zeborah: Zebra against a barcode background, walking on the word READ (read)
In the last week and a half, I've watched all of White Collar to date. I entirely blame the totally NSFW fanvid Tonight I'm F**king You by talitha78. It's not the slashy hotness so much as that... the particular dynamics of the slashy hotness suggested to me that we might get some of the character dynamics that I enjoy watching in a show. So finally I downloaded an episode. And then I downloaded the rest of the episodes (with a brief hiatus to call my broadband company for more bandwidth).

(I was sick for part of the week. I needed entertainment. The splurge was totally justifiable.)

There's a bunch of things I love about the show (which is kind of like what'd happen if they'd made a spin-off of "Catch Me If You Can". FBI guy and ex-con: together they fight crime.) One is the caperful premise. Another is FBI guy's wife (when he has to flirt to preserve his cover, she doesn't go all soap opera jealous, but bursts out laughing. And then gives him flirting lessons). Another is that, although Evil Execs clearly made the show drop the awesome lesbian character ("We're not the military. We don't ask, we don't care.") after the pilot, the show brought her back by the end of season 1 and kept her, and in season 3 we meet her long-term partner, who's portrayed just the same as anyone else's long-term partner.

Mostly it's the character dynamics. I have a Thing for fictional relationships where the two characters are engaged in devious schemes to outwit each other's devious schemes to outwit each other, and this picks up in season 3.

The show's main weakness for me is that it's all about the straight white men. (Especially in season 1 and the first half of season 2, where it's all about Our Hero's manpainful search for his girlfriend.) As are a good deal of the other examples of this kind of relationship. (Javert/Valjean springs to mind. Others would except it's past my bedtime. When the characters spend more time in the same room than Javert and Valjean did, there may be homoerotic overones. Or, as in "Catch Me If You Can" there may be paternal overtones.) It's not that I dislike watching straight white men attempting to outwit each other, it's that I'd like some variety.

Thinking on it, there are a good number of stories with a male/female pairing in the same basic dynamic (eg Thomas Crowne Affair; Dangerous Liaisons and derivatives; Intolerable Cruelty) and I generally love these too (though Intolerable Cruelty would have been vastly better if the actors had had any chemistry at all). These always have explicit romance involved.

But I started doubting myself, wondering: would I still enjoy the dynamic if it was two female characters, or am I part of the problem? It's really hard to know, because for some strange reason I couldn't think of any examples.

Finally (thanks to a repeat the other day and a conversation on Twitter tonight) I thought of one which reassured me, because I did love it: Deokman vs Misil on The Great Queen Seondeok. They're both fantastic characters, both vastly intelligent and ambitious, but Deokman is in it for a vision and Misil is in it for herself. They lie to, deceive, and manipulate each other without cease. They hate each other fiercely -- and the best part is they also respect each other. (A related neat thing is that with the maternal overtones, mostly it's Misil coded as the mother-figure.)

So, I'd love more. Any books, movies, TV shows about two female characters in a spy-vs-spy, or otherwise cerebral adversarial, relationship? Powerplay, mindgames, and cunning all much appreciated. Cutting wit is bonus fun.

Or otherwise just any female character being awesome a la the Scarlet Pimpernel, the Saint (minus the Oh Leslie Charteris No fail), etc.

(Also, completely randomly: lots of fiction focuses on the father-son relationship. Some focuses on the mother-daughter relationship. Sometimes the father-daughter relationship. But the only mother-son relationships I can think of off-hand involve the son being a serial killer. What am I forgetting?)
zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (NZ)
I'm planning to read all the science fiction ever published by Māori authors. So far I've read half of it(*)! Herein follows a review of quarter of it.

Peter Tashkoff is Ngāti Porou; his novel Arapeta (on Amazon - and it's print-on-demand so it's *always* going to be 'only one left' - or for the Kindle) takes us a couple thousand years into the future, when humanity is scattered among the stars and Earth is half myth. Arapeta is the second son of the chief of the backwater planet Aotea, where the people live according to traditional ways of farming, fishing, fighting, and living. Only problem is that his family has a secret vein of pounamu (NZ-English: greenstone; overseas-English: jade) which is this universe's dilithium crystals, needed to power pretty much everything - and the secret leaks out to the broader universe. Colonialism ensues.

I found the book hard to get into to start with because of the prose. Particularly noticeable was the way every time a Māori word or phrase was introduced, it was immediately followed by the English translation, without regard to how clunky this ended up being. I'm more used to "incluing" techniques where you carefully place the unfamiliar word in a context that lets the reader figure it out for themself. I can see though why the author used this technique: there's a lot of vocabulary to introduce, and us Pākehā aren't famous for working hard at learning the Māori language....

But after I picked the book up again, I really got into it. It's set mostly in a completely Māori-centric world, plus space travel, nanites for medical care and body modification, genetic engineered soldiers, forcefields, hovercraft, and planet-destroying bombs. Through the main characters we get to care about this world, and through other characters we get a sense of the wider universe.

Spoilery discussion of something cool about the structure/unfolding of the plot; and then more spoilery discussion which I sum up as: Not very feminist, absolutely heteronormative. )

A couple random sentences I liked:
  • When you looked past the surprise attack and porridgey accent, this guy was quite a hoot.
  • Seven and a half minutes away, if you were a sunbeam, and happened to be lost at an awkward tangent off the horizontal plane of the planetary system [...]
Summary: The prose wasn't great and the book could have done with a copy-edit. The plot was mostly battles, preparation for battles, diplomacy to delay battles, and retreat from battles, with some romance as light relief and ultimate reward. But I really appreciated the way the plot unfolded, adding complications to the situation; it was a fun read, which I think just got better as it went along.


(*) Sample includes novels only, and only those turned up by the combined research of me and another librarian. The other titles are:
  • Skydancer by Witi Ihimaera (read; I'll try to read it again and review it as time allows)
  • Inna Furey by Isabel Waiti-Mulholland
  • Ripples on the Lake by Dawn Rotarangi
If anyone knows of more, I'd be over the moon!

The nice librarian also pointed me to:
zeborah: It's not that hard. A dalmatian could do it. (Criminal Minds)
I guess I really ought to get around to posting that Criminal Minds fanfic before the season 5 premiere tomorrow makes it entirely moot. Though I suppose the trailer already will have. (If so, please don't tell me until I've had a chance to see the episode itself!)

Title: Five times Aaron Hotchner felt helpless, and one time he didn't
Author: Zeborah
Spoilers: Criminal Minds season 4 finale
Warnings: (whitespace) References to alcoholism; unintentional-and-regretted-but-still-it's-there child abuse; attempted date rape of a walk-on character. (end whitespace)
Disclaimer: I don't own them; please don't sue me.


Five times Aaron Hotchner felt helpless, and one time he didn't )
zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (Stressed)
(In a good way, as far as I'm concerned: I like it when fiction makes me feel like I've been punched in the gut.)

Spoilers follow for Dae Jang Geum, Damo, and Iljimae

The main thing these three series have in common -- aside from the reason I selected them, which is that they're all set sometime in the Chosun dynasty -- is that they all involve plot arising from Corrupt Government Officials messing with the hero(ine)(s)' parents; and people going into hiding; and the resultant identity tangles. Also, apparently, a firm belief in the "What's the worst thing that could happen to my protagonist right now?" method of plotting.

Spoilers for Dae Jang Geum )

Damo and Iljimae begin with a flash-forward, then go back to the noble parent being killed by Corrupt Government Officials, then slowly work their way forward through the tangle of long-lost siblings. So much potential for comedy, so much potential for tragedy.

Spoilers for Damo )

Spoilers for Iljimae )
zeborah: It's not that hard. A dalmatian could do it. (procrastination)
I used to write a bunch of fanfic, first (if you don't count juvenilia, and anyway those were... heavily derivative original fiction) Star Trek Voyager and then Due South. It was fun and good practice and ultimately I decided to put my effort into original fiction.

But from time to time, eg when I'm watching the entire first season of Criminal Minds while the end of season four plays out an hour at a time on NZ TV and Hotch is making me nervous in a way that hits all my kinks -- I get the urge to write out my theory of what'll happen to him in the form of fanfic.

In an effort to stave off this urge, I go searching for fanfic on the grounds that if someone else has already written it, I won't have to. Makes sense, right? Yeah, but no, that was a bad idea.

I only searched very cursorily but here's what I found:

1) A fic in which Hotch has turned serial killer and Reid has to help catch him except the two have fallen in love. The first scene was really really hot. But then the writer started writing actual erotic stuff and I got bored.

2) A fic in which Hotch and Prentiss develop a relationship. There was some really sweet stuff in here. However it also suffered from Fangirl Misogyny Syndrome, to wit, Hotch's ex-wife was portrayed as an evil controlling abusive bitch because she dared to divorce the poor martyr even though the show made it fairly clear that she divorced him because she couldn't cope anymore with him regularly abandoning his family to go chasing serial killers.

Fangirl Misogyny Syndrome is widespread in every fandom I've encountered. In Due South the clearest example is Ray Kowalski's ex-wife Stella. On-screen, we see him stalking her. In fanfic, she's frequently portrayed as an emotionally abusive bitch. Strong female characters like Thatcher in Due South or Nechayev in Star Trek TNG become absolute harpies in fanfic. Less assertive women like Francesca Vecchio (Due South) or Deanna Troi (ST:TNG) become in fanfic stupid, whiny and weak; and if they try to become more assertive (attending police academy; taking the exams for commander) that's a joke, at best, to the fangirls. To be fair, in ST:Voyager, Admiral Paris also suffers from the vilification of those who worship Tom Paris, by becoming anything from a neglectful father to a child molester, so it's not *just* women; but it's predominantly women. I gather from smallcaps that the misogyny is endemic to Supernatural show and fandom, and fangirl pressure has made things even worse on the show.

The creepy thing in Criminal Minds fandom, though, is that we've seen episodes about stalkers obsessing over their object of affection to the point of wanting to kill people who are a "threat" to them in any way, or a "threat" to the stalker; and I see in Fangirl Misogyny Syndrome echoes of the way obsessing over a character turns to vilifying any woman who in any way hurts him or conversely is too close to him for the fangirl's comfort.

3) A fic in which a (female, fwiw) scientist creates a love potion "for personal purposes" and it's stolen and released into a) Quantico, causing everyone there (though we focus on Hotch and Reid) to jump for the nearest body and have wild passionate sex, then, "if their biochemistry is compatible", to require sex with said partner every few days for the rest of their life on pain of death; and b) Congress, ditto, at a time when they're being live telecast. Hijinks ensue. Hotch and Reid bond for life. The public inexplicably thinks that an orgy of politicians is hot. Congress sees the error of its homophobic ways and enacts gay marriage so Hotch and Reid can live happily ever after.

No-one ever points out that this love potion is indistinguishable from a date rape pill. People whose "biochemistry" isn't "compatible" (and what the heck does that even mean?) barely even suffer embarrassment and pregnancy is just a "Eh, I always wanted a baby anyway. If you're the Dad you'll help support it, right?" We have no broken marriages. No STDs. No trauma. And no trauma. Also no trauma. Did I mention no trauma? I'm just saying here.

---

So now, not only do I want to write a fic about:

1) Hotch as serial killer;

but I also want to write fic about:

2) Hotch's ex-wife's painful decision to divorce him because, though she loved him, she couldn't cope with the stress of his job, and she knew that if she asked him to give up that job he'd be miserable; and

3) A random love potion infestation in which being under the influence is terrifying, the aftermath involves serious trauma, and those who have bonded long-term but don't actually *like* each other have to nevertheless find some way to stay alive.

This was not my original intention.

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