I just spent a long time writing a piece for the Mass Effect Big Bang 2015 with art created by the lovely calypsotea (the links are below). The total word count was ~32,000 words. It's the longest thing I've finished and whew it was a ton of work. It was loads and loads of fun, though, I learned a lot and I'd like to talk about the process, at the risk of being hella pretentious. Hopefully, you'll find it interesting.
Also, writing a post will also mean I actually use my Livejournal blog for something other than master posts. Hooray!
Story Master Post on Ao3
I also enjoyed inthenightside's Saren. They wrote a collection of three fics revolving around Renegade!FemShep/Saren. It starts off with Settling Disputes, moved to Continuing Struggles, and ends with Battlegrounds. In this AU Saren is not under Sovereign's influence. He's a little more snarky, outwardly impatient and doesn't have as many hangups as Smehur's Saren (at least not from Shepard's perspective). And he's also not as hateful of humans. He and Shepard end up in a relationship of sorts.
There are other really good versions of Saren, but these were the ones I was most influenced by while writing. There were a lot of things I was aiming for with Saren, mostly along the lines of 'dude gat issues, but he tries'.
I adored "Worst Case Scenario" by inthenightside and I wanted to try my hand at a poly relationship between Saren/Shepard/Nihlus. Instead of writing about the origins I wanted to write about their relationship a few years in. It meant I had to do a lot of thinking about why they managed to get together and why they stayed together and made it work. Drawing out 'maps' helped. Not all of the information was necessary to the story, but it was useful to 'know'.
Another thing I found useful was to determine what they each got out of the relationship. Not in a greedy way, but in a symbiotic way. I think that for a relationship to be healthy everyone needs to give and get. Whether its emotional support, intellectual stimulation, comfort, financial support, humour. With these three it was tricky because they're all autonomous. They exist completely independently of one another because of their work; it's a permanent long-distance relationship. So it took some time to figure out what they give one another.
I imagine that navigating a polyamorous relationship while rewarding, can be tricky and I wanted to reflect that. I enjoy stories where everyone is happy as much as the next fanfic reader, but I also love fics where there are relationship complications because people are people and we're complicated. I didn't want complications in the sense that everyone is jealous of everyone else and competing for one another's time, but in the sense that two turians are in a relationship with a human. There are going to be personal, biological and cultural obstacles. Which brings me to my third motivator/source of inspiration...
I love that Mass Effect had so many alien races. But the general feeling of the Citadel races is sort of Western Capitalist. I imagine that is to make the world relatable (and humorous) for the player.
But I felt that there would be far more differences in culture among the various races than could be explained in-game.
I wanted to take the idea of a predatory, strictly hierarchical and socially-minded people and figure out how they would interact on a personal level outside of military and professional contexts. How do they welcome guests into their home? Do they envision their homes as a 'territory'? Are they defensive or inviting and protective of those in their space? Are there protocols for how guests are supposed to behave? What about the hosts? I will admit, I took some inspiration from a couple of human cultures, a dash of Middle Eastern and Chinese attitudes and generous helping of Japanese guest culture. From my casual internet perusing (please do not quote me), Japanese homes are small and so people don't invite one another over very often. When an invitation is extended, the invited party takes it very seriously and for the most part, an event is somewhat structured. When guests arrive, gifts are given to the hosts. In Middle Eastern cultures, hosts are responsible for the safety and well-being of their guests. In fact, the entire region is known for being very hospitable to strangers and from what I understand a lot of that stems from occupying an arid region. Historically, if people turned away strangers, they were essentially condemning them to death from the elements. (I didn't envision turian culture as being that inviting. Perhaps the drell may have those cultural practices.) In China, hosts are responsible for not only providing food but also entertainment for their guests and gifts. I melted all these things together into some vague notion of what turians might be like at home.
A lot of Saren and Nihlus' interaction come off as a bit stilted, but what I was aiming for was that in Saren's home, in his personal space, Nihlus is subordinate to him and has to adhere to behavioural protocols. Those protocols differ slightly by region. Colony marks are a useful tool for turians to figure out how to act in someone else's space. I have this scene in my head where Nihlus first joins Saren on his ship and because Saren's barefaced, Nihlus flounders and tries just about everything he can thing of because he doesn't know where Saren's from but he doesn't want to offend him by not adhering to some obscure cultural expectation and he's so grateful that Saren took him on as an apprentice. It ends up with Nihlus offering several gifts that he can barely afford and then sitting very still with his hands in his lap because he has no clue what to do. In the end, Saren appreciates Nihlus' attempts because, for his entire adult life, people assume that he had no host expectations because of his barefaced status.
It's different on Nihlus' ship. Saren isn't "subordinate", but his rank isn't as high as it would be on his own ship. Shepard just flits in and out obviously, flagrantly defying protocol. With regards to their sexual relationship, the idea was that while turians are pretty laid back about sex, there are obviously rules to observe when you're in someone else's home even in a triad relationship. It all has to do with who's subordinate to whom at any given time and when 'permission' has been granted to behave in certain ways. It ends up being really complicated even in my head.
What do you think about what I aimed for and what I accomplished? Did the ideas come across? What do you think turian culture would be like?
Title: They Never, Never Wake Again
Pairings and Characters: Saren/Fem!Shep, Nihlus/Fem!Shep, Saren/Nihlus, Rana Thanoptis
Word count: ~34,000
Warnings: Explicit sexual content, pegging, rough sex, violence, death,
Summary: Years after Shepard became a Spectre, her mentor (and sometimes lover) Saren lost his arm in an 'incident'. Saren maintained professional contact but did not see Shepard in person for nearly two years. All the while, he worked missions with the other member of the relationship, Nihlus. Saren finally decided to stop pushing Shepard away and invited both Shepard and Nihlus to his home on Virmire for what should be a reconciliation. (Non-Reaper AU)
I'm super-pleased with CalypsoTea's art. She was a pleasure to work with and was phenomenally patient with me. The same goes for my lovely beta-reader, AceQueenKing. Writing (and finishing) something this long was a challenge. There are so many more 'moving parts' in a ~30,000 word story compared to a ~16,000 word story. But it was a fantastic learning opportunity and loads of fun. I'm really happy that I managed to get it done.
Story Master Post on Ao3
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Ariadne really had outdone herself, Eames thought as he ambled his way through the maze. The ruins looked suitably deserted and so there should be no projections for Eames to deal with. Arthur was the dreamer and Ariadne was up top keeping an eye on everyone in Ahuatzin’s apartment.
Based on what little information have been publicized about the Chactún site, it seemed to be heavily influenced by the Teotihuacano-style of architecture. The Mexican government seemed to keeping their cards close to their collective vest and was limiting the release of information until their own researchers had a chance to study and analyze ruins. Ariadne’s client specifically wanted to know whether a particular deity, the Spider Woman or Great Goddess of Teotihuacan, had been observed in the Chactún city.( Read more...Collapse )
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Eames’ first thought as he exited the Benito Juárez International Airport was something along the lines of “Dear Lord, yes!” It was sweltering and at the tail end of Mexico’s rainy season the air was viciously humid. Eames loved it. He’d just spent several months in London and was desperate to leave the dreariness behind.