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Dear FemslashEx Writer (2017) Thank you so much for writing for me! This is my first year participating in this exchange, so everything feels really fresh and exciting. I had so much fun writing this letter and thinking about these pairings.  I hope you find the below helpful, but feel free to strip it for parts or go completely ODAO if you feel inspired. I’m just excited to read whatever you end up writing. If you want to get a better sense of me, I'm scioscribe on Tumblr and AO3.

Likes )

Sex Likes/Kinks )


Carrie: Carrie White/Sue Snell, Carrie White/Chris Hargensen, Carrie White/OFC, Chris Hargensen/Sue Snell )

DC Cinematic Universe: Diana/Isabel Maru )

The Handmaid's Tale: Aunt Lydia/Janine, Moira/Emily, Offred/Serena )

Mad Max Series: The Splendid Angharad/Furiosa, Cheedo the Fragile/The Dag, The Dag/Furiosa )

Original Work: 40s Private Eye/Glamorous Wartime Singer, Amazon/Greek Woman, Classic Hollywood Scriptwriter/Classic Hollywood Actress, Sleeper Agent/Civilian, Bodyguard/Musician, Female Revolutionary/Princess )

You're the Worst: Gretchen Cutler/Lindsay Jillian )
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It's my intention to break out of blogger's block by doing a few short book reviews this week, so, with no more ado, Helen Marshall's debut short story collection, the unsettling Hair Side, Flesh Side.

The phrase "hair side, flesh side" refers in the book--in the story "A Texture Like Velvet"--to the feel of old manuscripts written on cured skin, usually vellum, and it makes a good evocation of Marshall's work as a whole because that's the book in a nutshell: an uncanny and very physical approach to scholarship.  Hair Side, Flesh Side is full of history, academics, and the ghosts of dead authors.  Sometimes this is done with a veneer of wistfulness, as when the protagonist of "Dead White Men" grapples with the knowledge that his lover is just using his body as a vehicle for the spirits of the dead authors she reveres, and sometimes it's done with great thematic weight, as in "The Book of Judgement," where Lucifer tampers with Jane Austen's fate, and sometimes it's just the ghost of Chaucer commiserating with you about what a douche you've gone home with.  The tonal and thematic variations there keep the collection interesting even after you've gotten a clear sense of Marshall's favorite devices.

The best stories are the ones that blend ghostliness and art with the body itself.  In "Blessed," a young girl receives the body of a saint for her seventh birthday, an extravagance in a world where most children are only lucky enough to get a finger bone or, worse, a forgery.  But it's her father and stepmother who give her Saint Lucia and it's to her mother's house, and her mother's furious resentment, that she returns afterwards.  Marshall takes the headiness of, say, a ghost of Joan of Arc who spontaneously burns herself when she's angry and combines it with the simmering tension of a bad divorce and the way parents can use their children as battlegrounds.  "Sanditon," possibly my favorite here, centers on a down-at-the-heels editor who finds the completed manuscript of Jane Austen's Sanditon growing out of her body:

The outside bits were easy enough, where the skin had peeled back from the fissure, but she didn't want to cause any more damage.  She fingered the papery tissue carefully, with her right hand, used her left hand to zoom and snap.  The first twenty pictures were awful, but after several hours she found that she was starting to get the hang of it.

That makes me shudder, but the specificity of it is excellent, as is the way the manuscript in Hanna's body draws her into an increasingly close and increasingly more unnerving affair with a married author desperate to use Sanditon to increase his fame.

Marshall is best when she stays closest to the body and uses that to make the intangible tangible.  The stories that go into full surrealism, like "This Feeling of Flying," or traditional magical realism, like "In the High Places of the World," are less successful.  But no other writer would have written "Sanditon," and I'm not convinced any writer would even have thought of it, and now I'll always remember it.

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Thank you you so much for writing for me!  I’m so thrilled to even have an excuse to talk about some of my favorite rarepairs, so you’ve already done me a favor.  I hope this letter is helpful, but ODAO, so of course feel free to go your own way and toss out anything here that doesn’t work for you, especially if you’re excited about your own idea!  I hope you have an amazing exchange.

If you want to get a better sense of me, I'm scioscribe on Tumblr and on AO3.




enemies-to-lovers, enemies-to-friends, enemies-to-friends-to-lovers, opposites attract, emotional vulnerability, hurt/comfort, emotional hurt/comfort, sympathetic bad guys, redemption, pining, obvious feelings that don’t quite get admitted to, partnerships, power dynamics, ambiguously intense relationships, found family, first-time stories, betrayal with reconciliation, amnesia, characters forced to cooperate, forced proximity, bedsharing, huddling/cuddling for warmth, 5 + 1 fics, slow-burns, age gaps, fake/pretend relationship, secret relationship, arranged marriage/marriage of convenience, undercover work, loyalty, complicated relationships, codependency, morally gray characters, moral complexity, long relationships that go through a lot of changes


Sex Likes/Kinks


informal BDSM (especially D/s and bondage), spanking, clothed sex, rough sex, dubcon/consent play, teasing, anal play/sex, oral sex, frottage, fingering, gags, dirty talk, characters giving orders/instructions, roleplay, talking during sex, bad/awkward sex (either charmingly funny or depressing), enthusiastic sex, coming untouched, coming in pants, collaring, people getting mussed, orgasm delay/denial, overstimulation, edging, begging, historical period- or location-specific sex, sex toys, praise kink, marking/bruising/biting




underage, fisting, mpreg, violent noncon, college/high school AUs, A/B/O, knotting


The Americans (Arkady Zotov/Oleg Burov) )

Community (Abed Nadir/Jeff Winger) )


Double Indemnity (Barton Keyes/Walter Neff) )


Justified (Boyd Crowder/Colton Rhodes, Raylan Givens/David Vasquez) )


Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (Harry Lockhart/Perry van Shrike) )


Marvel Cinematic Universe (Nick Fury/Tony Stark) )


Rope (Rupert Cadell/Brandon Shaw) )


Vice Principals (Neal Gamby/Lee Russell) )
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The Friends of Eddie Coyle, by George V. Higgins. Low-level and mid-level criminals play hot potato with the threat of jail-time, seeking to either rat each other out or stay true to an ideal they only fleetingly believe in, while all the while the cops pursue their own workaday duties and people get screwed over by accident as much as by destiny. Deservedly a classic, and I'm sure I've pretended to have read this before despite having only read it just now. It has a terrific combination of wit and grime, like Elmore Leonard writing for The Wire. It's very downbeat, which means that for all my admiration I don't actually like it--I love my tragedies but can largely take a pass on existentialism--and I wouldn't want a steady diet of it, but it really is very brilliant.

Black Water Rising, by Attica Locke. The sort of book I want to buy for other people and force upon them somehow. It's set in the eighties in Houston and focused on Jay Porter, a weary and struggling lawyer--in college, he was one of the major young voices for civil rights, but an arrest and a betrayal left him cautious and mostly void of idealism. When the book opens, his best hope of providing a cushion for the coming birth of his child is a whiplash case, but soon enough, he's the uncomfortable witness to the cover-up for a murder, and everything spirals out from there. It has a terrific sense of place and of its era, gorgeous prose, and complex characterization.

Avid Reader, by Robert Gottlieb. There were so few ways this could go wrong! Normally, I read books about reading books to tatters: as soon as I've finished them the first time around, they immediately become comfort reading, to be dipped in and out of, to be picked off the shelf when I'm in the mood for nothing else. Gottlieb served as the editor-in-chief of Simon & Schuster, Knopf, and The New Yorker; he edited John le Carré and Toni Morrison. Unfortunately, he cannot stick to his working life, and way too much of this memoir is composed of snide put-downs about the subjects of his various vendettas, self-aggrandizing name-dropping of his famous chums, and irritating humblebrags. He would make a fascinating subject of a biography so long as he wasn't the one writing it.
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[I wrote this a bit ago, and thankfully the circumstances in it no longer apply.  I put up an earlier version of it on Tumblr and I've also rambled on about A Little Life anonymously elsewhere.]

I’ve been in a mild depression lately and most of the writing I’ve done over the last two weeks has been disorganized and incomplete: snippets rather than stories.  None of it is for anyone else and none of it even 
could be for anyone else, because it’s all disgustingly well-tailored to my own sloppy emotional needs and, even beyond that, thoroughly rooted in intensely designed AUs of canon that are vivid to me and undoubtedly ridiculous and unrecognizable to anyone else.  Even my wife thinks they’re self-indulgent.  But what they all are, when you come right down to it, is a very particular brand of hurt/comfort.

I’m especially brutal to my favorite characters when I’m depressed, because, dammit, I just want to read about well-deserved comfort, and I don’t have the time or even the emotional complexity in these periods to work out how to do this in any kind of subtle, plausible way that would actually be consistent with good, emotionally nuanced writing.  This isn’t the time for that.  This is the time for “the characters have inexplicably been kidnapped by torturers with some random and likely unmentioned motivation.”  It’s the time for impractical kidnappings, for (at least feigned) betrayal, for public humiliation, for strange magical harms done to people in decidedly non-magical canons.  I find this soothing.

Read more... )
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I had good reason to be reminded of the Werewolf Marines series recently, and soon after that reread Laura's Wolf for two reasons.  One: there is no series title more perfectly designed to appeal to my id than "Werewolf Marines," because I love stories of loyalty and stories of pack-bonding.  Two: Laura's Wolf is great comfort reading with which to usher in a year in which we'll all be in sore need of comfort reading.

"Comfort reading" can sound like a promise that a book will be nothing but coziness, but Laura's Wolf isn't that, and in fact that's never been what I look for in comfort reading.  Rather than being a novel where nothing bad ever happens and no shadows ever fall across the face of perfect, blissed-out happiness, this is a novel where trauma lingers, happiness is a matter of day-by-day work and little victories, and there is damage that can't be fully repaired.  But it's a fundamentally hopeful and warm book, not despite those qualities but because of them.  It doesn't assume that things are easy or effortless--and those "things" can include getting over guilt, adjusting to a radically different kind of life, working out a relationship, and defeating an abusive alpha werewolf--but it extends empathy towards its characters and has faith in their ability to work towards recovery.

Also, and I think I mentioned this, it has werewolves.  In the perennial "are you a vampire person or a werewolf person?" survey that all humanity is required to answer, I am, always and forever, a werewolf person.  Werewolves run hot, they're emotional and messy; werewolves are all about community, friendship, and family dynamics; werewolves are, alternately, puppy piles and ripped-out throats.  I'm always looking for that particular combination of openness and complex interpersonal loyalty, and Laura's Wolf is my favorite way to scratch that itch.  It doesn't just have the strong central romance between Laura and Roy (though their romance is adorable and convincing, especially as they realize their mutual need for adrenaline rushes and heroism, and as they're able to take care of each other and, gradually, their acquired pack), it also has, well, everything.  There's Roy's friendship with DJ and his new connection to DJ's extended (and wolfish) family, and how that links him not only to the Marine but also to a thriving werewolf culture with its own mores (scent names!); there's Laura's loving but distant connection to her dad and the heartbreaking story of the "con" she ran on family she would have loved to have connected with honestly; there's the pack Laura and Roy eventually wrest out of a terrible situation, with their own dynamics and their own traumas.  There is pack sense and there are scent names and people all get together to have breakfast.

Laura's Wolf is a very fannish novel that is very conducive to fannishness, and if the universe were a better and more just place, it would at least be a miniseries, because it really does build a situation in which any number of stories could be told--and that's even before you get to the excellent "werewolf PI" set-up.  Both Laura and Roy have strong drives--they're both the kind of people who create plot by going out and doing things--and they inhabit a coherent and tantalizing world.  It's the pattern of trauma and recovery that gives it all a simple but elegant structure--and a very appealingly hurt/comforty one--but you can also see how new plots could be put in place for new kinds of stories to be told.  (And of course, it's the first book in a series, so new stories do get told.)  That's also part of what makes it comfort reading for me--there's a lovely openness to it, and plenty of room for my imagination.

But what I come back to, repeatedly, is the sense that I drew the post title quote from: the guarantee (that we know is false) that things aren't over.  That the pain isn't over, so comfort and work are still needed; that hope isn't over, so you have something to hold onto; and that your life isn't over, so your actions and choices still matter.  That's the kind of comfort I think we all need right now.  And also werewolves.

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