I told girlsigh to post her thoughts in her own journal, so I guess I'll do the same as encouragement, even though my take on the state of the h/d union is more like, ROWR! and less like RAH! From here on out this entry will be basically a hodgepodge of things I've been saying to various people in various comments over the last month, because it's been weighing on my mind.
I've been thinking about the effect OOTP has had on the h/d section of the fandom as a whole, and the effect it has had on me as a writer. It's hard to be a writer who generates a fair amount of readers, because there's always a self-imposed pressure to, you know, not suddenly write something that sucks so that no one wants to read anymore; and it is hard to be a writer surrounded by incredibly talented writers, because there's always a self-imposed pressure to be as good as the writers you admire, to challenge yourself and grow and always move forward and produce something that proves you can still hack it with the best of them. But I think in my case the single biggest challenge has been OOTP. It's not that my faith in the pairing has steadily wavered since then; but my faith in being able to answer the questions raised by OOTP as a shipper has wavered.
I don't write well when I write cerebrally, and even if I write something badly, at least when I write from the heart, I don't care whether it's written badly. But it is hard to write from your heart when you are not convinced one of your characters can like the other anymore. :| Frankly, OotP left us in a real bind--not an insurmountable bind, but a real, immediate hindrance to the ship.
In my mind OOTP left the H/D shipper with two primary questions: how can Harry want Draco right now? and how can Draco forgive Harry for what he did to his father? I don't know if I have the talent to answer those questions. And I frankly haven't seen any other fics do it. It's not that I think H/D writers are any less talented now than before. It's just that H/D shippers aren't dealing with those questions.
Here's what shippers are doing instead:
- They're setting their fic way in the future so they can magically have those questions answered sometime in the past. Don't get me wrong. I love post-Hogwarts fics. I love fic that picks up far enough in the future that you can still hypothesize a future where Draco has changed and grown into maturity without becoming dark--I love it because among other things, post-Hogwarts fics allow you to realistically envision a scenario where Harry and Draco fall in love in maturity and stay that way forever. But post-Hogwarts fic seems to be the bulk of what is being written these days, especially in terms of the longer-length fics that are being written. And that bothers me.
- They are writing around the issue by writing fic that continues to basically ignore where OOTP left us in favor of pushing that date-in-which-draco-has-changed-and-grow
n-up into the very near future instead of post-hogwarts. And this is much like post-Hogwarts in principle, in that it allows you to sandwich a lot of changing and maturity into the summer between 5th and 6th year, or in between 6th year and 7th year, or whatever--all without really dealing with the fact that where current canon leaves off it would take a hell of a lot longer, or a hell of a lot more serious change and backstory, for H/D to suddenly be at the point where they could realise they want each other, let alone be in a relationship.
- They are ignoring it altogether, by writing fics that are inadvertently or deliberately being written from a previously existing H/D dynamic--the one that was there before OOTP, where you had Harry and Draco playing out their lust/rivalry in a number of different ways, and moreover, recognizing that rivalry, in ways like Quidditch matches, potion sparring, mutual detentions, and astronomy tower shagging. In all of the "old" ways, the pre-OOTP ways, there was above all a recognition that the special spark Harry and Draco had was only there when they were around each other. That spark is, to put it frankly, not there now. Harry doesn't feel enough towards Draco any more to care--you could argue that he doesn't feel enough towards anything right now to care. In any case, none of all the things and situations and scanarios that went into exploring the pre-OOTP dynamic are really feasible now. To really get at their dynamic as it is post-OOTP, you have to be willing to go into situations that are much darker, much harsher, maybe much bleaker, and frankly not guaranteed to end happily. Which brings us to #4.
- H/D writers are producing very dark fic, often one-sided or unreciprocated or even purely about lust or anger. Most of the best H/D smutfics post-OOTP have also been among the bleaker, angstier, and one-sided smutfics. If you were to ask me what in my mind where among the most canonical portrayals of post-OOTP H/D that I've seen since the book came out, I'd have to go with 2 fics that aren't actual H/D at all. One is a Draco wank!fic by cyclogenesis and the other is a Harry wank!fic by kat99999.
What does it say about the pairing when the only 2 strongly canonical post-OOTP fics I can think of that are dealing with the time period immediately in or around OOTP aren't actually H/D fics at all, but rather almost a meta-excercise in wishful thinking? I mean, I love dark!fic. Some of the post-OOTP darkfics written in the past year have been stunning--Yahtzee's Masked, the most recent H/D fics by Zahra, I could go on and on. But it would be nice, wouldn't it, for there to be some fics out there that 1) are well-written, 2) deal realistically with the fallout of events in OOTP, and 3) end with the two of them at least wanting to be together?
I have seen very few fics, if any, that I can say have really tackled the question of where Harry and Draco are right now, and what they are to one another right now--and how to lead them to each other starting from this point, not starting from a point in a future we create for them where they've both changed enough to make their relationship feasible.
As for me, I've only really written 3 fics since OOTP came out--Inscription, The Reader, and Trade; and all of them are attempts to deal with the question of where OOTP left us. All of them are highly unsatisfactory to me in that they all fall short in some way. I really do care about answering the question and finding a way to bring them together. And I think what frustrates me is not necessarily so much that I haven't found a satisfactory way to answer it, but that while I'm trying to answer it, in my clumsy, laborious method of not finishing anything I start writing, I feel like I'm writing in a vacuum--as if no one else is really trying to answer it either. Hell, I don't even know if I'm writing post-OOTP H/D well anymore, because I don't really have any other post-OOTP H/D fics with which to compare it.
I am not at all saying that I think writers who were in the fandom before are better than the ones that are writing fic now, or that the glory days of H/D are lost and gone forever. All I am saying is that GOF had everyone going crazy with building off of the H/D dynamic that the book ended on. That has not happened after OOTP. Ivy's post about how the ship is not dead notwithstanding, I cannot think of any fics out of all the ones I have read, that have really dealt with the question of how to start with OOTP, and end up with H/D.
I would love for anyone reading this to rec me an H/D fic that does.
And, if you can't think of a fic to rec me, then I have one challenge for you: write one.