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Sooo I did not plan to participate in Rectober because time, but as it's happened I've just had a chance to dip a toe into what's going on over at [livejournal.com profile] hp_silencio and ran into some lovely stories. I adored writing for silencio last year and was very sorry not to have time to be a part of it this year, and these stories all reminded me of what's so great about it - how authors build tension and focus on the structure of their language and create really lush, evocative stories with no dialogue at all. Pretty impressive, and all of these are great reads.

Beyond Dreams by Anonymous - G, 1,050 - Harry/Draco - Fighting for the Snitch can sometimes be more than they ever imagined.
Draco and Harry fighting for the snitch is a familiar story, but the way this author tells it gives great insight into what it means to Draco. Cool motifs around the difference between waking and sleeping and the meaning of dreams also make it memorable.

Her Private Symphony by Anonymous - PG-13, 1,065 - Harry/Ginny, Hermione POV - The only thing that gives Hermione hope is the music made by her best friends.
This was so unexpected and so fricking cool. Hermione's voyeurism takes on such different dimensions because it's aural instead of visual, and it's a complex, moving look into the costs and victories of the war. Evocative and emotional.

Touch the Ground by Anonymous & Anonymous - R, 1,350 - Pansy/Hermione, mention of Harry/Draco - Pansy remembers, with perfect precision, how Hermione tastes against her lips.
The build up here is fantastic. Their hesitation and attraction, and the tension between the two, is palpable, and the language is beautifully lush and sensual from start to finish. A lovely story and a great experience.
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There are exciting things afoot over at [livejournal.com profile] hp_concrit_fest! Part of what's been so valuable is having the chance to sit down and really think about how different authors balance different aspects of storytelling. It's got me thinking about stories that take narrative risks. It doesn't always work, but when it does the results can be phenomenal. A few of those fics, below.

Fear and Loathing at the Phoenix by [livejournal.com profile] curiouslyfic - NC-17, 20k, H/D - Harry's Hunter S. Thompson. Draco's his attorney. It's the Tenth annual Victory Day and there's Journalism afoot.
So, I don't especially like Hunter S. Thompson. Not my cuppa. I was not expecting to like this fic. Holy fuck, I love this fic. Ten years after the war Harry's a journalist (nom de plume: Regulus Black), Luna's his editor, and Draco's his (very necessary) attorney (aka: Malfuck). He won't go to the Ministry's official events in commemoration of the 10 year anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts; Instead he goes to, essentially, a Wizarding Harry Potter Con. People are cosplaying a million different Harrys and Dracos (aka: Malfakes) and everyone elses, and Draco and Harry are wandering around taking it all in. It could've been entirely cracky. Instead, somehow, it turns into a meditation on who these people are, what the war did to them, why they're together, how their shared experiences during the war, their history together, makes them indispensable to one another. It also gives an extraordinary sense for how surreal it would be to actually be Harry Potter or Draco Malfoy, what it would be like to try to parse the world after becoming that famous. And the writing, damn. It's gut-wrenching, gorgeous, emotional, sad, funny, hot. Everything. Exquisite.

On the Couch by [livejournal.com profile] frayach - NC-17, 26k, H/D - It’s a Mind Healer’s worse nightmare to lose a patient to suicide, but Mind Healer Nick Nichols can attest to the fact that a murder/suicide is even worse. If only Dr. Freud had come up with a sure cure for love.
This story is told through the eyes of Draco's therapist. It's quite a trip to go on this journey with him, to learn Draco as he does, to figure out what's going on between Harry and Draco as he does. It's sort of the opposite of Fear and Loathing at the Phoenix - instead of being inside the space of the story with Harry and Draco, you're placed outside of their relationship. Instead of feeling distanced from the emotional core of their relationship, this choice and the way it was executed had me hooked. I had to know more, to keep reading, to find out what would become of them. Their attraction is so strong, so irresistible, that it pulls everything along with it, and starting from this vantage point, with this distance, only made that more apparent. Very compelling, very intense, and brilliantly executed.

Salvation and Sacrament by [livejournal.com profile] abbycadabra - PG-13, 16.5k - "It seems as if everywhere I go, I find the nowhere in somewhere, or make it of anywhere."
This is another "story in the style of," this time Dave Eggers. Who I like more than HST, but mostly inasmuch as I'm pretty solidly "meh" about Dave Eggers. This one also takes on a bit of a different temporal structure - it starts by telling you the ending, and then gets you there. Because of the eventual destination (as revealed in the first line) that seemed like it was going to be rather a big challenge. And yet, it got me there. And it got me there in such a brilliantly unexpected way. This story explores Harry's hero complex and his guilt - where it comes from and where, without a war to fight, it would go - and does it starkly and unflinchingly. And while Harry is the focus, the same is true of Draco. Just as we get the darker side of Harry's "saving people thing," we see the strength the war brought Draco. It's an unusual portrait of the characters and I can't think of another fic that left me feeling this way about the two of them, or that made me feel so okay about this particular end point.

I think all of these stories are quite extraordinary, though mileage may be especially variable around narrative/structural things. They're also all fics I love talking about, so if you're so inclined (or have recs for similar) please come chat!
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I'm so woefully behind on Career Fair and quite sad about it. Everyone's raving about this collection of fics and, indeed, every time I've gotten to sit down and get into one it's been so, so worth it. I'd wanted to wait until I was caught up to get reccing on these but, you know, there's always room for more Career-Fair-related rec posts, and at this rate there probably will be. For now, a few of the Career Fair entries I've been flailing over lately:

Just Pick the Right One (or Harry Potter Needs to Get a Job) - NC-17, 10k - From the moment he left the Aurors, Harry had been making an increased nuisance of himself with his new found free time. So his friends, instead of killing him and feeding him to the Manticores (plan A), decide to ask the help of a professional.
This is so, so funny. Harry's friends are perfection. The jobs Draco comes up with for Harry are pure gold. The way they handle each other is fantastic. And the way this story is funny - it's just so clever. It's smart humour and silly humour and the way it's constructed - the plot, the clarity of the writing - just lets that humour shine through. It was a really, really fun read, the kind of fic that just made me go "wow, I'm in a better mood. Thank heavens for this fic."

REVOLVEVLOVER - NC-17, 46k - The work Harry does is justifiable. It’s justice. He works for his country, and his country is a republic—the magical side, anyway. It’s not laudable work, it’s not work he’s proud of, but it’s necessary work. Harry has always taken the necessary jobs that no one else has the stomach for. It's just that he's never deciphered a kill sheet and seen Draco Malfoy's name on it.
This summary led to a real, honest to goodness bug-eyed double take. Draco, Harry, political intrigue, ethical quandraies, repressed or previously undiscovered but potentially irresistible feelings? I am so there for everything about this. But then, getting that excited about something before you read it comes with a potential for being let down. Did that happen? Fuck no. I was sneaking off to read this all day. So gripping, so awesome, so damn cool. There were a million little details that made this pop; the number of feelings I have about Harry's hair and Draco's glasses could be their own post. And, while being super cool, it's all always working towards plot or characterization. Speaking of which, the damn plot...damn. Everything that happens in the last third of this story had me completely on the edge of my seat. Gripping and memorable and awesome.

The Sleeping Prince - NC-17, 25k + art - Harry is miserable and tired of being an Auror, coasting through life until he’s forced to make some changes. Spurred on by his passion for drawing and working with best-selling author Draco Malfoy, Harry develops a charm which gives children a magical, interactive reading experience. But when it’s time to test the spell, the two men find themselves trapped in a nightmarish fairy tale world. Can they escape unscathed, or is Draco right in his assertions that there is no such thing as a happily ever after?
This is one of those stories that sucked me in completely. I could feel the world Harry and Draco were exploring. It was intricate and beautiful and scary and breathtaking. The art and story complement each other perfectly to create an incredible atmosphere that left me on the edge of my seat and had my heart aching for these two. And I am absolutely not going to spoil the ending, but damn, that ending - whew. Superb and one to remember.

Where the Shadows Fall - PG-13/R, 19k - Four years ago Draco left England without a second thought. Now Harry Potter has shown up on his doorstep looking for a yeti.
This fic is so beautiful. The setting is lush and vivid and the images stuck with me to create an atmosphere for the story that feels really special. And I love, love and adore, the way things unfold between Harry and Draco. This Draco feels so substantial - he's grown and changed, but he's still him and Harry is wonderful - he's charming and open-hearted and stubborn and a teensy bit dense but still smart and brave. And the Luna here is fantastic! Really, this story has a bit of everything - it's funny and subtle and emotional and sexy. And the Yeti hunt? Perfect in all sorts of unexpected ways. This is the perfect story for curling up with a cup of tea, and, in fact, that's a little bit of how it feels. Gentle and nourishing and lovely.
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It may be October 29th, but it’s not over till it’s Rect-over, right?

One of the things I struggle with most is keeping things short, thus doing a couple of fests recently that had strict word limits. It's had me thinking about what makes a good shorter piece of fiction and why the short fics I love work. The process brought me back to a lot of short fic I really love. This rec list is inspired by that – a few favorite short pieces that, in under 4k (sometimes much less) manage to tell a complete story/build a complete word/create big emotional impact.

The Way (We Break) by nishizono - R, 647 words, Harry/Draco - Harry doesn't hate Astoria. He doesn't hate the way she cries when Draco recites his wedding vows, or the way Draco toys with her curls during the reception. He doesn't hate her, but god, he hates Draco.
The structure of this story is so simple, the writing is so clear, and the ending is so "oh, fuck." The author establishes everything you need to know with a few lines that make the relationship between Harry and Draco just exactly clear enough. And have I mentioned the ending? Not just because it was such a moment, but because it filled in so many blanks effectively and capped the piece beautifully, in no small part because it kept me thinking about what comes next.

Cicadas by [livejournal.com profile] rhoddlet - R, 900 words, Harry/Draco
This story does an incredible job of setting a scene. The language is so visceral. I could feel the heat, the intensity of these moments. Reading this felt like the grueling, stillest parts of summer spent waiting for the heat to break. By the time the pivotal moment arrives I was already invested enough to be shocked and moved. I remain amazed that anyone could fit all of this into, essentially, a couple of pages.

I Am Your Shadow by [livejournal.com profile] eidheann_writes - NC-17, 3,128 words, Harry/Draco - Love (n) An intense feeling of deep affection. Yield (v) To give up or surrender (oneself).
Okay, technically I've already recced this here, but there's no way I could leave it off a list of short fics because the words:feels ratio here is out of control. This story is devastating in the best of ways, and eidheann has such a perfect sense for what to say and what to leave open to interpretation. So perfect that, months later, I still think back to this ending and just wonder.

As the Hand, the Glove by dulcemia - NC-17, 3357, Harry/Draco - "I say it again: the spirit loves/ the flesh, as the hand the glove."
Unf. If you'd like to die by smut, clicking above is not a bad way to go. Draco is so deliciously Slytherin and the tension, the wanting, is just palpable. Sentences are structured and words chosen to heighten all of that and it works beautifully, not just to make for a good read or a hot story (which would be more than enough) but to create an atmosphere that's crisp and clear and a perfect complement to the featured kink.

Kailash, When it Rises by mirabella - R, 3626 words, Harry/Draco - Harry can't sleep.
I swear this fic is bigger on the inside. The way time moves in this story is so precise and lingering that it feels like hours have passed even though it can be read instead of twenty minutes. In creating this super-slow sense of time, the story replicates the experience that Harry is having - of waiting for something while times dawdles and sticks. There are so many little choices along the way - rituals, habits, invocation of sounds - that compound that sense, and the end result is masterful.

Still working out what exactly makes short fics really work, but there are some good clues here - all this intentional language, tight storytelling and, perhaps most noticeably/surprisingly for me, a willingness to trust the reader. Lots to think about, and I'm still thinking. Short fic recs and/or insights are more than welcome!


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