) would have been killed offscreen several years prior. The movie would have been Titled, Maradonia: A Mermaid's Tale.
However, the people hired by Gerry seem, to put it nicely, disingenuous.
The first red flag is the studio’s youtube page. If you clock the links at the top of MIB, Batman V. Superman, etc, it will take you to youtube videos of behind the scenes editing for those films, but the editing wasn’t done by Wardour, those are DVD Extras. Here’s a screenshot in case they take it down. If you clock the actual youtube channel, You’ll find that the videos are private or unlisted, meaning they don’t show up on their youtube page. Also note, the channel is still Wardour Digital Effects, rather than Wardour Street Pictures.
Steven Nia has the website under his wife, Angelina L. Nia’s name, and the only credits to his name as far as movie production goes are. . . nothing. His IMDB page is devoid of anything except A long biography written by an Angelina Leo, who we can reasonably assume to be his wife, who has no other IMDB edits under her belt.
In fact, the IMDB page for Wardour Studios itself has been edited. Previously, the Wardour Studios credits included Life of Pi, MIB3, Real Steel, Battle for Los Angeles, and Source Code-- all the movies listed on the Wardour Studios website with an asterisk disclaimer by IMDB that those films were listed by the company itself and not verified by IMDB. Now, it lists only four films, two of which are in pre-production and two of which are “announced”.
However, the IMDB Pro page for Steven Nia still shows this list, complete with the “unverified” asterisks. Note that nowhere else on the internet connects Wardour Studios with these films; Nia and Wardour itself are the only things claiming that they have anything to do with one another.
Note that Steven himself also claims to be part of the California state bar. . . which he is assuredly not.
Wardour Studios is also connected to Quidam studios, which currently exists at the old address of Wardour Street Pictures and is run by a man with several fake names. Whether Quidam Studios is still the same as Wardour, they're owned by the same people, or if someone left Wardour and started their own scam production/visual effects house, it's hard to say.
In any case, the story goes that Wardour Studios and Nia were somehow connected to Chinese investors. This is why Wardour studios currently has adverts for Chinese movies (Crossroads to Shaolin and Chinese Schindler, which sounds fantastic for all the wrong reasons). An Early IMDB entry of the Mermaid's Tale listed several Chinese actors and actresses, but unfortunately, there's no screenshots or a Wayback machine archive of the page. That would also explain why the old Maradonia website is now a weird 404 page written in Chinese. (
If anyone can translate that, or can tell my why there's pictures of little kids in there, let me know! JD says: 'It's the standard 404, but then there's a poster for a missing child. The message at the top says, basically, "We cannot find the page. Maybe you can help us find this missing child.'" So that's a helluva lot sadder than I had thought.)
Steven Nia, however, couldn't get the Chinese funding because-- well yeah. You've seen the trailer.
Whatever may have happened, Gerry and Team Tesch wound up with nothing, and Wardour wound up with the Maradonia website and the mermaid movie title (though whether that's because Gerry actually sold them the rights, or they just decided to keep it on their site isn't clear).
So in an ironic Shyamalan-twist, it appears that Gerry was scammed by the production company.
In the End - RIP Gerry and Maradonia
But the movie did get made. Released in 2016, the thing bankrupted the family even more than usual, and played a key part in them losing their house. IMDB lists Troy Bowman and Jeff Johnson as the producers, though neither of their respective IMDB pages lists Maradonia anywhere.
The film apparently played in a single theater local to the Tesches that they had paid to do so. When that didn't spawn a sudden rabid fanbase, Gerry went to a convention and passed out DVDs-- which is why the film exists on the internet at all, as someone uploaded it a million years ago, and people have been circulating the video ever since, reuploading whenever it gets taken down.
In the years following the movie, Gloria dedicated her time to focusing on her modelling and music "career". She's since gotten married, managed an etsy for a bit, then closed that down, and basically appears to be living a normal "live-laugh-love" instagram-girl kinda life.
Gerry, on the other hand, has been dead since last year. He passed away in March of 2018 due to unforeseen heart issues. Notably, Gloria had just gotten done updating her instagram and youtube with videos of her trip to Hawaii with her husband and friends, then a week later, started a gofundme to pay for Gerry's funeral. . . after which she went back to Hawaii (if she ever left).
Stay classy, Gloria.
With Gerry gone and Gloria pursuing other activities, Maradonia has been thoroughly left by the wayside. As mentioned, the Ebooks have all been taken down from Amazon, with the only hard copies being sold by 3rd parties. The last books don't look like they'll ever come out, and there's certainly not going to be any more movies.
On the plus side, Gloria does seem to be happier now that she can finally let Maradonia go and she's off having her own life, and now without Gerry, the lawyers bopping down Maradonia related content has dropped off, which is nice for people who want to see the film.
Final Thoughts - Personal Note
It's odd looking back on how everything progressed. When I was in high school, I used to be part of a livejournal group that would keep an eye on these kinds of crazy or big-ego writers. We giggled at Laura K. Hamilton's assorted insanity, laughed at Robert Stanek's desperate attempt to be famous, mocked Christopher Paolini's work relentlessly because even then we knew Eragon was a psychopath, we made our own websites where we could archive and post our articles and "sporking" reads, and yes, we laughed at Gloria. We'd argue with her in the amazon comments and post screenshots of them and show each other for when she deleted them, we'd find her sock puppet accounts across different media and try to engage them/her.
It's weird to look back on, because we were all kids doing it. For the most part, we were all in high school or fresh out of it. It was a small community, but active, and we didn't feel bad making fun of her or any other bad writer because, to our minds, they deserved it. Their writing was shoddy, and instead of trying to improve it, they'd cheated and published on their own, or with mommy and daddy's money (if they weren't outright egotistical adults), and then they had the gall to say we just didn't understand how great their stuff was.
I didn't learn the truth about the Tesch family until researching this node. I didn't know that Gerry whaled on his wife at least once. I didn't know Gloria had six freaking siblings who were apparently all ignored so that their parents could put their eggs into the Gloria fame-Basket. I didn't know they weren't a bunch of careless rich yuppies.
Looking on this as an adult makes me feel dirty. Gloria was (and possibly is) an egotistical monster, but she didn't become that way in a vacuum. Her parents ruined her, whether because they legitimately believed in her talent, or because they saw Paolini get rich off Eragon and thought they could do the same.
While I had intended to do a Gloria Tesch node for a while now, what compelled me to do it was a recent video by Jabroni Mike and Fred Knudsen (the creator of the spectacular Down the Rabbit Hole series on youtube) wherein the two of them streamed themselves watching the Maradonia film. During it, Fred made an offhanded remark about Gerry scamming charities, which was news to me. Looking into that led to looking into everything else.
During the video, Mike brings up a good point that I hadn't considered before; the fact that Gloria essentially had her shot to improve stolen away from her. Instead of being allowed to explore and grow in her writing, or even decide she didn't like it at all, her dad turned it into his latest money-making scheme and never let her live it down. Her name is forever attached to a shitty fantasy novel she wrote when she was a kid, and to the poor behavior encouraged by her parents. She's got an Encyclopedia Dramatica page. That shit ain't going away.
So I guess the takeaway is that parents should set realistic goals for their kids? Maybe invest in that "power of yet" mindset all the middle schools are investing in? Or maybe it's don't be an egotistical bitch on the internet, or people will trail you?
Or maybe it's don't abuse bankruptcy laws to pay for your house and abuse your wife and kids, or else they'll crowdfund your funeral and go to Hawaii with the cash.
“King Apollyon, the ruler of the Empire of Evil looked downcast and very depressed although his powerful voice floated with pressure through the minds of his sons, Abbadon and Plouton.
The red-brown eyes of King Apollyon flashed yellow as they saw the empty corral of Fayina, his favorite unicorn, and Apollyon was suddenly very disappointed with Abbadon."
-- Our villain, Ladies and Gentlemen
Props to Conjugal Felicity for keeping up a lot of screenshots from the old days.
Thanks also to the KiwiFarms, the best stalking website on the internet.
So I guess she's back under an assumed name, Sofia Nova.