thefourthvine: Two people fucking, rearview: sex is the universal fandom. (Default)
2017-08-05 07:10 pm
Entry tags:

[Real Life] Telephones

(Trying to get back into the habit of posting, so this is a random piece of personal telephonic history!)

Lately, I’ve been in a bemusing battle of wills with my phone, where I tell it to sync certain songs and only those songs, and it does grab the ones I tell it to, but also randomly adds other songs from my music library, often ones I’ve never listened to. When I told Best Beloved about this, her take was that I should just live with it. I questioned the Queen of Solving Problems Right Now, Immediately, Using a Hatchet as Necessary on her surprising stance and she pointed out that she knew me in college. When I had the Let Me Call You Sweetheart phone.

See, my college did not have voicemail for landlines in the dorm, and this was back when people still used landlines sometimes. My parents, who were sending a 15 year old off to college, thought they might like to leave messages for me at some point, and so they bought me a combined phone/answering machine to take with me. And for a while, it worked as advertised: people called, I did not answer, they were invited to leave a message, they did, I sometimes listened to the message, I very occasionally called them back. (This is as good as it ever gets with me and telephones. Our relationship can best be described as “mutual disdain.” That’s also why I didn’t have a cell phone back then; smartphones hadn’t happened yet, and I could think of exactly zero reasons why I might want to be MORE available for phone calls.)

At some point late in the first semester, though, people who left messages started to sound a little amused. And then, after a month or so, they began sounding more … annoyed. I checked my outgoing message to make sure no one had recorded weird stuff on it, because, you know, college, but it was still normal and fine. So I shrugged and accepted it, until one of my friends suggested I call my own phone.

I did. The outgoing message played, exactly as recorded. But after it, I was treated to an extremely tinny instrumental version of “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” that sounded like it was played on the buttons of a phone, followed by the customary leave-a-message beep. Bewildered, I checked the box, which I had saved for moving convenience. No mention of “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.” No mention of it on the manufacturer’s website, either. My phone had apparently developed a musical mind of its own.

Huh, I thought, and went about my life.

A few weeks after that, people started sounding really annoyed in my messages. I called my phone again. It now sounded like this:

Me, in a recording: Hi! You’ve reached me, and you know what to do.
Phone: Let me CALL you SWEETheart/I’m in love with YOU/Let me hear you WHISper/That you love me too
[Pause, as though the phone is about to emit that life-giving leave-a-message beep]
Phone: Let me CALL you SWEETheart/I’m in love with YOU/Let me hear you WHISper/That you love me too
[Pause, which only serves to raise hopes that will soon be dashed]
Phone: Let me CALL you SWEETheart…
[Repeat a painful number of times]

Eventually, it broke off in the middle of a line and beeped.

Well. There are only so many times that you want to hear that song, that way, and my phone had begun exceeding people’s lifetime limits in the course of a single call. I apologized, but what could I do? You can’t reason with a phone.

The year ended. I packed the phone into its box and took it home with me for the summer, which it apparently spent plotting. Then I brought it back to school.

Shortly after the school year started, I discovered that my phone had developed a new glitch. If I did pick it up when it rang, I couldn’t hear the person on the other end. On the other hand, if I waited until the answering machine got it and then picked it up, I could hear them, but they couldn’t hear anything I said. However, after extensive experimentation, I discovered they could still hear the beeps if I pressed buttons on the phone. So, as any reasonable person would, I changed my outgoing message to:

“Hi! My phone is broken. If I pick up, I can hear you but you won’t hear me. I’ll beep to show I’m there. Ask yes or no questions and I’ll give one beep for yes and two beeps for no. Thanks!”

(If you are now going WHY DIDN’T YOU BUY A NEW PHONE? – it never even occurred to me. Technically, some communication was still possible with the phone, after all, and I inherited from my father a gene that makes me very anxious in the presence of new objects. This is why my family had a garage door that you could only make work by inserting a penny into the innards of the opener, and that often went up and down on its own, sometimes as many as 60 times in an evening. It’s why I kept, for over a year, a computer chair that would occasionally just collapse, dumping me on the floor, and why I’m sitting on a partially broken chair as I type this. It’s … just who my people are, I guess. We are not so much “make do and mend” as “it’s fine, everything is fine, please stop talking about buying new things because that is the worst thing in the world to do and I’d rather just sit on the floor in the dark forever.”)

This led to a period of my college career where, to call me, you had to:
  1. Sit through what was, by then, up to 15 minutes of “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.” (I know because people timed it, since there wasn’t a lot else to do, and then shared the times with me. I think maybe they were trying to suggest to me that I should buy a new phone, but that kind of subtlety was never going to work. I mean, I come from a family that could afford a new toaster and willingly chose to keep the old one, even though it caught fire from time to time, enlivening many a morning. “Let’s just get a new one” is not a phrase in my vocabulary.)
  2. Listen to my outgoing message.
  3. After the first beep, say, “Hello? Are you there? It’s me, please pick up.”
  4. Wait for the beep that would indicate that I had in fact picked up.
  5. Hold a séance-like session with me wherein you were restricted to yes or no questions or, in cases where that just would not work, you had to count beeps for each letter of the alphabet. (You know: A=1, B=2, etc. Let me tell you from grim experience: it takes a LONG time to beep out even a single word, and also you tend to forget where you are halfway through letters like M and T. I honestly take my hat off to the fraudulent mediums of old. They worked for their money, by gum.)
  6. Hope that the phone didn’t just cut out altogether in the middle of the séance, as it was known to do.
Basically, communicating with spirits was, overall, probably slightly easier than talking to me. I for real do not know why anyone bothered. They did, though, which shows you what excellent and patient friends and family I have had in my life.

If you’re wondering about the resolution of this odyssey of disintegrating telecommunications technology: eventually my parents got tired of only being able to communicate with their youngest child via beeps. My mother (who does not have the “hates new things” gene) suggested several times that I buy a new one, but I beeped twice for no each time, so she, in direct violation of our precious familial traditions, went out and bought a new one and sent it to me at school. I kept it in its box in my room and avoided looking directly at it for a week or so, but then word spread among my friends that I had a new phone and was still using Mr. Beepy, and they basically held a technological intervention until I installed the new phone. (It worked fine for a year and then developed a glitch where it clicked a lot and would only record the first 15 seconds of a message, and no one minded at all because at least it wasn’t playing “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.” My life motto: I can always get over the bar, because I dug a hole in the ground and buried it.)

But times change! Humans age and progress and develop workarounds for their flaws! Which is why, when BB and I were attempting to explain this telephonic family history to our nine-year-old earthling (challenging, as he has never known an answering machine or a time when humans made phone calls to humans other than their senators), we had this conversation, which tells you everything you need to know about the people we’ve become:

Me, thinking back: You know, I probably should have just bought a new phone instead of beeping at people for months.
BB, also thinking back: I should have just broken your phone completely after it started playing “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” more than once per call. I can’t believe I didn’t think of that.

Anyway. That was the start of my long and complex adult relationship with phones. I wended my way through many glitches and minor disasters to arrive where I currently am: in possession of a phone that has its own opinions about music. And, upon reflection, I am prepared to be satisfied with that.
thefourthvine: Two people fucking, rearview: sex is the universal fandom. (Default)
2017-01-01 12:15 pm

Yuletide 2016 Reveal!

For this Yuletide, I was the delighted recipient of three stories! Two were for the song Devil Went Down to Georgia:

All Seven (1330 words) by Llwyden ferch Gyfrinach
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Devil Went Down to Georgia (Song)
Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: The Devil/Johnny (Devil Went Down to Georgia)
Characters: The Devil, Johnny (Devil Went Down to Georgia)
Additional Tags: Seven Deadly Sins, Gambling, Pride
Summary:

Pride is the father of all sin, and the devil knows pride.


Johnny's got it in abundance.


The Devil went down to Georgia (and totally got off with Johnny) (4659 words) by wendymarlowe
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Devil Went Down to Georgia (Song)
Rating: Explicit
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: The Devil/Johnny
Characters: The Devil, Johnny (Devil Went Down to Georgia)
Additional Tags: Yuletide Treat, Yuletide 2016, because this song deserves ALL THE SMUT
Summary:

The Devil went down to Georgia and got a lot more than he bargained for. (What he bargained for, in this case, being Johnny's soul. And what he got being sex. It was a good deal.)



And one was for the Murder Most Unladylike series:

Polka Dot Skulls (2878 words) by Metal_Chocobo
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Murder Most Unladylike Series - Robin Stevens
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Hazel Wong/Daisy Wells
Characters: Hazel Wong, Daisy Wells
Additional Tags: College, Canon-Typical Racism, Love Confessions, Yuletide Treat
Summary:

The plan has always been for Hazel and Daisy to attend university together.


I wrote one story:

Solid Copy (14668 words) by thefourthvine
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: The Losers (2010)
Rating: Explicit
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Carlos "Cougar" Alvarez/Jake Jensen
Additional Tags: Telepathy
Summary:

Jensen shifted his gaze to Cougar. “I really thought that if I ever had to say the words ‘telepathic disaster,’ it’d be a lot cooler than this is turning out to be.”



I'd like to thank my lovely recipient, [personal profile] minim_calibre, for giving me prompts that were basically a license to go full-bore ridiculous trope on this fandom; writing this was a fabulous distraction from the eleventh circle of hell, also known as the 2016 US election. I originally had plans for a slightly darker take, but then, well, reality occurred. So: froth and tropes! Froth and tropes EVERYWHERE.

It was a great Yuletide all the way around, basically.
thefourthvine: Two people fucking, rearview: sex is the universal fandom. (Default)
2016-09-28 01:07 pm

Yuletide 2016: Dear Writer

Dear Writer Person,

Hi!

I am, as always, going to provide you with all the details, because that's what I hope to get from my recipient. But if details aren't your thing, please tap out of this letter now. Just know that I really, really cannot handle child or animal harm or death, and I love you for volunteering to write in one of these tiny fandoms. See you on the 25th!

Or, if you want to know more, read on.

Me )

Basketball RPF, Earvin Johnson, Larry Bird )

The Devil Went down to Georgia (song), Johnny/Devil )

Mars Evacuees series - Sophia McDougall, Any )

Murder Most Unladylike Series - Robin Stevens, Daisy Wells, Hazel Wong )
thefourthvine: Two people fucking, rearview: sex is the universal fandom. (Default)
2016-07-11 07:56 pm

All the Ships I've Loved Before 4

The One That Proves That What Actually Felled the Roman Empire Was a Lack of Sartorial Adaptability.Chosen Man, by Sineala. The Eagle, Marcus Flavius Aquila/Esca Mac Cunoval.

Can you love a ship without ever knowing the canon? Well, if you can't, this project is in some serious trouble, because, uh, I don't watch a lot of canon. (I have now reached the point in my life where I'm getting judged by my own son for not watching enough canon. Child, I did not bring you into this world so you could say in wondering tones, "You've only seen NINE episodes of Doctor Who?" And anyway it's more like 11, thank you.) But in some cases, I don't need to see the canon. And by "don't need," I mean, "Shhhh, just let me sit here and pretend that this is canon, because it should be. It should be."

So, the Canon, to the Best of My Knowledge: there are these dudes named Marcus and Esca. Marcus is a Roman soldier. Esca is his slave. And...I think they're in love? I don't know. I read a couple of recaps of the movie and was like, wow, if there's another explanation for this than "they're committed life partners," it's not coming through here. And to be honest, even if you take it as read that it's Marcus and Esca, sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g, the recaps of the movie aren't the easiest thing in the world to follow. I'm guessing it probably makes more sense if you watch it.

But I am okay with not understanding it, because the fic, well. The fic makes it all so clear! And this is the perfect, Platonic ideal of Eagle fic, at least for me. Ridiculous devotion? Yup, we have it. Culture clash? Indeed. Being really good at stuff? Present! Working together to do important things? Hail, hail, the gang's all here, let's get this show on the road. And, yes, okay, it does take like 100,000 words of longing and adventure and lying the mud for them to get the show on the road, but that is a plus. I like slow burns, okay? We already discussed this. I am Team Slower Is Better, and If It Takes Five Years I Am Fine with That, Maybe They Can Have Adventures While They Pine and/or Yearn.

(I have a sneaking suspicion that this whole Ships I Have Loved project is going to reveal a lot of terrible things about my id. Which – like – I am braced for that, but to be honest I am hoping I don't notice and nobody tells me. I definitely don't want to look into the abyss, but I also don't particularly want it or anything else to look into me, if that makes sense. My id probably cannot stand up to abyssal scrutiny.)

So, this fic – yes, I am now back to that – is an AU in which Marcus and Esca are both soldiers in the Roman Army, with Marcus in command of the Actual Worst Unit in the Entire Empire, except really they're not; the Roman Empire is just not prepared to deal with their kind of awesomeness. So there's competence and learning the ropes and a slow burn and battle and complications, and basically if I could I would read versions of this story every day for the rest of my life. Like, this story, but in SPACE! Or this story, but with DRAGONS! What I'm saying is that this should really be a genre all of its own, and I shake my fist at the publishing industry for not understanding that.

But unfortunately it is not a whole genre, so I have no choice but to re-read this one. A lot. But carefully, so I don't wear it out. I assume everyone in the world has already read this story, but if you have, now is a good time to read it again! And if you haven't, good news: now is your time to be alive.
thefourthvine: Two people fucking, rearview: sex is the universal fandom. (Default)
2016-06-18 08:57 pm

All the Ships I've Loved Before 3

The One I Really Shouldn't Have Re-Read While Reading Rick Riordan's Work Aloud to the Earthling. I Keep Waiting for Percy to Manifest His Mutant Powers Now. Pantheon, by Yahtzee. X-Men First Class, Charles Xavier/Erik Lehnsherr. (Plus Emma Frost/Scott Summers and Rogue/Wolverine.)

I warned you these wouldn't be in any kind of order, and we've definitely diverged from my shipping history timeline now. But this is still a very old ship of mine. Okay, sure, XMFC came out in 2011, and, uh, I still haven't seen it. (Look, I'm not going to make any more excuses; let's all just accept that I live in culture-free zone and only know of modern movies/TV shows/comics because people tweet about them.) No matter. I've been shipping Professor X and Magneto since before I knew what fic was. They are one of my original No Heterosexual Explanation pairings, and their many-decades-long thing where they were probably lovers, and then definitely enemies, and then possibly lovers and enemies at the same time, and then there were visits in prison, and battles, and speeches, and elections, and I think someone built a vigilante team and someone else built a country – look, all I'm saying is these dudes have a lot of history together, and in that entire extremely lengthy history, they were always either pining for each other or banging each other, regardless of what else they were doing. This is my firm belief. I wear this tinhat proudly.

It's a very compelling ship, is what I'm saying. It deserves very compelling fic. Fortunately, it has so, so many stories, so many that picking just one wasn't easy. But this fic. THIS FIC.

This a fantastic AU – the characters fit so perfectly into the world of Ancient Rome, but they also stay perfectly themselves. (In fact, given the nature of comics canon, they're probably more themselves than they are in like 90% of their actual canon appearances. Comics: actual published fic since like 1966. And some of it is not such great fic, either.) But, also, I love this story because it doesn't precisely follow any of the canon stories I know about, but it still captures this pairing absolutely – all the ways they fit together (yes, fine, take a moment to be twelve, I'll wait) and all the ways they differ. In short, this is an AU doing what AUs do best: distilling these people and their story to their essence, and making that essence all the more visible.

Plus, I love the worldbuilding. (Show me good worldbuilding and you have my undivided attention, for sure.) I love the way the mutants and their mutations fit into the time's worldview and cultures. It's worth reading for that alone. Or, hey, read it for the 130k words of glorious plot, or the excellence of a slave rebellion, or – look, it's worth reading from pretty much every perspective. I'm always thrilled with I share a fandom with Yahtzee, and stories like this are the reason why.

(If you can read it, that is. Warnings: This story has rape, graphic violence, and animal harm. I'm not kidding about any of that, but for me, this story is worth it.)
thefourthvine: Two people fucking, rearview: sex is the universal fandom. (Default)
2016-06-05 09:19 pm

All the Ships I've Loved Before 2

The One with the Matchmaking Robots. Pro Tip: Everything Everywhere Is Better with Matchmaking Robots. Nice Work If You Can Get It, by astolat. Mike Donovan/Greg Powell, I, Robot (book).

So. Harriet and Peter set my expectations for het romance. What did it for queer romance? It should have been Jeeves and Wooster. I spent years obsessively collecting everything PG Wodehouse ever wrote, and I read each of his books at least twenty times and giggled helplessly through every reading. But somehow they never tripped the ship circuit in my brain. No. What did that – and this is so stereotypically me I can hardly stand it – was I, Robot.

Specifically, Greg Powell and Mike Donovan. Twelve-year-old me did not understand precisely why she was re-reading the Powell and Donovan stories so obsessively; she just knew she couldn't stop.

But adult me knows why.

The Powell and Donovan stories taught me that fictional queer romance occurs between two people who depend on each other, care about each other, and look after each other, and that there will need to be robots and also me to imagine the kissing part for any kind of consummation to be achieved. So, yeah, thanks, Asimov. You formatted my brain for fic. (And robots. And fic about robots.) In fact, I discovered while writing this rec that one of the things I spent my adult life believing was I, Robot canon is, in fact, actually fic I told myself at the age of 13. Proud of you, teenage me!

Sadly, telling myself fic was for many years the only way to get my fix for this pairing. For mysterious reasons – or, okay, possibly for the entirely understandable reason that it's a book of short stories first published in 1950 – there's not a whole lot of I, Robot fic out there. But what is there comes mostly from Yuletide, and one of those stories was written for me. I love it helplessly.

See, Asimov had many good traits – amazing work ethic, solid scientific knowledge, an entirely reasonable dislike of wide open spaces – but many of his stories are kind of, um. Forever locked in the world of 1950. So I deeply love how this story is so very much an Asimov story – it has the messed-up robots, the frantic problem-solving, and the feel of the canon - but it's also a story with an actual human relationship between actual humans, something Asimov did not always remember to put in his stories. (Fun Asimov fact: at least two of his most human, likable, realistic characters are robots.) And, of course, this story has the kissing that Asimov inexplicably forgot to put in.

Basically, when I read this story ten years ago (holy shit, an actual decade ago), my inner teenager smiled blissfully, finally satisfied. And when I read it now, I feel exactly the same way: all's right with the world. Everything is as I always knew it should be. The ur-ship is manifest at last.

Do you need to know the fandom to read this? Oh my god, so much no. Here's a complete primer: there's these two dudes. They work on robots in remote locations in the solar system. Shit always goes wrong and they always fix it. And they should kiss. There. That's the whole fandom. And this is a before-the-canon story that gives you considerably more background than Asimov ever managed. Go! Read!
thefourthvine: Two people fucking, rearview: sex is the universal fandom. (Default)
2016-05-30 08:17 pm

All the Ships I've Loved Before 1

So, uh. Mistakes were made. See, there was this neat meme going around on Twitter – one like equals one ship – and I was really enjoying seeing what everyone had stored deep in the depths of their pairing wardrobe. Except most people were tweeting pictures, and the last thing I want to do is google a whole bunch of names and spend time squinting at the screen going, "But is that the actual Jim and Blair from the Sentinel? ...What did they look like, even?" So instead I thought I'd do fic recs. I could easily come up with a dozen or so pairings and a dozen or so recs, and I didn't expect to get more likes than that.

Instead, I ended up with 66 likes.

So, over the next, uh, probably months, possibly years, I will be doing a very deep dive into my pairing wardrobe. (Yes, I do have 66 pairings. I counted. The sad truth is that even this will not empty my pockets of all pairings. I'm a ship magpie, apparently.) No particular order, because honestly this project is already ridiculous enough. I'll try not to use stories I've recommended before, but in some cases I'll do it anyway, because some pairings have to be mentioned, even if I've already recommended every story about them.

Are you ready for this? I am definitely not ready for this. There should be a special name for a meme that gets way out of hand. Memelanche? Whatever. Here comes my memelanche of pairings, one fic rec at a time.

Let's start with a classic.

The One That Made Me Realize the Horror of Having a Soulmate with a Really Long Name in a Wristname AU. (Like, Jarome Arthur-Leigh Adekunle Tig Junior Elvis Iginla's Soulmate Presumably Has a Full Sleeve Wristname, So I Hope They Like Tattoos.) Gentle Antidote, by x_los. Harriet Vane/Peter Wimsey, Lord Peter Wimsey series.

Okay, so, if I'm doing an All the Ships I've Loved Before meme, let's start off with one of the ones that formatted my brain. I read the Peter Wimsey novels as an impressionable 12 year old, and I tell you what: that's the wrong damn time to read them. Developing brains and Dorothy Sayers are a potent, terrible mix; I will never stop expecting fictional het romances to require five years, five hundred pages of persiflage, and at minimum two dead bodies before any sort of consummation can be achieved. This is why I am terrible at reading published het romances. The characters meet and kiss and fall in love and bang in the space of like a week, and my hindbrain goes, "Nope. This is not how straight romance goes. I know this from my learnings. Where are the corpses? Where is the part where she refuses him fifty times and walks across England to avoid dealing with her feelings? Where's the banter and telegrams and Latin proposals?" My brain knows what it is due and just won't accept less. Sayers has a lot to answer for, basically.

But it turns out I do not require the years/persiflage/bodies in every single case, and, oddly, this pairing is one of the cases where I don't. At least in the hands of a writer as skilled as this, in a story as good as "Gentle Antidote." This is honestly everything I've ever wanted from a Harriet/Peter story – them, being so completely them, which will always be enough for me – and also everything I've ever wanted from a wristname AU – good worldbuilding, sensible reactions, total buy-in to the concept, wristnames that don't solve every problem and actually create a few, a happy ending.

This story makes me as happy as any two of the books it took Sayers to accomplish the feat of getting these extremely difficult people together. Partly that happiness comes from the sheer perfection of every word, and partly it's from my knowledge of everything the characters are going to avoid and accomplish, thanks to wristnames. (Hail, wristnames! I welcome our tropey overlord.) And while I think the former joy will be available to anyone who knows what a wristname is, the second pleasure is probably only for those who have read Sayers's Harriet Vane stories. (Which, I mean, is not time wasted or anything.)

But whether you've read Sayers or not, I recommend this story; it's the perfect story for the ur-ship. (Or one of them. But, well, we're going to get there. One pairing down, 65 to go.)
thefourthvine: Two people fucking, rearview: sex is the universal fandom. (Default)
2016-04-15 08:22 am

[RL] Chris, the Ghost, and Mono

The other night, I told this story to my sister, who had somehow never heard it before. She demanded that I write it down. (I sincerely hope she's not planning to use this as some kind of college life advice for my nephew.)

There are three things you need to know to understand this story, provided you are not my sister:
  1. I started college at 15.
  2. I almost immediately got mono and didn't realize it, assuming that I was sleeping 16 hours a day because sleep was the best thing in the world and I'd suddenly gotten really good at it.
  3. I made most of my bad decisions – like, most of the bad decisions I would ever make, and almost all the ones I could think of – before starting college.
These were not things I had in common with my freshman cohort. Any of them, as far as I could tell. They were all older than I was, they seemed to have all the energy in the world, and they had come to college to make those bad decisions they'd been dreaming of all these years but apparently couldn't quite commit to until they were away from parental backup and support.

Bad decisions this way. )
thefourthvine: Two people fucking, rearview: sex is the universal fandom. (Default)
2016-04-09 09:28 pm

College Stuff! (Not for Earthling, Thank God)

The redoubtable Cousin Z, my oldest nephew, is -- oh god oh god -- going to college next fall. He applied to many schools and got into most of them, and now, through assiduous research, careful internal debate, and, very likely, a color-coded spreadsheet with many tabs, he's narrowed down his options to Reed and Whitman. And now he's trying to make that final choice.

Z had very good experiences visiting both schools, including talking with a Whitman admissions officer who described the school in Harry Potter house terms. He also went to an accepted-students reception for Reed where he went to hide in the kitchen because people, and then so many other guests (and also the host) had the same idea that it ended up being a reception-within-the-reception for people who hate receptions, all of them hiding in the kitchen and talking about how much they wished they weren't there.

Z is a very introverted person who is interested in applied math (his intended major), Doctor Who, social justice, Harry Potter, politics, Game of Thrones, and economics. His hobbies are reading fic, playing and writing music for his cello, and spending many hours at Starbucks with his study groups. (Also making color-coded spreadsheets.) He likes both Reed and Whitman because they're smaller schools where he felt comfortable on the campus, in large part because the students seemed like geeky introverts and giant weirdos, so pretty much his people.

It seems like either school could be a happy place for him. But this is Z, so he is in hardcore information-gathering mode. He could use more data. (Z could always use more data.) He needs to know the differences between the two! Find a way to make a choice! My question for you is: do you know anything about Reed or Whitman? Do you have any experiences to relate or any data Z can gather? It would help.

Thank you!
thefourthvine: Two people fucking, rearview: sex is the universal fandom. (Default)
2015-12-26 11:52 am

Yuletide!

I am an extremely lucky Yuletider once again, because this year I got four gifts. (Thank you, wonderful writers!) Three delightful Historical Farm stories:

Wizardry Most Humble & High (1007 words) by Anonymous
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Historical Farm (UK TV), Kate and Cecelia - Caroline Stevermer & Patricia Wrede
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Characters: Ruth Goodman, Alex Langlands, Peter Ginn
Additional Tags: Historical Reenactment, Alternate Universe - Magic, Footnotes, Yuletide Treat
Summary:

Fragments of Tudor Monastery Farm: With Magic Edition. Now with extra footnotes and my 'I co-majored in history and at the moment I am Really Into The Tudor Era' feelings. Thank you oh thefourthvine for the opportunity to write this treat - I hope it is enjoyable and non terrible. Happy Yule! Note: This particular magic au is a crossover with a book series but it's not something you need to be familiar with to read this story (there are some little things in here for people who have though)


Marstober (1861 words) by Anonymous
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Historical Farm (UK TV)
Rating: Not Rated
Warnings: Creator Chose Not To Use Archive Warnings
Characters: Peter Ginn, Alex Langlands, Ruth Goodman
Additional Tags: Historical Farm RPF in the Future, Not much farming unfortunately, Peter is from Earth, Ruth is from Mars, Alex is from Space, preslash
Summary:

Mars is stripping the suavity from Alex's bones.


Alien Invasion Farm (1041 words) by Anonymous
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Historical Farm (UK TV)
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Characters: Ruth Goodman, Peter Ginn, Alex Langlands
Additional Tags: Alternate Universe - Science Fiction
Summary:

Historian Ruth Goodman and archaeologists Alex Langlands and Peter Ginn go back in time to relive the day-to-day life of a farmer during the alien invasion.


So if you share my love of Ruth Goodman, Peter Ginn, and Alex Langlands being extremely them while farming on Mars or with magic or during the alien invasion that is just around the corner, go! Read.

And if you share my love of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson soulbonding (and how could you not?), let me introduce you to my wonderful fourth gift, which I am entirely sure is documenting what really happened:

No-Look Pass (1138 words) by Anonymous
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Retired Basketball Player RPF, Basketball RPF
Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Larry Bird & Earvin "Magic" Johnson
Characters: Larry Bird, Earvin "Magic" Johnson
Additional Tags: Soul Bond, Basketball, Yuletide Treat
Summary:

Blind Pass: Also known as a no-look pass, the blind pass is performed when a player looks in one direction but passes the ball to his target in another direction. Blind passes are risky and infrequently attempted, but when done correctly, can confuse the defense.

- “Basketball Moves: Blind Pass,” Wikipedia.

thefourthvine: Two people fucking, rearview: sex is the universal fandom. (Default)
2015-12-15 02:10 pm

[Rant] You Don't Owe Anyone Your Queer Story

So, today over lunch I decided to read some stuff that wasn't mathematical economics, just to sort of remember there are other words out there.

Annnnnd so I read this Ask Bear column, and then I stewed for a while, and then I wrote this rushed, angry rant before I went back to my mathematical economics.

The letter in that column comes from a questioning 22 year old who is potentially starting down that "hang on, am I -- queer?" path that a lot of us have walked. I've walked it myself! It is scenic and has many twists and turns. The letter writer is in a very traditional and appropriate place for starting on that path: he (I'm assuming) has many questions and is not sure what comes next or what he has to do to be a good possibly queer person.

Bear's response, summarized: you can absolutely be queer, sounds like you might be, and oh, by the way, before you explore that queer identity at all, you'd better come out. To everyone. You have to, to be a good human.

I really wanted to believe Bear didn't tell a questioning 22 year old that he had to come out of the closet before he is allowed to see if he might potentially be queer. But I tweeted my rage (as is the custom of my people), and several Twitter friends got the same read from it, so I just want to remind everyone of something important.

No one can tell you that you have to come out. Not if they're queer, not if they're out, not if they're an activist, not if they are the Fairy Queen of the Queer Isles (my dream job!), never. (The one exception to this: your partner(s) in queerness get a say. But even they don't get to issue a fiat like Bear did in this letter.)

There are three major reasons for this.
  1. Coming out is a dangerous endeavor for many people in this world. And you are the best evaluator of your physical, emotional, and social safety. I think Bear may just have forgotten, since he apparently lives in a polytransqueer wonderland, that coming out can be risky. That his letter writer may have to face familial rejection, social rejection, harassment, homelessness, abuse -- that, in short, a lot of bad things might happen to the LW if he comes out. (Queer folks struggling with this issue, take heart: it is apparently entirely possible to get to a place in your life where you can forget this!) Bear may also have forgotten that those same things may also happen to the dude LW is into, and that they may together choose to be closeted for safety reasons, and that is absolutely fine. (It isn't fine that people have to make that choice, of course, but blaming people for picking the best of a number of bad options is classic oppressor bullshit, and I'm embarrassed to see any of my fellow queers doing it.)

  2. Coming out is a process, and the LW is at the very beginning of it. (People can be at the very beginning at any point in their lives. They can go back to the beginning at any point in their lives. And they can spend as long as they need to there. This is not some sort of board game, folks, where you can just pass go and collect your Queer Person ID.) Bear ordered him to go straight from starting college to taking the Bar Exam, without going through any of the intervening bits. But those bits are important, and they make you ready for the later bits, and only you, the queer person, know how you're doing in the process, or what you're ready for right now.

  3. You don't owe anyone your story. Let me repeat that, slightly louder: you don't owe anyone your story. Bear strongly implies that his questioning letter writer should come out because social justice. And, no, that is not a burden queer folks have to bear; we do not have to build a bridge to our own equality with our bare hands using bricks made out of our lives, our bodies, and our hearts. (Unless, of course, we choose to. Many of us make that choice, in big ways and small. But it's our choice to do that.)

    Many, many of our straight allies say the same thing in other words. For example, they say that gay people who come out are heroes, and gay people who make choices other than absolute and total openness are weak, and that is bullshit, and it's extremely harmful bullshit. You are not required to come out to Make the World Safe for Queers, you are not required to come out to Be a Good Queer, you are not required to come out for any reason at all ever except that you want to and are ready to. Your story is yours. You tell it how you want to, when you want to, if you want to
So, Bear's Letter Writer, if you're out there, here is some alternate advice from a different middle-aged queer who has come out a whole, whole, whole bunch:

Letter Writer, you can do whatever you want to with your guy (provided he consents, of course), with whatever level of disclosure you both agree on. It's important to be honest with him about where you are with respect to coming out, whether that is "I will actually have a panic attack if you touch me in public" or "I am totally okay with our friends knowing, but I cannot face having some kind of formal announcement right now" or "let's tell everyone including our extremely homophobic extended family members and then POST LOTS OF TOPLESS MAKING OUT PHOTOS ON FACEBOOK HA HA HA." (You may be in a different place than any of these, or experiencing a combination of all three. That's normal.) Then it's important to listen to what he says about where he is. If there's a big difference -- if you're at panic attacks and he's at Facebook, say -- then be aware that that is going to be an issue in your relationship, and be prepared to work on it.

Your queer journey is belongs to you, Letter Writer. You and those you choose to share it with are the only people who get to say how it goes, and that includes coming out, if you decide to do that. Speaking as a supportive bystander, though, I hope your queer journey is awesome. Good luck!
thefourthvine: Two people fucking, rearview: sex is the universal fandom. (Default)
2015-10-18 02:07 pm

Yuletide 2015 Dear Author Letter

Dear Writer Person,

We matched! So first know that I am extremely fond of you already, because clearly you are a person of taste and discernment, loving one of these small fandoms as much as I do.

I am, as always, going to provide you with all the details, because that's what I hope to get from my recipient. But if details aren't your thing, please tap out of this letter now. Just know that I really, really cannot handle child or animal harm or death, and I love you for volunteering for one of my tiny fandoms. See you on the 25th!

Or, if you want to know more, read on.

Me! )

Historical Farm (UK TV), Ruth Goodman, Peter Ginn, Alex Langlands )

Retired Basketball Player RPF, Magic Johnson/Larry Bird )

Schusev State Museum of Architecture Discover the Full Story ad campaign, Any )
thefourthvine: Girl in pajamas with laptop. (I sleep with computers.)
2015-03-29 11:30 pm

Goodreads and Me: Not a Love Story

I read Brenna Clarke Grey's post on why she quit Goodreads and decided to write up my own recent unfun experience there. (I haven't quit the site, but I'm on hiatus from it. Again.)

In January 2015 I was hungry for fiction and had run through my friends' recommendations, so I started looking through Goodreads. I found a book called Flight of the Silvers, by Daniel Price. The reviews were largely positive and the summary seemed interesting. I downloaded a sample and decided it was engaging enough to buy.

Trouble began shortly thereafter. At the 20% mark, I knew this book and I would never be friends. The story wasn't right for me for many reasons, ranging from Science Doesn't WORK That Way to These Women Are Like No Human I've Ever Known to Please Stop Using That Word Please Stop PLEASE JUST STOP. The pacing fell off as the author tried to manage more characters and a more divided plot than he knew how to handle. There were long chunks of text that desperately needed editing. And I was frustrated by the fact that one of the characters, Hannah, was described pretty much only by her boobs. Her characterization could be summarized as "the attractive one with the giant hooters." Her plot role was "the mobile boobs that everyone either admires or is jealous of." The obsession with her breasts was like a dripping tap: ignorable right up until it becomes all you can think about it. I read distractedly, waiting grimly for the next mention of Hannah and Her Boobs. (As there were typically multiple mentions per page in any section she was in, it was never a long wait.)

From 25% on, my notes in the ebook consist of:
  1. Increasingly sarcastic comments on some of the mentions of Hannah's boobs (they come too often to note all of them).
  2. Complaints about overuse of the word "shined." (Three months after reading the book, I'm still flinching when I see it. It was really overused.)
  3. Lengthy strings of question marks after some of the seriously, um, interesting word choices in the book. (After a while, I started to slip some exclamation points in these, too.)
Here's an example. At one point, one of the characters describes a pseudoscience substance as "both airy and dense." A male character (one of the good guys, of course; misogyny is a noted good guy trait) responds, "Huh. Just like Hannah." The next part, a direct quote: "More people laughed as the actress irreverently narrowed her eyes at Zack. He shined a preening smirk." Okay, so I think we can see that this is, just in general, really bad writing (he shined a preening smirk?), but what the hell is irreverently doing in that sentence? It makes no sense. My note on this one: "????? wtf wtf wtf EW also shined NO." As you can probably tell, the book was getting to me.

We all know how this goes. The bad writing distracted me from the, you know, actual story. (I probably missed a lot of it, which is what bad writing does: it gets between you and what the writer is trying to convey.) The pacing, already flawed, entirely stopped carrying me. I reached the point where I was looking for things to do instead of reading, which is weird for me. I'd read a page, spend five minutes on twitter, and come back and realize I had no memory of what I'd read, also very weird for me.

I should have walked away. I didn't.

When I was done (so very done) with the book, I went to Goodreads and reviewed it. I have to either adore or truly despise a book to churn out a 3000-word review of it. Flight of the Silvers didn't seem worth that, so instead of detailing all my problems with it, I wrote a description of what reading it felt like to me. The word "boobs" is featured very heavily. And that was it. Two people read my review, I think. No one really pays attention to that stuff.

All of this is textbook standard reader behavior. I bought a book, I read it, I didn't like it, I complained about it to my friends. And that should have been the end of it.

Except. Then Daniel Price read my review. And he got mad, which is totally understandable; someone slamming your work is always tough to swallow. (I'm going to guess that most authors know better than to read one-star reviews for this reason.) And then he decided to respond, which was probably not the best choice he could have made. His response makes me so embarrassed on his behalf that I've never read it all the way through; I get maybe a quarter of the way through skimming it and my brain just shuts down. But, basically, as far as I can tell, he was trying to be funny. He missed that mark for me, but maybe that was because I was, you know, writhing in secondhand embarrassment. Or maybe that's because I was his target rather than his audience. Hard to say.

And then a few of his fans got involved, which was inevitable -- they love his work, they saw him doing this, they assumed it was okay. (Guess how many comments it took before someone accused me of being his ex-girlfriend. GUESS.) He also started complaining about me on Twitter, which encouraged more of his followers to comment angrily on my review.

In response, I did a Dumb Thing (because not responding is the only way to deal with this stuff) and complained about this situation on Twitter myself, which meant that my friends started reading my review and Price's response. (This is how my review ended up the first one on the book's page on Goodreads. Authors, if you're looking for motivation not to get into it with a reviewer, there's a point to consider.) My friends also started searching through the other reviews. And noticing stuff. Several of them pointed out that while other reviewers complained about the boob fixation, Price only got publically mad at the lady who did. This may not be a coincidence.

The commenters on my review got personally insulting (remember, folks, it's not that you disagree with the reviewer, it's that the reviewer is a terrible person and a troll or simply a bitch) and kind of gross. I stopped visiting the page, which kept me from getting notifications about further comments. My friends kept on following them, though, so I got occasional updates on the situation. It apparently took Price a week or two to stop complaining about me on Twitter. (Or, I guess, for my friends to stop looking.) It took longer before his fans stopped insulting me on Goodreads. (If they ever have.)

And here's the thing: this is, by itself, a minor incident. But it isn't fun. It isn't how I want to interact with a community, or something I want to deal with. And I realized that using Goodreads meant accepting a chance of this kind of bullshit every time I posted a less than five-star review. There is a lot I like about Goodreads, but I am not that invested in reviewing in that space, not enough that it's actually worth being harassed by an author and his fans. So I finished my self-assigned challenge (rate the first 24 books I read this year) in February and started avoiding Goodreads again. I'll maybe try again next year. Who can say?

Is there a way to avoid this? I don't know. But Goodreads doesn't seem interested in trying. And, in the end, this part of the internet isn't important enough to me to wade through the sewage.

Wanted: a mostly sewageless place to review and discuss books.

(Also wanted, always wanted: recommendations for great books you've read lately.)
thefourthvine: Two people fucking, rearview: sex is the universal fandom. (Default)
2015-02-24 04:13 pm

[RL] Team Angry Cat

Last year, I went to a con in Chicago. On Saturday morning, I took the elevator from my room (fourth floor) to the con suite (second floor). Also on that elevator: a dude taking it to the first floor. As soon as I pressed the button, he said chidingly, "Two floors! Should've walked it." And then he literally, actually tutted at me. "Tut tut tut" went the arbiter of everyone else's body and abilities. Just so I'd know for sure that I'd been bad and been judged for it.

Now. There were a couple of conversations we could have had at this point. I could have told elevator dude the truth: that I have lupus (please please don't make the House joke; you have no idea how many times I've heard the House joke, and I promise you that sometimes it is in fact lupus), so I keep an eye on my energy and pain levels and try to save some of whatever ability I have for later. That I'm especially careful to do that when I'm at an event or traveling, because I don't want to be in my room exhausted or in pain when a thing I really wanted to do is happening two floors away, and I really don't want to be in pain and out of energy while traveling in modern American airports (apparent motto: "If you can't stand for four hours and run two miles full-tilt while carrying two weeks' supplies, lol no go fuck yourself"). So I'm careful. I don't push it. In the mornings, I might take the elevator, which the hotel did, after all, install for people to use.

I could also have told elevator dude to go fuck himself, which is the other honest conversation we could have had at that point. It is seriously none of his business whether I use the stairs, or the elevator, or rappel down the outside of the building, or maybe just dissolve into primordial ooze and drip down the walls.

But, you know, confrontation is another energy burner. I wanted to save my energy for having fun with my friends, the people I came to see. So I said something non-committal. Elevator dude wasn't done, though. "You should always find the stairs, first thing when you check into a hotel," this dude who was maybe ten years older than me and in no way my father said. "Did you know you're not allowed to use the elevator during a fire? Whenever you check into a hotel, you should think: what if there's a fire?"

Indeed, elevator dude. What if? What if, in my second decade of staying alone in hotels, you had not come along to tell me how to do it? I might have done it wrong, and then I would surely have burned to death in a fiery inferno, just as I have at least once a year throughout my adulthood, despite my mother giving me pretty much exactly those instructions back when I was seven and actually needed them.

Fortunately, at that point, we arrived at the second floor. I headed to the con suite and settled in. Some minutes later, I mentioned the mansplainer in the elevator and his profound concern for my well-being in case of fire. I didn't complain about the "should've walked" comment, largely because I didn't expect any support for it; I know an apparently able-bodied (and fat!) woman taking the elevator is cause for judgment in this world. (In some places, going by the general response, it's borderline actionable.) And most people at that particular table didn't know the details of my medical status, since in general, when given the choice between talking with my friends about lupus or talking with them about people banging, or being unicorn space eagles, or both, I tend to choose the pointy space birds and their sexytimes.

"Why would anyone say that to you?" one of the women at the table asked, in that mystified dudes-why-are-you? tone. "How does that even come up?"

So I explained about how we got on the topic of elevators. As soon as I said, "He said I should've taken the stairs," ten women around the table looked up and angry cat hissed in unison. It was like they'd rehearsed it for weeks after months of watching angry cats and studying their motivations. Truly a beautiful moment.

From this experience I learned some things:
  1. Support matters. Those women and their instinctive and audible anger didn't just make me feel better; they actually changed the way I remember the event. They became what was important about it rather than elevator dude. His judgment has become small and insignificant to me, and in fact I smile when I think about him, because he's inextricably linked to that moment ten people became Team Angry Cat for me.

  2. A lot of times, I don't reach for support because I don't expect it. I don't talk about the random elevator dude type aggravations of life, because I assume there's a good chance most people will side with the elevator dudes of the world. It's worth it to find the places where that isn't true. And it's worth it to reach for support when I can.

  3. I need to look for more chances to be on other people's Team Angry Cat. I don't need to know about that person's life or judge their worthiness; if they've experienced harassment or microaggressions, I'm gonna try to support them.

  4. I'd pay significant money for a YouTube series that was just ten women angry cat hissing at ability enforcers and mansplainers and dudes shouting "smile, baby!" at random ladies and so on.
Oh, yeah, and to the ten members of that particular Team Angry Cat: thank you. You're the best, and I will hiss for you anytime.
thefourthvine: Two people fucking, rearview: sex is the universal fandom. (Default)
2015-02-14 09:42 am

Happy Valentine's Day! Don't Be Me.

It's Valentine's Day, so I would like to share a Cautionary Tale for the Youth of Today.

Once upon a time, my wife and I were teenaged college students who did not think before we got together, and by "got together," I mean "had sex for the first time," because did I mention we were teenagers in college? We did not bother with dating. So, you know, we let our passions overwhelm us, and didn't think before we had sex, and guess what happened? We checked the calendar the next day, noticed it was 2/15, and realized we had had sex for the first time on Valentine's Day.

Obviously this creates serious lifelong problems in terms of celebrating our anniversary. All because we were careless. Don't be like us.

"But TFV," I hear you saying. "You said she's your wife. Why not celebrate the anniversary of your marriage instead?"

Now, I could give you all kinds of excellent reasons, like that we couldn't get legally married until long after we were de facto married, because of governmental concern that allowing two people of the same sex to get married might cause a small black hole to form at the center of our planet and end the world. (Their caution is understandable considering the grave risks.) But that's not actually why. Let me tell you about our wedding.

We had a baby the year we got married, and also we are the least romantic people and least party-oriented people on earth, so we selected the "cheap courthouse wedding" option. We had a limited choice of dates, because we could only get married in the registrar's office on Fridays, and the election at which California voters would take away our civil rights was coming up fast. So we took the single reservation slot that was available when we got our marriage license.

On the day, we drove to the courthouse, met up with my mother, sister, brother-in-law (who had to be there to hold our baby), and oldest nephew, and had a five-minute civil ceremony conducted by a dude who finished with "and don't forget to file as married filing jointly on your state taxes next year." And then we left and the next couple and their friends and family came in.

And they were all in Viking costumes, because Best Beloved and I got married on 10/31. Our wedding anniversary is on Halloween.

What I'm saying is, youth of today, if there is a single message of wisdom I can share with you, it is check your fucking calendar before you fuck for the first time, and if it's a major holiday, wait. Otherwise you might end up like us, celebrating an anniversary that is not actually on any of the major dates of your relationship. (If you're really entirely like us, you will also never remember exactly what day you picked out to celebrate your pretend anniversary, but that's another story.)
thefourthvine: Two people fucking, rearview: sex is the universal fandom. (Default)
2014-12-31 09:57 pm

The Magic of Yuletide, Revealed

You guys YOU GUYS I have been the recipient of a Yuletide miracle! Let me tell you my awesome Yuletide tale.

Okay, so some months ago I started playing 80 Days, the amazing interactive fiction game (on iOs and Android, not that I am suggesting you go download and play it immediately, except of course I totally am), and it was great. So great. So so so great.

I tried to convince all my friends to play it, as is the custom of my people. Most of them were like, "Well, uh, it sounds…interesting. I will definitely play it. Sometime." But that's mostly what happens when you try to persuade people to try the things you love, so I wasn't downcast. I just waited like a sea lion (although I hope I was slightly less annoying), ready to casually insert 80 Days into any conversation that seemed even marginally relevant. (I was probably not actually less annoying.)

One of the people I thought would love it immensely was [personal profile] norah. I've known her since I was just getting into fandom, and she is my real-life and fandom BFF, and I know her tastes, just as she knows mine. But, sadly, she did not bite on my delightful hook, baited with inclusive steampunk and robots and joy.

Well, she's very busy. Later, I figured. Someday I'd persuade her. I vowed not to give up. (Being friends with me is awesome, folks.)

A couple of months later, I requested 80 Days for Yuletide. And I got it, and it was amazing. I think I got two paragraphs in before I said to Best Beloved, "Wow. This is really good." Halfway through, I corrected myself: "This is really, really, really good. This is great." It was. Also it seemed tailored for me, well beyond Yuletide typical, as I noted in my incoherent and flailing comment to my Mystery Author.

There was much Yuletide joy in my heart.

And then. And then. Today, at 4:25, I got a text from Norah. She said, essentially, "Hey so stories are revealed and GUESS WHAT I WROTE YOURS."

I texted back, entirely coherently, "UM OMG WHAAAAAAAAT EEEEEEEEEEEEEE!" (Text with me and get all the extra letters, free of charge!)

See, Norah and I exchange assignment emails every year, and support each other through Yuletide, and generally are all up in each other's Yuletide-y business. (One year we ended up co-writing both our assignments.) So I knew she was writing Moby Dick this year. I knew her recipient and everything! Her recipient wasn't me!

Except I did not know. She got a fake assignment from the Yuletide mods so she could conceal her true one. And then she spent two months pretend-complaining to me about her pretend assignment while actually writing her real assignment. And -- seriously -- sending said real assignment TO MY WIFE.

About two months ago, my wife apparently got a phone call at work from Norah. ("At first I thought someone had died," BB told me today.) Norah said, "Hey, I have TFV as my Yuletide assignment, so can you alpha-read?"

BB said, "I don't keep secrets from her! I'm really bad at keeping secrets from her! But -- okay, yes, I will. I will do my best." AND SHE DID. For two months, as she read and my actual Yuletide gift and cheered on my actual Yuletide writer, she gamely acted like she had no idea who was assigned to me or what I would be getting. (She even emailed Norah a play-by-play of me reading the story for the first time. Recruit your recipient's spouse(s) and profit, Yuletiders.)

Tl;dr: TWO OF MY MOST FAVORITE PEOPLE IN THE WORLD CONSPIRED TO MAKE ME THE PERFECT YULETIDE GIFT AND I AM SO HAPPY.

It's a great story. I mean, it's lesbian robot airship pirates, which is, honestly, basically everything I look for in fiction and also would be my entire bucket list if I had one. (So far I've only managed the lesbian part, but look out, airships. I'm coming for you.) And now, every time I read it, in addition to reveling in the gorgeous story, I'm going to remember that I am loved, and by amazing, talented, kind, and generous people.

Truly, it is a Yuletide miracle, wrapped in secrecy, with a sweet and chewy lesbian robot pirate center.

My heart grew three sizes today.

Beside me singing in the Wilderness (15998 words) by norah
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: 80 Days (Video Game 2014)
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: Graphic Depictions Of Violence
Characters: Behiye bint Kasim, Bulbul, Manussiha
Additional Tags: Steampunk, Robot Harm, Character of Color, Action/Adventure, Misses Clause Challenge, Pirates
Summary:

The adventures of Behiye bint Kasim, Captain of the pirate ship Canavar, and her engineer and companion Bulbul.

thefourthvine: A weird festive creature. Text: "Yuletide squee!" (Yuletide Woot!)
2014-12-25 09:45 pm

Yuletide Gift for Me!

I am the luckiest Yuletider, because I got a story featuring ROBOTS and AIRSHIP PIRATES and SWASHBUCKLING and I am basically swooning over its amazingness.

And you totally don't need to know the fandom to read this! The canon is 80 Days, an interactive fiction game that reimagines Jules Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days in an inclusive, non-England-centered steampunk universe. There, now you know everything you need to know to read the story, and you totally should, because it is great.

Beside me singing in the Wilderness (15992 words) by Anonymous
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: 80 Days (Video Game 2014)
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: Graphic Depictions Of Violence
Characters: Behiye bint Kasim, Bulbul, Manussiha
Additional Tags: Steampunk, Robot Harm, Character of Color, Action/Adventure, Misses Clause Challenge, Pirates
Summary:

The adventures of Behiye bint Kasim, Captain of the pirate ship Canavar, and her engineer and companion Bulbul.

thefourthvine: Two people fucking, rearview: sex is the universal fandom. (Default)
2014-10-17 11:16 pm

Dear Yuletide Writer Letter

Dear Writer Person,

We matched! So basically know that I am extremely fond of you already, because clearly you are a person of taste and discernment, loving one of these small fandoms as much as I do.

I am, as always, going to provide you with all the details, because that's what I always hope to get from my recipient. But if that's not you, please tap out of this letter now. Just know that I really, really cannot handle child or animal harm or death, and I love you for volunteering for one of my tiny fandoms. See you on the 25th!

Or, if you want to know more, read on.

Me! )

80 Days, Manussiha )

Retired Basketball Player RPF, Magic Johnson/Larry Bird )

Tour of the Merrimack -- R. M. Meluch, Augustus/John Farragut )
thefourthvine: Two people fucking, rearview: sex is the universal fandom. (Default)
2014-04-01 06:58 pm

You're Always Coming Out

Recently, I started thinking about the moments of being openly gay that I never see in fic. This was supposed to be a list of those.

It isn't.

~

Ever since we moved to this house, I've gone to the same pharmacy several times a month to pick up prescriptions. In the beginning, the earthling was with me in the sling, and later he'd accompany me walking on his own feet. There was a cashier, Maria, who always talked to him and me, who was friendly and remembered us and grabbed our prescriptions before we even got to the front of the line.

One day about a year ago I went to the pharmacy after the earthling was in bed. "Oh, where's your son?" Maria asked.

"He's at home with my wife. It's after his bedtime."

"…Oh," she said.

Since then, when I go, she still recognizes me, earthling or no, but she's all business. No chat, no talking about how big the earthling has gotten, no asking me about my day. There are a thousand possible reasons for this. At least. Most of them have nothing to do with me. Maybe she got yelled at for chatting with customers too much. Maybe she's been having a bad year. It could be anything. I know that.

But I will always wonder if it's because I'm queer. I can't not wonder. My queerness inflects every interaction I have like this, whether I acknowledge it ("my wife") or avoid it ("my partner"). And because queerness is not visible, cannot be known until I make it known, I often have situations like this, where there was a before and there is now an after and things are different. This is one of the minor costs of being openly queer: the voice in the back of your head that is always going, is this because I'm gay?

~

Coming out is supposed to happen in One Big Moment. Usually your One Big Moment involves coming out to your parents; sometimes, especially in fiction, it's coming out at a press conference or in front of an audience or something. But wherever it happens, the concept is the same: in that moment, your whole life changes. Before, you were closeted and ashamed, and after, you become open and honest. You have chewed your way out of the cocoon of secrecy to emerge as a beautiful gay butterfly!

My family doesn't do big moments well. I was in college, I was 19, I was in the apartment I shared with Best Beloved. And my mother called. After some chat, she got around to the purpose of her call.

"Last year," she said, "you told me you'd never get married. And I'm worrying about that. You're young and I don't want you to be alone forever."

"I won't be alone," I said. "I just won't be married because it's not legal for me to be. But I already consider myself married."

I should, at this (big and momentous!) point, mention a few things: this call was taking place in the morning, and my sister, Laura, was living with our mother at this time.

"Oh," my mother said. And right then, Laura, who is not and never has been entirely human in the mornings, came into the room.

"Is there milk?" she said crankily.

"In the refrigerator," my mother said to her. To me, she said, "Who are you married to?"

"[Best Beloved]," I said, honestly bewildered. (I thought they knew! Like -- why did they think we lived together? I assumed we'd been on the same page for years.)

"Oh," my mother said, reaching for a suitable reaction.

"No, there isn't," Laura said, attaining new heights of crankiness. "Are we out?"

"Your sister's a lesbian," my mother snapped at Laura. I think she meant: shut up about milk for a second. I'm trying to have a significant conversation and you're making it difficult.

Laura has never given a shit about anyone's sexual preference first thing in the morning. "That's nice," she said, summoning up every single fuck she could give about something before breakfast. "Are we out of milk or what?"

And at that point I think we all gave up on pretending this was a significant moment and just kind of moved on with our lives. I accepted that "That's nice. Are we out of milk or what?" would be my family's main reaction to my sexuality. Later that day, just to be sure we were all in the loop -- since my parents seemed strangely slow and clueless about these things -- I told my father in email. The paragraph dedicated to that revelation took a backseat to four paragraphs of discussion about my stupid physics professor. Those were my priorities.

He probably read it and wondered if he was out of milk.

Just to top things off, that night I realized to my eternal embarrassment that this all took place on National Coming Out Day, a "holiday" I don't even support. (Come out. Don't come out. Whatever you want, on your own terms. I'm not going to pressure you and no one else should, either. It's a bullshit concept.)

So my One Big Moment was -- not. It was not big. It was not dramatic. It was, to be honest, pretty comical. The most emotion experienced by anyone was Laura's sincere and honest anger about my mother using the last of the milk without even considering whether other people had had breakfast yet. It didn't even manage to be a single moment, since I spread it over most of a day.

This was probably much better preparation for the rest of my life than I thought at the time.

~

"Are you sisters?"

"No. No, we're… not sisters."

"Oh. Haha! You look just like each other."

~

In college, I fainted outside the student union building during finals week and ended up at student health. The nurse practitioner had only one question for me, phrased two dozen different ways: "Could you be pregnant?"

"No," I said. "I can't be pregnant."

She was already starting her next question before I finished my answer. "But did you have sex recently?"

I hesitated. Back then, coming out still felt like a big thing every time I did it. And, yes, I'd had sex with Best Beloved many times that month, but I knew she meant sex that involved a penis in my vagina. Did I really need to get into my current sexual history in detail with this woman? "No," I finally said, but my hesitation had convinced her.

"Are you sure?"

"Yes."

"Not at all?"

"No."

"Not even a teeny weeny bit?" she wheedled.

I just stared at her, trying to figure out how you have a teeny weeny bit of sex.

She moved on. "Did you black out, or take any drugs, or wake up and not know where you were at all recently?"

She'd accurately described most of my high school career, but those days were long gone. And I didn't think accidentally falling asleep after midnight in the bone lab counted. Dead people can't get you pregnant. "No."

We went around and around. After fifteen minutes, she was still finding new ways to ask if I might be pregnant, and I was watching time tick by and just yearning for a diagnosis already. Finally, she said, "What are you using for birth control?"

I gave up. My desire not to come out to her had lost out to my desire to be done with this question forever. "Lesbianism," I said. "I'm using lesbianism for birth control."

She nodded but did not deviate from her script. "So you're not on the pill? Did you have sex this month?"

"I only have sex with my girlfriend," I said, trying to make this whole lesbianism thing clearer. "She can't get me pregnant."

She sent me to get some blood tests. One of them was for hCG: a pregnancy test. I got it then and I get it now. The number of college girls who claim they can't possibly be pregnant and are wrong is greater than the number of college girls who have stress-induced fainting.

But I came out! It was an effort! And… she didn't even listen to me. Back then, it didn't matter to her the way it mattered to me.

~

After a while, it stops mattering. You do it so many times that it just gets old and dull and meaningless. But you don't get to stop there. Coming out is endless. I've done it thousands of times by now, each moment of coming out blurring together in my head until it's just a lifetime of saying over and over: "I'm a lesbian. I have a wife. I'm queer. I'm not straight." I don't play the pronoun game anymore, I don't reach for the careful, neutral phrasing, and so I'm coming out all the time, without even thinking about it. And it's so boring that I sometimes forget that it's new information, and sometimes a brand-new experience, for the person I'm coming out to.

"Is your husband Jewish?" the earthling's friend's mother asked me.

"My wife, actually. No, she's not."

And I was ready to move on, but she was freezing up. I've done this so many times I can monitor people's thoughts as they have them -- I can read them like thought bubbles.

She's a lesbian.

Wait. What do I say?

Oh no, I've waited too long and she thinks I'm a horrible bigot, even though I'm Canadian.

"Oh," she said, clearly wishing she was saying something else. But what? But what?

The earthling's friend, David, looked up at me. "Girls can't have a wife," he said confidently.

David's mother made a tiny horrified noise. I didn't even need to look at her to know that she was thinking now she thinks my children are horrible and bigoted too.

But children are easy. Children are never any problem. "Yes, they can," I said to David. "Men can marry men and women can marry women, and I'm married to [earthling]'s mommy." (Straight parents, a tip for you: The key is to sound blandly confident. Use the same tone you'd use to say, "Actually, the capital of California is Sacramento.")

David took the conversation back to what matters to small children: themselves. "My mommy is married to my daddy," he informed me, and he and the earthling went back to playing with leaves and sticks.

A minute later, David's mother, having processed her horror and figured out what to say, chimed in with, "Of course women and women can be married!" She pretty clearly had a whole speech ready, but too late. Small children learn hundreds of new things every week, and they just don't have a lot of time to spend on any single irrelevant, unimportant new fact, like that women can be married to women. David had already filed this away, and he wasn't listening anymore.

David's mother left the conversation embarrassed and worried. She was the only person involved who had any feelings about it at all. These days, it doesn't matter to me the way it matters to other people.

~

My family is pretty basic: two adults and a child. But even now, when we can legally be married, legally file taxes together, legally be co-parents -- even now, forms almost never have room for us. There's the basic ones that assume that each child has a mother and a father, of course, but recently we filled out some for the school distract that had a ton of options: mother/grandmother/legal guardian/caregiver/foster parent/other. And father/grandfather/legal guardian/caregiver/foster parent/other. The only possibility that seemed not to have occurred to the school was two parents of the same sex.

I always cross out "father" and write "mother" over it. I cross out "husband" and write "wife." Often, this leads to unhappiness on the part of a receptionist or records keeper somewhere. "But the computer doesn't have a place for that! Can I just put sister?"

"She's not my sister, and she is responsible for my medical bills if I die."

"I'll just put sister."

But then sometimes I pick up a form that says Parent 1 and Parent 2, or Spouse 1 and Spouse 2, or something along those lines.

As soon as I see that, I look behind the desk, analyzing. Who works in this office who is queer? I want to ask. Because we only ever fit on forms designed by people like us.

~

"Are you sisters?"

"No, we're not related."

"Oh, just really good friends then, huh? You look so much alike! You must get that a lot."

"Yeah, we get it a lot."

~

In college, I had a therapist. One day, she asked, "Are you still together with [Best Beloved]?"

"Yeah," I said, confused. I mean. I'd been with BB for years. Surely it would have come up in therapy if we'd broken up? I figured I'd have some feelings about it and all.

"Huh," she said. "I'm surprised. I guess I just see lesbian relationships as more ephemeral than straight ones." She continued on thoughtfully, "I don't know why that is. You'd think I'd know better; my sister's been with her partner for a decade, after all. Well. I'll have to do some work on that, won't I?"

For the record, she was a very good therapist.

This week, I took the earthling to his pediatrician, Dr. G. Dr. G has known him since he was born, and she's known us since I was six months pregnant. BB and I met her together at the pre-birth interview thing, and BB was there in the hospital when the earthling was born, and BB comes to appointments when she can.

As Dr. G entered some data about the earthling into her computer, she asked, "Are you still with [BB]?"

I blinked at her. "We just celebrated our twenty-first anniversary," I said, after a moment's pause.

"Oh! Wow! Congratulations," she said, and we moved on.

I really doubt she's ever asked my sister, whose kids also see this doctor, if she's still married to her husband. I've been married longer; BB was at my sister's wedding. But, hey, my marriage is ephemeral, right? It could end at any time. Unremarked upon, even.

For the record, Dr. G is a very good pediatrician.

~

"Are you twins?"

"…What?"

"You look like twins!"

"No, we're not related."

"Wow! You look just like each other. How crazy is that, huh?"

~

It's just a reflex by now.

We were checking in for a spa day that my mother schedule for us: me, my sister (except technically not my sister, who is always late), and Best Beloved. "Oh, are you all Ruth's daughters?" the receptionist asked.

"No. Laura and I are. [BB] is my wife," I said.

And I could, of course, see her thoughts as they happened:

Oh, they're lesbians!

I am entirely and sincerely pro-gay, and so is my workplace. I voted against Prop 8! Yay, gay people!

…But what do I say now?

"Oh," she said, straightening up a little.

Wait, that sounds dismissive. Say something else! Say a better thing! Say the right thing!

"That's great!" she said.

I glanced up at her. "Yes, it is." And then I went back to texting my sister to find out where she was.

~

"Are you twins?"

"No. She's my wife."

"…Oh. Um."

~

Straight people, I will tell you a secret: there is no right response. Just listen and get on with your lives. I've learned to.