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.”

As several commenters noticed, while Favrielle dresses Julien as Hephaestus and herself as his creation Pandora, Favrielle also has the role of Hephaestus, the scarred artist who makes beautiful things, and Julien also has the role of Pandora, whom she “creates” in the sense of giving him a truly spectacular makeover.

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!
thistleingrey: (Default)

From: [personal profile] thistleingrey

That explains part of why I hadn't guessed you as writer yet: I haven't read these yet. :) I've seen good things about "Queen of Berries" and "The Derelict" in particular.
crystalpyramid: crystal pyramid suspended in dimensional abnormality (Default)

From: [personal profile] crystalpyramid

I read Kushiel's Fall a couple days ago and really loved it! Thanks for fleshing out the characters so beautifully!
jinian: (clow reads)

From: [personal profile] jinian

"Kushiel's Fall" is so great! I loved it but didn't at all realize it was you.

From: [identity profile] seigyoku.livejournal.com

I was introduced to the Kushiel books by a Yuletide story you wrote that I read on a lark. And I must say, you really do have a talent for writing in that universe! Loved this one.

From: [identity profile] asakiyume.livejournal.com

I **love** Smith of Wooton Major--I loved the fairy king in that, and I loved Smith as a boy. (And I loved Pauline Banes's art). Can't wait to read this one of yours.

(Just so you know: there’s no BDSM. Sorry.) LOL, humorous apologies for the win.

From: [identity profile] asakiyume.livejournal.com

Oh Rachel, "Queen of Berries" was perfect. I have downloaded it. I loved all the *foods* you invented, and every single detail about Faery, and Smith's choosing of his gift, and Nell running with water in her hands. So beautiful.

And this line: “Those who journey are sorry to leave, but glad to come home. There is much to love here that cannot be found in Faery.”

You're having a way these days of saying things absolutely perfectly, to my eyes, anyway.

Remind me, because I can't remember: why can't Nell go into Faery? (Seems so unfair)

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com

Thank you so much! I'm so glad you liked it.

It's not that Nell specifically can't go, but that there's only one passport into Faery, and it can't be shared: it's the silver star on Smith's forehead.
sovay: (Haruspex: Autumn War)

From: [personal profile] sovay

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.

No, but I hope I can consider it canon anyway.

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com

Go right ahead! ;)

It could be canon; someone tagged it "revisionist" but I don't think it is, particularly. There's a scene in Kushiel's Scion which deals with similar issues and comes to essentially the same conclusions. (The one where Imri goes to Balm House.)
moetushie: Beaton cartoon - a sexy revolution. (misc  → pakeezah)

From: [personal profile] moetushie

The Smith of Wootton Major story was seriously wonderful. <3
melebeth: (waldo)

From: [personal profile] melebeth

I can not express to you how much I loved the Kushiel story, both for the clothes and for the fact that I always wanted to know more about the character of Favrielle.

From: [identity profile] tool-of-satan.livejournal.com

I've owned “Smith of Wootton Major” for years and never read it, I think because I got the idea from somewhere that it was twee. Since this is apparently incorrect, I will read it forthwith (and then your story).

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