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16 January 2011 @ 08:27 pm
212: To Love and Be Wise  
Wow. It's been a long time since I did this. I'm recommending fan fiction! Weird. I'm hoping it will come back to me as I go along. (It had better. The backlog has become even more alarmingly like a fantasy series written by G. R. R. Martin than usual. Although with far fewer deaths, fortunately.)

So I think it would be highly appropriate to start off with as much love as we can manage, don't you? Or stories about as much love as the characters can manage, anyway.

The One in Which We Learn That a Really Good Secretary Can Change the Flow of Traffic for You. Suddenly, I Want a Really Good Secretary So Much. The World That You Need Series, by [dreamwidth.org profile] dira. Vorkosigan Saga, Aral Vorkosigan/Cordelia Vorkosigan, Aral Vorkosigan/Arkady Jole. (If you haven't read the Vorkosigan books, I think you can still read this, but having read the books will help.)

I don't even know why I read this. (Okay, I do - it's Dira. But go with me for the sake of a - it's not a narrative device, exactly. Recommending device?) It is so wrong for me. Wrong fandom, wrong pairing, wrong everything.

The Vorkosigan books were significant for me: they were the right books at the right time. There could not have been a righter time for me to read Warrior's Apprentice, and it slotted into my life and mind so perfectly that I have been afraid to re-read it for years and years. (I've learned the hard way that some books don't stay perfect, or even lovable, forever, and there are certain books I'd prefer to love in memory than risk losing.) I mean, Lois McMaster Bujold has certainly had her misses as well as her hits with me, and she's no longer writing precisely what I want to read, but I still bought her latest book in hardcover, mostly out of gratitude for having written the right book at the right time. Warrior's Apprentice was that right for me.

So, obviously, this story had a huge negative against it before I even started it. It wasn't altering a beloved canon; it was working against my fuzzy, nostalgic memory of a canon and the unreasonable and unassailable love I hope I'll always have for this world.

And then there's the pairing, which - well, I do not like big age differences and I squirm away from power imbalances. Older Prime Minister/his young and hero-worshipping secretary is a pairing designed to hit this squick of mine. (And yet it somehow does not, which I had not even believed possible. Dira is amazing.) Also, of course, the older Prime Minister is Aral Vorkosigan, who is married. To Cordelia, a definite fictional beloved of mine. I do not like pairings that disrupt marriages. Seriously, I can't even count how many things this series had stacked against it before I read the first word.

But none of that matters, because this story is perfect. Perfectly navigated, perfectly done, perfectly right. It doesn't just slot into canon - it extends it in an absolutely appropriate way, giving us a look at what the adults were doing while the canon was off keeping an eye on Miles at the Academy. And it expands the canon world in a wholly necessary way; the background on homosexuality on Barrayar is fascinating, and absolutely right. (My spellchecker knows Barrayar, by the way. I find that odd.) Just, wow. This story: wow.

This is one of those stories that will become my internal canon, not just because I believe it, but because now that I've read it, canon alone would seem just a little bit hollow, with a missing piece exactly the shape of this story.

The One Which Paints a Much More Realistic Picture of the Burkes' Dining Room Than the One on the Show. (Why Are Houses on US TV Always So Tidy? Surely Somewhere There's a Show Where People Have Piles of Crap Everywhere.) And Anyone Who's Ever Had a Heart, by [dreamwidth.org profile] liviapenn. White Collar, Elizabeth Burke/Peter Burke/Neal Caffrey.

I love Elizabeth Burke. In fact, I watched (most of the first season of) White Collar because of her. I just couldn't get over how much all the stories I read in the fandom and all the people watching the show seemed to like her. I kept not finding the story where it turns out Elizabeth is a scheming evil bitch - and bitch is surely the term that would be used to describe her - who has sex with, like, all of Peter's enemies, and also secretly gets Neal sent back to prison because he's too interesting to her husband and too pretty or loyal or whatever, but then fortunately Peter finds out and pushes her under a subway train and fucks Neal right there in the station while they're watched by the glassy eyes of her severed head. (If that story exists I DON'T WANT TO KNOW ABOUT IT, please. Or any version of it. Let me stay in my happy everyone-loves-Elizabeth world, okay? Please?) Eventually, I had to find out more about this show, where half of the main slash pairing could be married to a woman and the fannish result was not a lot of She's Dead, Let's Fuck stories, but rather a lot of She's Awesome, Let's All Fuck stories.

I like She's Awesome, Let's All Fuck stories. And not just because I have an aversion to sex in close proximity to severed heads.

And I'm not the only one, obviously; White Collar fandom, at least the parts I hang out in, is rich with people saying, "But why can't we have the episode where we learn that Elizabeth is really a superhero? Because I think she might be a superhero!" I like that. (Don't get your hopes up, by the way - this is not the one where Elizabeth is a superhero. At least, not in the sense of wearing spandex.) I also like Elizabeth. (And I richly appreciate the rule of the show that appears to dictate that no matter what, there has to be a scene with Peter, Elizabeth, and Neal being cheerfully domestic and bickering. A+++ choice, showrunners! Soon you can show them buying a really big bed!) And in this story, she is awesome. And I am entirely sure fucking occurs immediately after the story ends.

For me, the heart of this story is definitely the Elizabeth/Neal interactions. I love how the first scene of this story completely balances the triangle. I love how it all works out. I love how effortlessly Elizabeth, on one of the worst days of her life, pwns Neal Caffrey.

And I really, really love the image of Elizabeth in sexy librarian glasses. (If there is fanart of that, oh god link me now.)

The One in Which We Learn that Sherlock Holmes's Cries for Help Are Just As Over the Top As the Rest of Him. A Terribly Poor Understanding of Love, by candle_beck. A Sherlock Holmes fandom of some kind, John Watson/Mary Watson, Sherlock Holmes/John Watson. (I think this is the movie, but in all honesty tracking Sherlock Holmes fandoms is now beyond my capacity; I can do everything else in my life, or I can figure out all the Holmes permutations. In this story, there's a Holmes and a Watson and they're both men, and there's carriages rather than cars or airships. And no one is a robot. That's the best I can do for you in terms of identifying the fandom.)

A little bit ago, I was talking with [dreamwidth.org profile] sinensis about an AU she is not writing BUT SHOULD, and she brought up the concept of slash fan blackmail. (Like, "Sometimes I think TV shows have too much gay subtext." If you had a screenshot of a slash fan saying that, maybe you could get her to write you the Holmes robot AU!) And now I am going to share with you one of my slash fan secrets, which you could totally use to blackmail me except I'm telling people of my own free will.

I never shipped Holmes and Watson in the original Conan Doyle stories. (I never shipped Jeeves and Wooster, either, despite my preteen years of obsessive fannish love for them. Judge at will.) I preferred to think of Holmes as not being really, you know, human, in the sense of having actual needs unrelated to cocaine and crime. But I still valued the Holmes and Watson relationship intensely, to the degree that I had to de-canonize Watson's marriage. He couldn't leave Holmes! It wasn't right! Holmes needed Watson! (I was, like, 14, and thus did not consider whether Watson needed Holmes, although I'd say the text makes a good case that he does.) Obviously, terrible things would happen if Watson got married and wasn't there for Holmes. (Apparently, if I'd been in Holmes fandom at 14, I would have been writing smarm. It would not have been pretty.)

This story makes it clear that terrible things do indeed happen when Watson leaves Holmes; it's everything I inchoately feared as a teenager, put into black and white. Fortunately, this story also solves the whole problem. Or, I should say, Mary Watson solves the problem, since both Holmes and Watson are too stupid and blind and generally incompetent to manage it. (Yes, I take great pleasure in this. It's always a delight when Mary is like, "Oh my GOD, how can the two of you solve crimes together? How can you even put your pants on in the morning without getting your heads stuck in one of the legs? You are the most pathetic people ever, but I will fix this because I am just that good, and also I care about you.")

So there's awesome Mary and all the agony that made teenaged-me hate Watson for getting married and Holmes and Watson making it work despite themselves, and I love all that more than I can tell you. But I also love the nature of the solution, which involves one partner saying, in essence, "You want him and I'm happy for you to have him. I'll even help make that happen! I have my own things to do. Have fun, darling! I won't wait up." It's so - grown up. Like they're all real people!

The One in Which We Learn That Pegasus Is Well Ahead of the Milky Way When It Comes to Advancements in Sexual Arts and Sciences. 3 Lovers, by [dreamwidth.org profile] cesperanza. Stargate: Atlantis, various pairings. Think of it sort of like pairing tapas, okay? You get a taste of everything.

In this story, Teyla Emmagen has a lot of sex.

Okay, wait, maybe that wasn't the best lead-in. See, this is a story about how the team all gets together and has a warrior bonding exp - no. Okay. It's a story about how graduate students are not even remotely healthy - no. It's a story about how the solution to the Ancient equivalent of ramen noodle addiction is sometimes worse than the problem!

Never mind. Can I just not summarize this one?

And this is exactly the problem I had when the story first came out, too. Normally I pounce on each new story [dreamwidth.org profile] cesperanza posts so quickly that sometimes I accidentally knock my head into my monitor. This story took me about a week to read, and it was entirely because I was like, "...But. I don't... hmmm. That seems..." It wasn't that there was anything unappetizing about the story, you understand. I just wasn't sure.

But obviously that was wholly unnecessary angst (actually, Unnecessary Angst would make a great title for a lot of fan fiction, just not this one; there are whole genres that could effectively be re-titled Unnecessary Angst), because this story is awesome, and I love it. If you tracked how often I re-read [dreamwidth.org profile] cesperanza's stories, although I would rather you did not, this one would end up in the SGA top three. (It isn't fair to make SGA compete with due South. There's Diefenbaker in due South. SGA's biggest failing, in my opinion, was the absence of a large dog.) It's got Ancient technology sex pollen, it's got an awesome Teyla narrative, and it's got every pairing a person could reasonably hope for. (Note for McKay/Sheppard shippers: this story will make you happy. Note for OT4 fans: this story will make you happy. Note for everyone else: this story will probably make you happy, too, unless you ship, like, Sheppard/Todd, in which case I don't know what to tell you. No one story can be all things to all people! But this one comes close.)

Really, the only thing this story is lacking is the coda where they get a puppy. And I suppose I can't really expect every story to fix the dog-shaped hole in Atlantis.

Also posted at Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments.
Proactively Untwist Octagonal Hippopotamus Pants: white collar - hat porndramaturgca on January 17th, 2011 04:46 am (UTC)
Thank you. I am in the midst of massive thesis related trauma at the moment (WHY DID I EVER START THIS STUPID THING?!) and I needed a giggle. And now I'm going to go read the White Collar fic. And maybe the Holmes one. (You've read copperbadge's White Collar fic, right? Right? Because it's AMAZING. Also, if you haven't read his Torchwood LOLcat fic... go. Go now.)
tried to eat the safe banana: Batgirl in glassesthefourthvine on January 17th, 2011 04:55 am (UTC)

Are you talking about the thesis or graduate school? If the former: because you hoped to someday be done with graduate school. If the latter: pretty much the same answer, actually.

I've read most of copperbadge's WC stories, yup! (And plan to rec some of them. Sometime. *shuffles backlog around, loses stuff*) And of course I've read the LOLcats TW story; how could I not? *hugs it tight*
Proactively Untwist Octagonal Hippopotamus Pants: white collar - old spicedramaturgca on January 17th, 2011 05:03 am (UTC)
Yeah, that's the answer to both. But right now (and actually really all along) I hate my supervisor and the program that gave me to her without any recourse.


And I would think so, but then last summer I was talking about it with a friend who I think of as being much more in fandom than I am and it turned out she'd never heard of it. So now I feel compelled to check. (And the one with the Doctor rescuing the Mars Rover?)
Mific: Dog grinmific on January 17th, 2011 04:59 am (UTC)
Totally agree with the need for SGA to have a dog! John in particular, and Ronon. I've currently saved to read "The Principal Business of Life" by ladycat777 which apparently has a dog (or very-doglike-thing) in it. It's here.
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV bluethefourthvine on January 18th, 2011 02:42 am (UTC)
Ooo! *adds it to to-be-Kindled queue*

Although, hmmm. I assume she'd warn if Bad Things happened to the dog or dog-like creature? The great part about dS was Dief was a main character. No one was going to kill him off and not warn for it. (Okay, one person did, in all the time I've been reading dS, and in all honesty I should have known better than to read her stuff without a pre-reader anyway.)
Mificmific on January 18th, 2011 03:24 am (UTC)
Nah. I'm sure nothing bad happens to the dog! Yeah. Dief's great. I wrote a dSSS fic for Xmas where he and Fraser are both aliens in disguise as per Galaxy Quest. That was fun.
Stasiastasia on January 17th, 2011 08:11 am (UTC)
I'm delighted by the idea of changing the title of many different fandom and genres to "Unnecessary Angst".

Wow. The mind just boggles. It's such a cross-fandom genre!

tried to eat the safe banana: TFV brownthefourthvine on January 18th, 2011 02:45 am (UTC)
It truly is! And the thing is, it's an entirely useful label. Some people want to read Unnecessary Angst. Some people don't. Some people (me!) want to read Unnecessary Angst stories only at very certain times of the month. This would help us all out!

Plus, yeah. It really is a major genre in fan fiction.
keerawakeerawa on January 17th, 2011 09:13 am (UTC)
Oh wow, that's an odd coincidence. I have just spent my day, for no particular reason, re-reading most of Speranza's SGA fics, and read '3 Lovers' for the first time an hour ago.
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV dogtagsthefourthvine on January 18th, 2011 02:46 am (UTC)
Now is the time for all good fangirls to read 3 Lovers!
melpemone: SH2009 - Holmes/Watson - deducing that tmelpemone on January 17th, 2011 09:34 am (UTC)
I think 14 year old you and 10 year old me could have flailed in confused incoherency at each other over Holmes & Watson quite companionably. All I knew at that age was that it was deeply wrong for Watson to have anyone else to consider. So, tiny me thanks you for the rec. :)
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV flowersthefourthvine on January 18th, 2011 04:05 am (UTC)

(I bet we could have flailed together very effectively! But, man, I am sort of glad we didn't, just because - having 14-year-old TFV's thoughts immortalized on the internet would be - bad. Yes, bad. *shudders*)
melpemone: SherlockBBC: Holmes/Watson - attention pmelpemone on January 18th, 2011 10:56 am (UTC)
I hear you. I started posting my fic at 14. Which is why, at 19, I burned down my entire internet history (you could do that then!). That was some bad fic. :D
tried to eat the safe banana: I sleep with computers.thefourthvine on January 18th, 2011 04:23 pm (UTC)
You know how, when you turn 18, your juvenile criminal record is sealed (in the US, if you had one, provided you didn't do anything you got tried as an adult for, blah blah blah)? Surely people deserve the same courtesy applied to their internet records. I am impressed that you managed to do it for yourself, and only wish everyone could.
thornyrose42thornyrose42 on January 17th, 2011 09:49 am (UTC)
There is a British show called "Outnumbered" about a family with three fairly young kids and they have a house that actually looks like it was lived in by a family with three fairly young kids i.e. like a hurricane has just gone through it.

Also its really good. The kids actually act like kids because they aren't being fed lines by the script writers just improvising their own. So they actually act like kids too not Acting!Kids that stand completely still and stare right at you when they talk.

Apparently a U.S. version is in development.
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV glowythefourthvine on January 18th, 2011 04:10 am (UTC)
Bet you that if the US version gets to the small screen, their house will be much cleaner. I can't speak with great authority, but British TV in general seems to be more dedicated to making houses look like people actually live there. I mean, Sherlock and John's flat in the BBC version is, well, not exactly the sea of carefully designed and cleaned tastefulness that seems to dominate US shows.

I wonder if a show like that could survive a transition to the US, actually. It sounds like the kind of thing Hollywood just could not deal with.
thornyrose42thornyrose42 on January 18th, 2011 07:18 pm (UTC)
Maybe its to do with the aspirational v. lace curtain twitcher thing. I think that in America there is the attitude that you don't want to look at the house that looks like yours you want to look at the house that you could own in thirty years time if you get loads of promotions or if you won the lottery. Where as in Britain we'd much prefer to reassure ourselves that our next door neighbour's house is a tip too.

Also as you point out houses are a great way to establish character. Heads in the fridge and all. (Or was that just something I read in a fanfic...)

I'd like to think that it could move to America. I mean the format is basically a) find some children of varying ages, b) let them be children, c) film it. I mean obviously it is difficult to find kids that are naturally natural on camera but from what I've heard the atmosphere on set (i.e. two actual houses somewhere in London) is geared towards encouraging them to relax and have fun.

From what I know about this sort of drama on American TV the closest thing to it would be Modern Family. But even then, hmm not so much. The houses are so big and the kids, while they are obviously good actors, are playing characters that can fairly easily be reduced down to stereotypes the smart girl might be manipulative as well as smart but her function in the family is to be the smart one. In Outnumbered how ever... I don't think I could reduce the kids down in that way.

I really would recommend it though. One of the kids re-enacts Star Wars in his backyard in a way I imagine the Earthling might do in several years time. Here's a You Tube clip that showcases the kids pretty well.

The sanest lunatic you've ever met: book: grrm is mercilesssdwolfpup on January 17th, 2011 04:21 pm (UTC)
The backlog has become even more alarmingly like a fantasy series written by G. R. R. Martin than usual.

This made me laugh in that pained way where you're laughing because you should but inside your heart is a shriveled blackhole of dashed hopes.

tried to eat the safe banana: TFV Katamari Damacythefourthvine on January 18th, 2011 04:16 am (UTC)
*gentle pats*

I admit it, I gave up on the Song of Ice and Fire. It was around the time that I realized that his general strategy was:

Create some awesome characters!
Give them awesome adventures!
Kill them all!
Create more awesome characters!

Ad inifinitum. (Seriously, he's stuck in an infinite loop, here. Probably the next book isn't coming out because he can't quite get everyone dead all at the same time, so he has to bring in MORE people, and then THEY have to die, and OH GOD IT'S THIRTEEN HUNDRED PAGES LONG AND SOMEONE JUST HAD A BABY. When will they all be DEAD?) So I have great sympathy for you, but mostly I am just laughing my ass off at your icon.
gwynevere1 on January 17th, 2011 05:02 pm (UTC)
Eventually, I had to find out more about this show, where half of the main slash pairing could be married to a woman and the fannish result was not a lot of She's Dead, Let's Fuck stories, but rather a lot of She's Awesome, Let's All Fuck stories.

Marry me. I mean, I know you're already married, but, if you weren't, I'd totally be asking you to marry me right now. (Unless the "She's Awesome, Let's All Fuck" scenario can be applied to real life situations, too.)
gwynevere1 on January 17th, 2011 07:17 pm (UTC)
I mean this in a completely non-creepy way.
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV lettersthefourthvine on January 18th, 2011 04:23 am (UTC)
Sadly, ours will have to remain a purely internet love. But I will marry you virtually! Internet marriages are much less time-consuming, I would think. (Seriously, that is the thing I cannot wrap my brain around when it comes to polyamory: how do people find the TIME? I know poly couples with small children and full time jobs, and I just - I just do not see how they are managing it. Apparently they live in a universe with far more flexible days than mine are.)
(Anonymous) on January 20th, 2011 11:15 am (UTC)
You know, I checked your journal just as I realised I didn't have Cordelia's Honor on this computer, and you made me so happy.
Innocent Bystanderfiresprite1105 on January 23rd, 2011 09:32 am (UTC)
OMG, I've gotten so hooked on White Collar fic this week, it's not even funny.

*runs to read*