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)
There's been some talk on Yuletide chat about creating a specific tag for people writing Judaism-oriented stories for Yuletide (putative 'Jewletide'), akin to the tag/subchallenges for female-oriented stories or smutty stories or stories featuring characters of color. The idea of those tags was both to highlight fic fitting the theme of the tag, and also to create a general encouragement to write stories that fit the tag.

I've been arguing violently against the idea in chat, surprisingly violently, honestly. I'm posting this to kind of work out for myself why I reacted so strongly against it.

One reason is that it was nearly 2AM. And, well, you know. Not anyone's finest hour. But anyway.

A brief summary of the history of Judaism and Yuletide- Millions of years ago, Yuletide was founded. It was basically a Secret Santa exchange for fanfiction of rare fandoms, with the stories revealed on Christmas Day, and particularly in the early years it was pretty common for people to write fic involving Christmas in some way (When I first started doing Yuletide, explicitly noting in your letter if you didn't want Christmas fic was a big thing). As it grew, it became less explicitly identified with Christmas, and it drew more and more of fandom in, including more Jews. Then one year, they decided to start sign-ups over the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. This pissed off some Jewish fans who started complaining about how frustrating it was that this big institution of fandom was constructed around Christmas and the Christian default and completely ignored the activity of Jewish fans. There was much wank. In the end, nothing much changed. Jews continued participating in Yuletide, while continuing to have our activity ignored, and founded Purimgifts as an alternate fic exchange that centered Jewish interests. Meanwhile some Jews argued that they valued Yuletide as a sort of alternative secular celebration on Christmas day that they could celebrate while all the goyim around them were celebrating various forms of religious and/or semi-secularized Christmas, and I am kind of confused by wanting to have that counterprogramming, but if that's how they want to think about it, bully for them. There are significant differences between how secular Jews regard Christmas and how more observant Jews do, and Jewish opinion is not a monolith that I can dictate. Anyway, that remains the status quo to this day- some Jews participate in Yuletide while the Christmas/Christian elements stick in our craw, and other Jews find the Christmas timing a sort of accidental bonus.

It's an uneasy status quo. Lots of Jewish Yuletiders I know wish that Yuletide would just suddenly not be so Christmas-oriented. But we know it's not going to ever happen and we accept that. There are also Jewish mods who are attentive to how observant Jews practice fandom and I do feel like a reprise of the particular Sukkot nonsense of '07 is unlikely (the nominations and signups did overlap Jewish holidays this year, but were advertised well ahead of time and with plenty of days not falling on the holidays.) [personal profile] evil_plotbunny talked to me last week about how she personally reviewed and handled the Hebrew script in the tags on a couple of my nominations, and I really appreciate that.

So I think the suggestion of using a tag like Jewletide immediately raised hackles for me because it reads as a sort of coopting of Jewish participation in Yuletide, to wish away the years of uneasiness and say Jews can participate fully in this institution without any reluctance in spite of there being no change in the status quo. I don't think this is fair on my part, as the people pushing the tag aren't, you know, The Powers That Be, they're just random Jews in fandom who have a different context on Judaism and Yuletide than I do. And who want to create a space within Yuletide that is for the Jews. But like I said, immediately hackles nonetheless.

I think this goes back to a thing I said to [personal profile] kass a few weeks back.

[personal profile] kass said: "...because I always experience fandom itself as a kind of Jewish enterprise (a community constituted through shared engagement with source texts -- that's fandom, that's Judaism, that's where I find my home)... "

And I responded: "I'm not sure I'm comfortable with 'fandom itself as a kind of Jewish enterprise', because I feel like that frames a very limited version of fandom in order to lay that claim, editing out the parts of the fandom that are less compatible with my Jewishness. But I do think it's possible to negotiate within fandom a Jewish path."

I think my response on chat was basically a rehash of this argument. It seemed to me that a tag for Jewletide was an attempt to say that within Yuletide as currently constituted, a full-blown 'Jewish enterprise' could exist. And my response was to say that there might be within Yuletide a Jewish path, but only if we remain aware of the ways in which Yuletide as a whole still excludes us and ignores us. Which is why I'm fine with people writing fic involving Jewish characters during Yuletide, and I'm fine with people tagging the fics as containing Jewish characters, but I'm not as okay with people supporting a subchallenge within Yuletide specifically oriented around Jewish characters. But clearly other people believe in Fandom as Jewish Enterprise, and while I disagree with them, they're entitled to their opinion.

I'm also wary as hell that if we added an element to Yuletide that encouraged people to write Jewish stories, it would offer encouragement to the people who don't know Judaism well enough to pull it off. I'm wary we'd see the shitty culturally insensitive fic posted under the tag.

Of course, that can happen anyway. Nobody's guaranteed a good story for Yuletide, just a story. And I'm not going to oppose writing stories about Jews for Yuletide just because someone might write an insensitive story, and I myself sometimes request Jewish characters for Yuletide. But Yuletide is not a place where you can always rely on authors being sensitive about Jewish culture, and the idea of positioning a subchallenge about Jewish characters within Yuletide makes me nervous because I'm aware of Yuletide's limitations in this regard.

Anyway, tl;dr is that I was an asshole in chat and overreacted, and I should apologize to people I snapped at (anon memes seem confused about whether I mansplained, goysplained, Orthosplained, or what. It's enough to say that, as sometimes happens, I was an asshole.) , but I still don't like the idea of a Yuletide subchallenge oriented around Jewish fic. And of course, if other Jews want to do it it's not like I can stop them anyway.
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Dear Yuletide Writer,

Thank you for writing a story for me!

This past year fannishly for me has mostly been dominated by one project: Warning: Might Lead to Mixed Dancing, a multifandom Jewish dancing vid with over a hundred fandoms. A lot of the fandoms in the vid were fairly obscure, and a lot were new to me. So I had the sort of archetypal Yuletide experience more often than usual this year- discovering a new piece of media, looking for more fanworks in the world, and not finding it. All of my requests this year are things I watched while making my vid, and wanted more fanworks beyond their two second representation in my vid. I'll be excited to see whatever you come up with.

But on that note, too, I should note that all of these fandoms are fandoms where Jewishness is central to their storytelling. I'm an Orthodox Jew and my Jewishness is a major component of my identity, so a story that engages with that part of the story in an insensitive way has the potential to hurt me. But I'll say this: Engage with the story in good faith and I'll be able to tell, and that's more important to me than me not being hurt. It's okay sometimes if fiction hurts. That, too, is a central theme of all of these fandoms. [I'll also put this out, since it's not obvious to everyone- the fact that I'm Orthodox does not mean you should feel restricted to telling stories where people behave in accordance with Orthodox morality. Heck knows I don't.]

הסודות | The Secrets (2007) - Naomi (Hasodot)

tl;dr if you haven't seen it: Israeli movie about two young observant Jewish women in a seminary in Safed, who fall in love with each other as they fall in love with the dangerous Kabbalistic secrets of the Ari.

Prompt: I'm interested in exploring any of Naomi's relationships with other characters, particularly the central love triangle. I think the ending is so fascinating, how Michelle and Yanki's relationship is predicated on Yanki understanding that Michelle's feelings for Naomi aren't going away, but that they don't have anything do with her feelings for him. Something of Anouk's past returning to trouble Naomi and Michelle again would also be interesting. But what I would most like to see continued exploration of Naomi's relationship to the sacred texts of Judaism. Naomi going deeper into Kabbalah, going deeper into Shas, constructing a life centered around text. Naomi as a Rabbi, or Maharat, or Yoetzet Halacha, or Talmud professor, or serving scripture and the Jewish people in some other capacity. Naomi exploring Sufism or Zen Buddhism or other religious mystical traditions, from a position grounded in her knowledge of Kabbalah.

A Serious Man (2009) - Rabbi Nachtner (A Serious Man) Rabbi Marshak (A Serious Man) Rabbi Scott Ginsler

tl;dr if you haven't seen it: The slow downfall of a Conservative Jewish father in 1960s Minnesota; as his faith is tested, he desperately seeks answers in all directions.

Prompt: I love the tripartite folk tale that is the three Rabbi storyline, and would love any story that gives me more of them- other characters consulting the various Rabbis, the three Rabbis interacting with each other, the three Rabbis reflecting on the events of the story from a position down the line. The Marshak's funeral. Internecine shul politics. Interacting with the dybbuk storyline, or the tornade storyline. Anything else you can imagine.

לעבור את הקיר | The Wedding Plan (2016) - Michal (The Wedding Plan)

tl;dr if you haven't seen it: A Chasidic woman in Israel has her engagement suddenly broken off, and in a leap of irrational faith she decides to keep all of her wedding bookings and just find a new fiancee to plug in, in the next three months.

Prompt: I find the romance at the end of this story a little frustratingly abrupt, but if you could show their arc afterward I might be convinced, so I'd like to see what married life looks like for Michal. More than the romance, I love the female friendships in this story, and any look at any of those friendships would be great. Also, Michal and Yoss continuing as friends after she gets married would be interesting to me, they have such a sharp chemistry.

The Hebrew Hammer (2003) - Any

tl;dr if you haven't seen it: Parody of '70s blaxploitation movies starring an overly Jewish private investigator as he races to save Chanukah.

Prompt: This is one of those totally open-ended Any requests. This story is set in such a brilliantly weirdly slanted world and I'd like to see more stories that embrace the wackiness of it.
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Consider this the start of me posting about the fandoms in Warning: Might Lead to Mixed Dancing. My nominations for Yuletide are fandoms I watched for the vid. They are awesome fandoms with amazing characters and relatively few people know about them.

1. Hasodot (The Secrets) | הסודות

This is an Israeli movie from about a decade ago, directed by Avi Nesher. The Hebrew title HaSodot, which literally means The Secrets, has an implication that the English title doesn't that the titular secrets involve the deep mysteries of the Bible): This movie floored me. I was nervous going in because I've learned the hard way from this project that movies involving gay Jews don't tend to work out well. (A corollary of the fact that movies involving gays don't tend to work out well, and movies involving Jews don't tend to work out well.) It did end in a het wedding, but I thought it did a much better job than, say, Kissing Jessica Stein, of understanding not only the bittersweetness of this, but the way its association of heterosexuality with happy endings makes it complicit in heterosexism. It also did not kill any of its queer characters (and this is a movie where people die! This is a movie about the consequences of messing with Kabbalah!), and its final shot was of the central queer couple happily dancing together at the het wedding. I think by the nature of the yeshiva-bound love triangle, the romance remixes and reinterprets Yentl's love triangle,- Michal torn between a conventional Torah marriage to Yanki ( who she clearly loves- the movie doesn't work the way it does if he's just a man she's forced to marry ) or a union with Naomi that would defy convention but would constitute a marriage To Torah and the joy of textual study, is a lovely requeering of an already queer text.

But more than the romance, what charmed me about this movie was the way it dealt with Kabbalah. I've never seen a movie that got the details and the feel so right. It made Kabbalah feel real and powerful and dangerous and meaningful while still maintaining a completely naturalistic environment. Naomi, in Kabbalist mode, has a stunning, arrogant command, and the rituals we see both resemble in frenzy and particulars the actual rituals of the 16th century students of the Ari and feel potent and transformative. The idea of a woman performing them and in the process transforming the meaning of the rituals is effective and powerful- I loved the scene where they sneak into the Ari's mikvah at night for a ritual immersion and in the process of doing something incredibly taboo rediscover the Bible's own sense that a woman's identity starts with her awareness of and pride in her body's physicality.

The only movie I've ever seen that handles Jewish folklore with this kind of depth of feeling is A Serious Man, and then only in the opening scene. This movie is suffused with an incredible sense of Jewish mysticism as a lived-in, comprehensible experience, not something esoteric or mysterious. As a mostly rationalist Jew, this is not my Judaism, but it's a recognizable, real Judaism nonetheless.

2. A Serious Man

The Coen Brothers' greatest movie in my superbiased opinion. Much to my disappointment, careful re-review of A Serious Man did not turn up any Jews dancing. This is the movie I most wanted to include in the vid and couldn't, because it's my favorite movie about Jews.

A Serious Man is so full of meaningful doubt, of trying to live a faithful life in a seemingly faithless world. It's great. It's also defined by a stunning realism. So many of the characters feel like people I know, they're annoying or loveable in exactly the way real people are. When I forced my father to watch it, he said afterward "I KNOW Sy Ableman. No I know TWENTY Sy Ablemans." They got the fabrics in the synagogue right. They got the look of the lawns right.

I nominated the three Rabbis that Larry Gopnik consults for advice on the meaning of life, in succession, after his wife leaves him. I love the surreal hierarchy of this subnarrative, how each succeeding Rabbi appears more serious but does not offer more serious advice. It's a brilliant parody of conventional Jewish folk narrative, a Jewish shaggy dog joke spun out with unexpected seriousness.

3. La'avor et Hakir (The Wedding Plan) | לעבור את הקיר

A sort of silly Israeli romcom made last year by the Breslov-Hasidic filmmaker Rama Burshtein. I imported a DVD copy from the UK when I needed it for the vid (the UK title is Through the Wall, a more literal translation of the Hebrew), a few months before it came out in the US, and then got to act all hipster when it hit the US and a bunch of my friends got excited about it and I was like "Hah! I was into that movie months ago.". #loser

Burshtein's films (this is her second) feel like they are made primarily for an audience of Breslov women and then secondarily in an ambassadorial capacity to the outside world. There's very much a sense I get that the perspective being pushed is unusual and particular and the idea of what constitutes a happy ending is shaped by Breslov attitudes rather than the ideals of a general viewing audience. The Wedding Plan is much more comic and much lighter than Fill the Void, her first film, but no less serious. It has a lovely romcom premise that a woman whose engagement is broken off decides to keep all of her wedding-related bookings and go through with the wedding, provided she can find a new husband in the next three months. And then it uses this premise to explore questions of theodicy, as well as look at coping with loneliness and one's sense of place within the community, and gentle moral teachings about how to respect other people. There's a hilarious sequence of bad dates as Michal tries to find her new 'the one'... the reasons why they are bad dates are striking. The guy who refuses to look at women he's dating until he marries so he can honestly tell his wife that she's the most beautiful woman he's ever seen is perhaps the most crystalline example of an adaptation of male chauvinism to the particular contours of the modern Hasidic world.
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Reveals! Okay, reveals for Yuletide. Let's do the easy one first:

Mechaye Hametim (1393 words) by seekingferret
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Yentl (1983)
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Avigdor/Yentl Mendel | Anshel Mendel/Hadass Vishkower
Characters: Avigdor (Yentl), Yentl Mendel | Anshel Mendel, Hadass Vishkower
Additional Tags: Yeshivish

Come, the letter says. Come.

This is easy to talk about. I watched the movie Sunday morning, then Sunday afternoon a pinch hit came up. I grabbed it instantly. Then it was due Wednesday night, and I had D&D on Monday, so I basically had two nights to write it. But it only took me one! I wrote the whole story Tuesday night, then edited it and consulted with Lanna as my yeshivish consultant and posted it on Wednesday. It was kind of just that easy, the timing worked out ridiculously perfectly.

Yentl is a mostly great but sometimes frustrating movie and the recip requested an engagement with the problems in the way Hadass is treated, so I obliged. I tried to toe a careful line on the yeshivish and the Talmud references- making them specific enough to ground the story in reality, but not overly specific in a way that made the story inaccessible.

The line in Berakhot 58b that gives the story its title is one of my favorite random bits of Gemara, because I am super uncertain if it's a joke or not. The Rabbis are arguing whether one says Shecheyanu, the blessing thanking God for keeping us alive and bringing us to a new joyful occasion, when one sees a friend after a long absence. Rabbi Joshua says you do, but only if the long absence is fairly short, on the order of months. If the absence is longer, he says, you thank God for bringing back the dead. That has to be a joke, right? That's not a serious blessing, it almost feels like a bracha l'vatala, a blessing made in vain, since God has not actually brought back the dead. But in the case of this story, because Yentl is an identity that has been carefully erased and then just as carefully brought back, in a sense the rekindling of her friendship with Avigdor and Hadass is a raising of the dead.

I think the other thing my story is about is Barbra Streisand's vision of America. I'm told that in Singer's original story, Yentl does not go to America, but just moves on to a different yeshiva town to try again as Anshel. But in Streisand's adaptation, Yentl goes off to America, to a land where maybe she has a chance to be both a woman and Torah scholar. And I push a little further, and suggest that maybe America is a place where Hadass can love both a woman and a man, a place of new opportunities and new rules. A different kind of raising of the dead. [Weirdly, I sent Yentl to Philadelphia instead of New York, betraying the perpetual New York fetishism trope of my fic. I'm not sure why I did that; Perhaps it's just that it let me have her working at JPS, perhaps it's because I was due to visit my Great-Uncle, who fled Brooklyn for the Main Line, the following week.]

My other story, though... It seems hard to know how to talk about it. The amazingly insightful comment I got from my recip made it clear to me just how unconsciously personal this story was. Brakebills has always reminded me of my alma mater, and everyone I know who's read the book and who went to a top tier tech school has agreed with me that Brakebills South in particular is engineering school in a nutshell. More than anything else, I think this story is a reflection on my college self, as I stare at my ten year reunion coming up in a handful of months.

Fast Times at Brakebills South (5376 words) by Seekingferret
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: The Magicians - Lev Grossman
Rating: Not Rated
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Characters: Plum Purchas, Professor Mayakovsky

"Did you win your year?"

"I sure did," she said. "By a mile."

I may have told this story before: When I was a sophomore, we had a course on prototyping techniques. It was only worth half the credits that our calculus and physics classes were worth, but within a few weeks the weekly projects were eating fifteen or twenty hours a week, time we desperately needed to study for other classes. We complained to the instructors, who told us "Look, you don't really need to spend twenty hours a week on these projects. As long as you spend a couple hours a week, turn something in, you're going to get an A in this class just for showing up. But if you keep up working the way you have been, you won't regret it." We kept working twenty hours a week for the rest of the semester, and yes, to this day I don't regret it. I learned a lot of valuable engineering techniques and principles in that class. But stepping back from it, if that's possible, by looking at Brakebills South as the analogue... it kind of seems not okay. Like, okay, you got a bunch of workaholic engineers to work harder with nebulous promises of future benefits. Good for you! It's exactly what Mayakovsky does and it works with brutal effectiveness on Quentin and Alice and it burns out Josh and Janet and Eliot, and in my story with Plum it does something a lot more ambiguous.

Plum is interesting to me because I saw a lot of people not make it through Cooper- bad grades, irresponsible behavior, mental health issues, etc... But as the number of students dwindled, the number of dropouts dwindled, too. My class lost about a third of its members by senior year, but nobody who made it to senior year failed to graduate on time. For Plum to get kicked out of Brakebills as a fifth year is astonishing to me. The kind of people who make it through the ringer at Brakebills, who survive Mayakovsky, do not just suddenly screw up in the kind of way that gets you expelled. Especially because by the time you reach fifth year you have connections and relationships with the faculty and staff that ought to make them much more tolerant of you. My senior year we literally broke into an abandoned building on campus and stole a file cabinet and a table-saw and walked it across campus to our lab, while the security guards waved at us.

So I had to figure out how to write a version of Plum who lived on the edge, who was talented and disciplined enough to survive four and a half years at Brakebills, but who could have relationships with faculty frayed enough that one mistake could get her thrown out. Expulsion looms over my fic, I think, this endpoint that seems both inevitable and impossible given Plum's trajectory. For Plum, college is a place to explore and push boundaries, and that's the sort of thing that works until it doesn't. Plum doesn't realize, or is incapable of acting on the fact that, she's flying without much of a net. My recip commented on how I wrote Plum as 'brittle', and I think that's exactly it: Plum is hard, but hard metals are brittle.

But Plum is also a survivor, someone capable of picking up the pieces after a wrecking failure. Basically Plum is super awesome and I love her so much and it was great writing a story that, er, plumbed her depths. What this story sets up is the way that Plum reconstitutes herself after finally crashing and burning for real in The Magicians Land. How she ends up a Queen in Fillory after all is said and done. Of course, I don't mention Fillory at all in this story because I can't stand Fillory. I feel like this story let me testify to the parts of the Magicians series I love while carefully straining out all the parts I can't stand. I am very pleased with the final result.
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I got two absolutely incredible gifts for Yuletide this year.

The Saga of Hearthruler Whitebeard and Snowsgrace Dreamfinder (4622 words) by Anonymous
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Expert Judgment on Markers to Deter Inadvertent Human Intrusion... - Sandia Labs, 1850s London Cholera Epidemic RPF
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Characters: John Snow (1850s London Cholera Epidemic), Reverend Henry Whitehead (1850s London Cholera Epidemic)
Additional Tags: epidemiology, Post-Apocalypse, Alternate Universe - Future, radiation poisoning, form:saga

Snow and Whitehead bring back miasma theory, and not before time.

This is the crossover to end all crossovers: Post-apocalyptic future versions of 19th century cholera researchers Henry Whitehead and John Snow team up to determine why people are dying in the radioactive waste storage facility left behind by a fallen US. In an incredibly brilliant inversion, they are this time arguing in favor of miasma theory against an orthodoxy who believes the disease is waterborne. SO. MUCH. SCIENCE. NERDERY. <3

Lost and Found (7628 words) by Anonymous
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: A Void - Gilbert Adair
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: Creator Chose Not To Use Archive Warnings
Characters: Anton Vowl
Additional Tags: Lipogram, Writing with Constraints, Allusions to Ghost Soup, Story within a Story, Fic within a Fic, fanfic about fanfic, Gift Giving, Post-Canon Fix-It, tagging is fun, unofficial bonus gift

Anton Vowl is living and conscious and, in fact, signing up for an infamous gift swap! What could possibly go wrong?

And this story is even more spectacular, if that's possible. It's fic for a fandom almost nobody's read, but the plot's not really that important, as it wasn't all that important to the original novel. A Void is a translation of a French novel written without the letter e; the translation also does not use the letter e. And this fanfic is 7,000 words of hilarious metafic about Yuletide that also observes the constraint. It's a bravura performance that needs to be seen to be believed- the best parts are when Anton Vowl, the protagonist, attempts to write Ghost Soup fanfic- Ghost Soup being a fictional fandom that serves as an in-joke and common narrative example in Yuletide fandom.

Both these stories deserve more readers and more feedback, so please check them out. No canon knowledge required, I've given you all the context you should need.
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Dear Yuletide Author,

Thank you for writing for me! I am not a difficult author to write for. I do not ask for you to write anything in particular for me, only that you write something that you have fun writing. The rest of the letter consists of prompts, designed to kickstart your imagination, not actually requests for story elements I particularly want. What I most want out of fanfic exchanges is to be surprised.

Some stuff on fandoms:

Manhattan Project RPF - Leo Szilard

I requested Szilard because he seems like a glue character, someone who has told enough stories about his time at Los Alamos that he connects to virtually every other major figure in the project in some fashion. What most attracts me to the Manhattan Project as human drama is the combination of the stakes and the massive cast of interesting characters, so don't feel like your story needs to focus on Szilard. Write about whoever most interests you. I will say that my take on Feynman seems different than a lot of the fandom- I tend to read a lot of the comic stories in Surely You're Joking as being dark horror about the consequences of the youthful Feynmann's inability to take his work with the appropriate seriousness.

My own Manhattan Project fics have been crossovers with Back to the Future. I encourage crossovers and playful historical revisionism, as much as I welcome fiction that confronts the lurking darkness inherent in the subject.

1850s London Cholera Epidemic RPF - John Snow (1850s London Cholera Epidemic) Reverend Henry Whitehead (1850s London Cholera Epidemic)

I was given The Ghost Map for Yuletide bookswap last year and I fell in love with it and with the Snow/Whitehead relationship. Science!Detectives! BFFs! Adventurers! I love how much they had to risk, not just the not-inconsiderable physical danger of venturing into the cholera-stricken neighborhoods of London, but the reputational risk of taking a heterodox position on miasma theory, and they selflessly risked it all to save lives. And the quote Steven Johnson digs up from Whitehead, after Snow's death, about how the work he did with Snow was the best and most important thing he ever did in his life, and he'll never forget how Snow changed his life... That made me have shippy feelings.

Also, Henry Whitehead's beard is epic.

Something realistic focusing on their relationship while investigating would be great. Something steampunky and ridiculous would also be welcome.

A Void - Adair - Anton Vowl

Should a story in lipogrammatic form, arising from your wanting to copy from canon as your primary inspiration, show up in my inbox in honor of this fanfic holiday, I would tip my cap to your skill with wordsmithing. That lipogrammatic constraint is so important to what A Void is. But I think that you could find a distinct approach to Anton Vowl's conflict, should that turn out too difficult. I'm not picky, this fandom is odd and surprising all on its own.

Expert Judgment on Markers to Deter Inadvertent Human Intrusion into the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant - Sandia Labs

I requested this last year because I was requesting fandoms with stupidly long names, but I'm genuinely fascinated by so many elements of this report. Obviously, it is tangentially connected to the Pandora's Box opened by my first request, Manhattan Project RPF, and the new challenges and new ways of thinking about the world forced by the development of nuclear energy. Crossovers welcome! But mostly what I'm interested in is the Markers as a setting, a space for whatever characters seem interesting to you to come against the dangerous realities of nature and the even more perilous nature of human communication. Really, there's so much content in this report and you could go anywhere with it, so I encourage you to use your imagination and see what kind of future encounter with the markers you can dream up.

The Cape (2011) - Max Malini

My favorite thing about this show was the training montages, how they were entertaining and imaginative and also character-building. I'd love to see an expansion of the training montages, of Max imparting wisdom to Vince. I'd love to see Max training other members of the carnival of crime, or to see Max's own education in crime and gymnastics.

There is much about The Cape that is silly, and that is also something I embrace. Palm City is a town that knows darkness. In a lot of senses it's a completely failed city of the type that populates the darker and more ponderous Batman films (*coughcough*Christopher Nolan*coughcough*), but unlike those films, it knows that solving the problem of a failed city by means of vigilante justice is a fundamentally silly idea, not to mention an empty gesture. It's probably why the show failed, but it's also why the show's silliness should be taken seriously. If you're interested, I'd love a story that did meta things with the governance of Palm City and its issues.

Edit Letter finished, I suppose!
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Holy shit it's Yuletide time already.

Manhattan Project RPF

Because [personal profile] naraht's recent post reminded me of past requests. Nominated more or less my usual characters, Szilard, Teller, Bethe, Fuchs, I think? But as usual with this fandom my request will say I don't really care who in the cast of thousands someone is inspired to write about.

19th Century London Cholera Epidemic RPF

Because The Ghost Map made me want John Snow/Henry Whitehead fic.

A Void - Gilbert Adair

Uncertain about this nomination... can one truly request A Void fic, separate of La Disparition? I'm not sure, but seeing as I've only read A Void, seeing as how I've only ever read Perec in translation, and seeing how Adair's work is a massive literary accomplishment in its own right, it felt right. Of course, I'm going to have to figure out how to write my request as a lipogram, so... that's a whole thing now.
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Happy New Year!

For Yuletide this year, I wrote a Lije Baley fic. This is not a very surprising fandom for me- I've spoken numerous times about the profound influence Asimov has had on my life. What's actually surprising is that I quickly realized, having offered the fandom and received my assignment, that it's been fifteen years since I last read a Lije Baley story. I offered Asimov's Robot stories since most of the time the Yuletide fic has seemed to be Susan Calvin or Donovan and Powell oriented, and those stories I reread much more frequently. Naturally that is not what was requested! But it wasn't a problem, I'd read Lije Baley and cherished it and didn't mind the idea of writing fic for it. Still, fifteen years is a long time. So I revisited The Caves of Steel and The Naked Sun and The Robots of Dawn a little gingerly, cautious that I might discover they'd gotten worse since I was a teenager.

My childhood is not ruined, I'm pleased to report! The books are actually quite good, I think, though they occupy a strange interstitial place in terms of genre. Asimov was clearly trying to write The Caves of Steel as noir, but in this respect he failed utterly. The other two books don't carry the hallmarks of this attempt- Asimov realized that the Lije Baley stories were not noir stories, they were barely murder mysteries at all, and he developed a much greater comfort with the tempered optimistic futurism that does drive them. What's strange about The Robots of Dawn- written about twenty years after the first two books and full of continuity errors designed to madden a fic writer- is that the scene writing is much better, probably the best anywhere in Asimov's ouevre, but the plotting is worse. Robots of Dawn is a book you luxuriate in, a book that isn't going anywhere interesting but does a great job of getting you there.

Like Asimov, I had wanted my fic to have a plot, but I lost track of it amid the density of themes I wanted to develop. Instead I just wrote a dialogue between Lije and Daneel in which they ask a lot of questions I've long had about the Three Laws and their practical meaning. It was heavily influenced by some reading I've been doing lately on Nick Bostrum, who seems to have supplanted Kurzweil as the leading artificial intelligence crank of the moment. The frustrating thing about Singularitarianism and Existential Risk is that all of the 'research' is just developing tenuous analogies past the breaking point. It's a bunch of really fascinating questions underpinned by absolutely nothing of substance. But the Three Laws are in their own way similar- a deep and fascinating philosophical approach to robotics that has no plausible engineering meaning.

Beyond the Singularity (2067 words) by seekingferret
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Robot Series - Isaac Asimov
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Elijah Baley/R. Daneel Olivaw
Characters: Elijah Baley, R. Daneel Olivaw

On the way back to Earth- home sweet home!- after his adventure on Aurora, Lije and Daneel talk about the past and the future.

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 been... the word 'busy' does not seem appropriate, but I have been occupied, the last few days. I was talking about my Christmas 'tradition' with some Christian friends and struggling to explain it.

"The tradition is not having a tradition of doing anything," I said. "I mean, usually we do the normal thing of Chinese food and watching a movie, but that's not actually a tradition. It's a way of spending time."

"Aha," my friend said. "But if you couldn't do it one year, you'd miss it!"

"Uh... No, I wouldn't. I'm pretty sure I have skipped it some years and not cared."

So, as I often do, I went up to Boston to spend Jewmas with some Jewish friends. We did in fact eat Chinese food and watched a movie (the abysmal Samurai Cop), but mostly we just lazed around my friend's apartment not doing much of anything. Several hours with me reading a book while my friends knit. Occasionally we talked to each other. It was nice, but it was not a tradition.

Today I'm back home. New Year's is actually a thing I observe, so I converted a 5lb bag of potatos into latkes and baked a couple of challahs for the big get together next weekend. The kitchen smells amazing right now.

Yuletide happened. An amazing thing happened: I got fic for "The Influence of Immanuel Kant on Evidentiary Approaches in Eighteenth Century Bulgaria"! But wait, I hear you say, that's not actually a fandom! I know! And yet somehow there is fic for it! And it is delightfully executed. My author started with the premise "Okay, obviously this is ridiculous, but what if a Kantian scholar decided to seriously research this question? And what if that research were itself a metaphor for Justice's Roberts's argument with the academy?" It is brilliantly done. I encourage everyone to read it and shower it with the praise is justly deserves.

Correspondence on a letter found in the Kant Archiv, with potential insight into Kant’s influence on evidentiary approaches in 18th Century Bulgaria (1310 words) by Anonymous
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: The Influence of Immanuel Kant on Evidentiary Approaches in 18th Century Bulgaria (Journal Article)
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Characters: Immanuel Kant, Original Characters
Additional Tags: Philosophy, Letters, Emails, Law, Fictional Journal Articles, 18th Century

A well meaning Kant scholar hears about interest in The Influence of Immanuel Kant on Evidentiary Approaches in 18th Century Bulgaria and goes digging in the Archives

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Dear Yuletide Author,

Because I am a terrible person with poor taste and poorer judgement, I confess I have taken to abusing the limits of Yuletide by requesting stranger and stranger things purely to see if the mad machine that is Yuletide can possibly fulfil them. This year, my requests have a theme: their canon names are all ridiculously long. Pretty much nothing else connects them.

1) The Complete Lost Works of Samuel Beckett as Found in an Envelope (partially burned) in a Dustbin in Paris Labeled: "Never to be Performed. Never. Ever. EVER! Or I'll Sue! I'LL SUE FROM THE GRAVE!!"

It is a play by the Neofuturists, full of juvenile attempts to take the piss out of Beckett, and I would appreciate any effort to build on this effort, but what I would most like to see is some sort of cruel extension of "If"- the sketch in which the audience is subjected to multiple assaults from the insipid 1970s ballad "If" by Bread, while an old woman gesture lasciviously at the audience from her rocking chair. The audience sits, trapped by the realization that the sketch has no defined end, that it could go on for six repetitions, or ten, or fifty. Honestly, if you cannot figure out anything else to write for me, in this or any other fandom, do not default. Simply Copy and Paste the lyrics of "If" into the submission box enough times to total 1000 words and call yourself done. I assure you I would consider it a successful Yuletide if I received this. The corpse of Samuel Beckett probably wouldn't.

2) "The Influence of Immanuel Kant on Evidentiary Approaches in 18th Century Bulgaria" (Fictional Journal Article)

Of course, Orin Kerr has actually written a journal article with that title in the past year, but I consider it a fanwork rather than an extension to canon. I never would have expected the fandom to have this much staying power, but here we are four years after the Justice Roberts interview and people are still creating fanworks. Clearly this is more than a joke. Clearly this fandom is real and meaningful and important.

3) "Biographical Notes to "A Discourse on the Nature of Causality, with Air-Planes" by Benjamin Rosenbaum" by Benjamin Rosenbaum

Delightfully, magnificently self-referential and thought-provoking, not to mention action-packed, this is one of the great SF stories of our time. I would appreciate any expansion of the Karaite themes in the story, or more pirates, or more on the differences between plausible-fables and science-fiction.

I'd like to see what life is like on the war-cities. I'd like to see how Plaus-Fab Wisconsin differs from Wiscon. I'd like a meeting between Benjamin Rosenbaum the science fiction writer and "Benjamin Rosenbaum" the plausible-fabulist. There's so much world in this little story and it's all so enticing that anything would be appreciated.

4) Expert Judgement on Markers to Deter Inadvertent Human Intrusion into the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant

Oh wow, there's a lot here. This was a report written by a group of 'experts' about how to safely mark a nuclear waste site so that for the thousands of years it would take for the site to become safe, as language and culture shifted among humanity, the warning would stay clear.

The answer the group comes to generally is that because of the unpredictability of the future of humanity, this is a really hard problem and should be addressed by spamming warnings in as many different languages and communication styles as possible over the site. In a darkly funny appendix, though, one of the experts acknowledges that more eloquent than the language will be the gamma rays: As soon as someone gets sick with radiation sickness, any group will pull back, no matter how many linguistic warnings they ignored to reach that point.

The report also includes a piece of fiction imagining a potential encounter between future excavators and the signage proposed, which is strangely gripping. I'd be fascinated by whatever story you can expand from this fiction, or also by any other potential encounters between other excavators you can imagine: Aliens encounter the signs! Nonlinguistic children encounter the signs! Near-future Americans encounter the signs, comprehend them all, think that they're just macabre jokes, and continue!
seekingferret: (nazi)
I've been mulling the Yuletide Naziwank a bit. I'm a Jew with pretty strong Holocaust-sensitivities, who has called out stories in the past for their misuse of Holocaust story elements, and yet I'm also someone who has also requested and written fic featuring Hitler as a character, including for Yuletide.

I can honestly see both sides of this one. Fic is a tool we use to rethink our world, and that can and should include engagement with even horrors like the Holocaust. And I particularly don't buy the 'but it's a holiday exchange!' argument in the FFA threads, since it runs up against the other longstanding Yuletide Jew wank, the argument about the fact that for Jews, Yuletide is not meaningfully a holiday exchange at all, and treating it as such is Othering. I believe in Yuletide as a place for fans to engage with other fans of their rare fandoms, not as any kind of holiday observance.

At the same time, some of the really horrible scenarios people in the FFA thread mention do strike me as really horrible. It would suck if I ended up assigned to someone with a fucked up Nazi request because we matched on a different fandom. It would be immensely painful to me and would force me to make difficult choices from a bad position. That is not a thing I wish to see happen, and I can understand moderators wanting to make sure that didn't happen. And I think also that it is possible to create fanfic based on these subjects that unambiguously shouldn't have been created, work whose only function is to offend sensibility, and probably I would say that Yuletide is not the exchange for that.

But I'm not as comfortable with some of the stuff on the thread attacking the nominator. I have zero interest in Nazi slash. I find the idea of reading it horrifying. But I don't have any principle that looks down on people for enjoying things I find horrifying.
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For Yuletide this year I wrote a Bugs Potter fic. Who Is Bugs Potter? and its sequel are comic novels by Gordon Korman about a teenaged rock and roll drummer and his adventures.

Bugs Potter and the Otters of Doom (6740 words) by seekingferret
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Bugs Potter - Gordon Korman
Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
Warnings: Graphic Depictions Of Violence
Characters: Bugs Potter, Adam Webb, Original Characters
Additional Tags: Screenplay/Script Format, Documentary, Rock and Roll

Behind the scenes with legendary rock and roll drummer Bugs Potter on tour.

As I think I mentioned, my plan this year was to try to write my Yuletide assignment as my NaNoWriMo story, an idea I called Worst Idea Ever or WIE for short. I got my assignment two days before November began and I hastily started outlining and notetaking to write a Bugs Potter novel thing over the course of November. And then I dove in. Over the course of November, I ended up writing 26K of Bugs Potter fic, unstructured and mostly bad and definitely without an ending. NaNoWriMo isn't actually conducive to writing good fic- you're writing so fast that you don't have time to think about how it fits together. This is especially true when you only had two days to brainstorm and consequently don't have a very clear outline.

In any case, I regrouped in December. I had a huge amount of raw material, including a number of scenes and storylines that I thought worked well or could work well with some rework. I decided to refocus the work I'd already done by recasting it in screenplay format as a documentary about the events of my erstwhile novel. Very much in the mode of Spinal Tap, a fact I lampshade in the first scene of the fic.

It was an unusual way to write the fic, for me. It was very pleasant to have so much material to work with. It let me be ruthless in cutting the stuff that didn't work, because no scenes were really essential to carrying the plot and if I removed a massive section, I still had plenty of story to play with. From the original 26K, I ended up with nearly 7K in the final fic.

I also taught myself a small amount about CSS on AO3 in order to create a workskin to simulate standard screenplay format. Which I think mostly worked out okay, though I'm sure if I actually knew CSS for real I would have done a bunch of things differently.

Humor is hard, but I think my story is funny. It certainly had me laughing as I wrote, and I think my recipient liked it, too.

I'm sure it will come as no great surprise to [personal profile] morbane that the two Danger 5 fics she received were also by me. (Even though she didn't actually request Danger 5, I didn't think she would mind getting the fics)

Заткнись (319 words) by seekingferret
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Danger 5
Rating: Mature
Warnings: Creator Chose Not To Use Archive Warnings
Characters: Ilsa (Danger 5), Tucker (Danger 5), Jackson (Danger 5), Pierre (Danger 5), Claire (Danger 5), Alligator Artillery

The Fic Was Written with the Power of Google Translate and Sleep Deprivation

The Furried Frenzy of the Fuhrer (1115 words) by seekingferret
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Danger 5
Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
Warnings: Graphic Depictions Of Violence, Major Character Death
Characters: Tucker (Danger 5), Ilsa (Danger 5), Jackson (Danger 5), Pierre (Danger 5), Claire (Danger 5), Adolf Hitler (Danger 5)

An American national treasure is threatened by the Nazis. Good thing Danger 5 is on the case.

The first, the one about alligator artillery, was written early on Christmas morning as the rest of the people at the Jewmas party were still sleeping. As they woke up, I showed them the fic to get feedback, and after I integrated the feedback, we decided it would be fun to write a Danger 5 fic together. So we wrote a fic about Danger 5 and Bigfoot.

It was fun. I've never written a fic quite like it before, the passing the laptop around to let someone else take over when they got an inspiration, the reading a piece of dialogue aloud and workshopping it on the fly, the oneupsmanship of passing an idea around the room and seeing it get polished and refined on the spot. ("-Someone should put on a sasquatch costume. -It should be Jackson, he's the most gung ho about the sasquatches. -No, it should be Pierre, because he's Pierre. -Pierre should be mixing a perfect cocktail in costume. - Perfect!")

None of my co-authors has ever ficced before, I think, though Alai and I have written a very good outline of a ST:TNG fic that we should really buckle down and write some day. They all took so much pleasure in the mechanics of posting it to AO3, to checking for the reveal and then to looking for comments and kudos. And they insisted on doing a group read of their fic at New Year's. Maybe I have infected them... we'll see.
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Had a very good time over Jewmas. We did the counting and we're pretty sure this is the seventh year of observing Jewmas with more or less the same group of people, and it's a tradition I value because it is sort of an untradition. We get together because we don't have anything better to do, because as Jews we don't have other obligations on Christmas, and we get together to just laze around someone's house all day watching movies and eating food.

This year we also lazed around writing fic: I got everyone involved in group-writing a Yuletide Madness fic, which was very fun.

Speaking of Yuletide, my two gifts this year were both "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came" fics, a drabble that was more or less canonical and a longer treatment of an astronaut AU. I love them both.

The Last Astronaut (1306 words) by Anonymous
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came - Robert Browning
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Characters: Original Character
Additional Tags: Space Exploration, Science Fiction

The last of her kind faces a fraught journey across an alien landscape.

When The Quest Is Ended (100 words) by Anonymous
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came - Robert Browning
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Characters: Childe Roland
Additional Tags: Yuletide Treat, Drabble, Quest

Childe Roland has found the goal of his quest, but that's impossible.

"Childe Roland" is a really dark version of a quest story and both of these fics do a great job of digging into that darkness for the reasons behind it. I'm going to heave a guess that [personal profile] raspberryhunter wrote the drabble, and that I don't know the author of the longer fic.

I want to say more about "Childe Roland" and these fics. I wrote a sort of obnoxiously meditative comment on "The Last Astronaut" that doesn't quite capture what I'm trying to say. I wanted to use the space of this journal to try to do a fuller job. I will probably still fail.

I read a lot of fantasy. I read a lot of, as Michael Chabon charmingly puts it, "stories with plots", which for all its flaws is a more comfortable descriptor for me than any of Campbell's. And obviously I also spend a lot of time reading work that deconstructs genre in various ways.

The obvious, conventional criticism of genre is that by conventionalizing narrative it strips it of its realism. Endings aren't real, beginnings aren't real, they're arbitrarily selected points that shape stories in deliberate ways. This is an important and valid criticism, but it's not Browning's. Browning doesn't care that narratives cloak reality in convention, or he does, but not in this poem. He's much more concerned about the other problem: that narratives ARE real. That there are beginnings and there are endings, and as humans we have to confront those beginnings and endings even if we'd rather not. And that death is the most obvious and genuine ending of human narratives. I don't think it's saying anything controversial to suggest that the most obvious reading of the Dark Tower is as a precise metaphor for death. The end of the quest.

Neither of my fics take this most obvious reading. There are other stories we are part of and they have other endings, and sometimes those are happy endings, but often they are not. I've spent a lot of my life trying to avoid unhappy endings, sometimes by confronting the problems I'm immersed in and trying to change them, but often by trying to delay the inevitable. Quest stories move us because they tell the story of our own struggles, made epic. Browning's poem, and these fics, move me because they speak of a part of the quest I'd prefer to ignore, and they force me to confront my own shortcomings and reflect on my own opportunities for heroism.

This hardly seems a fair recommendation for such lovely stories, but it's the recommendation I have. Approach them gingerly and with respect, but I do urge you to approach them. Even without canon knowledge, these are accessible and enjoyable stories about how we interact with narrative and the world around us.
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 Yuletide Author,

I am not very good at writing Yuletide letters, but I've never let that stop me, except for that one year that I let it stop me. I am probably, all things considered, a bad Yuletide recipient, but somehow that has not stopped writers from giving me fantastic stories. I've been incredibly blessed by the gifts that I have received in past Yuletides, so if you end up writing me a terrible story, don't worry about it. I probably deserved it, and I may enjoy it. I have terrible taste in fiction. All my friends say so.

I have found that people have a tendency to try to write things to fulfill my prompts. This has always seemed to me to be a bad idea. I write Yuletide prompts by thinking up the craziest ideas I have in a particular fandom and then mashing them together. I write prompts designed to be prompts- things to inspire you, kickstart the imagination, then see where it goes. I don't write prompts as prescriptions to be followed. Instead, I suggest you write a story that you think you'll have fun writing. Less anxiety all around that way.

My taste in fiction tends toward things that skirt the edge of genre, whatever genre. I like post-modernism and meta and deconstruction, I like crossovers and alternate universes and betrayals of the reader's expectations. I like fanfiction that thinks it's original fiction and original fiction that thinks it's fanfiction, I like real person fiction with fictional people in it and fictional person fiction with real people in it. I say 'Down with the tyranny of genre' a lot, and sometimes I'm being ironic, but sometimes I'm not.

I don't believe in authenticity, and so I don't really believe in canonicity, but I enjoy canonically-oriented fanfiction if it asks interesting questions about canon and about characters. I like character-driven storytelling and I like plot-driven storytelling and one of the things I most enjoy in my fiction is being surprised by where it ends up going.

Some specific notes/thoughts/comments/prompts on my requests

1)Danger 5. Jackson/Ilsa

It is hard to imagine a show more perfectly tuned to my taste. The bonkers take on Hitler, the terrible special effects balanced against terribly sharp, clever writing, the density of the pop culture references and the outrageousness of the pop cultural subversion, the game of chicken the writers are playing against their audience to see what we will object to. Danger 5 is not always a satisfying show, it is not always a successful show, it is not always a compelling show, but it is always daring to push the envelope and it is often an entertaining show for this reason.

I love how bad a couple Jackson and Ilsa make, and my broad request is for something that explores this badness. Something preposterously domestic would be fun, Jackson and Ilsa going curtain shopping or sitting in on a Sunday morning reading the newspaper and sipping tea. Something soulbondy and ridiculous would be cool, Jackson and Ilsa forced to share minds. A story where they attempt to have sex and fail badly would be welcome. As would a story where they realize that they actually have to both stick to an agreed-upon plan or else they'll die. Also, a story where Ilsa decides to impregnate Jackson would fit neatly within the gender politics and metaphysics of the show.

I don't know. Everything about Danger 5 makes no sense, so I welcome whatever your imagination presents.

2) Manhattan Project RPF: Leo Szilard and J. Robert Oppenheimer

This is tricky to request because one of the most attractive things for me about the fandom is its cast of thousands, so requesting one or two characters seems wrong. Isolated in the New Mexico desert, working on a project with world changing implications, a sort of family requiring a coming together of all different kinds of minds. I love that in this fandom, the big heavy tomes on the historical context and moral implications of the moment are counterbalanced by things like Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman and its treatment of the Project as a game.

Szilard is my favorite character because of the way he seems to move freely within different circles of that massive cast. I kind of ship him with everybody. He seems like a frustrating person to be friends with, the kind of friend where you're constantly balancing the good against the bad in staying friends. But when he is rewarding your friendship, oh boy does he do it in spades. I particularly am interested in his interplay with Teller, Bethe, von Neumann, Feynman, Einstein, Fermi, and of course, Oppenheimer.

Oppenheimer seems like a fascinating cipher, both a communist-sympathizer-of-sorts and a patriot-of-sorts, a warrior who believes in peace, a man wrestling with unimaginably heavy self-imposed burdens. I ship with him Szilard, as mentioned, but I also ship him with Kitty, and I'm also interested in his relationships with Frank Oppenheimer, with Teller, with Bush, with Grove, with pretty much anyone else in the Project.

But if you want, you can write something that doesn't involve those characters, I won't mind. I love the drama of the story and am interested in new ways to tell new parts of that drama. I couldn't think of a clean way to nominate them, but I'd be particularly interested in fic about the human calculators, working so hard to do the arithmetic calculations that the physicists depended on, when a single addition mistake could cost days of effort. And expecting and getting little to no credit for their triumphs, in large part because many of them were women in the horribly patriarchal project.

Speaking of which, I also ship Szilard/Meitner, and would be interested as well in using Lise Meitner and her trans-Atlantic connections to the Project as a tool to explore the patriarchy at the Manhattan Project. And as a tool to let Lise Meitner be awesome. I have a lot of feelings about Lise Meitner and they're not really directly relevant to the Manhattan Project, but they are relevant to the way that many women were responsible for the creation of the Atom Bomb and they never get the kind of acknowledgement that the men did.

I guess my one caveat is that, while I won't rule it out completely if it's what inspires you, I'm not all that interested in the spy story and Klaus Fuchs and all that part of the narrative. But look, it's there, it's always seemed to creep into every Manhattan Project narrative I've ever read, even Surely You're Joking, so I'm not asking you to sweep it under the rug if its presence is required by the story you want to tell.

3)This Is Where I Leave you - Rabbi Charles Grodner, Philip Altman

A disappointing movie that still hit me in the heart. I really enjoyed Ben Schwartz's Rabbi Grodner/Boner, the apparently in-over-his-head Rabbi who doesn't let the Altmans get to him because even though he's young and goofy-looking and his energy is a little off-key, he is actually experienced at his job and he knows how to keep an even keel even when he's ejecting his boyhood friends from the synagogue for causing a fire alarm. He is a surprisingly competent Rabbi for a movie like this.

His relationship with Philip was particularly interesting to me. Philip actually is a fuckup, so it is clearly galling to Rabbi Grodner to see Philip think of him as the fuckup. I feel like in a certain sense, the parking lot scene is where he proves that he doesn't need to change Philip's opinion because he knows he is superior, but it would be interesting to see that status change move forward.

The film is ambivalent about faith and religious infrastructure as a positive mover of change, in a way that rather surprised me. I'm used to stories like this ending with an affirmation of the surprising power of religious ritual to bring closure and meaning to our lives, and certainly I believe in such power myself, as an observant Jew, but in This Is Where I Leave You, the shiva ritual seems coercive and meanspirited and unhelpful, and that leaves Rabbi Grodner as an outsider to the game, perhaps even an agent of coercion. Which is perhaps where my fascination with him comes from. He clearly knows just how powerful shiva can be, and here he is watching a situation where it is completely failing a family, and he is forced to decide in the end that he is better off backing away from them and leaving them to disassemble the ritual on their own. In other words, he is forced to give up on the religious ritual he, unlike everyone else in the story, believes in. Surely that must come at a cost.

4)The Influence of Immanuel Kant on Evidentiary Approaches in 18th Century Bulgaria (Journal Article)

If you don't know the fandom, that's because it's not a fandom. It's a fictional journal article proposed as a joke by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts in an interview a few years ago.

Um... Probably it can argued successfully that this is me trolling Yuletide. I saw the interview with Justice Roberts and immediately said "I want fic," so maybe it isn't trolling Yuletide. But it's probably trolling Yuletide.

The money quote from Chief Justice Roberts: “Pick up a copy of any law review that you see, and the first article is likely to be, you know, the influence of Immanuel Kant on evidentiary approaches in 18th Century Bulgaria, or something, which I’m sure was of great interest to the academic that wrote it, but isn’t of much help to the bar.” I don't know why I decided this ought to be a fandom in Yuletide, but I did, so here we are.

Its greatness as a fandom stems from the pitch-perfect parody Roberts manages: The title is long, jargony, and apparently random, but if you look closer this is something that you could conceivably see an out-of-touch academic writing about. It's not unreasonable to imagine Kant's writings influenced legal thinking in 18th Eastern Europe, and it's not unreasonable for a legal historian to be curious about this. And yet there could be no easily imaginable scenario in which a court could find this research useful. It would be the legal equivalent of the scientific doctrine of 'pure research'. And further and more subtly, the specific argument we might imagine the hypothetical academic exploring is exactly the debate Roberts is talking about. Kant's philosophy fundamentally is structured around an argument about the value of 'pure reason' and 'practical reason', much as Roberts is presenting an argument about the value of pragmatism in the courtroom and the legal academy. On the Court, Roberts's jurisprudence has been characterized by a series of ideologically inconsistent bargains struck with the intention of balancing the political and cultural interests of the Court against the demands of the law. This is precisely why he has a contentious relationship with the academy, which attempts to systematize a body of work that has no system.

In general, don't necessarily let Kant win in a landslide. The Germany vs. Eastern Europe social/political/cultural/legal dynamic set up by Roberts is problematic and I would appreciate seeing it problematized. (Of course, the dynamics were different in the 18th century as compared to today, and both might be kept in mind)

This is a silly request. If we matched on it, you are probably as silly a person as I am. Have fun with it.

5) Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came- Browning

I love the famous Browning quote about this poem: "When I wrote this, God and Browning knew what it meant. Now God only knows."

I saw this was nominated and got very excited because every year in February I say I'm going to nominate a Browning poem for Yuletide and every year in October i forget. Childe Roland is not my favorite Browning poem- that honor belongs to Andrea del Sarto or Caliban Upon Setebos or Rabbi Ben Ezra depending on my mood- but it's certainly high up there, and it's definitely the Browning poem that most beggars more fic.

I love how Childe Roland is a quest story where the destination of the quest is uncertain or ambiguous or maybe even doesn't exist. Or maybe Childe Roland is describing what comes after the quest. I love that Roland is not sure he wishes to complete his quest, whatever it is. "I might go on; nought else remain’d to do." I love Browning's landscape- barren, bleak, desolate, and yet curiously alive, with constant reminders that others have trod this path before- animals, plants, and even men.

And I love the poem's position as the link in a long, complicated chain- backwards to Chanson de Roland and King Lear, forward to C.S. Lewis and Stephen King and many others. If "Childe Roland" is Browning's vision from God, it's a vision that we as a literary species keep having over and over, reinvented for each new age, as if called once more to dream by Roland's slughorn.
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)
Likely Yuletide nominations:

1. This Is Where I Leave You- a comedy film where Jason Bateman and Tina Fey are siblings brought together by the need to sit shiva for their father. I have not seen it yet, because it doesn't come out until next week, but I will be seeing it, and I will be wanting fic for it, because I cannot imagine any outcome other than me being both delighted and frustrated by it.

2. The Influence of Immanuel Kant On Evidentiary Approaches in 18th Century Bulgaria- a fictional journal article John Roberts cited in an interview a couple years back as an example of how legal academia is disconnected from the court system's needs. I just find the title really evocative. And if I don't nominate it, nobody else will.

3. Danger 5. The delightful adventures of an international team of superspies and their quest to kill Hitler in the 1960s and now the 1980s. Unless I can be sure someone else ([personal profile] morbane?) will nominate it, in which case I'd have another nomination for...

4. Manhattan Project RPF. Because for reasons I can't quite fathom there is someone besides me with an interest in Vannevar Bush fic, and that is a party I would like to sign up for.

Likely Fake Festivids nominations since I am not doing Festivids, only pretending

1. This Is Where I Leave You- a comedy film where Jason Bateman and Tina Fey are siblings brought together by the need to sit shiva for their father. I have not seen it yet, because it doesn't come out until next week, and [personal profile] jetpack_monkey has justifiably objected that this means it is likely there won't be high quality source available, but since I'm not actually doing Festivids that's not a big problem.

2. Danger 5. The delightful adventures of an international team of superspies and their quest to kill Hitler in the 1960s and now the 1980s. Because there can never be enough Danger 5.

3. Alphaville. Godard's dystopian science fictional masterpiece, set dislocatingly in a noir future Paris ruled by the evil computer Alpha-60. Because it is an utterly beautiful movie that should be vidded.

4. Hurtigruten Minutt for Minutt. The >100 hour slow television show recording the journey of a Norwegian crew ship. Because the Norwegians are weird and so am I? And someday I will do my party where we get a lot of booze and food and sit around a television all day watching Hurtigruten.

5. A Serious Man- the Coen Brothers' amazing film about doubt and despair for a secularized Jewish family in 1960s Minnesota. The Three Rabbis and the Dybbuk scene are both brilliant Jewish folktales, and they are counterbalanced by a genuine and sincere story about poor Larry Gopnik, which takes him seriously even as it invites us to laugh at him.

6. Left Behind 2: Tribulation Force. Because a serious Nicolae character study would be hilarious.
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I've been trying to figure out what creative projects I want to undertake this winter. Traditionally I've done NaNoWriMo in November and Yuletide in December, which keeps me busy. There's a nice synergy: NaNo involves writing a lot, but nobody will ever see it. Yuletide involves writing less, but more people will probably see it than anything else I write. So NaNo ends up serving as a nice practice run for Yuletide, getting me into a writing groove that helps me confidently move past the blank page. I wrote the first 3500 words of my Yuletide fic last year on November 31st in a NaNo induced zen state.

This past year I did NaNo/Yuletide/Festivids, which was too much. I felt creatively overwhelmed by Festivids, after writing 50K words in November and 12K publishable words in December, and while I'm pleased with my vid, I feel it was less ambitious than I'd hoped for. So my leaning is to go back to just NaNo/Yuletide, and if I feel up to it try to make a festivid pinchhit/treat.

But I want to do Festivids! And [personal profile] thirdblindmouse has been encouraging me to post requests. So maybe I will play the game of Festivids, making posts with my would-be nominations and my would-be requests, and then just not sign up.
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If ever a post deserved my Reasons I'm a Bad Person tag, it's this one.

For Yuletide, I was assigned to write Henry Reed fic. I did.

The Glass and Reed Advertising Agency

Um... Henry Reed, for those who don't know, is a series of children's adventure books that were seminal in my childhood. Henry is the son of an American diplomat who is sent to summer in Grover's Corner, New Jersey, to experience what life is like for the average American teenager, since his globetrotting life in Naples, Manila, and other outposts of American post-war soft power is atypical and his parents worry that he won't fit in with other Americans later. He makes friends with Midge, one of the neighborhood kids, and together they engage in capitalist adventures.

Grover's Corner is a fictional unincorporated town near Princeton, New Jersey that is roughly based on Grover's Mill, NJ. Grover's Mill, NJ, of course, is famous as the site where the Martians landed in Orson Welles's radio broadcast of War of the Worlds. The whole area where the Henry Reed lives is about twenty minutes from where I grew up, and consequently Henry Reed and the War of the Worlds radio broadcast are both important parts of my canon of formative New Jersey stories, alongside Mallrats and Clerks and the Hoboken Chicken Emergency and Goodbye, Columbus, and a handful of other random things nobody has ever heard of. For as long as I have known Henry Reed, I have wanted the crossover where Henry's Grover's Corner is invaded by the War of the Worlds Martians. Because I am a bad person. So I have finally done it. YES. SPOILER ALERT. MIDWAY THROUGH MY CHILDREN'S BOOK PASTICHE THE TOWN IS INVADED BY ALIENS.

Structurally, [personal profile] sanguinity and I have consistently spoken of the story as consisting of two parts, even though my actual outline was somewhat more granular: The Bait, and the Switch. This is an evil story to give as a Yuletide gift, especially without tagging for the crossover, and considerable deliberation was given to how to balance reader expectations appropriately. On the one hand, this is the obvious crossover for Henry Reed and I don't know any fans of the series who haven't at least contemplated it for a quick giggle. On the other hand, to move from a Henry Reed story about a goofy business venture into a story where people we know and love are dying at the hands of tentacled monsters is narratively cruel, and definitely the riskiest Yuletide move I've ever made. I leaned heavily on the flexibility in my recipient's letter, and I hope that I did not overstep the flexibility granted to me. I would have been unsurprised, if disappointed, if my story had ended up on the anon memes as "This author was asked to write a fluffy adventure story based on a children's novel, and instead they added in an unsolicited crossover without tagging it, killed off an important supporting character, and just generally ruined Yuletide."

I wrote it despite this fear, for a few reasons. The first is that this was the story I have wanted to write for years, and I always believe you're likelier to write a good story when you're excited to write it. Second, because the bait and switch structure meant that at any time I could decide against it, if the fusion wasn't working, and just give the first half of the story as my Yuletide fic. If the story ended at the barbecue, I am sure my recipient would also have been quite happy. But third, I wrote it because I believe deeply in fanfiction's ability to do things that canon is unable to do. Robertson could never have written this story, because he created his story's genre conventions and then he lived within them. Because I am not beholden to his conventions, I can do things his stories can't, and that is an incredible power worthy of being exercised thoughtfully. My Henry Reed is, barring the differences in interpretation that are always inherent in translation, the same as Robertson's, but my Henry is in a situation that tests his mettle in a whole new way. The thing that makes Henry so charming is that the struggles he has are so very low stakes, but he takes them seriously anyway, so putting him in a situation where the stakes are genuinely high is, I think, a really interesting kind of rulebreaking.

And fourth, this was a story worth telling because being from New Jersey is a thing you take a weird sort of pride in. Our greatest musical talent made his career by singing songs about escaping to New York as soon as possible. We have the densest population in the country, and all sorts of related statistics about pollution and car usage and traffic and high rents that flow from that fact, and yet we are still the Garden State and we have not completely abandoned our farming roots. Two governors ago, our governor put his lover on the payroll and tried to distract attention away from his corruption by publicly announcing "I am a gay American"- and he is still beloved in our state as the man who fixed the DMV. New Jersey is a weird state, and I have a lot of genuine affection for its weirdness.

My parents are inveterate New Yorkers who came out to the suburbs to raise kids, as part of the 1970s/80s wave of sprawl that literally transformed the landscape of the state. There is a part of me that is not proud of this. I grew up at some unconscious level with an ingrained sense that the pre-1970s New Jerseyans who remembered when all of the subdevelopments were farms and Jews only lived in Newark and Hoboken were the real New Jerseyans. Henry Reed is, almost accidentally, a document of the last moments of this Real New Jersey, and that is definitely a major reason I always loved reading the books growing up. It let me read about places I'm familiar with, back in the days when you could safely bike across the highway without fear of getting clobbered by a truck. This crossover, perversely by connecting Robertson's fictional New Jersey to a different fictional New Jersey, let me stake a claim for Grover's Corner as a real place and a place that is important to me. That's why the short photo tour at the back of the fic is essential to my concept of the story, that I actually invested several hours over two weekends in driving around Princeton's environs in search of the shots I needed: it proves the reality of the story.

Which of course is the joke behind the other half of the crossover. Orson Welles would have never used a fictional town name. The obsessive verisimilitude of his War of the Worlds broadcast is one of its hallmark features. I had a debate with [personal profile] freeradical42 about whether I should name the town in my story Grover's Corner or Grover's Mill, given the conflict in the crossover, but ultimately I decided on Grover's Corner at least partially because it let me dissect the fake reality of Welles's story, divorce it from the ideal of verisimilitude, claim it as a piece of fiction. A good portion of WotW-inspired fiction is centered around the idea that the hoax story is a cover story for an actual alien invasion of some kind, and I wanted to steer away from that and just work with the other hallmark of Orson Welles's War of the Worlds- that it is an emotional, dramatic story, told really, really well.

One last observation on the crossover: Several commenters pointed to the first half of the fic as 'a perfectly normal Henry Reed story' or words to that effect. I think what makes the crossover work is that there is no such thing as a normal Henry Reed story. Strange happenings are always happening when Henry's around, an excitement that I use for ironic foreshadowing throughout my story. Oh, how we chortled after I shared my favorite line in the story with [personal profile] sanguinity: Uncle Al looked at me strangely. "Any other time of the year, I would have said that surely aliens could have found any other place on Earth to be a more suitable landing ground. But these summers..." he trailed off thoughtfully. The key behind this story is that having Martians land is exactly what you'd expect when Henry's around, because Henry is a force of nature.

Anyway, this story is utterly weird and features a jarring tonal switch, but I believe it works anyway, and I hope you enjoy. Very little canon knowledge necessary, Henry Reed is the kind of children's book series where all the important details of the premise are reiterated at the beginning of each new book to catch up new readers, and I mimicked that style relentlessly.

And of course, thanks to [personal profile] sanguinity for great beta 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)
For Yuletide this year, I wrote... oops, not supposed to say that yet.

For Yuletide this year, I got two fantastic gifts.

"My Terrible Friend" is my main gift. It is a story about Bree, Andi's best friend from Serra Elinsen's Lovecraftian romance Awoken, in which she realizes that her best friend is a big jerk and she should find better friends who appreciate her for who she is. It's awesome, exactly what I was hoping for from my request. Awoken is such a strange novel because it is being written by writers who are clearly better than the material, and this story is the same way: The care that is taken to make Bree believable as a teenager who is smart and curious and caring, but also self-absorbed and judgmental, builds on the original canon in just the ways I was hoping my gift would.

I also got a drabble sequence for a Whodunnit AU where the murderer can kill people using magic, "Poisonous", which I love for two reasons. First of all, I love it because it gives the murderer motivations! They're not just randomly bringing people into the house to kill them, they have reason for doing it and a sociopathic personality that is drawn out with care and thought. Second, I love it because it creates a world where the Whodunnit murder house could really happen, and it takes it seriously and puts the reality show aspect of it completely to the side, and I love it for taking the show seriously.

Thanks to both of my authors.

I would also be remiss if I didn't mention the Danger 5 fic that [personal profile] morbane received, because I am kind of proprietary about Danger 5 fandom and I regard every new fic in the fandom as a gift for me personally.

"A Sudden Rush of Gold To the Head" is a fantastic look at the ridiculousness of the Danger 5 universe, from an observer who can see how preposterous it is but can't seem to stop it from happening. And it even has a cocktail recipe.

I've read a few other things, but it is Jewmas and theoretically I should get off the computer and talk to people. Happy holiday, all!
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)
Less than nine thousand terrible words to go on NaNo. Five days to write it. The optimistic plan is 3K tonight, 3K tomorrow, 1 K Thursday morning, 2K Friday. Pessimistic but still realistic plan is 2K tonight, 2K tomorrow, 1 K Thursday, 2K Friday, 3K frantically Saturday night at the end of November marathon party.

This Novel Takes Place Entirely in the Kitchen has evolved into a slice of life romantic comedy full of banter, relationship drama, and quarter life crisis, taking place over the course of a dinner party. It has very, very little in the way of plot. My great panic as I've written it has been pacing. It's been a perpetual struggle to figure out when to unleash plot seeds I planted in the early pages, how to let them interact with each other, how to develop them without it seeming like BAM! Plot twist! Bam! Plot Twist! Bam Plot Twist! all in sequence. Honestly I don't see how you can write competent romantic comedy without a very clear outline, he says forty thousand words into a romantic comedy written without any outline at all. But I think I do have a much better idea now of what I would need to include in such an outline, for the next time. NaNo is always a learning experience for me, and never an attempt to actual produce a novel.

In other writing news, I have put together a very solid outline for Yuletide. I'd be very surprised if writing Yuletide doesn't go extremely smoothly. I know all the story beats, I have a lot of the character voices in my head, and I'm just really, really excited about writing this story.

Festivids I am a little more worried about, since vidding is further from my comfort zone. I've completely canon review, I have a song selected, and I have a second song I'd like to do if I have time or if the first song doesn't work as planned, but I haven't started clipping yet and that worries me. Oh well, we'll see how it goes. I'm going to have slightly over a month to make my vid, after NaNo ends. That ought to be enough time, I think, for what I have planned.
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 Yuletide Author,

So you got matched to me. I feel sorry for you, I really do. Thank you for enduring the horror.

I have notoriously bad taste (ask any of my friends!), so it's probably better for you to write something you think is good than try to tailor your story to my taste. Unless you also have bad taste, in which case we may just be fucked. In all seriousness, I try not to be demanding in my letters. The following consists of prompts, because sometimes it can be terrifying to look at a blank page and have to come up with a story on your own. They are not things you need to create for me. They're just ideas that emerge from my wild and wooly and unmanageable brain. I was actually a little mockingly complaining a while back about how the stories I have received in past exchanges have been shockingly good at being exactly what I asked for, whereas sometimes the stories I write have a tendency to wander wherever my brain takes me. So let me be clear: Feel free to wander wherever your brain takes you. I like being surprised.

1. Danger 5

If you don't know the fandom, it's an Australian action-comedy about a team of superspies tasked with trying to kill Hitler. It is hilarious and brilliant.

I maintain that Danger 5 is the best thing on television, despite all evidence to the contrary. See notoriously bad taste.

I ship Ilsa/Jackson pretty hard. I would love to see them in an overly domestic scenario. Curtainfic would be amazing. I would also love to see them beating the crap out of more Nazis. Curtainfic where they beat the crap out of Nazis would be the best.

I'm interested in immediately-to-be-jossed 1980s Danger 5 fic, to get me excited for Season 2. I'm interested in ridiculous crossovers, and I don't care if I know the fandom you're crossing over with. I'm interested in Hitler acquiring a moonbase in any manner possible. I'm interested in time travel fic. I'm interested in seeing how gonzo it can get.

Tucker is probably the character I like the least, but that's like saying that inapt similes are my least favorite literary device. I love Tucker, and his completely broken Imperial values. I love Pierre and his eternal insta-friendships. I love Claire and her self-righteous pseudo-feminism. I love Jackson as the completely deconstructed American cowboy in reluctant love with his godless communist Soviet partner who doesn't have feelings.

And I love how the show handles Hitler, and I am a descendant of Survivors who has very complicated feelings about Hitler. Please, if you're going to write Hitler, tread lightly and carefully, but that doesn't mean you can't have fun with him. I love that Danger 5's Hitler is captive to the shallowest forms of the Deadly Sins: His lust is aimless, leering and repulsive. His envy is not particularized, his pride is built on flash instead of substance. It manages to humanize him, make him less of a cardboard cutout of evil, without making him the least bit sympathetic, and more subtly but more importantly for me, it manages to humanize him without in any way trying to be justificatory. Too often attempts to humanize monsters are making an argument that if we could only understand the monster, appreciate their childhood hardships and the way society has attacked them, we could understand where they're coming from and what made them do what they did. This is not always a bad approach, but it is colossally offensive when applied to Hitler. There can be no justification, there can be no understanding that will make sense out of six million.

More simply and reductively, I think you will be fine with me as long as you ask yourself the question, "Am I sure that the reader is laughing AT Hitler, not WITH Hitler?" I'm pretty sure that's all that Danger 5's writers did.

2. The Influence of Immanuel Kant On Evidentiary Approaches in 18th Century Bulgaria

If you don't know the fandom, that's because it's not a fandom. It's a fictional journal article proposed as a joke by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts in an interview last year.

Um... Probably it can argued successfully that this is me trolling Yuletide. I saw the interview with Justice Roberts and immediately said "I want fic," so maybe it isn't trolling Yuletide. But it's probably trolling Yuletide.

The money quote from Chief Justice Roberts: “Pick up a copy of any law review that you see, and the first article is likely to be, you know, the influence of Immanuel Kant on evidentiary approaches in 18th Century Bulgaria, or something, which I’m sure was of great interest to the academic that wrote it, but isn’t of much help to the bar.” I don't know why I decided this ought to be a fandom in Yuletide, but I did, so here we are.

I feel like its setting in 18th Century Bulgaria means this could be a Baba Yaga or other Slavic folklore story. Kant as avatar of rationalism against Baba Yaga as the superstitious past. It could also be historical RPF of a fashion. It could also be contemporary, with the focus being on the academic Roberts speaks of.

In general, don't necessarily let Kant win in a landslide. The Germany vs. Eastern Europe social/political/cultural/legal dynamic set up by Roberts is problematic and I would appreciate seeing it problematized. (Of course, the dynamics were different in the 18th century as compared to today, and both might be kept in mind)

And don't forget the fact that the title is intended as farce. It's fine to play it completely straight/deadpan, but it's also fine to treat it as a venue for dealing with Roberts's objections to the absurd abstraction of legal theory in the academy, or as a venue for exploring Roberts's distrust for the law as a unifying system. Kant was used by Roberts as the archetypal figure of 'pure reason' because Roberts was suggesting that law cannot be reduced in that fashion, that Kant's contributions to evidentiary approaches are inherently unhelpful. On the Court, Roberts's jurisprudence has been characterized by a series of ideologically inconsistent bargains struck with the intention of balancing the political and cultural interests of the Court against the demands of the law. This is why he has a contentious relationship with the academy. It would be fun to see a story about a case where Roberts literally had to cite "The Influence of Immanuel Kant On Evidentiary Approaches in 18th Century Bulgaria" because it was relevant to the caselaw.

This is a silly request. If we matched on it, you are probably as silly a person as I am. Have fun with it.

3. Whodunnit - TV Show

If you don't know the fandom, it's a reality show murder mystery in which a dozen contestants live in a house and every day one of the contestants is 'killed' and the rest compete to solve the murder, with the last standing winning $250,000. It was silly summer entertainment this summer.

In general, if you're writing fic for this show, I would kind of like fic for the imaginary version of the show where people are really dying and the murderer actually has motivations behind their actions, rather than just RPF about life on the show. I don't have anything against RPF, I just don't find these people all that interesting outside the context of the mystery. (It's helpful that as the show went on, Melina and Lindsay in particular, but also to lesser degrees Kam and Ronnie and Geno and Dana, seemed to fall completely into the show's spell, freaking out when anyone went missing and acting like people had been killed. I feel like this started after Don's death. That was the one that really emotionally altered the way people played the game, because it was so immediate and in front of them, and they knew it was happening and couldn't stop it. After that, people seemed to really react to the deaths in a different way. So yes, there is a blurry line between their genuine reactions as people playing a reality show game and their reactions as characters in a story about a mad murderer in a locked mansion, and I'm fine with both, but would prefer the latter.

If I ship anything on the show, it's Melina/Ronnie. Their relationship had so many swerves between trust and mistrust, between anger and frustration and clear and genuine affection. In particular I thought the show's editing did a great job of contrasting Ronnie/Melina against Kam/Cris/Lindsay. Kam/Cris/Lindsay (mostly) stuck together, launched calculated gambits aimed at furthering their strategic interests, and carefully pulled the other alliance apart one member at a time. Ronnie/Melina played a frantic, intuitive game of incessant realignment, constantly second guessing their relationships with other players and pulling on every lever they could imagine to try to find something they could manipulate. Nothing summed up Ronnie's game better than his trained monkey hypothesis. Nothing summed up Melina's game better than her unexpectedly brilliant deductive ability with her back to the wall in the 3 vs 1 penultimate day. They're just fascinating, fascinating players, very creative, very smart, but not brilliant at planning ahead.

I would also love to see looks into the minds of Kam and Cris, the show's final duel of the minds. I loved Kam's response to the finale revelations. I was less pleased with Cris's... I wanted more story out of her. I wanted more motivation.

I also think Melina/Lindsey is an interesting dynamic, because Lindsey aligned herself with the dominant team, a team that triumphed on information control, and yet she spent just as much time as Melina did trying to play both sides against each other without any clear semblance of a plan. Was Lindsey just better at the intrigue than Melina? Was she just lucky to have ended up on the team with master riddle solver Cris and chessmaster Kam? Where do Melina and Lindsey meet in the middle?

I'm also interested in the class questions that the Whodunnit cast implicitly asks. Kam the lawyer and Lindsey the engineer against Melina the flight attendant and Ronnie the bounty hunter was the effective final four, and if you didn't see class undertones to that competition you weren't paying attention. Also, the machinations about hiding your job against not hiding your job... Don's choice not to admit he was a police detective, against everyone's near-instant conclusion that he was; Ronnie's fake job and the more genuine surprise when he admitted his profession. How does this feed into Cris's motivations? How does this feed into Melina and Ronnie's motivations? How does this play with the audience's expectations for a mystery story, with its tropes of the lone genius piecing together the clues competing against the complicated interpersonal dynamics the puzzles engineered?

I'd also probably enjoy alternate endings with different killers. The show's fatal flaw was that the killer never really did anything that marked them as the killer, but in an AU fic that's a strength- the killer could just as easily have been anyone else from the final three, right? I mean, I think any of the final five were plausible, but that requires a bit more rewriting.

A final observation I would make is that this show is fundamentally about matching wits. All of the characters I'm talking about have done stupid things on the show, fallen victim to misdirection, made poor choices under pressure, believed lies from other players, told lies that other players found unconvincing. But they are all smart people, racing against each other to solve challenging riddles with a lot at stake. I would love a story that counterbalances that well, that is founded on the idea that smart people can do stupid things, that there are different kinds of intelligence and different levels of competence, and that we learn about them by setting them against each other under varied challenges.

4. Awoken - Serra Elinsen

If you don't know the fandom, it is a book written as a deconstruction of the Twilight-knockoff genre, in which our pseudo-Bella falls in love with Cthulhu and lives happily ever after because suddenly Cthulhu has a reason not to bring about the end of existence.

Let us stipulate that it is a terrible novel with awful characters. Let's take that as a given. So here are some terrible prompts:

I would be interested in you taking the transparent sequel-bait about the Alignment next year. Where is Riley and Andi's relationship one year in, has she found things about him that she finds unattractive or is she still wholly under his spell?

I'm also interested in figuring out where the hell Bree disappeared to in the second half of the book. Some best friend, huh? I'm a sucker for the trope where it turns out the the apparently mundane best friend has been running around in the background clearing a path for the hero without the hero ever realizing it, but given that this is a terrible book, I think I would also enjoy a story where Bree was just off having normal high school kid adventures while the second half of the book was going on, and wondering where her best friends were.

I also think it'd be kind of interesting to try to write deconstructive fic in the tradition of Twilight deconstructions: to pretend that Awoken is serious and needs fix-it fic that restores Andi's agency and shows what Riley being a good boyfriend would look like. The wankier and more ooc you make this, the better.

And it'd be fun to see more of the Cthulhu mythos... A fleshing out of who this version of Yog-Sothoth is, more about Chloe, other Deep Ones and Old Ones. I have an inexplicable fondness for Tsathoggua. Also, it'd be nice if Neil got to finish one of his stories... I kept wanting to hear what happened.

Also, I found it consistently hilarious when Riley or Neil dismissed the bad guys by saying "Oh, those are just cultists." I mean, completely consistent with the way Lovecraft often wrote cultists, but hilarious. They literally exist as cannon fodder to be mowed down by Cthulhu's mind-sucking powers. It would be fun, though, to treat the cultists as human beings with lives, and deconstruct/break the joke. What kind of cult were they members of? What were its beliefs? How did they recruit? What happens to THEM after the book ends?

5. Now You See Me-
Bradley and Tressler

If you don't know the fandom, it's a heist movie about a group of magicians.

That pair fascinated me. Tressler more than Bradley, really, because Caine's performance as Tressler gives you so little. I would not have been all that surprised to find that he was, wheels within wheels, the man running the show. You don't get involved in the world of magicians...I mean, the world of the ridiculously powerful magicians of this movie... if you're as smart as Tressler is, unless you have an angle. I want to know what his angle is. I refuse to believe that the front end gate receipts are what draws a man like that to the Four Horsemen.

Bradley I get. I don't think Atlas is incorrect in suggesting an envy of magicians with stage ability. For all of the film's emphasis on the technical chops, it's showmanship where magicianship really expresses itself. The Four Horsemen are mediocre showmen who somehow in the combination become a brilliant spectacle: Before their teamup, they wouldn't have been worthy of Bradley's takedown. Bradley plays the game, the technical chessmatch of stage magic, as well as anybody but the Eye, but he doesn't know how to perform it.

The scenes that Bradley and Tressler play together, you get the feeling that they have history, even if it's not a history of knowing each other. They have crossed paths indirectly, trails of electrons and paper manifests linking their destinies (and I make only the barest necessary apology for that pun). I mean, dear lord, it's Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman sharing the stage.. every look between them communicates so much.

I'd also be interested in a story that ties in Hermia, Bradley's assistant. Recall the movie's line about magicians' assistants being the ones who are really doing the magic. If that's the case, if that is Bradley's philosophy of magic, what do we make of her? I'm not sure she has a single line in the film, but she is everywhere Bradley is, watching, acting in unison with him. She's the one who approaches the truck with the safe. Is she part of the Eye's trick, acting against Bradley? Is she her own agent, with an agenda of her own that Bradley is the witting or unwitting stalking horse for? Could it be that she is in Tressler's pocket, part of whatever play he is intending to make?

One of the things that Now You See Me says about performance that I really think is interesting is that performances can be private even when they're in public. That is to say, sometimes you are apparently performing for the whole public, but really your audience is much narrower. When the Eye had the Horsemen perform the rabbit trick, whilst explaining that it was tied in and an integral part of the whole performance of the evening- really it was for the benefit of Bradley, right? To make him think he had figured out what was going on in New York and distract him from the important questions. I suspect a close-reading of Bradley's actions in the movie would suggest that he is constantly engaged in these private performances.


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