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Trick or Treat Letter

Posted on 2016.09.12 at 03:07
I'm also Quillori on AO3. All requests are for fic, are equally open to trick or treat, and are for any character (where there is more than one character in the tag set).

Youth on Horseback - Anton Pieck
Characters: Youth

A well dressed young man on a fine horse, a dark forest where there trees sprout hideous heads as well as leaves, those birds. Who is the rider, and what on earth is he doing there? See the art here.

Les Contes d'Hoffmann
Characters: Any [Hoffmann, Giulietta, Muse|Nicklausse, Dapertutto, Peter Schlémil]

Stolen reflections and shadows, an irresistible woman and her probably demonic patron, a faithful friend who may be just a friend or may be an old adversary of the devil, a meditation on the competing claims of art and life... Read a summary on Wikipedia, the libretto on Project Gutenberg or find any number of recordings on YouTube.

The whole stolen reflection/shadow thing is pretty creepy, right? But more generally anything more about Giulietta, Dapertutto or Schlémil, singly or in any combination (or with Muse|Nicklausse or Hoffmann), would be great. Or alternatively, forget about Act 3, and just give me more about Nicklausse - always the Muse, or a real person the Muse impersonates or possesses? Or Hoffmann's relationship with Nicklausse and/or the Muse.

Diese kalte Nacht
Characters: Any [Girl, Lover]

So many possibilities here. Perhaps it's a straightforward love story, and she makes conventional protestations that she cannot let him in, before making the weather her excuse to do so after all. But supposing there's more to it? Often in folksongs the lover who turns up unexpectedly at night is a ghost, or perhaps he is some spirit of the cold and dark. Or perhaps there's something uncanny about her - why is she locked in with iron, and how does she let him in anyway? And what is the significance of kissing her seven times? Read the lyrics here, or listen to it on YouTube.

Egyptian Mythology
Characters: Any [Anubis, Ma'at]

Anubis as psychopomp? Whether in Ancient Egypt or later. You could go for something eery, where he's mostly appearing around the edges of the story, or then again you could do a full-on description of a soul passing from life to death (either based literally on Egyptian accounts of the process, judgement etc, or taking the Egyptian accounts as somewhat metaphorical/symbolic). The potential for tricks is pretty obvious, but I think you could also make it work as a treat - Anubis can be a comforting, protective figure.

For Ma'at, you could create a new hymn to her praise (some of the lyrics and hymns that survive for Ancient Egypt are very beautiful, even in translation), or invocations to survive her judgement. Or maybe write about the life of the priests at her temple, or how she reveals herself to a worshipper, or to someone who had never thought to care about her ... There's a lot of potential for beauty - good order, the world working correctly, but for tricks I can see a fair potential for horror also - inexorable judgement, the fact that the 'correct' way the world works may not be fair or desirable.

Liáo zhâi zhì yì | Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio - Pú Sônglíng
Characters: Any [Scholar, Monk, Ghost, Fox Spirit]

Pictures that come to life; hornets and ants that are also beautiful women; ghosts and fox-spirits living in happy harmony, or waiting in the shadows to destroy the unwary and the over-trusting; the supernatural impinging always on the mundane, and never quite the same way twice - now monstrous, now benign, and no sure way to tell the two apart. This collection of short tales of the bizarre, the supernatural and the out-of-place is available from Penguin Classics in a selected translation by John Minford. A much earlier translation by Herbert Giles is available online, but keep in mind it’s from 1880 and is heavily bowdlerised. There's also the recent six volume complete translation by Sondergard. I wasn’t sure how best to nominate characters, since there are so many separate stories, but in the end I went with four character types that recur throughout. I'd be equally delighted with a new story featuring any of the four, or your take of any of the original stories.

Scholar: I used ‘scholar’ as short hand for any of the young literati gentlemen who spend so much time getting entangled with foxes and ghosts or having the illusory nature of reality demonstrated to them by Taoist priests (or losing their most prized possessions to them).

Monk: Monks and priests wander through the tales, giving away an ungenerous merchant’s pears under cover of illusion here, thwarting fox spirits there, presiding over a monastery where you might seem enter heaven through a wall painting, or creating a myriad of other illusions, beautiful or terrifying. From their point of view, what we think of as reality as just another illusion.

Ghost: Many of the ghosts in the tales are not terrifying monsters, but ghosts of young women, capable of great love (albeit sex with a ghost may turn out to be deadly), or ghosts of men driven by ties of friendship and obligation. The Tales covers everything from the happy three-way human/fox/ghost relationship of Lotus Fragrance (Minford)and the friendship of the unwitting ghost in Friendship Beyond the Grave (Minford), to the horror of Biting a Ghost (Minford) and the man who returns briefly from the dead to take his wife with him in Dying Together (Minford)|Mr Chu, the Considerate Husband (Giles).

Fox Spirit: Foxes feature in so many different ways, from villains meriting death, through a variety of ambivalent roles, to admirable heroines. Stories with admirable foxes include Grace and Pine (Minford)|Miss Chiao-No (Giles) and Lotus Fragrance (Minford); more ambiguous and dangerous foxes can be found in The Laughing Girl (Minford)|Miss Ying-ning (Giles) and Cut-Sleeve (Minford)*; outright evil creatures in Bird (Minford), Fox Enchantment (Minford) and The Merchant's Son (Minford)|The Trader's Son (Giles) (although only in the last is there no trace of sympathy at all for the foxes).

* In the past, I’ve summed up Cut Sleeve as 'Dearest cousin-in-law! What fond memories I have of our affair in my past life - the one where you consumed my Yang until I fell sick and died. Which reminds me, there's this official who's bothering me - I was thinking, maybe you could go seduce and kill him. What do you mean, you don't want to?’

Chinese Mythology
Characters: Ch'ing-nü | Qing Nü

(Ok, this one's pretty obscure) - the beauty of frost, delicate and fragile yet deadly, ushering in the killing cold of winter even as it provides a longed for respite from summer’s heat.

For a goddess of frost and snow, the colour association for Ch'ing-nü seems quite unclear. Is she the Dark Maid, the Blue Lady, the Green Girl or the Grey Woman? A case could be made for any of them. Frost and snow are ambiguous imagery: symbols of purity and beauty, but also of death and suffering. Mentioned in conjunction with Autumn, Ch'ing-nü shares the ambivalence of the season - the excessive heat of summer is over, and the nip of frost in the air encourages an autumnal bounty of fruit and nuts, but heralds also the hardships and scarcity of winter. Or, of course, there’s this poem of Li Shang-yin's, if you looking to write a treat rather than a trick, and feel like writing femslash with Cháng'é:
First calls of the migrant geese, no more cicadas.
South of this hundred-foot tower the water runs straight to the sky.
The Dark Maid and the White Beauty endure the cold together,
Rivals in elegance amid the frost on the moon.
Li Shang-Yin, trans A.C. Graham

As soon as the migrant wild geese are heard, the cicadas are silent;
The hundred-foot tower overlooks the water that touches the sky.
The Blue Maid and the White Lady both can endure the cold:
The one in the moon, the other in the frost, they compete in beauty.
trans James J.Y. Liu
There isn't much I can find about Ch’ing-nü in English, so I’ve gathered together what scraps I could find and listed them here for you (sadly even fewer than in previous years, as several links are now dead):
Poem by Du Fu, scroll down fro Autumn Fields No. 4, and accompanying note.
Yang Yi's poem on the peach tree, and accompanying description in The Literary Works of Ou-yang Hsui (1007-72) by Ronald C. Egan (If you can't access Google Books, the relevant line is translated as "The dark maid of nine-autumn enhances the flavour with frost", and Egan adds "The dark maid (‘ch'ing-nü') of line five is the frost goddess, and ‘nine-autumn' alludes to the ninety days of that season."
Wucai cup inscribed with a poem by Luoyin
Poem by Hanshan, scroll down for No. 115 and accompanying note.
Poem by Qian Qianyi

In General

Things I like (provided only as indicative of my taste, not in any way as particular requirements of your story): established relationships, clever and competent characters, witty banter, slash (incl. femslash), moral ambiguity, apparently simple conversations with a great deal going on under the surface, angst if done with restraint, metaphor, clever use of literary allusions. Let's see, what else? Fierce loyalty (the tear the world apart for you variety, not the sit here passively putting up with anything variety), complicated love/hate relationships with lots of backstory, unflappable characters, arrogance if the party concerned has the requisite ability to back it up, committed partnerships between people who see the world at the same angle (even if they aren't always on the same side) ...

Things I’d prefer you avoided: I’m not terribly keen on mpreg (or really any pregnancy or baby centred stories); watersports, scat, vomit, or excessive gore (a little bloodplay is fine); humiliation; or stories told in the 2nd person, and I do have something of an embarrassment squick. Other than that, I'm prepared to be convinced by whatever kink you want to write, at least for the length of a story. Oh, all right, I also don't tend to like issuefic, but I'm not sure that's something people generally set out to write - one person's issuefic is another's searingly honest portrayal.

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