Hi, I write obscenely long Yuletide letters, so if that's not your jam you should feel free to ignore everything under the cut tags. Literally the only things you really need to know are...
- I have no squicks or triggers.
- I read gen, het, both types of slash, multi and other.
- I read fic of all ratings, all lengths, all POVs, all tenses and all genres.
- I enjoy stories in both the standard form and the more unusual stuff (scripts, epic poems, linked drabbles, interactive fiction, in-universe documents etc.) Nothing is off-limits.
- In fandoms where I selected Any, I'm happy for you to write about any of the canon characters (be they main or minor, nominated or not) or about original characters or a combination of both.
- I'm fine with crossovers and happy to read them even if I'm unfamiliar with the other fandom.
Hopefully that should give you a nice open playing field. Write the story you want to tell, because that's the story I want to read. Seriously, give me anything in these fandoms and I will love you to pieces.
However, if you're the sort of person who gets terrified by open-ended requests and would like plot suggestions and fan-theories and personal anecdotes about my involvement with these fandoms, then read on...
FANDOM: Golden Age Of Magic RPF
NOMINATED CHARACTERS: Harry Houdini (Magic), Harry Kellar (Magic), Howard Thurston (Magic) and John Nevil Maskelyne (Magic)
REQUESTED CHARACTERS: Any
Okay, break this down for me. Golden Age is, what... late 19th, early 20th century?
Yep! Which gives you about a hundred years stretching from gas lanterns and top hats to all the exciting new possibilities that were opened up by electricity. Lots of space to be creative in.
No interest in more modern magicians?
In my general life, yes. For my Yuletide story, no. I want something about the time when magicians and escape artists were mega celebrities who were constantly splattered over the tabloid press with their highly publicised feuds like they were rappers or wrestlers or something.
Okay, so what got you interested in magic?
I've always been interested in how tricks are done, but I lack the patience required to master those tricks myself. I can do a few very easy sleight of hand tricks with playing cards and some code based mind reading, but that's about it. So my interest has mostly manifested in seeking out shows, books and movies which explain how the tricks are done.
I'm a big fan of artists like Derren Brown and Penn & Teller, who show you the trick behind the trick. I'm also a longstanding fan of the show Jonathan Creek, which is about a magician's assistant who uses his skill at creating magic tricks to solve crimes. I like movies like The Prestige and The Illusionist which look at the personal lives of magicians and the ways they use their skills offstage.
I've also loved fictionalised biographies of the great magicians, like Carter Beats The Devil or the recent Houdini miniseries and my favourite non-fiction book about the art is probably Hiding The Elephant. If you wanted to pick one book to use as your "source" for this fandom, that would probably be my recommendation, but I'd say there was more than enough information on these characters on the internet to write a good story. Their Wikipedia pages alone raise a ton of interesting questions!
Cool, so shall we start by going through the nominated characters?
Yeah, although I should say that I only nominated those four because you're not allowed to have an RPF fandom without named characters and you should feel free to write about other magicians if the mood takes you. Like if you were burning to write a female centric fic about Iliona's quest to make it in the testosterone heavy world of magic or something angsty about Charles Morritt's descent into alcoholism then you should go right ahead, because I will read the hell out of it.
Understood. So, Houdini?
Ah Houdini. Grandstanding, grudge-holding, perfectionist Houdini, quintessential short dude with something to prove. I'd love fic about Houdini which emphasised his scrappy, relentlessly self-improving nature. Also something which highlighted the conflict between his desire to be seen as a magician and the fact that all his real talent lay in escape artistry. Or something about the incredible control he developed over his own body. Or the way he put people on a pedestal and then turned on them when they failed to live up to his ridiculous expectations. (Oh and also, thanks to the Adrien Brody miniseries, I headcanon him as having epic and adorable bedhead, so feel free to chuck that in there if you ever want to describe his hair.)
LOL. Anything else you'd like me to take from the miniseries?
Feel free to use the plotline where Houdini was a spy in the lead up to WWI. I don't believe it actually happened, but it's deeply entertaining and I'm a grade A sucker for magicians using their specialist skills in their offstage lives. Houdini interacting with notable contemporary figures like Arthur Conan Doyle and Rasputin is A-okay with me. The only thing I don't want you to borrow from the miniseries is the needlessly portentous voiceover with all the rubbish foreshadowing. (Yes, narrator. We know he died after being hit in the stomach. You don't need to describe every important event in his life as being a punch in the gut. We get it.)
Any other prompts for Houdini?
Yes, if you're up for writing something explicit, I am in the market for some Houdini handcuff porn. You could ship him with his wife, with another magician or with any other contemporaneous character real or fictional, but I'd love a fic where somebody chains him up and challenges him to break free before they make him come. Libido versus professional pride! Which will win? You get to decide!
Okay, how about Thurston?
I love the inconsistencies in Thurston. He runs away from home as a kid to be a newsie, a carnival barker, a roustabout and a con-artist. Then he sees a revival meeting, instantly finds religion and decides to train for the ministry. All based on that one chance meeting. And he turns out to be great at it, like, everyone said he was an amazing preacher and orator. But on the day of his big theology exam, he throws it all away to follow a magician on the road. He ends up being a world famous conjurer all because of a chance meeting in a railway station.
Basically I'm saying this guy had an incredibly interesting life, but also an incredibly short attention span.
Aw. Maybe he just liked the romance of grand life-changing gestures.
I'd accept that interpretation too. :) He was definitely a go-big-or-go-home kinda guy.
Is there a particular type of story you'd be interested in seeing for Thurston?
I'd love something cracky and domestic from his later life, because seriously what would domestic even look like for this guy? His wife Leotha (in his letters he calls her his Leov which is adorable) was a professional comedian. He adopted his stepdaughter Jane when she was five and then added her to the billing as a magician in her own right when she was a teenager, so you know he must have started training her way earlier. (I imagine both parents had a hand in it. Leotha was a celebrated singer and dancer, while Jane would go on to be a successful singer-songwriter. Although she had to publish all her stuff under a man's name because the songwriters' union were sexist fucknuts.) Anyway I just love the idea of Thurston on tour with the largest travelling magic show in the world, rattling around the country with his doves and lions and a dozen railway cars full of props and scenery, but trying to combine this with being a good father.
Basically I have a soft spot a mile wide for stories in which completely crazy situations are treated as absolutely mundane by the people experiencing them. If you write me a slice of life fic for the Thurston household where questions about whether Jane had done her maths homework were mixed in with discussions about whose turn it was to feed the elephant and whether anybody had oiled the guillotine? I am there.
Any other ideas?
Yes. Thurston was famous as a card man. Lots of magicians used to bill themselves a the King of Cards (or more annoyingly as the King of Kards) but Thurston's act was some next level shit. He could stand on stage and flick a card to a specific seat in the theatre balcony. That was literally the finale of his act. Some guy in the back row of the gods would shout "I want the ace of diamonds" or whatever and within a couple of seconds Thurston would have extracted it from the deck and sent it flying at him with enough force to knock his hat off. People used to go nuts for that and 'the Thurston grip' was a gamechanger that you can read about in the book Cards As Weapons.
I'll just repeat that for emphasis: cards as weapons. I would love a fic where any of these magicians took down a mugger or some other bad guy armed with nothing but a deck of playing cards. It would just be particularly apt if it were Thurston.
Final thoughts about Thurston?
He definitely mellowed as he got older, but I think his rough and tumble upbringing never quite left him. There's a great story in Hiding The Elephant from somebody who was once called up onto the stage as a child to assist with one of Thurston's tricks: the levitating woman.
"I saw more damn wires than I'd ever seen in my life! As Thurston lifted me up he whispered 'If you touch any of those blankety-blank wires... well, I'd never heard language like that in my life! At that moment, I opened my mouth and my eyes went wide, which made everybody in the audience think i was amazed at what I was seeing. I was actually reacting to his language. You know, I couldn't have told my parents what he said. They'd have washed my mouth out with soap."
He may have been a family man and have trained as a preacher, but part of Thurston was still that potty mouthed little hellion who ran away from home to work at the racetrack.
Okay, and Kellar?
First can we just take a look at the career trajectories of Thurston and Kellar side by side? Because Kellar also ran away from home as a kid, became a vagabond, was befriended by a preacher and studied to become a minister before giving it all up to become a magician.
Yeah. You've got to figure that Kellar saw some of himself in Thurston and that's why he was so keen to name Thurston his successor. I'd love a fic about that relationship.
In fact pretty much the only difference is that while Thurston ran away from home to make his fortune and used to send money back to his mother, Kellar ran away because he was in trouble. He worked in a drugstore and used to like experimenting with chemicals. when he was ten one of his experiments blew a hole in the floor and he decided that stowing away on a train to New York was a better idea than taking the blame.
I would also like a fic about that.
I'll consider it. What else have you got?
Well, with Kellar I'm super interested in the alliances and antagonisms he liked to forment. He apprenticed with the Fakir of Ava, but he didn't start playing with the big boys until he met the Davenport Brothers (who I have... um... not very complimentary opinions about. I'll get to that later.) Allegedly his big split from the Davenports was because one of them told him "You do as I tell you, Harry. You might as well know it now. You're my servant" to which Kellar said fuck that noise, not only quitting the tour, but persuading William Fay - the Davenports' long time partner and stage manager - to quit with him and travel to South America.
So they both take this massive risk, leaving a successful and lucrative act over a matter of injured pride, but it pays off. They tour their show in Mexico, Cuba, Rio and the money keeps rolling in. At the end of the tour they sail to Britain carrying a fortune in uncut diamonds, when their ship gets wrecked in the Bay of Biscay and they both lose everything but the clothes on their backs.
Reports of the wreck say that there was time to evacuate all the passengers to a nearby island and that they had to stand their watching as all their worldly possessions sank to the bottom of the Atlantic.
Yeah, rags to riches to rags again. William Fay went crawling back to the Davenport brothers, but Kellar was determined to make it on his own and in time he became wealthy again, but holy shit watching that ship go down. I want all the Shipwreck fic and Aftermath Of Shipwreck fic.
What about Kellar as a magician?
Ooh. That's interesting, because he wasn't an inventor like some of the others. He was a showman, but he used to purchase all his effects from other people and when he couldn't buy them he'd steal them.
He got into a pissing match with John Maskelyne when Maskelyne refused to sell Kellar the secret to his levitation illusion. Kellar said he'd work it out and Maskelyne sent him a snotty letter encouraging him to buy tickets for as many performances as he wanted, because he'd never figure it out. Kellar sat in the audience a few times trying to puzzle it out, then he just stood up and walked right onto the stage to examine the equipment up close! I mean on the one hand, what an asshole, but you've kind of got to admire his nerve.
Now because Maskelyne's levitation was crazy complicated, what Kellar saw wasn't enough for him to recreate it. So he tried to recruit a spy. Now Maskelyne knew damn well that Kellar would try to bribe one of his employees, so he'd groomed the likeliest candidate and even given him phoney blueprints to sell to Kellar, but instead of bribing an underling with a sack of cash, Kellar bribed one of Maskelyne's partners with the promise of a permanent show in America and got hold of the real plans.
He still needed help to interpret them. Allegedly he paid an obscene amount of money to the Otis elevator company for their assistance in building it, but eventually he had a working levitation that was even better than Maskelyne's.
So of course Maskelyne sent a spy over to America to break in and take photographs of the new mechanism. A fic set during this particular period of espionage and betrayal that played up the cold war between the magicians would be sensational.
What about his personal life?
He married one of his fangirls! Eva Lydia Medley was an Australian fan of his show who hung around at stage door for Kellar's autograph. The two of them ended up exchanging letters and postcards for five years before she married him and joined his act. I've read in some places that it was Eva who discovered his successor, Thurston, and saw his potential, but not all the sources agree. There are some places saying Kellar met him in Paris. If you write fic about Eva discovering him, I'd love a story where Eva tries to convince Kellar that Thurston is a worthy successor. Maybe she's the one who pointed out their similarities?
Australia, Paris, South America... The guy sure got around
Yeah, lots of the golden age magicians were ridiculously well travelled. One thing that's always interested me about that is that their acts often contained an incredible amount of... well, let's call it foreign mysticism. Kellar called the levitation illusion "The Levitation Of Princess Karnac", and would describe in his intro how he'd learned the secret of levitation from a Hindu mystic on the banks of the Ganges
But the thing is, he toured that illusion all over the world, including India. I realise that it's pointless trying to judge historical magicians by modern standards when it comes to stuff like cultural appropriation, but I've always been interested by what happened on the tours. Like, did he constantly change the introduction depending on what city he was in, so that it was always from somewhere foreign and exotic? How did he keep the audience on his side? Did he ever get it spectacularly wrong?
Any last thoughts on Kellar?
Yes. Did you know Kellar was the inspiration for The Wizard Of Oz? Because he totally was and if you wanted to run with that in a crossover or fusion direction I would not be at all averse!
Which leaves Maskelyne...
The grandaddy of British magic!
Although to prevent confusion we should specify which Maskelyne. The guy sired a dynasty of magicians named Maskelyne.
Okay, so tell me how you feel about John Nevil Maskelyne?
Oh god, he's like the anti-Kellar. Everything Kellar got by spending money, Maskelyne got by tinkering in his workshop. The guy was an inventor first and foremost. (Not just of magic tricks either. He invented the pay toilet!) I don't know if you're in Avengers fandom, but there's this really common fanon thing where Tony Stark will wander into his workshop, get distracted and then emerge three days later all manic saying "Oh, hi guys. I appear to have built a robot" and that's basically how I see Maskelyne. This crazy genius who would sometimes emerge from his workshop having built a new robot. (His most famous one, Psycho, which could play cards and worked via air pressure was really more of a puppet than a robot, but Maskelyne had trained as a clockmaker and managed to make all kinds of crazy ass automata.)
Oh, hey. Did you see that this year somebody nominated The Writer Automaton as a fandom?
Yes I did and crossovers are totally welcome if you are that way inclined. I have a deep and abiding love for ye olden robots. :)
Okay, so other than his robot making what do you like about Maskelyne?
Well, like I said above, he was a clockmaker by trade and magic was just one of his hobbies, like playing the cornet. Then one day he saw the Davenport Brothers' spirit cabinet act. Now the Davenports were going up and down the country using techniques associated with magicians and escape artists in order to convince people that they could actually commune with the dead. They were basically an early version of the sleazy TV psychics that you get nowadays who prey on the vulnerable.
So Maskelyne sits in the audience and depending on which account you read he either gets a glimpse of something he shouldn't or he just works out with his big genius brain exactly how they're doing it and he stops the show. He just stands up in the audience and tells everybody that the Davenports are con artists who've been taking them all for a ride.
But he doesn't stop there. He tells everybody that anything the Davenports can do in their show with their "spirit powers" he can do with nothing more than his awesome inventor brain. So he hires a theatre and teams up with his BFF George Cook who was also an amateur magician and they proceed to recreate the entire thing for an audience with a better ending. And the next day all the newspapers were talking about how incredible it was. And that's how Maskelyne started his career as a pro magician. By taking down frauds and bullies in the most swag way possible.
I'm sensing a lot of antipathy towards the Davenports.
People who prey on the bereaved for the sake of a quick buck are something that I have extremely strong negative feelings about. If you can make a charlatan like that your bad guy and then have them receive their come-uppance at the hands of a magician, that would be an amazing Christmas present.
One of my favourite stories like that was actually in a stage play called The Houdini Exposure, about a fraudulent TV psychic who starts to actually hear the voices of the dead. Over time they get louder and louder, but he doesn't tell anybody because he thinks it's divine retribution. It's actually a brain tumour, but he doesn't know that until it's too late. (It's a beautifully dark little morality play and I would totally nominate as a Yuletide fandom if I thought anybody else had ever heard of it.)
Okay, but back to Maskelyne. Tell me about his relationships with other people...
Well, I'm 100% up for something looking at the feud between Maskelyne and Kellar.
I'd also enjoy something looking at Maskelyne and Cooke. They were friends since before he got famous, he's a little older than Maskelyne and a little less prone to showboating. He's got skills in his own right, but even when both their names were on the business Cooke always ended up playing back-up or having to be the sensible stage manager type rather than being the star. How did that relationship develop over time? Did it work for both of them? It's totally ripe for a Five Times fic.
Or you could write about Maskelyne and Morton his business manager. William Morton single handedly made Maskelyne and Cooke a financially viable proposition. They did two shows a day at a major London theatre for thirty years while constantly innovating. Partly that's because they constantly took on and trained new magicians, but it's also because there was a firm hand on the wheel and if you're prepared to accept my interpretation of Maskelyne as an easily distracted genius inventor then Morton becomes an even more important influence on his life.
Maskelyne and Devant. I love David Devant and I'm sad that I didn't have an additional nomination slot for him. He's got this quiet sincerity about him and he consistently had Maskelyne's back. Stepping in just when Maskelyne needed him, auditioning new artists, running the tours. I also love the way he talked about magic. There's an analogy he used to use about how memorising a trick didn't make you a magician any more than memorising The Merchant of Venice made you an actor. He believed that magic was about more than tricks and trapdoors and inventions, it was about artistry and heart. I definitely think his approach must have led to conflict with Maskelyne, who was rightly proud of his groundbreaking inventions and tended to be dismissive of the inventions of others.
I'd love a fic about Devant persuading Maskelyne to include motion pictures in the shows, which Maskelyne was allegedly dead set against until Devant wore him down. Or a fic about Devant being there for Maskelyne when Cooke died.
I'm also open to something set during their later years when Maskelyne's son was running the show and rejected Devant's latest act. If Devant hadn't been so short of money he wouldn't have needed to write the autobiography explaining how his tricks worked for which he was kicked out of the magic circle. Maskelyne was dead by that point, but I'd still be up for a story about Maskelyne in the afterlife watching events unfold and either being furious on Devant's behalf or thinking back on some of their old arguments about whether a magician's secrets are more important than his personality. I guess in a lot of ways I see Devant as the Steve to Maskelyne's Tony.
Wait. Are we back to The Avengers?
Well, let me explain. Back in August, I was having a conversation with a friend about all the ways in which Maskelyne was like Tony Stark. Genius inventor, mega-celebrity, collaborated with his BFF of many years, delegated the business side of things to somebody else he trusted, did good things but in a ridiculously grandstanding way, ended up being betrayed by a trusted employee, started out solo but formed a team of people with extraordinary powers and gave them all a building to work out of...
Yeah, point taken. You know Avengers isn't Yuletide eligible, right?
Of course, but my point is that there's this specific type of character that people really love to read about. There are a bajillionty fics out there about Tony Stark and none about Maskelyne, which is a travesty because Maskelyne is awesome in all the same ways, except he was real. Anyway, I got kind of emotionally invested in the idea that fandom at large was inexplicably slighting Maskelyne and his contemporaries, so that's when I'd decided to nominate magician RPF for Yuletide. They're all just so interesting. This should be a massive fandom containing everything from angst to omegaverse, but there's nothing.
Basically if you write the first fic about Golden Age Magicians for AO3 you will make me so incredibly happy.
do my best!
FANDOM: Malory Towers - Enid Blyton
NOMINATED CHARACTERS: Miss Winter (Malory Towers) Mr. Lacey (Malory Towers) Darrell Rivers Gwendoline Mary Lacey Mary-Lou (Malory Towers) Sally Hope
REQUESTED CHARACTERS: Miss Winter (Malory Towers) Mr. Lacey (Malory Towers
Those are some incredibly minor characters, AD. What made you pick them?
Well, I recently reread the six Malory Towers books as an adult and I noticed something weird that canon didn't entirely explain and which I'd love to see explored in fic.
Well, in the books, Blyton says that the reason Gwen grew up to be such a diva is that she never went to school or spent time with other children prior to Malory Towers. She lived at home with her mother and was taught by a live-in governess, both of whom spoiled her and encouraged her vanity. Gwen's dad is portrayed throughout the series as being ashamed of his failboat daughter, but every time he tries to intervene, he gets outvoted by the mother and governess.
That's my reading of canon too. So?
So, I never understood why Mr Lacey didn't just sack Miss Winter, the governess, if he thought she was ruining his daughter. In fact, the opposite happens. Miss Winter continues to live with Mr and Mrs Lacey for the next six years while Gwen is away at boarding school. Why? She's not teaching any other children (Gwen's an only child), she's not a relative and she's not independently wealthy. Why are the Lacey's subsidizing her? It's possible that she's become BFFs with Mrs Lacey and is being kept on as some sort of companion, but that alone doesn't seem like enough motivation for Mr Lacey to provide free room and board for somebody he thinks is a bad influence.
I take it you have a theory?
Yes, because when Mr Lacey gets ill in the last book, Miss Winter changes. Suddenly she's spending all her time trying to persuade Gwen to stop being a bitch and to be nicer to her dad. As soon as Mr Lacey's life is in danger, Miss Winter isn't on Gwen and her mother's side at all. And then when it looks like he's going to die, Miss Winter shows up at the school looking absolutely shredded.
About as shredded as you'd look, in fact, if you'd been having an affair with your boss for the best part of a decade, feigning friendship with his bitchy wife and daughter so that they'd never suspect anything and you could keep living with him, but then your lover had been suddenly struck down by a terrible illness that meant he didn't even recognize you and everybody expected you to be the strong one and to deal with his grieving wife and daughter and you had to handle everything and pretend to be "just a governess" even though you were dying inside.
Is this related to your Bronte fixation?
Bronte fandom has probably predisposed me to look for evidence of affairs between employers and governesses, yes. That doesn't mean it's a bad theory.
I guess not. So if I were prepared to write this ship, what sort of a story would you be interested in?
Ooh! If you're prepared to buy into my theory then there are several stories from their relationship that I'd like you to tell!
How they got together in the first place. Did Mrs Winter start working for the Laceys and then gradually fall in love with Mr L or was it more sordid than that and she was already his mistress, but he installed her as a governess so that they could be together?
Or Mr Lacey's conflicted feelings about the effect this is having on his family? Does he feel guilty about his wife? If Miss Winter is pandering to Gwen in order to keep up the pretence, does Mr Lacey worry about the long term effect on his daughter of his duplicity? Miss Winter is described in the text as plain. What is it that Mr Lacey sees in her beyond her looks?
Or something set during book four which is when Gwen fakes a heart murmur to be sent home from school. Does the disruption of their routine cause problems? Are they nearly discovered? Or maybe something set during the last book when it looks like Mr Lacey's going to die. What's going through Miss Winter's head there and what happens between them during the period where Mr Lacey is an invalid?
Hmm... AD, it's a nice theory, but I'm not sure I can write this. Infidelity fic isn't my thing. Is there anything else you'd like for this fandom?
I'm a big fan of stories that resolve unanswered questions in the text, so if you'd rather come up with a non-adulterous or gen explanation for why Miss Winter stayed with the Laceys for so long, that's totally acceptable. I'm very aware that not everybody wants to write infidelity fic and that most people are in this fandom for femslash, so requesting a het pairing is sort of unusual!
Actually, would you be interested in femslash?
I'm mostly interested in The Mystery of Miss Winter, but if you're feeling up to it, you could totally do both! I'd love a fic - maybe epistolary? - set at the school with Gwen as an unreliable narrator, which hints to the reader at both the truth about Mrs Winter and the slashy happenings in the North Tower, while Gwen remains characteristically oblivious..
Actually, I mostly slash them after they've left school.
No, problem. Maybe the truth about Miss Winter doesn't come out until years later?
Have you read the authorised sequels from after they've finished school?
I haven't. The canon I'm familiar with is the original Blyton books. I don't mind being spoiled for the later books, so you should feel free to include or exclude canon from them as you wish.
I...feel like we've wrapped this one up quicker than is usual for one of your requests AD.
Yeah, but that's just because I'm requesting specific characters for this fandom, not because I want the story any less. The character's are so minor I'm 99% sure nobody's going to offer them, so if somebody actually volunteers to write these two I am going to be ridiculously psyched.
FANDOM: The Discovery Of The Lord Howe Island Stick Insects RPF
NOMINATED CHARACTERS: Climbers (The Discovery Of The Lord Howe Island Stick Insects) Scientists (The Discovery Of The Lord Howe Island Stick Insects) Stick Insects (The Discovery Of The Lord Howe Island Stick Insects)
REQUESTED CHARACTERS: Any
Ha! I knew it! Your first two fandoms this year were way too normal. I knew there was something ridiculous coming.
I am nothing if not predictable, yo.
Okay, so tell me what the deal is with the stick insects.
Okay, so back in... 2011, maybe? I read an article about the Lord Howe Island Stick Insects and how they were brought back from the brink of extinction following a series of incredibly unlikely events. And this article was just straight up amazing. It managed to be sad and heartwarming and suspenseful and... you know what? Go read it yourself, I'll wait.
Wow. That is more feels than I ever expected to have about stick insects!
I know, right? Part of the reason I want fiction about them is that their story already reads like fiction. The last minute breakthrough with the calcium, the lucky co-incidence of the bush and their triumph against the odds all happen so perfectly it's like they were plotted
So what do you want in a fic?
Okay, I have three different plot bunnies for this fandom, but you don't have to use any of them if you have ideas of your own. Seriously, I'm wide open here.
Understood, what's the first bunny?
I've talked elsewhere on the web about how I think this whole story would make an amazing Pixar movie. I would really like the fic equivalent of that movie.
Adorable anthropomorphised insects?
You know it! I mean, come on, they canonically form pair bonds and sleep spooned together. They're cuddlebugs! They more or less anthropomorphise themselves.
And what kind of plot are you looking for?
The rats arrival on Lord Howe Island really reminds me of the bit at the start of An American Tail where the cossacks' cats come and smash the shit out of Fievel's home, so that they all have to emigrate to the USA? It's like that, except in this metaphor America is a volcanic rock in the middle of the ocean.
But Fievel never went back to Russia. The cuddlebugs go home eventually.
Yeah, and the awesome thing about anthropomorphising them is that they get to make an active decision to do that. They can choose to seek out the climbers and to work with the scientists.
So it's an even happier ending because they did it themselves?
Exactly! Give me all the warm fuzzy stick insect feels!
What's the second bunny?
Okay so my thing with these critters is that when I read about them, I root for them so hard, but visually they horrify me. You couldn't pay me to live on Lord Howe Island now they've been reintroduced.
But, but... stick insect feels!
I have a lot of stick insect feels and some of them are mutually contradictory. Don't judge me.
So the fic..?
Well, just like I think this would be an amazing Pixar movie, I also think it would be an amazing survival-horror/monster movie.
So while your first idea was An American Tail with bugs, your second idea is more like--
Jurassic Park with bugs, yes.
Talk me through this.
On a forbidding and inaccessible rock, in the middle of shark infested waters, where you cannot even moor a goddamn boat and where the only way to reach flat ground is by scaling a sheer cliff face... SOMETHING HAS SURVIVED.
Giant bugs that were thought to be extinct. Giant bugs that only come out at night. Giant bugs that - sure, what the hell - have evolved to eat not just the bush which was the rock's only greenery, but any seabird foolish enough to land on the island. They've evolved clever pack hunting techniques in order to survive and with no natural predators, they're much, much bigger than before and now some unsuspecting climbers are making their way up the rock with night vision goggles and flashlights in search of the legendary monsters...
Gotcha! Horror stories about being trapped on a volcanic rock with giant man-eating bugs, scientific plausibility optional. What's bunny three?
Bunny three is the genuine RPF about the humans involved. Like, they were down to their last breeding female and one of the scientists just comes up with the theory that what's needed is calcium. How? Did they race out to Ball's Pyramid and take soil samples? Was it inductive reasoning, because they have such big exoskeletons? Did he decide that the only way they could have survived so long from a single plant was through cannibalism and they would have had more calcium in their diet from eating each other? There are a ton of theories, but I've never found an article which explains it, so I'd like you to make up an answer and sell it to me with lots of race-around-the-clock dramatic tension.
Any other stories you'd like about the humans?
Yeah, I'd love something looking at the ethical and political side of bringing the bugs home. Eradicating all the rats on Lord Howe Island requires killing an awful lot of comparatively cute mammals to ensure the survival of some horrifying looking insects. How did they sell that to the islanders? How can they be sure the rats are really eradicated? Isn't there a chance that introducing new predator species to the island in an attempt to balance things out will just fuck things up more?
I'd enjoy a fic that either showed how the scientists planned for the changes to the island's ecosystem or the consequences of a failure to sufficiently plan. I'd also be up for fic about the scientists trying to help the islanders come to terms with the arrival of these new monster bugs. I mean, they're Australians so you can probably take as read a certain level of resignation to living among horrifying wildlife, but I still think the public education campaign's got to be hilarious.
Thanks, I'll do my best!
FANDOM: In The Night Garden
NOMINATED CHARACTERS: Igglepiggle, Makka Pakka, Upsy Daisy
REQUESTED CHARACTERS: Any
Okay, I'll bite. Why are you requesting In The Night Garden?
Well, there are three types of people who watch this show: A) toddlers, B) parents or anybody else with a responsibility for looking after under-fives and C) college students who like to get stoned and watch toddler TV shows.
And you're from Group A, right?
You'd be forgiven for thinking that based on my behaviour, but no. My Night Garden knowledge comes from Group B. I look after my sister's kids while she's at work. I'm also at the age where lots of my friends have or are having kids. So socialising with them usually involves a period of sitting around in their living rooms watching CBeebies and waiting for the kids to get sleepy so that we can crack open the wine.
(Of course, in college those same friends and I used to watch Welsh language Teletubbies, so I guess we're in Group C as well.)
Okay, I accept your flimsy justification for being familiar with this fandom. Let's talk about fanfic.
Okay, well if you're a Group B person yourself, then at some point you've probably found yourself overthinking these extremely formulaic programmes just to stop your brain from melting as you watch them, right?
Well, you're not alone. There's a Twitter hashtag, #AltBeebies which was started by a stay at home dad I know to post insane fan theories about CBeebies shows. Like how Zingzillas is actually a homage to Lost and Balamory is a version of Downton Abbey. That Chuggington Old Town was abandoned in a zombie apocalypse or that everything in Mr Tumble's spotty bag is actually a horcrux. They also ask the important questions, like is Wendy from Bob The Builder a good role model for women in the construction industry? How does Postman Pat still have a job after consistently cocking up all his deliveries? And if all the mammals on Peppa Pig are sentient and all the birds aren't, then where does that leave the duck billed platypus?
Did you really just give me prompts for every CBeebies show except the one I actually offered? Come on, AD.
Sorry, I was just trying to give a sense of the sort of things I like think about for CBeebies shows. Dark interpretations, explanations for plot holes, weird crossovers. That sort of thing is my jam.
Okay, but let's talk about In The Night Garden.
Okay, you know the bit at the end of each episode where everybody goes to sleep except for Iggle Piggle and he's running down that stone pathway, then he just collapses like he's been shot?
And you know how parents across the country will sneakily cock a finger at the TV at that moment and say "bang" under their breath?
And how several parents have gone further and added CGI bloodsplatter to the clip and posted it on YouTube for the enjoyment of other parents?
No, actually, but it doesn't surprise me. Look, let's cut to the chase, here. You want fic where Iggle Piggle actually gets shot, don't you?
Oh more than that! I want a Film Noir version of In The Night Garden! Something incorporating all the Thriller and Film Noir tropes, but pasting them onto the ITNG characters and settings.
Think about it, you could have Derek Jacobi as the jaded private eye investigating Who Shot Iggle Piggle? Upsy Daisy would be the femme fatale! Makka Pakka as some sort of beancounter for the mob. (He canonically washes everything, so he's probably engaged in money laundering and doesn't the entrance to his cave look a bit like the entrance to an underground club?) The Tombliboos would either be strippers (because they keep taking off their trousers) or drug dealers (because their bush/house/hive thing totally looks like a drug den, with it's tiny windows and entrance where you have to enter on all fours observed by all the people inside. That place was built to withstand a seige.)
You have thought about this way too much.
There's only so long a person can watch the same CGI toucan making trombone noises before their mind starts to construct an elaborate AU in which the Pinky Ponk is a floating speakeasy and Pinky Ponk Juice is moonshine.
Okay, I'll accept that, but what if I want to take a different angle?
No problem. Here are some more In The Night Garden thoughts from the #altbeebies tag, any one of which would make a great Yuletide fic!
"Makka Pakka appears to be a Gollum-esque wretch, crouching under a stinking bridge polishing the very stones that posess him."
"The visual evidence appears to suggest that the Tombliboo bush is dimensionally transcendental."
It freaks me out. Terrifying.
and I've always been troubled by the Ninky Nonk's tardis-like qualities.
Who knows what's inside the Pinky-ponk balloon though?
"The Ninky-Nonk has scant regard for passenger safety, or gravity."
"The Tombliboos like to be together because the Tombliboos are a HIVEMIND."
"I find it rather disconcerting the way that Upsy Daisy's dreadlocks can move independently"
YES! And the stones Makka Pakka cleans are actually Upsy Daisy’s victims!
"The iggle-piggle/david cameron resemblance is uncanny"
"What lurks inside the sinister red drive unit of the Ninky Nonk?"
"Is it just me, or are the Haahoos pretty sinister?"
"No, it isn't just you. I don't like the Haahoos. The dark side of In the Night Garden."
"It's the way they linger on the periphery, just watching. Watching, watching... always watching."
"Waiting - choosing their moment to strike and destroy the Night Garden community..."
The Pontipines are a hivemind. They function only as a collective.
that's almost reassuring. I've always worried about the future mental health of the older Pontipine children
It would be difficult if they ever decided they wanted "their own space"...
"and now I've got a whole forbidden love thing going in my head between a Pontipine & a Wottinger..."
No Upsy Daisy, Iggle Piggle is not the solution to your problem with making decisions. #dubiousrescuefantasy
Upsy Daisy can't decide between the Ninky-Nonk and the Pinky-Ponk. The dilemma of choice. Capitalism red in tooth and claw.
The Night Garden’s Pinky Ponk is, in fact, the Shield stratocarrier. #crossover
Am I alone in detecting a certain frisson between Upsy Daisy and Iggle Piggle? #inthenightgardenafterhours
shocking! tell the daily fail at once!
And Iggle Piggle is always the last to go to bed. Make of _that_ what you will.
There’s a chance that iggle piggle is indebted to a loan shark which would explain his lack of fixed address.
The Wottingers are hiding from the hysterical Pontipines. #neighboursfromhell
The Pontipines have scoffed all the nosh while the Wottingers were out joyriding the ninky nonk. It’s gotta kick off fo’ sho’ #altbeebies
Trying to suss out who is the alpha-tomliboo.
According to my notebook I once had the idea about a blog post comparing In The Night Garden to The Wire. What’s that about?
In the Night Garden depresses me. Basically about a man who lives on a boat and invents a fantasy world to stop him going mad
To see him through his last days before dying of starvation. Quite moving I think
so we're saying it's 'Life of Pi' for pre-school? Never thought of it like that
I have a strong suspicion that the tombliboos are running some kind of protection racket.
If iggle piggle doesn't obey the night garden curfew, there's no point trying to get it to work in our cities.
There are no chairs in the night garden. The only places to sit are the ninky nonk and pinky ponk. Monopoly?
"Does anyone else find it strange that upsie daisy takes her bed everywhere with her and is always hitching her skirt up?"
Is she on the game or something and always keeps a bed handy?
In The Night Garden is Inception for toddlers
I hope igglepiggle there has done a proper RYA boat handling course
I don't know, most of the time he appears to be "in charge of a boat on open water while asleep"
Okay, I'm definitely amused, but what if I just wanted to write a sweet, low-stakes story in the style of canon?
I'd be surprised, but not dismayed. I'm going to have a herd of under fives to entertain on Christmas Day and it would be nice to walk into that bedlam armed with a new story to read to them. :-)
FANDOM: Yuletide RPF/Yuletide (Anthropomorfic)
NOMINATED CHARACTERS: Peer (Anthropomorfic) Bears (Anthropomorfic) Hippos (Anthropomorfic)
REQUESTED CHARACTERS: Any
That's two different fandoms, AD.
Yeah. Having pestered everybody I've ever met to nominate these for me in the hope that one would get in, they appear to have both got in and now I don't know which one to pick!
Flip a coin?
I think I'm going to keep an eye on how signups are going and see which ones other people request.
Is there much difference in what you'll ask for depending on what gets in?
Not at all. Ever since my first Yuletide I've always kept a slot free for Yuletide meta. You can take it as read that whatever version of the fandom I end up nominating in this slot I'll be delighted with either metafic about a character from another canon doing Yuletide, fans from the Yuletide chatroom having ridiculous adventures or anthropomorfic about the dancing hippos.
Basically depending on which version I go with, this section's going to be a repeat of my letter from either last year or the year before, but what I want is always simple and always the same. Write something fun and light-hearted about the process of doing Yuletide that's going to make me smile. That's all I need. :)
Okay. Got any links to those earlier letters?
Of course! Here's 2013 and here's 2012.
AD it is now November 17th, do you have anything up-to-date I can work with?
Yes! The mods have released the list of potential #Yuletide RPF characters, which can be viewed here.
Any preferred characters from that list?
Nope, I'd be happy with anybody from that list and would especially love an ensemble fic if you're able.
If it's useful Azz is the only person on the list that I know outside of Yulechat, Naraht is the only one I've met IRL and over seven years of Yuletide participation I think I've betaed for or been betaed by about half the names on that list!
And do you have any new prompts based on 2014 "canon"?
Yes! Take your pick from any of these...
[Lanna] when it comes to x-men, I really want them to keep having powers while in these wacky AUs
[mesonyx] don't mind me, i'm just contemplating yulechat RPF AU scenarios
[mesonyx] in space
[mesonyx] on a pirate ship
[mesonyx] coffee shop would be pretty much exactly what it is now
[Truth] I would read that, mesonyx.
[Naraht] ha, mesonyx, I would read the coffeeshop AU
[sleepfighter] coffee shop in space? :D
[Lanna] coffee shop with powers
[Truth] Oooh. Pirate baristas.
[mesonyx] omg that's pirates, space, and coffee all in one
[Truth] … that would be awesome.
[Truth] a coffeeshop in space, with laser pistols, people trying to write between gun battles, someone with a laser pianoforte in the corner, and a very calm barista.
[sleepfighter] asteriod bears! cosmic hippos!
I really don't have much to add to this one. I love the idea of a silly fic where every possible type of AU has been thrown in a blender. I also think Starbuckaneers is a title that deserves a story.
* AD-dinner is now known as AD
[AD] Did I just spend 24 hours eating dinner?
[Lanna] yes, you did
[AD] This is why I should keep my aways vague.
[AD] That's always applicable and doesn't tell you whether I'm in chat. :p
[AD] Or are you just dreaming me, sleeps?
[sleepfighter] …o_0 oh dear is ad a helpful figment of the imagination
[AD] Anybody considering writing #Yuletide RPF should feel free to write a story told entirely in away nicks.
I (mostly) use mIRC, which - unlike a lot of the more modern clients - doesn't display in the userlist when somebody uses the /away command. As a result I tend to do the slightly dated thing where I set my name to AD-dinner, AD-bed or AD-gettingmydrinkon. Other members of chat use their name to keep track of their current word count.
I'd love a story written in the form of a chatlog where people were chatting about innocuous stuff, but our ever changing nicks told a completely different story!
[Lunalein_] i'm way too much of a recluse to want to live in an intentional community
[Lunalein_] perish the thought of Real World-style house meetings
[havisham] ... Well, now I want a student housing Yuletide AU.
[Morbane] #yuletide RPF if we were suddenly all in a house
[havisham] Like, everyone is studying for finals (maybe) and doing Yuletide.
* @Morbane is really regretting not asking for #yuletide RPF now
[havisham] The drama! The crying! The bears!
[voksen] bears, bears in the deep
I think a lot of us have been there. I was there in 2004, which was the year I found myself coating a packet of Jaffa Cakes with a layer of Bittrex and wondering how this had become my life.
Please give me all the shared living tropes: queues for the bathroom, arguments about whose turn it is to empty the bins and things going missing from the communal fridge with subsequent Jaffa Cake tampering in an attempt to catch the culprit.
[Morbane] I kind of want some glorious combination of WorstMuse, Weird Al's Grammar Nazi, FFA's OAA & OEA, and #yuletide RPF
[Morbane] I now wish I had requested #yuletide RPF
I'm not even sure what that fic would look like, but the @WorstMuse account is hilarious and I read and write FFA-fic, so if somebody wants to try their hand at this, I'm game!
[Moltres] most fandoms im in have harry potter AU stories
[HopefulNebula] ...i don't believe any of the fandoms i've requested this year have hogwarts au stories.
* @HopefulNebula should fix that for alphas.
[mesonyx] alphas hogwarts au: rosen is dumbledore?
[Rosencrantz] what what what?
[Rosencrantz] why am I dumbledore?
[HopefulNebula] not you, crantz. there's an alphas character named rosen.
[HopefulNebula] and yes, he's totally the dumbledore.
[Rosencrantz] I panicked
[Rosencrantz] 'I'm not ready for this responsibility!'
[Lunalein] "i don't even like lemon drops!"
[Rosencrantz] I'm not prepared to love WizardHitler!
[vale] Yulechat rpf hogwarts au where rosencrantz is Dumbledore
[vale] Tries the entire fic to resign
[vale] Fails miserably
* @Rosencrantz sobs
Crantz didn't sign up to the opt-in post in time, so we're going to need a new Dumbledore, but I'd love a Hogwarts AU for #Yuletide. Maybe one where instead of trying to write a fanfic, everybody was a student trying to finish a History Of Magic essay before the deadline.
Doranwen would have finished hers in record time Hermione Granger style. Morbane should have finished in time, but she would keep getting roped in to help her classmates to fix their spelling. AlterEgon would have no time to write the essay because of having to sort out all the chaos in the owlery. Woggy would be having apparition difficulties or possibly just keep accidentally touching portkeys so he'd keep vanishing from the room. Elennare would create lengthy appendices full of beautiful graphs but neglect to actually start the essay and Lan would try to come up with a spell that would write her essay for her, but which would actually end up filling the dormitory with bears.
[Lanna] hi chat, I have made soup
[Lanna] I call off sick at 4:50am this morning, I deserve soup
* @AD does not have soup, but does have tea.
[AlterEgon] can I share both?
[AD] Hey, if you can invent an IRC compatible tea transfer protocol, I'm more than willing to share.
[AD] Otherwise, you'll just have to hope your drinkswap sender comes through.
[Lanna] but, hey, at least since we can't send stuff, none of y'all can get my cold?
[thedevilchicken] That's an excellent point. I've had too many colds already and I have treats to write. Grr.
[AlterEgon] Oh Lanna... is THAT where i Have mine from?
[AlterEgon] Did yoiu email it to me or something?
[Lanna] no, because I don't have your e-mail address
[Lanna] logic :P
[AlterEgon] maybe you pm'd it to me when i wasn't looking
[Lanna] oh, true
[Lanna] I could have gone *cough*
[Lanna] and then chat would all be like "wait, what? did you use a kleenex for that cough?"
[AlterEgon] yes, and now I have it.
[Lanna] here, have some soup
[AlterEgon] Thank you
[luminareardua] I'm sick and very cranky
[AD] Aw. Did Lanna PM you?
[AD] She's been spreading coughs and colds by direct msg aparently.
[luminareardua] AD: Lanna PM'd me over the weekend :P
[Lanna] I think luminareardua was the last one I pmed... yeah
[Rosencrantz] the yuleplague
[Rosencrantz] it looks like this yuletide... the yulegoat's bringing friends
[Lanna] I've been coming down with a cold for the last couple weeks. Last night I couldn't sleep and woke up at 2am coughing a lot
[Lanna] so, whoever PMEd me two weeks ago, you're on notice :P
[AlexSeanchai] hey, could be worse. y'all just got colds. if I give you my hiccups we might have a problem.
Fic in which we send (or infect each other with) ridiculous and physically impossible things using the power of the internet? Yes please. Think how many more swaps Sleepfighter could organise if this sort of thing were possible. Kittenswap could finally become a reality!
Just the ones I put in my optional details.
Something about the future, right?
Right. There was a prompt asking for futurefic. Like what will #Yuletide be like in 2024? Or even further into the future?
There was also one asking for time loop fic where Dec 24 happens over and over like groundhog day and Yulechat has to find a way to break the loop so that the archive can open and we can all get our stories.
Okay, I think that's all I need.
Excellent, I can't wait to see what you come up with!
So again, thank you for doing this. I hope that you enjoy writing your assignment and that the overly long letter didn't scare you off. Like I said at the top, it's all completely optional, I just enjoy having the opportunity to talk at length about my crazy fandoms-of-one!
- Dear Yuletide Writer 2014