chesneycat (chesneycat) wrote,

Something resembling a Yuletide Letter

Dear Yuletide Author,

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 SF, art, animation and general nostalgia, so do please browse whichever bits of it take your fancy. This year's list of fandoms is in boring alphabetical order - rest assured that I love them all equally.

Secondly – my apologies. This letter gets longer and 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(s) 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 cuts: I've requested the following fandoms:

  • Flodskörden | Things from the Flood - Simon Stålenhag

  • Machineries of Empire - Yoon Ha Lee

  • Rules of Summer - Shaun Tan

  • Ship Series - Anne McCaffrey

  • Song of the Sea (2014)

  • Thunderbirds are Go! (TV series)

For anyone browsing letters in search of crossovers, I would be open to some very fandom-specific crossovers with mythology and various portal fantasies. 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 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. As far as reading them goes, I read a lot more widely than I write, but I’d 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 a few exceptions that I'll talk about for each of my requested fandoms in turn.

For some of my requested fandoms, the existing characterisation is pretty sparse or non-existent. So, here’s a (non-exhaustive) list of characters/character tropes that I most enjoy reading: Morally dubious (or with such a strong moral compass that they’re willing to ruin their own humanity for some greater good). Smart. Dangerous. Determinators. Manipulative/magnificent bastards. People who rise to a challenge. Redemption narratives. Tension, sexual or otherwise. Hope & despair. Grace in the face of destruction. Unreliable narrators. Uneven balance of power/agency, where the underdog fights on regardless. (You can probably see why I requested Yoon Ha Lee’s series now...) I’m also interested in non-standard types of human/sentient beings - aliens, cyborgs, selkies, machines, anthropomorphic animals - and all the ways they can be used as characters to explore what it means to be human (or not, as the case may be!)

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! 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/the 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. Interactive Rules of Summer? I am RIGHT there. And if I get none of the above? Well, that's what browsing the sub-collection tags is for.

[Do Not Wants!]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, I wouldn’t want to see an AU of Rules of Summer where we see one or both of the two kids end up graphically torn apart by giant anthropomorphic falcons. But, if one of the kids makes different choices, or doesn’t come back, or goes bad in some way - that’d be fine. (Unless the story’s focus is on parental worry/anguish. Just don’t go there.) 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 close focus on plague/any other medical nasties too, that'd be just peachy. (International Rescue saving the world from some kind of virulent biowarfare agent and/or getting in personal peril from same would be very iffy for me, but exotic nastiness happening to redshirted extras in a Ninefox Gambit fic would be fine. Lovingly detailed descriptions of an OC protagonist being on the receiving end of either… nuh-uh.)

Next, on to the fandoms...

[Flodskörden | Things from the Flood - Simon Stålenhag]Flodskörden | Things from the Flood - Simon Stålenhag
Characters requested: Any

Fandom type: 5 minute fandom, art book

Fandom theme: alternate history, aliens, tech, normal life, horror

I requested this fandom last year under the “We need to talk about Annika” tag. Since then, the same images and a number of others have been collected into an art book/graphic novel. It’s a loose sequel to Ur Varselklotet | Tales from the Loop, but you don’t need any knowledge of that in order to get into this fandom, as every image or image sequence pretty much stands on its own, even though they’re also part of a larger narrative. I’m happy with any interpretation of these images for yuletide, so don’t feel you have to have an intimate knowledge of the text of the book in order to write in this fandom.

So: the best place to start is probably the characters in the tagset, and the images they can be found in.

The female police officer can be seen here, as part of the Things From the Flood: part II sequence of images.
The story of Annika and her boyfriend is covered in this series of images.
The stimulus roadworker can be seen here.

You can also get more of an idea of the creepy alien tech here and here.

I’ve received awesome fic for Stålenhag’s artwork in the last two yuletides (seriously, go and read it) but there is just SO MUCH potential for exploration in this fandom, and my enthusiasm for it is still a heck of a long way from being sated.

Possible prompts, if you’re looking for specific inspiration (some cloned from last year’s letter):

  • “Things from the Flood” is the start of this particular story arc - the sudden emergence of gory biotech with a mind of its own. What’s it like to be there at the outset?

  • The image texts suggest some form of xenomorphic evolution of native species. What are the implications for humans?

  • What’s the female police officer’s story? What has she found? Where does her job take her next?

  • 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?

  • 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?

  • Human society becomes accustomed to the new tech. But what’s the price?

  • The roadworker wearing the stimulus headgear - is he relaxing between shifts, or is it part of his job? What is he seeing/doing beneath the mask? What’s his life like outside of work?

  • Maybe the roadworker isn’t a roadworker. Maybe it’s some kind of scheme to hack or infiltrate the towers in the background. Maybe his colleagues aren’t resting. Maybe they’re dead, or suborned.

[Machineries of Empire - Yoon Ha Lee]Machineries of Empire - Yoon Ha Lee
Characters requested: Kel Cheris, Shuos Jedao
Fandom type: books & literature (SF: 1st book in trilogy and at least one short story have been published so far.)

Note: Please treat this as an OR request rather than an AND request. If you’ve matched me on this fandom for Cheris and Jedao alone, that’s awesome, but if you were hankering to write for some of the other characters then this is your go-ahead from me. Cheris and Jedao are my favourites, but I love all the servitors too, and Nerevor, and pretty much everyone else.

So, the character tropes I highlighted earlier? That kind of sums up what I love about this book. Kel Cheris and Shuos Jedao just work for me so, so well. And the worldbuilding, the worldbuilding is just so. Damn. Cool. Maths and formation manoeuvres, space battles, politics, heretical science, all interwoven with the very fabric of reality. This is definitely one of those universes that I’d really not want to be anywhere near (remembrances! *shudder*), but it’s fantastic reading. It also ticks all of my ticky boxes for unbalanced power dynamics. Kel formation instinct, the whole concept of how Jedao and Cheris are linked together, the sentient AI servitors with their own rules of behaviour and opinions on the flesh and blood people, the freakin’ Vidona reprocessing the survivors…

So would I be interested in for a Machineries of Empire fic? High concepts and small moments, I guess.

Here are some prompt ideas if you're looking for them, including some for other characters or OCs if you fancy writing something in that vein.

  • Kel Cheris working new formations, becoming the person we meet in the book. How she adapts to her new circumstances at the end of the book. Key moments that focus her character.

  • Camaraderie in battle. Unexpected surprises. Jedao being caught out, or (if you’re feeling ambitious) engaged in a complex strategic double-bluff.

  • Heretical calendars and their zones of influence coming into conflict with one another.

  • Immolation/sacrifice as a general theme, or the nature of sentience under different Calendars, or individual worth, or any kind of symbolic exploration.

  • 'Curtainfic' with purpose. (Twisting a remembrance through the medium of shopping/other banalities?)

  • Weird exotic weaponry (or its creators - I mean, who came up with the Threshold Winnower? Was that what they were trying to achieve?)

  • Jedao remembering why he’s doing what he’s doing, experiencing the world through Cheris’ eyes and/or his own memories.

  • Characters brought to breaking point, with or without formation instinct involved.

  • Servitors! (You know what, I’d adore a 5+1 style servitor fic.)

  • Day in the life of an average person - how do they deal with remembrances, what kind of day jobs are on offer, how segregated are the different factions/how do they interact, how do you adapt to a sudden shift in calendrical reality.

  • Crackfic. Darkfic. Both? (Exotic weapon that creates a carnivorous dancing hippo-spawning gradient?)

(And on the very remote off-chance that it’s relevant, I’m just going to add that I have no objections to canon-creators crossing the streams and writing fanfic for their own universe. Also, YOUR BOOK IS AMAZEBALLS)

[Rules of Summer - Shaun Tan]Rules of Summer - Shaun Tan
Characters requested: Any
Fandom type: 5 minute fandom, picture-book/graphic novel accessible to all ages
Fandom theme: surreal, rite-of-passage, fantasy

Oh my word THIS BOOK. I found it in the kids’ section in the local library, but like everything Tan produces, wow, does it have depth! On the surface, it’s an illustrated story of the summertime adventures of two boys. Underneath that, it’s about friendship, connections, and coming to terms with the wider world, which in the case of this story is pretty fucking weird (or suitably allegorical, if you want to read it that way.) The illustrations are gorgeous and so evocative. The worldbuilding is surreal and creative. There are giant rabbits, sinister birds, mecha, feasts, algebraic tennis, congregations, cities, and a growing sense of real peril.

Never leave a red sock on the clothesline.

This is where it all kicks off. A red sock on the clothesline, and the two kids huddled against the wall. The older boy has his hand over the younger boy’s mouth, the malevolent red rabbit is right there behind them, but their eyes are fixed on the crow. The crow just stands there, watching.


As the story goes on, the adventures grow wilder, but the younger boy can’t quite seem to keep up. And then, everything breaks down, and the wrong bargain is struck...

What I’d love in a story for this fandom… okay, brace yourself for a brain-dump of ideas rather than a nice, clean set of bullet points.

Not a fic that simply retells a scene in more words, but one that unpicks it and makes the layers resonate. How does the (possibly allegorical) fantasy interleave with the boys’ lives before, after, or even (in a mundane, real-world setting) during the story? How do the ‘rules’ compare with the other rules of adulthood - and those of childhood? Why do these rules matter? What happens when you break them? How do the rules stay with the boys in later life?

What does the Crow want? Why is it always there? Where were the Crow’s people taking the younger boy? What was the older boy offered in exchange? What happens if you do miss the last day of summer, or if you can’t find your way back?

How about an AU where the book’s rules are broken and different rules learned? (Feel free to go full-on Crueltide with that, if it takes your fancy.) Or, the interpretation where the setting is more of a portal-world fantasy. How did the boys stumble into it, and do they ever return? Does anything ever come out of the summer-world into the real-world? Crossovers with mythology? Or with other portal fantasies (e.g. Narnia, Terabithia, Cooper’s Seaward, Pan’s Labyrinth, Labyrinth-Labyrinth, Dark Tower - and by all means deconstruct as much or as little as you want out of these fandoms/associated tropes, if you want to go that route). Character development - this is such a rite of passage story, one of those formative friendships that stay with a person forever. The kids learn and change so much. The best thing about YA fic for me is its focus on change, alongside everything else an individual story might be about. What’s the impact of the events of the book on these kids?

All of the above probably sounds like a request for twisted, plotty longfic, but please don’t feel obliged to go that route! Some of the stories I’ve loved most from Yuletide have been utter gems of 1k-ish words. You can do a heck of a lot with 1k, and often it’s all you need. So, just write what you want, or what works best for you.

[The Ship Who Sang - Anne McCaffrey]The Ship Who Sang - Anne McCaffrey
Characters requested: Any
Fandom type: fairly short SF novel, now showing its age rather a bit.

Much like prior years, 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, transcendent 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 weak spot 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. ;-)

[Song of the Sea]
Song of the Sea
Characters requested: Saoirse, Ben
Fandom type: animated movie

Note: Please treat this as an 'or' rather than an 'and' request, and if you want to write about Bronagh 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.)

[Thunderbirds are Go! (TV series, 2015-)]Thunderbirds are Go! (TV series, 2015-)
Characters requested: Kayo
Fandom type: modern animated reboot of classic series.

So many cool characters! In the interests of matching, I’ve kept my request to Kayo only, but if you want to write about someone else then that’s fine by me. Why her in particular? I guess because she’s in a kind of liminal role on Tracy Island. Part of the family, but not, part of the team, but not, some of the same shared history...but not. That sense of being caught between worlds, the outsider on the inside, really fascinates me.

Anyway, I guess this is also the point in the letter where I gush at length about competent, strong female characters, so take that bit as read (otherwise we’d be here all day). Not just Kayo, either - let’s look at some of the others in the tagset, because they’re another big part of why I love this fandom. Casey’s a dynamic and flawed individual, with a very different perspective at time to the International Rescue team. But she gets shit done, even if that does make her a bit of an antagonist at times. Grandma Tracy! How the hell does she cook so badly, and what does it say about her that she keeps trying? Is she some kind of polymath, and cooking’s the one skill she’s yet to master? Or is she just the perfect example of the normal, compassionate human who keeps everyone else grounded, a reminder that you don’t always have to be a gifted genius to save the day? The other angle that Grandma Tracy brings is all she knows about the family history, and about Kayo and The Hood. Plenty of interesting story-fodder there, and she’s one of those characters that I can see suddenly saving the day through unexpected means.

As far as other characters go, I’m not hugely invested in any particular ships in this fandom, but I do find the interplay between John and EOS fascinating, and also the way that Scott and Virgil between them seem to be filling their father’s shoes. (I should probably also disclose that Virgil is my fandom crush - he’s steady, competent, has strong moral values. OTOH, Gordon just annoys me. Please don't give me a fic with loads of Gordon.) The big gen relationship for me is Kayo and The Hood. He’s not had much luck tempting her over to his way of thinking, but I don’t think he’s run out of opportunities yet. Kayo’s still pretty young, and she’s been pretty lucky. The wrong kind of mistake, the right kind of guilt and manipulation… I don’t see Kayo as someone who’d crack easily, or maybe even at all, but I can see her doing the wrong thing for the right reason in a way that perhaps her adoptive brothers wouldn’t. Working with The Hood for the greater good?

Alternative story angles - each of the female characters in the tagset giving different advice on the same problem to one of the brothers? Something thematic on parental/family/mentor-mentee relationships? Everyone swaps roles for the day? Grandma cooks something edible, for Reasons Of Plot?

You know what else might be fun in a TAG! fic? Something I could (poytentially) share with my kids. My seven year old is a massive fan (particularly of Kayo), and he’s the reason why I’m into this fandom in the first place. That said, I do like complexity and a nice piece of darkfic, so don’t feel obliged to keep it simple/PG!  Just opening things up to either extreme...

Bottom line: I’d like Kayo (and/or others) being awesome, please. As far as specifics of rating, tone or plot go, write what works best for you.

Aaaaand... I'm done. Like I said, apologies for the seriously exuberant length of this thing. I hope you have fun with this, and that your own yuletide is an excellent one.
Tags: yuletide
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