Yuletide: the gift of fictional conversation

handwritten books



There are many in fandom who start looking forward to Yuletide by summer. This tradition is, I think, one of the best open secrets in the fanfiction part of fandom. Here is the FAQ; the main thing to know is that participants wake up on Christmas morning with a story written in their favorite small fandom, just for them. You can request favorite characters, even the mood of the story.

Anyone may sign up. You just have to promise to write a story for someone else in order to get one.

For a week no one knows who wrote the stories—they are all anonymous. Once the stories are posted, it is expected that they remain in the A03 database for fans to enjoy over the years. It’s easy to download them onto your e-reader.

I’ve talked about Yuletide on panels, and as usual, hear the dissing of fanfiction, “Oh, it’s all slash and pwp (porn without plot)”—and there are those stories, but they are not the majority. The range of fandoms is far more wide-reaching than many would think, and so are the stories that communicate with them. Not just books and movies and TV shows and anime, but history, philosophers, songs, parts of songs, commercials. One of the funniest stories ever was centered around the Care Bears, years ago; this year, there were five stories prompted by a single XKCD panel. One of those is remarkable indeed.

And that’s before you get to the cross-overs, in which not only do characters from one storyverse visit another, but paradigm is in conversation with paradigm.

The Daily Dot watches Yuletide. Their callout this year is how fanfiction talks back to fanfiction, in this case a satiric look at “50 Shades of Grey” and the vapidness of the central character: “Three Shades of Steel.”  They also point out an older fic, “The Journey West,”, which “is a brief and stellar example of how fanfiction can offer up a searing critique of a work by reinjecting what has been left out of it, in this case putting Asian-American immigrant voices back into Neil Gaiman’s American Gods.”

A few examples: Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen via Regeneration.

The Mars rover.  Places? Like Washington DC when magic begins to seep into the world.

One piece that I thought was especially evocative was a fictional reverie based on characters from Donna Tartt’s The Secret History.

A crossover, The Muppets and The Twilight Zone.

If you have an ereader or phone, A03 is easy to access—the stories are free, and like anything, the quality ranges from beginner to sublime. (And not all readers will agree which is which.)

If you try any, feel free to recommend something you liked!



Yuletide: the gift of fictional conversation — 29 Comments

  1. Outside of the writings of osprey_archer on LJ, Yuletide is the only fanfic I read, and I have been astonished and impressed and full of love for what I’ve found. As you say, part of it is the huge, huge diversity of topics for which fic is written. I didn’t know about those XKCD fics, but how wonderful! This year, Julia Rios pointed to a fic written in Old English–for The Wanderer and The Seafarer–and I read a great Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell fic . I don’t have the URLs to hand and have to run right now, but I’ll come back and put them in!

  2. And three different continuations of/responses to The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, all in verse, one with footnotes. ♥

  3. Oh wow, that Muppet Zone fic is excellent!

    Yuletide is a great deal of yay. One of these years I shall get my act sufficiently together to Yuletide, though my fandom knowledge is somewhat limited.

    Favorites from a couple of years ago now:
    This kid I once new, post-canon Calvin & Hobbes that catches the spirit perfectly.

    Goodnight Room, by Julia Rios, summarized as “Bunnies… in … SPAAAAAAAACE!” and kind of amazing.

  4. Yuletide is the best! And thanks for talking about it! Most people meet 50 shades or fall into the depths of some wildly popular fandom and never recover. Yuletide regularly produces the best things fic has to offer. It’s like a giant extra Christmas present for everyone, plus special stories for the participants.

  5. I’m not really a fiction writer — technical writer and copyeditor by trade — but Yuletide is the one time a year that I write fiction. It’s fun to try to make my recipient as happy as I can by filling her request. And mostly I’ve been thrilled with the fiction I’ve received in turn.

    Maybe this year I’ll get my recs out in some reasonable time. But probably not — I’m only to the D’s in this year’s reading.

  6. That XKCD one is really something, isn’t it? I’m going to check out the one from The Secret History now. Thanks for the tip!

  7. Thanks for this, its good to see fan fic supported like this.

    One thing it is “AO3” not “A03”.

  8. Thanks for the this. I’ll send a link to the Wilfred Owen/Siegfried Sassoon piece to my old English professor, one of whose research interests are WWI poets. I’m sure he’ll get a kick out of it.

  9. Don’t know about “Yuletide,” but fan fiction is probably older than literacy. I didn’t know what we were doing when my junior high (and doesn’t that date me not using the term middle school!) friends and I did Man From Uncle and Beatle stories.
    I imagine that most of it is dreadful and some is superlative, but the story telling impulse is just human.

  10. Some other recommendations:

    Mother Tongue, a really lovely Earthsea story set just after Tehanu, told from the POV of Tenar’s daughter Apple.

    The Light Always Burning, a story about Pratchett’s Nation, told via primary sources.

    Turn of Winter, in which Jerott Blyth returns to Scotland after the 1565 siege of Malta.

    Vale of Fidhen, a story about Morgaine kri Chya and Nhi Vanye y Chya, set after Exile’s Gate. This one will go into my personal canon.