readingredhead: (Grin)
There have been a lot of times in my life lately where I've worried that what I do for fun and what I want to do seriously with the rest of my life don't mach up. I spend a lot of "fun time" reading books written for teenagers, with magic and/or crossdressing and/or teenaged royalty and/or flying whales. I spend a lot of the same funtime not only analyzing those books, but turning that analysis into a lens for understanding and critiquing social inequalities and broad societal misconceptions and problematic assumptions about Big Issues like race and gender and religion and sexuality. 

And then what do I do with my "serious work"? I read things people were writing before flying whales were even on literature's imaginative horizon. (At least to my knowledge! If you or someone you know has encountered a flying whale in the eighteenth century, please direct me!) I read works by women, and I find myself drawn to works written specifically by those women to whom the traditional English canon tends to deny a voice, but my major subjects of analysis have themselves been rather canonical thus far -- I am somehow the white girl who got into grad school with a writing sample on Jane Austen -- and while I know this will shift as I read more under the direction of some awesome professors (male and female) who understand that the eighteenth century is a time when "literature" as a category is only just coming into existence, allowing for a great deal of space in the literary imagination that gets restricted as things like canonization and genre solidification begin to happen, I do occasionally wish that it was easier to connect the two halves of my life to each other.

But the thing is, they are connected. Intimately. Even when (especially when) I don't see it. Prime example of this being that I'm currently in a course on eighteenth century oriental tales which has got me reading lots of stories by and about women, and also stories with magic! That elusive combination which, before this semester, I would not have thought constituted a portion of the canon that was available for my analysis, or that I could speak about as a way of gaining any kind of scholarly authority. 

And I realized as I submitted the paper proposal for this class that without fandom-related conversations about the importance of representing women who are friends with other women, I would never have come to this paper topic. I am essentially writing a paper about how the collapse of society in one particularly violent early-ish gothic novel could have been averted if it wasn't in the interest of men and masculine organizations of power to pit women against each other, or if women realized that their animosity against each other only existed because routed through masculinist assumptions of women's social roles and decided to counteract this by being friends with each other anyway.

Seriously, I keep looking at my paper and thinking about fandom and smiling, because the wonderful female commentators of fandom have taught me just as much as the wonderful female writers of the eighteenth century. Ladies who are friends with other ladies and do not judge them for their way of being a lady are the happiest best ladies. That is all.
readingredhead: (Sketch)
In case you could not tell from the title of this post I am now going to talk surprisingly seriously about fanfiction? But mostly as a way of asking questions of others on my flist who may write it/may have written it. (Though of course this won't happen til I go off on a digression!)

My own fandom history is peculiar. I discovered internet fandom via Harry Potter but it was always so effing huge and when the tiny fansite that I had followed from its start ended up closing down and I no longer had a manageably miniature way of participating in forums, reading and reccing fic, keeping up-to-date on news, etc. I basically let go of fandom. (This was in the Days Before LJ so I had no idea what kind of fandom went on through LJ comms!)

Also through Harry Potter, though in a very different way, I ran into the fandom that would become the love of my life, my One True Fandom, if you will: Diane Duane's Young Wizards novels, which I picked up for the first time when in between Harry Potter novels and fell for in a flash. Years later my passion for HP has faded but YW and I are still more-or-less madly in love. It helps that this is a super obscure fandom, easy to keep up with, very supported by the author who runs a discussion forum over at her personal website, and all of the people in it are really kind and supportive (though you'd expect this out of a fandom whose canon depends on the belief that any anger or unkindness, however small, speeds up the heat-death of the universe and plays right into the cosmic antagonist's hands). It is the fandom through which I have made my only non-RL LJ friends!

The point being, I've flirted with other fandoms, but Young Wizards is really my home, and has been for at least the past seven years. I've read all the novels multiple times, I fall asleep listening to the audiobooks on occasion, and characters grew and changed over time and along with me. And this is really the only serious experience of fandom that I have.

Which is why I'm suddenly finding it frustratingly problematic to get my head around writing fic for another fandom. I posted before about how much I loved Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan series, and I really think that it could be a brilliant second fandom home. It's the first fandom since Young Wizards where I've said, "This is something I want to be a part of for a while, not just until the obsession wanes." But my experience coming into the series is so totally different from what I had with YW. I read all three books in the trilogy within the past four months, they haven't been a part of my mental landscape for very long at all, and as much as I want to write ALL THE FIC for them, I find myself feeling weirdly blocked by a sense that I'm just not ready yet.

All of this is an incredibly long-winded way of asking: How do you get yourself to the point where you feel comfortable writing in a new fandom? How do you iron out things like characterization and tone and headcanon and backstory? Do you read a lot of other fic for ideas or do you tend to read and re-read the source material? Is there some magical secret that I have yet to encounter?

Part of the problem is that Leviathan is also a small fandom, but since these are YA novels most fandom participants are probably teenagers...not that this is inherently bad, but it does mean that the kind of discussion I would expect from an LJ comm is a bit lacking in the one active comm for the series... Another part of why Young Wizards is awesome is that a lot of current fandom luminaries are people who might have been teens when the first book was released in the eighties, but are now obviously more mature and care about having philosophical conversations about the nature of the world and the characters, etc.

Guys, I just want to write stories where a girl dressed as a boy and the boy she's in love with go around their alternate universe Europe having adventures and being awesome -- is that too much to ask?
readingredhead: (Write)
Maybe I'm an idiot for thinking that my first semester in one of the world's most competitive English PhD programs is not the time to be trying to write 50,000 words...but then I guess I'm an idiot because I have done this for SIX YEARS STRAIGHT now, and I'm not going to let this be the year that gets in the way.

I am also really, REALLY excited about the story I want to write. Even though I know basically nothing about how it's going to play out...! In my head, it is sort of like A. S. Byatt's Possession but with 18th-century writers, meets Neverwhere but with ghosts, meets Leviathan but substitute "being a part of London's radical literary culture" for "flying."

The story is set primarily in London, but oscillates between present-day and the mid- to late-18th century (that's 1770s-90s to those of you who don't think in centuries). In the modern day storyline, the main character is a female scholar working on her PhD dissertation about a second-tier 18th-century writer who's more notable for the breadth of his literary endeavors than for his impact or success in any of them. He was a poet, an essayist, a novelist, a reviewer, and a small-scale publisher -- and while his own work isn't respected particularly highly, he was certainly part of radical London literary-political circles in the 1780s and 90s (he knew William Blake, Thomas Paine, Mary Wollstonecraft, William Godwin, etc.).

The twist is that in this scholar's modern London, technologies have been developed that allow researchers to actually see (albeit briefly and indistinctly) into the past. These technologies only work in places like London, that have a "deep history" of human habitation, though no one's quite sure why this is. Theorists suspect that history -- the pressure of so many humans in one space -- somehow deforms spacetime in a way that makes it more susceptible to further deformation, so that impressions are tied to a specific place and stratified by the time when they were deposited. But this is not important to our scholarly main character. In fact, it's something of a nuisance -- because the English department is beginning to catch on to the potential "real world relevance" that this kind of "ghost research" could lend the academy, and our main character is forced to go looking for any information she might be able to find out about the literary figure she's chosen to study, when really she's not a fan of new historicism and would like to be left to her close-readings, thank you very much.

Thus, she runs into a secondary main character -- a man around her age (mid-twenties) who's lived in London all his life, which (for reasons that theorists still aren't clear about) makes him particularly susceptible to the impressions left by the past in the present. More importantly, our lady scholar can actually afford his rates on her miserable grant money (because people who can use the technology to sense out these "ghosts" have quickly turned the whole thing into a business). He's something of an armchair historian, and she resents his sense that he "gets" history just as much as she resents the fact that she's having to pay him for his services. But she stops hating him entirely as the two of them work together to unravel the history of this 18th-century figure, who as it turns out, has more secrets than either of them had bargained for...last but not least being that "he" was actually a woman, living as a man so that she could live by her pen without bringing disgrace upon her family, who she ran away from when she was sixteen. (This last bit will be very slowly teased out over the course of the novel; the reader won't discover that "he" is a "she" until at least two thirds of the way through.)

Now, it would sound like I totally know what I'm talking about, but really I made most of that up in the last ten minutes. And while I have the big-picture outlines of the story, there are lots of smaller details that I need to figure out...not the least of which being names for all of these people...and you know maybe a title or something. (I just had a thought that it would be cool if the title of MC's dissertation were also the title of this book, but what she would call the dissertation, I have no idea.) So, comments and suggestions more than welcome! I kind of want it to have some variation on/synonym for "ghost" in the title but at present this is all I know.
readingredhead: (Sketch)
Yes, it is possibly presumptuous that I am starting one of these when I have only been a rabid fan of this series for, oh, two months, but I'm going to pretend that the release of Goliath gives me a valid excuse for making this happen. That said, here be potential spoilers for the entire Leviathan trilogy, so proceed with caution if you haven't read all of these wonderful books. (And if you haven't, GO READ THEM NOW.)

Background: After I finished Goliath, I found my brain swimming with ideas/desires for all kinds of fan tributes - fic, art, mixes, you name it! - and while there is a lot of fic to be found on, and a lot of art to be found on deviantArt, it's hard to search through all of it to find just what you're looking for. And furthermore, what you're looking for might not actually exist. Hence, an exchange-centered fanworks meme! (I'm using "fanworks" as an umbrella term to include fic, fanart, fanmixes, icons/backgrounds, podfic, etc.).

How it works: Make a list of five* fanworks you'd like to see. These list items can be quite specific (ex. "a comic depicting a day in the life of Bovril") or quite general (ex. "Barlow/Volger, enemies with benefits"). Along with this list, make a list of the kinds of fanworks that you are willing to contribute - fic, art, mixes, icons, rec lists, etc. - so that people know what kind of fill they'll receive in return for filling one of your requests. 

Post this list on your LiveJournal, DeviantArt account, Tumblr, whatever - just get it out there to fellow Leviathan fans, with the following disclaimer: "If you fill one of my requests and repost this meme with your own request list, I will fill one of your requests!" Then wait for people to comment and claim/fill your requests. Once someone claims one of yours and reposts, it's your job to claim one of theirs.

*You can always list more than five requests if you are willing to fill more than five requests!

Technical details - what counts as a fill: Unless a request asks for a specific type of fanwork, any request can be filled by any kind of fanwork. Since this meme anticipates fills across a variety of fanwork genres, it's hard to impose a consistent "length requirement," but I'd suggest at least 500 words for fic, at least 5 songs for fanmixes, and maybe a couple of variants if you're posting icons. I am in no way a visual artist so I have no idea how to set up any kind of requirement for this, but the bottom line is, use your best judgment and remember that what goes around comes around: if you write a longer fic, or make a massive mix, or spend forever on the perfect illustration, then it's likely that the person you're giving it to will be compelled to fill your request with a similar benevolence. And it's totally fine to provide a mixed fill - for example, a 200-word drabble with a sketch, or a fic/sketch with a playlist of mood music, etc. 

Finally, since this is a quickly-growing fandom and it's hard to sort through all of it looking for that one fic/artwork that you've been desiring, participants can allow people to post rec lists in lieu of unique fills. What this means is, for example, that if I did request "Barlow/Volger, enemies with benefits," and you already know a couple of fics or artworks or mixes or whatever that are awesome and would fulfill this request, you can post that list of recommended fanworks instead of writing me a fic/drawing me a picture/etc. Though you could obviously rec things and create things of your own to count towards a single fill! (If you're more widely read in this fandom than I am, or you'd rather generate new fanworks than see older ones that may be non-canonical post-Goliath, you can leave this bit out when you repost.) 

And now without further ado I give you my request list!

1. Barlow/Volger, enemies with benefits

2. younger!Barlow, it isn't easy being the only lady in a man's world

3. Deryn/Alek, being young and madly in love isn't as easy as it looks

4. Deryn/Alek, firsts

5. Crossover/fusion with Diane Duane's Young Wizards series, in which wizards end up in the Leviathan-verse

I'm not widely read in the fandom and I have no visual artistic talent whatsoever, but I write (a lot) and put together mini-fanmixes every now and then, so expect my fills to be 99% fic.

Now, go forth and prompt and fill and rec and spread Leviathan-y goodness throughout the internet!
readingredhead: (Default)

Dear Internet:

I do hope you have been comporting yourself well in my absence, as I have disappeared beneath scholarly tomes of various levels of interest and engagement. Things seem to be going fine but one can never tell, thus, the occasional check-in.

My purpose in writing is to inform you of a series of novels that may pique your interest, and that you should go out and acquire RIGHT NOW because they are SO AWESOME that they are causing me to break the fabulously formal tone I had going for all of two sentences. But seriously - if you are interested in cheeky cross-dressing Scottish girls, aeronautical (and other) escapades, alternate history, political shenanigans, introspective princes of the royal line of Austria-Hungary, and/or something like steampunk but actually more awesome - you NEED to read Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld. And then you need to read Behemoth and then you need to read Goliath and then you need to tell me all about it so that we can fangirl over HOW BARKING AWESOME they are.

I read the first two books in August, having had Leviathan on my list for a long time but never gotten around to it (don't ask me how not!) and when the third book in the trilogy was released I got it delivered the day it came out and read it in six hours, basically only breaking to deal with bodily imperatives. I spent most of that reading making incoherent noises of commingled anguish and glee. It is so worth it, as a series and as an imaginative universe in which to play.

Deryn Sharp - aforementioned cross-dressing Scottish girl - grew up flying in hot air balloons with her dad, and even his death in a freak ballooning accident can't keep her from wanting to get back into the sky. At fifteen, she takes the last of her inheritance and heads from Glasgow to London, where "Dylan Sharp" is born and gets a job as a midshipman on board His Majesty's Airship, the Leviathan. The prince of Austria-Hungary would be Aleksander, (fictional) son of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, who is forced to run away when his parents are assassinated. Through a series of complicated events, Alek and his men wind up as passengers on the Leviathan, and the story develops onwards and upwards from there.

Westerfeld has reimagined the Allied/Central powers divide along technological lines: the Allies are known as the "Darwinists" because of their advanced biological sciences and genetic manipulation, which they use to create living ships and weapons systems (ex. the Leviathan is basically a massive hydrogen-breathing whale-like creature, with a whole ecosystem of other genetically manipulated animals living on and in it); the Central powers are called "Clankers" because they tend towards machine-based technology, but even their machines are more animal-like than our modern ones...think "walkers" and things that move on legs more often than on wheels. The alternative histories and technologies are fascinatingly intricate, but they never intrude upon the centrality of the story at the heart of the trilogy, in which two kids from different backgrounds leading totally different lives become fast friends and change the course of human history in the process.

Maybe I like it so much because that whole "two kids who become fast friends and change the world in the process" bit is also applicable to a lot of Young Wizards, but I don't think that's all of it. The writing is very honest about Deryn and Alek's struggles as fifteen-year-olds in the midst of a completely shifting world order - they are awkward and uncomfortable and unpredictable and energetic and hilarious - but it also never signals them out as somehow less deserving of anything due to their age. Part of this is accomplished by the fact that "there's a war on" and thus all people are expected to chip in, but no one ever tells Deryn and Alek that, since they're "just kids," what they're doing somehow "doesn't count." They are brave, and their bravery is recognized.

Of course, also, Deryn just smashes gender binaries left and right and is SO AWESOME doing it. Reading the books I came to the conclusion that I may have more in common personally with Alek, or at least that I don't know if I could or would do all that Deryn does, but damn, I wish I had it in me. I hope my daughter(s) do(es) - and/or my son(s)!

I actually just reactivated my Audible account for the sole purpose of downloading the Leviathan audiobook (of course I did this right before my iPod decided to die on me, but hey, that's life), and although it lacks the pictures that made reading the physical books so pleasurable (did I mention there are pictures??), I cannot complain about it at all because it is delivered WITH ACCENTS and I am in love. Again. Still.

Moral of the story: Read these books, because goodness knows that I will still be reading them and talking about them and what happens after them for a good time to come.


readingredhead: (Default)

March 2013

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