Transcript: Track 16: Fairytales
Episode 16 posted May 7, 2021
Transcript by kateaintbeehaven
Links to all fics mentioned can be found on the main episode post.
Ellen: Hi everyone! Welcome to the sixteenth episode of the Mixtape Book Club Podcast. My name is Ellen.
Mal: And my name is Mal.
Ellen: In each episode, we take a look at a different trope or subgenre in the huge collection of Destiel fanfiction, and today, we’re going to be discussing Destiel in fairytales.
Mal: And to discuss their fic, True As it Can Be, we would like to welcome the author, whelvenwings.
Em: Hi guys! [slight laugh] Thank you guys so much for having me.
Ellen: You’re very welcome. Um, and… we’re like, now, can I do a little bit of fangirling, is that alright? [laughs] I’m going to.
Em: I’ll try and — [laughter] I’ll try and withstand it. Hold on, let me brace for it. Let me, wait — let me get, okay, I’m ready.
Mal: Brace yourself! [laughter] Compliments incoming.
Em: Oof, okay. [laughter] Oh no, oh no.
Ellen: Okay, so we’re very — we’re super excited to have you, because we’ve both been big fans of yours for… a while? [laughter] It’s since, ya know, a few years now, so thank you, for coming to talk to us.
Em: Oh no, thank you so much.
Mal: I think the first fic I read of yours was… Yeah, it must have been at least three or four years ago, maybe three years ago, the first fic I read of yours?
Em: [groans and laughs] Oh no, okay.
Mal: I remember it was — what was the title of it? The one in the library, Checked Out, I think? Was the first fic I read of yours?
Em: Oh, yes! [laughs] Oh, man, I loved writing that one so much. So many good memories. Ah, just hearing the name of it, I’m like, “yes, my child!”
Mal: So it’s been at least a couple years, I would say.
Em: Mhmm. Mhmm. Yeah, I think that one was 2018… Yeah, way back in 2018 I wrote that, so. Wow, yeah, guys, it’s been awhile!
Mal: One of the first fics I read in the fandom, I think, once I really started kinda getting into things. I think it was actually…
Em: Ah, really?
Mal: One of the first ones I read, yeah.
Ellen: How exciting.
Em: That’s so cool. I feel like, strangely honored. [laughter] It’s nice.
Ellen: Well, in addition to True As it Can Be, we’re also going to talk about I Will Hang My Head Low which is by andimeantittosting, and also Cinderwings, by bendingsignpost, who we had on in our last episode.
Mal: Links to all of the fics we’ll be talking about today will be available in the episode’s post on mixtapebookclub.com, and included in our collection on AO3.
Ellen: So, fairytales. I’ll just do a little blurb about fairytales before we get into talking about it. Everyone knows what a fairytale is, obviously, but most of the well-known fairytales that we know of today have been popularized by Disney, like they’re the cartoons that Disney made (into movies), the retellings, but most of them were originally meant to be told in an oral tradition and over hundreds and even thousands of years. They’re really old stories that bring in magical creatures and mythical things like unicorns, and fairies, and mermaids, and evil witches, and all sorts of things like that. And each time they get retold, they’re a little different, because that’s just how oral traditions work. Even though, like the Brothers Grimm collected a load of fairytales in Europe, a couple hundred years ago, now they’ve been retold in multiple ways in books and films and all sorts of stuff. So, they’re always changing. And usually because they’re meant to be told to children, they have some kind of moral messaging, or they don’t always — especially the older ones — don’t always have a happily ever after thing. Some of them are quite horrible in their endings, and a bit grisly at times, especially like the original Cinderella. There was cutting off parts of people’s feet and all sorts of things, have you guys seen that one?
Mal: Yeah, that was not pleasant, the original tale. Well, who knows what the original tale was, but yeah, the older versions of that were not that nice.
Ellen: I think that was the Brothers Grimm version that had the cutting off parts. But anyway, they usually have some kind of moral messaging in there to be told to children. I’ll just add that if you are interested in the Brothers Grimm and the way that they collected fairytales to write down, I’m going to do a bit of a book rec here. Like, a real book that’s not a fic, oh my god.
Ellen: Kate Forsyth wrote a book called The Wild Girl, which is actually a retelling in itself. I’ve forgotten the name of the fairytale that it’s retelling now, that’s very silly of me, but the book itself is really awesome. One of the Brothers Grimm had a wife whose name was Dortchen Wild, so it’s the story of her life in Germany in the beginning of the 19th century, and how she helped them to gather a bunch of fairytales to put into their books. So, it’s worth a read.
Em: You know, I knew I recognized the title of the book when you were talking about it. I have it on my shelf upstairs, I just haven’t got round to reading it yet, so, I’ll move it up my list!
Ellen: Yeah, she’s an Aussie author and she’s a really lovely lady as well. Yeah, definitely worth a go. And her other books, she’s got other fairytale retellings, as well. Like, she’s got one called Bitter Greens. It’s like a Rapunzel retelling, and it draws in the original stories.
Em: Oh, that’s really amazing.
Mal: Yeah, Rapunzel is the one that for some reason, I’ve always wanted to do a Destiel fairytale AU of, and I think it’s because of all those memes of Jensen and his eyes.
Em: Oh, that’s so true!
Mal: And I think that’s the only reason that it’s stuck in my head. [laughs] I can’t help it if he kinda looks like Rapunzel, okay?
Em: I mean, it’s right there. It’s right there, ya know? You’ve gotta do it. Please do it.
Ellen: You can bring in the Disney thing of whether his hair is blonde or is it really brown?
Mal: Oh god, I’d start wars.
Em: Weigh in one the debate, come down on one side. Start drama! Do it!
Mal: The comments would just be on fire. It would be awful! [laughter] I’d come down on one side or the other, blonde or brown, and I’d just watch my subscriber count drop, just like boom!
Em: So many people just like, “I draw the line at this. I can’t, I can’t. You called him brown haired, I’m sorry, that’s a no.”
Ellen: I’ll look forward to reading that. But what we’re doing in retelling these fairytales in fanfiction form is just a continuation of the grand tradition of retelling these tales, except in a more modern version!
Mal: Yeah, if you think about it, the way that fairytales used to be told, and people would then slightly adapt the fairytale for their own country after hearing it from somewhere else, or their own local area, and make it fit some kind of local myth, or something like that. It’s almost like a very early version of transformative fiction. So, it’s kind of linked to what we’re doing. Maybe a little less gay, but not all of them!
Em: Not all of them!
Ellen: I’m sure some variations were gay, throughout the years. [laughter] Yeah, just not the ones that got written down.
Mal: Exactly. Someone needs to go back and find all those queer fairytales, ‘cause they’re out there! I guarantee you.
Em: As soon as we can time travel, that is first on the list. Number one priority, right there. [laughter] Just turn up in medieval France and be like, “Where is your queer fanfic?”
Ellen: Searching out the gay fic.
Em: “Where are your fairytales that feature queer characters, I want them!”
Mal: “Take me to the — [laughs] take me to the lesbians, now!”
Ellen: That’s our new tagline.
Em: I mean, to be fair, that’s what I say whenever I turn up somewhere new, it wouldn’t just be in medieval France.
Ellen: Oh, dear.
Mal: I mean, same. [laughter] I think at some point, I was going to make some vaguely sensible point, about how they work very nicely with Supernatural, because we already have so many of those creatures in existence in the show, so even though they’re AUs for the most part, they’re nice AUs to link into certain aspects of canon.
Mal: So, that was the sensible point I was trying to make before I started yelling about lesbians, I’m sorry.
Ellen: That’s fine.
Em: I mean, why be sensible when you can have lesbians? That’s my motto that I like to live by in general, and it’s served me well, so I’m going to keep going with it.
Mal: I’d choose a lesbian over good sense any time, thank you very much.
Ellen: I’m sure there are some sensible lesbians out there. Maybe?
Em: Oh, so many. That’s why I have to have all of the lack of sense, because all the lesbians are out there being sensible.
Ellen: Alright, where are we going here? We’re talking about Destiel, right, let’s go back to the gays!
Em: I’m so sorry! I’m so sorry!
Ellen: It’s alright. Going off on tangents is just our thing, we do that all the time, so no problem. Alright, so, shall we talk about one of these fics, then?
Mal: Yeah, what should we start with?
Em: Let’s do it.
Ellen: Okay, so the first story we’re going to talk about is called I Will Hang My Head Low, it’s by andimeantittosting, who we had on the podcast a few months ago…? This story was published for the DCBB in 2019, so it has some artwork in it, which is by Correlia. It’s 22,000 words long and it is explicit, and the summary goes like this:
Dean Winchester gave up hunting when his brother became the prophesied Boy King of Hell. Now he ekes out a meager living, chopping wood for a nearby village, until one snowy night, he follows what appears to be a falling star, and encounters an injured angel. Afterwards, he tries to put the strange night from his mind.
When he meets Castiel, a mysterious man with healing powers, they form an instant connection, and the more Dean learns of Castiel’s powers — to heal, to protect, to purify — the more he begins to hope that Sam can be saved. But as they prepare to save Sam, Castiel grows sick, and then sicker still. Too late, Dean learns how much Castiel is willing to sacrifice for him.
So, this story is inspired by The Decemberists’ “Crane Wife,” which is a song by the Decemberists, right?
Mal: Yep, mmhm.
Ellen: That’s correct? And also, The Crane Wife is a Japanese myth, which the song was based on. So, this is like a retelling of a retelling. I guess, as all fairytales are.
Mal: I don’t know if I should admit to my bias by saying that I love this fic, and I was a beta for this fic? [laughs]
Em: Oh, nice, nice, nice, nice, nice!
Mal: Yes, so. I love this one very much. Yes, ‘Sting is generally a friend of mine, and I do try to stick my fingers into her fics as soon as possible, so [laughs] Like, “Let me in! I want to see it!” [laughter] But, this was a favorite one of hers that she’s done in the past few years, as far as I’m concerned. Because I did like the song, and then the entire Japanese folklore that it came from, to start with, and I think this… She’s done it in a sort of general fantasy sort of setting, so it does feel like very, very rich and like a good fantasy AU in its own right, but then it has this kind of wonderful, Crane Wife myth — can we talk about the myth without it spoiling the fic, I wonder?
[questioning hm’s and laughter]
Ellen: Well, I’m just looking at the summary to see how much the summary actually spoils, but it doesn’t actually tell you what happens in the end, kind of thing.
Mal: Yeah, it doesn’t tell us exactly what happens. But then for this particular episode, I think all of these fairytales are going to be pretty well-known, like we’re gonna know… [laughs]
Em: Yeah, I was gonna say! Like, with Cinderella or with Beauty and the Beast, well, we have — culturally, we’re just aware. But I didn’t know the story that this one was based on, so I was reading it, and it kind of took me all by surprise, so it was great.
Ellen: Yeah, I was the same, actually. I wasn’t sure, like when Castiel’s getting sick, and I’m like, “Oh my god, what’s gonna happen?”
Em: I know! [laughs] I know, I was so stressed out!
Ellen: So, maybe we’ll put like a spoiler warning on this whole episode so that we can actually talk about the spoilers. But, I don’t know if — does it actually have a “temporary main character death” tag?
Mal: It does. “Temporary Major Character Death,” yes.
Em: I think it did, yeah.
Ellen: So, if you read the tags, you sort of get spoiled for that anyway, that Castiel does actually end up dying for a little while [laughs], but then he does come back. So, I have this terrible habit of not reading tags before I start fics generally. I just dive in [laughs], and it sometimes comes back to bite me. Like in this one, where I was sort of like, “…Oh my god, he’s gonna die!”
Em: I know!
Ellen: Poor Dean. Like, the angst in this one is quite… quite sad.
Em: Oh, it really got me. It got me so bad. I was sitting on my sofa, just — You know when you’re sitting there and you’re like, “I’m fine, I’m fine. I’m fine! I’m not fine, actually, I’m really not, this one’s got me” [laughs]
Ellen: “Yeah, actually this one’s really sad.”
Em: Yeah. It was so well-written. I loved it.
Ellen: And it does have a happy ending, so don’t let that stop you from getting into this one. It’s got such beautiful, kind of fairytale, almost lyrical, writing to it. Like, the word choices and whatever make it feel like a fairytale.
Em: Mm, definitely. Especially the part at the beginning? You know, the sort of little introduction bit, where it kind of sets up the premise of the story? And it was so high fairytale, and I just had the biggest smile on my face as I was reading it. I was like, “[laughs] I love this, I love what I’m getting into, I love every part of it. I’m ready.”
Ellen: Yes! [laughs] And also, as you’re going through, she’s brought in the SPN parts of it really well, I guess. Because it’s such — neither of them actually speak to each other properly, like, they don’t communicate what they’re — like, both of them are sort of — you can tell that obviously Cas is trying to do something for Dean, but he doesn’t tell him what he’s doing. And Dean notices something wrong, but he doesn’t actually ask about that. So they’re not communicating, and it’s just like the show, really!
Mal: Yep! Especially, I think, the aspect where Dean is paying more attention to Sam, even though Sam is absent. He’s still so caught up on Sam and his duty to his brother that he’s not seeing what’s right in front of him, which just adds to the angst, really [laughs] You just want to yell at everybody and bang their heads together, and make them sit down like toddlers and talk it out [laughs]
Em: But I went, and I’ve sort of read up a little bit about the myth after having finished the fic, and I really liked the way that that was sort of, translated. Because in the original, it was sort of more greed and really selfish motivation that caused the main character to do so much damage to the Cas figure. But for Dean, that was completely, sort of… adapted in a different way to make it so that it was such a Dean motivation to me, to have it be like, “He’s so single focused. It’s not about himself and what he wants, it’s about trying to help his brother and trying to make something right.” I really like the way that that was done.
Mal: Yeah, Dean can be so stubborn when he gets into that headspace. [laughter] Because, you know, that’s his job, his duty, his calling, and… [sighs] Ah, Dean, Dean [laughs]
Em: Dean… Yeah, when it becomes about his role as the big brother, his job… There’s no stopping him [laughs]
Ellen: I guess it says it a little bit in the summary, but Sam has been taken away to become the Boy King of Hell, like, you know, he was betrayed by Ruby and the storyline of season four has actually played out the way that Ruby wanted it to [laughs] So, I think that the way that Sam is portrayed as being a demon and kind of… is so chilling, like I really — [laughs] I thought she did that really well. Like, I know that Sam being the Boy King of Hell is like a trope on its own, like I’m sure we could talk about that at some other time because there’s a lot of fic that centers on him in that role, but I loved that he was just so evil [laughs] Until they saved him.
Em: I know, I really loved it! And I loved the way that there were no-holds-barred in a way, you know? Like, I don’t know what you guys think, but I often find with Supernatural canon, they sort of set up the possibility of something really dark and scary happening, and then they kind of pull back from it a little bit and don’t go all the way into it, whereas this, it’s like, “No, he’s fully the Boy King of Hell, and he’s evil.” And he is evil! Like, he’s so horrible! [laughs] Like you said, really, really chilling. And I loved it! I really, really loved it.
Ellen: Yeah, really good. And especially when — well, they were able to save him, obviously, like [laughs] That’s a bit of a spoiler, but you know. A bit obvious that that’s gonna happen. But if it’s going to have a happy ending and they are able to kind of bring Sam out of that, then that’s an extra happy ending in my book, I think [laughs] I also loved in this one, that they… the romantic parts of this were so sweet. Like, they were really… they really loved each other all the way through, and they were just really sweet with each other, I thought [laughs] and it was lovely.
Em: I love that fairytale bond that they had, where Cas was just kind of… there! And then there was like, “Yep, that’s right. This is — this is how it’s supposed to be.” And then they just kind of fit together. And I was like, “[sighs] So lovely.” It’s just so romantic and pretty, you know?
Mal: I think that’s another reason fairytales work so well for these two, isn’t it? Because Cas has always had that very, “Yep. This is my human,” kind of [laughs]
Ellen: Profound bond! [laughter] But, yes. I had to go back and reread the beginning, actually, because I must have sort of zoned out a little bit when Cas actually showed up at Dean’s place, and I’m like, “Did he just show up and then stay?” And yeah, that’s basically what happened.
Mal: Yep! That is what happened.
Em: That is what happened.
Ellen: He just came in and Dean was like, “Ah, you live with me now, this is it.” [laughter] Okay, I guess that’s a very fairytale — like you don’t have to explain everything in a fairytale, right? It’s just — it’s what happens.
Em: Exactly! This is what I love about fairytales. It’s like something just happens and you’re just like, “Yep. Well. Okay. Yeah. Sure.”
Ellen: “It happened.”
Em: “I accept this.”
Mal: One thing that’s quite small about this fic that I absolutely love and I haven’t seen in very many stories, but in terms of minor characters, there is a Rowena character in this story, but the thing that’s wonderful to me, is that she has a child-aged Crowley [laughs]
[agreement and laughter]
Em: It’s so funny, and so cute [laughs]
Ellen: And so when she’s talking about “his little banger hanging out” [laughter] you can really see him running around! [lots of laughter]
Em: That line has really stuck with me as well! [laughs] It’s such a vivid mental image I had there, and I was like, “I don’t know if I want that mental image, but I have it, and it is making me laugh, so how can I question it?”
Mal: Canon scarred us all with that one. Blame the Supernatural writers for that one, now we’re stuck with it.
Ellen: It works so well, though, when he’s a kid. And I think, also — it’s probably tagged, but there is some Sam and Rowena kind of right at the end, which I love, because it means that Sam is then… Crowley’s step-dad, which I just really [laughs] I think it’s hilarious.
Em: [laughing] I hadn’t thought that all the way through, that’s incredible.
Mal: That is one of the best parts of that whole ship, really [laughs] And depending on if you buy into, you know, triplet theory or not, then, um… [laughs] technically, he could’ve had Dean and Sam banging his mom. Let’s [laughs] put that out there, so.
Ellen: Oh, god.
Mal: It’s a good life for Crowley.
Ellen: Poor Crowley, oh. He’s had such a hard deal. But he’s so wonderful in these stories, I love it.
Em: I really liked the way… the whole Rowena sort of storyline there, where like, the way it felt so fairytale to me, you know, in a sense of, like we said before, fairytales often have that kind of teaching element, right? Of like, “Hey, this is morality. Consider this.” And so when it came to the Rowena storyline, with Dean sort of showing kindness, and that begetting more kindness, it just felt so amazingly fairytale. It was great.
Mal: Yeah. I do want to give a shout out to Correlia’s beautiful art in this story.
Em: Oh, yeah, it was amazing.
Mal: Yeah, the art was lovely, and she did a beautiful banner kind of cover for the beginning, and then the little scene dividers, these beautiful flowers, and it’s so — It’s so pretty, and it fits the whole fairytale feeling of the whole thing. So it just becomes a lovely experience to read it [laughs] And if people read on Kindles — is it Kindles people read on, where they don’t get to see the art? I know there’s some kind of… some way of reading it…
Ellen: I read this on my Kobo, and it did have the flowery scene dividers, and I don’t remember if the art was in it, but I went back and looked at it online, to make sure. Because the Kobo is only black and white, so I don’t get the full effect of the art if it’s in there.
Mal: I was gonna say, if you’re one of those readers that reads on a Kindle or some other way where you usually miss out on the art, then please do go to AO3 and love on the artists now and again [laughs] Because it really does add something to the experience of the story sometimes.
Em: Before we move on, can I give one tiny quick shout out to… there was a line that I really loved. You know, in canon, obviously, there’s the “no chick flick moments” and I really loved that the fairytale version of that in this fic was, “Enough sentimentality!” [laughter] That appealed to me so much. I loved that phrasing.
Ellen: Perfect adaptation, there.
Mal: Yeah, I do love when authors do that. They take something that’s maybe not straight out of canon, but they change it to fit whatever AU they’re currently using. But we’re all so…
Em: We’re all winking at it! We’re all like, “Yes, I know, I know!”
Mal: We’re all so well-trained. That it just leaps out at us [laughs]
Ellen: We need a bingo card. “There’s one! Canon line!”
Em: So true. And also, I don’t know if you guys find this, but I love how you can kind of often date when an author probably got into the fandom, judging by which exact parts they reference the most. And you’re like, “Ah, [laughter] you came in at season 8, did you? I can see it, it’s all over. It’s all over your writing, I love it.” [laughs]
Mal: So, the second fic that we are going to discuss today is Cinderwings by bendingsignpost, who, as we mentioned earlier, we had on the last episode of the podcast. This fic is 181,000 words, so it’s a uh… chunky boy. And it was published in 2018, it is explicit, and I think this was posted as a work in progress. I don’t think this was part of any bangs or anything like that, but there is some related art if you check out the links in various endnotes and things, I think. So, the summary goes like this:
Under the cover of a masquerade ball, Castiel has five nights to recover the key to his people’s freedom. The world has changed greatly in the six centuries since their banishment into the void, but the task isn’t impossible. Unfortunately for Castiel, this is going to involve talking to people — especially the Knight Prince who has taken an interest in Castiel and his “costume” wings.
So, this is a Cinderella AU. There’s no glass shoes in this one, but we do have some very interesting wings, which obviously are Castiel’s real wings, which Dean is not aware of until quite close to the end of the story. I don’t think that’s a spoiler, in any way, to say. But all of the other Cinderella elements — the balls, the princes, the whole masquerade element — are all very much a key part to this story. What did you think, y’all?
Ellen: Ah, I love it [laughter] I feel like I say this every time we talk about one of Ben’s fics, but he does such a good job of creating a full and detailed world, every time. Like, this is a proper high fantasy kind of thing. There’s a full on society for both Dean and the kingdom, and also for the angels, that is quite different to anything in Supernatural. Or Cinderella, in fact. So, he’s taken this story and made it his own, as he always does.
Mal: Yeah, he’s done a very detailed job of it with this one, right down to customs and clothing. Little things that are briefly mentioned, in one passing line, and you can tell that there’s so much more behind it, which he didn’t even tell us, probably. But if you asked him, he would probably know [laughs]
Ellen: So, I guess to expand on the summary, the angels have been banished six centuries ago, to the Empty, basically, I guess. A void where there’s no air, or light, or anything. That was to get rid of the demons, that they were at war with, at that time, right?
Ellen: And so, the way to get — and it’s explained later into the fic, so I won’t go into it too much — but basically he needs to get an angel tablet to release the angels from the void. And to do that, he has to infiltrate the kingdom, where King John and Queen Mary are the rulers. So, they’re having a ball to celebrate… this is such an interesting way to do this whole kingdom thing, because there are Knights and Mages. And the Mage… at the moment in this kingdom, the Mage gets precedence to become a king. So Sam will become the king, because he’s a Mage, over Dean, who is the Knight Prince. That’s a complicated way of describing that, but basically, Dean, as always, has to protect Sam, who is the heir to the throne, and the ball is in Sam’s honor, it goes for five nights, and Castiel has to come through a portal each night to go to the ball and leave by midnight, so he can get back through the portal. Which is such an interesting way of doing Cinderella and her “having to leave by midnight,” thing. There’s no pumpkins in this fic, I’m disappointed [laughs] But everything else is wonderful, as always.
Em: Just a slight quibble, there. Just a little quibble.
Mal: More pumpkins needed.
Em: 10 out of 10. Needed more pumpkins.
Ellen: I’m always saying that we need to go, and we need to get out of here by midnight or we’ll turn into pumpkins, so [laughter]
Mal: Well, in this case, Castiel needs to get out of there by midnight, or… I’m assuming that the deal is that the portal will close and he’ll be stuck there. I’m trying to recall what the parameters were, specifically, but. Yes, the portal is keyed specifically to Castiel, I remember that part. So, Castiel has to dash off into the maze, before midnight, which becomes a problem for him as the evenings go on, as it seems on a few occasions, like maybe he doesn’t really want to leave as much as he should. After he meets… a certain someone.
Ellen: And at the same time, he can’t give in because his wings, obviously, are part of his “costume,” or so everyone thinks, and he doesn’t want to reveal that they’re actually his wings.
Mal: Until he is forced to do so. No real spoilers there, I don’t think.
Ellen: I mean, obviously, you know it’s all going to come crashing down at some point, and I think that’s really what Ben does the best, in his fics. You know that it’s coming. Like, you know that all of this house of cards is going to collapse eventually, but he does such a good job of drawing out that tension for, probably something like 150,000 words, before anything happens.
Mal: Yeah, it’s exactly like we were talking about with him, I think, actually, in relation to the two-person love triangle. This isn’t one of those, but it’s still — you’re waiting for that moment: that moment where the thing that they do not know becomes known. And all the readers are on the edge of their seats like, “Ahhh!”
Mal: And it’s definitely done in very spectacular style, in this fic, when it happens.
Ellen: Oh, yeah. Extremely epic. And I love — One of the things I really loved about this. The dancing. No Cinderella fic would be complete, I think, without dancing. There is some beautiful dancing in this one, and they have such a good time together [laughs] It’s just really fluffy, that part, I loved it.
Mal: Yeah, I thought one of the really charming things about the dancing was, not only does Dean have to teach Cas, because, obviously, he’s not from their world and has no idea how to do any of these kind of medieval-style, kind of fancy dances that they do, but then Cas goes back to his world and he teaches Balthazar and Anna [laughs]
[happy laughter and cooing]
Ellen: And they all have a lovely time dancing together, it’s so nice!
Mal: It’s so cute!
Mal: Yep, I loved that aspect of it, as well.
Ellen: And also, he was so excited to see the sky, because he hadn’t seen it for hundreds of years, and hadn’t been able to fly properly. And to see the sky, and be able to see the stars and everything, but not be able to fly because he was kind of, incognito, I guess, was such a sweet, kind of angst to that.
Mal: Yes, it was so lovely. And when Dean obviously notices that he’s kind of obsessed with the sky — like it says, he takes him outside or whatever, he’s just gazing upwards, and Cas is just like, “Uh… claustrophobic.” [laughs] Just like, comes up (with that). Which isn’t wholly untrue, as you read on through the story, he’s obviously much more comfortable outside than inside. But, I did have a little bit of a chuckle when Cas first came out with that [laughs] as his excuse for wanting to stare at the sky a lot.
Ellen: Yes, there’s so many little moments in this one I just thought were so delightful.
Mal: One of my favorite things in the story is actually — I really like the relationship between Dean and Sam, in this story. Because it has a little bit of that kind of canon tension, where they both clearly love each other, and they’re there for each other, and they’re doing their duty, but they’re assuming what the other one thinks, quite a lot. And that there are several scenes in this where they do actually unpack that a little bit, and talk about the situation that they’re in. Because, as we’ve already done spoilers, I guess I can say it [laughs] So, the situation in the world that they live in, is that obviously when Dean was born, it was assumed that he would be king, until Sam came along. And not even, I think, initially when Sam was first born, but when he kind of first started showing his Mage powers, was the point where he was then elevated above Dean in kind of the line of succession, and everything else. And there’s a point where you’re reading where you kind of get the impression that, “Oh, Sam thinks about that a lot more than Dean does.” Like, as far as Dean’s concerned, that’s the way it is, and Sam’s his brother, and he is there to protect his brother. Whereas Sam has all these overthinking thoughts about having taken Dean’s place, in some way. And they actually talk about it! I mean, they don’t talk about it well, necessarily [laughs] But they do talk about it!
Em: Let’s not go too far, let’s not reach too high. Come on, now [laughs] They’re still the Winchesters.
Mal: So they do talk about it in a very in-character, Winchester way. But I also really like the fact that it was addressed in this. It kind of mirrors a lot of things that maybe they should have talked about at some point in canon, and just never did — or did talk about, you know, ten years in [laughs] Where, you know, I think Sam in particular is very prone to it, of kind of assuming that he knows what Dean thinks, and I really like the way that was addressed in this fic. And it was done without making either of them the bad guy, particularly, which I liked, because… miscommunication’s the bad guy, not them specifically!
Ellen: And their kind of bickering, and the way they actually speak to each other is very in character, too, which I liked.
Mal: Yes. My favorite part of the whole story, in terms of a little line or scene, or something like that: There’s a big climax, everything goes down, it’s very dramatic. When we’re in kind of the falling action section afterwards, there’s a scene where Dean is talking to Cas and they’re still at the point where they’re not really sure if they can trust each other, now that all the unknowns have come out. And at that point, Dean tells Cas that he can ask any questions that he has about their world and any questions that Dean hasn’t already addressed. And immediately, the first thing that Cas wants to know, is what the hell is up with clapping [laughs] Like, “Why does everybody clap? Why does everybody keep waving their hands around, Dean?” [laughter] And I was just sat there, like, “Okay. I guess if you’re an angel and you emote and do things with your wings, [laughs] it’s probably a bit weird if all these people in the room just start seal clapping their hands together for no reason.”
Em: Yeah, hitting their hands together.
Mal: And he’s just like, “What’s up with that?” And then his follow up question, is what Dean is doing with his face when he keeps closing one eye all the time [laughs]
Ellen: And then from then on, in Cas’ point of view he actually refers to it as winking. But before that, it’s always like, “He closes one eye,” or whatever, and it’s like, “What?” But no, a really big part of the first half of the fic is Cas trying to work out what everyone’s doing with their face. Because they have no wings to tell him how emotions work, so he goes, “he smiles, and then he smiles with his mouth.” He’s trying to work out how, rather than being able to move his wings to show his emotion, he has to force his face into doing what Dean is doing. It’s a really interesting way to — and it goes through the whole story, really. Like, him saying that he has to frown with his face [laughs]
Mal: Like, specifically. With his face.
Ellen: Yeah, it’s a bit jarring at first and then you’re like, “Oh, that’s right, he doesn’t actually know how to do that.” And then by the end, you’re like, “Oh, this is so cute.”
Mal: And it actually becomes kind of a marvelous part of the story, really, in that obviously Dean is flirting with Cas, and Cas is flirting back, but Cas genuinely doesn’t realize that’s what he’s doing, he’s just copying Dean [laughs] I mean, he’s fully on board with it, but he doesn’t realize that that’s what he was doing. Which is quite charming, really.
Ellen: Yeah. The whole thing is very charming. I’ve been reading it flat-out for the last couple of days, and I’m like, honestly, I’m at 91% on my Kobo [laughs], so I’m dying to read the ending because it’s getting really — it’s building up to that big climax, so [laughter] After we finish recording, I’m like, “Okay, just quickly go back and read the ending” [laughs]
Mal: “Dive back in!”
Mal: No, I love the way this story ends, so message me and yell about it, when you’re done [laughs]
Ellen: Alright. I will, I will do that. [laughter] Being a fantasy reader, this is just the way I like my fantasy to be. A fully kind of built world, with political — you know, the neighboring kingdom is where Charlie is the queen. So, she has to come and talk to them to trade things, and the whole world is fleshed out, and just really amazing, so. This is my cup of tea.
Okay, so we have to mention: Cas’ wings. So one thing that I really loved was the way that angel’s wings are described, and the little names they get for the different colors of wings. Like, he’s a Cinderwing because he’s got black wings with gray underneath, and Anna was a Flamewing because she had red on her feathers, and [sighs] I love that.
Mal: Yeah, it was so beautifully done, and it was a lovely way to kind of tie the name into the whole Cinderella thing, as well. There’s even a point where Dean is making a comment about bestowing a name upon him, because Dean thinks that Cas is an orphan — when they first start, that’s kind of his cover for not having a family to talk about or anything like that, specifically — and so he talks about calling him “Castiel Cinderwings.” It just — it’s quite, it’s quite charming.
[sighs and cooing]
Ellen: The first time he said that, I was like, “Ahh, that’s so lovely. I’m just calling him Castiel Cinderwings from now on. That’s it.”
Mal: I was going to say I really enjoyed Balthazar in this fic. He’s not necessarily a huge character in this fic, he does appear in the Castiel POV chapters here and there, and more specifically toward the end. But I love that he kind of has that very, slightly teasing, but dismissive attitude that Balthazar has quite a lot in canon, and in a lot of AUs as well, and again, this could be a spoiler, I don’t even know if you’ve got to this part yet, but — so, the whole point with this masquerade is that their costumes are supposed to get more and more extravagant each night as it goes on. Unfortunately, Cas has to kind of start this whole process with his wings — it’s not like he can take them off — so he’s already quite… he’s like, got his ace out, right from the beginning [laughs] so he has to come up with new ways each day to try and change up his costume and follow these traditions that they have. And, I believe it’s the last night, Balthazar actually weaves ribbons — like, blue ribbons — into his wings, in between the feathers, which we then find out [laughs] and becomes significant again later, is actually, like a kind of courtship ritual for angels [laughs] so Balthazar was really, like, setting him up to go out there, [laughs] even though Dean had no idea. But it was quite lovely. And there were definitely some comments made about that later, which are great, so.
Ellen: Yeah, so definitely worth investing the time in this one, because it is on the longer side, as fics go, but worth it for all that beautiful, kind of rich worldbuilding, and some really awesome action when you get to it. There is a bit of angst kind of, the climax of the story has quite angsty, sad parts, but then — I’m assuming happy ending, I haven’t actually got to the end yet [laughs] — it’s happy after that.
Mal: Well, I won’t tell you. You’ll find out your own way [laughs]
Ellen: I mean, it has to have a happy ending, right? [laughs] This is Cinderella, it has to.
Mal: Welllll… [laughs] no, I’m just teasing you.
Em: Or does it?
Ellen: Now you’ve got me worried, I’m gonna have to go back and read it right now [laughs]
Mal: No, there is a happy ending to this one, I promise. It’s a somewhat hard won, but there is a happy ending to this one [laughs]
The third story that we’re going to talk about today is called True As it Can Be, and it is by whelvenwings (Em). It was published back in 2017 for the Destiel Reverse Bang, is that correct?
Em: That is correct.
Ellen: And it’s 72,000 words, and it is rated explicit. Em, do you want to read the summary for us?
Em: For sure. Okay:
Growing up in a small town in Kansas, Dean learned from a young age that there was only one rule that couldn’t be broken, one place he couldn’t go – through the forest, to the long-abandoned Angel’s Hollow. But when Sam disappears, Dean’s left with no choice but to follow his brother’s tracks through the dangers of the wood; little does he know that the most dangerous creature of all lurks not among the trees, but in the Hollow itself. Dean sets Sam free, at the cost of his own liberty – and, bound by magic, resigns himself to living out the rest of his days in the Hollow, at the mercy of the being within. The angel of Angel’s Hollow, however, has a story – is a prisoner, too, as much as Dean is. Only one thing can free them both – but it is impossible. For, after all: who could ever learn to love a beast?
Mal: Who indeed?
Ellen: So if you haven’t guessed by now, this is a Beauty and the Beast retelling [laughs]
Em: I was half expecting you to be like, “If you haven’t guessed by now, this is a retelling of The Lion King.”
Ellen:I totally should have said that. [laughs]
Mal: You know what, this fandom has one of those, so [laughs]
Mal: Actually, it’s — yes, it’s a retelling of The Lion King 2, I think?
Ellen: Yes, yes, SOBS did it (sobsicles). I remember it now.
Ellen: It’s really good, too [laughs]
Mal: It is, it’s so good [laughs]
Em: Ooooh! Oh my gosh. Incredible.
Ellen: But yeah, I think this is one of the first things of yours that I read, and I just love the way that you’ve written this and sort of brought in both the Supernatural story elements and the Beauty and the Beast elements, and you’ve woven them together in such a beautiful way. After I finished reading it, I screamed about it to everyone who would listen, and then thought, “I have got to write a fairytale retelling of some kind.” So, back then was around the time when I had already starting writing this mermaid thing that I posted last week, so you inspired me to get back into that [laughs]
Em: [gasps] No way!
Ellen: [laughing] Yes, several years later it’s finally posted. Thank you.
Em: This feels like destiny, that we’re here. And you just posted it! It’s all come together! [laughs]
Em: Ah, thank you so much. It’s actually funny you say that, because I was inspired to write the fic, partly, of course, by the beautiful art. I remember seeing the art up on the “Claims” (for yjr Reverse Bang) in 2017 and just immediately being like, “[snaps] Yes. That’s — that’s my one. If I don’t get that one, I don’t want anything, it has to be that.” But, the reason that I wanted to do a fairytale retelling in the first place, is because I was inspired by my friend, Mich, or thebloggerbloggerfun, or K_K_TiBal. I never know how to pronounce her AO3. She has written The Swan Princess fairytale retelling herself, and so she was sort of posting that over the course of a couple of years, and, yeah. You see someone else doing it, don’t you, and you’re like, “Yep. That’s — I gotta. Yep. I have to.”
Ellen: I didn’t actually write down who the artist was for your story.
Mal: It was deli!
Em: It’s deliciousirony.
Mal: Yes! It was the lovely deli that did this one.
Ellen: Yeah! Oh, oh, how wonderful.
Em: Yeah, we got to work together again, was it last year? Yeah, for the DCBB, I think it was. Yeah, I wrote a royalty AU, and we got to pair up again, it was great.
Ellen: Wonderful! Yeah, so I guess you’ve actually stuck with, pretty much, the whole storyline of Beauty and the Beast quite closely, in fact. You know, with Sam going to the castle first, and then Dean going to find him, and it’s quite parallel to the — was it the Disney version that you were inspired by in that way, or? Did you look at older versions?
Em: You know what, I would say, yeah. I mean, it’s sort of a mixture of the two, but I would definitely say mostly the Disney version, because that’s been with me for a really long time. It’s in the sort of — you know you have those stories that are kind of, like, right there in your bedrock? Like, even when you’re not writing anything to do with them, somehow you can see little flashes of — Like, “Oh, I know where I got that from,” or “I know why I was inspired to write that scene in that way, because I really love that story and I always have done.” And it’s one of those for me, the Disney version of the story.
Ellen: Yeah. Oh, now I’ve just found the art that has the rose in it, and Dean looking at the rose. Ah, so beautiful [laughs]
Em: It’s soooo beautiful. Like, you can imagine I was just sort of scrolling through, and I saw it, and my heart just leapt. I was like, “[gasps] That is sooo beautiful. I really really want to write for that.”
Mal: I think that’s the thing with reverse bangs, isn’t it? Sometimes you just open up claims and something leaps into your heart, and you’re like, “That’s — that’s the one.” [laughs]
Em: “That’s the one! It’s gotta be that!” [laughs]
Mal: Yeah, that’s the way it is.
Mal: I really did like how, even though you very much used that kind of Beauty and the Beast format, of Sam first, then Dean, the rest. But the motivations, and the way that Cas ended up for the Beast, we’re very, very… uniquely Supernatural. I really — I won’t spoil that too much, because that’s definitely something people find out kind of towards the end of the story, so I won’t spoil that for everybody, but there’s a lot of Supernatural worked in there. [laughs] It’s great.
Em: Yeah, I really wanted to try and stitch it all together somehow, so I’m really glad that that came off.
Ellen: And, so, Lucifer comes along to, you know, try and get Sam to take him into the Angel’s Hollow. Is the story… I haven’t watched the Beauty and the Beast movie for a while, is the story with the apple and that part of that story? Or is that something you added to add in the angel lore?
Em: I mean, yeah, there are different versions of the story. The Disney movie doesn’t have an apple, but in other tellings there’s — like, Maurice, the father, or like, whoever the father is, whatever his name is, because it’s not always Maurice, but he takes some form of food, and because of that he has to stay in the castle. That’s kind of the reason that the Beast is like, “No, you can’t go anywhere.” So that kind of gave me the idea for it, and then it kind of, obviously, apples, got me thinking about kind of the biblical references that I could make, and it kind of grew out from there. No pun intended with the growing.
Mal: We love a good pun, embrace it [laughs]
Em: I will EM-brace it, ah ha ha.
Em: [laughing] I’m so — I’m sorry.
Ellen: We are also a fan of bad puns here, so it’s fine.
Em: That’s good, it’s good you clarified that, it’s good.
Ellen: No, I do love the fact that Lucifer was the CEO of the Gas Ton Company, so that you included Gaston in there as well, that was so good.
Em: Ohh, my absolute favorite thing is — there’s one particular chapter where, I think about 90% of the comments are just people being like, “Oh my god, I can’t believe I only just realized this — Gaston.” [laughs]
Ellen: You know, it took me a while to work it out to, you know, and I got to — and this is on a reread, as well! — I got through it, to that point, and I was like, “Hang on a minute!” [laughs]
Em: “Wait a second!”
Ellen: Ah, so good.
Em: It does my heart so much good every time I get a comment like that, I’m like, “Ah! Fantastic!” [laughs]
Ellen: And you also brought in the extra characters in the castle as ghosts, which was an interesting take on that. Was that the way you always intended to do it, or were you going to try and have… I don’t know, the footstool, and the [laughs]
Mal: I love how you kind of linked those aspects in, a little bit though, like they’re still connected to a thing, even though we don’t see them…
Em: I think… I didn’t want to go… because of the tone of the fic, in general, that I was kind of aiming for, was something that wasn’t too… kitschy? Is that the right word? You know, something that was a bit more, kind of… it had a little bit of grit to it, and I think having Charlie turn up as an actual armoire might have been… [laughter] taking the edge off a little bit, you know? I feel like that’s what it’s intended to do in the Disney movie at least, right? Like, you’ve got all this scary stuff happening, but it’s a kid’s movie, so you want to have some fun, and there’s a wardrobe that talks, [laughs] but for me, I wanted it to be… something that didn’t quite puncture the atmosphere in the same way, and this was the best solution that I had for it. I definitely wanted to keep the sort of family feeling in the castle, because that is… yeah, that’s really what is the heart of the story for me. I remember when I first watched the Disney movie, and I remember thinking — the first thing that I had in mind when I saw Mrs. Potts and Chip and Lumiere and Cogsworth, and all these characters — how they were just living in this castle. And I remember thinking, “But this castle is terrifying! Like, this castle is horrible! It’s a nightmare, how can you just be living a life there?” You know? Like, “What’s going on? How can you possibly be happy, how can you be smiling, how can you be singing songs?” And, as time went by, that theme has become really important to me. I think, probably in a way that we can kind of all relate to, at this point, with the world the way that it is, that when something really big and bad is happening in your surroundings, but you can still… you know, there’s that message of, “You can still make a life here. You can still find family and belonging here.” So, to keep that element of the story really strong — or as strong as I could make it, in the fic — was really important to me.
Ellen: And it also ties back into Supernatural as well, because obviously, the found family element of that is really important to a lot of people. Maybe not the showrunners, given the ending, but [laughter] let’s not go there.
[laughter and exclamations of pain]
Ellen: Okay, okay [laughs] too salty?
Em: [laughing] Just the right amount of salty, actually. Yeah.
Ellen: But, no, I always — even now, like, after reading these fics now, I really appreciate when found family is a big, kind of, focused-on thing, because it just — that’s what I love about the show. And bringing in all those extra characters and making them a family, in this big scary castle, is, you know, just right for this story. Both of the stories that you’ve brought in here.
Mal: It is very wonderful. And I loved your specific choice of who you decided to have as these side characters, as well. Because obviously we’ve got quite a lot of different options, when it comes to side characters in Supernatural, you know, fifteen years worth to go through.
Em: Mhmm, yep, there’s one or two of them. One or two [laughs]
Mal: Yeah. But, the way that you had Charlie kind of pestering Dean, for like, a dressing montage for, like, several chapters [laughter] And then, when he eventually finds his place in the found family and kind of accepts it as his own, and then he kind of like, gently suggests to her that they do that? That was just so wonderful to me. Like, that’s when you know that he’s really in it, you know? [laughs]
Em: Ohh, I’m so glad you liked it! [laughter] Yeah, he’s decided, “This is actually okay, I can do this. I actually like this. Dress me.”
Mal: “Dress me, wardrobe lady.”
Ellen: I did like that those little canon lines or moments did pop up in unexpected places [laughs] Like you’re sort of in the Beauty and the Beast mindset, with the story continuing in a certain way, and then all of the sudden there would be a montage mentioned, and you’re like, “Oh, that’s right! [laughter] I’m reading a Supernatural story.”
Em: “Ah, I just remembered what I’m doing. Yeah. Cool.”
Ellen: And every time I read or watch Beauty and the Beast, especially, I always just end up with “Be Our Guest” or one of those songs stuck in my head for weeks afterwards, so thank you for not including too many actual song references in this fic [laughs] Because I didn’t end up with that, and it was good.
Em: Oh, you know, I always say this: There are so many of my fics that I’ve titled with song lyrics or song titles, and I keep doing it! And I shouldn’t! Because literally I get the email like, “AO3 says: You’ve got kudos!” And I’m like, “Ah, nice!” And then I open it up, and then I’ve got like five different songs in my head at once, just boom. Done. There it is. [laughter] And “true as it can be” is obviously part of a song in Beauty and the Beast, and this is part of the problem. I’m just gonna say it.
Ellen: It’s a good problem to have. For that particular song, it’s a nice song.
Em: It is, it is. Yeah. It’s funny, because when I was thinking about what to title the fic, my first thought was, “Well I should just call it ‘tale as old as time,’ because that’s like, the main line in the song,” and then I remembered: I already have a fic that’s called that, so [laughing] I had to go with the next line in the song. [laughter] And I want to say that there was more thought into it than that, but honestly, that was about the level [laughing] that I was on.
Ellen: Title is hard.
Mal: Yeah. Titles are really hard.
Em: Ugh. Titles and summaries, man.
Mal: The worst.
Ellen: It’s just good that so many song lyricists have come up with good combinations of words that [laughing] work for title-ing.
Em: Yes! Definitely.
Mal: So, you know sometimes you read a line or a series of lines in a fic, and it just produces such a crystal clear image in your head, and it just like, hits you right in the chest, and you just stop for a tiny second and — I don’t know if anyone else does this, but I will literally put down my phone, and I have to stand up and walk in a circle for a second [laughs] and then sit back down.
Em: Just had to go for a walk!
Mal: Okay, so you have one of those in this fic, for me.
Em: Noooo, really?
Mal: You do. So, in the iconic Beauty and the Beast scene where — in this story, obviously — it’s Cas fighting Lucifer, and then Dean is, you know, trying to run towards him and help and all the rest of it. I could see that whole fight playing out in my mind [laughs] I was just like, “Ohhh, no!” Even though, like, you know a happy ending is coming? But even so, you’re there, and you’re in the moment, [laughs] so you’re just like, “Nooo!”
Em: “Nooo, so stressful!”
Mal: And then you have the line — which, I mean, it was in the Disney movie, I think it’s in almost every version of this, there’s some kind of variation of this line — where Dean looks up at Cas, after the moment with the rose and it all happens, and he says, “It is you.” And you realize that he finally recognizes who Cas is! [gasping and cooing] And at that point, the phone went down and up I got and I was like, “[squeaks] Ah!”
Em: Yup! [laughs]
Mal: It was a lot, okay? [laughing] There was just a lot, and I had to take a moment!
Em: Yes. I mean, I had to include it. I had to. And, I mean, again, I don’t want to sound like I’m getting really pretentious and way too deep with stuff, but. That line — again, that whole sort of scenario — it just means a lot to me. I’m a nonbinary person, and there’s something so… profound and moving to me, about someone’s appearance not quite matching what they feel like inside, and then someone who they really care about, maybe seeing them as they really are, and being like, “Oh, it is you.” Like, I can feel the emotion rising in me just thinking about it. Yeah, it really hits me. So it — it had to be in there, you know? It had to be in that story.
Mal: And you did it so well. Like, that is the whole feeling that comes through in that scene, where it’s like, “Ahhh, he’s finally seeing him!” [laughs] It’s like, “Gah!” [sighs] Ah, emotional.
Em: Ah, well thank you. I’m really glad that that came across. Really, really glad.
Mal: So good. A beautiful moment in a beautiful fic, overall, so.
Em: Ugh. I’m definitely puddling. I promised you I would, and I’m doing it [laughs]
Mal: It’s alright, we’ll mop you up after [laughs]
Em: Thank you so much, thank you.
Ellen: I’ll go on a different tangent to being “puddling” [laughter] The very beginning of this fic — not just the beginning, but the early parts where they’re sort of going into Angel’s Hollow, is some of the most terrifying atmospheric writing [laughing] that I’ve read in a fanfic. So, I just wanted to say thank you for that, too [laughing] because I appreciate being scared out of my wits sometimes [laughter] And that one got to me.
Em: [laughing] Well, it was my honor to terrify!
Mal: Yeah, you did such a beautiful job of building the tension about Angel’s Hollow over those first — I wanna say, like, five chapters, maybe, just off the top of my head. Of building it up to be this kind of mythical thing? That even though we hadn’t seen it yet, we knew.
Em: “There’s something there.” It’s a big deal.
Ellen: And as we got closer — and I think, also, the other thing I need to say, is that including Baby as the horse stand-in kind of thing was genius! Really great!
Em: [laughing] Oh! Thank you!
Ellen: And, I mean, the car is almost a character on its own, and it’s got, like, magical kind of things going on with the radio and… That was really cool. And taking the car into the forest and all that was just… really terrifying, loved it.
Em: It’s one of those… You can’t not have Baby, you know? You just — you can’t not, and that was one of the first, sort of, images that came to me as I was trying to think about how I wanted to go about writing this fic. It was just Dean pelting through this forest that was sort of… the branches all tearing at the car trying to stop him, and he’s just breaking on through, anyway. And it’s just… That’s one of the starting points I had, and it kind of grew out from there, so. Yeah. I knew I wanted it to be scary. And I’m glad it worked!
Ellen: It really did.
Em: It’s interesting because, you know, so much of fanfic that I write is fluffy, you know? It’s happy and cute, and I try and keep it light and not go off too far into really dark stuff, but every now and then, I’m like, “You know what? Let’s try this! Let’s just give this a go.” [laughs] So, it’s always fun.
Mal: That was one of the wonderful things about being fanfic writers, I think, as opposed to writing anywhere else. It’s so easy for us to just, switch genres and do whatever we want to do. And our readers are generally so forgiving of that! That they’re just like, “Well, I trusted you to do this one thing, and I read this and I liked it, and this is a whole different genre, but I’m in!” [laughs] And that we have the freedom to do whatever we want!
Ellen: That’s why adding the tags is such a wonderful thing in AO3. Because you can just completely change genre. You can have a sad ending if you want to, as long as you tag it as such and tell people. Whereas, you probably don’t get that with authors in actual published books, who change genres. You don’t know what you’re getting. Whereas on AO3, we generally do.
Em: That’s such a good point, yeah. I wrote a zombie AU, which — very different from my usual fare. And it was just, you know, along the lines of what Mal was saying, it’s just — it was so nice to get those comments from people who were like, “I would never normally touch this, but I’ve read your other stuff, and I trusted you, and I’m glad I did, because I really enjoyed it!” And it’s so nice to be able to sort of… go across genres, but feel like you’ve still created something that feels like it’s recognizably yours, so people who get enjoyment out of your writing can still get enjoyment out of this other genre. I don’t know, I find it really helps to — I don’t know what you guys think, but when I’m writing, it really helps me to find my voice throughout different genres, different styles, different stories. It helps.
Mal: Yeah, no, I completely agree with that. Because I’m somebody that pretty much switches genres every time I post a fic [laughs] Pretty much!
Em: Oh, yeah?
Mal: Yeah. I’ve got — I’ve usually got a bunch of different things on the go at once, but I really do like, kind of, trying new things and grabbing an idea and taking it in a different direction, but at the same time, it’s still always me writing it [laughs] It’s — I don’t know. It’s a lot of fun and I don’t think any other form of writing really gives you that in the way that we are handed the reins and allowed to do whatever we want.
Em: So true.
Ellen: It’s very freeing. I guess that’s why it’s such a good place for people who are new to writing, who are trying to develop their craft. To try out, you know, it’s a bit of a sandbox for finding your voice, and trying to find the best way that you know how to tell a story.
Em: Definitely. And I was saying to… I can’t remember who I was talking to, that’s not important [laughs] I was saying the other day how I really love how in fandom, creation doesn’t feel lonely in the way that it often does when you’re making something with original characters.
Mal: Ohhhh, yes.
Em: Yeah! It’s just like you said, it’s a sandbox, and it feels like… almost like you’ve got a whole bunch of people in the same sandbox, kind of all looking at the same thing, kind of poking at it and being like, “What is that? Should we shape it like that? Do you like it like this? Ooh, what if we did that?” And it’s kind of that community element that is just, so inspiring, so motivating.
Mal: Yes. 100,000% that. Because whenever I’m working on original stuff, it’s such a lonelier experience compared to working on fanfic. Obviously, it’s still something I’m enjoying doing, and I’m enjoying the act of doing it, and the world that I’m building, but whenever I’m writing fanfic, I’m usually talking about what I’m writing with somebody. Whether it’s specifically, like, a beta for that fic, or if it’s just a more general, “I’m going to rage tweet about this dumb thing I just did on Twitter right now” [laughs] Or, “I’m going to share this stupid typo,” or, “I’m going to share this line that I’m proud of.” Or whatever. You can… you can share and it’s fine! Whereas, you just can’t do that with original fiction, in the same way.
Em: So true.
Ellen: Because no one knows what you’re talking about yet. [laughs]
Mal: Yeah! And even if they appreciate it, they’re not going to get it, in the same way.
Ellen: So, Em, do you write original fiction as well, or are you just writing fanfic at the moment?
Em: I’m actually in the middle of writing a short story for an anthology that was… how to phrase that? An anthology that’s going to be published by a little indie publisher, set up by Unforth.
Mal: The Duck Prints Press anthology?
Ellen: It’s the Duck Prints one.
Em: That’s the one! That’s the one. And I’m doing a — funnily enough, speaking of retellings — I’m doing a coffee shop AU retelling of the Hades and Persephone myth!
Mal and Ellen: Ooh!
Em: And I’m really excited about it. It seems like it’s going to be a really fun thing to write. And I feel almost like I’m… I feel like I’m cheating, in a way. You know, like we were just saying that writing original stuff is lonely and you don’t have the people sort of pre-invested in your characters and stuff, but I’m like, “Well, consider — I’ll use characters from myth!” And then I do have those things. [laughs]
Ellen: Use a retelling.
Em: Cheeky! [laughs]
Ellen: Yeah, that’s awesome. Well, good luck with that. Can’t wait to read.
Em: Yeah, thank you so much, yeah.
Ellen: It’s coming out later in the year, right? The first one?
Em: That’s right, yeah. And I am trying really hard to work towards, sort of, my own, longer original stuff, it’s just… it’s that motivation that we were talking about. It’s hard to not feel like you’re completely on your own when you’re writing something that’s just… your characters, your story. All your own brain, you know?
Mal: Yep. Because as much as we complain about it, and as much as there are so many disagreements and petty arguments about things all the time, fanfic in general is such a community. Like, there’s always something going on, there’s always somewhere to go where you can chat with people… And yeah, there are plenty of people out there who maybe don’t see things the way you do, everyone has different interpretations, different ships that they like, things like that. But you can always find people in your corner.
Em: So true. So true. It’s like, you can find people you connect with on just the level that you need, yeah.
Ellen: Yep. Actually, while we’re still talking about your stuff, I have to say one of the stories of yours that I really am, like, the biggest fan for — and I’m telling you now — is A Priori, that you’re writing currently with K_K_TiBal. And it’s a big Harry Potter ‘verse, kind of crossover, I guess?
Em: It sure is, it sure is. [laughs]
Ellen: Which, I love with all of my heart. Can you give me an inside tip on when you’re going to be publishing more?
Em: Oh, thank you! We’re absolutely going to be publishing more. There is never any question. I know that — you know, these chapters take a long time, they’re sort of little fics in themselves, almost, and with our two grown up people trying to figure out schedules and writing together, it’s always a whole thing, but. You know, we know the endgame of the story, we’ve had it all planned out. We keep adding details and changing things — it’s so intricate and beloved, for us, you know, it really means a lot to us, so, it’s not abandoned! There will be more, I promise. [laughs]
Ellen: Oh, good. Well, no pressure, no pressure. [laughter] I know how hard it can be to actually work on things with a co-author. We’ve both done it before, as well [aside] Hey, Mal.
Ellen: But, yeah. I’m waiting on tenterhooks to find out what’s going to happen next, you know. You’ve hooked me in! [laughs]
Em: I’m so glad. It’s so much fun. That story — writing it is a completely different experience to writing any of my other fics, I just have… You know, when I write other fics, I go through a little rollercoaster where I’m like, “This bit is fun! Ohh, this bit is really difficult and I don’t like how I did this.” But with A Priori it’s just — I love it. Every single thing, every moment that I spend writing it, I’m just having the time of my life.
Ellen: Oh, good! Well, it comes through in the writing, you know. Reading it is just such a lovely experience, like every time.
Em: Oh, I’m so glad.
Ellen: Like, when… I think — I’m pretty sure it’s our friend Lana, LanaSerra, who’s also a big fan of it, and when the last time an update came through, we both kind of screamed at each other in DMs [laughs] We were like, “Ah! Did you see, did you see?” [laughter] So, we’ll be all over it when you want to update more.
Em: That’s so nice, that’s so nice. [laughs] Ah, we always want to. It is literally a question of the practicalities of it. That’s all that holds it up. If you could — We were speaking of time travel, if we could figure that out, I mean, this fic would be posted in a matter of weeks, you know? We would be able to just bash through it, if we could just go back in time. [laughs]
Ellen: We’re always saying that we need the Time-Turners. Like, I’ve got one on my handbag but it doesn’t seem to work very well, sadly. [laughs]
Em: Mm, there you go. There’s two I’ve got. I’ve got two of them — One’s a keyring and one’s a necklace, you’d think I could make use of them, but apparently not.
Mal: I’ve been saying for years that I need a Time-Turner, and then a lovely friend gifted me with one, and it now just like, hangs next to my computer and guilt-trips me every time I’m not doing anything, it’s wonderful [laughs]
Ellen: It’s that Muggle mood. [laughs] If only it would work.
Em: It’s funny, because having sort of just said in the context of True As it Can Be, about being nonbinary and obviously, in regard to Harry Potter, that’s become… yeah, a more difficult area, let’s put it that way. And you would — I suppose you would kind of think — I thought — that it would become harder to interact with A Priori, after all of that kind of… came to the fore. And I was really worried about it, you know, I was thinking, “Ah, I love writing this fic, I don’t want to let anyone down who’s waiting on it, but what if I can’t?” And then I got back to writing it, and I was like, “Actually, no. This is fine. I’ve decided that this is our own, actually, and there is no way that we’re letting it go.” So.
Mal: That is some of the power of fanfiction, right there. Like, reclaim it. Entirely.
Em: There it is! There it is.
Ellen: This belongs to us now.
Ellen: Do we want to recommend any other…
Mal: Well, I have one to recommend, actually! [laughs]
Ellen: Oh, no.
Em: What could it be?
Ellen: Here we go.
Mal: Yeees. Well. She didn’t want to mention it, but our very own Ellen just put out a lovely fairytale AU story, which is based on the Little Mermaid. It’s called Wish I Could Be, and it is just over 50,000 words. It was just posted — well, a few days ago now, fresh off the press, with this one [laughs] But it has some lovely art in it, it has Sam, Sam has a dog, there are mermaids [laughs] Like, all of the lovely plot points that you like from the Little Mermaid, add a lovely Supernatural sprinkle over the top of them. Lots of lovely references that will make you stop and go, “Ooh! I know where that’s from!” [laughs] I just love this fic so much, I fell absolutely in love with it when I read it. I was lucky enough to get a behind the scenes sneak of it before it was posted, and it was one of those ones where the second it posted, like, “Right. I have to dive on this and kudos it because it needs my love, now.”
Em: “It can’t wait, even a second. Not even one second.”
Mal: “Not one second.” I think I might actually have been the first person to kudos this fic. [laughs]
Em: [gasps] The honor! The honor.
Ellen: [to Mal] I think you were.
Mal: It was just — It’s just so lovely. One of the things that I love, which I’m going to bring up specifically, that Ellen did in this fic, is they… in this particular version, what Ellen did with the mermaids, she has a nonbinary Hannah in this story. But what she did, was actually, something that she kind of made — essentially, all mer are nonbinary until they choose when they’re older, or choose not to choose.
Mal: And it’s — it’s just so well done, and just, like, flows into the story, that it’s never a point that’s made. And I think it’s so wonderful how normalized everything is in their world. And you kind of look at their world and go, “Okay, that’s the kind of world we need.” Apart from some other stuff that’s going on, which I won’t [laughter] We could probably do without the big, tentacle lady issues, yeah. We can do without that.
Em: Not everyone would agree with you, but.
Mal: Well… given some of the stuff I’ve written, [laughing] I probably have to throw my own hands in the air, there, but. But I love, again, how complete this world feels. Like, the worldbuilding and everything with the mermaids in this is fantastic. It’s not just, you know, Castiel with a tail. Like, there’s a whole world and culture and it’s — it’s wonderful. Please go read it, okay? Everybody. Go read it. [laughs]
Ellen: [quietly says] Thank you, Mal.
Em: I’m taking this as a personal directive, and I will do it. Sir, yes, sir.
Mal: Have I embarrassed you enough, now, Ellen?
Ellen: Thank you, I’ll try and extract myself from the cushions [laughs]
Em: Now who’s puddling? [laughs]
Ellen: Yeah. Took me a really long time to write that story, and I’m really glad that it’s out now [laughs] And that people seem to be enjoying it, so far.
Em: Ah. What a feeling.
Ellen: Yeah. I guess the other — one other fic that, you already mentioned it, Em, earlier, was The Owl Prince, by K_K_TiBal. I read that one a few years ago, too, and it’s such a beautiful story. He’s an owl some of the time, and the rest of the time he’s human, but Dean doesn’t really understand what’s happening, and it’s just an achingly beautiful story. I did love that one.
Em: It is. It’s gorgeous. It’s so lovely. And… the way that that story came to be, Mich and the artist, for the fic — I don’t know if you guys have seen the art for it, but it’s done by an artist who’s not in the fandom anymore, but she was for awhile, Castihalo? And the two of them tricked me into watching The Swan Princess with them right before my birthday, and then gifted me the first few chapters of the fic and then the art on my birthday itself, and it was the best birthday I’ve ever had. It was incredible.
Mal: Aw! That’s lovely. Well, I’ve just realized, on the day we’re posting this it’s actually my birthday, so. Finding out about all these new fics is my birthday present, because I’m gonna have a lot of reading to do. It’ll be wonderful.
Ellen: Happy birthday, Mal! Yay!
Mal: Happy future birthday to myself [laughs]
Ellen: Everyone get on Twitter and go and tell her happy birthday.
Mal: Oh no, it’s fine [laughs] You don’t have to.
Ellen: Yeah, I just opened it up and I did see some art, and it is absolutely gorgeous! So I hadn’t seen the art, I don’t know why.
Em: Oh, it’s so beautiful. And the writing is amazing. It’s just — it’s a whole package, you know?
Ellen: Yes. Really beautiful.
Mal: Yeah, we will have to get that one linked for everybody. And so I can go and read it as well! Because I loved The Swan Princess movie when I was a kid. Like, I absolutely loved it, so.
Em: Ohh, incredible. It’s so good! [laughs] There’s also Obey His Word, by thebloggerbloggerfun, or K_K_TiBal, and it is a retelling of Ella Enchanted.
Mal and Ellen: Ooh!
Em: Yeah, Cas has to obey the word of anyone who tells him what to do, and the crossover — it’s not set in sort of a fantasy world, it’s set in more of a Supernatural style, hunting kind of world —
Mal: Ooh, I think I have read that one.
Em: Oh, yeah?
Mal: [laughs] Sorry.
Em: It has really strong elements, still, of the fairytale in there, so it’s a lot of fun. It’s really, really, really good stuff.
Mal: Awesome. Excellent.
Ellen: There’s a bunch of different fairytale retellings in our corner of the fandom. So, I’m going to list them all in the blog post, so if you’re interested in some more fairytale retellings, there should be some more at mixtapebookclub.com.
At the moment, in the fandom, we’re really lucky because there’s a lot of things posting at the moment. Like, we’ve got Pinefests posting, we’ve got the Media Bang fics posting, there’s a lot of content just —
Mal: The Buzzy Bee Bang, as well.
Ellen: The Buzzy Bee Bang. There’s also the zine that we’ve been working on. The SPN Quarantine zine is out. You can donate a bit of money to a tree charity, and you get a zine full of fics and artwork and things. So, there’s a bit of a glut of content at the moment, which is fantastic for our fandom, so I hope everyone’s enjoying all of the new stuff. And I hope also that if you’ve read a new fic recently that you’ve really loved, then tell us about it, and then we can prioritize the things that people want to talk about, because we are always looking for new topics to talk about, so let us know!
To do that, you can get in touch with us on any of the social platforms, like Twitter and Instagram, all those things. We’re mixtapebookclub on most of those, or you can email us: email@example.com. Or, you can chat with us in the Profound Bond Discord server, in our Mixtape channel there.
We have to say a big thank you to you, Em, for coming to talk to us about this today.
Em: Oh no, thank you guys so much for having me, it was so much fun.
Mal: It was lovely to get to talk to you. Especially as we’ve fangirled over you for years, so. [laughs] Extra lovely.
Em: Ugh, you just had to re-puddle me at the end there, didn’t ya? Couldn’t let me get away.
Mal: Yes. Couldn’t have you leaving in one sensible piece.
Ellen: We want to leave you in a puddle.
Mal: Please come and join us for our next episode, where we will be discussing kid fics in the Destiel fandom.
Ellen: Thank you for listening and we will talk to you again soon!
Mal: And as always, remember that the story isn’t over, until we say it is.
[sounds of glasses clinking]
Ellen: Ugh, my tea is really cold now.
Mal: Yeah, me too. Yeah.
Ellen: [chokes slightly on tea]
Em: I went with a hot squash and I thought that I’d regret it, but I’m actually — it works cold as well, so the fact that it’s cooled off is not terrible.
Ellen: Oh yeah. Sweet. [laughs]
Mal: Ohh, I miss hot squash. [laughs]
Em: When I visited the US, and there was no hot squash option — my god. [laughs] What a life.
Mal: Yeah, it actually took me a little while to realize that it was just something they didn’t have here. And I was trying to find a comparable — because they were like, “Oh, so it’s like watered down juice?” Like, “No, no, not at all like watered down juice.”
Ellen: When we got over there and we, because we lived in the UK for a few years, and then we — like, it’s called cordial here, and — but cordial is a slightly different thing, I think. Like, squash is like actual, like, fruit-flavored? Right? Like it’s actual fruit juice that has been [laughing] made into a cordial, right? Whereas our other cordial is just, like, sugar basically, that has a bit of flavoring in it. [laughter] Like a red flavoring, a green flavoring. Yeah, we were really confused by that when we got there, but. But you saying that just took me right back!
Em: Ahhh. A little bit of nostalgia for you guys. [laughs]
Mal: At least I’ve got some real PG Tips today, so you know.
Ellen: [gasps] Yay!
Em: Oh my gosh.
Mal: Ah, okay.
Em: Yeah, I was on full… tea cold turkey when I was out there, because… I mean, I was staying with my friend, and she didn’t even have a kettle. I mean [stammers] the mind boggles.
Mal: Kettles are easier to get now than they were when I first moved here. Like, ten years ago, it was so difficult to find a kettle, of any kind, in this country. And I think now, tea is a bit more popular than it used to be, so it’s gone, like, the other way. Now they have these really fancy kettles, that are like, Bluetooth and like, super fancy.
[varied exclamations of horror and laughter]
Mal: Like, all I want to do is plug it into the wall and have it boil water, that’s literally all I want! I don’t want to pay $300 for a kettle that can sing, okay?
Ellen: Yeah, like what do you need a kettle to do, except turn on and off? Like, really?
Ellen: The first time I saw someone heating up water in a microwave I was like, “What the hell? No!” I was horrified!
[more varied exclamations of horror and disgust]
Mal: And it makes awful tea, because the water doesn’t get, like, properly hot enough?
Ellen: Yeah, it’s not boiling.
Mal: Yeah, it’s just — blegh, it’s so nasty.
Ellen: It’s just warm.
Em: It’s gross. And then, like, because when you heat it up in the microwave, it’s always already in the mug, and then you have to add tea bug [laughter] — tea bag to your water, instead of water to tea bag, and like that’s all wrong.
Ellen: Oh no, no, no, no. That’s all wrong.
Mal: It’s the wrong way round!
Em: Ahhhhh! What are you doing?
Mal: And it gets this like — this like, weird frothy quality when it’s heated in the microwave, for some reason?
Mal: [laughs] And it’s just like — Nope.
[even more varied exclamations of horror, disgust, and shuddering]
Mal: Wrong. Terribly wrong. [sighs]
Ellen: I’m going to have to add this at the end of the episode so they can hear us bagging American tea makers.
Mal: British rage about tea!
Mal: It’s okay, don’t kick me out, America, I love you, really.
Em: There are a few friends who if they listen to me talking about tea in this way, they’ll be like “[deep voice] It doesn’t taste any different, you’re just being pretentious, stop it.” And I just want to take a moment to say to them: You’re wrong! You’re so wrong, and you don’t have any opportunity to say anything right now, so. [presumably sips tea… or their “hot squash”]
Mal: If you’re British, though, the one thing you must be pretentious about is tea!
Em: I mean, yeah. Maybe that is true. [laughing] It’s just written into the DNA this way.
Mal: Ugh. Okay. Tea tangent. Give me time for one more sip, and then I’ll move onto Cinderwings.
Em: Tea tangent!