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skazka ([personal profile] skazka) wrote2014-04-13 05:23 pm

Night On Fic Mountain "Dear Writer" 2014, or, a midsummer's teal deer

Greetings and salutations, Night On Fic Mountain writer person! I'm super stoked to have another fic exchange on my docket for this year, and this one's pretty new so I'm not totally solid on protocol yet, but I'm thrilled you're writing for me. And who knows, maybe I'll end up writing for you. Here's some further details about what I like and find intriguing about my canons and what I dig in fic; hopefully it'll be idea-sparking and not just embarrassingly wordy and tl;dr. What follows is a lot of spitballing fic ideas and some seriously mistreated question marks.

Fandoms: The Duchess Of Malfi - Webster, Hamlet - Shakespeare, The Revenger's Tragedy - All Media Types, Demon Knights (comic)

The Duchess Of Malfi - Webster (characters: Duchess, Ferdinand, Cariola, Cardinal)

I would adore just about anything for this play -- it's such a thorny, grim, shocking, weird narrative compared to tamer plays and I find everything about it, from the setting (Italian Catholics! the Renaissance! corrupt ruling families! poison!) to the terrible bind the Duchess finds herself in really gripping. I really love and admire the Duchess' strength and intensity, what exactly makes her princely by her own assessment and allows her to be steadfast in the face of everything she's exposed to. (She gets such great lines, too, jeez.) But she does suffer and does not escape by any means unscathed. It seems telling that she's so attracted to Antonio, who comes across like a conspicuous patch of decency in such a terrible place, and their need to carry on in secret despite every suggestion that they're great for each other is pretty sad. Why does she choose Antonio? What's it like to choose her own partner for the first time after a marriage that was not exactly a love match? Her ability to find concern for her brothers despite condemning what they do to her (even while Ferdinand is in the middle of tormenting her, at least at first) is an awful reminder that they're still her siblings, people she cares about despite the fact that they are making her life hell, and that conflict between her own will and that of the only family she really has is really pressing on her as a young woman. Maybe something with her ability to navigate court and masterfully play hostess? Antonio's first description of her is full of her praises, but it's suggestive of someone who despite her age is really good at what she does, and I want to know all about her.

Cariola's a bit thinly-sketched in terms of plot function, since she's defined mostly in terms of the Duchess and in another play more sympathetic to the brothers she'd probably be written as a meddling servant (or deeply unflatteringly as her mistress' bawd) but when sympathies are with the Duchess she's a bit different. I really like her, but she's definitely one of the most down-to-earth and normal members of the cast; she's a breath of fresh air by comparison to the unwholesomeness surrounding her and anything that fleshes her out more or gives her more to do is fab. (Her pleading for her life is framed as grimly comical in contrast to her mistress' stoicism, but is really heart-achey for me regardless; like her mistress, she's especially vulnerable to violence and cruelty because she's a woman, but she lacks even the advantages of the Duchess' high birth to stave off death for a while.) Maybe something about her bond with the Duchess, or conversely, about her life outside her mistress' service and the trials of following her through such dire circumstances? She's also one of the few women in the Duchess' life; how long has she known her mistress for? (And evidently they share a bed on the regular, so, hey.)

Ferdinand's awfulness is probably my favorite thing about him, and his status as the huge fuckup of the family -- in theory he should be representing a kind of benevolent authority and order along with his brother the Cardinal, and his attempts to be courtly are so snippy as to be almost laughable (as well as his weird sense of humor -- "I would then have a mathematical instrument made for her face" and all) but he has a real and personal hostility toward his sister at war with his desires (or amplified by them) that's quite frightening, and his ultimate fracturing upon the Duchess' death is really compelling, as well as bringing the revenge-tragedy weirdness of his descent into lycanthropic raving. If you'd like to do something with period mental health practices or understanding of melancholy/love-madness, I would be so thrilled. Has he always had this mix of resentment and fascination regarding his sister? How did it develop, and what the hell was going on in his head during the time of her first marriage? (Judging from the historical individuals the play is based on, she married pretty young, so I'd prefer no overtly erotic stuff just then, but I'd be interested to see what the hell was going on with their parents that Ferdinand has such a strong sense of the two of them as tied together. As opposite-sex twins, they'd be at the same age at the same time but meeting a very different set of expectations and life milestones; would this affect his sense of them as joined, or wrench them apart more? It's obvious his personality and his sister's are pretty profoundly different, especially as regards their characteristic virtues and vices; how did that happen?

Speaking of twins (in quality at least), there's the Cardinal -- he's not as pyrotechnically self-destructive as his brother, but he too is just a big bucket of vices, and his rottenness is full of possibilities. From the sound of it, him and Ferdinand achieve tag-team wickedness together pretty often, so all of the above interests in their family relationships definitely encompass him too, in his comparatively more straightforward jealousy. What's behind his treachery toward his sister, and why does he not want her to marry again? How does he see his brother, and how much does he know of what's wrong with him? What does he make of Bosola, and what does Bosola make of him?

Basically, the weird claustrophobic atmosphere of the family tragedy is full of messed-up possibilities, as well as the possibility to explore the virtues and strengths that abound in the Duchess as well as whatever may be left in the two brothers. At times that stuff shines brighter for being set against such a grim background, and I'd be over the moon with joy for anything about this at all.

Hamlet - Shakespeare (characters: Claudius, Hamlet, Gertrude)

So, Claudius! Claudius is probably my #1 king in Shakespeare (sorry, Histories guys!) and he so perfectly embodies some of the conflicts at the root of kingship that I find most interesting -- ambition at the expense of one's own kin, if the means of gaining the crown by killing the previous king can ever be justified, statesmanship and putting on a show of what it is to be a ruler. (And then the self-incrimination that happens during the play-within-a-play, which is delicious.) I'd say he and Henry IV should start a support group, but Claudius' not really a team player. The glimpse of Claudius' interior life when he's at prayer, however a particular interpretation chooses to take him there, is very intriguing to me -- how much is he being disingenuous for formal purposes? to the audience? to himself? does he realize Hamlet's there, even? I'd be interested in an exploration of what his role was before his brother's untimely death, how he cooked up the plan to kill him and whether it was borne of resentment or pragmatism, whether Gertrude knew or how he'd handle knowing she at least suspected, etc. I ship the two of them pretty hard and like to picture they at least had an affectionate relationship even if it wasn't a torrid love match, but you as a writer can take that where they like. He's also amazing at manipulating Laertes, so a further glimpse at him as a political player at any level of backstabbiness would rock my world.

Also, Gertrude! She's the target of a lot of Hamlet's anger within the play, but she also spends a lot of it trying to be genuinely parental, not only toward her own son but to Laertes and to Ophelia. I'll take her at her word that she was pleased to have Ophelia as a future daughter-in-law, and an exploration of their relationship pre-play or during the parts of the play where they're not on-stage, off trying to soothe her grief or work out what exactly has happened to the girl. If she sees some of herself in Ophelia, or some of the danger her suddenly-so-tempestuous son represents to her, I'd be interested to read about that. (Hamlet's temperament seems pretty set by the time of the play's events -- is she used to having to navigate her weird son's temper, or is this all scarier for being unprecedented?) What is she when she's on her own, not being defined by her son or her murdered husband? And if you take the tack that she didn't voluntarily conspire with Claudius to off Hamlet Sr., what effect do her son's accusations have on her? (If you want to write her and Claudius as lovingly confederate murder buddies, I'd definitely be down for it, though.) Show them being domestic, or them at times of high stress.

Hamlet himself is a real puzzle, despite being much written-about and much-ficced; I've written a lot about his time at Wittenberg and his relationship to Horatio, but not about his family relationships. (I'm also a huge Horatio fan, but since he's not one of my requested characters you're under no obligation to throw him in for the sake of completionism.) His philosophical and theological weirdness in the play interests me, as well as how exactly he fulfills the role of a prince so well in other people's eyes (before he starts misbehaving) and his insight into other people as well as his potential for roughness and cruelty. (His treatment of Ophelia and his mother, his jokes at the expense of dead Polonius, even some of his treatment of R&G -- yeah, that kind of stuff. He's genuinely angry, and pretty scattershot about who's the subject of it when the site of his particular tragedy seems to be all of Elsinore.) What goes into him being so hung up on the circumstances surrounding his father's death, beyond the fact that they're appalling? He's more than familiar with the theater; does he recognize what's going on, in-universe, as a tragedy in the making, and does that make it easier to bear (since the course of action -- revenge -- is clear) or worse? How is he himself princely, and when he says he's in continual practice re. his fencing skills, when the hell did he have time for that? Also, there's always pirates. How the hell did he get out of that one? Did he pull a Caesar, or what? When in doubt, write about pirates. (Or players.) I love literally everyone in this play, so if you want to focus on any character relationships outside of just this core three, go ahead.

(I'm also one of the weird handful of people who ship Claudius/Hamlet, however you'd like to take that, but that's definitely not a hard necessity or something I'd insist someone should write if they're not comfortable with everything it entails. However that might happen, it's so potentially fraught that I would be all over it.)

The Revenger's Tragedy - All Media Types (characters: any)

This play is such a glorious clusterfuck that when I say "any", character-wise, I really mean anybody. The continuing adventures of Castiza lugging her brother's girlfriend's severed head around town! Spurio being gently puppeteered by his stepmother! Vindice and Lussurioso having weird sexually-charged interactions about every damn thing, massive scheme pileups by Ambitioso and Supervacuo, super awkward tag-team revenge action between Hippolito and his brother, all manner of corruption and lechery and treachery. The play is so chock full of grim stuff, but it's having such a fantastic time with all the tropes of tragedy and going to great lengths with its grisliness that it's impossible to put down, like an avalanche. (Which in one sense, makes it hilariously blackly comic, and in another makes the tragedy, though a long time in the making, incredibly ugly and painful.) This doesn't mean that I'm totally gunning for crackfic, so much, since most of these elements are in themselves serious matters, but the headiness and intensity of it lends itself to either more of the same in terms of intoxicating viciousness or something more meditative that lets the characters have time to breathe. Off the top of my head, I'd be interested in something about Vindice's relationships to his siblings and theirs to him; I know apparently the film version with Eccleston has Castiza playing a more active role in the family business of revenging, but I'd love to see her getting more of a hand in that, whether as an adjunct to Vindice like their brother is or as a free agent of her own, clear-eyed and furious. (I'm also a huge sucker for ghosts in revenge tragedies; Gloriana's mortal remains serve a similar purpose for Vindice but I'd love to see her make a reappearance, especially if it's to someone other than her former lover.) The family situation in the Duke's household also seems prime for inter-generational politicking and some seriously screwed up stuff; how did they all get this way, and how aware are they of one another's faults? What keeps them together? (Obviously, not a lot, but still. Awkward family gatherings for the blended family of doom.)

Demon Knights (characters: Ystin, Al-Jabr)

Demon Knights is the odd fandom out this fest for not being a revenge tragedy, obviously, but it's one of my comics faves for a lot of the new things it brought to the table and right now I would kill a man for more of it, more funny energetic weird camaraderie with a cast of characters that doesn't always get along but always gets shit done. To crib wholesale from last year's Yuletide (sorry, folks!):

I really love Al Jabr as basically an 11th century Science Hero -- for a different set of parameters re. the sciences than we're used to in modern comics, maybe, but I'm really curious about his skills/pursuits, how he conceptualizes what he does and now it gels with some of his teammates' standards of what constitutes useful skills/combat. His philosophically and theologically-charged Ironic Hell scenario when the whole gang's being tormented by thematically appropriate nightmares really got under my skin and I'd like to see a more extensive exploration of it. I'm really interested in his future after the events of issue #23 -- is he immortal now also? what does this mean for the city he's been carefully curating all these years? Why is this his ideal retirement anyway, and what does his city mean to him? He seems better adjusted in a lot of ways than his teammates; how does he feel about what they've gone on to do, and how do they feel about him? Will they ever be welcome in his city? [...]

I've also requested Sir Ystin; part of what I like best about this character is his personal definition of knighthood-- his personal identity, his nobility-slash-arrogance, his role. (I think there's a lot suggested in his vows/war cries -- "for the knot that is sealed! for the Quest! I meet my death laughing!" in #2 is one of the things that sold me on this character.) The spell Merlin laid on him means he'll keep coming back to Camelot, to Arthur, and to the Grail, whatever those things may mean at different times, and I find that really intriguing but pretty troubling and disheartening as well. The premonition that he will lose everything he loves -- whether because he is immortal and they aren't, or because everything pales in comparison with his quest, or just the innumerable things that can go wrong in relationships to human beings who will ultimately fail him, or he them, it's pretty bleak for me and I'd love to see that fleshed out a little in ways the series never really had an opportunity to get to. Also. Shining Knight's adventures through history. Doing good, having a death wish, insulting people in Welsh, being very shiny. (With magical telepathically soul-bonded Pegasus in tow, hell, I don't know.)

[...](If you wanted to do an AU, I'm especially interested in point-of-divergence AUs -- what if Ystin didn't "recover" from being bitten by Cain? (Cain's "sweetest I ever tasted" line is creepy as hell, so... take that to a dark place, if you feel the need, yikes. I'd like to request no explicit nonconsensual sex for this one, though symbolic sexual fuckery/vampire stuff is okay.) What if the team didn't get back together for their vampire-hunting reunion, or stuff went really off the rails on their first quest together? -- or new time periods/settings. Genre AUs are also really welcome, especially if the team dynamic's still present and updated to fit. (Modern day heist-plot fic?)

So there's that. Heist fic, quests, adventures, crossovers, whatever you want to bring to the table here is all good. I love these folks separately, together, or in any combination with any other characters, so feel free to go to town.

What I Dig/Likes & Dislikes

Overall: I am cool with, both canon-divergent ones and new settings as well as genderbendings/other transformative retellings. The only things I really don't want to see in fic are eating disorders and non-canonical self-harm. (So the fact that Ferdinand seems to be a threat to himself and others while in the grips of lycanthropy in DoM is fine, but not surprise!self harm for Cariola, for instance.)

A more intensive description of what I dig in fic behind the jump here, straight-up copypasted from my DYW letter for 2013, since my tastes haven't changed on this front much even as the applicability of some of this is lessened:

"I love explorations of loyalty/fealty, especially concrete physical symbols thereof, and more generally I'm really interested in the marks and signs on someone that show who they are, what they have endured, and where they are in relation to other people. These can be lasting signs (scars as signs of hardship, physical traits, etc.) temporary attributes (badges, cloaks, chains of office, rings, crowns) or formalized actions -- clasping hands, offering sacrifices, exchanging kisses, swearing oaths. Oaths of friendship, wedding stuff, other formal and informal bonds. This counts even if that loyalty/trust is betrayed, misplaced, quickly shifted onto someone else, etc. (Eplicitly D/s dynamics don't float my boat, but informal stuff coming from circumstances or formal rank does.) Clothes! I dig clothes a lot! I like what people are eating and what they're doing around the house/around camp.

I dig casefic/continuing-adventures-type stuff or missing scenes/backstory/stuff that the canon breezes past as having happened but declines to show. (Backstory fic is right up my alley! And if you want to write fics set in better days, given the tone of most of my canons, that's totally cool.) Shout-outs or allusions to the medium of the canon really get me, and I like running into little love letters to the source text (or critiques depending on how you actually feel about said source text). I love strong atmosphere, dreaminess, gothic horror stuff (isolation, decay, not being sure if you can trust your senses, etc.) and pastiches of other writing styles. I love whump, torment, characters getting put through the wringer, characters getting mindfucked, and strained/fractured mental states (as well as the aftermath of all of the above!) I'm down for violence/torture (though rating and tagging accordingly is a big plus!) and very down for whumpy noncon/dubcon or stuff with similar vibes.

Wow, this sounds like I'm in it for super dark fic and super dark fic only, but I really love humor fics (even very silly humor). They're really really fun at that time of year and I'm a lot more of an easily amused goofball than this list of grim tropes makes me sound. Fic that's framed like an in-universe document (secret diaries, case writeups, letters, fictitious plays, etc.) really interests me.

I am very down for AUs of all kinds! Historical reframings, changes of circumstance (what if x had won instead of y, what if character q had been a different gender, appearance-swaps, etc.) and canon-divergent stuff is cool; I don't usually go out for high school student or space opera-type AUs, but anything that strikes your writerly fancy I'd love to see.

Kink-wise, I love "nonstandard" sex (both unusual for that setting/social context [...] informal/non-typical sexual relationships without a ton of drama, characters talking in bed (as in before/after sex or sleep, not necessarily during!), non-sexual intimacy, and (nooot likely in my fandoms, but) caning. I'm also into stuff that sounds and reads as very sexually charged, but isn't 'quite' sex-- like the creepy, mindfucky sexual undertones to the Yellow King's influence in [The King Of Shreds And Patches], for instance. Symbolic sex, I guess. At any rate, I'm cool with explicit fills, or G-rated fills, or fics with dark themes that aren't porny fics; fills in verse, with art, etc., whatever you feel up for.

If there's any need for clarification, give me a shout! More detail to be added and edits to be done for clarity at some point, I'm sure, I just wanted to have more than a placeholder for my sign-up. The #1 thing is, have fun, and please don't die!