mithen: (Coffee S/B)
[personal profile] mekare asked about the history of my OTPs through time. Fun fun!

My first OTP was Amanda King/Lee Stetson from Scarecrow and Mrs. King, a 1980s show about a housewife who ends up working for the CIA. It was goofy and fun and Amanda and Lee were such lovely opposites who worked great together. The show introduced me to some of my favorite tropes (oh, pretending to be married, I wish I could quit you. No I don't, not actually).

My first slash OTP was Kirk/Spock from the original Star Trek. I actually saw very little of the show, it wasn't in syndication on any station where I lived. But I saw an episode or two, and then saw the movies--and, well, Wrath of Khan hit all my buttons HARD. My local library had the novelizations of all the episodes by James Blish, and I read them obsessively--to the point where I thought I had seen the episodes sometimes and was surprised when I saw them and things looked differently. My library also had very nice selection of the early profic novels--the very very very slashy ones. I didn't know what slash was, and I had only the vaguest understanding of why I found certain scenes so absolutely compelling (my early shipping impulses were entirely sex-free, and to be honest that's kind of my default), but I checked them out over and over and read them until they nearly were falling apart. K/S is my Forever OTP, there is no sinking that ship for me.

My next serious OTP (keep in mind this is only at the very infancy of the Internet, I still didn't know what slash or fanfic were or even that fandom was a thing) was Picard/Q from Star Trek: the Next Generation. They were snarky and funny and flirty, and in the long run my adoration of them was perfectly cemented by the fact that TNG is basically the story of their relationship, that's what bookends the whole series. Picard/Q was the first pairing I ever went looking for fic for (on USENET!) when I learned what slash was--I found a long story where Q lost his powers and there was a lot of BDSM and slavery, and it startled me quite a bit (I was a sweet young naïf).

After that I continued the Star Trek theme with Garak and Bashir on Star Trek: Deep Space 9. More snark, lots of identity porn (both Garak and Bashir were more than they seemed to be, and that made for fun times). Unfortunately, I shipped them and Odo/Kira, and here is where I learned the anguish of shipping within a still-open canon. Because both pairings end up basically split up and fragmented at the end of the show, and it FREAKING BROKE MY HEART. I've been extremely wary of shipping anyone I don't know for sure is endgame (or close to it, in the case of slash) since then, it's just too much pain. *shakes fist at DS9*

Roughly about the same time I lost my heart to Babylon 5, and specifically to Londo Mollari and G'Kar, two alien diplomats who frankly started off the show as comic relief. Their races had been at war for ages, and they hated each other bitterly: in fact, Londo has a prescient dream (all his race has dreams of their death) that he and G'Kar would die with their hands locked around each others' throats. These two LOATHE each other with all the passion that two groups at war for a generation can despise each other. And then there's an episode where a character travels into the future and we see an aged Londo, now Emperor of his people. At the end of the scene G'Kar emerges from the shadows...and Londo greets him as his "old friend" and asks him to kill him. They die with their hands around each others' throats as in Londo's dream, but the context is entirely different than we had thought. Of course this was catnip to me: I had to find out how they got where they were going and why (suffice to say it was incredibly tragic and wonderful and the best thing about that show).

So that's a bunch of OTPs, but so far none of them had ever kindled the urge to write fic for them. That came about with Blakes 7 and Blake/Avon, the amazingly fantastically flawed rebels and their utterly screwed up and doomed relationship, which is how I got into fic writing!

After Blake/Avon (who never really went away, they're just a bit dormant) I came across Superman/Batman, and...well, I will probably never match the output for that pairing with any other. Because they're not one pairing, they're dozens, depending on which universe you're writing in (you've got continuity comics, various movies, the animated series, different tv shows, oh and Elseworlds). And then it's a different dynamic depending on whether you're writing Superman/Bruce or Batman/Clark or Batman/Kal or Superman/Batman or Clark/Brucie...so many facets to their personalities, so much to play with. A combination of pretty much having written myself into oblivion and some not-very-inspiring canon have cooled me a bit on them, which is probably why AUs and Elseworlds have been getting a lot of my love lately, but there's still so much to write!

Clark/Bruce were my one and only writing OTP for...probably six years or so. Then about a year ago I managed to pick up two other OTPs I really wanted to write for simultaneously. I saw Hobbit and fell in love with Thorin and Bilbo and Thorin/Bilbo, and curiosity about Martin Freeman's acting led me (very belatedly) to Sherlock and then to Holmes/Watson in general, because I am insatiable about characters and must inhale every bit of canon I can about them, which is very dangerous when you run into things like Clark/Bruce or Lancelot/Arthur or Holmes/Watson! I'm now in the middle of watching the 1980s Granada series with Jeremy Brett (lovely, lovely, Jeremy Brett), with plans to watch the 1980s Soviet version as well as Ghibli's Sherlock Hound. So they should keep me busy for a while, I think... Thorin/Bilbo has less meat to it than the other two, but on the other hand I have plans for continuing my current AU decades into the future of Middle Earth for them, so that well is unlikely to run dry anything very soon either. So much still to write...this makes me terribly happy!
mithen: (Default)
[personal profile] navaan asked me for some Blakes 7 thoughts!

First, a quick introduction to Blakes 7. B7 was a BBC science fiction show that ran for four series in the early 1980s. It was a dystopian show about a rebel against the oppressive Federation named Roj Blake, who steals a super-high-tech spaceship while being transported to a prison planet and escapes along with a motley group of smugglers, burglars, and embezzlers, who he then drags into his rebellion. It is most notable for being witty, sardonic, morally gray and bleak while also managing to sport some of the most utterly insane costuming choices known to humanity.

Blakes 7 was the first fandom I ever wrote fic for, and I entered it in the most roundabout way possible: I was in a graduate-school class on media theory and there were readings on fandom, something I had never heard of in my life. I found and read Henry Jenkins's "Textual Poachers" and Camille Bacon-Smith's "Enterprising Women" (both highly recommended, by the way, although the fandom they describe is pre-Internet and thus very different in some ways) and both of them mentioned Blakes 7 as a key text, so I decided to find and watch it, and I was hooked immediately. The relationship between passionate idealist Blake and the cynical, cold-hearted Kerr Avon was so very interesting, and their tug-of-war about trust and friendship was completely enthralling. It didn't hurt that they spent a lot of time staring intently at each other or saving each others' lives by throwing their arms around each other.

Here are some images of Avon and Blake Being Intense together (the images and text are taken from this page:

Really old but very specific spoilers below the cut. Also, 80s BBC fashion. YOu have been warned. )
mithen: (Good Old Doctor Watson)
[profile] aegyptae_liber asked me for my thoughts about Sherlock, Johnlock, Mary, the latest series and thoughts about the future. Pull up a chair and have some tea, we might be here a while.

First, let me get this out of the way: there was a lot of stuff I didn't like about Series Three of Sherlock, but I'm not terribly interested in dwelling on them (I always prefer to focus on what I enjoyed).

Inevitably, I suppose, I do dwell on it a bit below the cut, but then get back to the positives. Obviously, HUGE MASSIVE SPOILERS for all of the series. )
mithen: (Noveau Flower)
[personal profile] starsandsea asked me to talk about the Silmarillion a little bit, and I was happy to oblige!

When I first read Lord of the Rings as a kid, I tried to read it something like four times and every time I stalled out at the Council of Elrond, where everyone sits around talking about history and myth. I finally could only get through the series by skipping that chapter entirely. So it's odd that the Silmarillion--which is basically pure distilled essence of Council of Elrond in book form--is a book I love so passionately. And yet I do!

Part of it is that I've always loved formal, archaic language for its own sake: I've been known to read the King James Bible for fun, and I adore The Worm Oroboros, which has passages like:

So the Silmarillion, which is entirely Tolkien at his most formal, with no hobbits to keep things grounded, has an immediate linguistic appeal. That said, the lack of hobbits (or any other character who isn't Fulfilling Their High and Glorious Destiny) is obviously the book's weakest point as well. Everything is Epic and Overwhelming, and one yearns sometimes for Pippin to show up and tell Turin that maybe he should stop and smoke some pipeweed and chill out. And in my copy of the book, the spine is cracked at the family trees, because I never did fully grasp the difference between Maglor and Maedhros and Maeglin or Finrod and Fingon and Fingolfin.

But oh, the stories! They're beautiful on their own, but part of what's so amazing about them is the depth and richness they give to the rest of Tolkien's work. Hobbit and LOTR do stand on their own, but once you've absorbed the greater world...well, knowing the story of Beren and Luthien in full adds so much depth and sadness to Aragorn and Arwen's story. Knowing that the White Tree of Gondor comes from a cutting from the tree that grew in Numenor, which was a sapling of Telperion, one of the two Trees hallowed by the Valar--it adds so much bittersweetness when you're more aware of the depth of history, the way things play out over and over in ever-diminishing yet still beautiful ripples. Or, to tie into my essay on Thorin, if you know what Gondolin was and what it means to the elves, then the moment when Thorin lifts Orcrist and Gandalf says it was "forged in Gondolin before the Fall" will give you an extra shiver. And if you know what dwarves did to Thingol, King of the Sindarin elves, then the fact that Thranduil allows Orcrist--a sword probably wielded by Ecthelion, one of the greatest of elf-lords; a sword that probably slew a balrog--to be buried along with Thorin is an absolutely staggering show of respect.

I actually love the Silmarillion so much that I've read and enjoyed much of the series Tolkien's son put together collecting his reams of notebooks and tracing the development of the themes and stories and characters in his work. It's some pretty amazingly dry stuff, but worth it for things like discovering Tolkien fretted over the fact that his origins of the Sun and Moon didn't match actual cosmology--for a while he even toyed with the possibility of having the moon be an orbiting fortess of Morgoth's. And he wanted to find a way to change the fact that there were trees in eastern Middle Earth before there was a sun and moon, because it wasn't realistic to have trees growing without light. Thank goodness his son kept to the older drafts, otherwise we might never have had the beautiful passage of the rising of the first moon as the Noldor leave Valinor in exile: "The servants of Morgoth were filled with amazement, but the Elves of the Outer Lands looked up in delight; and even as the Moon rose above the darkness in the west, Fingolfin let blow his silver trumpets and began his march into Middle-earth, and the shadows of his host went long and black before them." The moon as a fortress of Morgoth, blasphemy!

So, uh, yeah. I might have a lot of thoughts about the Silmarillion! It's not an easy read, but I've found it to be incredibly rewarding and I've re-read it countless times.
mithen: (Good Old Doctor Watson)
[personal profile] rijsg asked what attracts me to a pairing, which is...a dangerous thing to ask, because oh boy, do I like to talk about stuff like that. I've actually turned this over a lot in my head, because there's a difference between "I like this pairing, they're good together" and "OH I CLUTCH MY HEART WHEN THEY SPEAK TOGETHER I MUST WRITE THEM FIC THIS INSTANT." I ended up with three things that tend to show up a lot together--any one or two and I ship them, but put all three together and DAMN, it's my Kryptonite.

0. Oh, first, a baseline: I generally need a LOT of canon interactions between the two--or at the very least, their relationship needs to be very central to the story. I have a hard time shipping anyone who doesn't have a nice rich canon together, I'm not someone who can enjoy making up my own head canon for relationships, sometimes to my chagrin. Part of why the reboot has been hard for my Clark/Bruce muses is that at a certain level, these two (new) characters have had almost no interaction we've seen together. Yes, there's still lots of other canons out there and I can graft the pre-reboot history onto them, but at some level it feels hollow. Same for rebooted Kirk/Spock, although they're making progress there.

1. Complementary opposites. I don't tend to ship canon enemies (Batman/Joker and Sherlock/Moriarty leave me cold) but on the other hand I don't tend to ship buddies either (Ron/Harry, Pippin/Merry, Booster/Beetle, Armin/Eren from Attack on Titan are all very nice but lack the spark I need for a true OTP). What draws me in are pairs where the backgrounds, the motivations, or the personalities lead to friction, but the emotional connection transcends that friction. I love Batman/Catwoman, for example, because the playful/serious personality and selfish/altruistic motivation clash creates sparks for me. Holmes and Watson are often called "the heart and the mind" and I tend to adore pairings with an extremely intellectual person and a more gut-level (but still intelligent) person (hello there Kirk/Spock, Blake/Avon, Bruce/Clark, Illya/Napoleon, Stephen Maturin/Jack Aubrey). It especially helps if the two are complementary opposite types working together in service of a cause bigger than themselves--a ship or starship or country or organization or cause. Give me lots of passionate arguments about means and ends and goals and I'm a happy shipper.

2. Loners. I tend to love pairs in which both members are isolated and have a hard time making meaningful human connections, in part because it's such a thrill that they have each other. Everyone I've listed above fits that pretty well (Aubrey/Maturin maybe the least) and I'll just add Alan/Denny from Boston Legal while I'm at it.

I'm going to take a moment and mention that very often the "warmer" person in my OTP tends to be taken as more emotionally accessible and open and expressive than the "cooler" one--and that it's often not so at all, it's just a different way of keeping people at a distance. Jim Kirk, Clark Kent, John Watson, Bilbo Baggins are all people who seem more able to make human connections than Spock, Bruce Wayne, Sherlock Holmes, Thorin--but canonically they tend to be just as lonely and isolated, just in a different way. Kirk has plenty of flirtations, but almost never anything deep and meaningful (when it is, she dies, of course--an unfortunate theme with all these characters). Command isolates him. For all his vaunted love and affection for all, Clark Kent is shockingly low on people he lets get close to him. If I'm keeping track correctly, in the reboot only four people alive seem to know his secret identity: Diana, Lois (she just found out and I think the knowledge is temporary, but we'll see), Lana Lang--and Bruce. His alien background always lends an element of loneliness to his character--I'm not a big fan of the storylines where he mopes and broods about it, but I like it as a melancholy thread that runs under his interactions. It's the Fortress of Solitude, not the Fortress of Hanging Out With My Buddies. Bilbo Baggins lives alone of his own choice, never seems to regret it, and is something of a misanthropist in general it seems--he likes people, but on his own terms. And I'm sure theses have been written about the fact that John Watson is maybe even more unable than Sherlock Holmes to easily express emotions and connection. Everyone thinks of him as the warm and affectionate one, but nearly all of his connections (everyone at that Christmas party) are in his life because of Sherlock. Even Sholto, his commanding officer who he admires greatly, he pretty much never actually interacts with. Mary Morstan is a distinct exception (a little oddly, considering in canon he only met her because of Holmes), and she does complicate things a bit, but that's a topic for a few days from now.

Even my few het OTPs (I ship lots of het and femslash, but not many reach the passion of the m/m pairings for me) have isolation as a theme--for example, Jarod/Miss Parker from The Pretender, two very isolated and lonely individuals who, even though they're technically enemies, end up having more in common than anyone else. The femslash pairing that comes closest to an OTP for me is Huntress/Power Girl in the new continuity, and in part that's because they have that same "two outsiders against the rest of the world" dynamic (they're very like Kirk and Spock in that Karen has a lot of casual relationships and Helena stays aloof, but they're the most important thing in each others' lives beyond a doubt). "You and Me Against the World" is probably my OTP philosophy theme song.

3. Teleology. This is maybe a strange one, and one I hadn't really teased out until answering this question! Teleology is the study of endings and destinations...I've always been struck by how, considering how much I love fluffy stories, I end up so very often drawn to pairings where one member dies next to the other, and often where one member kills the other. Qui-gon's death scene with Obi-wan impressed me enough that it overcame my teacher/student squick, and that is saying something. Thorin/Bilbo, Kunzite/Zoicite from Sailor Moon, Picard/Q...all the same. Kirk/Spock and Holmes/Watson (lots more about this in the coming Sherlock post) have their own weird takes on it (and how much does it kill me that Spock wasn't there when Kirk died? SO MUCH). Denny Crane and Alan Shore in Boston Legal don't get there in canon, but they're on their way.

And then there are the OTPs where one member actually kills the other...Londo/G'Kar, Blake/Avon, Ian/Hamish, to be honest if I had a Harry Potter OTP it would probably be Dumbledore/Snape (again, overcoming my teacher/student squick). And of course Clark and Bruce manage, in alternate continuities and Elseworlds and dystopian futures, to die together AND/OR kill each other over and over again.

I think in part this is because, in some ways, I am a hardcore endgame shipper. A clinch or a wedding isn't enough for me--"till death do us part? I require proof." When characters die together or kill each other, it means that at the ultimate end, they were there for each other. They were, in the final moments, the most important things in each others' lives.

It also gives me something to save them from, through the power of my imagination. I don't usually even go for full-on AUs that rescue them from death, it's enough to write (on the screen or in my mind) the brief happy moments of connection snatched from the inevitable ending. Thorin and Bilbo are one of the few OTPs that I have ended up giving a complete pocket-universe AU, and I suspect that's because there just isn't enough time for a lot of stolen happy moments before the end. Generally it adds pleasure to the creation for me, knowing the bitter awaits and thus writing the sweet.

So give me any one of these and I'll probably find a pairing interesting. Give me any two and I'll ship it. But give me three, and watch me fall head-over-heels for it!
mithen: (Misty Mountain Cold)
[personal profile] meicdon13 asked about when fans' head canon disagrees with mine. I'm a real fan of "Live and let live" when it comes to fannish readings of canon, but I admit sometimes it can put me to the test. Recently I've been trying my hand at making gifsets, particularly of the 1980s Sherlock Holmes series with Jeremy Brett. The funny thing is I'll make gifsets of a scene that I think has a really clear reading, and then discover other people read the exact same moment very differently. Like this tiny moment, when Holmes returns from the dead and surprises Mrs. Hudson at Baker Street, then steps forward and gathers her into his arms:

Smile

Someone reblogged it with the commentary "You can totally see how uncomfortable he's getting and how he wishes this hug would be over already." Suffice to say that's not how I read it, but really, there's nothing in that moment that absolutely rules out either reading. Or another moment, where a nervous little girl thanks the very daunting Holmes and he gravely shakes her hand, and then:

Smile

I didn't read that as a particularly forced or fake smile (I know people whose natural smile is that little lip-twitch, that might be the reason), but based on the tags and commentary, others did. So putting up gifsets has been an interesting exercise in getting steady reminders that it's very possible to read exactly the same canon moments in dramatically different ways.

This tendency is exacerbated in comics, where there's just SO MUCH canon for key characters that there's no way it all fits into one continuity. I'm pretty sure there's been something like 50 Christmases celebrated in what was at most fifteen years of Batfamily continuity, for example. What that means is that however you wish to interpret a character, there is a LOT of canon to support your interpretation. For example, I hate the idea that Bruce was abusive or cruel to Dick when he was Robin. But there's no denying there are moments across the decades and decades of titles showing their interaction that could well be classified as cruel treatment. In fact, if you piled them all together, you could well have what would look like years of misery.

You could also put together enough scans to "prove" that Dick's time with Bruce was an idyllic time filled with tender moments! Comic book canon simply overflows the time available; as a result, one can cherry-pick the canon that they want.

Because of this, I have come to find it relatively easy to accept alternative versions of comic book characters I love: they've just contructed their version of the character from a different assortment of canon than I have. If someone prefers to see Batman as a child abuser, or Superman as an arrogant dick...well, that makes me sad (because I love my versions of them and I do rather wish everyone could see them as I do) but it's also got nothing to do with the characters I love, in some ways. I'm able to go on my merry shippy way.

So I don't tend to mind when someone's interpretation of characters is different from mine and they just don't like the characters. But I do confess the thing that puts me to the test are people who believe Bruce is a child abuser (or Sherlock is a sociopath or Thorin is horrible) and still write my OTP. If they write them off or make them the villain, I can ignore them. If they think they're awful but still put them into the pairing with the other character I love...well, that's back-button-and-brain-bleach time, usually followed by ranting at my long-suffering husband for a while. But that happens so rarely that my fannish experience is generally a positive one!
mithen: (Road Goes Ever On)
There was a thing going around on Tumblr with a short dialogue:

Me, before seeing The Hobbit: Well, I won't be shipping anyone from this.
Me, after seeing The Hobbit: [nervous sweat] I am so fucked.


That's pretty much me, although it took me three viewings of the movie (in two weeks!) to get there. The main reason, of course, was this majestic doofus:



Now, if you read Tolkien's book as a kid, you might be thinking, "That's funny, I don't remember Thorin Oakenshield striking me as a handsome, noble, brooding hero with a tragic backstory." That's because Tolkien's take on Thorin and dwarves in general was much closer to this:

There it is: dwarves are not heroes, but calculating folk with a great idea of the value of money; some are tricky and treacherous and pretty bad lots; some are not, but are decent enough people like Thorin and Company, if you don't expect too much.

This is one of the most awesome changes Jackson made to the movies, in my humble opinion. Tolkien based his dwarves on Jews--their language is based on Semitic roots, and he gave them traits he associated with being Jewish. That is to say, greedy and petty. Now, the evolution of dwarves through Tolkien's works is actually really fascinating: they start off as the worst of inhuman stereotypes in the early Silmarillion, become moderately sympathetic but not heroic characters in Hobbit, and by the time we get to Gimli (who is much less comedic in the books than in the movies) and the Appendices, we've got a race that has potential for great deeds and great tragedy. At this point he actually went BACK and added a much more interesting and sympathetic origin story for dwarves to the beginning of the Silmarillion, and so we come full circle.

Jackson has stayed true to the basic idea of the Jews as a base for dwarvish culture and history, but has decided to highlight themes that Tolkien didn't focus on (although they're there): the bitter grief of the diaspora, the grim endurance of serving others in a strange land, the passionate and burning commitment to regaining a homeland. As a result, Thorin HAD to be more than the pompous, greedy blowhard of the books. He had to be a heroic figure who's willing sacrifice everything (even risking the madness that he knows gold might trigger in him) to unite his people and give them a home once more.

To be fair, and very interestingly, one has the impression that Tolkien dimly saw these possibilities in Thorin and didn't (perhaps, because of his own prejudices and blinkers, couldn't) follow through on them. Because book!Thorin still somehow connects with Beorn to the point where, when he falls in battle, Beorn goes into full-berserker mode and slaughters a massive number of goblins to reach his body and carry him from the battlefield (then returning and routing pretty much the entire goblin army). After his death, the elves and humans not only give back the Arkenstone to be buried with him, the Elvenking returns Orcrist to him (forged in Gondolin! Wielded by an elf of legend! Slayer of a balrog!) to rest with him forever in the darkness. There are hints of this grandeur in the text, when Thorin reveals himself in Laketown ("Thorin son of Thrain son of Thror King under the Mountain!" said the dwarf in a loud voice, and he looked it, in spite of his torn clothes and draggled hood. The gold gleamed on his neck and waist: his eyes were dark and deep.) and most especially when he emerges from the mountain to fight:

Suddenly there was a great shout, and from the Gate came a trumpet call. They had forgotten Thorin! Part of the wall, moved by levers, fell outward with a crash into the pool. Out leapt the King under the Mountain, and his companions followed him. Hood and cloak were gone; they were in shining armour, and red light leapt from their eyes. In the gloom the great dwarf gleamed like gold in a dying fire.

*swoons*

But on the whole Tolkien seems to have been unable to understand how amazing Thorin could be as a character. Jackson found all the hints that Thorin was awesome, welded them together, cast Richard Armitage, and BAM, we have a character that's 100% swoonworthy.

But one character does not a ship make! So what's the appeal of "Bagginshield" as opposed to Thorin/Dwalin or Thorin/Thranduil (both of which are pretty compelling as well)?

Well, a lot of it is the "opposite but complementary" theme, and a lot of it is the "two loners who find each other" theme. But I can tell you the exact, the precise moment I started shipping these two (and it's not the hug!)

I came out of my first viewing of the movie understanding intellectually why people might ship them, but it hadn't set its hooks in my heart at that point. The key thing for me was when, at the second viewing, I was listening to Ian Holm's Bilbo talking about his adventures. "Ah, Frodo," he says, "Erebor.". And there's a depth of love and longing in his voice that completely took me aback, because book!Bilbo pretty cordially hates Erebor. So why, why, why does movie!Bilbo love it so much? What's different in this world? Well, the answer is all the dwarves (in the book mostly a set of interchangeable nuisances) and most obviously Thorin himself.

So you see there was a story there for me, and a destination--Thorin's deathbed, where he calls for Bilbo and clings to life so he may see him before he dies and apologize for everything; where Bilbo tells him it was an honor to travel with him and then creeps off to weep until his eyes are red and his voice hoarse. How will that destination look with THIS Thorin and THIS Bilbo and their relationship as it's evolving, I wondered. And, well, that was that. It's a beautiful, sad, closed story and its very finality ensured that I would want to give them as much happiness as I could!
mithen: (Noveau Flower)
[personal profile] pleasance asked me what I've done to improve my writing. IF I have improved at all (sometimes I read older things and wince, other times I'm frustrated because it seems better than what I'm writing now) I'd attribute it to a few things:

--I took very much to heart Ray Bradbury's advice that "quantity leads to quality," and decided early on I wasn't going to be embarrassed about the fact that a lot of the same themes crop up over and over again in my stories, because they're all fun rough drafts for the next story as far as I'm concerned. I try not to polish stories up too much (obviously check the spelling and punctuation, make sure they hang together at a basic level) or overthink them, I like to release them into the wild and learn from what people point out as liking or as not liking. I don't think you have to approach quantity the same way, though--I think it would also work fine to write 30,000 words, go over them with a fine-toothed comb, pick out the 3,000 that really work, and post one well-polished, careful, gorgeous story now and then. But you have to write a lot to produce a few sentences truly worth it all!

--I read a LOT, and from a lot of different places and genres. Right now I'm in the middle of reading a wrestling biography by Roddy Piper, "Oriental Mythology" by Joseph Campbell, and "The Diaries of Jane Somers," a novel by Doris Lessing about a British woman in the 1970s that's very naturalistic and low-key, touching on themes of aging, love, and purpose in life. Recently I've read a murder mystery set in post-WWI Britain, some naval adventure, a Regency romance (one of my favorite genres), a sprawling fantasy series, and a guide to more punchy writing style. I read a fair amount of fanfic as well! With all of them, especially the fanfic, I spend a lot of time noticing what worked for me and what disappointed me, wondering what I would have wanted different and what was perfect as it was. Which leads to...

--I steal a lot! Everything I read or watch I'm constantly thinking about whether I could use it in a story--not verbatim, of course, but is there a twist on my beloved amnesia trope that seemed to work well here? Is there situation of mistaken identity that might work with a pairing I love? There was a Regency romance I read where the hero came to confess his love to the heroine, but she thought he was in love with her younger sister, and so their communication became hilariously tangled ("I suspect you know why I'm here." "...yes." "You don't seem terribly excited about it." "It is an excellent match, of course; how could I protest?") And I laughed and sighed for them (and cheered when finally one of them broke down and got emotional) and thought, "Oh, a story where Clark shows up to tell Bruce he loves him and Bruce thinks Clark is in love with Dick!" I haven't written that one yet, but now I am reminded that I totally want to. I am, in short, a magpie of a writer, always looking for shiny things I can use in my own nest. Everything ties back in: do I make a horrible mistake in a meeting and want to die of shame? Maybe Clark could totally screw up in front of the League and have to deal with worrying Bruce thinks less of him. Do I have to edit a boring medical text? Maybe I can learn something that John or Sherlock can use. Long road trip? How would I describe the scenery, is it something Bilbo might see in his travels?

--I have a great beta and I got better at listening to him and not taking his suggestions to mean "I don't like your story." His strong point--plot--is my weak point, so in general listening to him leads inevitably to a more interesting story.

And I guess what I do most is keep trying to enjoy myself and not let it become a chore, because that's the only way to keep moving forward for me!
mithen: (Batman Loves You)
[personal profile] lady_peony asked "Your thoughts on SuperBat in a ridiculous high school shoujo manga AU(you know, cherry blossoms, senpai has noticed me, school uniforms with ties and blazers etc etc.)?" And I've been giggling about the idea ever since, even though--alas and ironically--I probably haven't consumed enough of the genre to do it justice!

Sadly, Clark and Bruce would have to be the same age for me, so no "senpai-noticed-me" moments between them in that way! But that doesn't mean there couldn't be a lot of blushing and stammering and "I don't like you, baka!" scenes. ^-^ I would imagine Clark and Bruce would be the cool upperclassmen everyone has a crush on, and everyone thinks they're totally tough and suave and with-it...but secretly Clark is a huge dork who's into some obscure television show and doesn't want everyone to know he's actually an otaku, and Bruce is secretly super-shy and has cultivated his aloof persona to cover that up. So the more "Batman" and "Superman" side of them is actually the public face in this AU, and the "Bruce" and "Clark" sides become the secret that they're hiding.

Maybe Bruce comes across Clark in Akihabara fanboying over his show and Clark is certain that Bruce is going to make fun of him, but Bruce says "If I don't tell anyone you're into this stupid show that I certainly don't know anything about, will you help me work on this speech I have to give at graduation, not that I have a terrible fear of public speaking or anything, baka.." And at some point while Clark is tutoring him (of course) he talks about his beloved show and Bruce slips up and reveals he's just as crazy about it as Clark is. :)

Annnnd, the Robins are totally underclassmen who worship Bruce and he's terrified of losing their esteem, and over the course of the story they come to realize he's not perfect and they do stop worshiping him so much, but Bruce-senpai also comes to realize that he'd rather they know him as a real person than idolize a facade, and probably at his big graduation speech he "comes out" as a fan of the dorky show Clark loves, and maybe comes out in other ways as well, and Clark blushes furiously in the audience and they decide to go into business together (making manga? running a fanzine?) and the end of the story is an image of the two of them on the cover of a magazine as "Japan's New Power Couple" with their arms around each other.

(I was not sure I could come up with something for this, but it ran away with me anyway!)
mithen: (Default)
[personal profile] rileyc asked me about Ian Rutledge/Hamish McLeod, AKA My Detective/Ghost OTP. Ian Rutledge is the hero of a series of mysteries by mother and son writing team Charles Todd. Rutledge is a veteran of WWI and the mysteries are set in England shortly after the war, usually involving some angle about the repercussions of the Great War. The mysteries are decent but not always compelling: the draw for me is instead the relationship between Rutledge and the "voice in his head," the voice of a dead solder, Hamish McLeod.

We see early in the first book that Rutledge suffers from PTSD, specifically in the form of hearing Hamish's voice in his head, talking to him, usually berating him and calling him worthless. Rutledge knows intellectually that Hamish is dead and the voice is not really him, but it's so intense and real (it feels as if Hamish is always standing right behind him) that it still bothers him. Rutledge was Hamish's commanding officer in the trenches in France, and over the course of the first book we learn that Hamish "broke" one day when commanded to go over the top and charge enemy lines, refusing to lead his men into battle again. As a result, Hamish had to be shot for desertion of duty. Sick with pity and grief, Rutledge stayed up with Hamish all through the night before his execution, listening to Hamish talk endlessly about his home and childhood and life! memorizing every word (thus he has an uncanny knowledge of Hamish's voice and life). The next day, just as the firing squad fires, their camp is hit by German bombs. The shots go awry and Rutledge runs to the dying Hamish's side in the chaos. In panicked agonized sympathy, he shoots Hamish in the head just as a bomb lands and buries him in mud for hours. He only lives through it because Hamish's dead body shelters him--and then he spends hours trapped in the mud, entangled with Hamish's corpse. Not surprisingly, he ends up with crippling "shell shock" and at the beginning of the series it has taken him a year or so to even put himself together enough to function as a detective again in the post-war world.

Hamish is definitely dead throughout the series, this is not actually a ghost story. But his voice and presence are a constant accusing reality for Rutledge, who sympathized entirely with his exhaustion and disillusionment. Of course, there are also times (which increase as the series goes on) where the voice gives useful insights which help Rutledge unravel a case. There's even a dramatic moment where Rutledge feels like "Hamish" has taken control of his body after a gunshot wound to force him to keep moving and not die. And although the imaginary Hamish in Rutledge's mind is harsh and unforgiving, there is a fair amount of textual evidence that the real Hamish cared very much about Rutledge. When Rutledge meets Hamish's fiancée, Fiona, he learned that Hamish told her that he wanted to name any son they might have "Ian" after his commanding officer. And there are some beautiful moments where Hamish feels so real to Rutledge--there's one where someone shoots at Rutledge and the bullet goes past his shoulder, and Rutledge panics because it passes through the space where Hamish always seems to be, and what if he has gotten Hamish killed again?

So I'm terribly attracted to the pairing (yet another of the many pairings I have where one member kills the other!), especially without any sort of fixit. I love the idea of something happening between them in the trenches--or nothing but a repressed yearning. And I love the image of Rutledge haunted by an inaccurately hateful ghost when the reality was different. (I also suspect that very angsty Rutledge/Fiona might be in the future of the series, and this may well be my Incredibly Tragic OT3). Sadly, it is a fandom of four--I've only run into three other people I know who are into the series! *waves at [personal profile] rileyc* But if anyone ever reads it and wants to write me a moment of happiness snatched in the trenches (or the incredibly creepy ghost-voyeur masturbation porn I kind of want to write myself) I would be a happy happy fangirl...
mithen: (Noveau Flower)
[personal profile] northernwalker asked about my favorite ice cream flavor, which is Ben and Jerry's Vanilla Heath Bar Crunch! First just because I love the flavor and texture, but second because I was sharing a pint with my sister one day, both of us eating out of the container (because it's more delicious that way) and my sister took a bite and sighed "You know you have a good relationship with someone when you don't have to hurry and dig the Heath Bar chunks out of the ice cream before the other person hogs them all." <3
mithen: (Hand on Shoulder S/B)
I got an anonymous request for either Clark or Bruce's (or Dick's, but that's so tied to Bruce's) story as I see it from start to present--that is to say, what do I pick and choose from different continuities and canons to make my Superman or Batman? This is a hard and interesting question! The simple cheating answer is that I change it depending on what I need for the story--the Kents are alive if that works better for the story, and dead if that works better. But I assume what the question is asking, roughly, is what is my Platonic Ideal of the storyline of the character.

Lots of stitched-together canon below the cut! )
mithen: (Coffee S/B)
[profile] dhfunk asked about how I got into shipping Clark and Bruce! Ooooh, I can talk about that for a bit. :)

I don't remember why I decided to get into back into American comic books back in 2005, but I did. I hadn't been reading comics for a decade or so, and then I'd been reading only Marvel, but I decided I wanted to reconnect with the DC heroes of my early childhood, so I ordered The Dark Knight Returns, Kingdom Come, and the first three Superman/Batman trades. The first two were so bewildering that I almost gave up on the spot, and I didn't even know that trade paperbacks didn't necessarily stand alone, so I picked up "Absolute Power" first (the second of the Superman/Batman trades). An AU where Clark and Bruce were raised as brothers by super villains to rule the world isn't really the most accessible beginning point, but the story was filled with so much angst and bromance that I hardly noticed I had no idea what was going on.

Then I realized I was reading these trades in the wrong order, and I went back and read "Public Enemies." "Public Enemies" is really the best starting point for trying to get anyone hooked on S/B (either that or the Justice League animated series that was running at the same time would be my recommendations) because Loeb's writing is just luxuriously slashy and he adores how well-matched and complementary they are. I can actually tell you the exact panel that things clicked for me: Superman and Batman are back-to-back, facing down a few dozen of their worst foes all at once.



At this point I closed the comic book, found my husband, and said, "Do you think maybe Superman and Batman are a little bit...you know...slashy?"

And he said, "Wow, are you slow."

And I said, "So, would it offend you if I happened to write something slashing your childhood icons?"

And he rolled his eyes (he is a good enabler). And I was off and running!

There's a theme across this month, which is that I am notoriously slow to start shipping. I'm not resistant, I just...really need time to process texts and contemplate them before I commit my heart to a pairing, even if I can "see" it right away. It took three viewings of the Hobbit before Thorin/Bilbo "clicked" with me, and I didn't truly ship Sherlock/John until after I saw "Reichenbach Fall." So I tend to approach pairings cautiously, kind of kicking the tires and tapping the headlights before I am willing to actually sit down in the driver's seat. I think actually that reading The Dark Knight Returns and Kingdom Come helped in the long run, because they gave me two alternate visions of the "path" of Clark and Bruce's relationship. And that sense of a "path" is really important to me. So seeing two different possible futures for them together, and one possible alternate history for them, really helped cement my ability to ship them.  But it was watching them working together, how they trusted each other with their back, how they respected each other, that clinched the deal.  
mithen: (Good Old Doctor Watson)
[profile] mishagirl asked for any advice on meeting 'the one' or finding love in general?

Oh, ugh, on the topic of meeting someone I'm utterly useless, because it's been so long since I've dated (I have not dated since the World Wide Web came into existence, so...yeah) and most of my pre-marriage relationships were pretty feckless things that I fell into largely in disbelief that someone might be interested in me so I'd better go for it. :P I can, however, talk a little bit about what I think helps maintain my relationship (I guess keeping love is a big part of finding it, right? Right?)

Cut because I have spoilers for the most recent Sherlock, which is probably a pretty good example of how NOT to handle interpersonal conflict )
mithen: (Default)
Ilyena_Sylph asked about my favorite place to visit in Japan. That would have to be specifically Daitokuji Temple in Kyoto! Daitokuji is a compound of little tiny Buddhist temples, many of which have a beautiful little garden attached to them where you can sit on a sun-warmed wooden veranda and contemplate the meaning of life.

The most famous of them is Daisen-in, which has a beautifully austere rock garden that represents a river that loops around the temple before ending in a vast ocean (or perhaps a foggy mountain range):



Koto-in has an entrance walk through a maple grove before reaching a mossy garden.



Ryougen-in has a set of five very small rock gardens that focus on having especially dramatic "ripples" around the rocks.



I usually end up spending a couple of hours going from temple to temple when I visit;  it's not on the usual rotation of school tours, so it's often much more quiet and relaxing than the more well-known temples!
mithen: (Coffee S/B)
[profile] mishagirl asked about my opinions about the upcoming "Superman versus Batman" (I believe it's been stated that is not the title) movie. I haven't said much about it, mostly because my thoughts are so very conflicted, but I shall try to tease them out a bit here!

Well, I'm glad it's getting made at all, to begin with! Even if it's not good, I would never turn up my nose at more exposure for the pairing. Other scattered thoughts:

I'm not thrilled with Ben Affleck--not so much for his own sake, but because he's a solid 15 years older than Cavill and it sounds like he might be played even older. I greatly prefer Clark and Bruce to be played as similar in age and experience, in part because it upsets the delicate balance of their equality if one of them is much older. Both Cavill and Affleck are very good actors--I was very impressed with Cavill's Superman and I look forward to seeing his Clark--but the writing is important too. The fact that they keep stressing a Milleresque feeling to the project makes me uneasy, but I can take a fair amount of punchy-punchy and growling in the middle as long as it ends with at least respect between the two.

I have terribly mixed feelings about Diana being in it, although I think the casting of Gal Gadot looks excellent. I hate the idea of her being overshadowed by Clark and Bruce, and I dread seeing people ragging on Clark and Bruce's characters if they are allowed to shove her to the side, more or less. I really hope they don't go with any kind of romantic angle between any of them--not so much because it gets in the way of my slash OTP, but because canonically I'm much more a fan of Clark/Lois and Bruce/Selina. But I do hope the movie does well enough that DC gets their collective act together and makes a Wonder Woman movie or tv show!

In short: great (if slightly inexplicable in the case of Affleck) cast, nervous about the tone and direction, happy it's being made at all. :)
mithen: (Misty Batman)
[personal profile] sevencorvus asked for some Batfamily headcanons, so here are a few sentences on each of them! It's a weird jumble of pre-reboot and post-reboot continuity, whatever struck my fancy:

After Kate found out about her sister, she burned her copy of Alice in Wonderland.

Barbara collects antique typewriters. She just likes the feel and the sound of the keys.

Cass has synesthesia--words have scents for her. "Tim" is wood smoke. "Bruce" is suede. "Steph" is violets. "Father" is dried blood.

Damian sends Ubu a birthday present every year.

Dick still misses being called "Robbie."

Every time Alfred has to stitch one of Bruce's wounds, the next day he goes to Thomas and Martha's grave and apologizes for not keeping their son safe again. He leaves one flower for every stitch.

Jason believed in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy long after the age you would expect him to have, and beat up a lot of kids who tried to disillusion him.

Selina set up a chessboard on a remote rooftop in Gotham. She never sees him take a move, but she knows his style. She always plays black, and wins slightly less than half the time, and that's fine with her.

Sometimes Bruce logs onto the Daily Planet message boards and goes after the trolls who are criticizing Clark Kent. Since Clark is smart enough to never read the comments, he has no idea.

Steph writes a letter to her child every year on its birthday. She keeps them in a box and never reads them again.

Tim still has dreams about Superboy that don't make any sense at all. He slipped up and called him "Kon" once--that was his name in the dream--and Superboy acted like it was a huge insult. It wasn't meant to be. Not at all.
mithen: (Shock Blanket)
[profile] queen0fcups asked me to name some of my favorite non-fandom things! I went with five, and pretty much the first five things I could think of that make me happy:

My favorite historical figure, favorite breed of cat, favorite flower, favorite hobby besides writing, and favorite recent purchase below the cut! )
mithen: (Blossom Bird)
There's a lovely December Talking Meme going around, and I was feeling bad because between holidays and travel and my students' theses being due it was just impossible. And then some kind soul started thinking outside the box and said "Why not just do it in January?" and I thought SURE WHY NOT? :)

Pick a date below and give me a topic - anything from fandom related (specific fandoms, characters, pairings, episodes, etc.) to RL to whatever else you want, and I promise to ramble/rant/rave/whathaveyou on the appointed day. *g*

They will probably be brief, or not, depending on the subject. Also, I reserve the right to decline prompts that I don't feel equipped to meet.

I haven't been posting much here but fic for ages, so I'd love the excuse to do some meta or even to just blither on about my life a bit!

Jan 01: Tell us of your non-fandom favorite things! Whether they be hobbies, items, foods, or people. (Queen0fcups)
Jan 02:
Jan 03: Thoughts on the future Superman v Batman movie? In general? For Shipping potential? (Mishagirl)
Jan 04: Your favorite spot to visit in Japan, and why? (Ilyena_sylph)
Jan 05: Any Advice on meeting 'the one' or finding love in general? (Mishagirl)
Jan 06: Bruce/Clark Origin Story! (dhfunk)
Jan 07:
Jan 08: Favorite ice cream! (Northernwalker)
Jan 09:
Jan 10: Your thoughts on SuperBat in a ridiculous high school shoujo manga AU(you know, cherry blossoms, senpai has noticed me, school uniforms with ties and blazers etc etc.)? (LadyPeony)
Jan 11: What did you do to become a better writer? (Pleasance)
Jan 12:
Jan 13: Bagginshield Feels Ahoy! (Jestana)
Jan 14: How do you feel about other fans' portrayals/interpretations of characters that conflict with your own interpretations? (Meicdon13)
Jan 15:
Jan 16:
Jan 17: What attracts you to a ship? (Rijsg)
Jan 18: The Silmarillion (Starsandsea)
Jan 19:
Jan 20: Blakes' 7! (Navaan)
Jan 21:
Jan 22: Ebb and flow of fandom/OTP love over time (Mekare)
Jan 23: SuperBat, a kiss happened by accident that led to many hidden feelings. (Lakiunderwook), and what the heck, I can probably write a little drabble too, since listening to my thoughts about accidental kisses might not be the most riveting. :)
Jan 24:
Jan 25:
Jan 26:
Jan 27:
Jan 29:
Jan 30:
Jan 31:
mithen: (Armoured Shoulder Bruce)
I'd been kind of avoiding this meme because...well, once I get talking meta there's really, really no stopping me. I'm an academic, it goes with the territory. But I commented on [livejournal.com profile] anthraciteowl's wonderful analysis of why she loves Tim Drake and she gave me five things and...I could no longer resist.

If anyone hasn't done this meme, or would like to do it again, let me know and I'll give you five things I associate with you! Feel free to comment without asking for five things as well, I won't slap you with it unless you specifically ask for it, and I always love to talk meta. :)

Lots of burbling below the cut!

Bruce Wayne )

Clark Kent )

identity porn )

Krypton )

AU stories )

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mithen: (Default)
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