June 2009 Archives

Fringe Fiction

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When I first started reading fan fiction many years ago (invariably lesbian fan fiction), I mostly found stories at websites dedicated to a single TV series, either Xena: Warrior Princess or Star Trek: Voyager. Only a few sites I went to hosted fan fiction for multiple TV series; back then a group fanfic site might cover half a dozen TV series at most.

About a year ago I discovered FanFiction.net, an aggregator site for fan fiction sourced from TV, film, literature, comics, plays and anything else the community takes an interest in. I can lose hours browsing FanFiction.net. The site has many helpful filters, such as story language, length, genre and content ratings, to assist readers in finding the type of fan fiction she or he prefers.

I'm fascinated by many of the highly specialized fan fiction groups. For example, I was intrigued to discover a quantity of stories revolving around the Bert/Mary Poppins relationship in the movie Mary Poppins. It had never occurred to me that there was more to say on the subject. However, a glance at FanFiction.net shows that a number of dedicated movie watchers feel otherwise.

Over the years I've read volumes upon volumes upon tomes of fan fiction based on Xena and Voyager. Much of it is long, around the length of a short novel. The best of this longer fan fiction succeeds in creating a world or a universe in depth. Some examples of this type of writing from Xena uber fan fiction include In the Blood of the Greeks written by my friend MaryD, or Tiopa Ki Lakota, by D. Jordan Redhawk.

Nowadays, fan fiction writers and readers seem to prefer a very short fiction format. Perhaps it's not surprising since many forms of communication and creative work seem to be getting shorter. Today, fanfic writers jot down a few paragraphs and call it a story. There's more breadth in fan fiction today because writers can dash off a quick story based on one set of characters, then move on to the next fictional world that interests them.

Patty on the couch with her dog and Ellen

Despite the breadth of material at FanFiction.net, it's still possible to find original material that has been overlooked by fan fiction writers. For example, earlier this year I went looking for Damages fan fiction and came up empty-handed. I was shocked, not only because Damages has such a dedicated audience, but because the love/hate relationship between Patty Hewes (Glenn Close) and Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne) seems so ripe for slash fiction.

After many failed searches, I eventually found an example of Patty/Ellen femslash ("I've got Patty right where I want her"), but on a livejournal site, rather than at FanFiction.net. My time spent searching at FanFiction.net was not wasted, however. While I was browsing the "D" series at FanFiction.net, I happened to look over at the "F"s and discovered Fringe femslash.

Olivia confronts Nina

Fringe is my favorite new show of last season, and I'm so happy it's going to have a season two. There are many things I love about it, like the fact that it runs with almost no ads; the character Walter Bishop, the LSD-loving mad scientist; out actor Jasika Nicole, who plays Astrid; and the fact that the most evil place in the universe, Walter's lab, is located at Harvard.

But of all the fringey things there are to gush over, the most wonderful is Anna Torv, who plays the show's lead character, Olivia Dunham. In the last year, Olivia and Torv have become very popular with the sapphic set. There's a certain brutality to Olivia's outlook that I think makes her appealing to dykes. She's a no-nonsense kind of gal, and we like that.

As the show has progressed, Olivia's toughness has been played up through a decidedly unfrilly wardrobe and increasingly intense action and fight scenes. There was also an episode where, through various plot contrivances, Olivia piggybacks onto a man's consciousness and in that state sleeps with a woman.

Olivia had a male romantic interest early in the show, but he was quickly dispensed with. Although Peter Bishop is the most obvious heterosexual object for Olivia, the show has kept her unattached. Instead, Olivia lives with her sister and her niece. However, if you watch the scenes between this little family carefully, you'll notice they play very well as scenes of same-sex domestic life. I know that sounds gross, but there's nothing sexual going on between the two sisters--it's just an undercurrent that makes Olivia's home life seem a bit more "alternative."

The fan fiction I came across at FanFiction.net explores Olivia's relationship with Nina Sharp (played by Blair Brown), an older woman working as Senior Vice President of Research and Development at the mysterious Massive Dynamic corporation. Like Patty Hewes on Damages, it's never entirely clear whether Nina Sharp is friend or foe. It's that tension between Nina and Olivia that serves up great material for fan fiction. That, and Nina's robotic hand.

"Fascination", written by Fembuck, examines Olivia's ambivalent feelings towards Nina and the corporation she governs. Olivia's anxieties are expressed through her response to Nina's prosthetic hand, which has been engineered by Massive Dynamic.

'Is it the hand?' Nina asked; her voice soft and curious as her eyes dropped to look at her fingers which were still resting lightly on Olivia's arm.

The hand was a prosthetic, a very realistic looking, extremely sophisticated bio-organic prosthetic, but a prosthetic nonetheless. In one of their first meetings together Nina had removed the malleable, extremely convincing flesh covering and showed her the mechanics that lived underneath.

In the second installment of the story series, "Worry in the Morning," Olivia compulsively seeks out Nina once again, as she often does on the TV show. This time the results are more satisfactory for both parties.

Fringe is adding a new female character into the mix in the second season. Although I like the Nina/Olivia combination, Nina's presence on the show is sporadic. Whoever the new regular is, I hope she and Olivia have good chemistry.

I Gotta Lotta Lava Love

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Several weeks ago, the Cute Little Red-Headed Girlfriend and I went to see Pompeii and the Roman Villa: Art and Culture around the Bay of Naples at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

The experience of the exhibit reminded me of a house tour, since the art and culture on display came from villas, country homes of the rich and powerful. In some cases, the interior or exterior of the villa was itself transported or recreated as part of the display.

The first exhibit room was filled with busts and other carvings of Rome's ruling family, starting with Julius Caesar and continuing down through the Julio-Claudian dynastic line. I found it remarkable how easily identifiable the faces were from movies and television shows set in the ancient era. How else could the faces of these Roman royals appear so familiar?

Certainly it was my memories of I, Claudius that made a relief portrait of Tiberius and Livia together appear chilling. Then there was Nero, looking like an overfed, spoiled man-child, just as I imagined him to be. A sculptor had made Caligula's cruelty evident in a strange, downward quirk of the emperor's mouth.

Marble statue of Aphrodite or Venus

In the next room, we were greeted by a beautiful statue of Aphrodite/Venus, shown here. The Cute Little Red-Headed Girlfriend and I naturally gravitated toward a large statue of Artemis, around whom other pairs of women museum-goers had gathered.

While the scale of the marble statues was impressive, I was dazzled by the many small bronze statues on display. I was unaware that such delicate bronzes were being created then. I also learned that the earliest examples of decorative glassware date from this period; several pieces were included in the exhibit.

Some objects on display were unusual but apparently typical. There were a number of bronze standing lamps in the shape of a standing human slave bearing a handheld lamp. Novelties, I suppose. Lava Lamps for the wealthy.

Also in the unusual objects category was a large marble sculpture that included the figure of a nude hermaphrodite. Depending on the viewing angle, the hermaphrodite might appear male, female, or intersex. The accompanying text stated that such sculptures were popular conversation pieces.

A life size model of a Pompeiian dining room, or triclinium, was featured in the exhibit. I was excited to walk around inside this close room with its three built-in couches. The idea of lounging around while eating grapes and so forth appeals to me. However, the Cute-Little-Red-Headed-Girlfriend finds the Roman practice of eating while reclining unhealthy.

The exhibit's final rooms documented the Pompeii mania that took over Europe after the first excavations of the area in the eighteenth century. After seeing Pompeii and the Roman Villa, I felt the city taking over my imagination, too. I'm now reading Mary Beard's The Fires of Vesuvius: Pompeii Lost and Found to satisfy my new interest.

As a random note, I've decided that one of my favorite words ever is Herculaneum. Say it with me a few times: Herculaneum. Herculaneum. Herculaneum.

Joe, Five-Oh

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The wave from Hawaii Five-OhMy friend Joe recently turned 50, and he called me on Gizmo to discuss reaching this milestone. Our conversation is the basis for his most recent Bored Beyond Belief podcast, which he calls A Disgruntled 50 and a T. The T is me.

I think this is my favorite podcast that Joe and I have done together. You can't deny that we have a certain chemistry. If we weren't such flaming queers we would be good candidates for opposite-sex marriage. Joe and I cover a variety of topics, including Miss California and the Golden State's budget crisis. Since Joe is older now, I try to listen respectfully while he reminisces about living in California. I didn't have the heart to remind him that L.A. is Logan's Run territory and if he tried to celebrate his 50th birthday out here he'd be likely to disappear.

In between our discussion, Joe has edited in several appropriate musical interludes. You should listen just to hear Lorne Greene's rendition of "Ringo." You'll find the podcast here.

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