Hello there, and welcome to astrokath's Yearly Yuletide Wishlist.
Thank you, first and foremost. I don't know if you've matched me on one fandom or several, but hopefully the list is wide and weird enough to suit us both. :-) It's a mixture of literature, art, animation, science and weirdness (which pretty much sums ME up, now that I think about it) so do please browse whichever bits of it take your fancy. This year's list of fandoms is in order of geographical proximity (because why not?) - rest assured that I love them all equally.
Secondly – my apologies. This letter gets longer every year. Having said that, optional details are optional. If none of my specific preferences or ideas take your fancy, feel free to ignore everything beneath the cut and write what you want. I think the best stories come from writers who are engaged with what they're writing, and I don't want this to be a chore for you. If you're feeling compelled to write the fic of your dreams for one of these fandoms, then GO FOR IT. I'm 100% sure I'll love reading it too.
If you want to stalk my own writing, you can find it on ao3 and FFnet. Most of my own writing is within the Dragonriders of Pern fandom, but I like to offer/request other fandoms for Yuletide.
A quick note before the cut: I've requested the following fandoms:
* Watership Down
* The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace & Babbage
* The Song of the Sea
* We need to talk about Annika - Simon Stålenhag
* The Ship who Sang
For anyone browsing letters in search of crossovers, I would be open to some very fandom-specific crossovers with Pride & Prejudice, UK TV quiz shows, Lovecraft, The Laundry, Irish mythology, Susan Cooper, E Nesbit, Alan Garner. I very much doubt anyone's looking for crossovers like these, but this is Yuletide and you never know!
What do I like in my stories?
What I like best: gen, deleted scenes that fit canon, stories that take canon divergence in plausible and interesting directions, and any kind of exploration of the worldbuilding. Well thought out OCs are fine - I'm guilty of enough of those myself. I prefer writing worldbuildy gen to romance, but when I do write sex scenes they're heavily biased towards the emotional headspace of the participants rather than any graphic descriptions of what they're getting up to. Reading is a different matter: I read a lot more widely than I write. Having said that, I would prefer not to receive anything E-rated as a yuletide gift. Romantic/shippy stories in themselves would be just great, but I get the most out of them when the relationship drives the plot and/or character development forwards, rather than being the sole focus of the prose. Crossovers are rarely my thing, with the rare exceptions that I'll talk about for each of my requested fandoms in turn.
In terms of tone and pacing: anything goes. Poetic, rollercoaster, cracky, serious, lightweight, dark...seriously, I'm not fussed. You know what works best for you as a writer. In the past I've had gorgeously dark heartbreaking stories, poignant light-weight gen, cracktacular meta, sweet nostalgia, and all sorts of other lovely things. With the caveat that I'm not after torture porn or Ulysses cycled through Babelfish, I doubt you'll write anything too dark or too cracky for me (this is not a specific request for cracky darkfic BTW, just free rein should you feel inspired to write either/both - and maybe I should note that I prefer emotional/psychological-dark over physical/violent-dark). I love character-centered stories, plotty epics and concise, high-clarity snapshots all equally well, and really respect an eye for detail. Write me something atmospheric or poetic, or plotty of any length, and I'll be very, very happy. Make it clever and devious and twisted as fuck and I will love you forever!
So...no pressure. ;-)
Yuletide also has a number of opt-in extras, and opinions on them vary. So, here are mine. If you want to write me a fic that meets the criteria for Misses Clause/Chromatic Yuletide/Yulechat Challenge, then go for it. Would I welcome an art gift? Absolutely! A Yumadrin drabble? I'd be hypocritical not to. Crueltide Darkfic? Hell yes. And if I get none of the above? Well, that's what browsing the sub-collection tags is for.
What are my Do Not Wants?
- A story overloaded with either sex or violence. Considering sex first, I really don't want a PWP or pornographic fic for Yuletide. If you were hoping to write porn for your recipient, please put your energies into treating someone on the Yuleporn list and don't worry about phoning something in for me. Related to the above point, lovingly detailed descriptions of violence in progress would probably be a huge no for me. In both cases, where I'd draw the line depends very much on what you're writing, and the fandom you're writing for. If it serves the purpose of the plot then do whatever you need to, but otherwise please don't go too far beyond the tone of the fandom itself.
- Crossovers - please think very carefully before writing me a crossover. I'll be throwing a few crossover ideas in further down the letter, but don't take them as carte blanche to write me a crossover with some random mega- or minor-fandom that I have no interest in. If you desperately want to write a crossover with a fandom that I haven't mentioned in this letter, please check via one of the Yuletide Hippos, but don't wager anything valuable on it. ;-)
- Unless it's a standard part of the canon worldbuilding, I don't want to see young kids dying/in serious peril. This particularly holds if the story's protagonists are in some way responsible for their fate. Even if the nastiness happens off-camera, don't think I can't read between the lines. Please don't set off my parental angst! So what sort of things would cross the line? Using a couple of my fandoms as examples, if you want to give Annika or her boyfriend a gruesome fate I'd be cool with that, but if their actions lead to anything awful happening to Annika's kid brother/some other random OC child, directly or otherwise, I'm going to start backbuttoning. Rabbit mothers eating their babies? It happens in nature, and you can put it in a fic if you really want to, but while Hyzenthlay dealing with animal grief/thwarted parental urges after the fact would be fine, Hyzenthlay chomping down in-story on fuzzy little Vetch, Burdock and Thethuhain is another matter entirely! A post-canon Song of the Sea AU where Ben's quest had failed and he lost Saoirse? Sure. Dwelling on his/his Dad's emotional state at the time as they try and fail to find and/or save her? No thanks.
- Anaphylaxis. Avoid like the plague. In fact, if you can avoid plague/any other medical nasties too, that'd be just peachy. (Alien mind-control/mutations could be fun for _Annika_, but everyone developing something real like Spanish Flu or SARS or Ebola would not.)
Anyway, on to the fandoms.
Richard Adams - Watership Down
Requested characters: Any
Yes, I *did* mean to request 'any' for this fandom. Seriously. Write about any of the rabbits in the tagset, in any combination you fancy.
Last yuletide was the first time I wrote for this fandom, but it's been with me for a very long time. I really, really love this book. I've not read the short story collection Tales from Watership Down beyond browsing in bookstores, so I don't know in great detail how the characters of certain rabbits get expanded on in there, but I'm aware that Hyzenthlay later becomes a co-chief rabbit together with Hazel and the new warren is called something like Vlefain.
I'm going to break down my prompts mostly by location, because that seems to make the most sense.
In Efrafa: Campion, Hyzenthlay, Nelthilta, Vervain
What I'd love to see is more of Hyzenthlay and Nelthilta from the earlier phase of their lives, while they're still in Efrafa: Hyzenthlay's wits, her strength of character, her compassion. Nelthilta's verve and misplaced daring. Her journey from idolising Hyzenthlay to emulating her, and then (perhaps) to some sense of betrayal after her arrest. What happened to Nelthilta after the other does escaped? Efrafan worldbuilding. Doe society, the slow, steady stifling of their lives, their resistance to that process, inner struggles between ideals, principles and desires and the dubious safety/death by a thousand cuts of conforming to Woundwort's rule. What stories were told in Efrafa? Was there something in there that inspired them both to rebellion? AU ideas: how things might have gone if Woundwort had let her and the other does leave, then sabotaged them/set them up to fail as an example to everyone else. Or, what if Bigwig failed? What then? What if Hyzenthlay had been arrested instead of Nelthilta, or if the Council Police had moved too slow to arrest anyone at all? Crossover ideas - Pride and Prejudice and Rabbits? As far as the male rabbits go, show me why Vervain was so particularly hated, or how Campion negotiated the dangerous combination of possessing competence, a spine, and at least some level of decency within a corrupt regime. What were things like in the Owsla/Owslafa under Woundwort? Did these two ever have to work together on a specific issue, and how did their very different mindsets get in the way of that (or not)? How did they each become the rabbits we see in the book? Vervain never made it back to Efrafa, but Campion ended up as its new Chief. How did the warren adjust to his new role?
In Cowslip's warren: Silverweed, Nildro-hain.
Nildro-hain and Silverweed are both tragic figures. They've each found an accommodation with the snares, but neither has a happy ending. Had Nildro-hain stopped running already when Silverweed gets poetic? (Strawberry's there in the audience, but we havn't seen Nildro-hain since well before Strawberry went looking for her before they all went up to gather flayrah, which adds a rather different nuance to his reactions to the storytelling...) Does the Black Rabbit still come for rabbits who have drifted so far from El-ahrairah? Was the arrival of Hazel and co a trigger for Nildro-hain to act more impulsively than she usually would? How does the warren's politics shift between Hazel's group's departure and the less-than-warm welcome they give to Holly's group? What happens to Silverweed in the end? Does he see something in Fiver, the same way Fiver sees some of himself in Silverweed? What does the Black Rabbit make of these two very different seers, and how they straddle the real world and his own?
From Sandleford: Hazel, Blackberry, Fiver, Dandelion
We have a leader, an engineer, a seer and a storyteller here, and they all bring their own skills to the dynamic of the group. I'd love to see them each encountering some form of problem, and each solving it in their own way. A puzzle posed by one of the other rabbits, an encounter with a non-rabbit character, or some other event on the Down? Individually, I have great admiration for the wisdom that Hazel develops over the course of the novel, and his willingness to sacrifice himself for the greater good. How does he take to working with Hyzenthlay later on? Does the fact that she's a seer like Fiver come into it? Does he ever get a day when he can just be silly and carefree? Blackberry appeals to the scientist in me and Dandelion (if he were a human) would probably be a yuletider himself, but they both see things very differently to the average rabbit. I'd love to see an exploration of the rabbits' oral tradition, and how new ideas come into it or become explained as part of the accepted mythology. What new stories can Dandelion develop? What new ideas does Blackberry bring to the warren? Maybe through the medium of some kind of mission or adventure, be it big or small. Fiver would be a very interesting character to follow at several points in the story - we don't see things from very deep into his POV when he's having visions or speaking unexpected truths. What's it like for him? What kind of interactions does he have with Frith or the Black Rabbit? Who does he see when he eventually dies, and what kind of afterlife is he going to have?
In the fandom generally: OCs, Black Rabbit of Inlé.
More ideas: rabbit mythology is a rich vein ready for mining. A series of encounters between the Black Rabbit and the key characters of the book, at the end of their lives, or observations at times when they came close to death? OCs + El-ahrairah and/or Black Rabbit, either as part of a story told by one of the book characters, or a stand-alone fic? The Black Rabbit visiting Efrafa, or Cowslip's warren? El-ahrairah and/or Black Rabbit nudging various characters as needed to set Hazel's world to rights, and what might have been otherwise?
Anyway, hopefully that'll be enough to get you started...
The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace & Babbage.
Requested characters: Ada Lovelace (but feel free to write about anyone, really.)
Oh my god this book. THIS BOOK! I was lucky enough to be at Eastercon this year when Sydney Padua was talking about it. And what's not to love about Ada Lovelace, honestly? She was the daughter of Lord Byron, and raised in such a way that she was well aware of the conflict and connections between poetry and hard science. At the age of twelve, she attempted to build herself a functional pair of wings. How cool is that? She had an affair with a tutor, and later had a strong friendship with Mary Somerville, through whom she got to work with Babbage. (Mary Somerville was a genius who learned a huge amount in spite of her disadvantages - she came late to learning, found she was enormously talented, and was later stifled and forced to continue educating herself in secret. And then she got married to a man who thought women were academically incompetent...who died only three years later... No, nothing suspicious about that, just remarkably fortuitous for her, right? And after that, she got the chance to become the hugely influential scientist she was.) Ada Lovelace was relaxed in the company of men, and started a gambling circle! (Which failed to reap the expected profits...) Honestly, she's so ridiculously larger than life you'd almost think she was fictional! So when a fictional version of her comes along, unfettered by the rules and constraints of reality... yeah. This was definitely a must for Yuletide.
What would I like in a fic? Here's a grab-bag of possible ideas:
-19th century scientific shenanigans! (Or go the route of the early online comics: 'Together, they fight crime!')
-Ada being awesome and confounding expectations! Did she ever feel like people saw her as some kind of oddity or freak, or did she revel in being so different from the norm?
-Babbage infuriated by idiots! (I feel for his misunderstood genius, and how frustratingly blind he was to the way normal people work.)
-Brunel being magnificent! (He looks devilishly dashing in an oil-stained, engineering, steampunky kind of way in the book.) There's quite a difference between the very practical and empire-building engineering of Brunel and Lovelace & Babbage's RL work - Babbage was notoriously flaky when it came to doing things that needed doing if he had a pet project or whim to occupy him, and he had some bizarre/dubious pet hates. (Organ-grinders? Vandalism of windows? The lower classes in general? Lecturing students? Any one of those could spawn a story)
-A guest appearance by Mary Somerville!
-Queen Victoria in a pickle!
-George Eliot being a literary genius and strong and quirky in an entirely different way to Ada!
-Bloody men! Dead husbands! 19th Century Social Justice!
-Poetry! Or a chance encounter with someone Lord Byron hadn't slept with!
-Some of Ada's later pet projects - weird scientific fads, music, thought, computation...perhaps in the Thrilling Adventures reality she invents an AI?
If you want to take your fic completely AU and diverge from either the standard laws of physics/historical reality or the details of the canon itself, go for it... with real wingfic, alien invasions, or a visit from a time-travelling man in a strange blue box... Other crossover/AU ideas: UK TV quiz shows, Lovecraftian horrors/Stross' Laundryverse.Honestly, go wild with this. I will be thrilled with anything from cracky steampunk science to meticulously researched victoriana, or anything at all in between.
The Song of the Sea
Requested characters: Saoirse, Ben. Please treat this as an 'or' rather than an 'and' request, and if you want to write about Bronagh, Conor, Mac Lir, Macha or Granny instead, go right ahead.
This is, quite possibly, the most beautiful film ever made. It's so full of emotion and heart. I love the interwoven stories - magic and reality, and the fading of magic from the world matching the journey from childhood to adulthood. Conor's grief and Granny's pragmatism interwoven with Macha and Mac Lir. Life as a selkie vs. life as a human child. Bronagh's sacrifices - to stay with Conor, to leave for the sake of Saoirse, to lose Saoirse and Conor and Ben all over again. The narrative of love and grief and belonging, oh, it tugs on me SO HARD. The prices we pay, the ones we choose and the ones we just have to deal with. How all the different characters deal with their emotions: Conor drowning his, Ben angry, resentful and self-limiting, Saoirse silent and lost but freer than both. I love how much all the characters grow, and would love to see that growth continue in a post-canon fic, or explored in a moment of realisation within the flow of the film itself. Or how Conor and Bronagh met, how they melded the magic of what she is into their everyday lives. Ben and Saoirse and Conor post-canon, and how their relationships evolve. How they feel about the sea, and the magic that's no longer such a tangible part of it. Macha and Mac Lir - the love and compassion that drove both of them, the safety in retreating to a life of stone, how they mirror Granny and Conor in the way Granny is so intent on safety at all costs and how Conor has pretty much stopped feeling at all. (Yeah, they're very obviously direct archetypes of the mythology, but how overtly do they understand what they are?)
I don't really want to give too many specific prompts for this, because otherwise I'll want to start writing them myself, and in a fandom this tiny what I want most of all is to see what makes this film so special for YOU. I trust you. Write the fic of your heart, please.
Crossovers: Maybe you were hoping to write one? I'm not expecting one, but please go ahead only if you're sure that (a) I'm familiar with the crossover fandom, and (b) the eventual story benefits from its inclusion. E.g. the story of how Conor and Bronagh met, or Ben or Saoirse's continuing adventures involving some other vaguely magical fandom. General Irish/Celtic mythology or children's lit like Susan Cooper, Alan Garner or E Nesbitt are examples of things that could fit that bill, but a megafandom like Harry Potter would be something I'd prefer to avoid. Maybe that'll inspire something, maybe it won't, but there it is if you need it! (And I'm sorry I'm so picky about crossovers, but they're the kind of thing that can make or break a fic for me.)
We need to talk about Annika - Simon Stålenhag
Characters requested: Any
This an utterly awesome five minute art fandom, so here's a five-word summary and a link to the images in question: Robots! Lovers! Apocalypse! Curiosity! Gore!
And here's the short verse from Stålenhag's tumblr post that goes with the images:
“The world was on fire and no one could save me but you.
It’s strange what desire will make foolish people do.“
Last year I requested and received AWESOME fics for some of Simon Stålenhag's artworks from his book Ur Varselklotet. This year, I'm requesting the linked series of images above. They have a gorgeously dark narrative that is so wildly open to interpretation. It's a five minute fandom if ever there was one, but I could spend hours and hours reading stories in this world. There's just so much depth and sensawonder and darkness in these artworks. The relationship between Annika and her boyfriend is a very visible part of the images, but it's the acceptance (or not) of the background alien apocalypse that really does it for me. Bleak things are happening in this world. There are pipes with bad shit in them everywhere, strange machines, and the two protagonists seem to have a habit of exploring them. (And this is where my own proclivity for writing plotty worldbuilding epics starts to show... Don't be put off by that! 1000 words is more than enough for a cracking good fic.)
-The pictures suggest that Annika's boyfriend goes into one of the machines alone. What does he see inside? How does it change him? His appearance in the later image suggests he's not quite himself, but are the repercussions of going inside short-lived, or something he'll have to deal with for a while. Does he come out the same person at all? (Hello, cloned boyfriend!?) How much do they know about what they were exploring and what happened to him (if anything did)?
-Why? What led Annika and her boyfriend to head out to these locations. A simple whim, or some larger purpose? Does Annika have an agenda of her own? Did she persuade her boyfriend to go inside? Did they find something in the first machine that led to them going to the towers/teleporters/biomachines? Is there a connection you want to explore with Stålenhag's other artworks that blend the mechanical with warped biology?
-What disasters are around the corner? What do the machines make of the humans? Who made the machines? People? Aliens? How come this part of Sweden has been developed this way? What's the endgame of whoever's in charge of this world? What's in the pipes? Where's all that energy going? What are the other machines for? Why the gore? Why is the wiring/pipework so biological and haphazard in appearance?
-Who (or what) are the (other?) victims of the machine - or is the gore part of the machine itself? Is that biological waste going anywhere? Will it do anything more than just sit there in a pool?-What role does Annika's relationship with her boyfriend play in this story? WHO needs to talk about Annika? Why? Where are the lovers in the final image? What kind of machine/structure is that, and what is its purpose?
So many questions! So many potential stories!
The image below is the second in the series, and links to the full set. There are some close-ups here (you may need to scroll down a bit to reach them).
The Ship who Sang
Characters requested: Any
Thinking about it, this whole letter is really built on two related themes: humanity and the other, and the role of technology in our dealings with each other. And you can't find many fandoms that marry the two of those as well as The Ship Who Sang. Helva is a phenomenally human character, but she's also a cyborg who is utterly reliant on her mechanical body for life. She's equally reliant on her human company for the sake of her sanity and soul. I've requested three ships who feature in this novel. Helva herself is a no-brainer; she's the protagonist of the whole story. Silvia is an early mentor of Helva's, who comes across as motherly at the start of the novel, only to have reduced herself to a coldly cynical, defeated machine at the end, identified only by her number. Lia is the tragic temple/doomsday cultist of the Alioth sequence, maddened by grief over the loss of her brawn. I've also requested Kira, Helva's brawn at the time they encounter Lia, who has her own burden of grief and thwarted love to bear.
What am I after in a Ship who Sang story? To be honest, if you're offered to write for it, you probably already have an idea. Exploration, love, loss, female friendships, transcendant music and good cooking. How far can love take us? Helva was tempted to immolate herself when Jennan died. Lia took a whole world with her. Are Brainships more reliant on their brawns than non-shelled people? What do SPRIM and MM think of this apparent weakspot in shellperson psychology? Is a brainship's life tantamount to slavery? (Sure, Helva was satisfied and made payoff easily, but she had a friend in high places. And the powers that be fobbed off the questions of the local minority rights people with their rising star as a case study... yeah, that's ethical.)
How did Silvia's mindset change over the decades, as they ran into centuries? Were the accidents and set-backs avoidable? Out of the ordinary? Or is that the usual fate of the average Brainship? Does Silvia see more of a disconnect between shellpeople and 'normal' humans, now that she's outlived so many of them? Has she stopped caring for her ex-brawns' families? There are some very dark, psychological horror type yarns you could weave into this fandom, if that's the sort of thing you like writing. A brainship has the whole universe open to her, but she also has crippling debt and is practically programmed to need a brawn. Have any other ships gone rogue? What are they up to now? Can they be forced to work, or have their ship-bodies repossessed?
Did Helva ever make it to the Horsehead? Did she find the magic of the unknown in some other form instead? What were Kira's other posts like? What was it like having an interfering social structure always watching/intervening/almost reeducating you to make sure you didn't kill yourself? Did having children in the future 'fix' her at all? (Side note - I've lived through infertility, multiple miscarriage and parenthood, and I'm chronically depressed. A magic baby fixing everything for Kira really won't work for me. But, exploring the 'no' answer might make for an interesting if somewhat bleak story.) Did she ever meet up with Helva again, or any other Brainships? Was Lia/the 732 aware of anything at the end? What was her life with Seber like, before she went rogue?
Or, random things - day in the life of a Brainship, chance meetings, saving a planet. The recipes of Regulus. Stealth Doctor Who crossover? A literary or musical allegory? OC Alien or AI First Contact scenario? Something along the lines of the plot alluded to in the book when that awful, awful Teron was Helva's brawn, replacing unreliable human brains with machines? Want to write about an OC brainship? Go for it! A Shellperson who isn't satisfied with their mechanical 'body' or their role in life, or one who wants to be an artist of some kind as a day job rather than just as a hobby? Any other aspect of the worldbuilding you've ever wanted to explore?
The universe is your oyster. ;-)