FicWorld - Feast of Fanfic
Yesterday at the grocery store I stood behind a man in a checkout line; he had piled his things--about fifty dollars worth of stuff--on the conveyor belt and was watching them roll along. He picked up a bottle of aspirin and turned to me with a stricken look and said, "This is all I came in here to buy."
I hear you, buddy. I come to fanfic to read a little of this or a little of that, and end up printing out half the group offerings. It all looks so delicious! And for some reason we seem to have come under a moonspell of good writing, so that choices are increasingly hard to make. But make them I must, Gentle Reader, and if you like them too, you'd better be out there giving feedback to these and other hungry artists. Or else.
So I slowly unfold the menu with a sampling of this and that, so whatever you have a taste for, you can try a morsel and see if it's what you've been craving.
We start with an appeteaser, a little twist of something rosesdecay calls, No Day But Today, starring the littlest hero, Sean Pendrell. What? You say you're not a Pendrell lover? Me, neither, but I do love good writing, and when I do think of Pendrell--rarely, CiCi, rarely--I imagine the exact person that rosesdecay describes in this achey breaky start:
"I have my day planned out, second by second, nuance by nuance, to make sure everything goes okay. I will eat a healthy, nutritious meal to make sure I have the energy for the rest of the day. I will leave for work early to get the hard stuff out of the way and free up my afternoon...(snip)Then I'll march down to the basement, lure Mulder out of the office and zap him with a taser, stride inside, and ask Dana Scully to go to dinner with me that night."Excellent plan, Pendrell! And in a less well thought out story it might work, but rosesdecay never devolves into silliness by making anyone act out of character. This creates a real pathos surrounding a poor sweet man whose heart is simply too big for the rest of him, and far too tender to enter the bloody arena of X-Files relationships, where it's kill or be killed. (Oops! Considering Pendrell's last episode, I guess by now he HAS figured that out.) Anyway, this vision of him will make you glad you strayed from your regular msr diet.
A very poignant tale, refreshing as a bite of lime, and just as bittersweet. Tell rosesdecay how you feel at email@example.com.
Also in excellent taste, the "Animal Crackers" series by Booboocato@aol.com and Misselise@aol.com. Booboocato writes an erotic tale from Skinner's POV, called "Animal Crackers for Skinner," and MissElise writes the same story from Scully's POV, called "Animal Crackers for Scully." The result is a richly layered and yummy encounter where you see everything twice, but not doubled--kinda like why we have two eyes--in binocular vision.
Cut to the chase: "This is why he came here and relief floods through me. Heat and warm wetness...My tongue teases his lips and a soft groan escapes him. The cookie box falls to the floor with a soft thunk and I step closer, his arms coming around me, his mouth opening to me. There is no order to the kiss, just a jumble of lips and tongues."
Now, I know what you're thinking--don't waste those cookies! But fear not; the zebras die for a good cause. And they're tasty, too!
Speaking of PsOV, I'm noticing a recent trend in which authors are positioning our heroes at a distance by shifting the focus of the story to a stranger's viewpoint. This allows the same story to be told again and again with neverending freshness and innovation, the infinite angles from which we can see things provide boundless opportunities for new ideas. Some of the best fiction out lately is employing this particular device, as in Silhouettes by Gwendolyn.
"They have this bizarro unspoken communication the likes of which I've never seen before. And they say each others' names too much...I mean, Christ, they're lookin' right at each other. Who else would they be talkin' to? But it's always Mulder this and Scully that. My theory is this: they use each other's names as a sort of touchstone, a port in the storm so to speak. Usually, verbal tics like that,repetitive speech, signal a sort of code. A shorthand that means something else entirely than what is being said. What they're saying is, 'I'm here. I'm with you. I'm invested.'"The voice of the stranger calls us to notice things that we may not have noticed before, however familiar we are with these people, and here it is done with such skill that the reader has to take a new look at Mulder and Scully's method of communication. Very refreshing fare!
And if you like unusual points of view, go to http://members.aol.com/canny409/picks.html for the sweetest and funniest voice on the net, Mama Lean's. Cici Lean's interview with her mother remains one of the funniest things I've ever read, and a recent re-read gave me just as much pleasure as it did the first time. CiCi has now included an interview with her uncle, also hilarious, but my favorite is still Mama's no-nonsense approach to the lunacy we love. I guess it's funny because when you first read it you think Mama doesn't have a clue, but then after you think about it, you realize she's got it EXACTLY right.
Maybe I dreamed this, but I seem to remember the funniest part of that interview being Mama's take on Krycek. ("Kojak? Paycheck? Henpeck?") But the rest of it is guaranteed to make you laugh, too, or your money back.
To sober up after this, check out Twilight by XFScully, at IMXFScully@aol.com. Scully is in a bleak, troubled country, practicing medicine with a team of heroes, under difficult conditions, and quite Mulderless in the beginning. Then:
"It is at that moment that I catch sight of a brilliant line of color, here on this grewy, rain-streaked street. Dark green jacket, dark blue jeans, the brilliant white tennis shoes that might as well be emblazoned with the word 'American.' Dark brown hair; hazel eyes in the face turning towards me now. It isn't him--I only thought that, for a moment, because I had been letting myself remember--But no. It is him. Mulder's face doesn't change as he looks at me, for the first time in over a year. He is much as he was when we parted so badly; his jaw is set, his eyebrows are lowered. Still angry? No. Just guarded. And if that's the best he can manage to welcome me..."
This writer uses only the most significant details to draw a harsh, realistic portrait of the life of a truly good person in a truly cruel world, showing what must be sacrificed in order to remain true to the self that demands honorable behavior. It portrays Scully as the kind of hero she would most likely be in a non-fictive world: uncelebrated, unarmed, making choices that would disappoint viewers yet still be dramatic on a personal level. Excellent descriptions here put you right in that rain-streaked picture, too. And the ending is upbeat in a rather more mature way than we're used to...
As long as we're into angst now, we may as well wallow around in it, with Fire Song by Renata Schaafsma, at firstname.lastname@example.org. This writer has a sharp, clear grasp of the loneliness-in-the-night kind of musings that verge on self-pity without ever quite indulging in it:
"In the daytime there's so little control. The light is always going to be ther, and no matter how hard you try to guard yourself against it, it;s going to sneak in; through a crack in the ceiling, or under a door, or through a shaded window. And even when you think you've found a place to hide, you always know you're surrounded by it. Like closing your eyes to the face of Satan. You can't see him, but you know he's there. Waiting. In the night, everything is different. When the moon and stars are covered I can make believe I am in control, that the power of the universe flows through my hand as if flicks on the light and then switches it off again. ...In the darkness I am a god with one disciple.So Mulder! Self-absorbed without being self-obsessed, needy without being willing to trade commitment for an end to neediness, more ennobled by his loneliness than weakened by it. The writer here does a very clean job in a very short piece, and this one is worth keeping if you ever want to do a character study on Mulder. It has a nice ending, too.
* And more angst still, this time from Skinner's view of the events in Pusher, in Captured Power III by m.c. Akimoto at email@example.com.
You have to consider that Skinner actually killed an unarmed man in that episode, and as the title suggests, he loses his "balance" briefly here, though happily it is regained by the end. How he gets from here to there is a logical, angsty progression, and it's a pleasure to have such a talented writer guide us on the tour through that shiny, if surly, head.
"Hell. Skinner understood why Mulder hid beneath that aura of grief and guilt. It was a natural reaction, really. Mulder was one of those unfortunate souls--a rationalist and a humanist. Mulder's biggest problem, and what would undoubtably be the cause of his ultimate downfall, was that Mulder still believed in Justice. He believed there was a Truth, and that somehow Truth and Justice were linked.
"Skinner had learned otherwise."
Not that it's always surly, of course; in the light and filmy tale, Lucky III, by Helen Wills at Helen @wills2.demon.co.uk you could even say it glows. But who could not end up glowing after a story that begins with Mulder in a lingerie shop?
"Little shell-pink panties and bikini-bras, edged with discreet lace; startling royal blue French knickers; cream silk peignoirs; black lace garter belts; crimson G-strings. All delicate, feminine, some even risque, but universally tiny and bewildering to a six-foot tall man with size 12 feet and no experience of buying ladies' underwear. Mulder picked up a garter-belt and stared dumbly at its minuscule proportions, wondering anew at the mysteries of the opposite sex. How could something that looked like a medieval torture device in the store be transformed into something so alluring when worn by a woman? And why would she want to strap herself into this anyway, even to please the man in her life?"Why indeed, when the damn things are rarely worn for more than fifteen minutes at a time? A question for the ages, unanswered, but at least amusingly addressed, when Skinner, Scully, and Mulder all turn up at Victoria's Secret one interesting afternoon.
It's cute, it's frothy, it's underwear. Sometimes that's all you need, right?
Then there are those other times, when what you need is a day without underwear, a day without rules, and a story that comes to you on that day and drags you away to another place, is appropriately enough entitled, Another Country by Pellinor, at Pellinor@astolat.demon.co.uk where up may be down and here may be there.
"That's Samantha's voice there--and yours. It's like..." He laughed, happier than she had ever heard him. "I want you to understand this, Scully. I's like those pages of coloured dots. When you look at them, suddenly you see that they're not dots after all, but a face, or a cat, or a..." He smiled. "Or an alien."This is a dreamy, unsettling fantasy of transportation into the world like the movie "Sliding Doors," where one thing may be another, (and what's scarier than Mulder with a happy laugh?) and you never can be quite sure if what seems to be happening really is happening. That's the trademark of a good fantasy, though, and disbelief is willingly suspended here while you drift trancelike through the unfolding narrative. Excellent use of language distinguishes this from less engrossing stories dealing with otherworlds; the familiarity created by good characterization grounds you so you never really get lost. Impressive work, Pellinor.
"They were only ever dots to me." Soft. "I never saw the alien."
Have you gone long enough now without Mulder and Scully just plain old doin' it? Then whip on over to What We've Become by Becca O at firstname.lastname@example.org for some NC-17 sex. A first time Mulder and Scully sex story, well handled and humorous that goes from depression to ecstasy with some well placed metaphors; at first you worry he's going to break it off with her, and then you worry he's going to break it off IN her. Enough said; go, drool, and return a calmer person.
If, on the other hand, you want to appear calm and unflushed when the boss returns from his bathroom break to check on what you're doing, a quick read is I Could Not Love Thee by Pollyanna, at email@example.com. These are night thoughts from Mulder's POV:
"How rich it would be to be foolish. To be able to laugh without cruelty. Not to have that knowledge that touches all our smiles with cynicism, that twists are lips from the true."Compacted into a tight, short piece dependent on language more than action to set the mood, this story will give you a quick X-Files feel without that bitter aftertaste.
Almost as quick, though with more of an afterbite, is Mulder's Big Score by Dragan Antulov at firstname.lastname@example.org. Dragan's gifted writing style utilizes the device of finding moments of meaning in a chaotic world, this time through a Russian prison game of soccer in which Mulder "scores" in a way most of us fanfickers aren't used to.
As Mulder slips from the intellectual to the spiritual, philosophizing over the "symbolism of a ball reaching the goal," in Freudian terms, he comes one of those rare and elusive moments when the light of the human spirit shines through, illuminating the darkest of circumstances.
"Even in this worst point of his life, his existence had some purpose."It's a brief history lesson about the 1917 October Revolution, about what constitutes true triumph of man over circumstance, and hey, it's got Krycek in it, too.
Uh oh. There goes my bandwidth alarm. And just when I was getting to the Mulder and Scully stuff!
Well, I'll just end with this: recent flickfic has been pleasantly filling all those annoying gaps in the movie. What really happened in that hallway between the time Mulder called the ambulance and the time it arrived? Jill Selby's answer comes in "A Makeshift Kiss," the kind of instant classic that is destined to become as much a part of our movie experience as what we saw on the screen. What went on between the time Scully and Mulder were on the ice and the time they got back to Washington? "Fate, Chance, Kings & Desperate Men" by K. Rasch at email@example.com will fill you in and give you lots of extra added bonus information. And how much, you must have asked yourself, did that little adventure cost the American citizens? Marguerite has conveniently totalled the cost right down to the price of Scully's new underwear, in Worth Her Weight. Be sure and thank her for this public service, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
According to a recent study, done by me in my head, it is a scientific fanficfact that writers' talents increase in proportion to the amount of feedback they receive. Improve the quality of writing today! Reap the rewards of your efforts tomorrow!
Feed 'em and reap!
Thanks for writing,
FicWorld - Feast of Fanfic