The Exile's Tale and Other Complete Wastes of Time
The Exile's Tale and Other Complete Wastes of Time is a story written by shukyou and illustrated by serenity_winner. It ran in Issue 54 at http://s2b2.livejournal.com/304947.html, and is mirrored at http://www.shousetsubangbang.com/mirror/the-exiles-tale-and-other-complete-wastes-of-time/.
Two unlikely pairs learn that to love one another fully, they must be honest, whether about death-curses or tastes in reading material.
Everyone knew about Professor Thomas Oakley.
From https://fairyninjas.wordpress.com/2015/04/24/ssbb-54-como-se-dice/: "A academic of Medieval Literature, who feels he must hide his shameful love of fantasy novels from his peers, meets a handsome, intelligent academic, and they hit it off. But what will the new guy think of his hobby?"
From http://harmless-one.livejournal.com/37096.html: "two stories in one. In one half of the story, a very serious college professor meets his perfect guy. Running right next to that is a high fantasy epic with elves and curses and magic. It turns out that fantasy novels are the professor's guilty pleasure. Readers are treated to hints of what these books contain."
This story is yet another example of what happens when you let beeblebabe and me spend too much time together, and maybe also what happens when you let us look at too many pictures of cute boys from the Hobbit movies. I'll never tell.
I was maybe a little hard on academia as a whole here, but the truth is that there are some disciplines that are just infected with old white guys, and once they're in, it's real hard to take them out. It's one thing when this happens in, say, the hard sciences, where you don't get a lot of people complaining that American Idol is the death of algebra as we know it, or that kids these days no longer read the Ancient Greek chemical engineers. But when you wander over to the social sciences and the humanities, you can find enclaves that venerate the Dead White Dudes to the point of declaring everything else trash. That's where you get things like the idea that there should be a Western Canon, with scant attention paid to its runners-up, and not even a second glance given to anything else.
Thomas' department itself, however, is equal parts super-exaggerated and undoubtedly on the verge of having to hire a modernist. Even if the place is known for its ancient and medieval work -- and that's a perfectly legit thing to be known for, no lie -- the lack of diversity in the subject offerings would kill a modern-day English program pretty quick. I mean, I guess you might have other folks offering later literature classes if there's an African-American Studies department or some such, and they may bring in adjuncts for contemporary lit, but if the only real classes in the English department are about Dead White Dudes, students are going to speak up about that. (Hooray, students!)
All of which is to say: Yes, this is kind of an unrealistic setup. I don't care! I DID IT ALL FOR THE GLORY OF BOY-LOVE
And so forth.
That academic anxiety about being taken seriously is pretty real, though. I'm not sure if it's easier or harder if you're a straight-laced (if not straight) white dude, because on the one hand, if you're queer, of color, and/or a lady, nobody takes you seriously anyway -- but on the other hand, if no one takes you seriously anyway, woo, party time, you might as well do whatever weird-ass stuff you want to do! I mean, by the time you're teaching an English class on science fiction and talking about how the facehuggers in Aliens totally look like vaginas, you may be living the good life, but it's one outside the traditional bounds of respectable scholarship. Trying to toe the line in a traditionally well-respected and stuffy field means you can't allow for those kinds of "frivolous" pursuits. And if you've never met an academic who's given you shit about liking a book that's "beneath" you, honey, you haven't met enough academics.
As for the elvish conlang itself, I had the idea at first to use one of Tolkien's elvish languages, but @NerdGerhl informed me that, sadly, Tolkein didn't go into enough detail so as someone (prior to Jackon's hiring linguists, anyway) could just come in and use his fun Quenya-English dictionary. So instead I just made shit up. And it is completely made up, which is why there are only two sentences' worth of it in the whole piece, plus a few extra words to bolster my construction of the parallel verb endings. Those sentences started out their life put through Google Translate from English into Irish, but then I just started hacking letters and entire words at random. Trust that Noel has put far more thought into this than I have.
I tried to make this about language, even if there aren't a lot of languages represented in it. I went with Chaucer and Emoji because those are sort of the Ghost of English Past and the Ghost of English Future, respectively. Even though that's a Dickensian metaphor, and Dickens is way too late for Thomas' field of study. My point stands.
Juno Urquhart's books owe a great debt to C.S. Friedman's Coldfire Trilogy, andif you liked Noel's writing, you should definitely go pick them up. They're great books about a hella interesting dynamic between two guys, and they are not in present tense, if that bugs you. I went for a tense shift here partly because I was playing up the trashiness of the genre, but largely because I wanted it clear that there were big changes going on between sections. Also, when you talk about the plot events of works of fiction, you talk about them in present tense! Meta!
Finally, many thanks to serenity_winner for doing amazing illustrations. I'm always glad to be an excuse for someone to use their natural talent of drawing baras and elves in love.