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[Edited for some clarity and further ideas October 25th]

So, apparently, the desires of my heart at the moment involve mentoring relationships or extreme competence. Or both. Right, then.

I am currently having a really hard fall. But one of the things I am thinking about a lot is how the people we learn from, learn how to do things with, change us. We hope, for the better. Sometimes that’s about formal education, but a lot of the time, it’s about something more complicated and faceted - and fascinating.

When I went through the Yuletide tag list for ‘things I want to remember are options this year’, it’s these three that jumped out at me. And one of the things that really strikes me is how they’re all about incredibly competent people sharing what they know in interesting ways. Or making choices based on what they know, are committed to, are passionate about.

So. Yeah. Basically, fic that does something with that is the thing I want. People being awesome at knowing their things, people caring about what they do, trusting other people to do it with them. That. :insert waving hands here:

You can feel free to take a look at my previous Yuletide letters and recs for things I’d like, but actually, while most of the details still apply to me, they don’t really apply to my requests this year.

If you got matched with me on any of these fandoms, I'm pretty sure that what you're inclined to write will be awesome.

But in case you’d like some more details, there's more below. Two of these three canons are quite easy to pick up quickly (one is a movie, one is a single volume book. The other one’s more complicated, alas.) I’ve included some general background for people reading because of one request who might also find the others interesting.


(2009 movie)

Agora is a movie about Hypatia, popularly (but inaccurately) considered the last librarian at the Great Library at Alexandria. The truth is more complicated than that. The truth is *always* more complicated than story.

We know she was a scholar, a teacher (at a time when few women were), that she was a philosopher, astronomer, mathematician (at a time when those were highly overlapping subjects.)

The movie has its biases and flaws, though on the whole I very much liked it (You can read rather a lot more of what I thought about it, and what I think about Hypatia, at a post I wrote when I saw it for the first time. That post also has links to some more thorough commentary on the history and what we do and don’t know.)

I'm fascinated by Hypatia, about her role as teacher, philosopher, astronomer, mathematician, and - well, about a dozen other things. About her sense of self, that comes through rather clearly in the little surviving material. And I like a lot of things about this movie, while recognising it's got some biases.

I'm also fascinated by the relationship with her father - how did she grow up to be the person she was? How did she navigate being a woman learning the things she learned? At what point did she stop being 'oh, her father runs the Museum' and start being a scholar in her own right?

Her interactions with Orestes are more complicated than the movie shows, but one thing that’s clear from some surviving references is that they shifted from being teacher and student (complete with student-teacher crush) to being intellectual peers and friends and mutual support. How did that get started? How did they navigate those changes to keep being friends?

Alternatively, a fic about how the truth is more complicated than story would also be excellent. Or, y’know, if you wanted to do some far-future fic that plays with the mythology about Hypatia as opposed to the (very few) facts we know.

One note: I'm much more interested in a story about the people here, and about how people make choices than I am in the religious fanaticism of the movie per se, though obviously it's a driver of events. One of the things I like about the movie is that it does a decent job (for a movie, with limited time) of depicting the difference between fanaticism and more balanced belief and practice.

Haunted Ballad Series

by Deborah Grabien

This is a series of books featuring Ringan Laine (musician, folklorist, and architectural restorer) and Penelope Wintercraft-Hawkes (theatre producer, actress, and generally intelligent human being.) Also, ghosts. The conceit of the books is that each is set around a traditional song (and okay, I’d love it if a fic managed to do that, but that’s a lot to ask of a 1000 words.)

I made a similar request last year, and pointed at this blog post for some further details about the series there, too.

Things I love about these books include:
- How Ringan and Penelope are both very competent at what they do, and they let the other person be competent at it.

- How they have learned over their time together to give and take - they both have moments in the series where they’re overwhelmed, and they take space, and they know how to make that work for them, and I love that.

- How they’re both, in their ways, generalists. (Being a good theatre producer in a company that isn’t highly focused requires that, and Ringan’s job requires him to know a lot of random things, very well.)

- How the books respect the process of research. (Ok, there’s a lot of narratively convenient research success in the course of the stories, but it’s not just ‘oh, I plugged some things into a search engine’ - it depicts the randomness of finding the right things in the useful way in a way I really love.)

My favourite books in the series are Famous Flower of Serving Men and Cruel Sister and I think in both cases it’s because of the overlays of history onto song onto novel.

If you were inspired to find a solid historical moment to overlay onto, that would be lovely. Equally, I’d love to see a story from much earlier in Ringan and Penelope’s history together than we see in the books. (I’ll also say here that I would be just fine with a story about only one of them rather than both, if you wanted to delve into background before they meet.)

Lammas Night

by Katherine Kurtz

A book I’ve loved for a very long time, because of its questions of mentoring, learning, and choosing. It's a hard book to describe - one part World War II and hard choices, one part esoteric fiction, one part 'mythology built on some flawed research', one part Kurtz doing what she does very well and pulling that mythology into something that feels remarkably real and solid.

We see in the book the end result of the time that John and Prince William spend together - but I’d love fiction talking about earlier parts. How they built that degree of trust. The things that John mentions, about how William navigates dealing with people outside his family. The limitations that William’s family have placed on him (many of them very necessary or well-meaning.)

This is also a canon where I’d be just as fascinated with an AU - if William hadn’t made his sacrifice, if something had gone differently in the course of the book, what might or might not have changed.

I would also be entirely happy with fic that is about either or both of these characters interacting with other people in the book. (They do not both need to appear for me to be happy, in other words).

(If you’re not aware, John Graham does show up in a couple of Kurtz’s Adept series novels, in which he basically continues to be highly competent and annoyingly privately mysterious.)

One content note here: There are a lot of forms of religious witchcraft, and my form is not John Graham’s form (though since I read this book for the first of many times long before I started looking at Paganism, it’s been an influence.)

It is, however, an area where getting it wrong is likely to throw me out of the story, where ‘wrong’ is more like ‘internally inconsistent’ than anything else. Something that’s entirely consistent with canon would, naturally, be fine by me.

(In other words, I believe there’s a vast diversity of possible workable practices out there, but if religious witchcraft is a topic you don’t know much about, I’d much rather a story that glosses over the details of the religious/magical practice and focuses somewhere else than a fic where you’re desperately doing pure research and trying to get the details right. A lot of what matters in my practice and to my love of this story is how things fit together, and that’s hard to get solely from external research.)
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