When Carlisle and Edward made a family: Notes on “Ordinary Time”

April 19th, 2019 § 1 comment § permalink

I keep my characters forever. Though it’s possible that one day, some of the characters from the world I invented when I was 9 will see the light of day (my career as an academic, which so far has turned out to be more fruitful than my career as a fiction writer, keeps getting in the way), even when those personalities lie buried in trunk novels, I keep continuing to see the world through their eyes and wondering how they would respond.

I’m finding that in the world of fanfic, which I came to much later, it’s not much different.

I wrote “For a Season” because I wanted to compete in the CarlWard contest, and I was already drafting Patroclus Rising, which explored a Carlisle and Edward pairing in the pre-Esme era. Not wanting to tread the same ground twice, I forced myself to imagine what could enable the two of them to come to each other in a world that Bella Swan had been a part of. And it yielded one of the best pieces in my writing repertoire.

“Ordinary Time” isn’t trying to reach the same heights. It’s just a check-in of sorts. At the end of “Season,” Carlisle and Edward have barely stumbled into a precarious happiness. They’re crammed into a small house with a preschooler, and they’ve embarked on a new relationship as partners. And it’s 2007: same-sex marriage is legal in only a handful of places, usually as “civil union,” and bans are being passed left, right, and center.

And then…there’s Rene. (Pronounced “wren,” for anyone who hits this blog post before the fic.)

Renesmee is born in 2006, which makes her not even a millennial. She is part of the unnamed generation, sometimes called iGen or GenZ. Even though she is homeschooled and doesn’t otherwise run into kids her age (and she no doubt is, even though I don’t go into that here), she is being exposed to ideas about sexuality, gender, and desire that would seem entirely foreign to the two men she lives with. To her, there is little particularly stigmatizing about loving someone of the same gender, and the categories of sexualities that she is comfortable with far outstrip those of her fathers.

One delightful review I got on “Season” talked about Carlisle seeming too stereotypically gay in his growing house-decorating desires. I admit, the stereotype was an unintended fallout of decorating having been Esme’s hobby, but I was glad that the reviewer noticed that build. What I was headed for was that Esme used to do the decorating, and Carlisle’s slow ownership of his desire for nice things is really a representation of his slow ownership of a life without his wife. He allows himself to desire plates, and table linens, and flowers…what (who) else will he allow himself to desire? “Ordinary” picks up with Carlisle and Edward six and a half years later, when they are much more comfortable with these desires, and that comfort continues to evolve even through these three vignettes.

In any incarnation when I write a CarlWard pairing, I rest on the fundamental idea that no one in this vampire world exists within the bounds of human sexuality. I see Carlisle and Edward as being attracted first and foremost to each other, not to “men” as it were. In canon, neither of them found attraction to or sexual expression with a woman before their female mates. So it’s not that Carlisle is attracted to women, and then realizes he is attracted to men; it is that Carlisle is attracted to Esme, specifically, and then to Edward, specifically. Outside of these two, he’s pretty content to just be asexual, and so is Edward. The gender of the person they are attracted to is immaterial, and if you read carefully, I dropped a hint in about where they have landed with respect to identifying their sexual orientation. Over time, in the face of changing social acceptance (and with no small amount of help/pushing from Rene), I  imagine that they would come to embrace (and joke about their embrace of), labels like queer and gay. As the world changes around them, they are trying to keep up and find the best way to express their relationship to the world.

This “outside the bounds of human sexuality” brings me to the second line I was walking delicately in “Ordinary Time,” and which perhaps might be the thing others have the most difficulty with (though knowing my most devoted readers, perhaps not). Carlisle does not, in all my years exploring him, seem to live in a world of “either/or.” He lives in a world of “both/and.” Edward, his lover and husband, is still also his beloved son. The one identity might usually subsume the other, but it doesn’t erase it, and no matter who it might make uncomfortable, to write them any other way has never felt true to me. In my favorite CarlWards (cf. the last two chapters of “Intervention” by AllTheOtherNamesAreUsed, which delight me to no end), the authors have similarly left this ambiguity firmly in place. In 1918, their relationship went one way when it could have easily gone another, and the fact that they’ve backtracked and wound up on the opposite fork is not upsetting to either of them. Renesmee, of course, takes this all in stride and heightens it—seeing how much Carlisle enjoys being “Granddad” and refusing to deprive him of that. This mutability of relationship also extends to Rene—at this point, Carlisle has raised her for all but half a year of her life. And yet, he is mindful that she has a mother and a father, neither of whom are him. So he moves fluidly from calling her Edward’s daughter, to calling her his daughter, and back again. When they are asked to define themselves, they all choose “all of the above.”

So they have messy experiences in a messy relationship, in a very, very messy world. This is “Ordinary Time.”  Thank you to my dear friend twitina for pre-reading and not immediately declaring me ridiculous for writing a fanfic about the SCOTUS. Should you desire to nerd out on information about the cases which make up the bones of this story, head to Oyez.org.

“Ordinary Time” is the term in the liturgical church tradition for the time between Epiphany and Lent, and then between Pentecost and Advent. The American Episcopal Church, which is the denomination I’ve always imagined Carlisle would feel most comfortable attending, began allowing the ordination of LGBT clergy in 2009, and went on to eliminate official language defining marriage as only between a man and a woman and introduce gender-neutral marriage rites in 2015.

Something new is coming…

April 16th, 2019 § 4 comments § permalink

…and so I’m going to pretend like I in no way forgot to put my most recent piece (which is now 3.5 years from initial post and 1 year from final post) on my website. Nothing to see here, except for Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Vampire… :whistles:

Carlisle, erastes: Notes on Patroclus Rising

August 19th, 2013 § 1 comment § permalink

So, I’d expected to need to write a long note about how this fic could in any way be considered “canon.” But, to my delight, it seems you all were right with me, and when the chapter 4 reviews came in, people were exclaiming about how well C&Ed fit as a prequel to canon. I imagine, then, that less explanation is necessary, but I’ll provide a little background on where I went with this.

The title of the piece is Patroclus Rising. Patroclus is a character from Homer’s The Iliad, the epic poem about the Trojan war. He is the companion to the great warrior Achilles, and it is for revenge of Patroclus that Achilles finally becomes fully drawn into the war. Many interpretations of The Iliad interpret the Achilles/Patrolcus relationship as being in the Greek pederastic tradition. While I fully acknowledge that this interpretation is a) anachronistic and b) highly debatable, it is to that interpretation of the Achilles/Patroclus bond that I meant to allude with this title.

The tradition of Greek pederasty, which, given their  classical educations, would’ve been well known to both Carlisle and Edward, is one which is not about lasting homosexual relationships, but rather was seen as part of bringing a boy into manhood. A man in his mid twenties to early thirties, the erastes, would take under his wing a young man just on the cusp of manhood, his eromenos. He would bestow the eromenos with gifts, shelter him, coddle him, and provide him with sexual pleasure in the form of fondling, fellatio, and intercrural intercourse (between the thighs). Some very sharp readers have noticed that at no time in this fic did Edward perform a sexual act beyond kissing on Carlisle; this is in keeping with the roles of the eromenos—he is the recipient of the erastes’ affection and does not necessarily return it. It was also seen as demeaning for either party to be penetrated; to do so would be to lower one’s status (part of why women were seen as being of lower status).

The second thing which helps move this toward a more canon interpretation, and why I’m comfortable calling this canon-compliant even though it assumes that Edward wasn’t telling a complete truth when he told Bella he was sexually inexperienced, has to do with the attitudes toward homosexual encounters that existed in the 1910s and 1920s. In chapter 3, Carlisle refers to “drawing the curtains,” which was a common euphemism in that age that literally describes the secrecy with which such acts were conducted. A man who had sexual encounters with another man was still very likely to marry a woman, and was also very likely to consider his homosexual experiences to not be “sex” because they did not involve a woman. To some extent, this same attitude was held by women of the age; particularly if said man was faithful to them thereafter, which helped me build Esme in these last chapters as well. To her mind, Carlisle did not intend to stay in a sexual relationship with Edward; he was merely in an all-male environment and…things happened. (Maybe this idea is where the “magic vagina that heals all a man’s wildness” trope that we see so often in fic comes from.) So, reading this in light of canon, it is my thinking that were a relationship between Edward and Carlisle to play out as it does in Patroclus, Edward wouldn’t feel himself to be lying in calling himself a virgin. To everything he knows and understands, he is one. Perhaps at some point, he might be completely truthful with Bella about what had happened, perhaps it would be considered water under the bridge.

Figuring those two pieces out took me awhile, and I hope my Ancient Literature professor is pleased that I pulled out and re-read my fourteen-year-old copy of The Iliad. But nevertheless, it was a wonderfully fun prompt to work out, and given that it created not only Patroclus but also “For a Season,” I’m pretty chuffed to have ever been asked to write it.

Many, many, many thanks to Team Carlward: capricorn75, deelovely, HeBelongsToMe, lts929, mycrookedsmile, and sleepyvalentina for the amazing, thought-provoking prompt and for their limitless patience while I worked out the details. Crazy, inestimable thanks  to my critique partner, twitina, and of course, my unending gratitude to all of you who read. The desire to read, and the gift of the time to do so is a gift a reader gives a writer. Even if the writer never sees the reader reading, if the reader never writes a fanfic review or an Amazon review, if the reader never even so much as mentions to anyone else about this thing that she enjoyed reading…the enjoyment is gift enough. After over two decades of writing only for myself, the gift of having even one person, let alone many, desire to read is one by which I am humbled and for which I will forever be deeply grateful.

Thank you.

–g

Notes on Ch. 1 of Patroclus Rising

August 5th, 2013 § 3 comments § permalink

Three (gulp!) years ago, I signed myself up for The Fandom Gives Back:  Eclipse edition. I’m very, very, very particular about the fact that I feel that what I’m doing in writing fic is borrowing a character and world from the author, and that only that author deserves to benefit financially from her world. For that reason, I’m loathe even to ask people to donate to get an outtake or any sort of finished piece—for me, that walks way too close to the line of someone paying to receive a fanfic.

So instead, what I auction is the right to tell me what to write. The winning bidder gets to ask for the story of her choosing, and then I do my level best to produce something that matches that vision.

For FGB, I auctioned off the rights to two stories, one to robsjenn, and the other to a group of readers who wanted to see what would happen if I wrote a Carlisle/Edward slash: deelovely, Capricorn75, HeBelongstoMe, lts929,  mycrookedsmile,  and sleepyvalentina.

And then life intervened, which I’ve written more about here. 

But I absolutely love writing from prompts. They stretch me as a writer in a really lovely way, and in a way that forces me out of my comfort zones. Some of the pieces I feel are my personal best have been written either prompted, or for contests with a limited requirement: Da Capo is one such piece, as is “Secondhand Rose“, and “Souls in Stillness“. Many fic writers in Twidom say they stay away from canon (and even vampire fics entirely) because they dislike being restricted. For me, however, that’s exactly the attraction—the more limitations I have on what I can write, the more interesting I find the result.

The only trouble with writing to a prompt is that sometimes it takes a while to figure out exactly how to write the piece. Robsjenn asked for a canon prequel that explained how Edward and Alice became so close. It took me many false starts over the course of a year to figure out how to structure that piece. The piece which resulted, Present Perfectof which I’m very proud, is absolutely nothing like what I had in mind when I started it, and it’s all the stronger for the struggle. 

The same is true of Patroclus Rising, which spent much of its gestation time named The Last Days of Socrates. I knew what I wanted to do, but I also worried that in order to do that, Carlisle would end up being raucously unsympathetic. I even wrote a long authors’ note intended to go at the beginning, to warn people that I knew what I was doing, but that it wasn’t going to be Carlisle the way they usually knew him. I wrote one scene (the second scene of the finished version, although its initial draft was longer) and then stopped.

I couldn’t quite figure out how to pull that off.

Enter two other fics, Stregoni Benefici and One Day the Sun Will RiseAs I worked on each of those, I started exploring Carlisle’s vulnerabilities—where is he weak? Where is he stupid? What kinds of things bring him down? What is his singular goal in life, and in what ways can it create problems if he goes about that goal the wrong way? As I formed the answers to those questions, I got a better sense of exactly how Carlisle, as I needed him to behave in Patroclus could possibly still be perfectly in step with the Carlisle I’ve written everywhere else.

Along the way, this fic spawned another: in 2011, I decided to enter the CarlWard contest. Since I was already writing a fic which slashed Carlisle and Edward in the pre-Twilight years, I decided I would instead choose a post-Breaking Dawn canon-based AU scenario to bring them together again. That resulted in “For a Season,” one of my favorite pieces in my writing portfolio period, derivative and non-derivative alike.  So in a way, this one prompt created two different fics, but each of which, I feel, fit with canon as we know it…or at least, in the case of Patroclus, it does if you’re willing to peek around the edges a bit.

So at long last, I’m happy to post this piece. It’s grown to be one of my favorite explorations of Carlisle, and I hope will be for you, too.

Happy reading.

 

 

Notes on “Strange Fruit” [spoilers]

July 26th, 2013 § 1 comment § permalink

Sometimes, a story idea will sit with me for years before I really get my arms around it, and that’s the case with this story. I confess, I don’t even know if this is something I believe “happened” according to my headcanon, or if it is a “what if” sort of AU, but I knew I wanted to write a scene where these two laid eyes on each other, before Alice, before Edward, before Esme. That they would glimpse each other at their respective lowests, and that something about that glimpse would change them both (because even though in the end, not much about how this interaction alters Carlisle ended up in this piece, in my head, it was a profound moment for him, also). And I knew that I felt strongly pulled to explore that moment happening over a lynching (this idea started one day mid-2011 while I was listening to a spiritual and sort of evolved from there).

I’ve always viewed Carlisle and Jasper as having a special kinship, having lived such deeply lonely lives in the era before the Cullen family began to come together. And I’ve always imagined that kinship to be a very quiet one, one that is expressed in glances and emotions felt and perceived rather than any long conversations. I last got to really play with this in Chapter 9 of Ithaca is Gorges, which I wrote four years ago—I haven’t taken the time to revisit them since.

But it’s a tough tone to strike; to be able to be sensitive to the horror of the situation I put them in here, and yet to also convey what this means to two vampires, both of whom were raised in different eras and whose compassion for the situation is radically different. And I wanted to explore the way that in some ways, they’re indifferent to what’s going on, but they’re indifferent for two entirely different reasons—one because he’s struggling with being sensitive to the act of killing, and the other because secrecy keeps him bound.

In my head, I couldn’t quite get this right, so I never laid it down, even though every four months or so, I would think about it again and try to hammer it out. And then in one moment, it clicked (or at least, I hope it did!), and out came the draft. I intended to make it a 1,000-worder, but I needed a tiny bit more to get it all the way there.

Thank you for reading.