I wrote four stories this year. The first was a treat that I started before assignments went out (yeah, I shamelessly trawl the spreadsheet/letters post for ideas) - no particular place to go for thesleepingsatellite. It's also the only fic I managed to get a beta reader to look over (I know, I'm a bad person. Bears/time.) and Isis gave me exactly the right level of critique - pleasant, but pulling no punches. I think I may have put off a fair number of readers with the 'drabble sequence' tag, but hey, that's what it was. I had to wait the longest time before uploading it (the recipient had requested multiple characters, and my fic really only featured one of them), but at least it gave me plenty of time to crap myself over my main assignment....
Anyway. Mars! I had a bit of a head start on this fic, as the subject matter is basically my day job. I took enormous liberties with the science on this one (well, duh!) but I also wanted to build up from as solid a footing as I could. The mission archives were utterly invaluable, and what began as a fic about a rover becoming conscious (sparked by some of the beautiful images, and that famous line from _Rebecca_, as one of the readers spotted) just snowballed around all the little details I came across. The various technical faults that both Spirit and Opportunity developed during their time on Mars were a real godsend for twisting a plot around, as were some of the science developments and the changing environment itself. The tensions between Opportunity's awareness and its programming, the hazards of the weather, and all the mysteries of Mars... yeah, I loved writing this, and I loved researching it. Sharing the images/mission log links as part of the fic was a no-brainer. That's Opportunity's real story, after all. Huge thanks to all the people who commented/bookmarked/recced it. (And no, _coal, I'm nobody of note, but two of you made my evening yesterday by asking.)
Next up, my assignment. I made a carefully limited offer for The Dark is Rising, prompted by my own love of those specific characters and an excellent letter I spotted on the spreadsheet. (What I didn't want was to risk matching to a Will/Bran shipper. I love reading those stories, but I'm a gen writer first and foremost.) So obviously I got matched to someone who requested 'any', and whose letter only talked about a subset of the characters. Fortunately, the Yulegoat was smiling on me that day - the characters they mentioned were actually the ones I offered! Thus was born The Well of Maenventon. It didn't get recced in namespace, but it's done well in the fandom and had some lovely mentions on FFA. Plus, the comments have all been amazing, and I couldn't be happier about them. I indulged myself shamelessly writing it, and I did worry that my characterisation of Jane had a little bit too much of me in it (competent female scientist type is basically my default option for characters - a bad habit that I need to start breaking out of) so it was a relief that no-one noticed! The locations were also chosen specifically to make my life easier. I spent a lot of my childhood in that particular part of Cornwall, and drew on those heavily. One throwaway line is a family tribute - given the timing of the books, it makes sense that the Drews could well have been in Trewissick in 1978, the year my father piloted his ship into Mevagissey harbour. If any of the Drews were around then, Simon would definitely have been close to the action!
The story itself kind of evolved and accreted, much as they always do with me. The more research I did, the better everything seemed to fit - like I was drawing on archetypes that were so thoroughly embedded in the land that I didn't need to be consciously aware of them before they made themselves known. All the mythology of Tristan and Isolde is just *perfect* for this fic, and actually very closely tied to the locality. The holed stone idea also came from personal experience - I've crawled through the Men-an-tol holed stone on Penwith, and I just love the whole magic portal trope. And then there was the Wild Magic itself - it didn't go away when the Dark and the Light did, and Will wasn't left behind as a watcher for nothing. Cornwall is old, and the Wild Magic would have a solid hold on it still. Last of all: Tethys, and the Greenwitch. The sea is special to me, and I've somehow ended up writing fics that relate to it in some way for the last four yuletides. Capturing Jane's emotional link to the sea was always going to be an integral part of the story. She's never been comfortable on open water, but clearly feels very strongly about the coast, and has this enormously powerful relationship with the Greenwitch, driven by her innate compassion. My conceit for this fic is that her future role as Greenwitch/vector for the Wild Magic has always been with her in some sense, tying her to the sea at the same time as it drives her unease as a sailor. Oh, and then there was Will's blackbird! No-one noticed this, but that was one of the three old birds of Britain, with the power to see the Dark. I decided to tie it to a type of place rather than a specific location in Wales, both near the Tor and in Nanskilly.
Maenventon turned into quite a big fic in the end, but for once the length was manageable, and not too far off my initial predictions. I tightened up where I could and re-wrote the intro for better pacing/hooks, but honestly I was all bears right up until the deadline. The first draft was done in time, but I was tweaking/making minor edits right up until the day before reveals.
Next up was my annual Pern fic - the jaws of victory (re-dated to the 24th because the fandom still has some activity). Kastaka gives great prompts, and I'd written for her/received fic from her before. I'm still not entirely sure whether she liked the previous story I wrote for her but figured it was past time to lay that one to rest. So, I killed off everyone on Pern! Okay, maybe I didn't go quite that far, but that's where this particular AU would almost inevitably end up. The jumping-off point is that Fax's blow does end up killing Lessa. The death of Ruatha's wher then proves enough of a distraction to allow Fax to gain the upper hand over F'lar, and things basically continue getting worse from there. It's a very quickly written piece of crack-fic, but it was really good fun to play around with. Imagine my surprise when it actually got recced!
The last treat I wrote was a Last Unicorn story - Where Sleeps the Wind, for Fells. Several of us wrote for the same prompt, and I really didn't think my story deserved the reception it got, but I'm not going to complain! Thank you in particular to Rachel Manija for her rec (...and like I said, we definitely have similar taste in fics). The story didn't turn out quite like I expected it to at all, but it was one of those nights where you just go with the flow and see where the words take you. Somewhere dark and nasty in this instance, but I think the beauty came across along with the bitterness. It's also one of those stories that I have less to say about than usual - I just concentrated on maintaining the flow and the tone, and hoped that the final story would work.
I think that's what sums up this year for me, really - I got cracking gifts, and for once all my stories worked in the way I most hoped they would.