Yuletide letter 2014
Amended from past years:
Thank you for writing something for me. With the exception of the do-not-like stuff, please take any and all of this as optional suggestions only, and do what works for you. Not all of the stuff I like, for instance, may be applicable to all the fandoms I've requested; choose what makes sense to you.

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Fic Corner letter
(Excerpted in part from past Yuletides)
Thank you for writing something for me. With the exception of the do-not-like stuff, please take any and all of this as optional suggestions only, and do what works for you. Not all of the stuff I like, for instance, may be applicable to all the fandoms I've requested; choose what makes sense to you.

Do not like: darkfic in general, incest, humiliation, NC-17 for either violence or sex (no moral objections, it's just not what I enjoy reading), blatant out-of-characterness, rape/dubcon.

Enjoy in particular: snappy dialogue, families of choice, playing with language(s), cuddling, work (in all definitions) and people being competent at it, scenes from everyday life.

I tend to prefer genfic, but--depending on the fandom, that is--have no objection at all to background romance/relationships, or even a slow-burn romance fic with a high gen ratio, as it were. Any pairing you want to throw in (m/f, m/m, f/f, threesome, you name it) is fine as long as you can make me believe in it.

By fandom (characters), in no particular order:

Archer's Goon (Erskine, Torquil, Hathaway)
I'm sorry to be so unhelpful, but I honestly have no idea what you could do with these characters; just that anything in which they appear should be fun to read. (Torquil doing music? Erskine's travel book? Oooh. Hathaway beta-reading Erskine's book for him, with snarky side comments from Torquil? OOOH. Maybe I had some ideas after all--but don't feel bound by them if you have ones you like better.) Go to town.

Echo Company (any)
Realistic or not, I'd like to see Rebecca and the others doing well in the future--finding happy lives for themselves, I guess. Maybe epistolary fic, or a meeting at the Wall, or...? What does Maggie Doyle look like through her boyfriend Richard's eyes? How does Walter Hanson put his life back together? (I imagine him ending up as a teacher or a coach or some job with kids, for some reason, but you have no need to stick to that.) What does Michael write to Snoopy, and vice versa--and how do they deal with race now they're back in the World? What would Rebecca's brother Doug make of Michael? And so on.

Marlows (Rowan, Miranda, Peter, Jan, Anquetil, Foley)
These books have been on my "best of" shelf for ever, and it delights me that people are writing such good fic for them. Please take the character list as "any of the above" rather than feeling the need to include all of them. I'd be happy with futurefic (or pastfic in the case of Anquetil and Foley), with a scene from canon seen from a different perspective, with an innovative way for Rowan to escape Trennels, with Peter getting to be competent at something, with Miranda and Jan (also interested in the way canon looks at Miranda's Jewishness and religion in general), with anything else you'd like to write.

Melendy Series (any)
There's an entry a few back in my LJ which describes my feelings about this series in detail; you can refer to it if necessary. Would like to read about any of them, especially Rush (even better if something musical), or something centered on Willy for a change. Futurefic would be fascinating, a missing scene etc. from canon likewise. Caveat: I would very much prefer genfic here, with romance, if any, being kept firmly in the background. Possible exception thereto: if you feel strongly about giving Willy a love life, that might be very interesting to read about, as long as it's not with any of the Melendys.

Again, please take all of this (apart from the do-not-like list) as guidelines rather than iron requirements, and write what you'd like to; I will be very happy with most anything you come up with. Many thanks.

Schumann stuff
I don't know why so many people are anti-Schumann--the symphonies, that is, most people seem to approve of the piano music. As an instrumentalist, okay, I can kind of see it--the man was a pianist, and he doesn't seem to have taken much in the way of advice about writing for other people's instruments. (Is there historical background for this? Must ask musicologist friend, though it's not really her period.) So the lines don't always sit comfortably on the instruments you're supposed to play them on (even so he's NO WORSE THAN Rachmaninoff, spare me).

But the music is so, so awesome. I've played the Third and Fourth symphonies and am waiting hopefully--with my neck stretched out, as we say in Japanese--for a chance to do the First and Second too. The Schumann symphonies are very melodic--not so much in the sense of big hummable melodies, but there's always melodic movement going on and it's always interesting, and the orchestration (while not necessarily considerate of the orchestra, as I mentioned) is fun, with the oboe solos in the First Symphony, the horns rocking the house at the end of the Third, the violin solo in the slow movement of the Fourth (I have a soft spot for that one because my secret-pointless-crush M was concertmaster when we did it), and so on.

It's funny--it doesn't fit with my image of Schumann-the-man at all, but there's something almost...conversational? about the tone of the music. I am a die-hard Brahms-lover, you can't beat Brahms for me with much of anything, but one of the differences for me between Schumann and Brahms is the sense of...the numinous, I guess, in the latter. I cannot listen to the second movement of Brahms Two without believing in some kind of God. Or the slow movement of the First Piano Concerto with the piano chords moving transcendentally over that long, long pedal tone, Jesus Christ, no pun intended. The Schumann symphonies feel much more on an earthly plane. Not a value judgment, just a difference in sensation, if you will.

Although there's always the fourth movement of the (five-movement) Third Symphony, with its dreamy baroque fugality and killer high trombone part. I always think of it as if it were a painting with a caption: "The people grieve as Bach ascends into heaven." But then you snap back into the cheerful allegro of the last movement... I don't know. Down-to-earth, conversational, often happy, but in jewel tones, not primary colors--darker, richer strains underpinning the whole thing, never just light-hearted. Life is more like the Schumann symphonies than like most composers, I think. (God forbid one should have a life like a Rachmaninoff symphony, oy gevalt. A life like the Musical Offering, say, that I could dig.)

Yuletide letter 2013
Amended from last year’s letter:
Thank you for writing something for me. With the exception of the do-not-like stuff, please take any and all of this as optional suggestions only, and do what works for you. Not all of the stuff I like, for instance, may be applicable to all the fandoms I've requested; choose what makes sense to you.

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orchestra stuff
Been listening to our last orchestra concert and the one before that (inadvertent 2-CD set, long story). I think honestly we're pretty good, for an amateur group with three hours' rehearsal time a week. There are occasional slips in the winds, but when they're good they're good, and the strings have it better with several of us on each part, and just enough good players scattered through the parts that the weaker sisters, like me, have something to hold on to.
"Like me" is partly true and partly disingenuous, I guess. We don't have a standout cellist, but T and S are very solid, and Y, K, and Little K average out to around as good as me--not spectacular, but hanging in. (We just started the new music last week, and I was shamefully delighted when T, our first chair, said to me "N, come and sit next to me, you're the best sightreader by a country mile" or words to that effect in Japanese. Trouble is, I sightread well but don't move on much from there...) Anyway, so our cello section is not brilliant but solid, and T's good-natured, slightly goofy energy seems to motivate all of us.
The violas are damn good (no viola jokes here), second violins and basses adequate, and the first violins have M...the concertmaster and human tuning fork on whom I have a longstanding hopeless crush...his wife A, cute as a button and also an excellent violinist, and the other K, a pianist at heart but still a good concertmistress. So on their good days they kick ass.
As for the winds, there's N the oboist (another longstanding hopeless crush, I've always had a weakness for oboe players), there was Iz the horn player except he's gotten divorced and moved away (but his solo in the Stravinsky "Kiss of a Fairy," you should've heard), there's his ex-wife playing trumpet, there's K the concertmistress' ex-husband on trombone and his current girlfriend KM on clarinet...sorry, I couldn't resist the soap-opera-yness of it all but it's a fact. And other good players, all in all.
The orchestra is honestly one of my biggest reasons for not wanting to move anywhere else, even though I would have a much better chance of finding the kind of job I want in Tokyo. I mean, you can't throw a stone in Tokyo without hitting an amateur orchestra, but it wouldn't be the same people.

I have two young dead men in my head. For various reasons both of them have been on my mind for a while now, making me cry when I think too hard about them—which isn’t a bad thing, because they were worth it. I didn’t meet either of them. One I might have done; I was ten years old when he died, and he was a friend of my father’s for a while, but we never intersected. The other died more than seventy years ago. They were both far too young, only thirty-three—almost the same age at their deaths, down to a couple of months. One succumbed to chronic illness; the other took his own life.

Atsushi Nakajima died in December 1942, of the asthma which had troubled him since his early twenties. Such a goddamn waste; if I had a time machine to go back and bring him modern treatment methods… . He was a writer, although he never made his living at it, and he needed to make his living: his family was well enough off but not rich, and he had a wife and two young sons. Takeshi was nine when his father died; Noboru was only two or three. Atsushi taught Japanese and English at a girls’ high school for several years, and seemed to enjoy it, popular with his students and fellow teachers and happy with his family, plus an avid gardener in his spare time.
His stories are spare and abstruse and difficult, drawing heavily on (Chinese) history and literary myth, and it can be surprising to find out that, while unenthusiastic about spending time with people who didn’t meet his standards, with friends he was a life-of-the-party type, interested in everything, active, merry. His story “Sangetsuki” appears regularly in high school Japanese textbooks, which I think is a terrible shame. It’s a story written in old-fashioned Japanese and set in old China, about a poet who turns into a tiger, and it’s wonderful, but not for teenagers: it’s for people who have learned, or are learning, about the way life turns and twists in your hands to betray everything you once expected, for good or ill.
They should have the high school kids read some of his letters to his wife from Micronesia. He was already in his early thirties when worsening asthma made his teaching job difficult; hoping for an improvement, he took a job editing Japanese textbooks for children in the Micronesian islands which were then Japanese colonies, Palau, the Chuuk Islands, Saipan and so forth. He spent a year or so traveling around the islands observing schools (both the “public schools” for “native” children and the “national schools” for Japanese children), finding that the tropical climate was not as good for his health as he had hoped, and writing quantities of letters to his wife and postcards to his sons. The letters are much easier to read than anything else he wrote, because his wife Taka probably had only about a sixth-grade education; she was a girl from the provinces whom he gave in and married after getting her pregnant (or so at least one source would have it), and in some ways it’s amazing that the marriage worked at all. Perhaps if he had lived longer it wouldn’t have, but at that date it’s very clear how much they cared about each other. And he was absolutely nuts over his sons, there’s no other way to put it, an absorbed, loving, thoughtful father.
The letters from the South Pacific make me cry every time; they’re vivid descriptions of what he sees and who he meets there, but they’re also spilling over with homesickness and longing for Taka and the boys, I miss you, I want to come home between every line, and when I think that he lived less than a year after returning to Japan, it’s unbearable. God, I would have loved to know him—not as “the great writer Nakajima Atsushi” but as a colleague in the school staffroom, or one of the guys a few years ahead of me in grad school. Why are there no time machines, or why do those whom the gods love die young.

I’ve written about Ohira-san—another Taka, although only a nickname—here before. If the gods ever loved someone it was him, surely: born in a well-to-do Osaka family, a violin prodigy from his early teens and a student at one of the most prestigious schools in town, winning or placing in two national violin competitions in junior high and high school, going to Tokyo University—the ultimate academic success—and serving as concertmaster of the orchestra there, eventually becoming an associate professor at the same university while still in his early thirties. And then killing himself at the age of thirty-three, leaving his wife of six months to find his body in the morning.
I’m not sure exactly why Taka died, because it’s a thing you can’t ask without more of a need-to-know than I’ve got. The most I can infer, from people who knew him, is that the intensely competitive pressure of high-level hard science research—in Japan in the late eighties—came to be too much for him, especially in an environment where his superiors gave him the fisheye for carrying a violin case to work with him. Maybe he regretted not having become a professional musician, but felt that it was too late to go that route. Maybe there were other things happening. I don’t know. He might have been clinically depressed. His wife, twenty-five when they married, was getting her master’s degree in piano performance at the time of his death; she took her exams, got her degree (in spite of collapsing into tears during one performance, and who in God’s name can blame her), and then, only a year later, entered a nationally well-regarded medical school to study psychiatry. Given the stiff entrance exams for any medical school (Japanese medical school is a six-year combined undergraduate/graduate degree), this would be a remarkable feat even without the tragic background. She gave up playing the piano professionally, and is now the head of psychiatry at a major eastern hospital.
Everyone I’ve been able to get in touch with—friends at the American university where he did postdoc research and played music with my father, friends in Japan, colleagues—seems to have fond and admiring memories of Taka. Where is that damn time machine? To go back and say, Taka, you have so many paths to take, you’re so gifted and so loved, there are other ways out, don’t do this, don’t take yourself away from us, from yourself.
I had one recording of Taka’s violin—playing the Tchaikovsky concerto with a student orchestra, under my father’s baton. The recording quality is lousy, but you can still hear how his sound shimmers. An unexpected benefit of asking around about him was that people gave me other recordings of his playing—Brahms, Schubert, Prokofiev, Dvorak, Bach—and they’re all wonderful. Not perfect, because nobody is, but brilliant, and with his passion for the music, sheer love of what he’s doing, shining in every note. And yeah, they make me cry. Oh Taka. 

near and faraway
In the second category: やっぱりoh, Taka. Lately when M does his thing at rehearsal of noodling madly away to himself during breaks, fancy double stops and bits of concerti and A's father's Hungarian stuff and God knows what, it makes me want to cry, because Taka should be in Tokyo somewhere (or in Ithaca, or anywhere on this side of the void) doing just the same thing. Only even more so, I guess, because as good a violinist as M is Taka was something else. Damn it to hell.

On the more immediately personal side: I still don't exactly see the point of kissing, but cuddling is some good stuff. It was also amusing to be able to predict with almost pinpoint accuracy, okay, from here on I'm going to get kissed.

long time no interface
Okay, it's about time. Where I am now:
Too much damn time at work, but otherwise it could be (knock wood) much worse.
Listening to Taka Ohira's violin, some of it recorded before I was born and some as late as 1987, the year he died. All I can manage is oh, Taka. How do you tell that story so it makes sense?
Actually dating someone for the first time in I don't even know how many years. Not a musician, but otherwise someone I like holding hands with. Who knew?
Trying to finish this damn Vorkosigan story that I've been working on for ages, even though it's not one a lot of people will read. Want it FINISHED still.
Went to a big used books fair today with K, the above person-with-whom-I-sometimes-hold-hands, and bought a lot more than I should have done, including some dance books for my mom--Toni Bentley's journal, because I like the way Balanchine's dancers write about their lives--and a Taisho-era guide to sex for young girls, because I was fantastically curious.
Trying to remember regularly that for all the things I bitch about in my life, I am so so fortunate right now, in almost every way I could be. 

yuletide letter
Thank you for writing something for me. I'm sorry this is so late. With the exception of the do-not-like stuff, please take any and all of this as optional suggestions only, and do what works for you. Not all of the stuff I like, for instance, may be applicable to all the fandoms I've requested; choose what makes sense to you.

Do not like: darkfic in general, incest, humiliation, NC-17 for either violence or sex (no moral objections, it's just not what I enjoy reading), blatant out-of-characterness, rape/dubcon, Christmas themes (again, not opposed to their existence in general, just not Christian myself). 

Enjoy in particular: snappy dialogue, families of choice, playing with language, cuddling, people being competent at their work/what they do, scenes from everyday life.

By fandom (characters):
The Steerswoman Series (Steffie): Maybe Steffie in Alemeth after Rowan and Bel have left, learning what he might need to know to be a steersman and working at balancing that with the very different way the town knows him? Or, while futurefic is hard for this series, Steffie back with Rowan and Bel or taking his own part in their quest, as long as it's consistent with the themes and atmospheres of the books so far. 

Young Wizards (Nita, Kit, Carmela): I've had Nita and Kit in the back of my head since I was nine or ten; I like them as friends and wizardry partners, as a couple, at the overlaps. The two of them on a very ordinary errantry, maybe, and/or (if it's all right to mention characters not requested--if it isn't, ignore this) Nita and S'reee having girl talk, or something about Kit's family--we know they speak Spanish at home, but I've always thought it would be fun to see their ethnicity developed more. In New York, in high school, in the future if you like. 

Fire and Hemlock (Ann Abraham, Ed Davies): I'm an amateur musician myself and would like to see Ann and Ed (and Sam? I'm not sure how he didn't end up in there) interacting through music--in their orchestra days when they met Tom, as conservatory students, with the quartet, whatever. Specifically magical events or only mundane ones, either way, but maybe a sense of the complicated interactions between people who work together intimately and may or may not be intimate in their private lives? Or maybe something about the families they come from? Ann might be Jewish, Ed's name sounds Welsh, Sam's family might have been Polish refugees...or not.

Anyway, as above, please take from this what you see fit; this is my first Yuletide and the idea of somebody writing anything for me is enough to make me happy. Many thanks.

learning experiences
The thing is, this is why (one of the reasons) I like my job. On my own time, I would never, ever seek out information about autophagy, or chemicals management regulations, or the fifty-year history of an industry fair. (I might about Josiah Conder, but that was an exception.) If I'm translating or editing lengthy reports on these subjects, though, I have to read through them in detail, and there's a weird pleasure in it, a kind of pure knowledge satisfaction which my more interest-focused private life doesn't always offer. The really technical ones are also soft of satisfying because, with the help of an online terms dictionary, I produce English texts that I couldn't possibly understand if I'd just run across them on the web or in a bookstore, but I'm pretty sure they make sense. 

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