lea_hazel: Typewriter (Basic: Writing)
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Collar of the Damned 
What is Collar of the Damned? 

Short answer: It's a made-up fandom for a source text that doesn't exist, a fictional epic fantasy trilogy followed by a sequel, written by two fictional authors. 

Longer answer: 
CotD is a project of mine that grew out of a combination of dissatisfaction with my existing fandoms and a desire for more dark, villainous or morally ambiguous female characters, characterized by a greater degree of complexity. Despite my fascination with moral ambiguity, deception and manipulation, I've always found it difficult to get attached to the darker female characters in the canons I followed. Eventually this culminated in both meta and an AO3 tag.

I spent many years thinking about the difficulty of
fanfic vs. original fic, and less often, about epic fantasy and how it can be subverted or reverted. I was interested in a universe in which the Dark Lord prevails, but not a story like the many torture porn fics in fandoms like Harry Potter. Rather, the story I wanted involved an ending in which the readers and even the heroes are unsure whether the Dark Lord does more good than harm. When I started plotting the dynamics between the villain and the hero, I realized that the villain must be female. The idea that the villain is a former companion of the hero's didn't show up until much later.

I can't stand stories that bill themselves as morally gray, but satisfy their desire for grayness by making the heroes hyper-violent assholes, while keeping the villains ultimately evil, or at the very least obviously and gratuitously wrong. Worse yet are stories which derive their tension from smart villains, only to break it all apart by making the villain act foolishly in order to satisfy the need for the arbitrary hero to win.

That's how Collar of the Damned came to be. I took inspiration from meta fanfic and tried to create a world that can operate on several levels simultaneously: as a gradually growing canon, as a source for narrative fanfic and meta essays, and as a meta-work on the nature of fans and fandom. I still have a long way to go to achieve any of those. Potentially, a work could be about the characters of the fictional world, about the author(s), or about the fictional fans writing about the former two. Whether this will come to fruition remains to be seen.

What's the story?
 

The Collar of the Damned trilogy, by Edgar Bowman, is an epic fantasy tale from the mid-to-late nineties. It follows the perilous journeys of a ragtag band of misfits as they attempt to topple a vicious dictator and free their homeland, and in the process die a lot and also suffer grave injuries and permanent psychological trauma. For most of its three volumes, it ran the course of a dark fantasy tale, in which the heroes are posed to defeat the villain at great personal and moral cost.

Late in the third book, the plot takes a sharp turn as one of the heroes finally kills the villain, dispossesses his body of an evil magical artifact (the eponymous collar), and takes the throne in his place. The other heroes either fall in line or are arrested for treason. For years, Bowman promises the fandom a sequel that will explain this dramatic event and wrap up the story in a more satisfying way, but alas, he dies before completing a manuscript. 

Years later, his ex-wife, to whom he left the Collar of the Damned intellectual property in his will, rewrites one of his early drafts and publishes it under the name Halcyon Queen. The sequel proves even more divisive than the previous ending, creating a fandom schism that spawned a multitude of flame wars. The new novel is written with a markedly different style and tone, which alienates some loyal readers but also draws in some new ones. 

Halcyon Queen is the story of villain protagonist Aya, who renamed herself Norabelle, and her struggle to rule and rebuild a kingdom torn by twenty years of war. Meanwhile her former ally, Braugan, is imprisoned in a cursed fortress called Winter Sun, following an insurrection and several attempts on her life. Their surviving comrades at arms disperse to try and recover their lives, while Nora and Braugan form an improbable and complicated bond. After years of status quo, the imminent collapse of Winter Sun jolts them both to action. 

Who are the players? 

The major players are: Aya a.k.a. Norabelle, a flower seller from some unspecified foreign nation; Braugan, a native-born merchant's son; and Duke Vivianti, a general and usurper. Other characters are major in the source text, but less so in fandom: Jaylen Glassier, a scion with some minor royal blood who dies in the attempt to take the throne; Greer, a centaur and disgraced cavalryman; Noriel, a sworn virgin and elite soldier from a kingdom of winger people; Omi, a salamander and designated comic relief; Tena, a shadow person with an unknown agenda; Adiar, a foreign general who lends assistance to the revolt; and Echidna, formerly Vivianti's right-hand woman and currently in Norabelle's employ. More minor characters may make appearances here and there. 

Where to start?

The first (and by far the best) work I wrote for this project is the essay "
The Three Types of Fanfic in Collar of the Damned Fandom". It's a recursing meta essay that introduces the basic concepts of the universe, explores some popular meta concepts in gender and fandom, and intersperses this with references to fictional fans, works and communities. I enjoyed writing it a lot, and I really do think it's one of my best works as a fanfic writer. 

Works

All my works in this universe are posted to AO3, under the pseud
Ayabelle. Ayabelle is my pseud, and also a distinct fan persona. This is more obvious in meta essays than in fiction, which is written to be more in tone with my usual writing style. 

on 2014-02-18 10:11 am (UTC)
alias_sqbr: (existentialism)
Posted by [personal profile] alias_sqbr
I think this is a really interesting idea! (I was going to try to say something more substantial but my computer seems like it's about to crash)

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