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26 October 2015 @ 05:33 pm
Dear Yuletide Writer, 2015  
Greetings, Yuletide writer!

Thanks for offering to write a story for me! I applaud your taste in fandoms, and I'm sure I'll love whatever you write. My optional details in the requests over at AO3 give a basic idea of what I'm looking for, but if you'd like a bit more information about my preferences, here it is.

I'm afraid this letter is quite long, but please don't be intimidated or annoyed. I wax prolix here because I'm naturally long-winded and because my journal is fairly empty (in recent years it seems to consist almost entirely of Yuletide letters) so my letter is the main guide to my preferences for an author who wants one, not because I'm picky and hard to please. If you're not someone who likes getting a lot of additional detail, feel free to skip it entirely.

Beneath the cut you will find my squicks and more detailed thoughts on yaoi, the characters, the fandoms, and possible directions you may want to take your story in, if you find yourself in need of inspiration.

All about me:


• Anything combining sex and digestion. Feeding a lover strawberries, licking chocolate or whipped cream off them, force feeding, scat, watersports... none of this please. I don't mind parts of the digestive tract doing double duty as an erogenous zone- anal and oral sex are fine. So is using a cucumber for a dildo or sex on the dining room table. But no sexy games with fondue.
• Mutilation, scarification, knifeplay, needle play. Killing the characters or beating them to a pulp is fine by me, but for some reason it bothers me if you give them a papercut first. Nothing with sharp edges please, unless someone is getting stabbed by criminals.
• Ageplay, daddy kink, infantilization. This is just a massive squick for me for some reason. Spanking is lovely, but let’s keep it between grown-ups acting like grown-ups.

Everything else is a-okay. Violence, character deaths, torture, non-con or dub-con, mind games, twisted power dynamics, and general bleakness are all fine- more than fine! I love dark fics. I love fluffy or uplifting stories too, so please don't feel obligated to write something dark, but if that's the direction your muse takes you then feel free to go for it. Holiday fic is also fine, provided it makes sense for the fandom.

Things I like in stories:
• Worldbuilding. I like getting the sense that the story is a little window into a larger world where other people are going about their business and events are happening just offscreen, instead of a window on a few characters interacting inside a bubble surrounded by vacuum. Unless they're in space and they actually are interacting in a bubble surrounded by vacuum. But even then they probably have to think about where they're going to refuel.
• Challenging the text. I'm fond of these fandoms or I wouldn't have requested them, but I'm not... protective of them. If some character is marginalized by the canon, I'd love to see a story from their perspective. If you've noticed a plothole, I'd love for you to latch onto it and rip it to shreds and then think up an explanation to set it right. I'm always interested in the answers to questions like "If Galadriel lives in the shady primeval forest where does she grow the grain for all that lembas?"
• Politics. I'll spare you the passionate Enjolras-style lecture about my heartfelt belief in the ability of politics to effect change, but let's just say that these fandoms didn't land on my list by accident.
• Clever characters being clever.
• Clever characters being outsmarted by even cleverer characters.
• Power struggles, hierarchies, how these arrangements are negotiated and balanced and change over time and in response to changing circumstances.
• Culture clashes.
• Women kicking ass.
• Victories for social justice, democracy or tolerance.
• Depressing defeats for social justice, democracy or tolerance that still leave seeds of hope for the future.
• Characters trying to balance competing obligations and loyalties: personal vs. professional, practical vs. ideological, etc.
• Gen fic. Casefic, wacky adventures, character studies- they're all lovely.
• Shipping, as long as shipping is not the only thing in the fic. (Good characterization counts as a second thing.) Het, slash, femmeslash, polyamory, threesomes- they're all great. I'm not protective of my favorite pairings, either, so feel free to pair anyone with anyone.
• Explicit porn, as long as sticking Tab A into Slot B is not the only thing in the fic. (Good characterization counts as a second thing.) D/s and BDSM are welcome.
• Humor.
• All the dark stuff from the list above.
• Characters I like being cute and fluffy and happy together.

As you can see, I like a wide variety of things! Plotty gen, fluffy curtains fic where the characters snark about politics while they shop, grim, explicit rape fic, it's all good. Write something that makes you happy, and I will almost certainly be happy too.

A few things I dislike:
• Crackiness to no obvious purpose. I don't mind an AU where all the characters are living room furniture, but if you're going to write one the choice of furniture should be telling us something about the characters.
• Idiot plots. If characters have to suffer a major drop in IQ for a story to make sense, it needs a different plot. Stupid romantic comedy misunderstandings that could be cleared up in five minutes fall into this category.
• Healing cock, instantaneous peace after the crowning of a king or the birth of some biracial baby, and other forms of magical recovery from personal or national traumas. Good stories are like real life: events have consequences and people have to live with them.

On to the fandoms! I'll give a brief overview of what each one is and where to find it, so if you want to switch and learn about a new fandom you'll know what you're getting into.

Les Misérables (Dallas 2014)

Characters: Cosette Fauchelevent, Javert, Jean Valjean

A version of Les Mis set in a dystopian near-future version of a place that is nominally France but seems more like Texas. In brief, Les Misérables is a novel about a bunch of people in nineteenth century France whose lives are ruined by poverty, lousy social attitudes, a harsh criminal justice system, and a repressive dictatorship. The musical is the same story but with more singing and fewer digressions about sewers and the Battle of Waterloo. By updating the setting the Dallas production was able to use the story to confront its audience with current American social issues like police brutality, gun violence, racial inequality, and the prison-industrial complex.

The production has finished its run, so to see it you will need either a TARDIS or this bootleg.

What I like about it:

Les Mis is a musical that has been put on many, many times by now, so it’s nice when regional productions use their creativity and try to do their own thing with it. By changing the setting to the "future-present", the Dallas production makes the social critique more immediate and relevant to the audience, which to be honest is probably what Victor Hugo would have wanted. It has a good cast and it’s beautifully staged, with impressive thoughtfulness and attention to detail in the costuming and set design.

There is also impressive character work across the board. Nehal Joshi portrays a Valjean with big sad eyes and a convincing desperation that makes him heartbreakingly human in a way that doesn’t always come through in the musical. Edward Watts’ Javert is calm and coldly professional, which helps to keep the focus of the audience on the problems with the criminal justice system as a whole rather than with a single cop who’s behaving like a lunatic. Cosette’s interactions with Valjean are consistently adorable, and Dorcas Leung plays the most likeable adult!Cosette I’ve ever seen, with an actual personality and hints of intelligence and agency. Combined with a less-than-usually-insufferable Marius and a great Éponine, this means that the romance plot is engaging in its own right rather than something you have to sit through while you wait for the barricades to rise. The Amis are also quite good and the Thénardiers are satisfyingly odious.

Optional details:

My interest here is really in the world-building, so feel free to write about any of the three characters or none of them. From the police brutality, the guns, the specific imagery of poverty and the racial dynamics, this musical appears to be set in some near-future US dystopia; modern France has different problems. Yet at the same time, everyone is pretty clearly speaking French- all those "Monsieurs" in the libretto and so on. How did we get here, to Paris, Texas where people drink Starbucks coffee and pay for it in francs? What path of history did this world follow? What's it like to live there? And where is it headed, now that the June Rebellion has failed?

What are Cosette and Marius planning to do now, with Valjean dead and the insurrection put down? What's the legal system like in this world, and why is a modern Javert such a dick? How did Valjean manage to hide from the authorities so effectively for so long in a modern police state? What was life like for him and little Cosette?

Case fic or a Dallas reinvention of one of the book episodes that are cut out of the musical could be fun. Or write a post... Trinité? AU if you like. I'm amenable to Valvert, although with this pair you'll have to convince me.

Just explore the world somehow, that's all I ask.

So far fandom seems to have approached Les Mis Dallas by either discarding the French and dystopian bits and just setting it in present-day Texas, or discarding the American bits and setting it in a dystopian future France. Both these strategies have produced some excellent fics (without exception, judging by the A03 tag), but I thought it might be interesting to treat it instead as an alternate history in which for some reason Texas is Francophone and has an even more draconian criminal justice system than it does now. Maybe the French won the French and Indian War, or Napoleon was less bankrupt and the Haitian revolution failed so the Louisiana Purchase never happened. France retained its North American colonies for a while and somehow we ended up here, with everyone paying for their coffee in francs and sous while they stroll around the Place Dealey and chat to their friends in Missouri French.

If you’re attached to the present-day Texas or French dystopia versions of the worldbuilding, please don’t feel pressured to write this, but whichever setting you choose, I would like to see something that deals with how the change in setting changes the story. Some possible avenues of ficcage:

• What is Cosette planning to do now, with Valjean dead and the revolt put down? Dallas!Cosette is pretty proactive, and Dallas!Marius was actually a committed activist and not just Courfeyrac's roommate. I doubt they'll settle down to a quiet life of bourgeois luxury.

• The inquisitorial structure of the French criminal justice system is underappreciated in Les Mis fandom, probably because it doesn’t have much of an impact on 19th century Javert’s life. It would have a pretty big impact on a modern Javert. The public prosecutor’s office is a branch of the judiciary and oversees criminal investigations, which means that during an a police investigation the officer in charge reports not to their superior within the police force, but to a prosecutor or a judge. What I’m really trying to say here is that there is an entirely plausible scenario in which Marius could become Javert’s boss, and that fic needs to exist.

• 19th century Javert has a pretty good excuse for his authoritarianism and his binary division of society into "decent people" and "scum": it’s how his whole society is telling him he should think. 21st century Javert, not so much. What’s his problem?

• Hiding from the police in the 1820s is one thing, but in a modern police state with APBs and CCTV and biometric identification and God knows what else it must be almost impossible. How did Valjean pull it off? Does he have mad hacking skills or what?

• While we’re on that subject, Valjean’s life with little Cosette. I’m not sure the whole hiding-in-a-nunnery-for-nine-years scheme would even be possible in a modern society. Plus, wouldn’t he want her to have access to swimming lessons and ballet and all those other enriching activities doting bourgeois parents try to provide for their children these days? The gulf between being locked in a nunnery and a normal middle-class childhood has widened dramatically in the last two hundred years and it seems like this would complicate things for them.

• Maybe it’s just me, but at the barricade it kind of looks like Valjean kills the sniper in the widow??? (On the bootleg recording, anyway.) If so that is a massive characterization change from the Brick, or even from Act 1 where he chucks away Javert’s gun like it’s radioactive.

• Post-Seine/Trinity/Trinité AUs. A fandom staple and for good reason. How does the modern context change things? (Oh to be a fly on the wall for that psych evaluation Chabouillet is sure to order if Javert stays with the force…)

• Valvert is another staple and I ship it. In general. But in their feelings toward each other Javerts and Valjeans span a spectrum of emotion from "desperately repressed homosexual attraction is the only plausible explanation for this behavior" (Perkinsvert) to "exasperated fondness" (Valjackman) to "passionate hatred" (both of them in the BBC Radio 4 adaptation) to "apparent indifference", and I have to admit that Joshi and Watts seem to be about as far as you can get on the indifference side of the spectrum. Watts comes off as blandly professional in his interactions with Valjean all the way up until the derailment, and Joshi’s attitude to Javert seems to be summed up by that expansive "GO AWAY already!" hand gesture he made at the barricade. If you ship them and want to write Valvert I’m open to persuasion, but you’ll have to work to convince me of it because I can’t really see it in canon.

Political RPF - UK 20th-21st c. (or as we call it elsewhere on the interwebs, Lolitics)

Characters: John Bercow, William Hague, Charles Walker, Chris Bryant

What it says on the tin: RPF about the people who have been running Britain for the past hundred years or so. The cast is obviously immense, but this year I've opted the key figures of the event that has come to be known in the fandom as the Bercow coup.

Commons Speaker John Bercow (for any non-Brits reading this, the Speaker of the House of Commons is a politically neutral presiding officer, rather than the leader of the biggest party as in the United States) has long been unpopular with his former party, the Conservatives, for drifting steadily leftward and then getting himself elected Speaker mainly with votes from their main rivals the Labour Party. He is especially unpopular with the current Conservative Government, in part because he and Prime Minister David Cameron have decades-old grudgewank between them and in part because he allows Parliament to hold the Government to account and governments hate that.

So in a spiteful and pathetic act of revenge, Cameron came up with a sneaky plot to depose Bercow on the last day of Parliament when most of the opposition MPs had already gone home to campaign and wouldn’t be there to defend him. He kept his own MPs in Westminster with a mandatory meeting so they would be available for the vote and chose for his hatchet man retiring minister William Hague. It looked like it was all over for our hero, but then in the nick of time Conservative MP Charles Walker gave a moving speech in which he pointed out that Cameron and Hague and Chief Whip Michael Gove were jerks who were abusing Parliament and they’d made him sad. Walker cried, Bercow cried, and enough Tory MPs were persuaded to vote against their Prime Minister that the day was saved.

You can read more about it here or watch the debate here (the carnage starts at 11:41).

What I like about it:

Paul Waugh described Walker's speech as "One of the most electric parliamentary moments I've ever seen," and he's seen a lot of parliamentary moments. It was dramatic political theater and the good guys pulled off a surprising last-minute victory, which was heart-warming especially in retrospect in light of the general election result. Chris Bryant is my favorite MP and he gave a great speech, John Bercow is my favorite Speaker and he kept his job, Charles Walker was amazing, and everyone cried including me. It was a great day for Lolitics, a great day for Parliament, and a lousy day for David Cameron and his attempts to consolidate power through dirty tactics.

Optional details:

We haven't had any fic about the Bercow coup yet and I desperately want some, so... Bercow coup fic. Anything. I've put all the key figures in but you don't have to include all of them if it doesn't suit the story. I'd love some Bercow/Bryant or Bercow/Walker hurt/comfort fic, or Bryant + Walker pre-coup opposition coordination fic, or Hague apologizing to Bercow or Walker, or someone punishing Hague for being terrible, or everyone punishing Hague for being terrible. Or Bercow taking Walker to see his kitchen. Or a novelization of events describing everyone's emotions on the day. Or the distant future after Lindsay Hoyle retires as Speaker, when Bryant remembers Walker's heroism and whips the Labour vote for his campaign for the Speakership.

Really, I'll take anything.

The optional details covered all the fic prompts I can think of, so here are some thoughts on character dynamics.

Bryant and Bercow: Brycow is my OTP, and this was one of their shippier moments. Bryant has always been protective of the Speaker's power but it was nice to seem him charging to the rescue here, he seemed particularly earnest and aggrieved.

• Bercow and Hague: Hague was the first Conservative leader Bercow served under when he came into the Commons in 1997. He was always one of Cameron's better ministers and they seemed to get along fairly well until this kicked off, so the personal dynamics of the betrayal are interesting. Why did Hague agree to do this on his last day? Why be Cameron's fall guy when he could have gone out with dignity?

• Charles Walker hadn’t really come to the attention of the fandom before this speech, but he’s an interesting MP: he has moderately severe OCD disorder, he chairs the troll-infested Procedure Committee with remarkable grace and patience, and as we now know he actually deserves the title "honorable gentleman". What does he think of his party, or for that matter of Bercow, both of whom fall pretty far short of the moral standard he set here?

Scott & Bailey

Characters: Gill Murray, Julie Dodson

A police procedural about the Major Incident Team of the fictional Manchester Metropolitan Police department. The main characters are Detective Constables Janet Scott and Rachel Bailey, but their Chief Inspector Gill Murray also plays a prominent role along with other members of the team. Although Janet and Rachel are often partnered up, the show is unusual in the extent to which it depicts solving cases as a collective endeavor by the whole team rather than the work of the protagonists alone. It makes good use of modern technology and policing methods and Janet is the most effective interrogator I have ever seen on television; Scott & Bailey is worth watching for her interrogation scenes alone. And it has a strong sense of its setting with lots of redbrick Manchester scenery porn.

Series 1 is up on Hulu for free. Netflix has Series 1 and 2, and Hulu has 1, 2, and 3. It's an ITV series so if you're in the UK you can probably catch reruns. And the internet will supply you with all four series, if you're willing to pirate them. (But you can probably get enough Julie characterization to work with from her appearances in S2 alone.)

What I like about it:

The show is well written and tightly plotted. The cases are interesting and the police have professional standards and ethics, which is always refreshing in a police procedural. Although Rachel's melodramatic personal life occasionally derails the casework, which I find tedious and frustrating, I have the comfort of knowing that whenever this happens Gill hates it even more than I do and will do everything within her power to make it stop.

All the most important characters, from the eponymous Scott and Bailey to Gill to Scary Mary the pathologist are women. The show addresses the way their gender affects and complicates their jobs but it doesn't dwell on it- mostly we just see them being effective police officers. (There's a bit of an issue in early seasons with all the men being evil, but frankly it makes such a change to have women as the default that I can't bring myself to care.) And the characters are great. Especially Gill, who is my favorite, but they're all impressive and likable.

Optional Details:

Gill and Julie are great and there can never be enough fics with them. I'd be happy with anything involving the two of them: hanging out, fighting crime, getting sandwiches together, making fun of Rachel, whatever.

I'd love a case fic of them as young partners, fighting crime and sexism in the nineties. Or a story exploring their relationship over the years. Or just your standard modern Scott & Bailey case fic. I like the rest of the MIT too, so it doesn't have to be all about Gill and Julie- include whoever you want.

Or write an AU, because their relationship could map well onto a variety of different situations. Gill and Julie in spaaaace. Gill and Julie as the queens of neighboring kingdoms fighting off some malevolent magical enemy. Gill and Julie as rival nineteenth century paleontologists. Have fun with it!

Femmeslash is nice but not obligatory.

I love Gill to bits with her sharp edges and her competence and her total lack of patience or sympathy with other people’s incompetence, and her occasional moments of social awkwardness because she has always been too busy being an amazing police officer to hone social skills. I like that despite the fact she’s a woman the show doesn’t feel the need to make her kind and nurturing to make her likeable. Gill nurtures her team by yelling at them every time they make a minor error so that they will never dare to make that mistake, or be in the same room with someone who might consider making a similar mistake, ever again, and her team like that about her and chose to work with her because of it. Even Rachel, loathe though she is to admit it. They like her so much they’d be happy to lie under oath for her, except Gill would never let them do it because Gill has Standards.

I also love Julie. I love that Julie exists- that we get to see a longstanding friendship between two powerful women and they get to snark and troll each other and talk about work. I love all their interactions and the constant innuendo- and really, if that little exchange at Gill’s leaving do wasn’t an invitation for femmeslash, I don’t know what is- and I like that Julie enjoys and excels at her job as much as Gill does. (Well, Gill probably wouldn’t have incompetent friends.) I also like how Julie outranks Gill and there’s always that slight tension between them whenever she’s put in charge of a big case supervising Gill's team, but everyone is professional about it because that’s just who they are. You can tell that they’ve been just like this with each other for decades- Julie slightly bolder and more outgoing and Gill a bit nerdy and uptight but both of them fiercely intelligent and competing with each other to be the absolute best in their field, and always having each other's backs.

I’d be thrilled with any fic that preserves that relationship, whether it’s case fic or a missing scene from the show, or something about them working together when they were younger, or it’s mapped onto some interesting AU. I’m happy with them as platonic friends, or femmeslash if you ship them, whatever floats your boat. Normally I’d have some specific prompts here but honestly I’d take them doing almost anything together. I just want more of them.

(And speaking of boats, may I just make the observation that Gill Murray is a lady who would look mighty fine in a tricorn hat? I was going to suggest a pirate AU, but then I was like "Gill would never", so I dunno, Age of Sail naval AU?)

The Village (TV)

Characters: Edmund Allingham, Stephen Bairstow

Set in the Derbyshire Dales in the early years of the twentieth century, The Village is basically Downton Abbey as reimagined by angry socialist MP Dennis Skinner. Instead of focusing on the rich family that owns the local manor and how their servants can help them, The Village focuses on the Middletons, a family of poor farmers in the local village, and how the lords of the manor, poverty, John Middleton’s alcoholism and WW I combine to make their lives awful. True to its name, it follows the lives of everyone in the village, and the goal is to make a series for every decade of the twentieth century- so far they've done two and we're up to the mid-1920s. It's a realistic but grim look at rural poverty in England around the turn of the century, but to prevent it from being unrelentingly depressing it also features such excellent things as the rise of the Labour Party and Maxine Peake's acting.

I don't think there is any legal way to watch this if you missed seeing it on the BBC when it aired, but as usual the internet provides.

What I like about it:

This show combines social realism, nice scenery and Maxine Peake, so I'm basically incapable of forming an objective opinion on it. I think it probably is quite good, though, apart from Old Bert's voiceover narration. The writing is decent and Peake's Grace Middleton is fantastic in every way. I like the show's values, but it manages to express them without being completely one-sided: earnest but opportunistic Labour politician Bill Gibby is a pretty good example pf this, as are the Allinghams up at the manor.

The Allinghams are basically awful but each have a single moment of human decency per person per series, which is exciting because you can never be quite sure when it will arrive. Also, they're engaging and generally competent awful people, and their family has some real problems not entirely of its own making: eldest son Edmund is gay, middle son George went off to WW I and came back with shellshock, and daughter Caro is mentally ill and trapped in a society which does everything possible to exacerbate her problems. You actually feel some degree of sympathy for matriarch Clem who's trying to hold it all together, even though the thing she's trying to hold together is a regressive class system.

Optional details:

I'd like something about Edmund Allingham, Stephen Bairstow, and their increasingly bizarre and codependent partnership. It's not like Edmund can't manage on his own- he stole a fifty percent share of Hankin's boot factory all by himself, after all- but he's seemed pretty hapless this last series between his sexuality, high-level Westminster politics and his siblings having their own agendas. Bairstow has gone from being his eyes in the village to more or less running his life, both the political and personal sides of it, and the power dynamics of this gradual shift intrigue me. Bairstow is still a servant and seems to have Edmund's best interests at heart, but they've come to a point where he's willing to act against his orders if he feels the situation warrants it, and Edmund's just discovered he can't fire him. Yet he's been holding that blackmail material over Edmund's head this whole time and he only pulled it out when he absolutely needed it.

I'd be happy with any fic that deals with their relationship. Political shenanigans in Westminster, the further adventures of Bairstow in the Allingham household, the fallout of the "How do you think the Daily Mail would feel about a homosexual Home Secretary?" conversation, slash- any or all of this would be great.

Some fic ideas:

• Political shenanigans! Spin doctoring is a bit more intense in London than in Derbyshire, especially if you have to conceal your boss's sexuality from the press. What's happening in Westminster? Are there other Tory MPs angling to stab Edmund in the back and steal his job? (What am I saying, of course there are.) Is Bill Gibby down in London trying to get planning permission and perhaps overhearing some dangerous gossip? Or maybe Grace Middleton is going to try for Edmund's seat, now that Bert's old enough to run the farm and Bill has somewhat scuppered his chances for reselection.

• Speaking of Grace, the fight to save the village from the reservoir. Grace teaming up with these jerks for the greater good would be amusing, and I also like Bill Gibby a lot, so I'd love to see a fic about this plotline.

• The Continuing Fall of the House of Allingham. I love Clem and Harriet and I don't mind Caro and George, so anything with the family hanging out together or trying to control each other's lives or having enormous rows and Bairstow lurking around as their questionably loyal retainer would be great.

• Slash. I can't even imagine what the dynamics of this pairing would be, but if you have ideas I would be intrigued to read about them. D/s or some weird switching arrangement that operates in parallel with their weird professional switching arrangement very much welcomed. Also class kink and/or awkwardness.

• Bairstow spanking Edmund for being a petulant brat and annoying his mother/sister/Harriet/Robert/senior figures in the Conservative Party/Bairstow. (Sorry. I have no shame and a clear mental image of Bairstow pinning Edmund over the back of the sofa and taking his belt to him.)

• A spiteful Downton Abbey/The Village crossover fic in which the Crawleys and the Allinghams end up in some kind of rich people social competition with each other and the Crawleys suffer a crushing defeat because Clem + Edmund + Bairstow are a quasi-competent team of awful rich people whereas everyone at Downton Abbey is basically an idiot except for Violet and Daisy. (See previous point re. shame. If you like Downton Abbey and/or have standards, this prompt is probably not for you.)

Crossposted to Dreamwidth: http://kainosite.dreamwidth.org/4789.html. Comment there or here.