Welcome to my first ever review of fanfiction, are we ready? We’ll try to be, certainly.
I read a lot of short form works this year (my AO3 history tells me somewhere in the neighborhood of 600, certainly not all of it good) and I don’t really think I’ll be reviewing any of those, but I am going to review a novel length work that I’ve been following along with since March.
I had mentioned in my review of Spoiler Alert, a book where fanfiction plays a major role in the plot, that my hobby of writing short form fiction has expanded this Adjective Year of 2020 to include reading and starting to write fanfic. Going into lockdown in the spring it became clear relatively quickly that my brain was reacting to living in a pandemic by shortening my ability to focus. So fic became a place to find the right length work (some days I could handle 2,500 words, others maybe 10,000) and tropes, fluff/angst levels. I could, and one should when it comes to fic, tailor my reading consumption to my needs quickly and efficiently. Moreover, that is before we get into the comfort of the shorthand that comes from watching writers play around with established characters and spaces.
So what did I read? A Poldark modern AU. It’s good. I’d comfortably rate it four stars.
I was curious about how someone would handle writing a pandemic fic, and while I was looking at the Poldark tag The Distance Between Us stood out to me. In some ways like reading Station Eleven it’s been oddly comforting to be able to see our current experience through another lens. Another component that I wasn’t expecting is the experience of reading as its being released (a risk certainly in fic where many works are abandoned before completion because writing is difficult) is that I’ve also gotten a taste of reading serialized fiction.
The Distance Between Us sets up a universe where Ross Poldark and Demelza Carne are strangers forced to quarantine together. She is filling in for his usual cleaner (her job while she goes to school to be a teacher) and he’s just returned from business travel. He needs to do a 14-day lockdown; she is trapped when public transport halts. They agree to share the apartment, each to their own ends, until a solution can be discovered. This is a romance; the solution becomes the slow relationship that builds between them during this forced proximity. It’s a slow burn set over 4 months and it’s very satisfying. These are characters that are given the time and space to get to know each other, and fall gently.
My favorite part is that the author works in dialogue form both the books and the television show. It works so well. There is a joke running around that the pandemic has turned us all into Jane Austen characters. It could also have turned us into residents of Cornwall in the late 1790s. There’s something about the pace of the story (which is pulled apart and rebuilt for the Modern AU) that works incredibly well on the backdrop of pandemic response.
It’s been a fun ride.
(Reviewer note: as of January 8, 2021 this work is complete! 132,061 words across 42 chapters.)
Warnings: The Distance Between Us does deal with a COVID-like pandemic (it’s not named) set in a time that looks a lot like now where one character does get sick and gets better, but they also deal with anxiety as well.