melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
melannen ([personal profile] melannen) wrote2017-07-19 01:50 pm

FMK: Mélusine and Juniper Time

Mélusine by Sarah Monette is a very long, very good, very fucked-up H/C darkfic in a canon I don't know.

That's not necessarily a criticism, by the way, it's enough my id that I have spent many a delightful lost weekend voluntarily reading exactly that sort of thing.

(As a result, I can tell you a fair bit about the canon: it's probably a '90s fantasy anime about Felix, the most special of all the wizards in the Mirador, and his friends, as they try to defeat the evil that has infiltrated the Mirador which none of the more senior people will believe them about. Luckily they also have the help of a motley crew of poets and minor criminals from the lower city.

Felix is more-or-less canonically dating Prince Shannon but literally nobody in the fandom cares about Shannon and they all either ship Felix with his friend Gideon or with Mildmay, the leader of the lower-city people (who is dating a girl that most of the fandom actively dislikes, except the ones who cry misogyny re: the fact that she is pretty much the only recurring female character of any relevance.) The people who don't ship Felix/Mildmay are mostly convinced that they are long-lost brothers. Some of the people who do ship them are also convinced of that.

Mélusine appears to be a they-met-later-than-in-canon AU for Felix and Mildmay that was tuned for maximum whump and has taken their sketched-in-canon angsty backstories and turned them up to 11. She's using the "secretly brothers" fanon but is definitely teasing the shippers while she's at it. My best guess for the AU divergence point is that in canon, Felix & friends caught Mildmay in his attempt to kill the Witchfinder, Mildmay made him as Lower City in front of his friends, and thus he had friends & allies against Malkar three years earlier than in the AU. But I could be wrong; the stuff about how the curse was never supposed to actually be used seemed to be strongly hinting at that as the AU point, though.

...I have done way too much reading au h/c epics in fandoms I don't know.)

Anyway, I enjoyed it enough that it is getting kept (after all, some day I might not be able to find fanfic like this on the internet anymore) but I don't think I care enough about the non-id parts to go looking up the canon. (If I did I would probably just end up really liking Shannon, anyway, and like I said it's really obvious there is like 0 fic about him.)

And still very annoyed that it had exactly nothing to do with Mélusine; if someone tried to name a fantasy novel Cinderella and then not have anything to do with Cinderella except, like, the ruling family having a shoe in their heraldry and also there was a fairy godmother as a minor character in one chapter, nobody would let you get away with that.

Also, it got me re-reading a bunch of old Doctor/Master fic just in time for me to be mildly optimistic about the show again, so there's that.


Juniper Time by Kate Wilhelm was not a bad book, and I'm glad I read it, but I also don't think I need to keep it, and I didn't particularly like it. It gets the "if you like this sort of thing, this is probably the sort of thing you will like" rating, with a caveat for me being unsure about its portrayal of First Nations people. The first thing that struck me is that it didn't feel like a SF novel, or even a genre novel at all really. I spent a lot of time thinking about why. It's a story about the building of an international space station and first contact with aliens set amid the collapse of Western capitalist civilization, so it ought to be an SF novel. It's definitely at least partly just the writing style. But I think it's mostly a question of what the book thinks is important, fr. ex: not the space station or the aliens or even particularly the collapse of civilization except as they affect the two main characters' many personal issues, which are the only thing the narrative actually seems to think we might be interested in. Whic isn't to say I don't like a character-focused SF novel, but an SF novel where one of the main characters is an astronomer who spends half his time in space, a) I would expect it to spend more than five pages actually in space, and b) I would expect him to not spend all of those five pages thinking about nothing but his marital issues. Also, you know, I 100% don't care about the dude's personal issues and am only mildly interested in hers.

Anyway, so the book basically has three intertwined plots: the plot-plot is about how a worldwide drought is causing a crisis of civilization and how contact with an alien civilization (that may or may not be real) will reunite humanity with new hope. That may have been a new plot at the time but at this point there's probably even been, like, a Donald Duck comic using it.

Male lead's plot the book actually cares about is about how he is an overprivileged het white dude with a wildly successful academic career who realizes that his life is empty and lonely just in time to reunite with his childhood sweetheart and go live a quiet yet fulfilled life on the family homestead with her taking care of his every emotional need. If you are wondering why I had an "oh no not again" reaction when I read it in the Le Guin story, here's exhibit one of just how boringly often that is the plot of a thing. BARF. On the plus side, at least Le Guin's "hero" didn't murder his first wife in a fit of rage for daring to have selfhood outside of his desires and never face actual consequences for it like Wilhelm's did (Le Guin's just accidentally erased her independent alternate self from existence instead.)

Female lead's plot the book actually cares about is a history of abuse followed by a gang-rape after which she goes to live on the reservation where her Indian friends can help her heal her spirit and reopen her to her mystical self. I'm not sure we needed another book with that plot, even in 1981. I like female lead and her supporting cast, and as such a plot goes it's not badly done, and I can see how actually somebody might find this when they REALLY NEEDED exactly this rape recovery narrative. But on the other hand that person who needed her recovery story definitely didn't need her to end up hooking up with WIFE-KILLING DOUCHEBAG at the end for absolutely no reason that I can determine except that heterosexuality makes you stupid (Or in her case, heteronormativity makes you stupid, because I am also 100% sure she would be a lot happier if she finally realized why she kept thinking about how attractive her female friends are and how much she enjoys staying up all night talking with them. And not in a male-gaze-y way either.) There goes all that abuse recovery your magical Indian friends helped you with! Have fun being continuously re-traumatized by wife-killer douchebag!

Also, I used to think of myself as someone who didn't mind a rape scene or two in a book, but what is becoming clear as I read novels more mindfully is that, unless it's done just right, I'm actually someone who skips the rape scene so automatically that I don't even realize I've skipped anything until I'm a hundred pages further in going "wait, why does she have scars there?" (I did not go back and find out.)

I was going to say maybe the book just didn't date very well, but in fact the thing that made me stick with it instead of tossing it at the wall was how interestingly the worldbuilding dated. I don't think it ever actually specifies how far in the future it's set, but it was published in 1981 and feels like it wants to be set now. It misses smartphones and the internet, but even the computer that fills a van doesn't feel that off considering it's doing advanced linguistics work similar to a lot of modern AI stuff and yeah even today the easiest way to do that portably and off-grid would probably be to fill a van with batteries and a cluster of cheap laptops.

The escalating climate and refugee crisis while most of the world's most powerful countries are in
denial and/or careening toward authoritarianism while those still mostly unaffected try to ignore the plight of the displaced and hopeless and rising anti-intellectualism kneecaps the best attempts to fix things, while Russia and the US have pointless pissing contests and China sits snugly on the Pacific waiting for its chance? Yeah that all sounds familiar, I think she called it.

The really weird thing was to have a climate apolcalypse where nobody, not even once - not even a raving street preacher or a very bitter Indian - implies that it's all our fault and we're getting what's coming to us. It's completely inexplicable and random, cosmic rays or black holes or something. Which was just so bizarre as a mindset from this end. And, I mean, I don't remember 1981, but by 1986 we were already getting ozone hole/rainforest depletion doomsday guilt in my preschool. So that was odd. (Maybe if she'd played it as a thematic thing with the character arcs - the randomness of misfortune etc - or shown any interest whatsoever in the science of it - it would have worked even from this end of history, but mostly it had me marveling at how the past is so much another country that "climate change is destroying civilization but it's not our fault" could pass completely unremarked.)

And I also had a lot of trouble fitting my head around the idea that the International Space Station is the largest threat to world peace. I mean, the proper militarization of Earth orbit has been a scary prospect for awhile, but from here it is just so unthinkable that you would do that through a military takeover of the ISS of all things that it honestly screwed with me a little to realize that was what she was going for. Someone has done a very, very good job of convincing my generation that the ISS is harmless and a force for peace alone. HMM.

Anyway, I really liked the description of the way the alien message was encoded - that was the only bit of the book that really felt like science fiction to me, to be honest.

And I would absolutely read an entire book going into to detail about the conscious decolonization that the peoples of Warm Springs were doing as the White Men's ways failed. I would also be really interested in how the Warm Springs Indians were involved in the plot about the aliens from the beginning, and how that related to their decolonization plans. Because it was blatantly obvious that they were, but Main Character never bothered to ask. (From my limited ability to judge, I don't think the Indians were poorly portrayed, their story was just always less important to the narrative than white girl's daddy issues. BLUH.) The female lead seems to have agreed with me, since she spent six months going "fuck you" to the main plot to write the book about decolonization instead, but she did not share it with the readers. Luckily, I already had Always Coming Home in my to-read pile.

I am glad I have read this but am pretty sure I will never desire to read it again, so K pile it is. And it inspired me to finish Always Coming Home, so it was definitely worth it.
recessional: a small blue-paisley teapot with a blue mug (Default)

[personal profile] recessional 2017-07-19 06:14 pm (UTC)(link)
*laughing so hard at this descrip of Mélusine*
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[personal profile] gehayi 2017-07-19 06:15 pm (UTC)(link)
Anyway, I enjoyed it enough that it is getting kept (after all, some day I might not be able to find fanfic like this on the internet anymore) but I don't think I care enough about the non-id parts to go looking up the canon.

I'm confused. Are you joking? Because as far as I know, Monette's work IS the canon.
Edited 2017-07-19 18:18 (UTC)
recessional: a small blue-paisley teapot with a blue mug (Default)

[personal profile] recessional 2017-07-19 06:39 pm (UTC)(link)
On the second one: "she goes to live on the reservation where her Indian friends can help her heal her spirit and reopen her to her mystical self."

That is literally enough to tell me that its FN portrayal is going to be Well Meant But Terrible at the very possible best, because legit "let's story-wise exploit Indigenous spirituality for the betterment of our non-Indigenous protagonist" is itself a racist trope, sooooo. (Even Mercedes Lackey did better than that, eesh.)
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[personal profile] ambyr 2017-07-19 06:48 pm (UTC)(link)
I have read Juniper Time, and yet I remember it so I poorly that not one single thing in your review is familiar to me. I think I'm okay not revisiting it.
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[personal profile] oracne 2017-07-19 07:56 pm (UTC)(link)
I have read vast swathes of Kate Wilhelm, including JUNIPER TIME, but it is a complete blank in my memory. Even after reading your review.
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[personal profile] rymenhild 2017-07-19 07:57 pm (UTC)(link)
This is a totally accurate and hilarious summary of Melusine. You didn't even have to mention the gratuitous noncon bits.

And, um, do you have any epic h/c recs?
dhampyresa: (Default)

[personal profile] dhampyresa 2017-07-19 09:48 pm (UTC)(link)
And still very annoyed that it had exactly nothing to do with Mélusine

I refuse to read the book because of this/sheer spite.
umadoshi: (ocean 01)

[personal profile] umadoshi 2017-07-20 02:35 am (UTC)(link)
I haven't read Mélusine in years, but your description is AMAZING.

FWIW, based on my fuzzy memories, the second book largely carries straight on from the first and has a similar feel and possibly a decent stopping place, while the third and fourth are a bit more...detached? (And the third, as [dreamwidth.org profile] ambyr mentioned, introduces a new POV character.) Personally, IIRC, I liked the first two more than the second two, and--if you feel at all inclined--might suggest reading the second and stopping at that point.

...but take all that with many many many grains of salt.
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[personal profile] alasse_irena 2017-07-20 03:15 am (UTC)(link)
Don't feel obliged, but I don't suppose you have Doctor/Master recs? I too wish to read them to kindle Doctor Who enthusiasm, but I have forgotten many of my favourites from back in the day...