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Just a note on two very different pieces of fiction that I read in April and can’t quite get out of my head.

The first, the Arthur C. Clarke Award–winning novel Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, strikes me as being the most gentle, most benevolent vision of a (post)apocalyptic society I have seen in while, since Mandel depicts the human need for company, art, civilisation and, yes, also technology in a way that feels optimistic yet at the same time weirdly authentic. Beautifully written, though rather stylised in parts. Plus, in my humble opinion, best use of a Star Trek:Voyager quote ever.

The second piece is a bit of Nice Guys fanfiction that I almost wouldn’t have clicked on because of its straight “E” rating on AO3, which I assure you much is higher than anything I would feel comfortable reading under normal circumstances. However, well…

*takes a deep breath*

It was late at night and some of the story’s tags, good grief, some of the tags just seemed too good to ignore. “Families of Choice”, “Religion”, “California History” and “Christmas”, only to list a few of them. Now, writers usually do not describe their work along these lines if they haven’t got anything to tell that goes substantially beyond whatever their piece got its “E” rating for.

Thus, I kind of trusted the tags and proceeded. If you are remotely interested in Nice Guys fic you might want to inquire which story it was that made me climb over that yellow AO3 warning bar. So here comes the link:

make the rougher places plain by Greywash.
Atmospheric, poignant, intense and touching due to its own kind of melancholia.

Below the cut follow some of the passages which really did me in as a reader. I can only bow to anyone who can write something like this on the basis of one silly movie.
 

“Yeah,” March says, quiet. March isn’t Catholic: wrong coast, not Irish enough, too young. March is the kind of asshole who keeps steady eye contact while he drinks too much and would deny under torture that he feeds the dog from the table and has a finely-honed system for getting extra money out of old ladies who’ve hired him to help them find heirloom jewelry stolen by their ne'er-do-well grandsons after the bastards’ve already fucked off to Hawai'i, long gone; the kind of prick who just smirks and sucks him off in the big walnut-framed bed a half-block away while Jack chews on his knuckles and tries not to choke to death on weekend mornings when the dog is whining at their door and they’ve slept too late to be sure Holly’s still safely asleep down the hall. Healy hadn’t thought March was religious at all. The church they’d taken him to last Christmas was Episcopal, so basically: Healy’s entire childhood as filtered by a particularly well-crafted episode of The Twilight Zone; Holland’d spent the service looking zoned out and a little too mellow; sunlight streaming through the windows as Holly’s sweet voice lifted up: snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow, her hands in their hands at her sides, held down low. The church’d been just around the corner—from the old house, last year—so after the service they’d walked home and then sat out back with their legs dangling over the edge of the empty pool, passing around a carton of freezer-burnt rocky road ice cream from Thrifty: three spoons.


[…]

“Holly’s mom went to church,” March says, quiet. “I guess that’s a thing they still do in England. Christmas and Easter. Her whole life.”

Oh, thinks Healy: Anglican, of course. Still blindsided, somehow.

Stupid.

“So I figure.” March sighs. “I’m a pretty lousy dad, but that’s still one thing I can do.”

“You’re not a lousy dad,” Healy says: instant. Mostly true. “You’ve got a great kid.”

“Yeah, but that’s just Holly being Holly.” Holland’s right hand rises, slides forward: “I just sit back,” a plane soaring to clear air; “let her go.”



 

 

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