Dear Yuletide Author,
Welcome! Glad to have you. Help yourself to punch and pie.
First, thank you ever so much for volunteering your time and talents to craft a story for little old me. Yuletide is my favorite (and most productive) writing time of the year, and I've received such glorious giftfic every single time I've participated. I'm certain this year will be no different. Except for my requests, that is! On the heels of a particularly awesome Yuletide 2011, in which I received at least one fic in three of my four fandoms (I know. The mind, it boggles.), I've decided to start from scratch.
For the record, you can find my previous letters thisaway, thataway, over yonder, and around the bend (mind the questionable poetry), but I'm going to regurgitate most of the general information here.
In general, I am all about characters. There are times I would loooove to be in it for the pretty or in it for the porn, but sadly, my brain will not process without some character I find fascinating. Great characterization is pretty, pretty porn for me. Sad, but true. I love symbolism and subtext and little touches tied to canon. I love epic plottiness and slice-of-life stories. I like conflict that comes from within (as opposed to a big bad conspiring to keep people apart). I'm a big fan of UST and found families and things left unsaid, of between-the-lines fic and non-linear storytelling, and I enjoy touches of meta and pop culture references.
I'm a sucker for certain archetypes - the broken boy soldier (Oliver Queen, Charles Gunn, Dean Winchester, Ronon Dex, Kara Thrace), the magnificent bastard (Nolan Ross, James Lester, Lionel Luther, Jim Moriarty), the snarky sidekick with the heart of gold (Kyle Valenti, Cece Myers, Hoban Washburne, every Judy Greer character ever), the strong and oft-overlooked women who save the day and never take the credit (Chloe Sullivan, Miranda Bailey, Astrid Farnsworth, Joan Holloway). I live for interesting interaction unfolding between characters - dynamics are really important to me, that tangible bond that makes two people trust in each other and have entire conversations without words and feel like two halves of a whole, particularly if it's not romantic (think Don Draper and Peggy Olson, or Meredith Grey and Cristina Yang, or Troy Barnes and Abed Nadir, or Malcolm Reynolds and Zoe Washburne), and especially if they feign a contentious relationship when they'd really lie down in front of a train for each other (think Dean and Sam Winchester, Hilary Becker and Connor Temple, Eliot Spencer and Alec Hardison, and every Holmes/Watson incarnation in history). I tend to request prompts that skew toward gen for Yuletide, but if you're itching to write something shippy, you can assume I'm fine with canon pairings in anything I've requested here - I'm more prone to "OMG DO NOT WANT" these days, and any particular pairing squicks will be noted.
As dislikes go, I'm not much of a truly AU person. I think all fic is AU to some degree, but I connect more with concepts with some kind of canon point of origin, as opposed to stories in the "and now they're all pirates!" vein. I'm an angst lover at heart, so unabashed fluff is kind of my kryptonite (though I'm totally down with conflict and turbulence that leads to open, hopeful or happy endings!). I hate to see characters of color marginalized – relegated to background action and passing mentions, or serving no purpose but backing up the hero. 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 to be in a certain headspace (and usually a certain fandom) to crave porn-for-porn's-sake, and Yuletide never seems to apply. I have no preference as to present or past tense, but something about second person rarely clicks with me. And having any of my pretty boys in pain be emotionally overwrought or overly verbose will take me right out of a story. I have a major incest squick (big. huge.), but kinks like non-con, bloodplay, watersports and scat aren’t up my alley, either.
As if that wasn't enough, let's get down to the fandom-specific, shall we?
Parade's End | Sylvia Tietjens
Simple, really - I want Sylvia at her string-pulling best, and a glimpse at the "why" behind it all.
The Fandom: Love! War! Suffrage! Men of the cloth waxing poetic about wanking! Just have a gander at the gorgeousness above. Parade's End is a joint BBC/HBO five-part miniseries based on the Ford Madox Ford book(s), adapted by Sir Tom Stoppard, directed by Susanna White, and featuring the impeccable cast of Benedict Cumberbatch, Rebecca Hall, Adelaide Clemens, Roger Allam, Stephen Graham, Janet McTeer, Anne-Marie Duff, Patrick Kennedy, Rupert Everett, Rufus Sewell, and Miranda Richardson. Yes, all that awesome in one place.
At its heart, it's the story of Christopher Tietjens, a man of 18th-century principles adrift in the dawn of the modern age, his wife Sylvia, uneducated but fiercely clever and bored out of her mind with the life she's painted herself into, and Valentine Wannop, a young suffragette who's intelligent and full of ideals and gets lost in putting them to practice, and how their worlds collide. The story is set at the dawn of World War I and in the midst of the women's suffrage movement, and follows this trio and everyone entangled in their lives, through honor and duty and betrayal and temptation and changing times and the front lines and every emotional warfare imaginable. It's beautifully written (hello, Stoppard) and brilliantly acted and gorgeously shot and unexpectedly hilarious. Rebecca Hall is absolutely magnetic as Sylvia, and Adelaide Clemens gives a lot of depth and appeal to what could have been an unrealistically-idealized character in Valentine, and Cumberbatch makes Christopher resigned and torn and honorable and terrified and almost entirely silent, and it's just plain amazing to watch. And the supporting cast, espcially Roger Allam as Christopher's commanding officer (and judgemental godfather), Janet McTeer as Sylvia's unruffled mother, and Rufus Sewell as the unhinged Reverend Duchemin, are all flawless.
The Request: 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. Show me where she started, back when she was Sylvia Satterthwaite, smoking and swaying in that train car and setting the perfect trap for Christopher. Show me 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. Show me cutting down the cedar, and whether she simply watched it fall or struck the first blow herself. Show me the fork in the canon road that made things end differently! Basically, any blanks you choose to fill will give me grabby hands.
For Ship Writers: Equal opportunity - Christopher/Sylvia and Christopher/Valentine are both tasty and delightful, for me.
Scandal | Olivia Pope
She's fixed everyone around her, but can't seem to do the same for herself.
The Fandom: "Olivia Pope fixes things. That's who she is." Mired in the depths of DC culture, Scandal is a delicious political drama centered on Olivia Pope, Professional Fixer, and her team of misfit "gladiators in suits." She's well-connected, works on instincts, and "makes problems go away before anyone even knows they exist." This often involves late nights, living on takeout, and a lot of legal leeway, but she always gets the job done.
Now in its second season, Scandal boasts a talented, diverse ensemble cast - Columbus Short, Henry Ian Cusick, the always-dependable Jeff Perry, and a pitch-perfect Tony Goldwyn as the President - but Kerry Washington runs this world, and we just run around in it. She's ruthless and rapid-fire, often with a smile or spark in her eyes that never means anything good. The writing is razor-sharp (case in point: this mind-blowing monologue delivered by Perry, stream-of-consciousness-style), each episode is tight and tense in the best way possible, and the plot twists and turns build on each other to deliver payoffs while setting up the next jaw-dropper. Sudsy entertainment at its very best.
The Request: I love this show. I love its nonlinear format, with flashbacks wound into the mess of the week. I love that, after years of by-the-numbers procedurals, it's taken the "ripped from the headlines" trope and made it new again. I love its sheer, ballsy ambition. I love its clearly dysfunctional cast of characters, and how they're all cogs in the wheel, and know exactly where they fit and when to move, because they're just that good. I love Harrison. Insanely. I just do.
Most of all, I love how Olivia's the piece that may stop the whole thing from turning, because her own life is the one thing she can't seem to fix. I'd love to see that contrast - the strings she pulled for all her gladiators, while hers continue to unravel. Maybe she makes an ultimatum. Maybe she finally cuts ties. Maybe Stephen leaving was just the beginning of the end (and really, what happened there?). Maybe the truth comes out, at least where it counts, and the team has to fix something for her. Or go in a completely different direction! Her past as Cyrus' protege? Her history with David? Some stolen moment with Fitz, just before he's sworn in? AU where Cyrus is Chief of Staff to President Pope? As long as it's got Olivia being awesome, I'll have no complaints.
(I also love Alissa, love love love Alissa, and it kills me that she wasn't nominated, so if you're also an Alissa fan, feel free to fit her in wherever possible).
For Ship Writers: Fitz/Olivia is A-okay with me, but not necessary at all (if it squicks you or you're not a Fitz fan). I also wouldn't say no to Olivia/David overtones (in the delightful, triumphant, faux-foeyay sense) or background Harrison/Quinn. And I love David and Alissa together, in any capacity (especially her being quicker/sharper/more awesome than him in general, and him being snarky about it), but Abby is not my favorite person, so David/Abby bugs me to no end.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) | George Smiley, Jim Prideaux, Peter Guillam, Ricki Tarr
They all sacrificed something for Queen and Country. Only one got that something back.
The Fandom: Based on the novel by John le Carré (the first in the Karla Trilogy) and set during the height of the Cold War, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is the story of George Smiley, an MI6 intelligence officer pulled from forced retirement to smoke out a Soviet mole who's risen to a position of power within their ranks.
The 2011 take was adapted with a cast of British acting royalty - Gary Oldman starred as Smiley, leading an ensemble that included Colin Firth, Ciarán Hinds, Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Strong, Tom Hardy, Toby Jones, Kathy Burke, and the incomparable John Hurt (though I, for one, will always be a little sorry that Jared Harris fell through as Percy Alleline, the role that eventually went to Jones). It's a spy film, yes, but it's no Bourne installment. This is a quiet, taut tale of espionage, full of small moments, told in silences, rich in detail. Every line and frame and beat is intentional, so you have to pay attention. And that's the best part.
The Request: Honestly, I surprised myself with this one (I thought my fourth slot was going to Love, Actually). But the allure of the idea proved too much to resist. 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. :)
For Ship Writers: 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. No Peter/George, please - I love the father figure/surrogate son dynamic that they have.
Troubleshooters, Inc - Suzanne Brockmann | Jules Cassidy, Roger "Sam" Starrett
Jules and Sam being BFFs, beyond the buffer that Alyssa once was.
The Fandom: I'm going to plagiarize myself and regurgitate Troubleshooters squee from an entry past: these books are little slices of heaven, trufax. The Troubleshooters series starts out as an up-close-and-personal look at fictional SEAL Team Sixteen, and all the strategy, peril, and brotherhood that makes up their lives, and branches out to include an elite FBI counterterrorism unit, a group of ex-pats and relief workers on foreign soil, a team of black ops soldiers and the awesome comms/tech ops geeks who support them. Eventually all the streams cross (at multiple points and seemingly-random intersections) once Tommy Paoletti, CO of Team Sixteen, forms Troubleshooters, Incorporated, a private sector firm made of former soldiers, agents, even felons with specialized skill sets.
Even though they tend to be marketed as mainstream romance, these books are more military suspense with arcs that happen to be romance-heavy. They're dark and plotty and completely without formula, which is about the furthest thing from mainstream romance that I can imagine, and the friendships and bonds of trust and loyalty are every bit as important, and explored, as the romances. Brockmann's cast is a wonder - her characters are three-dimensional and flawed and awesome, and their stories unfold over multiple books. There's no arbitrary conflict for conflict's sake, difficult problems and issues aren't glossed over or ignored because it may reflect badly on the character, and the world is incredibly diverse, but oh-so-believably. They're also, as mjules puts it, full of genderwin, racewin, and queerwin. Not just non-fail, but win. There is win all over the place. The win runs rampant.
The Request: I love Sam and Alyssa. I love Jules and Robin. And the only thing I've come to love more than either of them is, strangely, Sam and Jules' friendship.
I fell for Jules Cassidy the moment he was introduced in the second book. For awhile there, I feared he would become "the gay sidekick" - there to be quippy and fabulous and reinforce Alyssa's badassness - but Brockmann quickly subverted the trope, and made him into a compelling, three-dimensional character with flaws and heart and a story of his own. Sam has had such an interesting trajectory, and all the pieces of him connect in such intriguing ways - the blond-haired blue-eyed good 'ol boy practically raised by a black man (and now married to a black woman). The big bad SEAL who's so ill-at-ease with the violence and monstrosities of the world that it makes him physically ill. And - most compelling, in this case - the fundamentally good man with the unshakeable sense of honor who's so discomfitted by homosexuality. I love that, over the course of the books, we go from that man to the man who considers an openly-gay man his best friend, who's invested in his friend's life and well-being and future, who doesn't hesitate to tell that friend "I love you," and mean it, without it being quantified or said in jest. And the fact that Jules recognizes Sam's initial (and lingering) unease, calls him on it, and never stops calling him on it, is even better.
Brockmann wrote an outtake once, where Sam covers security for a high profile wedding and Alyssa sends Jules in her place. As Sam's date. By the time Jules kisses Sam (dutifully fending off some overly-friendly bridesmaids), I was already so delighted by their familiarity and ease and open conversation, and by Sam's frustration having everything to do with missing his wife and nothing to do with how anyone might perceive him, that the lack of a blow-up or freak-out on Sam's part was just the icing on the cake. The bond between Jules and Alyssa has been in play since the very beginning - we never question it, never doubt it, never forget it - but the bond that grows between Jules and Sam, independent of Alyssa, is something so special and genuine and unexpected that it's become one of my favorite aspects of the series. So I'd love to see more of that - build-up, outtakes, future fic, anything. A heart-to-heart while Robin's still in rehab. A boys' night with Ashton (read: makeshift slumber party of loneliness) while Robin's filming and Alyssa's on assignment. That "aha!" moment during danger in the field, when Sam realizes that bond goes beyond being for his wife's benefit. A breaking-the-ice scene early on, when it is still friendship for Alyssa's sake, with Jules deciding to head off Sam's worst case scenarios with a day of surprise!manscaping. I'll love anything that features their special brand of honesty and comraderie and understanding and epic, epic bromance.
For Ship Writers: Jules/Robin, Sam/Alyssa. No Jules/Sam, please, unless it's part of some elaborate practical joke on Robin and Alyssa (now there's a prompt for you. Hip to hip, Sam's hand in Jules' back pocket. "So, funny thing happened." LOL).
And there you have it! A movie, a mini, a show, and a book series. Please don't be put off if I rambled more about one fandom than another - I love each and every one of these sources, and will be over the moon to get fic about any one of them. Remember, optional details are optional - if there's a story you want to tell, by all means, tell it. And have fun! I hope you'll enjoy writing this fic as much as I intend to enjoy reading it.
(Using a Parade's End icon, since, sadly, I do not have one of Cumberbatch and his blond bowl cut.)