Despite difficult circumstances (the same thing that made me default last year, yes it’s still going on), I wrote five stories this Yuletide. The post where you can link to your own reveal post is here at the LJ comm. Please link if you made one, I for one love reading them and they're otherwise hard to find.

If you want to read my stories now, I'd suggest clicking the links first (or just reading my quickie "this is what you need to know about the canon" and then reading before you read my notes on them, because those may be spoilery. Spoilers for all stories are fine in comments here.

Feed Your Head. For Janie-tangerine. Wild Cards, a superhero anthology series edited by George R. R. Martin.

Summary: Times had changed. Paisley was out and polyester was in. Janis and Jimi and Tom Marion Douglas were dead. Country Joe had left the Fish and moved to a remote part of Canada, emerging from his shack only to issue strange broadsides advocating spelling reform. It seemed like everyone was tuning out, turning off, and dropping in. Or dropping dead.

But not here. Not now. Dylan was still singing, the Band was still playing, and the hippies had come for their counterculture communion.

Author’s notes: My assignment! Sort of. I actually matched on Dark Tower. But it's a pretty hard canon to write and since I coincidentally also knew Wild Cards, I did that instead after banging my head against a Dark Tower story for weeks without making much progress. I also really liked my recipient’s Wild Cards prompt.

Wild Cards is an alternate history where aliens released a virus that makes some people drop dead, some get hideously mutated ("jokers"), and some get superpowers ("aces.") The canon characters in my story are Jay Ackroyd, a cynical private eye who can teleport anything but himself, and Mark Meadows, a hippie with a really unusual ace power, which is that if he takes the right drugs, he turns into an alter ego with superpowers for one hour.

Several years previously to my story, Mark, then a brilliant young chemist, accidentally turned into "the Radical" while tripping balls at a "Tom Marion Douglas" concert (alt!Jim Morrison who is a totally literal Lizard King— he can turn into a reptile-headed ace). Ever since, Mark’s been trying to find the right drug combination to do it again, so far with no results other than becoming a total burnout.

My recipient said she liked the 70s-era setting and the music scene of Mark’s origin story. Snooping in her LJ revealed that she’s a huge music fan and we have a lot of favorite musicians in common, including Bruce Springsteen (not appearing in this story) and Bob Dylan, whose hilariously in-character reaction to his Nobel inspired me to give him the power to transport people into his songs. I had so much fun working in musical references and writing characters being stoned and characters annoyed at everyone else being stoned.

I knew writing this that it was pretty much a one-person fandom, so I was very happy that Janie-tangerine clearly enjoyed it and appreciated all the stalking I did to put in stuff I thought she’d like, from a stealth cameo by Croyd Crenson (her third requested character – it was a “any of these” request and I couldn’t work in her fourth) to a lot of riffs on '70s-with-superpowers and 60s/70s musical jokes (Country Joe's "Gimme an F! What's that spell?", Bob Dylan's possibly only funny to me inability to rhyme "You were always there when I need your help" with anything better than "the beach was deserted except for some kelp," etc.

Lovely In Her Fall. For Calenlily. Kushiel’s Dart, an alt!Renaissance France fantasy series by Jacqueline Carey.

Summary: A life told in visits to the Houses of the Night Court.

Author’s notes: All the characters in this are original. All you need to know to read this story is that in this world, sex work is consensual, respected, and sacred. The Night Court consists of thirteen very classy brothels, each with their own specialty, from the obvious (sadism, masochism, sexual healing) to the less so (mysticism, laughter, fragility (the last is really mono no aware). Naamah is the angel of sexual love, who had sex with strangers and the King of Persis in a myth emblematic to the Night Court; the epigraphs are from each House’s interpretation of what that was like for her.

Since the books explore the sadism and masochism Houses a lot, I skipped those to focus on what we see less or none of in canon. So there’s no painplay or hardcore BDSM, which the protagonist isn’t into. There’s some power games but they’re light.

Calenlily and I had written for each other for Yuletide before, so it was nice to do it again. I had a lot of fun with this story, though like all stories which inherently require a set number of scenes I had some “WILL THIS EVER END” moments. She had a very thought-provoking prompt, which was essentially that there had to be more to the House concepts than we saw in canon.

So I tried to both capture what would be sexy about the House concepts, and to go beyond the obvious (though I did that with some more than others.) The sexual healing the protagonist gets at Balm isn’t due to sexual trauma and the healing mostly involves something other than sex; at Bryony, the financial House, he does something that involves gambling but he’s actually getting off on something else entirely. I interpreted Gentian’s “mysticism” to mean “sacred” and “dealing directly with deep mysterious stuff like life and death.” And so forth.

The Heliotrope adept’s conversation about love was inspired by the issue in therapy (if you came here from the Yuletide comm: I’m a therapist) of having emotionally real relationships that often do involve very real but non-exclusive (NON-SEXUAL) love, but are time-and-place limited, for a specific purpose, and transactional. It’s obviously a totally different context and that is not literally what I’d ever say to a client. However, some of the points she makes, particularly the one about how certain types of intimacy inherently create love if you’re inclined that way, are true in my experience.

Structurally, the story is eleven sex scenes (or sex-related scenes) which tell the story of a man’s life in a specific context. But it’s also about why his life story can be told that way, why sex is so central to the Kushiel-verse, and why sex matters in ways that have nothing to do with reproduction.

To quote Madeleine L’Engle in a context that would probably make her hair curl, sex is part of “the joy without which the universe will fall apart and collapse.” A life without joy is no life at all, but most joy doesn’t derive from dramatic stuff like the birth of a child or falling in love. It comes from ordinary pleasures like eating and writing and reading and meeting friends and watching the sun set and doing Yuletide, or whatever it is that floats your boat.

And sex, of course. Not just having it, but fantasizing about it, reading about it, writing it, watching hot actors doing hot things onscreen, and sharing any of your pleasure in that with others. I don’t necessarily mean with others with whom you have any sort of sexual relationship, but simply as a shared enjoyment, if that makes sense. Sexuality is fun, from dick jokes to laughing in bed to writing kinks you never even thought of before because you know a specific person wants to read about them. Fandom has its issues with sexuality, but it also has a hell of a lot of fun with it.

While I was in grad school, a classmate friend mentioned that she was writing a paper about for our Jung class about the implications of women who may or may not identify as queer but who are definitely not in relationships with each other that they consider to be of a sexual nature, writing porn for each other.

“It definitely challenges how we usually define sexual activities and sexual orientation,” she said. “Maybe I should get more involved in fandom. I’d definitely like to get more in touch with my lesbian eros.” [Meaning women’s attraction to women, regardless of sexual behavior or how they label their sexual orientation.]

I said, “I don’t know if fandom is why, but I feel extremely in touch with my lesbian eros.”

She laughed. “We all know, Rachel!”

Which brings me to…

Delle Seyah’s Slave. For RunnerFive. Killjoys, a space opera TV show along the lines of Firefly.

Summary: Delle Seyah has information Dutch needs. The price? Being her slave for a night at the kinkiest lesbian sex party in the Quad.

Author’s Note: So, yeah. Porn, porn, nothing but porn. It’s dubcon, but of the “I hate this woman, why the fuck is she so hot, I should not be enjoying this, GODDAMMIT STOP ENJOYING IT RIGHT NOW” variety. (And also clearly could get out of it if she really wanted to.) All you need to know is that Dutch is a space bounty hunter and Delle Seyah is an amoral aristocrat, and canon interactions consist of stuff like Delle Seyah manipulating Dutch into lacing up her corset and Dutch saying, “I missed our hate-flirting.”

Infinite thanks to Egelantier, who not only screened me the entire series this story is based on, but literally stood over me and made me write the story. I was recovering from surgery at the time, among other things, and it was a lot more fun to contemplate Delle Seyah spanking Dutch than anything going on in my actual life. Sometimes when you write because you need it to survive you get the Federalist Papers, and sometimes you get a lesbian sex party.

I also want to thank my recipient, RunnerFive, whose letter was an absolute delight and inspiration. I got immense glee just from reading it, let alone writing for it. And she clearly enjoyed the hell out of it, so that was great too.

His Father’s Hall. For Joy_shines. The classic brother-sister incest ballad Sheath and Knife. Link goes to a great stark version by Ellie Bryan; the instrument is an Appalachian Mountain Dulcimer.

Summary: And they'll never go down to the broom any more.

Author’s notes: A short (400 word) riff on a song I love a lot.

Savage Lovecast Episode 69: Pounded in the Butt by Savage Lovecast Episode 69 [Transcript]

Summary:

Dan Savage:
So you’re getting pounded in the butt by your own concept of linear time.

Caller: Right.

Dan Savage: What is that like?

Caller: Well, Dan, it’s kind of confusing. On the one hand, it’s fucking amazing hardcore gay action. On the other hand, last month I was double-teamed by the sociopolitical implications of Putin influencing the American Presidential election in order to install a tiny-handed fascist Cheeto in the White House, and by the historical precedents of Trump’s demagogic takeover of America for the purposes of personal profit and destroying all the best ideals of our nation.

Author’s Notes: Ha. Ha ha ha hahaha. Savage Love is a hilariously frank sex-and-relationship advice show hosted by Dan “DUMP THAT MOTHERFUCKER” Savage, who I was a fan of from when he just had a newspaper advice column, way before he got famous.

NaomiK, a friend of mine, requested Dan Savage advising people on sf/fantasy issues, like vampires or aliens exist and you kink on them. She also likes his top of the show political rants. And she likes crossovers. So I wrote her Dan Savage getting a call from a Chuck Tingle character, who needless to say has a problem that involves being pounded in the butt. Or maybe that’s not actually his problem…

I literally sat down and wrote this in an afternoon once I got the idea, taking breaks only to laugh hysterically. I only hope that it brought even a tenth as much hilarity to its readers as it did to me.
The Yuletide archive is open! Browse! Enjoy! Comment! Rec! (There's a way to bookmark recs on AO3 but it's hard to browse; probably the best way is to rec on your own space, then link to your post at [community profile] yuletide.)

Perhaps due to the longer length of time we had to write this year, there seem to be more than usual longer stories, from 5K+ to quite a few at 10, 15, or even 20K+. I have not yet read most of those and cannot wait. The ones I've recced here are all short, mostly around 2-5K; several of the mermaid stories are from the Yuletide Madness collection, which allows shorter works, and are under 1K. They all pack a lot into a short space.

The Minnow and the Dragon. A beautiful, deceptively simple but very well-structured story set in Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea, capturing her prose and concerns to perfection. It could be an outtake from A Wizard of Earthsea, focusing on two of my favorite characters from that, Ged's friend Vetch and his sister Yarrow, some years later. Like the books, it's at once mythic and earthy, and in fact is about how the mythic is also earthy. Outstanding.

Selected Moments in Introductory Symbology. Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass. Excellent post-canon story, one of my favorites of all the "What happens next?" fic in this fandom, with a clever structure based on the symbols and meanings of the alethiometer that perfectly echoes the story's plot and theme. If you loved the characters and world in the first book but found later entries too preachy or straying from the aspects you originally liked, this story is for you.

In canon, as the story goes on Lyra loses a lot of what made her such a memorable character early on. In this story, she's back to her spiky, impulsive, curious self, all the way down to the lying tongue and the fierce realness beneath; as she matures, she becomes more herself, not less. (Note to shippers: this Lyra loves Will and always will, but goes on to love others as well rather than pining alone forever.)

The Spirit of St Mary Mead. Agatha Christie's Miss Marple. Someone made the inspired prompt, "Miss Marple is sometimes associated with Nemesis; what if she literally was an immortal incarnation of justice, maybe a genius loci of St Mary Mead?" I really hoped someone would write this, and not only did someone, but they absolutely did it justice, tracing Miss/Mistress Marple's gently relentless pursuit of truth and the exoneration of the wrongly accused through English history.

It was a particularly ordinary grove, or so the commander of the nearby Roman camp thought, and was at a loss to explain the locals’ belief in it as a sacred place; the site where a genius loci might be found. Aerten, they said she was named, and his men in turn called her Atropos or Nemesis.

hands fall together. Killjoys. This reads so much like canon (a sf show vaguely along the lines of Firefly) that it might work as an entry to it. (So you don't need to know more than that Dutch and Johnny are space bounty hunters.) Dutch and Johnny have an adventure early in their partnership. Dutch knows that trust kills and Johnny has more than is healthy, but sometimes our points of vulnerability are what bind us together in the best of all possible ways. Dead-on dialogue and a neat use of both fairytale and video game motifs.

End in Fire. Clever and well-plotted crossover between Stephen King's Firestarter and Daryl Gregory's horror novella "We Are All Completely Fine." (If you only know one canon: the former is about Charlie McGee, a pyrokinetic girl who is captured by and escapes from an evil government agency, The Shop, and the latter is about survivors of various horror scenarios in group therapy, including Greta, who is also pyrokinetic.) Unexpectedly but plausibly characterized, with a memorable grown-up Charlie and a darkly comic and disconcertingly believable depiction of evil yet underfunded shady government agencies a la Men Who Stare At Goats.

Arse-chive of my Own: Pounded in the Butt By the Lack of Tingleverse Fics in Yuletide 2016. Hilariously absurdist Yuletide/Chuck Tingle metafiction crossover. I close my eyes as he shoves inch after inch of fic inside me. I knew how big he was but it feels even more incredible being his recipient. Just when I think he's all the way in, a few more pinch hits slide in at the last minute, increasing his girth even more.

(Does anyone not know Chuck Tingle, maestro of bizarre Amazon metafictional erotica in which hard buckaroos are pounded in the butt by personifications of creamed corn, fighter jets, the state of California, Chuck Tingle's Hugo Award nomination, and their own butts, all to prove that LOVE IS REAL? If not, meet Chuck Tingle: Slammed In The Butt By Domald Tromp's Attempt To Avoid Accusations Of Plagiarism By Removing All Facts Or Concrete Plans From His Republican National Convention Speech; Turned Gay By The Existential Dread That I May Actually Be A Character In A Chuck Tingle Book; Pounded In The Butt By The Sentient Physical Manifestation Of The Year 2016)

A gently bittersweet short story, ostensibly a Victorian paper on collecting mermaid songs but actually a story of lesbian longing, which you can read in full for free here (it's short and lovely, I recommend it), A Ladies' Guide to Collecting Mermaid Love Songs, produced a set of beautifully written short stories this Yuletide. I loved every single one I've read so far. If this is the sort of thing you like, read the original and then enjoy the riffs on it:

A Mermaid's Guide to Collecting Humans

Humans don’t know love, but they believe they do. That is their weakness.

When they hear our songs, they say,
here they sing of hope; here, they sing to lure us; here, they sing of despair.

They categorize and organize, and think it makes them safe. It is their weakness; it is also their blessing.

What they do not always understand is that every song we sing is a song of love.


Dreams in Glass

Last night, I dreamed that my bed was a boat. Its practical, dark sheets and thick blankets billowed out into sails. The mermaid songs surrounded me. Stars in the water. Stars in the sea. Miss Mori came to my bedside [the aft side], and clung to the bed frame, watching me. Her dark, wet hair draped against her shoulders. Her small fingers gripped tight against the wood. Her eyes, sad and searching. Her tail, unseen, unspoken, but beckoning nonetheless.
I ached to jump into the water with her. The ocean was created before man. The ocean will exist long after the last trumpet has sounded. I ached for its ancient embrace almost as much as I ached for Miss Mori's. I wanted a tail. A dark, glittery tail to twine against her silvery scales. We would twist together like the dark and light koi in my great aunt's Oriental etchings.


A Ladies' Guide to Recording Dances of Elves

Type 4, the Couple’s Dance

This final type of dance we encountered only once. It began as a Sway of Longing (Type 3), but unexpectedly, the yearning was answered by a mate. The little companions locked eyes and circled each other, dancing round and round, coming closer before again drifting apart. Sometimes, it seemed as if they had all but forgotten about the other, but as if connected and guided by invisible spider silk, they were gradually pulled closer and closer. And at long last, they clasped each other’s hands and danced and swirled around as one.

A lovely picture that we could only capture in our hearts, since all the photographic plates we had brought were exposed already. Miss Mori described the scene as similar to “blossoms blooming in spring or finding an unexpected letter from someone you adore.”
The Yuletide archive is open! Browse! Enjoy! Comment! Rec! (There's a way to bookmark recs on AO3 but it's hard to browse; probably the best way is to rec on your own space, then link to your post at [community profile] yuletide.)

I got AMAZING gift stories this Yuletide, in all three of the canons I requested! I think you need to know the books they're based on to read, but if you do, they are absolutely not to be missed.

I'm really moved and delighted not only by the quality of the stories, but how closely they were based on my prompts and how much thought went into writing something that I specifically would love.

Bird and Bear and Hare and Fish. Absolutely stunning story based in Stephen King's "Dark Tower" series.

“Roland, aside from giving us the heebie-jeebies about getting eaten by the giant painting we all have to sleep in front of, did that story have a point?

From prose to character to dialogue to themes to references, it's everything I love about the canon and reads just like it, plus some added cool bits that I don't want to spoil. (The story definitely is best read unspoiled.) It's an ensemble adventure in which the ka-tet finds their way blocked by a creepy painting, and that's all I'm going to say about it. Read for yourself and praise the author as they deserve.

Works of Mercy. Fantastic, beautifully plotted and characterized canon AU of Stephen King's The Stand, in which a single different choice spins out in unpredictable ways to create a whole new world. It's under 6K but feels epic. Like the "Dark Tower" story, every bit of it is pitch-perfect to canon, especially the focus on individual choice and the little moments that tell. Though it manages to work in a whole lot of characters for its length (all perfectly characterized), the focus is on Jenny Engstrom, Dayna Jurgens, and Nadine Cross; it's at once a thoughtful and detailed AU, an in-depth and believable character study of Jenny, and the believable sexy, in-character Jenny/Dayna romance I've always wanted.

with our way lit only by stars. From Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea, a canon AU set post-Farthest Shore in which things go in a different direction than Tehanu, featuring Ged without powers but not yet done with doing, Tenar deciding to see more of the world than Gont, and a trip to see old friends. It's got a lovely delicate, peaceful atmosphere, lovely details of Earthsea with the exact canon blend of earthy and otherworldly, and shows that middle age doesn't mean the end of adventures or new sources of happiness and wonder. Vetch and Yarrow appear, older but still very much themselves; there's good food, tiny dragons, and joy in all things.
rachelmanija: (Autumn: small leaves)
( Sep. 28th, 2016 08:25 pm)
Dear Yuletide writer,

Thank you for writing for me! I am very non-fussy about Yuletide and love the fandoms I requested, so please don't stress too much about making me happy. Write me something in a fandom I love, and I will be happy. If you click on my Yuletide tag you will find past letters with lots of detail on what I like in general.

Two little FYIs: I started writing my letter at home, then left before I could finish it. I am currently away from home and can't write as much, so less tl;dr isn't indication of which I want most, just due to circumstances. The other is for any friends who might be trawling this letter for treat prompts. I still love anything I requested for any Yuletide in history, so if you don't know any of these fandoms, feel free to pick up anything from past letters that's in the Yuletide tag set.

Read more... )
rachelmanija: (Autumn: small leaves)
( Dec. 31st, 2015 05:42 pm)
I defaulted on Yuletide due to illness, which was hugely depressing for me, but got somewhat better after that and ended up writing three treats! So between that and my FOUR wonderful gifts, I had a happy Yuletide after all.

Where Nightmares Live is based on a famously traumatizing novel by Stephen King, Pet Sematary. It's not only quite scary in terms of horror tropes, but is an extremely visceral evocation of a number of real-life nightmare scenarios. King was inspired to write it when he barely managed to save his toddler son from being hit by a speeding truck, and then was haunted by thoughts like, "What if I'd been a second too slow? What would I feel if my son died? Is anything worse than losing your child?"

The essay in which he explains that and other real-life inspirations for the book is in the beginning of the Kindle version, and can be read for free by clicking on "Look Inside." It's a powerful essay that was particularly intense for me to read recently, because it's about what happens when you're the kind of writer who naturally integrates autobiography into your fiction, as King is and I am as well, and you're going through an extraordinarily dark time or at least have something extraordinarily dark on your mind. You write from your heart, as you always do, but what you come up with may not be what anyone wants to read. Stephen King nearly shelved Pet Sematary because he thought it was too disturbing to release, but his wife Tabatha persuaded him that it was too good to hide away and made him send it to his editor.

Pet Sematary is a book that lots of people seem to read once and then wish they hadn't. This has nothing to do with its artistic quality, which is quite high. It sears itself into your brain and leaves you deeply unsettled in a way that few horror novels do. I have read it exactly twice, once when I was about fourteen and once this year, and found that I recalled it extremely well despite the nearly thirty-year gap between readings. I re-read it after seeing the prompts for it, which were excellent prompts and for a book which asks the question that was on my mind at the time, which is "Is there anything worse than death?"

The prompts, by Raedbard and Maharetr, asked what happens to Ellie Creed, the protagonist's daughter, who is a child when the book ends. All the disturbing stuff in the book is also in my story, which is extremely spoilery for the book. Content warning for literally everything upsetting that involves death and dying.

Read more... )

The Story of the Doe Who Hid Her Kittens is my third Watership Down story. It's a story-within-a-story, a tale told in secret by a doe in Efrafa. I don't think the story works if you haven't read the book. The prompt was by Astrokath, who wrote my single favorite Yuletide letter. We share a number of fandoms and she had great prompts for all of them. I would have written for all her prompts if I'd had time.

Read more... )

To Heal A World was written for Vonda N. McIntyre's Dreamsnake, for Eisoj5, who has requested this fandom multiple times. Every year I want to write it for her, and every year I keep not having a chance. I was so happy to finally write it this year.

It's a fandom I've requested myself (and received lovely stories in, including one this year!) It's one of my favorite sf novels, a post-apocalyptic picaresque about Snake, a healer who keeps genetically engineered snakes for their healing venom. The book is about doing good in a troubled world. I think all you need to know to read my story (which is quite short) is that in the course of the book, Snake adopts an abused child, Melissa. Both the story I wrote and the story I received are about what happens to Melissa after the book ends. My story has a spoiler for something that happens about a third of the way into the book, and I'm not sure if it makes sense if you haven't read the book.

"What does it take to heal a world?" was one of the prompts, and that question is very much at the heart of the book. The novel implies that Melissa apprentices herself to Snake more because she idolizes her than because she has a calling to be a healer, and that she will probably end up doing something else, though perhaps something related. I thought about how one might heal a world without literally being a doctor. I also wanted to have snakes feature prominently, because Eisoj5 mentioned having pet snakes. My solution is probably not that scientifically likely, but hopefully emotionally satisfying.
I had to default on Yuletide for the first time in eight years, for obvious reasons. I was really depressed about it. Yuletide is my favorite winter holiday. Also, defaulting felt very symbolic of the long list of things that are loved or normal that I now cannot do because I'm too sick. (That list was so long for a while that it made more sense to say that I had a list of things that I could do.)

After my recent one-week post-antibiotic reprieve from illness, I am now quickly getting worse again. This is exactly what happened the last time I took antibiotics, so… a clue for a treatment! Sadly I still have no clue whatsoever as to which antibiotic might last longer than one week. (I can't stay on those antibiotics permanently. They make me extremely sick until I stop taking them. Then they make me feel pretty good. For one week.)

[NO ADVICE UNLESS YOU ARE A MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL. Or had a devastating mystery illness that was clearly treatable with antibiotics but no one had any idea which antibiotics. If you fit into either category and wish to chime in, feel free to email or PM me.]

However, I have not yet hit the point of being in so much pain that it is impossible to do anything at all (and am crossing my fingers that I have at least five more days in that state.) So I started writing a Yuletide Treat. It is nearly done and after I get back from seeing today's doctor (I have seen a minimum of one doctor per week for the last month or so) I should be able to finish it today. This has got to be some sort of triumph of the human spirit.

Also, despite defaulting, I appear to have two gifts. I shook them a bit and I think I know what one of them is (and it's something that excites me a LOT) but I have no idea about the other (and am excited to find out).
Tags:
Because why not.

Also because yesterday was even more spectacularly horrible than usual for completely unrelated reasons, involving a really bad thing that happened at work which I can't discuss because confidentiality, followed by four hours in the ER with my cat culminating in the vet coming in and saying, "Well… it could be a little scratch that got infected… or IT COULD BE CANCER." (I don't think it's cancer.)

Beneath the cut, I am going to put a bunch of prompts for stories, fanfic or original, in case anyone wants to pick one up and cheer me up.

I like hurt-comfort, worldbuilding, adventure, action, heroism, self-sacrifice, hard choices, camaraderie, luscious descriptions of food and landscape, loyalty kink, trauma and recovery, military settings, bands of brothers (or sisters, or brothers and sisters) and a strong sense of place. I'm fine with original characters. I enjoy gen, het, femmeslash, and slash, and I enjoy relationships of any variety, from friendships to epic romance to hot sex. I prefer happy or bittersweet endings to doom and despair.

I could write epics on what I like about hurt-comfort, but I think the key is tenderness. So many individual elements that I like - characters helping each other to walk or eat or bathe, stroking hair, cuddling, etc - come down to that. I also like the opportunities for glorious melodrama, such as desperate stumbles through the woods in search of aid, bedside vigils, delirious confessions of long-held secrets, stoicism, soldiering on with a task until total collapse (possibly while concealing an injury), etc.

Things I find hot: fantasy prostitution where it's consensual and totally a fantasy of being able to simply point your finger and get the exact sexual experience or partner you want, like the Kushiel books or that hot short story Ellen Kushner wrote in "Sirens." Strong men and their muscles, especially if they're stocky/wiry but not tall. Strong, lean, boyish or butch women and their muscles. Voluptuous Venus of Willendorf women. Slim petite women with wings. Collarbones. Breasts. Hands. Long, graceful feet. Jeremy Renner's arms. Eyes of any color, from ordinary to ridiculously exotic. Long flappy leather coats. Elaborate clothing with ribbons and complicated ties. Masquerade balls. Carnival masks. Venice and fantasy cities with canals. Passionate sex up against the wall. Corsets. Half-clothed sex. People really getting into each others' bodies. Writing on bodies.

Quiet men with still waters running deep, like Le Guin's Ged. Wizards, artists, craftspeople, medics, soldiers and warriors, chefs, musicians, DJs, dancers, acrobats, pilots, martial artists, physical and psychotherapists. Really determined people. Happy people, especially when they have not had easy lives. People with scars or disabilities, mental or physical. Found families. Friendship. Misfits finding a home. People who love their jobs, especially if they're not very glamorous. Telepathic animals. Rats. People with beautiful wings. Myth and folklore. Nicknames, formalized or not. Shapeshifters. PTSD. Hard-earned happy endings. Loyalty against all odds. Lovers on opposite sides of a war. Conflicts of honor.

Settings where everything is lush and beautiful. Settings where everything is trying to eat you. (Or both!) Deserts. Lush forests. Big bustling cities, Hostage or imprisonment scenarios. Desperate last stands. Clever escapes. Con artists. DRAGONS. Portals. Wish-fulfillment that's earned. Mist. Mountains. Journeys, into the known or the unknown. Ships or portals that will take you somewhere, who knows where, or make you vanish forever. Space explorers. Space Marines. Trapped in an evil lab. Psychic kids (or adults.) People with powers who aren't costumed superheroes. Boarding schools. Boot camp. Riding anything. Dragon hatching, cub bonding - anything where people bond with animals, that is my favorite thing ever.

Read more... )
rachelmanija: (Books: old)
( Jan. 3rd, 2015 10:13 am)
Sholio asked me about my first Yuletide. I have no idea how I heard about it or what made me decide to try it out. All I remember is that it did not go well. I offered too many fandoms and offered to write any characters in them. This is a classic beginner’s mistake. I got an assignment for two characters who don’t actually meet in canon, with no details and no letter. I banged my head against the wall for a while, then defaulted.

To get back in for next year, I wrote The Story of Marli-Hrair and the Black Rabbit of Inle for Watership Down as a New Year’s Resolution. It’s still one of my favorite stories. (You probably don’t need to know canon, other than that they’re rabbits.)

The next Yuletide – my second signing up, but my first actually participating – was a huge improvement. I was less free with my offers, and got a wonderful, inspiring letter. I wrote The Taste of Honey for Sandman, which is probably my very favorite of my own fanfic stories, if I had to pick just one. You don’t need to know canon, other than that Dream and Death are siblings who rule over dreams and death.

I also snagged a pinch hit, Blood and Ink for Lloyd Alexander’s Westmark. You do need to know canon for this one. And I wrote a treat, The Rose of Naamah for Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Dart. You don’t need to know canon, but don’t read unless you’re cool with major sexual masochism involving consensual pain infliction. Way back in this era, authors couldn’t edit stories once they were posted, so I had email Elyn Ross, the mod, a frantic note asking her to insert a line in which the heroine takes off her panties. She very kindly inserted it.

That was 2007, and I’ve been doing Yuletide ever since. It has transformed Christmas from a rather dull holiday to one of my favorites. I like the challenge, the inevitable wank, the stories I get written for me, the treasury of others' stories to read, the community, the inspiration, and the opportunity to give presents to friends or acquaintances or strangers.
rachelmanija: (Naruto: Super-energized!)
( Dec. 31st, 2014 05:57 pm)
This Yuletide four people requested the Werewolf Marines series, which I wrote under the pen name of Lia Silver. So I thought it would be nice to treat them. As it happens, I also matched on it. (I offered something like 20 fandoms, so this was still a bit coincidental.)

If you have not read the books but are thinking of reading one of the stories, read Diamond in a Coal Mine It’s set immediately after the end of Prisoner and so is somewhat spoilery, but not a book-destroying way. All you need to know is that DJ is a werewolf Marine, Echo is a genetically engineered assassin, and they’re both being forced to work for a nefarious secret government agency. I don’t think the other two stories will be meaningful if you haven’t already read the books.

My Yuletide assignment was the second time I’ve matched with a friend. This time was somebraveapollo. She asked for a story about DJ the werewolf Marine (who is also literally a DJ) and Echo the genetically engineered assassin, set during or after Prisoner. This was a bit challenging, as all their significant interactions in Prisoner occur on-page, and Partner begins three days after the end of Prisoner, so there’s not a big time frame to work within.

I then had to figure out a story that contained hurt-comfort (which somebraveapollo likes), a plot (I find plotless vignettes difficult to write), which could fit into a short story length, which takes place right after Prisoner,, but wouldn’t contradict anything in Partner. Sherwood helpfully provided the general premise of “Diamond in a Coal Mine.” I added hand jobs and kneeling.

rmc28 and slashmarks made basically identical requests for interaction between the clone sisters Charlie and Echo, so I wrote one story, Blank Pages for both of them. I hope it wasn’t too annoying to write in extensive references to an unrequested canon, Little Women. I did try to make it comprehensible even if you’d never read the books or seen the movies. The biggest challenge, given their fairly tragic canon background, was not making it too gloomy. Hopefully I managed hopeful.

In First Hunt I took up opalmatrix’s suggestion of detailing the hunt which is mentioned but not shown at the end of Laura’s Wolf. She is also a friend, so I wrote in some things I know she likes: found family, domestic coziness, ensemble cast, and huddling for warmth. All of which are also present in Laura’s Wolf; no wonder she liked it. ;)

By the way, before the letters appeared, I had figured that with four requests, someone would request DJ/Roy. I had been totally willing to write it and even had an idea, but no one requested. Oh, well.

Finally, I read the Werewolf Marines story I did not write, slashmarks's Sparks, with great delight. It’s also about Charlie and Echo. The only reason I didn’t comment on it was that it would have made it obvious that I wrote the others.
rachelmanija: (Default)
( Oct. 31st, 2014 10:24 am)
Yuletide assignments have gone out! Without revealing your fandom, how do you feel about yours?

I am very excited about writing for my fandom! But if you are participating in Yuletide and have not yet written a "Dear Yuletide Writer" letter, please write a letter and link it in the link post below. You don't have to get into tons of detail, but a little about what you like about the fandom and maybe a few areas you'd be interested in seeing explored in a story would be nice. Also, if you requested two characters who have an ambiguous relationship in canon, it would be great to know whether you see them as lovers, friends, friends with unresolved sexual tension, etc.

Here's a link to my Dear Yuletide writer letter. Here's a link to the page where you can link to your letters.
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rachelmanija: (Autumn: small leaves)
( Oct. 11th, 2014 03:49 pm)
Dear Yuletide letter below cut. Please do not read if you do not want to read about fanfic.

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rachelmanija: (Books: old)
( Jan. 1st, 2014 02:57 pm)
I wrote three stories this year, in Scott Lynch’s “Gentleman Bastards” series, C. L. Moore’s Northwest Smith, and Stephen King’s The Stand.

My assignment was in the fandom I had most hoped to be matched on, Scott Lynch’s “Gentleman Bastards,” which I’d recently re-read. It’s about con men in fantasyland, full of lovely worldbuilding details and dialogue straight out of The Sopranos. The gang consists of Locke Lamora, the brains of the outfit with a penchant for over-complicated melodrama; Jean Tannen, previously a soft merchant’s son, who discovers a gift for fighting; and Calo and Galdo Sanza, sidekick twins.

My recipient, Labellementeuse, requested the time period where they’re all teenagers under the mostly-benevolent mentorship of Father Chains, a real priest masquerading as a fake one. She also requested Jean’s POV, a focus on the Locke-Jean relationship, and to see what Jean sees in Locke. I thought that was a great prompt: not too detailed, not too vague.

I wrote The Goddess of Suffering Scam. No canon knowledge needed beyond what I just told you, and it’s not spoilery for the books. The self-flagellating apparatus was Sherwood Smith’s suggestion, and in my opinion it completely makes the story.

Northwest Smith is lush, vivid space opera from the 1930s, featuring Northwest Smith, a tall Earthman with colorless eyes whose stoic exterior conceals some interesting psychological vulnerabilities, and his partner, Yarol the Venusian, a cheerfully amoral young man who looks like an angel and is constantly rescuing Smith from soul-sucking space vampires.

Last year I requested it, and got an amazing story, Ithaka, or, the Moons of Jupiter from Quillori. This year she requested it herself. Her letter was so charming that it ought to be read in full. (One note here about slash - I know Smith/Yarol is a popular reading, if anything can be said to be popular in such a tiny, almost non-existent fandom. And it's not as though I have any objection in theory - Smith does spend an awful lot of time noticing how gorgeous Venusians are in general and Yarol in particular - but I have a hard time reading Smith as anything other than straight, or perhaps not straight exactly - I can imagine him having friendly, casual sex with Yarol on a regular basis - but we spend enough time in his viewpoint that it really does seem to me his type, or what he genuinely believes is his type, is women (women, or possibly eldritch abominations and dark gods - with whom, frankly, he appears to have more success). )

Quillori wanted a story starring Yarol and focusing on worldbuilding, saying that often her favorite part of the story was when they were wandering around alien worlds and the plot hadn’t actually started yet. I thought that was a wonderful prompt, and wrote Strangler’s Veil. No canon knowledge needed beyond what I just told you.

Finally, [personal profile] kore and I co-wrote West, for Stephen King’s The Stand.

The novel is post-apocalyptic, a huge, sprawling, vivid narrative with a memorable ensemble cast. Toward the end, four of the characters— all men— go on a quest to save the world. Maidenjedi’s prompt was, “What if the women went instead?”

Cut for length and spoilers for both our story and The Stand. If you’re thinking of reading our story, please do so before reading the author notes. If you haven’t read The Stand, I don’t think our story will be comprehensible.

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And I even like it, which has not been the case every year.

[Poll #1949071]
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Cut for those who don't care about Yuletide. Regarding the polar bear question, that should read "The polar bear from Lost." Apparently putting in quotes erased the word Lost.

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rachelmanija: (Default)
( Sep. 8th, 2013 11:52 am)
'Tis the time to start contemplating your Yuletide randoms! See schedule at the bottom of the post.

I'm not sure how many nominations we'll get, as some of the rules still seem in flux. But here's what I'm preliminarily thinking of. Click on author's names to see my posts on the originals.

Top Chef Masters. Invent a fun challenge or do a reunion or set the whole thing on Pern or Perelandra; I would just like to read luscious descriptions of food plus amusing interaction featuring one or more of my favorite chefs. If I can nominate four, I'd nominate Susan Feniger, Anita Lo, Susur Lee, and Sang Yoon. (I now am desperate to go to Sang Yoon's Lukshon; has anyone been to it?)

The Rifter, by Ginn Hale. God only knows if anyone doing Yuletide would have actually read this, but I would enjoy a story featuring John, Kyle, Rousma, and/or Pesha. If you don't remember the latter, she was the teenage lesbian teleporter. I liked her and would have enjoyed an entire book about her teleporting around and awkwardly flirting with girls.

Flight of the Heron, by D. K. Broster. I really liked Keith and Ewen and would like to see them interacting more, with angst and hurt-comfort. And possibly swordfighting. Obviously, the structure of the book would make this challenging. (They are fated to meet exactly five times, and we see all five meetings.) I think it would have to either be a post-novel AU (like, Ewen hauls Keith on to the boat, and there is angst and hurt-comfort. And possibly swordfighting) or, as cyphomandra suggested, a space AU. ;)

Pern. There can never be enough Mirrim-and-Menolly fic.

What are you all contemplating?

YULETIDE 2013 SCHEDULE
Nominations: September 16th to September 23rd
Cleanup and Public Eligibility Review: September 23rd to October 7th
Signups: October 7th to October 14th
Assignments: around October 21st
Assignments Due: December 22nd
Collection Opens: December 25th
Author Reveals: January 1st
rachelmanija: (Naruto: Super-energized!)
( Jan. 1st, 2013 10:30 am)
I wrote three stories this year. Given all the other stuff that was going on, I’m amazed that I could even manage one.

If you want to read the stories before you read my notes, they are Queen of Berries (J. R. R. Tolkien’s “Smith of Wootton Major”), The Derelict (C. L. Moore’s Northwest Smith), and Kushiel’s Fall (Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel novels). They’re all more or less “don’t need to know canon.”

My assignment was Queen of Berries, for Tolkien’s little-known novella, “Smith of Wootton Major.” It’s a perfect little story about an English village on the outskirts of Faery, their unusual tradition of the Twenty-Four Feast, and a boy named Smith who gets the ability to travel into Faery. He marries Nell, who knows about his journeys but cannot accompany him. My challenge here was writing anything that could even begin to live up to the original. Eeek!

My recipient, Amyfortuna, suggested a number of possible paths for my story to take. Of those, the ones I picked up were “more about Smith in Faery,” “more about Nell and Smith’s marriage,” and “something from Nell’s POV.” This suggested to me a story with dual POVs, Nell in Wootton Major and Smith in Faery; that in turn suggested a story about how there are major parts of their lives which they don’t and can’t share, and how they do their best to share them anyway. Since English foods and festivals are such a crucial part of the original, I invented a tradition to play a key role in mine.

You probably don’t need to have read Tolkien’s story to read mine… but you should read Tolkien’s story. FYI, the first comment to my story includes a major spoiler for the original.

This is my second Yuletide story to garner comments about craving pudding after reading.

I also wrote a Treat for one of my own request fandoms. Someone else had also requested Northwest Smith and there was nothing in the archive for it by the 23rd, so I hastily wrote a story. To my surprise and delight, apparently someone else had the same thought, because a Northwest Smith fic appeared on Christmas Eve for me!

C. L. Moore’s Northwest Smith stories are classic pulp sf from the 1930s, of the lush, romantic, space opera variety. She was notable for taking emotion, psychology, and sexuality as real forces that drove her stories; the best ones turn on some distinctly bittersweet revelation of character. Smith is a hardbitten space gunslinger who is constantly running into aliens who exploit his psychological vulnerabilities; Yarol the Venusian, his partner, is sweet and charming and amoral, and spends a lot of time dragging a reluctant Smith away from alien succubuses and ineffable visions of beauty that fry men’s minds.

You don’t need to know the originals to read The Derelict, and it’s not spoilery. My recipient really liked the Moore story “Shambleau,” so I gave “The Derelict” a similar emotional arc, though in a quite different setting. I threw in two of my favorite pulp sf tropes, the spooky derelict spaceship (complete with note of DOOM clutched in a dead man’s hand) and the idea that hyperspace is ineffably wonderful/ineffably horrifying/addictive/drives you insane/kills you/all of the above. The end sequence was inspired by Odysseus and the sirens, though Yarol’s solution is slightly more drastic than Odysseus’. The other NW Smith writer was also inspired by the Odyssey, oddly enough. Possibly so was Moore, and that transmitted to both of us.

My third story was Kushiel’s Fall, for Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel series. Irascible clothing designer meets silver-tongued disabled diplomat; banter, clothing porn, and emotional healing ensues. You don’t need to know the fandom to read my story. (Just so you know: there’s no BDSM. Sorry.)

In canon, beauty and physical perfection are a cultural obsession, and prostitution (the Night Court) is both a business and a sacred calling. Favrielle, an adept of the Night Court, was kicked out when her face was scarred in a mysterious accident which was widely rumored to have been no such thing. She later became a successful clothing designer, but remained understandably bitter.

My recipient said she was rooting for Favrielle to find some kind of emotional healing, she wanted to know what was up with that supposed accident, and she loved reading descriptions of Favrielle’s gorgeous designs. I read that prompt, thought that Favrielle needed to meet someone else with scars of their own, and the idea of the costume she ends up designing for her client popped into my head. The rest of the story practically wrote itself.

It is definitely the creature from Rachel’s id, even without any actual sex. I assume this is how Swan Tower guessed that it was mine – congratulations, you were correct! My original character, Julien de Somerville, was particularly fun to write. I was amused by how many commenters were particularly taken with his costume. Maybe someone will do fan art for it. ;)

Spoiler for “Kushiel’s Fall.”

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I didn’t realize this till all three stories were posted, but in a bizarre coincidence, of my three stories, two have a protagonist named Smith and the third involves a smith!
rachelmanija: (Naruto: Super-energized!)
( Dec. 23rd, 2012 12:15 pm)
Not that I encourage present-shaking, but if you go here, you can see what fandoms have already been written and posted for Yuletide. And if you click on specific fandoms, and then click on the "characters" side bar, you can see what characters are in them, if the writers tagged the characters.

Speaking of which, though there's no rule barring crossovers with Yuletide-ineligible fandoms (and a good thing too, or I would not have been able to send Anthony Bourdain to Narnia), I am boggled at the number of times Clint Barton (Hawkeye) has unexpectedly popped up in character lists for Yuletide stories, often in company with Phil Coulson.

Though assigned stories are long since due, Treats can still be uploaded to the archive until it closes at some time on Christmas Eve. I spent yesterday writing a Treat, and am quite pleased with it. Almost all the writing I've done this year has been professional in some way, so it has been lovely to get a chance to write for the sheer joy of it.

If you want to write a Treat, all requests are viewable here. You can sort by fandom, but not search; it's a bit cumbersome. I am still hoping someone will write Modesty Blaise. (Not me. Cockney defeats me.)

Cut to avoid spoiling what fandoms have already been written. Great anticipation below cut.

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