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Oops, I'm talking about friendship again. Let's take the traditional pause for all my longtime friends to groan.

[pause] And also with you.

So a couple of years ago I wrote a meditation on Friendship and Eros as motive forces in stories, which you can read if you like, but here's the gist.

In stories, romantic love (eros) tends to function on a mythic level to signify healing or mending something that was broken; representative reconciliation; and redemption for one or both of the characters. So much so that when we read or watch a story that has no romantic love, or in which romantic love is unfulfilled, we are tempted to think that the characters have missed their chance (sometimes literally!) at salvation. Or that the universe the story takes place in is still broken.

Likewise in stories, friendship functions to signify that which is unbroken or in some cases unbreakable. If you have a friend, you discover that something is right with the world, that something is right with yourself, that there is a part of you that doesn't need fixing, or that makes fixing the broken part worthwhile. A story about friendship isn't a story about redemption, it's a story about vindication. A universe with friendship in it speaks of stability in spite of the odds. Friendship is relief from a siege, a cleared path in a lane of mines, a point of perception that bypasses and sometimes even neutralizes chaos.

The point is, we want out of stories what we want out of the world. Here follows some aro patriotism )

All this is by way of saying that I just finished Megan Whalen Turner's Thick as Thieves, and now that I've resurrected myself from a death of flailing squee, I'm perpendicular enough to cry out my gratitude to MWT for writing in these times a book that is a paean to friendship. In a series that affirms friendship with its true mythical strength.

Spoilers, obviously )

No mode of human love is watertight; and we wouldn't want it to be. But mythically speaking, we need robust, physical, unabashedly equal friendship, not just for the aromantic among us, but for everybody who wants breathing room for the love they love best.

There, that should do it for another couple of years.
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Gosh, looks like I haven't written any fic in a year. Been pouring everything into achieving a first whole draft of ye olde Original Project. I'm in the homestretch with that, but couldn't resist writing a snippet of missing-scene fic for Thick as Thieves, because the rest of my response is pretty much just copious flailing. Lots and lots of flailing.

So here it is:


Needless to say, here be spoilers.
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 Being the third and probably last installment of this meta series.
So the fun—or aggravating, take your pick—thing about writing meta for an unfinished canon is the myriad ways one can misjudge an arc. I’ve wound up with egg on my face before (Mary Russell is having a marital crisis! Snape/Lily is too bathetic to ever happen!) so I’ve learned not to overcommit to any theories I form about characters and their arcs.
Fortunately one doesn’t have to overcommit to talk about the Faceless Man. 
devices and desires )
And thus endeth my tale.
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In the first part of my experiment in meta with personal narrative, I limited myself to talking about how Lesley’s sense of identity and choice is affected by losing her face. But there’s another major motif (in Lesley as a character and in the books at large) that is deeply affected, even wholly catalyzed, and that is the place of compassion in her and Peter’s vocation.

action versus contemplation )


Possibly more, by and by.


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 This is mostly by way of some experimental thoughts about Lesley, who is my favorite character though I adore them all—briefly looking at the narrative through the lens of personal experience, and seeing if that adds anything once the lens is taken away.
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Every so often I get the urge to worry away at a conundrum that has preoccupied me over the years: the qualitative difference(s) between romantic love and friendship, as types of human love. I suppose the preoccupation dates to the first time I read C.S. Lewis's The Four Loves, which I found illuminating but ultimately very unsatisfying. This recent Sojourners article brought the subject to mind again, along with perennial fandom wrangling about bromance vs. slash, and of course my novel project, Ryswyck, rendering in the background.

I don't think I'm any closer to mastering the subject than I was when I started, but this time I decided to focus on one particular aspect of it, which is the writer's point of view -- the kinds of stories we tell about friendship and romantic love, and what kinds of stories that each love drives. It's timely because I'm seeing other writers in various venues writing about ways to "rehabilitate" friendship as a valid love in its own right, and it's important to me because -- well, we shall see.

by and by, Lord, by and by )

Call for wine; let there be an enchantment.
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Okay, I'll bite.

Comment with a ship and I'll explain why I ship it/don't ship it. OR HOW I SHIP IT. THERE COULD BE SURPRISES.

My fandoms )

Yeah. So. Hit me.
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I'm not going to wait until Wednesday to post about recent reading and writing. May as well strike when the iron is hot. Well, sorta. It's mostly ambient heat from summer. So, Recent Books in My Basket:

American Savage by Dan Savage. I always enjoy Dan Savage, even when I think he's full of shit, as sometimes happens. He is in the peculiar position of being asked to delineate and clarify public sexual ethics for the new age, and Dan was raised a good Catholic boy, so he does it quite ably, actually. He's also very funny. This book is a compendium of DS's thoughts on recent developments in LGBT issues as well as guns, parenting, his mother's death, and his relationship with the church.

Garment of Shadows by Laurie R. King. Had fallen behind in reading the Russell books, but now that I'm armed with a library card, I've gotten caught up. I still enjoy the first canon I participated in online fandom for, but a bit more casually these days. LRK has taken to lampshading a bit more blatantly, I note -- "What, are we in an Ethel Dell novel now?" Ali complains -- but I've always liked Russell and her energetic competence, and I liked this installment too. One thing that caught my attention was the assumption that in international affairs there is no question of whether to torture and extort, only how much, and you pick the good guys out by whether they do less of it, and with what level of distaste. I am sure this is a longstanding attitude in post-colonial politics, but I'm determined to write against it however possible. If my characters can manage to combat torture and yet avoid naivete, I will have done a great feat. Courtesy or bust, is my motto, as see below.

One Was A Soldier by Julia Spencer-Fleming. Also got caught up on the Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne series. This one was quite painful, but very good. I always do admire how JSF can layer complex psychological strata within and between people and make it part of a juggernaut plot -- it's a real talent. I'm also glad she didn't zoom out far enough from her Iraq-War-damaged characters to highlight the fact that they're all going through this suffering because of a lie, because that would have been just too much. The characters are fiction, but the suffering's real, and happening all over, and that's just untenable if you think about it too much. In this book too I found something I want to write against: there's an almost universally accepted trope that romantic love is the pinnacle of overwhelming grace, and JSF plays it to the hilt. Very well, mind you! But I want to read a book once in a while in which friendship is not just a stepping-stone to romantic love but a real breed of love in itself that also is a gateway to redemption. It's nice to read that someone was pulled back from the brink because they found a lover: but sometimes they're also pulled back because they have a Friend. In OWAS, Eric observes toward the end that "one another's all we have," but he's also losing his marriage, so he has grace enough to get by, but not the Best Kind. There's plenty of psychological truth there, but all the same I don't like that, Sam I Am. There are assumptions that need to be questioned, not least because questioning them leavens the melodrama a bit, which doesn't hurt.

The Track of the Cat by Nevada Barr. My local bud [profile] notabluemaia recced NB to me, so I gave Anna Pigeon a whirl. I like the spare prose and the straightforward, rough passage of both the character and the plot. Intrigued enough to try some more.

Meanwhile, on the Writing Front I am still laboring on Ryswyck Chapter 5. Have had to do a lot of backend character-drawing, because now that I've set up the initial main conflict and brought in most of the dramatis personae, I need to sift their motivations so as to get the plot track laid out straight. This is where I envy JSF her ability to weave plot and character and make it look seamless.

But, now that I'm into the laborious middle (and the extra-laborious summer season), I decided to post the second and third chapters to AO3, just so that my readers (and potential readers) can see what the conflict is going to look like. What I hope is that people can see in the first three chapters both the kill and the cure. Well, we'll see.

(crossposted from LJ)
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So instead of buckling down to prepare materials for the Purgatory retreat, my brain decided to spin an angsty crackfic scenario that I am patently unable to write because it would involve way too much plotting, and my winter high is starting to wear off. It is much, much too late in the season to lay the foundation for a fic in which some Vorling heir pulls a blackmail stunt on Alys to get her help with a border dispute and thinks he can do it with impunity because, as Simon guesses, he has somehow found out about Aral and the Escobar thing and plans to use it to drive a wedge between Aral and Gregor and Aral and Miles, and foment a civil disturbance in which he comes out on top. And then, after some desperate cogitations and as much planning as he can manage with Alys without telling her The Secret, Simon decides to fake his suicide in a lightflyer crash, and then sneaks back into Vorbarr Sultana, disguises himself as a poor babushka, and begs for tidbits at the Galenis' back door for several days until they get exasperated and finally take a second look ("Damn it, sir. Are you nuts?"), and wind up hiding him in their cellar. Meanwhile Gregor gets a visit from Alys in which she reveals that she's been blackmailed, and an hour later gets a visit from Miles in which he relates that his suspicions after reading the ImpSec report are that lightflyer + buggered stunner cartridge = Simon going on a fishing expedition, and shouldn't we be planning a manhunt instead of a state funeral? Gregor suggests letting Simon fish undisturbed, and sends Miles to Komarr to meet his parents on their way and guard Aral's flank. Then he hears from Laisa that Delia has twice begged off going with her mother to visit Lady Alys, and neatly corners her the next day at a luncheon to tell her that it's such a pity one can't talk to the dead, but he does have a few tidbits of information for her. Delia duly informs Simon of Gregor's message, and then carries one back, without ever having to admit that she knows Simon is alive, because Gregor and Simon are both so elliptical like that and Delia is more than capable of playing along. And then other mumblety mumble stuff happens and there's a showdown in a dark house in which Alys and Simon are both after the villain and meet in the silent shadows and she avoids shooting him with her plasma arc, and her wordless reaction to absorbing his living self is to hit him in the face and then hug him fiercely, and then they catch the villain together and they and Gregor are all very ruthless somehow, and the day is saved, and what the plan is for dealing with the Secret I have noooo idea.

So thanks, brain. I really appreciate the crack.

And now back to the Dante and the sticky flags, before I hie me to bed.
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It's a snowy morning and I am ficcing idly in my head. My brain wants to invent a new genre: the Barrayaran cozy mystery. It has one or two more nerve disruptors than the British variety, but what would you? Also, if I can ever manage to conceive a plausible crossover that involves Giles and Simon drinking tea and complaining about technology, I will so do it. Well...who says it has to be plausible?

...Damn, that snow is pretty.

And so it goes.
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Well, if I'm going to post here at all I may as well do the Year in Fic meme that's going around.

Fic wot I wrote in 2011

Oxford History Department
Whited Out (crossover with Narnia)
Plus a stalled WIP doubleheader longfic, because Kivrin/Dunworthy suddenly looked a lot more plausible after All Clear...if I can ever figure out how to write a Willis-like plot.

White Collar
Ten-Story Interlude
Queequeg and Ishmael Road Trip in New Jersey
A Corner on the Limbo Market
Little Ransoms
The Case of the Non-Floral Present
Meet Me Tuesday
Begging for Lightning

Vorkosigan Saga
Five Fast-Penta Interrogations from the Works of William Shakespeare (crossover with...wait for it...Shakespeare)

That's about 50,500 words total.

Looking back, did you write more fic than you thought you would this year, less, or about what you'd predicted?

Well, hell, I added two fandoms, so I not only wrote more fic than I expected, I wrote fic for characters I didn't even know in 2010. Fifty thousand words is not very much compared to my output in years previous, but considering that I started the year saying I was retired, it's rather...a lot.

What pairing/genre/fandom did you write that you would never have predicted in January?

In January I think I had a sneaking suspicion I would not be able to resist writing White Collar fic forever. Then [personal profile] hedda62 made me finally read Bujold, and, er, thirty thousand words later.... But none of my fics this year went far outside my usual MO, which is: missing-scene fic, parody, and short comedy, for the most part. Fortunately I managed to avoid epic this year, thanks be to God.

What's your favorite story of the year? Not the most popular, but the one that makes you happiest?

Oh, I'm pretty happy with "Anamnesis." But before that, I was pretty happy with "Queequeg and Ishmael."

Did you take any writing risks this year? What did you learn from them?

Actually, I think I throttled back on risk this year. I didn't post anything that I didn't have a sense of control over, and I didn't post any WIPs. Delayed gratification is not my strong suit, but if that's a risk, holding off posting "Anamnesis" till it was finished paid off, I think.

From my past year of writing, what was your...
Best story

"Anamnesis" was the best. Of the shortfics, I think "The Case of the Non-Floral Present" was the most elegant.

Story Most Underappreciated by the Universe

Well, I'm sorry "Grip" didn't get more attention at the time of its posting; it was my first effort in the WC-verse. But White Collar fandom and Vorkosiverse fandom are way more responsive to my fics than Buffy fandom was, so the appreciation I have gotten for my fics this year rather felt like an embarrassment of riches. Or maybe *eyeroll* it's writing arcane OC-riddled epics that's the problem. Maybe I should write one of those for the Vorkosiverse fandom, in the name of scientific inquiry.

Most fun

I giggled helplessly while writing "Queequeg and Ishmael," but "Begging for Lightning" is basically a tag-fic written on IM with [personal profile] kivrin and is supremely silly, so I'll pick that one.

Most disappointing

Well, I'm a bit disappointed that I couldn't get my plotting act together for the OHD doubleheader.

Most sexy

Gosh, I don't know. I wrote nearly all gen this year. It'd have to be "Anamnesis" by default.

Story With a Single Sexy Moment

I'm pretty proud of that thing with the pearl hairpins in "Anamnesis," I have to say. What most people don't know is that I borrowed that idea from the universe of my regency fantasy epic romance which will never see the light of day because it is, in a word, juvenilia, invented when I was fourteen. That's...er, a long time ago now. Erk. Anyway, it works even better for Simon and Alys than it did for my original characters, so I am pleased. Recycling from the slush drawer: it's a Good Thing. And kinda hot, if I say it myself.

Hardest to Write

I wrote nothing that was difficult to squeeze out, this year. Thanks be to God! After "Florentine Politics" I needed the break from a) plots that proliferate b) scenes that refuse to germinate and c) characters who refuse to cooperate. When the OHD longfics stopped presenting solutions to their own problems, I left them severely alone, thus preserving my sanity. "Anamnesis" involved some logistical challenges, but nothing insurmountable.

"Holy crap, that's wrong, even for you" story

See above re: not taking risks. Also, I tend to be fairly morally conventional as a rule. People seem to read my fic anyway. :)

Most Unintentionally Telling


Do you have any fanfic or profic goals for the New Year?

It might be nice to actually tackle one of my original projects, but I fear this is not going to be the year. Maybe I'll revisit the OHD-fic and see if I can get a better handle on it. And since Simon Illyan appears to have eaten my brain (so to speak), there may be more longfic with him in my future. I don't know. Let's see what happens.

And now...I'd better learn how to make a Dreamwidth cut-tag. Next post, I promise.
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