Sunday, March 8, 2009

GuestFicRec: When The Love is Mutual -- You Get Two


Before Dollhouse, there was Echo. Before Q, there was Whiskey. Before Whedon, there was upthedownslide.

Well, not really. But if comic books, Firefly, Dr. Who, post-apocalyptic new world orders, and conspiracy theories are your thing, then Echo is the fic for you.

If you were around the Twilighted forums at the beginning of December, there is no way you could have missed the flurry of excitement that exploded over a new thread for Echo by upthedownslide. Early posts on the forum bandy words like "sexy, intriguing, darkness, WOW, and Firefly."

Set roughly a century in the future, it's full of secret identities, secret missions, secret cargo, and secret affections. It kicks off with a cryptic soliloquy by an unidentified, self-effacing chronicler of the cause. The post-apocalyptic stage is set, and we are drenched in the atmosphere of darkness.

The scene changes to a meeting where a small group of hero types are being assigned tasks and partners for the upcoming mission.

"It's a straight smash and grab job."

The trick, though is that the ginormous evil conglomerate is deviating from their usual MO this time around. Echo and his partner Alpha have to breach a moving train to get their cargo- not the usual sea freighter. The team discuss the possible pitfalls and acknowledge that this could be a trap. Nonetheless, they need the cargo too much to let the chance pass by.

Once the mission details are set, the agents disperse, and we are left with Echo who demystifies his comrades' secret identities as Carlisle, Alice, Rosalie, and Emmett, leaving us to infer that Echo is our Edward. He strolls the dreary streets and has his Bruce Wayne moment, reliving his parents' demise.

Apparently, they were victims of the pandemic that has destroyed society. And apparently, the pandemic is the fault of Volterra, that ginormous evil conglomerate I mentioned earlier. We are informed that "Volterra makes and sells lethal chemical compounds to the highest bidder. They are beyond the government, they are above the courts. They operate without interference with resources most people can't even dream of."

Creepy, right?

Against all odds, the determined bunch of highly-trained do-gooders will not be thwarted. Cue the amazingly vibrant action scene, so well-crafted by upthedownslide that the reader feels more like it's unfolding on the pages of a Frank Miller book rather than on a plain text screen.

With just the right mix of nail-biting, breath-holding, flying ammunition, and dripping blood, the code-named good guys (Echo et al) escape with the MYSTERIOUS BOX.

The reader cannot help but feel dread and worry. Pandora herself might have hesitated to open this one. Yet, after all that trouble, checking the contents is inevitable, right?

Of course.

No, I'm not gonna tell you what's in it. I guarantee that if you read chapter one, you will fly through the rest and find out about the cargo yourself.

Sadly, after revealing the contents of the box, the author has left us hanging for a while. We can all forgive the demands of Real Life that take our stories away from us, but as readers, I think it's good for us to remind authors that we still want them. Let's bring upthedownslide back to us. Go read and review Echo. Tell her how freaking awesome it is. I know the story must be there in her noggin, and if we ask, maybe she'll find the time to give it to us.

Jfly/Thallium81 lives in LA where she writes a lot, cooks a lot, rides horses when she can, and wishes she could find a job. She has co-written a canon one-shot, and has written a completed AU fic. She's currently working on her first All-Human fic in which Edward is a troubled priest.


For this review to hold any semblance of merit, I must walk the fine line between the acres of respect, admiration, and devotion I hold for Jenny Lastname. My ultimate fear is that people will see my name paired with hers and automatically discredit whatever praise I reap upon her simply because we have a friendship outside of the land of writing. My attempts to remove any sort of personal bias have been laborious and thorough because Jfly deserves nothing less.

I will not tell you to read Sanctuary because it would make her happy, even though it will. I will not tell you to read Sanctuary because it will make me like you better, even though it may. I will tell you to read Sanctuary because it has not been done before. I will tell you to read Sanctuary because it is that balance of humor and honesty we hope to find within ourselves to convey in our own works, in our own lives.

In the beginning of October I heard a rumor floating around the group chats of Gmail, the sort of rumor you hope to be true, but you secretly fear is not because it is the sort of thing you wish to write yourself because surely anyone else would muck it up. It seemed as though our dear Edward was destined to become a priest and I feared for him. I had visions of a B-grade porno flowing through my head, images of a collared neck darting in and out of Bella’s creamy white thighs and I was frightened. Surely this could not be done right, surely it would be amongst the dregs of writing. How could this be written without making a mockery of an already unstable genre? This could not be done with integrity.

If anything, if we were lucky, it would likely be a comedy of errors. A temptress would sway our man of moral standing from his throne and proceed to ravage him upon the altar of the Lord. It would be written hastily and would only serve to satisfy the then overpowering shout for more sex before passing away into the history of fics past. I could not see how it could work, how it could have integrity and a story beyond the obvious. I knew it would take a rare sort of writer to weave together the strands of character into a tapestry worth looking upon again and again and I foolishly though it was an insurmountable task.

Then I met Jenny and my perception changed. We struck up a conversation about God knows what and she eventually mentioned wanting to send me something she’d been working on and had only just begun to post. She hadn’t told me her premise, hadn’t told me anything, just that she wanted me to read it and see what I thought. On October 15 an email entitled Sanctuary aka Divine Intervention found its way to my inbox. She had given me the first 13 chapters of her second foray into fan fiction starring our dear Father Edward. I liked Jenny too much to roll my eyes, respected her too much to immediately write off what I had assumed to be a crack fic. I thank the Gods I did because I was shocked. She had done it; she had taken the unimaginable and molded it with thoughtful care into something worthy of praise.

Her Edward really is one of my favorite things about this story. While the other main Twilight characters do make the rounds and serve their purpose, as well as a few new characters based on tongue-in-cheek references to Rob Pattinson’s own life (see TomStu), it never loses focus as being Edward’s story. What we see we are shown through his eyes and this allows us to see the contradiction in his character. He believes himself to be bitter, worthy of punishment, unworthy of love, and we know this because he tells us so. The beautiful thing about Sanctuary is that we are shown everything we need to see to know that he is wrong. We learn to rally for him and believe in him enough to know that when he does wrong he is capable of so much more. To me, this is the most beautiful part of the story. As readers, we are given the ability to know this character better than he knows himself, and while we are initially surprised by his actions, they never cease to fit into the fold of Edward. That is how well Jfly knows her character; to her he lives and breathes and acts fully independently and that is why she can so beautifully portray him because to her he is real.

Through her careful use of flashbacks we are shown Edward in his youth and do not have to take any of his words on faith. We see the discrepancies between the events that molded him and his perception of his own actions. His life revolves his past and his past is Jacob Black. It is refreshing to see a story where Jacob is not automatically cast as the rival simply because of his role in Twilight. When we remove the characters from their contrived Meyer concocted setup, there is no reason why the two wouldn’t be friends and it really burns my gullet when people cannot get past this, but that is the subject of another entry. We see the two in all of their hormone fueled adolescent splendor in such a way that we believe their bond to be true and are able to feel the loss when the two are so tragically ripped apart, setting the stage for the actions of Sanctuary. Jacob was not picked for this role simply because he was easy, Jacob was picked because his personality warranted it. While not the obvious choice, he was the absolute right one, and that boys and girls, is the mark of good writing.

One of the first rules I learned about writing all those years ago was the importance of showing, not telling, and with Sanctuary you are peering through the looking glass. It really breaks the story when you are taking everything on the author’s word, when you must believe something because you are shown no other alternative. Sanctuary allows us to draw our own conclusions about why Edward does what he does. We do not automatically side with him because he is Edward and we have grown to love him because that is the marking of poor fic writing and Sanctuary is anything but poor writing. When we do side with him, if we ever do, it is because we have grown to love him, no matter the capacity, in the confines of her writing.

At the end of the day, no matter what path you’ve taken your characters down, no matter what situations you have thrust them into, they will always remain rooted in Twilight; that is the point of fanfiction. Jenny has done a beautiful job of remembering where her characters came from and paying a sort respect to the original text, as I think is important of good fic. The most obvious parallel to draw between the two is the importance of baseball. It provided the catalyst for drama in Twilight as it does for Sanctuary, a silent homage to the original that would be lost upon those who have never read the books. It is respectful without brown nosing and I think it is not something to be lightly glossed over. If anything, it shows just a glimmer of how much Jfly thought about her work and that is something to be respected.

I leave Bella for the end because I am unsure as to how I feel about her. She is well written and unwavering in her actions; nothing Bella does is out of character with the way Jfly has written her. Bella is a child on the brink of womanhood viewing the world through naively lit rose-colored classes. In the beginning I was frustrated that Edward would call her Princess, but then I came to understand the term. She is not his savior, she is not his prize. She is what he does not deserve and low and behold, the term fits. Sanctuary is Edward’s story and because of this Bella will always take a backseat, and I think that sets this story apart from the others. It is not a happy love story where all goes well. It is not a romantic comedy where the two eventually end up together despite a series of trails and tribulations. It is drama and therefore it is life and will not be so easily sewn together into pretty pieces and the result of this is beautiful. Sanctuary shows us the beauty in the flaws, that each of us is worth saving, each of us worthy of redemption.

I have tried to leave the plot as undiscussed as possible because I want you to draw your own conclusions about the story. I cannot piece everything together in three pages because it would be doing a disservice to you. The beautiful part about Sanctuary is that you must draw your own conclusions because no one is telling you what to feel. The evidence is presented and you are left alone to figure out what it all means, for better or for worse. Sanctuary lives in the shades of gray and comes out the other side unapologetic. Bravo Jenny. Bravo.

Upthedownslide is our resident militant truth pusher. She has absolutely no qualms in letting you know what's what and for that: we love the darling girl. Oh and her BSG devotion does much for her street cred.


  1. i love both of you. i think there's a real possibility that jfly is one of the top five writers in the twilight fandom. and upthedownslide writes my favorite jasper.

  2. amelia is a tricky minx! she paired us in secret. oh how lovely.

    and kris. i'm taking offense. i'd better be in the top 42 or i'm going to cry.

  3. First, EVERYONE should read the wonderful collaboration one shot that these two wrote, Tis Better to Receive. I do not say it lightly that it's the best one shot I have ever read. You can grab it off of their profiles.

    Second, I NEED to read more Caitlin.

    Third, everyone knows how I feel about Sanctuary..EVERYONE. It's my favorite story. I adore it. I knew this was coming and STILL wanted to write about it. Jenny is an amazing writer whom I love dearly, not just for Sanctuary but for everything that she does for me pretty much every day. SO EVERYONE READ HER STUFF. NOW!(hehe)

  4. I have deep love and respect for both these authors. I have said before that when I find a state where it is legal, I am going to elope with Jenny's 'From Innocence to Experience'. But I would be willing to have an extra-marital affair with 'Sanctuary'. It is because of 'Sanctuary' that I have to keep a dictionary by the computer. I always learn at least two new words per chapter from Jenny.
    UTDS...I think I would sell a piece of my soul to get an update to 'Sins of the Father'. An 'Echo' update would be win as well.
    And the collaboration between the two- 'Tis Better to Give...'. Without a doubt the best one-shot in all of Twilight ficdom. The thought of them pairing up again for something makes me feel all tingly inside.

  5. Jenny is... there are many profane and beautiful things that I want to say. But mostly, I just love her.

    And I need to read Echo - cuz I heard it from the wind that upthedownslide would be updatin' soon, so I'm there.

  6. y'all are the reason i do this shit.
    each of these compliments is... GAH.
    i'm gonna go hug myself now.

  7. I love both of these stories. And I had NO idea that there was a one-shot roaming around. I truly adore Caitlin and one day (soon, I think) I am sure that we will meet. And, you are truly gifted.

    Jfly, I absolutely love Santuary. And I assume because of how much everyone adores you, you MUST be awesome.

  8. I've read "Sanctuary" and can only agree about the comments here. It is one of the most lovely AH stories I've read, poetic and profound, which is a tough combo, and I'd asked for either that story or Katie's to rec ... and understand now why I got Katie's. *grin*

    I have not read Echo, but as an old X-Men author, long-time fan of comics, and lover of All Things Firefly, I have it bookmarked for when I have time. It sounds delightful. Thanks for the recs, guys.


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