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30 April 2004 @ 12:06 pm
Slashy Nominations 34: Happy Together  
The first-time story is so common in FF that it's a cliche. Much less common is the long-time story, an episode in an established relationship. I suppose, in a way, I can understand the preference for first-times; the drama and emotion and sexiness is all there on the surface. But my heart really belongs to the long-times - the glimpses at what love looks like after one year, or two years, or ten, or twenty. And these stories are my favorites in that genre.

Best FF That Reminds Us That It Isn't the First Step That's the Hardest, It's the First Year: Habitation, by livia. Galaxy Quest, Fred Kwan/Laliari. Yes, it's het. But it's interspecies het, which helps raise the perv factor a bit. And yes, I am nominating a fan fiction story based on a movie that wonderfully skewers fandom and fannish behavior, and yes, there is some irony there. So, now that we've covered the mandatory objections, would you please go read this story right now now now? Because it is just so right, people, no matter how wrong it also is. This is FF at its best. Because, see, every marriage is marriage to alien creature. The marriage becomes real when you've become a species of two. (Help! Went too deep! Drowning in metaphor and simile! Send friendly, intelligent, anthropomorphic dolphin to save me and teach me important lessons about friendship!)

Best FF That Reveals Some Shocking Inside Information about the Magical Publishing World: Who Wrote the Book*, by Canis M.. Harry Potter, Sirius Black/Remus Lupin. HP established-relationship stories tend to feature endings - deaths, breakups, betrayals. And that's no surprise; in Rowling's world, it's hard to imagine a happy future, because everything's so hazy. Even assuming both halves of a couple do survive, it's hard to know how things will be in that still-nebulous Time After Voldemort. (Tell you what, though; I'd love to see a long-time story about Ron and Hermione with a houseful of kids. I'm convinced Ron would be another Molly and Hermione would be just like Arthur.) What I love about "Who Wrote" (yes, there was an actual nomination here - scan back up if you've forgotten) is the glimpse of Remus and Sirius without the Shadow of Doom; the SoD has come to permeate all FF about these two. I prefer to think of this as the start to an AU world, where Peter was caught, Sirius stayed free, and Harry went to live with Remus and Sirius.

Best FF That Explains the Wily Inner Workings of the Canine Mind: Likewise, by AuKestrel (no link for her, sorry). Due South, Benton Fraser/Ray Kowalski. I realize that this story may be too sweet for some people. But to me, it's a remarkable example of the long-time story; this is what it's really like when ten years have passed and it's still good. I smile whenever I read this. And, hey, she quotes my favorite REM song at the end, so the story must be good, right? (Note for the grammar-fixated, my sisters in pedantry: the comma splices must imitate the voice of Kowalski on the show. I've read other stories by this author, and she doesn't write like that most of the time, so it's a stylistic choice. Take a deep breath and go with it for a bit. I think you'll find it works.) This is just a nice look at the happier, mellower future editions of Ray and Benton, and I for one think they totally deserve this fate.

Best FF That Will Enhance Your Tolerance by Making You Wonder, the Next Time You See an Intergenerational Couple, If One of Them Is a Vampire: At a Glance, by Dira Sudis, aka dsudis. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Spike/Xander. I've said vampire/human relationships can't work in the Buffy world, and I stand by that. But Dira Sudis has somehow found the best-case scenario here. And then some. I found myself wanting to buy into this version of Spike and Xander. I even found myself formulating strange theories to explain their relationship. ("Hmmm. Maybe they share a soul?") This is a Buffyfic that manages to be touching without angst, that is realistic and yet (I think) in canon. My early survey of this fandom shows that that is about as rare as the Questing Beast, so enjoy this one. Even if the ending is a bit ambiguous.

-Honorable Mentions (i.e., Previously-Nominated Stories That I Can't Shut up About)-

Best FF That Answers the Question "What Do You Do With an Aging Superhero?" (Take Him to Rural Areas.): I Still Believe, by Dasha (sorry, no link for her). The Sentinel, Jim/Blair. This is my favorite Sentinel story, so much so that for a while after I found this one I stopped reading in the fandom altogether. This story resolves everything so well that it made every other story seemed superfluous. I got over that, luckily for my self-image as an obsessed multi-fandom reader (for as a dog returneth to his vomit, so does this fan fiction reader return to her old fandoms), but I still re-read this one from time to time. It's wonderful.

Best FF That Answers the Question "What Do You Do With an Aging Dwarf?" (Take Him to Valinor.): Sky as Grey as Your Heart, by afrai. Lord of the Rings, Legolas/Gimli. This one is another essentially perfect long-time love story. And it converted me to a pairing I'd previously hated, canon or not. So if you've been avoiding this one - and you'd have to be not to have read it by now, 'cause it's been rec'd everywhere - now would be a good time to try something new. And if you've read it before, why not read it again? It'll give you something to remember the next time you read a story about Legolas weeping for the lost love of Aragorn and writing bad poetry ("To a Lost King" and "Sweet Man-Kisses" by Legolas Fangirl Greenleaf) and embracing his pillow at night.


* Thanks to switchknife for her merciless pimping and helpful, custom-fit recommendations. This woman is determined to drag me kicking and screaming into the deep end of HP fiction, and of course I love her for it. Though I imagine my loved ones are wanting to have a few words with her right about now.
PROBE UNIVERSE: writing: the craftliviapenn on April 30th, 2004 10:37 pm (UTC)

You know, I've had *the most awful day* ever, so um.... this was nice.

"Habitation" is still one of my own favorite stories, maybe because it stands completely alone, free of fanon and audience expectation, (not to mention, free of much editing at all, really.) And I like how you summed up the theme. The "marriage of aliens," and especially the theme of blocked communication... It's something I find myself coming back to a lot, and most fandoms don't lend themselve so well to exploring the theme quite so *literally*. So, anyway. Thanks for the rec, and for allowing me to chatter about my story. :D
David Hines: koryhughradzka on May 2nd, 2004 01:07 pm (UTC)
"Habitation" is one of my favorite fanfics ever. It's a nice, sweet story that really stands up as one. I'm glad to see it recced.
tried to eat the safe bananathefourthvine on May 2nd, 2004 02:35 pm (UTC)
Jeez. Is there something wrong with the LJ notification system? I got notified of the reply to this but not to this comment.

I don't know how much a rec can help a day as awful as that, but to the extent that it can, I'm glad I picked your bad day to rec your story. And "Habitation" really is a remarkable story; I subscribe to several SF magazines and your story is better than 90% of what I see in there every month.

"Habitation" was the first one I put in the "established-relationship" category; I actually made the category 'cause I knew I'd want to nominate that story, and it's been waiting there since I started this blog for enough other stories to make a full set. (I screwed up, though; I could've had four a while ago if I hadn't used the two "honorable mention" ones in other places.)
switchknife on May 1st, 2004 05:02 am (UTC)
Muahahaha! I shalt corrupt thee, innocent one.


I do hope that you become increasingly addicted to my fandom. Like I said, just ask me if you're looking for something in particular. I'm still eager to introduce you to a few beautifully-written rarer pairings.

And I'm not a woman, actually. But then, I'm not a man either... You would be most correct, I think, in referring to me using gender-neutral language.

*grins and bows out*
tried to eat the safe bananathefourthvine on May 2nd, 2004 02:45 pm (UTC)
I must cling to the tattered remnants of my innocence - they are precious to me, yes, precious.

Your foul scheme is working, though; my HP cringe factor is greatly diminished. (I used to cringe before I read any HP fic, because I knew the horrors that could wait behind the most innocent of titles - on what planet do we not warn about incest, people? On what planet do we not mention brutal rapes? I mean, yes, mostly HP writers do warn. But I've seen more should've-warned-but-didn't stories in this fandom than any other, and after a while I developed a sort of Pavlovian wince when I saw any HP fic.) Your recs are much safer, and I am truly grateful.

Even if you are corrupting me.

Got anything for voyeurism?

Oh, and my apologies for the whole woman/man thing. Female terms are my default in FF; I know we have a few men running around in here, but they are way outnumbered, so female is usually the safest bet. In the future, I will refer to you as a "person" (or, perhaps "demonic corrupting HP pimp"), but can I still use the female pronouns?
Ardent: Honeymoonardent_muses on May 1st, 2004 08:30 pm (UTC)
Gotta second your rec of AuK's "Likewise". She posted that when I was still fairly new to DS, and I didn't get all the nuances but really liked it anyway. When I re-read it later, I found entire layers that I'd missed. I think she's incredible and sadly underrated. :)

I wondered about a comment you made in an earlier post, about Wax Jism's "When She Walks in the Room":

I am totally convinced the characters need and deserve a happy ending, because from what I can tell, they were royally reamed in the canon.

Not sure what Wax Jism's been telling you *G* or how familiar you are with DS canon, but I can't imagine a happier ending for those two -- sledding off together into the sunrise. Unless perhaps you've got hold of the other Ray? Or maybe I misunderstood? (It looked like you were talking about Fraser/Kowalski.)

Um, Hi! Friended you! :)
tried to eat the safe bananathefourthvine on May 2nd, 2004 05:48 am (UTC)
I wasn't clear. I didn't mean Kowalski/Fraser were reamed at the end of Due South. I meant that they had awful lives, or backstories I guess you could say - they were reamed before the show ever started.

You know what? I've actually written a whole damn rant on this topic - why I need happy endings in DS FF - as part of a series called "Fandoms I Have Loved." I just haven't decided yet whether or not I'll actually post that series, because it isn't exactly why people come here. But let me offer you an extract from it to explain the tragedy of Fraser and Kowalski:

The thing that bothers me most about DS is that I think it's supposed to be basically a light or humorous show. But let's just take a little look at the characters, shall we? Ray Vecchio, OK, he seems to have known where his towel was. But Ray Kowalski is angry, sad, lonely. This is a guy who went undercover because no one would miss him or even notice he was gone, a guy who seems to have no friends and no life except what he borrowed when he became Vecchio. That, to me, is not the essence of humor. And Fraser? Fraser's worse. Fraser is in exile, in disgrace, and permanently in waiting – in waiting for his life. He's got Dief, and while Dief is certainly an excellent companion, that's it. Fraser doesn't have a family. He doesn't have friends. He doesn't even have happy memories, for god's sake. His closest long-term human relationship is with a dead guy who had no time for him when he was alive. His most challenging task at work is to be a statue. He lives in his freaking office. He's this intelligent, talented, kind man who has no one, nothing, and nowhere. In short, Fraser is possibly the saddest character I've seen outside of Ethan Frome. And when you put them together - well, Russian novelists would be depressed by the possibilities inherent in these two. Seriously. Ambrose Bierce and Jean-Paul Sartre would be depressed by them. (Though I doubt anyone would be able to tell.) This is one canon with all the angst you need - as in, for your lifetime - built right in.

I could be wrong, of course; I know nothing of the canon. And riding off into the sunset together is a happy ending, you're right. I just want FF that feeds my need to know that additional good things do happen to this pair.
Ardent: Frottageardent_muses on May 2nd, 2004 02:35 pm (UTC)
Ah! I gotcha!

I'm laughing, actually, as I'm reading all the bad stuff that happens/happened to Fraser and Kowalski in canon. Can't argue with you. (Wouldn't want to anyway *G*)

Okay, maybe I'd argue (in a friendly way) that it wasn't intended to be a "light or humorous show" -- I think it may have been intended to have a balance of light and dark, especially in the first two seasons. If you've seen "A Cop, A Mountie and a Baby", where a couple gives up their child to pay gambling debts, or the scene in "The Deal" where Zuko has Fraser brutally beaten -- yikes! Not kid stuff. (One of my niece's favorite episodes is "The Wild Bunch" because Dief gets a lot of airtime, but I cringe because it's about dogs being kidnapped for medical research. I can barely watch it with her. *G*)

Anyway, you were talking more about Season Three, and that *is* a lot lighter and goofier. Even there, though, some of the better episodes are the painful ones -- "I Coulda Been a Defendant", "The Ladies Man", "Good for the Soul". Ouch.

There are a lot of reasons I'm married to Due South, and one of the biggest ones is because of this mixture of angst and humor. I think a person can look at it two ways. One is to look at how freaking funny it can be, and then look deeper and find all the sadness and loneliness that underlies that. But the other is to know that here's a man in exile, unloved, destined by his own *goodness* to be unable to fit in anywhere, partnered with a man who feels bitter and invisible -- well, you said it all far better and more amusingly than I can -- but it's still *hopeful*. They *find* each other, and they accept each other the way they are. Even if someone didn't, for some unfathomable reason, see slash there, they'd have to admit that those two guys love and trust each other and provide comfort for one another. So, you know, happy. *G*

As a reader, one of the things I find most satisfying is a dollop of angst before everything resolves into a happy ending. Not sure how I would have seen Fraser/Kowalski if I'd found them when the show was still on the air, but knowing that they get their happy ending makes it a lot easier for me to watch the rough stuff.

Plus, given that happy ending, there are so many opportunities for fanfic writers to show them up in the arctic, picking out curtains, ordering from the Pottery Barn catalog, setting up a new life and being happy. It's nice. In DS, I really want to read fanfic that maintains the mix of sadness, hopefulness and humor that was set up by the show.

I want to read your essay, BTW. Please post? And if you have any desire to see some more episodes, I am known far and wide for my DS-pushing propensities. Just let me know. :)

I'm enjoying your recs, BTW. I've found some very good stuff that's new to me. I also like that you're celebrating what's good out there instead of pointing to the bad stuff. In spite of the dreck, I think that's the only way to go. :)
tried to eat the safe bananathefourthvine on May 2nd, 2004 03:22 pm (UTC)
Yeek. I didn't know about the more, um, serious episodes; I couldn't for a single instant stand, for example, that one about the dogs being sold to research labs. So, OK, DS is not as light or humorous as I'd thought, though apparently it still has humorous elements, and the cheery backchat that seems to be key to any cop show.

And I totally agree that it's hopeful. That's why I like the FF so much; things start out so bad for these guys - Fraser, as you noted, is pretty much kneecapped by his own strengths, and F and K both seem so lost, so adrift - and then get better. But because of that bad beginning, I really need a happy ending. I need to see them in the Arctic, as you said, ordering from Pottery Barn catalogs. (Actually, I would like to see that. God only knows the horror that would be Benton Fraser and Ray Kowalski trying to engage in yuppie-style interior decoration.) So I can handle the angst (to the degree that I can handle angst in any fandom, which is to say I'm right there with it up to a point, and after that point I find myself rolling my eyes and making sarcastic comments under my breath) - as long as there's a good resolution.

And, actually, I've never seen any DS. I had been reading DS FF for more than a month before I even saw pictures of the characters. (Dief wins for cutest. No question.) Which is why I admitted that my impressions of the characters might be way off base; I went by Kat Allison's excellent summary, Real Due South, and a DS FAQ that I found. (I'm a big non-canon FF reader when it comes to TV shows; I've never seen The Sentinel or The Professionals or Smallville, either, and the two episodes of Buffy I've struggled through to date required endless skipping backward and many careful footnotes and explanations from my Best Beloved. I'm not very good at watching TV.) I would like to see an episode, though, if for no other reason than to get a feel for how the guys talk. That's the hardest thing to judge when you're reading TV FF and you don't know the canon.

Glad you like the focus on the good stuff; it wasn't actually optional. I just can't do the making-fun-of-bad-FF thing. I know several sites that do it, and do it well, but the thing is - I know how hard it is to write anything, even a total piece of crap. When I see bad FF, I tend to think of it as sad instead of funny; someone put a lot of time and effort into this, and it's bad, and that's just - well, to me it's sad. That's all I can say. Plus, it's excruciating to read bad FF, and I have to read something several times before I can write even the little bits I do here. So I can really only write about FF I love. I suppose you could say this LJ is a prolonged, snarky love letter to FF. What a scary thought.
Ardent: Diefardent_muses on May 2nd, 2004 04:23 pm (UTC)
I think, especially for someone working from fan fiction alone, you nailed the more painful elements of the show in a very articulate way. I'm just glad to be able to tell you that it's a good, healthy mix of light and dark.

I'd be glad to send you a tape of some of the better eps so you can see the balance. I'm overdue on sending out a few Man From UNCLE tapes, so I can't do it immediately, but it would be my pleasure. Why don't you send me your address if you're interested at ardent_muses@livejournal.com If you're not up for it, that's cool too, although I don't promise to stop pimping. *G*

The thing about DS, unlike Sentinel, for example, is that it's actually really good. Well-written, interesting, fun. Slash is not the be-all and end-all of the show's appeal. Some of my favorite episodes are from the first two seasons, where Fraser's partner was Ray Vecchio. I don't see them as a viable slash couple, and yet I still love watching. Fraser all by himself would be reason enough to watch. And then in S3, when Callum Keith Rennie comes on the scene? The appeal just shoots off the scale. *G*

Like you, though, I want happy endings with my stories. I don't want to read sad stuff, especially in DS. And fortunately, in DS, the slashy happy ending *is* canon. :)

I may have to add that Pottery Barn story to my list. That's just hilarious. :)

Giving you my Dief icon since you clearly prefer him to Fraser. *G*
Zebrazebra363 on June 22nd, 2004 09:39 pm (UTC)
Posting very late in response to this, but just wanted to thank you for the rec of "I Still Believe". It's made me want to read more J/B long-term established relationship stories. If you know any more good ones, please send them my way!

tried to eat the safe banana: thefourthvinethefourthvine on June 23rd, 2004 09:52 pm (UTC)
Well, that sort of depends. See, there are three main categories of long-term J/B relationship stories.

1. PWP, typically bondage-intensive.
2. TSbyBS fix-it or resolution stories.
3. Later entries in lengthy series; typically, Jim and Blair get together in the first one, and by the time the author works her way up to the 8th or 10th sequel - or, in certain legendary cases, the 30th or 40th one - they've been together a while. Unfortunately, you almost always need to read the earlier ones to get the later ones.

There are a few that don't fall into any of those categories. "I Still Believe" is the best one I've found by a very wide margin, though I continue to search for others.

If you're seriously jonesing, though, and bondage and series won't help you, I can tell you that "I Still Believe" has a number of sequels. In my opinion, they aren't as good as ISB, but they're still very readable. (In other words, I enjoyed them, but I didn't bookmark most of them.)

These are:

Pilgrimage. If you don't know the canon, you won't know who Stacey is - I didn't - but she's apparently a kid that J and B took an interest in. This story talks about the events of "I Still Believe" from her point of view. It's my favorite of the sequels.
First Annual Dorset County Music Festival. That music festival that Jim didn't want to happen in his territory? Well, it's happening. And other things are happening, too, both with the Sentinel stuff and with the police stuff.
The Greater Public Good. Jim has been wanting a house. Blair has been resisting. Stacey is getting married. And there are more Sentinel issues (and, in my opinion, crazy Jim issues, which sort of started in the previous one but get substantially worse here - let me know if you want more info on that) and police (and federal government!) action.
On the Way Home. They're building the house; it causes serious problems. Stephen visits and that also causes problems.
Obscure Music. Disaster preparedness. The house gets finished.

One of the things I like about this series is that we get to see Blair being a cop, and being a good one. I also like the sheer plottiness of it. That means, of course, that the summaries above are not even close to accurate or complete; I was just trying to give you a general idea. If you want or need more, let me know.

Oh, and I assume you've read gritkitty's Another Mode of Belonging. It isn't necessarily a true LTR TS story; J and B have been together for a while, yes, but not, say, ten years. But I love this story for the same reason I love "I Still Believe" - it completes the story arc. Entirely. It's a true resolution for Jim and Blair. Note: it is kidfic. I know that irritates some people.
Zebrazebra363 on June 24th, 2004 06:54 am (UTC)
Thanks a lot for the additional recs - looking forward to reading them.

I also asked this question on the TSstoryfinders list at Yahoogroups and was recommended Fifty One by Lulleny, which I enjoyed.

tried to eat the safe banana: thefourthvinethefourthvine on June 24th, 2004 08:41 am (UTC)
Thanks for the rec. And if you get a chance, let me know what you think of the stories I mentioned; I'm especially curious about these, because they aren't what I usually rec.
Zebrazebra363 on June 27th, 2004 06:04 am (UTC)
I just spent a rainy Sunday reading Dasha's series, which I never would have found without your recs. I enjoyed them very much, in a relaxed kind of way that's different from the looking-for-the-"ahh"-moments way I often read slash. Hope that makes some kind of sense!

Jealousy is quite a big squick of mine, and it was a bit tedious in some ways for Jim to be sick so much, but despite that the stories worked really well for me. Dasha made me really believe in the senses-causing-illness scenario and I loved her portrayal of the total commitment between Jim & Blair. I liked the way the sex wasn't overdone, too - I looked forward to every sex scene instead of skipping over half of them, as I often do in a long story.

For some reason this fandom has me craving long-term relationship stories. This pairing belongs together forever, more than any other I can think of.

I hadn't seen "Another Mode of Belonging". Good story, though I'm in the loathe-kidfic camp.

You've probably read it, but CL Finn has a wonderful long-term dS story: The Easiest Choice.

Thanks for feeding my current obsession!
tried to eat the safe banana: thefourthvinethefourthvine on June 27th, 2004 01:42 pm (UTC)
"The Easiest Choice" is good, yes, and interesting to me because it has the guys do something rare in K and F in the future stories - it has them stay in Chicago, at least until they can retire. On the whole, I think I slightly prefer the outcome where they go to the Northwest Territories, and I do think that it's harder to make the Chicago option work out. C.L. Finn does a great job.

(If you can transfer your current need to dS, there will be no shortage of long-term fics I can feed you; they comprise, like, a third of the genre, I sometimes think. My personal favorite, as I believe I've mentioned, is AuKestrel's Likewise, but I know that's too sweet for many people. And there are others.)

I'm very not big on jealousy in FF; for one thing, I think people too often use jealousy as a shorthand for love, and they are in no way the same thing. (I would argue they aren't even related phenomena, but I realize I'm alone there.) And I particularly don't like the whole Me-Caveman-Jim Me-Much-Jealous thing. But I still enjoy Dasha's stories; she manages to get past it. For one thing, in a series that long there's room for some diversions.

And I agree that Jim and Blair belong together forever, even moreso than my other OTPs, and that's saying something. Hmmm. Now I am wanting long-time TS fics.
Zebrazebra363 on June 27th, 2004 09:05 pm (UTC)
If you can transfer your current need to dS, there will be no shortage of long-term fics I can feed you

DS was my main obsession in 2003, so I've done quite a bit of reading there already. I know plenty of post-COTW stories, but not many set 20-30 years down the track, which is what I seem to be after at the moment. I'd actually love to read some right-at-the-end-of-life stories, too, but I don't know of many of those in any fandom. Not sexy stuff, I guess.

Last night I took a quick look at Dasha's other stories on 852 Prospect, which seem to be huge canon-tracking epics. I read just a little way into the first one and loved it - it went into detail about the tests and exercises Blair gave Jim initially to help him control his senses. I am really grateful to you for pointing me towards this author!
sphinxofquartz on August 1st, 2007 11:42 pm (UTC)
*waves* Hi. Um, I know this is an old entry and you may not care, but the link for "Who Wrote the Book" is broken; it can still be found at http://azkabanslair.slashcity.org/WhoWroteTheBook.htm.

(I've been reading your recs for a while now, and I love them--you're up there on the "I'd read her grocery lists" list, just for sheer funny. So, um, thanks.)