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30 June 2009 @ 08:58 pm
194: It Turns out That I Do, in Fact, Have Time for the Pain.  
For the very last Sweet Charity, I put my recommending up on the block, and got won by the deeply awesome [info - dreamwidth.org]dorothy1901. Her first request, sadly, I could not fulfill, for I just don't know enough about Iron Man/Captain America. (I do know, though, that every single person ever anywhere at all should go read this, by jwaneeta, which is AWESOME and INCREDIBLE and looks exactly like a comic book - I actually had to check several times to make sure this wasn’t a scan from Slash World. Incidentally, if this set depresses you, that will be an excellent antidote.)

But she very kindly offered me a choice. And I chose Unhappy Endings, which is the kind of thing I keep meaning to recommend - there are so many brilliant sad-ending stories that I truly want to tell you all about, but when it comes down to it, I don’t. Mostly because I’d have to re-read them, and then there would be pain and suffering. Which is totally the point, and yet - I read fan fiction pretty much only on my Kindle these days, while I’m nursing the earthling, and he does not like it when I cry while he’s eating. (Seriously. He pulls off and gives me this look. “Mama,” the look says. “Do you MIND? I am kind of busy, here, and you’re getting me WET.”)

So thank you, [info - dreamwidth.org]dorothy1901, both for giving to charity and for giving me a good reason to do this.

(People, I am assuming I don’t need to tell you this, but just in case: these stories are NOT HAPPY. There is death involved in some of them, and lots of the kind of thing that leaves your heart all sore. If you read any of these stories, I advise you to have some safety-tab stories at the ready.)

The One That Guaranteed I Could Never Read Anything About Arctic Survival Without Sniffling a Lot. The End of the Road, by katallison. Due South, Benton Fraser/Ray Kowalski.

Once upon a time, a young and innocent fangirl was getting into dS. She loved the fandom so much that she was not as wary as she could have been. Should have been. Would one day be. So she saw the warnings on this story and thought, hey, I can totally deal with less than cheery! Particularly in exchange for something so well-written, so good!

And so she read The End of the Road. And it destroyed her.

Now, here's the thing: I could say, "And that fangirl was me." She totally was me. But I'm not the only one who loved Kat's work, thought she'd take any of it that she could get, and then realized, way too late to save herself, that there was only so much reality she could take. This story taught a lot of dS fans of my generation two things:
  1. For god's sake, know your limits. And live them.
  2. Kat Allison can turn a phrase that will carve your soul from your body. Admire her! But fear her.
And I have both admired and feared Kat ever since. (I've also learned that, while The End of the Road is perhaps the ultimate example of her essential Kat-ness, she's written this theme and concept in a number of fandoms. I handle every one of those stories better than I handled this one, because Fraser. And Ray. IN MY HEART THEY ARE HAPPY TOGETHER FOREVER. No, really. Even after they die, they are still together. Probably haunting some poor young relative who cringes every time he opens a closet because he knows there's a fifty-fifty chance he'll walk in on his crazy dead great-uncles fucking on a desk.)

This story is brilliant. And it's heart-breaking, and that's largely because it's so believable, so real. Kat never writes angst. She only writes pain. And this story has brought glorious, glorious pain to many a dS fan. If you love unhappy endings, you'll love it. It doesn’t matter if you read in this fandom. This one's for you.

The One That Would Have Enhanced My Phobia of Telepathy, Except Such a Thing Is Not Actually Possible. Down with Telepathy! Flinch, by maisierita. Stargate: Atlantis. John Sheppard/Rodney McKay. Sort of.

One of my favorite kinds of stories is the kind where the person takes a fan fiction cliché and subverts it, makes it new and awesome. Or, in this case, new and real. This story packs a surprising wallop for something so short, and I think it's because of how well it builds on what I might call, in a different setting, the existing body of literature. And then undercuts it.

Because that's the thing: we know how this story goes! There is embarrassment and worry followed by confessions of true love (unless you just cut straight to the hot hot sex). Yay! Except - well, it doesn't go that way this time. You might say this story perfectly highlights the difference between fan fiction and real life, because this is how that would really go. This is how it would be if telepathy was real. (This is why I fear telepathy, people. No good can come of it, no matter how much joyous happy fucking and forever love comes from it in fan fiction. In the real world, knowing what people think can only destroy you.)

I remember reading this story two years ago, when it first came out, and being surprised and impressed and thinking maisierita would be one to watch, because she manages to pack a lot of pain into this, subtly and without force or angst or melodrama, and anyone who can do that can write. And I was right! She's fabulous. I just think it's kind of funny that, despite all the great stuff she's written that I've read, this story will always be what I associate with her name.

The One That Shows Us That There Are Some Things You Just Can't Share, No Matter How Much You Might Want To. (And Totally Improves by Approximately a Million Times on an Episode of SGA.) The Standard of Comparison, by agentotter. Stargate: SG-1, Jack O'Neill/Daniel Jackson.

The thing is, SG1 has a lot of stories I could have picked for this set. I was totally spoiled for choice. (Partly this is because I can handle sadder stories in SG1 than I can in other fandoms. Partly this is just because the world ends an awful lot in this fandom, and any story in which the human race is extinct at the end is probably going to fit in an unhappy endings set. At least if you’re human, and I tend to assume, perhaps unfairly, that most people reading this LJ are.) I mean, I thought of this story right off the bat, as soon as I'd read [info - personal]dorothy1901's request, but I decided to do Important Research. So I re-read approximately 5 million SG1 stories, sniffling many times over each, and finally decided to go with my first instinct.

What can I say? It's another one that has stayed with me. And I love the way the unhappiness just unspools from the ending. It's not just that it ends unhappily, it's that things are definitely going to get worse. Jack and Daniel are stuck in a bad place, and the only solution to the problem is worse than the bad place. But they can't just choose to stay there, either.

Because I am that kind of person, I usually spend a few minutes writing a sort of mental fan fiction for any story I read that I really liked. (I've doing this since I was a kid. I wanted to know what happened to every single person in a book from the ending until forever. And then I wanted to know about their kids. It drove me nuts that the authors just left the characters there, when clearly there were unresolved questions! Like what they had for dinner the next day, and what happened when they grew up, and if they got a dog and what they named that dog. I think I was a fan fiction reader born, not made.)

But I can't do that with this one. It hurts too much. I'd rather leave Jack and Daniel in limbo forever than imagine what has to come next for Daniel. And for someone who was deeply, sincerely resentful of Charles Dickens for not going into sufficient detail, that's saying something.

The One That Teaches Us the True Meaning of Things Man Was Not Meant to Know. Inextricable, by lunabee34. Star Trek Reboot, Jim Kirk/S'chn T'gai Spock (Apparently that is his real full name - thanks, [info - dreamwidth.org]bluemeridian. And thus we see that even Spock could not escape the Alien Apostrophe Law. Apparently being half-human doesn't help. Also, does anyone but me wonder how he can have a name unpronounceable by humans if his mother was human?)

So. This whole story is basically one huge movie spoiler. I'm cutting here for anyone who hasn't seen the movie yet and wants to, even though I think I am the last such person in existence. (People on MARS have seen this movie by now.) I am also cutting, while I'm at it, for spoilers for the story.

This is a short story that packs a painful wallop. And, see, that makes sense. The canon situation that Jim Kirk is in - well, it's a good thing he's basically a happy-go-lucky guy (or, okay, not exactly, but he's not going to be a secret cutter, either; if has some frustrations or angst he needs to get out, by god he'll blow things up). Because, uh, having a memory of an awesome future that won't be yours: this is not a recipe for joy. This is a recipe for lying in a darkened room and listening to whiny music and telling your friends there's no point in doing anything, because you can't live up to yourself. I would not blame Kirk for that.

Not that he's doing that in this story. Instead, he's trying to take what he can. I totally approve. It's just sad, is all. There's a happy ending here for lots of people - for Reboot Spock, and Uhura, and probably Sulu and Chekov and Scotty, too. Even Spock Prime, I would argue.

But not for Jim Kirk, who gets to know he should have had something very wonderful, that he desperately wants. Except that it's never going to happen. (And he can't even wish for it to happen, since it would require, you know, hurting his friends.)

I don't believe that this is how things work for Jim Kirk. But even so, I can totally believe in this story. And I love it for that. Even thought it makes me sad. And that’s pretty much the whole point of this set, isn’t it?
the opposite of batmanpearl_o on July 1st, 2009 04:20 am (UTC)
From Journey to Babel, Kirk and Spock's mom:

KIRK: Mrs. Sarek, I just don't understand.
AMANDA: Amanda. I'm afraid you couldn't pronounce the Vulcan name.
KIRK: Can you?
AMANDA: After a fashion, and after many years of practice. Shall we continue the tour? My husband did request it.

Also oh god End of the Road. Kat is evil and geniusly and oh goooooood. I always have to follow up that story with Heavy Bag just to keep from falling apart.
tried to eat the safe banana: Emotionthefourthvine on July 1st, 2009 05:44 am (UTC)
On, Pearl. I love you so much for having that RIGHT AT YOUR FINGERTIPS. (Also, why do I not have any ST icons? MUST REMEDY THIS. Oh, I laugh at the days when I insisted my icons not be fandom-specific.)

I always have to follow up that story with Heavy Bag just to keep from falling apart.

...You mean there's a way to read The End of the Road and not fall apart? I did not know this!
(no subject) - pearl_o on July 1st, 2009 05:49 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - thefourthvine on July 1st, 2009 05:54 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - thefourthvine on July 1st, 2009 05:55 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - pearl_o on July 1st, 2009 05:58 am (UTC) (Expand)
Imaginary Researcher: Allison Cameron - hollow_arthannahrorlove on July 1st, 2009 04:35 am (UTC)
fan fiction cliché and subverts it
There aren't enough stories like that around. Given the immense amount of crack in fandom, I feel this is an undermined genre - I'd be working on it harder myself if I didn't have so many small research projects to occupy my time.
tried to eat the safe banana: Calamity Physicsthefourthvine on July 1st, 2009 05:49 am (UTC)
See, for me, it's one of those things that works so awesomely well in part because such stories are so infrequent.

Which is not to say I'd mind seeing a few more. I would not. At all. *g*
(no subject) - hannahrorlove on July 1st, 2009 12:21 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Innocent Bystanderfiresprite1105 on July 1st, 2009 08:26 am (UTC)
Ooooh, that Reboot fic really knows how to pack quite a wallop into a tiny space!
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV bluethefourthvine on July 1st, 2009 04:31 pm (UTC)
It reeeally does. Man. *sniffles some*
melpemone: DS: Benton/RayK - OTPmelpemone on July 1st, 2009 09:22 am (UTC)
Oh, I can't read The End of The Road again. The first (and last!) time I read it I cried so hard I nearly revisited my dinner. I lovelovelove angst, and have deliberately set aside entire evenings in which to read all my bookmarked Really Sad Fic, but Kat Allison has, like, witchcraft on her side. Never again.

(This is also because it's Benton and Ray K, for whom I have never lost that OTP spark. If it were anyone else, I'd probably read it all the time.)

However, thank you for the SG1 fic - I haven't read it! I will do so immediately!
tried to eat the safe banana: Fraserthefourthvine on July 1st, 2009 04:33 pm (UTC)
I lovelovelove angst, and have deliberately set aside entire evenings in which to read all my bookmarked Really Sad Fic, but Kat Allison has, like, witchcraft on her side. Never again.

See, and I don't even LIKE angst, and most of the most painful stories I read I tag with the equivalent of NEVER AGAIN. And yet I could not STOP reading The End of the Road. Truly, Kat is magic. VERY DARK MAGIC.
(Deleted comment)
tried to eat the safe banana: Fraserthefourthvine on July 1st, 2009 04:35 pm (UTC)
See, it's totally NOT my canon. IN MY HEAD THEY ARE TOGETHER FOREVER. THE END. And it's actually Kat's realism that allows me to do that, because nothing Ray and Fraser EVER have done has been that realistic and true to life. So it doesn't really match canon, and I can think of it as an AU set in a much grimmer world. Like, you know. Ours.
utterfrivolity: Double Happinessutterfrivolity on July 1st, 2009 10:05 am (UTC)
I just realized that Flinch and Forget Me Not were written by the same person. I did not realize this previously because while I love Flinch, I'd forgotten the author because I haven't re-read it. I don't have to; I swear that I can feel every single moment of that story right now without going back. What a punch in the gut, and I have to say, for me that's far more powerful than the tear-wrenching angst most writers of unhappy endings seem to prefer.

I know I'll be in the minority here, but Flinch had a much greater impact on me than The End of the Road, for the very reason that in my heart, Fraser and Ray are together forever. Yes, it broke me when I read it, but it didn't hurt deep down. John and Rodney, on the other hand? For all that I love SGA fic, deep down, Flinch is how I believe it would really happen. I actually stopped reading unhappy stories in SGA almost entirely after Flinch, because I think if I read more stories like this, it'd kill the pairing for me.

I have, however, re-read Forget Me Not many, many times. Hell, I might just need to do so again right now.
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV brownthefourthvine on July 1st, 2009 04:38 pm (UTC)
Flinch absolutely is a punch in the gut. I've re-read Forget Me Not dozens of times - seriously, SO FABULOUS - and yet I probably have the same level of recall for it as for Flinch, which I read first and have only read twice now.

I, yes, am one of those who can say that The End of the Road killed me worse than Flinch. But they both hurt. Magnificently. (And I totally see your reasoning, but I cling to both pairings. Neither story is reality! TOGETHER. FOREVER. *clings*)
Keswindhoverkeswindhover on July 1st, 2009 11:45 am (UTC)
Your link to Jwaneeta's comic isn't working, which is a shame due to her total coolness. (I have taken her around Oxford, so I know).

*flirts with Earthling and wanders off*
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV dogtagsthefourthvine on July 1st, 2009 04:40 pm (UTC)

And, hey. I want a tour of Oxford from you. *sulks mightily*
(no subject) - keswindhover on July 1st, 2009 05:24 pm (UTC) (Expand)
spuffydudsspuffyduds on July 1st, 2009 01:28 pm (UTC)
Thanks for these! I am both anxious and eager to read the SGA one in particular.

And I think Spock's mom just called him "Snookums."
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV flowersthefourthvine on July 1st, 2009 04:41 pm (UTC)
It is a fabulous story. They all are. HAVE A SAFETY TAB OPEN AND WAITING.

Maybe she called him Spockums! Awwww, oo is a widdle Spockums then? Ooo has the pointy-pointiest ears of allllllll?
Insane_duckfish: Casablancainsane_duckfish on July 1st, 2009 02:25 pm (UTC)
Shall I tell you what is terrible? I'm getting that angsty hurty feeling about these stories just from reading your recs. You didn't even go into that much detail and I'm still going "D: But character x/y/z!!! *clings*". Clearly (and I knew this already) I am not an Unhappy Endings sort of person. I really want to read these, because they sound so good. But I know that I WILL NOT COPE. I also know I'm probably going to read them anyway. Heh.
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV glowythefourthvine on July 1st, 2009 04:43 pm (UTC)
OMG IF THE SET MADE YOU SAD DON'T READ THE STORIES. Seriously! The End of the Road will KILL YOU. It has killed before! I mean, yes, it's fabulous and brilliant and should win world-wide acclaim and maybe a prestigious literary prize, but I think it is probably NOT FOR YOU.
(no subject) - insane_duckfish on July 2nd, 2009 12:26 am (UTC) (Expand)
perched precariously on the edge of normality: be your partner and friend [together]vampirespider on July 1st, 2009 04:32 pm (UTC)
You know, I'm close to tears just from the idea that Ray and Fraser don't end up together, so maybe I'll try reading that story when I haven't just moved out of my house and eveything's emotional. Or never, because, really.

Also, Inextricable is amazing; in part, I think, from the fact that the only person who can understand how Kirk feels, is the person who got to have what he wants, got to have this relationship, the knowledge of that love, and I find that utterly heartbreaking.
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV lettersthefourthvine on July 1st, 2009 04:56 pm (UTC)
Oh, man. I didn't expect just the SET to make quite this many people sad. I'm sorry! But, yeah, probably wait until you are in a better place emotionally. Or never. Never's good, too. (It is SUCH a brilliant story, though. I want to emphasize that! Just not for people who cannot handle the sad.)

And especially not for people who are moving. (I hear you on moving being HAAAAARD. I am in the same place myself right now, and I have empathy.)

the only person who can understand how Kirk feels, is the person who got to have what he wants, got to have this relationship, the knowledge of that love

Yes! And also, he's about to LOSE THAT PERSON. And then he will just have memories of someone else's life. That should have been his.

*tears up*
starfishchick on July 1st, 2009 04:36 pm (UTC)
Fraser. And Ray. IN MY HEART THEY ARE HAPPY TOGETHER FOREVER. No, really. Even after they die, they are still together. Probably haunting some poor young relative who cringes every time he opens a closet because he knows there's a fifty-fifty chance he'll walk in on his crazy dead great-uncles fucking on a desk.)

tried to eat the safe banana: Fraserthefourthvine on July 2nd, 2009 01:01 am (UTC)
(no subject) - starfishchick on July 2nd, 2009 04:35 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(Deleted comment)
tried to eat the safe banana: Fraserthefourthvine on July 2nd, 2009 01:03 am (UTC)
I have to say, if TEotR had been the first story I read in dS, there probably would not have been a second, but that's because I am a Sensitive Bunny, and TEotR is the second or third most painful piece of fan fiction I have ever read.

It really is just that good. And it really does hurt just that much.
squeeze me, stomp me,  make me winemoosesal on July 1st, 2009 05:06 pm (UTC)
I love unhappy endings and "The End of the Road" is the end-all and be-all of unhappy endings. Such amazing writing. My poor boys. I remember reccing it to a friend who wanted dS fic and I warned her and she read it anyway and then came to me crying about how awful and wonderful it was. :)

I'm so excited to check out these others.
tried to eat the safe banana: Fraserthefourthvine on July 2nd, 2009 01:03 am (UTC)
Miraculous, but agonizing. Sort of like open-heart surgery, I guess. *g*
I'm not fluent in your dialect of crazy: ST Skippy Kirk - liviapenndine on July 1st, 2009 06:17 pm (UTC)
I hadn't read Inextricable, so thanks for sharing the link (and causing me to tear up at work - good job!). now I can't shake the image of Kirk, knowing what his life could have been/was, and knowing it will never be.

tried to eat the safe banana: TFV bluethefourthvine on July 2nd, 2009 01:06 am (UTC)
It is more apparent to me than ever that I will have to seek out some ST icons.

And, yeah, it stays with you. (And made me tear up, too.) Because, seriously, he's in an awful place - Kirk mark one had a pretty damn good life. And he gets to remember it and know it can never happen. I wasn't kidding when I said it was good he wasn't the secret cutter type.
Sv.badesquisse on July 1st, 2009 08:29 pm (UTC)
It's something in the air. Or the person whose bookmark on delicious I've followed actually read your post and made it then. So, I've read Flinch just today, before I've read your recs. And ok, I read fics carelessly, because most of the fandom bring the happy to the masses. Thus, it was really a punch, I was left blinking helplessly at the screen, wondering what just happened. The thing that fascinates me most is that I really thought, was 100% sure that another 5000 words, and everything will be all right. I'm spoiled on happy ending fics.

I usually wait for a really crappy time in my life to read angsty fics, so that I know that life could be a lot more crappier. I'll put The End of the Road on my waiting list.
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV brownthefourthvine on July 2nd, 2009 01:08 am (UTC)
The End of the Road isn't what I would read during a crappy time of my life, but if sadness helps you feel better, this will be the story that cures you forever! (But, uh, warning: there's no angst. Just pain and sadness. That story pretty much taught me the difference between the two.)

And, hey, apparently it's time for all of us to read Flinch! *enjoys the moment of fannish convergence*
(no subject) - badesquisse on July 2nd, 2009 11:30 am (UTC) (Expand)