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02 June 2010 @ 11:53 am
204: Two Worlds in Which We Dwell  
Many moons ago, I had a discussion with [personal profile] hradzka about AUs, which of course got me reading and re-reading AUs, which, in the fullness of time (or perhaps even the lateness of time, these days), has led to me recommending AUs.

So, David, this set is dedicated to you. Because, um, it's full of stories you won't like! (Except you might like Phoenix Burning, actually; it's your kind of AU.)

The One That Explores Vulcan Teenage Sociodynamics in the Kind of Detail That Makes You Wonder if There's Already a Paper on It. Love Is Strange, by [personal profile] garryowen. Star Trek XI, James T. Kirk/Spock.

I have never seen Dirty Dancing. It was one of my father's favorite movies, so I am familiar with the general outline of the plot (there are people, and they dance!), and of course I've heard the quote "Nobody puts Baby in the corner." Many, many times. But until I read this story, I thought that Baby said that line, in that emphatic third person people sometimes use. (So I would say, "Nobody tells [personal profile] thefourthvine not to use a serial comma!") I sort of pictured her pulling a knife out of her boot when she said it, to be honest. It - it really changes my impression of the movie and the line, to know that the guy said it.

Anyway. As you might have guessed from that incredibly fascinating digression, this is a Dirty Dancing AU. And it is awesome. I love this version of Spock, with his earlier exposure to humans (and to the ultimate vector of human-type feelings and also, I am absolutely convinced, super-kinky sexing, James T. Kirk). I love this entire story. It works as an AU because it's a believable backwards extrapolation - what is Spock like if he encounters humanity a little younger? (Kirk is actually just Kirk. I mean, for all we know, in addition to committing whatever felonies - NO I AM NOT MAKING ANY GUESSES - maybe he was dancing professionally during his pre-Pike years. I can totally believe that. It's hard to come up with a profession I couldn't believe he was doing during those years, although the ones that require a lot of schooling or, um, responsibility are kind of a stretch. It's a lot easier to buy, like, dance instructor, skilled second-story man, hacker, makeup salesguy, companion to the thirteenth Doctor - oh god I have to stop this RIGHT NOW. But you take my point.)

This story came with an awesome bonus, just for me. In between my first reading of it and the re-reading I did so I could rec it, I watched Journey to Babel. I had no idea, the first time I read this, how awesomely [personal profile] garryowen worked that episode into this story, or how much this is the perfect blend of TOS and Reboot. But, obviously, you can love this story even if you've never seen Journey to Babel. (Hell, you can love this story even if you've never seen any Star Trek, although I sometimes wonder if there's anyone in fandom who hasn't. But, in case there is, and that's you, a primer. Kirk: the captain. Spock: the alien. Ears: pointy. Love: eternal and true. There, you're ready to go.)

The One That Actually Made Me Go to YouTube and Put in "John Sheppard Free Skate." I More or Less Regained My Sanity, but Damn It, I Still Want to See These Routines. Out of Bounds, by [personal profile] icarus. Stargate: Atlantis, John Sheppard/Rodney McKay.

This story nearly killed me. Because, okay, here's the thing: I do not read works in progress. I need to be able to wallow in a story, binge on it and, if necessary, even roll in it. I've learned that even if the story is finished and just being posted serially, my experience of reading it is different and less fun if I don't wait to read it, because: no wallowing! So I wait. And with this story, I waited for four years. (I think. Because I'm pretty sure this one started with the last winter Olympics.) But here is the thing: it was totally worth it. It was worth every sad face I made when an Out of Bounds update appeared and I had to remind myself, yet again, that I don't read works in progress. Because this story is awesome, and at more than 200,000 words, it deserves all the wallow I can bring to it. And, wow, did I bring a lot of wallow.

Plus, hey, clearly this is the time to read it, because it's topical. (Okay, sort of topical. But I still see people on my friends list talking about Johnny Weir, so topical is my story and I'm sticking to it.) Because: figure skating AU. Which is, by definition, awesome. (Yes, I am trying to imagine figure skating AUs in other fandoms, and - well. Arthur Pendragon as a figure skater? Awesome. James T. Kirk as a figure skater? So awesome it hurts. Sam and Dean as ice dancers? I - okay, I admit it, even I would read that, because of the awesome. But my point is: even those stories could not bring as much awesome as this one does.)

Admittedly, it's hard to imagine John Sheppard sparkling quite as much as Johnny Weir (Largely because no one can; I suspect Weir's a metahuman. Power? Supersparkle. And the convenient thing is he can just throw a cape on over his skating costumes and he's good to go fight - crime, or dullness, or visible roots, or douchebaggery, or whatever it is he fights.), but it's fun to try. I think we can all agree that what SGA was really missing, over the five seasons, was lamé and rhinestones.

Fortunately, this story will give you all of that. It's like every great sports movie you ever watched, except a) more epic b) more gay and c) starring John Sheppard and Rodney McKay. And I don't know about you, but for me, that's exactly what those movies were missing.

The One That Makes Me Wonder if There's an Old Slayers Home in the Jossverse Heaven, and What Exactly They Talk About There. Phoenix Burning, by yahtzee63. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy Summers/Angel. (ETA: Changed link to AO3, because it's more readable there.)

I don't ever want to be the person leaving a comment on a 4000 word McShep PWP that says, "This was really good! Except for the sex, man, I hate slash, and John and Rodney aren't gay and if they were they wouldn't be gay for each other, but still, this was good." So in general I try not to start off recs by listing all the reasons I shouldn't have liked the story. But in this case - yeah, I'm going to, because I want you to understand how wonderful this story must be.

First, I hardly read any Buffy or Angel fan fiction. (True fact: I am far, far more likely to write fan fiction in the Jossverse than read it. I don't even know why. I have written hundreds and hundreds of pages of the stuff, which for me is just a ton.) And, second, okay - I have problems pairing Buffy with anyone from the series. I just. I just do. The only character I ever feel comfortable seeing paired with Buffy is Faith, and her canon arc makes a happy ending there difficult. And, also, for some reason I cannot actually see any words on the screen at Yahtzee's website. (It's just - all white. I don't know why. I can still cut and paste the words, but I can't see them. I blame the internet gods.)

So, what with all those obstacles, I have had this story in my mental to-read folder for, oh, about three years or so. But recently someone mentioned it, and I do love the long stories these days. And, most of all, I have never read anything by Yahtzee that didn't leave me astonished and gleeful and simultaneously replete and wanting more. (You know the feeling: you close the book and you're so happy and you wish you hadn't read it so you could still have the pleasure in front of you.)

This story is, of all of Yahtzee's stories, the one that most left me feeling that way. It's AU from "The Gift," the episode in which - um, spoilers, by the way - Buffy dies. (Another spoiler, although probably this one is not going to surprise anyone: she doesn't stay dead.) It's set 350 years in the future. And it is incredible - right and true and awesome and just. Just. Amazing. I really don't want to say any more than that.

No, wait, I want to say one more thing. (Yes, I know, you're so surprised.) If you're like me, and you're waving this story away because you think it's something you wouldn't like: look, I hear you. I do. But even if this story is the kind of thing you don't like, you will still like it. It transcends its genres and categories and tags. Don't wait three years to read it. Now is a good time.

The One in Which Merlin Is Even Worse at Magic Than He Is in the Canon. Yes, It's Possible. Easy There, by syllic. Merlin, Merlin/Arthur Pendragon.

Okay, yes, this is the second sports AU in this set, and there is a reason: I love these. I love when someone takes another hobby of hers, a fandom outside of the usual run of media fandom - NASCAR, equestrian events, figure skating (although right now this probably counts as a mainstream fandom, thanks entirely to sparklepower), crewing - and writes a massive AU in it. (But where are all the non-sports alternate fandom AUs? I'm patiently waiting for the choral singing and competitive orchid growing ones. Surely there are fans with these hobbies! Surely they long to write epic AUs featuring said hobbies!) The writer loves the characters, and she loves the subject, and this pretty much always leads to glory.

It certainly leads to glory here. I had, prior to this, pretty much no interest in competitive rowing of any kind - seriously, a whole bunch of boat crews practice at the lagoon where I often take the earthling, and my only vague interest has been in what happens when you get sand under all that Lycra - but this gripped me. I cared deeply. And not just about getting Arthur's tab inserted in Merlin's slot without anyone breaking any fingers. (I am actually not a huge fan of awkward sex in most fandoms - I mean, I appreciate the realism, but I tend to cringe with embarrassment for the characters - but Merlin is wholly an exception, because Arthur and Merlin are just so incredibly dorky. And young. And speaking as someone who is dorky and was once young: the combination leads to a lot of hilariously awkward sex. Also hilariously awkward visits to medical professionals afterward, but there's none of that here, for which I am grateful.)

And Merlin (the show, although also the guy) lends itself especially well to AUs, I think because there's kind of an "AU goes here" label inserted into the canon itself. (I'm sorry, Malory and White and all the rest of you King Arthur writers, but what are we supposed to think with all the time jiggery-pokery and vague references to Arthur's return and so on? It's like you're begging us to write modern AUs, and future AUs, and also AUs set in Regency England (oh my god someone please tell me there's already Arthur and Merlin in Regency England), and we are just not that good at resisting temptation.) These are classic characters, and they work anywhere, and they definitely work so very well here. (Which is on boats. In case you forgot what I was writing about.)

Also posted at Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments.
celli on June 2nd, 2010 07:35 pm (UTC)
But where are all the non-sports alternate fandom AUs?

I'm turning people into accountants! Um, but that's my fandom of one, so never mind.

*wanders off*
Sister Nail Gun of Sweet Reasonrike_tikki_tavi on June 2nd, 2010 09:34 pm (UTC)
I will read your accountant fic. Accounting is fun!
(no subject) - ceteramisto on June 3rd, 2010 01:13 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - thefourthvine on June 3rd, 2010 06:10 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - Elizabeth Perry [dreamwidth.org] on June 4th, 2010 12:49 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - thefourthvine on June 4th, 2010 01:52 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - Elizabeth Perry [dreamwidth.org] on June 4th, 2010 03:18 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - starfishchick on June 10th, 2010 02:33 pm (UTC) (Expand)
lightning rod for criticism: btvs: i don't sleep on a bed of bonesannakovsky on June 2nd, 2010 07:41 pm (UTC)
Okay, Phoenix Burning has been vaguely on my to-read list for a zillion years because it's so highly recommended, but Buffy/Angel bores me TO TEARS so I have never followed through on trying it. And this rec has just overruled like 7 years of avoidance and the fic is now opened in a tab! So kudos, hee.
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV brownthefourthvine on June 3rd, 2010 06:12 am (UTC)
Okay, I will be honest: Buffy/Angel also bores me, and in fact that's my better response to it, because it also creepifies me ever so slightly, because - um. Maybe now's not the time and place for that. But I liked Angel much better after he got the hell away from Sunnydale, and I liked Buffy much better after she got over Angel, so. Yeah. The pairing didn't exactly entice me. But I was good with the pairing in this one! It worked for me here, totally!

And I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on the matter. After you read it. WHICH OF COURSE YOU WILL. *nods firmly*
(Deleted comment)
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV dogtagsthefourthvine on June 3rd, 2010 06:16 am (UTC)
It is an AWESOME Kirk/Spock, I tell you. *waves enticingly*
Imaginary Researcher: Jack Aubrey - katie8787hannahrorlove on June 2nd, 2010 07:53 pm (UTC)
The term I like to use to describe good characterization in unusual situations is emotional fidelity, and when that's in place just about anything can be pulled off - like John and Rodney as baristas, or House and Wilson with space vampires - but when it's not there, everything just falls on its face.

So a hearty thumbs-up from me for AU rec sets!
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV flowersthefourthvine on June 3rd, 2010 06:18 am (UTC)
Ooo. I like that term. Although I also think that there are some canons that require emotional fidelity, and some that also require a sort of situational fidelity - fidelity not just to person but to place and plot. And the latter are really, really hard to write successfully.

But I love AUs, and do best in fandoms that spawn legions of them. *waves banner*
(no subject) - hannahrorlove on June 3rd, 2010 01:24 pm (UTC) (Expand)
forsweatervestsforsweatervests on June 2nd, 2010 07:54 pm (UTC)
Made my day. God, AUs are my favorites, mainly for all the reasons you listed in the rec for Easy There. I'm so excited to have even more (and long ones to boot!) to read and re-read.
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV glowythefourthvine on June 3rd, 2010 06:20 am (UTC)
AUs bring joy! I believe this can be scientifically verified.
(no subject) - forsweatervests on June 3rd, 2010 05:38 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Admission to the Burning Ruins — 10¢: Drama Queenlaughingacademy on June 2nd, 2010 08:10 pm (UTC)
Yes, I am trying to imagine figure skating AUs in other fandoms...

Great, now I'm imagining Sam and Dean Winchester in a version of The Cutting Edge, with Sam as an Evan Lysacek-type (i.e., an improbably talented galoot); Dean as the hockey-playing brother who steps in after Sam's first partner, Jess, dies in a freak skating accident and his second, Ruby, leaves for Sam's biggest rival; Bobby as their coach; and Castiel as their choreographer. This is all Johnny Weir's fault.
Harley: SPN: SamDean fear uscrimsonkitty88 on June 2nd, 2010 08:58 pm (UTC)
(no subject) - laughingacademy on June 3rd, 2010 02:42 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - thefourthvine on June 3rd, 2010 06:21 am (UTC) (Expand)
crepusculecrepuscule [dreamwidth.org] on June 2nd, 2010 08:12 pm (UTC)
It always makes me feel so a.) sad and b.) cool when I've read most of the stuff in a rec post from you. Like "Aww, nothing new and amazing to gorge myself on!" but also "Hee, this is like a validation of my awesome taste in fanfic!"

So today I am very excited because I have read exactly half of the fics you recced today. So, 1/2 new awesome things to read (omg ICE SKATING! omg I never read Buffy fic either but why the hell not?) and 1/2 gleefully patting myself on the back for knowing what good fanfic is. *g*
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV lettersthefourthvine on June 3rd, 2010 06:24 am (UTC)
I believe half-and-half is precisely the right ratio! I am enormously pleased with myself AND with you.
Harley: SPN: Sam college!AUcrimsonkitty88 on June 2nd, 2010 08:57 pm (UTC)
Sam and Dean as ice dancers? I - okay, I admit it, even I would read that, because of the awesome.

...you mean this hasn't been written yet?

tried to eat the safe banana: TFV menorahthefourthvine on June 3rd, 2010 06:25 am (UTC)
I know! It seems so obvious, and yet apparently it hasn't been written. I tell you what, I am judging fandom harshly right now.
(no subject) - icarusancalion on June 28th, 2010 02:28 am (UTC) (Expand)
macey muse: Rivalsmacey_muse on June 2nd, 2010 08:57 pm (UTC)
argh I have read all of these, what is with this psychic co-reading thing we have going on, yo~?


- also I was totally going to write an epic Hikaru no Go orchestral AU! it just... fizzled. I got con molto espressione written (I know, I know, I was Young and Bad At Titles; it was my first blind_go!) and then got distracted ^.^' I am considering it for the 2010 NaNoWriMo though?
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV menorahthefourthvine on June 3rd, 2010 06:28 am (UTC)
*eyes you*

I just want you to know that I am PROFOUNDLY OPPOSED to telepathy. PROFOUNDLY.

*edges away, begins constructing foil hat*

But, but, OMG HnG orchestral AU! WHY IS THERE NOT MORE? *whimpers pathetically*
Cori Lannamcorilannam on June 2nd, 2010 09:01 pm (UTC)
Oh yes, there are certainly Merlin Regency AUs. I'm pretty sure there's a Merlin AU for just about anything you could mention (or else you could get one in a couple days by mentioning it in the right place).

Totally agree about Phoenix Burning. I read very little Whedonverse fic, and I loathe everything about the Buffy/Angel pairing. But I read that story because it's Yahtzee and everyone was raving about it at the time, and boy, did it ever blow me away.
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV shoesthefourthvine on June 3rd, 2010 06:33 am (UTC)
Oh yes, there are certainly Merlin Regency AUs. I'm pretty sure there's a Merlin AU for just about anything you could mention (or else you could get one in a couple days by mentioning it in the right place).

...You realize I now urgently need to know what the right place is, because I have some I would like to mention. (Where is the AU based on the 1980s song "Opportunities" by the Pet Shop Boys? I mean, "I've got the brains, you've got the looks, let's make lots of money" - try to tell me that is not Merlin and Arthur in their caper AU, and I will just laugh at you.)
(no subject) - missdirector on June 3rd, 2010 02:58 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(Deleted comment)
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV umbrellathefourthvine on June 3rd, 2010 06:34 am (UTC)

I will have to go re-read the whole thing. Not that this is a hardship, mind you.
Sv.badesquisse on June 2nd, 2010 09:29 pm (UTC)
Ok, you don't read WIP? Then find it, track it till it's finished (not that long, 31 of 40 chapters already done - or don't; I don't read WIPs too, but I have a feeling I'll end up rereading it several times before it's complete), and freaking read it. Restraint by DarkEmeralds on AO3. It's J2 Regency AU. Forget about the fact that you don't read RPS. It has nothing to do with RPS. Come on, don't you want to read about someone named Tristan Jarett and John Acklebury? I don't gush about fanfiction, but this thing of beauty? I'm ready to pimp it everywhere. Easily one of the best instances of writing there.
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV bluethefourthvine on June 3rd, 2010 06:36 am (UTC)
Wait, you can track something on AO3? I MUST INVESTIGATE THIS.

(And, hmmm. My RPS issues are currently at war with my Regency AU love. CAGE FIGHT DEATH MATCH!)
Sister Nail Gun of Sweet Reasonrike_tikki_tavi on June 2nd, 2010 09:34 pm (UTC)
Ohhhh, need to go and read the Trek and the Merlin one. Also need to go and reread Out of Bounds because you are right and it is awesome. Will not go and reread Phoenix Burning, because I read it years ago and it broke my heart into itty bitty pieces.

In other words, I love your recs posts.
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV brownthefourthvine on June 3rd, 2010 06:38 am (UTC)
Phoenix Burning broke your heart? That was totally not my reaction! Are you willing to say why, or would it be too painful to discuss? (Some fan fiction is like that, I find.)

But the Trek and the Merlin ones will make you very happy. I can pretty much guarantee it.
(no subject) - rike_tikki_tavi on June 3rd, 2010 08:48 am (UTC) (Expand)
margarksmargarks on June 2nd, 2010 10:16 pm (UTC)
Just wanted to say that I agree SO MUCH with your review and rec of Love is Strange. One of the best AUs I have seen because, as you said, it was so believable.

I remember feeling such a pang of ache for Spock when he compares himself to those peonies, so far from home :( Those are the best types of fics.
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV flowersthefourthvine on June 3rd, 2010 06:40 am (UTC)
They really are. And I am so ridiculously happy for Spock at the end, and it's one of those stories where after it's over I want an epilogue, and then another epilogue, and then a story set five years later, and then a story that reworks the end of The Wrath of Khan for this universe, and then...

I just don't want it to end, basically.
ceteramistoceteramisto on June 3rd, 2010 01:17 am (UTC)
Love this rec list. I'd just reread Phoenix Burning about two weeks ago as part of my periodic Angel fic rereading spree.
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV glowythefourthvine on June 3rd, 2010 06:42 am (UTC)
Thank you! And, oh, isn't Phoenix Burning AWESOME? I would totally kiss it square on the lips, if it, you know. Had lips.

Um. Possibly that was not the best analogy ever. As always, I was distracted by the joy your icon brings me.