Character traits and romance (Re: non-classical slash)

minnow at belfry.org.uk minnow at belfry.org.uk
Tue Sep 21 17:53:41 EDT 2004


>On Tue, 21 Sep 2004 minnow at belfry.org.uk wrote:
>|deborah mumbled shamefacedly
>|>I've wanted to write Beowulf/Unfirth for *ages*.
>|
>|Hmmm.  Beowulf never married, and had no children....  and "among the
>|world's kings he was the gentlest of men", not to mention that "his heart
>|was not savage" and until the Grendel incident "he had long been despised
>|because the children of the Geats did not reckon him a fine man".  It's all
>|a bit like Peter Morwood's comment on an obituary that ended "Celebrity X
>|never married": "Might as well say 'he was gay as nine ferrets in a bottle'
>|and have done with it, mightn't they".
>|
>|Not that probability makes a ha'p'orth of odds if what you're after is
>|slash, but I just mention, in the interests of plausibility.

deborah again:

>(Watch carefully boys and girls, and you will see me use my amazing
>mental ability to bring any discussion back on topic.)

(Having read to the end, I'm profoundly impressed.)

>Oh, I'm of the school that says that all fanfiction needs to be rooted
>in believable character traits.

That seems to me to be sense, because otherwise why not make up one's own
people and write about them instead?  (Kirk always seemed to me to be
thoroughly hetero, if not downright womanising, and I had trouble seeing
him any other way.  And Spock's sexuality was only triggered by some set of
hormonal stuff that only Vulcans had, or something, so he wouldn't be being
sexual at all except in the presence of a female Vulcan in the right
hormonal state.  Or some such; I forget the details, but I think it turned
up once in something I read.)

>If I were going to write romantic fanfiction about Pride & Prejudice, I
>might be willing to write a story which pairs Mr. Bingley with
>Elizabeth.  I can find plenty of support in the textual descriptions of
>their characters for personalities which would allow a relationship like
>that to happen.  Not a good relationship, and I don't think that I would
>write a story in which Mr. Bingley and Elizabeth lived happily ever
>after with daisies and puppies, but there could definitely be a
>dysfunctional relationship between the pair of them.  What wouldn't I
>write?  A story which Mr. Darcy paired off with, say, Lydia or Mrs.
>Bennett.  It's simply inconceivable to me, as those three characters are
>described in the text, that they could have a romantic relationship,
>dysfunctional or otherwise.  (You know, if I were to post this comment
>on livejournal, somebody would immediately respond with a link to a
>well-written, believable Mr. Darcy/Lydia story.  The Internet is a very
>strange place.)

I'm more interested by "continuations" of the lives of secondary
characters, as it were.  There is a lad in Rosemary Sutcliff's *The Light
Beyond the Forest* whom I'd love to see have a book of his own, and one of
the characters in one of Mary Gentle's books (can't now remember which) I
can remember very much wanting to rescue and give an environment to live in
that was a bit less cold and hostile.

>This is why I'm turned off by the vast world of Lord of the Rings
>romantic or sexual fanfiction.  In my reading of the books, there's no
>canon support for sexual relationships among any subset of the
>characters (with the possible exception of sets including Eowyn),
>because they're all completely lacking in sexuality.  Among canon
>pairings: Aragorn and Arwen share an asexual mythic, epic love; Sam and
>Rosie share a homey, Norman Rockwellesque family; Merry and Pippin share
>a boys' club, fraternity brothers for ever, Bertie Wooster gone serious
>and meaningful kind of love; and Sam and Frodo, at least in the books,
>share a relationship that's too unequal (and, incidentally, like the
>others, asexual) for what I would consider romance (not that inequality
>stops Celeborn and Galadriel).  In my never humble opinion, Eowyn is the
>only character was what are recognizable to me as desires.

For that one it would have to be someone who had a large kingdom to run, or
the equivalent, or she wouldn't look at him, I suspect.

What about Eomer?  There are only about four call-them-female characters in
LotR and I don't see him with any of them; which of the males?

>So for me, the not savage nature of Beowulf in canon makes a huge
>difference in my ability to write him as a "gay as nine ferrets"
>character, if that's the characterization I would decide to aim for.

I feel I should remark that this wasn't my phrase, but I found it extremely
funny: I don't know *why* the idea of nine ferrets in a bottle gives me the
gigglies, but it does.  It's entirely surreal.  Nothing to do with
homosexuality at all, just deeply weird.

>(The main reason I haven't done it, by the way, is not characterization,
>but I would insist on writing it in alliterative half-lines, which is
>extremely difficult.)

Isn't it just.  And when it isn't right it's *awful*.  One can imagine
Chaucer reading it and wincing and then going off and writing a searing
piss-take.

>But wait, wait!  I said I would get this back on topic, and I can:

(awed hushed expectancy)

>It's completely in character to write Chrestomanci (the Christopher one)
>as "gay as nine ferrets in a bottle", not to mention Torquil or Howl.

Or at the very least camp as a circus convention?  (lots of *extreme* tents!)

>But that doesn't change the fact that I have no desire whatsoever to
>read romantic or sexual fanfiction involving either character, with any
>sexuality.  I think that they are also rather asexual, though not for
>the reason that Tolkien characters seem that way to me.  Rather, they're
>so tied up in themselves, that though I believe in their abilities to
>love or care for people, I don't really see them as potential romantic
>or sexual beings.  Plus I have the whole "DWJ doesn't leave me wanting
>in a way that fanfiction can fulfill" thing going.  Which I wish I
>understood.   It's not a children's lit issue; I could be very into
>Diane Duane or McKinley fanfiction, if it were good.

Is it perhaps that DWJ gives the impression that although she doesn't write
the entire life-stories of all the people in her books, she does *know*
them, and they are therefore already written in some strange way, if one
could just find the right library or bookshop to get them from?  I know
that when she was answering questions for the quiz, she knew great scads of
stuff about all the characters in it that aren't in the books where they
appear (like Querida's needlepoint) and had trouble remembering which bits
had been mentioned in the books and which were simply things she happened
to know about the person.  It shows through in some way, perhaps.  She has
said that when she's writing, she vanishes into the world she's writing in
and becomes quite unable to come "back" to deal with mundane here-stuff
like making supper.

By the way, this explains the thing I said in a post a little while ago
about *Fire and Hemlock* having Tam Lin, and Thomas the Rhymer, and Tom
O'Bedlam: the last one isn't actually mentioned by name in the book, as far
as I can find, but when DWJ is talking about that book she has him in her
mind as having been another of Laurel's, and he's hovering in the
background just off the page all the time as the third thing that can
happen to the ones who get away somehow.  It's so strong a feeling that I
had completely forgotten that he never actually appears.  I apologise to
anyone who wasted time looking for him.

Minnow


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