juushika: Photograph of a row of books on a library shelf. (Books Once More)
Title: Fledgling
Author: Octavia E. Butler
Published: New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2007 (2005)
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 320
Total Page Count: 177,815
Text Number: 521
Read Because: fan of the author, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: Shori appears to be an amnesiac girl but is actually a young vampire, reconstructing a circle of symbionts to feed from while investigating the destruction of her family. The vampires here, called Ina, are more science fiction than fantasy, and Shori's amnesia makes her an outsider to their culture and biology. The exploration of both is talky, compounded by utilitarian prose and stiff dialog. Under the infodumps, the plot is small; in many ways, this feels like Butler's least refined work. But its issues of consent are phenomenal. It doesn't matter that the characters are indistinct and that the relationships are plagued by heteronormativity and gender essentialism: the way that intense intimacy is played against power imbalances raises complicated, unresolved questions about coerced consent and responsibility. It's a confrontational, alien narrative with real repercussions—Butler's specialty. Fledgling isn't her best, but it's memorable. I wish we had been able to read sequels—I particularly would have loved to see a symbiont reject their Ina.*


* Someday Coming Down by Stultiloquentia is precisely that. See also: and I won't hold that place dog-eared anymore by basketofnovas (slashmarks), which isn't, quite, but explores the same question. All of Butler has plentiful room for transformative exploration, but Fledgling fic in particular reopened the source material to me.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
Title: The Gift of an Enemy
Author: Sylvia
Published: Everett: Teeny Gozer Production, 1998
Rating: 2 of 5
Page Count: 139 of 278
Total Page Count: 129,810
Text Number: 379
Read Because: fan of The X-Files, available here
Review: Departing canon at 4.9 "Terma," Mulder returns to his apartment to find Krycek there—a goodwill gift from aliens willing to possess Krycek and read and reveal his secrets. With no other choice, Mulder takes Krycek with him to an investigate a new case where a rash of disappearances may be tied to a group of witches. The Gift of an Enemy has the right components, but they never come together as a successful whole. It's psychologically motivated, ascribing both protagonists a slew of reasonable mental health issues but giving them symptoms that stray too far from canon; the romance is similarly motivated and unconvincing, a product of long-repressed desires and conflicted, soul-searching inner monologues—well-intended, but overdrawn and overblown. Mulder's point of view is the failing point: his characterization hits just left of the mark, and while the time spent in his head should be fascinating it instead strips all tension from the text. I wanted to and almost enjoyed this; there's a decent casefile developing and the writing is well-edited if not tight, but The Gift of an Enemy has lost my interest and I won't finish it, nor do I recommend it.

Only moderately embarrassed to treat failed fanfic as a novel but then it was published as a fanzine, so ... so.
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
Title: Lovers (North-West Passage Book 2)
Author: Torch
Published: 1997
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 278
Total Page Count: 129,168
Text Number: 376
Read Because: continuing the series and fan of The X-Files, available here
Review: As a favor to a former college, Mulder goes to San Francisco in search of a serial killer, only to discover that the killer's motives may be connected to the Syndicate—and that Krycek is already on the case. Lovers is a stronger showing than its predecessor, still flawed but more than adequately absorbing. It dumps Krycek's point of view, a necessary but almost regrettable change; where Ghosts belonged to Krycek, this is Mulder's story—and Mulder is an underwhelming protagonist with indistinct characterization. A strong plot and cast of original characters grounds the text and Scully ties it back to the source material, but still something seems lacking. As a romance it veers towards belabored and melodramatic, but there's something captivating at the core of this relationship: less a push and pull between Mulder and Krycek, the conflict in Lovers is within Mulder himself; and while Mulder fails to be remarkable, his attempts to navigate conflicting desires can be. Lovers has objective flaws, but it was just what I wanted to read at just this time; I can't recommend it, but wouldn't discourage the interested reader.
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
Title: Ghosts (North-West Passage Book 1)
Author: Torch
Published: 1997
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 202
Total Page Count: 128,393
Text Number: 374
Read Because: fan of The X-Files, available here and here
Review: Departing canon at 4.9 "Terma," Krycek comes back to America and to blackmail Mulder into visiting the small town of Leyden Creek—but to his surprise, Mulder and Scully are already being sent there to investigate fatal car crashes purportedly caused by ghosts. This is a rocky but not wholly unsuccessful story. It hops disorientatingly between Mulder's third person point of view and Kyrcek's overwrought first person narrative—one that almost suits the character's atmosphere of gothic tragedy, but trespasses too often into the absurd. It succeeds and fails on its basis as a Krycek character study: at best, it highlights the conflict between Krycek's actions and his implied desire for acceptance; at worst, it humanizes him too much, overlooking what makes him a successful antagonist. As much casefile as romance, the plot is a believable but unremarkable addition to The X-Files mythos; a focus on acts of daily sustenance give it an intensely personal atmosphere, but this is in conflict with Leyden's unconvincing residents. The romance, meanwhile, indulges more angst than sex; it's a slow, conflicted burn. I don't recommend Ghosts outright—it's compelling but melodramatic, tightly written but still an amateur effort—but I will eventually move on to its sequel.

(I reached that part in The X-Files where I was like hey I think I need some Krycek fics now and so I'm going through some of the big beefy classics, and yes I will post them as book reviews if I so choose.)
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
Pairing Pendragon/Merlin (the anon meta-Merlin fic that's been making the multifandom rounds) has made me want to create something cooperatively. The fic is about the romance between a fanfic writer and his beta, and it's entirely adorable and idealized—the creative writer, the insightful beta, and the spark, both creative and personal, born in the discussions between them. Of course it makes me want to make that spark with someone else (if not in a romantic sense). Of course that spark is hard to find. And people are people, and a two-person project requires two people's free time, two people's work ethics. And the create process is hard, it's messy and high-stress and projects go unfinished at the best of times. And even if that spark is there, it may not lead to fire—to stretch the metaphor.

But that doesn't kill the desire to write back and forth with someone. As two writers, I think, rather than as writer and beta. Probably original material rather than fanfic (but ideally something that still felt like fanfic—a spinoff of our established characters, perhaps—so that writing was more a guilty pleasure than a piece of work), because my fandoms are weird and I'm not feeling the pull of fanfic right now. But a cooperative piece, compiled in a single documents, where the line annotations, the ideas and critiques and personal notes from one person to the other, are as important as the writing contributed by each.

I've been at a bit of a creative standstill. Part of that is it seems that for years and years, I had concepts but no characters, and so my work was lifeless; these days my head is full of characters and more specifically of character interactions, they're what I'm drawn to in all media, I literally collect lists of my favorite dynamics, but I have no setting or plot to put them in and without plot, the story lacks motivation. Part of it is that I feel a bit cowed by the creative processes of others, the stories they have to tell, the fact that they feel lost if they don't do so—and I don't have that: failing to tell a story makes me feel unproductive and frustrated, but there aren't stories in me screaming to be let out, and if they don't need to be told ... are they really worth telling? Part of it is the simple lack of time, effort, and perseverance put into storytelling.

I've been trying to come out of that standstill. I may be succeeding a bit, I don't know. I wonder if I even need to—if I even need to be a storyteller. But I do know that writing like that—as an interaction, as well as a creative process—is one hell of a seductive fantasy.

It may be an idea to raise to [livejournal.com profile] century_eyes, when she's not busy driving to Portland every weekend. Does it appeal to anyone else? Call this a tentative offer, if you will. I still think it's more fantasy than possibility, especially while riding high on the idealized version of the concept in Pairing. And I am hardly the most reliable person for a joint project. But it is, at least, a nice idea.

In the meantime, the fic's not a bad read. It's pure fluff driven by strong characters, a good balance of cute and heartwarming without veering into the dangerous world of sap. And, yes, it's accessible even if you don't watch Merlin (I don't).
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (Default)
I don't read HP fic much anymore, but during gift fests (as run during the holidays) I watch [livejournal.com profile] daily_snitch and check out a few of the recommended fics to see if anything catches my eye. Some have been decent, some good, but this one blew me away.

The White Road by Preverse_Idyll
NC-17, Snape/Harry
From the afterlife, Lily watches Harry's present and his futures on an old telly—and discovers that in one potential future, he's in love with Snape.

Prior to reading this, I would have scoffed at the idea of a Snape and Harry love story told from Lily's point of view. But here, written with such skill and grace, with such detail and thought and ingenuity, it's entirely convincing. More than convincing, really: Snape, Lily, and Harry all shine, they are all real, their lives and their potentials are meaningful, their suffering and their triumph rings true. I'm rarely so impressed by any piece of writing either in or out of fandom—it's a true work of art.

Just go read it.
juushika: Screen capture of the Farplane from Final Fantasy X: a surreal landscape of waterfalls and flowers. (Anime/Game)
I just got squicked out of reading a fic when Harry Potter started snogging Gregory Goyle in order to show Draco Malfoy that two could play at this build-a-bad-threesome game. My tolerances are high. They are very, very high. But that, my friends, is too much for me. Bad enough that it was absurd. Worse that it was revolting.

Meanwhile.

In the world of much better fic, I come bearing a pair of recs: Nocturne for Quill and Ink and the sequel, Étude: A Lesson in Voice by [livejournal.com profile] pushdragon. Harry Potter: HP/DM, NC-17. Severely depressed Harry spends all day lost in old fantasies about Draco, in anticipation of the climactic moment of Draco's nightly homecoming.

I am, in a way, hesitant to make these recommendations because I want to keep my experience of reading them private. It was a personal and frankly terrifying experience to read them, because they strike so close to home. The details and the circumstances are unique to Harry's experience, but on a whole this is the best description of a severe depressive episode that I have read in a work of fiction. From his immobility to his self-inflicted ignorance to his dodged refusal to change, Harry's coping mechanisms (and the lack thereof) are honest, authentic, and very much parallel my own. Never have I seen an author write about depression so intimately and so honestly. To her credit, [livejournal.com profile] pushdragon does one better: not only does she faithfully portray depression, she also refuses to judge or to change Harry. She accepts every one of Harry's faults, even while exploring the negative effect that they have on him and his relationship. She does not make Harry emerge from the depression, blinking into the bright new light; she doesn't orchestrate a fairy-tale ending. That isn't to say that there is no change or no hope—in fact, change and hope are the precise purposes of the stories—but rather that the change and hope are ambiguous, uncertain, and incomplete. As a result, these stories are at once uplifting and depressing, and above all they are honest.

All that, and the style is strong, the characterization spot on, and the sex nuanced. The stories are skillful as well as meaningful, which makes the meaning all that much more accessible.

These were difficult pieces for me to read; I can't even imagine how they must have been to write. They create such an intimate and honest portrait that it can be a bit terrifying. I applaud [livejournal.com profile] pushdragon for her work, and though I want to hold these fics close to my heart, worry them and treasure them, and keep private the pieces of myself that I see within, they really are too good not to pass along. If you read any HP fic, I highly recommend this set. They are incredible. I'm glad that I stumbled across them.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
I'm reading fanfic again.

I'm writing fanfic again. (Just this one! ...Or maybe two. But they're oneshots! Then I'll stop, I swear!)

I'm editing (to fix the very worst) and reposting The Bonded on fanfiction.net. You know, The Bonded? The 40k word DBZ monstrosity that I wrote, um, six years ago.

I blame Kingdom Hearts.

On the Kingdom Hearts fic and The Bonded )

Want to read The Bonded? It's not completely reposted yet, but the edited and reposted chapters are here, on FF.N. (VegetaxGoku, GotenxTrunks, romance, angst, explicit sex between men [NC-17], multipart, complete.)

Want to read my Kingdom Hearts fanfic? I'll link to it when it's completed.

Want to read some great Kingdom Hearts fanfic? Check out Rare Birds by [livejournal.com profile] kokanshu (Axel/Roxas, swearing, explicit sex between men [NC-17], some dark themes, oneshot, plot accurate). It is without doubt the best KH fanfic I've run across since delving back into this fandom. The characters are spot on, the voice is clever, the plot and character interaction is delicate and brilliant, and the sex is ridiculously amazing—tactile, intentional, and perfect for the story and the characters. I can't recommend this too highly. Read it!

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