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Round-up of Jukebox and the Exchange at Fic Corner
SSar's Beast
I've already mentioned Jukebox. At the same time as I was running and participating in that, I took part in hhertzof's challenge, Exchange at Fic Corner, a fanfic gift exchange for children's book canons. I will do my best to ensure that those challenges do not overlap again; such was my enthusiasm that I found myself with a total of five assignments between them, which got a bit hairy towards the end.

I received three thoughtful gifts.

For Jukebox, Counting the Cars, by deepdarkwaters, a story about a young, naïve college kid who decides to spend a summer hitchhiking and telling tall tales to Kathy, a more seasoned traveller and storyteller. The story is of course for the song "America" (Simon and Garfunkel). It is a lovely story saturated with wistfulness and optimism. I loved how clearly the two characters approached the world from the same angle of wonder and wariness; I loved how they were also very clearly different people, who must go their separate ways in time. I opened the collection, read the story, dashed off to work - and sang the song to myself under my breath all the way up the hill.

Also for Jukebox, To Dust, a story for Covenant's Bullet, by Measured_Words. She does a great job of embedding both an explanation for the scenes in the song, and a mystery that extends them, within a hundred words.

For the Exchange at Fic Corner, I'd asked for Twilight - crack ships (Bella/Victoria, Alice/Bella, Bella/Edward/Victoria), or Bella, Victoria, or Alice in charge of the action. Some people, when asked to write non-canon pairings, do a lot of handwaving about existing relationships and slot a scene in. On the other hand, some people set themselves to the work of plotting out how the crackiest of ships could sail from a port - or point - that exists in canon. That is how I got things too sweet to survive, because thinkatory is one of the latter type of writers, and so in 7,000 words she rewrote all of the major plot points of Twilight, hee, such that Edward/Alice/Bella is a thing. (Warnings for character death.) Twilight: revised with more polyamory.

I also beta'd some things I rather like!

For Jukebox:
Down by the Riverside, by mtgat, for the songs "Secret" (Heart) and "Hazard" (Richard Marx) - the story of Mary, a woman whose heart maybe doesn't quite fit within her small-town life. It's a very smooth read, with great, sympathetic characterization, and I liked the way the ending does and doesn't resolve the conflicts of both songs.

Don't Drift Too Far From Me, by tielan, for the Céline Dion song "It's All Coming Back to Me Now" - a scene of gentle, bittersweet banter between characters who know the end is coming and who value the memories they still have.

The Witch and the Cursed Island, by eos_dawn_aurora, for the Dar Williams song "The Ocean" - and eos_dawn_aurora took a song about two characters and their very different relationships to the landscape (we could even say three characters, because the ocean is surely one) and took it for a high fantasy spin. There are dragons and angry gods - as well as the core relationship between a local and an outsider. (I am afraid I haven't quite got around to reading this properly since the archive opened, but draft 1 was neat, so.)

In Mercy's Shadow, by EllieMurasaki, is for Seanan McGuire's "Mother of the Crows". This story has very practical magic, and is centred on family - in this case, a slightly non-traditional family, but one with all the usual problems of how to balance money and caring and quality time. I really like it that the characters who go on a magical quest in this story are the adults.

For Fic Corner:
Worldbuilding, by AdaptationDecay, is short and sweet - it's Narnian fic about Polly and Digory musing after the events of The Magician's Nephew. The character voices are spot-on and some of the observations are amusingly tongue-in-cheek. Of all the stories I beta'd, I probably had the least input on this one, and can claim the least credit.

at the beginning there was..., by NightsMistress, is an Old Kingdom origin story. I was one of several betas NightsMistress asked to poke at this story, and I probably poked harder than most, because I am unfamiliar with the canon and had to ask over and over again, "Is this obvious in canon or not?" It was a fun process, though. (I really wanted something to procrastinate with, right that moment, so when a request popped up for a beta...) The story is told from the perspective of the one who becomes Kibeth, through the process of that becoming. NightsMistress does a good job of tackling a topic that is stylistically difficult: a creature becoming self-aware and intelligent.

Into the Crucible, again by NightsMistress, is a Tortall fic about Alexander of Tirragen. I sent it back to NightsMistress with a tonne of my usual in-line quibbles, concluding, "but honestly I loved it!!" The way that the Chamber of the Ordeal tries and succeeds to press on Alex's fault lines is great; it is my headcanon now. I love the double-distortion effect of seeing what the Chamber shows Alex, and then seeing what Alex takes as the implication of those visions.

I don't usually do rec lists, sorry; in this case, I haven't finished reading through either collection. It also feels weird to me for Jukebox because I knew which author had written each story. Same for Fic Corner, where the author names were revealed with the stories. So I have chosen here to mention only the stories I am personally connected with. But honestly, there are some really good stories in both collections, and I will probably find more as I keep reading, and I hope other people go and have a look.

Oh yes. And I wrote some things.

The Very Long Letter Bran Left on His Desk was my main Fic Corner assignment, for osprey_archer. Crown Duel is sort of two books published together, and at the start of book two, our heroine's brother returns from the capital with a surprise!fiancée. There is the following exchange:

...I must have been gaping, because Shevraeth lifted his glass. “My dearest Branaric,” he drawled in his most courtly manner, “never tell me you failed to inform your sister of your approaching change in status.”

Bran’s silly grin altered to the same kind of gape I’d probably been displaying a moment before. “What? Sure I did! Wrote a long letter, all about it—” He smacked his head.

“A letter that is still sitting on your desk?” Shevraeth murmured...

My recipient likes epistolary fic. I read Crown Duel for the second time (having read it for the first time only the week before), and this exchange leapt out at me. Right there was the fic that had to be written. Summary and title: provided by the universe.

The story was both intimidating and indulgent to write. Bran's character voice - he is warmhearted, forgetful, lazy, un-intellectual, and blunt - meant I could get away with - and have fun with - naïve observations and abrupt changes of topic. But I'm really not good at courtship stories. I went off-base several times and threw away scraps. I dashed back to the library on Friday morning before going away to 33AR to get that book one more time, which meant that when Mel (er, my friend the LARP GM Mel, not Mel the protagonist of the book) texted to say she was picking me up, I texted back "sorry I'm still on the bus..!" Then, when I got back home from 33AR, I edited the fic at zero hour on little sleep with a head cold. So there's indulgently abrupt and abrupt-because-woozy. I hope you can't tell the difference.

For the same exchange, I wrote Flower and Thorn for Moontyger, in Diana Wynne Jones's Fire and Hemlock. I'd re-read the book about a week before the assignment became available, which meant I'd spent a week turning over in my head, "what exactly does happen next?"

Crown Duel was new to me; Fire and Hemlock struck me long ago, and stayed with me. One of the things I most love about Fire and Hemlock is the realistic and sometimes quite heartbreaking depiction of the main character's parents. Polly's parents fail her. There's this intersection of magic and psychology that I could dwell on forever; for example, Polly's mother makes herself really unhappy in a way that you could probably diagnose with several disorders, and there's a throwaway comment in which Polly suspects that this darkness may have been worsened by one of her enemy's curses.

So what the story is about, for me, is how the patterns we've learned continue to define us, and how we cling to them even when we suspect they don't really work for us any more; complicated by magic. For example, to borrow from schema therapy, I can imagine that the protagonist of this Tam Lin story excessively fears, or expects, abandonment; she clings to the hero because her parents let go of her. That's something she's fighting not just when it comes to faery battles, but in general.

I wanted the story to be about Polly and Thomas setting themselves a condition that would keep them safe against their enemies' curses - but because they live in the real world, and because the condition is a very hard one, I wanted it to be about the pull and push of that curse, how they might doubt themselves, and doubt each other, and wonder if it was worth it, and fight against that doubt. The psychological effect of believing in magic.

I was also very heartened by my beta, who sent the story back to me with some praise and with a question about whether I really needed the second scene. They were right; I didn't. This, I thought, was a good sign - if a beta is ballsy enough to encourage you to throw out whole sections, then what they do approve of must be pretty okay.

Finally, for Fic Corner, I had picked up another pinch hit that I had to again default on in the last week of the challenge. My recipient defaulted after their original writer did; that meant that the assignment I dropped was not reassigned, and that person did not get a fic. I'm rueful about this. Pinch hitters should not take on assignments they are uncertain about filling. If that person signs up for Yuletide, I will see if I can write a treat for them.

In Jukebox, I wrote a treat (Leaving the Nest) and a main fic (Trackless Road for the song Map, by Jason Webley, for sleepfighter. Map is a lovely, complex song: strange and cruel and atmospheric. At first I wanted to do something with the refrain, I am not your lover, I'm just the map you use to find [her/him] that involved people entering into relationships and seeing an ideal rather than the person their partner really was. Couldn't make that work. Then I tried to use a Pygmalion/Galatea dynamic in which one partner created the other, which is how I got Leaving the Nest - but that version simply didn't have enough story in it to make it to 1,000 words. So then I wrote a ghost story in which real and spiritual landscapes blur in and out of each other. I was pretty proud of that story, and delighted when my beta liked it too. My greatest regret about sleepfighter's prompts was that I didn't have time to write version three for Map (it involved time travel), or the post-apocalyptic story I wanted to tell for Aesop Rock's "Coffee", another song they requested.

I also picked up a pinch hit. You're not supposed to do that when you're running an exchange - or not until you know you've exhausted every other possible option. I did have a pinch hit list - and they came through beautifully after deadline. But I got a plot bunny, and I really like taking pinch hits. So, accustom me to joy, for Zdenka, for the song Der König in Thule | The King in Thule (Schubert). I saw cup and Thule and thought of Thor's trials in the city of Utgartha-Loki, where he wrestles with a woman who is truly Old Age, and drinks from a horn that ends in the sea. It was a lot of fun to use the story to play with kennings and alliteration.

I feel a little abashed about bringing in Norse mythology, because in my own rules for the challenge, I'd said "treat the song as the only canon" - mostly meaning to avoid stories that used the themes of the song to tell a story in a popular fic universe. So, in a way, I cheated. Hm.

Finally - since this is already a giant post about fanfic, I might as well use it to post some rules for myself about how I should play in order to keep an upper limit on stress during Yuletide.


1. I may not offer TV or movie canons longer than 6 hours in total unless I have someone lined up to watch the canon with me, in whole or in part. (I hate watching TV over again, and can only barely make myself sit through a movie on my own.)

2. I may not offer book canons that I have not read in the last four years.

3. I may not offer canons for which I have not already secured access (in home, at library, etc).

4. I may not have more than two open assignments at any one time. (It's okay if other stories are in acceptable first-draft stage as long as they are complete and I'm sure of them.)

5. I may not offer to beta someone's fic, or accept a request to beta a fic, if I have any other fics in the queue to beta. One at a time!

6. I may have a maximum of one fic for which substantial writing remains to be done at the point that the official Yuletide deadline passes.

7. I may not stay up past 2am to write a fic.

8. Writing a fic is not an appropriate reason to defer or cancel a social engagement.

9. I may not make writing schedules that require me finish fic A and then throw myself into fic B on the same day or the following day. It just doesn't work.

ETA. 10. Dear self, please play sensibly enough that this Yuletide does not require you to add things to this list.

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Those are excellent, pragmatic rules, and if I hadn't managed to break all but 3. and 5. every year since 2010 I might have kept more of my sanity. Best of luck \o/

I've broken all of them at least once - but certainly not all together, and some in other exchanges than Yuletide. :)

I got the impression you were taking part again this year - is that correct? Should I not also be wishing you luck? ^!^

Oh, yes, counting exchanges other than Yuletide-- I am too intimidated to have more than one official assignment at Yuletide alone. You've taken on two pinch hits at once before?

I'll always do Yuletide, curse the size of book fandoms I pledged my heart to, but I'm a lost cause wrt reasonable rules. You still seem like you can be saved with a little more luck. :D

Yes, in 2011 I had two pinch hits for Yuletide - but my first assignment was finished and edited a week before the deadline. In Fic_Corner just now, I wasn't so organised. (Five assignments between Fic Corner and Jukebox were TOO MUCH.)

Yes, I think I can be saved!

2010: Stayed up until 5:30am on Christmas morning (New Zealand time, first in the world!) editing fic.
2011: Stayed up until 5am on Christmas morning editing fic
2012: Went to bed.

I am too intimidated to have more than one official assignment at Yuletide alone - See, that IS sensible! There is hope for you.

The first step to solving a problem is admitting you have one. ;-)
(But at least you have a good time along the way, yes?)

Well that is the problem - that I have too good a time, and forget to stop or be realistic.

How are you? I should come out your way for a visit some time.

I'm getting over two weeks of flu. (I got the nasty one going around that the vaccine doesn't seem to do anything for.) I'm feeling much more like a human being today, though.

Would you like to come around on Saturday or Sunday morning? I've got something on around midday on both days, but having a guest for morning tea gives me a good excuse to do baking. Plus, I should give back your copy of the Pirates book.


Oh dear. I hope it is really nearly over.

Saturday morning would be great - means I actually get dressed and up and doing things early in the weekend. :) (The plan for the rest of Saturday is spring-cleaning of bedroom.) What time suits, and can I bring anything?

Maybe come by around 10? (No, don't bring anything.)

Maybe come by around 10? (No, don't bring anything.)

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