#usually ones involving lots of scenes + other elements
Is Sambucky Canon or Not?
TL;DR: Yes, it is
I've seen some people saying that they only see friendship between Sam and Bucky, and I can understand that. Because depending on your education, the environment you grew up and the kind of media you’re usually exposed to, you will have a different interpretation of different situations, in real life or in TV.
Just let me insert a short story before I dive into the Sambucky topic:
My best friend's uncle is in his fifties and has been living with his roommate (a man) for more than 10 years. They lived together, went on holidays together but officially were just roommates. My best friend wondered if they were a couple, but never talked about it to her parents because it wasn't her business.
Two years ago, they decided to come out and get married. My best friend's parents and his parents were genuinely surprised, they were not expecting that, at all, not even a little bit. Let me tell you that it didn’t even cross their mind that it was a possibility, at all.
For them, it had always just been two men who had decided to live together because they were single. And preferred to have a roommate rather than living alone.
What I want to say with this story is that people will see what they want to see, or what they're used to see, or what they were raised to see. It’s human.
What I mean is that you will have different perception of a same event, depending on your own circumstances. And I think the writers of TFATWS were counting on that a little bit when it came to Sam and Bucky’s relationship. They obviously didn't want to make some big announcement or big love declaration.
And yes, of course, I have my own circumstances as well, influencing the way I see things.
I have shipped SamBucky since Civil War, when they were supposedly enemies. I never expected anything to happen between them on screen. But then they got a show together and I was so so happy about it but I didn't expect anything other than friendship between them.
I was perfectly fine with that because a show was already more than enough: my man Sam Wilson was becoming Captain America, the show was great, the characters were great, their interactions were great, and this wasn't a love story anyway but a superhero show. I thought that here was no way the showrunners would ever go there.
I changed my mind after episode 5. I tried to stay objective, but it was clear to me that the writers were hinting at a relationship that went beyond friendship between Sam and Bucky.
In some of my previous posts, I explained that there are some scenes and writing choices that make absolutely no sense if you read them as a scene between two friends. I can link them if anyone’s interested.
Side note: I would like to know if one person on this website can tell me what was up with Bucky's behavior with Torres (in episode 5)? What other explanation is there, if not jealousy? It's a scene they chose to keep, so it was probably written this way, there must be a reason. Please I’m begging someone explain it to me. I'm genuinely asking, because otherwise that scene alone is canon Sambucky.
After episode 5, I was convinced they would make Sambucky canon, one way or the other and I started speculating about the ways they could do it.
What I said was that if they did make Sambucky canon, they would do it in a very subtle way, in order not to make it too obvious because that’s generally how Marvel movies deal with love stories. And also because they wouldn’t want to scare away their homophobic audience ( I guess Disney needs their money...who knows)
So here are the scenes of how I imagined SamBucky becoming canon and the comparison with reality:
- What I thought we could get : AJ and Cass calling Bucky "Uncle Bucky"
- What we got: AJ and Cass running up to Bucky and playing with him.
This point is interesting because it’s also related to the point I made about how the environment you grew up in influences your perception of things. I grew up in a big family and I know that, at least in my family, kids don't run up to an adult like that just because it's their uncle’s friend or just because he's nice... There's a real bond there. They haven't seen Bucky just that one time when he slept on the couch. They're obviously close. But some people might just see this as kids being kids. Also, if you watch at how the kids were fake punching him, they were really coordinated with Bucky. They have done this plenty of times.
What I thought we could see: A non-explicit scene where we were supposed to draw our own conclusions. I thought they could show us Bucky staying over for the night, and the last scene would be an empty couch, meaning we would have to understand that Bucky slept in Sam's room this time.
-What we got: Bucky arriving in Sam's car ( A few people on Tumblr pointed out that it was the car Sam was driving in episode 1)
So here again we have a scene that a lot of people will not notice. But they still chose to put it there.
What I thought could happen: Sam asking Bucky to stay in Delacroix
What we got: Bucky wrapping things up in New York, as if he was leaving the city for good and coming to Sam's party as if he already knew everyone there. You can read my take on this here.
What I thought could happen: The scene in the trailer where we see them looking in the same direction and then we get a shot from very far away where they're holding hands but it’s not so obvious because they are being filmed from a disctance.
-What we got: The scene in trailer and then a blurry shot of Sam holding Bucky and then fondling with his neck to find the best spot to rest his hand on.
So none of the scenes I was imagining happened exactly like I had imagined, but it felt like all of them happened but in a different versions, which is still crazy to me.
If it had been only one scene. I could probably understand the people who see them as just friends. Actually, I still do understand the people who see them as just friends, because everyone has their own interpretation. What I am saying is that they are NOT being portrayed as just friends.
There are TOO many scenes in the 6 episodes for it to be a coincidence. One or 2 would be ok but friendship doesn’t explain everything:
The therapy scene (not the therapy scene itself since it was improvised) but the therapist saying she had heard a lot about Sam and wanting them to do a couples’ therapy
Bucky following Sam no matter what
Sam saying ok as soon as Bucky says "do it for me"
Sam asking "what about Bucky?"
Bucky starting to touch Sam whenever he has the chance
Bucky being the one to bringing the suit for Sam
The boat repairing montage
Bucky wanting to stay at Sam's place, when a hotel room would have been more comfortable than a couch
The second day of boat repair in closed quarters with an intense staring scene.
And there are so many other scenes, soft touches, looks,...
These writing choices are not a coincidence, it’s not involuntary, and it’s not fan service ( Fan service is the roll in the flower field scene, or the therapy session). This is them telling a story.
Let’s not even talk about the scenes in Endgame:
Sam comforting bucky at Tony’s funeral
Sam looking up to Bucky for approval before accepting the shield from Steve.
So yes, Sam and Bucky are canon in the sense that Peter and Gamora were canon in the first movie, or Wanda and Vision were canon in Captain Civil War. Meaning that there was no big moment, kiss or anything, but the show is consistently throwing elements clearly showing Sam and Bucky as a romantic item and hinting at a lot more than friendship between them.
It is normal that some people have a different opinion. Because it is extremely rare, in big productions like this to have two male leads with romantic feelings towards each other, so not a lot people who see it will interpret it as such (I don't think it ever happened). You’ll see what you’re used to seeing.
I guess it also depends on what you expect from a love story. For me, the storyline between the characters, their scenes, their chemistry, the way their feelings towards each other are described, are the most important. The kiss scene is just there as a bonus, but I don't need it when the love story is told perfectly. If you’re used to seeing love stories with many kissing scenes, that’s what you will be expecting to see in most love stories.
If you're only used to seeing male friendships in superhero or action movies. The 1000th time you see men interacting in that type of movie or show, you are more likely to assume it is a friendship and nothing more, no matter how many codes and tropes usually associated with romantic movies, the writers and show makers are using.
Add to that the conviction that Disney would never approve Sambucky in a million years, and there you go, I can understand the people who see only friendship.
But, just think about it, if we had the same show, same scenes, same dialogues, but minus the action scenes and the project was being marketed as an Indie movie, would you think they were just friends or a blossoming couple?
If you read Sambucky’s relationship like a friendship: some scenes don't make sense. If you read it like a developing romantic relationship: it all makes sense.
"When you hear hoofs, think horse, not zebra"
If a writer or a film director chooses a last scene with a romantic setting and the two leads are staring at a sunset, smiling repeatedly at each other and then walking away together with one of them touching the other's neck, with a love song in the background, maybe friendship isn't the first thought they had in mind.
Some people may say “I see them as just friends” and other people may say “ I see them as lovers” and both are fine, because people have different perceptions, and that’s ok.
What I am saying is this post is that the show and the writers are portraying them as more than just friends, they’re portraying them as two characters who are romantically involved.
Perceive what you want but that’s how they are being presented in the show.
Bucky’s therapist said that the exercise she gave them was for couples who want to figure out what kind of life they want to build together. Then, the show ends with Sam and Bucky, staring at a sunset together, looking in the same direction.
“Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction. “ - Antoine de Saint-Exupery
What else do you need???
This show had more romance than half of the Marvel projects out there. Not every love story needs a kiss (for now...)
We'll see in their next projects which direction the writers want to go with this. But since it was said that the writer on the movie is the same as the writer from episode 5, there's no doubt in my mind that we'll keep seeing this dynamic.
I don't think they would have made the same choices if this had been a movie. But I won't complain that we got this.
I hope they keep this going even if it stays subtle like in the show. Just hope they will add one explicit scene where one of the characters acknowledges their relationship. But even if we only ever get this show, it’s already a great love story.
Let me know what you guys think and sorry for the typos and grammar mistakes, I was tired when I wrote the last part. I hope it still makes sense!
If you think they're only being portrayed as friends let me know why! I would also like to know about the way you see this!
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A Theory about the Docent (infinity train book 4 spoilers
I want to talk about this guy.
(Image ID: A picture of the Docent, from book 4 of infinity train- a tripedal ape-like monster made of knitted-together severed human arms, lurking in an art gallery.)
The Docent was the standout villian of book 4, on all levels. Best design, best dramatic scene, knocked it out of the park in terms of sheer what-the-fuckery.
But I've seen a lot of speculation about what the hell it actually is- what its intended role on the train is, whether it's native to that car at all, whether it's something Amelia created or something One made. I've been kicking it around a lot, and I've come to the conclusion that the Docent may have been intended to explore an aspect of the train that previous seasons touched on with Lake's story in particular, but didn't develop in full.
Long, Long analysis under the cut. Largely without pictures! Book 4 is too new for there to be a wealth of screencaps. Sorry about that
So the first big question surrounds the legitimacy of the Docent- whether it even belongs to the art gallery or if it's a foreign element like when a Ghom sneaks onto a car.
The main thing indicating something's wrong with it is the sheer violence implied by the fact it's made up with hands with numbers- but when you move beyond that grotesquery, it does seem to be native to the gallery car. There's a sign acknowledging its presence, and it follows an ironic logic; if you touch the art, it comes out of the art, touches you back, robs you of what you used to interfere with the art. On paper, it tracks as the sort of concept One would come up with.
But many of the specific details of it's behavior don't quite mesh with the car it's in, or the overall "rules" of the train.
For a car that's themed around taking your time and exploring all the angles, The Docent introduces a weird time pressure. Ryan trying to use the paintings as a portal is intuitive, and very in line with the kind of thinking the car is trying to encourage. Just touching the paintings is something most passengers are gonna do in the course of investigating the room. Once it's bearing down on you, you probably aren't gonna figure out the door puzzle unless you happen to be right next to it, like Min was, and it's a pretty big gallery. Most people who go up against this thing are gonna die; the only reason it took so long to attack Min-gi is that, either by preference or as another rule of engagement, it wanted to wait till he was alone. Most passengers enter alone- Ryan and Min-gi are remarked on as unusual situation, they present more work than usual.
The second incongruous element is the emotion control thing. That's a weird power for this thing to have, given how the train works and how passengers work. I think the Docent is the only thing on the train that we've seen supernaturally inhibit or influence the judgement of a passenger. In every other situation there might be a physical threat, but the minds of the Passengers are left unclouded so that they can apply what they're learning. Min and Ryan weren't going to learn anything from what the Docent was doing to them. The only goal seemed to be to split them off so it could kill them.
Then there's the hand thing. It isn't made of arms - there's a couple shots where you can see a sort of shadowy material inside it that's acting like the glue holding the arms together. The arms are presumably trophies that it took of dead passengers and arraigned on it's own body. You know, like the abstract art it's spent it's whole existence surrounded with.
Lastly, you get to the meta level- in a season where every single antagonist is a denizen, it's got a noticeably more involved concept and design, and it was introduced in the seventh episode. Everything introduced in the seventh episode becomes important down the line- Lake in Season one, The Apex in Season 2, Amelia as a springboard for Hazel's future in season 3. This thing was slated to be important.
So at this point I'm going to back off and discuss the themes of the show as a whole as I see them.
As a whole, Infinity Train is an examination and deconstruction of stories like The Wizard of Oz, The Phantom Tollbooth, and Over the Garden Wall. Each book has dug into a specific failure of the train's premise, and a broader way that stories in this subgenre could potentially go off the rails.
Season One is a fairly straightforward adventure in the subgenre, but it still goes out of its way to demonstrate that the Train's judgement isn't infallible. Tulip’s anger at being manipulated by an unseen judge is validated by the narrative, and, more broadly, the train onboards a passenger who's smart enough and dangerous enough to buck the system and overthrow the conductor. It's about what would happen if Dorothy got sick of taking arbitrary marching orders from the Wizard and usurped him, to become the man behind the curtain.
Season Two follows a supporting party member- a tin man, a scarecrow, a NPC who was created off-the-cuff to give a passenger a one-and-done opportunity to be kind to something. The season is about what would happen if such a character decides to assert their own personhood, when they meet a "protagonist" who bucks genre convention and becomes so invested in their success that it nearly destroys the narrative logic the train is running on.
Season 3 is about how it's not a given that the "protagonists" are going to realize what sort of adventure they're supposed to be on. It's very possible for passengers to misinterpret how the system works, and when you put literal children in a "Phantom Tollbooth" situation, they're going to be incredibly vulnerable to emotional manipulation and predation. (The Oz comparison sort of writes itself here; there's only one witch alive at the end of that movie for a reason. Wicked milked a whole musical out of this concept.)
Season Four has the deconstruction less front and center, but it touched on a general assumption made by stories like The Wizard of Oz- that the supporting cast is going to be fine and dandy when the protagonist completes their journey and heads home. Kez and Morgan aren't fine. They haven't moved on from Jeremy's adventure, and they can't take it as a flat victory that they were able to get him home; by design, they didn't have much in their lives besides him. The "life-affirming-adventure" model has psychologically broken Morgan because this has just happened again and again, even to people who would have stayed with her given the choice.
( I say stories like the Wizard of Oz because Oz proper actually addressed in the sequels that there were a lot of political problems caused by Dorothy's abrupt departure, and it's treated as a triumph when she's able to make her way back and settle in for the long haul to help fix things. This is a digression. I love Oz.)
There were other takes on this narrative kicked around during the AMA. Dennis mentioned they were working on a book about a passenger who refused to leave when the adventure was over, and a book about an elderly passenger who couldn't engage with the train in the intended way due to Alzheimer's inhibiting his memory retention. But the pattern is clear; each season is a deep-dive into a specific assumption or convention present in stories like these.
Something they never did a deep dive into is the plight of the Talking Trees.
(A picture of Marcel, a minor antagonist from book 2 of Infinity train.)
There are weird ethics underpinning the designated antagonistic setpieces like Marcel, Perry, and Lake - all sentient beings who exist to only to hurt passengers in a way that teaches them something. Are they evil, or just filling the role in the story they were created to fill? Can they be evil towards their own benefit- mapping the room with friends, finding a new body- or are they always doomed to, essentially, be a sentient puzzle?
We've never seen a denizen deliberately and maliciously try to become a a threat to the entire train because it doesn’t like its lot in life. Lake got close, but that wasn't her actual goal, just collateral damage she inflicted by accident.
So here's the theory: In a future season, The Docent would have been the main antagonist. They would have presented an unexplored angle of the denizen situation; an initially antagonistic setpiece denizen who, like Lake, decided to buck their role in the train and express their agency. Unlike Lake, they choose to do this not by asserting their own rights and humanity and opting out of the train system, but by killing every single passenger they can get their many, many hands on.
I'm speculating that the The Docent starts its career, essentially, as a funhouse threat; it's a vaguely-ghost shaped shadow-thing that's supposed to spook passengers, send a chill up their spine, introduce a mild pressure to clear the gallery car in good time. In keeping with the theme, it's only allowed to engage passengers once they start handling the art; maybe it gets more and more obvious the more they tamper, so that they have a chance to recognize the pattern, but you'd have to go out of your way to actually get killed by this thing. Okay, cool.
Except maybe, like Lake, the Docent starts to get frustrated with the fact it was created solely to encourage passengers to move on with their lives. It starts to get frustrated that it's surrounded by all these forms of expression, but it's limited to being a vaguely defined blob. And it starts to get pissy about all these passengers Constantly. Touching. The Paintings. It is, after all, designed from the ground up to be a Docent. It cares about such things.
Unlike Lake, this thing was never designed with a drive to escape; the Docent’s base function is retaliatory. So it it starts pushing the envelope to see what it can get away with. It starts hurting passengers who touch the paintings. It starts killing them. It starts killing them the first chance it gets, instead of gradually ramping up. It starts killing 99 percent of the people who enter the car. It starts experimenting, artistically, with the corpses. It becomes less about guarding the art and more about making its own art.
And eventually, it realizes that One doesn't care. After all, it's still technically possible for passengers to escape alive if they don't touch the art. There is a sign about it; that's fair warning, right? And anyway most passengers don't make it to this car in the first place. The ones the Docent murders are a drop in the bucket. When we see it, it only has maybe twenty people’s worth of arms.
What One does care about is that the Docent stays in its assigned car. It's a setpiece, not a potential companion; bodycount aside, it only makes aesthetic sense in the context of its puzzle. And that irks the Docent, well down the path of artistic experimentation, more than anything. It doesn't want to be someone else’s art. It wants to make art.
And then, Amelia hijacks the train.
We see that in her initial bout of incompetence, she accidently self-destructed many of the stewards that One would have used to stop the Docent had it tried to leave. And we see that she cared even less than One did about maintaining order in the cars; all she cared about was Alrick.
That leaves a thirty year window for the Docent to realize that nothing is physically stopping it from leaving the gallery car anymore.
According to the AMA, the theme of Book 6, summed up in one word, would have been "Guilt." I think that Book Six would have involved One-one tasking Amelia with hunting down and destroying the Docent, who, as a result of her take-over, has had thirty years to rampage through the train with impunity, ambushing solo passengers and building an increasingly lovecraftian body for itself out of stolen parts.
It would be a dark mirror of several previous antagonists and anti-heroes.
Like Amelia, it feels like the train dealt it a crappy hand, and it's exploiting the resources the train presents it with to continuously tinker with a masterpiece that's never quite right.
Like Lake, it would be a bitter Denizen fighting tooth and nail to reify itself, willing to break the system for its own self-satisfaction, obsessed with collecting passenger numbers to prove a point to the powers that be.
And like the Apex, it would treat the train as an endless buffet of potential victims that it's entitled to, by dint of its raw power in comparison to everything else.
All of this would be layered under the ethical question of whose fault this perfect storm of evil is. Is One at fault for creating something relatively harmless but then letting it go malignant by neglecting its personal needs? Is Amelia at fault, for not using her thirty year stint as conductor to stop it? Is it the train's fault, for constantly putting new people in its path? Can it all be pinned on The Docent, for continuing to be evil even after better opportunities opened up to it?
Or is it all on the Passengers, because they couldn't keep their hands off the fuckin' paintings?
Finally, I want to elaborate why I think this would be a perfect antagonist for Amelia specifically.
(Image ID: Amelia, from Infinity train, halfway through her breakdown in the final episode.)
I have a very specific read of Amelia's breakdown at the end of Book One. Amelia doesn't care that she hurt One-one, and she's arguably right not to; Season 4 shows that prior to the overthrow, One was a bit of a callous prick. Amelia is upset for practical reasons; she's finally admitted to herself that she picked an untenable goal, and nearly personally killed a child to further a plan that wasn't going to work.
She does care if people get hurt! She gave all the passengers their stuff back and she stepped in to save Grace on two separate occasions; she does care on some level for the other passengers, as long as they don't get in her way. She isn't upset about her number because she agrees that it's a valid measure of her moral worth; she's upset because she's going to be stuck on the train forever, without Alrick, now that One-One is back in charge.
All of this is to say that Amelia doesn't care at all about the damage she did to the train proper; she cares that she wasted her life and nearly killed a kid, but she doesn't care about the damage she did to Corginia or what she did to the Cat. She's repairing the train because One-One told her to, not because she cares if it functions as a therapy tool. She gives about as much of a shit about the denizens as the Apex did, as One-One does. Even when she takes Hazel, it's as a test subject, not out of concern.
The Docent as extrapolated here, though, presents Amelia with a different story. It presents a real human body-count racked up as a result of her takeover. It represents an affirmation that by becoming Conductor, Amelia took on specific duties to the passengers that One wasn't meeting, but that she also failed to meet by not stopping the Docent and other things like it.
She's travelling with Hazel. Hazel, who's the other side of the coin in terms of sentient fallout of Amelia's myopia. Hazel, who's in a perfect position and mindset to interrogate Amelia on her shortcomings, to put a human face on the carnage the Docent causes to the Denizens who have interesting parts for it to collect.
And through this whole process, Amelia is, at least at first, chasing the Docent as an extension of her desire to work her way off the train. One-one didn't necessarily send her after it because it's killing people so much as because it's not playing by the rules. For One-One, a “win” would be getting the Docent back to its original car, or creating a whole new Docent and starting the cycle over. At least at first, neither of them would be trying to fix their mistake for the right reasons. And that would feed into an extremely important question that the series could handle fantastically;
Does it matter why you want to solve a problem, or why you want to fix your mistakes, so long as you do?
Thank you for coming to my TED Talk; I hoped you enjoyed my attempt to weasel out of working on my finals as much as I did.
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🔭 Cosmic Cookout 🌵
- Cancers and Capricorn’s become a center piece to any thing they involve themself and put their mind to
- Mars in angular houses can be prone to acting a fool out in public. In no regard to where
- Venus in 4th house are not going to allow any family fallouts in their home situation
- The element you lack could be what you fear/stray away from in-extreme. Earth = being buried alive, getting trapped, Air = heights, flying, Water = oceans, drowning, Fire = Hot places, emergency fire, lava.
- Your ascendant shows up in your presentation of your self, including the genetics of the individual which I’d say is about 85%. The other 15% being accounted to your “Presence”. Some people are 5’8 and appear like they’re 6’1. While others can be 6’1 but move like they are 5’9.
- Mars in 11th house people can be into Mortal Kombat, Tekken. Fighting games
- Mars-Pluto people must have an influence on their environment, positive aspects can help. But the critical aspects (conjunct, opposition, square) can create One Overwhelming mf to deal with
- Jupiter in Aries people can navigate aggressively without much friction. Pushing 50 mph in a 35 and not getting pulled over 🧐
- Taurus placements make it easier for you move smart in the streets/have IQ in dealing with world matters
- Aquarius are silly as hell, out-of-box humor
- 0 degrees of any planet in your house system, shows that you hatched into the world possessing the Brand new and original characteristics that are based around the theme of the planet in question. In instance, You have “Sun at 0 degrees in the 10th house”, The public can noticed that you are the First person to conduct yourself or your business like “that”. It’s almost like you’re on earth with your own genre of music, that serves as pioneering point for others who may decide to follow you. 0 is a Critical Degree as well, so it will be a key component to your life path and decisions.
- Mutable influenced people will run to the Gas station/convenient store, 50 times a day if they wanted to.
- Venus-ascendant girls can be the girlfriend your whole family thought was good news. Up until her true colors start oozing and that real Dragon come out 😂🔥👹
- Mercury-Jupiter (Conjunct and trine) will never have to Try to be funny. The mental flow is right along the lines of Expansive information, you will easily state things that apply to a lot of people. Your sleep talk can have many folks crying of laughter.
- If you can’t apply a time to your Ascendant, Pay Close attention to what the universe causes your physical body to do most frequently for as long as you can remember. Mainly, the actions you find yourself not being able to control. Ex: Sagittarius asc - Laughing about everything, traveling around place to place throughout life Libra asc - Being too polite and having a partner people see you with almost everyday (friend,romantic fling)
- You will see Gemini’s and Pisces in association with a lot of social involvement and activities. (Placements can apply also). Even as kids, they somehow manage to be everywhere at once. Perplexing
- Cardinal signs can develop bad road rage
- Mercury conjunct ascendant get called and treated like a “baby” often thoughout life. I have this placement, it seems like folks actually try to guide me around like a toddler. I got into this event in New York for cheap posing at age 12. I’m 6’1 w a beard, how did they fall for that sht? 🧐😂
- Mercury-Neptune/Mercury-Saturn (mostly harsh aspects) can turn out to be damn Snitches 🤫🤬
- Sun square moon can misinterpret how they are treated and take things personal a lot of times. It can be improved though
- Sun in 5th house will fit in this world, they are a comfort zone to people who need amusement. Which is everyone.
- Moon in 8th can over exaggerate the hell out the quality of something. Food, Hotel, Life experiences in general. Good or bad
- Cancers can play both sides, be careful with them.
- 8th house can be an indicator to how people will feel about your death/what reactions it would spark/maybe even what the general karmic root causes of the death. Ex: Mars in 8th , instead of saying “you died a violent way”, it could be that “your actions and temperament could have led things, in one or another, to be the generating factor behind your demise”
- Sun in 7th are the type to be well known for a duo group. People usually link your highlight moments achievements with partner.
- Having Sun in 1st house REQUIRES you to have leading effect in your surroundings to be efficient, Your performance can drastically fall off if you follow behind those with less dominant/solar potential than you. Foreal tho 😐
- Taurus can be some of the most craziest women you’ll ever meet
- Virgo are easily selected as the face of a franchise or certain “organization”. They mainly serve as the engine of “behind the scene” pursuits, without them we could lose a lot of order and “organization” in this world. This will always be brought to the forefront
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Ok so, 2020 has been A LOT but on a personal note one of the most surprising things to happen was me discovering Dramione fanfiction and becoming unashamedly obsessed with it. I really didn’t see that coming but I’m here now and I’m here to stay.
I think I started reading in the Dramione fandom around mid July last year?? (In all honesty I’ve lost any true sense of time’s progression at this point so I could be well off the mark with that) And I’ve decided to compile a list of all my favourite fics I’ve read so far. Why? I really just want to gush over all the amazing writers I have found through this fandom because y’all deserve it.
Side note: If any of the authors actually sees this post just dm so I can buy you coffee or post you writing supplies or something idk I feel like that’s the least I can do for all your amazing work x
Remain Nameless by @heyjude19-writing
Ok I have to start with RN because this fic is pretty much the sole reason I decided to create an account with A03 or a tumblr or just decided to get involved with this fandom at all.
I headcannon this story hard. But I think even if you aren’t a fan of Dramione you should just read this because it is so unbelievably good and well written and poignant and Draco’s sarcastic personality in this is truly a thing of beauty in this - I relate to his inner monologue’s on a deep personal level.
I could rave about this story any time, any day of the week, just ask me. In fact, maybe I’ll just start a HeyJude19 fan club to fulfill that urge.
There are so many elements that I love but for the sake of brevity, RN is a beautifully told story of Draco and Hermione finding love and healing in a post-war HP setting. Heyjude19 had the very special ability of making me want to simulatenously laugh, cry and swoon with the power of her words. Just stop what you are doing and go read it now if you havent already, ok?
I also really enjoyed reading Bells on a Hill, Beers, Potions and Unwise Notions and A Shift in Focus, if you are looking for smaller fics, definitely give these a go. They are all funny and heartfelt stoires that will make your tippy toes wriggle with glee.
The Rights and Wrongs Series by @lovesbitca8
The Right Thing To Do, All The Wrong Things and The Auction are the holy trinity of Dramione writing. I have christened it thus, so mote it be. And frankly I’m not interested in any other opinion than that one, thank you very much!
After reading this series I don’t think I’ll be able to look back on the orginal HP books without thinking of Hermione’s and Draco’s memories of their time at Hogwarts in these fics as anything other than strictly cannon.
So many things to love about this series but I think one of the major highlights was Hermione and Draco’s use of occlumency. LoveBitca8 created such beautiful visuals with how occlumency works as a magical practice and seeing Draco and Hermione so devoted to eachother to the point of safeguarding their inner most feelings to protect eachother was unbelievably romantic and poetic.
Also the smut is divine ;)
Manacled by @senlinyu
My heart will never be the same after reading this story. Like I actually can’t think about this fic without getting a lump at the back of my throat. I have never felt so emotionally ruined after reading anything, compared to the likes of this fic. Just please, please read it. To badly quote HP, reading Manacled will make you suffer but you’re going to be happy about it.
The flashbacks are a rollercoaster in of themselves but the way Hermione inadvertently refers to them when she is still in a state of memory loss was so heartbreaking to read. My heart still aches for them both. Also its a truly satisfying to see Draco and Hermione written in a way were they are both so fiercly protective of one another. They make my insides go soft.
I also really enjoyed Snow Fall, Now Is A Gift and All You Want by the author but to be honest anything written by Senlinyu is always thoroughly enjoyable and worth a look.
The Erised Effect by @adaprix
Ada is QUEEN of dramione smut but ‘The Erised Effect’ is top tier. Its equal parts funny, romantic, sentimental and oh so sexy. Ada really knows how to build and build on sexual tension and doesn’t disappoint on the final delivery. I’m a big admirer of her writing style and just veraciously read whatever she posts but ‘The Erised Effect’ is just golden. A must read. (Also Pansy’s sexual fantasy in this story is a visual I don’t think I’ll ever be able to remove from my brain so thanks for that Ada)
Also quick side note: Adaprix’ stories were the first I read when I was looking into this fandom and it was enough to get me hooked on the pairing from the get go so I have that to thank Ada for too. I remember devouring all the stories she had posted to A03 and when I was done I was like... now what am I supposed to do with my life?? And that’s basically when I began to look deeper into the fandom and thus the course of my life in 2020 changed for the better.
Some other stories I love by her are Break for Me, All My Sins, The Big 4-0, The Fucklust Series and The Flat in Bath.
Clean by @olivieblake
This 6th Year AU where Draco and Hermione work together on a class assignment and end up falling in love had me feeling all kinds of ways when I read it. I almost don’t know where to start but I think one of the stand out things for me was how immersed I felt in reading it.
Hogwarts is captured really well, you get a good sense of class atmospheres, character nuances and behind the scenes of events that happen in HBP but from a Draco and Hermione’s perspectives. It’s well executed and intricate tapestry of a fic. With an excellent plot twist ending!
Also Hermione and Draco’s relationship in this is equal parts fluffy and smutty and it just ticks all the right boxes that you want to see for those characters ;)
Breath Mints / Battle Scars by @onyx-and-elm
The angst in this one is just *chef’s kiss*
God I love this fic. The way Draco is portrayed is very true to his defensive and tetchy character in the original books but he is also given so much more depth. The way his diary entries are written are just so well executed. It’s a true testament to the author’s creative writing skill. And I LOVE how even though Draco is clearly in such a messed up place, he still has a basic level of self respect and dignity that he won’t tolerate being used or undervalued in his relationship with Hermione.
Yep, I really love Draco’s characterisation in this one if you can’t tell. But Hermione is also well written too. Her stuggles and trauma of returning to Hogwarts after war is described in a believable and grounded way. And my heart definitely ached for them both. I just wanted to wrap the pair of them in a big fuzzy blanket and tell them that everything will be alright.
WANDS OUT! by @persephonestone
This murder mystery / Dramione / Theo x Harry / AU crossover is everything I didn’t know I wanted until I read it. I felt like I was picked up and plonked right into an alternative dimension where all the characters of HP are just living it up in an Agatha Christie novel.
It’s a funny and clever story that I found refreshing to read amongst all the other fanfics that are usually cemented in the HP timeline or universe. Theodore Nott in this fic is perfection he should be written like this in every fic from now on in my opinion. I couldn’t stop giggling any time he had a scene in the story.
And the ‘only one bed’ trope in this fic is 10/10. I don’t want to give spoilers but ohmygod. It hits all the right notes.
The One With Technical Difficulties by cassielassie
Cassielassie has an excellent three part series of Dramone called ‘The One with...” but I have to give special credit to this story in particular for one main reason. ELEVATOR TROPES. I can’t get enough of em. I think I have my early childhood viewings of NCIS to thank for my obsession with elevator tropes they just do something to me that simply cannot be explained with mere words. The palpable sexual tension of being in a broken down elevator with an ‘enemies to lovers’ pairing, a heated arguement breaks out followed by a discovery of mutual feelings and a romantic embrace...
Eugh. It gets me everytime. And this fic is no exception. I loved it for all the reasons I’ve already stated above but also for the attention to detail in Draco and Hermione’s careers makes this one particularly immersive. The dynamics between them established in this one-shot are convincingly portrayed and the chemistry between them is so undeniably hot.
The Light is No Mystery by @masterofinfinities
Yooo if you want to read a dramione fic that is a deep dive into Pureblood culture and Post-War recovery but is also a perfect allegory for discrimination and today’s political landscape of moral grandstanding for votes then look no further than this one.
This story has a bit of everything. Intrigue, mystery, ptsd and recovery, enemies to lovers / secret relationship, government conspiracy and humour, to name a few. I eargerly await every update to this story and am anxious to know how it ends!
The Eagle’s Nest by HeartOfAspen
Finally! A fic that gives me the Ravenclaw representation I crave. I think I could recommend this fic on the lore depicted of Ravenclaw house alone. ‘The Stacks’ and Rowena Ravenclaw’s own ‘come and go room’ are just such cool details that I could see being real in the HP universe.
This fic is so cosy and makes me feel like I’m just popping back into Hogwarts for another year. You get to see all the usuals like prof. Mcgongall, Nearly headless Nick, PEEVES, Hagrid, as well as learn more about minor characters from the other school houses. The story follows Hermione going to her day to day classes and there are interesting concepts about magic and alchemy that are explored.
Draco and Hermione’s relationship in this one is of course very fluffy and heartfelt. But it’s the attention to detail that really makes this fic outstanding and the experience of reading it feels fleshed out and true to HP universe.
A shorter fic by HeartofAspen that I recommend is one called Set in Stone, it has an adventurous, Indianna Jones vibe to it, that I am so down for.
Teachable Moments by @purplesugarquills
In this fic Hermione is an innocent little virgin determined to learn everything about sex. And Draco Malfoy is her tutor. If that isn’t enough to get you on board then I don’t know what is. Both Heartfelt and Steamy. PurpleSugarQuills writes smut so well but it’s the progression of their growing attachment and the nervous treading of new uncharted waters of romantic relationships for both of them that just adds a whole other level of feels to the story. Also chapter 9 is like reading poetry - its so good. Eugh just give it a read if you haven’t already.
Les Pèlerins by @pacific-rimbaud
This story is high art. It’s transcendent. Reading this story feels like the emotional equivalent of standing around a hundred glowing fairy lights, sipping hot cocoa and being wrapped in the loving embrace of a s/o. I can’t speak my praises highly enough or even become passably coherent in my words when I try to articulate a review.
From the very first paragraph I felt like I was just whisked away on a Parisian holiday and I’ve never even bloody been to Paris but damn it if this story didn’t make me feel like I was there. The writing style is just so tactile and intense it’s like I could feel the cold winter air brush against me as I read it. Eugh I just completely fell in love with the story and the writer.
New Year’s resolution. Read everything PacificRimbaud has ever posted online.
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Asexuality in Fic Roundtable - What We Like
How do I write a convincing asexual character in a fic? Is there a way to address a character’s sexuality outside the context of sex or coming out? Can a story feature a character's asexuality aside from exploring the negative aspects of the asexual experience? It’s usually not too hard to find lists of what not to do when writing asexual characters, but much more difficult to find the opposite.
The asexual members of The Magnus Writers discord gathered to discuss their favorite ways to incorporate the day-to-day details of asexual peoples’ experiences into fiction. We also discussed depictions that we’ve enjoyed in the past, or would love to see more of. Note that this isn’t an Asexuality 101 resource, so if you don’t feel familiar with the basics, feel free to check out the resources we will link in the reblog of this post.
This conversation included a variety of ace-spectrum people from multiple countries, including both arospec and non-aro people, various genders, and varying relationships to sex and sexual content. Just like all asexual people are different, the things that we enjoy reading are far from universal. Some tropes/details brought up as favorites can vary widely--for example, “innuendo completely flies over their head” vs. “they understand but are completely unfazed by innuendo.” Additionally, some aces love tropes that others would prefer to avoid: for instance some enjoy discussions of physical boundaries to be included in the fic, and some prefer that to be established as happening in the past.
The examples brought up in our discussion are also far from comprehensive, and can be seen as the beginning of an endless list of possible ways to write asexual characters. Some examples given are specific to the Magnus Archives, but can apply to any writing. Take these as inspiration and a way to broaden your understanding of who we are and what we like to see!
ASEXUALITY IN YOUR SETTING
When writing a story including asexual characters, one of your first considerations may be for how asexuality is contextualized within your setting: Is it fully normalized and accepted? Does it reflect real-world stigmas? How is asexuality treated by the narrative and the other characters? Contributors showed interest in a variety of approaches on this front, with no single approach being worth more than other:
Fics including negative real-world experiences
These would include fics in a realistic setting, where characters may struggle with internalized acephobia, stigma, social pressure, microaggressions, dysphoria, and so on. This isn’t limited to just “issue fic,” where the focus of the fic is about examining and confronting a struggle, but rather encompasses anything that includes this consideration in its worldbuilding and characterization. While brighter settings can be refreshing, contributors described reasons why this kind of fic appeals to them:
Feeling seen: Reading about ace characters whose experiences reflect their own
Feeling validated: Being exposed to only stories where there are no issues on this front can feel like we’re the only one facing these struggles. It can be extremely cathartic to read something and think “I thought I was the only person who went through this.”
Exploring improvement/hope: From ace characters learning to accept themselves or other characters making mistakes and accepting correction, these can be validating and encouraging.
On top of ace readers finding worth in these fics, the act of writing the fic can also be very cathartic for many ace authors.
There is a lot of variety for how these fics can be written, such as:
Stories that focus on the negative experience
Stories where that experience is just part of the setting or characterization
The character(s) getting external support and validation
The character facing mixed dismissiveness, acceptance, prejudice, etc. from different people
The story resolving in a way where the situation is resolved: for instance, cutting off an acephobic relationship, or someone apologizing for a microaggression.
Stories where well-meaning characters are accidentally insensitive about asexuality, but learn better and change their behavior
The character confronting or overcoming an internal struggle
Stories where the issues aren’t fully resolved by the end, such as an insecurity not fully going away.
Negative asexual experiences don’t have to be the focus of a fic to be acknowledged. While “issue fics” that closely examine and explore these experiences are valuable, contributors also described enjoying stories that included them as simply an element of the worldbuilding or characterization. For instance, a story may reference Jon having bad past relationship experiences; facing assumptions that he’s having sex if he’s in a relationship; having moments of insecurities about his sexuality; etc.
Please note that writing negative ace experiences needs to be handled sensitively; fics of this type should definitely be tagged appropriately. For brief references, consider including author’s note warnings on the appropriate chapter (e.g. “asexual character assumed to be having sex”). Having an asexual sensitivity reader--particularly one of a type that corresponds with what you’re writing (i.e. sex-neutral, gray-ace, sex-repulsed, etc)--is very much encouraged.
Fics where asexuality is normalized
In contrast, there is just as much interest in stories that avoid all of these issues, and fully normalize asexuality. Contributors described how they enjoy stories where ace characters are allowed to just exist, without big important conversations or small othering details that depict asexual identities as less than fully accepted.
These can be included in any type of fic, but a few of the suggested details for how to normalize asexuality in a setting include:
A character being already out and accepted: For instance, Martin already knowing about Jon’s asexuality from early seasons.
Characters in the fic already knowing what asexuality is without needing it explained to them
Having more than one character be asexual: We aren’t confined to writing only canon characters as ace! This not only goes the extra mile in normalizing asexuality, but it gives the chance to include more of the ace spectrum.
If you’re aiming for asexuality to be normalized, please consider whether it makes sense for your asexual character to be anxious about coming out or discussing boundaries. There is a world of difference between someone responding to an ace character coming out with “I fully support you” and responding with “you’re an idiot for thinking we wouldn’t support you.” This is a common and easy pitfall to fall into, but the result is often less escapism and more a message of “your struggles aren’t real, and you’re stupid for thinking they are.”
Asexuality in Metaphor
Some contributors mentioned wanting to read settings where asexuality itself is normalized, but the issues facing aces could be explored on a metaphorical level. This falls somewhere in between the ideas of realistic or idealized settings as regards the ace experience, and could allow that exploration with a layer of distance. Ideas relating to this included fantasy settings with different kinds of magic.
PERSONALITY AND CHARACTERIZATION
The experience of being asexual isn’t something just limited to a relationship with sex: it can be shown in many ways, such as how a character relates to themselves, other people, media, and society. Like any other queer identity, it affects many aspects of our lives and informs a great deal about us as people. These little details don’t even need to be presented in a blunt “this is because this character is asexual” way--they can be little relatable notes for your ace readers, while not coming across in a “this is how all ace people are” way.
We’ve seen the question “how do I write a character as asexual, if I’m not planning on having someone ask them for sex or writing a coming-out scene?” many times. Our contributors were excited to share a wide variety of ideas for this from things they’ve read, written, or experienced:
Not to be confused with the infantilizing “doesn’t know what sex is” approach, this could involve things like:
Being confused over what sexual attraction is: difficulty defining what they don’t experience.
Difficulty describing to others what lack of sexual attraction is: this is their default, and it can be difficult to contrast it to what they don’t experience.
Thinking that others describing sexual attraction or interest is just exaggeration
“Wait, that’s what you mean when you say ‘hot’? I just thought it meant they’re gorgeous.”
“You mean meeting someone and being instantly sexually interested in them is a real thing, and not just a movie trope?”
The Absurdity of How Society Views Sex
The jarring dissonance between asexual experiences and the norms in society and media can cause a lot of alienation and dysphoria in aces, but often it hits a point of feeling like a joke is being played on you. Contributors offered ideas for how this could be illustrated through a character:
Reading “How to Spice Up Your Love Life” articles out of pure morbid curiosity
Taking the most ridiculous Cosmo sex life article as How Everyone Thinks (and being concerned)
Having an allo friend or partner they can ask about whether any of it is legitimate advice (this one was brought up by a lot of people as a common ace experience)
An ADHD/autistic character getting a special interest or hyperfixation on societal views on sex or sexual practices, and pursuing it as purely a matter of research with no interest in participating
“Why do they keep bringing up ice cubes? Georgie, stop laughing, I am a researcher and a scholar.”
Needing to teleport out of the room if a sex scene comes up in a movie
Not minding the sex scenes, but needing to make fun of them or point out impracticalities
“On the beach? But sand is everywhere? Wait, they think getting sand everywhere is hot??”
Being baffled at what’s considered sexy: for example, Jon being baffled at “wet clothes are sexy,” having grown up by the beach and associating them with being terribly uncomfortable
Of course, asexual characters don’t need to be framed like they constantly need to learn about things from allo people--sometimes the reverse can be a fun twist. One reversal, for example, could be an ace person helping their allo friend parse whether their attraction to someone is simply sexual or also romantic.
Aces vs. flirting
While not specifically connected to sexual attraction, how a character interacts with flirting can very much demonstrate the asexual experience. Contributors discussed a variety of their own experiences, and details they’ve enjoyed reading for ace characters:
Having difficulty distinguishing between different kinds of draws to people--is it romance? Friendship?
Having difficulty picking up on whether or not someone is interested in them
Failing to realize they’re flirting or being flirted with
Enjoying flirting as just a fun thing to do without any particular goal (a popular suggestion for a Tim ace headcanon)
Casually flirting but then backing off if it becomes “real”
Several examples were given of scenarios these could be used for Jon:
Jon’s dry prickliness stemming from wanting to avoid people thinking he’s flirting or showing interest in them, not being sure where others judge the line between “flirting” or “being nice.”
Jon deciding he is going to make an effort to be more friendly to people, and awkwardly starts showering others with compliments; some of them interpret it as flirting and it’s very confusing.
Jon (or Martin) being overly dramatic or romantic when purposefully showing interest in someone, drawing from a basis of books or media rather than social experience.
Aces vs. hotness
We might use the word “hot” excessively, but ace people often have their own understanding of the word (and are often surprised to learn what others mean by it). Contributors brought up the following ideas for this area:
Using “hot” as an expression of “gorgeous to look at,” and being confused to learn that others use it as a sexual expression.
Engaging with “are they hot” conversations based purely on aesthetics, or other impressions like “would they give good hugs.”
Focusing on seemingly random physical details, like wrists or eyebrow shape, over more commonly sexualized ones.
Being confused over the criteria others use for hotness. Example: Jon’s reaction to “the hot one” comment.
Finding fictional characters not represented by a real person “hot” (e.g. from books, podcasts, video games with bad graphics, etc)
Using the words “hot” and sexy” for completely nonsexual things. Several contributors described being told they couldn’t be ace if they called anything hot/sexy, and then doing it more out of spite.
Being completely unfazed by innuendo or sex/nudity: For example, Jon’s calm response vs. Martin being flustered at Tim stripping
This is also an area where a story can establish the nature of their relationship with those around them: if a character is comfortably out as not being interested in sex, for instance, you can show that others around them support that by making their conversations more inclusive. For example, a “fuck, marry, kill” game with modified categories, or a “who would you have sex with” conversation changed to a “who would you have dinner with” one once the ace character enters.
Aces vs. sexual humor
Ace people’s reactions to sexual humor can vary as much as the reactions to flirting. Contributors described enjoying a broad range of these:
Aces who love sexual humor (not limited to sex-favorable aces)
Humor taking an angle of “sex is so strange, glad it isn’t real.”
Aces who are bored with or exhausted by sexual humor
Not finding sexual humor funny unless it’s also clever. “Yes I know that’s a sexual reference...wait, it was meant to be funny? Because it’s connected to sex? ....I see. Anyway.”
Bonus points if the “is that supposed to be funny because it’s sexual?” ace and the filthy humor ace are friends
It can even vary for the same person from setting to setting: someone may find making dirty jokes with a group of ace friends might be fun (see the “Absurdity of Sex” section above), but be very uncomfortable with someone else trying to twist something they said into something sexual. There’s also the nature of the joke itself: a silly pun may be fine, but a joke implying the ace person is interested in sex or said something sexual without meaning to may be alienating.
For TMA, the general interpretation of Jon is that he’d be uncomfortable with sexual humor, which is relatable to a lot of asexual people, but contributors brought up other possibilities as well: for example, the idea of Jon liking clever wordplay so much that if it just so happens to include something sexual, it doesn’t feel odd to him--why do the others look so shocked?
Note: A lot of asexual awareness posts insensitively treat the concept of aces who love filthy humor as more mature, more easygoing, less stereotypical, or otherwise superior to aces who are uncomfortable with sexual humor. This is a very harmful attitude that looks down on a lot of asexual people, and adds a pressure to push past comfort levels to fit in and “avoid being a stereotype.” Contributors loved reading stories that include flirty or filthy aces, but not when they take this tone. A favorite suggestion was to include more than one ace character to depict a variety, while treating them as equally valid.
Somewhat related to this is ace people’s relationship to sexual euphemisms. Contributors described their experiences or how they might write an ace character responding to these:
Being exhausted by how so many terms are considered euphemisms, or how any comment could be reframed as sexual.
Having a special annoyance when they accidentally stumble into or misunderstand a euphemism
Wanting to decouple euphemisms from their literal meaning: why does “spending the night” or “going home with someone” have to mean “having sex”?
In the same line, being very blunt and straightforward about making sexual references, because why dance around it?
One discussion that is particularly relevant to The Magnus Archives is the idea of the “uptight nerd” ace persona. It may sound strange to say, but there is some legitimacy in this characterization, but for different reasons than is stereotyped. Many of us build up this persona while growing up--particularly in adolescence and early adulthood--to fend off uncomfortable social pressure, self-examination, or external criticism for why we relate to sex differently than our peers. This often involves playing up certain defenses for discomfort for sex or dating: “I don’t have time for any of that, I only have time for books and knowledge!” Or, the adult version: “I don’t have time for relationships, I’m married to my job!”
Where this departs from the stereotype is that these are generally coping mechanisms or facades rather than the truth. Asexuality isn’t “of course they don’t have time for sex, they’re obsessed with this or that”--but an asexual person who doesn’t feel comfortable in their environment, such as around work, school, or family, may deflect judgment with similar excuses. Similar to this, some find it tempting to be antisocial or hostile on purpose to fend off interest in them or avoid sexual expectations.
This is, of course, far from the only way an ace character could be written. For instance, if you wanted to write a setting where asexuality is more accepted, you could write Jon’s antisocial and closed-off tendencies as a result of being bullied from a very young age, while he is confident and secure in his asexuality. Or for other characters: you could write Tim as someone who has enjoyed sexual relationships, but just thought everyone was exaggerating on the attraction side of things.
Intersection of Asexuality with Other Identities
Another characterization consideration is how asexuality intersects with other identities and experiences included in the fic. Below are a few examples of many:
Asexuality and masculinity: Social expectations of masculinity place a high emphasis on sexuality, particularly heterosexuality, treating sexual activity as a commodity or prize. One possible reading of The Magnus Archives is Jon’s tendency to have closer and more numerous friendships with women connects to this.
Asexuality and trans identities: There is a significant overlap between aspec and trans identities, particularly nonbinary identities. Based on an October 2020 study by the Trevor Project (see link in reblog), ace respondents were roughly 50% more likely to be trans (including nonbinary) than allo respondents. Contributors described how they’ve felt things like “is this dysphoria I’m feeling a gender thing or an asexuality thing,” or how figuring out their asexuality helped them explore their gender.
Asexuality and race: In combination with LGBTQ+ spaces often being white-dominated, people of color often face stereotypes that hypersexualize or desexualize them. This can have a strong impact on people of color’s experience and self-perception as asexual. For instance, if you are writing Jon as Indian, you could consider how this may have impacted his experiences in LGBTQ spaces in university. As there is no ‘one size fits all’ experience for aces of color, we strongly recommend researching for the particular background you have in mind. We will be adding resource links to our main page shortly, but in the meantime check out the links in the reblog of this post!
INTIMACY AND RELATIONSHIPS
One of the topics addressed in our discussion was how a character’s asexuality may impact their experiences with intimacy and romantic relationships. Contributors discussed ways to portray this in fic, whether or not it includes sex or even mentions it.
Intimacy, sensuality, and sex are separate things that may or may not overlap depending on the individual. Contributors discussed how, for people across the ace spectrum, the relationship between these three tends to differ from common societal frameworks or depictions of intimacy in fiction.
Enjoying physical intimacy without the expectation that it will become sexual: massages, falling asleep on top of each other, bathing together, etc.
This includes acts that would often be expected to “lead somewhere” but don’t, such as lots of touching or nude cuddling.
Craving closeness/touch completely outside of sexual drive
One scenario suggested for this topic is an asexual character discovering that without the worry that an act of intimacy will ‘lead somewhere,’ they enjoy something they used to get anxious about, such as sharing a bed or showering together.
Boundaries & Communication
Stories with an asexual character in a relationship often address physical boundaries within that relationship. The below are some of the scenarios contributors have enjoyed:
People communicating over their sexual boundaries, rather than assuming what these are as soon as they hear the word “asexual.”
The boundaries discussion being framed as something that any couple in a fictional relationship should have, not just because one is asexual.
In relationships between allo and ace characters, the allo character having boundaries of their own, rather than just the ace character.
Normalizing boundaries discussions for allo couples as well.
Note: If a boundaries discussion involves a sex-favorable ace character, take caution at the risk of having them sound offended or derisive that the discussion is happening (e.g. “What, I’m not a child” or “Not all aces are like that.”). Enforcing the idea that people should assume their partner is sex-interested is extremely harmful to sex-disinterested aces.
Some contributors noted that they prefer fics where the boundaries discussion is something that has taken place in the past, rather than run through at the beginning of each fic they read. In these cases, this past discussion could be illustrated in the interaction itself: a character’s awareness of what lines not to cross, the other’s confidence and trust that those boundaries will be respected, and so on.
Issues of Intimacy Outside of Sex
While aversion to sex is the most well-known dimension of asexuality, there are other aversions and boundaries that could apply to either ace or allo characters:
Ace characters that are kiss-averse and/or touch-averse: This also works against the “They won’t have sex, but they’ll make up for that with kissing even more!” trope that implies asexual people have to compensate for a nonsexual relationship.
Allo characters with their own aversions or specific boundaries: suggestions included how this can apply to trans characters.
Fluctuations in levels of aversion (note: it is important to not treat increased aversion as “progress” or decreased aversion as “regression”)
In cases of fluctuating aversion, characters developing ways to communicate these levels, and responding appropriately. For example, “Kissing is not on the table right now, let’s move on to something more comfortable.”
Contributors were excited to discuss how this area could particularly be used for the allo partner of an ace character, such as an allo Martin having difficulties with touch post-Lonely, or discovering that he doesn’t enjoy kissing.
Relationships to Sex (or Lack Thereof)
Asexuality ‘subtypes’ are terms many aces describe their personal relationship with sex and/or sexual content. These are simplified self-descriptors rather than rigid categories or mini-sexualities, and the terms rarely encompass the full detail of that relationship. Please note that the below discussion assumes a general familiarity with ace subtypes.
Needless to say, aces across the spectrum and of every subtype want to see their identities represented in fic. The discussion focused on ways to illustrate those experiences, and details contributors would enjoy seeing:
Non-averse aces trying sex and deciding they have no interest in it: pushing back against the “if you’re not repulsed you’ll like and want sex” idea.
No expectation that “sex-favorable” means always interested in sex.
The pressure an ace person may face to oversimplify their relationship to sex or sexual content out of fear they’ll appear inconsistent or exaggerating: “If I’m okay with this now, what if I’m not later? Will I seem picky if I’m only comfortable with something in an extremely specific scenario?”
“Sex repulsion” and “sex aversion” generally are used to describe asexual people who don’t want sex, but are simplified terms for what can be immensely varied experiences. Someone could be repulsed by physical involvement in sex, repulsed by personally engaging in anything sexual, repulsed by sexual content, repulsed by just the idea of sex--or any variation or combination of these. There are even repulsions that could be part of more sex-interested subtypes: an ace who enjoys sex but is repulsed by nudity, or an ace who enjoys sexual activities with a partner but not being touched during them, etc.
Contributors discussed how much they enjoy reading simple “I just don’t want sex” approaches to aversion/repulsion, but also look forward to reading explorations such as:
Enjoying one specific type of engagement with sexual content or activity, but having an aversion to others.
Regularly varying levels of repulsion: Days of “please don’t remind me sex exists” to days of mild curiosity, for instance.
Aces with a relationship to sex that doesn’t involve another person, including if they’re in a relationship.
Fluidity between ace subtypes can fluctuate between sex-interested and sex-disinterested in both directions: it can be both “I said I wasn’t interested in this before, but let’s carefully revisit” and “I know we’ve been doing this, but I’m no longer comfortable with it.” Contributors mentioned never having seen fic with the latter, and expressed an interest in reading stories exploring this.
On this note, it is common for stories of fluidity between subtypes to be only moving in a more sex-interested direction. Many asexual people, particularly sex-averse aces, face immense pressure to ‘learn how to like sex,’ or have their sexuality erased by saying they’re a ‘late bloomer’ who will learn to like it later. Depicting this direction should be done with great care and nuance, and we strongly recommend getting feedback from a sex-disinterested sensitivity reader for stories of this type. It’s possible that an ace reader who isn’t sex-disinterested would miss or not be affected by something that is quite painful to sex-disinterested aces.
If you’ve stuck with us for this long, well done! We understand that such a long resource can be a bit overwhelming, but we hope it can show you the depth of variety and enthusiasm ace readers have for more ace content and inspire you further. One thing we all had in common during our discussion was how excited we were to have a canonically asexual protagonist, and how thrilled we were to see content that explored his asexuality. In putting together this resource, we hope that you are encouraged to write about characters whose asexuality impacts their experiences and the story in unique, thoughtful, and creative ways. We can’t wait to see what you come up with!
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Drag, Gender Identity and Queer Culture
I have gotten a lot of asks about AC's gender identity. Rather than answer those individually I'm going to discuss a few related topics that are relevant when considering such a question.
CW - Discussion of transphobia, homophobia, sex and misogyny.
A Sample of the Kind of Ask I've Been Getting
I hope this person doesn't feel singled out, but this ask just happens to incorporate elements of most of the comments and questions I've been getting into one short, convenient blurb so it was the easiest one to include here. It might be helpful for readers to get a glimpse into the thought process some people are having around this issue.
I had no idea AC usually wears dresses while dancing (amazing)!!! AC also often posts with captions like "sisters!" so I am wondering if they might be transgender? I know AC has said on SDC that Ibuki is the queen and AC is the king, but I wonder how much of that has been dictated by the show writers (or... the government). I just really hope that AC isn't having to suppress who they are to be on the show! I was a bit worried after the more "masculine" haircut following the new law, even though it's definitely still cute af. AC and Ibuki are both queens in my heart!!! ❤️👑
In general people have been pointing to AC's dancewear, his mannerisms and style of dance, his Weibo post about getting his hair cut, his way of speaking and Ibuki's tendency to refer to him in feminine terms, as signs he might be transgender.
People have expressed confusion, uncertainty and curiosity, but overwhelmingly the common thread has been of support for AC regardless of his identity or expression. I have to say that, questions aside, it's just always nice to find messages of support for queer identities in my inbox.
I am speaking here about what I know of queer history and dance history around styles/scenes that emerged from the US decades ago. These styles/scenes have spent many years travelling the globe and being influenced by other scenes and cultures, some of which I have almost no access to.
Information about the scenes in Asia - especially in China - is hard to come by. There will likely be gaps in my knowledge and some incorrect assumptions. I am also not directly involved in the waacking scene, nor do I personally know anyone who is, so there are limitations to my insight.
In other words, don't take this as the whole, or wholly accurate, story. I'm sharing ideas that I think might be helpful to others, but those ideas can only ever be a reflection of my own experience and perspective. If you find an error or omission, please let me know.
Some Key Terms
Transgender person - Someone whose gender identity does not match the sex they were assigned at birth.
Cisgender person - Someone whose gender identity matches the sex they were assigned at birth.
Sex assigned at birth - The sex people determined us to be before/when we were born; usually 'male' or 'female'. Almost always based on nothing more than a quick glance at our genitals.
Gender identity - The gender we experience within ourselves. Who we feel we are inside.
Gender dysphoria - The feeling of discomfort and distress that comes from being perceived and/or forced to live as a gender that one doesn't identify with. Not all transgender people experience dysphoria.
Gender expression - The ways in which our clothing, styling, mannerisms and way of speaking express or explore gender. This is entirely separate from gender identity or assigned sex.
Sexual orientation - Who we are sexually or romantically attracted to. Sexual orientation has nothing to do with gender identity. Contrary to what is taught in some cultures or societies, our gender does not determine our sexual orientation. Who we love is entirely independent of gender.
Gender roles, norms and stereotypes - The expectations and assumptions society places upon people based on their gender. For example, "Women love babies and baking, men love tractors and lifting weights." I talk about that in more detail here.
Drag - When someone plays with gender as part of an entertainment or performance. Usually involves a man performing as a female character or a woman performing as a male character, but anyone can perform drag regardless of their gender or the gender of the character they're playing.
Homophobia is Misogyny in Disguise
I've talked about this a fair bit in the past. Male gender role expectations, as we know them in Western culture, were developed in direct opposition to all things feminine. They are built upon the notion that women are peripheral, inferior and subordinate, while men are central, superior and dominant.
Men are expected to be strong, tough and hard-edged not because those are 'such great qualities to have', they are expected to be those things because that's how a 'real man' differentiates himself from women. Men are men not because of what they are, but rather because of what they are not: women. Conventional gender norms state:
Women are soft, pretty, delicate, emotional, nurturing, dreamy, relationship-focused and passive, with the home as their domain.
Men are hard, rugged, tough, rational, disciplining, pragmatic, task-focused and dominant, with the world as their domain.
A man who wants to be a man needs to reject all feminine qualities and interests and dig into everything masculine. He can't cry, he can't be gentle and sweet, he can't nurture and support others, he can't follow other people's lead, he can't look polished or worry about his appearance, he can't be in any way fragile or tender.
Queer men aren't hated because they fuck other guys, they are hated because they embody aspects of femininity.
A man who fucks another man isn't automatically viewed as transgressing manhood. Every hot-blooded man can understand wanting to stick your dick into something and, in a pinch or if the mood strikes you, why not a pretty man? That doesn't make you gay, it makes you a virile man. (Or so the thinking goes).
However, a man who takes another man's cock is basically a woman. A man who sucks another man's cock is basically a woman (incidentally, a 'real man' doesn't go down on a woman, either, that's too subordinate). A man who wants to love and kiss and marry another man is basically a woman. A man who partners with men when there are beautiful women available is basically a woman.
A man who plays with fashion, with delicate mannerisms and tone of voice, with makeup and hair and language, with movement and dance in the context of fashion - such a man is basically a woman.
Queerness is one of the most serious transgressions against the patriarchal social order. That's what makes it so powerful. That's what makes drag and other aspects of queer culture so powerful. It's why queer men find these things so empowering. They are taking back their right to be whoever they want be. They're breaking down the walls that society is trying to box them into. They are saying 'fuck you' to the social order that oppresses them.
The Waacking Scene
Waacking started in LA gay clubs in the 70's, where primarily people of color (latino, black, asian), influenced by disco and funk styles, incorporated dramatic moves and poses from magazines, movies and TV to create a powerful new style of dance. This style had deep roots in drag, and was inspired by drag performers who would strike poses to the beat of the music.
Waacking was an act of defiance against the oppression and erasure these gay men were experiencing in their daily lives. In fact, in the beginning it was called 'punking', a reclamation of the term 'punk' which was at the time a homophobic term used against flamboyant gay men.
The spirit of waacking is 'be yourself - show your true self', and it is a safe place for dancers to express themselves and defy gender roles. It's common for waackers - both male and female - to incorporate drag elements into their performances, and it's common for male dancers to be referred to in feminine terms such as 'queen', 'princess', 'sister', 'girl', etc. by their fellow performers.
This is also common in drag circles and in queer circles in general. More on that later.
Drag vs Transgender
Many people find the distinction between drag and transgender confusing. If you are one of those people, I hope this clears things up for you.
Drag has a long history that goes back to the earliest days of theatre, when men or young boys would perform the female roles. Drag is a form of entertainment that plays with, subverts and performs gender in ways that are often unexpected, humorous or artistic.
Over the years drag became an empowering way for queer people to explore and express aspects of their identities that were being suppressed by mainstream culture. By taking on appearance and mannerisms that did not match the gender roles they were being shoved into in their daily lives, queer people were able to liberate themselves from those roles in big, dramatic ways.
This can be especially powerful for queer men. Societal expectations of manhood are extreme in ways that are often overlooked. Especially in terms of appearance and mannerisms.
While it's commonplace to see women in baseball caps, jeans and work boots, it is extremely uncommon to see men in makeup, skirts and high heels. For a lot of queer men, drag can be a powerful way to push back against the often suffocating gender norms that are enforced upon them.
The euphoria drag performers describe feeling when they perform is often about a sense of belonging, empowerment and fun. They describe feeling a sort of 'high' from the experience. One of the most common things first time drag performers talk about is the euphoria of putting themselves out there and getting so much support and acceptance from the community, the audience and their friends.
This acceptance and support can be a powerful feeling for men who have been raised to believe doom will rain upon them if they ever express any femininity (i.e. most men).
Drag is often silly, exaggerated and tongue-in-cheek, but the support and safety of these spaces is Serious Business.
For performers, drag is about being playful, having fun and breaking down labels and expectations. Focusing on whether you think the performer is gay, straight, bisexual, cisgender or transgender misses the entire point of the performance. Drag is about freedom from all of those things.
Drag is also not about 'performing womanhood', it's about 'performing a character'. It is about developing and creating a persona through which to examine and break down stereotypes and expectations around gender and sexuality. There is a widespread misconception that drag is just a way for gay men to satirize women, and that couldn't be farther from the truth.
When each of us is born, we are assigned a sex - male or female - based on a quick glance at our genitals. If someone is lucky, that sex matches how they feel inside about their gender identity and they will go on in their lives having their gender identity affirmed and validated through the way people speak to or about them, the ID they are issued, the expectations placed upon them, etc.
If someone is unlucky, that sex will not match how they feel inside about their gender identity and they will go on in their lives having their gender identity undermined and invalidated through the way people speak to or about them, the ID they are issued, the expectations placed upon them, etc..
Transgender people will often come to a point in their lives where they have to face the tough decision of whether to continue living the way they have, or to transition to begin living as the gender they identify as. This can often mean completely upending their lives, and/or being rejected by friends, family and colleagues who are unwilling to let go of the perception of that person as the gender they were assigned.
These struggles are often a matter of life or death for transgender people. A recent study on suicide rates among adolescents gives us a glimpse into how serious the issue is.
The study looked at 11-19 year old adolescents over a 36 month period. 14% had reported attempting suicide. An examination of the percentage of kids attempting suicide from each gender identity group is shocking and heartbreaking.
50.8% Female-to-male transgender
29.9% Male-to-female transgender
17.6% Cisgender female
9.8% Cisgender male
Many transgender people experience gender dysphoria - a feeling of unease, discomfort or distress from being perceived and treated as a gender they do not identify with. Dysphoria varies widely in terms of type and degree. There are many cases where it is so severe that it can drive people to suicide. For many people, transitioning to live as the gender they identify with can cure that dysphoria.
As you can see, this is a very different thing from drag or drag performance. Transgender people aren't 'playing with gender' or even 'exploring or subverting gender', they are grappling with identity, with how they are treated and perceived in the world, and often with their very lives.
For trans people, dressing and taking on the characteristics of gender is a matter of survival, and a matter of affirmation of who they are inside. Bringing their identities as human beings out into the world so they can experience harmony between who they are inside, and how they are treated and perceived by the world around them.
The euphoria described by transgender people when they are recognized and treated as the gender they identify with is deep and powerful. A sense of rightness, of harmony between how they feel inside and how they are perceived. A feeling of having a bone-deep itch finally scratched. They describe feeling joyful, confident, optimistic for the future.
This is why it is so important for us to support and affirm gender identities, and advocate for proper health care and human rights for transgender people. Words can have a big impact on people, trans or not, and trans people are some of the most vulnerable in our communities.
If transgender people take on the visual cues and fashion of a particular gender, it is to affirm their very identity. That identity is not something they can take off or on like a costume. Even when a drag performer has deep identity needs they are exploring through drag, they are still creating and performing a persona, whereas trans people are living their true identities.
Queer Culture in Other Regions
I have limited access to information about queer culture in mainland China, but as far as I can tell, queer identity politics are quite different in China than they are in North America. People are much less likely to identify strongly in an alphabet soup (LGBTQPAI2+++) sort of way like people in the west tend to do. In China it's common for people just refer to and think of themselves as 'not straight' and leave it at that.
- Sidebar -
I vastly prefer that approach over the whole alphabet soup thing. I dislike the increasing atomization of community that happens as more, and more individualized, identity divides are created. I understand why some people have found those divides necessary, but they still sadden me.
Not only do I feel they separate people into smaller and smaller isolated silos, but they also lead to people being increasingly defined by specific aspects of their queerness in ways that feel - to me - unnatural, constrictive and alienating.
Labels often become a crutch both for the labeller and the labelled, and they become a lens through which we view ourselves and each other. One that often obscures and distorts as much as it reveals.
I think we all have a natural tendency to react to things based on our own experience. However, it's useful to consider cultural context and remind ourselves that different people in different parts of the world might approach things in a different way. Things that we might take as signs and cues in our own community might mean something entirely different somewhere else. Even where the meaning is the same, the weight or significance given to that meaning might be dramatically different.
The Queer Tradition of Language Subversion
Throughout history queer people have used language to:
Protest and subvert social expectations around oppressive gender norms (for example, gay men calling themselves queens).
Bond with other queer people via a shared playfulness and sense of freedom around gender (for example, gay men calling each other 'sister' or 'girlfriend').
Protect themselves from discovery and/or persecution or prosecution (for example, a woman writing a love letter to her girlfriend using a masculine name and pronouns).
Reclaim gendered terms that have been used against them as slurs (for example, Rupaul telling performers, 'You better sissy that walk!").
Freely explore and express aspects of their personality that rigid societal gender norms won't otherwise allow them to (for example, 'linguistic drag' - intentionally putting on a manner of speech that doesn't traditionally match your gender).
This is a common practice across the globe. Queer men referring to each other in feminine terms. Queer women referring to each other in masculine terms. General subversion and manipulation of gendered language both as a form of play and as a political act.
In those circles, linguistic gender bending is accepted and even welcomed. However, a guy wouldn't call his best friend's girlfriend 'honey'. Similarly, it's not considered acceptable for someone from outside of the intimate circle of a particular queer scene to use those gender-play terms. These people refer to each other this way because they have a close intimate relationship.
In fact, when used by people outside that scene, those terms can often be viewed as insults or slurs.
These can be complicated, nuanced issues and even I - someone who spent my entire teen and adult life immersed in the gay club/drag scene - sometimes struggle to find the right footing. It's OK to be uncertain, and OK to ask questions, and it's even OK to get it wrong from time to time.
I can't tell you what's the right approach, I can just tell you what I do, and why.
Is AC transgender? I don't know. It's possible. But if he's trans, he's not out as such.
Assuming gender identity because of gender presentation - particularly in the context of performance of this nature - is a tricky business. Especially considering that there seems to be a pretty clear distinction between how he presents for certain performances and how he presents in his downtime (as far as I can tell, in his downtime he presents as a typical guy).
I refer to AC in masculine terms because he presents as a guy and because of my own past experience in the queer community and because of some of the things I've outlined above. And because I feel like 'they/them'-ing AC in this particular context feeds into the growing fan perception of transness, which I don't feel comfortable doing.
When it comes to gender identity it's important to me to follow the person's lead, and AC presents himself as a guy.
I will leave the readers to form their own conclusions and approaches to this. Hopefully everything I've said above will give you food for thought and help you navigate these issues.
I recognize I could have just kept this post short by cutting it down to this last section, but I think it's always useful for people to have a deeper insight into an issue. Particularly when it comes to things like identity, queer culture, etc. in a world where sex education and queer culture education is often lacking.
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Favorite Sherlock Holmes fics from 2020
Usually I put a bunch of explanations and disclaimers on these lists but you know what, it was a weird year and I’m not going to try to justify or apologize for what I read or didn’t read so here are my favorites that were completed last year, in descending order of length:
and your very flesh shall be a great poem by CaitlinFairchild (151K, E, Johnlock)
After a tragic confrontation with terrible consequences, Sherlock and John follow Mary as she flees to America.
Drawn to Stars by Silvergirl (107K, E, Johnlock, Sherlock/OMC)
After the Culverton Smith case Sherlock is clean, working, and looking for a romantic partner—since John has told him that’s what he needs. Shame John didn’t mention he was interested in that role himself, before Sherlock went off to Rome with a gorgeous Italian copper to try to fall in love and become a complete human being. (This one is very slightly cheating because it was finished on 30 Dec 2019, but it didn't make it onto my 2019 list because I didn't read it until after I'd made the list. And it deserves to be on a Best Of list, so here it is.)
Thermocline by J_Baillier (83K, M, Johnlock)
John "Five Oceans" Watson — technical dive instructor, dive accident analyst and weapon of mass seduction — meets recluse professor of maritime archaeology Holmes. As they head out to a remote archipelago off the coast of Guatemala to study and film its shipwrecks for a documentary, will sparks fly or fizzle out?
Do No Harm by Calais_Reno (79K, T, Johnlock)
In 1923, Dr John Watson is on trial for the murder of his lover, Mary Morstan, a writer of popular mysteries. If convicted, he will hang. Sherlock Holmes sets out to prove his innocence, but finds himself more and more infatuated with the handsome doctor, and deeper and deeper inside the bohemian world of London's painters, playwrights, and poets. Will he uncover the evidence needed to acquit him in time?
To Be Human by ohlooktheresabee (78K, NR, Johnlock)
There is a serial killer on the loose with a penchant for collecting the brains of his victims. Sherlock, John and Scotland Yard are on the case, but something about the chosen victims has Sherlock on edge. While they piece together the clues that will lead to the killer, John begins to realize that the way his best friend thinks may sometimes be more a hindrance than a help….
immediate and inglorious by simplyclockwork (72K, E, Johnlock)
Bodies are showing up in back alleys, with no sign of a struggle, no trace of drugs. If not for the strangulation bruises on their necks and the scythe carved into their left shoulders, they could have died peacefully, in their sleep. With New Scotland Yard dumbfounded by the Grim Reaper Killer case, Sherlock is called in to consult. The more he investigates, the deeper Sherlock finds himself drawn into the work of London's newest serial killer. As his views of good and bad begin to blur, he risks losing himself to a darkness he never imagined. And, even more pressing: where does John Watson, grieving ex-boyfriend of the Grim Reaper's latest victim, fit into all of this?
Curtain Rising by tiger_in_the_flightdeck (61K, E, Johnlock)
A disgraced television star is the target of a series of death threats just after a theatre production’s adaptation of The Sound of Music is announced with her as the lead. The suspect list is a mile long and growing, Rosie Watson is in the spotlight, and Sherlock might be getting too fond of his time on stage to focus on the case. With opening night approaching, can he and John figure out who wants their client dead before her final curtain rises?
The Fire Finds a Home by fearfully_beautifully_made (61K, E, Johnlock)
After Sherlock and John decide to give having a relationship a go, this is how their relationship starts to develop. There a little bit of plot, if you squint, but it was mostly an excuse to write John and Sherlock having sex in a lot of different ways and learning to love each other.
Borrowed Ghosts by DiscordantWords (57K, M, Johnlock)
In the aftermath of the Culverton Smith case, John spent one painfully stilted afternoon hanging out with Sherlock. He counted the minutes, finished his tea, and left for home without ever clearing the air between them. And once he'd left, he found it very hard to go back.
You Might Just as Well Be Blind by ArwaMachine (56K, E, Johnlock)
When a serial killer starts targeting couples, Sherlock and John must do what they have to do in order to get to the bottom of things. Unfortunately, John already has a girlfriend. Surely pretending to be in a relationship with Sherlock won't pose any problems with his relationship, will it?
The Broken Tether by J_Baillier (54K, M, Johnlock)
Maybe he thinks that you only enjoy his company because of the Work, because of the way his dazzling intellect shines when he's in his element, but the truth is this: it is when he is at his most human, most bare, that you feel closest to him.
how the light gets in by subtext-is-my-division (Quill_A) (54K, E, Johnlock)
Red wine always makes him tipsier than usual and he finds himself saying, the words slurring a bit. “You know, I’ve got to ask. Do you always shoot cabbies for people you barely you know?”
John meets his gaze over the rim of his glass, and there’s something there that Sherlock can’t pin down. “Not for everyone,” he says, meaningfully, pointedly, his smile all teeth.
Erosion by saintscully (53K, E, Johnlock)
Sherlock’s father falls ill, leaving the surviving family members broken and rudderless. James Sholto shows up in London unexpectedly, his intentions unclear. John has to navigate the consequences of crime, illness and death and their impact on his frayed relationship with Sherlock.
Hold You Like a Weapon by MissDavis (52K, E, Johnlock)
Eurus shows up at 221B Baker Street in labour. Things go downhill from there.
Chances Are by Berty (51K, M, Johnlock)
Sherlock is spending some time in his mind palace - so far, so normal. But why is John there, why do things keep changing and why are there only two exits from the sitting room at 221B, neither of which seem to go anywhere useful? It's a case like no other for Sherlock Holmes and John Watson.
Sine Nomine by SilentAuror (45K, E, Johnlock)
As Mycroft reviews the footage from Culverton Smith's morgue, he revisits his original question: whether John Watson would be the making of his brother, or make him worse than ever. He's come to a conclusion, but decides to give John one last chance. So he gives him a choice.
Cockaigne by HollyShadow88 (38K, E, Johnlock)
When John’s contacted by an old uni friend about problems in his new art exhibition, he doesn’t think it will be worth Sherlock’s time. After a glance of the crime scene, however, they’re both pulled into the project in ways John didn’t expect. Will a week of erotic performance art finally be enough to bring them together in the way they both secretly hope? (Spoiler: it’s a tropey fic, of course it will)
Written in Ashes by 88thParallel (37K, M, Johnlock)
Sherlock becomes the prime suspect in a homicide case, and recently unearthed memories of his childhood are complicating matters. It's up to John to track down answers — can he help Sherlock before it's too late?
A Desperate Indulgence by LollipopCop (34K, M, Johnlock)
John thinks it's 2012 after waking up with amnesia, having no memory of Mary. Sherlock, exhausted from years of tension and hiding his love, pretends they got married instead.
Inhale With Ease by Vulpesmellifera (25K, E, Johnlock)
In the years after Vivian Norbury's capture, life seems to work out just as John planned. He's got that respectable job at the surgery and goes home to his wife and child. He joins Sherlock on cases a couple times per week. It's a rhythm he can live with - just enough adrenaline highs to balance out the drudgery of a normal bloke's life. Until a pandemic, and Victor Trevor, arrive in London.
The House on Rue des Boulangers by Berty (24K, M, Johnlock)
After being invalided out of the army and without any other prospects, John Watson has relocated to a small town in northern France. Now he has to decide what to do for the rest of his life. One morning there's a mad stranger in his garden chasing a swarm of bees, and it seems John's decision is made.
High Mountain Tea Leaves by disfictional (23K, E, Johnlock)
A mountaintop robbery on a Japanese-occupation-era train where the only item stolen was a small case of mysterious tea leaves in a backpack? An ideal Christmas gift, two days late. Sherlock convinces John to travel for tea.
Detours by saintscully (22K, M, Johnlock, Sherlock/OMC)
During the better part of the first year following Mary's death and the events at Sherrinford, Sherlock and John are slowly rebuilding their lives and their friendship. All seems (relatively) well and John takes comfort in once again being a father, a doctor and a friend. An unexplained shift in Sherlock's behaviour catches John by surprise, and he begins to worry about his place in his friend's life. John has to examine everything he thought he knew about Sherlock, himself and their relationship in order to win his rightful place yet again.
hands full of matter by simplyclockwork (21K, E, Johnlock)
When Sherlock is captured in Serbia, Mycroft cannot afford to involve the British government in his rescue. Instead, he sends John. After two years spent thinking Sherlock was dead, John finds himself navigating not only Sherlock’s rescue but their fractured friendship as well.
The Victim Experience by J_Baillier (16K, T, Gen)
A case takes Sherlock and John deep into the seedy underbelly of the haunted attractions industry. With audiences craving more and more intense experiences, is a real murder the next logical step?
On the Fence by BeautifulFiction (13K, T, Johnlock)
The murder of the King's College fencing champion leads to revelations about Sherlock's past. Will it be the point that tips them from friends to lovers, or will they remain on the fence?
Plus bonus ACD era:
"Baker Street: The Sleep of Reason": A Memoir by John H. Watson, M.D. by Gaedhal (98K, M, Johnlock, Johniarty)
This is a Victorian Era story in the "Sherlock Holmes" (2009) Ritchie-verse. The main characters are Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson and is from the doctor's memoirs. It was written before "A Game of Shadows" so there are differences in this story and film canon, mainly in the person and backstory of one particular character.
The Taste of Truth by sanguinity (25K, T, Johnlock)
Two and a half years after Reichenbach, John Watson discovers the magical tree that caused Holmes to fake his death.
The Adventure of the Vatican Cameos by Garonne (18K, E, Johnlock)
How should one behave when waking for the first time in the bed of one's dearest friend? Holmes and Watson solve a case in Catholic London while navigating the turbid waters of their new relationship.
Hot Water by wordybirdy (13K, E, Johnlock, Watson/Gregson)
Dr. John Watson's libidinous affair with a respected Scotland Yard inspector abruptly judders to a halt when the former meets a certain Mr. Sherlock Holmes, Consulting Detective, for the very first time. The attraction between the two is strongly mutual, but misunderstandings only multiply and tensions abound, as all three men attempt to deal with the new situation.
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How RE Village (8) SOLVED almost every problem that I had with RE Series
Okay - a few weeks ago I made a post that was “The ones that suffer the most” where I showed and explained my main problems with Chris and Jill and the RE series in general
RE 1 is my fav game of this series and probably one of my all time favs, I player every RE there is to be played except 4 (because I dislike Leon, sry)
Recently, specially after 4, the franchise had a few problems, specially in writing/map design/lore
Resident evil 5 for example (I love this game) but it has it flaws, Chris there is only driven by anger and action - Sheva is used as a tool for lore exposition and to be Chris’s new partner
PLEASE: be aware that game at that generation didn’t have much lore - with some exceptions, like God of War 1 2 3 were a simply game with a simple lore, and the most recent GoW has evolved a little bit in the storytelling
Until we hit rock bottom in RE6 - I know a lot of people like this game, but this is only and action game, bad writing and generic stages.
Chris there is so mistreated that makes me mad (if you want to read more about this go to my other post “the ones that suffer the most”)
Until RE7 appeared, Capcom had a new engine and they wanted to do a game that was more horror like - since RE is know for being a Survival horror game.
I liked 7 - some people complained about Ethan being without emotion and others complained about the mold, a few didn’t like the FEAR vibes from Eveline.
I personally enjoyed the game, I thought RE series was going back on track, that game has it’s problems but it was really nice compared to what we had in 6.
After that game I had a conversation with my best friend and I said that I wanted a game that portrayed Umbrella’s fall since the only game that shows this is Umbrellas Chronicles (and that is most a resume of what happened)
And I said: “Bro, I wish that when they made that game, they could tie some mythological lore and human evolution before Umbrella - using Spencer, this would solve LOT OF STUFF and open new ways to handle this series”
and guess what - this happened in RE8 and kudos to the one writer that did that, i have my gratitude.
RESIDENT EVIL 8 is probably one of the BEST RE games that we had IN YEARS
And I want to address all thing that I loved in this game and do some predictions to what will happen in the next games.
“WELL WELL IF IT ISN’T ETHAN WINTERS” (The Father of the year)
My father was not a great guy... really, so I want to be the best dad ever, I really want be like Ethan - a guy who is ready to sacrifice and fight every monster in the way to save my family.
Ethan was a character that in RE7 was used to make us fell like that it was us in the Baker’s house, so that is why he didn’t had that much personality (in my opinion) but they changed that in RE8, here he has nice dialogues AND a diary
He has one of the best story line in the whole REverse, a guy that did EVERYTHING in his power to save his daughter - and you saw that playing the game, every sentence line that he delivered, he tried to save others too and even tho Chris said to him stay put ... but he couldn’t, he had to go to the altar, he had to help Chris, he had to go forward and keep going, specially after having the tools to face Heisenberg.
The plea from a father, that was his last wish, after he heard that Mia was alive he knew that someone had to stop that monster, he made a promise to his daughter “Daddy won’t let those weird fairy tale monsters get you” so he trusted Chris, to be the one that teaches his kid how to be brave and strong
I will not address Chris and Rose situation here because this is Ethans part and he deserves completely all the spotlight, his sacrifice was 100x times better than Steve (CV)/Piers(6)
My cheers to Ethan Winters - You have my respect !
Revelations -> RE8
So leaks from earlier times said that RE8 sucked and Revelations 3 was amazing
Revelations FYI is know for using old tales in RE stories
Revelations 1 - Dante’s Inferno
Revelations 2 - Frans Kafka
Revelations 3 - Dracula
But since RE8 sucked, Capcom said to the REV3 team that they could make REV3 become RE8 and they accepted
Revelations series is one of the best in the games, they handle Jill in a way that I love, Claire and even Barry - so they deserve all the spotlight for making this awesome game - you CLEARLY can see that they love this series and that they treat all the characters with the love that they deserve.
Keeping that in mind, they are the same team that made Rev 2 and in REV 2 we have this file here
So they had a plan for Jill and we can see that in RE8 - I will address that later but keep that in mind - this team cares for the old characters, they were the ones that brought Barry back to the games :V
This is a hard one, because he is my fav character and I usually have the most critics regard him, since I’ve expect a lot from Capcom
In the latest games they made him kind dumb, only muscles type of guy and an alcoholic that let all the people in his surroundings die (RE5,RE6,Vendetta)
RE6 treats him the WORST
But in RE8 he had an amazing part in the storyline, it was obvious that he wasn’t evil and they FIXED HIS EYE COLOR - FINALLY
I still don’t like the model face that much but it’s way better than 7 - so I believe Capcom, I still feel that he need more jawline
But let’s go to the most important thing - here he really feels like a squad leader and a veteran, he has his team but he is the one in the front line, he covers and ask for help when he needs, everything about his line delivery makes you feel like “Woah, this guy is a badass, he is not some stupid guy only driven by emotions”
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR FINALLY GETTING THIS RIGHT
If you remember my post about the ones that suffer the most / Jill is also in that list and I will talk about her a little bit later but if my guess is right RE8 saved her character aswell
Another thing that I enjoyed here is the fact that he is kind of a mercenary / Neo Umbrella kind of guy, even tho he is one of the founders of the BSAA
So I will give you all my score to this game:
I won’t give 10/10 because of some technical issues, the cursor lock didn’t work and mouse sensitivity was i dunno, not the best.
RE8 and the future (PREDICTIONS) - Jill Valentine, Chris Redfield, BSAA, Neo Umbrella, Ada Wong and Rosemary
First let’s look Rose
The first time I saw Rose all grown up - I thought to myself : She has the same problem as Eveline (age a lot faster than normal)
But she also absorbed Miranda’s power since the metalicite (something like this) thought that she was a better host. - so maybe she will live longer or something because I doubt that they will do a 14 years time skip.
This is not the same as Terra Save logo (Claire’s job) but it kind reminds me of it - her shoes appeared at least 3 times in this cut scene so maybe they are trying to show some hints with this
She really reminds me of Jodie (Beyond two souls, a game where a girl has a lot of power and the gov uses her in missions and stuff, but she also is learning how to be her own person)
Another thing here is that they don’t have a logo in this car, it really reminds me the car that Chris as using in RE8
This supports the theory that Chris’s organization is dealing with her instead of the BSAA, the she is a hot headed girl and that she had a lot of powers.
So here you can say that she is just a kid because she is a teenager, but what if she actually grows older really fast (like Eveline) maybe this is just 1 year later / 2 yrs later. (after RE8)
So this is the tricky part, this is Chris’s guard/soldier, someone that Chris trust to stand by her side, in my mind I do believe that Chris is kind of a father figure to her, so when this guys says this he is thinking about hot head Chris but she replies “Yeah” thinking about Ethan - (she has the mold memories, so she can actually remember Ethan’s memories)
Now let’s look at this
So in REV1 is hinted that BSAA is not the best organization in the world, but since our heroes work there we think that they are the good guys right ?
In REV 2 (it’s important to remember that the team that created RE8 is the same from the REVELATIONS and they had this file here in REV2)
This email is from Jill and what does Jill have ? T-Virus
Wesker is a different case since he was a project and she had the vaccine but this would make a lot of sense if they had this tests with Jill to get the T-Virus
If that is the case, they explained Jill’s absence in the main games, could even explain why Chris left BSAA and opened a new window to a lot of possibilities
- Chris had trouble dealing with BSAA and Jill’s case, he wanted to get her out of there, maybe he removed her from there but that resulted in him being expelled from the force
-Jill may or may not know what they are doing with her blood, but she will have a huge part in the BOW used by BSAA
-Chris is married to Jill (sorry- I had to place this here, in a perfect world he has two kids with her and they all love aunt Rose)
-Chris will hopefully be a father figure to Rose and they will be in a game together since in the end they came to get her
-Rebecca is still involved in BSAA activities (leak from new REV3) if you consider Vendetta canon, she maybe the one that used Jill’s sample of blood to create the virus soldiers
-Barry maybe retired
-I don’t think Leon will be in this game, but he will get his RE4 Rmk
- I do believe RE9 will be release after Code veronica rmk and MAYBE they will do a game about Umbrella’s Fall (Chris and Jill in Europe against Red Queen and BOWs)
But that is it, you can see a lot of elements from old RE games in RE8, they tried to do something really smart and the game felt amazing to play, that was something else and it’s been a while since a player a RE game that made me feel that way <3
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So, that part in The Panamanian Monkey Job? That split? Yeah, you know the one.
So here’s the thing. Parker does splits all the time. Literally, ALL the time. But here we have reference to a very PARTICULAR split, for a very specific reason - dodging lasers.
Hardison’s directions have to be precise. Down to the fucking wire precise. So one would think he would be giving very specific directions. In fact, he starts of that way. “Six inches in front of you, and another two feet after.” So why, when it comes to the very next step, does “hey remember that one time? do the thing” suffice? Clearly, because this not only a very specific instance, but also a very memorable one. So the question this begs, of course, is -
What makes this split different from all other splits?
And yes. This is about Eliot Spencer. NSFW meta below the cut.
So here’s the deal. What we need here is a very specific motion to avoid the lasers - drop into the split, while leaning forward and pressing her torso to the ground in front of her.
And there’s the key thing: her torso to the ground in front of her as well.
Now. Like I said before. Parker... does a lot of splits. Acrobatics in general. You would be a fool to think that does not also extend to the bedroom. I’m sure she’s tried out a lot of different splits, many different times.
But there was something, something about this particular split that stuck out and was memorable enough for Hardison to reference “that one time on vacation” and her know exactly what pose he’s referencing. It... it doesn’t take very complicated math at all to notice that this particular position, if applied to a bedroom scenario, would have two (2), uh, well... “contact points.”
And as far as making it memorable enough to stand out? I would bet my bottom dollar that if Hardison was at either of those points, Eliot was at the other.
And that’s, well, honestly all fine conjecture of course, sort of a haha nudge nudge sort of thing on it’s own, rather reminiscent of that one scene from Road to El Dorado where Chel was no where near Tulio’s mouth when she sat up, but the thing that really interests me? Like really really interests me?
Is that this is not the first mention of a (possible) vacation by Hardison and Parker this episode.
"Is this like that time in Paris [...] you didn't want to hurt Eliot's feelings-"
Now, granted, with this crew? It’s hard to tell whether they’re talking about Paris: City Of Love And Primetime Romantic Vacation Spot or if it's Paris: City Of So Many Museums And Priceless Art To Steal, but lets be honest here - Art Theft is already an established date night activity if Parker’s involved.
But the main takeaway here is who’s with them in Paris. It’s Eliot. Again, yes, it could be for a job (considering talk of an explosion and an old lady... robot? but honestly? I’m sure they’ve done weirder romantic getaways) but it’s not just that he was with them, it’s that his presence was a large enough element to affect decisions that Hardison and Parker are making even just between themselves.
In the middle of what could be read as a vacation.
One of two references to a vacation in this episode.
So. You know. You know I gotta be wondering if it was the same vacation.
Lastly, I mean, c’mon. Y’all know what was spliced in both directly before AND after (respectively) The Split Sequence:
I’M JUST SAYING.
They could have easily rolled straight into the split sequence from the first handspring(?) into the room. It might’ve even been a little smoother that way. But instead, Eliot’s fight sequence was cut to frame it. Not even two different steps of the fight choreo - this is the same blocking, the same sequence, just split into two halves to bracket the split. Could it have been for interest/pacing purposes? Yes. His fights are always getting spliced into the others' "Meanwhile..." scenes. The thing is though, it's usually two seperate steps of the fight. Most often, when you come back to Eliot and his quarry, it's different blocking. A different stage of the battle.
Is this all circumstantial? Yes, technically. Okay, extremely.
Am I still suspicious of all these pieces lining up so nicely and to paint such a pretty possible picture and will continue watching this episode with the shipper goggles on? Fuck yeah.
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I feel bad discussing spn now that’s over but I’ve been wondering. Do you think dean actually meant it when he said “why does that something always seem to be you” (15.03)? Usually people blurt out what’s on their mind all of a sudden even if they didn’t mean to say it out loud. But it comes out because the person either thinks about it or actually believes it. Do you think at one point Dean truly blamed Cas for Mary? I mean, putting 15.09 aside of course.
Why do you feel bad discussing SPN now the show’s over, anon?? Don’t feel bad!
The short answer to your question, in my view, is that Dean was lashing out because of how his unaddressed trauma over Cas dying (cf. 7x01, purgatory, 12x23) gets entangled with him processing his grief over Mary and Jack. Everything is further exacerbated by Chuck’s villain reveal, and the events that lead to Rowena’s “death.”
The longer answer to this question starts with acknowledging that feelings and trauma are complicated things that aren't always rational. And that's the crux of the matter for Dean in that moment he lashes out at Cas: he's not behaving rationally. We know Dean is angry, and historically doesn't handle anger well at all, but we also know, even without 15x09, that what Dean is really feeling is fear. In that moment, Dean is angry, and he's scared. If you watch the scene closely, too, you'll notice that Dean is still present enough to regret saying "why does that something always seem to be you" to Cas. He tenses up, he looks down and only looks up again in stubbornness defiance when Cas says he can't even look at him. Then Cas leaves, which has always been an issue for Dean. However warranted Cas's decision to leave was, it still hits Dean as rejection, too. All this is to say that the break up scene is extremely fraught, and Dean is the type of person who needs time to process events and emotions, and time to process is something he hasn't had since Mary disappeared.
So you ask: ok, cool, but what does all of that have to do with Cas dying, Liv? And here's where I say they have everything to do with Cas dying. I've talked about this before in tags and in other posts that I can't think of right now, but there are common occurrences in the events that have led to the more traumatic Cas deaths. If we think of Cas dying in 07x01, the context for that is as follows: Cas needs to solve a problem, he wants to ask Dean for help, but the desire to not burden him with it is greater, so Cas ends up handling the problem solo, which leads to disaster and also him dying. Or, well, apparently dying. But as far as Dean was concerned, Cas was dead, and he did struggle with it a lot during season 7. Now, fast-forward to s12 and the context of how Cas ends up dead then: Cas needs to solve a problem, part of him does want to cooperate with Sam and Dean to solve it, but he ultimately decides his desire to bring Dean a win, and to shield him and Sam from actions they'd suffer from are greater. Predictably, Cas ends up handling the problem solo, which leads to complications, and him being killed by Lucifer. Cas's death in 12x23 is significantly more traumatic to Dean than the one in 07x01 as season 13 starts with a grief arc that is devoted to Dean's suffering over Cas -- to the point that suffering overshadows even his grief over Mary. Granted, these are somewhat reductive summaries of the events of seasons 7 and 12, but the fact remains that those two deaths were remarkably similar as well as traumatic.
If you look at trauma theory in regards to literary analysis, you'll notice that a key element is repetition. The story of trauma is a story of echoes, which is partly why triggers are what they are for people who have PTSD. In particular, a situation doesn't need to be an exact replica in order to evoke a traumatic memory. A situation need only be similar enough to the traumatic event to cause a trauma response. Therefore, if we keep in mind that the events leading to 15x03 aren’t exact mirrors of 07x01 or 12x23, but too reminiscent for comfort, then Dean’s behavior toward Cas starts making a bit more sense -- not excused, but understandable. A quick summary of these similarities goes as follows: Cas notices there’s is something off with Jack because of his soul; he decides to investigate on his own to avoid worrying the Winchesters and also because of his own fear of losing his family. He only comes forward with what is happening after something potentially disastrous has happened (Mary’s death). Later, Cas deviates from the agreed plan to close the wound leading to hell, which leads to another disastrous consequence (Rowena’s death). What does this look like? Cas makes a decision to act on his own, and doesn’t tell Dean (or Sam) about it, something goes wrong, someone dies. Notably, here, moreover, is that Cas obviously doesn’t die, but he has paralleled Mary before (when he was dead in s13) and there’s an argument to be made that he would eventually parallel Rowena (with heaven), but that’s from a metanarrative perspective rather than Dean’s, and I digress.
Oh, It’s worth noting, too, that the way in which the arc starting with 14x18 and culminating in 15x03 presents a similar, but not quite, chain of events as those of previous seasons signals the intentionality of the trauma narrative.
But anyway, as we were: the resonance between the traumatic and triggering events, with the latter being traumatic in their own way, make Dean response in a way that is unfair for the situation at hand, but betray a deeper truth about Dean’s state of mind. Backtracking a little from 15x03, the first instance of Dean lashing out at Cas happens in 14x18 with the (heartbreaking) line: “Then you're dead to me.” At face value, those words are a condemnation of Cas and indicate a complete breakdown of the relationship, hinging on Jack having hurt/killed Mary. There is, however, another angle there, pain simmering beneath the surface, which makes more sense in its direction to Cas: the last time Jack, Mary, and Cas were involved in a tableaux like this, Cas died and Mary was gone. In what is an inversion of events, Mary is dead and Cas is...there, but as an echo of Jack’s birth, to say Cas is dead is a statement of fact: he did die, then. And as he was a parallel to Mary in the aftermath of Jack’s birth (and the rehashing of the John, Dean, Sam drama through Dean, Sam, and Jack), so is he a parallel to Mary here, except in circumstance. Both Mary and Cas had been after Jack. Mary happened to find him first, but Cas could’ve easily been the one to find him. Easily been the one who died. See the issue? This is obviously not to say that Dean’s grief and rage weren’t about Mary herself, but that the situations are entangled and murky.
Further entanglement and murkiness happen when Cas is forced to change the plan to seal the hell wound in 15x03. We all know, including Dean, that there was nothing Cas could’ve done instead of what he did. But besides the change of plans, there’s an undercurrent of anxiety of the wound closing before Cas makes it out. He does, of course, but that’s the what if, always. And to illustrate the possibility, Rowena sacrifices herself to close the wound. It’s not coincidence that the similarities here are tenuous considering the stress burden from everything that has happened since 14x18 has continued to grow with no respite.
The stage is set then for the confrontation that leads to Cas walking out of the bunker. Dean is clearly on edge, and Cas is in a particularly vulnerable and hopeless headspace:
CASTIEL: Sorry about Rowena.
DEAN: You're sorry? Why didn't you just stick to the damn plan?
CASTIEL: Belphegor was lying.
DEAN: Belphegor's a demon.
CASTIEL: He was using us. He wanted to eat every last soul to take over Hell, Earth, and every...
DEAN: Yeah, and we would've figured it out... after. With Rowena.
CASTIEL: The plan changed, Dean. Something went wrong. You know this. Something always goes wrong.
DEAN: Yeah, why does that something always seem to be you?
The reason I went of this long journey to come back to this is so as to make clear that what Dean is talking about here isn’t about Rowena at all, and it’s not about Mary either. We know Dean didn’t really blame Cas for Mary, and that he didn’t blame him for Rowena, either. But do those bolded parts sound familiar?
CASTIEL: Listen. Raphael will kill us all. He'll turn the world into a graveyard. I had no choice.
DEAN: No, you had a choice. You just made the wrong one.
CASTIEL: You don't understand. It's complicated.
DEAN: No, actually, it's not, and you know that. Why else would you keep this whole thing a secret, huh, unless you knew that it was wrong? When crap like this comes around, we deal with it... Like we always have. What we don't do is we don't go out and make another deal with the Devil!
CASTIEL: It sounds so simple when you say it like that. Where were you when I needed to hear it?
DEAN: I was there. Where were you?
DEAN: You should've come to us for help, Cas.
DEAN: Cas, you can't – With everything that's going on, you can't just go dark like that. We didn't know what happened to you. We were worried. That's not okay.
CASTIEL: Well, I didn't mean to add to your distress. I – Dean, I just keep failing. Again and again. When you were taken, I searched for months and I couldn't find you. And then Kelly escaped on my watch, and I couldn't find her. And I just wanted I needed to come back here with a win for you. For myself.
DEAN : We will find a better way.
CASTIEL: You mean, we?
DEAN : Yes, dumbass. We. You, me, and Sam, we're just better together. So now that you're back, let's go, Team Free Will. Let's get it done.
CASTIEL: I'd like that.
“Then, you’re dead to me.” “...why does that something always seem to be you”
Because it’s Cas, and Cas being dead and gone. The tragedy of the divorce arc is that Cas ends up gone, too. However, this time, it’s Dean’s fault for not stopping him. Here, Dean’s fear of Cas dying leads to the anger that ultimately pushes him away. So, yeah, Dean meant what he said, but not in the way Cas took it. Not in the way it appeared as.
The other tragedy of Supernatural ending as it did is that Dean never got to heal from that trauma, he never got to confront Cas for it, either. Make no mistake, the empty deal is another spiral of Dean’s unaddressed trauma over Cas dying. The beats are the same, and the result is Cas, gone, and Dean, shattered. Sadly, we never got our final resolution, the climatic reunion that would mirror Dean’s prayer in purgatory and Cas’s confession in the dungeon. It’s a story left unfinished.
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Shackles and bridges: SJM and the mating bond
I know there are a lot of posts about this, but I wanted to do one myself, so here we go.
DISCLAIMER: This is my interpretation as someone who is a very new member of this fandom and has more contact with “common readers”, since I was one myself until a couple of months ago. Everything here is based on textual evidence and my experience as an avid reader, so take a step back from any ship. But I will talk about the probability of a rejected mating bond, so if that's not your cup of tea, be warned. English is not my first language, so forgive me for any mistakes.
Also, minor spoiler for CC.
The mating bond is the most important element in SJM’s books and it's present in most of the main endgame couples. Aelin and Rowan, Feyre and Rhys, Nesta and Cassian, for example.
It’s described as this precious, sacred bridge between souls - or is it?
SJM is a very formulaic writer. We can draw several parallels with her writing, due to the way she structures her scenes and chooses her words.
We saw this explicitly with Nesta and Cassian in the Solstice scene, which is very similar to the one between Feyre and Rhysand: an emotional discussion, kissing tears away, lovemaking with “say it” and “you’re mine”, mating bond glowing between them, on and on.
Different characters, but same scenario, same process, same wording, almost the same scene.
However, considering that every mated couple until now ends up together HEA, I have the feeling that SJM is starting to explore the mating bond in different ways, otherwise every one of her books would be too… similar? In a way that the reader wouldn’t be surprised anymore, it would be the same story over and over.
To the ones who are faithful to those characters and to her books (her fans), this isn’t exactly a problem, but we have to consider the other readers as well, the bigger audience (SJM sold millions of copies, so not everyone who reads her books is engaged online).
For that exact reason, to approach a narrative element in a different way is very common among writers.
I’ll give you an example with Cassandra Clare and the parabatai bond (SPOILERS from TDA): the parabatai bond is an oath between friends who swear to protect each other. In TMI and TID, we have this bond between friends (Jace and Alec/ Will and Jem) that are almost brothers. However, in TDA, we have two parabatai (Julian and Emma) falling in love with each other, which is extremely forbidden.
The different ways a writer can approach the same elements are important to keep the readers engaged - not the reader who is a fan, but especially the occasional reader. Otherwise, it would be the “if you’ve read one, you’ve read them all” kind of thing, which is no bueno.
With that in mind, I really think SJM is starting to explore/ approach different sides of the mating bond.
Mate—not husband. The Fae had mates: an unbreakable bond, deeper than marriage, that lasted beyond death. (Heir of Fire/ ToG)
“But if they’re blessed, they’ll find their mate—their equal, their match in every way. High Fae wed without the mating bond, but if you find your mate, the bond is so deep that marriage is … insignificant in comparison.”
Another proof that SJM is formulaic: in both ToG and ACOTAR, the bond is presented for the first time in comparison to marriage, as something deeper and sacred.
However, Bryce, main character of CC (SJM book published before ACOSF), looks at it very differently:
“And at least he’s not some psychotic alphahole who will demand a three- day sex marathon and then call me his mate, lock me in his house, and never let me out again.” Which was why Reid—human, okay-at-sex Reid—was perfect.
This is such a contrast. To Bryce, the mating bond would take her freedom away (keep that in mind).
I’m not saying Bryce won’t have a mate or anything like that, but we don’t start reading CC with the same vision about the mating bond presented in the other books: a sacred bond, deeper than marriage. Bryce couldn’t care less about that, not once she wondered if Hunt is her mate.
Therefore, I don’t think SJM finally writing a different story about the mating bond so unthinkable. On the contrary, we see writers doing that all the time.
Also, I’m not saying Elain will reject it, but SJM is not only approaching the mating bond in different ways now, but she already structured a very solid base for a mating bond rejection to happen if she wants to:
“You said your mother and father were wrong for each other; Tamlin said his own parents were wrong for each other.” I peeled off my dressing robe. “So it can’t be a perfect system of matching. What if”—I jerked my chin toward the window, to my sister and the shadowsinger in the garden—“that is what she needs? Is there no free will? What if Lucien wishes the union but she doesn’t?”
“A mating bond can be rejected”.
SJM already wrote a whole scene to explain the mating bond and how, for some people, is not this sacred thing and it can be rejected. Not only that, she directly approached that Elain could reject it if she wanted to, and that scene involved Lucien and Azriel.
“You are his mate. Do you even know what that means?”
“It means nothing,” Elain said, her voice breaking. “It means nothing. I don’t care who decided it or why they did—”
“You belong to him.”
“I belong to no one. But my heart belongs to you.“
Also in ACOWAR, Elain makes herself very clear: she would have ignored/ rejected the mating bond right there if Graysen still wanted a future with her, because she loved him. She would have chosen to follow her heart without hesitation.
The funny thing is that Azriel - Elain's current love interest - never saw that scene, never saw how Elain vigorously rejected Lucien for someone she loved or the way Graysen rejected her (I’ll leave this information to you).
Those doe-brown eyes turned toward me. Sharper than I’d ever seen them.
“And that entitles him to my time, my affections?”
“No.” I blinked.
Her mouth tightened, the only sign of anger in her graceful countenance. “I don’t want a mate. I don’t want a male.”
Months go by and Elain is still uncomfortable with the bond.
“I am not always in this city to see my mate.” The last two words dripped with discomfort.
Her brown eyes were wary. Usually, that look was reserved for Lucien.
Elain only shrank further into herself, no trace of that newfound boldness to be seen.
At this point, it’s clear: the question "what if the Cauldron was wrong?" didn’t come out of nowhere, not only for Azriel, but in the narrative as well.
SJM had been slowly hinted at for three books now. I know she can change her mind, but if she wants to write about it, she made sure to write the perfect opportunity:
SJM already wrote a scene about the possibility of Elain rejecting the bond, that involved Elain, Lucien and Azriel, so it’s not coming from nowhere;
Lucien compared how different Elain is from the female who he had really loved;
They are both uncomfortable around each other;
Elain is romantically interested in someone else, who was part of that scene back in ACOWAR when we were presented to the possibility;
This someone else (Azriel) is interested in her;
SJM made sure to tie the romantic plot (Elain’s mating bond) with a political plot (Blood Duel);
The political plot is connected to the overarching plot (Autumn Court, Beron and Eris/ Koschei);
Mostly important: Elain is showing for three books that she doesn't want the bond;
"I don't want a mate. I don't want a male."
She literally said that with all the letters.
We can see this dichotomy between shackles (no freedom) x bridge (a connection) regarding Lucien as well.
"(Jesminda) She had chosen him. Elain had been … thrown at him."
He said that Elain had been thrown at him and also that they were shackled.
“Give her time to accept it.”
“To accept a life shackled to me?” (ACOFAS)
And then right in the next book (ACOSF) we have this:
“Well, I didn’t have a choice in being shackled to you, either.”
The declaration slammed into her. Shackled.(…)
Words beckoned, sharp as knives, begging for her to grab one and plunge it into his chest. Make him hurt as much as that one word hurt her.
SJM emphasized what that one word meant by repeating it and using italics. It’s another side of a mating bond: not a bridge of connection, but shackles with no freedom, no choice.
If Nesta was that hurt when Cassian (someone she loves) said that he didn’t get a choice in being "shackled” to her, can you imagine how is it for Elain and to actually have this bond with someone she don't love? And to Lucien as well?
The thing is in terms of storytelling, and by that I mean the plot, it’s undeniable that we already have everything that’s necessary to approach the matter of the mating bond in a way the reader has never seen before.
It’s a huge possibility, one that would make the regular readers interested (we have to remember that, not everyone who reads those books is engaged. They read them when it’s appealing).
If you want to look deeper, we can see little clues that point to that narrative path, too:
Elain shall wed for love and beauty.
The bond Elain had chosen.
Elain cut in sharply, “I am not a child to be fought over.”
Now, why hasn't Elain rejected the bond?
Because a writer doesn’t waist a good plot like that. Simple as that.
Let me tell you: SJM won’t waist that plot because a part of the fandom doesn’t like Elain, because 1) the online fandom itself is just a part of the readers; 2) inside the online fandom there are people who dislike Elain, who are neutral about her and people who like her; 3) SJM already know some people hate Elain, otherwise she wouldn’t have wrote this:
You think Elain is boring?
I think she’s kind, I’ll take kindness over nastiness any day. But I also think we haven’t seen all she has to offer yet.
SJM already told us she likes to write about disliked characters. She will write the story she wants to write and ACOSF is the major proof of that. If it’s a rejection or not, only she knows, everything could happen.
But SJM has been writing about mating bonds for years, do you really think the first time we get to see a rejection it would be for someone else’s POV? Or in a minor plot as if it isn’t a big deal? Especially when this rejection is directly related to a political plot and to the overarching plot?
No, not when SJM has enough material to write 700 pages and more, not when she has the opportunity to make a whole book out of this, one that is something entirely new for the reader, not when SJM built the perfect opportunity herself.
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I generally don’t talk about art/animation much because it’s not my particular specialty, but I felt like pointing out that there are some minor differences between Adventure and 02′s art styles that are visible even to me as a layman!
Production-wise, Adventure and 02 shared the majority of its major animation staff, and they look very similar to each other (certainly more so than they do compared to later series), both having their overall art direction by Iijima Yukiko. That said, there are a few differences of note:
Episode directors Hayakawa Keiji and Shimizu Junji weren’t involved in 02, whereas Umezawa Atsutoshi was added to 02′s director lineup. Yoshizawa Takao, who directed two of Adventure’s later episodes, became a regular in 02, and Sasaki Noriyo was added to the lineup near the end of 02.
Takeda Yoshihiro (the one famous for making all of those shiny, dramatic-shading episodes in 02) was added to the animation director lineup for 02.
Adventure’s chief animation director Miyahara Naoki (who wasn’t directly involved in any episode as an episode director) wasn’t involved in 02, and the chief animation director for 02 was instead Nobuzane Setsuko (who served as episode animation director for multiple Adventure and 02 episodes).
Because their art styles are so similar, 02 usually just pulls footage directly from Adventure for flashbacks, but looking closely at them (especially for extended periods of time) reveals some consistent differences, such as:
Adventure tends to have thicker line weight than 02 on average; it’s especially noticeable on the human characters.
For human characters, eyes in 02 are somewhat thinner and smaller, compared to Adventure’s, which are usually rounder, have bigger eye whites, and take up more space in the face. The difference is particularly strong with Mimi, who had much larger eyes with two highlights back in Adventure, but only one highlight in 02. Adventure also has eye highlights drawn with clear lines, whereas 02 simply just puts the white dots on with no line.
While it’s difficult to tell because of the timeskips and the fact that one of the only major newly drawn flashback scenes in 02 (from episode 27) logically should involve some physical growth, the physical proportions in 02 tend to lean ever so slightly taller and less “super deformed” than the ones in Adventure, making it seem like the average 02 character is taller than the average Adventure character. For evidence of such, note Kakudou’s reference sheet for the protagonists in Xros Wars; Taichi is shorter at 11 than Daisuke is at the equivalent age, but it’s not quite as much as their respective proportions in Adventure and 02 would make you think.
In general, due to 02 presumably having more animation budget (Adventure being a new and somewhat unproven IP at the time of its airing, 02 being able to work off Adventure’s success), faces and other common details are more often “on-model” and consistently drawn between episodes. It’s also possibly why 02 is a lot more prone to having background visual elements and details snuck in there that you may not notice the first time, because there’s more room to cram in that kind of thing.
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My thoughts on Seabound!!! 🌊🌊🌊 (1/4)
Finally Nya's season! Our queen, our water goddess, our amazing girl gets what she deserves! 😍😍😍
What I know about the season beforehand is that Nya's powers apparently are getting problematic for some reasons? Which is a pretty common topic in other shows but it's a first in Ninjago, usually the elemental powers don't have focus and I LOVE that we now get to see stuff like that 💕💕💕
I know there should be Wojira involved, trusting The Island to deliver that little foreshadowing at the end of the episode 🤷♀️ Also Maya is back... MAYA IS FINALLY BACK AFTER SEVEN SEASONS YES!!! 😭😭😭
I have nothing else to say, I have no idea what this will bring, hopefully something as good as Master of the Mountain! 🖤
Alright, here we go!
Warning reader, I might be fangirling to an extreme because I love mah girl Nya and I've been wanting Kai and Nya's parents to be back ever since Hands of Time ended. So yeah... screaming alert 😅
At this point I don't doubt that the intro is great, we reached such a level of animation and we got The Fold 😍😍 Love the marine vibe and how it's similar to The Island, because it's a great intro 👌
NOW I like the writing! Maybe they rushed the dialogue's quality for The Island to get here? It's just fun and in character, maybe it's just me but I'm enjoying it a lot for now
How many episodes are in this? Wiki says ten, then I checked again and it's sixteen like with Master of Mountain... eh, it looks good so far so it's fine whatever happens 🤷♀️
A BIG SPLASH
Oohhh, new villain! One that uses... flames... huh, does she know there's literally a master of fire in the ninja team? Eh whatever she looks cute, give it up for Miss Demeanor!! 👏👏
Wait... OMG IS THAT ERIN MATTHEWS??? WE GOT MACY!! ❤❤❤
Whoa, we're finding out where did the order of the vengestone from season 13 come from?? YAS! CONTINUITY!
Yep, there it is, Nya lost control... her attacks look so cool 😍
Lol that kid trying to be a nindroid and Zane being offended 😂😂 Sorry hun, you're that popular
Aaahhh, thank you Ninjago! You gave me back Nya the perfectionist 😂 I was worried her reaction to her powers wasn't going to be in character but it looks fair so far. Brings me back to Possession, my favorite season 💙💙💙
WE GOT BACK THE FACT THAT SHE CAN MAKE IT RAIN!!! YAS!!! I might be easy to please but I love these details 🤩
🤯🤯🤯 Okay they are definitely going somewhere this time and I LOVE IT, because wow. WOW. Are we actually addressing the forever questioned fact that wind and water weren't elements that Chen needed at the Tournament? Are we giving a reason for them to exist outside the main set of elements and the elemental masters?? Duuuude, season 15 don't let me stop you, keep going 😍
Mm, so water and wind are connected to Wojira (now I see the connection with the special). Are we setting the ground for a new master of wind? 😏😏 It's risky going for a Morro replacement but it's a super intriguing idea! Oooor Edgy Boy TM might come back? WHO KNOWS I'M CURIOUS ANYWAY 🤩
Love how it is universal knowledge that Nya is super indipendent 👌
YES YES FINALLY WE'RE TALKING ABOUT MAYA!!! 😍😍😍 Is it too much hoping into a Ray cameo as well?? Pleaaaase? Also addressing Krux after so many seasons, this feels exciting!! 😊
This is what I'm talking about, training, fighting scenes, show me everything that water goddess can do! 🌊🌊🌊
Aaahhh, Nya flexing her mightiness through anger, just to remind us that she is the descendant of a water master as much as of a fire master 😅
YES YES YES YES IT'S HAPPENING FINALLY AFTER SEVEN SEASON THE FIRE WATER PARENTS ARE FINALLY BACK!!! 🔥🌊🔥🌊🔥🌊 I'M SO HAPPY I'VE BEEN WAITING FOR SO LONG!!! 😭
RAY IS THERE TOO HECK YES!!!! 😍😍😍😍😍😍😍😍 I shouldn't get this excited at only the first episode... WHO CARES RAY IS BAAAAACK!!! ❤❤❤
Omg Maya is definitely different from what I expected, turns out Kai's enthusiasm came from her 😂
Oh look at my flame babe 😍
He's so happy his parents are here, he's a total family man ❤❤❤
Nya is maaaaad... 😅
THERE SHE IS
WELCOME BACK JILLIAN I MISSED YOU 💚💚💚 Would it be too much having a "Your voice sounds familiar" moment with Maya and Lloyd? 😂
I'm so stoked for this! I want all the interactions I've missed for all of this time, asap!! HECK yes!! 😍😍😍😍
Oh, are we looking over the Miss Demeanor, vengestone situation? Mm... for now at least... WHO CARES FIRE WATER PARENTS!! 🔥🌊🔥🌊🔥🌊
THE CALL OF THE DEEP
Imma just slow clap for The Fold because this is another amazing intro, one of those things in this show that stays awesome no matter what happens 👍👍
So Maya gave Nya her discipline and perfectionism, but not the passion behind it 😂 I like this, it's not your conventional master of water, although I'd say it's different from the impression she gave me back in HoT. Maybe this is how she is when she's not trapped for fifty years? 😅😅
Is it too much asking for Kai and Ray bonding while the water women get the work done? 😅😅
Is this the sequel of Green Eggs and Ham?
Green Pancakes and Ham? 😂
Oh it's seaweed nevermind... at breakfast? I'm all for sushi rolls but this is a little 😅 Although since Maya missed their childhood she probably never cooked meals for them... how did I get myself sad 😢
Whoa, Maya is a strict teacher! I got flashbacks from my first and only dance lesson, teachers nitpicking every single pose, uuurrrggg I feel ya waterlily 😡
Again, not a fan of Misako, but coming from her the whole speech about wanting to be there for her child makes a lot of sense
YEEEEESSSS KAI AND RAY FAMILY BONDING THIS IS EVERYTHING I'VE EVER WANTED I'M GETTING ALL OF MY WISHES GRANTED FOR THIS ONE ❤🔥❤🔥❤🔥❤🔥❤🔥❤
AND MY FLAME BABE IS SO GLAD HE GOT HIS PARENTS!!! 😭😭😭
Lol with Kai's new hair they look even more related 🤣
Ray also sounds so happy he gets to have his moment with his son 😢 I feel so blessed in this moment 👍
Also this scene makes a lot of sense. Nya grew up to be indipendent, one that succeed in most of stuff without problems, she built her life without any help and doesn't look for it. Kai grew up more insecure, he got some walls up but loves to take care of others and be taken care of. With a childhood lost he looks forward to a bit of softness ❤❤
Did Maya make real bacon for that sandwich? Do I smell some favoritism? 😅 Or maybe she really wants Nya to get onto the water mind setting idk 🤷♀️
Little tiny complain, why isn't Jay doing the fixing? Did he give up mechanics completely? It feels like we haven't seen him do tech stuff in so long, I miss techy boy in action 😞
And no, having to check on the bathroom doesn't count 😅
Aww robot date 💜🤍💜🤍
AAAHH ROBOT DISASTER 😱😱😱 ZANE DANG IT YOU WERE DOING SO GOOD NOT TRYING TO DIE IN THE LAST TWO SEASONS!!
Oh that was weird, weird magic purple wave thingie?
I DID NOT ASK FOR A SEASON WITH A BEST GIRL AT THE EXPENCE OF ANOTHER BEST GIRL PIX DON'T YOU DARE DO THIS TO ME 😱😱😱😱😱
"Well this is troubling." I love this samurai so freaking much 💜💜💜
GUYS THIS IS ONLY THE SECOND EPISODE, I'M A LITTLE SCARED NOW 😢
Okay Nya admitting that something's wrong looking so apologetic, girl you don't need to do that you already own my heart 😭
Alright, I'm guessing this is Wojira's power or something, and they will have to go down below and find out why... just throwing this in, maybe Maya did something? Because she wanted to finally be with her family and needed an excuse? JUST A THEORY WITH NO BASE I REALLY HOPE I'M WRONG!!!
Okay, two episodes and I'm BEYOND engaged, let's keep it up! 😍
Getting an idea how this episode might end already 😂😂
Look, I love best girl Pixal, but I'm kinda sad that she seems to be the only one tinkering at this point. Like, I saw Nya fix little stuff, while Jay dropped engineering altogether, I miss my engineers team 😭
Aww, the guys didn't want to crush Pixal's dream of an unsinkable boat 💜 But honestly yeah, I agree with Cole, this might end badly 😅😅
I was worried they forgot about Jaya ❤💙❤💙 Jay is such a cutie omg
Nya: Mm, going on a potentially dangerous mission with unstable powers in the heart of my element or... mom's tofu pancakes... *yeets herself over the ship*
I'm making too many screenshots of the Smith family... WHO CARES THEY ARE BACK AND THEY ALL LOOK SO GOOD!!! 😍😍😍😍
Aww Ray wants to play with his son and his friends so CUTE ❤❤❤ Still can't believe they play Prime Empire after everything that went down 😂😂
Whoa whoa whoa, Kai and Cole are sitting this one out? That's actually interesting, I'm pretty sure I saw Cole's scuba suit in the sets though so I didn't expect it... lol it's actually kinda fair that the two that used to be afraid of water aren't going 😂😂
Bet Kai is happy to stay behind because he gets to spend time with his dad 😭
Also studying the fire elementals?? Uhm, yes please?? TELL ME EVERYTHING ABOUT MY FLAME BABE!!! 😍😍😍😍
I'm sure this one scene...
... made so many lavashippers happy ❤🖤❤🖤 Cole you got Ray's blessing
Ninja team acting cool while Jay is being Jay, it's how it always goes, it's the entire show's description and I absolutely love it 😂 That wink though 💙
PIRATE ZANE IS BACK 😂😂😂 Haven't seen him since Possession, and this time he's not even malfunctioning 👌 Pixal is so done with his dorky boyfriend 😝
Of course Jay already has a ghost butler theory going on 😂
OF COURSE IT'S MAYA 😂😂
To be honest muffins would sold me too 😅 Not sure if she will make them out of tofu again though...
It's actually really interesting that we still haven't met the actual enemies, it does build up excitment! Very curious about these squid guys 👍
Well what do you know, the Unsinkable sank. Who would have thought?
... yeah same, sorry Pix 😅
FIVE THOUSANDS FATHOMS DOWN
Aaaahhh, Nya fixing stuff! That's more like it!! 😍😍
Oww, that one speech, I've been waiting for so long for that! Maya just wants to catch up with her daughter and it's not her fault she was separated from her children, but Nya did everything on her own with Kai. Only fair she isn't seeking for her help right now... still sad 😢
Pff, with this ninja team there's not a moment of privacy 😂😂
Maya cleaning his future son-in-law's laundry what the HECK 😂😂😂 To be fair Jay has a bit of a history of having to change underwears during sea travels 😝
Zane was attached to a battery? When?... are you talking about that one scene in Prime Empire? Cause that's not really a flashback I wanna ha- whoops never mind got the flashback 😱
Maya looks more calm now, I think she's trying to act more reasonable and she's got good points 👍 I know people were a little weirded out by how more cheerful she looks in comparison to Hands of Time, but I think she gets the most serious and rational when time needs. That's actually fascinating of her 🤔
CALLING OUT AN ATTEMPTED MURDER
THIS GIRL IS TOO GORGEOUS MY HEART CAN'T TAKE IT 🤩🤩🤩 Like my gosh that smirk, what the heck Pix 💜💜💜
Okay but Jay looking at Nya until the doors are completely closed?? CAN YOU FEEL MY JAYA HEART BEATING?? ❤💙❤💙
Whoa green gas I thought this was Nya's season 😂
MAYA WHY ARE YOU SAYING THIS STUFF YOU'RE SCARING ME 😱😱😱 I SWEAR LEGO IF YOU BROUGHT BACK WATER MOM JUST TO KILL HER OFF I'M GONNA SUE YOU 😭😭😭
I really REALLY like the atmosphere of the entrante of the temple! Super sealike and ancient! 🌊🌊🌊
Maya: off we go, into the spooky old temple! (Why does it feel like something Kai would say? 😂)
Oh gee, someone sleeping in the deep, who could that be? Coff Wojira coff
Whoa the jellyfishes look pretty lifelike!
HERE HE COMES
WELCOME BACK GILES!!! ONCE AGAIN ON A LEGO SHOW I MISSED YOU SO MUCH YOU AND YOUR GODLIKE VOICE!!! 😍😍😍😍 Gosh he's a villain but he's got Clay's voice, how can I even try to hate him?? 😅
Alright, knocking down my water girls, that is pretty hateful material... BUT CLAAAYYY 💙💙💙
So they need the two amulets to wake up Wojira? Isn't one on the island? Fire dad and son coming to the rescue? WHO KNOWS BUT I'M ENJOYING THIS A LOT SO FAR KEEP GOING SEABOUND 😍😍😍
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Q&A: Extreme Medical Experimentation and Torture
A big part of my story idea involves my characters, who are vampire and werewolves, being put through extensive torture through experiments and dissection, over and over again, but not enough to kill them. (I know there is media that has covered this, but it never seems to get deep into the experimentation of it all) I was wondering what research I should read or look for, and also if you have an opinion on what is to much, or going to far with the torture?
I don’t usually say, “this is a bad idea,” as my lead in. I think this is doable, but it is going to require a very delicate balancing act. If the experiments aren’t severe enough, then the entire scenario loses plausibility. On the other hand, if you go too far, you can completely turn off your audience. Extreme violence will cause the reader to disconnect from the work, and you’ve lost them.
We don’t talk about audience disconnect often, but this is a real concern for writers. It is incredibly easy to go too far with violence. (Not just in this specific context.) There are a lot of potential causes, including trying to include extreme elements for shock value. However, whether you’re going for shock value or not, you’ll want to gradually build up intensity throughout your story. If you ramp up too fast, the audience disconnects. This becomes a balancing act, as you need to increase the intensity at a pace which keeps your readers engaged, without driving them off.
So, when you say, “torture,” this is going to be a very difficult mark to hit. Realistically, an organization engaging in extreme medical experimentation on non-human, “monsters,” is going to be pretty horrifying on its own. If you whiff that, the organization loses credibility as villains.
There’s already plenty of history with humans doing borderline unspeakable things to one another under the guise of medical experimentation. I’m not going to dig into the history of crimes against humanity today. We’ve talked about in the past, and I don’t think this week really needs delving into that rabbit hole.
What is important is that this kind of torture for medical information already has a template in the real world. If your werewolves revert to human form on death, any meaningful anatomical analysis would need to be done through vivisection. Similarly, your vampires would need to be autopsied while still un-living, because, once dead, they’re just another corpse (assuming they don’t rapidly decay on death, in which case, we’re back to the same fundamental issue as with werewolves.)
There are a few major considerations that can help you significantly.
First: Your characters escape (or are rescued) before things get out of hand. We’ve said it before, but torture is about the threat of what comes next, not the actual damage being done. In the same sense, you can threaten much worse things but then interrupt the process without paying off those threats. Important to remember, just as anticipation is part of torture, those threats can be enough to cause the audience to disconnect if they’re too explicit. However, it is much more manageable to have a villain threatening to carve up your protagonist’s best friend, than to actually deliver on it.
There are a few problems here, if you’re wanting to torture them repeatedly, that will turn off the audience. The repetition doesn’t build tension, and once you’ve brought a character out the other side, doing so again doesn’t contribute to the story. However, each new session is another opportunity for the audience to get sick of what’s happening and walk away. This doesn’t mean the event is one and done, but you probably don’t want to depict multiple sessions unless there’s something significant about them.
Also, torturing them repeatedly won’t generate useful information, unless the methods change dramatically. For example, burning this week, poisons next, surgical examinations on Tuesdays at 5pm. There is an element where simply having a mundane schedule for this can be very disturbing through minimal effort. If you’re wanting to work with this you need to ask yourself what they’re trying to learn from each test. If this is for the purpose of developing a greater understanding of how these creatures operate, then reverse engineering the scientific method will go a long way towards establishing the monster hunters as a real, plausible threat.
As a quick aside, the scientific method is: 1 Form a hypothesis, 2 test the hypothesis, 3 evaluate results, 4 if the results are not consistent with the hypothesis, go to 1 and refine it. If you want this to work for your story, you need your monster hunters to be actively learning about the creatures they’re hunting.
Second: You don’t need to see this. Finding a character who has been butchered is going to be less traumatic (and will have less risk of disconnect), than depicting the act directly. This can also sell the threat of the organization very effectively. Placing scenes like this needs to be carefully considered if the victim is an established character. If the victim is anonymous (no one your characters know), the impact on the audience will be diminished. As I said a moment ago, this needs to be managed carefully, but, it can be a relief. If a character has been captured, and the other characters find a corpse, learning that it isn’t their friend (and isn’t someone the audience knows) will be a temporary relief for the audience, (though not so much for the characters.)
Third: Flipping the script can make these behaviors uncomfortably palatable. Specifically, stories from the perspective of the monster hunters can get away with some really horrific behavior directed at the monsters because, “they’re monsters.” If the story is told from the perspective of the humans hunting vampires, and they’re engaging in horrific experimentation to probe vampire limitations the audience will be more sympathetic. If you start humanizing your monsters, audience support for this will quickly break down. This can (potentially) be used to move audience sympathies from the humans to the monsters, though doing so will still require a delicate touch.
One piece of fiction that plays with this very deftly is the British TV series Ultraviolet. The human vampire hunters are somewhat sympathetic because they’re human, but their methods are just uncomfortable enough to keep things on edge. At the same time, the vampires are just human enough to keep the overall tone surprisingly balanced, while being monstrous enough that trusting them is a mistake. It also has my favorite performance from Idris Elba. It’s an excellent series, and does get into medical experimentation in a way you don’t often see in vampire fiction.
In the end you to balance three things. The audience’s tolerance for what they monster hunters are doing. If you ramp up too fast, you risk alienating your readers. Your monster hunters’ goals and methods. If their actions are a major focus of the story, you need to structure what they’re trying to learn. (At a disturbing level, it’s possible they know more about your characters’ physiologies than the vampires or werewolves.) Finally, you need to remember you’re dealing with some very complex, and difficult subject matter. There are legitimate reasons to tell this story, and there is a lot of potential ways to present it. However, this will be difficult, so prepare yourself for that.
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Q&A: Extreme Medical Experimentation and Torture was originally published on How to Fight Write.
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Hii Becca, congrats on your 15k! 📝Could you do a tutorial of how you do your rainbow color sets?
of course! let’s talk about rainbows such as the ones i’ve created here, here and here! this is maybe going to be more of a series of tips to use when attempting a rainbow set as i have my colouring tutorial explaining how i colour my gifs!
i’d also recommend taking a look at my tutorial on how to get several gifs in one as i also use techniques from this.
so let’s get started under the cut!
tip 1: finding scenes
one of the most important things when attempting a rainbow set is the scene picking. i usually go through and pick the scenes i like, but then sort them into their base colours. so for example i will put all of the blue scenes into a folder, then all of the green scenes into another folder (you can see a screenshot below of what i usually do).
this will save you a lot of time because it’s easier to enhance colours that are already there, rather than have to colour each scene from scratch. the smallest rainbow i’ve done is 30 gifs which is still quite a lot for one set (the others are both above 60) so you really want to make life easier on yourself by using scenes that already have those colours in them.
tip 2: decide on your layout
people have come up with all kinds of exciting ways to present rainbows recently. you have ones like i listed of my examples above which is fairly simple boxes or rectangles together, or you can do things with different shapes such as this really cool layout. you can experiment with whatever you want but it’s a good idea to start with an idea of what you want to achieve and how many gifs you want within it!
tip 3: start with your black and whites
the way i like to do my rainbow set is as a gradient, so each line gradually changes from one shade to the next. the easiest way for me to do this is by starting with my white lines and my black lines, even though they are at opposing ends of the set.
for my witcher set, because the darker scenes included yennefer with fire, i knew i needed to go from black to either red or orange. i went with red and was able to work, so this gave me the ‘starting point’ for my rainbow (even though on the set it’s the ending point, i know that’s a bit confusing!)
but having this meant i could now figure out my ending point. i knew this needed to be either pink or orange as these are the colours next to red in the spectrum. in making my white gifs, it was easier to add a little touch of light pink in with my colouring, so i created a white to pink transition as such:
this has now given me the ‘start’ and ‘end’ points for my rainbow, which is really helpful in knowing my sequence of colours and how i’m going to transition throughout the set.
note: you can start anywhere on the colour spectrum like this, i could go from black > blue all the way through to say green > white. i will say in my experience i have found it more effective to transition from black to a warmer colour (such as red or orange) because these colours standout well on a black background which gifs you an effective gradient effect, but this also depends on the shows i’m working with.
tip 4: getting a line of gifs to match in colouring
obviously one of the key things about a rainbow is that each gif in a line is a similar shade. otherwise you won’t get quite the same rainbow effect going on! as i said before please read my colouring tutorial because a lot of what i’m going to talk about now will be presuming you’ve already gone through that.
so in order to get my colours to match i firstly colour all of my gifs with their basic colouring separately, and then put them all together as so:
as you can see these all have elements of pink in them but most are not fully pink and also the shades do not yet match. but that’s fine! now i have them all together it’s easier to see as i colour each one how the shades match to each other.
i proceeded to use my usual colouring method of using the paint brush (step 3 in my colouring tutorial). each of these gifs have all been coloured with the exact same shade with the brush, each under all the other colouring layers, with a slightly pink gradient over the top of all colouring layers. for the right hand gif i used some hue/saturation adjustments to change the cyan/green shades to pink but otherwise, they’ve all had the same painting adjustments:
as you can see they’re now a lot more pink, but they still don’t match in shade! the middle and right hand gifs were far too purply for me as i wanted more of a ‘rosy pink’ shade.
so, i added a few paint brush layers on top (again in exactly the same shade). in the middle gif, i have added a little bit of colour around the top of her head and set this to ‘hard light’ to lighten this area.
on the right hand gif i added a layer covering the entire gif and set this to multiply to bring a bit more colour depth, then added another layer with some colour to the top of the house as it’s shade is a little lighter, and set this layer to ‘hue’ lowering the opacity to 35%:
we can see here that the middle gif has been lightened around the edges, and the right hand gif now has a much stronger colour with the top of the house matching the rest of the gif!
but this still isn’t quite there. the shade of the left hand gif is still a bit lighter and more ‘rosy pink’. so, i cracked out the selective colours! selective colours are a dream when it comes to rainbow sets. all i did here was play around with the magentas using selective colours of each gif to get them to match.
left hand gif: i darkened the magentas a little and added more cyan tones
middle gif: i lightened the magentas, adding more magenta and yellow tones
right hand gif: i lightened the magentas, adding more magenta and yellow tones. i also added a layer of white with my brush right at the bottom and set this to ‘softlight’ lowering the opacity to 31% to just lighten the ground:
ta-da! now it seems like a cohesive colouring! the key here really is to just play around with your selective colours, look at the gifs together and see how each one matches to the next.
tip 5: transitioning between shades
as said before i really like making my rainbows more of a gradient where we transition through different shades. so i’m gonna walk you through how i work adjusting from one shade to the other and making it look ‘cohesive’.
so i usually work from line to line. i firstly try to get all of the gifs to match each other in colouring, and then i worry about how that looks in relation to the row above/below it. it’s always good to open your lines together on ps (even if they are in separate gifs) just so you can see how they work next to each other. so i have my first line here all coloured:
i’m currently transitioning from green to yellow so i want the next line to be more of a yellowy tone, but also not too yellow or the transition will be too sudden. so, what i do is create the next line of gifs and colour these also in green, using the same shade of paint brush as i did for the above line:
as we can see the greens match pretty nicely! the only issue of course is that i want the second line to be more yellow. but this is where we go back to our trusty selective colours. so starting with that bottom right gif, i added a selective colour layer reducing the cyans and increasing the yellows, then also a yellow selective colour layer increasing the yellows and magentas, and decreasing the cyans. i also threw in a hue & saturation layer to lighten the yellows so we get this:
now this is definitely stepping the colouring towards yellow, without making it a strong yellow yet (as that’s what my next line will be!). this is therefore a great transition shade between the light green and yellow, and will add a nice cohesive look to the set. with the right hand gif in a shade i like, i then worked on the other two gifs to get them to match the row (as spoken about in tip 4!).
this was again achieved by using selective colours adjustments to decrease cyans and increase yellows under the ‘green’ and ‘yellow’ tones. although for the left hand gif i also added a layer set to ‘color’ on top of all colouring layers at a dark green/yellow shade just to get a stronger colour for the background!
and there we go! we now have a green to yellow transition fade. to create the entire effect i continue like this. for the next line of gifs i would colour them in yellow, and then make any selective colour adjustments needed to create a ‘smooth’ transition, and then move to orange and on to red. i’ve said it before but i’ll say it again: play with selective colours! they are your best friend for making rainbow sets and really do make a world of difference.
and that’s it! i hope the techniques i’ve gone over will help you get your head around rainbows and how best to tackle them. doing a rainbow set can seem daunting because there are a lot of gifs involved, and i will admit they are time consuming, but it is most about repeating techniques over and over again as you move through the rainbow.
i started on a ‘smaller scale’ of just giffing one of my characters in every episode and trying to make each gif flow as more of a gradient between a few colours, and that was a really great exercise for me on how to manipulate shades and get a set to flow in a cohesive gradient before i built up to a whole rainbow. so if you wanted to experiment with something like that first it might be a good starting point.
anyway, i really hope this helps and as always, if you have any further questions please feel free to ask :)
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Captain America: The Great Gold Steal
I wrote this up last week because I did not have access to my usual comics files but I figured I could review something that was just a book. So here is a review of the 1968 Captain America novel Captain America: The Great Gold Steal by Ted White, with an introduction by Stan Lee. I really liked it, actually! It was surprisingly good!
This novel features: Cover art of Captain America holding his shield in one hand and a very large gun in the other! A scene where the villains dramatically unmask Captain America and have absolutely no idea who he is! Captain America being extremely, extremely depressed about being in the future! Captain America dropping acid!
(I'm not kidding about the last part. In this novel there is a lot of LSD use. By Captain America. Talk about something the Comics Code wouldn't ever let you put in a comic book. Thank you, 1968.)
Faithful readers may remember that some time ago I posted reviews of Marvel prose novels from the 1970s. There was a line of prose novels featuring everyone's favorite Marvel superheroes, published by Pocket Books in the late 70s; I have reviews of the Iron Man, Captain America, and Avengers entries in the series; I liked the Iron Man one best, and I also have a Doctor Strange one I have not yet read. They're all short and action-packed paperback reads, of varying quality; the only one by anyone you might have heard of is the Avengers one, which was written by David Michelinie, who was actually writing the Avengers run at the time. That one was, um. An experience.
(Yes, it's "prose novel" because otherwise the assumption is "graphic novel.")
Marvel still publishes prose novels now, of course, also of varying quality; some are new plots and some are straight-up novelizations of comics arcs, which I guess is useful if you want to, say, read Civil War and not look at pictures at the same time. I also have a bunch of those that I could probably review if anyone wants. But, anyway, I personally am particularly intrigued by the older Marvel prose novels, both because the stories are all original and not retellings, and also because I often prefer the characterization found in older comics. And the older prose novels of course use the then-current characterization. So reading a Marvel prose novel from 1979 is like getting to read a brand-new comic from 1979, and that's a whole lot of fun for a nerd like me. Also do you know what's not subject to the Comics Code? Prose novels. So things can happen in these that definitely could not happen in comics of the same era.
This brings me to my current prose novel, which is something else entirely. I mean, okay, not really, it's still a Marvel prose novel. But it's not part of the same line. It's actually a lot older.
Bantam Books actually published Marvel prose novels in the late 60s. Yep, a full decade earlier. They published exactly two, so I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that they were probably not bestsellers. The first one, which I do not own and now sort of want to track down, was an Avengers novel in 1967, The Avengers Battle the Earth-Wrecker. And then in 1968 they published the novel I am currently holding in my hands, Captain America: The Great Gold Steal by Ted White.
(I am still not sure why no one involved in titling this book thought of the word "theft.")
Judging by the back copy, it appears to be about Captain America foiling the villains' dastardly plan to steal gold from the Federal Reserve. Oh boy. Fun.
So this book is from 1968. The modern Marvel universe had kicked off just a few short years ago! Captain America was just getting his own solo book after the end of Tales of Suspense! And here's a novel about him, back when certain elements of his characterization were perhaps a little more flexible than they are today, by which I mean that the cover art -- which the internet informs me was painted by Mitchell Hooks -- is a striking full-body portrait of Captain America, head held high, shield in one hand... and a very large gun in the other. Hell, yeah. Not gonna see that in today's Cap comics, are you? It's amazing and I love it.
(Okay, you might see that in Ults. I'm pretty sure I have seen that in Ults, actually. But this is still cool.)
So the cover art is a definite plus, and apparently it's one of the few reasons anyone has ever heard of this novel. The other reason -- and the reason this is more expensive than the later novels, I assume -- is that Stan Lee's name is slapped on the cover, because he wrote an introduction. (I think I paid about $30 for this. The others were definitely under $20.)
All right. Here we go.
The first page is actually a brief summary of Steve's origin story, but not a version I was familiar with. Steve was born July 9, 1917 (yes, I was surprised too), was orphaned at a young age, and was a student at Columbia University (!) before Rebirth, which in this version is a gradual process that is also extremely body-horror. Steel tubing was inserted into the marrows of his bones. He was fed "high-protein compounds." Then they gave him a chemical that "gave him complete control over every nerve, muscle, and cell in his now-magnificent body." Sweet. Where can I get some of that?
The blurb also confirms his control over his own metabolism as well as his healing factor ("wounds would heal in half the normal time"), which is nice, because sometimes I wonder if canon even remembers the healing factor.
(I don't know why Marvel has this kink for filling people's bones with metal, though. It's not actually empty in there, guys! You need your bone marrow! How else do you want people to make new blood cells?)
The book is dedicated to "Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, without whom there would be no Captain America." Hey, Marvel, Joe Simon would like a word with you. I'm just saying.
The Stan Lee introduction is three paragraphs written in Stan Lee's, um, inimitable, distinctive and extremely florid narrative style -- if you've read any of his work, you know what I mean -- and making the point that Captain America is incredible and you will like him. If you are just discovering him for the first time, you will definitely like him. Okay. Thanks. I guess.
Oddly, the writing style here is substantially different than any of the other Marvel prose novels I've read; it doesn't immediately front-load you with exposition and a cast of colorful superheroes. It opens with a sort of James Bond spy-novel feel, running through a series of unnamed villains and bystanders, and a man who wants nothing more than to talk to Captain America but is killed before he can. Steve comes in halfway through the chapter, and he seems to be written for a reader who doesn't necessarily know who he is, and he isn't introduced as Captain America with his shield flying ahead of him to smite evildoers, or anything like that. He's just a tall, handsome blond guy who is reading a bunch of novels and is unsatisfied by all of them because all he can think of is the past. It's definitely an attitude I would expect from Steve in this era -- he is very much a Man Out Of Time here -- but it's also not how I expected the book to introduce him. You wouldn't even know he was Captain America by the end of the opening chapter, which then ends with a digression about the history of NYC subway tunnels. It's like it wants to appeal to someone who has watched a bunch of Man from UNCLE and just wants to read a cool thriller. Which is not at all what I was expecting.
By the beginning of the second chapter, of course, we discover that Steve is Captain America, as he changes into his uniform. The narration refers to him as Rogers when it's in his POV, if anyone is curious. He apparently keeps the cowl off in the mansion, because the cowl annoys him.
It was not so much that he needed to conceal his identity these days, because for all intents and purposes he had no other identity. Steve Rogers was officially dead, and had been for almost twenty years. Captain America *was* his identity. It was only when he donned the tight-fitting blue uniform with its shield chest-emblem, the red snug-fitting leather boots, and the heavy, yet pressure-sensitive red-leather gauntlets, that he began to feel real -- a complete human being.
Steve? Buddy, are you okay there? You're really not okay, are you, huh?
You see what I mean? They're really hitting the early-canon angst. Hard.
(Also it sounds like his uniform is a few sizes too small.)
We then get an expanded version of the backstory from the beginning excerpt. In this version of canon, Steve actually has an older brother, Alan, who is handsome and athletic and basically amazing, and when they are orphaned they are raised by their aunt and uncle. Steve gets TB twice as a kid, nearly dies from it, and when the stock market crashes, ends up separated from his brother and in an orphanage after his uncle loses everything.
(Honestly if I were writing this book, his brother would be the secret villain. Chekhov's Gun!)
Steve has glasses, gets bullied, is a nerd and an honor student, and studies law at Columbia because he wants to help stop fraudulent business practices and also fight organized crime. Legally, I mean. In a manner relating to law. I guess he's sort of like Daredevil. The lawyer part of Daredevil.
And then he joins Rebirth, and this is the part where I had to put the book down for several minutes, because Erskine's secret chemical, the key to making super-soldiers... is LSD.
Oh my God. You should see my face right now. My expression is, I am sure, indescribable. I'm trying not to wake the dog up laughing.
I just. Holy shit. This book is from 1968 in a way I definitely was not expecting. What the fuck, Marvel?
This project was headed by the brilliant biochemist, Dr. Erskine. His work with the endocrine system, and chemical body control, was well beyond that of his contemporaries. Only he, of all his colleagues, had fathomed the secrets of the Swiss Dr. Hoffman's 1938 discovery -- the mind-controlling LSD-25.
Let's just pause here for a few minutes and contemplate this.
I will point out that Albert Hofmann (yes, the book spelled his name wrong) didn't actually discover that LSD was a hallucinogen until 1943 when he accidentally tried it, but I am positive that 1968 here was a time when Some People were convinced LSD was a wonder drug. I'm still laughing. As far as I can tell, legal manufacturing of it stopped in 1965 so I am pretty sure that the author did not just decide to name a drug that had an ostensible legal therapeutic use, because it wouldn't have still had one by '68.
Anyway, in this version of events, Rebirth is a month-long process that involves a lot of vitamins, physical conditioning and training, and, yes, putting metal in his bones like he's the next Wolverine. They're filling his bones with stainless steel rods to make him stronger. That doesn't seem like a great idea to me, but I am also not sure about dropping acid to gain superpowers. Clearly I am not a genius scientist. Also Erskine knows what DNA is, apparently, because he's just that great. Anyway. Other than the metal, those all seem like relatively normal interventions. So far.
Now Steve has become fairly big and strong (and I guess he still has metal in his bones? this concerns me!) but they need to make him superhuman, so, yes, really, it's time to drop acid. Several pages of this book are devoted to describing Steve's acid trip. His acid trip is amazing and he discovers that he has conscious control of his entire body down to the cellular level. He can control the adrenaline in his bloodstream! He can tighten his muscle fibers! And when he's done tripping he still remembers how to do this, if not exactly on a conscious level, but he can still access the abilities. And that is how you make a super-soldier. It's LSD. Remember, kids, drugs are awesome! Do drugs!
Let's maybe take a few more minutes to think about this.
I just. I have no words. How did anyone at Marvel agree to print this?
I think for the most part superhero origin stories tend not to involve real drugs because people are generally aware that drugs they've heard of won't make you into a superhero. I guess this is what it looks like when you invoke the names of real drugs. They probably wanted something that sounded more realistic but somehow I don't think this was the best way to go. (Radiation, of course, will definitely make you into a superhero but I feel like most people have accepted that as one of the conventions of the genre.)
Anyway, after that Erskine gets killed by Nazis, of course, and Steve goes to war, and for some reason this book contains footnotes by Stan Lee himself listing the comics you can read all of this in. Just like the actual comics do!
We are introduced to Bucky, who for some reason is also from the LES in this version, although not anyone Steve knew before the war, and there is of course a description of Bucky's tragic death and Steve's subsequent icing.
They are really, really stressing the Man Out Of Time thing here:
No other man could have survived so fantastic a voyage through time. And no other man could feel so displaced by time.
He was a man twenty years in his own future. By rights, he should be nearly fifty years old -- nearly twice the age of his fellow Avengers. Yet his mind and his body were not yet thirty.
When the Avengers had brought him back to New York with them and insisted that, as an honored hero of the past, he join them, he felt a sort of melancholy homesickness for his own time and world.
We then get a few paragraphs with the usual being sad that he let Bucky down and got him killed, and also that he misses his family, and that Steve Rogers doesn't exist anymore, and that nobody is alive who remembers him, and that war is hell.
Hey, Steve, maybe the drugs you should do are antidepressants. Just a thought.
Also, this book is 118 pages and we're not out of the origin story flashback until page 34. I think there are some pacing issues here.
Actually, I lied, the flashback keeps going, but now we're up to the Avengers finding him, and I have to say that the list of things Steve finds strange about the future is kind of charming when the future is 1968. Men have long hair! Women have shorter skirts! Everyone is kind of blasé about rocket launches because there have been so many space missions now. (Oh, come on, you haven't even landed on the moon yet, 1968! You're not that blasé.) Color TV! And, excitingly, LPs! You can now listen to 36 minutes of consecutive music. (I actually don't know what previous standard he's describing that is a ten-inch record that holds six minutes a side because I don't think 45s are that big. Yeah, no, I just checked and 45s are seven inches in diameter. Hmm. Oh, never mind. He means 78 rpm, doesn't he? In my defense, the record player my family had when I was a kid didn't play those.)
The description of Steve coming into New York for the first time is definitely written by someone who knows New York, which is fun. There is generally a lot of local flavor to the setting of this book. That’s one of the best parts.
There is a brief summary of Steve's feelings about all the Avengers -- he is most impressed by Thor, which, I mean, fair, he's an actual god -- and Hank telling him all about how he can live in Tony's mansion. With Jarvis. Who Hank says is actually from Flatbush. Apparently Steve spent a lot of time at the NYPL branch at 5th and 42nd trying to catch up on history. And then of course the Avengers ditched him and gave him the Kooky Quartet, and for some reason they're not here right now either so it's just Steve being sad and alone and dealing with this mysterious dead guy. I think probably the book is also done explaining fiat currency now. This is definitely the weirdest Marvel novel I've read.
Anyway, we have now returned to what is ostensibly the actual plot. Steve shows up at the New York Federal Reserve Bank (I guess the theft is happening here and not, like, at Fort Knox) with the gold bullion that the dead guy from the beginning of the book had on him -- I think I got distracted by the LSD bit and forgot to mention that part, but the dead guy was carrying some US government gold -- because the actual plot is that villains are trying to tunnel into the bank vault and steal gold. Steve discovers this after he gets the bank manager to give him a tour. The bank manager tries to refuse, citing security concerns -- Captain America could be anyone under that mask, after all! Steve just smiles and says, "If I removed my mask, would you have any better idea of who I am?" and I guess that's a flawless argument because he gets his tour.
(I'm sorry, all I can think of is that one gif from the JLA cartoon where Lex Luthor bodyswaps with the Flash, announces that now that he's in the Flash's body he's going to discover the Flash's secret identity, then pulls off his own mask, stares at himself in the mirror, and says, "I have no idea who this is.")
Given that the theme of Steve's interior life in this novel is "Steve Rogers died twenty years ago" it seems even more sad that Steve is just walking around basically saying, yeah, well, I'm nobody. And apparently that is being reaffirmed for him by the narrative.
So Steve goes down the tunnels, takes out some of the bad guys, and gets himself knocked out and buried in a collapsing tunnel. Don't worry, he's gonna be fine.
A lot of this book, by the way, is from the POV of random people, like this bank guard who went with Steve into the tunnels:
He had wondered, briefly, if a man like Captain America ever knew the pinch of too many bills, had ever felt desperate over the arrival of yet another mouth to feed. But, of course, Captain America had no family, and would hardly concern himself with such matters. It didn't occur to Thompson to wonder if this in itself might not be something for which to pity Captain America.
Rude. I mean, come on, do we really need random characters telling us Steve is a sad sack whom nobody loves? Steve's already got that covered! (Also, how does this guy know Captain America has no family?)
Anyway, thanks to the power of LSD, Steve is going into a trance, amping up his metabolism (he loses "several pounds" in a few minutes), and making himself super-strong so he can dig himself out. Hooray. This is definitely how human bodies work. Also LSD. This is definitely how LSD works. Yes.
Steve then finds out that a couple of the guards who were with him in the tunnels died down there and he goes home and eats dinner while stewing in miserable guilt because he was responsible for their deaths. He's really not okay. I'm not sure the book actually understands how not okay they have made him. Then someone from SHIELD is on the phone for him and he is briefly cheered up by the thought that it might be Sharon although I think we should also note that the narrative makes it clear that at this point in canon Steve still doesn't know her name. Remember when that was a thing?
Alas, it is not Sharon; it's just a random SHIELD agent who happens to have information about the plot and asks to meet. Then, as Steve leaves to go to the meeting, we get two pages of exhaustive description about the mansion layout and how it's built relative to the surrounding buildings. It feels like this book was written by a frustrated city planner. But anyway, the meeting is a setup and the villains capture Steve.
They knock Steve out, drug him, take him to their hideout, and tie him to a chair. Except, once again thanks to the power of LSD, the tranquilizer they're using wears off way sooner than they expected and so Steve feigns unconsciousness and listens to them discuss their evil plans.
And then the villains unmask him and I swear it's exactly like that JLA gif:
Rogers heard footsteps scuffing across a thick carpet, and then Sparrow's voice again, almost directly over him. His ears still buzzed, but he fought to catch the elusive familiarity of the man's tone. He wished he dared open his eyes.
"This is a moment which I, personally, have long awaited," Sparrow said, his voice rising in triumph. "*The unmasking of Captain America!*"
Then, his nails scraping along Rogers' face, Sparrow dug his fingers under his cowl, and ripped it back. Rogers felt air strike his exposed cheeks and forehead. Then fingers clutched his blond hair and pulled his head back. "Behold!" Sparrow said.
Raven was first to speak. "Well, I dunno about you, Sparrow, but it rings no bells with me. I never seen him before."
Starling agreed. "His face means nothing to me."
"He could be anybody," said Robin. "What good does this do?"
Sparrow let Rogers' head fall back to his chest, and his voice when he spoke was defeated. "I don't know. Nothing, I guess. I always wondered. I felt, if these guys -- these costumed heroes -- wore masks, it must mean something."
"Captain America was missing for twenty years," Starling said. "That could mean the first one died, and this one took his place. He looks awfully young."
"Perhaps. It doesn't really matter. Let's get going."
(Yes, the villains all have bird-themed codenames. I have no idea why.)
This scene just makes my day. I love dramatic unmaskings. I bet they'd have been a lot happier unmasking Iron Man.
The villains then leave Steve and go to a power plant, where we switch POVs to one of the plant employees and get two entirely unnecessary paragraphs about his racist and anti-Semitic thoughts about his coworkers before the villains murder him. Great. Thanks.
Anyway, the villains cause a blackout, while meanwhile they've left Steve alone with the girl villain, and Steve is busy trying to persuade her that crime doesn't pay. He's moved from the "do you know what they'll do to you in prison?" theme onto "how exactly are you going to spend a billion dollars in gold bullion when it's illegal for civilians to possess? who are you going to do business with?" and then points out that gold is heavy and hard to transport, which is when she gets out a a knife.
The bad guys are off to steal the gold, and Steve has now successfully turned the girl they left him with, because she frees him. Of course, the first thing he does is put the cowl back on.
"Why do you wear that?" she asked.
"The mask?" He smiled. "It gives people something external to concentrate upon."
"Without it, I'm just another ordinary-looking man. With it, I become a symbol. For some people it creates awe; for others, fear. Look at me. I'm different now, aren't I? With the mask on."
"Yes," she nodded. "You look -- bigger, somehow. Stronger. Fierce, implacable. You look a little scary."
"Exactly. You no longer see me as a person, but as a thing -- an Avenger. It can be a potent psychological weapon."
"They were so disappointed, when they took your mask off. As though underneath they'd find a famous person."
"Maybe that goes on TV -- handsome playboys, and all that. But I've been anonymous all my life. Even my real name would be meaningless to you, to them. No, the mask is part of the uniform, a psychological device. That's the whole story.
Now: let's get out of here. You have a good deal more to tell me yet, and we can't waste more time."
Bwahaha. In a few years, Steve's going to be pretty surprised about who superheroes are, I think.
STEVE, now: Superheroes definitely aren't secretly handsome playboys! That would be silly!
STEVE, after Molecule Man: fuck fuck fuck FUCK FUCK I'm such an idiot
I'm definitely looking forward to that.
Also, not that the issue of Steve's psyche actually recurs after this, but he's once again having the narrative vindicate his belief that Steve Rogers is dead and whoever he is under the cowl doesn't matter. Steve, I don't think this is very healthy.
Steve then tracks down the villains stealing the gold, has some geopolitical thoughts about where the gold could be going (he thinks either South Africa or Russia for the best laundering potential) and then hides himself in the villains' trunk while they drive to Staten Island, which is where they're taking the gold out of the country from.
During the final confrontation, Steve finally gets to see the villains, and he discovers that the one in charge is in fact the director of the Federal Reserve Bank who Steve met at the beginning of this book. Gasp. But that's not all! He's also... the Red Skull!
Honestly, I was kind of surprised; I didn't think this was the kind of book where we'd get any known comic villains, but I guess it's always gotta be the Red Skull. I think he's the only one of Steve's big villains who likes to disguise himself; Zemo has obvious disguise issues and I imagine it's also hard to cover up Zola's Teletubby-esque television body.
Steve shoots one of the villains, because I guess that's what he does in this era of canon.
So the plot wraps up in, like, two pages, because for some reason all these early Marvel novels wrap up very fast. Red Skull, of course, attempts to escape and then disappears and his body is never found. The end.
That was definitely a book. That I read. Believe it or not, I actually think it was the best of these early Marvel prose novels that I've read so far, even if it was also the absolute weirdest; I thought the thriller-style plot was entertaining, I liked Steve and his Extremely Sad characterization, I obviously enjoy all the identity themes, I liked how very detailed the New York setting was, and I do like how they tried to treat it all seriously. I mean, sure, this did lead to LSD in the super-soldier serum in presumably the name of realism, but I felt like the book was trying to present superheroes in a way that didn't feel silly and also didn't really take for granted that the reader would automatically accept superheroes.
It felt like a book that was written hoping that people who weren't superhero fans would read it, if that makes any sense. And I thought that was interesting, because most modern superhero work that I can think of assumes they've got complete audience buy-in and everyone is willing to suspend their disbelief and we all know the genre conventions and are expecting people running around in brightly-colored spandex. Whereas this is more like a James Bond novel if for some reason James Bond were called upon to defend his decision to wear brightly-colored spandex instead of bespoke suits. But I assume no one read it, because Bantam never published a Marvel book after this one.
If you can actually find a copy of this one for a price you're willing to pay. I recommend it. It was delightful and way more solid than I thought it was going to be.
Also, come on, you know you want to read about Captain America's acid trip.
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“I Could Fall in Love”
Happy Valentine’s Day!
I hope you enjoy this little drabble as much as I enjoyed writing it. Cutting it close to midnight on Valentine’s Day but hey, it still counts. xx Moni
BUCKY BARNES X READER DRABBLE
Warnings: none, simply fluff!
Word Count: 3000+
Song Fanfic: Listen and enjoy!
It wasn’t that you hated Valentine’s Day, you just didn’t see it as purely romantic. In your opinion, it was supposed to represent so much more than just romantic love. Friendships, beginnings and endings, the actual historical event, elementary school card giving, baked goods, and a nice dinner for either yourself or in the presence of others. So, no - you didn’t hate it. In fact, you actually quite enjoyed the giddy feeling of seeing other couples go all out for a single day, the sweets that were always available, and the awesome discounts.
“Come with us!” Natasha whined, filling up her glass with some oat milk and passing Steve some utensils at the same time. She wasn’t whining excessively, as that wasn’t in her nature, but she did raise her voice as her tone shifted from playful to annoyance. You rolled your eyes and chewed on your bagel, shaking your head dramatically. You plastered on your best grin, but it was overpowered by the massive chunk of bagel in your mouth. So you sat there, stupid bagel-filled grin covering your face, and tiny giggles threatening to escape as Natasha’s face also dropped into a silly one.
The rest of the crew was planning on attending a private Valentine’s Day party hosted by a close business partner of Tony’s. It sounded like a lot of fun and a perfect excuse to dress-up, but you had a tiny mission to go on before it. It was not a ‘mission-mission’ so to say- more like a ‘get in, get out, this will literally take two seconds and I could do this any other day’ type of mission. Natasha had given you such a disapproving look when you told her what your actual plans were for tonight, but she expected nothing less. You always had something else up your sleeve.
And that you did.
Since your mission was a quickie, you would be able to return to the compound before everyone else and bake your special pink cupcakes they all knew and loved. A sweet mixture of vanilla and strawberry, no flavor overpowering the other. You had recently perfected the recipe, only having Natasha and Bucky taste the final product, and because of their genuine surprise and praise, you were ready to bake dozens for everyone proudly.
She finished her glass and went to wash it. “Still, I think you’re missing out! I hear the food is gonna be great!”
You shrugged, “Eh, we have food here.”
You heard Natasha release a tiny scoff, “Please tell me your actual reason before I laugh too loudly and wake everyone up.”
“I swear, I’ve been putting off this mission for so long that tonight just seemed like the perfect time. Everyone’s occupied- I don’t know. I mean, criminals gotta get laid too, right?”
Natasha snorted, “That’s very true.” She eyed you suspiciously while drying her glass.
“You know, you and Barnes are the only one’s not attending. Obviously, his excuse is that he’s literally on a mission right now but you see my point.”
“No, I don’t see your point.”
Natasha smiled, as if secretly knowing your other very valid reason for not attending the party. “We all have dates. You know that if he were here you would be going with him, even as friends. But since you would literally be the only one of us without a date, it seems reasonable you wouldn’t want to attend.”
Okay, she hit that spot-on.
You groaned and lay your arms across the counter dramatically, “Stop, it’s scary how right you are all the time.”
Natasha laughed and rounded the counter, going over to pat your shoulders. “I’m not making you go. Don’t worry. Just give yourself some self-care and I’ll see you tonight to let you know I got home safe.”
You nodded and waved goodbye to her, ready to finish the everything bagel you had abandoned.
Bucky wasn’t one to dress-up for a night out anymore. He just didn’t have the motivation to do anything unless it involved stake-outs, knitting, painting, and binge-watching some stupid series you were watching. It always happened the same way, too. You would be casually chilling in the main common room of the compound, barely starting the first episode of a new series with stacks of junk food ready for your eager taste buds, when Bucky would randomly come in and ask what you were watching. And the next thing Bucky knew, you two were discussing the hidden elements of The Crown and debating whether a scene actually happened the way it was portrayed. By God, how much Bucky absolutely detested Prince Charles.
And you were so determined to knit that sweater for Natasha by her birthday that you came to Bucky’s room five times a day now rather than your usual three. But Bucky was extremely patient, helping you hook the remaining yarn that kept falling off your needles. Each time you pouted over the ‘horrible knot you made’ or when the yarn would tangle, Bucky would grin and tease you about, his stomach twisting pleasurably.
And each time he would reach over to help you fix it, your heart fluttered ever so slightly.
Bucky had actually planned on taking you to that Valentine’s Day party but his mission carried on longer than it was supposed to. Rather than returning a day before the party, he would now be returning towards the middle of it. He wondered if you were still going to go, but he highly doubted it. Not because you had told him explicitly, but because you had joked that if he wasn’t able to go, then ‘why would you bother?’.
To see you in that red dress you had jokingly placed over your already clothed body and modeled for him - Yeah, he absolutely hated he was missing this party tonight.
His mission had just ended and he was currently on the flight home, resting in his tactical gear but with the headphones you let him borrow in each ear. He chuckled lowly, realizing that most things he had in his possession, whether that be the headphones, hair bands, lotion, and Spotify account, all belonged to you. It brought him some comfort as he fixed himself in his seat, settling on your ‘Love me please?’ playlist to match the special holiday.
Lovebug by the Jonas Brothers. Tonight by FM Static. Oh, dozens by Taylor Swift. You’ll Be In My Heart by Phil Collins. And a whole lot of Selena songs.
There was one song that caught his attention, as if the title spoke to him. It just made sense. He clicked it, surprised by the upbeat beginning and rhythm of the drums, finally closing his eyes as he heard the melody from the acoustic guitar.
He lost count of how many times he replayed that one song as his plane touched land. He quickly woke himself up and gathered his things, ready to jump into a warm shower and watch an episode of The Crown behind your back. The drive to the compound was short and he entered the living quarters somewhat alert. There were no sounds his super soldier ears could hear besides the clicks of keyboards by overtime workers and computers humming. Kind of sad and joyful at once, Bucky realized he was alone for the first time in a long time. Maybe he would try that face mask you had urged him to buy tonight. And those very comfortable pajamas.
Ever the procrastinator, you never did go on that mission.
You were humming along to your Valentine’s playlist as you cracked the eggs into your bowl. You stirred quickly, bowl in your arms and a strike of flour along your unknowing cheek. You had your earphones in, enjoying the solace of such a peaceful night. The mix was coming together nicely and as you waited for the oven to preheat, you took out all of your cupcake supplies to set on the kitchen counter.
You could have sworn you heard some noises a few doors down so you took one earphone out to listen closely. At first you heard nothing, but you could have sworn you heard the likes of a toothbrush tapping against a bathroom counter. But as you stood there comically, bowl in your arms and whisk held up like a weapon, you settled on no disturbance.
You set the bowl down quietly and ran over to the door, looking down the hallway. Once you saw it was completely empty, you couldn’t contain the grin that spread across your face. You raced back to the kitchen and called for Friday.
“Friday? Could you please connect my phone to the living room speakers, please?”
You scrolled through your playlist and settled on a song that would for sure damage your vocal cords but delight you nonetheless.
“I could lose my heart tonight
If you don’t turn and walk away
You swayed around the kitchen as you traveled to grab each new ingredient, singing at the appropriate level the song called for.
Because the way I feel I might
Lose control and let you stay
Bucky had just finished brushing his teeth and putting a warm pair of socks on when he heard Friday play the exact song he had been listening to for the past two hours. At first he wondered if Friday had mistakenly connected his phone to the speakers but realized his phone didn’t even have the Spotify app open. He quickly walked down the cold floors of the hallway, his warm socks somewhat doing their job. He stopped at the living room entrance and leaned his shoulder on the doorway, beaming with a huge grin.
Because I could, take you in my arms
And never let go
You twirled around and used the whisk as a microphone, and to both your and Bucky’s surprise, hit every note perfectly. Bucky knew you were a great singer and although he would never admit it, he had heard you singing in the shower quite a few times. It was impossible not to at the level of volume you sang, but each time he would come into your room to grab something random or to ask you a question, he would sit outside the shower door and listen to your angelic voice as it sailed through the steamy air and into Bucky’s ears. But here you were, belting out the exact song Bucky had just learned all the lyrics for on his way home.
I could fall, in love, with you
It was in that moment that Bucky realized he was in his ‘comfortable pajamas’, which consisted of a loose long sleeve and bottoms set, with a nice dark blue color and white stitching along the pockets and buttons. But the sleeves, incredibly so, were far too long for his arms so he would crunch them up in his palms. And his socks had stripes on them. But he remained still on the door frame, watching you sway to the music and enjoying the scent of your first batch of cupcakes already in the oven.
I could only wonder how touching you
Would make me feel
You halted immediately when you saw his tall form resting on the door frame, a giant grin plastered on his newly shaven face. You yelped in surprise, putting down the whisk and patting your hands on your little green apron.
“Bucky, oh my god! Say something if you’re going to enter a room!”
Bucky just shrugged, walking over to the kitchen counter, eyes never leaving yours. He leaned over and placed his chin in both his palms, smiling as the music continued playing in the background. “I like this song.”
You squinted at him, “You know this song?”
Bucky nodded, holding his hand out now for you to take. “Like I said, I like this song.”
But if I take that chance right now
Tomorrow will you want me still?
You reached over hesitantly and let Bucky lead you over to the carpet. He wrapped one arm around your waist and rested the other higher up on your back. You wrapped your arms around his neck, allowing for his large frame to sway you both to the rhythm of the song.
The room was dimly lit, cupcake aroma circling you two, and his snuggly pajamas seemed to also provide you the warmth you were previously getting from the oven. You smiled up at him, low giggles emitting from your lips. He did the same, enjoying the feel of your body pressed up against his.
So I should, keep this to myself
And never let you know
“When did you get back?” you asked, reaching up to touch his shaven cheek. You were undoubtedly curious about the feeling.
Bucky let you roam your hand all over, “About an hour ago. I didn’t think anyone was here.”
You chuckled, “I am! I told you I wasn’t going to bother going to that party if my plus one wasn’t coming!”
Bucky lifted his arm and twirled you slowly, happy that you followed his lead. “So, I’m your plus one now?”
You rolled your eyes, “Always.”
I could fall, in love, with you
“How did you even hear about this song?” you asked, hands now resting comfortably on Bucky’s chest. He had his arms wrapped around you, hugging you to his chest as you two swayed.
“We share a Spotify account, doll.”
“Yeah, but it’s a love playlist. Were you just in the mood for some ballads and stumbled across this one?”
“Exactly. It’s quite the tearjerker.”
And I know it’s not right
And I guess I should try
To do what I should do
He looked so relaxed at this moment, fresh and calm, enjoying the dance he pulled you into. He was resting his chin on the top of your head so you felt his little puffs of air escape his nostrils. And as he breathed in, you could feel his chest rise and lower below your palms. You were tempted to reach up and grab his face, pull him into yourself and share a sweet kiss, but you decided against it. For some reason you knew that this was different. You had snuggled before during naps or binge watching, but they never had a romantic undertone. And if you acted upon your desires, you were frightened it just might ruin your friendship. It took you two years to build up such a rapport with this man, and dare you say you were extremely proud to harbor some of his deepest secrets, and him yours. But his breathing calmed you immensely, as if the gentle rhythm was enough to put you to sleep, and you wondered if he was thinking about the same thing.
But I fall in love, with you
So I should, keep this to myself
And never let you know
Bucky seemed to hug you tighter as the lyrics encircled the room. Over the last few weeks he had felt a shift in your relationship, where sharing food was no longer as innocent as it seemed, barging into each other’s room was not seen as drastic, and partaking in each other’s hobbies was never a bore. Steve had commented on it before, asking Bucky if there was something between you two. And Bucky confided in both Steve and Sam, hands pulling at his hair as he paced in a safe room and his friends sitting patiently on the lone couch. They let him act out his worries in peace, and once Bucky tired himself out they both explained how he should ask you out or how to bring up the topic with you. Bucky listened intently and pushed down the tiny voice in his head that joked about Steve being the one to give him romantic advice. But if he ended up with you on his arm after this little pep talk, it would all be worth it.
But now the song was coming closer to its end, and he knew that if he didn’t act now then he probably wouldn’t have the courage to bring it up ever again. He leaned down to your left ear, and whispered the lyrics to you. In Spanish.
Siempre estoy soñando en ti
Besando mis labios, acariciando mi piel
Abrazándome con ansias locas
Imaginando que me amas
Como yo podía amar a ti
[I am always dreaming of you
Kissing my lips and touching my skin
Anxiously hugging me
Imagining that you love me
Like how I love you]
You knew Bucky knew several languages. You knew. But it made you incredibly excited and hot that he specifically knew Spanish. He spoke in such a gentle manner, breath hitting your skin and voice practically drowning your mind. It was all foggy for a moment, but you quickly refocused your attention on his face.
Bucky smiled, “What?”
You scoffed and swatted his chest lightly, “Don’t ‘what’ me! You just confessed you like me!”
Bucky pushed you away for another twirl under his arm, but kept you at arms length once you turned around. “No, I confessed I love you.”
You stumbled slightly, staring at him with wide eyes. You thought about how absurd that confession was, but as quickly as that thought entered your mind, it left - because let’s face it, you did know each other for over two years and were best friends. This was right. This felt right.
“You love me?”
Bucky breathed in deeply but your reaction didn’t change his mind. It was now or never. “Yeah, I do. Seemed like the moment to tell you.”
You grinned, pushing your body forward to be engulfed by his strong arms once more. “And to think you could have just told me at this damn party when I was looking all hot without freaking flour on my face.”
Bucky let out a loud laugh that originated from the pit of his stomach and reached his hands up to your face. He pulled you in and kissed you sweetly, the taste of your lip gloss driving him wild. He tasted like toothpaste and chapstick, a perfect combination for your superhero.
“I love you, too.” Bucky let his eyes close in complete bliss.
You could have stayed like that forever, but as you left his lips and looked up at him, you suddenly remembered you never set a timer.
You pushed Bucky away, your sudden strength sending him backwards onto the couch. “My cupcakes!”
And as you rushed to pull the burnt tops from the oven, you could hear Bucky slide off the couch and hit the floor, his laugh louder than the speakers.
I could fall, in love
Happy Valentine’s Day. All the love. xxMoni
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Ranch Story’s Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town Review
This is it, farmers! Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town, the long awaited Nintendo Switch title marking the 25th anniversary of one of the foundation-building life sims, is here. Whether you’re all-new to the series, here the whole time, or just returning after the fan-favorite remake released last year, there’s been a lot of anticipation for what the new title will bring to the table. We hope our in-depth review will help, and we’ll try to avoid significant spoilers where we can.
Olive Town starts off with a darling picture-book style introduction before jumping directly into character creation, allowing players to completely customize their character's look, voice, and even their idle stance before moving on to deciding the color of the ride they use to get to Olive Town. Once the introduction ends, players are given a few quick tool-tips and then are allowed to play freely without an excessively guided tutorial phase.
As players settle in, they'll get to take in the sights of the temperate seaside town and get to know the locals. While seemingly flat at first, the English localization puts in an effort into giving each character a distinct personality in their dialog, with their supply of lines building as they're befriended and each one providing unique (though generally cheery) commentary based on happenings like festivals, your personal milestones, and how the town is changing and growing. Character-focused events also bring the camera in closer, allowing the player to see the expressive character models.
Befriending the townsfolk is also fairly rewarding, as many of them have their own events, keeping happenings in town fresh and not limited to the marriage candidates as some past games in the series occasionally would. Those willing to look into every nook and cranny the game has to offer will also often be rewarded with small insights, such as childhood drawings, baby photos, belongings pertaining to hobbies and interests, and more. The care put into detailing the environment can be a little jarring when something is askew however, such as ordering something at a local restaurant and finding a lack of visual variety to the meals.
Outside town, the only major nature area present in the game is the player's own farm. Abandoned and taken back by nature, each new area you unlock will provide a small selection of new wildlife to see and plants to gather. Seasons, weather, and time of day each distinctly shake up the mood and visual appeal of the landscape as well, with elements ranging from cherry blossom petals drifting all about in Spring to more subtle effects like the clap of thunder having a variable amount of time after you see a crackle of lightning spread across the sky during a rainstorm.
Performance and Control
Generally, the overall experience is pretty smooth. After the initial load-up, loading transitions usually take about a second to go between interiors and exteriors, with longer load times (between 10-20 seconds) occurring for traveling between the farm and the town. As more objects clutter the farm, there will be occasional slow down and object pop-in, but this is mostly reserved for when moving quickly on a bike or horse and is fairly ignorable otherwise.
Control can be somewhat finicky at times, with occasional miss-swings of tools happening because of it. It feels unusual that options like Animal Parade’s strafing to lock movement to a particular direction aren’t available to alleviate the problem. The issue is at least partially mitigated once the player upgrades tools, as precision becomes far less important when your swing affects a whole area. Future updates are promised to address some of these concerns, but for day-one buyers it may be at least a little annoying.
Restoring the farmland and contributing to the town's growth go hand-in-hand with all the activities the game presents you with. Without a doubt, the strongest element of Pioneers of Olive Town's gameplay is the moment-to-moment gameplay, allowing any of the things you choose to do to contribute in some way to meaningful feeling progress. Each goal is laid out for you in convenient chunks, and, outside individual facilities, often presents you multiple ways to solve the issue. If you're not interested in gathering ore or lumber to build a new bridge, maybe you could just save up money by farming and ranching instead and pay someone else to do it; when the town wants to build new roads or upgrade the Town Hall, they ask for a variety of different goods and you only need to provide one of them.
Another one of the game’s strengths is making upgrades feel meaningful. Skill advancements and tool upgrades both contribute to this, leaving a massive difference in how the game feels to play at the very beginning of the game compared to the end of your first year. Each new area of the farm you unlock also provides new resources, such as new types of trees, plants, ore, and new wild animals to tame or photograph.
As you advance and find better, higher grade materials, you’ll begin to need to refine them with Makers in order to use them. These machines can take materials such as logs and ore and refine them into lumber and ingots. For some of the highest grade materials, this can take as long as 10 in-game hours to produce an ingot or 23 hours to refine a diamond, begging the player who wishes to progress quickly to devote part of their ample land to Makers. Thankfully, once players have completely reclaimed their land and restored the old facilities, they can scale back as they see fit.
Farming & Ranching
The classic Story of Seasons gameplay is preserved, along with the new generation-based animal system from last year's Friends of Mineral Town for those who want to make a career in ranching. Growing crops in the traditional 3×3 plots, watering them every day, planting orchards to gather seasonal fruits, and raising generations of animals in the pursuit of the best possible byproducts is one of the best and most consistent ways to raise funds. While there aren't any animal festivals in Olive Town, animals now play integral roles in crafting and cooking.
Reminiscent of A New Beginning's materials and money for clothing exchange, animal wool and fur byproducts of various quality are also needed in order to get new outfits and accessories. You won't really see the full extent of their involvement in crafting until the end of the year, when you've upgraded your home and increased the areas designated for decor and furniture in your house. In order to boost the quality of dishes to appease Mr. Lovett's Gourmet Requests, you'll have to raise generations of animals to aim for ten star products.
As previously noted, socializing with the townsfolk is an enjoyable experience thanks to several regular townsfolk having their own events to see and adding new dialog as you become closer with them. Thanks to daily requests at the town hall, you may even become close to some townsfolk that your daily routine doesn’t have time for, giving you a regular stream of new events to see while you make your rounds in town. Characters like Beth and Lars in particular have several events that build up their relationship and make them stand-outs among the already varied cast.
For marriage candidates, the number of events have been increased to 10, including unique events per character when proposing dating and marriage. The quality of events range from a little hokey to heartwarming, but regardless each helps give a little insight to the kind of characters the candidates are, including things like self doubts and the occasional insight below the surface level appearance. Festivals focused on dating can also change somewhat based on your relationship status, with the Snow Sculpture Festival in particular having two completely different scenes depending on if you’re attending with your sweetheart or your spouse.
One of the biggest day-to-day time sinks is the mines. There’s three in all and each one gets progressively deeper, up to 50 floors, and offers new ore and gems to unearth. As you progress deeper and deeper, simple moles you can thwack to earn optional goodies will turn downright nasty; attacking, moving faster, and in groups to drain you of your precious energy and ruin your day. While not as difficult as previous mines in the series, such as the gargantuan 65535 floor mine in DS, progressing to the deepest depths takes so much time and/or resources while you try to get your hands on the rarest materials that they’ll likely be the final barrier to completely reclaiming their land for many farmers.
The Museum and Other Activities
One of the key features outside the farm is the Museum. Taking and expanding on the concept of the Aquarium from GBC3, absent from the series since the year 2000, players can donate fish, treasure, and photos of local wildlife to fill out the various exhibits. There’s a lot to enjoy here for collection enthusiasts, with the museum contributing a lot to the overall feeling that any activity you choose to do while playing can be worthwhile.
Pioneers of Olive Town’s fishing system is an intuitive and enjoyable system. Maintaining the line’s strength while the fish icon is white or blue and avoiding red is simple enough, but more than that, each fish has a distinct pattern. If a player makes fishing a recurring activity, they’ll start to get a feel for what kind of fish they’re about to catch through its behavior, when a new fish is about to appear, and even when they’ve got a second chance at one that got away. Though it does feel odd that there’s no toggle-able Rumble feature to further emphasize each fish’s subtly different behavior.
In addition to fish, sometimes rare treasures can be caught, but probably the more effective way to unearth treasures is through draining; a new feature allowing you to clean out murky ponds and puddles while also finding clay (for bricks) and treasure to donate, which can be used as home decorations, gifted, or sold. Each treasure will also need to be identified by Reina at the museum before you know what it is, making regular trips to the museum to donate fresh catches and new discoveries a naturally flowing process.
Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town is an incredible life-sim with a lot going for it. Having personally spent 60 hours in my first year alone and continuing to enjoy playing, seeing new events, and progress on my personally set goals, it’s easy to simply revel in the density of all the things there are to do in a single in-game day. For the grand majority of Story of Seasons fans who usually set their own goals, get to know their characters, get married, and simply enjoy their time relaxing, Olive Town may easily be among one of the best feeling games in the series to play for hours at a time.
For hardcore fans though, the lack of long-term goals that aren’t solely set by the player for their own enjoyment offered by festivals like cooking, races, and crop/animal evaluation is a huge downer on the overall experience and can come off as a somewhat confusing decision. Though several updates are already announced to be coming to address technical issues and fan requests, no word has been said about significant free new content like festivals, and neither does any of the upcoming paid DLC. Nevertheless, for those who want to enjoy the laid back, free lifestyle Story of Seasons games are known for, there’s always something to do in Olive Town.
(For a version with more pictures, check out the wordpress link below!)
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Hey, I'm wondering if you have any advice on writing kink stuff? Basically, it feels like I'm writing the same story repeatedly. Coming up with stuffing scenarios that both make sense, and aren't just retreads, is really hard. It probably doesn't help that a) I don't have much writing experience, b) my interests are really narrow, and c) I have no imagination, lol. How do you keep stuff fun and interesting? (Jsyk, I sent this to Tiny as well, I love both your blogs 😊)
Hey, anon! Thank you so much, I’m so glad you enjoy my and Tiny’s content and I’m flattered to be asked for advice! ♡ I have a lot of thoughts about this, so I’ll do my best to boil them down into something useful.
Since you mentioned being pretty new to writing, I broke up my advice into a few different “stages,” starting with things that are easy to implement and moving to things that might feel more manageable as you get more comfortable with writing. Under a cut because Real Heckin Long.
Stage One — Don’t Sweat It
This might sound corny and unhelpful, but I genuinely think that especially when you’re first starting out, it’s best not to put pressure on yourself to write the world’s most original stories. Write to please your inner fiend and nobody else! If repeated versions of the same story continue to light your fire, there’s no shame in embracing that.
Doing this will honestly help you with originality in the long-term anyway, because you’re giving yourself the freedom to learn more about what specifics you really enjoy in kink writing. Later on, you can use that knowledge to put new twists on those specifics and invent new scenarios.
Stage Two — Stuffing Scenario Cheat Sheet
I completely agree that believable stuffing scenarios are really difficult to invent. What’s realistic is a matter of opinion of course, but for me, this is a quick breakdown of logical reasons for a character to overeat. If you’re getting tired of using the same justification in your fics, try picking something new from this list:
Character is distracted by something during the meal
Character eats so fast they don’t realize when they’re full
Character has been hungry for awhile and overdoes it when they finally get to eat
Reluctant intentional stuffing (motivated by external circumstances):
Character feels social pressure to keep eating **
The food will go to waste otherwise **
Eating contests / challenges **
The character is trying to bulk up
Enthusiastic intentional stuffing (because the character wants to):
Character just enjoys the feeling of being full
Character and/or their partner(s) have a stuffing kink
Character has temporary access to good food and is indulging while they can
Side effects of being a magical creature (e.g. a werewolf eating too much for their human form to handle, a vampire needing to feed all at once, etc.)
Magic that causes a character to overeat (e.g. enchanted food, curses, potions, etc.)
Magic that requires a full stomach and/or extra energy to work (e.g. my di-mage spell mechanics, the antidote in this fic of Tiny’s, etc.)
[free space because fantasy lets you set the boundaries of what’s realistic, so your imagination is really the limit!]
** If you’re aiming for realism, I would be careful of these scenarios. In my opinion, they can be done believably, but often are not. Some things I would look out for:
Most foods can easily be stored for later, so if you want to use the “avoiding waste” trope, make sure that you’re either in a setting without access to refrigeration or that the food is something that genuinely wouldn’t keep until the next day (or at least would be way less tasty after a night in the fridge.)
Social pressure works best in scenarios with people that the to-be-stuffed character 1) doesn’t know very well and 2) wants to impress or keep face around (e.g. formal events, business dinners, first dates that involve food, meeting their partner’s family, etc.)
Loving friends, family, and partners don’t pressure or guilt people into overeating! Characters stuffing themselves because their loved ones are really insistent that they have to taste-test everything or act so disappointed because they went to all this work on some extravagant feast always ring at best false and at worst abusive to me. What kind of loving relationship is it if you don’t feel safe to say “no thanks, I’m full?” That’s not to say social pressure with loved ones can’t be done well, but it usually indicates some kind of character flaw (i.e. an inability to say no and/or a steamroller-y personality) that in my opinion, has to be acknowledged by the fic’s end if you want the tone to stay light and fluffy.
Again, this may just be my opinion, but eating contests only come across as realistic with certain character personalities and in certain contexts. Like yeah, I can believe that a himbo with YouTuber Energy would take on a hot wing eating challenge in front of all his bros, but not so much that an otherwise self-respecting character would drop everything to eat themselves sick because a friend randomly challenged them.
Stage Three — Change Up Other Elements When Using Similar Tropes
Especially if you have narrow interests, it’s probably inevitable you’ll write same basic story structure over and over. I know I sure do! However, I would say that changing other elements of the narrative can give your writing an entirely different feel, turning it into a whole new story that will not feel like a simple retread to a reader.
One thing you can change up is setting. A lot of times kink writers will just plonk characters in the comfort of their own homes, which is valid — but setting hugely influences the atmosphere of a story, so the same Kink Plot will read really differently if it happens, say, at a campground or on a boat. Providing a rich setting can even become a feature of the kink itself. For example, setting your story at a lavish buffet could introduce an element of indulgence that hits you and/or readers differently than a story that involves casual takeout in the living room, even if the rest of the story is similar. Try bold settings! They’re fun!
Another element to vary is context. For example, the basic trope of “stress eating” would play out really differently if a character is about to go on an important mission vs. if they’re recovering from an emotionally difficult day; a story about about a character intentionally stuffing themselves will have a completely different flavor if they’ve been going hungry for awhile vs. they’ve been overeating all week; and so on.
Finally, consider changing up the focus. An easy way to do this is to switch up whether you’re writing from the POV of the stuffed character or a caretaker. You can also focus on different details of the stuffing — for example, lingering on how delicious the food looks and tastes vs. how the character feels as their stomach fills vs. physical details like whether they’re getting bloated or grumbly.
Stage Four — Connect to Character or Plot
The most surefire way to make kink stories distinct is to give the story an additional purpose besides just being kinky. This doesn’t have to be some big, extravagant plot (although it certainly can be) — it can be a simple as writing a kink story the way you usually would, and just finding something within it that you can use to reveal an aspect of your character.
Start with an ordinary kink scenario and try to dive a little deeper. For example:
Say you want to write a story about stress eating. Okay — what is the character stressed about?
Maybe you come up with something relatively simple and generic, like school. Okay, what about this character makes them so likely to be stressed out by school? Are they a perfectionist? Are they facing a lot of pressure from their family? Do they have a goal that requires excellent grades? Have they struggled with this subject in the past?
Let’s say you decide to go with perfectionism. Now, what scenes can you use to show this struggle? And optionally, can you give the character some kind of resolution by the story’s end?
And there you go! Your fic now not only has kink, but also shows how your character reacts in a certain situation.
Character especially is a treasure trove of uniqueness, in my opinion, because well-developed characters react differently to the same scenario. Stories feel more original because even if a reader has read this exact same plot before, they will not have seen how this particular person handles it. So one of the best ways to make fics distinct is to spend time developing your characters!
If the goal is to simply write solid distinct kinky stories, trying to create detailed plot is more work with lower return than investing in your characters, if you ask me. You have to enjoy the process of creating plots itself for it to be worth it. If that’s something you’re interested in, I have a whole load more thoughts about that -- but since this is already incredibly long, I’ll save that for a separate ramble if anyone is specifically interested.
I hope something in this huge infodump is helpful to you! Some of it may sound intimidating if you’re just starting out with kink writing, but it’s absolutely all something that can be worked up to. Please feel free to ask any follow-up questions if stuff I’ve written doesn’t make sense. Good luck with your writing, anon, and thanks for giving me an excuse to just go off. ^^’ ♡
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Let’s talk about Hospital Playlist. (KDRAMA REVIEW)
note: does contain spoilers
When people ask me what is my favorite Korean drama of all time, with no doubt, IT’S HOSPITAL PLAYLIST. This drama has the comic relief, the emotional scenes, realistic characters-just to name a few. No toxic relationships and petty revenge fights. Nothing else will stop me for saying that this is the ultimate feel good drama.
SYNOPSIS: The drama shows insights into the daily lives of doctors and nurses working at Yulje Medical Hospital. It focuses on 5 doctors who have been friends since medical school, who also play together as a band.
This drama encompasses so many elements and characters so bear with me yo this might be real long
Hospital Playlist is produced/written by the Shin-Lee PD and writer pairing, whose previous works were the renowned Reply trilogy and Prison Playbook (which are *chef’s kiss*) I really like that all their dramas really highlight humanism, and puts emphasis on creating a heartwarming and realistic series. There isn’t always a major conflict to be resolved, but instead it showcases how different people-in this case mostly those in the medical field-go on about their daily lives. I also liked their reasoning to produce a medical drama which was that hospitals were where the most dramatic moments occurred, for example during births, deaths or sickness. And since we are still in the Covid-19 pandemic, it ties in greatly to be paying homage to all the medical personnel saving lives. Hence, props to those who were involved in this meaningful masterpiece <3
The drama is not the usual 16 episodes, but has 12 episodes for each season (SEASON 2 IS COMING SOON YAAS) Good thing is I felt that they were still able to weave a dynamic storyline in the first season even with lesser episodes. The writing was just top-notch with the witty humor bits. Additionally, the music is AMAZING. I love the concept of the main characters being a band and playing different songs every episode too.
Okay, now onto the characters. I thought that every character in this drama was well rounded. Starting of with the main five characters, also known as The 99ers, whose distinctive personalities and natural chemistry make all of them extremely likeable. All main characters are professors of different specialties, and I find the male OB-GYN (Seokhyeong) and female neurosurgeon (Songhwa) very refreshing. Also, I like Shin-Lee dramas always have characters that might be realistic yet hardly seen in other dramas or films. For example, Professor Ahn Jeongwon. Despite being a chaebol (inheritor/heir), he isn’t depicted as a spoilt brat or a cold character, instead as a warm Pediatric doctor who uses his wealth to secretly support patients in need. However it makes him stingy to his friends LOL
To be honest, I really thought I was gonna dislike Junwan due to his cold and tsundere nature. I pretty much believed that he was going to be the party pooper type of the bunch, but with the writer being a master of character development, he turned out to be really sincere and hilarious at times. Same for Ikjun, who apart from his enthusiastic and happy go lucky exterior, cares the most about the people around him. Although Seokhyeong seemed detached and introverted, he shows a emotional side to his friends as well as his mother. Songhwa is literally a girlboss though haha she’s smart, capable and gets along with everyone well. And she’s the most sane out of the bunch.
With all the main characters, we have the relationships. Junwan is the first to date seriously with Iksun (the dog or Micky? jkjk) who is Ikjun’s sister. When it first happened I was like not again Jung Kyung Ho (bc he dated his best friend’s sis in prison playbook too LMAO) I think their relationship was realistic and open. It also showed a more sensitive side to Junwan who would do anything for her. I especially liked how he said he didn’t need access to her phone because he trusted her. Yet as all couples do, they have their fair share of ups and downs. Like conflicts on getting married and a long distance relationship as Iksun moves overseas for graduate studies. I don’t really know how to take the ambiguous ending for these two, as Junwan receives the returned box (that has the ring he sent) I really hope nothing bad happens to these two though.
I’m sure we all love Wintergarden couple though, tbh they’re kinda my OTP at the moment 🤣 It was pretty much a ‘will they won’t they’ relationship with a relatively slow build. I think Gyeoul turned out to be one of my favourite characters. Shin Hyun Been did a good job at portraying her as a straightforward but innocent Resident, who is pretty much openly crushing on Jeongwon. The scenes they had together were adorably awkward (and the scene where he gives her chocopies omg) And when Jeongwon battles his inner conflict to become a priest, the final decision where they kiss was beautifully shot, with the actors both showcasing their emotions extremely well.
Then we have Chihong who pursues Songhwa, his professor. Midway through the drama, it is also shown that Ikjun and Songhwa might have had romantic feelings for each other. Songhwa ends up rejecting Chihong’s confession. In my opinion, Chihong was quite a interesting character but I didn’t really like him at the end. (I like the actor though) He did a real jerk move during drinking games, insisting on Ikjun to confess his feelings towards her even though he is already trying not to put Songhwa in an awkward spot. Although his character did end up making a cool exit and when I thought about his incredible story of soldier to doctor, I kinda regret disliking him that much. As for IkSong, In the final episode Ikjun confesses to her one last time, and we are left waiting for Songhwa’s reply. As much as I love this pairing, I don’t think that the ship will sail or maybe not as quickly as we think. I believe Songhwa would meticulously consider the sacrifices to their friendship or other aspects and might not be able to bring herself to it, but I hope it’s otherwise.
Lastly not forgetting Seokhyeong and Minha, another Professor+resident pairing. This one’s a bit ambiguous though, mainly because there hasn’t been much romantic development. To me, the most impactful scene came from Minha who had been irritated by continuous night shifts and was on the verge of a breakdown. She ended up remarkably saving a patient, starting off surgery on her own for the first time. Oh man Minha was such a lovable character, I remember feeling so bad for her but extremely proud of her for her accomplishment. Although Seokhyeong seemed a bit aloof and distant (which was intentional bc he’s an introvert) I think the backstory and all the hardships he faced with his family really made me feel for him. I hate to break it to you, but I’m not so sure if the ship will sail because of the phone call from his ex-wife and Minha’s somewhat rejected confession. But who knows, they might pull off a twist 👀
Apart from all these characters, there are more characters HHAHAH However, I think this is the killing point of ShinLee dramas. Unlike typical dramas which usually focuses on a main character and 2-3 side characters, they like to cast a diverse range of actors (especially those from theatre/musicals and lesser known drama/movie actors) while actually give their characters personality or a reason to be there. I’ve seen many dramas where extras or side characters were kind of irrelevant thus making me feel that they weren’t needed to build the storyline, yet ShinLee dramas hit different y’all. Every role, no matter how small, holds significance to the drama. It really seemed like a collaborative work that shows off every actors skills (and not forgetting staffs) and teamwork.
Anyways because there are way too many characters and too many scenes for me to mention them all, I’ll just talk about some honourable mentions heheh
1. Sunbin and Seokmin confession scene (ahh so cute)
I kinda sensed that they liked each other at the start but I didn’t know Seokmin would ask her out on a date at the end. Even though it’s kinda awkward that they are dating and working with each other though (both are in the same department) but hey the confession was cute and awkward and just warm and fuzzy 🥰
2. MAMA ROSA IS THE QUEENN
I think we all (would) love Mama Rosa because she’s a real one ☝️ (probably the coolest mother ever) She’s feisty, hilarious and kind to others. Plus her friendship with Ju Jong Su was just adorable and super wholesome. The scenes where they were supporting one another through tough times and hanging out with each other when they felt lonely always put a smile on my face. Oh and how Mama Rosa treated Gyeoul was extremely sweet. (as well as Seokhyeong’s mother) Despite her tough exterior, she’s a likeable character for being a strong but caring woman.
3. Just Do Jae Hak
I seriously love this guy so muchhh omg he’s so funny
Do Jae Hak has a funny amd clumsy personality, though it’s clear he’s been through a lot and is strong willed person. From admitting his indecisiveness to counselling Jun Wan on his love issues, there’s literally nothing to hate about him.
4. Uju and his dadd
The father and son chemistry between these two is so good omg. The scenes with these two are so adorable and heartwarming (not to mention hilarious) It’s amazing to see how Ikjun cares so much for Uju despite his hectic workdays while going through infidelity issues with his ex-wife. Uju is matured for his age and shows his love and appreciation for his dad too, making their interaction a great portrayal of a healthy family relationship💞
5. the food stealing the show🥘
Who doesn’t love food and when a show has great food scenes? Some of the best scenes are definitely when the 99s gather to eat. It really showcases each character’s personality with the tiniest details as well as highlight warm delicious meals. Just don’t watch this when you’re hungry at 2am in the morning guys you’ll be drooling all over your screens HAHAHA
Of course there are way more aspects, like Hongdo and Yoonbok, Ikjun and Iksun’s pigeon jokes and raps, or Jeongwon drunk crying in the chicken shop with his brother (who was his coach in Reply 1994 when he played Chilbong LOL)
Most importantly, I think it is the themes and messages that you get from the drama that really create such a lasting impression. Not only does it hit you in the feels with the hardships of hospital patients, or the hardworking doctors+nurses who are working long shifts saving lives, it also tackles topics of friendships through the possibilities of platonic and friends-to-lovers relationships. However I think the biggest lesson for me came from Seokhyeong, who learns to live his life doing what he want, with the people he treasures. Although the drama might seem slow at times (mainly because there isn’t really a main plot line/conflict occurring), but this drama would still bring you on a journey where you would laugh, cry and finish the series, begging for season 2 ✌🏻
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