Dumbledore’s Army: Year of Darkness…?

So I originally opened this post to gush over just how much I loved thanfiction’s Dumbledore’s Army: Year of Darkness. I just got around to reading it, and it filled a hole in my fandom heart that’s been open for quite a while now. Obviously with my distaste for the actual Deathly Hallows, I’ve always felt a better and more interesting story could have been told through Neville’s perspective of that year, but had never found a suitable canon-compliant interpretation of it until I was recommended this fic by a fellow writer. I was elated. I spread the word to all my IRL friends who still read Harry Potter fanfiction. I dragged my ass back here to write a more in-depth review of it. And of course, like most things that provoke a strong reaction in me, I googled it to see what other fans had to say about it.

That’s when I discovered the massive fandom-wank surrounding the author. We’re not talking about a few words thrown here and there against other people on a LJ account, or plagiarism accusations. We’re talking serious con-artistry, charity defrauding, multiple changing identities, and involvement in a suicide-murder. Talk about a major buzz kill.

Got-dangit! I knew something was fishy when I read thanfiction’s profile, but I chalked it up to the fact that most of us in the online fan community tend to be a little strange anyway. The first thing that didn’t seem quite true was the fact that he states about DAYD, “Believe it or not, that was my first fanfic, starting out as a little 4,000 word one-shot…” (source, ff.net profile). Lolwut? I verrrrryyyyy highly doubt that anyone’s “first fanfic” starts out at 4k unless they have been prolifically writing in some other form for a bit (professional, other fandoms, whatever), and it seems misleading to me to not mention that. But okay, whatever. Also, the fact that he had wrote numerous spin-offs within his own fic universe and just about nothing else struck me as a little egomaniacal, but again, relatively harmless.  Then there was this sort of odd dedication at the end of the fic, where he takes time to explain how “[DAYD]’s dedicated to the real life soldiers who gave their time and effort in helping me understand the psychology of war.” And I know this sounds terrible to say because really, shouldn’t we be pleased with any kind of positive support towards our military? But the generality of it left me cold and felt more like pandering than anything else. The dedication, while touching on the surface, just didn’t seem to me like he was actually close to anyone who has been involved with a combat deployment. Entirely subjective on my part, but just an overall “off” feeling.

But now that I’ve read several links confirming multiple identities and harrowing accounts of manipulating lonely/vulnerable people, I’m kind of at a moral crisis as to even continue to support the fic. I mean, it’s not exactly the same boat as Roman Polanski/Woody Allen, but I feel like the dilemma is similar. At what point can you no longer separate the artist from their moral transgressions in their real life?

I guess in the scheme of things this whole DAYD thing is not a big deal but I’m worked up about it because the fic was good. I invested two days in reading it. I cried over Ernie MacMillan for Pete’s sake! I shed more tears reading about the DA’s losses in this version of the final battle than I did reading the actual Deathly Hallows. And it’s just frightening to me that someone who’s good at fabricating a fanfic and wringing emotions out of readers (which is well and good) is also doing the same thing in real life to unsuspecting individuals.

Anyway for anyone interested in reading what I have, here’s a good compilation of links on the subject.

Best of Severus Snape/Hermione Granger Fanfiction

Very few fics make it into my favorites list. It’s harder still to find truly good ones about Snape and Hermione. Let me save you the trouble of wallowing through the tired cliches, sickeningly sweet Snapes, and painfully dull Hermione Sues; read these instead.

1. Self-Slain Gods on Strange Altars by ScumBlackEntropy

What it’s about: The series as told from Hermione’s perspective beginning with OotP and delving into the harsh aftermath of Deathly Hallows that Rowling conveniently skimmed over. And oh yeah–there’s this little thing with Snape thrown into the mix.

Who should read it: Fans of modernist poetry. Fans of angst and fans of Severus Snape just as he is; unattractive, insecure, cruel and all too human. Fans of Imogene Heap’s “Hide and Seek”. Fans of fiction reaching literary caliber. Fans of deliciously decadent unresolved sexual tension. Fans of Epilogue? What Epilogue? Fans of feeling like their emotions went through a wringer, washing machine, raked over hot coals, and who would turn around and read it all over again because it’s THAT GOOD.

Comments: I probably should have saved the best for last, but I am such a huge admirer of this fic that I wanted to bring it up right away instead of taking the chance that you might not read the rest of this post and miss it. Hands down, this is the most plausible portrayal of a SSHG relationship I have ever read. The fact that it’s canon compliant for a stretch of the three longest books is also an achievement. It’s so emotionally compelling, I’ve basically given up ever trying to write an SSHG fic because THIS is the story I would tell. No need to reinvent the wheel!

Although the prose can border on purple, it still manages to reveal all kinds of gut wrenching truths not merely limited to Snape and Hermione’s relationship. It’s safe to say this fic requires a bit of heartbreak experience to fully appreciate. I don’t know if I would have even liked it had I come across it in my early twenties. Sprinkled throughout to temper the harrowing emotions are moments of friendship and existential insights between the characters that would not be amiss in actual canon. The author also bears the distinction of having written the most realistic-yet-scorchingly-hot sex scene I have ever read. I dare you to read the first chapter of this fic and not get sucked in.

It was a distraction. That’s all it was. She was stressed. She gave in because she is young, and the thrill of being wanted was new and heady and made her feel like…

Like…

Like something burning. And alive. And just… it was wonderful.

And he did it because she understands him to be one of those people who cannot sacrifice irresolutely, or sin half-heartedly, or do anything without throwing the whole of himself under the weight of it. He is the type of man to make Unbreakable Vows, and there is an autonomy to his tragedy that tugs on some buried part of her.

She wonders if she can just let this thing die without ever having felt his hands on her body, and then she tells herself that there is nothing to let die, because it’s been dead weeks ago.

 

2. Killing Time by Lariope

Who should read it: Anyone curious to see the virgin!Hermione and sexgod!Snape cliches totally turned on their head in a very successful way. Fans of reformed!Draco, fans of post-Hogwarts material

What it’s about: In the aftermath of destruction wrought from the war, Harry opens Grimmauld Place to those in his circle needing a home. Though he survives Nagini’s attack and is exonerated for his crimes, Snape is left destitute with the destruction of Spinner’s End, and forced to consider Harry’s offer. This is a story of Snape putting together the broken pieces of his stunted life and finally living for himself.

Comments: I was impressed by the strong writing and decent characterization from the get-go; It’s a cleanly executed story for fanfiction. The technical proficiency on top of completely reinterpreting popular notions of what an SSHG relationship can look like is by far it’s most successful point, and you’ll find yourself thinking about its unique perspective long after you’ve put the fic aside.

It was while he was working the lather through his hair that he heard her door shut. At first he told himself that it was impossible to hear anything of the kind when surrounded by the pounding of water against tile, but then he heard the scrape of drawers opening and footsteps.

She had never been home while he had showered before. Suddenly, he knew why she cast those Silencing Charms. It was…well, it was mortifying to stand here naked with Granger only on the other side of a flimsy wall. She could hear him! She knew what he was doing. She might even picture him naked. That idea made him flush painfully. He had certainly never pictured her naked–she had no right! And yet now that he’d thought of it, he knew he would not be able to unthink it, and the next time he heard the thunder of the water starting up, there she’d be in his mind, taking off her… He shut off the water.

3. The Problem with Spitting by RussianDestruction

Who should read it: Anyone looking for a quick fix, who loves rough and (mostly) unapologetic power play in their erotica. Or maybe just in their Severus Snape.

Comments: Ever get to the part in the story where there’s a sex scene and you’re like “Oh goody!” and then one paragraph in you realize you’re just skimming to get to the end because the author somehow managed to make sex sound like Courtney Stodden’s twitter feed? Yeah, that’s not this story. This BDSM themed romp is shocking mainly because the author actually appears to be knowledgeable about kink. It’s quick and dirty and laced with a bit of humor. Bonus points for being written by a former milspouse!

He sneered down at her, slim nostrils flared, pale face livid with anger. Slowly and deliberately, holding her gaze, he passed the cuff of his robes over his face, removing the traces of her loss of control.

Hermione knew she should probably start groveling right about now. She didn’t think that even Dumbledore would find a way to excuse this, and as the enormity of what she had done sunk in, she knew she deserved whatever punishment Snape felt inclined to mete out. A contrary part of her rejoiced in her small act of retaliation, feeling that the injustices of the last six and a half years had been at least partially redressed, but even through this weak sense of accomplishment, she had to suppress a rather violent shudder. What was he going to do to her?

Honorable Mention

Getting the Hang of Thursdays by Hayseed: Snape and Hermione are having the worst day of their lives… over and over, and over again. Based off of Stephen Hawking’s time travel paradox. Clever and different!

If you read one of these, let me know what you think. I’m kind of starved for fanfic discussion. Also, what are your favorite SSHG fics?

Alan Rickman

When I was living in Brooklyn, I learned that Alan Rickman was undertaking the title role on stage at the BAM, in Ibsen’s “John Gabriel Borkman”. Although my entire exposure to Ibsen  consisted of a few plays in high school, it was enough to put me off for life (I loathed “A Doll’s House” with a passion that my friends still tease me about).

But I didn’t think I could pass up the opportunity to see Rickman in person–for over an hour–and not get slapped with a restraining order. Too good to be true! I was dirt poor, barely making my rent, eating ramen for 3 meals a day, and living in a ghetto part of Flatbush. But dammit! This is what I came to New York for! This is why I was carving out a meager existence, to live and work alongside greatness!

And when I realized that he was to share the stage with Fiona Shaw, the fangirl in me squeed to death! Severus Snape and Petunia Dursley live! Ibsen or no Ibsen, I was going to see that play.

I scraped, cobbled, and pinched together my $40 bucks for some nosebleed seats and dragged along a friend who though not a Potter fan, was certainly a Col. Brandon lover. And then sat there in the dark breathing deeply while thinking, Ermgah, Alan Rickman and I are breathing the same air! Which is more or less where my mind wandered whenever Ibsen’s pedantic character monologues threatened to strangle someone (usually Rickman, alas). (For anyone who cares about a critical review of the play, I agree that vulture.com’s review on it is spot-on.)

Anyway.

Seeing him in the flesh made me have a much greater appreciation for his past roles and wonder deeper; just what is it about him that garners so many female fans?

Empire Online recently ranked him 8 out of top 50 sexiest movie stars (reader’s choice), which is pretty incredible for a man with rather average looks over the age of 50. In fact, he was only beaten out by such perennial favorites as Clooney, Pitt, and Depp. I like how they described “Rickman’s rogues'” as being “united by the fact that they’re all strangely, unjustifiably sexy.” This is just it. Unjustifiably sexy. You can’t really put a finger on why it is. I only know that I feel more sex appeal in his performances than almost anything put out by stars half his age and twice as good looking. And usually he isn’t even playing a romantic protagonist.

To me, that’s talent. His acting is so nuanced that he’s able to glamour us mortals into thinking he’s smoking hot man meat, when anyone with an objective eye can tell you otherwise.

If you are interested in a light overview of his career, BBCA has a great article called Best of Alan Rickman, where it introduced me to the following gems;

1978 guys. Dang! My initial reaction was to get way too excited about the fact that this is what Snape would look like in Harry’s first or second year (minus the bowl cut), had Rickman been the same age as portrayed in the books (yes, it always comes back to Harry Potter), Secondly, he looks quite young for being 32, and I was thrown off by the fact that he kind of looks like a baby but has the same voice! It made me think about how he probably spoke that way even as a late teen.

I am wondering if that voice paired with his Spock-like face probably didn’t work in his favor, romantically speaking, at a young age. One fan writes about his characters; “He’s the handsome bad boy you just know you could fix, he’s the sensitive guy who’s overlooked, he’s the under-appreciated fellow you suddenly realize has been there all along, he’s the one you let get away.” And I think there’s a lot of truth in that, perhaps because he’s drawing on his earliest experiences. Mere conjecture on my part, but one can’t help but compare how he was clearly not cast as the charming and classically beautiful Mercutio or Romeo, but as the foil, Tybalt. I like to think that he plays such beautifully underestimated, underdog, and subtle characters because he was one at one point.

And while we’re on the subject of looks, I think it’s fair to say that in Rickman’s case, his features softened somewhat into a more conventionally handsome appeal as he grew older. I think of him in Die Hard and Sense and Sensibillity; yes, middle age was quite kind to him. Rather unfair when you think about it for women. How many women do you know actually reach their peak in looks once they’re nearly 50?

Since I am a recent fan and have really only seen his latest work, it’s evident how much he has grown as an actor when you look at him here. There is a work-in-progress feel about his expressions and inflections; you can see the bare bones of what he has evolved into today. A highly fascinating clip.

The second piece that interested me was this compilation of scenes from his role as Obadiah Slope in the Barchester Chronicles.

I clicked play, barely even registering what show or movie this came from, and by the time I finished I was hooked! I had to see more! If this isn’t proto-Snape I don’t know what is–down to the vestibule like costuming! Sometime soon I’m going to order the miniseries and do a complete viewing. I’m pretty excited.

It’s really appalling how this man hasn’t earned a single Oscar. Kind of sickening, actually. Fuel the rage with this article detailing his snubs.

Oh Mr. Rickman! I know you hate how the role of Snape constantly threatens to overshadow your past and present work, but your moving portrayal of him is precisely what garnered you new fans; ones that may take a more serious look at your other pieces once we’re done drowning our feels in Firewhisky. So try not to hate us  too much!

Re-read Deathly Hallows?

We’re almost halfway through May and for some reason, I’m getting the feeling it’s that time of year again for a Harry Potter marathon. I became a fan somewhere around the 3 Year Summer just before the release of the first movie, and I just miss not having some new release of Harry Potter book or movie to look forward to rolling into summer and fall. I was an avid midnight opener along with my group of friends, and it was just a great experience whenever something new came along. I definitely miss it.

That is, until I read Deathly Hallows.

How can I describe my experience of Deathly HallowsDeathly Hallows was like getting food poisoning from your favorite restaurant, and now you’re too scared to ever go back and eat there, even though the food was UH-MAY-ZING.

I have re-read every single book in the Potterverse cover to cover at least 3 times each (Prizoner of Azkaban and Order of the Phoenix, my favorites, I read about 5 times over). DH I picked up once the minute it was released, and never picked up again. Ever.

There was just so much to hate! The never ending camping trip, the out of the butt concept of deathly hallows, the deaths that she chose (oh I can afford to kill off Fred; there’s two of him anyway), I pretty much hated James, Sirius and Lily after that book, “Not my daughter, you bitch!” EYEROLLLLLLLLLLLL, the anticlimactic showdown, not enough Neville, how Slytherin house got SHAFTED in the end (no one stayed to fight? lol wut?)–the CRAPILOGUE! Give me a minute while I continue wretching into my keyboard.

How many years has it been since that book was released? Almost six? Over half a decade and I’m still not sure I can survive a re-read! It was that bad.

Oh, I’ve gotten over DH… slowly.  Only after lots of therapy involving purposely forgetting large chunks of the book and reading about how much others also hated it (Ren Hen essays, FTW) so I knew I couldn’t completely be off my rocker. Also, the movies helped a lot. Although I’m a firm believer that the books are better than the movies every time (and unlike many Potterheads, I’m not a movie hater), this was one arena where the movies CLEARLY outshone the books.

Maybe I just had low expectations for the final movies after reading DH, but I felt like they certainly couldn’t do much worse than Rowling herself already did. Hell, they might even do one better since they usually cut out a lot of stuff anyway. And after seeing the final films I actually came away feeling like they salvaged the series for me. Since I refused to re-read the books, I simply let the movie interpretation take over and mush into the fragments that had stuck in my brain from the book. And on screen, a lot of Rowling’s shit looked passable. But maybe I’m just appeased because they clearly fan-serviced the Neville x Luna shippers out there (guilty!).

Only after the ending of the Potterverse and me taking off some time to attend to “real life”, have I bothered recently to start treading into the fandom again. And part of me feels like I need to, you know, be a mature adult about this whole thing and give DH another shot. Well, I certainly can’t for the sake of maturity and fairness… but I might be able to if it were to salvage details for a potential fic…

So here I am, seriously considering a re-read so I can figure out just what I would change if I could. Not that I really have the talent to create something to rival DH en serio. But I’m not above some shameless reworking for the excuse to let my favorites traipse into each others arms *coughHermionecoughSnape* (because I’m dirty like that).

Has anyone read any well executioned alternatives to DH? Doesn’t even have to include my ships as long as the character development and plot is believable. Will also accept links to message board threads or essays expressing dissatisfaction over DH, because I’m needy for validation. 🙂

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