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Back during my very first viewing of UNCLE's first season, I made an off-hand joke after watching (and, I must say, thoroughly enjoying) the infamous Bow Wow Affair about Illya "having to maintain his team's mandatory heterosexuality quota in Napoleon's absence". If you've read A Unified Theory of UNCLE (and if you haven't, you probably ought to do that before reading the notes below) you already have an inkling how far that idea snowballed.

Inspiration for the rest of the story came from various sources, split between other details that amused me about this show and numerous tidbits of real history. Actually, writing this fic became my excuse to read up on a whole wealth of interesting queer history and espionage-related subjects which I knew about only in passing going in. Since only a minority of all that was ever going to make it into the fic in any form, I'm taking this excuse to share a bit more about the real history I got to read up on, and plus plenty of links to more.

History notes - queer, de-classified, or otherwiseCollapse )

UNCLE canon notesCollapse )

And, finally, a word or two on the subject of Illya's PhDCollapse )

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Poking through the old slashfic archives for The Man from UNCLE, one soon notes that where other fandoms have hooker AUs, MfU has the popular Illya Kuryakin: Gay KGB Honey Trap fanon backstory. Like so many old 90’s slash tropes, this one seems to have waned in popularity in today’s (at least theoretically) more culturally sensitive times, which may be no great loss. But the big surprise for me, when reading up on history of espionage for a quite unrelated fic idea, came in discovering just how much historical support there was for this particular sensationalist take on the inner workings of the KGB (let alone all the other Cold War era queer-espionage-shenanigans I'd wind up discovering along the way).

Under the cut: Gay sexpionage, the Cambridge Spy Ring, wild conspiracy theories about the ‘Homosexual International’, the UK secret services’ century-long love-hate relationship with gay spies, and a long and shameful legacy of persecutionCollapse )

Further readingCollapse )

One more Leigh Chapman article

Had to stick this last one in a separate post, as the post below was getting close to the limit. Not wholly a bad thing — it's the longest article in the set by a wide margin, so it doesn't hurt to separate it out.

Kannapolis Girl Writes Movies — And Acts Too
July 4, 1965
The Daily Independent from Kannapolis, North Carolina · Page 2

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Just when I thought I was done with the girls-from-UNCLE, I discovered the archive of newspapers.com. They don't let you see whole articles without a subscription, but with a little creativity it's not too hard to find pages with partial OCR text, which covers more than enough to give you the gist (if not the full text) of many an article. The auto-text isn't perfect — a search for articles featuring 'David McCallum' will get you a good crop of results, but there's no way to know how many you've missed where his name has been misread as 'MCCALLL;M' or 'MwOellm' or whatever else every time it appeared, and the archive doesn't cover every issue of every paper in US history by any means. But even if you assume whatever you find easily is just the tip of the iceberg, it's still a veritable goldmine of historical data.

For example, limit the dates to 1964-65 and feed in the names of May Heatherly and Grace Lee, and it soon becomes apparently that those first two oft-forgotten UNCLE girls didn't just appear in the early promotion for the show, they were major features.

Robert Vaughn is still the star, of course, but any number of articles have more to say about Lee and Heatherly than they do about McCallum or Carroll, and were far more likely to print a picture of them. Some don't even mention Vaughn or UNCLE as more than an afterthought. At least one article features no more than a passing mention of anything relating to the show, but still finds space for a large photo Vaughn flanked by both those lovely ladies. Heatherly in particular was the favourite — not only was she a gorgeous young actress whose career might be just taking off, recently returned to the States from Spain, but she'd reportedly spent some of those years in Spain studying to be a bullfighter, only to have to give it up on discovering that women weren't actually allowed in the ring. Her casting in UNCLE didn't need to be more than a convenient excuse; May Heatherly was already a story in her own right.




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The most famous girl from UNCLE is, of course, April Dancer, who starred in her own spin-off series, and many will at least remember Lisa Rogers, Waverly's assistant from the final season. But UNCLE was never short of female staff in a variety of lesser-known roles, some of whom would become the longest recurring characters in the show. Though they may not have made the opening credits, characters like Heather, Sarah and Wanda shared more than enough screentime to deserve a little recognition of their own.

But as anyone who's ever paid much attention to the guest cast would realise, the producers of The Man from UNCLE weren't all that sold on the importance of consistency, or even above taking the name "Mark Slate" from a 40-something American and giving it to a 20-something Brit. The supporting cast got this particularly bad. Mr. Del Floria, the only comparable male role, was played by four different actors over his six credited appearances (and at least a couple more over his uncredited ones), "Sarah" by three different actresses, and "Wanda" by seven – one of whom also played Sarah, just for maximum confusion. Producers would often cast whoever happened to be available at the time, while others would apparently drop a recurring actress so their girlfriend could have the role instead. After several attempts to make sense of it all via IMDB I eventually put together an honest-to-god spreadsheet just to get my head around it all. Instead, this turned out to be only the beginning.

Still, even between clashing schedules, unpredictable production changes, and more than their share of casting couch bullshit, some of these actresses still had a chance to leave a mark on the show – and the more I read up on them, the more interesting they turn out to be. Not much seems to have been written about either the characters or the actresses behind them – the section on them in John Heitland's otherwise fairly comprehensive book, for example, was riddled with errors and miserably brief. What started for me as a tongue-in-cheek attempt to make sense of just how many "Wandas" there really were gradually grew into a major piece of detective work and several thousand words worth of essay on half a dozen different characters. The result is probably going to be of most interest to trivia junkies and fic writers looking to flesh out their supporting casts, but if ever you find yourself in need of a (relatively) definitive resource on the female support staff of UNCLE, well, here you go.

The complete article is now more than long enough to require sub-headings. Links below cover all the most significant recurring roles, plus a handful of others who only showed up once who also stuck in my memory for one reason or another.

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The Man from UNCLE slashfic recs

I've been meaning to write up some proper tumblr recs for all the best Man from UNCLE slashfic I've been finding around the web since I fell for the show, starting with three of my all-time faves. It turns out, however, that I can't adequately explain how much I love the work of authors like Cord Smithee and Kellie Mathews without the post growing to much longer than is really appropriate for tumblr. So, once again, I've dumped the full post here, and posted a cut-down version to tumblr, minus most of my editorialising.


Chrome and GunmetalCollapse )

AO3Collapse )
File 40Collapse )
Miscellaneous websitesCollapse )

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Notwithstanding that I am completely out of the habit of posting fic here first, I figured I'd at least bring the record up to date on what I've been writing over the last six months or so. Below: A brand new short Cable/Deadpool ficlet posted last last year, a prequel chapter to that old Little Mermaid-AU story which (I kid you not) has been kicking around in my head since 2011, and an extended piece of kinky Napoleon/Illya AU smut, because entering fandom at the shallow end is apparently not even something I do anymore. Links go to AO3.



Cable & Deadpool

At the wedding (or, née Cable and Deadpool)
Summary: Not everyone on the guest list is equally enthused about the impending nuptials of one Wade Wilson and one Nate Summers. What Scott doesn't know is quite how far in advance his reaction was anticipated.
Rating: PG
Word Count: 2284
Notes: Sequel to Marital Commitments, nominally written in honour of the news about the new Split Second mini.

The Ugly Merman, chapter 0
Summary: You know the story - there's a handsome prince, an unfortunate shipwreck, and old sea-witch, and a lovesick mer-something (who may or may not deserve the moniker 'little'). The rest comes down to interpretation.
Rating: PG
Word Count: 1690 (this part), 5790 (whole fic)



Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Fatale
Summary: Napoleon’s weakness for femme fatales has never been one of the more ambiguous facets of his sexuality. (Or, a world in which Illya began his career on the wrong side of the law certainly isn’t one where Napoleon is any less likely to wind up in bed with him.)
Rating: NC-17
Word Count: 6630
Notes: Napoleon/Illya, AU, BDSM, gunkink, likely to wind up as the first in a series

(Cross-posted from tumblr, but probably rather more readable here)

Sometime around September of last year, I happened upon a trailer for the recent The Man from UNCLE movie on youtube, and on a whim, decided to give the original 60's TV series a go. I knew very little about the show going in beyond the general notion it was one of those classic old slash fandoms from way back in the day – not that I was really looking for a new fandom at the time, just something lightweight and diverting to entertain myself with in between hacking out the last few chapters of that Teen Wolf fanfic epic I was still trying to finish. A little old, cheesy 60's TV sounded like just the thing.


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This did not precisely go to plan. I still finished my WIP, but I also fell head over heals for The Man from UNCLE in a way I had never remotely counted on. The whole experience of discovering the show has been both so rewarding and so bizarre it's stirred up the need to dust off my old essay writing habits and soliloquise at length about my thoughts on the thing, chief among those being oh my god, I had no IDEA what I was getting into!

See, here's the problem: it's a damn hard series to explain in a couple of hundred words of blurb. Tell people it's basically the Napoleon-and-Illya show, and they're going to be a little thrown by how it takes most of season one to figure out that's what it wants to be, not to mention how much time it spends on ‘innocent’ guest characters. Fans (mostly) agree that the first season was the strongest, that the third went too far into farcical nonsense, and the fourth went a bit far back the other way – but that hardly even begins to cover just how widely the tone changes season to season, or even episode to episode. "It's about an American agent and a Russian agent and set during the Cold War," pretty much immediately has to be qualified with, "but they basically just ignore the fact Illya's Russian or that the Cold War's even a thing after S1, and tbh they hardly touch on it in S1 either." It's absolutely slashy and kinky as fuck, but most of the tropiest scenarios our heroes are thrown into (Brainwashing! Amnesia! Enemy impostors!) tend to sort of peter out on screen without taping into a fraction of the pathos that could have been. You've pretty much got to start reading up on the history and the behind-the-scenes developments to have any hope of even starting to get your head around it all.

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1. The Basics (an attempt to explain just what you are, in fact, getting into)Collapse )

2. The Characters (and why people are still slashing them 50 years on)Collapse )

3. The Seasons (a.k.a. how no two people to work on this show ever agreed on exactly what it was supposed to be)Collapse )

2015 Yuletide Request Letter

Hi there, Yuletide writer (and whoever else may stumble upon this post)! I generally seem to wind up taking these letters as an excuse to dump pretty much every spare relevant fic idea I’ve had over the last year or more in one place in the mad hope of getting someone to write one of them for me, so this is likely to get a little rambling. But as the cliché goes, optional details are optional, so feel free to take as much or as little from my disorganised jumble of prompts as you like, and run with them wherever they may take you.

General stuff and crossover-y promptsCollapse )

Season 6BCollapse )

Scream of the ShalkaCollapse )

Doctor Who and The Curse of Fatal DeathCollapse )

Deadpool PulpCollapse )

(Originally written for tumblr, posted here after it got a bit lengthy for that, with a trimmed down version over on tumblr itself)

So, the first comic I’ve had any real interest in rushing out to buy new in the last couple of years is coming out on the 20th October [insert obligatory Deadpool & Cable: Split Second plug here] as a ‘digital first series in Marvel’s Infinite Comics format’. Given that all my past experience with ‘digital comics’ has generally begun with either an ebay listing or a bittorrent link, that’s a lot of terms I haven’t really seen outside the odd X-Axis review. Now, however, I’ve got a title I want to see do well, and that means both buying it the minute it hits the stands and convincing as many others as possible to do the same. Obviously, this was my cue it was time to take one for the team here and investigate exactly what ‘digital first Marvel Infinite’ means, in terms of what they’re selling us and how.

Digital distribution channels have come a long way in the last few years, but can still be a little impenetrable to the newcomer – the release calendar on the Marvel website doesn’t even seem to cover digital-first releases, and that’s before you even get into comiXology versus the Marvel store or Marvel Infinite vs Marvel Unlimited versus a half-dozen other marginally different ways of selling you basically the same thing with a few different restrictions. What existing Internet guides I could find to this morass appear to consist largely of puff pieces or reviews of one particular service, frequently long out of date. Time to do some independent research.

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve signed up for no less than three different distribution services, picked up as many free titles as were available, and spent roughly $12 USD. Time and effort were by far the greater expenditure, and that much I can share for free. What follows is a quick overview of your options for (legally) getting hold of a digital copy of a Marvel comic. Some of this will also apply to buying digital comics from DC or any other distributor, but I haven’t looked that far into finding out how non-Marvel-related alternatives compare. They’re out there, but not covered here.

Let’s start out with a quick glossary of a few key nouns.

comiXology: The main online distributor for digital comics. If you’re looking for a short answer to ‘how and where do I buy [comic title X]?’, this is what you’ll want. (more detail)

Marvel Store: Basically comiXology again, but with only Marvel comics available. Exists mostly for marketing reasons, not much to recommend it over the parent service. (more detail)

Marvel Unlimited: A library-like subscription-based service granting you unlimited access to a large back-catalogue of older comics for a flat $9.99 per month fee. Great for archive binges, not so great for access to new stuff. (more detail)

“Free” Digital Copies: Many Marvel print comics now come bundled with codes that will give you access to a complimentary digital copy for no extra charge. You’ll have to wait a couple of months to get hold of a digital-first issue this way, however.

Marvel Infinite: An imprint covering a subset of Marvel’s digital releases, specifically for comics written to take advantage of features that are only available in digital format. Unrelated to Marvel Unlimited, despite the names.

Guided View: Guided view is a reading option for digital comics which will take you panel-to-panel in a preset sequence, rather than just dumping the whole page on your screen at once. Nice when it works, just annoying when it doesn’t – fortunately, it’s usually possible to turn it off. Much of Marvel Infinite exists to make best use of these sorts of features.

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More detail on all of those under the cutCollapse )

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