Reveal time: this is the story I wrote for this year's [community profile] history_exchange. I swear I meant to write a short one this time, but while it's nowhere as long as my previous effort, Catherine de' Medici and her daughters still demanded a tale in three chapters.

Reine Mère (10908 words) by Selena
Chapters: 3/3
Fandom: Historical RPF, 16th Century CE RPF
Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
Warnings: Creator Chose Not To Use Archive Warnings
Relationships: Catherine de' Medici & Elisabeth de Valois, Catherine de' Medici & Claude de France, Catherine de' Medici & Marguerite de Valois, Claude de France & Marguerite de Valois, Henri II de France/Catherine de' Medici, Catherine de' Medici & Diane de Poitiers, Catherine de' Medici & Francis I. of France, Henri II de France/Diane de Poitiers
Characters: Catherine de' Medici, Élisabeth de Valois | Elisabetta di Valois, Claude de France (1547-1575), Marguerite de Valois, Mary I of Scotland | Mary Queen of Scots, Diane de Poitiers, Francis I. of France, Felipe II de España | Philip II of Spain, Henri II de France, Gaspard de Coligny, Henri IV de France, Henri III de France, Clarice Strozzi de' Medici
Additional Tags/: Mother-Daughter Relationship, Motherhood, Power Dynamics, Character Study, Female-Centric, Parent-Child Relationship, Parenthood, Daughters
Summary:

Catherine de' Medici and her daughters: what forms a woman, a mother, a queen?



_____

In completely unrelated news, last night just before I fell asleep I saw that Jerry Doyle, Mr. Garibaldi from Babylon 5 had died, at only 60 years of age. The B5 ensemble really looks increasingly cursed. Garibaldi was never my favourite character, but he was a firm entry in what I tend to think of my "secondary faves" category, i.e characters who are never my best beloved but whom I always remain fond off, instead of going hot and cold on them. And not just because he played off beautifully to both my favourites, Londo and G'Kar. I found him interesting in his own right, his scenes with Bester were always riveting (and sometimes darkly hilarious), and his was one of the character voices that are very easy to find for fanfiction. For all that Garibaldi was an immensely talkative character, I find that quiet moments are the ones that touched me most, and that was very much due to Jerry Doyle's acting - Garibaldi's face when hearing that Sinclair had been on B5 and left again without seeing him in "War without End", both the big reveal scene in "Face of the Enemy" in s4 - where you see the horror in his eyes - and the confrontation with Bester in s5 when Bester casually says "how stupid do you think I am anyway?" - and his final scene with Londo in the s2 episode where both Garibaldi and the audience know that Londo crossed a moral threshhold and their relationship has irrevocably changed, but Garibaldi has one last drink with his no-more-friend. I did not know Jerry Doyle as a person. But as an actor, he contributed to creating something that means so much to me.

Here is what JMS wrote about him.

2016: get better, please. You've taken so much already, year.
selenak: (Borgias by Andrivete)
( Jul. 22nd, 2016 09:10 am)
The History Exchange 2016 has gone live!

I received an intense, vivid poem on Artemsia Gentileschi, portrayed, as is only fit, through her paintings. I think it's accessible even if you're not familiar with Artemsia's work and history: In the days of Jael

This is a small exchange - 15 works all in all, so I hastily started to devour it. Here are two stories I found outstanding so far:


What dreams may come: Akhenaten, the Heretic Pharao, grows into himself. Poetic and terse at the same time, drawing a great portrait in short space.

i have cut a ribbon of skin from another man's body: Olympias encounters Zeus four times throughout her life. Olympias in historical fiction tends to be invariably described through her son's or her son's companions' eyes, and with the son in question being Alexander the Great, that's not so surprising. But it makes it all the more welcome to see a take on her from her own pov, in the centre of her own story, and one that uses the myth of Zeus as Alexander's father in a really creative way.

As for my own story, I think, as always, it's a bit obvious, but have a guess anyway!
One more day to sign up for the History Exchange! Come on, fellow history loving readers, you know you want to. 500 words is really low pressure and can be easily done.

Babylon 5:

Every now and then you need a story that's a break from the angst and is just hilarious. Like this one.

Perception: in which it turns out that Refa had an, err, somewhat mistaken impression about what the Londo and Morden relationship was all about. This has lasting consequences. :)

Avengers

If running's a plan: Natasha-centric story that takes her, and the team, from the end of Avengers to the end of Age of Ultron, showing the growth and change of the Natasha/Bruce relationship and the team coming together. As opposed to majority of the fandom, I actually liked Natasha/Bruce in AoU, but still, fleshing out how they got there really good to read about, as was the Avengers going from almost strangers (except for Natasha and Clint, of course) allied by necessity to a team working together. While Natasha/Bruce is the main relationship of the story, I really appreciate it also gives storytime to Natasha's other relationships (Clint, Nick Fury, Tony, Steve) - so often fanfiction focuses only on one and lets the characters live in isolation.
Dear Writer of many talents,

you've volunteered to write some characters that intrigue me fo rme, and I'm happy and grateful! Here are some thoughts:

Behind the cut )
selenak: (Henry and Eleanor by Poisoninjest)
( Jun. 5th, 2016 10:48 am)
So, last year, I signed up on this small endearing historical fiction exchange ficathon, which would have allowed me to post a text just consisting of 500 hundred words, and managed to end up writing an entire novella about Eleanor of Aquitaine because using the "Five things which never happened" concept for her just seemed irresistable. This year, the History Exchange ficathon is open for nominations again, and this time, I am resolved. Only a brief text. That's going to be it.

Meanwhile, if someone should volunteer to write me that "Juana the Probably Not Mad marries Henry Tudor" AU I've been speculating about now and then, feel free to make it as lengthy as you want. :)

Star Wars:

All interested parties probably have already watched this by now, but just in case: Formerly known as is a fabulous vid about the women of Star Wars.


Orphan Black:

ditto: the one where Beth is an actual ghost. Sharp and wonderful.
You know, this time span is really, really crowded with fascinating people, at the tail ends especially. When mentally composing the post, I went “but what about *insert v.v. interesting person* all the time. Ruthlessly cutting off anyone who lived a life long enough to have a few decades in the 15th and a few in the 16th century helped only a little. (That’s why Jakob Fugger and Albrecht Dürer didn’t make it, though. Oh, and of course no Luther or any of the humanist who had their glory days firmly in the 16th century and in my mind are Renaissance, not medieval people anyway.) Here’s one remaining selection:

De iu maere bringet daz bin ich )

The other days
I had to slightly change my answers for this one when I checked the dates, and found out some of my original candidates lived most of their lives past the closing one. (Anna Commena, Hildegard von Bingen.) However, these people do belong indeed into the early middle ages.

1.) Adelheid of Burgundy (931 – 999): the original badass grandmother (and mother, and wife). Adelheid as a young girl was married to King Lothar of Italy, who was poisoned (not by her) after three years of marriage. The guy likely responsible, Berengar of Ivrea, wanted her to marry his son in order to secure the crown for his family, and imprisoned her when she said no. Adelheid escaped with her daughter Emma and made an alliance with King Otto I. of the Germans, who’d raised her brother. Otto defeated Berengar in battle and married Adelheid. This marriage basically engineered the Holy Roman Empire. It wasn’t a love match (Otto later chose to be buried with his first wife, whom he’d been passionately in love with), but definitely one of mutual respect and shared power. (When Otto was crowned Emperor, Adelheid was crowned Empress right beside him.) Adelheid, who spoke four languages and was in correspondence with later pope Silvester II, was also very active in monastic reform and charity, but what she really excelled at was administration in tricky circumstances. After Otto I. died, their son Otto II didn’t live that long, which meant Otto III.was still a toddler when becoming Emperor. Adelheid shared the regency with her daughter-in-law Theophanu, about whom more in a second, as she’s fascinating person No.2 on my list. According to chronicler Odilo of Cluny (though no other chronicler), the two women didn’t get along personally, which of course any number of ambitious nobles thought they could use, none more so than cousin Heinrich der Zänker (Henry the Quarreller) who thought he could play them them out against each other and end up with the throne. Think again, Heinrich. No matter their personal relations, Adelheid and Theophanu teamed up and defeated him. Afterwards, Adelheid withdrew from the regency but remained governor of Italy until Theophanu’s death, which was when she became regent of the Empire again until Otto III. had grown up. (There was another attempted power grab by the cousins which Adelheid crushed as well.) Then she handed over governing business to her grown up grandson and took on the monastic reform of Cluny, pushing it through. As you can see from her birth- and death year, she lived to be nearly 70 years, which was very rare in her time, and was active till the end. She later became both the heroine of an opera by Rossini and a saint (her day is December 16th), which is a rare combination indeed.

2.) Theophanu (960 – 991). Niece of Byzantine Emperor Johannes I. Tzimikes, which was a let down to Otto I. and Adelheid when young Theophanu arrived in Italy, because they had wanted an Emperor’s daughter for their son and felt somewhat cheated by the Byzantines. However, the marriage proceeded, and luckily it did, too, given what followed. During Otto II.’s rule, Theophanu is already mentioned in most of the documents as co-ruler. When Otto II died, as mentioned above, Theophanu and Adelheid shared the regency for Otto III. (who was three years old at his father’s death), and dealt with Heinrich the Quarreller and other wannabe Emperors. During documents edited during her regency, Theophanu is refered to not as Empress but Emperor (“Theophanius gratia divina imperator augustus”); she also introduced Byzantine style manuscript illustrations, gold smithery and a number of medical advancements to her Northern subjects, and the custom of honoring St. Nikolaus. (That’s Santa Claus to you Americans.) Theophanu died at a young age (for us), but she accomplished much, and today the church of St. Panteleon in Cologne, where she was buried according to her wishes (he was her patron saint), celebrates on her death day a mass for the unity between Christians in East and West (the schism that broke the Greek Orthodox Church away from the not yet Roman Catholic Church happened after Theophanu’s life time).

3.) Samuel Ibn Nagrillah (aka Samuel HaNagid) (993 – 1065): Talmudic scholar, grammarian, philologist, soldier, politician, patron of the arts, major poet – and most powerful Jew ever to live in Muslim Spain. He hailed, of course, from Al Andalus (was born in Merida), and ended up as Vizier of Granada (the Emir he was vizier for, Badis, owed him his throne), a post he held for almost three decades until his (peaceful) death. (His son, who succeeded him, had a far more tragic story, but that’s another tale.) His title “Nagid” means prince; it also meant he was in command of a Muslim army, btw, without ever converting. (Successfully, too; he he defeated the allied armies of Seville, Malaga and the Berbers on Sept. 8, 1047 at Ronda. As a poet, Samuel invented a new style of Hebrew poetry by using the patterns of Arabic poetry in Hebrew. As a patron, he founded the Yeshiwa that produced, among others, the father of Maimonides. In conclusion, if there was ever an individual who symbolized the “golden Age” of Muslim Spain, coexistence and learning from each other, Samuel Ibn Nagrillah was it. Fascinating? You bet.

4.) Wallada bint al-Mustakfi (1001 – 1091). Another Andalusian poet. Wallada was the daughter of the Caliph of Cordova, one of the great poets of her age, and also a patron and teacher of other women of all classes in the art of poetry. (Her most successful protégé, Muhya bint al-Tayyani, was the daughter of a fig saleman and later wrote some affectionate teasing poetry about Wallada.) Wallada had a stormy and mutually poetry inspiring affair with the poet Ibn Zaydun, which ended badly, and another with his arch enemy Ibn Abdus. She died on the same day when the rival dynasty of the Almoravids took Cordova. However, she never married. In short, she was exactly the kind of woman cliché would have it couldn’t have existed in a Muslim medieval society.

5.) Hywel Dda (Hywell ap Cadell) (880 – 950): in effect ruler of most of Wales, and most importantly lawgiver and –codifier. His laws (which I first found out about via Sharon Penman novels, I admit, but she didn’t exaggerate) give far more rights to women than those of any other contemporary-to-him medieval society (including the right to leave their husbands), and don’t differentiate between legitimate and illegitimate children, either. As importantly for the Welsh principalities he ruled and his subjects, he managed to strike up a working relationship with Athelstan of England; this meant no ruinous war (which the Welsh no longer could have won), and practical independence for Wales. I’m not immune to stories of tragic last stands against conquerors, but I’m fascinated by someone who manages to avoid them, not by superior military prowess but by smarts, compromise and diplomacy.

The other days
Alexandria Leaving (8845 words) by Selena
Chapters: 5/5
Fandom: Hand of Isis - Jo Graham, Historical RPF, Ancient History RPF, Classical Greece and Rome History & Literature RPF, Roman History RPF
Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa/Charmian (Hand of Isis), Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa/Julia the Elder, Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa & Gaius Octavian
Characters: Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, Charmian (Hand of Isis), Julia the elder, Gaius Octavian, Octavia of the Julii, Livia Drusilla, Marcellus, Demetria (Hand of Isis)
Additional Tags: Aftermath, Survivor Guilt, Redemption
Summary:

Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa will always choose Rome. But he returns to Alexandria to confront the past. And he doesn't come alone.




This was the treat I wrote, inspired both by affection for the Numinous World novels by Jo Graham and by a decades long fascination with that particular century in Ancient history. I hope it works both if you've read Hand of Isis and if you haven't, but are interested in history.

Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa doesn't often get a starring role, in part, I think, because his life doesn't fit with the most popular tropes it could/should have fallen into and in fact downright defies them. He was the most talented military strategist of his generation, and yet neither tried to use that in order to make himself ruler of the Roman Empire, nor did he crash and burn trying. Nor was he someone who could only function in war: his "civilian" projects - aequaducts (including some that are still used, like the one getting water to the Trevi fountain in Rome), roads, temples, the change of the Campus Martius from a swampy health risk to to a park and buildings highlight of the cityscape, etc. - are impressive, and if Augustus by the end of his life could boast that he found Rome a city made of bricks and left it a city made of marble, it was Agrippa who had done much of the actual work. All this being said, Agrippa, while being as close to the Roman ideal as you could get in real life, can't have been without ambition: his three marriages were all proof of that (first he married money, then he married into the Julian family, and then he basically married the succession), and while he seems to have been content to be Octavian's/Augustus' right hand man, he definitely drew the line at the prospect of Augustus' nephew Marcellus being in command, leading to an estrangement betwen himself and Augustus that . Also, as I have him observe in less anachronistic terms than these, no one remains the second most powerful man of the world for such a long time in the most cut throat of surroundings if he doesn't know how to deal with power.

So Agrippa remains an enigma worth exploring to me. In Augustus-friendly fictions, he's usually the devoted sidekick without second thoughts; in Cleopatra-friendly fictions (by far the majority these days), he's either a brute ("Lily of the Nile"), the wrong age (the famous Elizabeth Taylor starring Cleopatra has him show up as a grizzled veteran with probably only two lines), or not present as a character at all. In the recent tv show Rome (definitely a Roman pov tale) he's basically Sam Gamgee who has wandered into entirely the wrong narrative for him. (Seriously, the actor looks a bit like Sean Astin as Sam.) And has an ill-fated brief romance with Octavia, which should make things awkward a few years later when he marries her daughter, but then said daughter doesn't exist in Rome.

Hand of Isis, which is narrated by Charmian, Cleopatra's handmaiden and in the world of the novel also her half sister, is an exception in that it's definitely on the Cleopatra side of things, but Agrippa, who has a supporting role in the narrative, is still presented as a tragic and sympathetic character. The one big change/addition the novel makes to history as far as Agrippa is concerned is to let a very young Agrippa be present among Caesar's staff in Egypt and to give him an affair with Charmian. (Spoiler: it doesn't end well.) However, he's actually not that often present in the novel (leaving dreams aside), and most important in the effect his siding with Octavian has. Because we're in Charmian's pov, Agrippa choosing to follow Octavian (whom Charmian despises, and who thus isn't given any positive qualities) is just barely comprehensible by Agrippa's Roman-ness.

This, then, provided an immediate fertile ground for me to grow my own story from. Agrippa from his own pov, which would explain why he does what he does, and would without refuting anything that happens in Hands of Isis also present a different take on both Rome and Octavian than Charmian has. Another important reason for me to choose this story to write, though, was that I've always been curious about Agrippa's later, post-Actium life, and about his third marriage, to Julia (Octavian's/Augustus' only daughter), whom I freely confess I have a huge soft spot for. Suetonius basically sees Julia as the occasion for massive slutshaming and no more than that, but I've always liked the take on her we find in Metrobius' "Saturnalia":

"She was in her thirty-eighth year, a time of life when if she had behaved reasonably she would have been almost elderly; but she abused the indulgence of fortune no less than that of her father. Of course her love of literature and considerable culture, a thing easy to come by in that household, and also her kindness and gentleness and utter freedom from vindictiveness had won her immense popularity, and people who knew about her faults were amazed that she combined them with qualities so much their opposite.
Her father had more than once, speaking in a manner indulgent but serious, advised her to moderate her luxurious mode of life and her choice of conspicuous associates. But when he considered the number of his grandchildren and their likeness to Agrippa, he was ashamed to entertain doubts about his daughter’s chastity. So Augustus persuaded himself that his daughter was light-hearted almost to the point of indiscretion, but above reproach, and was encouraged to believe that his ancestress Claudia had also been such a person. He used to tell his friends that he had two somewhat wayward daughters whom he had to put up with, the Roman republic and Julia.
One day she came into his presence in a somewhat risque costume, and though he said nothing, he was offended. The next day she changed her style and embraced her father, who was delighted by the respectability which she was affecting. Augustus, who the day before had concealed his distress, was now unable to conceal his pleasure. “How much more suitable”, he remarked, “for a daughter of Augustus is this costume!” Julia did not fail to stand up for herself. “Today”, she said, “I dressed to be looked at by my father, yesterday to be looked at by my husband.”
Here is another well-known story. At a gladiatorial show Livia and Julia drew the attention of the people by the dissimilarity of their companions; Livia was surrounded by respectable men, Julia by men who were not only youthful but extravagant. Her father wrote that she ought to notice the difference between the two princesses, but Julia wittily wrote back, “These men will be old when I am old.“


End of Metrobius quote. Julia and Agrippa had five children together, the last one born after his death, and their birth places were spread across the Roman Empire because she was travelling with him, which doesn't necessarily guarantee they had a good marriage, but makes it at least possible. Moreover, given what Julia's father and her third husband, Tiberius, ended up doing to her eventually, it was probably the happiest time in her life, and I enjoyed writing her in that phase, where she also made an excellent narrative foil for an older Agrippa trying to come to terms with his past.

I've always been a fan of stories about survivors of tragedies (with and without guilt to carry), who have to get on with their lives and have to decide what they do next, not by forgetting or ignoring the past, but by trying to reconcile it with the present. Agrippa, in my story, attempts to do this. Read on whether he succeeds...
selenak: (Young Elizabeth by Misbegotten)
( Dec. 26th, 2015 06:56 pm)
State of my own stories: assignment: recipient hasn't commented yet, but nearly everyone else vocal in the tiny online fandom has, so I'm pleased as punch. Treat: recipient loves it, but not many other people seem to have read it so far. We'll see. Consider the invitation to guess and get a drabble on the subject of your choice if guessing correctly my cunning plan to get more readers. :)

On to stories I loved as a reader:

Fairy Tales/History: The Last Dancing Queen of England: in which the story of the twelve dancing princesses is applied to the wives of Henry VIII, and somehow fits marvellously.

Being Human: return back to your grave: fantastic take on the tense relationship between Nina and Mitchell, and a great character exploration of both.

Better Call Saul: if you ever ever learn you never show it: Jimmy and Chuck, growing up. Superb take on a layered sibling relationship.

Crusade: Stone Walls Do Not A Prison Make: Dureena and Max, trapped together. Will they manage to figure out how to rescue themselves before irritating each other to death? No, seriously, this story is so much fun and depicts one of my favourite Crusade relationships.

Dragonlance: Our Journey Winds On, Still: talk about messed up siblingn relationships. Raistlin and Caramon Majore in their co-dependent glory, in a "what if?" that explores what would have happened if Caramon had followed Raistlin into darkness.

Elementary: The Case of the Anonymous Benefector: in which Kitty Winter solves a case familiar to ACD readers, and ensemble goodness is had to boot. I miss the season 3 set up of Elementary, and this story is a great bandage on that open wound.

Matthew Shardlake Novels Agnus Dei: Guy, Tamasin, Matthew and Jack strive to deal with the events from the end of Lamentation. Brief, elegant and to the point, and breaking my heart in the process (in a good way).

Rivers of London: Not a tame tiger: sparring, verbal (and otherwise?) between Varvara and Nightingale. Bring on the war generation magical interaction, I say!

Troubling the Water: whereas this is adorable silliness between Lesley and Peter, and I love it, too.


Penny Dreadful: Behind the Wallpaper: dozens of AUs and yet not. All that could have happened/did happen/who knows? when Evelyn Poole opened a door in the s2 finale.

A Place of Greater Safety: Tick Tock: in which the mysterious author actually pulls off an alternate way the French Revolution could have gone, based on my favourite Hilary Mantel novel's interpretation of its chief figures. I'll say no more - find out how yourself!


Many more to come, but this is my first installment
1. Your main fandom of the year?

I remain a multifandom woman. This year I said goodbye to some of my favourite shows, found several news ones , and maintained old attachments. Perhaps The Americans was one where I joined in the most discussions?


2. Your favourite film watched this year?

Der Staat gegen Fritz Bauer ("The People vs Fritz Bauer"), about an amazing rl person, Fritz Bauer, German-Jewish, Social Democrat, gay, tries to get justice done against Nazis in 1950s and 1960s Germany where everyone is still in denial mode, and being gay is still illegal. Burkhart Klaußner is amazing in the title role. (And the movie is gutsy enough to open with a tv clip showing the real Fritz Bauer before we get introduced to Klaußner in the role, and there's no suspension of disbelief necessary.


3. Your favourite book read this year?

I did a lot of rereading of old favourites this year, but leaving those aside, probably Wind Raker, the fourth volume in the "Order of the Air" series by Jo Graham and Melissa Scott. This time, our heroes tackle archaeology, mystical dark forces and real life politics in Hawaii.


4. Your favourite TV show of the year?

Difficult to choose. The one which most surprised me by how much I fell in love with it was Better Call Saul. Because I had started to watch it solely because of the earned trust in the creative team from Breaking Bad; I didn't exactly burn with curiosity about Saul Goodman's origin story, Saul Goodman having been an amusing comic relief character in BB about whom I had no strong feelings one way or the other. But lo and behold, did I ever develop strong feelings for Jimmy McGill. Who is still funny (they'd never waste Bob Odenkirk's comedic talents), but also absolutely heartbreaking and incredibly endearing. And I like the ensemble, and the various complex relationships - Jimmy and Chuck, Jimmy and Kim (LOVE Kim, especially), Jimmy and Howard Hamlin, and, as a work in progress, Jimmy and Mike.

Now both Agent Carter and Jessica Jones I had hoped and expected to love (both the shows and the title characters), and so I did, so there wasn't the same element of surprise involved. The Americans had a painfully good third season and continues to feed my rage and award juries which ignore it. Bates Motel: ditto. Elementary gave me a great third season and while I'm not yet feeling the same level in the fourth, it still provides me with enough so I continue to love it. Doctor Who, after a lull in my fannish investment during the Eleventh Doctor era, made me fall for the Twelth Doctor, Clara Oswald and friends (and foes) all over again.

But really, in terms of "When did fondness become love? I must convert more people to watch this show, let me write that manifesto!", there can be only one choice: Black Sails. Dammit, pirates, how could I fall for you so hard!


5. Your favourite online fandom community of the year?

[community profile] theamericans, which I've shamefully neglected in recent months due to various matters. Must become better again when the new season starts!


6. Your best new fandom discovery of the year?

Black Sails I started last year, and Agent Carter and Jessica Jones weren't exactly new discoveries because I knew some of the characters of the former already via the MCU, and was familiar with the source material of the later. Better Call Saul was a spin-off from a show I was familiar with. So I shall look to one of my oldest fandoms, historical novels, and nominate [profile] sonetka's wonderful website with its witty and thorough overview of novels starring Anne Boleyn, The head that launched a thousand books.

7. Your biggest fandom disappointment of the year?

Once upon a Time, season 4, rivals with The Good Wife, season 6, for the title; The Good Wife wins, barely. I drew the consequences and quit both shows.


8. Your TV boyfriend of the year?

There are about a million reasons why dating Saul Goodman would be a bad idea, but Jimmy McGill, post-Slippin Jimmy, pre-Saul days? In a heartbeat. He's a movie buff, he's funny, he's kind, and he'd even into providing free pedicure for the work stressed woman.

9. Your TV girlfriend of the year?

Peggy Carter. Me and a million other people. But: Peggy! She's ultra competent, she's loyal, she has the art of sarcasm down to a t, she can love deeply without becoming all about one person, instead valuing other relationships as well, and she's gorgeous.

10. Your biggest squee moment of the year?

Norma Bates invites family and friends for supper in 3.07, ominously titled The Last Supper. But in fact it's as fluffy as any scene on this show could get... considering that two characters at the table have deeply traumatic rape history (with each other), another character is a budding serial killer, another is a corrupt cop, one is a profession drug smuggler with gigantic mommy issues, one is Norma Bates who is, well, Norma, and the only nonviolent, non-traumatized, non-trauma causing, nice and normal person on the table, Emma, has an illness which condems her to die in her 20s. And yet this manages to be an absolutely heartwarming, squee worthy moment. This show, I tell you.


11. The most missed of your old fandoms?

The Babylon 5 community has started a series review, but I just don't have the time right now. The recent silly (nothing wrong with that, but it was) trailer for the next Star Trek Reboot movie also made me nostalgic for my Trek, and for ye olde days of discussing DS9 episodes and themes at [profile] ds9agogo.

12. The fandom you haven’t tried yet, but want to?

I'm currently eying How to get away with Murder. Maybe I'll also dare the Hamilton juggernaut.

13. Your biggest fan anticipations for the New Year?

Bryan Fuller's version of American Gods, based on Neil Gaiman's novel (which I love). Season 2 of Agent Carter, season 4 of The Americans, season 3 of Black Sails, season 4 of Bates Motel (definitely); season 2 of Better Call Saul (hopefully).
selenak: (BambergerReiter by Ningloreth)
( Nov. 10th, 2015 07:19 pm)
Helmut Schmidt has died, and [personal profile] jo_lasalle wrote a fantastic post saying very much what I feel, which you can read here. That sense of public duty, yes.

It wasn't unexpected at all, but it's the type of death that makes you feel a big part of your life has just become history.
selenak: (Sternennacht - Lefaym)
( Oct. 7th, 2015 06:28 pm)
One good thing about less than good movies (going by who directed them, I have admittedly no intention of watching this one): they inspire interesting essays. Stonewall being a case in point. There are three essays up already at the excellent website "A Historian goes to the movies", dealing both with the movie and the actual Stonewall Riots, from various angles:


A Butch Too Far: about the movie itself, compared to the historical events.

Saturday Night is all right for fighting: about the five other riot nights the movie skips over, and why they're important.

There's got to be a morning after: what followed the Stonewall Riots.


And some short fanfiction in various fandoms:

Black Sails:

Caution: in which Admiral Hennessey and Alfred Hamilton have a little chat. Great missing scene.

Star Wars

Reasonable Sacrifice: meta-story which offers both good Anakin characterisation and a good explanation for force ghost Anakin's switching appearances in the various editions of Return of the Jedi.

Agent Carter or Captain America or MCU in general:

Loneliness and his friends: in between missions conversation between Howard Stark and Steve Rogers, with Peggy the main subject, well written for what Howard doesn't say as much as for what he does in the light of Agent Carter's season 1 finale.
If you should happen to be in or near Los Angeles during the next week, if you're interested in a) German literature, b) exiles, c) Judaism, or d) all of the above, why not check out this conference? A great many of the presentations and debates will be in English. I'll be attending as well, which means I'll be in LA from Thursday till Sunday (then it's back to Europe).

Meanwhile, have some fanfic recs:


The Hobbit:


Three Adventures Belladonna Took Never Went On : great, endearing portrait of Bilbo's famous mother Belladonna. Her relationship with Gandalf reminds me a bit of Amy Pond and the Eleventh Doctor here. (You'll see what I mean when you read it.) And, something I haven't seen in fanfiction, there's a dead-on take on the narrator voice Tolkien employed in The Hobbit.


Richard III, Shakespeare version:

Under a Hog: darkly hilarious American politics AU of Shakespeare's play from the pov of Richard's campaign workers. Bonus point for not needing Henry Tudor at all and making Lizzie Woodville his rival instead, campaigning for her dead husband's seat.


York Tetralogy: and history:

The Daisy Queen: what formed Marguerite d'Anjou. The author superbly uses actual French history, most of all Marguerite's hardcore grandmother Queen Yolande.
selenak: (BambergerReiter by Ningloreth)
( Sep. 8th, 2015 02:47 pm)
Students writing to their parents for more money has a looooong tradition. Check out some hilarious medieval examples here!

There were over 20 000 refugees coming from Hungary to Munich over the weekend, though by now a part of the travels onwards to other German provinces; there were similar receptions at the Düsseldorf, Frankfurt and Dortmund train stations. Here's a short English language reporting:

Recently, I finished rereading the six historical novels by the sadly dead Judith Merkle Riley. I first read them back when they were published, in the late 80s and early 90s, and enjoyed them a lot, though not all in the same degree. Going back, I find at least half of them hold up well, and all have lots to offer. Mind you, there's the drawback, especially if you read them all in a row, that Judith Merkle Riley has a few character types and plot points she keeps repeating and reusing. Sometimes it grates. Sometimes she doesn't get (imo, as always) the balance right. But she also has wit, on display in all six, and manages to narrate with a sense of irony but without condescending to whichever period she describes. Also: all of the novels are female-centric and manage to avoid the "one special girl" trap, i.e. women other than our heroine are valued by the narrative and get to be competent, with their own emotional lives.

Here are the novels in question, their plusses and downsides in the opinion of your humble reviewer:

The Margaret of Ashbury trilogy:

1. A Vision of Light: introducing our heroine, Margaret, who dictates her memoirs to a monk and lives in the time of Edward III., but is totally not Margery Kempe, honest. Mostly not, I suspect, because Judith Merkle Riley wanted Margaret to enjoy sex more and be a bit more down to earth. But Margaret does have visions and chats with the Almighty, in between going through a vivid medieval life, including an encounter with the plague, becoming a midwife, marrying twice (spoiler: in this volume), and having the ability to befriend tremendously interesting people. Margaret is a delightful heroine, and like I said, not the novel's sole carefully drawn woman. You get a sense of how clichés are avoided/twisted around early on when he drunken father remarries, a not-attractive-anymore widow with two sons of her own who at first glance doesn't seem to care for Margaret. But no, we're not going the Cinderella/Evil Stepmother route; instead, Margaret due to an incident starts to see her stepmother as a human being and bonds with her (not to mention that Mother Anne teaches her the highly useful skill of brewing excellent beer). Later, when Margaret's mentor, the midwife Hilde, shows up, you think: mentor figure! Midwife in novel set in the late middle ages! She'll die! But no. Hilde is still happily alive and living with her trickster type companion at the end of the trilogy. And so forth.

If A Vision of Light has a downside, it's that the ending, the last 50 pages or so, are basically a set up for the next volume rather than a conclusion to this one. If there had been no more novels, I would gone "Hang on! Am I to believe this abrupt shift in their relationship will make either of them happy? But - but..." Knowing what will come, I'm fine with the twist.

2.) In Pursuit of the Green Lion: perhaps my favourite of the trilogy. Margaret and SPOILER have to deal with the fallout of that set up, and Judith Merkle Riley executes one trope I enjoy if well done - Spoilery trope named ) - in a convincing way. Also there's lots of sarcasm at the expense of the nobility, and two bickering ghosts. (In future books, Merkle Riley sometimes lets the supernatural elements go overboard, but here it's just in the right doses, plus one of the ghosts is someone Margaret loved and lost in the past, and the book makes the point that loving someone in the present doesn't mean all that came before wasn't as important, or, conversely, that having loved someone truly means you can no longer love anyone else. In short, it's the anti One True Love No One Else Counts trope I still wish was more common. Yay! This is also the first book set in France for a considerable part when Margaret & friends are undercover as pilgrims, giving us a wry and amused look at the Avignon era of the Church. Oh, and it features the first bunch of Merkle Rileys satanists; there's a Gilles de Rais type around...who has it in for Margaret's love interest because said love interest satirized the count's poems. Which is a very Merkle Riley twist.

3.) The Water Devil: a bit of a let down compared to the first two. Not that it's a bad book per se; by itself, it's a perfectly entertaining adventure novel, Margaret & friends are still a captivating lot. But the villainess is a paper thin cliché, and the story itself doesn't really add anything new to Margaret's development, as opposed to the first two. Ah well.

Standalone novels:

The Serpent Garden: set during the early reign of Henry VIII., and highly unusual already because it has nothing to do with his marriages. The most prominent Tudor in it is his sister Mary, since her brief marriage to the French king and subsequent one with Charles Brandon form part of the plot, but Mary is only a supporting character. Our heroine here is Susanna, soon widow of a morally no good painter and an accomplished painter of miniature portraits herself, who first becomes a part of Wolsey's entourage and then a part of Mary's. This novel has both a third act and a supernatural problem; for two thirds of it, Susanna is a fine plucky heroine using her talent in world that keeps underestimating her, plus the book offers a take on Wolsey during the height of his power. (No Cromwell in sight, though Cavendish shows up as a flatterer and Anne Boleyn as a teenage girl in France.) But Susanna's no good husband who dies at the beginning has been involved in supernatural treasure-hunting, and during the last third, the book gets dominated by an angel versus demon struggle with Susanna only playing a small part, and it's just not what I signed up for.

The Oracle Glass: My favourite of the standalones! Set in Paris during the Reign of Louis XIV, with the famous "Affair of the Poisons" playing a central role. Our heroine is Genevieve, clever, a book worm, but also handicapped, which is why her mother hates her. Genevieve gets thrown out after her father's death and gets picked up in the streets by Catherine La Voisin, the most (in)famous "witch" of Paris, soothsayer, abortionist, master poisoner, con woman and head of a whole network of women who have at least one of said skills as well. Genevieve gets a new identity as the 150 years old Madame de Morville and becomes a successful soothsayer, which works out well for her for a while, but if you know at least a bit of French history, you know La Voisin has a date with destiny. She, btw, is perhaps Merkle Riley's most successsful female villain/ambiguous character (sometimes one, sometimes the other), practical, ruthless, and basically a female Don Corleone, seeing herself as simply a very successful business woman with marketable skills. (Which she is, and has the business folders to prove it.) Genevieve's attitude towards her is a mixture of respect, (justified) distrust and some awe.

Meanwhile, Genevieve's blood family is dastardly rotten, except for her grandmother (whom she models her Madame de Morville persona after) and her sister, Marie-Angelique, who is another great cliché refuter, because she's the pretty blonde one to Genevieve's intellectual brunette, but she is also Genevieve's one good family member and consistently loving towards her, instead of being a mean girl (tm). Then there's Genevieve's maid Sylvie (who gets paid a lot to spy on her by various parties and cheerfully admits to it every time to Genevieve while keeping the cash), and the other ladies of La Voisin's network. This novel is just bursting with women who are interesting and have interesting relationships with each other. And I'm okay with the romance, too. Highly reccommended.

The Master of All Desires: alas. This one has the dullest heroine of the lost, Sibille, despite her being a writer (a poet). She gets completely overshadowed by two other ladies, Catherine de Medici and Diane de Poitiers, since this novel is set in France, 1556. The title refers to the novel's McGuffin, a mummified head who can fulfill wishes but specializes in fulfilling them in a way that ruins everything for the wishing person. Catherine and Diane both want it, Sibille by accident has it, and Nostradamus tries to deal with the head in a way that avoids bringing on the apocalypse. This is a novel with a good premise, but it can't quite decide who the main character is - Catherine, Nostradamus or Sibille -, and Sibille, alas, is the most colourless of Judith Merkle Riley's OCs. Also Nostradamus having issues with poetry in general gets repetitive. Worth reading for the way Merkle Riley twists events at the end of Henri II.'s reign and after to be the result of ill-considered wishes by Diane and Catherine (let's just say wishing crowns for all your children is a baaaaad idea if you don't clarify three of them aren't supposed to get the same one), and for a take on Catherine de Medici which is traditional but also avoids the monster cliché (this Catherine has the potential but doesn't go there yet). Also if you enjoy twists on the "evil wish fulfiller: how to outthink them?" trope. But as a novell, it belongs with the "Serpent Garden" to those I think could have used a complete redrafting and/or different focus.
Yesterday I was in Nuremberg. Passing not just Nuremberg's but Germany's oldest bookstore, I saw this poster featuring some of its back-in-the-day authors:

 photo 2015_0826Nuumlrnberg0011_zpsyy1xkxtg.jpg

Well, you just know why Henry Tudor's German book tour got cancelled. No, not just the royalties. :) He clearly demanded a guarantee he'd get a better audience than Luther did, and then Korn & Berg looked at the difference in sales and realistically replied they couldn't guarantee that, Martin L. being outsold only by Albrecht Dürer prints. They did offer Henry a public discussion with Luther and a joint signing session afterwards, though. Except then Luther said he doubted Henry (he said Childe Hal, not Henry - "Junker Heinz" being his nickname for The Guy In Question) could write anything, including his own name, without Thomas More holding his pen, and the moment Henry heard THAT, he decided to create a country and linguistic culture hostile to translations from the German. Clearly.
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selenak: (Bilbo Baggins)
( Aug. 18th, 2015 03:33 pm)
Lord of the Ring:

Sunshine and Rain: a lovely friendship and comfort vignette between Elrond and Bilbo, shortly after the Ring got destroyed.

History

If certain pop culture clichés about the Spanish Inquisition ever amused and/or annoyed you, here's an excellent post (triggered by a movie I haven't seen, The Headsman, but really only taking its use of an Inquisitor as a starting point, and thus perfectly understandable for everyone) dissecting and clarifying what the Spanish Inquisition actually was, versus what pop culture thinks it was:

Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.
A few months ago, when the History Exchange announced itself, I looked at the conditions, saw that the minimum word count was only 500, and thought, hey, I'm busy, but I can easily do that in between stuff. If I volunteer for people I already know about, I won't even have to do research.

Famous last words, etc. The end result was one of the longest things I've written outside Yuletide, and I don't regret a single thing. Eleanor of Aquitaine will do that to you. The prompt asked for an AU, which got me thinking not of one AU but several. Well, there's a certain format for this. I've repeatedly written "Five Things..." tales about fictional characters; there was no reason not to do it for a rl one. Especially since said format, at least in the way it works for me, also provides the opportunity to portray the main character "in canon", so to speak, via several angles.

So, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Queen of France, Queen of England, survivor extraordinaire who still travelled across the Pyrenees on political missions when in her 70s, something that would be remarkable even today, let alone in the Middle Ages. Her life was often so unlikely that fiction couldn't trump it. However, of course there were plenty of opportunities where with just one circumstance changed, her resulting existence would have been just as remarkable (imo), if in a different (or not?) way. After mulling it over (and reading one of the newer biographies, since the last time I did research on Eleanor was more then 20 years ago), I came up with five scenarios which each became its own story. You can read all five here:

Time and Chance (16069 words) by Selena
Chapters: 5/5
Fandom: 12th Century CE RPF, When Christ and His Saints Slept - Sharon Kay Penman, Devil's Brood - Sharon Kay Penman, Historical RPF, Henry II Trilogy - Sharon Kay Penman, The Lion in Winter (1968)
Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Eleanor of Aquitaine/Henry Plantagenet, Eleanor of Aquitaine/Louis VII of France, Eleanor of Aquitaine & Thomas Becket, Eleanor of Aquitaine & Matilda I of Boulogne, Eleanor of Aquitaine & Raymond of Antioch, Peter Abelard/Heloise (background)
Characters: Eleanor of Aquitaine, Henry II of England, Thomas Becket, Bernard of Clairveaux, Petronilla de Chemillé, Mahault of Anjou, Matilda I of Boulogne, Stephen of England, Eustace IV Count of Boulogne, Louis VII of France, Robert de Dreux, Raymond of Antioch, Melisande of Jerusalem - Character, Thierry Galeran, Henry the Young King, William X. of Aquitaine, Petronilla of Aquitaine
Additional Tags: Alternate Universe - Historical, POV Female Character, Female Friendship
Summary:

Five lives which Eleanor of Aquitaine never lived.




A few more remarks on those five roads not taken: Hidden under a cut. )
The History Exchange just went live!

Really late in my part of the world, but I've been waiting ever since posting my story, as one does, i.e. weeks, so what are a few hours more? I'm too tired to read much tonight - that's what I'm looking forward to tomorrow - but I had to (delightedly) read the one written for me, which is:

À chaque jour suffit sa peine (707 words) by Anonymous
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Historical RPF, 17th Century CE RPF
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Characters: Charles II of England
Summary:

Charles has three kingdoms, and can't go back to any of them. So he does his best to keep himself amused in France instead.



Thank you so much, writer!


No prizes for guessing my story (i.e. the one I wrote) - I think it's fairly obvious, but then I always do. I had a blast writing it and will ramble about it post reveal.
.

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