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[personal profile] tentaclesock
Dear Trick-or-Treater,

Hello, and thank you for writing for me. I'd like to write a more festive introduction than that, but in all honesty, you're not here for the introduction. Let's proceed with the exchange-letter protocol.

General likes: lost continents, elaborate description, monsters, M/M, F/F, nonbinary slash, the Edwardian era, circuses and carnivals, costumes and masks, amoral universes, androgyny, alien genders, crows and ravens, marine life, mythical creatures.

General dislikes: hardcore sex, hardcore gore, A/B/O, M/F, pregnancy, watersports, scat, embarrassment, D/S relationships, the belief that your sexual characteristics define your personality and/or abilities.

Favorite trick tropes: demons, vengeful ghosts, capricious gods, eldritch abominations, stylized sadism (not BDSM but dainty cruelty such as you find in the works of Lord Dunsany or Saki), bloody vengeance, unresolved mysteries, haunted castles and mansions, necromancy, demonolatry, towns with horrible secrets, the Devil himself, families with something dark and twisted to hide, spooky urban legends, human sacrifice.

Favorite treat tropes: romantic fluff and romantic angst, soothing dreamscapes, looking out at cold autumn or winter days or nights from the security of a warm room, curling up with a house cat, fairies in the bottom of the garden, delicious food, beautiful interior design, cuddling.

I have a minor preference for tricks over treats in most of these fandoms but will happily take either.

Now for the canons:

The Revenger's Tragedy — Thomas Middleton
This semester of grad school introduced me to The Revenger's Tragedy, a wonderfully delirious and violent example of early camp. Once attributed to Cyril Tourneur, it's now usually ascribed to Thomas Middleton, who collaborated with Shakespeare and produced a healthy bulk of plays of his own. This particular play is a parody of revenge tragedies in general and Hamlet in particular. The main character, Vindice (alternatively, Vindici or Vendice), is not a hero but a necrophilic creep who totes his dead fianceé's skull with him everywhere he goes. In fact, all the men in this play are creeps to one degree or another. Vindice is one of the less disgusting men. You should really read the play (unless all the rape, murder, and cynicism bother you); it's an experience like no other. Shakespeare wrote greater plays, but you don't get anything quite like this in any of them.

Possible prompts include:
-Scene 1.3 has the disguised Vindice sexually propositioning Lussurioso, the evil Duke's most lecherous son. While there is a Doylist explanation for this out-of-place interaction—seriously, it comes out of nowhere—the Watsonian explanation is murky. Perhaps you can develop one.
-Why doesn't the ghost of Antonio's wife appear and demand vengeance? There's a Doylist explanation for that, too, but not a Watsonian one. What would happen if she did show up?
-What happens to Castiza after the events of the play?
-What was Vindice and Gloriana's relationship like when she was alive? The answer to this question has the potential to be either a trick or a treat, or maybe both at once.

Hamlet — William Shakespeare

Instead of describing Hamlet as if you're unfamiliar with it, I'll tell you what I like about it. I thrill to the verse, of course, and I'm always receptive to good old-fashioned ghost stories. Hamlet is a juicy slice of Gothic horror. Additionally, although critics have subjected Shakespeare's most famous tragedy to a myriad of interpretations, I read it as a dramatization of the complex many men have about their masculinity. Something that occurred to me after reading The Revenger's Tragedy was that Hamlet is homoerotic, when you get right down to it. The Oedipal view tends to overshadow other sexually psychoanalytic readings, but when you look at the text, Hamlet is devoted not to his mother but to his father. He doesn't seem to care what Gertrude thinks. His treatment of Ophelia is even worse: if he genuinely loves her, then why does he not tell her that he is feigning madness and ask her to play along instead of abusing her and driving her to insanity and suicide? Rather than women, Hamlet shares tenderness with men. He loves Horatio, not Ophelia. (In case you can't tell, I dislike misogyny but revel in homoerotic subtext.)

In other words, Hamlet is prime source material for Trick or Treat, regardless of which side you want to write for.

Some prompts:

-What was Hamlet's relationship with his father like?
-Hamlet/Horatio fluff, naturally. Or Hamlet/Horatio angst, equally naturally.
-Does anyone's ghost visit Horatio after the action of the play?
-What was really going through Ophelia's mind when she spiraled down into lunacy?

Cthulhu Mythos — H. P. Lovecraft
For all that the works of Lovecraft are renowned for their contributions to the horror genre, they also blend coziness in with the terror. Take, for example, the conversation between Thomas Olney and the bearded man in "The Strange High House in the Mist"—the latter character's past must have been at least fairly hair-raising, but it's described in a way that makes it sound fascinating and perhaps even desirable. "The Cats of Ulthar" combines a warm beginning and a chilling ending. And, while "The Silver Key" and its sequel reward the protagonist handsomely, their implications are at least somewhat unsettling. To me, the greatest pull of Lovecraft comes from this non-intuitive but effortless fusing of the terrifying and the comforting.

Here are ways you can explore this aesthetic:

-Randolph Carter/Étienne-Laurent de Marigny slash, sexually explicit or not. They are both mystics; perhaps de Marigny introduces Carter to tantric sex, or Carter tries to explain the wonders of the astral plane to de Marigny.
-Was Dagon one of the "slippery blasphemies" that made war on Atlantis?
-A day in the life of the zoogs, the vaguely malevolent (they eat kittens) teddy bear-like creatures that enjoy sharing stories.

Hyperborean Cycle — Clark Ashton Smith

In case you don't know, Hyperborea is a lost continent from ancient Greek legend. According to the myth, Hyperborea was located somewhere in the mists of northern Europe and enjoyed a year-round warm atmosphere until an ice age pummeled it and made it into a freezing wasteland. Clark Ashton Smith wrote eleven stories about his vision of this often overlooked slice of mythology, in which he portrayed the continent as a massive jungle swarming with monsters, thieves, and murderers. Some of the stories take place during the ice age, such as "The White Sibyl" and "The Coming of the White Worm," and are no less bizarre. (According to Smith's tales, Earth's Ice Age was caused not by any sort of meteorological or astronomical phenomenon but by a giant alien space worm that breathed ice and wept tears of blood!)

The Hyperborea stories share a setting with the Cthulhu Mythos of H. P. Lovecraft but can be read independently of that corpus of fiction. Lovecraft had superiority as far as horror was concerned, but for sheer undiluted weirdness, no one beat Smith. That's what I enjoy most about them. You cannot extricate the weirdness from the setting.

Delve into the baroque darkness with any of the following prompts:

-One of the previous heists carried out by Satampra Zeiros and Tirouv Ompallios, such as the yam heist or the theft of the queen's jewels.
-Any adventure between Satampra Zeiros and Vixeela you can think of.
-What was Vixeela's life in the temple like?
-How does a Tsathoggua cultist worship their god? (Alternatively, what happens in a day in the life of a Tsathoggua cultist?)

Well, thank you for reading through all this, and may you have a merry festive season.


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