Count me as one of those who suffered from the delay in issuing assignments: I *really* could have used that extra time to write more. As it is, after five stories in 2008 and four in 2009, I wrote three this year. I do not care for this trend.
My assignment, betaed by Sarah T. and Idella, was "Strong and Straight" (Shane - Jack Shaefer). The nomination was for the book, but *you* try finding a beta who's read the book who isn't me. And Nyssa, the recipient, requested the movie rather than the book. But I fudged it anyway, so it could pass for either. The only major difference between the two is character names, and the fact that the book is slashier. There's a scene in the book where the narrator overhears his father talking to his mother, saying he understands, that Shane is a better man, etc. In the film, this is toned down and comes when the father is expecting to die, so he's expecting that after her mourning is over, his widowed wife will marry Shane. In the book, he's basically saying, "Look, if you want to boink him or even ride off with him, I get it, because Shane is *that awesome.*" Which is basically where my whole story comes from: in the original, it's totally canon that everybody is in love with Shane.
I don't have my copy of the book with me, BTW, and I don't recall if the scene plays out quite the same way, but the film of SHANE has one of my favorite villainous monologues ever. The cattle baron who hates the new homesteaders turns up and goes on a rant about why he hates them -- *and his grievances are all legitimate.* But he and the homesteaders have diametrically opposed interests; they cannot compromise or both get what they want, and so they *have* to fight. The cattle baron is ruthless in getting what he wants, he's unquestionably the villain, but it's an amazing scene; you're used to seeing him as this monstrous critter, but all of a sudden, holy crap, he's a human being. Shane's a brilliant book, a brilliant movie; look it up.
True story: when my father's friend Walt, who is now in his early eighties, was in the Navy there were sometimes movie nights aboard ship. One night, the movie was SHANE. And the beautiful, painful, perfect ending just *wrecked* everybody; the lights came up, and strong men were frozen in place, staring at the screen, tears in their eyes and running down their cheeks, and nobody moved. And then the captain said, "RUN IT AGAIN."
And they did. Only time that ever happened.
My second story, In the Box," betaed by Liviapenn and written for Anne_Animouse, went *really* obscure: I wrote MANIMAL fic. If you've never seen MANIMAL, that's because it ran for three months on ABC in 1983 and aired a total of eight episodes. Here is the opening title sequence. Watch it; I'll wait.
Yes, you really did just see that.
I frigging *loved* MANIMAL as a kid. I was all over that thing; not only did it feature a guy who could *change into animals* and used this ability *to fight crime,* it featured special makeup effects by an up-and-comer named Stan Winston, and you got to see star Simon MacCorkindale turn into a black panther, or a hawk, or a snake, or pretty much whatever was necessary as long as only the transformations they'd already shot took place onscreen, and because I was eight years old I was basically convinced I could figure out how to turn into all manner of critters myself as long as I watched the show hard enough.
I didn't see the show again until years later, when it turned up on the Sci-Fi Channel, and it didn't age well. (One fan has all the episodes on YouTube; here's the pilot, and you can click on his channel for the rest.) In particular, it was pretty crappy to its supporting cast, especially Michael D. Roberts, who played Ty. The great Glynn Turman played Ty in the pilot, and my guess is the role was recast because of creative differences, by which I mean, Glynn Turman probably looked at a couple of episode scripts and told Glen A. Larson he could go take a flying leap at a rolling donut. I mean, the show had Roberts doing things like jumping up onto a lamppost in fear when children threw firecrackers at his feet -- real Stepin Fetchit stuff. I didn't write this fic for the chromatic challenges, because doing so honestly didn't occur to me, but I did go into it thinking the character deserved a hell of a lot better. Anne_Animouse had given a pretty wide prompt, so I tried to write something with a dark and slashy vibe that gave Ty a good showcase and played up the friendship between Jonathan and Ty, and let Ty push back a bit against the "everybody laughs at Ty" scenes. At the same time, I really *did* love this show as a kid, and I liked getting a chance to show that love a little.
Funny story: the reason Livia betaed this story is that I was laying it out in chat about how there was angst in the box, and the turning into a snake and huddling for warmth, and Ty's last request, and all that, and Livia's hurt/comfort instincts kicked in and she was all "DAMN YOU I AM INTO THIS NOW."
My final story was "It's the Muppet Doctor Who Special, With Our Very Special Guest Star, Matt Smith!", written for sageness, betaed by Lauren, and full of insanity.
Sageness requested a Muppet show fic where the gang went on an adventure, or we got to see a performance of the Muppet Show. This made me remember how, a while back, Cereta threw open to her list a question from Giglet: how to cast the Muppet Doctor Who. I immediately thought hard about this and put together a definitive cast list, though I didn't do anything with it at the time, or later, not until Sageness provided me an opportunity. Or an excuse. Not sure which. (The other big influence, beyond my laziness and need to use the plot bunny, was Tom Smith's The Rocky Horror Muppet Show, which is just magnificent insanity.) I checked with the mods and yeah, you can do a non-rare fandom if it's a crossover with a nominated fandom. So I did it. I am a little surprised that only one person called me out as having written this in my "guess my Yuletide fic" post. I mean, I did the whole casting months ago! And then used it in the fic!
I do have some regrets on this one -- I can't believe, for example, that I missed the golden opportunity to have Miss Piggy as PerPIGilliam Brown (yes, it's a groaner, but dammit as long as I did that casting I should have gone with a deliberate misspelling). The filk isn't very good, which I chalk up to time constraints; that late-assignment thing just killed me this year. And I can't believe that neither my beta nor I noticed that Janice is apparently in two places at once at the end of the fic! As Pepe says, it's mostly an excuse, but that one does bug me. On the whole, though, I'm quite pleased with it. I think it plays very well, and it's got a lot of good lines. I knew the basic outline of it early on (Beaker's sad staring at everybody was known to me right out of the gate, though in a slightly different form: the original idea was stuff like Beaker riding a roller coaster, looking very sad; Beaker running the Boston Marathon, looking very sad; like that; but I decided to play it closer to the theater), but little bits kept surprising me while I wrote it: the "Five Doctors" joke, which I really liked, and Sam the Eagle as Captain Jack Harkness just came out of *nowhere.* (In retrospect, I should have added another Sam joke or two. Like Sam reacting to the two Beakers. As Jack: "Ohhh, you don't even want to know what I'm thinking right now!" As himself: "…Kermit, what does that line mean?") Other gags I liked, and am glad folks picked up on: the Shada gag and the running gag of Matt Smith never watching *anything.* A minor footnote is that this story also marks my first time writing RPF, for a certain version of RPF. I actually *hate* RPF, but I felt fine with this because Matt Smith is essentially playing the version of Matt Smith that would appear on the Muppet Show.
I also wrote a Yuletide 2010 summary post, which details the various fandoms and the most-read stories. The weirdest thing isn't that I've made the top ten most read Yuletide fics two years in a row. It's that I've been number nine on the list on Reveal Day *both years.* Also, if you look at my Yuletide history, some patterns appear: I seem to be 1) the old Westerns guy and 2) the goofy meta/comedy guy. Might have to mix it up some next year!
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