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03 September 2007 @ 12:34 am
172: A Goodly Length in Times Past  
Okay, so, um, before we get to the recs (and there are recs - I know! I'm as stunned as you are), I have a question. Sadly, these leads us into deeply contentious waters, and I seriously considered hiding this behind a cut tag, because I love Best Beloved and don't want her to be lynched. But I trust you guys.

See, BB is watching The X-Files - she's just finished season one - and, um, she doesn't like it much. So she asked me to ask y'all some questions. For those of you who have watched the show, what's the best season, in your opinion? And what's the worst? And if she didn't much like the first season, mostly because she kind of felt like Scully got shafted, should she try any of the rest of the show? Please advise her, oh you who have watched the show. We will both be most grateful.

Now, before you reach for the pitchfork, can I distract you? I have things to recommend! Stories! Long ones! Because, you know, I've been away from this recommending thing for long time, so it seemed appropriate to come back that way. (Also, people are producing an astonishing number of fabulous longer stories lately, and this is a trend I want to encourage.) See? They are shiny and good. Please put down the pitchfork.

The One That Demonstrates, Once Again, That in the Jossverse, Retirement Is Only Possible If You're Dead. (And Buried. And Rotted. And No One Who Loves You Is a Witch.) Otherwise, It's Just a Temporary Retreat. Lilac City, by nwhepcat. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Xander Harris/Faith Lahane.

I have a peculiar love of post-Sunnydale stories; to be perfectly honest, that's my primary reading (and, OMG, writing) area in BtVS these days. (It probably says some unfortunate things about me that I'm much less interested in the whole fighting vampires, saving the world thing and much more interested in where you go after you've saved the world. A lot.) And I also have a deep and abiding love for stories in which Xander is a person as opposed to, you know, a speaking prop in a comical shirt.

In other words, this story might as well have been made for me. (For some reason, I'm now tempted to break into song: "This fic is my fic/This fic is your fic/This fic was maaaaade for you and me!" And, whoa, I got flashbacks just from looking up the lyrics for that one, and of course I did have to look them up, because otherwise I get that song mixed up with the one about Tipperary. Or maybe it's Dixie. Thank you, music teacher of my elementary school: without you, I would not know how to sing several dozen songs about peanuts and cowboys and land, usually all at the same time. Also, because of your fine tutelage, I can bang arhythmically on any damn tambourine you care to hand me.)

Um. I think I was actually talking about this story, wasn't I? Right. So. This is Xander after Sunnydale, and he's settled into what we might call a very low energy state. But the thing about being around Buffy for a while - it's kind of like the Chosen-ness wore off on all of them; they gave her some normalcy, and it's like in return she gave them a bit of destiny. So, of course, trouble finds Xander. And he totally steps up. I love that, and I love how it unfolds, and there's one particular scene in this that I just - it was totally unexpected and wonderful and perfect, and I remember reading it while I was Trapped in a Hotel Room with Dogs and squeaking loudly enough to wake up Best Beloved.

The One That Is a Public Service Advisory on the Dangers of Heteronormativity for Everyone. From Superheroes to Supervillains, Heteronormative Assumptions Harm Us All. Useful Arts, by rivkat. Smallville, Clark Kent/Lex Luthor.

I love this one because - well, because, first, Lex Luthor is one of very few characters anywhere who would deliberately create a pheromone for his very own pheromones-made-them-do-it story. I mean, other characters - pheromones just happen to them. You know: it's the flowers' fault, or maybe the strange quirk of alien biology and/or ritual, or maybe the chocolate just has that extra special mystery ingredient. (Or, in The Sentinel, it's canon, in which case you have no choice as a fan fiction writer but to go there, too. I mean, obviously.) But Lex - Lex doesn't let things just happen to him, oh no. He makes them happen. Even if he knows damn well that he shouldn't.

Which is another reason why I love this story so damn much. Because Lex makes just about every major plot point happen and he knows it. That self-awareness - this is how I fucked up, this is when I fucked up, this is why I fucked up, these are fourteen historical references that thematically depict my fuck-up, and I knew all this at the time and did it anyway - is something I love to see from Lex, whose motto is apparently, at least in part: "If I don't outsmart myself, who will?" This story, in short, makes me want to simultaneously hug and smack Lex, and thus is just about perfect.

(And, as a serious, major bonus, it gives me a Supergirl I actually like. I never really gave Supergirl a chance in comics - there's, um, other issues in the way, there - but if she's like this, it might almost be worth dealing with those issues. She's like Clark, except a) comfortable in her own body and b) without all the buckets of "Yes, I'm more than human, but isn't more less in this case?" angst. I mean, I love Smallville's version of Clark, don't get me wrong, but it's refreshing to see someone managing to be superpowered and gorgeous and a hero to all without somehow turning that into a source of great personal unhappiness.)

The One That Proves That All Those Professional Perfume Creators, with Their Subtle Top Notes and Crap, Are Totally Missing out on Some Very Obvious Scents Guaranteed to Induce Passion in - Okay. Geeks, Mostly. I Fail to See a Problem with That. Instantaneous, by Cimorene, aka cimness. Stargate: Atlantis, Rodney McKay/John Sheppard.

You know, I'd say the actual show - and remember, my experience isn't all that extensive here, so feel free to correct me with charts and graphs and what-have-you (I welcome multi-colored charts! I find them very inspiring! ...What. So I was a science geek; I blame my genes.) - is maybe 10% boys with toys. (Oh, shut up. Not that kind of toy. Sadly, the canon is 0% boys with that kind of toy, and will be until we get Squee TV up and running ("By fangirls, for fangirls. And anyone else who loves genre television and sex").) This story is conclusive proof that it should be 40% boys with toys, 40% girls with toys, and they can have the other 20% for - whatever. It doesn't matter. Funny hats, for all I care. (Actually, funny hats would be kind of...never mind.) My point is, when you have great characters, and you put awesome toys in their hands (and, see, that was totally funny, and you'll have to read the story to find out why), greatness is the result.

At least, in the hands of Cimorene, greatness is certainly the result. I've been regularly re-reading this story ever since she posted it, and it just never stops being fun. It's everything I adore about SGA, basically. (Or everything that doesn't include cliches, crack, AUs, grimly realistic SF, and stories where someone has to make friends with a super-smart squid.) It's fun. It's snarky. It's got a great little gimmick that turns into a fantastic plot. And there is sex.

I tell you, when we get going with Squee TV, I am totally nominating Cimorene for a job writing one of the shows. She'd be fabulous at it. And her stories would absolutely contain the appropriate ratio of boys with toys.

The One That Proves That, When Given a Choice, You Should Always Take the Bigger Boat. (Although, Really, I Think a Single Viewing of Jaws Should Be Sufficient to Teach That Lesson, but Some People Are Stubborn.) In the Wrong Story and Wandering Blind, by katie_m. Stargate: SG-1, Sam Carter/Daniel Jackson, Sam Carter/Jack O'Neill, Sam Carter/Daniel Jackson/Jack O'Neill.

You know, I'm not sure if it says more about this fandom or more about my tastes within this fandom that it was serious agony to pick only one of the many long post-apocalyptic SG1 stories that I want to recommend for this post. I mean, part of it is just that - well, you need something major to break SG1 (the team) out of the mold, and an apocalypse is a good way to do that. And part of it is that I'm a happy endings addict, and a lot of the happy endings I see for these people require, well, an apocalypse. It's like their motto is: "The end of the world is the first day of the rest of our lives."

And, yes. I am perfectly willing to have billions of off-screen deaths in exchange for my on-screen happy ending. When it comes to fan fiction, I am all about the needs of the few, okay? And the billions of deaths are definitely totally off-screen in this story; we start with Sam and Daniel, picking up the pieces (that's in In the Wrong Story, and I'm just not capable of seeing these two stories as anything but two parts of one long one - actually, they're kind of two-thirds of one long story in my mind, but these parts are entirely complete in themselves), and then move on to Sam, Daniel, and Jack, still picking up the pieces. I love that.

I also love the way the threesome plays out in this, because too many OT3 stories are all: "Hey presto, and the characters are together, and it's all perfect and also there are unicorns! Yay!" (For that matter, too many OTP stories go that way, too, but that's a deal for another day.) This story shows three smart but complicated people working out their relationship, with determination and difficulty. I adore the realism of that.

Also, there's an awesome road trip. And zombies, kind of, and yet not the kind of zombies I'm afraid of. And world-building. And just - oh, too much good stuff to mention. So just trust me: this story is made of perfection, and so what if it's a perfection that had to be built on the deaths of billions of people? With SG1, these things happen.
plus one skeletondelurker on September 3rd, 2007 08:14 am (UTC)
The last time I read Instantaneous, I spent the next week feeling vaguely resentful that I had to walk everywhere instead of teleporting. ::yearns::
tried to eat the safe banana: SGA infinitythefourthvine on September 3rd, 2007 12:10 pm (UTC)
I know. Why can't we live in the future and have all the really good toys?
i wasn't being awkward, that's just my face.belladonnalin on September 3rd, 2007 08:35 am (UTC)

Wow. Your Buffy story is set IN MY TOWN.

Nothing has been set in my town since Benny and Joon. Awesome. Thanks for the recs.
tried to eat the safe banana: The world is my fandomthefourthvine on September 3rd, 2007 12:13 pm (UTC)
I've never seen Benny and Joon, but I have to say - if you're only going to have one story set in your town, this is a fabulous choice. (And I'm actually rather curious to see how the story feels to you. To me, it has a very tangible sense of place that works really well; it does not seem like Some Random Place That Isn't Sunnydale, the way Cleveland often does in post-canon BtVS stories. Spokane feels real in this story, at least to me, and I'm wondering if it will to you as well.)
(no subject) - lolaraincoat on September 3rd, 2007 12:38 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - belladonnalin on September 4th, 2007 05:29 am (UTC) (Expand)
meacoustic on September 3rd, 2007 09:06 am (UTC)
I liked S1/S2 XF, because there was a slightly goofy quality that was sadly lacking from the six years that followed, but S4/S5 are good (if depressing). And then everything went downhill after that.
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV bluethefourthvine on September 3rd, 2007 12:14 pm (UTC)
So you'd say to stop at the end of season five? Good to know. (And, um, did season three suck? I notice it is conspicuously absent from your list of seasons you liked.)

Thank you!
(no subject) - laurashapiro on September 3rd, 2007 02:01 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - cofax7 on September 3rd, 2007 04:53 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - laurashapiro on September 3rd, 2007 04:57 pm (UTC) (Expand)
astartexx: XF Scully - Firm Believer in Stupidityastartexx on September 3rd, 2007 09:08 am (UTC)
I would say that Scully’s arc kicks up after her abduction at the beginning of season 2. It gets personal for her and while there is still so much more pain in waiting for her, she steps up to the game and in my opinion loses the slight sidekick status of season 1 completely. Mulder will still run of and do completely insane things and chase his own tail, but c’mon her dry ice glare can take his skin off if appropriate and make his tongue stick.

Uhm, yeah, BB should try to watch at least till Scully’s return without doubt the fourth season, which is in my opinion overall the best followed closely by season 5. And yeah, creatively speaking the first three beat the last three into a bloody pulp.
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV dogtagsthefourthvine on September 3rd, 2007 12:21 pm (UTC)
I would say that Scully’s arc kicks up after her abduction at the beginning of season 2.

Good to know. To the best of my ability to understand it - it's, um, kind of hard to grasp specific issues with TV shows you know nothing about - BB is uncomfortable with Scully being the sidekick to Mulder's hero, with Scully being set up to be wrong all the time. She likes Scully too much to see her being put in that position again and again. So if that ends, that would be very good news for BB with respect to future seasons.

Uhm, yeah, BB should try to watch at least till Scully’s return without doubt the fourth season, which is in my opinion overall the best followed closely by season 5.

You seem to be the second vote for "it's all downhill after season five." Did something bad happen then? And you're also the second vote for seasons four and five being the best ones. So, okay, this is sounding like good news, because at this point, I think BB likes the characters a lot more than the show, and it sounds like the show will get better. Yay! And thank you!
(no subject) - vaznetti on September 3rd, 2007 01:20 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - astartexx on September 4th, 2007 08:22 pm (UTC) (Expand)
giandujakissgiandujakiss on September 3rd, 2007 09:20 am (UTC)
XF didn't really pick up until Seasons 3 and 4 - I didn't like S1 much, either. And my favorite episode of the entire series is S2, Humbug.

And of course, BB can entirely stop watching after Season 7. It's better that way.
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV flowersthefourthvine on September 3rd, 2007 12:23 pm (UTC)
XF didn't really pick up until Seasons 3 and 4 - I didn't like S1 much, either.

Yay! It sounds like things will get better, and that not liking season one all that much doesn't mean BB is out of the XF game entirely. Thank you!

And of course, BB can entirely stop watching after Season 7.

Wow. Um. Just how many seasons did this show have?
(no subject) - flambeau on September 3rd, 2007 01:17 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - marycrawford on September 3rd, 2007 08:24 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Katie M.katie_m on September 3rd, 2007 11:51 am (UTC)
And, yes. I am perfectly willing to have billions of off-screen deaths in exchange for my on-screen happy ending.

Exactly! Really, one's got to have one's priorities in order.

actually, they're kind of two-thirds of one long story

Oh, now I'm curious. Is it the front or back that you feel is missing?

(Thanks for the rec!)
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV glowythefourthvine on September 3rd, 2007 12:46 pm (UTC)
Really, one's got to have one's priorities in order.

Absolutely. Sometimes, worlds have to end. I accept this - no, I support it. If it takes an apocalypse to get to the happy ending, then by god we will have a damn apocalypse.

Is it the front or back that you feel is missing?

I feel sort of weird talking about this, largely because I'm afraid I won't explain it right. It's not that there's something missing, exactly - the story as it stands is a complete arc. It doesn't read like a work in progress or anything. And I love the story as it is. Just, okay. Sometimes, when I read something multiple times, as I will if I'm going to rec it, it's like - I feel like there's another part of the story in a specific place, lurking around the edges or right in the middle or between two sections or whatever.

To me, the front end of Wrong Story/Wandering Blind is complete, especially given Paths Worth Exploring and Needs and Standards. (I am curious about where Jack was those first two years, but that would be a new story, not part of this story, if that makes sense. In the same universe, but not specifically part of this story. And oh my god, I'm getting more and more tangled as I try to explain this.) You didn't begin at the beginning, but the information on the beginning is all in the story. But the end feels - it's not like it's not a resolution, it totally is. It works as it stands! But that weird feeling that I sometimes get says every time I read it that there's about another third of the story after the current ending.

See? This is why I shouldn't talk about it. I can't explain it. *hand gestures of helplessness* Did that make any sense at all?

If you're still curious, I'm willing to try to do better at explaining what I mean (although I warn you I will likely fail), but - it might require specific examples from other people's stories, so it would probably be better if we took it to email.
(no subject) - katie_m on September 5th, 2007 11:57 pm (UTC) (Expand)
don't make me use my librarian voicesiegeofangels on September 3rd, 2007 12:27 pm (UTC)
Yay, recs! And on a three-day weekend, no less.

"The end of the world is the first day of the rest of our lives."

God, yes. You've read frostfire_17's latest, yes? With the apocalypse and the awesome?
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV lettersthefourthvine on September 3rd, 2007 12:49 pm (UTC)
I have not, in fact, read frostfire_17's latest, although I am really looking forward to it. I've been saving it, because I have the sense that once I start on it, I will not want to do anything else until it's finished. (And, okay, also because I've been ludicrously weepy the last few weeks, and, well, sometimes it's not good to start an apocalypse story in that state of mind. But mostly I'm just waiting for the right day, which I have all picked out and everything.)
lilacsigil: 12 Apostleslilacsigil on September 3rd, 2007 12:46 pm (UTC)
Seasons 1-5 of X-Files are just fantastic, 6-7 are of variable quality, 8 is mostly bad and 9 is dreadful. If your Best Beloved doesn't like the treatment of Scully in S1, though, she may not enjoy the rest of the series. My absolute favourite season is Season 5, but a lot of that plays off having seen earlier seasons - 1 and 2 are the only two that really stand alone.
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV menorahthefourthvine on September 3rd, 2007 12:55 pm (UTC)

Thank you; this is good to know. Seasons four and five are getting lots of votes for being the best; I wonder if BB will consider it worth watching just to get to them. And everyone seems to think that the show went seriously downhill after season five. I'm now really curious about what happened at that point.

I may try to get BB to come up with some more specific questions about her Scully Issues, because at this point the only one I've heard from her is, "Does Scully ever get to be right?"
(no subject) - cofax7 on September 3rd, 2007 04:57 pm (UTC) (Expand)
par avion: gillianpar_avion on September 3rd, 2007 12:57 pm (UTC)
I think the best season is s4. Beginning of 5 is good too.
Rosalita: tubestopiamrosalita on September 3rd, 2007 01:08 pm (UTC)
Re: X-Files
I would agree with that.
Re: X-Files - thefourthvine on September 3rd, 2007 03:52 pm (UTC) (Expand)
torchflambeau on September 3rd, 2007 01:25 pm (UTC)
Personally, I loved XF up through s5 -- not every episode equally, of course, but still. I kept watching s6 and stopped about halfway through s7, although I have every episode on tape and may... may possibly watch them one day. or not.

Sorry. Bad breakup, and all that. *g*
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - flambeau on September 3rd, 2007 07:51 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - thefourthvine on September 3rd, 2007 03:59 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - flambeau on September 3rd, 2007 07:54 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Coooooookie!ldthomps on September 3rd, 2007 01:26 pm (UTC)
Just another vote for watching "Humbug", if nothing else of X-files. It doesn't play at all into the larger story arc, it's just really fun.

tried to eat the safe banana: TFV bluethefourthvine on September 3rd, 2007 03:59 pm (UTC)
Good to know! (It sounds like it's about Christmas. Or a liar. Or both. I admit I'm a bit curious now.)
utterfrivolity: Rose Bad Wolfutterfrivolity on September 3rd, 2007 01:41 pm (UTC)
I'm a little surprised that people are saying X-Files 4/5, because I would've said 3/4, without a doubt (and of course she should watch five as well, but if I had to choose, it'd be 3/4). Season 3 has my two favorite episodes of the entire series--"Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose" and "Jose Chung's 'From Outer Space'"--and plenty of other great eps besides. As with pretty much every season, she'll need to watch at least the last ep of the previous season to know what the hell is going on.

Whether or not Scully gets to be right...hmmm. Well, things change, Scully's opinions change, Mulder's opinions change, and no, Mulder's not always right even if he usually is, in the end. I have great hope that BB will be less annoyed by the treatment of Scully in later seasons. In the first season both characters are kinda underdeveloped, so you get Scully as this newbie skeptic who's constantly being shown the truth by Mulder, and Mulder as this bratty maverick who's always right. This definitely changes as both characters gain depth. It's the nature of the show that the skeptic is usually wrong, and that tends to be Scully, but they become full partners who respect and depend upon each other completely. I hope BB agrees, because the X-Files is a fantastic series!
ignazwisdom on September 3rd, 2007 04:36 pm (UTC)
Seconding the the 3-4 vote! "Clyde Bruckman" and "Jose Chung" are two of the best episodes of anything EVER.
(no subject) - thefourthvine on September 5th, 2007 03:09 am (UTC) (Expand)
AynAtonal: miceaynatonal on September 3rd, 2007 01:45 pm (UTC)
I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed your rec of Useful Arts. Fourteen historical references! If I don't outsmart myself, who will? Oh, I laughed and laughed.
tried to eat the safe banana: Smilethefourthvine on September 5th, 2007 03:11 am (UTC)
Thank you! And, really, that's Lex for you: not only does he have to take over the world because everyone else is so bad at it, he has to be his own worst enemy because even Superman is just not good enough.

*pats Lex*
Very inconvenient, as now I have no shaving-glassdzurlady on September 3rd, 2007 02:54 pm (UTC)
OMG, Lilac City. There's a blast from the past. (Also, several hours of my life.) And also The Sentinel - I never thought about it before, but that's another example of how amazingly fanfic-y that show is. Hee.
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV brownthefourthvine on September 5th, 2007 03:15 am (UTC)
Lilac City is totally a blast from the past. It's consumed probably tens of hours of my life, because I've re-read it so often.

And also The Sentinel - I never thought about it before, but that's another example of how amazingly fanfic-y that show is. Hee.

True. Although I suspect that the kind of fan fiction it most closely emulates is the ff.net kind. (I, um. Tried to watch the first episode. I was traumatized. It - there was the world's most unconvincing jungle, and truly unfortunate dialogue, and just, oh, all kinds of bad stuff. My point: the writers were definitely not bringing their A game, or if they were, oh my god, I don't ever want to know what it looks like when they aren't trying. No offense if you love the series, though. Perhaps the first ten minutes of episode one aren't really the ones where it shines.)
platoeatssouls on September 3rd, 2007 03:27 pm (UTC)
I seem to be the voice of dissent, but I thought some of the later episodes (post season 5) were quite good. They get into some really cool modes of non-traditional storytelling - "Triangle" has a lot of split screens and tracking shots, "Monday" was really funny (I love time loops, I dunno) and "Hollywood A.D." is one of my favorites ever. Leaving aside the mythology arc, (which I never really got), there was a lot of good storytelling, even when things had begun to go downhill.
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV dogtagsthefourthvine on September 5th, 2007 03:19 am (UTC)
Thank you!

You're not the only person to say there were redeeming episodes in seasons six and seven (votes for eight and nine are a lot thinner on the ground). You are not alone! And, truly, it does sound like there are episodes worth watching in those seasons - just, BB would need a native XF guide to get her around the obstacles if she were to try to forge past the season five safe horizon.

Nor are you the only one to warn about the horrors of the mythology arc, which is making me curious: what is the mythology arc? Everyone talks of it. It sounds to me like it should involve Scully and Mulder and gorgons or centaurs or something, but that seems unlikely.
(no subject) - platoeatssouls on September 6th, 2007 03:55 am (UTC) (Expand)