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Trope of the man who loved the mother and marries the daughter [Mar. 20th, 2017|08:17 pm]
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This is a reasonably common nineteenth-century trope, though some of my examples below are twentieth-century. The story goes that a man falls in love with a woman, who rejects him in order to marry another man. She has a daughter. The man falls in love with the daughter and this time is successful in his suit.

Sometimes the trope's played with overt misogynistic disdain to the mother ('she turned down this nice protagonist guy because she was a shallow bitch, fortunately the 2.0 model in her daughter is much better made'), sometimes it's simply that the mother and the man weren't suited.

The obvious misogyny and creepiness that this older man deserves the beautiful girl young enough to be his daughter isn't lost on most people in the twenty-first century. There's an unpleasant implication that the mother is no longer attractive because she's lived her life and had a family, and that what a middle-aged or older man really needs is an virginal young woman who doesn't have any life experience to compare with him. As well, the incest squick often extends toward people who have had past romantic relationships with our blood relations, i.e. daughter dating mother's ex-boyfriend.

Age differences can, though don't always, mean power differentials as well. The power differentials can be especially strong if the man has been close to the young girl in her childhood as a family friend and adult authority figure, before pursuing her romantically when she hits puberty.

For some reason (sexism) this trope is much rarer in gender reversed form. A woman who once loved a man who married another hardly ever gets to marry his young son. The potential creepy factor for age and power differentials remains in the gender reversed version, but it would be great if more stories gave older women more agency in general.

Like any trope, there are ways to write this badly and ways to write it well. There are non-creepy ways to write it well. Two adults choosing to be with each other despite an age difference is very different from a creepy man grooming a child to grow into his bride. I'd never argue that all relationships with age differences are evil and wrong; there are plenty of real life counterexamples. It just depends on whether the writer can convincingly portray these two people as adults making a free and informed choice rather than one exploiting the other.

Here are some nineteenth century / early twentieth century literary examples:

  • Fanny Fern wrote a novella called 'Fanny Ford'. A man is sent to prison and never gets to marry his fiancee; his fiancee marries another and dies in childbirth. The man adopts the orphaned child and marries her when she is seventeen. This is presented as good because the man's character reformed between his prison time and his bringing up the child. (To be fair, he didn't bring up the child himself so much as leave her with good people.)

  • Mary Elizabeth Braddon's novel 'Milly Darrell' gives a variant on this trope with a young stepmother's stepdaughter falling for her stepmother's ex-boyfriend, thereby making the age difference much less.

  • Mary E. Waller's novel 'A Cry in the Wilderness' features a deserted husband who falls in love with his wife's illegitimate daughter, partly because of her resemblance to her mother.

  • L.M. Montgomery's short story 'The Education of Betty' uses the trope straight. The Emily series also depicts Emily becoming engaged to a contemporary of her father's, though Dean Priest is represented as more than a little creepy.

  • The trope is considered in Eleanor H. Porter's 'Pollyanna Grows Up'. John Pendleton was rejected by Pollyanna's mother and lived a sad bachelor's life for a number of years. Pollyanna sees it as her duty to marry him if he wants her, though fortunately he doesn't. Especially given that Pendleton was considered a little too old for Pollyanna's mother.

  • Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles uses a variation on the trope where the heroine's younger sister is expected to be her husband's next wife (although the legality of this is doubtful due to laws against marrying a deceased wife's sister).

And, to be fair, here's a nineteenth-century counterexample:

  • In 'Manouevering' by Maria Edgeworth (published 1809), wealthy older baronet Sir John Hunter initially courts Mrs Palmer's nubile daughter Amelia, but marries the mother instead. However, Mrs Palmer is close to his age, not nearly old enough to be his mother.

And then there's the "I'm my own grandfather" joke - a man and a son fall in love with a mother and a daughter; the man marries the daughter and the son the mother. The son is now his father's father-in-law, making him his own grandad. It's fun!
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Holiday exchange fanfics [Jan. 30th, 2017|10:31 pm]
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Over Christmas, I wrote two gifts for two exchanges: one for Yuletide, and one for the Baldur's Gate Gift Exchange. Both stories were for the Baldur's Gate fandom.

Summary: The Bhaalspawn must survive with an unlikely companion when he's trapped in a cave.
Characters: Charname, Sarevok

I was the person who encouraged my recipient to sign up to Yuletide, so it made me very happy that they didn't guess my identity until after reveals!

Summary: Sylfana is going to kill Gromnir Il-Khan with her bare hands. Before that, she'll take a moment of luxury with her lover Edwin. Edwin romance, explicit.
Characters: Charname, Edwin

When PuggiePuggie said they didn't mind nsfw, I was happy to stretch my writing muscles and try writing some smut! I feel like I’ve become more repressed as I’ve grown older, so it was good to write an explicit story.
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Two Similar Poems About Cricket And Dogs [Jan. 30th, 2017|12:38 am]
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I've been reading through this amazing collection of short fiction by Wodehouse, and found an interesting similarity between two poems.

How M'Dougal Topped the Score by Thomas A. Spencer
Joe by P.G. Wodehouse

M'Dougal is a classic Australian poem published in 1906. The cricket team of Piper's Flat are not very good, but they play a match with Molongo. Old M'Dougal is the ace in the hole for Piper's Flat - as he owns the sheepdog Pincher. When Piper's Flat tumbles down with nine wickets for seventeen with fifty to win, M'Dougal takes the bat. Pincher the sheepdog runs away with the ball and as a result Piper's Flat makes up their runs and wins the match.

M'Dougal's legs were going fast, Molongo's breath was gone—
But still Molongo chased the dog—M'Dougal struggled on.
When the scorer shouted “Fifty!” then they knew the chase could cease;
And M'Dougal gasped out “Drop it!” as he dropped within his crease.
Then Pincher dropped the ball, and, as instinctively he knew
Discretion was the wiser plan, he disappeared from view.
And as Molongo's beaten men exhausted lay around.
We raised M'Dougal shoulder-high, and bore him from the ground.

We bore him to M'Ginniss's, where lunch was ready laid,
And filled him up with whisky-punch, for which Molongo paid.
We drank his health in bumpers, and we cheered him three times three,
And when Molongo got its breath, Molongo joined the spree.
And the critics say they never saw a cricket match like that,
When M'Dougal broke the record in the game at Piper's Flat.
And the folk are jubilating as they never did before;
For we played Molongo cricket—and M'Dougal topped the score!

PG Wodehouse's poem Joe was published in May 1907, Pearson's Magazine (United Kingdom). The men of Chickenham-infra-Mud face Pigbury-super-Splosh in cricket. Their score is nine wickets for fifteen with seven to win. Then old Joe, the good dog, runs away with the ball and allows Chickenham-infra-Mud to score the runs they need. Wodehouse's poem is much shorter, but the plot is exactly the same and the setting similar (Australian vs British 'lower class country').

It rose in the air, and we shouted “Run!” and a fieldsman started in chase:
But as he was running we thought we saw a curious look on his face;
And then he stopped, and we wondered why, for the feller looked quite scared.
And there was old Joe on top of the ball with his teeth all white and bared!

Well, they ran and ran, and the fieldsmen yelled, but that didn’t disturb old Joe.
He sat on the ball as much as to say, “Am I downhearted? No!”
And, just as they’d finished the seventh run, he rose and he winked at us,
And he trotted away with a sort of blush, like he didn’t want no fuss.

Oh, he ain’t a Serciety beauty with a lovely silky coat:
One of his ears is torn a bit. There’s a scar or two on his throat:
No, he ain’t the sort of dog, maybe, as ’ud win a prize at a show,
But for tact and sense there isn’t one as is in the race with Joe!

I believe the cricket rules have updated since that time, making both these poems and their exploitation of the loophole dated. My guess is that Wodehouse was at the very least "inspired by" Spencer's poem. To me, the poems are similar in a way that makes me lionise Wodehouse less. Perhaps there was a "dog related misadventures in cricket" zeitgeist that was very popular at the time? Or perhaps there are other theories.
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PHINEAS FINN by Anthony Trollope [Jan. 4th, 2017|11:04 pm]
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Phineas begins the story as the sort of wretched young man who insists that his complete irresponsibility is charming. The reader struggles to keep down their bitter bile in the hopes of character development.

Phineas is supposed to be a rather pretty man - six feet high, and very handsome, with bright blue eyes, and brown wavy hair, and light silken beard - which is another of his misfortunes, along with becoming a Member of Parliament at too early a stage in his career. Like George Vavasor in CAN YOU FORGIVE HER, Phineas can't support himself as an MP; but Phineas is more good-hearted and more sincerely interested in Parliament and politics for its own sake.

Phineas, like other young and foolish men, begins to get himself into trouble in his career for debt, signing bills for other men without consideration - Mark Robarts' mistake.

Phineas, my dear fellow, as far as I have as yet been able to see the world, men don't begin either very good or very bad. They have generally good aspirations with infirm purposes;—or, as we may say, strong bodies with weak legs to carry them. Then, because their legs are weak, they drift into idleness and ruin. During all this drifting they are wretched, and when they have thoroughly drifted they are still wretched. The agony of their old disappointment still clings to them. In nine cases out of ten it is some one small unfortunate event that puts a man astray at first.Read more...Collapse )
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Yuletide Letter - Blueinkedfrost on AO3 [Oct. 6th, 2016|07:49 pm]
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Dear Yuletide Writer,

Thank you for writing for me! I hope you have a wonderful Yuletide. Our shared rare fandom is joy, optional details are optional, and please don't get eaten by bears.

Things I like to read include: adventure, humour, horror, slice-of-life, ghost stories, alternative universes, tragedy, suffering, irony, drama, mystery, complicated characters, complicated relationships, character development, underexplored parts of canon universes, plot twists, banter, capable/competent characters, female characters having adventures or being central to the story, femslash, gen, het, slash, rare characters in the spotlight, unusual stories, being surprised, and many other things that hopefully cover what you enjoy writing. I'd love to read a story you want to write.

If there're any questions about this letter, feel free to go through the Yuletide Mods, or simply write the story you want to write - I'd much rather read fic that went in a direction you liked writing than a story that stuck to a prompt that wasn't working for you.

I'll Be Away: I'm expecting to be without internet from about December 21 to January 3, but I hope to read and comment on Yuletide as soon as possible. Thank you again for writing for me, and sorry in advance for being away on the date.

Decameron - Boccaccio (book)
The Way To The Lantern - Audrey Erskine Lindop (book)
Baldur's Gate (video game)

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Finished posting a long fanfic. [Oct. 5th, 2016|07:28 am]
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Bhaalspawn Rebellion, a Baldur's Gate fanfic. (Archiveofourown version.) 94K words, complete.

This story was soft science fiction - hot butter on the Mohs scale - with swords, spaceships, and a fun universe that I don’t own to play around in. I enjoyed writing it.

Summary: Baldur’s Gate, IN SPACE. Lionstone XIV, the Empress, rules as a tyrant from the Iron Throne. The warrior Ourawang, daughter of Bhaal, seeks to overthrow her, but not without help from a cyberrat, an esper, a thug, and a mad terrorist. Fusion crossover with Simon R. Green’s Deathstalker series. Don’t need to know canon.

Main characters: Bhaalspawn, Imoen, Aerie, Montaron, Xzar
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Excited about Yuletide post! [Sep. 10th, 2016|10:03 pm]
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Nominate here

Official how-to-nominate tutorial

Yuletide is a brilliant end-of-year fic exchange built around rare fandoms. Nominate the fandoms you love, request stories you’d love to read, make someone else’s request come true by writing for them - and then read all the other stories in a huge collection of amazing rare fandoms.

Step 1 (optional): Nominate - pick 3 rare fandoms and up to 4 characters per fandom. Rare fandoms basically means that there are fewer than 1000 completed stories that are over 1000 words and in English. Rare fandoms don’t have to be things like books, video games, or TV series - they can also be things like architecture, historical figures, advertising campaigns, and music videos.

Step 2: Sign up - after nominations end, sign up to participate. Out of all the nominated fandoms from everyone, select the ones you want to write, and the ones you’ll request stories from. Even if you didn’t nominate you can still sign up.

Step 3: Write your story. You’ll be matched with someone who requested at least 1 fandom you volunteered to write. Someone else will also receive your request and write you one of the ideas you asked for. Some people also write extra stories, which are called treats.

Step 4: Posting and reading! On December 25 or so, Yuletide goes live. Your recipient gets the story you wrote for them, and you receive a story from a mysterious author written for you. Every author is anonymous until January 1, and there’s plenty of reading and reviewing to do for thousands and thousands of fandoms and stories.
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Maria Edgeworth's 'Tales and Novels' [Aug. 16th, 2016|09:44 pm]
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Link to Volume 1

Edgeworth's general work is recommended for the experience of the thing - intensely moralistic, didactic, repetitive, and comes across as an important step in the development of modern-day fiction. Edgeworth's depiction of women's lives is also important.

Edgeworth usually comes across as much more intelligent and well-meaning than Jack Chick, to compare her to another didactic practitioner. The main jarring factor is that multiple early tales are very anti-Semitic. The only Jewish character Edgeworth seems able to write in these short stories is an antagonistic male pawnbroker and cheat, drawn entirely from stereotype. Later in her career, through the novel 'Harrington', Edgeworth apologised for her past anti-Semitic writing (credit to her for trying to turn things around).

Surprisingly, black and mixed-race characters receive a fair amount of narrative sympathy and are heaps better written than, say, GONE WITH THE WIND or Thackeray's Miss Schwartz. Don't count on Edgeworth for a searing anti-racist tract, but she has mixed-race and black secondary characters who have their own goals and at least two dimensions.

And then there's a story which definitely reads to the twenty-first century with lesbian undertones. Innocent high-minded lass Anne Warwick is Led Astray by the seductive, emotive pleadings of her lady pen pal Araminta! Anne elopes to Araminta's pastoral cottage and then discovers that life is not the romance she was expecting in this cautionary tale.

Edgeworth also wrote about Irish idioms and against cultural stereotyping; her non-fiction writing is fascinating.

The novel 'Belinda' contains Edgeworth's deconstruction of the 'Wife Husbandry' trope - Clarence Hervey adopts a young orphan, Virginia, intending to raise her as a pristine, unspoiled, pastoral wife, only to find that this doesn't work out. Clarence falls in love with an educated, strong-minded woman instead and Virginia grows up to discover she isn't attracted to Clarence, but Clarence feels he has to ask Virginia to marry him as she's his responsibility, and in turn Virginia feels her gratitude won't let her refuse. 'Belinda' was based on a real event: a friend of Edgeworth's father, Thomas Day, attempted to raise a young orphan, Sabrina Sydney, as his bride. It didn't work out as expected.

Two other interesting things edited out of 'Belinda' in later editions, changed from the writer's first choice, are:

  1. Mr Vincent, a West Indian Creole, nearly marries Belinda rather than being merely esteemed by her

  2. A white English girl, Lucy, marries Vincent's black servant Juba rather than a white Englishman

Edgeworth's writing about women's education is also worth a read. She and her extremely large family (her father was married four times) had interesting ideas and practices about children's education, many of which still seem viable.

This bit in Edgeworth's 'Harrington' endears her, as she is mocking and criticisng her own early work for its anti-Semitism:

And here I must observe, that not only in the old story books, where the Jews are as sure to be wicked as the bad fairies, or bad genii, or allegorical personifications of the devils, and the vices in the old emblems, mysteries, moralities, &c.; but in almost every work of fiction, I found them represented as hateful beings; nay, even in modern tales of very late years, since I have come to man's estate, I have met with books by authors professing candour and toleration—books written expressly for the rising generation, called, if I mistake not, Moral Tales for Young People; and even in these, wherever the Jews are introduced, I find that they are invariably represented as beings of a mean, avaricious, unprincipled, treacherous character.

Interesting fact: Edgeworth also reviewed Jane Austen's Emma and didn't like it.

There is no story in it, except that Miss Emma found that the man whom she designed for Harriet's lover was an admirer of her own-& he was affronted at being refused by Emma & Harriet wore the willow*-and smooth, thin water-gruel is according to Emma’s father’s opinion a very good thing & it is very difficult to make a cook understand what you mean by smooth, thin water-gruel. - Edgeworth on EMMA

Pearls before ... people who are unable to appreciate pearls, and all that sort of thing. (At least Edgeworth and her family were 'much entertained' by MANSFIELD PARK.) Edgeworth can be mocked for poor taste and didactic writing, but she helped make the novel what it is today, worked hard and was prolific, and was active in helping Irish people during the famine.

Plus, when Edgeworth was in school, she wrote a story about an adventurer who habitually wore a mask made out of the dried skin of a dead man. This greatly pleased her audience at the time. Sadly, this juvenilia never made it into her published work.
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WHAT ANSWER? by Anna Dickinson [Feb. 7th, 2016|08:52 pm]
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This 1868 novel is sentimental, overwrought, and mediocre, but depicts an interracial romantic relationship and ringingly denounces racism. The novel primarily treats on northern racism in the United States Civil War period; even in the states which don't allow slavery, African-American people are mistreated and segregated. One telling incident is a black man who lost a leg fighting for the north but isn't even allowed to sit in a railway car with white people (taken directly from the author's life).

The story has the courage to end in tragedy, depicting brutal war and vile lynching.

There's the same flaw as UNCLE TOM'S CABIN and Dumas' GEORGES in the idealistic way many of the non-white characters in the book are treated. Racism isn't wrong because some black people are exceptional noble geniuses; it's wrong because all black people are human. But the idealistic characterisation also has a wish-fulfilment function (last time I heard, there are plenty of books with white exceptional noble geniuses as the protagonists), and the point these books are making is right and important and very necessary.

The writer led a grand life and contributed a lot to her society. She seems to have started as a child prodigy, publishing an anti-slavery essay in William Lloyd Garrison's newspaper The Liberator at age 13. She grew up to be an activist and lecturer, spoke before the American House of Representatives, performed as Hamlet on Broadway, won her freedom from an insane asylum, and may or may not have been a lesbian in her personal life.
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Morality Tale (a ranking question) - outcomes [Feb. 3rd, 2016|06:57 pm]
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The different morality ranking responses to this story were absolutely fascinating.

James is a forty-year-old businessman. James has been married to Marie for fifteen years. One day, James collides into a young woman wearing a waiter’s uniform in the street, Caroline. Caroline and James start talking, go on a date, and sleep together. Caroline then tells James that she is underage and she deliberately set out to blackmail him for money, or else she will tell the police and his workplace. James tells his wife Marie about the blackmail. Marie murders Caroline by poisoning her. Marie’s brother, George, is a police officer who covers up the murder.

These were the tiny statistical sample of six (worst to least worst).

gehayi: Caroline & George, James, Marie
houseboatonstyx: Caroline, Marie, James, George
speakr2customrs: George, Caroline, Marie, James
morbane: Marie, George, Caroline, James
LateToTheParty: George, Marie, James, Caroline
blueinkedpalm: Marie, George, James, Caroline

Most likely to be worst: George (3)
Most likely to be least worst: James (2), Caroline (2)

Total character scores (4=worst, 1=least worst):
George: 4, 1, 4, 3, 4, 3 = 19
Marie: 2, 3, 2, 4, 3, 4 = 18
Caroline: 4, 4, 3, 2, 1, 1 = 15
James: 3, 2, 1, 1, 3, 3 = 13

(Above results 100% scientifically unreliable.)

Ethical priorities that came up in the discussion:
George - breaching duty, loyalty to family, responsibility to society
Marie - protecting husband, protecting herself, whether impulsive or premeditated, whether considered alternatives
Caroline - premeditated, underage
James - cheating, whether knew/suspected underage, whether moral responsibility to check

I found it pretty interesting that motive was commented on in the responses, since I don't think any character had a defined motive in the story. The reasoning each character had behind their criminal acts was up to the reader.

My personal ranking ended up pretty similar to the average gaol times for the different crimes committed - Marie for murder, George for accessory after the fact, James for statutory rape, Caroline for blackmail (committed while underage). (Blackmail is very bad though - the corpus of Agatha Christie and DL Sayers provides a few instructional examples, as does JK Rowling's CUCKOO'S CALLING.)

I guess that makes me something of a consequentialist.
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