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Dear Yuletide 2016
Dear Yuletide Writer,

Thank you for writing for me! I, er, seem to have written a lot of words this year. Feel free to ignore pretty much all of them! I love seeing how other people think about my favorite fandoms, and I love seeing interpretations that are different from mine (some of my favorite fics are the ones that made me look at things in a new way). Please do not feel like you need to follow any of my prompts!

Her Smoke Rose Up Forever (anthology) - James Tiptree, Jr. (any): James Tiptree, Jr., or Alice Sheldon, if you prefer, was an amazing writer who wrote plotty intricate stories about love, sex, joy, depair, death, poetry, and biology, and what it means to be human. I want a story dealing (at least tangentially) with what it means to be human. (That's not to say you can't write about aliens -- I'm convinced her alien stories had profound things to say about our own species.) Also love, sex, joy, despair, death, humanity, or biology — it doesn't have to be all of those, but I do contend that it should have at least one quotation from at least one piece of literature :) But anyway, I would really be happy with just about anything!

I would super adore an original story with original characters. I would also love a sequel or fork-in-the-road AU or expansion or worldbuilding based on any of the stories in this anthology (which is why I nominated this particular anthology and also didn't nominate any characters, so that you could have full pick of what you wanted to do). Honestly, any of them! What happened to Leelyloo in "Love is the Plan"; was she able to pass on Moggadeet's message? What was Mir-mir's eventual fate in "What Delicate Mad Hands"? What is the story behind that "grand person," Mrs. Priscilla Hayes Smith, the Parsons' friend in "The Women Men Don't See," and do the Parsons ever send for her? Was Barney ever able to get Anne's message in "Screwfly Solution" and do anything about it? I would love to hear anything at all about the clones in "Houston Houston," perhaps an expansion of one of the ballads that are mentioned? I mean, seriously, all of these are so interesting! (If you had another story in mind and want prompts for more of them just let me know, I could come up with these all day. They're so rich and interesting. But of course feel free to write whatever you would like, if you have a different idea in your head!)

I wrote elsewhere that I thought many of these stories could be considered AUs of each other (e.g., multiple end-of-the-world stories) — are they? What would that entail? (And how would the characters in the multiverse feel about that, if they discovered it?) Many of them might also take place in the same universe (and sometimes Tiptree cross-connects elements like Stars' Tears); feel free to expand any of those potential connections.

More generally: What would Tiptree be like if she were writing today? What would she write about? She wrote a lot about gender and what seems like the impossibility of the genders ever meeting; what would it look like to her today? Is friendship possible in a Tiptree universe? Her stories tend to completely sabotage friendship, whether it's between romantic couples ("Love is the Plan", "Screwfly Solution") or not ("Your Faces, O My Sisters"). How could friendship find a way, when it's always being subsumed by cultural or biological factors? The stories that seems to hold out hope for friendship are "Houston, Houston" and "The Women Men Don't See" and the alien stories ("Love is the Plan" and "With Delicate Mad Hands") — does this imply that it's only in the absence of men or the cultural male imperatives that true friendships either within or crossing gender lines can occur? Is it impossible for men to have true friendships? (Even in "Love is the Plan" the males can't connect!)

Generally I am not crazy about explicit sex or violence in my stories. This fandom is an exception, perhaps the exception. In general Tiptree's stories are all about sex and violence, especially genderified, some of them in explicit detail, and I love them, so feel free to continue in that vein with as much explicitness as you feel the story calls for (though lack of it is also of course just fine). Relatedly, it's probably pretty clear that I'm generally super vanilla, but here kink is fine: e.g. "How would Tiptree write A/B/O?" (…How would she?)

I would adore to have a happy ending of some sort, where a character finds a way through these issues or fixes a problem set up up in one of the canon stories, but, I mean, it's Tiptree, so unhappy or bittersweet endings are totally great. (And honestly I can't myself see a way to give any of these stories happier endings, or at least only marginally happier — like, maybe Barney figures out a way to reverse the Screwfly solution, yay, but basically all (almost all?) the women have been killed at this point, and what would that even do psychologically to the survivors of either sex, if only, say, two hundred women survived in the entire world, what kind of society would that lead to… well, you see what I mean.)

The only caveat I have here is that I would prefer a story that isn't super-intensely despairing up to the very end. I am looking at you, "On the Last Afternoon" (and also more of her later stories, which honestly kind of terrify me, like "Backward, Turn Backward") — feel free to write fic about "Afternoon," I'm not saying that at all, but the way that it just ratchets up the intensity until it ends on this almost unbearable peak of despair? If your story does that kind of emotional maneuver (no matter who or what the story is about, or what you're ficcing), well, I don't want to say you can't do that — I know sometimes a story goes where it goes, and I want to read what you're inspired to write -- but please please tag your story accordingly so that I know what I'm getting into :) Thanks! :) (Most of Tiptree's other stories resolve into something at least a little more joyful — "Smoke Rose Up Forever" or "Man Who Walked Home," even if we understand the joy is an illusion — or at least a little less intense, e.g., "The Girl Who Was Plugged In," and this is what I would prefer — some joy in the ending, even if there is mostly bleakness, because joy and the affirmation of life are part of the human condition and Tiptree understood that.)

At some point I plan to make a post about this anthology in my regular book-reading journal; I'll link here if/when that happens (hopefully before assignments go out).

(I apologize for all the words in this section! It's because it's a bit of a weird nomination/request with lots of different things you could do, and I wanted to err on the side of reassuring you that all these things would be welcome. And it does NOT mean I don't desperately want my other requests :) )

Tillerman Cycle - Cynthia Voigt (Any) I utterly love these books for how the characters are so multi-faceted and always have surprising sides to them, and are deeper than you think they are, like real people! I love how the characters have all kinds of things they think about, and not (as in so much YA) just one issue that defines them. I also love the emphasis on family, and the relationships between people (not just romantic -- family, friendships, community), and the friendships the Tillermans make with others, and how the characters have these interesting insights into their lives and other people's lives and how to live life, but they're never cliched thoughts.

I love (and for some weird reason very much identify with, despite being very different from) Jeff Greene very much, and would love to read about what Jeff was thinking during the events of Seventeen Against the Dealer — how does he deal with being at college, having a new separate group of friends, seeing Dicey drift away from him, what is he thinking when she suddenly says she wants to marry him? He's so empathic, he probably knows something of what's going on with her — but how much? And clearly his past family relationships affect the way he thinks about all of this… does he ever talk to the Professor about what's going on with him and Dicey? Or Brother Thomas? What do they think of it? (In general, I'm super curious about both of them as well and the surprising depths that are revealed in them. What happens to them?) Does he ever talk to the other Tillermans about Dicey? We know that he talks to them about other things, and I'd love to see those conversations too, the way he keeps up his relationships with them even while it seems his relationship with Dicey is imploding.

Or something about what James does later in college and/or career. So curious as to how his life might turn out — he has such potential, he could do anything… And how does he deal with family as he gets older, how does he balance his intellectual needs with his need for validation and emotional support? There's a hint that he is in intellect very much like his grandfather; is he tempted to turn into what his grandfather was, and can he escape that? Or something about what Mina does in college and/or career — I imagine it will be interesting for her trying to juggle her career ambitions and romance; how might this play out? (I do hope she gets rid of her high school boyfriend, who seems like a waste of her time — but how would that work out?) How does her friendship with Dicey progress? Does it change when they marry and (?) have kids? I nominated (and therefore de facto requested) Sammy, but now that I think about it he's in some ways the simplest of the siblings… but that still doesn't mean he's one-dimensional; he's human and therefore complicated, like the rest of them. What happens to him?

Don't feel restricted to the nominated characters! Something about Maybeth, what is her future like, how does she navigate it, how does she strike a balance between listening to her more-intellectually-capable family and making her own heart-capable decisions? Given that her upbringing had so much more support than her mother's, can she avoid her mother's fate? Or if you'd like to talk about the Tillerman uncle John who never does show up in the books — he's so fascinating; we only know that he got married. What is his marriage like? Was he able to grow out of becoming his father, and if so, how? Does he ever meet his nieces and nephews?... Or anything, really, about any and all of the characters. Since I think Dicey gets her fair share of POV time in the books, I do have a slight preference for non-Dicey POV (I don't mind her showing up as a character), but it would be just fine if that's what you want to write! I also have a preference for non-Homecoming fic, but again, whatever you'd like!

I have more thoughts about these books in several posts here.

Der Ring des Nibelungen(Brunnhilde, Loge, Sieglinde): I would love Brunnhilde-and-Loge fic or Brunnhilde-and-Sieglinde fic — don't feel like you have to shoehorn all three in (unless you want to).

Brunnhilde and Loge never explicitly meet in the Ring Cycle, but I'm fascinated by the idea of what they might have to say to each other. I'd be interested in whatever subject they might have to talk about (what does Brunnhilde think of the Rhinegold? The Rhine maidens?) — the major elephant in the room, of course, is Wotan. Both of them have fraught relationships with him, in very different ways. It would be interesting to see them talk about Wotan post-Rheingold and pre-Walkure, when Brunnhilde still adores him but Loge is not happy with him. Or post-Walkure! Loge is the fire Brunnhilde sleeps in; maybe they talk in her dreams? Could Loge possibly convince Brunnhilde in her enchanted sleep to reject the ring from Siegfried, or at least plant a seed to that effect?

I'd like to say here that Loge != Loki, and much of what I find so fascinating about Loge are ways in which he is not, in fact, Loki. The two share a lot of qualities as well — they're both not 100% aligned with the other gods, just for starters — but please don't write Loge as a Loki clone. I also kind of think of Loge as a fire elemental, and as such I'd really prefer him not to be romantically paired with anyone (or if he is, for it to be more of a trickster vibe than a conventional romantic pairing vibe — like, I can see him kissing Wotan or Brunnhilde to mock them, or to make some point about fire and passion, or even to demonstrate general deep emotional feelings, but not because he has explicitly sexual/romantic feelings for them).

I'd also adore something about Brunnhilde and Sieglinde — I love their interaction and the emotions they have together, that amazing scene where Brunnhilde and Sieglinde really connect through Sieglinde's future child… Maybe a very slight AU where they have a bit more time before Brunnhilde has to face Wotan? Can she impart any additional wisdom to help Sieglinde? Or: an AU where Brunnhilde and Sieglinde (and Loge??) ditch the gods (only how does that work with Wotan after them? Do Brunnhilde's sisters finally step up to protect her? Does Loge somehow help them to escape?) and — and then what? Raise Siegfried to be, uh, nicer? (If you go this way, please don't ship Brunnhilde/Siegfried.) Can they cast away the Rhinegold and escape ruin? Can they still bring down the gods? What if Siegfried is nice enough he doesn't break Wotan's spear, then what?

Or: what happens if Brunnhilde tells Sieglinde she is to have a daughter instead?? How would that change what happens? Would it change what happens? Would it free the characters or constrict them more?

I love Das Rheingold and Die Walkure an awful lot. Siegfried and Gotterdammerung I do think are brilliant, but I also have a lot of issues with them (uh, which is probably clear). Siegfried (the character) in particular I don't care for, and I only ship Siegfried/Brunnhilde in the most dysfunctional of ways. I do love dysfunctional ships, though, so I'm perfectly happy for them to be written about as long as a) as I said above, it's not in a situation where Brunnhilde is in a parental role, and b) the dysfunctionality — and even Wagner couldn't deny it — is acknowledged. But also feel free to break the ship.

General: Things I love (I don't expect all of these by any means, this is just a sampling of Things That Make Me Happy): I love worldbuilding fic and plotty fic because I can't write it myself, but by the same token I know it is hard to write and I certainly don't expect it. I love character-driven fic that thinks hard about the ramifications of characters' choices. I love most of all for there to be some sort of character arc, or characters (and/or the reader) coming to a greater understanding of something or someone during a fic. I love and adore friendship/partnerships, especially platonic ones, of all gender-variety. I love it when all the characters are understandable rather than straight-out villainous or malicious, or where expectations of malice are subverted. I am more a fan of gen than anything else, but I'm open to het/slash/femslash.

I am super on board with AU for Ring if you would like to go that way, but would prefer no AUs for Voigt or Tiptree — except for fork-in-the-road type AUs, those are pretty much always welcome for any fandom! I am also totally open to alternative ways of telling stories (e.g., IF — I had never really thought about IF before receiving this most incredibly amazing IF story a couple years ago).

Things I don't like: graphic gratuitous violence or gratuitous character death. (Death that makes logical sense within the story is fine, and is present in all my fandoms this year to varying degrees.) I'm not a huge fan of anything above PG-13 and will probably skim over anything really explicit unless something about the explicitness itself plays into character or plot development, in which case all bets are off :) (And see my note for Tiptree — very frequently, explicitness plays into her themes and characters.) Darkfic is fine for Ring and Tiptree, but I would vastly prefer no unhappy endings for Voigt.

Consuming canon: The shortest (though IMO the most difficult) is no doubt Tiptree; you could just read one short story and write a fic based on it. The list of short stories in Smoke is here:

The Last Flight of Doctor Ain
The Screwfly Solution
And I Awoke and Found Me Here on the Cold Hill’s Side
The Girl Who Was Plugged In
The Man Who Walked Home
And I Have Come Upon This Place by Lost Ways
The Women Men Don’t See
Your Faces, O My Sisters! Your Faces Filled of Light!
Houston, Houston, Do You Read?
With Delicate Mad Hands
A Momentary Taste of Being
We Who Stole the Dream
Her Smoke Rose Up Forever
Love Is the Plan the Plan Is Death
On the Last Afternoon
She Waits for All Men Born
Slow Music
And So On, And So On

Googling many of these will give you text, some of which is even legal. For example, here is an official web reprint of "Love is the Plan the Plan is Death".

Much of the Ring Cycle is available on Youtube. I'm basically imprinted on the Boulez version of Die Walkure with Donald McIntyre and Gwyneth Jones, available with English subs here (Acts I and II) and here (Act III). The Boulez version of Rheingold is also here.

I also rather liked the Sawallisch version of Walkure here (Part 1) and here (Part 2), although I think Wotan's hat is really weird.

Librettos are also available free on the web — English translations here and here, and probably other places of which I am unaware. I really like Andrew Porter's English translation, which is available on Amazon.

The Tillerman Cycle books are all in print and seem to be generally available at libraries, and they are very fast reads (probably faster than Tiptree despite being more pages, and certainly much more calming and affirming to read). Writing about Jeff only would take reading A Solitary Blue and Seventeen Against the Dealer. Writing about Mina would mostly involve reading Come A Stranger and probably at least skimming Seventeen Against the Dealer. James or Sammy or Maybeth would probably involve reading most of the books, but particularly Dicey's Song and Sons From Afar and Seventeen.

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