This year marks my seventh Yuletide, third running the Misses Clause Challenge with martinigrl, and numerology dictates that this time around shall be a magical one. And though there have been many changes to the exchange for 2013, the departure of elynross among them, the one that will have the most profound effect upon this year's letter is… (dun dun dun…) the advent of six possible requests. Count them, six.
In short, my fellow Yulefolk, in light of the length of my previous letters (in no particular order: this little letter provided leverage, this little letter wrote a poem, this little letter had my first treat, this little letter had none, and this little letter begged for backstory backstory backstory all the way home)… brace yourselves.
Dear Yuletide Writer,
Welcome! Happy to have you, make yourself comfortable. I'm so glad you've volunteered to spin a story for one of my much-loved fandoms, and I can't wait to read what you come up with. I hope this letter will provide some insight and ideas without being intimidating — when it all boils down, I love each of the things I've requested here, and will embrace every word I can get.
My fandom brain is highly character-centric, and that extends to fic as well. Strong characterization is pretty much porn for me, and I've been extremely lucky in that respect in gifts of Yuletides past. I love symbolism and subtext and stories that live between the lines of canon. I love unique approaches to the narrative — non-linear storytelling, stories that have fun with format and structure, things that play with poetry or re-imagine fairy tales or fuse one universe with another. Tell me a story entirely through dreams, or the sliding doors of misunderstandings, or messages in friggin bottles, and I will love you forever.
I'm a sucker for certain archetypes — the broken boy soldier, the magnificent bastard, the snarky sidekick with a heart of gold, and especially the awesome and oft-overlooked women who save the day or hold everything together and never ever take the credit. I live for interesting interaction unfolding between characters — the dynamic between people is incredibly important to me, that tangible bond that makes people trust in each other and fight for and with and alongside each other, makes them have entire conversations without words and feel like parts of a whole. Particularly if that bond is not romantic. Having that kind of connection between characters you ship is all-important, yes, but give me two people with a completely platonic relationship who would lie down in front of a train for each other and I will be putty in your hands. As far as actual shipping goes… when it comes to Yuletide, I tend to pose prompts that skew toward gen, but if you prefer to write something shippy, I've noted favorite pairings for every request.
On the "do not want" side of things, outside of one particular fandom, I'm not a huge fan of the completely non-canon AU. I'm all for things that diverge, in a butterfly effect, "twist at this turning point and now everything is different" sort of way, but I don't really connect with the coffeeshop/college/captured by pirates scenarios. I'm an angst lover at heart, so unabashed fluff doesn't have the same impact (though I'm totally down with conflict and turbulence that leads to open, hopeful or happy endings!). I hate to see female characters sidelined or characters of color marginalized. Sex is more than welcome when it's rooted in character, but it works best for me in the abstract and as part of a larger story. I have no preference as to present or past tense, but something about second person rarely clicks with me. Infidelity will take me right out of a story, as will porn-by-numbers, rape as a plot device, and any of my pretty boys in pain being overly verbose or emotionally overwrought. Squickly-speaking, steering clear of bodily fluids beyond blood (in a non-"play" sense), saliva, and sexual byproducts is generally a safe bet (so kinks like watersports, scat, vore, etcetera aren't really up my alley), but the most important thing to note is that I have a massive incest squick. If you take nothing else away from this section, please take that.
Never mind, I went with Shameless. :)
Parade's End | Sylvia Tietjens
The Request: Sylvia at her string-pulling best, and a glimpse at the "why" behind it all.
The Details: This is my first repeat request from last year, to the letter. Sylvia is polarizing, to say the least. But, as you can gather from every previous fic exchange I've participated in, polarizing characters are kinda my thing. :) And I absolutely adore her. Have a note from my Tumblr:
I’m shocked at all the Sylvia hate, fandom. Truly shocked. This is a woman with a brilliant mind that’s gone unchallenged by education, a brilliant mother who unfairly judges every one of her daughter’s steps by her own, and a brilliant husband who unconsciously rejects every effort she makes in their relationship. She manipulates people to prevent dying of boredom, but also because she’s invested in whatever’s at the center of the drama she creates. She loves Christopher, in her maddening, destructive, middle-school-boy-who-pokes-you-with-a-s
tick way. She manipulated him once - into marriage - and hasn’t been able to do so properly since. And it drives her nuts, but she loves him a little for that, too.
TL:DR: REBECCA HALL, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN.
My Sylvia problem, in a nutshell. So I'd love to see her doing what she does best - staving off boredom and stirring up trouble, with sly looks and a silver tongue. I'd love to see where she started, back when she was Sylvia Satterthwaite, smoking and swaying in that train car and setting the perfect trap for Christopher. Or where she ends up, once she's set him free. Show me that single night after those five long years, and what happened once her husband apologized. Or cutting down the cedar, and whether she simply watched it fall or struck the first blow herself. Or the fork in the canon road that made things end differently! Basically, any blanks you choose to fill will give me grabby hands.
The Fine Print: If you couldn't tell, I love Sylvia Tietjens. Please don't villify her for being a complex, complicated woman who knows her own mind in a time when that wasn't acceptable. For ship writers, Christopher/Sylvia is twisty and complicated, and that's exactly how I like it.
Scandal | Any
The Request: Found family fic! Or Gladiators At Work fic. Or women being awesome fic. Or, alternately, whatever story wants to be written.
The Details: Before I go any further, you should know that I requested and received Scandal fic for Yuletide 2012. last year in your garden is a look at Olivia's history with broken things and how she started fixing them, and was exactly what I wanted from a request solely for Olivia Pope. But I love this show insanely, and I am a greedy fangirl. So this year, you choose. My absolute favorite aspect of the show is its incredible lineup of fascinating, flawed, fabulous women. Women who are three-dimensional, who have power and agency and agendas of their own, who have their own stories to tell. Focus on any one (or two, or four) of these women and I will be a happy camper. (Add a dash of Harrison and I will be over the moon.) For more specific ideas, I'd love to see fic with the entire found family of Pope & Associates — how Olivia has saved each one of them, and how they save her. But if that's not the story you want to tell, I'm open to just about anything. Show me Olivia unsettled by all the daddy issues that have risen to the surface. Show me Harrison and Abby's broken brother/sister relationship, and how it slowly gets fixed. Show me Olivia and David dueling on the same side through the years, trying to out White Hat each other. Show me Olivia and Mellie and all the ways they work better without you-know-who. Show me Jake and Huck having a shadowy spy heart-to-heart about Olivia before Jake goes back to B-613. Show me Cyrus as both Jekyll and Hyde. Show me anything with Mellie in all her intelligent, ambitious, morally-grey glory. And, although she was not nominated, if you show me Alissa being awesome, in anything you end up writing, I will love you forever.
The Fine Print: Here's the "just about" — please don't show me Fitz. I adore Tony Goldwyn. I have since the first time I saw Kuffs. But I despise Fitzgerald Grant with the fire of a thousand suns, and think his relationship with Olivia is unhealthy, destructive, and often abusive. He may come up in the course of the proceedings, and that's perfectly fine, but I'd rather it wasn't in the context of shipping him with Olivia. I'm a big fan of James, if you have any grand Cyrus plans. I have come to really love Abby, which is a big change since last year's request, and I'm intrigued by her and David floundering as they find their way. If you're feeling shippy, I am completely on board with Olivia/Jake, I wouldn't say no to Olivia/David, I can totally make a case for dysfunctional Olivia/Mellie, I can see Harrison/Quinn being intriguing in the right light, and I'm not ashamed to say that I unabashedly ship Harrison/Alissa, though they've never actually interacted in canon (I just love them both insanely okay?!).
Shameless | Fiona Gallagher
The Request: She'd like to think that she's learned her lesson. But there's always something to get her hopes up, just to let her down again.
The Details: Fiona Gallagher is glorious. She's one of my favorite people on television. I love her duality - her tenacity versus her vulnerability, the backbone and capable hands she uses to camouflage all her weak spots. I love her temper and her short fuse, her fierce protectiveness of everyone she loves, and her tendency to hope that this time things will be different, even though history has taught her otherwise over and over again. Most of all, I think, I love that, when people and circumstances and life have disappointed her yet again, she takes a moment to feel the blow, then sucks it up and keeps moving forward. I would love to see where that started, and how long it took her to grow skin that thick. Whether there was a gradual process to learning these lessons, or if she got burned one good time and it left her wary of everything else in her life. I wonder whether she'll ever draw a line, and stop letting people in - as Jimmy the last straw, or will she keep hoping in spite of herself? I wonder if, after being let down so many times, she sees hope as a weakness. And I'd be curious to read something that explores what would have happened if her hopes hadn't been in vain - if she'd finished school, if the promoting had worked out, if Monica really had been better. Or go a different way! I'm a big fan of seeing her with each of her siblings (Lip and Debbie in particular), snarky showdowns with Frank (and what that might look like after her hospital revelation), and her ride-or-die friendship with V. After the bra-stuffing incident, I'd really love to see her tackling distinctly female milestones with Debbie - things that were never an issue with Lip and Ian, things she herself had to work through on her own. One of the patented Gallagher-family fuck-ups (and fixes) would be awesome as well.
The Fine Print: I hate Jimmy. I really, really hate Jimmy. Also, I'm a Chicagoan. Not from Back of the Yards, but I am a South Sider, so I'm very familiar with the area. In general, wrong Chicago things tend to leap out and grab me.
Spartacus Series | Gannicus, Oenomaus
The Request: The bonds of love and brotherhood, tested, tainted, but never broken.
The Details: These two. These two. Oenomaus was a favorite from the first episode of the first season, when this show took everyone by surprise. When Andy got sick and the prequel was announced, I didn't have high hopes beyond "yay, more Lucretia" and "well, we'll always have Doctore." I was wrong, on both counts. First, Doctore — strong, sure, with ties only to the House of Batiatus — didn't yet exist. In his place was Oenomaus — injured, uncertain, but surrounded by love. And therein lies the second draw: enter Gannicus, stage left. A Champion of Capua, the undefeated Celt, who drank out of habit and fought out of desperation and laughed off everything else that mattered. Except Oenomaus and his wife, Melitta, the only people to see a man of any worth beyond blood. The bond between them, the three of them, is so tangible and yet so unexplored, and then it's tainted by circumstance and the reality of their situation. The events of Gods of the Arena, and the time between them and the time of Vengeance, fundamentally changed that bond, and became my favorite aspect of Spartacus canon. I'm still bitter about the fact that The Powers That Be thought Gannicus needed some kind of romantic redemption arc, when his biggest revelation was acknowledging and embracing and fighting for the love he still had around him, even with Oenomaus gone. I would love to see anything about them — their history, their training, their triumphant return to the arena, together, once the last battle was fought. The explosive (perhaps bloody) beginning of their friendship before, the slow rebuilding of it after. Quiet conversations, drunken confessions, tending to wounds while the rest of the ludus slept, anything. I just want the two of them together.
The Fine Print: I ship it. I so ship it. I firmly believe, in my heart of hearts, that Oenomaus is the love of Gannicus' life (and that he clung to Melitta so desperately, in part, because Oenomaus loved her, and any woman worthy of Oenomaus' love was worth everything). That said, I also believe that Oenomaus loved his wife dearly, and that she loved them both (in very different ways, for very different reasons), so please don't diminish his relationship with Melitta, or slot her into the role of the woman in the way. In fact, I'm all for Gannicus/Oenomaus/Melitta. I also love Saxa more than almost anything, so no bashing there either, if you please. If you do not ship it, that's perfectly fine — their epic friendship is actually canon, not just headcanon. That all-powerful platonic connection I mentioned before? This is one of my favorite examples.
Third Star | James, Miles
The Request: He's not sure if their story is a comedy or a tragedy, but it's the best one he'll never tell. Unlike the last one, he just doesn't have the words.
The Details: If you haven't seen this movie, the video above is one big spoiler. But I elected to link a fanvid instead of the trailer, because it's also four minutes and twenty nine seconds of exactly why this movie kills me. I know I run a challenge that celebrates female characters, so please don't judge me too harshly for this one, but Third Star it is the most incredible depiction of male friendship I've seen in a film (and to the team of women who made it such - six producers, and director Hattie Dalton - brava). Each one of the threads tying these four people together is unique and has its own strengths and weaknesses, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't have a huge soft spot for loyal, long-suffering Davy. But my heart lies firmly with James and Miles, and the messy, complicated, brutal-but-beautiful bond between them. And since there's literally nothing out there (everyone else in this tiny fandom also seems to sympathize with Davy, and with good reason), I will take anything you give me and eat it up with a spoon. Pre-film fic set when James was still healthy and Miles' father was dying? Yes please. Missing scene fic out on the road, or between the dark of James' confession and the dawn of his last day? Don't mind if I do. Post-canon Miles, having imaginary conversations with James as he re-reads his own book (or burns it chapter by chapter)? Bring it on. Give me your five times fic, or your fix-it fic, or the fic where they're all reunited on the sandy stretch of Barafundle Bay, one by one, with James waiting for them all. In a perfect world, I'd love to read something with Miles vs. Writers Block - struggling to put it all into words, when the only person who's ever told him he's any good at it is gone. In all honesty, I cry every single time I watch this movie. So break my heart a bit. It'll be fitting.
The Fine Print: I love Miles, I love James, I love the two of them together. But I also love Davy and Bill, and the perfectly imperfect square the four of them make, and all the tragic hilarity of the journey they embark upon in the name of friendship. I am more than okay with this being an ensemble. If you're wondering, though, I ship it like FedEx. Especially in the context of it having come and gone.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy | George Smiley, Jim Prideaux, Peter Guillam, Ricki Tarr
The Request: They all sacrificed something for Queen and Country. Only one got that something back.
The Details: And here's the other repeat offender. The events of the film take their toll on all four of these men, in different ways, but they've all had to give something up, let something go, as a direct result of the mole's mechanations. George lost his wife. Peter lost his lover. Ricki lost Irina. Jim's ultimate loss is interesting, of course, because it's cyclical, and it's chosen, but he lost his life before that, even if he didn't actually die. I love the interaction and overlap we do get - the animosity between Peter and Ricki, the way Peter seems to ease George's involuntary solitude. The prompt I gave here may sound more specific than it is - it's absolutely what I want to see, but it's completely open to interpretation. Maybe it's as cut-and-dried as the movie shows us, and George is the one with the happy ending. But maybe George's marriage falls apart again, and Ricki can't stop searching, and Jim took another shot, later, alone, but Peter's boyfriend agrees to come home. Maybe Ann doesn't stay, and Ricki never finds out what happened to Irina, and Peter's boyfriend can't forgive and forget, but Jim finds some kind of closure. Maybe all these men have a drink, not in celebration, but in the company of common ground. Surprise me. :)
The Fine Print: Obvious pairings are obvious: Ricki/Irina, George/Ann, Peter/Peter's Boyfriend. Any Jim/Bill is at your discretion, but would not be unwelcome. Ditto to Peter/Ricki. But no Peter/George, please - I love the father figure/surrogate son dynamic that they have, and shipping them pings my incest squick.
There you have it. Thanks again, Yuletide writer. I can't wait to read whatever you have in store for me.