I wrote four Yuletide stories that weren’t “No Reservations: Narnia.”

I had a ton of fun writing I Wait For You, for [personal profile] springgreen. You don’t need to know either of the fandoms to read this story, which should stand on its own as a post-apocalyptic love story between a bubble boy and a feral mutant girl. It’s a mash-up between The Bride With White Hair and the Jay Chou music video "Qing Hua Ci."

I saw this on the pinch-hit list, but failed to snag it, and decided to write a Treat anyway. I started vaguely tossing about ideas, and thought “reincarnation story in the far-future – that would work for either of the canons I know – HEY!” As you can probably tell, I had enormous fun writing this, translating wuxia conventions into mutant powers and letting my id run amok.

Thanks to Dusty Asymptote for providing Lieqi’s name.

The Devil and Dayna Jurgens (a play on “The Devil and Daniel Webster,” in case the title sounds vaguely familiar,) was a Treat for [personal profile] kimbari, from Stephen King’s The Stand.

She wanted an original character interacting with one or more of the book characters, post-Captain Trips. I thought that was a great prompt, and immediately wanted to write about Dayna Jurgens, who is the most bad-ass character in the novel and possibly ever, a bisexual jock who tries to kill Satan with a switchblade. She has a small role in the book but makes a disproportionate impression, at least on me.

The songs are all real folk songs, and I too learned “Barnacle Bill the Sailor” at summer camp. When I was twelve. That probably explains a lot. I put them in because folk songs are so much a part of what I think of as Americana, even if they’re not actually American, and I wanted to get some of that into the story as it’s so essential in the book.

The other element I wanted to write about was that there clearly had to be a third faction in addition to the two we see in the book, but we never meet any of those people. Here, we do.

The Two Queens, for [profile] bjeweled, is yet another Pern story! Maybe this will become a Yuletide tradition for me. I was inspired by a request off the Treat list for a story about what happens to Kylara after her dragon dies, along with a plea not to make her an evil caricature. I had never thought of writing a story about that, as in canon, she goes insane and is never heard from again.

Obviously, she had to recover from her madness, or the story would be 1000 words of raving. There was a limit to how much I could do as I only saw this request a couple hours before the deadline, but I tried to write a plausible story that humanizes her without changing her out of all recognition. I was also taken with the chance to tag a story “masturbation, redemption.”

My original assignment was Unbreakable, for [personal profile] sheila_snow. The source is Dick Francis’s Sid Halley series, a series which I love very much. I highly recommend the first book, Odds Against, in which a depressed and disabled ex-jockey lackadaisically collecting a paycheck as an advisor to a detective agency finds a new interest in life after getting shot on the job.

Despite my love of the fandom, I struggled with the plot, I struggled with the voice, and then the Death Cold of Doom provided the coup de grace. I wanted to write some hurt-comfort with character development and role reversal, but I kept getting entangled in an uncooperative plot, which started off with espionage and Soviet defectors and ended up with murder and Ponzi schemes. [profile] etothey, [personal profile] ione, [personal profile] springgreen, [personal profile] sister_coyote all valiantly helped me with brainstorming, and [personal profile] rushthatspeaks provided an excellent beta. Many hands did not spoil the broth, for the recipient and several others liked it! Thank goodness.
Undoubtedly the most-read story I wrote for Yuletide was No Reservations: Narnia, for [personal profile] innocentsmith – it even hit MeFi.

Anthony Bourdain is a gonzo food journalist and chef whose show No Reservations has him touring the world, eating gourmet and home-cooked food, dropping bleeped-out f-bombs and enjoying the hell out of his job. [profile] nnocentsmith’s inspired prompt was to put him and his show in a fantasy context – to have him report on Ruritania, Elfland, or Narnia.

Several commenters marveled that I got such different canons to work together. I went with the idea that Narnia is a real place, but the Chronicles show it through the glass of Lewis’s particular style, audience, and prejudices. Bourdain too has his own style, audience, and prejudices – he might not be the best choice to send on a quest, but he’d appreciate some cultures that Lewis didn’t. But both writers love food and food culture, so they made a natural match, even if Bourdain’s swearing would have made Lewis’s toes curl. Since Lewis’s protagonists are mostly Earth people marveling at Narnia, having Bourdain marvel at it wasn’t a big stretch.

For those not familiar with one or more of the sources, the structure is typical of the TV show, and Bourdain and his crew are all real. The Narnian cultures all appear in the books, but the individual Narnian characters are original with the exception of Reepicheep and the one who turns up at the very end. I did not invent the peculiar nature of Marsh-wiggle tobacco, but I did invent the table which showcases its properties.

I had enormous fun brainstorming the food for this story with [personal profile] coraa, who came up with the leeches, the name “terravita,” the concept of Dredge-the-Pond, a plausible blood-based alcoholic drink, and much more – a lot of the credit for this story should go to her. Also thanks to [personal profile] ellen_fremedon for Hati Moon-eater’s name.

The style for this story was based on Anthony Bourdain’s book A Cook's Tour: Global Adventures in Extreme Cuisines, which I highly recommend.

My main resource for the food served at Digwell and Mouldiscoop’s home was The Cooking of the British Isles (Foods of the World Series) (Time-Life Books) (links go to Amazon), by Adrian Bailey. If you enjoyed that section of my story, you will undoubtedly enjoy his loving tour through British foodways.

Except for the pavenders and the toffee-apple brandy, all the food in that section (and the fried breakfast in the beginning of the next section) is real British food, though some is old-fashioned and would be hard to find nowadays. Rainbow Pavender is based on the French dish Trout au Bleu, which I first read about in the original Joy of Cooking - apparently the vinegar makes the trout skin turn bright blue. I didn’t invent the toffee-apples, but I did invent the brandy.

You can read an account of making Sussex Pond Pudding, which references Laurie Colwin’s wonderful book of cooking essays Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen (Vintage Contemporaries) here; hers comes out better than Colwin’s did: Sussex Pond Pudding. I have never had it, but it sounds great. If anyone tries making it, please let me know.

Except for the eel stew, which is mentioned in the Narnia books and exists in many variations worldwide, and the terravita, which is my interpretation of the contents of Puddleglum’s little black bottle, Marsh-wiggle cuisine exists only in my imagination. Thank God.

Wer cuisine was drawn from a number of different real dishes from a number of different cultures. Swiftlets are real birds, though I’m not sure if they’re eaten in real life. The description of eating the roast swiftlet was based on Bourdain’s account of eating an ortolan in Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook. The chopped raw meat mixed with butter was inspired by the Ethiopian dish kitfo, though the Wers use Scandinavian flavorings and include pork cracklings. Mother and child is based on koumiss, a Central Asian fermented milk beverage, which is not actually mixed with blood. The name was inspired by the Japanese chicken-and-egg dish oyako-don, or “parent and child bowl.” I don’t think anyone actually eats leeches.

The Calormene dishes are based on Persian cuisine, with variations inspired by Lewis’s mouthwatering descriptions in The Horse and His Boy. The yogurt drink is called doogh.

I’m glad so many people enjoyed this story, by far the most popular of any fanfic I’ve ever written. I had a great time writing it, and perhaps that shines through.

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