24 January 2008

You Never Know What You Might Find

It all started when a friend and colleague alerted me to the Toronto Public Library's Osborne Collection of Early Children's Books, which now contains some of our correspondence, of all things. Then I noticed that that collection is also the repository of papers from author Susan Cooper, and a finding aid for Cooper's papers is available for downloading as a PDF file.

So I downloaded and saw some intriguing items. Series 1, Box 3, contains "The Gift of Gramarye [1973?] / Original typed manuscript with extensive corrections (354 p.)." That manuscript eventually became The Dark Is Rising.

I wondered how widely known Cooper's working title was, so I Googled that phrase. That search led me to this guide to writing Dark Is Rising fanfiction. It hadn't occurred to me that people would be writing such stories; I guess Cooper's cycle always struck me as complete in itself, and not (like the Oz books, for example) encouraging further exploration.

But if inspiration ever strikes, now I know this site contains such valuable information as this, from a profile of Will Stanton:

When "undercover", he can look faintly stupid. He smiles amiably, mutters vaguely, and avoids fights. Jane thinks that he is sometimes like an adult in the way he behaves.

Mary says that he's pompous sometimes.

Jane notices how he manages to deflect arguments - e.g. when Simon is trying to pick a fight. She thinks that he's like a grown-up sometimes.
I found a more pithy characterization of Will at a website linked from that one, DarkIsRising.net:
Ordinary. So ordinary and unassuming you may feel the need to kick him. Enthusiastic, knowledgeable, pleasant, voted most likely to blend in. Occasionally has a habit of seeming a fair bit older than he is. And more commanding. And take charge. And knowing everything. Please try to ignore his other habits of controlling magic, time-skipping, living forever and being what's basically the main avatar of the Light.
And that website in turn holds this archive of Dark Is Rising "slash" fanfiction (i.e., focused on gay, usually male love affairs and relationships among the established characters). Again, I'd never imagined there was such.

As I wrote in connection to King of Shadows, and as Cooper herself said in her talk at the Cambridge Forum last fall, she prefers to write about preadolescents because they don't have the hormone problems of teenagers. Nonetheless, the fanfiction archive shows some fans must like writing about romantic and/or sexual pairings among her characters, with the overwhelmingly popular option being Will/Bran.

I have no objection to the hobby of "slash" fanfiction. I do have a strong objection to stories composed without enough commas or plot, which prevents me from enjoying a lot of fanfiction, and I haven't looked at any of these examples. Just knowing that they're there is enough to think about.

This trail of digital bread crumbs does lead to one dead end. In June, the moderator of the slash fanfiction website added a new category just for people who were inspired by the movie adaptation, The Seeker. That area remains empty.

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