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David Hines [userpic]

21 Yuletide recs, with commentary

December 28th, 2009 (03:29 pm)
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First, let me just review four previous recs, so I only have to make one post to the Yuletide comm. Let me begin with my freakin' awesome gift, Lovelace and Babbage vs. The Christmas Death Spider from Beyond the Atlantic which features Lovelace, Babbage, and Isambard Kingdom Brunel versus a giant steampunk spider operated by Andrew Jackson. ...why are you even still here? GO READ THAT. Then come back. The author does a great job with Sydney Padua's versions of our heroes, and Babbage's third-person perspective is flat-out wonderful.

"A Mind Overborne" is Dracula/Renfield slash, from Renfield's perspective, with skeptical notes in the margin from Renfield's psychiatrist. It's really quite good just as a straight horror story, and the author's selection of details to blend Stoker's novel and the film with Lugosi is excellent. The interesting thing about this story, to me, is how its gimmick helps it transcend what I find to be the limitations of slash. I confess that a lot of slash really leaves me cold, in part because it's so ubiquitous; what is daring when it is revealed to explain the special relationship between Kirk and Spock can get pretty boring when it is revealed to explain the special relationship of every two-man dynamic ever. Too much slash -- and fanfic in general these days -- boils down to "the quality of this relationship can be explained by the fact that the characters are fucking." Which for me gets boring pretty fast, the more so because slash fans -- actually, it's true of fanfic-producing fandom as a whole these days, slash or het -- often seem to think *everyone* is fucking, and if they're not they oughtta be. Without the psychiatrist's commentary, this could run the risk of being a "Dracula and Renfield are fucking" story, albeit a very good one. With it, we're taken into an interesting position, and at one point in the story the relationship between Dracula and Renfield takes a really interesting turn that plays on the slash and vampiric overtones. And it's remarkably well-written; as a serious artistic effort, it could be the textual poach of the year.

"The True Death of Frank Gardiner" is a straight-up original Lovecraftian Cthulu Mythos story, and it's easily publishable quality. A Filipino immigrant who once worked as a pearl diver is shanghaied to work a particular stretch of sea bed, and this being a Lovecraftian story you can be certain that bad things will happen. (SPOILER: they do!) When events start to go south the author plays out the dread slowly, carefully, letting things get into position to get really bad and letting you see every detail before sending things south for good. Really terrific horror, well-characterized, with a beauty of an ending.

"Sentimental Reasons" is one of several CASABLANCA fics this year, and for my money it's the CASABLANCA fanfic story of all time. The story of Sam and Rick's unlikely partnership -- its formation, its changes, its pitfalls and so on -- "Sentimental Reasons" is looooong and covers the story from start to resolution, which is longer than you'd think. Sam is wonderfully realized, and Rick, who drops in and out of Sam's life before becoming a fixture in it, is everything you'd want a pre-movie (and post-movie) Rick to be. And its version of what happened immediately after Rick and Louis walk off into the fog to make their way to Brazzaville is officially my personal canon now.

OK, new recs:

"A Knight's Quest" (Real Genius). Yes, it's a "we have to put the band back together" fic, but c'mon, it's Real Genius! How much do you want Real Genius fanfic? DON'T LIE.

"Four Things Fuzzies Obtained from Humans (and one thing humans got in return)." H. Beam Piper, Fuzzyverse. You know I am a Piper fanatic. I mean, I made some contributions to John Carr's biography, I was the first person to ask for Fuzzyverse in Yuletide, and I own Piper's own signed copy of LITTLE FUZZY, okay? So I am just slightly insane about this. This is a magnificent Piperverse story, and a great Fuzzy story, and it deals with all manner of Fuzzy matters. Really terrific stuff. I love it; check it out.

"Spaceman Spiff Goes to Chirrutzz" is a nice little Calvin and Hobbes fic that captures the spirit of the original, and "Every Day Is a Reminder" is the year's big C&H futurefic (another perennial Yuletide favorite theme), but for my money the best C&H fic this year is unquestionably "We Are Six," a crossover between CALVIN & HOBBES and ELOISE which is 1) perfect at what it's doing 2) brilliant and 3) batshit INSANE.

"The Terror from Bohemia" is a really nice sequel to Neil Gaiman's "A Study in Emerald."

"Of Ill-Advised Imprints and Rather Fetching Ewok Queens." If you've read me at all, you know that I don't like DOLLHOUSE. Not only because it's a crap show, but because it took forever to do anything even vaguely useful or entertaining with its gimmick. This story, OTOH, is sheer crack but is tremendously entertaining in terms how it makes use of the show's gimmick. Topher accepts a dare from a rival to create an Ewok personality. When it actually gets implanted, Topher has to think fast in order to clean up the mess. And the clean-up is actually the inspired bit.

"Paperclippings" is a KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER story. It is not a brilliant story in terms of plot and the telling of it, but it is the best Carl Kolchak voice I could ever possibly imagine somebody writing. It's *amazing* how much this sounds like the show's narration. Really brilliant voice.

Speaking of perfect voice, check out "Delicious,: fanfic for Eddie Izzard standup. This is one of the Yuletide standouts for the year, because the author took on a task with high degree of difficulty and just *nailed* it.

This is not really a rec, because the story isn't great (it may be for you; I'm not a slasher, so this is not at all the kind of thing that I like, or pay attention to) but "God, I Feel Like Dancing," while not a good story, is ROAD HOUSE slash. Yes. It is. Dalton/Wade Garrett. Just, wow, the concept of that, man. YULETIDE.

"Such Harmony is In Immortal Souls." This is a Silver John story, based on the series by Manly Wade Wellman, and if you've never read Wellman you really should. John is a wandering musician who makes his way through the Appalachian Mountains, playing and singing to beat down the devil and other evils. John, with his silver-strung guitar, sings old tunes and knows a trick or two, but his bravery, kindness, and decency have always been his real weapons. This story is no exception, and it has a worthy place among Wellman's finest.

"Silver Buttons All Down Her Back" is femslash involving Miss Madelyn Mack, Girl Detective, whom I first encountered years ago in a book about the American rivals of Sherlock Holmes. As I read the included Mack adventure, I thought, "wow, there is some serious femslash potential here." This is pretty much just a straight-up slash/relationship story, but it's very well done, and very much in the spirit of the original characters.

"Second Son," Vorkosiverse. The Vorkosigan fanfic is a perennial Yuletide favorite, and there keeps being great stuff; there's a bit of Miles/Gregor slash in Improbable Scenes from an Impractical Courtship, if that's your thing, and one ("The Rules of Barrayaran Sex") that's a really nice series of vignettes from the relationship between Aral and Cordelia, but "Second Son" gives us a great missing scene from THE WARRIOR APPRENTICE.

"Breaking Points" is a story in Asimov's Robot series, featuring his fixit tag-team of Powell and Donovan. In this one, the guys are sent to find out why robots working under stark conditions in Europa's great ocean are suddenly reluctant to obey orders. It's a really well-done Asimovian mystery, with strong characterization and a story that *really* draws you in. I've read a lot of pastiches in Yuletide, and this is one of the very best Yuletide pastiches, ever. Also, it's slash, if that's a selling point for you.

"Another Rainbow in Another Sky" -- y'know how they're making these epic adventure remakes of TRANSFORMERS and GI JOE and all that? This is what would happen if they made one out of MY LITTLE PONY. Seriously. I had and have not outgrown the traditional little boys' disdain for My Little Ponies as a property, despite the fact that they are every bit as manufactured as GI JOE. I mean, HE-MAN was stupid as hell, but I still have a strange unshakeable feeling that it is morally superior to MY LITTLE PONY somehow, despite the fact that I never watched any of MY LITTLE PONY. It may have something to do with the fact that I remember their commercials as focusing on little girls brushing their Ponies' hair, while boys' toy commercials focused on conflict and action. Conflict and action leads to narrative! Hairbrushing does not! Therefore He-Man is superior! All of this is doubtless me rationalizing childhood prejudices, but it's funny how strongly I still feel these things, considering they are of no importance whatsoever to my life as a more-or-less grown man. And yet I was sucked in to this story about My Little Ponies, and was annoyed when it ended before Epic Shit Happened -- seriously, this is basically the fanfic equivalent of an IRON MAN 2 trailer. "STORY! I WANT YOU! BE HERE NOW."

Which is my way of saying, this is a fucking awesome fanfic about MY LITTLE PONY, and you should read it, because all of a sudden you will totally wish there was an actiontastic MY LITTLE PONY fandom.

Comments

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: December 29th, 2009 01:02 am (UTC)

"...Which is my way of saying, this is a fucking awesome fanfic about MY LITTLE PONY, and you should read it, because all of a sudden you will totally wish there was an actiontastic MY LITTLE PONY fandom."

You're going to love these 2 videos:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sXoYK4b_q24
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SgqgAExJMyw

:)

Posted by: doctor_alice (doctor_alice)
Posted at: December 29th, 2009 08:56 pm (UTC)

You're right, this stuff really *is* that good. I did not know fic of this quality was around, to be honest. All I knew about previously was fanfiction.net (which probably labels me as a n00b, but there you go). Where do you sign up to write/read stuff like this?

Posted by: doctor_alice (doctor_alice)
Posted at: December 30th, 2009 03:52 pm (UTC)

Never mind, I went to the website and checked it out. Looks interesting. Sadly, many of the stories you linked are apparently only available if you are a member of the site.

Posted by: David Hines (hradzka)
Posted at: December 30th, 2009 04:35 pm (UTC)

That's an option for authors, like friendslock on livejournal. The site is still in open beta, but I've got a request for invites in. You can have one when I get one, or request your own if you like.

Most high-quality fic is in individual or fandom-specific archives. Not to say that you won't find it on ff.net, but there's a hell of a lot less chaff.

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