Author has written 2 stories for Merlin.
I generally am curious about two things about writers on this site, and it seems reasonable that I endeavor to answer both of those points about myself on my own profile. If there is any other burning question that people have when looking at profiles which I have entirely neglected to address, please do let me know.
Curiosity one is generally what an author’s penname means to them and why they chose it. So I’ll confess: my penname is the result of a visual pun to my (moderately uncommon) real name and a joke about my dreadful propensity to write ludicrously late at night and into the earliest hours of the morning.
Curiosity number two is about why a writer chooses to tell the type of stories they write and what they hope their story says. And this is my rough (four a.m.) explanation of me, fanfiction, and stories:
Some people time remembers. Rarely very accurately, but there are some people known across nations and years, similar to the way that practically everyone knows the word ‘okay’. I have always found that fascinating, the way that our stories and legends change to reflect our current culture and value system. I’m studying at college to be a historian, but I’m not a history purist in many ways. Oh, I’ve memorized facts and specifics, read lots of nice dull books and a lot that were considerably more interesting, but I place an equally high value on the way that people see the past as much as on the actual past.
The way I can most succinctly explain it is by giving the example of a class I was once an undergraduate teaching assistant for: “Ancient World: Film and Reality”. In short the class was comprised of studying an historical background and reading the ancient texts and then watching the movies made on them. For instance, we read The Iliad and then watched “Troy”. Though there were discussions about the anachronistic battle phalanx or the composite characters, these were not the most important details. No, what was significant about the class was when we discussed what these changes reflected about the changes in culture, what it said about our lifestyles today.
Anyone who has read The Iliad should be able to say that the gods are omnipresent. Aphrodite saves Paris, Hera hates Trojans, Achilles’ mother is not quite human. But the gods are not present in “Troy”. A legacy of extremely campy movies where somebody did try to cast the gods shores up the decision as a good one. But it is more than pragmatics; the presence of the gods is a modern struggle we all, religious or not (and to clarify my viewpoint, I am quite devout), have to struggle with. The ancient Greeks tell stories of Olympus, the Hebrews about burning bushes, all ancient cultures leaving tales about omnipotent deities calling down lightening etc. But these sort of irrefutable manifestations are not a part of modern life. We are all much more like Hector and Achilles who, despite being on opposite sides of this question, basically ask the same thing: Where was Apollo when his temple was destroyed?
That is just one example of why I find the storytelling nature of history so incredibly fascinating. The point has changed over time. And what I draw from one anecdote may be completely different from what Sally draws. And we’ll both likely repeat the story to someone else, but we won’t actually be telling the same tale.
I explain all this because it is a fundamental component of why I like fanfiction and more specifically why I am writing a ‘Merlin’ story, and why I am writing it as I am. I like fanfiction because everybody has viewed the same source material and yet understands it so differently. Within fanfiction one can see how people identify with the world by seeing what conflicts they write into an established, external fantasy. We all have our favorite characters and the ones we would love to bash (though I believe the mark of a good writer is able to write nuanced appearances of even characters they personally dislike), but we see in the book/tv/movie/etc world what we see in our own world. Fiction can increase our experience by showing us lives we don’t live, but in reality has no value without our own experiences. We only cry at death after we can comprehend what dying means in terms of living. And no matter how often we see a villain (or even a hero) kill someone, I don’t think it’s a comprehendible action unless we ourselves are faced with it in actuality. I enjoy this glimpse into how others read the stories, what points they took, whether they have a sarcastic tint or whether they are more rose colored glasses sort of people.
And as to ‘Merlin’ specifically: I love the Arthurian legend. Its history is fascinating. I believe the story itself is a fundamentally human story, despite who tells it. Every new version says so much about the era it is written in, I could write hundreds of theses on it. Take Mordred: one of the first accounts of the legend at all is two lines in some obscure history that says Arthur and Mordred died at Camlann. Nothing about whether they were enemies or fighting each other or really any clarification of who they are. Mordred is given a series of conflicting backstories over the ages, and then emerges in our time as a beleaguered, complicated character who might be more redeemable. ‘Merlin’ certainly gives him a good opening, and I’ve read fanfiction writers who want to redeem him further still. I understand the impulse; it is hard to write a character so fleshed out and yet flawed. I’ve found that the more time I spend developing the nuances of a character, the more I want to give them a good ending. But the conflict is what makes the story (though I boycott some forms of conflict, such as people who repeatedly refuse to communicate, the endless ‘will they or won’t they’ type stories, or large use of the reset button to keep the status quo).
One of the things I have wanted to do, though I’m not at all sure I am succeeding with my story, “In Which Merlin is Rewritten as a Female Character” is address the dichotomy within each of us. Though I have a lot of consistency, character development, redundancy, and overall story ending issues with the actual show ‘Merlin’, I like the show because one of the thought points that really has stuck out to me is the different roles that Merlin plays for various people in the show. It might be attributed to the fact that Colin Morgan is a fantastic actor, but more so because we are different people to different people. In my story I want to explore that more, the bumbling, cheerful simpleton and the highly powered, intelligent warlock, and from there the inherent two-facedness we all exhibit.
“I reserve the right to contradict myself,” is something I say whenever I am embarking on a philosophical discussion, particularly about world view and religion. I think all humans are essentially contradictory, and I have come to feel that in myself quite a lot lately. I myself am a bit of a cynical Pollyanna. I am studying history at college, read both Latin and Ancient Greek and spend a lot of time reading Aristotle, yet I was once a cheerleader and adore telling funny, almost slapsticky stories concerning various exploits in my life. Sometimes I have felt that I could only talk to people humorously while always contemplating the world seriously. In thinking about that, I think that is such a very quintessential dilemma about being alive. We all have people who bring out one side of us more than the others. And ideally (as I am a romantic at heart), we find and marry the one person who brings out the most and best varying sides.
This leads me to the specific path that my story takes. Though I primarily wanted to create a love story between Merlin and Arthur that doesn’t just replace Merlin in the Gwen roles (replacing Arthur and Gwen’s first kiss with Arthur and Merlin’s and has her marrying the king after the very same episode (despite having read and enjoyed several fics that did this)), I realized that in writing this romance I could address the issue of the various facets we all have. This was one of the primary motivations of upgrading Merlin to royal status; in my story, Arthur is one of the few characters who almost from the beginning associates with Merlin and Myrddin. He is at times confused by the differences, much as I have always perceived canon Merlin in the show; Merlin is poised between a cheerful demeanor and the weight of a serious magical responsibility. By giving Arthur a conventional way to accept Merlin as his equal, i.e. an equally high ranking and court educated spouse, and still having Myrddin around, the two (and really three, counting Emrys) main facets of who Merlin is are eventually brought to the forefront. It’s similar to the Jekyll and Hyde question. I think at the heart of all of us is the struggle between two impulses: the generosity with the selfishness, the fear with the courage, the gravitas with the fluffiness, the faith with the doubt.
It is a theme I think very human, which in my book is what makes something a good story. I could spend more time researching the specifics of the middle ages or inserting more than tongue-in-cheek references to various bits of Arthurian canon I have read, but I would rather live with the fantastical anachronistic fantasy stew the show was, focusing not on the details of political correctness, but rather about perceptions and reality. As 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail' so humorously but rather accurately showed, the middle ages were rather dirty and more than a little bit depressing and hypocritical. But knights in gleaming armor is something most of us have heard about since we were little kids. Camelot remains a vivid metaphor, a stunning, very human story, and a fairy tale we like to tell without feeling obligated to worry about their plumbing. I want to tell a story that is enjoyable to read, yet at the end of the day, perhaps says a thing or two about this crazy adventure of living.
As my ultimate favorite TV show, ‘Doctor Who’, says, “We’re all stories in the end.” And that is something I find rather wonderful.