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            Well, my daughter has gone back to school, which means (no matter what the calendar says about the timing of the autumnal equinox) that summer is officially over.  And what a grand summer it was! 

            I did two things I've always wanted to do . . . it seems sort of ridiculous, now that I write them down, but I have always wanted to go caving and to learn how to *really* use a chef's knife.  So I spent a week with a chiropterologist friend of mine rappelling into dark holes, squeezing through 9" wide gaps in limestone passages, wading through underground streams and helping her gather data on the white mold that is infecting and killing off a number of our native bats.  My science is done exclusively at a lab bench, rather than in the field, so it was an exhilarating change.  My husband (who is somewhat claustrophobic) thinks I'm barking, but I'd do it again in a heartbeat!  He was much more enthusiastic about my second desire, which had me trekking no further than our local culinary school to take a class in knife handling.  You aren't going to be seeing me on Iron Chef anytime soon, but I am no longer a danger to myself and others when chopping onions :-).  I also spent a lot of time playing with my girl, getting my lab (and my mind) re-organized, working with my voice teacher and reading, reading, reading - both for work and for pleasure.  I even did a bit of fic writing, which served only to convince me that I'm better off just reading :-P.

            Right now, I am staring out my office window, and, instead of working on the fall seminar schedule or going over the proofs for our EMBO Reports paper (which need to go back to Germany by tomorrow), I am thinking about writing up some more recs for Know-It-Alls.  I guess I'm not any more eager than my daughter to put my nose back to the grindstone.  ::sigh::

            I have been keeping my eye on quite a few sites and fic fests, and there have been some outstanding submissions.  I've spent the last several evenings writing up reviews and posting them to KIA.  There you will find the direct links to the fics I'm about to post in this space, as well as my rather long-winded recs.  Here are the teasers - I hope there will be a few which interest you! 

 

           

The best of the fests, BFS-Severus Shorts and HP_Beholder, were both truly embarrassments of riches.  I feel so privileged to be the one who, I hope, will bring these stories the wider attention they deserve - they truly represent some of the best fan fiction I have ever read.

            There were 5 from HP_Beholder, three of which were humor and two of which were dramas.  In truth, a great majority of the stories posted to this fest were worth reading, but these (in the order in which I posted them) are the ones no one should miss (in my view):      

            1) The Problem with Memories by purplefluffycat .   I will confess here that the primary pairing is one that is pretty much the opposite of 'appealling'  for me.  I have a rather intense dislike of Albus Dumbledore and Horace Slughorn isn't at all someone with whom I wished I could spend more time.  It was only the Severus/Minerva background romance that lead me to read it, and I'm really glad I did, however embarrassing it was to acknowledge that my own pre-conceptions would have otherwise caused me to miss a really wonderful fic. The issues it tackles - body image, relationships in which one party feels inferior to the other in some way, the secrets we hide from those we care about - are insightfully and movingly written and well worth the time to read.

            2) Witness by kellychambliss .   This is an amazing piece of storytelling - one that leaves you thinking and marveling long after you've finished.  I can't think of the last time I was so profoundly moved by an original character as I was by the protagonist of this tale.   It's ingeniously told and, in spite of its open ending (or perhaps because of it), has a very satisfying finish.

            3) The Conjugal State by atdelphi .   I sometimes think that humor gets short shrift in the fan fic world.  It can be just as hard to write something that moves the reader to genuine laughter as it is to write something which truly pulls at the heart with sorrow or anguish.  I laughed my way through this inspired tale, in spite of a partner for Severus I would otherwise never have considered credible. 

            4) Haud Mais December by nimrod_9 .  A very short (it *just* missed the word count cut off to be designated a ficlet rather than a short story), but perfectly characterized missing moment from The Half Blood Prince which gives us a glimpse into an established Severus/Minerva relationship, with dialog that's as witty  and unsentimental (yet affectionate) as its protagonists.

            5) A Small Touch of Luck byr_grayjoy .  I found myself quite moved by another unlikely pairing for Severus in this lovely story.  I mean, Flitwick?  Come on!  And yet, it works amazingly well in r_grayjoy's hands.  She's created a Filius Flitwick who is in character yet delightfully so much more *real* than we ever get the chance to know in Canon.  He's a perfect balance for Severus in this witty, unexpected romance.

 

            The other fest in which nearly every entry was worth reading, BFS-Severus Shorts,  is dedicated to celebrating our favorite potions master's birthday at different stages of his life.  This fest produced 4 (four!!!!) truly masterful works of fiction, when one is lucky to find even one at most at your typical such gathering.  I'm pleased to be able to rec 3 of these (the 4th, perverse_idyll 's No Room for the Weak, was posted by Kelly Chambliss soon after it appeared).  All of these are now in my 'permanent keeper' file, about the highest honor I could bestow.

            1) The Janus Rose by dickgloucester .  I absolutely *loved* this story!!!  It has a beautiful concept, beautifully written and beautifully characterized, and my admittedly soft heart had me weeping through most of it.  Oh, and did I mention that it's beautiful?? And that I loved it??  And that it's obvious that I'm flailing because I can't come up with any better way to describe this??  Just read it and keep your tissues handy.

            2) Masters and Friends by methleigh .  This is one of those fics that just strikes to the core. In a tour de force of economical prose,  it reveals so much about Severus's relationship with Dumbledore *and* reasons which pulled him to join the Death Eaters in so few perfectly chosen words, that it just left me gasping with awe, the way one does at truth revealed.

            3) A Rowan in Winter by duniazade .  'Every once in awhile there comes along a piece of fan fiction so transformative that you never look at the original in the same way again.  This is one such for me.'  This is how I started my review at KIA, and I still can't think of a better way to say it.  In fact, while reviewing this, I felt very much in need of a thesaurus.  I ran out of superlatives and found I was repeating myself, and *still* didn't feel as if I'd done it anything near justice.  If you haven't read it, go do so.  If you have, go read it again - it's the sort of fic you catch something new and breath-stealing from no matter how many times you read it.

 

            Well, that's it for now.  I still have about half a dozen others on my short list to rec, but it may be a week or two before I can get them up.  In the meantime, I hope you enjoy these!

 

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( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
kellychambliss
Sep. 7th, 2010 10:12 pm (UTC)
Thank you again for that lovely, thoughtful KIA rec and for repeating it here. I'm really glad that you liked that story; it's one that I'm pleased with (even though I agonized in the writing of it, just ask my long-suffering betas).

And I second all those Severus Shorts recs; I had planned to do "Rowan in Winter" at KIA but never got to it. No matter, though: your rec is perfect. I do think that "Rowan" and "No Room for the Weak" are two of the top five stories I've read in 2010.

I'm sort of with your husband when it comes to the idea of caving, although I've enjoyed touring some (when the paths are clearly marked and the lights are bright /g/). Glad you enjoyed it, though.
albalark
Sep. 8th, 2010 02:54 am (UTC)
Oh, the pleasure was all mine, truly!! I just adored that story, and it was well worth your blood, sweat and tears, in my humble opinion :-). I'm guessing your betas thought so, too!

As for the caving - I had a blast. Those tourist trails are where I caught the bug, and my friend Mandy, bat zoologist extraordinaire, was the instigator :-). It's very different to be working and living there than to go in for a few hours on well lit trails - it certainly gives one a new appreciation for the quiet and the dark! One day I'm hoping to tag along on a trip into Lechuguilla, which is near Carlsbad and completely closed to tourists. I'd have to be really lucky to get chosen, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed ^_^.
dickgloucester
Sep. 8th, 2010 09:30 pm (UTC)
Thank you for your lovely remarks here, and for the rec on KIA! I'm thrilled and flattered, especially as you put me in company with the two (for me) absolute stand-out stories on Severus Shorts.
albalark
Sep. 9th, 2010 01:43 am (UTC)
You are very welcome! And your fic definitely belongs in the same company as the others, no doubts :-) . It is beautiful (I'm beginning to sound like a loop, but I can't help myself) and I went through half a box of Puffs reading it the first time. When I went back to re-read it before writing my rec, I finished off the other half! So thank you for a wonderful story. I've printed out and put it in my binder so I'll always have it, and I don't do that for every story I rec :-).
batmandy514
Sep. 9th, 2010 01:32 am (UTC)
TJ Told me you'd posted something about our trip! I was waayy spoiled having you there - much better than my grad students (*don't* tell them I said that -lol!); after all they never read me Harry Potter fan fiction bedtime stories (surprisingly good ;-) ) or gave me the shivers singing scottish songs to demonstrate the perfect acoustics in a cave!

Srsly, it was wonderful having you there, looking so fit and healthy (if a bit shorn!). I sure hope we can do it again next season! The bats miss you and I do too.
M.

P.S. Whaddayoumean instigator?? Can I help it if I'm a cave pusher?
albalark
Sep. 9th, 2010 01:58 am (UTC)
I noticed that you didn't say anything 'bout the help! ::GGG:: I hope I didn't slow you down too much, Man :-). I'd love to come back next summer, if I can find the time to do it. I never thought I'd say this, but, I sure am glad to be insanely busy again! (I miss you, too.)

And whaddayoumean shorn?? My hair was touching my ears and my bangs were *almost* long enough to touch my eyebrows! No more Annie Lennox, thank heavens! Just for that crack you have to go and read *all* of the recs I posted here . . . there will be a quiz later. ::grins evilly::
perverse_idyll
Sep. 16th, 2010 06:21 am (UTC)
I know I'm way behind in leaving a comment, but this is the beauty of having a vacation week. Catch-up! I just want to express my envy that you had an opportunity to go caving, something I've always yearned to do although I suspect I'm too out of shape now to be any good at it. But I find caves fascinating. I saw in your response to kellychambliss that you may have a chance to explore Lechuguilla, and I'm so envious. (I collect books on caves, and I have one on Lechuguilla full of gorgeous, otherworldly photos. A couple of years ago I actually started an original fantasy story partly based on the formations in that cave network. I never finished writing it, alas. I have another story partly based on the Wieliczka salt mines. I am ambitious but my stamina, she is lacking.)

Also, I adore your recs, and I don't think I've ever told you so. There are two fics mentioned above that I haven't read yet, but the rest I have and they're all extraordinary, and (I'm a bit obsessive about favorite fics, so please forgive me if you've heard me go on about this) "A Rowan in Winter" is a work of such artistry and magic that it's entered my personal mythology of ravishing experiences. The others you've singled out belong in its company. The only severus_shorts fic I'd add to the handful you've selected here is florahart's A Nice Symbol of the Relationship, which broke my heart. I may be in the minority about that one, though.
albalark
Sep. 17th, 2010 04:30 am (UTC)
I'm so glad to hear from you! I hope you had a lovely vacation!

Oooo, someone else who appreciates caves!! I think I have that same book on Lechuguilla - I am *really* hoping I'll get to go one day. I'm on a waiting list, but there are a lot more people who sign on to be temporary research assistants than they can take, so I will have a long wait, if I ever get chosen to go. ::would *love* to read that fantasy story while waiting - ggg::

Also, I adore your recs, and I don't think I've ever told you so.

::blushes:: Thanks - I work hard on them. I want them to be worthy of the fics they're heralding. I've got a few more I'm working on that will be up soon, more than likely next week. I'm hoping that others will like the stories in question much as I did!

I'm a bit obsessive about favorite fics, so please forgive me if you've heard me go on about this

Obsess away, my dear! I feel as you do - when something is really wonderful, it's worth pointing that out as often as possible :-).

I did read A Nice Symbol . . ., and, as well written as it was, I was left confused by Severus's motives. Was he doing this to save his mother's life (and perhaps his infant brother's, too)? If so, as awful as it might have been to strip his brother's magic, if it saved their lives to do so, it's hard to condemn. If that wasn't his motive, what was? And does Eileen consent or doesn't she? It certainly seems as if she does, and then it's implied that she doesn't know what she's giving the baby, and that Severus lied to her about what he gave her (even though the narrator states that she knows him too well to be able to lie to her). One thing which is certainly true about this fic is that Severus's internal voice was just perfect. florahart really did get inside his head beautifully. I'll go back and re-read it, and see if it's any clearer to me this time around :-).
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )