eldritchhobbit: (Byers/Lose It)
In this X-Files revival moment, I thought I'd share a couple of older X-Files-ish goodies for those of you like me who want to believe.

* My "Looking Back on Genre History" StarShipSofa tribute to The X-Files features my "whirlwind tour" of the genre ancestors of Agents Mulder and Scully of The X-Files -- in other words, a discussion of the history of science fiction investigators in literature and television. It begins about 13 minutes into the podcast. You can stream or download it here. If you listen, I hope you enjoy!

* Some time ago I compiled a list of post-colonization/post-apocalyptic X-Files and Lone Gunmen fan fiction stories that feature all or at least one of the Lone Gunmen characters (Melvin Frohike, John F. Byers, Richard "Ringo" Langly). My current list is no doubt incomplete, so any suggestions or recommendations would be welcome. Many thanks!

My list thus far with descriptions and links, in alphabetical order )
eldritchhobbit: (HP/Ew)
I have two out-of-state scholarly colloquia scheduled in the next two weeks, so I'll be away a good deal of the time. I'm getting ready to head off to participate in the first, an interdisciplinary roundtable discussion of David Hackett Fischer's landmark study Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America; next week's event focuses on a draft of Lawrence H. White's forthcoming book The Clash of Economic Ideas.

Just in case I'm unable to keep up online, I want to send early happy birthday wishes to [livejournal.com profile] pewterwolf, [livejournal.com profile] lexie_marie, and [livejournal.com profile] jalara. May all three of you enjoy many happy returns of the day!

A few links of interest:

*** Zittaw Press has launched a new journal, Studies in Gothic Fiction. The first issue is already available, and it includes articles as diverse as "'Did I Scare You?' The Curious Case of Michael Jackson as Gothic Narrative" and "The Nightmare of the Unknowable, or, Poe's Inscrutability."

*** As many of you already know, a new round of debate about fan fiction recently ignited after author Diana Gabaldon made posts in opposition to fan fiction in her blog. (She has since deleted these posts.) Another author who jumped on the bandwagon was George R.R. Martin. Of all of the exchanges that followed, I simply wanted to point out author Nick Mamatas's excellent and important rebuttal to Martin, specifically Martin's use of H.P. Lovecraft as an example of the perils of fan fiction: "George R.R. Martin Is Wrong about Lovecraft." (I won't climb onto a soapbox here. My support, both as a scholar and a writer, of fan fiction and other transformative works is a matter of public record.)

For those who are interested in learning specific author's attitudes about fan fiction, there is a well documented entry in the Fanlore wiki on "Professional Author Fanfic Policies."

*** The Hog's Head has featured some terrific posts recently on everything from Lost to wizard rock, and I recommend checking out the site. Recently Travis Prinzi noted the rekindling of public venom against Sir Michael Gambon's portrayal of Albus Dumbledore in the latest Harry Potter films. In the past, Gambon's admitted that he has not read J.K. Rowling's books and does not plan to do so.

Of his performance as Dumbledore, Gambon said last month in The Irish Times, “There’s no character really, it’s just me! Me dressed up in a costume! I’m essentially playing myself, that’s all I’m doing.”

As Travis suggests, Sir Michael may need Sir Ian McKellen's masterful help with his method. Enjoy:

"How do I act so well? What I do is I pretend to be the person I'm portraying in the film or play."
- Sir Ian McKellen, "On Acting"
eldritchhobbit: (Tori/I was here)

Happy birthday to [livejournal.com profile] cyloran! May your day be wonderful and your upcoming year the very best yet.

Many thanks to all of you who sent holiday gifts and good wishes via snailmail, email, and LJ. I hope all of you are enjoying this last week of 2009, and looking forward to a wonderful new year!

* In 2007, I had the privilege of editing and writing the introduction to new scholarly English edition of Emilie Flygare-Carlén's remarkable 1845 novel The Magic Goblet (which North American Review called a "wild phantasmagoria of unmixed and unaccountable evil") for Valancourt Books. I now teach the book in one of my classes, and it remains very close to my heart. To my absolute delight, the talented [livejournal.com profile] loligo has written and posted a fantastic fic based on the novel here. I highly recommend it! (Do be warned, though, that it contains spoilers for the novel.) Thanks again, [livejournal.com profile] loligo!

* By the way, for my Harry Potter friends, an FYI: you might be interested in the chapter "Harry Potter and the Secrets of Children's Literature" in the new book Power, Voice and Subjectivity in Literature for Young Readers by Maria Nikolajeva (Routledge, 2010 <- although the website says 2009). I originally looked up the book for its chapter on young adult dystopias ("Othering the Future: Stereotypes of Dystopia"), but the chapter on Harry Potter is also well worth reading.

* Fundraiser alert! December is almost over, and with it will go your chance to buy Lord Dickens's Declaration, the new novella by Lawrence Santoro, as a fully illustrated, limited edition e-book. All proceeds go to Spider and Jeanne Robinson to help with their expenses due to Jeanne's illness. For more information, go here. StarShipSofa appreciates whatever you can do to help spread the word about this fundraiser.

Now the corn mazes truly are frightening;
bedraggled hulking husks of a sinister thinness,
looming and swaying over the tamped-down paths
littered with their fallen hides —
ochre’d in the early winter darkness,
they rustle at the unsympathetic winds,
conspiratorial whispers
interwoven with the harsh hiss of the season.

What child now dares lose themselves
among these rasping ghouls, whose shrouds
come peeling off in leprous strips? What child now
dares enter this maze of death? What child? None!
For what they truly seek is not a fright,
but to be startled by delight.
- Christopher Watkins, "December Sonnet"
eldritchhobbit: (TOS/Mona Lisa Vulcan salute)
One of fandom's first ladies is no longer with us. Joan Winston died September 11, 2008. She was 77 years old.

If you've ever attended a con or enjoyed a zine or read non-fiction work about fan communities/culture, you owe a debt to Joan Winston, whether you knew her name or not.

Her contributions to Star Trek fandom -- and to fandom in general -- cannot be overstated. She was one of the organizers ("The Committee") of the very first Star Trek convention, which was held in 1972 in New York City, the story behind which she wrote in her 1977 book The Making of the Trek Conventions. Only a few hundred people were expected to attend, but instead three thousand fans came to hear Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and science fiction author Isaac Asimov. The rest, as they say, is history.

She also contributed an important chapter to Jacqueline Lichtenberg and Sondra Marshak’s 1975 book Star Trek Lives! and appeared in the documentary Trekkies 2. In 2007, she was named the 4th most influential Star Trek fan of all time by Trekcore.com. A professional author and literary agent, she continued speaking at conventions for decades; her last appearance was at Shore Leave in 2006.

Thanks to the great people at Orion Press - for whom she wrote more than three dozen Trek stories and edited four issues of the zine Number One - I had the very good fortune of getting to meet Joanie and share dinner and a movie with her one year at Shore Leave. (There's another one I owe you, [livejournal.com profile] dodger_winslow. And as a matter of fact, I first met [livejournal.com profile] beledibabe there that year, as well.) I already knew her through her writing and accomplishments in fandom, and she was a delight to spend time with in person. She was a remarkable lady and an outstanding ambassador for fandom and science fiction.

Tributes to her memory can be read here:
* at the TrekMovie site
* at the TrekToday site
* at the ComicMix site
eldritchhobbit: (LOTR/Sam Hero)
Happy birthday to two great gentlemen, [livejournal.com profile] arymetore and [livejournal.com profile] caster121. May you have a wonderful day and many more! Happy birthday also to a great lady, [livejournal.com profile] syrcleoftrees, with best wishes for today and always!

Happy birthday also to the wonderful [livejournal.com profile] agentxpndble, a super lady and the mistress of two great websites:

May you have a fantastic day and year to come, my friend!

In other news...

* Apex Science Fiction and Horror Digest has become an online publication: check out the new issues of Apex Digest Online here.

* The hosts of the KGB Fantastic Fiction reading series in New York City are holding a raffle of donated prizes from well-known authors, editors, artists, and agents to help support the series. All proceeds from the raffle will go to support the reading series, which has been a bright star in the speculative fiction scene for more than a decade. Raffle tickets will cost one dollar US ($1) and can be purchased at the KGB website. You may purchase as many tickets as you want. Tickets will be available from July 14th, 2008 through July 28th, 2008. At midnight on July 28th, raffle winners will be selected randomly for each item and announced online.

* A not-so-new but nonetheless interesting article recently came to my attention: "What Did Poe Know About Cosmology?" by Emily Eakin.

* There's a new and interesting post here about Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog and Sartre.

* Kristin Thompson's 2007 book The Frodo Franchise: The Lord of the Rings and Modern Hollywood is now available in paperback. Her blog is available at [livejournal.com profile] frodo_franchise. I was gratified to see that Thompson cited some of my scholarly pieces in her book and called me "perhaps the most prominent historian of slash fiction focusing on the Rings novel and film." Thanks, Dr. Thompson!

"The English-speaking world is divided into those who have read The Lord of the Rings and those who are going to read it."
- The London Times in its original review of the Rings novels
eldritchhobbit: (LOTR/Bilbo/Party)
A question, because my flist knows all: Can anyone recommend or point me to Lord of the Rings fan fiction set in the alternate universe of the subjugated Shire (a.k.a. the "Scouring of the Shire" tribute scene) shown in Galadriel's mirror in Peter Jackson's The Fellowship of the Ring film? Thanks!

A recommendation for fans and non-fans alike: [livejournal.com profile] angel_gigdet just posted a remarkable Lost in Space story inspired by the lyrics of Bill Mumy's song "The Ballad of William Robinson." Whether or not you're a diehard Lost in Space fan, I recommend it.

And a tried and true quote for the day:

"The Ballad of William Robinson" by Bill Mumy

My name is William Robinson, I'm 42 years old.
I've seen the hot side of the sun, I've seen blue icy cold.
I've shot the one-eyed giant down with laser in my hand,
But I'll never see my home again on walk on Earth's green land.

In 1997 we set out on the Jupiter 2,
Bound for Alpha Centauri, my family and small crew.
We ran into a meteor storm - the wrong time, the wrong place.
It's been six months and thirty years that we've been lost in space.

My father died five years ago. There was no better man than he.
My mother's never been the same, and now it's up to me.
Our pilot is a handsome man, my sisters both could tell.
And Dr. Smith will get us killed and that may be just as well.

I've worked the mines of many worlds for fuel to power our ship.
I have a robot for a friend and helper on our trip.
I'm sending out this message now from this ungodly place
In hopes someone will rescue us from being lost in space.

My name is William Robinson and I'll never take a wife.
No children will I father. I have no normal life.
Show me mercy in this universe, or show me God's true face.
Whisper my name to the stars for I am lost in space.
eldritchhobbit: (Joe Dawson/hear me)
Warning: fannishness follows

Recently [livejournal.com profile] dodger_winslow reminded me how much I love the character of Joe Dawson (played by Jim Byrnes) from The Highlander. It struck me that I should collect in one place the links to some "must read" Joe-centric fan fiction. If you're interested, here's my list to date. Suggestions or recommendations are most welcome!

Recommended Joe-Centric Fan Fiction )
eldritchhobbit: (HP/Arthur Weasley)
Many thanks to all of you who responded to my Harry Potter-universe request for recommendations for Arthur Weasley-centric stories.

Thanks to your suggestions, here is a list of some of my favorites thus far.

Arthur Weasley stories )

And now, a quote for the day:

"Since no one is perfect, it follows that all great deeds have been accomplished out of imperfection. Yet they were accomplished, somehow, all the same."

-Lois McMaster Bujold, Mirror Dance
eldritchhobbit: (Byers/Lose It)
I am in the process of compiling a list of post-colonization/post-apocalyptic X-Files and Lone Gunmen fan fiction stories that feature all or at least one of the Lone Gunmen characters (Melvin Frohike, John F. Byers, Richard "Ringo" Langly). My current list is quite incomplete, so any suggestions or recommendations would be welcome. Many thanks!

My list thus far, in alphabetical order )

And just because:

"Watching X-Files with no lights on,
We're dans la maison,
I hope the smoking man's in this one."

from "One Week," Barenaked Ladies
eldritchhobbit: (Pros/Tommy/Psychopath)
As you may know, I've been searching for fan fiction and related materials that include "Crazy Tommy"/"Shotgun Tommy" McKay (from the "Heroes" episode of The Professionals) as a major character, as opposed to a quick allusion, such as "You don't want to end up like Tommy." Here's what I've found thus far. If you know of any stories or other works I've missed, I'd be grateful if you'd let me know. Thank you!

The Crazy Tommy List: Revised Version )

And an appropriate quote for the day:

Doyle: No man's land.

Tommy: Someone has to cross it, if we're going to be home in time for tea.

from "Heroes," The Professionals
eldritchhobbit: (Qui-Gon/Creed)
As a companion to my previous post about the "pure vessel" metaphor and Star Wars Jedi Qui-Gon Jinn, and as another installment of my fan fiction retrospective, I thought I would mention some of the fan fiction works that to me have presented particularly interesting explorations of the Qui-Gon character and his relationship to the Force. I cannot possibly mention all of the Star Wars: The Phantom Menace stories I have enjoyed, but these choice few are among the very best.

* If I could recommend only one story to a Star Wars fan, I think it would be "The Magic Lamp" by Marnie. In this G-rated, general tale, Marnie finds a unique way of creating a conversation between Qui-Gon Jinn and Luke Skywalker without denying Qui-Gon's canonical death decades earlier -- or, for that matter, turning Qui-Gon into one of the infamous "glowing blue ghosts." Both characters ring very true here -- interestingly enough, Marnie rejects the Jedi Apprentice series as canon, and yet she paints a portrait of the Jedi Master that is very convincing even to this reader, who accepts the novels -- and the resulting dialogue reveals much about their different perspectives on the Force, Obi-Wan, and Anakin. What impresses me most about this short story, aside from masterful handling of the Qui-Gon character, is that Marnie moves the reader between moments of aching despair and true hope, and makes the reader believe that with the Force, all things really are possible. Consider it a "must read" story.

(Note: I hope Marnie will eventually complete her current work-in-progress fan novel The Stolen Ones, which presents another detailed portrait of Qui-Gon Jinn and a most interesting interpretation of his mentor relationship with Obi-Wan Kenobi.)

* Of the general stories I find particularly noteworthy, I also highly recommend "Departure," "Not A Place," and "First Principles" (together, Memories of Never Was) by Nym. These linked stories follow a newly-knighted and independent Obi-Wan and a Qui-Gon Jinn recovering from his grievous wounds on Naboo, both trying to negotiate their new relationship and understand what the training of Anakin really means. Nym's greatest strength is restraint, and these subtle stories speak volumes about the Master/Padawan connection.

Other "general stories" are as follows:

* "Pain" by Stacey Lee tells two parallel stories, one of Qui-Gon's early days as a lone Knight and one of his later mission with his Padawan Obi-Wan. The story explains how Qui-Gon helps Obi-Wan learn a difficult lesson he himself learned long ago. Qui-Gon's growth as a Jedi and the trust implicit in the Master/Padawan bond take center stage before a backdrop of violence, torture, and intrigue.

* "Survival" by Skye details how Qui-Gon survives his wound on Naboo and slowly fights his way back toward soundness. This story inverts the psychological caretaker/cared for dynamic between Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan and shows both reevaluating their positions as Obi-Wan becomes a Knight and Qui-Gon a Master once again.

These slash stories also require special mention:

* Meet Another by Torch is an excellent alternate universe novella in which Qui-Gon never took Obi-Wan as his Padawan, and Obi-Wan was trained by another Jedi. Years later, still harboring a bit of resentment toward the now-disappeared Qui-Gon for his rejection long ago, the now-knighted Obi-Wan discovers Qui-Gon being held as a slave on Tatooine. Badly used and scarred by his original abduction by Xanatos, who eventually gave him over to his present captivity, Qui-Gon is artificially cut off from the Force, and yet he still seeks to protect his fellow-slaves Shmi and Anakin and still believes in the prophecy of the Chosen One. This story directly relates to Qui-Gon's unusual connection with the Force and his points of disagreement with the Jedi Council. It is all the more powerful for Obi-Wan's awkward -- and, eventually, awed -- perspective on Qui-Gon. The story's successfully ambiguous and untidy ending strikes a satisfying chord, as this story considers the shades of grey surrounding the entire Jedi experience.

* "Forgotten" and "Forgotten: Roles Reversed" by Trudy West are fascinating character studies. Both spring from the same premise: a mission for a Jedi goes terribly wrong, leaving him enslaved, his memory deliberately erased. The other Jedi searches for him and "purchases" him in order to return him to Coruscant for healing of his body and restoration of his memories. The first story posits Qui-Gon as a slave used for manual labor and Obi-Wan as the Jedi who finds and rescues him; the second story switches the two, with Obi-Wan as a slave exploited for sexual purposes. Trudy West explores how the two Jedi would respond differently to enslavement and in the attempt to gain freedom, as well as how they each would approach the other if the situations were reversed. A terrific concept, these two stories provide interesting sketches of the two men's psyches and dispositions.

Other slash stories are as follows:

* "A Kind of Genesis" by Anna describes the revenge of Xanatos, as he captures Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan and tries to break them both. This story moves beyond H/C cliches in moments of real insight about Qui-Gon's demons and Obi-Wan's devotion. Anna's characterizations do not always match my understandings of the characters perfectly, but the times when the two diverge are still interesting to me -- and some of those moments are rather breathtaking.

* "Mos C'Ethra" by DBKate might be considered "pre-slash." It also takes a tried-and-true formula and rises above it. While on an unrelated mission on a distant world, Master and Padawan find themselves in the midst of a plague. Qui-Gon uses the last inoculation for Obi-Wan and, when the Master falls ill, charges Obi-Wan with peacekeeping duties in a city dissolving into anarchy. Qui-Gon's descent before Obi-Wan's eyes, as well as Obi-Wan's growth due to Qui-Gon's trust and need, are the hearts of this tale, which alone is worth a reading for the scene in which a delirious Qui-Gon mistakes Obi-Wan for a Xanatos bent on murder and revenge.

There are three remarkable slash series I should mention separately. Each is worth multiple readings for its insights into the Jedi world.

* The Exiles Universe series by Kass and DBKate following an aging Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon (who survived his terrible wound on Naboo) living together in the desert of Tatooine, watching over young Luke Skywalker. The characters are portrayed with singular sensitivity and thoughtfulness, making their older selves convincing and at times heartbreaking to encounter. Kass and DBKate infuse the most mundane details of existence with meaning. The devotion of the two, in the face of a changing universe and hostile exile, goes without saying, but the most remarkable part of this series is the attention given to the two men's different approaches to the Force and to the vocation of the Jedi. Certain stories retell previous ones from the opposite partner's point of view, fleshing out our understanding of these humble and forgotten heroes.

* The JAOA series (a.k.a. "Jedi Academy on Acid") by Black Rose, Gail Riordan, and others creates an alternate universe in which Qui-Gon survives Naboo but is nearly crippled, Obi-Wan assumes Anakin's mentorship, and Anakin eventually choses Han Solo as his own Padawan. I am particularly taken by the descriptions of the ways in which Qui-Gon achieves and undermines his own health, and of the aging of both Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan under the constant threat of Qui-Gon's decline. Here again Qui-Gon's unique relationship with the Living Force is contrasted with Obi-Wan's more orthodox approach; moreover, the authors suggest how Anakin might have matured if Qui-Gon had played a role in his training.

* The Riding the Wheel of If series by MrsHamill and various other authors follows Obi-Wan after Qui-Gon's death on Naboo as he, quite unintentionally, opens a portal between parallel universes. Each story in the series puts Obi-Wan in another world. All Obi-Wan wants is a live Qui-Gon who will love him as he is loved, but what he finds are nearly endless variations on a theme: Qui-Gon as living while Obi-Wan has died, Qui-Gon as Sith, Qui-Gon as the last survivor of a Jedi extermination, Qui-Gon as a woman, etc. With Obi-Wan as the readers' constant factor in a series of wild variables, we watch as Obi-Wan encounters and is changed by different realities in which all of the facets of Qui-Gon's character can be explored.

There are easily a dozen more stories I would like to mention. (Ask me if you're interested!) But these stand out as particularly useful in the larger discussion of Qui-Gon as a pure vessel. Please note that certain stories contain warnings about violence, sexual content, and dark subject matter. If there are others you can recommend to me in the context of Qui-Gon's characterization, I would be most grateful!
eldritchhobbit: (Prisoner/Defiant)
And now to another installment of my fan fiction retrospective, with special thanks to [livejournal.com profile] seemag and [livejournal.com profile] st_crispins for their encouragement.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. seems particularly well suited to crossover stories with other universes. (I've previously discussed the Man From U.N.C.L.E./Professionals crossover story "Incident in a Stairwell," you may recall.) To my delight, I have found over the years two thoughtful crossovers between The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and The Prisoner -- a brilliant series that, if I were forced to make a choice, I might well name as my very favorite of all time. (Incidentally, I'm very interested to hear that Powys Media is to be publishing six new novels based on The Prisoner in the near future.)

The fit is a natural one. Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin are agents of the international organization known as U.N.C.L.E. (or the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement); No. 6 was once a British secret agent, though his captors imprison him in the mysterious Village after he attempts to retire. There the wardens seek to break him by any means and obtain the information he learned during the course of his former career. The implication is chilling, that public servants might become the prisoners of those they served (or, perhaps, their enemies) if they survive and of do their job a bit too well.

I don't wish to oversimplify either of these stories by suggesting they are different sides of the same coin, but their commonalities suggest that I should discuss them more or less together. Both assume that the Number Six of The Prisoner is the man who was once John Drake of Danger Man (U.K.)/ Secret Agent (U.S.) (who likewise was portrayed by Patrick McGoohan). Both tell their tales from the perspective of a female U.N.C.L.E. agent who goes into the Village with Illya Kuryakin. And both include a bit of romance and action/adventure in the telling of their psychological tales. There the likenesses end. So without further ado...

Title: The Village Affair
Author: by Eva A. Enblom
Format: novella
Warning: violence, non-explicit past het sexual situation
Availability: Online at EvA's Fanfic Page.

In this dark novella, an U.N.C.L.E. agent named Sonya partners with Ilya Kuryakin to infiltrate the Village. Their purposes are twofold: to rescue John Drake, now Number Six, with whom Sonya has worked in the past; and to discover what forces are behind the the Village itself. This story stands out for several reasons. First, Enblom offers a wrenching portrait of a Number Six who fades in and out of awareness, at times very much the prisoner we know, at other times quite fey and mad. He has not broken as much as he has crumbled, and his present state is effectively contrasted with his past self through Sonya's eyes. Second, Illya is treated to psychological torture similar to what Number Six has endured, which conjures images of his abandonment by Waverly and his murder by Napoleon. (When Illya says "They are going to take my life.... Or my sanity," the reader believes.) Third, Enblom offers terrific insights in her characterizations, managing to give a mostly-absent Napoleon moments to shine, and both the past John Drake and the present Number Six truly memorable scenes. Enblom even makes Illya's unrequited love easier to swallow than it would be in the average "Mary Sue" tale.

The most impressive part of this novella is its ambiguous, bleak ending (in the tradition of The Prisoner itself). The agents determine that although the Village has THRUSH ties, it is not solely a THRUSH production. Those responsible for the Village are, like the Village itself, shadowed in secrecy and thus difficult to fight. Moreover, the agents fail to rescue Number Six, who in the final scene apparently has fallen deep into his madness, childlike and simple. Whether this is true insanity or just a clever performance might be debated, but either way, Number Six is very much a prisoner still, and the agents' failed mission has produced more questions than answers.

Read excerpt )

Title: "The Prisoner Affair"
Author: by Lin Cochran
Format: short story
Warning: violence
Availability: In the printed zine The Kuryakin File #15, published by NorthCoast Press. Currently in print.

Lin Cochran's vision in the end is more optimistic than Eva A. Enblom's. It begins on a dark note, however, with the introduction of Grace Templar, former U.N.C.L.E. agent (and widow of another), whose personality has fractured and split thanks to U.N.C.L.E.'s rather cruel and psychologically messy "detraining" procedure -- in itself, a form of the Village. Grace Templar, though a member of the walking wounded, joins with former colleague Illya Kuryakin to find Napoleon Solo when a coup within U.N.C.L.E. unseats him from the organization's head and leaves him imprisoned in the Village. Grace encounters Number Six and, after tense distrust on both sides, joins forces with him to rescue Napoleon and escape. The three U.N.C.L.E. agents flee successfully thanks only to Number Six's last-minute choice to sacrifice his own chance at freedom and distract pursuers.

Somewhat smoother than The Village Affair, "The Prisoner Affair" pulls out a happy ending at the last. Not only do the readers get to see a liberated John Drake, but they also witness a cleaned and righted U.N.C.L.E. that, under Napoleon's leadership, does away with the "detraining" procedure just as it destroys and empties the Village. If Enblom's novella ends on a note from The Prisoner, Cochran's story leaves the reader with more of an U.N.C.L.E.-esque flavor. Highlights of this terrific story include a sarcastic, painfully bitter Number Six instantly recognizable from the series, an original female lead who steals scenes with multiple personalities as fascinating as any character in the tale, and a compelling picture of an aging Napoleon who is alternately vulnerable and steely in convincing proportions and, once returned to his position, a worthy successor to Alexander Waverly.

Read excerpt )

(For past reviews, including stories from the Enterprise, Star Trek: The Original Series, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Man From U.N.C.L.E., and Professionals universes, see my LJ's Memories section.)
eldritchhobbit: (LOTR/Be At Peace)
The wonderful [livejournal.com profile] seemag, in her recent (and extremely kind!) post, has spurred me on to continue my fan fiction retrospective with more recommendations. (For past reviews, including stories from the Enterprise, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Harry Potter, Man From U.N.C.L.E., and Professionals universes, see my LJ's Memories section.)

To quote from her post,
I'm reccing at least five stories in various fandoms. If you see your name on this list, please rec five stories or five authors in your fandom (or a multitude of fandoms, if that's your thing), and let me know about it here in the comments (i.e., leave me a link).

So, without further ado, here are five works that have been waiting patiently on my "Hall of Fame" list, as it were, for special mention. In no particular order...

One in the Star Trek: The Original Series universe:

Novel: Unspoken Truth: The Romulan Commander's Story by Kathleen Dailey
Warning: some violence, non-explicit het sexual content
This novel, originally published in zine form but now available online with its equally brilliant sequel (Any Other Lifetime: Book II of the Romulan Commander's Story), has for nearly a decade symbolized to me the highest quality in fan fiction writing. I cannot overstate its influence on me, or the powerful desire I have to foist it on newcomers to fandom to show them "how it's done." Dailey begins with a simple premise: "What was the fate of the beautiful and enigmatic Romulan commander who was captured in the final moments of 'The Enterprise Incident'?" What she produces is a tour de force that ties together old questions of canon (Why was the Treaty of Algernon signed? Why was the Federation so far behind the Romulan Empire in developing a cloaking device?), offers gentle inside jokes to those in the know (with references to contemporary science fiction and fandom), and most importantly gives the readers vivid, rich, and fascinating glimpses into the behind-the-scenes lives not only of Romulans, but also of the Trek characters we know and love. The Romulan Commander herself is a compelling and complex character, but the series regulars receive substantial development, as well. It's a pleasure to find a carefully researched and plotted work that also gives the spotlight to such characters as Lt. Uhura, Nurse Chapel, and -- my favorite characterization of Dailey's -- Dr. McCoy. Dailey allows the reader to touch, taste, and feel her take on Trek history, and her epic interpretation is not to be missed. Incidentally, I credit this novel with teaching me at last to grok Spock.

Two in the Lord of the Rings universe:

Novel: The Captain and the King by plasticChevy
Warning: violence
I tend to be wary of "denial" fiction that simply explains away the death of a major character and then leads the reader into a field of flowers and butterflies. In The Captain and the King, plasticChevy has produced a definitive answer to such works by proposing a different kind of alternate universe, one in which Boromir survives his ordeal with the Orcs only to be crippled, used brutally by Saruman against Aragorn, and eventually returned to a Minas Tirith seething with cloak-and-dagger intrigue and danger. PlasticChevy manipulates a complex set of political situations and personal relationships with admirable clarity and obvious affection, while making Boromir's road to redemption far more difficult than we might first imagine. Nearly every character has his moment, including canonical characters lost to the movieverse, but at its heart the novel is a meditation on honor after shame and tragedy. The reader gets to see what made Boromir a truly great leader of men prior to the quest, and what has made him Aragorn's right arm ever since it, despite resistance from all quarters -- including, in one wrenching sequence, Boromir's own brother Faramir. If you enjoy this novel as I did, I highly recommend buying the zine form of this story, which includes remarkable illustrations and cover art. Also worthy of attention are plasticChevy's other Boromir works, "Where Dreams Take You" and the unfolding and often-updated sequel to The Captain and the King, "The Steward's Tale."

Short Story: "Perfect World" by Juxian Tang
Warning: violence, implied incest, character death
Juxian Tang's take on Boromir's survival is even darker than plasticChevy's. Tang's fiction is much like an Alfred Hitchcock film: powerful for its restraint, compelling for what it does not tell the audience, and deeply disturbing. This story has haunted me and led me to many rereadings. It is based on the premise that Faramir, married with children, discovers after a number of years that Boromir lives as a captive in a last remnant of Mordor. The Boromir rescued by Faramir is at once both deeply scarred and instantly recognizable as Tolkien's-via-Jackson's fallen hero. What follows is a brooding tale that's all the more powerful for being told through the innocent eyes of Faramir's older son. Tang implies much, including a generational link between the shared dreams of Denethor's line and an incestuous relationship between Boromir and Faramir, yet everything is below the surface, left to the reader. Other questions remain unanswered altogether. Had Boromir survived all those years, or was he brought back from the dead? What was the relationship between Boromir's return and Eowyn's death? What do the dreams mean now? I admit my taste for fiction runs dark -- toward sophisticated, psychological darkness as opposed to explicit and gratuitious darkness -- and this story is unrelenting in its satisfying delivery while still managing moments of real hope and true warmth. For more of Juxian Tang's interpretation of Boromir, I suggest these other similarly haunting stories: "Night Talk," "Never Again," and "You Cannot Protect Him," all found in the Lord of the Rings section of Tang's site.

Two in the Harry Potter universe:

Short Story: "Together, Alone" by Thevina
Warning: violence, character death
I have the great fortune of being privy to Thevina's fiction while it is still in progress. This leads me to a difficult quandary, though, because no matter how her last work has moved me, her next one always seems even better. Thus I never quite know what to recommend, because my instinct is to say "But wait until you see x!" Yet this story stands apart, not only from the rest of her work, but also from stories by other authors likewise focusing on the Weasley twins and/or the upcoming war with You-Know-Who. This story sets the pivot point for Thevina's alternate, or parallel, universe works, which take place during and after the final war with Voldemort. This particular piece is also noteworthy because it takes the Weasley twins seriously as three-dimensional characters and delves into what makes each of them half of a whole. The reader realizes that losing one's other self is perhaps the most grievous loss there can be, and thus can never consider "Gred and Forge," or the resolution of those who face the Death Eaters, or even the empathy of fellow students like Padma Patil quite the same way again. The final lines alone are worth reading the story, but the entire piece is of the same quality. Once you have seen this story, check out Thevina's collected works in both the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings universes.

Short Story: "Lost and Found" by Josan
Warning: implied past violence and non-explicit slash
I do not want this story to get lost at the bottom of the pile, because its vision of Snape, its economy of language, and its utter restraint in alluding to true horror make this a memorable piece. Josan has a particular vision of how Snape came to be as he is and how he would break if he were to be broken. Also lurking in the details are lovely glimpses into a post-Voldemort Hogwarts and the ways in which Dumbledore and his staff offer sanctuary and patience to the more brittle survivors of war. The descriptions of Snape's partial recovery and eventual rescue are elegant and precise, almost distant from the action in the same way Snape's soul is distant from his body. The ending provides a nice twist, but it's the journey there that is so well crafted and worthwhile. Snape is one of the characters I seek to read more about, and Josan's Snape is unique and unforgettable and, as the story implies, well worth the wait.
eldritchhobbit: (Enterprise/White Knight)
I'm back in town, ready to dive into my fan fiction retrospective once again. Since I'm going through my recommendations in no order whatsoever, I'll pick up with a review from a most recent fandom, Enterprise.

I watch Enterprise because it is Star Trek. It is not, I will admit, Deep Space Nine or the first three seasons of Voyager, but it does have its promising moments, its intriguing characters, and its plot twists. Perhaps most interestingly, the series in the past year began to explore some profoundly grey areas as Captain Archer allowed ends to justify means during the Xindi War. I only wish that the series followed through with its most challenging premises with the same insightful and unflinching eye that author bat400 possesses. I would be one happy Trekkie -- and I would put Enterprise up against the finest of Trek in any of its incarnations -- if I could see bat400's version of Enterprise each week. As it is, I now glimpse the promise of her Malcolm Reed, Trip Tucker, T'Pol, and Jonathan Archer in the episodes, and I am a far more faithful viewer because of this.

Title: "Graduation"
Author: bat400
Format: novella
Universe: Star Trek: Enterprise
Rating: R
Warning: Character deaths, violence, alternate universe for fourth season (canon through third season)
Availability: "Graduation"

Bat400's work is careful, absorbing, detailed, and dedicated to the proposition that actions and ideas have consequences. Among her short stories, I find it difficult to decide which I like best: the haunting "Nightmares of the Expanse," an examination of the loose ends that keep the crewmembers up at night, "Between Sunset and Darkness," a look at the way the world ends from an altogether unique point of view, or "Long Time Gone," a deeply disturbing reflection on how the Temporal Cold War was won. Bat400 doesn't let Starfleet, the characters, or the readers off easily when she follows the ripple effects of actions through to the most distant shore; it's the fact that she takes the premises and the crewmembers so seriously that makes her critiques -- and her praise, when it comes -- so very powerful.

Of bat400's works to date, though, the novella "Graduation" should earn special attention. Framed around a graduation ceremony at Starfleet's Tucker-Reed School for Tactical and Security Studies roughly half a century after the events depicted in the series, the tale uses switches between contemporary scenes and flashback sequences to tell the story of the end of the Xindi War and what it cost the crew of Enterprise. Each character, from regulars such as Dr. Phlox and Hoshi Sato to recurring guests such as Kov and Major Hayes, has his or her moment; the chief action, however, revolves around a wounded Malcolm Reed's attempts, with the help of T'Pol, both to preserve the memory of the fallen Trip Tucker and to make certain future generations will not make the same mistakes as those made by Jonathan Archer.

Bat400 spotlights the characters of Malcolm Reed and T'Pol, creating a complex and convincing portrait of how they have aged and become allies as they mourn Tucker and struggle through their own physical and emotional frailties. One of bat400's greatest strengths is creating tales that can be read either as gen or slash fiction, and this novella is a perfect case in point. Her "Commandant" Malcolm Reed, an aged survivor and educational reformer, is flawed and yet sympathetic, even endearing, and entirely believable. Gentle ironies abound: Malcolm's life, once a study in isolation, comes to revolve around friends and the idea of the *personal* over the public; he and T'Pol, the two most reserved souls from Enterprise, begin to correspond about poetry and the nature of emotions as Reed fights his political battles to make his agenda reality and T'Pol declines in the grip of her disease. Sequences about the crew's war experiences and their aftermaths are unflinching and troubling, as they should be. The walking wounded, such as Hayes with his childlike mind and Hoshi with her forced infertility, serve as a background for repeated revisitations of the themes of family, prejudice, and loyalty.

As carefully as bat400 considers Reed and T'Pol, she also scrutinizes the character of Captain Jonathan Archer. One of the recurring ideas of the piece is that the Xindi War was more complicated than both sides seemed to think, which leaves people like Malcolm Reed -- and most certainly left Trip Tucker -- in the middle, directly in harm's way. Bat400 shows the follies of narrow and simplistic views of war, and then reveals the cost of such follies in human life. Perhaps most striking is the heartbreaking realization during the scenes in which Malcolm tries to pitch his new curriculum to Archer that Archer doesn't "get it," doesn't understand how the decisions he made (including ignoring the advice from his officers) had morally difficult and ultimately deadly repercussions for those who served him. In essence, bat400 walks through the door the writers of Enterprise opened, examines canon Archer carefully, and delivers a poignant indictment of him and the kind of worldview he exemplifies. Ultimately Archer, by following his orders all too well and winning the war at all costs, becomes the corpse at Starfleet's wedding. Bat400 paints this as a tragedy, first because Archer is so oblivious to his own pattern of behavior, his assumptions, and his blind spots, and second because Archer's intentions are not and never were evil, which makes it all the worse that he becomes something of a blunder of a leader. And it's quite telling that, once he does catch on (in part if not in full) about what he's done -- or at least what others hold him accountable for -- he disappears from the narrative, and even from the contemporary conversation, becoming a hushed topic among the younger characters, an embarrassment.

In the end, the stories of Trip's meaningless death and Reed's meaningful life hold Starfleet and the crewmembers of Enterprise accountable for past actions, offering thoughtful commentary on our own world situation in the process. Bat400's novella is a classic example of how fan fiction can create a world that is more real, more compelling, and more relevant than the text that inspired it, and can make the reader fall in love with its source series for the first time -- or all over again.


“But if a commander has not taken advantage of every means available to him or to her; if command fails to prepare for the decisions of each mission by research, consideration, and advice of their specialists; then there is nothing to prevent needless sacrifice but sheer luck and coincidence.

“Needless sacrifice is a fundamental betrayal of friendship. There is nothing romantic or praiseworthy or valiant to the survivors of such a betrayal. There is only waste.”

Reed stopped speaking. He slowly turned and returned to his seat. As he did, he had an unnerving memory of when he had turned, nearly a half century earlier, and had seen Jonathan Archer looking back at him. Finally, on that day, forty-four years ago, Archer had understood him at last.

On that day Reed had returned to his seat as an uncertain applause had begun. Then, as the graduates had been called, Jonathan Archer had spoken to him under the cover of the names being read out and said, “You never have forgiven me.”

Malcolm Reed had turned to him and said, “No, sir, I never have.”

Postscript: For another interesting, if less comprehensive, look at Malcolm Reed, I recommend a seven-piece story that is equally as bloody (and equally critical of certain command decisions), the 2003 "Understood" series by Nijijin at EntSTCommunity: The Warp 5 Complex.
eldritchhobbit: (HP/Absent friends)
And now to review the second story by Nym:

Title: "Just Let It Be"
Author: Nym
Format: short story
Universe: Harry Potter
Rating: PG-13
Warning: Implied past slash
Availability: Archived at Nym's website Idiosyncratic Attic.

One of many "lie low at Lupin's" tales exploring the post-Azkaban reunion of Sirius Black and Remus Lupin, "Just Let it Be" stands out from similar stories in several ways. To begin, it offers a portrait of Black that is suitably wounded considering his experience of more than a decade in unthinkable captivity. This Black struggles with the mundane mechanics of sitting in a chair, eating at a table, even bathing. Since Black serves as the first-person narrator, the reader can track clearly his progress toward sanity and stability as he begins to grow stronger in body and in memory. A key to this progress is, of course, Remus Lupin. I find I am particularly intrigued by J.K. Rowling's Lupin, his personality, and his choices. Not many fan fiction authors portray this tragically flawed and yet heroic character in a way I find convincing. Nym, however, captures him in all of his understated power, gentleness, reservation, and isolation. As Black thinks to himself:

God, I was a prick.

Remus was the one who had everything that truly matters. His integrity and optimism. Of all of us, Remus was the one who seemed most content. Maybe that was why I began to suspect him as our traitor; my own arrogance, my own prejudice. How could a man who had nothing be so openly content? How could a man face being spat on and rejected, day after day, and retain that cheery optimism? I can see the answer now. I think I saw it in Azkaban, during some prolonged period of lucid self-awareness. Remus had those things because he's Remus and because he's a better man than I was, or ever could be.

Of course the reader learns as much about Black as Lupin through Black's own tortured thoughts, and discovers that Black always seems to give Lupin the benefit of the doubt while denying himself that same mercy. As in "Hero Worship," Nym does not adopt the easier path where it would not exist. Again, there is miscommunication, and misery, fumbling moments of attempted connection, and painful realizations of all both men have endured in the intervening years.

Yet there is hope. One particularly moving passage involves Black receiving a letter from Harry Potter along with an awkward gift of a clay sculpture made in Harry's childhood. Lupin and Black alternately consider how little support Harry has received from the Dursleys, how Lupin once refused earlier opportunities to be involved with Harry's life, and how unprepared Black is now for assuming his role as godfather. The scene is guardedly optimistic and thoroughly poignant. In the end, we see a glimpse into the world of the walking wounded, one relearning independence and one relearning dependence, both turning to each other to rebuild trust in an otherwise uncertain time. Through these portrayals of Black and Lupin, Nym allows the reader to find heroism in the smallest of actions and fallibility in the finest of heroes. It isn't the defeat of You-Know-Who but, for the moment Nym describes, it is enough.

"You've still got magic hands." My whisper makes him hesitate. "I--I was thinking of how you'd put Harry to sleep when nobody else could," I explain, managing enough precision to spare us both further discomfort. I hope. He relaxes again, starts to massage my shoulders again, and I'm sure he's smiling.

"Oh, boring babies to sleep isn't magic. It's just a gift."

I don't know what to say after that. I'm out of practice with the kind of conversations that friends have. I don't even know if I'm entitled to call myself his friend, after all that's happened. I don't doubt his forgiveness, because he never said what he didn't mean, but I hardly deserve his trust. Not the sort that really matters, the sort that makes talking about small things easy.

"I'm not very well, Remus." It's only the big things that matter, anyway.

"No." He's completely still, then, his hands just resting at the curve of my shoulders. I can feel him breathing. "You're not."

"Promise you'll say if you want me to leave?"

"I promise." He has to be the only one of us, the fine four friends, who never made a promise he wouldn't keep. Why didn't I think of that, when I was selling James the poison from my heart?
eldritchhobbit: (Iolaus/Golden Hunter)
First, a word of preface from Farscapeville: R.I.P. Ka D'Argo (also known as #11). May his brave soul be at peace for all time -- or at least for as long as he remains dead. He will be dearly missed.

After all, he is your daddy.

Now to the main event of this post. Once again I return to my personal "hall of fame" fan fiction retrospective. This time I want to mention two separate stories (the second will follow in a separate post). I read them at very different times while exploring two very different fandoms, and both independently made my "must reread often" list of noteworthy works. Both stories contain moving characterizations, real contributions to their respective universes, and thoughtful explorations of universal themes. Only recently did it occur to me that both were written by the same author. Both showcase Nym's gifts for vivid internal voices, for careful dialogue that employs silences as effectively as words, so I shouldn't have been surprised. I'll present the stories in the order I first read them, which also follows the chronological order of the respective universes in which they take place. Here is the first:

Title: "Hero Worship"
Author: Nym
Format: short story
Universe: Hercules: The Legendary Journeys
Rating: NC-17
Warning: Explicit slash
Availability: Archived at Nym's website Idiosyncratic Attic.

One of the main attractions of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys is the relationship between Hercules and his long-time friend, travel companion, and fellow warrior, Iolaus. During the series, Iolaus is a thirtysomething man in his prime. Despite the fact he manages to cheat death several times, however, one fundamental truth cannot be escaped: Hercules is a demigod, and Iolaus is a mortal. At some point, Iolaus will age and/or die, and the crime-fighting, wrong-righting partnership the two have enjoyed will end. Nym addresses this inevitability in an unexpected and touching way, leaving the reader to consider the pending retirement of both heroes and the larger issue of mortality.

The story opens years after the series as Hercules travels with an Iolaus not yet fully recovered from a dire winter sickness. This Iolaus is greying, slowing, and mellowed, and he finds that the long-term relationship he has shared with Hercules is strained. Hercules is shaken by having nearly lost Iolaus to illness, and the specter of the warrior's fragility now hangs between the pair. As the tension continues, the two visit Hercules's brother Iphicles and attempt to repair their bond. At this point, Nym inverts the reader's expectations and reverses the two roles to remarkable effect. While staying with Iphicles, Hercules himself falls ill, and Iolaus becomes his caretaker. The experience highlights the grace and good nature Iolaus has shown throughout his own ordeal, and it proves that he is not alone in succumbing to the weight of the years.

Nym explores the progression of Hercules's sickness and eventual recovery through the demigod's own first-person narrative. The story is one of irreparable loss, of humility, and of persistent loyalty and love. The characters don't wallow, opine endlessly about their feelings, or indulge in cheap theatrics: instead, the grueling physical work of recovery mirrors the difficult mental and emotional adjustments each makes largely in quiet and isolation. Despite the fact that Hercules wins his battle with his illness, the tale does not suffer from the traditional happy ending cliches. The two return to the home of Hercules's late mother to prepare for their eventual retirement. Throughout the piece a certain bleakness balances the heartening affection and dedication apparent between the two: it is clear that no matter how close the men have become over their decades together, there are still times when they cannot understand or empathize with each other, times when each is truly alone. The same is true in both men's dealings with Iphicles, which are likewise presented with careful characterization and spot-on dialogue. There is a haunting quality to the realization that even these heroes are not invulnerable to regret, self-doubt, and the progress of time. When Hercules mourns his newfound weakness, however, Iolaus counters with a simple affirmation:

"I never loved you for your strength," he whispers. His voice shakes, and when I try to pull back to see his face he holds me tight and doesn't let me move.

At its heart, this story shows us that even legends are subject to the most base and troubling realities. In the end, it is not superhuman strength or skill at arms, but rather the two men's shared honesty and vulnerability, their mutual experience of hardships faced and only temporarily vanquished, that binds them together and truly makes them heroic.

"Ever since Dahak I've had nightmares," I tell him, but that's not news. He's been there by my side through most of them. "About something beyond my control, something I can't fight, taking you from me."

Iolaus goes right on looking expectant. Sometimes a hint and silence is all we need to share as much as needs to be shared, but obviously not today. Perhaps he's being deliberately dense, or perhaps he's more hurt than I thought, but we're not sharing thoughts today. That echo was just a coincidence, is all. "Can you survive another winter?"

"What kind of a question is that?" Iolaus snaps his answer and barges past me, cutting me off completely. I can talk to him when we share that intimacy, when we share the benefit of the doubt. I can't face him when he's mad at me like this. When he's mad because I've wounded him. "You running a book on how long I'll last?"

I don't dignify that with an answer. He wouldn't expect me to. I lean into the window alcove, and watch an old woman hoeing between rows of herb plants in the small walled garden. Iphicles pays her and her daughter to grow herbs for medicine, lots of them, and to dry them and pass them on for trade. It guarantees a supply; so much learning was lost, when Dahak started burning knowledge and killing scholars. Iphicles fosters what's left. People say my brother is an indulgent fool, but is he wrong to try to keep the old world alive? I never noticed, before, that the herb woman is old and crooked, or that she works so slowly.
eldritchhobbit: (UNCLE)
And one more recommendation while I'm still thinking of Bodie and Doyle...

Title: "Incident in a Stairwell"
Author: Debra Hicks
Format: short story, second in a three-part series, gen &/or pre-slash
Universes: crossover between The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and The Professionals.
Year Published: unknown
Availability: Archived at The Circuit Archive, along with its prequel ("The Waiting Room Affair") and sequel ("People Bending Broken Rules"). The latter only is slash.

If memory serves, "Incident in a Stairwell" is the short story that first introduced me to The Professionals and inspired me to explore that universe further. (At that time I was already a fan of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.) It is the second of three in a series, but it stands on its own quite well, though of course the bookending tales are quite nice in their own right. "Incident," however, stands out to me as a particularly sterling example of what crossover fan fiction can accomplish.

Set in the CI5 headquarters of The Professionals' era, the tale follows the dire events of a morning on which a prisoner has escaped and opened fire on agents and innocents alike. It just so happens that Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin are there on a recruiting mission for U.N.C.L.E. that same morning. (Guess which two men they wish to recruit?) The teams are separated during the confusion. A worried Solo and Bodie, along with George Cowley, are left to apprehend the prisoner before it is too late for their wounded partners, who are at the criminal's mercy.

In a fast-paced and action-packed story, Debra Hicks does many things well. The characters' voices are spot on, and the opportunity to see each man through the others' eyes leads to satisfying moments of character exploration. The implicit comparisons between Solo and Bodie, Kuryakin and Doyle are well drawn, as is the often wry portrait of the aging U.N.C.L.E. operatives. The relationships between both sets of partners are likewise explored with effective, poignant restraint. Perhaps most importantly, each of the four characters contributes a key ingredient to the successful resolution of the affair: without any one of them, the day would not be won. It is rare to see such balance, such obvious affection and respect for all of the players in a story. Hicks has fun with her dialogue and her in-jokes, and by allowing each man to supply a critical piece of the action she gives credit to both partnerships and the universes they represent. The two cultures, the two generations, play quite nicely together, and the reader can only imagine how future collaborations between the two pairs might change their worlds, and the world at large, for the better.


Solo started stripping off his jacket. Bodie and Cowley turned toward him. He proceeded to the tie. "I'll go."

"Why you?" Bodie demanded.

"He doesn't know me. And the fact that I'm older makes me look harmless." Moving the .38 from under his arm to behind his back as he said it gave a certain ironic note to the statement.

Two older pairs of eyes meet. Whatever Cowley saw there he trusted. Nodding to the American agent he raised the R/T again. "Jax, get the aid kit down here, and a white coat from the lab. Fast."

"What do you know about gunshot wounds?" Bodie asked lowly.

Napoleon cocked an eyebrow at him. "More than I care to." He meet the blue eyes. "I'll take care of them."

"Get Doyle into a sitting position, if you can." Cowley told him. Jax emerged from the stairs, joined them, passing over the large medical kit.

Slipping the coat on Napoleon opened the kit and checked it. "What about a weapon?"

The Scot frowned. "If you think either of them can handle it, and if you can get it to them..."

"Unseen." Napoleon finished. He snapped the case closed. "Ready."

"Hoffman, he's coming up." Cowley shouted.

Bodie touched the other man's arm as he started past. "Luck, mate."

The smile that answered him was feral, for the first time showing the cold agent lurking under the smooth exterior. "Luck is my specialty."
eldritchhobbit: (Pros/Help Will Not Come)
As I mentioned previously, I am currently involved in something of a personal retrospective of the fan fiction I have found to be most enjoyable, instructive, and noteworthy over the years.

So, without further ado, I'll begin in the universe of The Professionals, since I can reach the first zine in question if I stretch...just...so...

Title: Journey West
Author: Maiden Wyoming
Format: Stand-alone fanzine novel
Awards: Huggy Award for Best The Professionals Novel, given at ZebraCon 13
Year Published: 1997
Warnings: Slash, graphic violence, not for the faint-hearted
Availability: Not currently available, although until recently was advertised as available through Oblique Publications at The Waveney Zine Shop (might be worth an inquiry)

I read fan fiction about The Professionals before I ever watched and came to love the series. Journey West was not the first story I encountered from the CI5 universe by a long shot, but it has left such an impact on me that I now cannot think of the series without also thinking of this tale. Recently rereading this work, which is set in 1995, impressed upon me how timely and current its plot remains: an older Bodie and Doyle, brought to the United States, are abandoned to the machinations of domestic terrorists who plan to use the two operatives to strike against the nation by kidnapping the children of the President and thus controlling the Commander-in-Chief. Bodie and Doyle must walk a dangerous line between resisting the terrorists' plans and appeasing them long enough both to remain alive and to form alliances in the most unlikely of places. The resulting tale is dark, gritty, starkly violent, and often surprisingly poignant.

Maiden Wyoming manages to accomplish a number of delicate tasks in this remarkable work. First, she ages the characters in a meaningful and believable way, giving them credit for years of experience and training while also allowing them to recognize that they are no longer young. In fact, as the story progresses, they find they are quite vulnerable indeed, and the grim realities of this lead to some of the most moving passages in the novel. (A favorite line involves two youths identifying Bodie and Doyle from decade-old photographs: "But...they're supposed to be such hot shit. The big guy looks like he's about to fall over. The little guy's limping like my grandpa." Of course, both prove to be "hot shit," despite their wear and tear, almost immediately, but they also come face to face with their limitations and mortality in the process.)

Second, she revisits some classic themes from the series and brings them into even sharper, more dramatic focus: CI5's apparent abandonment of the "expendable" partners once they have served their purpose, Bodie's concerns over what he perceives as his own amoral nature as opposed to Doyle's inherent morality, the ongoing conflict between personal loyalty and professional duty. Maiden Wyoming captures the characters of Bodie and Doyle, their voices and thoughts, beautifully, highlighting their tragic flaws as well as their determined courage.

Third, she introduces new elements to the universe, including the backdrop of U.S. politics and Wyoming society (with a healthy dose of Native American culture), compelling but not distracting original characters, and a sexual element that develops with the story from a first-time slash scenario to a more mature gay relationship. These elements are secondary to the novel's basic sense of primal urgency as we wrestle with the kind of animals we are or can become when everything we know has been stripped away and all that remains is a no-win situation. The author's answers are drawn on a grand scale with unapologetically bold and bloody symbols. With its attention to the psychological, the spiritual, and even the supernatural aspects of the partners' peril, Journey West is a book not only about Bodie and Doyle's post-series future, but also about transcendent issues of life, death, and love. The West serves as a powerful metaphor for the unexplored frontier Bodie and Doyle face in their proverbial dark night of the soul.


"What are you going to do?" Amanda asked.

Bodie folded his arms across his chest. "Well, luv, the way I see it, we have two choices." A tiny muscle near his left eye started to twitch. "We can do as our masters say, nick the kiddies and perpetrate the horror show of the century."

"What's the other choice, Bodie?" Ray asked.

"I die," he said. "You tell Paul Nicks about all this and blame everything on me. Amanda, you back him up, and Ray here will walk free." His arms swung down. "Think that's what we'll do," he said brightly.

And far more quickly than Doyle could react, Bodie had spun around and run up the stairs to the third floor bedroom. The slam of the door sounded like a death knell.

Doyle pounded upstairs, howling out Bodie's name. The door was locked, but three frantic kicks caved it in. Doyle started to rush in, but the sight of Bodie's leveled handgun, aimed at him, made him stop short.

On the floor at Bodie's feet lay all the remaining ampoules of antidote, smashed.
eldritchhobbit: (Default)
So, devising a list for my website of recommended links for fan fiction archives, authors, and zines started me thinking.

I first discovered the phenomenon of fan fiction as a pre-teen through a 1984 issue of the Star Trek magazine Enterprise Incidents. Christopher Randolph, in his article "The Many Faces of Fan Fiction," served as my tour guide as he compared and contrasted the virtues of General, "Get-'Em," Mary Sue, Alternate Universe, K/S, and Adult fan fiction [his categories]. Tracey Alexander's "A Brief Moment of Light...," the Kirk death story that followed Randolph's article, was the first fan fiction story I ever read.

I was instantly and permanently intrigued, and I have been an active and enthusiastic consumer of fan fiction ever since. My exploration and, later, study of, writing on, and teaching about fan fiction has led me to read in a number of different universes, including not only all five Star Treks, but also Star Wars, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Firefly, to name but a few. In some cases (Blake's 7, The Professionals), I first read works of fan fiction before I ever saw the television series on which they were based. And over the years, I have watched as the fan fiction phenomenon adapted to new technologies and tastes, manifesting itself in hard-copy fanzines, online archives, newsgroups, LiveJournals, etc.

So, back to the experience of creating my recommendations list. As I tried to narrow my choices for my website, a truly challenging and still ongoing task, it occurred to me that over these twenty years, there are specific stories that still resonate powerfully with me, stories that have taught me key lessons about the nature of fan fiction, audience participation, literature, and storytelling, stories I simply cannot forget or file away. These are rereadable stories, often haunting tales, and they exemplify many of the reasons why I find fan fiction to be a relevant and important form of art and expression. They run the gamut of ratings and classifications and are scattered over half a dozen universes. Some exist only in print, others only online.

Now, to the point: as I think of them, I believe I will note them here and mention if and where they are available for reading. I'll use this LJ as a brainstorming area and just possibly, after I've leisurely revisited a series of works in no particular order, I will be able to compile my own list of significant pieces that reflect the personal milestones and memories of two decades as a fan fiction consumer.

So there. Just so you know what I'm doing if you happen to stop by and see this endeavor underway. Perhaps you may have read some of these stories, as well, or you may have additional recommendations for me. However this process evolves, I look forward to considering some of these noteworthy tales again.

Note: For posts about fan fiction, see here.


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