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Dear DJ
SSar's Beast
This letter relates to the [community profile] jukebox_fest fandom exchange. Sign-ups close at the end of Wednesday, EDT. If you're curious about it, please send me a message! Or just go ahead and read the rules and sign up.

Thank you for reading, would-be creator or otherwise curious person.

Perhaps it goes without saying in this exchange, but I love original characters, worldbuilding, and a vast variety of settings. I love song interpretations that take metaphors and concretize as many as possible, playing them completely straight, but I also love interpretations that pick and choose what will be imagery and what will be reality. Either way, whatever your brain comes up with will be different than what mine does, and I look forward to it. Don't feel you have to stick to the genders that are given/implied by the singers' genders or the pronouns in the lyrics.

Likes - I love stories about loyalty and about competence - where competence includes people who make mistakes and then learn from them, however hard the lesson. I love stories that are enriched with little details about a setting and time period - whether that setting or time period is mundane or fantastical. You can't go wrong either in inventing a huge universe or in telling me a story that is set on a single, real street that has no claim to fame whatsoever.

I enjoy reading about functional and respectful romantic or platonic relationships, but I also enjoy really screwed-up relationships, and dubcon and noncon. Platonic mentor & student relationships are a particular bonus. If porn is involved, I particularly like touch starvation, xeno, telepathy, awkward sex, non-con, or dub-con (not all at once). Any gender or number combination is OK for either romance or sex.

I particularly like stories about characters' relationships shifting - about those relationships changing due to changing loyalties, or simply due to time and life experience. Or in characters whose relationships to each other are determined from moment to moment by roles they are otherwise required to play. I'm just as interested in break-ups as get-togethers.

I like morally ambiguous characters - pretty much every shade of gray except Absolute Cartoon Villain, and even those are fun in works where the overall tone is appropriately cartoonish. I like stories that appear very differently when seen through different characters' eyes.

I love dragons, trains, dark fairies, cities, dramatic weather, unexpected meetings. I love descriptions of skills. I like humour and silly puns and cracktastic scenarios.

Regarding art - I really love highly stylised art - geometric patterns, decorative patterns, fancy borders and framings. I like skylines and a sense of distance. I love costume details, or character studies done through faces or poses. However, I don't consider myself particularly visually literate / good at figuring out ambiguous images, so if you're deciding between something very simple, and something very complicated and ambitious, I think I'd prefer the former if it would ensure I can easily interpret what you have created.

I like jewel tones and earth tones and grays. I am less keen on neons and Lisa Frank rainbow palettes and pastels, unless contrasted with black/grays/muddier tones.

I don't ask for art very often, so I apologise if these aren't very helpful notes, and I hope the individual prompts are more helpful.

Regarding podfic - I have listened to very little podfic; I hope you will consider this an invitation to play to your strengths and create something you like. As with art, however, I hope the individual prompts are more helpful.

Dislikes/DNWs - Please don't make addiction or substance abuse a key theme. Please don't give me graphic art or graphic descriptions of harm to hands. Please don't use memory loss as a fun trope - I am OK with it if it's serious, but I don't enjoy, say, amnesia used lightheartedly to fuel the plot in a romantic story.

All Moments Leading to This - Lucid 3 (Song)
Fanfic, Podfic
YouTube, lyrics
'Cause I'm going home to take my oath on things I know...

I love this song for its balance between simplicity and significance. There are things at stake: oaths and safety and friendship, and whatever the "this" of the title is; but most of the lyrics are more poignant than portentous. This could be a song about a fantasy journey, a hero setting out on a quest or attempting redemption - and it could just as easily be about anyone in a modern or historical setting whose life seems to be on the cusp of changing. And either way, the things the character seems to draw their strength from are very, essentially, powerful things - the meaning of home; the sky and ocean and earth and seasons; their friends.

Please, tell me why this character is going home; tell me about their 'body of friends'; tell me about the city that they are leaving. Overall, the sense I get that even if it's an epic quest, "This" isn't exactly about facing up to some human corruption or regaining self-worth or connecting with family that the character never properly got to know - the question isn't what or </i>whether</i> so much as who the person (already) is, and how they hold on to that sense of self.

I am interested in podfic for this song because I feel as though the sense of personal quest / internal, subtle stakes would lend itself very well to vocal nuance. I would love to hear what further performance could bring to the themes in this song.

Beautiful Stranger - Madonna (Song)
YouTube, lyrics
To love you is to be part of you

There are so many interesting moods in this song - adoration, heartbreak, caution, a sense of the sublime. Why is the Stranger dangerous/a devil? I am particularly captivated by the line 'To love you is to be part of you' - that suggests something beyond a whirlwind romance. But a whirlwind romance is good too. Are there spies? Is there a cult? Is reincarnation, and a relationship in a past life, the reason the Stranger appears to be both familiar and unknown?

I'd be particularly interested in a version of this whereby the Stranger appears to pose a danger to the Narrator for reasons, but is secretly in love with them/ working to protect them/ has their best interests at heart - this is a kind of identity porn I love. Or a poly story in which the Narrator is just one of many people who has fallen in love with the Stranger and somehow this works out okay. But you definitely don't have to write this story with a happy ending, however you choose to interpret the song. Please don't feel bound by these ideas.

Please don't make the Narrator extremely stupid or self-destructive, as per the lines 'If I'm smart then I'll run away/ But I'm not so I guess I'll stay.' I would prefer that sentiment is downplayed/ de-emphasised.

Disguised As Someone Else - Joe Pug (Song)
YouTube, lyrics
I wish that I could come to you disguised as someone else.

A complicated/painful relationship and identity shenanigans? Sold. Hearing this song and reading its lyrics, I almost want to argue with it; I hope you find it similarly inspiring of ideas. The narrator's sentiment is pretty relatable, but wow, the issues involved.

I'd be interested in a scenario in which the narrator goes some way towards getting their wish - dark, awkward weirdness would be a bonus - or just imagines in more specificity what would best bring them closure - but I'm also really interested in what has brought the narrator and the person they're addressing to this point. What are their memories of the relationship that's just crashed and burned? What was it like when it was good?

The narrator obviously still cares deeply - but about their pride and sense of self (no one likes to be the bad guy) or about their once-significant-other? (Okay, maybe I'm biased.)

First We Take Manhattan - Leonard Cohen (Song)
Fanfic, Podfic
YouTube, Lyrics
I told you, I told you, told you, I was one of those

What a compelling song. As with 'All Moments Leading to This', I'm fascinated by the range of stakes here, from the very, very wide-ranging (international? future of the world) to the very personal. The parts about the monkey & the plywood violin, and taking the groceries in, have a feeling almost of bathos - I'm fascinated by what personally shaped the narrator and their goals and beliefs, from from philosophical influences to tiny moments.

Tell me about this person who loved the narrator "as a loser" - do they ever "gain the discipline" to fight for what they believe in, against the narrator? Tell me about the signal in the heavens and the beautiful weapons. Why Manhattan then Berlin?

I'm also interested in the underlying theme about the politicization of bodies (and possibly sexualities as well?) - what happened to the sister, the guiding birthmark, 'I love your body... and your clothes'.

So: what's really at stake? How do the narrator and their allies want to change the system? Do their ends justify the means?

I'm interested in podfic here, as well as fic, because the character of the narrator is so interesting and contradictory. I feel as though we're not getting the full story and I'd love for a performance to play up the ambiguities in the narrator's stance.

I also think this song would suit a response in an unusual format, such as epistolary fic, news/other media snippets, an anachronous narrative - which again might be interesting to treat with in a recorded performance.

Running Through the Garden - Fleetwood Mac (Song)
Fanfic, Fanart
YouTube, Lyrics
Until she herself / Understood her garden / Leaving her heart broken...

Who is telling this story and what is their relationship to the person they're describing? It seems personal and anguished, given that the lyrics alternate between describing a "she" and addressing a "you".

I am interested in what the garden was meant to be, and what it becomes - there are a lot of revelations in this song, so perhaps it is not what it appears or appeared to be. Is it so bad, at the end? Is it true that there is no future, or that the future is frightening and fatal? Where does responsibility lie?

I feel as though this could equally well describe a relationship between friends, between rivals, between a mentor and protegée, a guardian and charge, or lovers; but whatever this relationship is, it has clearly changed (soured? irrevocably? or not?). Or perhaps the narrator (if there is just one) has never spoken to the person they are talking about - only seen the destruction left behind, or seen their tragedy from a distance.

Is the garden fantastical or Edenic? Is the setting far-future, hydroponics, biolab? Is the garden a metaphor?

For art: please give me the garden, with or without human parties. Some possible prompts: poison flowers; flowers that appear differently from different sides or at different times of day; the attempt to "cut down" the garden; the "imprisonment" (cages made of branches, flowers?) (is the person "imprisoned" because they have partly become a plant?). Something more realistic and less fantastical is also fine - I just don't have immediate prompts for it. Feel free to follow a different interpretation of the song!

Whipping Boy - Shearwater (Song)
Fanfic, Fanart
YouTube, Lyrics
I would have paid just about any price.

This is haunting. I don't know how the three verses connect to each other, and that's part of the appeal: feel free to ignore one or two of them in constructing your story or artwork, though of course I'd be interested in a piece that incorporates all of the lyrics too.

Although it's not clear who or what the whipping boy is (someone the narrator is willing to sacrifice to get back a dead child, and see him laugh again?), the idea of three or more disjointed narratives seems appropriate to that concept - one story or situation coloured/informed by another that doesn't really have much to do to it; false equivalencies; connections that are loose and grasped at rather than clear; debts that have to be paid forward rather than back, because it is no longer possible to pay them back in any meaningful way.

Did the narrator attempt to make a bargain, and were they denied? (More than once?) Who or what is the wolf? Is the river real, and what kind of journey did the narrator go on in order to find it?

For art, I'd particularly like a depiction of the boy and wolf - it seems like an interesting and very fragile relationship - or of the incredibly evocative landscape of the third verse. Or, basically, whatever you want to depict that matches your interpretation of what on earth is going on here.

Yellow Flicker Beat - Lorde (Song)
YouTube, Lyrics
They used to shout my name, now they whisper it.

I can't help interpreting this narrator as nonhuman - or at least, as a human with very unique experiences. Even if the imagery is all metaphorical, not real - where does this character derive their frame of references? (Smoother than a storm makes me think of Jupiter; double-time shivers makes me think of lights pulsing on a server array.)

I'm particularly interested in the narrator's relationship to the people who "talk to [them]" and who "used to shout [their] name". Are they afraid, or reverent? What has caused the narrator's anger? What's going on with their time perception - what is going on to cause things to re-start, or speed up and slow down?

I admit: I do have a headcanon for this song, but please ignore it completely if you want: I imagine the narrator as an artificial intelligence, with a powerful physical body as well - created to to protect a city. But something has gone wrong (maybe her creators have betrayed her)... Seriously, though, I'd be happy to have a story about that, but I'd also be happy to have a story about a different interpretation that completely surprises me.

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