bookworm

fanfic master list

Below is a list of my various fanfic and blog posts discussing different books, TV shows and movies. Feel free to poke around and read anything that strikes your fancy.

The fiction in particular often carries specific warnings and benefited from the help of beta readers and (in the case of some poetry) co-authors. Rather than trying to recreate this information here, please find it at the archive where the stories are posted. If you've helped me out over the years and I haven't properly thanked you, please let me know so I can correct it. Most of the links point to ArchiveOfOurOwn.org, which I joined several years ago, and while I've done my best to give credit where due, I do know my own limitations in this area and am willing to fix any mistakes.

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I come to bury Christopher Tolkien, not to praise him

Christopher Tolkien, son of JRR Tolkien, is dead. Wes thu hal, sir, and Good Journey.

It feels a bit odd, almost sacrilegious, to follow that sentence with these next ones. A lot of fandoms divide over ships or adaptation-versus-original issues. Tolkien fandom, at a deep level, seems to draw the line over purity: how important it is to stay true to some perceived canon standard and how free we are to reach for new interpretations and readings. And in the Silm fandom in particular, that divide seemed to fall over how bound we felt by Christopher Tolkien's read of his father's work, versus if we preferred to take the sparser crumbs of JRRT's own world and build more on that. There was more freedom in that second path, but also I always felt more of an originalism, a kind of return-to-basics about what made Arda such a breath of fresh air for a world-weary twentysomething.

To be blunt, I thought Christopher was prim and stuffy and tended to suck all I liked out of his father's work. I was not a fan, and as soon as I discovered HoMe was a thing that existed, I was much more eager to dig into those drafts and snippets than the published QS and Akallabeth rewritten in Christopher's tone.

But time and maturity blunts the edges on all that, at least a bit. He was the steward of his father's legacy; and a steward really isn't a king, whatever Denethor might have thought (or wished). Part of it is I've been a steward to the memories other people leave behind, in my own small way, and I get how that can control how you interact with their legacy. I still think he was a cranky old fusspot for most of the time I interacted with him as a consumer of his father's works. But I guess I see more why his situation would amp up those tendencies. I also see it as a much more useful thing than I once did. Not so much that his father's writings should be consumed as he presented them, but that those of us not overly comfortable with the way he read him really benefited from having someone protect and develop his world. He's a useful point to orient ourselves against, contrapposto-style.

Plus, let's be frank here: the man has done a tremendous service. He worked hard to cull and develop and bring into publishable form so many drafts from so many different points in his careers, and give us all this coherent story. I don't necessarily think he was commercial, milking his father's works for all he could get out of them; rather, I think he genuinely cared about bringing those stories into the public in a way his father would be proud of, or at least comfortable with. And while I wasn't always head-over-heels for the final product, man, one has to recognize and appreciate the effort!

And as a great Akallabeth/Numenor fan, I can't really be too harsh on him for being almost slavish to his father's perceived intents. Because let's be honest: the Akallabeth really doesn't fit with the QS or the Ainulindale or any of the rest, does it? Someone exercising more editorial discretion would have chucked it or buried it in a HoME volume. He says as much in the intro to the Silmarillion: he only really included it because his father had been quite explicit he wanted it included. And my life over the last 15-odd years would have been so much less if that wasn't such a central part of the Tolkien fandom.

That's all about Christopher the old man, the inheritor of his father's kingdom. As a great fan of the Letters, I also have to remember and "bury," to the extent I can, Christopher the young man who went off to war and begged his father for more chapters by mail. Who helped pore over the maps. Who seems to have been both a support and a burr in the boot to getting JRRT to actually finish the damned thing. Forget The Silmarillion, we probably wouldn't have gotten Lord of the Rings (certainly it would have been in a much different form) if not for Christopher. And those letters between the two of them are always just so comfortable and interesting, they're easily among my favorite, and I think Christopher's and JRR's relationship was a deep and warm one. It makes me smile, thinking about the glimpses I've been given over the years there.

As an aside, not many people can claim to have a fanfic about JRRT and Christopher Tolkien, but I actually can! Sort of. The idea is that Christopher dies during World War II and JRRT must decide how (if) to continue on with his "mad hobby." It seems a bit bold to offer it up, as it got me kicked off one major fandom archive back in the day for not being respectful to the real people involved. But in my own slightly-heretical way, I actually meant it as an offering of sorts, to both men. So if you have a mind: Bronwe Athan Harthad.

Enough thinky thoughts and wordy words. Let me just close with these words: We still remember, we who dwell, in this far land beneath the Seas. You will be missed.

(ericadawn16 asked for my thoughts. Thanks for the prompting.)
role models

"I liked it, but.'

I saw Star Wars tonight. Walking out, I heard no less than three people express something weirdly similar to my subject line. I'm sure it loses something in the written format. There was this intonation I can't quite capture; like they were daring whoever they were talking about to prove they didn't like it, or trying to convince themselves that they really did like it because this was Star Wars and that's what you're supposed to do. Almost passive-aggressive in a way.

It was.... weird. Yet I definitely got where they were coming from.

The movie wasn't bad. It was actually quite good as a sci-fi adventure. Lots of excitement, cute critters, and some really fannish send-ups both to the original trilogy and the previous movies. Less fun than in the last two, I think, but it's still there. My main problem is there was just so much packed in, probably 75% of it felt deeply underdeveloped. If ever there was a canon in need of fanfic, this is it; but not necessarily in a way that will actually inspire it, sadly. (Is it spoiling to mention Lando and Chewie are both in this film, that they are wonderful, and that I would pay dearly for a movie about their side-quest?

I also struggled with some philosophical... well, not contradictions but definitely tensions? Take the storm-troopers as one example. I don't think it's spoiling, again, to say the First Order conscripts/kidnaps and presumably brainwashes children to become their soldiers. That's Finn's background, and we see a bit more of that in the film. What we don't see is a reflection of the realitythat probably 99% of the people on those ships you're blowing up are people like Finn who couldn't get away. Ethically, it's horrendous. It's also just how war works and I can hardly fault SW for not figuring out how to thread that needle when so many more serious films and books haven't managed it. I can also buy that it's necessary to sacrifice some people, that when you're fighting space-Hitler you may not be able to save your enemies. But they actually tried to do some interesting thing with the whole liberated-stormtrooper thing, without realizing what that says about the not liberated stormtroopers, and I guess for me, starting down that road and just not dealing with the things screaming to be investigated was... I don't know. Frustratingly incomplete, I guess.

Other things fall into this same category, but I can't really even name them without dipping into some pretty heavy spoilers. I think if you're a less thinky person than me this wouldn't necessarily keep you from enjoying the movie (SW was never high literature, and that's fine!), but for someone who gets stuck in their head, this made the film feel emotionally muddled and kept me from connecting. Which is a shame.

Really, though, it made me wish there were two movies (trilogy be damned) built on this storyline and you had room to explore some of those themes. Which is probably an indication there's something I latched on to and liked, even if I couldn't quite access it in its current state. That's something!

(no subject)

I read a post over at Tumblr this week about diversity in fic. I've lost the link but the main point was if you're righting an ethnic-minority character and you're writing them exactly how you would a white character except for the skin color, that's not really good representation. She used the example of Southeast Asian people and how they view family/community as opposed to how more western/white characters emphasize individuality, how the balance and almost subconscious assumptions are very different. So if you're going to write a Southeast Asian characters and have them view family the way western/white people would even though they're described as Korean or Filipino or what-not... that's not good representation.

What stuck with me was her suggestion to research the culture. One of her biggest bits was to make friends with an actual SE Asian person or whatever you're writing, get to know them as an individual and use that as your starting place. I get the drive behind that, but I'm also very cautious about forcing non-white, non-western, non-like me, whatever folks to play the educator, or to stand in for their whole group. I think there's a danger in reducing our relationships to windows into different groups. But at the same time... I dounderstand where this is coming from. Lived experience is realy the best way to get beyond the factoids we might rattle off about a certain topic, and see at a deeper level how things actually are.

Which makes me think of an idea I've had a few times over the years. I think as a writer one of the most useful things to me would be to have people with really specific experiences or knowledge bases, where I could just pick their brains for a bit. Have you ever ridden a horse long-distance, or swung a sword (maybe an SCA type?). Are you British and can help me check my assumptions about how your school system works? Are you a Quaker or a Reformed or evangelical Christian and want to explain to me what it's like to actually be those things, have you spent a winter in North Dakota and want to help me understand just howey cold it can get? I'm sure the list goes on. I'd love the chance to just talk to those people, listen to what they have to say. And I think if you're concerned about writing an ethnic-minority charater well, talking to a few of them is the best way to do that -- if we make the space one where they choose to go in and share their experiences. I don't want to acost people as they make their way around the internet, but a space where they can share those experiences for a while and then go on their way? That would be both really interesting and damned useful.

I don't know how to make any of that actually happen, but I think this would be such a fun place to spend time and learn a bit.
reader vs writer

catching up

I really did have the best of intentions of sending out cards, or failing that e-cards. Hope you and yours are doing well and you had a restful, peace-filled set of holy days.

For me, December has put me a bit through the wringer. The biggest piece of that is health: I developed a pretty serious skin abscess that's now on the mend, but meant I spent most of my holiday in and out of urgent care facilities, and the rest of it frustrated I couldn't do more of what I wanted because life was (and to a lesser extent, is) pain. Before that I was trying to squeeze a month's worth of work into three weeks, so I needed a break by the end of it! But I also squeezed a bit of lying around and movies (the new "Little Women," along with a repeat viewing of "Knives Out" and "Frozen II") and just driving about and looking at the countryside. Which was lovely.

I also finished a fic for the LOTR SeSa 2019 exchange. I don't feel like I was really able to put my best foot forward because of the health issues when I was trying to finish it up. But that's another Tolkien fic under my belt, which feels quite good. I'll post a link in a few days when I'm allowed to claim it.

Would like to write more Tolkien fic I think in the new year, or maybe just beta. Or read. Or something. Still need to do some poking around on the Discord server or find where fandom folks are connecting these days and maybe get more involved. I'd also love to find a project now that work is more sane than it once was. I find I've forgotten how to have fun, fandom-wise. A bit.

Being hungry for that, and having that be a real possibility, is a very nice change. How's that for a happy and healthy start to the new year?

Because earworms are weird

... and also best when shared. I have had --at most-- 2.5 lines of this song stuck in my head all. durned. day.

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Some men are born to live at ease, doing what they please
Richer than the bees are in honey
Never growing old, never feeling cold
Pulling pots of gold from thin air
The best in every town, best at shaking down
Best at making mountains of money
They can't take it with them, but what do they care?

They get the center of the meat, cushions on the seat
Houses on the street where it's sunny
Summers at the sea, winters warm and free
All of this and we get the rest
But who is the land for? The sun and the sand for?
You guessed! It's all for the best!


(It's so weird! But in a good way.)

(no subject)

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I'm loving this collection of tributes to Mel Brooks I found fooling around on YouTube. It's from an event honoring him at the Kenedy Center, and you basically have all these famous actors reprising the most famous songs from their Mel Brooks projects.

So you get Mel Brooks singing "Springtime for Hitler" beginning around 4:55. Which is really just lovely, it's made for the live stage. But what I love is watching the audience react to that song in at least 2010. Something about seeing them squirm really amuses me on a meta level.

(I wonder how much of it is discomfort at Hitler being quite stereotypically gay as a way to make him less threatening that's driving that? That has to play a lot different in 2010 than it would in 1967. Though it's a lot harder to laugh Nazis off these days [though maybe not when this was done?] than it would have been in the late '60s, sadly.)

(no subject)

I've been thinking about beta-reading as disability accommodation lately. Don't let the jargony words scare you off, please, because I think this should be important to all kinds of folks who craft fandom spaces. Plus it's interesting.

As a kid I was diagnosed with a variety of written-expression disorders, and as a teen with ADHD. Add to that a few psychological issues stemming from some prolonged and complicated grief that built up some truly unhelpful coping mechanisms over the last decade, not least of all most of the symptoms of clinical depression (can't be diagnosed as such, apparently, because it's based in experiences to which those symptoms are rational responses, but as my therapist points out, if it quacks like a duck....), and a self-esteem so microscopic they're still working on the instruments sensitive enough to detect it.

There's that dark sense of humor that's not all that helpful. ;-)

And really, I'm not aiming at sympathy here. I'm not 100% convinced those diagnoses are all on the money, though there's something mighty familiar in a lot of them. I also don't think I'm necessarily unique. In parts, but not at all; lots of people probably struggle with crippling lack of self-worth, sadness that makes it a bit hard to get up and go, or any one of a number of neuro/learning issues that makes it a mighty struggle to make the words go.

My point is, it's hard. Not impossibly hard, but hard in the way it might be for someone with fibromyalgia to walk across a parking lot. They can do it, maybe, once in a while, but boy will it take it out of them. Best to give them that handicap parking spot by the door. Or to take another example: how a shoe-horn might really make dressing yourself easier for people who struggle to bend over, not that they absolutely can't on their own but it just makes life a little less onerous and autonomy a little more practical. It's actually hard to the point that there's a higher "entry cost" to start writing (even when inspired and willing, it just seems to take such effort), and I'm both less able to detect certain writing errors than most people are (I'm infamous for using similar-sounding words and not being able to see the difference). That's the cognitive side. The psychological side makes it harder to bear up under the embarrassment or sense of failure of publicly posting a story full of that.

I'm sure this all takes a different form for different people, and is probably more or less imposing for some than others. But I think most people experience this to a degree, and for a lot of people (not all!) it's actually prohibitive. Or at least limiting. There's probably a spectrum of increasing difficulty and less likelihood they'll actually participate as a writer. And there's also probably unnecessary negative experiences that make it harder to want to create a second time, too. Again, at the risk of getting too personal, I'm dealing with a smidge of that at the moment; I've dealt with worse and the past and I know other people have dealt with worse still. And so even if you push through and write the once, doing that without the helpful support makes it hard to write again, too.

Which is a shame. Because, again speaking for myself, I'm good at writing! I love having-written, and I think other people like when I've written, too. And even if people can't make that statement about themselves for whatever reason, I think they're still missing out on positive things. The ability to get better, or to have their ideas and imaginings read, or the community or the ability to play with fiction and pop culture in the unique writerly way. There's reasons this is all so good.

I think in fandom we talk about betas as a gift to the reader, a way to make sure the stories are suitably polished and easy to read. But I think also they can be such a huge help for the writer, giving her the tools and confidence and cheerleading and whatever else she needs to actually do the thing. I wonder if it would be helpful to think of beta-reading and helping betas find authors (and vice versa) the same way we do as coding sites so they work well with screen readers for the visually impaired, or avoiding flashing graphics and certain color schemes out of deference to epileptics and folks with certain kinds of color blindness.

All of which makes me think this is a problem community-builders and site-designers should tackle systemically. Not that we need to guarantee a beta for everyone, but building the spaces to help people find each other effectively is on the same level as those other disability-friendly design elements.

Durned if I know how to do that in practice, though. Devil's in the details, as always.