seekingferret: Word balloon says "So I said to the guy: you never read the book yet you go online and talk about it as if--" (Default)
I got two more great Magic Flute fics for [community profile] purimgifts. They were written by [archiveofourown.org profile] zdenka. I am surprised. Oh wait, no, that's not the right word. What's the opposite of surprised? Unsurprised? That is what I am. I was pretty certain they were by [archiveofourown.org profile] zdenka by the first fic, and I am delighted that I got fantastic Zauberflote fics for Purimgifts. Queen of the Night FTW!

These fics are so great at capturing the essence of who the Queen of the Night is, how she stands up for emotional connection and music and happiness in the war against a cold, unfeeling, punitive rationalism.

The Abduction of Pamina: Part 1 (671 words) by Zdenka
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Die Zauberflöte | The Magic Flute - Mozart/Schikaneder
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Königin der Nacht | Queen of the Night / Pamina's Father
Characters: Königin der Nacht | Queen of the Night, Pamina's Father (Magic Flute)
Additional Tags: Implied/Referenced Character Death, Kidnapping, Collection: Purimgifts Day 2
Series: Part 1 of Purimgifts 2017
Summary:

The Queen of the Night has a dispute with her husband.



The Abduction of Pamina: Part 2 (776 words) by Zdenka
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Die Zauberflöte | The Magic Flute - Mozart/Schikaneder
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Characters: Königin der Nacht | Queen of the Night, Pamina, Three Ladies (Magic Flute), Sarastro (The Magic Flute)
Additional Tags: Collection: Purimgifts Day 3
Series: Part 2 of Purimgifts 2017
Summary:

The Queen of the Night takes back her daughter.






As for me, I was delighted to revisit the complex Toby Ziegler/Andie Wyatt relationship once more. It's one of my favorite relationships in the West Wing, and obviously Toby is my favorite West Wing character by far. As I did in a past Purimgifts fic, I wrote my stories from Andie's point of view- constantly frustrated by Toby, but no less in love for it. It was a comfortable voice to slip into, and as a result these stories were really fun to write.

As an Easter Egg of laziness on my part, the graphics I used to illustrate the fic are screenshots from my Toby vid "Circles (Ma'Agalim)".

The Plan Part I (475 words) by seekingferret
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: The West Wing
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Andrea Wyatt/Toby Ziegler
Characters: Andrea Wyatt, Toby Ziegler
Additional Tags: Weddings, Collection: Purimgifts Day 1
Series: Part 1 of The Plan
Summary:

In which Andie has an evil plan.

seekingferret: Word balloon says "So I said to the guy: you never read the book yet you go online and talk about it as if--" (Default)
Weirdest troll/spam comment I've ever gotten on a fic:

From a user known as Le Star-Lord, left on a fic that is definitely not a Marvel fic

Wow! This fic of yours is perfect!
If you know MARVEL's Earth 9997(Earth X),
can you please write a Galactus(Franklin Richards)/Silver Surfer(Norrin Radd) fic
in which the two get married after a major catastrophe called "The Dashover"
and a dreadful week called "Freaky Weeky"?
I want the title to be "Jay-Jay And The Preposterous Plight Of The Purple Package People"!
(Incidentally, the name Jay-Jay is only in the title.)
This is a request!

P.S:Make sure someone says "Zoo-Wee Mama!" during the Dashover
and the fic ends with Diana Ross' Ain't No Mountain High Enough!



Part of me wants to feed the troll? I know better, but in some ways it is my kind of prompt.
seekingferret: Word balloon says "So I said to the guy: you never read the book yet you go online and talk about it as if--" (Default)
I got an odd comment on an old fic yesterday.

The fic, "Jamie and Every Shapiro in Washington Heights (and one Shiksa Goddess)", was written for the [community profile] purimgifts exchange several years back. I have discovered to my dismay that it is not uncommon to receive odd comments much later on fics I wrote for that exchange- [community profile] purimgifts is a venue where I feel comfortable writing stories that more deeply, but also more allusively, invoke my Jewish identity and experience, because the audience for [community profile] purimgifts has much more shared context in terms of lived Jewish experience than the general fanfic reading audience. But stories from the exchange are then archived on AO3, so down the line my stories get discovered by other readers who do not share the necessary context to see what I am doing in these stories, and so sometimes I get odd comments, and sometimes I get upsettingly clueless comments.

"Jamie and Every Shapiro in Washington Heights (and one Shiksa Goddess)" is a story inspired by a single lyric in the off-broadway musical "The Last 5 Years" by Jason Robert Brown. In the song, "Shiksa Goddess", the male romantic lead Jamie enthuses to his new lover that one reason he loves her is because she is not Jewish and he- a secular Jew from Spring Valley, NY- is full of anxiety and self-loathing about his Jewish identity and the pressures it imposes upon him. In a litany, he talks about succumbing to the pressure to date Jewish women:

I've been waiting through Danica Schwartz and Erica Weiss
And the Handelman twins
I've been waiting through Heather Greenblatt, Annie Mincus, Karen Pincus and Lisa Katz
And Stacy Rosen, Ellen Kaplan, Julie Silber and Janie Stein
I've had Shabbas dinners on Friday nights
With every Shapiro in Washington Heights


The names were chosen by JRB for a particular resonance- these are Jewish-sounding names of a very specific sort, the kind of names common among secular Ashkenazi Jews of JRB's generation. Shapiro is a very common Jewish last name, and it struck me that the idea of actually imagining Jamie on a series of successive Shabbas dates with dozens of women all named Shapiro was a fun way of taking a funny line and extending the joke.

The names of my Shapiros in the story follow similar form to the names in JRB's original litany. They are, to my ear at least, Jewish sounding names. They are not necessarily Biblical names, not necessarily names that are exclusively Jewish names, but they are names that in my intuition the kinds of Jewish girls Jamie would be dating would have. But they are very carefully chosen. Each in its way, I think, tells a story to people who have enough shared intuition with me about Jewish names.

In one such joke, perhaps a little too allusive, I named one of the girls Mary Shapiro. There is nothing, per se, wrong with the name Mary Shapiro. There is in fact an extremely well known Jew, the former chair of the SEC, named Mary Schapiro. It's just that Mary is the name of Jesus's mother and it is for that reason generally considered a goyische name. Many Jews would hesitate to give their daughter the name Mary. But there's nothing wrong with it, it's just a little odd. However it's something that to a Jew obsessively anxious about his Jewishness and what it means in the way Jamie is, would register as strange and worth comment.

And so Jamie, who is a giant ass, starts to dig himself in a hole. And it gets worse as I comment on another form of name anxiety in the Jewish community, which is for people given the sorts of secular Jewishy names I've been talking about to resolve their own name anxiety by taking a more Jewish name, as an announcement to the world that they are Jewish. This is typically but not always accompanied by a change in Jewish observance- when several Reform or Conservative friends of mine with Americanized names became Orthodox, they asked to be called by their Hebrew names.

So Jamie's friend who introduced Mary Shapiro to him was named Becca, and my intention was to suggest these two secular Jewish girls who grew up together with their awkwardly-somewhat-Jewish names and as adults they are dealing in different ways with their name anxiety and their Jewish identity anxiety more generally. Becca has become more observant and has asked to be called by her Hebrew name Rivka, but Jamie is an ass and Jamie's self-loathing Jewishness cannot deal with people becoming more observant as he is drifting away from whatever faith he had, so Jamie keeps calling her Becca, even though he must know it is an insulting thing to do to refuse to call someone by their chosen name. And so I think a bit of him enjoys the fact that Mary Shapiro is named Mary, that she has this name that almost tries to camouflage her Judaism, even though it fails. He admires her name, but because he admires it, he obsesses over it, bringing the conversation back to it again and again as it becomes more and more awkward and insulting.


I don't plan to respond to the comment "what does mary shapiro mean" on AO3, because there is too much to say and no guarantee the commenter will understand any of it. Purimgifts stories are written for Purimgifts because the people who do Purimgifts will appreciate them. But I wanted to say something in response to the comment, anyway. To remind myself that even though I sometimes get clueless comments, there was an original audience for this story and they appreciated what I was doing.
seekingferret: Word balloon says "So I said to the guy: you never read the book yet you go online and talk about it as if--" (Default)
It disappoints me that two and a half years after I posted The Glass and Reed Advertising Agency, nobody has commented on my Easter Egg mention of Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital.

This fictional hospital was the employer of Gregory House on the TV series House. Thus it represents yet another aspect of the set of fictional geographies that overlays the greater Princeton area, which was a major theme of my story- the idea that real places influence our fictions and fictions influence how we see real places.

And like, I know that my canon of New Jersey stories is a super-idiosyncratic thing that nobody shares with me, but it still bums me out.
seekingferret: Word balloon says "So I said to the guy: you never read the book yet you go online and talk about it as if--" (Default)
I guess I got a little bit into the Christmas spirit.


Variation 7 (129 words) by seekingferret
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Merchant of Venice - Shakespeare
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Jessica/Lorenzo
Characters: Jessica (Merchant of Venice), Lorenzo (Merchant of Venice)
Series: Part 8 of The Jessica Goldberg Variations
Summary:

Moments like this shape who you are.

seekingferret: Word balloon says "So I said to the guy: you never read the book yet you go online and talk about it as if--" (Default)
I feel like this is an important post to make. The past two years, I've written pre-Philcon posts about the limited fanfiction programming, itself a step up from the years when Philcon consciously and conspicously ignored the existence of fanfiction.

2013- Fan Fiction: Stepping Stone or Cul de Sac?
2014- The Value of Transformative Works

This is something I've been campaigning about for several years, and it's been a bit of a struggle to figure out the right people to campaign to, but I made contact with the new programming director this year and we had several good email exchanges and the bottom line is that there will be two! panels on fanfiction at Philcon this year.

One is titled "Fanfiction that Deserves a Medal" and appears to be a generic recs panel. Nothing objectionable about this, it's much better than the past panels in design, but it's a panel that can go off the rails in a bunch of different ways- insufficient common ground in fandoms of the panelists, disagreement about what kinds of qualities should be valued in fanfic, derailment from talking about goodfic to talking about badfic, etc..., and I have highlighted my concerns to the programming director. So that could be good.

The other is a Yuletide discussion I pitched and will apparently be a panelist on. I'm really excited about this, it's exactly the sort of more specific fanfic programming I've been pushing for, that introduces to the Philcon community the idea that fanfiction is a fannish field of sufficient scope to merit more detailed discussion. I pitched it with a focus on Yuletide as a venue for literary SF, to use the presence of fanfic of works by Asimov and Heinlein and Leckie and so on as a hook for Philcon people who don't know Yuletide. We can build on that!


Philcon is next weekend and I am really excited for it. :D
seekingferret: Word balloon says "So I said to the guy: you never read the book yet you go online and talk about it as if--" (Default)
Variation 6 (603 words) by seekingferret
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Merchant of Venice - Shakespeare
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Jessica/Lorenzo
Characters: Jessica (Merchant of Venice), Lorenzo (Merchant of Venice), Tubal (Merchant of Venice)
Series: Part 7 of The Jessica Goldberg Variations
Summary:

The one where Jessica plays the casket game.



In high school I wrote an essay arguing that Portia hinted Bassanio through the casket game, and to a large degree I still believe it. The casket game is one of the most horrifying things in a play that includes literal blood libel, but it's always been problematic to me that it was Portia who spends most of the play complaining about it. She comes from a background of such privilege. She spends the whole play living in a beautiful castle, attended by numerous servants and complimented by numerous handsome men. She has no obligations and no respect for anyone outside her background. She is casually racist and anti-semitic. Obviously this doesn't mean I condone the casket game, or suggest that she deserves it, but it is hard to find her all that sympathetic.

So I wrote a story where it happens to Jessica instead, and tried to dredge out the subtle differences that would emerge.
seekingferret: Word balloon says "So I said to the guy: you never read the book yet you go online and talk about it as if--" (Default)
I have written another Merchant of Venice fic in my Jessica Goldberg Variations series. Warning: Take the warnings seriously. This is a really problematic fic in terms of its approach to nonconsensual sex. And I definitely welcome criticism and commentary on that plot point.

Variation 5 (543 words) by seekingferret
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Merchant of Venice - Shakespeare
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: Rape/Non-Con
Relationships: Jessica/Lorenzo, Jessica/Original Male Character
Characters: Jessica (Merchant of Venice), Original Male Character(s), Shylock (Merchant of Venice)
Series: Part 6 of The Jessica Goldberg Variations
Summary:

The one where she doesn't run away.

seekingferret: Word balloon says "So I said to the guy: you never read the book yet you go online and talk about it as if--" (Default)
Have some more [community profile] purimgifts recs, while I'm at it.

My single favorite fic in this year's exchange, other than the ones I received, is this marvelous XMFC Erik/Raven ficlet, "Yahrzeit". Jewish!Mystique!!! A really convincingly written Jewish!Erik, afraid of his heritage and yet willing to let it in in small doses, often at Raven's urging.

Yarzheit (800 words) by scribblemyname
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: X-Men (Movieverse), X-Men: First Class (2011)
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: Creator Chose Not To Use Archive Warnings
Relationships: Erik Lehnsherr/Raven | Mystique
Characters: Erik Lehnsherr, Raven | Mystique
Additional Tags: Community: purimgifts, Collection: Purimgifts Day 2, Yarzheit, Judaism, Emotional Hurt, Coping, Established Relationship
Summary:

Raven sits up on the bed and sets the report aside, climbs over his lap, and pushes him down to kiss him as though he loves her because he does love her. She cannot be Charles but she is her own kind of beautiful.



I really loved the Sports Night/Brooklyn 9-9 crossover that began with this fic. It was pretty obvious by day 2 that [personal profile] roga had written it, between the sparkling dialogue and the constant hockey jokes, but it's delightful in that way that great [personal profile] roga stories often are.

Overtime (Part 1) (557 words) by Roga
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Sports Night
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Characters: Dan Rydell, Natalie Hurley, Jeremy Goodwin, Casey McCall
Additional Tags: Collection: Purimgifts Day 1
Series: Part 1 of Overtime
Summary:

Overtime is always unexpected.



I enjoyed this post-movie Veronica Mars fic a lot.

Best Served Cold (1137 words) by igrockspock
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Veronica Mars - All Media Types
Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Characters: Veronica Mars, Jackie Cook
Additional Tags: Collection: Purimgifts Day 2
Summary:

When a corporate lawyer posts nude pictures of an old friend on the internet, Veronica gets revenge -- the legal way.



I really liked this picture of Julia from Selfie.

Efficient, Androgynous Julia - Have All the Happiness (3 words) by DefinitelyNotScott
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Selfie (TV)
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Characters: Julia Howser (Selfie TV)
Additional Tags: Digital Art, Collection: Purimgifts Day 2
Summary:

A portrait of Julia Howser.



And I loved this characteristically detailed Vashti-POV version of the Megillah from [personal profile] daegaer. ([personal profile] liv, I was not wrong!)

In the Citadel of Susa, I (1430 words) by Daegaer
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: תנ"ך | Tanakh, Jewish Scripture & Legend, Ancient Persia, Megillat Ester | Book of Esther
Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Characters: Vashti, Ester | Esther, Artaxerxes, Hegai, Mehuman (Abrahamic Religions)
Additional Tags: Persia, Persian Empire, Eunuchs, Queens, Kings & Queens, courtiers, palace plots, Collection: Purimgifts Day 1
Series: Part 1 of In the Citadel of Susa
Summary:

Artaxerxes, the King of Kings, makes a demand that Vashti his Queen cannot and will not meet.

seekingferret: Word balloon says "So I said to the guy: you never read the book yet you go online and talk about it as if--" (Default)
My [community profile] purimgifts fics this year were by [archiveofourown.org profile] ishouldbewriting.

I don't know how to describe them. They were truly impressive in the breadth of ideas and fandoms they contained.

They All Do It and its companion art Papageno are fun and clever metatextual blends of a variety of classic works that feature the struggles of strong female characters- The 1001 Nights, The Magic Flute, Megillat Esther, each blurring into the other and sharing stories and lessons to the others in a delirious blend.

Reason, Wisdom, and Nature and its companion artwork Die Zauberflöte Poster Art is a Magic Flute Pamina-POV ficlet about her relationship with her father and her mother, and I think moreover, about the way they each had to fight against the perceptions of the larger community in order to create lives that had meaning for themselves. The servants of Sarastro and the Queen are really present and active and important in this story, in a way I found really thought-provoking.

And The Book of Rut is a lovely narrative poem about Ruth's journey from Moav to Israel, with a gorgeous visual context.

I'm grateful for all of them, and encourage everyone to check them all out.
seekingferret: Word balloon says "So I said to the guy: you never read the book yet you go online and talk about it as if--" (Default)
For [community profile] purimgifts this year, I wrote a small series of Agents of SHIELD ficlets about Simmons. AoS has been an intensely frustrating show to be fannish about for me. It has several things I love in my fandoms: Geekery and constant crossreferences to other parts of its massive canon, technobabbling scientists, over-the-top ridiculous action scenes, secret identities and other kinds of identity play. It ought to be a show I love with very few reservations, but the problem is that Agents of SHIELD is very badly written.

Simmons at the beginning of season 2 is sent undercover by Coulson to infiltrate HYDRA. HYDRA knows that she used to work for SHIELD, that she was one of the 'good guys', but they accept her, as they presumably accepted a lot of other former SHIELD agents, because HYDRA and SHIELD were so intermixed that it's impossible to tell the difference between a SHIELD agent and a HYDRA agent. They accept her, but they certainly don't trust her.

So of course, when the writers decide to have Coulson give her this assignment, they also decide they're not going to actually show Simmons on the assignment very much. Because they certainly don't have the writing ability to have made it emotionally convincing.

But I think it's a fascinating storyline that I wanted to see fleshed out. Simmons at HYDRA isn't just going to be presented with the normal struggles any double agent faces. As a scientist for HYDRA, she'll inevitably be tasked with creating weapons of mass destruction. If she sabotages those weapons and is caught, she'll be killed. But if she creates those weapons, she is sacrificing everything she believes in, putting her team and the whole world in harm's way. I think it calls into question the ideal of science as an apolitical act in pursuit of universal truth, and that makes for great human drama.

I had a simple template for each of these stories: Jemma Simmons in some fashion accomplishes something that lives up to her ideals, despite being in this compromised situation. They're small triumphs, but they let Simmons be the hero, just for a moment, and I think she must seize those moments as life preservers.

Compromised (510 words) by seekingferret
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (TV)
Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Leo Fitz/Jemma Simmons
Characters: Leo Fitz, Jemma Simmons
Additional Tags: Collection: Purimgifts Day 1
Series: Part 1 of Uncompromising
Summary:

Jemma Simmons, uncompromising and compromised.



Compromises (344 words) by seekingferret
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (TV)
Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Leo Fitz/Jemma Simmons
Characters: Leo Fitz, Jemma Simmons
Additional Tags: Collection: Purimgifts Day 2
Series: Part 2 of Uncompromising
Summary:

Jemma Simmons, uncompromising and compromised.



Compromiser (505 words) by seekingferret
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (TV)
Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Leo Fitz & Jemma Simmons
Characters: Jemma Simmons
Additional Tags: Collection: Purimgifts Day 3
Series: Part 3 of Uncompromising
Summary:

Jemma Simmons, uncompromising and compromised.

seekingferret: Word balloon says "So I said to the guy: you never read the book yet you go online and talk about it as if--" (Default)
I had expected my next DW post would be a review of the Sleater-Kinney concert. Instead, all I will say about it is that it was a wonderful experience.


My grandfather, my mother's father, passed away Friday shortly before Shabbos. He'd been struggling with Alzheimer's for several years, and over the past few months, battling against a variety of lung problems as well, unfortunately making trips in and out of the hospital on a regular basis.

The timing of his death has been a little confusing. You're not supposed to really mourn on Shabbos, and it's postponed the funeral, so it feels like we've been in a kind of limbo where we can't avoid the emotions of mourning, but we're without some of the rituals of Jewish mourning that serve as a support. There was an aufruf at shul today, which made for even more confusing emotions. My mother found it a little difficult.


My grandfather was born in Brooklyn to Eastern European Jewish parents. My great-grandfather and his brothers ran a bakery in Coney Island, which as my grandfather told it, they were very insistent that he and his brothers not grow up to inherit. He served in the Army during World War II, though I don't think he saw very much war, and then attended podiatry school on the GI Bill. For the next fifty years or so he worked as a podiatrist. When I was a kid he actually treated me when I had a wart on my big toe, so I can supply a testimonial that he was skilled and gentle as a doctor.

He was a huge baseball fan. He grew up a New York Giants fan, and then, his team abandoned him. He became a reluctant Mets fan, and for as long as I can remember, the first thing we would talk about when I saw him was the latest game. But he always insisted that he wasn't really a Mets fan, he was really a New York Giants fan. He wasn't exactly thrilled that I was a Yankee fan myself, but he was happy that he could share his love of baseball with me.

And he was a kind and generous soul, who never had a bad word to say about anyone. He was loving and smart and I will miss him a lot.


In his memory, I wrote a fic this evening.

Variation 4 (496 words) by seekingferret
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Merchant of Venice - Shakespeare
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: Major Character Death
Relationships: Jessica/Lorenzo
Characters: Jessica (Merchant of Venice), Lorenzo (Merchant of Venice)
Additional Tags: Shiva - Freeform
Series: Part 5 of The Jessica Goldberg Variations
Summary:

Jessica mourns her father.

seekingferret: Word balloon says "So I said to the guy: you never read the book yet you go online and talk about it as if--" (Default)
Last year, Philcon's single fanfiction panel was the charmingly titled "Fan Fiction: Stepping Stone or Cul de Sac?".

I sent a bit of a rant to programming this summer, and am cautiously optimistic that the panel will be an improvement. Except not a big enough improvement, because let me show you my rant and then let me show you the panel topic.

My Rant/Panel Suggestion

3] I want a panel (or more than one panel) about writing techniques for fanfiction, because I'm tired of the only fanfic panel at Philcon being the one that has to spend the entire hour justifying the existence of fanfiction. I want a panel that assumes fanfiction has a reason for existing, and actually talks about the ways in which it does exist. For example a discussion of writing techniques that can be used in fanfiction but can't be used in original fiction, or a discussion of common fanfiction themes that rarely appear in original fiction. Or a panel solely about the use of tentacles in fanfiction. Or a panel about making the transition from being a reader of fanfiction to a writer of fanfiction. Or a panel on how fanfiction can engage with canons that don't feature much diversity and open up their worlds. I don't really have strong opinions about the specific subject matter, I just want the panel to not have to spend any time on justifying the existence of fanfiction.

Philcon's 2014 Panel on Fanfiction

The Value of Transformative Works
A transformative work is one that takes an existing intellectual property (a character, story, or setting), and changes it in some way to provide a new purpose, sensitivity, or expression to the work. Examples can include everything from fan fiction or fan films, up to and including professionally licensed works like Gregory Maguire's "Wicked". What value do works like this have, both for us as fans, and for the original work itself?


<==Getting it
Philcon ===================================================================>


GRRRRRRRRRRRRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH


(I KEEP TELLING MYSELF, AT LEAST IT'S BETTER THAN "STEPPING STONE OR CUL DE SAC". [Also, I keep telling myself, Philcon will still be awesome this weekend anyway. My posse this year is big enough that we had to get two hotel rooms.])
seekingferret: Word balloon says "So I said to the guy: you never read the book yet you go online and talk about it as if--" (Default)
Dear [community profile] fic_corner Author,

Thanks for writing a story for me. I am not a very demanding recipient, since if I were, my demands would be ridiculous and impossible. Have fun, write a story you enjoy, and we'll all be fine. Here's some prompts as suggestions in case you want them, feel free to disregard entirely.

Cyber.kdz - Bruce Balan

Tereza (Cyber.kdz)
Sanjeev (Cyber.kdz)

I love Sanj and Tz's friendship, how Tereza is sort of Sanjeev's better self, and how Tereza admires Sanjeev for his integrity and casual brilliance. But really, there's a lot I love about the Cyber.kdz series and not a lot that I dislike. Fundamentally the series is about tech as this great equalizer of culture and class and credo, as well as about the way the internet was carving out a new culture and the cyber.kdz determination that that new culture play by appropriate rules of openness and respect and fairness- netiquette, in a word.

We live in the world now of wikileaks and Aaron Swartz, of internet gambling and Stuxnet and Anonymous, and Cyber.kdz kind of quietly anticipated all of it, and vowed to work toward a different future anyway, united by the power of friendship.


The Grounding of Group Six - Julian F. Thompson

Ha... This story is great on so many levels. What I would really love, I think, is something super-fluffy and sentimental that we would then point people to and say "I love this story, and you don't need to know canon to get it." And they would read it and have the horribly distorted idea that Grounding is just a book about teenagers who went to private school together. That would make me laugh. Even better, if you come up with some fakeout idea about what 'grounding' is.

But that's mostly me being silly. I would also like non-trolly stories about the characters and their relationships and how they continue to be beautiful and broken together.


Kid-TV series - Barbara Adams

Minnie O'Reilly

I think so much of what makes Minnie interesting in these books is that she is not quite a teenager, which gives her perspective on teenage life a lot of its underlying dramatic irony. I would like to see Minnie as a teenager, struggling with stupid crushes and rivalries with friends and AP bio homework, and still rocking out Kid-TV.


The View from Saturday - E. L. Konigsburg

I am a quiz bowl nerd. If you are, too, I would greatly enjoy a VFS fic that replaced Konigsberg's whimsical version of quiz bowl with something more realistic. The Souls at NAQT! The Souls vs. the Great Auk (Oh man, Noah discovering Great Auk jokes is the best idea I've ever had)! The Souls bomb a TRASH tournament!

If you are not a quiz bowl nerd, just tell me another story about the Souls and the way they support each other against life. I would particularly enjoy a story that plays on the religious backgrounds of the characters.
seekingferret: Word balloon says "So I said to the guy: you never read the book yet you go online and talk about it as if--" (Default)
I don't have as much to say about the other story I wrote for Jukebox.

Fixing a Memory (2437 words) by seekingferret
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Nuit d'ivresse - Hector Berlioz (Song)
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Aeneas/Dido
Characters: Dido of Carthage, Aeneas
Additional Tags: Alternate Universe - Modern Setting
Summary:

Ah, doomed young love. There's nothing like it in the world.



Basically I have "Les Troyens" feels and writing this fic consisted of me frantically spewing them all over the page. I listened to different versions of "Nuit D'Ivresse" 23 times while writing this story, and I still crack up every time Mercury pops up to cockblock Aeneas. Quillori asked for a story that was aware of the impending doom of the relationship, and so I wrote one where my lovers were extremely aware, and yet trying as hard as they could to deny it.


I should also talk about my gifts. I am so lucky to have received two wonderful stories.

Do Not Tap On The Glass (1071 words) by El Staplador
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Aquarium - Camille Saint-Saens
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: Author Chose Not To Use Archive Warnings
Characters: Original Character, Fish - Character
Additional Tags: POV Second Person, Present Tense, Creepy
Summary:

Perhaps it isn't such a good idea to bring the ocean onto the land. Perhaps it's better to keep the two separate. Perhaps it's a very bad idea to tap on the glass.



This is the one that proves that I was right and Morbane was wrong, and programmatic instrumental music belongs in Jukebox. This story is marvelous at sustaining the emotional feel of Saint-Saens's music while telling a spooky, eerie story about the world just on the other side of the glass (and I felt that, given the importance of The Glass as a fannish metaphor, it was brilliant to center the glass as the boundary line in this story).


Holy Kiss (227 words) by Missy
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Judas - Lady Gaga (Song)
Rating: Mature
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Judas/Jesus/Mary Magdalene
Characters: Judas (Lady Gaga), Mary Magdalane (Lady Gaga)
Additional Tags: Drabble, Reincarnation, Beginnings
Summary:

Time's got them stuck in a holding pattern. This a new one for her, but she'll deal.



This is a drabble-y thing about the bullshit I scribbled at the last minute as a prompt for Lady Gaga's "Judas". I didn't really know why I was requesting "Judas", so I babbled something about how the modern recasting of the Jesus-Judas-Magdalene triangle implied some sort of cyclic nature of the dynamic, and this fic takes that concept and gleefully runs with it.

Thanks to my authors, thanks to my recipients, and thanks to Morbane for running Jukebox!
seekingferret: Word balloon says "So I said to the guy: you never read the book yet you go online and talk about it as if--" (Default)
Time for Jukebox reveal! I must confess a certain bemusement with the way this story emerged. This was not a song I knew before this challenge- I listened to it when it was nominated, found myself tolerantly amused by it, and decided on a whim to offer it, without any idea of where a story might go if I actually matched on it.

The day I got the assignment, I wrote the following snippet:

I met the Gambler on a train once. You know, the one from the song.

I said to him, "Hey, buster, I've listened to that song a hundred times, and it's terrible advice. You meet this guy and you're about to die. You tell him things that you think he ought to know, like "when to hold 'em", but you don't tell him how to learn these things. I'm not letting you out of here until you tell me HOW to know when to hold 'em." He refused, so I shot him.


I didn't know where to go from there. I imagined writing a story where my narrator shot a succession of characters from songs, for a variety of critiques, a story completely madcap, its lack of genre its defining feature, and eventually rejected the idea, but some of that narrator's rhetorical pose of brutish, philosophical toughness definitely endured in the narrator I did end up writing.

This is what I wrote instead:

Have Spacesuit (5114 words) by seekingferret
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Kill Your Heroes - AWOLNATION (Song)
Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
Warnings: Author Chose Not To Use Archive Warnings
Characters: Original Characters
Summary:

It began six months earlier. Our whole crew was working as freelance astrologers in Tampa, hacking into NASA satellites to get the inside scoop on the cosmological phenomena that really predicted the future. It wasn't the most glamorous work, but the money was fantastic.



"Have Spacesuit" was driven by a literal interpretation of the second verse's musings about the Earth hypothetically being destroyed some day as a motivation for carpe diem. It was also inspired, as last year's fic was inspired by Monster of the Week shows like Supernatural, Buffy, and the like, by a group of somewhat obscure SF stories: Ben Bova's Rock Rats series and Sam Gunn series, John Varley's Red Thunder series, Brian Francis Slattery's Spaceman Blues, even [though I'm loath to credit it, since Harrison's prose is an embarrassment to the genre] Harry Harrison's Stainless Steel Rat cycle: stories about a future that still has people living on the margins of society, scraping by with ingenuity by seizing opportunities more fortunate people are blind to. Guardedly optimistic tales of the future of the 99%, if you will.

These stories, by the way, are the reason I hate the typical anti-meme that people throw around in response to the stupid meme about how SF used to be optimistic and is now full of dark futures. Battlestar Reboot and Star Trek TOS are typical stick figures of the argument, and so critics of the meme usually attack Star Trek by pointing to its progressive blind spots, its tedious storytelling, its bad acting and aggressive moralizing. This is a terrible argument that tears down our genre needlessly. Instead, the response to the stupidity of pining for Star Trek should be to point to writers like Bova, Varley, Slattery, to writers like Ken McLeod and Justina Robson and Melissa Scott and Charles Stross [and in the Star Trek era, people like Fred Pohl and Bob Silverberg] who write optimistically about disastrous futures. But I digress.

This story gets its start in 'the shadow economy', people skating dubious ethical and legal lines just to survive. If it takes anything important from the song that inspired it, it's the notion of opposition between normal people, the ideations of the song, and 'heroes', who are somehow another class altogether. I built this contrast on a simplified take on the complex relationship between the highly educated NASA workers on the Cape and the dirty Florida towns that surround it, drawing much inspiration from the junkyard astronauts of the Varley series I mentioned, not to mention the Drive-By Truckers' bitter Huntsville ballad "Puttin' People on the Moon". But much more than a political story, this is a story about people, people I attempted with every trick of trope subversion I know to sketch as vividly as possible in as few words as possible. Polo, who knows people in ways the narrator finds inexplicable, Karen the midwestern physicist who likes action movies, Selim, who studied interior decorating, Richard, who can't stay off the comms, Galina, who knows things the way Polo knows people... They were all a blast to imagine and I was as happy as my narrator that they got to survive. But my narrator was the best part. I still couldn't tell you my narrator's name, gender, occupation, sexual orientation, height, skin color, age, level of education... the thing that built this narrator was a little intentionality and a lot of bravado, and the idea of obscuring the things about identity that a narrator assumes about themself so deeply that they don't imagine needing to explain them. I hope people assume that my narrator is male and are shocked to find he is queer at the end. I hope people assume my narrator is female and are pleased by how much separation she has from 'female narratives'. I hope people build all sorts of working hypotheses about my narrator's identity that the story refuses to confirm, or actively rejects.

The morality underpinning this story is emphatically not mine. If I learned what my Zeroes did, I would not keep that information secret and steal a NASA spacecraft. But it's fun to imagine I would.

P.S. I'm sorry for the terrible science in this story. I feel bad about that, but if I were going to write this story as hard SF it would have been a novel.
seekingferret: Word balloon says "So I said to the guy: you never read the book yet you go online and talk about it as if--" (Default)
For the [community profile] invisible_ficathon, I was assigned to write Escape from Zyzzlvaria fic. This requires about ten minutes of background to explain- [personal profile] roga got it last week while I was writing, but you're getting it now.

One of the highlights of my calendar year is the MIT Mystery Hunt, a weekend-long puzzle competition in which teams strive to solve a set of extraordinarily complicated and creative puzzles in order to reveal the hidden location of a coin on MIT campus. The Hunts have gotten more and more elaborate over the years, both in terms of the puzzles and the theatrical stagecraft wrapped around the puzzles and have developed their own language and style. There are certain particular puzzle types that you'll only see at Hunts. One such example is the Chaos puzzle, in which a constructed language invented for the puzzle must be deciphered before the puzzle can be solved.

Another example is the Duck Konundrum, the trademark puzzle of a Hunt veteran named Dan Katz. Duck Konundra consist of long and ridiculous lists of tricky step-by-step procedures that must be followed in order to get an answer. They also involve a live duck. In the second of these puzzles, players had to set up a half dozen board games and then follow a series of complicated steps for manipulating the pieces on the boards. Information on one board was used to drive moves on other boards, so making a single mistake on one of the steps would propagate and screw up results all across the puzzle. One of the board games was Escape from Zyzzlvaria, a board game which did not actually exist, but which the player could deduce enough about from the text of the puzzle to partially recreate in order to solve.

Several years later, Dan Katz was involved in running the Hunt again, and the entire Hunt was themed based on the Escape from Zyzzlvaria board game. The various characters were acted out, the fake board game was actually constructed, and a number of the puzzles helped build out the fictional game even further. [personal profile] jadelennox, my recipient, has been Hunting for at least as long as I have, and asked for the characters of the game to get one more adventure. And if the story could also be a puzzle, so much the better.

I will confirm that the story contains a fairly simple Mystery Hunt style puzzle. The instructions that go with any Hunt-style puzzle are the same: There are no rules of structure, and any resources you want to use you can use- Internet, books, other people, flamethrowers, laser beams, etc... The puzzle should not require you to break the law to solve. And the first aid kit is not a puzzle. Somehow, you will be able to get a short word or phrase out of the puzzle as an answer. I will happily confirm answers if you PM me.

As far as characterization, I didn't have a lot to go on, so I mostly stuck to the characterization guide in the answer key to a puzzle featuring a parody of the Hitchhiker's Guide to Zyzzlvaria, and crammed in Star Trek jokes when those weren't enough.

The result is a very silly story that I am very happy exists. It was strange to write, though. I sketched out a rough outline of the plot, a drawing of the logic grid, and a list of clues that I needed to insert into the story somewhat naturalistically in order to make the puzzle solveable. As I wrote, I crossed off clues as I included them. The resulting narrative was rather on rails, because there were so many particular story moments it needed to hit, but my brain kept trying to drive me off the rails. Many of the clues involved the bridge, but every time my protagonist tried to go to the bridge I decided the story would be better if he went elsewhere instead, so I had to figure out other ways to drop the clues about the bridge. In its sort of linear shaggy dog story format, the piece it most reminds me of is my first If on a winter's night a traveller fic. Though there are huge differences between the pieces in tone and style, they were both written to rather severe structural constraints. It's a good thing to try to do every once in a while, I think.

"Where on the Brass Rat is Captain Blastoid"
seekingferret: Word balloon says "So I said to the guy: you never read the book yet you go online and talk about it as if--" (Default)
My favorite line in X-Men First Class comes near the end.

I've been at the mercy of men just following orders. Never again.

When the film came out, I argued endlessly with my Jewish friends about what that line was trying to say about Erik.

See, there once was a man named Meir Kahane. He formed a group in 1968 called the Jewish Defense League- it's been alternately described as a protest organization, a paramilitary organization, and a terrorist organization depending on who you ask. And Kahane himself has been called everything from a Zionist hero to a racist monster. To hear my parents speak about him in the '90s, when he had just been assassinated but still loomed large in the conversation about Israel, they felt he was maybe a little of both. And the motto of Kahane's Jewish Defense League was "Never Again".

It meant a lot of different things. It meant "Never Again" will we let the Holocaust happen. "Never Again" will we sit back and let non-Jews push us around. "Never Again" will we be thought of as weak. "Never Again" will we let the Jewish leadership betray us with false hopes of reconciliation with our enemies. In the name of "Never Again", Kahane and the JDL did terrible, unforgivable things- beating up innocent people, setting off bombs in public places, spreading hateful lies about Arabs. And they also did amazing things- protecting Jews from legitimate enemies, being a voice for Jews oppressed by the Soviet Union, creating pride and identity for lost Jewish souls.

Erik invoking "Never Again" in 1962 is the kind of ahistorical hash that XMFC made of the real history of the '60s throughout the movie, but it suggested a relationship between the film's vision of Erik and the filmmakers' understanding of Meir Kahane.

For Purimgifts this year, I set out to explore that relationship by writing stories in which Erik and Meir Kahane came into conflict.

In Which Meir Kahane Gave Magneto a Bloody Nose

This is a monstrous version of Erik Lehnsherr, but it is not the same kind of monstrous Erik Lehnsherr we normally see, I think. Everything my Erik does has a calculated purpose toward a master plan, and the master plan is not world domination but survival. Survival is the only thing Erik Lehnsherr knows how to do, survival for himself and survival for his chosen family. He will hurt anyone if it will help advance this purpose. This is a monstrous Erik, a killer, a brute, who could nonetheless never be the chessmaster from The Last Stand who quips "That's why pawns go first," as he sends fellow mutants off to die.

And it's because there's this kernel of unarticulated, broken ethics somewhere inside Erik that Kahane sees an opportunity to perform kiruv, to remind him that he is still a Jew. Everything Kahane says to Erik serves dual purpose, to taunt and psych him out, and to probe him for vulnerability to conversion. Not that Erik needs the reminder. He hasn't forgotten who he used to be. History is certainly the nightmare Erik is trying to wake up from.

This is XMFC Ferret style, which means Erik is the ambiguous hero, Charles is a non-entity, and Mystique is a total badass. [And Emma's value isn't her sexuality, it's her total lack of morality.] Coexistence and peaceful social change aren't even on the table for discussion, they're just jokes that both sides of the story's conflict snicker at. Instead, this is a story about identity and names and the psychological toll of existential struggle. I tried to write Erik and Mystique as somewhere midway between XMFC and X-Men 1, an extrapolation where you could hopefully look from XMFC to my story and say "Okay, I can believe that they went from here to there" and look from my story to X-Men 1 and say the same thing. I feel like that worked reasonably well.

These are ugly, nasty stories about ugly, nasty truths, and the thing I was pleased about as I read the comments they garnered was that my readers seemed to get that and appreciate it. It was really exciting to see that recognition from the readers that these stories were problematic and yet still worth thinking about.

And I should thank [personal profile] starlady for betaing. I couldn't have finished these fics without her help.
seekingferret: Word balloon says "So I said to the guy: you never read the book yet you go online and talk about it as if--" (Default)
I've been remiss in hyping the fic I've been receiving:

For [community profile] purimgifts, I received three Ainsley Hayes West Wing ficlets, which I've really enjoyed. Ainsley's a strange character for Aaron Sorkin, one of the major deviations from his cartoonish depiction of Republicans and yet not always a very realistic Republican herself. Rather symbolic of my whole relationship with the West Wing as a Republican.

"White House Memories: The Bullpen"
"White House Memories: The Steampipe Distribution Venue"
"White House Memories: White House Counsel"

The author's Ainsley voice is lovely: retrospective, thoughtful, emotionally resonant, and yet still playful. If you're a West Wing fan, you should seek these out.


For [community profile] invisible_ficathon, I received a main story in The Escapist fandom and a drabble treat in The Books of the Wars of the Lord fandom.

"Twilight Valley" is a Luna Moth story. I would recommend it to anyone who is remotely fond of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay without reservation, and to anyone who isn't but is a fan of dense, muscular, tropey pulp fiction. I'm so thrilled to get this story. It's hard to say that it's exactly what I asked for, since I don't know what I was asking for in this exchange, but it is exactly the kind of story I love to read.

"Concerning Vaheb", meanwhile, is a single punchline, perfectly executed for Bible nerds.


You should read all of them, I am grateful for every one of my gifts.

The remainder of the stories, including the ones I wrote, can be browsed here:

Purimgifts 2014

Invisible Ficathon 2014

Invisible Snacks 2014
seekingferret: Word balloon says "So I said to the guy: you never read the book yet you go online and talk about it as if--" (Default)


Remember that stupid joke I made a few months ago about that story [personal profile] naraht didn't write definitely wrote? I'm pretty sure this time it isn't a joke. I am very, very excited! Everyone should sign up!

[community profile] invisible_ficathon

Profile

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