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 FoS 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.

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

Momentum

June 4th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Sure enough, as I posted in my last blog post, the second I finished the draft of Patroclus Rising on Friday night, I turned to One Day. I’ve had this chapter in my head for over a year, and half of it written for most of that time, so the rest of it came when it was called. (Although Carlisle’s line at the end…well, I’m convinced he came up with that himself).

I *hope* that the next handful of updates to this fic should tumble pretty quickly—this chapter is really about moving to the following morning, but as it was nearing 5K already and I know I need a good 2.5-3 to hash the morning, I decided to stop Chapter 6 after the party. So, while I make no promises, Chapter 7 should follow on pretty quickly here—most of the dialogue is actually already sitting in a word doc. And then shortly thereafter we’ll hit some of the meat that I’ve been wanting to get to since I first started this fic, much of which is already on paper and just needs to be revised.

Thank you for sticking with me, and happy reading.

But, What About One Day?

May 13th, 2013 § 11 comments § permalink

So, I know we’re approaching the year mark on the last One Day update. And people have been asking where, and when, and exactly what do I mean by “soon.” 

I know it’s the story everyone loves. I love it too. As painful as it is to inhabit Carlisle and Bella in that gut-wrenching of an AU, it’s also delightful to write. For me, it’s all the things that fic should be; a piece that unearths qualities of the characters that go unexplored because of the situation they’re in in the canon, that rips the rug out from under them but keeps them as in-character as possible to allow for a story that makes sense.

That sort of thing is why, after four years (and let’s not kid ourselves, various frustrations I’ve had with being in the Twilight fandom), I still  am immensely proud of having written, and still enjoy writing fic. It’s very different from writing something that’s wholly your own, and as far as I’m concerned, that difference is exactly what makes it so worth my time to do.

In 20…10? Has it been that long since Eclipse was released? I volunteered myself for The Fandom Gives Back: Eclipse. I auctioned off the rights to a prompt for two short stories.

But 2011 and 2012, as it turned out, would be the years the fandom turned in on itself. I wrote a post on tumblr about it awhile back, but I found 2012 an extremely difficult year to get myself to write anything. One thing I do that I really enjoy aside from writing and my academic work is that I’m a bookseller. Which means I’ve spent the last year with a lot of pulled-to-publish fanfiction in my face. (It also means I get the gleeful joy of being able to be certain that a couple of titles keep coming off the shelves in my store and being shipped back to their publisher, but that doesn’t always make up for it.) So with all that frustration inhabiting not only my online world, but also the place I spend 20-30 hours a week, I just found that Twific wasn’t something I felt much like doing.

As a result, it’s taken me a longer time than I am happy with to fulfill obligations that, even with all that has intervened, I am still excited to fulfill. I was finally able to put the finishing strokes on Stregoni, to nail Alice’s voice to my satisfaction and get Present Perfect out for consumption, and now, I’m working on the last 1/3 or so of Patroclus Rising, which, when complete, will undergo a good revision and then be posted.

At that point, I will be free of things I’ve promised other people I’d do, and things which, having been so postponed for so long,  make me feel a little crummy. Which is really silly, by the way, particularly in the case of Patroclus, as the people who bid on it are almost to a one close friends of mine, and if I said, “Hey, I’m not going to do it,” they’d all understand. But the truth is, I took it on because I enjoy writing prompts—they stretch me as a writer, and much of my best fic in Twidom has come from prompts for some thing or another. So it’s more the agreements I’ve made with me that I want to uphold—the agreement that I’d accept a challenge and turn out something I’m proud of in response. That I want to do…and if I happen to delight the people who were so gracious as to make a donation in my honor for the privilege of choosing that prompt, well, even more awesome.

One Day, though…One Day is my respite.  As I said, it’s my reminder of all the reasons I enjoy writing fic, and all the things that fic can be when it’s not being…well, all the things that make me mad about how other people seem to want to use it. So when Patroclus is posted, One Day will be my only WIP, and will likely be my last fanfic for Twilight (although I will never say never…these characters touched fire in me and if I feel I want to write more about them, I damn well will).  But I find that in order to maintain a clear head and a joyous heart, I’ve had to pull back almost entirely from the communal aspects of the Twilight fandom, and at that point, I become little better than the writer who is posting things expecting hordes of fans without truly being a fan herself. I would prefer to be a part of things. But when my best friend pinpointed within about two weeks the day when I deleted most of my fandom social media presence and said she could tell because I’ve been so much happier and more myself since then…well,  that says something pretty important, and I’m listening to her.

One Day will probably never post with anything close to a regular update schedule, but I hope to not leave multiple months between chapters once it is my only fic going. At this time, I’m going to choose to keep it off FFnet, and I will probably never post it there unless for some reason I ever have to delete gisellelx.com (but even then, I own gisellelx.wordpress.com, and could port this whole blog there.)

One Day is my private joy, but it’s a little private piece of me I’m happy to let my friends peer in at. Thanks for being patient while I get the more public me squared away.

Stregoni Benefici, Epilogue: Chapter notes.

February 1st, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

By way of a note for this chapter, I leave you with this: the progression of chapter titles through this fic.

The 1667 titles
Infant Lowly
Sarah’s Son
Spectator at Tyburn
Suitor
Layman
Intended
Improper
Tempest
Beloved
William’s Son
Carlisle

The 1789 titles
The Young One
Shy
The Student
Friend
The Fourth Brother
Englishman
Taoist
Doctor
Stregone Benefico

The 1918 titles
Cheater of Death
Motherless Child
Psalmist
Infantry man
Night Watchman
Invisible Man
Miracle Worker
Savior
Sire
Father

Yes. There has been a method to this madness. 🙂

Thank you so much for reading.